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Monday, 18 December 1911

The CHAIRMAN - I would point out that item 54 in the original schedule deals with ginger, and the Minister's proposal is to introduce, for convenience, a new subitem between sub-item d and sub-item e.

Senator Keating -Is the whole of item 54. as it appears in the original schedule, considered to be before the Committee ?

Senator Pearce - I think that Senator Keating has overlooked the fact that my motion does not touch the whole item, but only so much of the item as is before the' Committee. It is only in the form of the Bill that the actual words are omitted. Sub-iteme as it appears in the original schedule, is preceded by the following, words -

Fruits and Vegetables, including Ginger (preserved in liquid or partly preserved, or pulped) -

Item 54 in the schedule to this Bill omits the sub-items under the covering words, and inserts in their stead new sub-items. These paragraphs are meaningless without the insertion of these words. I am proposing to insert the letters n.e.i. at the commencement of item 54. Clearly, I am not requesting the amendment with reference to something that is not in the Bill, but in connexion with something that has strict and direct reference to what is in the Bill.

Senator ALBERT GOULD (NEW SOUTH WALES) -Colonel SirAlbert Gould. - Item 54 of the existing Tariff deals with -

Fruits and vegetables, including Ginger (preserved in liquid or partly preserved or pulped).

That follows sub-item d of item 54, but sub-item d is not dealt with in this Bill at all.

Senator Pearce - My request would not affect sub-item d.

Senator ALBERT GOULD (NEW SOUTH WALES) -Colonel SirAlbert Gould. - We are dealing in this Bill with item 54, so far as concerns sub-items e, f, g, h, and 1, and we are adding new sub-items j and k, but the Minister proposes that we should go back upon the existing Tariff, and insert an amendment before sub-item e. If this were permitted, we should be amending a portion of the item which this Bill does not propose to amend, and we have no right to consider amendments dealing with matters that are not included in the Bill.

Senator Pearce - These governing letters " n.e.i." have to be read in connexion with all of these sub-items.

Senator ALBERT GOULD (NEW SOUTH WALES) -Colonel SirAlbert Gould. -If the amendment be accepted, the existing Tariff mav be left open to serious amendment in Directions not contemplated by this Bill.

Senator Millen - I think the Committee might reasonably complain of the method adopted by the Government in submitting these requests for amendment. At all times a Tariff is an extremely complicated matter to understand, but we are now asked to consider a request brought under our notice for the first time the moment it is submitted, and it has reference, not to the Bill, which has been in our hands for but ,a few hours, but to a portion of the Tariff which this Bill does not propose to amend. The Government might be excused if this were a matter of sudden urgency, but they have had months to consider these proposals, which we are told are brought forward as the result of departmental experience, and in order to remedy anomalies. Now, at the last moment, when the Bill has been passed by another place after protracted sittings, a request for an amendment is submitted, and I frankly admit that I am not quite able to see what its effect will be. We have the assurance of the Minister as to what it means, but not infrequently honorable senators differ as to the effect of an amendment. I am not quite clear that it is competent for the Committee to request another place to make this amendment upon a portion of the Tariff , which has not been submitted to the Senate for consideration. Only recently, in dealing with the Electoral Bill and other measures, it was held that we can only propose amendments which are relevant, not to the principal Act, but to the Bill before the Senate, unless special instructions have been given to the Committee to make such amendments. In view of my doubt as to whether it is competent for us to make this request, I shall not press the matter, but I urge the Government that if there are any more surprises of this kind in store for us, they will be submitted in printed form, or that the Government will indicate them now, and postpone the items which will be affected by them until we have had some little time to consider what their effect will be.

Senator Keating - The contention of the Minister is that by the reference in this Bill to sub-items e, f, g, h, and 1 of item 54 we bring under consideration the introductory words of the existing Tariff -

Fruits and vegetables, including ginger (preserved in liquid, or partly preserved, or pulped).

