14th Parliament · 1st Session
The Deputy President (Senator Sampson) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
Motion (by Senator Sir George Pearce) - by leave - agreed to -
That the Deputy President be authorized to call upon any one of the Temporary Chairmen of Committees to relieve him temporarily in the Chair without any formal communication to the Senate.
The following papers were pre sented : -
Nauru - Ordinances of 1936 -
No. 1 - Customs Regulations Amendment.
No. 2 - Customs Tariff Amendment.
No. 3 - Laws Repeal and Adopting.
No.4 - Appropriation.
No.5 - Nauruan Royalty Trust Fund Appropriation.
No. 6 -Appropriation ( Supplemental) 1935.
No. 7 - Nauruan Royalty Trust Fund Appropriation (Supplemental) 1935.
No. 8- Public Health.
No. 9 - Laws Repealand Adopting (No. 2).
No. 10 - Arms Liquor and Opium Prohibition.
No. 11 - Census Repeal.
New Guinea - Location of boundary between Dutch New Guinea and the Mandated Territory of New Guinea - Notes exchanged between the Netherlands and Commonwealth Governments.
On the 10th November, Senator E. B. Johnston asked theMinister representing the Treasurer the following question, upon notice : -
Since the inception of the federal aid roads scheme in 1926-27, what amounts have been paid each year in petrol taxes (including primage) in Western Australia, and what amounts have been paid annually to that State for road grants?
The Treasurer has supplied the following answer to the honorable senator’s question : -
The amounts of petrol duties collected in and paid to Western Australia since the inception of the federal aid roads scheme are as follows: -
Primage. - No separate account is kept of primage paid in respect of petrol imports, primage being purely a Commonwealth revenue duty, which is accounted for separately from other duties. The Customs Department’ has, however, furnished an estimate of the amount of primage paid in connexion with petrol imports into Western Australia. The approximate amounts are as follows: -
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.On the 10th November, Senator Collings asked the Minister representing the Treasurer the following questions, upon notice: -
What is the total amount of financial assistance whichhas been granted to the pearlshell industry by Parliament?
In what years and under what terms and conditions was such financial assistance made and paid?
Will the Minister supply a list of grantees, showing the amount paid to each?
The Treasurer has supplied the following answers to the honorable senator’s questions : - 1, 2 and 3. The total amount of financial assistance which has been granted to the pearlshell industry by Parliament is £10,000, made up as follows: -
The total of £5,000 granted for assistance to the industry was distributed by way of bonus on apro rata basis, according to the relation which the quantity of shell produced by each pearl-sheller bore to the total quantity of pearl shell produced. Grants for assistance were made and paid as shown hereunder -
Of thesum of £4,000 provided for assistance during 1934-35, £2,500 was paid to the State of Western Australia and £1,500 was made available to the State of Queensland for distribution to the industry.
In 1935-36, a sum of £1,000 was provided for assistance to the industry in the Northern Territory.
The list of grantees who received assistance showing the amount paid to each is as- follows: -
Details of the distribution of the sum of £2,500 by the State of Western Australia are not at present available. The £5,000 provided for alleviation of distress caused by the cyclone was made available by the Commonwealth to the State of Western Australia for distribution without any conditions being imposed other than that it should be for the alleviation of distress caused by the cyclone. The Western Australian Government provided an additional sum of £7,000 and a committee appointed by that Government to consider claims and submit recommendations made the following submissions: -
The Premier of Western Australia has advised, that subject to the conditions mentioned above, the full sum of £12,000 has been distributed as follows: -
asked the Leader of the
Senate, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follows: -
asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
– The Minister for the Interior has supplied the following answers: -
asked the Minister representing the Treasurer, upon notice -
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.The information is being obtained, and a reply will be furnished as soon as possible.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Repatriation, upon notice -
– The Minister for Repatriation states that the information desired by the honorable senator is being obtained.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
Have tenders been accepted for tlie construction of air-conditioning equipment for all dining and lounge ears on the trans-Australian railway, and, if so, when is Lt expected to have cars so equipped in use”
– The Minister for the Interior has supplied the . following answer : -
Air-conditioning equipment Iws already been installed in one lounge nml one dining car on the trans-Australian railway. In addition, tenders have been received for four sets of airconditioning equipment for installation in two lounge and two dining cars. These sets will complete the equipment of all dining and lounge ears in regular service. Tenders for the equipment arc now under consideration.
Debate resumed from the 11th November (vide page 1639), on motion by Senator Brennan -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– Although there are quite a number of points which I desire to raise in connexion with this bill, which I commend to the earnest consideration of honorable senators, my remarks on the measure will be brief. It is the considered opinion of the Opposition in this chamber that the bill does not go far enough, but the habit of the present Government is to tinker with problems; the more serious the problems, the more superficial the tinkering seems to be. A scientific survey should be made of the whole Constitution in order that the remedies proposed may be calculated to relieve entirely the difficulties which have arisen. It will be admitted by all honorable senators that the Opposition in this chamber has never failed to support every proposal brought before the Senate for the benefit of primary producers.
– Even in connexion with tobacco.
– Exactly. We have always done so when we have known, that a measure of benefit would accrue to the primary producers. In such circumstances, we have always given our unqualified support although sometimes, as becomes an earnest Opposition, we have been somewhat critical, as we are entitled to be. We have always pointed out the incomplete, and therefore unsatisfactory, nature of most of the proposals submitted with the object of assisting primary producers. We cannot overcome the difficulties confronting primary production by mere piecemeal legislation. We are not dealing scientifically with problems when we leave those engaged in primary production in various forms in the position of having to come annually to this Parliament for some measure of relief. It is quite obvious to every one who takes au intelligent interest in Australian affairs that the Australian Constitution, which has not been altered to any extent during the last 35 years, cannot serve us adequately to-day, and that in that long period problems Have arisen which show the need foi” alteration in various directions. If there is one thing that the Opposition believes in more firmly than in another, it is that the Commonwealth Parliament, regardless of the political party in power, should be clothed with full legislative powers. For example, we believe that this Parliament should have full control over industrial matters.
– What does the honorable senator mean by full industrial powers?
