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Wednesday, 13 August 1902

Mr BATCHELOR (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - The honorable member is quite mistaken. I listened attentively to what was said, and the resolution quoted not only praised the locallymade brushes, but also requested that the duty on brushware should not be lowered. We find that the coach painters are also doing the same thing. I suppose their reason is that they believe that the effect of the duty will enable them to get good material made within the State in which they live ; and they consider, as I do, that that will be for the benefit of the community generally. Under these circumstances, I am not prepared to go against the wishes of the men engaged in the industry.

Mr. CONROY(Werriwa).- A duty of 25 per cent. is a charge of 5s. in the £1, and we have now a statement from the Treasurer that so far as the painters are concerned they must pay this 5s. in the £l on their tools of trade, because in his opinion is. in the £1, the duty which the Senate requests us to fix, is too low a duty. Surely that is a statement which the painters throughout Australia ought to take notice of ? It shows how little the interests of that class are considered by the Government. The Government propose to take 5s. in the £1 from men like these in order that they may hand it over to some syndicate in connexion with something else which they possibly favours. I suppose that next week we shall know how much is to be taken from the people to hand over to a particular syndicate. There is no use in addressing reasonable arguments to persons who are without knowledge, and who are unable to understand arguments founded upon reason. The fact that there is a science of political economy is, apparently, unknown to honorable members on the other side. The Minister for Trade and Customs could not think of allowing liquid fuel to be admitted free because it would interfere with the coal mines. The right honorable gentleman, if he could, would stop the sun shining that there might be perpetual winter, and that employment might be given to men in getting coal out of mines. All this shows the curse of having had a legal Ministry at the head of affairs in dealing with the Tariff. It is the worst thing that could happen to any community.

The CHAIRMAN - The honorable and learned member must confine his remarks to the item.

Mr CONROY - I am pointing out that it is a great misfortune that in connexion with this Tariff Ministers should set themselves up here as advertisers for a particular firm or firms they know. We have frequently had the spectacle of a Minister rising to say that some firm he knows, friends of his own, have sent him letters saying that we should do this or that.

Sir Malcolm McEacharn - The honorable and learned member's statement is not true.

Mr CONROY - The honorable member for Melbourne may not have been present when these things have been said, but we who have been here have heard them said a dozen times. In dealing with varnish, we had a Minister getting up and giving the name of a particular firm, who he said had taken the prize at some exhibition, and tonight the Treasurer is giving the name of another firm.

Sir George Turner - I have not mentioned the name of a firm to-night.

Mr CONROY - The Senate has here made an extremely moderate request that the dutyupon these articles should be lowered to 4s. in the £1, and the Government still say that they must get 5s. in the £1 . The request being a reasonable one, we cannot expect the Ministry to agree with it. I am certain that the want of knowledge exhibited by the members of this legal Ministry has done more to set the people of the Commonwealth by the ears than anything else. I do not know where we shall be in the long run, but fortunately an election will very shortly come on, and we shall have an opportunity of setting things right by abolishing these duties.

The CHAIRMAN - The honorable and learned member must confine his remark's to the question before the Chair, or I shall have to order him to discontinue his speech. I have called him to order frequently for commenting upon Ministers and their actions.

Mr Conroy - I think I am entitled to do so.

The CHAIRMAN - The honorable and learned member is not entitled to wander from the question before the Chair.

Mr CONROY -I desire to comply with your ruling, but I think I am in order in pointing out that a proposal of this kind is not in accordance with the dictates of reason.

The CHAIRMAN - The honorable and learned member must know that he is trifling with the Chair. I have stated the motion on two or three occasions. The action of the Government, their reason or want of reason, and the probability of a future election, have nothing to do with the question before the Chair. The honorable member is not in order in referring to any of these matters.

Mr CONROY - I shall not dispute your ruling. I would point out that even if we agreed with the amendmen t suggested by the Senate there would still be a duty of 20 per cent., or a tax of is. in the £1, upon these articles. Ministers will not agree to that proposal, but I trust that they will be compelled to do so. I shall at all events support the amendment which the Senate has requested us to make.

Mr. JOSEPHCOOK (Parramatta). - I move -

That the motion be amended by the omission of the word " not," with a view to adding the words, "except as to painters and paperhangers' brushes, which shall be free."

Sir George Turner - That is going further than the request of the Senate. They ask for a reduction of the duty to 20 per cent., and the honorable member asks that these articles shall be free. I think the amendment is not in order.

Mr. BROWN(Canobolas).- I gathered from the remarks of the Treasurer that the manufacture of brushes has reached such a stage of perfection in Victoria that the local manufacturers are able not only to supply local requirements but also to supply to a considerable extent the requirements of the whole of the Commonwealth. Though the manufacture of brushware has been brought to such perfection here there is still a considerable importation into Victoria. I find that for the eight months dealt with in the return submitted by the Treasurer, the revenue derived in Victoria from these duties amounted to no less than £4,328. Possibly that revenue is derived from the class of brushes which the Senate wish to have exempted from duty.

