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Thursday, 11 August 1921

Senator LYNCH (Western Australia) . - I have only a word or two to add to what I have already said on this subject. I have expressed the view that it is utterly impossible for this Parliament to discuss the many decisions and departmental by-laws which may be promulgated from time to time by the Trade and Customs Department. We have been told that there have been some 14,000 different decisions given in connexion with a Tariff consisting of 450 items. If this Parliament insisted upon its right to separately discuss all these decisions, we should hardly have time to do anything else. The rest of the public business of the country would be sacrificed to the discussion of the details of the administration of a Department in charge of a responsible Minister. I do not think that Parliament should take upon itself such a grotesquely impossible task. With regard to Senator Pratten's allegation that good citizens _ are called upon suddenly to pay an increased duty on their importations, it is hard that they should be so called upon at any time, whether suddenly or after notice. But it may be equally hard for other persons if the course objected to were not adopted. Senator Pratten's shield, like every other, has two sides. People who manufacture shovels in this country under the wages and conditions attaching to their manufacture here may not unreasonably feel aggrieved if they find that they are called upon to compete with shovels more cheaply manufactured in Great Britain and admitted to the Commonwealth free of duty. There are two sides to this question. The manufacturer was suddenly given a measure of protection, but, I believe, the general policy of other manufacturers is to get protection by means of this Tariff, and, therefore, the manufacturer of shovels, if his operations warranted the imposition of the duty, was entitled to consideration. I am sure Senator Pratten would not deny the manufacturer this privilege. But I do not like the very liberal use that has been made of this power. It is introduced three times in one item. It did not appear in the former Tariffs, the duty then being directly prescribed in the schedule. Wow we nave three special provisos that goods as prescribed by departmental by-laws may be admitted according to the exercise of the discretionary power of the Minister for Trade and Customs for the time being. But the principle is working somewhat in my favour, for the reason that I regard this Tariff as a monstrosity, and the power vested in the Minister under these headings may be exercised to give relief to an already overburdened community. I am delighted to think that by the exercise of this majestic power the Minister may admit an article free or at a lower duty than is fixed in this schedule.

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