– There can be only one meaning to “full”, which is a short English word in the superlative degree. The Opposition believes that this Parliament should have all the legislative powers, and nobody else should have any. This Parliament should have full industrial, and also full tariff, powers. We do not believe that it should delegate its authority to commissions and boards, but that it should take on the job itself. It should have full power to say just what relief should be granted to primary producers, and there should be no limit to its constitutional capacity to decide what measures are necessary in order to put every form of primary production on a proper basis. We also contend that it should have full power in the matter of orderly marketing, and that it should be able with or without calling for the cooperation of the States, to legislate in respect, of commodity boards, and to give such bodies properly constituted power to do the job. We also believe that the Commonwealth Parliament should have full control over trade and commerce, aviation and broadcasting. Any honorable senator could occupy the full time he is permitted to speak on the second reading of this bill in showing how essential it is that the Commonwealth Parliament should be clothed with fill 1 legislative powers in various directions. Surely the Assistant Minister (Senator Brennan) realizes that oven this measure will not give the Commonwealth Parliament full power over orderly marketing, the. constitution of commodity boards, and other assistance to which primary producers are entitled. Having regard to the experiences gained in the last 35 years, and the fact that the Commonwealth’s power in other directions may now be successfully challenged, ir, is a pity that the bill has been introduced in such a form as will give to the Government only partial powers. Since the measure was drafted a successful appeal has been made to the High Court. The Government knows as well as I do - and if it does not I am informing it - that this is only the beginning of a number of similar challenges to be made which will show that the Commonwealth has not the power which it and the States and the people believed it possessed. I am surprised that the Government has not introduced what might be regarded as a. reasonably satisfactory proposal to ask the people to take an intelligent view of the Constitution and give to this Parliament the power to go ahead avid do the job.
– It is too timid.
– Yes, but I Think that is understandable. The position of the Government is as understandable as is that of the Opposition. We know that the decision in the JAmes case is responsible for this hill, and that that case followed ns a result of a quarrel between two sections of capitalists. One section of those interested in the dried fruits industry believes quite definitely in every fibre of its soul in unbridled competition and that the Government . should not interfere in any way with such things as commodity boards. That section believes in the motto, “ Every man for himself and the devil take the hindmost”. The other section believes that unbridled competition is not the soul of trade; it knows that it is the death of trade, but from bitter experience it is afraid to go the whole hog. That section which desires unbridled competition opposes proper control by legislative enactment because it stands for the middleman and the juggler of primary products for whom they are the mouthpiece and of whom we have a number of worthy representatives in this chamber. I hope that no one will misunderstand my earnestness in this matter, and think that I am opposing the bill ; I hope that it will be carried. We of the Opposition shall support the bill because we believe that it is at least a step in the right direction.
– -Does that represent the views of all the members of the Labour party?
– I know that Senator Hardy would like to get me, in the heat of the moment which he thinks he is fomenting by disorderly interjections, to make some party disclosures; but I do not propose to do so. I tell the honorable senator, however, and in telling him I tell the whole of the members of this chamber, that the Federal Parliamentary Labour party in caucus assembled has given us an entirely free hand in regard to this bill; it has been declared a non-party question.
– That is because the members of that party could not agree on it.
– Senator Hardy is hopeful that in some way the apple of discord has been thrown into the ranks of the Labour party. I assure him that nothing is further from the truth; we are a perfectly happy family on this a? other questions, and Labour senators in this chamber have a free hand which enables us to do as we think fit and proper in regard to this measure. The Labour party in the House of Representatives has not opposed the bill. Those who do not support it - and I say that with all respect- are merely allying themselves with that great army of predatory vested interests which has nothing in common with the producers and less in common with the consumers, if that is possible, and who contribute no worthy service to wealth p; eduction, primary or. secondary. Those who comprise that vast army are content simply to sit back and take advantage of. every one of the industries concerned, and boast that this bill is foreign to the interests of the Opposition. The Opposition stands for the elimination of all those thieving interests to which I have alluded.
– Does the honorable senator believe in interstate freetrade?
– Of course we believe in interstate freetrade; but fellow worker James does not; -lie wants to have it both ways, on the swings as well as on the roundabouts. We of the Opposition support this bill because we believe, inadequate as it is, that there is such a thing as an Australian standard of living which, by comparison, is better than that of any other country in the world. We believe further that this country is wealthy enough to be able to afford to uphold that standard of living, whether by the erection of tariff walls, the granting of bounties and other forms of protection, or the introduction of orderly marketing schemes. It is wealthy enough also to be able to afford to fix a homeconsumption price for its primary products. There is only one blemish on this bill ; it does not go far enough. It does not propose that we should go to the electors and say “There is a weakness here, there and somewhere else. Give us power to alter that weakness and we will do the job as good Australians. We have the courage and ability to do it “. It is in respect of these things that we think the bill is lacking. The Opposition will support the bill, while at the same time protesting that it is not adequate to deal with the situation and that it will not give to the Commonwealth the power it really needs properly to control marketing. T know it is said that one of the merits of the bill is that it restores the statu quo.* That, at any rate, is something. In other words, it will give to the Commonwealth that power to act in conjunction with the States which we all believed it already possessed. We should take our courage in both hands and go to the electors and ask them to do their job as good Australians and crothe this Parliament with far greater powers than are sought in the bill now before the Senate.
– It is on very rare occasions that I find myself in agreement with the principles enunciated by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Collings) - or, at any rate, some of them.
– Only some of them?
– Yes. I desire to bring to the knowledge of the Senate the reasons why Labour members, having failed to secure an agreement amongst themselves on this matter, decided to treat it as a non-party question. I have here a number of speeches which have beet, made in the House of Representatives by members of the Labour party. If honorable senators bothered to read them they would .discover beyond any doubt that only one section of the Labour party is prepared to support this bill, which is intended to give to the primary producers of this country not only a reasonable standard of living but also the advantages of organized marketing. I think that, irrespective of political parties, we can agree . that this bill, proposing an alteration of the Constitution, is one of the most vital bills which has ever been submitted to this Senate. It is a tremendous issue which the people have to face. As members of the Country party see it, the question iE simply whether the people of Australia are prepared to extend to the producers in primary industries a reasonable standard of living and, in addition, the advantages of orderly marketing schemes.
– The whole of the Labour party stands for that.
