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Tuesday, 9 August 1921


Senator GARDINER (New South Wales) . - Although the request has been withdrawn, I have not withdrawn my opposition to the phrase as a whole. The amendment suggested was so plainly protective of the rights of Parliament that I cannot understand why the Minister (Senator Russell) should not have accepted it immediately. The effect would have been most important. Any departmental alteration proposed, no matter upon what item, would have to be made by way of regulation, which procedure would bring the administration of the Department, where it went beyond the scope of the Tariff schedule, within the control of Parliament. The business of Customs collection would be in no way delayed or interfered with if the present system of prescribing matters by by-laws were changed to the gazettal of regulations. And if Parliament were not sitting, the procedure would not be delayed for one moment. The regulation would be valid until Parliament had met, and had considered and rejected it. At present a departmental by-law is a secret affair. Nobody is likely to know anything about its incidence until some importing firm has come up against it. From what the Minister has just said, it would seem that these departmental regulations are much more numerous than I had dreamed of. If the Minister is afraid of overworking the Governor-General by requiring His Excellency to sign innumerable Customs regulations,; I can imagine the state of affairs existing in the commercial community. The Minister has given Senator Pratten a promise. After mature con- sideration he may came to the conclusion that he cannot accept; any change in the departmental system. Where will this Committee be then ?


Senator Russell - I must be given- an opportunity of learning what the' amendment requested would involve. The point is important, and it has been suddenly raised.


Senator GARDINER - The Tariff has not come upon us suddenly, and I am opposed to departmental officialsfilching this power from Parliament' and imposing taxation which should be imposed by Parliament. The words "as prescribed" would leave the power in the hands of the Minister, and if any alteration in the Tariff were necessary a regulation would be prepared and laid upon the table of the Senate. If that . were done, an honorable senator could object . within, fifteen days of the meeting of Parliament, and that would give Parliament an opportunity to allow or disallow. . the regulation. The Minister spoke of the huge number of departmental regulations that had to be framed and signed, and if there are a large number it is very necessary to take the power from the Department and place it in the hands of Parliament. The Department will always consider the most expeditious way in which its operations can be carried out without paying any regard to the interests of those who are vitally concerned. At the moment, I cannot recall any particular -regulation, but I have heard of numerous -complaints in connexion with departmental by-laws which have been so strained as to inflict gross injustice upon commercial men, who had not the slightest redress. After this Tariff has been finally adopted, I do not suppose we shall have to consider another " scientific " Protective Tariff for many years. In the meantime, we can regard itas a sop to -those already highly protected industries that desire to take -still more money out of the- - pockets . of the people. During the next ten or twenty years the departmentalofficers will go on issuing' regulations - I do not. -knowif they- are gazetted, but I suppose- they , are - and Parliament will not be consulted.

I.   am not . sure whether ; we' have prescribed the period during which regulations shall be gazetted. Perhaps the Minister can informme.


Senator Keating - If they are gazetted, it isnot under any statutory obligation, but merely for the purpose of giving 'information', as is done in connexion, with the issue of a proclamation. -

SenatorGARDINER.- I am obliged to the honorable senator for the information. '


Senator Russell - The gazettal is compulsory.


Senator Keating - Under what authority?


Senator Russell - Under the Customs Act.


Senator GARDINER - When author rities differ perhaps I had better form my own opinion. If they are compulsorily gazetted, they have to be signed by some one, and the whole of the work referred to by the Minister has to be undertaken; There is no more work attached to the framing of a gazettal notice' than to a regulation, and there is certainly no more printing. Money should' not be collected or disbursed without the consent of Parliament, and as a representative of the people I am on safe ground in advocating that thatshould always be done. I do not think it will make it more difficult for the Customs Department, nor do I -think it will affect the revenue to any appreciable extent. If the Customs officers found that advantage was being taken of the Tariff in a way that they thought Parliament would not favour, the position could be met by framing a regulation for submission to Parliament. The Australian Parliament to-day occupies a similar position to that occupied by the Parliament of Great Britain fifty years ago. Many of the rights that are sacred to Parliament are exercised by officers in a slipshod fashion, and it is time the Government realized' that their actions should always have the support of Parliament. Senator Pratten has withdrawn his request;" But it is my intention to submit one which is, perhaps, more comprehensive, " and on which ' I shall call for a division. AlthoughI may not havethe support of the Committee, 1 will have the satisfactionofknowing that I took thisopportunityof preventing another inroad being- made into the rights of Parliament. Parliament should have the control of the purse, and the Department should not have the right to inflict or impose duties in this . way. We would not allow the King to impose one penny of taxation of his own free will, because it would be a serious encroachment on established practice.


Senator Russell - This will give us power to exempt from duty.


Senator GARDINER - I cannot agree with the Minister, because that is not the true position. The sub-item reads -

(a)   Coconuts, whole, for the manufacture of coconut oil and oil cake, and other substances, as prescribed by departmental by-laws.

What are these other substances that are to be manufactured? Is the answer to that question to be left to departmental, officers? What if the Department decides that something coming in free should be dutiable? The officers of the Department may think that there is - an opportunity of collecting additional revenue, and may impose a duty. Would not that mean increasing taxation?


Senator Crawford - Manufacturers who use copra would not have to pay duty?


Senator GARDINER - Coconuts come in free.


Senator Crawford - For certain purposes.


Senator GARDINER - Does the oil of the coconut come in free, or is there a duty? When we consider the byproducts of the coconut, a very wide range is opened up. Before' the war, Germany was using coconut in the production of butter to' an extent hitherto undreamed of.


Senator PRATTEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - Does the honorable senator call it butter?


Senator GARDINER - Yes ; but it is not butter, similar to that produced from the milk of the cow. Some of this material might be coming into Australia, and a person interested in the butter trade might submit that its introduction free of duty would interfere with his business. The officers would be approached - in the correct form, of- course- by interested persons, who would say that the introduction of this, product free of duty was detrimental tohis business.

The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Order ! As the honorable senator's time has expired, I ask him' to submit his 'request.


Senator GARDINER - I move-

That the House of Representatives be requested to amend sub-item (a) by leaving out the words "as prescribed by departmental bylaws."







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