Whether we do or not, I agree with the Minister that these words are meaningless without the following sub-items e, f, g, h, and 1. There is no duty declared opposite the words I have quoted in the existing Tariff, and it is clear they are meaningless without the following sub-items. We are proposing to repeal the existing sub-items e, f, g, h, and 1, and, having done so, we should leave the words to which I have referred, and which really, represent a heading to these sub-items, meaningless. I understand that it is the object of the Minister's request to give them a meaning.

Senator Millen - It is proposed to omit these sub-items, but it is also proposed to substitute others for them.

Senator Keating - That is so. Are we to understand that the Minister desires to impose an effective duty in connexion with the words which I have quoted as the heading of these sub-items?

Senator Pearce - The object is to bring preserved ginger, where not elsewhere included, under the same duty as other preserved fruits, and, later on, by including ginger in brine, which is the raw material of manufactured ginger in. this item, to make it dutiable at1d. per lb.

Senator Vardon - Instead of ?

Senator Pearce - Instead of the duties set against the paragraphs which have been referred to.

Senator McGregor - Inthe other House the letters "N.E.I." were inadvertently inserted in the wrong place.

Senator ALBERT GOULD (NEW SOUTH WALES) -Colonel SirAlbert Gould. - I question the relevancy of this proposal. We are distinctly limited to the matter contained in the Bill before us. The Bill deals with item 54 of the Tariff only so far as sub-items e, f, g, h, andi are concerned, and I submit that we have no right to request an amendment in connexion with any part of the item previous to the part proposed to be dealt with in this Bill. The Minister might just as well go back to sub-items a, b,. c, and d of item 54, and request amendments upon them. This, in my opinion, would not be in order any more than it would be in order for an honorable senator to propose the insertion of new sub-items l, m, and n, dealing with the exemption from duty or the imposition of a duty upon, articles not dealt with in this Bill. If the practice were otherwise, all sorts of surprises might be sprung upon us, which might involve serious alterations of the Tariff. The requested amendment might materially affect the existing duties on ginger, and, in my opinion, we cannot deal with this matter in the way the Minister proposes. On the second reading of the measure we were confined to a discussion of such amendments of the existing Tariff as are included in the Bill, and, if we desired to extend our consideration of the Tariff, instruction should have been given to the Committee to that effect. That was not done, and we are now confined strictly to matters included in the Bill, whilst the Minister proposes a request upon a portion of the existing Tariff, which is not referred to in this Bill.

Senator Pearce - I am somewhat surprised that such a point of order should have been raised at this stage of the session. I do not propose to discuss it at length, but I direct attention to the fact that, even in regard to sub-items e, f, g, h, andi of the existing Tariff, they are only referred to in the Bill by the letters, and,' according to Senator Gould's contention, we should not be able to deal with them. The honorable senator's contention, if upheld, would require that where in this

Bill it is proposed to omit the whole of sub-item e, the words -

(e)   half-pints and small sizes, per dozen, 9d. should have been used. It seems to me that the point is not worth debating, and the Committee would be completely tied up if such an interpretation of the rules were followed.

Senator Lt Colonel Sir Albert Gould - My argument has been that we are not prevented from requesting an amendment of any portion of sub-items e, f, g, h, and i, which are distinctly before us in thi9 Bill.

The CHAIRMAN - Under the Constitution, the Senate can make requests on items which are contained in the schedule. According to our previous practice items which are not contained in the Bill before the Committee cannot be requested to be amended unless an instruction has been given to the Committee. We are now dealing with item 54 of the Tariff. The proposal is to omit sub-items e, f, g, h, andi. The Minister's contention is that his motion is submitted in order to request an amendment of the covering words of each of the sub-items which it is proposed to amend. There seems to me to be a good deal of doubt about the point, and when there is a doubt I feel inclined not to restrict the powers of the Committee. Therefore, I accept the motion.

Senator Lt Colonel Sir Albert Gould - I do not propose to dissent from your ruling, Mr. Chairman, but, at the same time, I hold to the view I have already put.

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