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Wednesday, 26 October 1904

Mr ISAACS (Indi) - I rise now to make a proposal, which, I think, will expedite public business. I may say that the Opposition have had a consultation, and have arrived at the conclusion that very considerable progress has been made towards the realization of the views presented on their behalf.

Mr Mauger - We have scored all along the line.

Mr Reid - It is a happy issue out of all our afflictions.

Mr ISAACS - Several propositions made on behalf of the Government during the debate have given us considerable satisfaction, and I think that they are now beyond the region of controversy. In the first place, since we first began this agitation, this much has been accomplished - a Commission is to be appointed. The next point to be considered is the composition of the Commission. The Government, through the Prime Minister, have met our views on this aspect of the question to a very considerable extent. The embargo originally placed by the right honorable gentleman upon the composition of the Commission has been largely removed, and Members of Parliament are not to be disqualified, by reason of their political positions, from appointment to it. The third point is that the Opposition are to be consulted as to the -personnel of the Commission. That will approximate very closely to an appointment bv the House, and means that the appointment of the Commission will not be a purely Executive act. The fourth point is that there are, substantially, to be progress reports furnished by the Commission, and that is a matter of considerable importance. These promises, in conjunction with the expression of opinion offered by the honorable and learned member for Ballarat - an expression of opinion which, no doubt, will have great weight, and has practically received the acquiescence of the Government - that the industries most urgently in need of consideration should first receive it, and that progress reports be presented to Parliament, go a long way to meet our view that the operation of the whole Tariff may not have to be traversed by the Commission j that it may be found sufficient to deal with those matters which we consider urgent, and which may hereafter be considered urgent, although not within the region of our present consideration. The fifth point is that in the concluding words of his speech - words which were very fair - the Prime Minister stated yesterday that, although he could not pledge himself before he saw the reports of the Commission as to the exact action that he would take, still he had no hesitation in saying that he would be prepared, on the presentation of these reports, to deal with hardships, if any were disclosed, and would have no fear of being upbraided for disregarding the fiscal truce in permitting that course to be. adopted. This is as far as we can expect him to go at present, and I think we can fairly rely on the Government respecting that statement. The House, of course, will have the fullest opportunity hereafter to say whether, in its opinion, sufficient consideration has been given to that aspect of the matter. The embargo placed on the consideration of Tariff matters during the life of the present Parliament, and even during next session, has been removed, and the Government, while stating that they are not prepared to say, until they see the nature of the reports of the Commission, what action, if any, shall be taken, leave themselves with an open mind to consider the nature of those reports. If they show urgency and necessity, it will be open to the House to say what further steps shall be taken, and- we shall then be not only in as good a position as we are at present, but in a better position to judge of the matter. In these circumstances the Opposition, having held a consultation, think that the best interests of the country will be conserved by our not proceeding further with the amendment. I therefore ask leave to withdraw it.

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