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Thursday, 18 August 1960


Mr McEWEN (Murray) (Minister for Trade) . - The Government felt some time ago that the sheer volume of the work of the Tariff Board produced delays which were aggravated partly by the limited membership of the board and partly by the secretariat behind the board which, as in any organization of this kind, is very important. Any one who has been a Minister will know the importance of a secretariat.

In order to meet that situation, the Government, some time ago, enlarged the membership of the board and made it possible for the board to sit in committees, each committee having all the authority of the board. The Government, at that time, had an opportunity to decide whether to have two or perhaps three tariff boards or to have one board with a capacity to operate as two or three entities. For a variety of reasons which were explained to the Parliament, it was thought best to retain one tariff board to make it capable of operating as several boards. There would then be the one secretariat behind it, and a uniformity of practice, because the whole board membership could meet together, and decide upon procedures and the criteria to which regard should be paid.

I do not think that the Tariff Board has been instructed by any government. Certainly it has not been deliberately or consciously instructed by our Government. It is desirable that there should be a constancy of policy and the maintenance of one structural unit contributes towards that objective. To facilitate that, it was decided that one of the members of the Tariff Board, not being the chairman, should be the deputy chairman. He was obviously the man who would sit on a second committee of the board. I think I can say with conviction that the Tariff Board, in its normal functional hearings, is now sufficiently streamlined - if that is an appropriate word - to get through its hearings without what we regard as undue delay, that is, within six, seven or eight months. I mentioned the reasons for this a few moments ago. But it is the provision in this legislation that a deputy chairman of the board may be required to undertake a special function that brings the Government to propose to the Parliament that there now ought to be two deputy chairmen. That proposal is not related to the expediting of normal work. It is related to the withdrawal of one deputy chairman for a special purpose. There will still be the chairman and one deputy chairman left for the normal work of the board. That is the explanation.

There is a provision in this clause to nominate who shall be the senior of the two deputy chairmen because he would be the man to whom the chairman would delegate his powers. In the existing legislation there is no provision for the appointment of an acting chairman when the office of chairman is vacant.. .Clearly, that is not a very desirable situation. In this clause the Government proposes to correct that deficiency and make it possible for an acting chairman to be appointed and clearly this would be the senior deputy chairman of the board should he be available.


Mr Crean - But is not the other point that, for the normal procedure, even if you divide the one board into virtually two boards, the chairman must finally adjudicate on the decisions of both?


Mr McEWEN - No.

Clause agreed to.

Clauses 6 to 8 - by leave - taken together, and agreed to.

Clause 9 agreed to.

Clause 10 (Action pending Tariff Board report).







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