Sir George Turner - No; a different class of brushes altogether ; hair-brushes, tooth-brushes, and brushes that are not made here.

Mr BROWN - I can quite understand that whitewash brushes and other rough brushes could be readily made in all the States, but there may be considerable difficulty in the manufacture of the finer class of brushes,and upon these a more reasonable duty, such as that requested by the Senate, might be imposed. New South Wales has not previously had the benefit of a protective Tariff and, according to the theory of the protectionists, the brush-making industry cannot have been developed to any great extent in that State. We might expect, therefore, that the importations into New South Wales would be very much greater than the importations into Victoria; but that is not the case. Although the Tariff in this respect is designed for purposes of protection, it produces a considerable amount of revenue, and, according to the return to which I have already referred, the revenue from the whole of the Commonwealth under this item amounts to £15,937. Naturally, those who have to pay the duty are desirous of some relief, and I am not prepared to say that it falls most heavily upon ordinary painters ; but the return shows that a large importation is taking place, despite the dimensions and perfections of the brush-making industry in Victoria. Prom the evidence adduced I am disposed to support the requested amendment.

Mr Deakin - I beg to submit that the amendment proposed by the honorable member for Parramatta is not in order. What we areauthorized by the Constitution to do is to make any of the omissions or amendments requested, with or without modification. What is the principle underlying the honorable member's amendment? If it be competent for us to ignore what we ourselves have done, and what the other Chamber has done in this Bill, by reducing a duty without any limitations, it must also be competent for us to ignore it. by increasing a duty to any extent. For instance, we sent up a proposal to fix this duty at 25 percent. The Senate requests that an amendment be made reducing the duty to 20 per cent. According to the interpretation of the section in the Constitution involved in the amendment now proposed, we should be able to say - "We shall rebuff you by making it 30 per cent. or 35 per cent. instead of 25 per cent." I think that illustration puts the position as well as any argument I could use. What the Constitution means is, simply, that this House may, if it thinks fit, make any of such omissions or amendments with or without modification. In this instance, the Senate have requested us to amend an item by reducing the duty from 25 to 20 percent. We may make that amendment or we may make it with any modification, by reducing the duty to any rate between 25 and 20 per cent. But it is only within those limits that we can act. We are estopped from increasing the duty by our own original proposal, and from decreasing it by the request of the Senate. If we went beyond those bounds we should not be making the requested amendment with a modification; we should be ignoring the Senate's request, and making an altogether new proposal. If the contention of the honorable member were correct, we should have this extraordinary position : that whereas, if the Senate exercised the right which it has in regard to certain kinds of legislation to make amendments, we should, in dealing with the measure afterwards, be confined to the scope of those amendments, where the Senate, having no right of amendment, but simply a right to make requests, we should be allowed to substitute altogether new proposals. The object of the procedure in which we are now engaged is to enable the two Chambers to draw nearer together ; but if the interpretation of the honorable member were adopted, it might be a means of pushing them further apart. I venture to submit that the honorable member's proposal is not an amendment with a modification, but something which, going behind the former decisions of the House of Representatives and beyond the request of the Senate, it is not competent for us to consider.

Sir William McMillan - I think it would be well for the honorable member to withdraw the amendment. To my mind the contention of the Attorney-General is a perfectly sound one. If the case were otherwise, it would be possible, in dealing with the requests of the Senate, to open up anew the whole of the questions dealt with by the items to which they refer.

Mir. Joseph Cook.- The AttorneyGeneral has put only one part of the case. I take it that the section of the Constitution means that we may treat the Senate's requests as a whole, if we choose, instead of dealing with them individually, as in the present instance. Suppose the Senate requested the reduction of the duty upon certain articles, and wished to have the duty upon other articles intimately related with them increased, surely it would be permissible for the House to deal with the two requests together, and to harmonize the Tariff accordingly ?

Mr Deakin - I admit that it may be necessary to consider the bearing of one item upon another, but contend that the case put by the honorable member does not affect my position, which is, that if the Senate requests a reduction, we can agree to that reduction or offer a smaller reduction, or stand by our original decision, but cannot increase the duty. To make an entirely new proposal is not to make an amendment with a modification.

Sir John Quick - I think that the position of the Attorney-General is unanswerable, and that our action is confined between the previous determination of this House and the request of the Senate. We cannot increase the duty to which we have agreed, and we cannot decrease it below the rate suggested by the Senate. The honorable member's proposal is not a modification of the Senate's request ; it is a new proposal.

Mr McCay - The actual wording of the Constitution is -

The House ofRepresentatives may, if it thinks fit, make any of such omissions or amendments with or without modification.

We are, therefore, specifically limited to the consideration of each request as it stands alone, and the contention of the honorable member for Parramatta that we are at liberty to deal with the requests as a whole, with a view to harmonizing the Tariff, is not sustained by the Constitution. The Attorney-General's position, that our action is confined between the rate of duty originally proposed and that requested by the Senate, is I think, correct.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I thought from the first that the other side were right. I do not press the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdra wn.

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