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Wednesday, 27 July 1921

Senator RUSSELL (Victoria) (VicePresident of the Executive Council) . - I have not argued that the Board must be trusted. My contention has been that the Board will have no power to make any public statement. They will be bound, on oath to observe secrecy in regard to matters that come to their knowledge. But I have pointed out that the Minister is the avenue through which publicity might occur. The Board will report confidentially to the Minister, but the Minister will have discretionary power to strike out certain evidence before he submits the report to. Parliament. He may not do that ; he may allow the whole of the facts to go to Parliament, and I say that in certain circumstances he should allow them to go to Parliament. For instance, if a. manhas been deliberately profiteering under cover ofthe Tariff, Parliament should be. so informed, but in other circumstances I do not think that the evidence should be made public if it would do injury to an individual. The Minister will not be submitting to Parliament reports upon individual firms; he will be dealing with the trade or industry collectively. He will not submit to Parliament JohnBrown's balance-sheet in order to prove that his industry is not prospering, but in order to help that industry he may ask Parliament to sanctionan increase of duty.

Senator Elliott - If that is so, the proposed new clause will do no harm.

Senator RUSSELL - But there are certain men whose transactions should be publicly exposed.

Senator Elliott - Then the Minister would submit to Parliament the. balancesheet of an individual ?

Senator RUSSELL - No. The Board and the Minister need not publish anything if publication would, in their opinion, be opposed to the public interests. I do not suppose the Board will publish any evidence, but they will publish results.

Senator Elliott - The new clause will not prevent them doing that.

Senator RUSSELL - If the proposed new clause does nothing more than is already provided for in the Bill, why insert it ? Senator Elliott argued that the Minister has no power to prevent information being published. I say that he has, and if that opinion is wrong, I shall be' willing to recommit the clause. No Minister would submit to Parliament a report that made a personal attack upon any firm; but any firm that takes advantage of the Tariff to charge excessive prices should be exposed in Parliament. The amendment will give protection only to those who should not have it, and, therefore, I oppose it.

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