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Tuesday, 26 July 1921

Senator BENNY (South Australia) . - I agree with the legal position {submitted by Senator Drake-Brockman concerning our powers, or lack of powers, to compel witnesses to produce documents, or to give evidence before a Court of Inquiry. That was clearly proved in the case of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company. I also agree with the Minister for Repatriation (Senator E. D. Millen), who said that we should take a commonsense view, and for that reason I intend to vote against Senator DrakeBrockman's amendment. Perhaps I may be able to submit a little additional information on the' matter by saying that, in the Sugar case, decided by the Privy Council, the whole industry was being inquired into, including the question of price-fixing. According to sub-paragraph i of paragraph h of sub-cla.use 1, the Minister shall refer to the Board for inquiry and report questions relating to the charging of unnecessarily high prices for goods. The object of that provision is not to punish the manufacturer for fixing unduly high _ prices, but to regulate the incidence of the Tariff, and if a manufacturer is guilty of charging unnecessarily high prices. Parliament can punish him by reducing the duties. That power is reserved to-' Parliament, because we can increase, re-. ellice, or repeal duties, and that is the chief intention in appointing a Tariff Board. We desire to give the Board power to see if injustice is being done to the consumers, and the duty then devolves upon Parliament of altering the* Tariff.

Senator Earleproposes to move tor amend the sub-paragraph by adding the words " failing to prevent unnecessarily bigh prices being charged to the consumer."

The CHAIRMAN (Senator Bakhap - The honorable senator will be in order in making a brief reference to a proposed amendment; but he cannot discuss it at length at this juncture.

Senator BENNY - I was merely going to suggest, Mr. Chairman, that if Senator Earle wishes to carry his amendment - I intend to oppose it - he should add the words "or the seller of goods" after " manufacturer." The object is to obviate the. necessity of compelling a manufacturer to police the middleman.

Senator PRATTEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - How would an amendment of the Tariff affect the seller of goods?

Senator BENNY - It would not; bub an inquiry could then be made concerning the manufacturer or seller of goods. If the manufacturer or seller were charge ing unnecessarily high prices, the Minister could take action accordingly. If the honorable senator amends his amendment by adding those words, I shall support it; but I object to the manufacturer policing the middleman. For the reasons given, I intend to oppose Senator Drake- Brockman 's amendment.

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