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Tuesday, 26 July 1921

Senator EARLE (Tasmania) .- I am surprised at the tone of the debate. The merits of the measure appear to have been submerged in an academic and constitutional wrangle. Honorable senators have lost sight of the actual intention of the Bill. It does not propose to set up a Court for the prosecution of certain individuals.

Senator Drake-Brockman - It does.

Senator EARLE - No; it proposes to institute a Court of inquiry to advise the Government- .

Senator DRAKE-BROCKMAN (WESTERN AUSTRALIA) - Brockman. - Whether punishment shall be inflicted upon certain persons by increasing, or reducing, or wiping out duties.

Senator EARLE - If it is reported by the Board that the duties, as imposed, are inimical to the best interests of the people, it becomes the duty of the Government to consider whether the existing rates shall be retained or removed. Senator Drake-Brockman also dealt with the power of the Board to enforce answers in the course of inquiries. If the Board were investigating a report that a manufacturer had taken' certain action which *ras considered to be prejudicial to the interests of the public, and if the manufacturer was asked what he had to say in rebuttal of the charge, and the latter said, " I refuse to give evidence," what would be the conclusion both of the Board and of the public? It could be no other than that the charge was justified. It would be in his own interest that a person undergoing examination should tender evidence, and he would do so.

Senator GUTHRIE (VICTORIA) - Naturally, unless he was guilty.

Senator EARLE - That is so. Any one would presume a man guilty if he refused to attempt to assert his innocence.

Senator Elliott - If no evidence were tendered, the High Court would probably restrain the Board from making a report, on the .ground of lack of evidence.

Senator GUTHRIE (VICTORIA) - The public would judge the individual, anyway.

Senator EARLE - It is absurd to suggest that Parliament, which is dealing with the Tariff, should not have the power to set up a tribunal to inquire into the operations of the Tariff. And, if a person refused to give evidence in the course of an inquiry, it would be his own responsibility.

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