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Wednesday, 27 July 1921

Senator PRATTEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) . - I desire to put before the Committee a further aspect of the amendment. I followed the Minister (Senator Russell) very closely in his reply to the mover of the amendment (Senator Wilson), but I think he failed to grasp the involved position of all the so-called productive and industrial helps to Australia that now appertain. I ask the Minister to consider how that situation is to be met. The mover of the amendment, so far as I can see, wishes to confine the ambit of the Tariff Board within certain well-defined limits. In the first place, he desires to prevent the Board from having a roving commission to do anything it pleases, quite apart from any instruction issued to it by the Minister. As * ' the clause stands, the Board on its own initiative, subject to the limitations imposed by the amount set apart for its purposes or such other votes as may be passed by Parliament, may inquire into anything it pleases.

Senator Russell - Subject to the limitations imposed by the Bill.

Senator PRATTEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - Subject to the amount now placed at its disposal, and secondly to the limitations of the additional amounts that will be placed at its disposal, and, of course, subject, always to the limitations of the Bill. I draw attention, however, to the relation which this clause has to sub-clause 2 of clause 15, my object being to put before honorable senators an aspect of the question that has not altogether been foreseen. We already have a Commonwealth Board of Trade presided over by Senator Russell, and of which the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Greene) is a member. Mr. Whitton, the Comptroller-General of Customs, is secretary of that Board, and at times Major Oakley has acted as secretary.

Senator Russell - Whilehe was Acting Comptroller-General.

Senator PRATTEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - That is so. One of the functions of the Commonwealth Board of Trade is "generally to consider and advise the Government upon all matters affecting the trade and industry of the Commonwealth."

Senator Russell - That may be amended. The Board of Trade is a purely honorary body, and we shall amend its constitution if the Tariff Board is to relieve it of Tariff matters.

SenatorPRATTEN.- We have another institution, also under the control of the Minister for Trade and Customs. I refer to the Bureau of Commerce and Industry, which is presided over by Mr. Stirling Taylor. One of its functions is the encouragement of new, and the further development of established, industries. In order to amplify the statement of. its functions, I would refer honorable senators to the annual report of the Bureau for 1920. The first part of it deals with general matters; the second with proposals in connexion with the development of the woollen manufacture industry; while the third part, much to my surprise, is headed " General Instructions to Australian Trade Commissioners." I thought- that, so far, we had only one Trade Commissioner. It will be seen from this report that the Bureau covers almost the entire ambit of the second part of clause 15 of this Bill. There is yet a third institution already in existence, namely, the Bureau of Science and Industry, of which Mr. Knibbs is the Director. This, again, is under the administration of the Minister for Trade and . Customs. Its work, amongst other things, comprises the collection and dissemination of information regarding industrial welfare and questions relating to the improvement of industrial conditions. I noticed in the daily press the other day a statement that it was hoped that at an early date Mr. Knibbs would report upon the question of the development of manufactures or industries within the Commonwealth during recent years. In this Bill we have provision for a fourth institution, to which is to be . allotted duties exactly- agreeing with those I have mentioned as being carried out 'by three

Boards or bureaux already in existence. Thus, unless- this amendment is carried - unless there is some control exercised by the Minister - the new Tariff Board may of its. own initiative overlap and duplicate a good many of the activities already being carried on by these bodies.

Senator Drake-Brockman - That is absolutely so.

SenatorPRATTEN. - That is the point I wish to make.

SenatorCrawford. - But it may do that only to the extent provided for in sub-clause 2 of clause 15.

SenatorPRATTEN. - I would remind my honorable friend that paragraph d of sub-clause 2 of clause 15, read in conjunction with clause 17, provides that the Board may on its own initiative inquire into and report on " any other matter in any way affecting the encouragement of primary or secondary industries in relation to the Tariff." Is there not likely to be some overlapping as shown by me?

Senator Russell - The blowfly pest, which is among the matters being inquired into by the Bureau of Science and Industry, is not mentioned in the Tariff, but it is one of the most important questions affecting the meat industry to-day. Neither does the Tariff deal with the question of freight.

SenatorPRATTEN.- I am talking, not of the blowfly pest or of freights, but about the overlapping that is likely to take place unless the amendment is carried. I have not risen in any spirit of unfriendliness to my honorable friend in this connexion, but only to justify the amendment. If we are to have three or four sub-departments or sections of the present Customs Department, presided overby the Minister, all in some respects doing practically the same work, is it not better to pass a Bill under which the discretion of the Minister shall be exercised in connexion with a roving Commission ?

Senator Crawford - And the Minister would probably in a single memorandum refer all these matters to the Board.

Senator PRATTEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - Then what justification is there for the remaining activities to continue? All this confirms again and again the attitude taken up in this Chamber, that duplication may take place and money may be wasted. If the clause remains as it is, there may possibly be a

Tariff Board; an Institute of Science and

Industry, a Bureau of Commerce and Industry,: and a Board of Trade inquiring about similar things at the same time. I put that as a possibility in connexion with the established Commonwealth activities.

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