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Friday, 15 December 1911

Senator SAYERS (Queensland) . - I confess that I do not like the way in which this Bill to amend the Tariff is submitted to us. The schedule to it is so framed that it is difficult to discover what is proposed. After a sitting lasting until 4 o'clock this morning, we are now asked to take up the consideration of this Bill, having had only a short adjournment of two hours in which to consider what it contains. We know that a great number of people have been making complaints as to the way in which the existing Tariff has operated. This has been particularly noticeable in Victoria, where several deputations have waited upon the Minister in connexion with the subject. It would be far better to have an advisory board, composed of men who thoroughly understand the subject, who could secure information, carefully consider it, and then submit their recommendations to Parliament.

Senator Guthrie - Does not the Customs Department do that now?

Senator Millen - Where is the information secured by the Customs Department to justify the alterations now proposed ?

Senator SAYERS - We are working in the dark to a certain extent. The

Minister of Trade and Customs has officers who furnish him with information that we do not get. If there were an advisory board to which these matters could be referred, they would enter into all the necessary details to ascertain whether it was worth while for Parliament to impose a certain duty or not. They would be able to make recommendations to us, and we should be in a position to make up our minds as to whether we should adopt their recommendations or reject them. The Minister has been approached personally by deputations, who have supplied him with information. We have seen brief reports in the newspapers about these deputations, but we have not been fully informed about them, and we know absolutely nothing about the views of the opponents of the claims put forward by these persons. I have received letters and circulars asking me to bring forward grievances in connexion with the Tariff. If these grievances had been investigated by an advisory board, I should have concrete evidence to act upon. At present I have only ex forte statements.

Senator E J RUSSELL (VICTORIA) - The honorable senator was not a very loyal supporter of the recommendations of the Tariff Commission.

Senator SAYERS - I followed their recommendations whenever I thought it right tb do so. I see that amongst the new proposals is one for the imposition of a duty of 6d. per cental on bananas. Senator Guthrie laughs, but when the last Tariff was under review he secured the imposition of a duty pf 4d. on dried herbs because there was a man at One Tree Hill who was making a living by growing them.

Senator ALBERT GOULD (NEW SOUTH WALES) -Colonel SirAlbert Gould. - Was there not a boy working with him?

Senator SAYERS - I beg pardon; I believe there was.

Senator Guthrie - And the industry is growing.

Senator SAYERS - It was an absurd thing to alter the Tariff because one man and a boy were engaged in a certain industry. There are thousands of people growing bananas in Queensland ; yet Senator Guthrie emits a laugh of derision when the subject is mentioned. Desiring to be fair, I admit that in North Queensland, round about Cairns, the banana industry has been in the hands of Chinamen. Some of them employ white men.

Senator W RUSSELL (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - That is a nice state of things !

Customs[15 December, 1911.] Tariff Bill. 4493

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