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Friday, 10 August 1906

Mr REID (East Sydney) . - I regret that the Prime Minister has not acted upon the suggestion which I made to him when the proposals in regard to the Customs and Excise duties upon spirits were submitted.

Mr Deakin - I did, and I have been in search of the right honorable member for the last half-hour.

Mr REID - I was within the precincts of the building.

Mr Deakin - I was at the right honorable member's room.

Mr REID - I am quite satisfied, with the explanation of the Prime Minister. We all have a common interest in this matter, and wish to assist the Government to protect the revenue. Consequently there can be no possible reason why the leader of the Opposition should not be informed of the intentions of the Government. I am perfectly satisfied with the statement made by the Prime Minister. What I should like to say, in the first place, is that it would be very inconvenient if these matters were not promptly dealt with. This step is absolutely necessary for the protection of the revenue, but there is also the corollary that the collection of duties without proper legal authority should never exist longer that is absolutely necessary. There is no legal authority to do what is now being done under these resolutions, although the object in view justifies the means. Practically, we all are at one with respect to that point. I would suggest to the Government, however, that it is important, when the law is suspended, as it is by a motion of this kind, to take the sense of the Committee with respect to it as soon as possible, so that the uncertainty which prevails may be removed. I notice that portion of the motion that has been submitted goes in the direction of freeing some of the articles named from duty. Two different principles apply to the two different proposals. When it is proposed to impose a duty, it is necessary to secure the passing of a resolution to protect the revenue, . but when it is proposed to free from duty certain goods, the position is different. We do not have a resolution freeing an article from duty. The duty is allowed to remain until the matter has been dealt with by Parliament. If it be ultimately removed, no harm is done, since a refund can be made.

Mr McCay - I think that some of the articles in question are already on the free list.

Sir William Lyne - Most of them are, but I am not sure whether they all are.

Mr REID - It would be inconvenient to embody in this motion anything that would have the effect of f reeing an item of Customs duty, because once that item is freed, it is not easy to collect the revenue so lost in the event of Parliament arriving at a decision that it should not be free. On the other hand, where it is proposed to impose a duty on certain goods, the revenue must be protected by preventing their introduction free of duty. The Government might subsequently say, " We do not propose to allow these goods to come in free," but, in the meantime, a large quantity of them might have been introduced.

Mr Isaacs - Some of these might be read as exceptions to the earlier variations of the resolution.

Mr REID - Perhaps that is so. I am only seeking to show that there is a clear line of distinction between the two proposals.

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