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Tuesday, 26 July 1921

Senator CRAWFORD (Queensland) . - I sincerely hope that honorable senators will give earnest consideration to Senator Bolton's amendment before they proceed to a vote upon it. If the clause bc passed as it stands, the Board will be regarded as a Tribunal consisting of the chairman alone. If two business men are to be appointed to the Board, and are to be asked to attend only occasional meetings, for which they will be paid £5 5s. a sitting, they will not be able to give to the very important matters which it will have to consider the close attention that might be reasonably expected of them. In order to save a few hundred pounds a year it is proposed to set up a Board under conditions which will lead to its failing largely to achieve the object for which it is being constituted. I am not prepared te set my opinion on legal questions against that of Senator Drake Brockman, but it seems to me that thi subsequent clause to which, he referred provides chiefly for inquiry and. advice. I know of no constitutional difficulties in the way of a Commonwealth Tribunal making inquiry into any matter of public interest. There is, of course, a limitation as to the evidence which a witness may be compelled to give, but the members of the Board may inform themselves in many ways, apart from the taking of direct evidence. In many cases the whole of the evidence may be given quite voluntarily. I am aware that there is a constitutional difficulty in the . way of compelling a witness to give certain evidence, but it does not necessarily follow that, because of that, a Board- of this character must fail. I do not agree with the Minister (Senator Russell) that this Board, if constituted as proposed in the amendment, would be regarded by the public as a purely departmental Tribunal, and that they would not have in it the confidence they would repose in a Board constituted as proposed in the clause as it stands.

Senator Russell - Supposing we had a senior officer of the CustomsDepartment as chairman, and two junior officers of the Department as members of the Board, does not the honorable senator think that those two junior officers would largely follow the views of the " boss " ?

Senator CRAWFORD - I do not think the Government would make any such foolish appointments. The field of selection is so wide that I do not think they would select two junior Customs officers for appointment as members of the Board. May I ask the honorable senator how many junior officers of the Department of Trade and Customs are in receipt of a salary of £1,250 per year? Such a salary would be regarded as being among the plums of the Service, so that if the Government desired to make appointments from within the Public Service of the Commonwealth they would be able to draw upon all Departments.

Senator E D MILLEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - Or go outside the Public. Service altogether.

Senator CRAWFORD - Quite - so. For" such a salary, they would be able to obtain two very capable men from 'outside" the Commonwealth Public Service. If men who are actively engaged in business are to be appointed to these two positions, their duties as members of the Board' will so clash with their business that they will be performed in a very perfunctory manner, and the chairman, having far more information than either of them on the subject under consideration, will dominate them to a greater extent than he would dominate even two junior officers of his Department.

Senator Bolton - He would do the work, and they would draw £5 5s." per sittirig.

Senator CRAWFORD -That is so. Parliament and the public would soon discover this, and have very little confidence in the Board's recommendations.

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