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Thursday, 12 July 1906

The CHAIRMAN - Order !

Mr Page - The Minister referred to is one of the whitest men in this House.

Mr.CONROY. - I was not discussing the character of the Minister, but was pointing out what had1 happened under a provision contained in the Customs Act. I predicted what would occur, and my forecast has proved to be a true one. At the time that the Customs Act was under discussion,, one of the present Ministers said that redress would be afforded to a person who had a grievance against the authorities, but the Law Courts have decided otherwise. Apart altogether from the question of whether any real cause of grievance exists, the person who regards himself as havingbeen injured cannot have his case tried in a. Court of Law.

Mr Page - The honorable and learned member has a poor case when he attacks the Minister referred to.

Mr CONROY - I am not attacking any one. It is most remarkable that the honorable member cannot see that I was speaking of the provision in the Customs. Act, which gives power to the Minister to seize a man's books. I then referred, to the state of health of a previous Minister, which did not permit him to give proper, consideration-

Mr Salmon - The honorable and learned member should not say that, it was because the Minister gave too muchpersonal consideration to the affairs of his Department that his health broke down.

Mr CONROY - I say that the state of the Minister's health would not permit him to give proper consideration to the case.

Mr Mauger - That is an outrageous statement.

The CHAIRMAN - Order ! The honorable and learned member will be in order in referring incidentally to any clause in the Customs Act; but he will not be justified in making personal references of a derogatory character to honorable members.

Mr CONROY - I mentioned no name.

Mr Crouch - The honorable and learned member slandered an absent man.

Mr CONROY - The honorable and learned member knows that he lies when he calls my statement a slander.

The CHAIRMAN - Order ! The honorableand learned member must withdraw that remark, and the honorable and learned member for Corio must also withdraw his observation.

Mr CONROY - I withdraw my remark, but I desire to say that the honorable and learned member for Corio made a most unwarrantable statement.

Mr Crouch - I made a statement that the honorable and learned1 member was slandering an absent man by saying that he did certain things in connexion with the administration of the Customs Department under an hallucination.

The CHAIRMAN - Order. The honorable and learned' member must withdraw his remark.

Mr Crouch - I withdraw it, but I desire to make a personal explanation. The honorable and learned member for Werriwa said that the right honorable member for Adelaide.-

Mr CONROY - I did not mention any names.

Mr Crouch - But the honorable and learned member indicated very clearly the person to whom he referred. I cannot repeat what I have stated, but I think that honorable members knowexactly what the right honorable member for Adelaide was, and what he is.

Mr CONROY - I did not think that there was a man in this Chamber who was unaware that the state of health of the Minister referred to had precluded him fromgiving proper attention-

The CHAIRMAN - Order. The honorable and learned member must not pursue that line of argument.

Mr CONROY - I do not desire to. I merely wish to show that in the Customs Act we conferred upon the Minister power to do certain things, and that, rightly or wrongly, any person who might be aggrieved had no remedy against him. Will that please honorable members?

Mr Page - That is better.

Mr CONROY - The principle remains exactly the same. I have indicated what took place under the Customs Act. I admit, for the sake of argument, that the fullest consideration was given to the case in question, but I repeat that as the section stands, an aggrieved person has no remedy. Under this clause an aggrieved person would be equally helpless. Even chough a person might be successful in proving that the provisions of the Bill ought never to have been applied to him, he would have no remedy. I do not want tosay what I think of the honorable and learned member for Corio, or his interjections.

The CHAIRMAN - Order.

Mr CONROY - Perhaps I ought not to have taken them seriously - or, indeed, to have taken any notice whatever of them. The honorable and learned member enjoys the proud distinction of being the most stupid man in the House.

The CHAIRMAN - Order. The honorable and learned member must withdrawthat remark.

Mr CONROY - I withdraw the expression, and leave the honorable and learned member to the tender mercies of his constituents. At one time I lived in the district represented by him. I do not know what has come over the electors in that part of the State. Perhaps they returned the honorable and learned member in order to punish me formy sins.

The CHAIRMAN - Order.

Mr CONROY - The clause will be put to uses which no honorable member can anticipate. Honorable members would not believe me when I foretold what would happen under the Customs Act. I was told that my remarks were foolish, but events have proved that what I stated was true, and that those were foolish who would not payany attention to me. I maintain that if the clause be passed in its present form we shall bring about, not only a repetition of the action to which I have referred, but the degradation of Parliament itself. A number of the clauses in the Bill vest so much power either in the Minister or in the officials who directly control him that their operation must be injurious. I am perfectly satisfied of the accuracy of my statement. 1 made a similar prediction when yet another clause in the Customs Act was under consideration.

Mr Tudor - The honorable and learned member is a great prophet.

Mr CONROY - Is it not unfortunate that my prophecies have been fulfilled?

Mr Tudor - The honorable and learned member will find that they have not been realized if he consults Hansard!

Mr CONROY - At the time the Customs Bill was under consideration, did I not predict that some future Ministerial head of the Customs Department would probably take advantage of its provisions to increase the valuation of imported goods for Customs' purposes? Have not my prophecies been verified in that connexion? Has not the Minister increased the valuation of harvesters for Customs purposes? Has he not increased their price above that at which the local manufacturer himself swore before the Tariff Commission he could produce them in Australia?

Mr Watson - The price to the consumer has been reduced.

Mr CONROY - In consequence of the duty having been increased?

Mr Watson - It has been reduced, nevertheless.

Mr CONROY - Only a few weeks ago the honorable member for Melbourne Ports declared that it was necessary to impose a duty upon a certain article in order to raise its price, so that those engaged in its manufacture might receive higher wages. Consequently, it follows, from his method of reasoning, that when we reduce the price of an article we lower the wages of the men engaged in its' production.

Mr Mauger - The honorable and learned member does not know what he is talking about. He should knock off and let us go home.

Mr CONROY - I should discontinue my speech, I suppose, to allow the honorable member and his little ring to have their own way. I do not blame the honorable member, because he merely acts as an agent, and therefore I have 'never animadverted upon him.

Mr Mauger - I would direct your attention, Mr. Chairman, to the statement of the honorable and learned member that honorable members are acting as agents. I ask that he be directed to withdraw it.

The CHAIRMAN - I did not understand the honorable and learned member for Werriwa to make that statement, but if he did so I am sure that he will withdraw it.

Mr CONROY - I did not say that honorable members acted as agents. The clause provides that competition shall be deemed to be unfair if -

Under ordinary circumstances of trade it would probably lead to the Australiangoods being no longer produced, or being withdrawn from the market, or being sold at a loss, unless produced at a lower remuneration for labour.

Is not that practically the statement which I alleged that the honorable member for Melbourne Ports! had made? There can be no escape from the position. Almost any person, except the honorable member himself, would be able to grasp it. It is monstrous that this Committee should be at the beck and call of the Minister of Trade and Customs. I am satisfied that he is the most dangerous man who has ever entered the public life of Australia.

The CHAIRMAN - The honorable and learned member must withdraw that remark.

Mr CONROY - I withdraw. I can only say that this class of legislation has always been brought forward for the purpose of giving the Minister an absolute and autocratic control. I know of nothing which is likely to prove so dangerous as is the intrusting of power toa man like him. I can only hope that at the next election his constituents will prevent him, not only from occupying Ministerial office, but from being a member of this House.

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