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Tuesday, 9 August 1921

Senator LYNCH (Western Australia) .- The request under consideration raises a question as to the point at which Parliament must in- the nature of things delegate its power to some other authority. Parliament cannot directly execute its will in connexion with all the minutus of industrial and commercial life. A parliament of archangels . could not do that. Granting this, the question is at what point shall the immediate responsibility of Parliament in such matters cease and be transferred to some other authority. There is provision in this Bill for the imposition of a duty on canary seed, and of another duty on meat-skewers, but there are matters "connected with the industrial and commercial life of the community in connexion with which responsibility for seeing that the will of Parliament is given effect must be left to some other authority or instrumentality- of government, and that authority must be the Minister in charge of the Department concerned, and no one else. . Senator Gardiner has said that officers of the Department are responsible for this, that, and the other, and has sought to attach blame to a body of men who cannot justly be called upon to bear any blame at all. "We are all aware of the tendency of politicians and public men in this country, instead of facing the difficulties squarely and tackling the Minister in charge of a Department, to throw the .blame for something that has gone wrong upon the departmental officers. They prefer to leave the Minister alone and to blame some other persons who, in the circumstances, are powerless to take up the cudgels on their own behalf. I am not that kind of public man, and never will be. I blame the Minister for anything that goes wrong in his Department. If anything wrong is done in giving effect to this provision of the Tariff, to which exception is now taken, it is the Minister and not the departmental officers whom we should blame. The Minister will not be worth his salt if he is not prepared to accept responsibility for what is done by his officers, and critics of what is done are not worth their salt if they do not hold the Minister responsible. I am sure that Senator Gardiner only wants this brought under his notice. I know of officials who try to do their duty honestly 'and uprightly, and who often have a very hard time because some public man hopes to make a reputation by scoring off men in a position in which they are powerless to defend themselves. It is not equity or justice for any public man to indulge in that kind of criticism of Government officials; I believe that what I have said requires to be emphasized. There are some politicians who are never satisfied unless as Cousin Jack said, they are a-pulling down or' a- tearing up something. The: sub-item refers to coconuts imported for the manufacture of coconut oil and oil-cake " and other substances." They might be introduced for the manufacture of a variety of substances, and it is suggested that on that account we should overload this Parliament with regulations affecting the infinity of purposes for which coconuts might be' used. Whilst Parliament should be very jealous about surrendering its powers, and it is well that the reserve power of Parliament should be held in terrorem over those who might abuse' their privileges, I remind honorable senators that in ' connexion with other legislation passed by this Parliament provision similar to that . to ' which ex- .ception is sow taken has been made. There is always the understanding that if a Minister departs from public policy to such an extent as to warrant censure, it is an easy matter in. this or any other Parliament to make him answer for his conduct. I can well imagine that if there were any departure by the Minister for Trade and Customs from approved public policy in the administration of this measure, Senator Gardiner would not be casting about for an opportunity to censure the Minister. His only trouble .would probably be that he would not have sufficient votes to support him. If the Minister steps aside from public policy, there is power in this, as well as in the other branch of the Legislature, to call him to account for it, and' make him the subject of a motion of censure." It is very hard to decide where the immediate control of Parliament should cease, but in connexion with every act of legislation there must be some power of devolution of responsibility. So in my view, whether this matter should be dealt with in the way proposed in. the Bill, or by regulation laid on the table, is as broad as it is long, whilst Parliament has all the time the power to call to account any. Miniates who has defied . publics opinion in the administration of. the Department. In my opinion, the request represents merely a desire for something new. I agree that Parliament should jealously guard, its powers, but how is that to be done by overloading Parliament with the. responsibility for trivial things with which it would, be humanly impossible for. it to deal? It is easy to mention a grievance; it is more difficult to find a remedy. Most people in this world can find fault, but feware prepared with remedies for grievances of which they complain. I think that we would be well advised to leave this provision in the Bill as it stands, knowing that if the Minister for Trade and Customs in giving it effect does anything which justifies censure, he can be easily brought to book.

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