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Tuesday, 26 July 1921

Senator BOLTON (Victoria) .- I move -

That- the words, " an allowance of Five guineas per sitting " be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words " a salary of Twelve hundred and fifty pounds a year."

I move this amendment, believing that, if the Board is to be created, it should be made as effective as possible.. On a previous occasion I voiced my disapproval of Boards generally, but if there is any question upon which a Board may be justified, it is the Tariff. Jocular reference has been made to the question of whether the Tariff before us is scientific or not. I submit, in view of the problems with which the Tariff is immediately and intimately bound up, that it would not be a great stretch of the imagination to say that the framing of a Tariff could almost be called an exact science.

Senator THOMAS (NEW SOUTH WALES) - Does the honorable senator mean the present Tariff?

Senator BOLTON - No. I mean a desirable kind of Tariff. Honorable senators arc at a great disadvantage in discussing the Tariff, and it is necessary, in order to do justice to the subject, for them to be in possession of -all the information that can possibly be obtained about the hundreds of items that have to be considered. It is not to be expected that members of this or another place can make themselves familiar with all the facts relating to every item in the schedule. One of the moat important duties of the proposed Board will be to acquire. about all these matters, facts from which members of Parliament can draw their own deductions. There are only two ways of doing this thing - the right way and the wrong way, and I am sure all honorable senators want to do it the right way. It has been argued that the appointment of two business gentlemen, to assist the Chairman of the Board, would give greater confidence to the public. I do not know that that necessarily follows. I am credibly informed by those in a position to form an opinion, that a man may be an expert on hardware items in the Tariff schedule, but may not know anything about any other subject in it. Another business man may be an expert on groceries, but may know absolutely nothing about the' .many other items with which we shall have to deal. It, therefore, does not follow that we shall receive any advantage from the appointment of two business men to the Board. Eather it might be argued that if a permanent Board were appointed, consisting of three men who had been accustomed to deal with Tariff questions in the Customs Department, there would be much more likelihood of the true facts being placed before honorable senators for their information. It has also been said that two business men, if appointed to the Board, would necessarily be more independent in framing their reports. I do not think that necessarily follows, either. It implies that three permanent officials on a Board under the control of the Minister would naturally be influenced by the Minister, and that the Minister's opinion would have some influence on their reports. I think the chances are the other way round. In all human probability, the average man acting as. Minister would decide that three men who had devoted so much time and trouble to arriving at a certain conclusion must know a great deal more about the subject than he does, and I should say that, humanly speaking, the opinion of the Board would invariably receive the support of the Minister, except where matters of policy were concerned. A Board of three permanent officials would give greater confidence to the public, and would certainly furnish Parliament with better all-round information than would a Board consisting of one official and two business gentlemen. I have been simply flooded with correspondence from all kinds and classes of people and businesses, for or against duties in the Tariff schedule.

Senator THOMAS (NEW SOUTH WALES) - Since it passed another place?

Senator BOLTON - Yes.

Senator THOMAS (NEW SOUTH WALES) - It shows that the Tariff is not yet quite "scientific" !

Senator BOLTON - However, the result, so far as I am concerned, is that after wading through a great deal of 4he correspondence I find " confusion worse confounded " - I am worse off than before. I recognise, therefore, that it is necessary to have a Board which can put reliable information before Parliament in order to enable it to come to a decision in these matters. For that reason, I submit the amendment.

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