– That is not as apparent as it should be. I do not want it to be thought that I am in favour of unification when I say that I am in sympathy with the desire of the Leader of the Opposition to secure for the Commonwealth an unchallenged right to full marketing powers. I am not in favour nf his proposed principle of application, and I disagree with his contention that the Commonwealth should implement those powers by Governmental control. I be- lieve in producer control of primary industries; but at the same time I know that if this alteration is car ried by the people, and l tervently hope it will be, it will only endow the Commonwealth Parliament with certain power which will not be sufficient to provide orderly and organized marketing in respect of certain commodities, notably wheat. That it will give to the Commonwealth power to legislate in respect of the dried fruits industry I do not deny. The same may be said about the butter industry, But I say definitely and emphatically that it will not give to the wheat industry what the wheat-growers desire - the right to form a compulsory pool - though it will give to the Commonwealth the right to establish a home-consumption price for wheat. I do not, however, propose to argue that matter; I merely desire to draw attention to the fact that this bill possesses a disadvantage inasmuch a3 if the proposed alteration is made the Commonwealth will not have power to give to the wheat industry the advantages of a compulsory pool. The Leader of the Opposition might very well say that the best way to get over that disadvantage is to move an amendment substituting for the alteration now proposed a proposal to give to the Commonwealth full powers to initiate marketing schemes. While admitting the attractiveness of such a proposal, let us analyse the reasons for which we are here as representatives of the people. We are here to endeavour to translate into legislation the practical objectives of every-day life. We are- not hero to bluff ourselves by a mere gesture ; we are here to give to the people definite results. The result we require in this case is to provide producers with a reasonable standard of living and an organized market. Therefore, it is our duty to ask ourselves, free from political prejudice, whether we shall, by an amendment of the Constitution, get the people to endow the Commonwealth with the right to initiate full marketing schemes. I say frankly that a proposal to endow the Commonwealth with full marketing powers would undoubtedly be defeated at the poll.
– How does the honorable senator know that?
– I know it because of the limitations imposed by the Constitution itself. Certain requirement; must be met before the Constitution of the Commonwealth can be altered. First, a majority of the electors must favour the change. That, however, is not the real difficulty, because that majority can be secured by a massed vote in Victoria and New South Wales alone. But another requirement, and this is the one. which is at times queried by those anxious to alter the Constitution, is that the change must have the approval of the majority of the States. That means that four of the six States must approve of any alteration; and it is not at all likely that they will do so. I should have liked to support a proposal asking the people for full marketing powers to be given to the Commonwealth, in order that compulsory pools and organized marketing of primary production might be established; but I reluctantly realize that such a proposal would be impracticable at the present time. Again I stress the fact that, after all, we are here to get results, and we must, therefore, adopt the most practicable proposal. Does any honorable senator think that the people of Western Australia, who a bare feY months ago, indicated clearly a desire for secession from the federation, would consent to give greater powers to the Commonwealth? The people of Western Australia are jealous of their’ State rights, and honorable senators representing thatState have not hesitated to express their reluctance to grant additional powers to the Commonwealth. Not one honorable senator representing Western Australia could guarantee an affirmative vote in his State on a proposal to endow the Commonwealth with greater powers in regard to marketing than it had before the decision of the High Court in 1921. The objection to granting further powers to the Commonwealth which exists in Western Australia is not exclusive to that State; it is evident also in South Australia and, I believe, in Tasmania as well. Let us now face the position squarely. If we attempt to force on the people of those States a change which they are not prepared to make, we shall destroy the marketing machinery that, we now possess, and the primary producers will l.io worse off th ali they ure now. I sun satisfied to go as far as is practicable, ;;i!i.l fight every inch of the way to ensure reasonable standards for the producers. In 1921, the High Court decided that section 92 of the Constitution did not bind the Commonwealth, and on that decision was based the whole of the marketing legislation of Australia. The adverse finding of the Privy Council, however, has rendered that legislation invalid. We now ask the people to grant the power which we thought the Government possessed prior to the decision of the Privy Council. Would any person willingly endanger the growth and expansion of the dried fruits industry in this country or deprive the producers of dried fruits of a reasonable standard of living?
– Mr. James would.
– Would any one willingly destroy the structure of marketing which has been built up over a number of years on the assumption that the Commonwealth possesses rights which now the Privy Council says it does not possess? If we believe in the right of producers to be granted reasonable standards, we must vote for the bill I confess that I am unable to understand the attitude of some members of the Labour party towards this subject. That party has repeatedly stated that it desires to help the primary producers of this country -in every way, and to ensure to them a reasonable standard of living. That statement has been reiterated to-day by the Leader of the Opposition who said that he was prepared t.o do everything possible to help them. That is an excellent attitude. But what is the atitude of some other honorable members of the Labour party? The honorable member for Cook in the House of Representatives (Mr. Garden) has given utterance to remarks which show clearly that he, at least, is rendering only lip service when he says that the Labour party is prepared to help the primary producers. Unfortunately there does not appear to be any possibility of this issue being treated as of a nonparty character. If honorable senators will recall the legislation which from time to time has come before them they will, remember that at no time has tha Labour party agreed to approach it on a non-party basis. Has that party ever announced that it would help a government representing another political party to pass legislation designed to secure for primary producers a reasonable standard of living, or to provide for orderly marketing i Members of that party are afraid to admit that the legislative proposals of any other party contain any real merit. That is why, in a position such as that which now exists, they shelter under the “nonparty” principle.
– The achievements of the Labour party in Queensland show clearly how the Labour party has assisted the primary producers.
– I hope that Senator Brown will be able to convince his colleagues in the Labour party to support the present referendum proposals of the Government. The attitude of the Labour party to this subject is unfair. Although every policy speech delivered by successive leaders of that party has expressed a determination to ensure, a reasonable standard of living for all sections of the community, in practice that policy is given effect only in respect of those engaged in secondary industries. In regard to men on the land, who work, not 40 hours, but 60 or 70 hours a week, the Labour party makes an extaordinary reversal of its attitude.
– Be reasonable !
– If I appear to benn reasonable, it is because I am righteously indignant at the attitude of the Labour party towards the primary producers of this country. A national policy requires that a reasonable standard of living for the people of Australia shall not be limited to one section of the people. To-day, those engaged in secondary industries have the right of access to the Arbitration Court, and to the wages and conditions prescribed by duly constituted tribunals. Consistency demands that that policy shall be extended to the primary producers, especially those engaged in export industries.
– The Labour party agrees with that statement.
