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Tuesday, 25 October 1904


Mr REID - I use the word " agitators " in the sense of freedom of expression. I do not mean the word in the vulgar sense. We are all agitators in our own cause; and the thought I wanted to convey was that members of the Opposition, who are so absolutely fearless in the expression of their opinion, bowed down in meek humility to the honorable member for Wilmot, until that gentleman announced his intention of voting with the present Government. Then my friends opposite began to doubt the intellectual equipment of the honorable member for Wilmot. I have no sort of doubt about honorable members opposite. They have one consuming idea all the time, and they are going to endeavour to carry out that idea at every opportunity. This is number two attempt on the Government, and I think that number three is on the notice-paper for Thursday, while there may may be something else on the horizon. After honorable members have exhausted their struggles, and have found that there is nothing to be gained, I hope they will condescend to consider the financial business of the country.


Mr HUME COOK (BOURKE, VICTORIA) - How many motions of want of confidence did the right honorable gentleman move in twelve months?


Mr REID - I moved one such motion on the Tariff, and never another.


Mr HUME COOK (BOURKE, VICTORIA) - I mean in the State Parliament.


Mr REID - The honorable member is digging up musty records of another Parliament - a proceeding which renders him virtuously indignant at any other time.


Mr Watson - The right honorable member moved thirteen such motions in New South Wales, did he not?


Mr REID - If the honorable member for Bland makes that statement, I shall have to call it a rash one. The honorable member knows that the fact was nothing of the sort. All I can say is that I am delighted to find that I am to be the standard of propriety' for the most advanced and patriotic party known to Australia; it is quite reassuring to me to find that on every occasion I am to be taken as the standard. I have never had, in the whole course of my political career, more of mv speeches quoted than I have lately, and I am bound to say that I never thought I could speak half so well.


Mr Webster - Those speeches were delivered in the right honorable gentleman's prime.


Mr REID - I hope the honorable member does not insinuate that I am past my prime.


Mr Webster - I mean politically.


Mr REID - I want again to point out that our object in having this discussion is a perfectly legitimate one. We desire to see whether, in the course of a free inter- change of opinion, we cannot arrive at some basis which will give satisfaction to all. If that object be achieved, honorable members would regard it as much more satistory than a continuous fight over a matter of so much concern. I suppose I shall have the unanimous assent of honorable members when I say that if the proposed Commission is to do good, the less it is under the influence of party struggles the better. We must have a Commission

Of inquiry that is an impartial Commission. If it is a partisan Commission, it is absolutely out of place. We can do all the partisan work here. We do not expect Royal Commissions to do partisan work. They are sworn on a different basis altogether. They are sworn to act impartially. They are sworn to disabuse their minds of all the political and party influences of the day.


Mr Isaacs - Does not the right honorable gentleman think that honorable members would endeavour honestly to ascertain the facts?


Mr REID - I have no doubt that they would, but if the four honorable members whom I have mentioned were appointed members of that Commission, would the honorable and learned member, as a man of candour, expect me to be satisfied with their report? My honorable and learned friend will see that we do not need to cast any reflection upon any honorable member of this House. All that I say is that honorable members, as men of fairness and candour, would not expect those who believe in a revenue Tariff to accept such a Commission with satisfaction. I know that if there were four free-trade members on the Commission, and there was no protectionist member, my honorable and learned friend would not accept that Commission with satisfaction. I am sure that my honorable and learned friend has no idea of having a larger number of one political complexion than of another on the Commission.


Mr Isaacs - It should be fairly constituted.


Mr REID - What does " fairly " mean? Two and two?


Mr Isaacs - We cannot divest it of all political significance.


Mr REID - I am only talking of what is meant by "fairly constituted." Assuming the members of the Commission to be all independent and impartial, is the honorable and learned member opposed to the equal representation of revenue tariffists and1 protectionists on the Commission?


Mr Isaacs - I think that a fair thing would be to appoint the members in the proportion in which this House was elected.


Mr REID - But the difficulty is that we were not sent to this Parliament on the fiscal issue.


Mr Isaacs - Oh !


