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Wednesday, 26 November 1930

Senator LAWSON (Victoria) .- I have listened with considerable interest to most of the speeches that have been made during this debate, and have found myself in somewhat of a difficulty in deciding which way I should register my vote. But when I set aside the speeches of honorable senators, and analyse the bill itself, I find that it provides that during the period of the prohibition or an embargo, with, or without conditions, no bounty shall be payable. I do not wish to see the Government forced into a position which will allow an embargo or prohibition to operate, and still permit of the possibility of a manufacturer claiming a bounty.

Senator Sir George Pearce - There is a good remedy for that - to gazette out the proclamation.

Senator LAWSON - I am aware that that would end the proclamation. I do not know that this debate opens up the whole question of our tariff policy, including prohibitions and embargoes. The proclamation of an embargo is an executive act for which a government has to assume full responsibility before the country; an executive act for which a government is primarily responsible to another place which makes and unmakes Ministries. If it can obtain the support of the majority of members in that other place for a proclamation, it has an endorsement of its policy.

Senator Sir George Pearce - That other place is only one branch of Parliament.

Senator LAWSON - As I conceive it, this is not the place where governments are made and unmade. We can criticize the general policy of issuing proclamations, or move the adjournment, to protest against the executive acts of governments, but, as a matter of fact, this chamber is powerless to determine the fate of a Government. It can help to mould public opinion,. It can inform the public mind. But it is not this place which has a right to determine whether a government shall continue upon the treasury bench.

Senator Lynch - It can, and has, rejected public policy.

Senator LAWSON - It can reject government bills. This House, subject to certain limitations, has co-equal authority with another place with regard to the passage of legislation, but it cannot affect the administrative acts of a government. A government is responsible to the people, and to another place for its executive acts.

Senator Sir George Pearce - Did not the Senate prevent the Government dealing with transport workers' licences ?

Senator LAWSON - The interjection of the right honorable senator is quite timely. That was because in the passage of that measure a certain power was reserved to this chamber with regard to the disallowance of proclamations. Where that power exists it is because of the existence of a particular statute. But the general principle remains unaltered, that, although the executive acts of governments may be criticized and called into question in the Senate, they cannot be affected by the decision of the Senate. It therefore seems to me that the question whether protection to an industry can best be given by a bounty or a duty does not come into issue in the consideration of this bill. The Government says, "We have issued an embargo". I may say that I do not like these negotiations between governments, or the representatives of governments, or Ministers of the

Crown, and private companies. They are dangerous. I do not suggest that in this case there has been any impropriety; I do not know the circumstances. But I do not like the principle. In order either to preserve continuity of employment to those engaged in the industry or to save the industry itself from disaster, the Government issued a proclamation providing for an embargo on the importation of galvanized iron. In return it secured from the company an undertaking that prices would not be increased. The Government's power to enforce that agreement consists merely of its right to withdraw the proclamation if it has reason to believe that, the agreement is being infringed. The bill provides that so long as the embargo exists no bounty shall be paid. It does not ask us to confirm the Government's action in placing an embargo on importations. I ask the Minister whether he has carefully investigated the legal position, and whether, in the event of this legislation not being approved by the Senate, and the embargo remaining, there would still be a liability on the Crown to pay a bounty on manufactured goods.

Senator Daly - Certainly there would be.

Senator McLachlan - But that could be obviated by a further agreement.

Senator Daly - That is so.

Senator LAWSON - I also ask the Minister whether there is in existence any agreement with the company that, during the operation of the embargo, it will make no claim for a bounty? I do not want to labour the matter; but I do not wish to be placed in the position now of having to decide in regard to the general question of bounties or the tariff policy of the Government. If there is to be a prohibition of importations, I want to be certain that the company will not be entitled to claim the bounty.

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