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Thursday, 21 July 1921

Senator DRAKE-BROCKMAN (Western Australia) . - I listened with great interest to the speech delivered by the Minister for Defence (Senator Pearce), and his arguments would have been almost unanswerable if based on true premises, but, as they were not, they break down at the outset. If the proposed Board was to be administrative and not advisory, there would have been a great deal in the arguments submitted by the Minister for Defence. Hecreated a bogey, and proceeded to destroy it with much eloquence and vigour. The Minister is afraid that the "system of parliamentary government would break down if we appointed a Board such as. Senator Penny suggests ; but, in my very humble opinion, the greatest danger that at present exists is the delegation of powers to extraneous Boards. By Act of Parliament, and by administrative acts, we are constantly setting up Boards, the members of which are not responsible to the people, and, consequently, do not have to face the electors.

Senator JOHN D MILLEN (TASMANIA) - And the people have to carry the burden.

Senator DRAKE-BROCKMAN - Yes. If we adopt Senator Benny's suggestion, and appoint members of Parliament as the majority on this proposed Board, they will in due course go before the electors to justify their actions both as members of the Board and as members of Parliament; and thus we shall have a greater guarantee of integrity and honesty than in a Board appointed in the way proposed by the Government.

Senator GUTHRIE (VICTORIA) - One member might have to go before a red-hot Protectionist constituency, and another a red-hot Free Trade constituency.

Senator DRAKE-BROCKMAN - This is the position : We have in power a Protectionist Government. If they go out of office the parliamentary members of the Board would ?o out too. There is nothing; more objectionable about that than about a Prime Minister going out of office.

Senator E D MILLEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - It will be apurely political Board if it depends on the fortunes of the Government.

Senator DRAKE-BROCKMAN - I do not care what it is. It will be an advisory, not an administrative, Board. The Vice-President of the Executive Council (Senator Russell) has emphasized the fact that the Minister for Trade and Customs is overworked and needs assist'^ance X say he ought to get it, but that it should . be parliamentary assistance. When we were on active service we found, from time to time, that staff officers got. killed, became sick, or were evacuated from one cause or another, or else they had a habit of being promoted.

Senator Crawford - A good habit, I should say.

Senator DRAKE-BROCKMAN - Yes, on the principle that a' dead major is a live captain's hope. Thus it became necessary to fill the positions which they had been holding. At first the authorities were unable to secure properly trained officers to hold down these jobs, but the difficulty was got over by appointing what were known as staff trainees, so that when any office in the army became vacant, there was always some one, properly trained, ready to fill the position. That will be so in this case. By adopting Senator Benny's amendment we shall be appointing staff trainees, so to speak, at the Customs House. We shall have our parliamentary representatives down there getting instructions in the proper handling and administration of the Customs Department. What can be more desirable?

Senator Pearce - Then the right thing to do is to appoint an Assistant Minister.

Senator DRAKE-BROCKMAN - That may be one method of meeting the difficulty, but Senator Benny's amendment meets with my approval, because, while our parliamentary representatives axe being trained in the work, we shall also be providing for the proper diecharge of the functions of the Board.

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