– Then, it should agree to a fair home-consumption price for that proportion of Australia’s primary production which is consumed in
Australia. The people engaged in primary production do not cease work at the sound of a whistle; they do not become members of trade unions which, by exerting political pressure, secure wages awards, and reasonable working conditions for their members, nor do they enjoy stated holidays each year. They practically take their chance. Let us face the facts. There are only three methods by which a fair home-consumption price, which I regard is the equivalent of a reasonable living wage, can be secured for Australian primary products. The first method that could be adopted to supplement the income of the producer is the use of direct taxation. We could say that it is necessary to redistribute the national income so that those who receive an income that is below a reasonable living wage - particularly the primary producers - will have their income supplemented from the proceeds of a special tax in order to raise it to that standard. Action of that nature has been suggested in certain quarters, but I maintain that that would be impossible because, apart from the impracticability of applying the scheme to any individual, in my opinion, direct taxation arouses a vicious class feeling which is inimical to the best interests of the country. We, therefore, must consider the second method, and it in turn has little to commend it. It is a proposal that has been debated often, in this Senate, namely, that we should give a reasonable amount of assistance to the primary producers by way of a direct subsidy through the medium of an excise tax; that is to say, that in order to give to those producers a reasonable home-consumption price, we should subsidize them in a manner similar to that employed when the flour tax was imposed in order to provide assistance for the wheat industry which, for some years during the period of low prices, has been subsidized to the extent of £3,000,000 or £4,000,000 a year. That method of assisting primary production has many advocates, but it has serious defects which outweigh the temporary advantage of direct financial grants. The greatest disadvantage is that it would not give to the producer any reasonable stability or security, because no subsidy can be given. to any industry by a government unless it has been approved by Parliament, and, what is more, that approval must be given every year. To subject primary industries to the necessity of obtaining annual subsidies would be to make them the plaything of politics and leave them at the mercy of the whims of politicians. It would be possible, for instance, if the scheme were adopted for the Leader of the Opposition to rise and say, “I shall vote that we give £6,000,000 to the dried fruits industry “ or “ that we increase the vote to the wheat industry by £4,000,000.” Similarly, those hostile to certain industries could move for a decrease of the vote.
– Is not that the position of every secondary industry ?
– To a certain extent, but the majority of the secondary industries receive reasonable assistance as the result of the operation of the tariff and are subjected to a special investigation before they receive this protection. What the producers do not want is to be absolutely dependent on the whims of Parliament. They want the’ stability which organized marketing will bring to their industries; they ask for security. Can any honorable senator say that organized marketing would be possible under a subsidy system? An industry would be prosperous one day and in the “ doldrums “ the next. Once the foundation of orderly marketing is removed from an industry it is reduced to a condition of chaos. In the butter industry, for instance, what would happen if the Commonwealth Government ‘ were not able to restore the legislative powers which have been taken from it by the Privy Council? Chaos would reign, particularly after the expiration of the existing contracts which are at the present time more or less holding the industry together. Once those contracts expired, butter producers who had been selling in the overseas markets would try to sell on the home market, and the result would be that every pound of butter that they sold locally would displace another pound of butter produced by some other person. The result would be that competion on the local marketing would be intense and price? would fall so rapidly and steeply that the producers would soon be forced down to starvation levels. I repeat that the rural producers are asking not for subsidies, but for a sound foundaton upon which they can be assured of receiving reasonable returns for that portion of their output which is sold on the Australian market.
– Will the honorable senator give his views on the excise proposal?
– The same objection applies to excise as to the subsidies. If an excise were placed on these products the net result would be that the Government would have to distribute the proceeds to the industries. Who would decide in what way the amount should be distributed? The honorable senator, for instance, might suggest that the butter industry should receive £4,000,000.
– C am not advocating an excise duty.
– No, I understand that; but there would be the same annual scramble for largesse under an excise scheme as there would be under the other proposals that I have mentioned. Moreover, an excise scheme, like a subsidy scheme, would not permit in any way the advantages of organized marketing. The problems of primary industries differ largely from those of secondary industries. A fundamental characteristic of secondary industries is that the very nature of their products enables organized marketing to be practised. If a market for a secondary product becomes glutted, the producer goes to the factory and issues orders either for a slowing down or a complete cessation of production, the basic principle being that goods are not produced unless they can be sold. How different is the position of primary industries! When a grazier turns his sheep out into the paddocks he cannot stop them from growing wool, and when a farmer plants his grain lie cannot stop the crops from growing, especially in the’ Riverina where the rainfall is generally good. It will be seen, therefore, that conditions operate in the primary industries that are entirely different from those which operate in secondary industries. In my opinion, the only basis upon which we can assist primary production to attain stability through organized marketing is that which was agreed to in this Parliament in 1933 when the butter stabilization legislation creating the equalization scheme was passed. I further consider that only a scheme such as this would be agreed to by the people. If this legislation, which seeks to perpetuate the butter legislation is not approved by this Senate, or, if, in the event of its receiving the Senate’s approval, it is rejected by the people when it is placed before them by way of a referendum- as a proposal for the alteration of the Constitution, drastic results will follow. An inescapable conclusion is that the returns to primary producers from the sale of products within Australia will be less than equal to the returns from sales overseas. In other words, the export prices will dictate the returns from local sales. The full significance of that statement is not generally recognized. Let us remember that the producer does not get the full price for the goods sold in the markets of the world. He “receives the export price less the cost of freight, insurance, and other charges incidental to the carriage of goods from one country to another. For instance, freight on dried fruits is approximately £15 a ton; therefore, if the dried fruits legislation is destroyed through the failure of this Senate or the people of Australia to agree to the Government’s proposal, the producers of dried fruits will receive a return for the whole of their crop which will fall below the export parity by more than £15 a ton, and I venture to say that would mean the absolute ruination of every producer in the industry.
– It would mean the end of the settlement on the Murray.
– Yes, and all industries engaged in the export trade would be affected similarly. The butter producer to-day receives for choicest butter within Australia approximately ls. 3d. a lb. in Australian currency, which is equivalent to ls. sterling. Who would wish to reduce arbitrarily the local price of butter below that level? But it will be reduced to a lower level if this legislation be not approved, or if the people of the Commonwealth refuse their consent to the proposed alteration, because the export prices will dictate the local price. This will not be the price which is actually secured in London for the sale of Australian butter. It will be the London price, less freight, insurance, and other incidental charges, and, it should be noted, the existing freight on butter is £12 10s. a ton.
