HC Deb 06 July 1908 vol 191 cc1215-6
MR. J. DEVLIN (Belfast, W.)

To ask the Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies whether his attention has been called to the decision of the Federal High Court of Australia that the Federal Excise Act, commonly known as the Harvester Excise Act, which regulated wages in the case of the manufacture of agricultural implements by means of Excise duties levied when wages were not adjudged to be fair and reasonable, and which two manufacturers contended was bad law, was outside the power of taxation conferred by the constitutions; whether the Act was supported by the Australian Labour Party on the express understanding that wages were to be screwed up by Excise duties so as to compensate the workmen for the increased cost of commodities caused by the tariff; whether any information was forthcoming with regard to the working of the Act prior to the decision of the Federal High Court; how many of the Colonies are affected by the decision; and whether he would consider the advisability of issuing a special Report on the subject.

(Answered by Colonel Seely.) I have observed telegraphic reports in the Press of the decision of the Commonwealth High Court referred to by my hon. friend. I believe the Act had the support of the Labour Party in Australia, but I cannot, of course, express any opinion as to the grounds of their support. I have no information as to the working of the Act, which applies to all the states of the Commonwealth. The Secretary of State is not in a position to issue any special Report on the subject.