Mr REID - The honorable and learned member, when a witness is in the box, may endeavour to discredit, for good reasons, his truthfulness or his candour ; but when the exPrime Minister has publicly made the statement that the battle was fought on the basis of suspending the fight upon the Tariff, my honorable and learned friend would not say that that Prime Minister went to the country on the issue of free-trade and protection.


Mr Isaacs - I have stated what I think would be fair, but I do not think it is a vital thing that we should have a proportionate number of free-traders and protectionist's, so long as they are members of this House.


Mr REID - When the honorable and learned member gets down to figures he sees that there is a great difficulty. For instance, we are told that the numbers for protection and free-trade in this House are respectively forty-one and thirty-four.


Mr HUME COOK (BOURKE, VICTORIA) - About four to three.


Mr REID - Forty-one to thirty-four is not four to three.


Mr HUME COOK (BOURKE, VICTORIA) - Roughly.


Mr REID - Very roughly- but that is not the proportion. Does the honorable and learned member for Indi want to have the Commission so composed that there will be one more member on the one side than on the other?


Mr HUME COOK (BOURKE, VICTORIA) - Yes, because that is the policy of the country.


Mr REID - Now we know exactly the difference between us. But the honorable and learned member for Indi says, very fairly, that that is not a vital matter.


Mr Isaacs - I have stated my preference. I do not think the matter vital.


Mr REID - I am always prepared to have the larger number of the jury of my way of thinking if I can get it. But I am glad that the honorable and learned member is not diametrically opposed to me on that point. We narrow the issue down. The honorable and learned member is not strongly opposed to the view that there should be an equal number from both sides. Now, I want to give particularly my reasons for considering that Members of Parliament should not be on that Commission.

In the first place, the Commission has to report to Parliament. I desire honorable members to remember that. It has to report to Parliament, and the Members of the Parliament have to vote on the issues raised by the Commission. That is always the case if you have Members of Parliament on Royal Commissions. But we have never, as far as I remember, had Royal Commissions composed of Members of Parliament in the Commonwealth. I do not remember one single instance.


Mr Mahon - What about the Navigation Bill Commission?


Mr REID - Surely the honorable member can appreciate the difference between a burning question like the Tariff and the Navigation Bill. But in that case I think there was a Committee appointed in the first instance.


Mr Watson - No, there was in regard to the Manufactures Encouragement Bill, but not in regard to the Navigation Bill.


Mr REID - However, that is not a matter for which I am responsible.


Mr Poynton - Cannot the right honorable gentleman trust Members of Parliament ?


Mr REID - Cannot we trust other persons besides Members of Parliament? To my mind it is like appointing men on the jury who have afterwards to sit on t 'he bench and see that the inquiry is fairly conducted. That is the weakness of the proposal.


Mr Isaacs - Does not the right honorable gentleman propose tha; the litigants shall sit on the jury?


Mr REID - The honorable and learned member has been compelled to raise a number of the wildest absurdities in the world. He assumes - and, of course, as he has no confidence in the Government, he is at liberty to assume - that we are capable of the wild absurdity of appointing to the Commission members who have an interest in the subject of inquiry. He imagines that we shall appoint persons who will be hopelessly blinded by self-interest and hopelessly incompetent. He is perfectly at liberty to imagine these things ; b'ut in my opinion it is possible to obtain the services of men, not in Parliament, who will be impartial and independent. This House consists of seventy-five members in a population of 4,000,000,' and I have a vague idea that outside the seventy-five we might POSsibly find high-minded, competent, disinterested persons to sit on the Commission.


Mr Page - Is not every one interested in the Tariff?


Mr REID - In one sense.


Mr Page - In every sense.