Let us consider a further aspect of the fairness and equity of this proposal. Are we prepared to allow our primary producers who are engaged in export industries to compete with nations in which the workers are amongst the lowest paid in the world ? Are we prepared to allow the standards of such nations to govern the standards of our producers? The majority of our dried fruits producers are competing with exporters, not in the United States of America, or in countries where the standard of living is high, but in Turkey and Greece. In Greece, in order to assist exporters to “ dump “ their products at low costs, the currency has been depreciated to a much greater extent than it has in Australia. Is that classed as reasonable competition? Nobody can fairly say that our producers of dried fruits should receive a price on the Australian . market lower than, that received by producers in Turkey. In some parts of Turkey the rate of wages is from ls. to ls. 6d. a day! Is it considered that our producers should be satisfied with such a return? The question we have to consider is whether the producers in these industries in Australia should receive a reasonable living wage, the equivalent of which is a fair price for that portion of their output which is sold on the Australian markets. The issue is clear. If the desire of honorable senators is to ruin many of our primary producers, they should reject this bill. If they -wish to destroy completely some of the most important primary industries in this country they should urge the people to vote “ No “ at the proposed referendum. To my mind, the issue is quite clear, and I cannot understand why any honorable senator should oppose this measure. Why should we go back to the days of disorganized marketing, when the producers were forced to accept less than world parity prices? Why should we attempt to reduce the producers’ returns? Surely Australia has an unquestionable right to maintain its domestic economy. A principle recognized by all parties is that our secondary industries should be protected. If primary industries are to be thrown to the wolves, why should not the secondary industries share a similar fate? Why continue the. protection of the tariff? If the primary producers are to be denied a reasonable amount of protection, the only logical course to pursue will be to revert to the policy of freetrade for all sections of production in Australia.
A charge often levied against primary producers in Australia is that under the cover of marketing schemes considerable exploitation has occurred. It has been argued by certain interested persons who desire the proposed alteration of the Constitution to be defeated at the referendum that the tariff should afford sufficient protection to the primary industries. I point out that for eight years the dried fruits legislation has been in force, and that no exploitation of the people has resulted from it. The duty on dried fruits is 6d. per lb., but during the whole of that period of eight years the Australian price has been only Jd. per lb. greater than the export parity price. Is there any evidence of exploitation in these facts? The position with regard to butter is similar. The local price is ls. 3d. per lb., Australian currency. Who will say that exploitation has occurred in regard to this commodity? The experience of the past should be our guide in determining future policy. The primary-exporting industries are merely asking for a right which is clear and unchallengable. Whether the words employed in the bill provide adequately for the desired alteration of the Constitution may be open to question, and this possibly requires a decision by the High Court, but the intention is merely to revert to the position that was thought to obtain prior to the recent decision of the Privy Council.
– Does the honorable senator think that that is clearly provided for in the bill?
– It seems to me that the powers proposed to be sought are of a more restricted nature than those assumed to have been conferred in 1931. Powers are now to be asked for only in regard to marketing, but the assumption previously was that section 92 applied to the whole of the economic life of the Commonwealth. I have no doubt that the subject will be discussed from many angles. Doubt will be expressed as to whether the interpretation of the courts will be in harmony with the intention of the Government. The clear intention is merely to revert to the position that existed prior to the decision of the Privy Council in the James case.
– That may be the intention.
– I think that the words of the bill provide for that. We shall have an opportunity to discuss the matter in detail in committee, but on behalf of the primary producers who are anxiously watching the progress of this bill, I appeal to the Senate to give it whole-hearted support. On this national issue it is highly desirable that there shall be a united front, so that orderly marketing may be restored and producers may be assured of a reasonable standard of li ving.
– It seems to me that the inescapable and logical conclusion to be reached, if we accept the statements of the last two speakers, is that the bill should not contain the proposed new provision, but should provide for the introduction of unification. The contention advanced by the Government is very difficult to understand. Section 92 of the Constitution merely provides that trade between States shall be absolutely free. In 1921, members of the High Court seemed to have great difficulty in understanding the meaning of the words “ absolutely free.” They declared that the section did not bind the Commonwealth. It was staggering to be told that the meaning of those words was not the same as we were taught to attach to them when we were at school. The Privy Council gave to the words an interpretation which everybody had thought to be the right one prior to the judgment of the High Court in 1921. If the High Court considers that “ absolutely “ means “ partially,” I should like to know what interpretation it will place upon “ marketing.” I have no doubt whatever that “ marketing “ would cover almost every activity in the Commonwealth. I desire to help the primary producers as much as I can, but let us do things with our eyes open, and not camouflage the position. Senator Collings said something about restoring the status quo. I point out, however, that the proposed new section would confer powers greatly exceeding those believed to have been enjoyed prior to the decision in the James case. As I understood the matter, , formerly, if any State Parliament desired to enact marketing legislation, it would arrange for the Commonwealth Parliament to pass supplementary legislation to enable the marketing scheme to be put into operation. But the amendment proposed in this bill far outsteps this position, and at the same time will practically nullify section 92. It states that section 92 shall not apply to marketing, although the Constitution provides that there shall be absolute freetrade between the States. We must not forget that we have been sent here for the purpose of protecting the rights of the States. Whilst we should do the best we can for the Commonwealth as a whole, the States look to us to safeguard their rights. If proposed new section 92a be accepted without any -amendment, section 92 will, to all intents and purposes, be deleted from the Constitution. It would be utterly futile to retain it.
– The honorable senator cannot be serious in that assertion.
– I contend that “marketing” covers every activity.
– We must at least alter the wording of section 92.
– Then alter “ absolutely” to “partially.” If that alteration had been made when the Constitution was framed, Tasmania would never have voted for federation. If we are going to do something to assist the primary producers we should not tell them these tarradiddles. Does the Minister mean to say that the people think that the measure relates only to primary production, when the term used is “ marketing”? They believe that there is another and sinister motive behind the proposal.
L say nothing against the speeches delivered by Senators Collings and Hardy, but the inescapable log.o of their contention is that we should adopt unification, and that is not what is proposed by tho Government in this bill.
– The Leader of the Opposition stated that he would take all powers from the States.
– I do not intend to discuss the question, of unification, but, unless the proposal in the bill is very materially altered, I shall not support the measure.
– I propose to consider first the results of previous referendums, lt is all very well for the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Collings) to say bluntly, that this Parliament should have all the legislative powers, and that no other Parliament should have any, but the question is : “ Arc the people of Australia saying that?”
– Give them a chance, and they will say it.
