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Friday, 25 June 1937

Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE (Western Australia) (Minister for External Affairs) [11.25].- First I point out to Senator Johnston that it is not wise to seek to re-enact a provision of the Act of 1912 without considering what has been done since. When that law was passed the Tariff Board was not in existence, and the intention then was that the commission should have, amongst other duties, those now entrusted to the Tariff Board. In 1921, the Tariff Board Act was passed, and section 15 2 provides -

2.   The Minister may refer to the board for their inquiry and report the following matters : -

(a)   The general effect of the working of the Customs Tariff and the Excise Tariff, in relation to the primary and secondary industries of the Commonwealth ;

(b)   The fiscal and industrial effects of the customs laws of the Commonwealth :

(c)   The incidence between the rates of duty on raw materials and on finished or partly finished products; and

(d)   Any other matter in any way effecting the encouragement of primary or secondary industries in relation to the tariff.

The first objection to Senator Johnston's amendment is that, if it were carried, there would be two authorities doing exactly the same class of investigation.

Senator E B Johnston - No; I contemplated for the commission, work entirely different from that done by the Tariff Board.

Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE - Parliament has placed the obligation on the Tariff Board to investigate the effect of the tariff on all industries, whether they be primary or secondary, and I repeat that if Senator Johnston's amendment be carried, we shall have two bodies doing the same class of work. Senator Johnston referred to the Royal Commisison into the disabilities of Western Australia in 1925, but he did not read to the Senate what that commission was charged to do. Here is the patent which was issued to the commission -

Know ye that we do by these our letters patent issued in our name by our GovernorGeneral of our Commonwealth of Australia, acting with the advice of our Federal Executive Council, and in pursuance of the Constitution of our said Commonwealth the Royal Commissions Act 1902-1912, and all other powers himthereunto enabling, appoint you to be commissioners to inquire into and report upon the effect of federation upon the financial position of the State of Western Australia, and as to any special financial disability suffered by that State as a result of federation which is not suffered by the other States of the Commonwealth, and to recommend what steps should be taken to remedy such financial disability, if any, sufferedby that State.

As I said last night, all that that commission said could be done by the InterState Commission can be done under the paragraphs in this clause, to which Senator Johnston wishes to add the following paragraph : - " (ba) The effect and operation of any Tariff Act or other law or regulation of the Commonwealth on primary industries, revenue, manufactures or trade and commerce in any State or States."

This is already provided for in the Tariff Board Act, and if a State wants an inquiry as to the effects of Commonwealth law on the financial position of the State, or on its industries, it can move the commission under paragraphs d, e andf.

I gave honorable senators that assurance last night, not on my own authority, but on the authority of the legal advisers of the Commonwealth; the services of those officers are available to honorable senators also.

Senator E B Johnston - Where are these gentlemen?

Senator Sir GEORGEPEARCE.They are in the chamber to assist Ministers and honorable senators who wish to be informed on any legal points. Senator Johnston will find that the matters covered by his amendment can be fully inquired into and reported upon by the commission under the powers set out in paragraphs d, e andf. The Inter-State Commission will have power to assess the facts and the finanical disabilities ofany State, and that is a point in which Western Australia is particularly interested. In these circumstances, I suggest that the amendment is entirely unnecessary.

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