Mr REID - We are all consumers; but there is a difference between the mild interest which a man may have as a consumer and his interest as a member of a fighting army, who wants one side to win. In my opinion there would not be the slightest difficulty in appointing members of the Commission who would be free from the objections referred to But you will never get Members of Parliament free from the objections that they go on the bench with a pre-judgment - that they go there as either revenue ta'riffists or protectionists, with a pre-judgment which would colour the whole inquiry. But it is possible to appoint men who have absolutely never taken any fighting part in the question one way or the other. All I insist on is that we cannot get men without political feelings on the one side or the other inside Parliament, and that therefore we have to get them outside. And if the Government of the day come to a wrong choice in respect of these Commissioners, we are subject to the censure of Parliament. We have to exercise executive power. In advising the 'Crown we are subject to Parliament; and Parliament can - if we make any mistakes, Parliament will- very easily call us to account. But I do not want this Commission to be the subject of a great struggle in Parliament in respect to its choice, in the' first place, and afterwards to its report. That would lead to a great waste of public time. We should never see the end of the session. My honorable friend, in submitting his motion, has not mentioned the industries that he wishes the Commission to inquire into. He says that he could not do it. But he might have tried to do it until he was stopped; there was nothing to prevent his mentioning halfadozen industries until he was stopped. But he insinuated one or two industries. He did not straightforwardly say, "I am the champion of the whisky distillers " ; but, incidentally, by his remarks, he i;s the champion of a whisky trust in Australia.


Mr Poynton - That is too thin.


Mr REID - It looks very like it.


Mr Mauger - The right honorable gentleman might as well say that I championed it.


Mr REID - The honorable member for Melbourne Ports is not at all in question.


Mr Isaacs - This is very poor.


Mr REID - If the honorable and learned member is to be the judge, it always will be. If he only knew my opinion of his recent speeches - but I shall not inflict it upon the honorable and learned member. I desire to point outthat he did incidentally mention one or two industries. He spoke of Joshua Bros., and their troubles over whisky. He mentioned hats also. Does the honorable and learned member wish that there should be an increase ofthe 30 per cent, duty on hats? There is silence in the corner. What about hats? The honorable and learned member mentioned whisky, and he mentioned hats. He knows that there is a 30 per cent, duty on hats; does he wish to increase that duty ?


Mr Poynton - Does not the right honorable gentleman wish to have any investigation in respect to hats?


Mr REID - I am not shutting anything out; that is my position. I am prepared to let everything come before the Commission. I object to the whisky men having a preference, that is all. The honorable and learned member for Indi also incidentally mentioned the woollen mills. We know that when the item of woollens was under consideration, it was deliberately stated that if the duty were reduced to 15 per cent., it would involve the ruin of these woollen mills. Statements to that effect were made outside and inside this House, but in spite of them, the duty was reduced from 20 per cent to 15 per cent. Who voted for the reduction to 1 5 per cent. ? The leader of the Opposition. That honorable gentleman voted to reduce the proposed duty of 20 per cent, proposed on woollens to 15 per cent.


Mr Poynton - How many honorable members on the opposite side did the same ?


Mr REID - We did not object to the reduction. We on this side are not protectionists -

Mr.Isaacs. - Hear, hear.


Mr REID - Those of us who voted for the reduction of that duty.


Mr Poynton - I refer to protectionists on the oppositeside.


Mr REID - The protectionists on this side probably voted to keep up the rate of duty. At any rate, I am not proposing to shut any of these things out. I wish to give a hearing to every one, hot only the big Melbourne factories, but also the factories in the other States. We intend that the people of the other States shall have a fair investigation of their grievances. How can we, sitting in this Chamber, arrogate to ourselves the power to exhaust a list of every industry that can possibly wish to appear before the Commission? It is only an honorable gentleman who is looking to industries very near him who thinks he can do it. No honorable member in this House, who takes a broad view of the whole indusr trial growth of Australia, will pretend that he is competent to do it, and if we are to leave any with their grievances uninquired into, our Commission becomes a delusion and a sham - a mere political move, instead of a national inquiry. The other day the jewellers waited upon the Minister of Trade and Customs. In Victoria, before Federation, the duty on jewellery was 20 per cent., but the Commonwealth Parliament imposed a duty of 25 per cent., a higher rate than had previously been in force in Victoria.


Mr Isaacs - Did we not put 15 per cent, on something else that reduced it?


Mr REID - That, I am not aware of. I do not profess to know all these things, and that is why I wish this inquiry to be an open inquiry. I am not one of those self-opinionated statesmen who believe thev can think of everything. I have sense enough to know that I cannot think of everything, and I do not wish to shut any one out. That is the position I take up. Representatives of the working jewellers in Victoria came to the Minister of Trade and Customs, and expressed a desire for a duty cf 35 per cent, on jewellery. Some ot them wanted a duty of 60 per cent., as they have in the United States of America. I say to the representatives of all these industries - " By no act of mine will I shut you out ; you shall have exactly the same opportunity as the representatives of every other industry ; you shall have no more and no less."