– They have had many chances, and they have not said it. That was not the intention of the founders of federation, for, in the framing of the Constitution, the residuum of powers was deliberately left in the hands of the States. Ten referendums have been held in Australia in the last 30 years, and two and a half have resulted in an affirmative vote being cast. Of the two and a half to which I refer, one and a half related to proposals calculated to confer benefits on the States in the matter of State debts, and that ‘ is why the people voted in favour of the questions submitted. The other proposal endorsed by the people was one to determine the day of the year on which the term of office of senators should end. That matter could not be regarded as of prime importance; indeed one might even have a doubt as to whether that question was wisely decided. The fact remains that it is an extremely difficult matter to carry a proposal at a. referendum. I have had some experience in this matter. I can assure those honorable senators who have not been through such a fight that it it is, undoubtedly, an uphill contest, In consequence of an agreement between a majority of both political parties 1 supported the affirmative side in the referendum taken in 1926. It was agreed, so to speak, between the two political parties that the proposals should go to the people but that relating to industry and commerce was defeated by 1,619,655 votes to 1,247,088 votes. There were small majorities in favour of the proposal, in New South Wales and Queensland, and adverse majorities up to about 2-^ to 1 in tho four other States. In regard to essential sources the voting was: “For, 1,195,202; against, 1,597,793. The real point when a proposal is submitted to the people by means of a referendum is whether tho agreement of the States has or has not been secured. In that instance the support of the States was not given, and neither of the questions put on that occasion was carried. One of the powers proposed to be conferred upon the Commonwealth - that of essential services - appeared to be necessary, but it was not granted. No one can suggest that there is agreement in regard to the proposal now before the Senate. I presume that every honorable senator has read the report of the conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers held in Adelaide, and tho complete failure of the attempt made to obtain an agreement in some form between the Commonwealth and the ‘States. A little while ago the Leader of the Opposition said that those who opposed this proposal represented predatory vested interests “. I have the impression - I may be wrong - that the Government and the Premier of Western Australia are opposed to this proposed alteration.
– They have not said so.
– T thought that the Western Australian Government was in favour of an excise duty and a bounty.
– The Government has not said that it is opposed to this bill.
– If it is in favour of an excise duty and a bounty, does it not follow that it is opposed, to this proposed alteration?
– The Premier of Queensland - the State represented by the Leader of the Opposition in this chamber - moved a motion at the Adelaide conference that these interests should be assisted by an excise duty and a bounty, but the motion was ruled out of order by the Prime Minister as being an attempt to dictate to the Commonwealth. Is the Premier of Queensland a supporter of “predatory vested interests”?
– Does the honorable senator say that he is opposed to this proposed alteration?
– Peril aps the Leader of the Opposition will say whether he is or is not.
– He is in favour of a referendum on the subject.
– He moved at the Adelaide conference a few months ago for an excise duty and bounty.
– He has spoken in favour of an alteration of the Constitution.
– There, are two outstanding alternatives. One is the method proposed by the Government and the other is an excise duty and a bounty, as mentioned by Senator Hardy. At the Adelaide conference the Premier of Queensland moved that the Government should proceed to assist the. primary producers in a way other than that which it now proposes.
– Why misrepresent the Premier of Queensland? That was merely a stop-gap procedure.
– The AttorneyGeneral submitted six alternative proposals at the Adelaide conference.
– It is ridiculous to say that anybody who does not support this bill is being actuated by or is imposed upon by predatory vested interests. The Leader of the Opposition said that he believes in interstate free trade when, in fact, he is supporting a measure to prevent such trade.
– Nothing of the kind.
– I admit quite freely that what the Government is doing is an endeavour to assist primary production. That, however, has not always been its attitude towards primary production, particularly in con nexion with its trade diversion policy, which cannot be said to assist Australian primary production. This measure is designed to assist certain sections of primary producers by extending the powers of the Commonwealth, instead of exercising the powers which it already possesses to deal with the difficulties which have arisen. The Government will find that the people in at least three of the States, and possibly more, will say that as it already has the necessary power it is useless asking for more extensive powers. The Leader of the Senate said that if this proposal is not adopted, it will mean the end of the settlements on the River Murray; but that statement does not coincide with a remark of the Attorney-General, who admitted quite frankly that the Government could assist the primary producers by other methods; but that such methods would not provide a system of orderly marketing. That is entirely different from destroying the prospects of those on the river Murray settlements.
– The two are interwoven.
– They are’ not. I do not think that this bill is as important as some honorable senators suggest, because I am certain that the Government intends to assist the industries concerned. The Government has chosen this method, but as its proposals have not any chance of being adopted, it will eventually be compelled to utilize the powers which it now possesses. The three principal industrial! at present concerned are wheat-growing, dried fruits, and dairy produce. For years assistance has been given to wheat-growers without any alteration of the Constitution. Many persons in Australia had grave doubts as to whether marketing legislation such as has been passed was valid, and when the Wheat Products Bill was before the Senate last year I made my position very clear. On that occasion I said -
I do not propose to discuss the merits of the bill at all. The Minister who introduced the bill into Parliament explained that this scheme could not be put into operation until complementary legislation had been passed by the State parliaments. That has not yet been done. Therefore, this appears to me to be an attempt to coerce the States, either now or -later. A bill re-imposing a flour tax for an indefinite period has already been introduced into this
Parliament, so that at present it is quite unnecessary for us to proceed with this measure. There is also the constitutionality of this matter to be considered, and, from that point of view, it will be better to wait until the question of the control of interstate trade is settled by a decision of the Privy Council, as that particularly affects clauses 8 and 1.1 of this bill. For those reasons I am opposed to the bill being passed at present, apart altogether from its merits or demerits.
I felt certain that when the matter went to the Privy Council it would be found that section 92 does hind the Commonwealth just as much as it binds the States. Tn the past we have been able to assist the wheat-growing industry without an alteration of the Constitution. 1 do not wish to go into the whole history of the dried fruits industry, but it will be within the knowledge of honorable senators that two views have always been expressed in respect to the control of dried fruits. The number opposed to control has increased recently. in the nonirrigated areas in South Australia the numbers are practically equal, but in the irrigated areas the numbers are, perhaps, three or four to one in favour of control. There have always been two groups. So far as I can form an opinion, control of the industry has been most effectively carried out by honorable, sensible, and sympathetic men, who have in the main tried not to coerce their opponents, but to work with them. There has been more co-operation this year when there appeared to be doubt as to whether Mr. James would win his case before the Privy Council. Those engaged in the dried fruits industry did not ask for this system; it was not their desire that it should be introduced. Their original suggestion was that there should be an excise duty, and that those who supported the quota system should have their proportion remitted to them. A later suggestion was for an excise duty and a bounty. In order to make the position perfectly clear I quote from the Australian Dried Fruits News of the 20,th August, 1926, in which is set out the result of the appeal in the James case. A paragraph reads -
The result of that appeal we all know, lt has left James the victor and places the dried fruits industry in an embarrassing position that can only be rectified by prompt legislation on the part of the Commonwealth Government, acting within the powers that it undoubtedly possesses.
