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Tuesday, 26 July 1921

Senator EARLE (Tasmania) .- I am sorry the Minister for Repatriation (Senator E. D. Millen) has compromised, as it is quite evident that the explanation given by the Minister in the first place was absolutely correct when he said that there were other ways of killing a dog instead -of choking it with melted butter. It is quite evident that it is the desire of some to cripple the activities of the Board.

Senator E D MILLEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - I do not think that £4,000 could be regarded in the same light as £3,000.

Senator EARLE - No; but it is absolutely impossible for the Minister or any one else, at this period, to estimate the expenditure of the Board. It will have a great deal to do. Senator Wilson has said that he had not received any requests, from manufacturers or importers for such a Board; but the honorable senator must remember that the Board is to work in the interests of the people generally, and not only on behalf of one section of the community. The consumers of this country are clamouring for investigations concerning the prices charged for goods on which heavy duties have been imposed, and the object of the Board is to see that the people arc treated fairly. I can quite understand that the people to whom Senator Wilson refers do not want any investigations. "

Senator Wilson - I resent that insinuation, because I have not received communications from anybody to that effect.

Senator EARLE - The honorable senator said that he had not received any communications.

Senator Wilson - Not advocating the appointment of a Board.

Senator EARLE - No, because the manufacturers and importers desire to be left alone.

Senator Wilson - I have not received correspondence from any one concerning a. Board.

Senator EARLE - No, because the people with whom the honorable senator is associated do not want any interference. The Board is not being created for the benefit of manufacturers and importers; but to see that the prices charged are fair and in the interests of consumers. That is what we are up against, and for the first year we cannot say how extensive the operations of the Board will be. I have . sufficient confidence in the Government to believe that if the Board becomes reckless in the expenditure of money its operations will be curtailed.

Senator Wilson - If it has the money it will spend it.

Senator EARLE - What could the Board spend recklessly between now and the time when we shall have the opportunity of reviewing its work? I desire to give the Board a free hand in the important duties it has to perform, and I will hold the Government responsible for seeing that there is no extravagance in the expenditure. I do not want to be told later that the Board has not done anything because this Committee was too parsimonious to give it sufficient money to carry on. I am opposed to the amendment as amended. I hold the Ministry responsible for the proper care of. expenditure and they will be called upon to account for any extravagance of which the Board may be guilty. I am sorry that the Minister has accepted the amendment.

Senator E D MILLEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - The honorable senator will admit that £4,000 is better than £3,000.

Senator EARLE - I do not know, and the Ministry do not know what expenditure will be necessary, and how far these investigations will require to be carried.

Senator Benny - The honorable senator desires us to give the Board a. blank cheque.

Senator EARLE - I desire the Senate to show the confidence in the Ministrywhich we ought to show. If we desire an inquiry into the conduct of the different protected enterprises, and to protect the people against imposition, we should create a Board and hold the Government responsible for the expenditure in connexion with it. Honorable senators, ask the Government to accept responsibility for governing the country and then say that they shall not expend more than a certain amount.

Senator PRATTEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - Surely we have the responsibility of legislation.

Senator EARLE - Undoubtedly we have, and that function we are performing to-night. We are creating a Board.

Senator PRATTEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - The honorable senator is arguing that to every Bill the Government bring before the Senate we must say " Yes."

Senator EARLE - The honorable senator is perfectly wrong, as usual. The majority of senators have agreed to the principles contained in the Bill; they believe that a Board should be created to perform certain functions, and now the minority, who desired to defeat the Bill in the first place, are endeavouring to make theBoard useless by restricting the expenditure upon its work.-

Senator Benny - Did not a majority of senators vote in favour of the Bill only because they thought it could be amended into useful shape?

Senator EARLE - I am not a thought reader. I know that a majority of the Senate voted in favour of the Bill, and I, personally, am- strongly in favour of it. Unless the benefits conferred by the Tariff can be properly controlled Protection will be no good to the people of Australia. In order that the Protectionist policy may be a success there must be some tribunal, such as the proposed Board, to see that the people are not imposed upon, and that tribunal muss be allowed sufficient money for the purposes of its work. However, as the Minister has agreed to accept the amendment, I suppose I am only beating the wind by opposing it.

Amendment, as amended, agreed to.

Clause, as amended, agreed to.

Clauses 9 to 11 agreed to.

Clause 12 -

1.   For the conduct of business any two members shall be a quorum, and shall have, subject to the next sub-section, all the powers of the Board.

2.   At meetings of the Board the decision of the majority shall prevail.

3.   The Chairman shall have a deliberate vote, and, in the event of an equality, of vot- ing, a second or casting vote.

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