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Tuesday, 16 August 1921

Senator GARDINER (New South Wales) . - I very much regret that the Government have seen fit to propose this change.

Senator E D MILLEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - I regret having to submit the motion.

Senator GARDINER - I think that the speed we have been making with the Tariff has been quite reasonable. We have some business men in the Senate who are very closely in touch with business men outside, and it was only to be expected that there would be a much closer inspection of the Tariff than perhaps took

Senator E D MILLEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - No undebatable items were discovered until we sat all night.

Senator GARDINER - I did not sit all night. I left at a reasonable hour, and I also remind the Minister that I was not present in the debate upon theearlier items in the schedule, and that theprogress was then much slower than subsequently. Therefore, I do not feel disposed to take any of the blame for delay. Honorable senators should realize how important every item is tosome one outside. I do not go round looking for people with complaints to make about the effect of the Tariff; but business people have sought me out to direct my attention to this and that matter, and I must confess that the speed at which items are being passed permits of no time to describe adequately the difficulties experienced by business people asthe result of undue haste in another place in passing the schedule. There is another aspect to this matter. As far as I can see, the Minister in charge in another place lent a very willing ear indeed to every suggestion that the Tariff should bear the complexion of the opinion of the House. If there was anydistinct expression of opinion by honorable members, the Minister, without prolonging the debate, made concessions, and agreed to compromises. But nothing of the kind has been experienced in this Chamber. The Minister seems to have taken the stand that the Tariff must go through complete in every detail as it left the other place.

Senator E D MILLEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) -Note the applause from Senators Guthrie, Payne; andPrat ten. If we had pleased one honorable senator last week, we would have offended others.

Senator GARDINER - I can quite understand that Senators Payne; Pratten, and Guthrie, being' keen business men, with an exact knowledge of the effect of this Tariff on various businesses, should have irritated the Minister by the persistency with which they scrutinized the various items. The Minister in charge of the Bill is responsible for its slow progress, because of his persistency - if I felt strongly towards him I should say, unparalleled obstinacy - in resisting any request for a reduction of the slightest fraction of one penny in the duty on some of the items.

Senator Russell - I think I can claim a higher percentage of concessions upto the present than were made in the other House.

Senator GARDINER - The Minister will have a chance of proving the assertion. I make this statement as the result of my observation during debates in which I have participated.

Senator Wilson - What concessions have you made?

Senator GARDINER - Well; I permitted one hundred items to go through without moving requests which, in view of my attitude generally towards a Customs Tariff; I had every right to submit The Tariff, I take it should represent the views of the majority in this Chamber ; not the Minister's view-point only:

Senator Russell - I claim to have interpreted the opinion ofthe majority of honorable senators: In respect of two or three items I suggested a compromise.

Senator GARDINER - I am glad to hear that. Any compromise made by the Minister must have been during my absencepossibly in the early hours of Friday morning; last, when, no doubt, the Minister was amenable to reason.

SenatorE. D. Millen.-That may be one advantage of allnight sittings.

Senator GARDINER - Perhaps itis; and perhaps by means of such all-night sittingstheTariffmaybegotthrough; by themiddleof Septembers Instead of lengthening the hours of sitting; in order to conclude the debate' on the schedule; I would prefer that we fixed a date at whichthe measure should pass its' final stage: We would then be in the happy position of knowing that, whatever' time wasoccupied by the discussion on debatable items, the schedule would be through by a certain date.

Senator THOMAS (NEW SOUTH WALES) - That would be better than all-night sittings.

Senator GARDINER - It would. There is another aspect to this proposal to meet at 11 o'clock on Wednesday and Thursday mornings. Does this mean that we shall adjourn earlier at night, and is it a guarantee that there will be no all-night sittings?

Senator E D MILLEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - Everything will depend on the progress made.

Senator GARDINER - Then the Minister would be well advised to make some statement on this point. Let us fix an hour for adjournment, say, 6 o'clock in the evening.. For an assembly like this that would be a reasonable hour. Then, with daylight for the transaction of our business, we would get through a lot of work, and the Minister could come eachday refreshed in mind, and, let us hope, prepared to accept more readily concessions suggested by his own party. If this suggestion is not acceptable- to the Government,, the Minister might divide the schedule into' sections' and determine to take a vote upon each section on' a certain day.

Senator E D MILLEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - That could not be done. If on the date fixed' the item "woollens," for example, had been under discussion, do you think that SenatorsPratten or Guthrie wouldhave agreed to close the debate on that day?