Is that asking for a referendum? Here is a quotation under the initials of H.D,H. who no doubt is Mr. Howie; his competence to speak on the subject on -behalf of the control group no one will deny. The quotation reads -
Mr. .laines has, on several occasions, stated that he would not be adverse to an excise plus export bounty scheme, and illogical as this is to his idea of cheaper fruit for Australia, it may be that such a method will have to be adopted in lieu of the present quota system.
I say quite deliberately that according to such statements they do not desire .a referendum, but I shall not complain if they accept the Government’s proposal. These unfortunate persons have to accept what the Government will give them ; but it is not at their request, any more than itis at the request of the States, that this method of dealing with the problem was adopted. I am not very conversant with the dairying industry, particularly from the viewpoint of my State, because South Australia lias never been associated with the Commonwealth dairy control system. In regard to wheat, it would have been better if no arrangements had been made and no legislation had been passed until the decision in the James case was known.
– It would have come into force if wheat had remained at 2s. a bushel.
– It should never have been brought into force when it was probable that the bill was unconstitutional and that we were merely wasting the time of Parliament by discussing it. If an alteration of the Constitution were proposed to keep alive only the industries which were already organized I would have seriously to consider it; but that is not the question. If the proposal contained in this bill is approved by the people, it will apply to the marketing of a.l kinds of goods, primary and secondary. The point has been taken in another place that Ave have not even been told what marketing means.
– Would not the cooperation of the States still be necessary?
– No. If the honorable senator will read the terms of the bill he will see that new section 92a merely qualifies section 92 so far as it relates to freetrade between the States. Honorable senators must consider that there are only two or three industries in difficulties. We must ask ourselves - are we prepared, and will the people of Australia be prepared, as suggested, to take the risk of handing over power to any Commonwealth Government, no matter how it is constituted, to control every industry, primary or secondary, merely on account of the relatively small number of people now concerned ? Until Senator Milieu spoke on this bill, one would have thought there was complete unanimity within Australia with regard to this matter, apart from the few “predatory vested interests “ to which Senator Collings referred, and some leaders of thought in Australia. Will the Assistant Minister (Senator Brennan) give me any idea as to whether the wool interests have expressed themselves as being in favour of this referendum ?
– So long as it means clothing the Commonwealth with power which it thought it had until recently, they would not object.
– HUGHES. - Nevertheless, I have read in the press that they are not in favour of it.
– They do not want government marketing schemes; they have their own.
– They do not want interference at all.
– That is not to say that they would refuse the Commonwealth power to legislate in respect of marketing schemes for some other commodities.
– If the Commonwealth obtains the power which is sought in this bill, the wool industry is liable to he controlled under it, and some of the wool-growers, at least, are aware of that. I say further that if there is any doubt on the subject, and the wool interests are asked their opinion in regard to it, they will he found not to be in favour of the extension of the Commonwealth’s power. Large numbers of wheat-growers also are not in favour of it. With regard to the general question of control, I remember fighting when I was a member of the House of Representatives against government control of apples. Despite my opposition, however, the bill was carried by an overwhelming majority, and became law, but the apple-growers themselves turned down the scheme; they refused to be controlled.
– That shows that control legislation cannot be brought in against the will of the producers concerned. In every case the industry is consulted.
– Tha t may be so at present, but it docs not follow that it will be the case with any government if the powers sought in this bill are granted.
– The proposed power will not give the right compulsorily to acquire.
– Ifthis power be granted, it will be possible to stop interstate freetrade in goods.
– This bill has not, by any means, the support of producers generally. I do not think that I should have much difficulty in proving that. On the 23rd October last, the Interstate Fruit-growers Conference met in Adelaide, and the Adelaide Advertiser on the following day published this paragraph relating to the proceedings of the conference: -
Although several speakers urged delegates to the Interstate Fruit-growers Conference yesterday to endorse the Federal Government’s marketing proposals and to give it the power it asked for provided no other powers were requested, a motion to that effectwas lost after a long and spirited debate.
The motion was lost by eighteen to fifteen. Many present did not vote.
Does that look like enthusiasm on the part of the fruit-growers for the proposed referendum? Is it to be expected that they will canvass for an affirmative vote? In my judgment, the only wayan amendment can be carried in Australia is by getting the general assent of the States and having real enthusiasm behind it. So far as I can form an opinion on this matter - I am speaking of my own State - there is a general apathy in regard to this proposed referendum.
– There is apathy in regard to every referendum.
– And a good deal of lack of knowledge about it. Real interest is concentrated in two small groups, one of which is for the amendment and the other against it.
– Wait until the issue becomes definite and the people are seised of the importance of the request.
– Nothing could have been more important than the government control of essential services. When that issue was before the people, in addition to canvassing my own electorate, I went into a Labour district whose representative was not allowed to speak in favour of the amendment. The proposal was turned down by the people in both electorates by a majority of something like two or three to one.
– Possibly as the result of the honorable senator’s visit.
– The honorable senator does not suggest that he is helping the Government by opposing this bill?
– I am not concerned with helping or hindering the Government. I am here to assist to represent the whole of the people of my State; my job is to consider whether there is justifiable ground for altering the Constitution, and if in my judgment there is not, to vote against such a proposal. And, so far as I can judge, in so voting I shall bc in exceedingly good company when I get back to my own State.
– The honorable senator cannot presuppose the defeat of the referendum until the issues are placed before the people.