Mr Mauger - If the report of the Commission should be in. their favour, will the right honorable gentleman help them?


Mr REID - I wish to point out, in reply to my honorable and learned friend, who commented upon a statement - and I do not know whether honorable members will credit me with the motive I wish to assign - that I publicly made that statement before the honorable and learned member took this action in the endeavour to see whether we could not arrive at some reasonable settlement of this matter. I have no wish to discount a vote of censure, or to avert from myself any blow which any honorable member in this House is able to inflict upon me, but in the position which members of the Government occupy lon these benches it is our duty to the public to do all that we can to minimize the difficulties in the way of the transaction of public business. I do not think that honorable members can complain of us on that score. I- put forward those views of mine, in order to see whether we could not come to some sort of an understanding which would elevate this question out of the region of a partyfight. One of the great objections urged to what is proposed by the Government is that, although this Commission might bring to light the existence of some terrible state of things, their mouths would be closed, and that for months we should never have any report from them. I met that in this way : I said I had not the slightest objection to the Commission making progress reports as often as they pleased.

An Honorable Member. - Will the right honorable gentleman instruct the Commission to do that ?


Mr REID - I have no objection. I am prepared to instruct them to report at any time they think fit.


Mr Webster - Will the right honorable gentleman act upon their reports?


Mr REID - The honorable member asks a public man to act upon some recommendation of a Commission that has not yet been appointed. I cannot say what I shall do. But I can say what I think is of more importance than anything else in my opinion : We desire to let the public as well as ourselves know the state of affairs. We are only trustees for the public, who have really to do with this matter ; and -what I say is that, instead of the secrecy of which the honorable and learned member for Indi spoke- '


Mr Isaacs - Not secrecy j, quite the reverse.


Mr REID - The honorable and learned member suggested that the Commission might carry on their work in secrecy, but in my opinion the matter is of so much public importance that every sitting of the Commission should be open to the public and press of Australia. I think one-half the value of the Commission will consist in the fact that the public are enabled to follow its proceedings from time to time through the press, and that they can hear grievances and take evidence in the open light of day.


Mr Isaacs - That is common ground.


Mr REID - I am glad to hear that there is some daylight in which we all are. We are all in favour of that, and I am not against progress reports. I am quite prepared to give the Commission the fullest power to report at any time.


Mr Isaacs - Will the right honorable gentleman allow Parliament to deal with those reports?


Mr REID - Of course; I cannot possibly prevent it.


Mr Isaacs - At once?


Mr REID - I suppose the honorable and learned member will admit that we cannot possibly expect to have a Commission appointed, and have reports from that Commission, before this session comes to a close.


Mr Isaacs - No.


Mr REID - I suppose that every one will admit that. We. are now in the month of October, and no Estimates have been passed. I hope we have not yet developed a mania for sitting all the year round, as we have practically been doing for the last four years.


Mr Isaacs - We cannot get a report from the Commission this session.


Mr REID - Very well; that is also common ground. What I wish to point out to my honorable friends opposite is that since they admit we cannot get a report this session - and common sense should recognise that-


Mr Isaacs - That is recognised in my motion.


Mr REID - It must be dear that no action can be taken until this House meets next session. The whole of the proceedings of the Commission will be made public from day to day, and members of this House, when we meet at the close of the recess, will have just as much knowledge of the evidence which has come before the Commission as will members- of the Commission themselves. And if anything has been disclosed in the course of their investigations, which will have been open from day to day without secrecy- or concealment, which, in the' opinion of any member' of this House, calls for immediate action, the Government will be in this position : They will either take. the immediate action neces sary, or they will be in the hands of the House, and may be condemned for not doing so.


Mr Isaacs - That is nothing.


