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Thursday, 21 July 1921

Senator PRATTEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) . - I should like to say a few words in justification of the vote which I intend to give in support of the amendment. I am not concerned so much about the merits of the amendment itself as T am about the principle which it seeks to embody in the Bill. I have been in this Parliament for four or five years, during which time there has been a great deal of Government activity caused by the war. I have seen Board after Board develop as a result of administrative acts, and, practically speaking, members of" Parliament have not been considered by the Government in any appointments to honorary Boards. I believe I can say that all members of this or the last Parliament were ready to render honorary public service to the full extent of their time and ability. But what happened? Board after Board was constituted, and Parliament was ignored, and very often this absence of parliamentary representation on these Boards was the cause of great political difficulties and complications.

Senator JOHN D MILLEN (TASMANIA) - And many political gymnastics.

Senator PRATTEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - I am not going to say that. We, as members of this Parliament, are responsible to our respective electors; and we who are members of the National party have to answer for the virtues or sins of the Government, who in their turn are responsible for the actions of Boards that have been constituted by them. There was no parliamentary representation at all on the great majority of Boards called into existence. In this connexion I may mention the Commonwealth Shipping Board, the InterState Shipping Committee, and the Central Wool Committee. It is true there were two members of Parliament on the last named, but they were not appointed qua members of Parliament, but as representatives of the wool-growers. There was the Council of Finance, and that most-important organization which controlled the metal trade of Australia, as well as the Economies Commission; and there is in existence now the Central Coal Board and State Coal Boards, upon which there is no parliamentary representation. Members of Parliament know little about their operations. . Perhaps I may be permitted to suggest that it would have been to the advantage of my friend, the Minister for Repatriation (Senator E. D. Millen), had one or two members of Parliament been co-opted in connexion with the War Service Homes Advisory Board. There is the Australian War Museum Committee, the Board of Trade, and the Bureau of Commerce and Industry. I understand that Senators Guthrie and Crawford are nominally members of this Bureau. But Senator Guthrie has intimated, that all he knows of it is limited to the first picnic which was held, and Senator Crawford has informed me that he has received no notification in regard to any meetings for the past two years.

Senator Crawford - But I had nothing to do with the picnic to which the honorable senator has alluded.

Senator PRATTEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - I absolve my honorable friend from that. _Then there is a very important Committee in connexion with the Bureau of Science and Industry. There is no member of Parliament upon that body. There are many other matters in respect to which the Government should co-opt the services of those members of Parliament who are always ready to render honorary service to the country.

Senator Russell - There are two parliamentarians upon the Shipping Board, and five politicians, Federal and State, upon the Wheat Board.

Senator PRATTEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - I am unaware that there is any member of Parliament upon the Shipping Board.

Senator Russell - The late Senator R. S. Guthrie was a member of the Shipping Board.

Senator PRATTEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - He was for a time. He was appointed to the Board upon its inception. The Board was afterwards reconstituted without him - a procedure to which he very rightly objected. Subsequently, he was again placed upon the Board, but, unfortunately, he died, and his loss from a shipping stand-point ia a loss to this Parliament, and no parliamentarian has succeeded him.

Senator Russell - Upon the Flax

Board there was only one parliamentarian - the Minister who was in charge of it. The other members were chiefly the heads of the State Agricultural Departments.

Senator PRATTEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - I did not mention the Flax Board. I deliberately omitted it because it would not serve the purpose of illustrating my remarks. What was the result of constituting all these Boards during the war, ' and of omitting to co-opt upon them a representative ofthis Parliament? During the currency of the War Precautions regulations there grew up in connexion with nearly every important service in this country unofficial dictators. No member of Parliament was able to alter anything which was done by them. Scarcely anything has caused the members of the National party so much trouble as' have some of the acts of these unofficial dictators. One matter which came immediately under my own notice, I may be pardoned for mentioning. Honorable senators will recollect that during the term of the last Parliament. I moved the adjournment of the Senate to call attention to a comparatively small matter connected with the export of tin scrap. Owing to the official dictatorship which then existed, I was unable to achieve my object, which was to prevent the loss which private individuals and this country were incurring owing to the arbitrary action of one of these dictators. The result is that the owners of that scrap have lost a market for £7,000 or £8,000, that they have the. scrap tin in store in Melbourne, that the works which were supposed to have bought it from them have been closed up for some months, and have not even paid for the scrap which they have used. That is an illustration of the fallibility of some of the persons to whom were delegated practically the powers of this Parliament.

Senator Russell - Surely, there must be some mistake. The Government never ran a tin-scrap factory..

Senator PRATTEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - I hope that my honorable friend will not deliberately misunderstand me. He must remember some of the circumstances ' of this particular case, and the arguments that were advanced in favour of the action which was then taken. That action has since 'been proved to have been absolutely wrong. It was of no benefit to anybody in the Commonwealth, and it has. resulted in severe and unnecessary losses to those people to whom the prohibition applied. Consequently, I repeat that the Government would be well, advised if they co-opted upon the proposedBoard the services of some members of this Parliament. Every honorable member can bring to bear in conference, certainly, a different view from, and perhaps a wider point of view than can, any commercial man in the community. I shall vote for the amendment of Senator Benny in order to prevent members of Parliament being ignored in connexion with matters of administration and the meetings of the advisory bodies of some of the most important services of this country. I am not satisfied with the Bill because of the overlapping which will occur in connexion with the functions of the Board and 'those of the Bureau of Commerce and Industry. I suggest that as the Bill is not an urgent one it does no.'; "matter whether the proposed Board is constituted this month, next month, or six months hence.

Senator Reid - The other night the honorable senator said the measure was so urgent that the consideration of the Tariff should l-i postponed to allow it to be proceededwith.

Senator PRATTEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - I admit the that interjection is a fair one. But we now know the form which the Bill will take, and one provision which mustbe incorporated in it - : -

The CHAIRMAN (Senator Bakhap - Order ! The honorable senator's time has expired.

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