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Tuesday, 22 November 1910

Senator MILLEN - It seems to me that the question before the Senate presents itself in two ways. First, is it competent under the Standing Orders for Senator Stewart to submit this request; and, second, even if the Standing Orders permit that to be done, would it be constitutional? I submit that the honorable senator was quite in order in submitting his' proposal at the present juncture. Standing order 327, which deals with instructions to a Committee of the whole, has no bearing on the present point. Hitherto it has been competent for an honorable senator to submit any amendment to an amending Bill which covered a section of the principal Act which was being amended, but not to propose an amendment of any portion of the principal Act which was not covered by the amending Bill.

Senator Findley - That is what we are doing in this case.

Senator Millen - No. This Bill, in clause 2, distinctly proposes to amend schedule A to the principal Act.

Senator Findley - In certain directions.

Senator Millen - It is Senator Findley who refers to certain directions, and not the Bill. Clause 2 reads -

Schedule A to the Principal -Act is amended as set out in the Schedule to this Act, and Duties of Customs are hereby imposed in accordance with Schedule A as so amended.

And under the head of "Schedule" we read -

That Schedule A to the Customs Tariff 1908 be amended as hereunder -

This Bill is for the .purpose of amending schedule A to the principal Act, and therefore is in the same position as a measure to amend section 1 or 2 or 3 of an Act.

Senator Findley - The words " as hereunder " are used.

Senator Millen - Suppose that, instead of being a Bill to amend schedule A, it was one to amend a section of the Customs Tariff Act. Would it be contended that we were not competent to amend any portion of the section, and that the only portion which we could amend was that specifically referred to in the Bill? Previous decisions from the Chair have been that any portion of an existing Act which was brought under review by an amending Bill could be amended in other directions if the Bill permitted. A schedule stands in the same position as a clause of a Bill. On that point, I submit that Senator Stewart has not contravened the Standing Orders. But a more serious matter arises, and that is whether the request, if in order from the stand-point of procedure, would exceed the powers conferred on the Senate by the Constitution. I need hardly remind you, sir, or the Senate, that here we are on much more delicate ground. If we make a mistake in regard to the interpretation of our Standing Orders, that affects nobody but the Senate ; but if we make a mistake in the exercise of our constitutional powers, the other House might, and I think ought to, call us to account. The case quoted by the Chairman of Committees is not quite on all-fours with the present case. Then, the proposal was to introduce a new item into the schedule to an Excise Tariff Bill, but now the introduction of no new item is proposed, because, the whole of schedule A to the Customs Tariff Act is under review. On the contrary, Senator Stewart is seeking to amend an item in the original Tariff, which I submit is brought under review by the Bill. On the occasion referred to by the Chairman, the Senate was dealing with the whole Tariff. Senator Clemons moved to insert as a new item, " Confectionery containing glucose, paraffine wax, or plaster of Paris, per lb., 2d." The Chairman ruled that the request was not in order; his ruling was dissented from, and referred to the President, who, on page 507 of the Journals, gave this decision -

The Senate could not ignore the provisions of the Constitution, which limited the powers of this House to requesting amendments to, or the omission of, items already in the Bill. The proposal to which exception had been taken was not an amendment of any item in the Bill, but rather a request for the insertion of a new item. He, therefore, upheld the ruling of the Chairman.

It is clear from that decision that had a new item been proposed, it would have been beyond the power of the Senate - in other words, Senator Stewart's proposal would not have been in order. The whole question hinges on the point whether or not the whole of the Tariff is brought under review by this amending Bill. If it is not, Senator Stewart is clearly out of order according to previous decisions, because what he proposes would become a new item. But if the existing schedule be brought under review by a Bill which proposes to amend it, Senator Stewart's proposal becomes an amendment of an item already there. That being the case, the decision I have just read, which affirms the right of the Senate to move amendments upon any item already in the Tariff, whilst limiting the right of the Senate as to the introduction of new items, having been followed in the past, ought to be followed now.

Senator Findley - Senator Millen has satisfied himself that a decision given on a previous occasion, when an attempt was made to include a new item in the original Tariff schedule, is in accordance with his own view.

Senator Millen - I have not said that.

Senator Findley - If a new item could not have been added to the original Bill, how can a new item be added to an amend.ment of the original -Bill?

Senator Millen - It cannot.

Senator Findley - I say that it cannot. Now, what does this Bill say -

Schedule A of the Principal Act is .amended as set out in the schedule to this Act.

Senator Millen - Then we can make any alteration in the schedule set out in that Act?

Senator Findley - The clause continues^ - and duties of Customs are hereby imposed in accordance with Schedule A as so amended.

I maintain that the schedule cannot be added to, and that new items cannot be introduced, although they are dealt with in the existing Tariff.

Senator Millen - If we make this request, and the House of Representatives agrees with it, schedule A of the existing Act will be amended in the way we propose.

Senator Findley - It must appeal to the common sense of honorable senators that this is a rectification of anomalies Bill, and not a Tariff revision Bill. If it were permissible on the part of any member of the Senate to move an increase in the duties, a reduction of the duties, or new items, apart from those referred to in the schedule to this Bill, there would be no necessity for a Bill of this kind. The Bill states clearly what it is. It is " A Bill for an Act "-

Senator Stewart - To amend schedule A of the existing Act.

Senator Findley - It proposes that Schedule A to the Customs Tariff 1908 " be amended as hereunder set out."

Senator Millen - That is as we leave it, and not as the Government bring it in, surely ?

Senator Findley - It is proposed to amend the existing Tariff schedule in the way set out in this Bill.

Senator Givens - We could not alter a comma if that view were correct.

Senator Stewart - All the items enumerated in the schedule can be discussed.

Senator Millen - Have we no right to alter this at all?

Senator Findley - I do not say that. The honorable senator knows that we have the power to make requests in regard to any particular item included in the schedule to this Bill, but I maintain that we have no right to make additions to this schedule or to introduce new items.

Senator Stewart - Could we ask that an item be taken out?

Senator Findley - We could request the deletion of certain items, because that would not affect taxation in any serious way, but to introduce new items would be to alter the Bill completely. I maintain that we have no power to alter the Bill in the way proposed, or to make it, as some honorable senators would like to do if they had the opportunity, an allembracing, comprehensive Tariff Bill. If >ve have the power to add one new item to the schedule of this Bill, we must have the absolute power to consider the existing Tariff de novo, and deal with it from A to Z. Such a power was never contemplated in connexion with an amending Bill, and especially in respect of the Tariff.

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