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Wednesday, 27 July 1921

Senator RUSSELL (Victoria) (VicePresident of the Executive Council) . - I ask the Committee not to accept the statement that has been made and repeated that the different Boards mentioned perform the same functions. Whiles that has been asserted by many speakers, there has been no endeavour to prove the assertion. This clause in its operation is strictly limited to the Tariff itself.

Senator Drake-Brockman - The Bureau of Commerce and Industry is not limited in that regard.

Senator RUSSELL - That Bureau was established simply for the purpose of Organizing existing businesses, and taking collective action in regard to overseas exports and the development of Australian trade generally; it is to deal with the marketing, and not the manufacturing of products. The Institute of Science and Industry has for its object the application of science to industry; and, as. I have said many times in my place here, lias, in the matter of the treatment of wheat, mainly through the efforts of a South Australian scientist, saved this country hundreds of thousands of pounds; it has prevented loss more than will be represented by the cost of the Institute in the next ten years. Let us be honest about these matters.

Senator Drake-Brockman - That is an excellent institution, but it does not justify the Board proposed now.

Senator RUSSELL - Scientists are not required on this Board, and yet it is suggested that all the Boards ought to be brought together. If I desire an investigation into the diseases of wheat, I do notgotoa Customs officer, but to a scientific expert.

SenatorVardon. - None of ushas made such a suggestion.

Senator RUSSELL - Honorable senators have talked about appointing a scientist on the Tariff Board. Scientists should be appointed to Boards dealing with scientific questions, and business men associated with the trade and commerce of the Commonwealth should be selected to act on a Tariff Board. A scientist would not be worth 30s. per week on a Tariff Board.

Senator Drake-Brockman - Why not deal with a bogy which does exist, instead of with one which does not?

Senator RUSSELL - I am answering the point raised by Senator Pratten, who said that much of the work at present undertaken by different bodies could be performed by one Board. The Board of Trade, which is an honorary Board, has performed excellent work, and I believe 99 per cent. of its recommendations have been accepted by the Government. The members of the Board of Trade are busy commercial men, who do not receive any salary, and as their work is of an advisory character, reports are not published. The members of the Board of Trade have a lot to do; but if it is possible for the members of the proposed Board to undertake some of the work now performed by the Board of Trade, that will be done.

Senator Wilson - If they are overaggressive no one will be responsible.

Senator RUSSELL - The Government are always responsible.

Senator Wilson - Ministers are always anxious to pass on the responsibility.

Senator RUSSELL - Has the honorable senator ever heard of a Minister sheltering behind his officers? A Minister would be a cur if he shirked his responsibilities.

SenatorDrake-Brockman. - If Parliament places the power in the hands of some one else, the Government are not responsible.

Senator RUSSELL - The Government always accepts the responsibility. There may be a slight overlapping in connexion with certain details, but it is unreasonable to suggest that the work of the Tariff Board should be undertaken by the Board of Trade, the members of which act in an honorary capacity.. It would not be unreasonable to suggest that the Board of Trade should surrender some of its powers to the proposed Tariff Board. During a most critical period . the Board of Trade rendered veryvaluable service, and the value of its work has been generally recognised. I ask honorable senators not to support the amendment, because the simple issue is to give the Board power to initiate certain inquiries within the limitations prescribed in the Bill.

SenatorREID (Queensland)[4.4].As one who voted for the retention of the Tariff Board because I believe it can perform very useful work, I do not intend to support the amendment moved by Senator Wilson. In the two previous clauses the Minister has all the necessary powers to refer specific questions to the Board. Sub-clause 1 of clause 15 provides that the Minister shall refer certain matters to the Board for inquiry and report, and sub-clause 2 provides that the Minister may refer certain questions to the Board for a similar purpose. This is the onlyinstance in whichthe Board is given independent power to act, and that is why I intend to support the provision. The Board is responsible to the Minister for Trade and Customs. During the course of its investigations it may discover that inquiry is necessary in certain directions, and it should, therefore, have the authority to act on its own initiative. I desire to ask Senator Wilson on what information does the Minister act?

Senator Wilson - It is difficult to imagine on what information the Minister does act.

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