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Wednesday, 27 July 1921

Senator PAYNE (Tasmania) .- This is one of the most important, clauses of the Bill. Honorable senators have decided that there shall be a Tariff Board.

Senator DRAKE-BROCKMAN (WESTERN AUSTRALIA) -brockman. - Not yet.

Senator PAYNE - They have accepted the Bill- so far with very slight amendment. We have to deal with the Bill as we find it, and cannot anticipate events'. Up to the present the Committee has accepted the principle of establishing a Tariff Board. I want to see it made as effective as possible. I am just as anxious as the mover of the amendment' for economy, and just as keen on it aa is any other honorable senator, but there are two ways of advocating it. One may advocate a reduction which may not lead to economy at all. The fact of saving £100 here or there on certain items, if it means incurring expenditure which will bring in no return, cannot be classed as economy. I not. only want to see the Bill' made as effective as possible, but I want it administered as economically as possible. By a. previous amendment we have taken out of the hands of the Minister "the control of the aggregate expenditure, by fixing a limit of £4,000 per annum. This clause gives the Board the power on its own initiative, to inquire into certain' matters which are absolutely vital. Not even the mover of the amendment could suggest that the four paragraphs in sub-clause 2 of clause 15are not essential to the whole procedure. We must retain them, . and the Bill, gives power to the Board to initiate inquiries under them. I take it that whoever are appointed members of the Board will- be competent.

Senator Senior - There has been a lot of talk about this, but. it does not lead to much, because the Board can approach. the Minister, if, necessary, and he will request them to make inquiry.

Senator Wilson - If the Board make the inquiry without consulting the Minister, should this amendment be carried., they willgo beyond their powers.

Senator PAYNE - But the honorable senator has already taken: away from the Minister . the responsibility as. to the amount of money . to be- spent, annually, by the Board . He-said," We will decidethe amount."

Senator Wilson - Is not that a wise precaution?

Senator PAYNE - Yes, and I supported it; but let us be consistent, and f ollow the lead which the honorable senator set yesterday. Let us refrain from putting onthe Minister an unnecessary responsibility: We appoint the Board in order that we may have; as far as; possible,, an effective-Tariff, and if we rob the Board of the power of- initiative we shall practically clip- its wings, and cannot expect it to do. the good work that would otherwise be- done. I would not give the Board full power in every direction,- but the four paragraphs in sub-clause 2 of clause 15 are essential, and every inquiry under them which can be initiated by the Board must have a direct relation to the Tariff. Although Senator Pratten has, on the- face of it, made out a fairly good' case in justification of the amendment regarding the possibility of duplication: of work, I claim that, although there may be some duplication, that does not justify the carrying of the amendment. If the Bureau of Commerce and Industry are engaged- on an investigationinto certain phases of trade and commerce in Australia, and the Tariff Board' is brought into existence by the passing- of this Bill, surely- the intelligence of the members of the Board will- prevent them from making an- inquiry in exactly the same direction . They, will be able, to get. thedetails to. a certain point from the work of the Bureau, and. deal in their inquiry with the evidence obtained by the Bureau only as it affected the Tariff'. Senator Pratten. - Would it not be an exception to find one Government Department taking any notice of what another is doing?

Senator PAYNE - This is not going to be a Government Department in the ordinary sense of the term .

SenatorDrake-Brockman. - What else is it ? It is not a private Department.

Senator PAYNE - In the early stages of the consideration of that Bill, numbers of us showed our opposition tothe Board beinga departmental, Board, and we have the. Minister's assurance that it will not be.

SenatorDrake-brockman. - It . will be a Department.

Senator PAYNE - It will be a. very differentkind, of Board . from what . is usually known as a departmental 'Board composed of -public servants. I take it that the best brains available 'will .be secured for the -purpose, and I have .sufficient confidence in -the Government to be sure that they will not appoint men who will duplicate work unnecessarily. If work is duplicated, we can find it out .by the very first : report furnished to Parliament, and then Parliament will be in a position .to amend this legislation.

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