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Thursday, 4 August 1921

Senator DUNCAN (New South Wales) . - I rose, in the first instance, to ask for information, and was surprised that the Minister seemed to resent that. He seemed to think that honorable senators should apprise themselves of all the facts.

Senator Russell - I do not think that you should ask me to have every detail about 600 items.

Senator DUNCAN - No senator expects the Minister to possess one detail about any of the items; but we expect the officials of the Customs Department to be in possession of the fullest information, and it is his duty to make it available to the Committee, so that we may know what we are doing.

Senator Russell - The notes I have are about 3 feet thick, and for a long time I could not find the exact information.

Senator DUNCAN - Had the Minister said that at first, the explanation would have been sufficient. Certainly, if he cannot fairly be expected, with the assistance of the Customs officials, to explain each of these proposals, honorable senators cannot be expected to know all about them. My request was perfectly legitimate.

Senator Russell - Senators are not discussing .items ; they are making secondreading speeches: .

Senator DUNCAN - I did not make a speech; I merely asked for information, and. that the Minister seemed to resent. I shall not vote for any duty, unless I know it to be needed, or the Minister or some other senator gives me a sufficient reason for voting for it.

Senator Russell - You ask "questions in a second-reading speech.

Senator DUNCAN - The Minister has given some information, supplying figures to back up his bald assertion that California has been exporting huge quantities of prunes to Australia because of a decrease in the European demand. That information removes my opposition to the duty.

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