Mr REID - Can the honorable and learned member expect us to be the mere clerks of honorable members opposite - to do what they tell us? I do not propose to assume any such attitude. The moment a majority of this House takes any course unfavorable to me I shall not be here long ; but so long as I am here I intend to preserve the dignity of the House of Representatives. One way in which to preserve it is by having a proper regard for my position. I have had good traditions from my predecessors, as I have always acknowledged, and I wish to occupy the same high position as they did. I ask this House> and the country, to consider what it is the honorable and learned member for Indi asks me to do. The honorable and learned member asks me to pledge myself to do something as the result of some inquiry which has not yet taken place. The request is preposterous. (The moment the House meets we shall be here to face honorable members. If, in the opinion of the House, anything has come out in the course of the investigation of the Commission which calls for immediate action, and the action desired by the majority of honorable members is not what we feel we can approve, the House has a very easy remedy. This House is able to change the Ministry if it thinks that they are not carrying on public affairs properly. But no Ministry will pledge itself to do anything on the report of a Commission which it is about to appoint. Surely no honorable member will ask the Government to do anything of that kind? Surely they will not ask us to charge ourselves with responsibility for certain action, as the result of evidence which has not yet been taken? It must be seen that the honorable and. learned member for Indi is asking a little too much. All I can say is that we' shall give the fullest publicity to everything which the Royal Commission does. We shall take the responsibility of the way in which its members are appointed, and give them perfect leave to send in reports to us at any moment on any industry which -they think it necessary! to bring under our notice, and it will be for' the House later on to say whether our conduct is worthy of its support. That is the plain issue. On the question of what is to be done afterwards, irresponsible men can give a promise, but 9 y 2 responsible men cannot. If I were sitting on the other side of the House, I might imitate my honorable friends, and make all sorts of exorbitant demands, but being in a position of responsibility, I cannot pledge myself in the dark to any course of action.


Mr Isaacs - If progress reports are made at all, it must be with a view of taking some sort of action, and all we wish to know is whether the Government will be prepared to take action thereon.


Mr REID - It is absolutely absurd to ask a responsible Government to pledge itself to. a course of action, in the light of reports based on evidence which has not yet been taken.


Mr Mahon - But the right honorable gentleman does not know what the honorable member for Wilmot is going to do.


Mr REID - My honorable friend might give us a little rest. He had a few months in office. I have been there only three months, and, after all, it was more in my way than in his. I earned my turn, and I db not know that he did. I had been at the wheel in all weathers for nearly three years.


Mr Hughes - The right honorable gentleman ought to have, but he was not.


Mr REID - Like myself, my honorable and learned friend has to attend to a few other matters. These are the grounds on which we desire to shift this question from a party basis. These are the grounds on which, we desire that the Royal Commission shall have the approval -of the whole House, instead of- being made the subject of a party fight. If honorable members favour the process of - having a ballot, . or any other method of electing the Commissioners out of the- members of the House, and of naming a list of industries which cannot possibly be complete, let me ask them this question. " Would any one send to a Royal Commission of that sort, with control over all the people and industries of Australia, an. arbitrary list without power to add to it?"


Mr Isaacs - Not without power to add to the list.


Mr REID - No. I only wanted to get my honorable and learned friend's admission.


Mr Isaacs - I have said that often.


Mr REID - We now find that we are to appoint a Royal Commission to deal with a limited number of subjects, and to empower it to extend the list as much as it likes.


Mr Isaacs - No.


Mr REID - What does my honorable and learned friend's reply mean, then?


Mr Isaacs - I shall tell the right honorable gentleman, and it is only what I have repeatedly said publicly. We can refer the most urgent industries at once to a Royal Commission, and then, if we find any others which need reference to that body, we can refer them, too.


Mr REID - So we are to have three or four Tariff fights while the Royal Commission is carrying on its inquiry.


Mr Isaacs - No.


Mr REID - We are to have a fight over "one list ; and, if it breaks down, we are to have a fight over a second list, and, if a third list comes up, we are to have another fight. The answer of my honorable and learned friend shows his position to be one of which no intelligent person can approve. When we can empower the Royal Commission to take cases of grievance without coming back to us and causing another fight ; When we can give the Commission power without limit to begin the inquiry straight away, the honorable and learned member desires to put the Commissioners in a paddock. If they see in another paddock anything which they wish to inquire into, they must come to us for leave to go there, and when they get that leave and find something else in. the next paddock which, in their opinion, needs to be attended to, we 'are to have another struggle in Parliament over that. I submit that if the Royal Commission is worth the expense it will entail, it should consist of men who will be allowed to inquire into every grievance which is brought before them. That is the view I take.


