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Tuesday, 16 August 1921

Senator PRATTEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) . - I shall support the amendment of my honorable colleague, Senator Thomas, because I do not think that it is fair, at this stage, for the Government to hold over our heads the threat of all-night sittings on the Tariff unless we make progress to the satisfaction of Ministers. It has been truly said that the present is really the only opportunity, during the past thirteen years, that we have had to discuss a Tariff. Every item in the 400 odd in the schedule is of importance to some one connected with the trade and commerce of the country, and, for my part, I intend to exercise, to the best of my ability, my independent judgment as to the shape it shall take. What has happened . in the past in the discussion of Tariffs? More than twelve months has been occupied by the Federal Parliament in the consideration of a Tariff, and, if my memory serves me aright, the Senate took a long time to deal with the Tariff proposals of 1908, and, in connexion with them, made no fewer than 200 odd requests to the House pf Representatives. I do not say that we should go to that length in connexion with this Tariff, but, so far as I have been able to ascertain from the evidence at my disposal, some of the items in the schedule were illdigested and ill-considered when proposed, and for a number of the amendments made in another place I, for one, shall not vote. The Government should be well satisfied if the Senate has got rid of the Tariff by the end of September. I do not propose to take as much time as I can in dealing with it, because my time is as valuable and as dear to me as that of another senator can be to him; but it is our absolute duty to see that the proposals of the Government are thoroughly threshed out, and to endeavour to have fair play shown to all concerned. Does the Minister desire that this Chamber shall be a mere registering nonentity, or does he wish it to be a House of review? Does he ask us to commit political harikari, or does he desire the specialists oh commercial matters who are senators to put their brains together to make the

Tariff acceptable to the people, so far as that can be done?

Senator E D MILLEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - I wish to give you ample time for the work.

Senator PRATTEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - I do not think that we can finish the consideration of the Tariff by the middle of September, as the honorable gentleman is suggesting, seeing that we have, perhaps, a dozen important items to deal with. One very important item was amended in another place, and those who voted for the amendment are now praying that we may restore the item to its original form.

Senator Lynch - This is not the first time that that has happened.

Senator PRATTEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - No. I suggest that the Minister should . promise that there shall be no all-night sittings, and I, on my part, will promise that I shall not waste time. As we wish only to do our duty by correcting anomalies that we know' to exist in the Tariff, Ministers might well have some sort of informal conference or discussion with senators in order to save time. Those of us who have been applying ourselves to the subject, not for the past two or three weeks only, but for the past two or three months, indeed, ever since the discussion of the schedule was commenced in another place, are acquainted with many glaring anomalies in the Tariff, and I am sure that Ministers will appreciate the position when I remind them that the views that we have formed are the result of study, interviews, and research. Personally, I shall not stand for any Tariff made in the Department of Trade and Customs in Spring-street; the Tariff must be made bythis Parliament. I do not object to meeting at 11 a.m. on Wednesdays and Thursdays, provided that the threat of all-night sittings is not held over our heads at this juncture. If, by the will of a majority, all-night sittings come, those of us who have the care of many important interests on behalf of our constituents must endeavour, by preserving a proper attitude of mind, and living a temperate life, tokeep in . a physical condition which will enable us to pay proper attention to the business in hand.

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