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Wednesday, 9 November 1904

Mr WEBSTER (Gwydir) - I have not the advantage possessed by the honorable member for Maranoa of being personally acquainted with the Collector of Customs at Brisbane, but I have no doubt that he is a very valuable officer. I did not hear the honorable member for Kennedy, and, therefore, I am at a loss to understand the reasons which actuated him in moving for a reduction of the item. I have, however, had the advantage of hearing the honorable member for Maranoa, who is a strong advocate of the claims of the Collector. I cannot conceive of any justification for singling out one officer for treatment of the kind proposed by the honorable member for Kennedy. I could have understood his action, if his proposal had formed part of a scheme for a general reduction of the salaries paid to the higher officials of the Commonwealth. Having heard no direct complaint against the officer, I do not feel justified in following the honorable member for Kennedy. When an officer has so many onerous duties to perform in connexion with a number of important statutes, his salary should not be reduced unless substantial reasons are advanced. The administration of the law relating to the sugar bounties imposes upon the Collector the most important functions, and the success of that legislation must largely depend upon the discretion which he exercises.

Mr Page - I desire to call attention to the state of the Committee. [Quorum formed.]

Mr WEBSTER - The distribution of the sugar bounties is a very important work ; and if the officer performs his duties as well as has been represented by the honorable member for Maranoa, I can only conclude that the honorable member for Kennedy has failed to advance substantial reasons for the reduction of his salary. We should consider the responsible duties he is called upon to discharge-

The CHAIRMAN - The honorable member must not be .guilty of repetition.

Mr WEBSTER - I am not guilty of repetition. If the Chairman had waited for a moment he would have found that I was about to refer to an entirely different matter, namely, the administration of the Immigration Restriction Act.

The CHAIRMAN - The honorable member is now distinctly out of order in instructing the Chairman as to his duty.

Mr WEBSTER - I was not instructing the Chairman.

The CHAIRMAN - Order ! The honorable member is now contradicting me.

Mr WEBSTER - I know that things are getting a little bit mixed, and I can make every allowance for that. We are all becoming a little tired, and perhaps our tempers are being tried to some extent. If a reasonable position had been taken up by the Prime Minister, the present period of irritation might have been avoided. We have had sufficient experience of the administration of the Immigration Restriction Act to know that it requires to be enforced with great care .and discretion, and by officers who will reflect credit upon the framers of the Act, and upon the Government whose servants they are. Inasmuch as no complaint has been lodged against the officer in question, we should pause before we reduce his salary. I believe that when we have a good man we should pay him well. We have heard many complaints that we have not insisted upon the law being strictly administered.

Mr Mahon - I regret that there is not a quorum present in the Chamber. [Quorum formed.]

Mr WEBSTER - The manner in which the alien immigration restriction laws have been evaded renders it essential that we should have a Customs officer in Queensland in whom we may repose the most implicit confidence. Owing to laxity on the part of officials in some of the States of the Commonwealth, aliens have been admitted without remonstrance-

Mr Wilson - I desire to take your ruling, sir, as to whether the honorable member is in order in discussing the Immigration Restriction Act, apart from the duties which the Collector of Customs is required to perform.

The CHAIRMAN - So long as the honorable member connects it with the item which is under discussion he will be in order. But I would point out that he has already spoken twice of the effect of maladministration in the various States.

Mr WEBSTER - I have never, as a matter of fact, used the term " maladministration." I said " ill administration." I claim that I am at liberty to continue my remarks, so long as I can connect them with the officer whose salary is under consideration.

The CHAIRMAN - Order ! I have already ruled in favour ofthe honorable member, so that it is not necessary for him to discuss my ruling.

Mr WEBSTER - I was endeavouring to prevent a waste of time in the shape of interjections. In the administration of the Alien Immigration Restriction Act, every officer who appreciates the responsibility cast upon him-

The CHAIRMAN - The honorable member is now repeating himself.

Mr WEBSTER - It is sometimes neces-. sary to do that, in order to prevent misunderstanding. It is far from my desire to needlessly repeat anything that I have said previously.

The CHAIRMAN - Order ! I have already warned the honorable member several times. I will now bring standing order No. 276 into operation by pointing out that the honorable member is guilty of continuous irrelevance and tedious repetition, and I therefore direct him to discontinue his speech.

Mr Mahon - I rise for the purpose of moving that your ruling be dissented from by this Committee.

The CHAIRMAN - It is not competent for the honorable member to do that. Under the standing order to which I have referred the honorable member for Gwydir has a right to require that the question whether he shall be further heard shall be put to the Committee.

Mr Webster - I shall certainly take advantage of that standing order by requesting you to put that motion to the Committee,

Mr Mahon - Do I understand, sir, that you rule that I cannot move a motion dissenting from vour ruling ?

The CHAIRMAN - The honorable member can vote with the Ayes upon the motion which I shall put to the Committee.

Mr Mahon - I respectfully submit that at no stage of our proceedings is an honorable member deprived of his right to move that the ruling of the presiding officer be dissented from.

The CHAIRMAN - The honorable member is under a misapprehension. I have given, not a ruling, but a direction. If the honorable member will look at standing order No. 276 he will recognise that. The remedy is provided by the standing order itself. The motion which I shall put to the Committee is whether the honorable member for Gwydir be further heard.

Mr Mahon - Mr. Chairman-

The CHAIRMAN - There can be no debate upon the motion.

Mr Watson - Has the honorable member for Gwydir been ordered to discontinue his remarks?

The CHAIRMAN - Yes, upon the grounds of continuous irrelevance and tedious repetition.

Mr Watson - I think that they were quite relevant, at any rate.

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