Senator GARDINER - I think it is a pity the debate on those items was closed so early, because Senators Pratten and' Guthrie' had much valuable information to give us. However; I am sure that those senators' would be willing: to meet the Government in such a . matter, because in the' schedule there are only half-a-dozen items about which' there need be a great deal of discussion, whereas there are. hundreds of items' upon' which there need be little, if any debate/ An arrangement for fixing the date for the passing of each division wouldwork very satisfactorily.

Senator Wilson - Then why not take a vote on this motion without further delaying the Senate?

Senator GARDINER - I am quite willing to do that; but as this is a very important matter, I doubt if it would be wise to close the debate now. If the Minister intends to be obstinate, and persists in saying that the Senate is to sit longer hours, it may be just as convenient for me to be here moving amendments at every opportunity in order to give expression to the principles which I hold. Unless we are to adjourn at a reasonably early hour every evening, no advantage will be gained by resorting to morning sittings, since honorable senators will have no time to prepare for their work. As the result of this proposal, we shall gain two and a half hours per day; but . I venture to say that the first time the Minister thinks we have not made sufficient progress, we shall be asked to sit all night. It is not reasonable for the Government to try to compel us to pass the Tariff at the pace set by them. I have tried again and again to induce one or two honorable senators to assist me in holding up business, but the Government have such loyal supporters here that it is impossible to secure such co-operation.

Senator E D MILLEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - Then the honorable senator admits that he has attempted to hold up business?

Senator GARDINER - Yes. On the item relating to paraffine, for instance, I endeavoured to do so. If I had had my way, that item would still remain unpassed, because it will put out of action an industry that has grown up under Protection. When dealing with such industries, honorable senators may be pardoned for discussing for a few hours the interests involved. Many items which may seem unimportant are of] immense importance to the business men conducting the industries to which they relate, as well as to the employees in those industries, and the people who consume their products. There is not an item in the schedule that does not seriously . affect some interest. The Minister should endeavour to obtain from the Senate an honest expression of opinion as to what sort of Tariff is desired. I realize that I am out of step with the Senate and another place, since I desire a Tariff that would be more acceptable to the men who have to pay, and probably less acceptable than this is to the men who want to make money out of it. Since both Houses have practically said that the Tariff before us is what they desire, it remains for us to deal with it item by item. I cannot get any consideration from the Minister, and I am forced therefore to justify my attitude to the people by showing them - and it will take a little time to show them - how this Tariff is going" to make the cost of living a little heavier. Because I have made that attempt, the Minister practically says to me, "We will penalize you by forcing you to remain here for an undue number of hours per day." I wonder whether we could appeal to the Arbitration Court to save us from unduly long hours? Even under the present arrangement, I find it difficult to deal with ten or fifteen items every morning so as to prepare myself for their discussion when the Senate meets. I have to consider what will be their effect upon the people I represent, and to obtain full information in regard to them. If we are to have morning sittings, I shall be unable to do this, and the result will be that we shall sit until late. If I am in doubt as to the effect of any item, I can but ask the Minister for an explanation, and with his usual courtesy he will supply me, if he feels so inclined, with the information I require. If we continued as at present, I could obtain that information for myself during the morning, and so save the time of the Committee. If the Government take from honorable senators who are bringing their intelligence to bear upon the Tariff in a way that does credit to them, and adds to the dignity and importance of this branch of the Legislature, the hours that they have been devoting every morning to an endeavour to thoroughly understand the Tariff by a careful examination of the items of it, as well as by giving interviews to those who wish to put certain facts before them, the morning sittings will lead only to greater delay. There are people who wait on honorable senators to complain that many of the duties are an unfair tax on their raw material, and I have seen honorable senators morning after morning devoting themselves' to a consideration of lists of anomalies that have been brought under their notice. My suggestion to the Government is that they should invite us to deal, first of all, with the non-debatable items. That having been done, L do not think more than twenty would remain to be disposed of, and the whole Tariff could be passed within a few days. If the Minister in charge of the Bill had the same desire that I have to meet- the wishes of honorable senators generally, we could conclude our consideration of the Tariff by Friday next. There is no reason why business men, who are anxiously awaiting our decision on the more important items of the Tariff, should be kept in suspense week after week, whilst unimportant items are being dealt with. We have a most important division to deal with to-day, and we ought to be able to pass it by 11 p.m. If the Government are not prepared to say that we .shall not sit after a certain hour every evening, I shall vote against the motion.

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