Mr Isaacs - Where is the right honorable gentleman's fiscal peace?


Mr Hughes - If there is to be no end to the grievances, there will be no end to the Commissior.


Mr REID - Does the honorable and learned member for West Sydney wish to shut out anybody ? Is that a democratic idea? Are we going on the ground of taking care to let the big city industries get all their cases investigated, and then saying that there is no time to deal with distant industries? No. I stand here to see that no industry with a grievance, from Melbourne to Perth, or to Brisbane, is shut out of the inquiry. I trust to the common sense of the Royal Commission not to indulge in any wild goose chases. Will any honorable member say that it ought not to visit the chief towns of the six States? Will any one say that it ought to sit in Melbourne or Sydney without visiting the other States? Tam sure that he will not. What does that mean? The inquiry is not to be limited to any part of Australia, so that the grievance should not be limited to any industries.


Mr Isaacs - Do- not honorable mem.' bers represent all Australia?


Mr REID - I do not know much about business ; but I know that this question of the Tariff is one of the most difficult questions in the world. Let me put .a case. An industry comes before the Royal Commission with perhaps a real grievance which people can regard, and a recommendation as to how it should be remedied may affect another industry which previously was satisfied. The second industry has then to go before the Royal Commission to point out that, if the proposed alterations be made, its interests should also be regarded. It is only as the inquiry goes on that men will know whether they will have a grievance or not. Supposing, for instance, that the honorable' member for Darwin was engaged in an industry which was hardly treated by the Tariff, and that he asked the Royal Commission for the imposition of a higher duty. In the course of that investigation a man engaged in another industry wHich is concerned in his industry, and which previously was satisfied with the Tariff as it was, may suddenly say, " If you make that alteration, you should also make an alteration in my favour, as I am concerned in the industry in another way," perhaps using an article in which my honorable friend is interested. I only make these simple observations which any man of business or otherwise can appreciate. If we do undertake this work, we do not wish the public to reproach us with the cost of a Royal Commission, which finds itself hampered at every turn in trying to do its best. I made a remark which my honorable and learned friend was fairly entitled to criticise. In endeavouring, as far as I could, to meet the views of honorable members opposite, I said - " I can quite conceive of anomalies being brought to light by a Royal Commission which in no sense will involve a fiscal issue between them and myself." It is perfectly conceivable that grievances may be brought to light which will not raise the fiscal question. There may be a case of hardship in respect to which both sides may be able to say, " We admit that that does not come into the fight beween us, and we shall remedy it at once."


Sir William Lyne - That is absolutely impossible.


Mr REID - I do not think it is.


Mr Mauger - Take the iron trade.


Mr REID - My honorable friend will, I hope, enlighten us by-and-by on that trade. All I wish to say is that if it is possible to remedy any fair cases of hardship without breaking the pledges to which we on this side and honorable members on the other side are committed, I should not allow any fear of being upbraided with raising the fiscal question to interfere with doing justice. I can quite conceive of cases arising which will not raise the rag of fiscal controversy. But I must reserve my right to judge as to what action is necessary when the occasion arises. And if the House is out of sympathy with me on any occasion, and thinks that the Government are not acting properly, it has the power at all times to deal with them as it pleases. I hope that honorable members will not take these remarks to be dictated by any desire to minimize opposition of any kind. In a matter of this sort, it is my duty to put everything as fairly and reasonably as I can, and I earnestly ask honorable members if this Royal Commission is not to be a stone, but bread, that we shall try all we can to keep party complexion and party feeling out of the investigation.


Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - What would be the objection to a mixed Commission, consisting partly of Members of Parliament, and partly of private citizens?


Mr REID - I do not see any objection, though I think the course I suggest the preferable one. I do not, however, regard. it as a matter of principle that there should, or should not, be Members of Parliament on the Commission.


Mr Poynton - It has not been the practice hitherto to exclude Members of Parliament.


