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Wednesday, 15 August 1906

The CHAIRMAN - I am sure that the honorable member will withdraw that remark.


Mr BRUCE SMITH (PARKES, NEW SOUTH WALES) - We expect a little more than the usual courtesy to be shown bv a leader, especially when he is addressing a member of his own party. If honorable members of the Opposition are not to have freedom of expression, I for one should have to draw off from the party a little more than I have been doing.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - That would be a great loss.

Mr BRUCE SMITH (PARKES, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I am not going to be diverted from the point that I wish to make. Every honorable member ought to remember that a vast number of witnesses on both sides have been examined and cross-examined by eight men representing the two fiscal parties. I presume that the Commission heard the evidence of these witnesses dispassionately, and arrived at their findings apart from party feeling. No honorable member is logically justified in coming to a conclusion, different from that of the Commission merely on the evidence of one witness, unless he is also prepared to review the whole of the evidence which led the Commission to arrive at their conclusion. I wish to know a little more about this matter, and should like the chairman of the Commission in the first place to give us the reasons which he considers would justify us . in again vindicating its action. I am sorry to again call upon him to speak; I regret that after the able way in which he has discharged his duties as a member of the Commission, he should be called upon so frequently in this Committee to vindicate the judgment expressed by that body. The Government have come forward with a proposal different from that recommended by the Commission, and the only statement which they make in justification of it is that, " The officers say this," or " The officers say that." I have the greatest respect for officers in the abstract, but I am bound to say that a good many things done bv some of them in the Customs Department of the Commonwealth have very much shaken my confidence in them. That being so, I think that the Minister should fortify himself with the reasons which the officers have in mind in making these recommendations. It is scarcely sufficient for him to say that the officers of the Department advise that this or that be done. If it were, we should be governed' by officers. I should like the officer in question, through the Minister, to tell us why he thinks that we should depart from the conclusion arrived at by the Commission after examining all the witnesses and subjecting them to the test of criticism usually applied by such a body. The Prime Minister has taken up the part of the Minister of Trade and Customs, and has not 'given us his- reasons for departing from the recommendation of the Commission. Since the recommendation is one upon which the Commission were unanimous. I think we are entitled to have those reasons stated. That having been done, I shall ask the Chairman of the Commission to give those of us who are anxious to uphold the Commission the reasons which he thinks would justify us in helping him once more in this Committee to vindicate its action.

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