Mr REID - My honorable friend will allow me to express my own opinion. I think that it will be better not to appoint Members of Parliament to the Commission, but I do not look upon that as a vital matter. Whatever we do, I am anxious that it shall be done in such a way that both sides shall be responsible for it, so that we shall not have to repudiate the whole thing.


Mr King O'Malley - I would sooner have the Commission constituted entirely by free-traders, who were Members of Parliament, than appoint private citizens to if.


Mr Isaacs - If some members are appointed, that will be an admission that they are not partisans. Why, then, not constitute the Commission entirely of Members of Parliament ?


Mr REID - I make no difficulty about my position . Personally I would prefer to have only private citizens on the Commission. Of course, it would be' easy for me to say, "We reject all suggestions, we decline to listen to any arguments. The Government have taken up a certain position, and will stand by it." But that would not be a reasonable attitude to take. The object in view is to secure the public interest by an inquiry which will meet with general confidence. My honorable and learned friend must allow me, as well as himself, to have a voice in this matter. He has put a notice on the business paper, and says, " There is my motion. ' '


Mr Isaacs - What we ask is that the whole House shall have a voice.


Mr REID - It would require a much greater amount of argument than I have yet heard to induce me to leave the appointment of the Commission to the House. I think that the act is one for which the Executive must be responsible.


Mr Isaacs - Then damage may be done. It is very much harder for the House to say, " We have no confidence in the Commissioners," and to procure the revocation of their commission, thus casting a slur upon them, than to object to the original appointments.


Mr REID - There was no fighting in the House as to who should and who should not be appointed to the Navigation Bill Commission, and I think it would be most undesirable to have such fighting in connexion with the appointment of the proposed Commission. I shall be prepared to give fair consideration to the views of the Opposition as to the personnel of the Commission, expressed to me through its leader, but I think that the Executive must be careful not to hand over its duties to the House. My strongest objection to what the honorable and learned member for Indi suggests is that if the House balloted or voted for the constitution of the Commission, and forty-one members declared that certain gentlemen- should be appointed to it, while thirty-three other members voted against their appointment, the Commission would be the Commission, not of the House, but of the victorious majority.


Mr Isaacs - That might be said of every Act of Parliament.


Mr REID - Yes; but this is not parliamentary work.


Mr Isaacs - I do not think there would be any practical difficulty in arriving at an agreement between the two sides of this House as to the personnel of the Commission.


Mr REID - I absolutely refuse - and I ask my colleagues to allow me to act for them in this matter - to make the appointment of the Commission the subject of a parliamentary vote or contest. I am willing to meet the leader of the Opposition in a fair spirit as representing the protectionists. I think thathonorable members can trust his judgment, and he will have their advice. He will not be shut out from that. I am perfectly prepared to go into conference with him in reference to the personnel of the Commission, in order that it may be a national instead of a political one. If my honorable friend and I can arrive at a Commission with which both are satisfied


Mr Isaacs - A Commission consisting of members of Parliament?


Mr REID - I do not wish to make it a vital matter that there shall be no members of Parliament on the Commission, but I make it vital that all the members of the Commission shall not be members of Parliament. I am willing to give way to this extent: The inquiry will be an expensive one, and therefore we do not wish to appoint too many Commissioners. If we had a Commission of four, we could easily appoint a member of Parliament from each side of the House, and two private citizens.


Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - More than four Commissioners would be required.


Mr Webster - Seven would be required.


Mr REID - The number is a matter of detail, which I am quite willing to think out.


Mr Webster - There should be one labourite on the Commission.


Mr REID - There would be sure to be a labourite on a Commission of seven, but he would be chosen, not because he was a labourite, but because he was a competent man.


Mr Webster - And because he understood the position of those who are employed.


Mr REID - I do not wish the employes to lack consideration, and I think it is just as likely for men in that relation of life to be competent, as for any one else to be so.


Mr BRUCE SMITH (PARKES, NEW SOUTH WALES) - The Government will look at the matter from the. consumers', as well as from the manufacturers' point of view?


Mr Webster - And also from the workers' point of view?


Mr REID - I think I have said enough to show that my desire is to lift the matter out of the region of party controversy. If the leader of the Opposition and myself can come to an amicable understanding on the matter, I shall be onlv.too glad.







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