– That brings me to the whole subject of pools, particularly compulsory pools ; I am noi a pooler. I think that in pools there is difficulty in detecting mistakes, which does not obtain in connexion with what some might term disorganized marketing. It is very difficult to follow the financial side of the operations of pools; all we know is that so much of a certain commodity is sold for so much, but we cannot check up on the various operations, and judge whether or not those in control of the pool have exercised good judgment. Moreover, there is almost invariably a tendency when pools are formed to attempt to dictate prices. Everybody knows that that has happened in the past in connexion with various pools that have been established; and some of the difficulties associated with the wheat industry in Australia during recent years have been due to the establishment of wheat pools in North America. In’ Great Britain to-day there is increasing public opinion against the British attempts to bolster up the prices of primary products. I may be asked whether I think there should be any form of control. I have for years said that there is one form of control, one step essential if we are to sell our goods overseas, and that is that, such goods shall be passed as suitable for export abroad. After that, I would leave it to the growers to sell how, when, mid to whom, they desired.
– In fierce competition with each other?
– Ali business is competitive. Why should it be different in these industries?
– That is what brought about the slump in prices before.
– Sugar, cotton, coffee and tea have been controlled in every producing country.
– I should like to give the honorable senator an instance in connexion Avith the former honey pool in South Australia. Following the establishment of the pool, prices were raised, with the result that a considerable number of additional persons engaged in bee-farming, with consequent over-production. But contemporaneously there were fewer -buyers because of the rise of prices. People said : “ We shall not buy honey; we shall buy jam.” The result was that the honey producers received the double impact of high prices causing a reduction of the number of purchasers, and an increase of the number of producers because of the high prices. Eventually the pool went out oF existence.
– We had the same experience in Tasmania in connexion with the hop pool.
– The pools established for the control of tea and rubber are a shining example of the efficiency of such methods.
– I do not propose to deal Avith those commodities; there may be instances where a government is so whole-heartedly behind an industry that it is bound to succeed in any circumstances. I have indicated the only form of control that I think necessary. I do not oppose the establishment of voluntary pools; all competition is good as it tends to better the article produced. Let the voluntary poolers combine together, and trade as other traders have to do.
– Does the honorable senator think that if there were no control at all it would affect our exportable surplus overseas?
– That is a question I could not answer. I am giving my general views on the subject of pools. Nobody can predict exactly what will happen in regard to the proposal in this bill. I may say, however, that several years ago I predicted what would happen in later stages of this matter. Hitherto it has happened. I also prophesied that if a referendum were taken on it, a negative vote would be recorded unless the subject-matter were clearly restricted, and if this referendum is taken it may meet with no better success than earlier stages.
– That has to be proved.
– Nobody who has heard me speak in this Senate will suspect me of being opposed to the primary producers. I have fought for them in regard to customs tariffs, and other imposts. But I fear pools, because I know that they can, and, in my opinion, will inevitably, be turned against the primary producers seeking them. The control which they seek in order to get a maximum price will be utilized to force on them a minimum price because they will be in a minority.
– Under this proposal could the Government force the establishment of a compulsory pool?
– Senator Hardy says “ No”, but I hope that the Minister will give us an assurance on that point. The Attorney-General (Mr. Menzies) said that, of its own motion, the Commonwealth could not force a compulsory pool. He went on to say that there would be a sub-structure of State legislation and what perhaps might be termed a coping stone of Commonwealth legislation.
– I said that a compulsory pool would be impossible because the States have not the power of compulsory acquisition.
– If several large States apply for compulsory pools, they will probably force the smaller States to fall into line.
– Other people think so. It is said that there was a general belief that the Commonwealth had the power, but it is obvious to any one who reads the report of the federal convention that the framers of the Constitution had no such intention. Frequently in this chamber the Leader of the Opposition claims that what matters is not the letter of the law, but its intention. I disagree with him, for in dealing with laws, we must follow the letter. We can only guess the intention. However, the intention of the framers of the Constitution is clear. Mr. Deakin, Mr. Barton, Mr. Turner, Sir John Downer, and Sir Isaac Isaacs spoke in favour of absolute freetrade. Of their intention in that respect there can be no doubt. They insisted that trade should be absolutely free. We have, therefore, not only the intention, but also the legal judgment of the Privy Council, which shows that that intention was expressed in legally sufficient and effective words. Any one who has any doubt about it has only to read sections 92 and 107 of the Constitution. Section 92 is known to every honorable senator, butthe provisions of section 107 are not so well known. That section provides - 107. Every power of the Parliament of a colony which has become or becomes a State, shall, unless it is by this Constitution exclusively vested in the Parliament of . the Commonwealth or withdrawn from the Parliament of the State, continue as at the establishment of the Commonwealth, or as at the admission or establishment of this State as the case may be.
In other words, powers not delegated to the Commonwealth are reserved absolutely to the States. This is the way that the man in the street, particularly in the smaller States, regards the situation; and that is what will be the main factor in this referendum. I do not say it for the purpose of disparaging any government, but the man in the street is of the opinion that there has been a reaching out by the Commonwealth for additional powers, insteadof attention to those powers, such as defence and external affairs, which were specifically delegated to it. He believesalso that there has been an intrusion into fieldsof taxation which was not intended in the days of the federalconvention. That intrusion may, or may not, have been justified, but the fact remains that itwas not intended. There has been an intrusion also into matters of health, because of the power delegatedto the Commonwealth in regard to quarantine, and because of the power ofthe purse. In regard toroads also, the power of the purse has led the Commonwealth to intrude. The Commonwealth has also assumed powers in regard to wireless broadcasting and aviation. People are asking why no referendum has been held with regard to those subjects, failing agreement with and action by the States. I understand from the press that a referendum will be taken in regard to aviation.
-That is becauseof a decision in a recent case.
SenatorDUNCAN-HUGHES.- There is anotherlotof powers which the Commonwealthhasassumed, but which have since been taken from it. The situation which has arisen bears out what some of us have been saying in this Parliament for some time, namely, that the Parliament has gone a long way beyond the powers which were allotted to it. Whether or not the Commonwealth should have those extra powers, the fact that it has exceeded its powers is made evident by the quashingby the High Court of regulations, and by decisions in some cases which upsetwhole systems of laws. The decision of the Privy Council show’s clearly that the Commonwealth has assumed powers which, in fact, it does not possess; and, consequently, the man in the street asks why the Commonwealth has assumed them, and then, when it finds that it does not possess them, asks the people for such power.
SenatorGuthrie.-Every one thought that the Commonwealth possessed those powers.
-i have already dealt with that aspectof the subject. Again, the man in the street asks why no convention has been held to consider alterations of theConstitution which are considered necessary.
– A royalcommission investigated the subject a few years ago; the proposal before the Senate is one of its recommendations.
– If there is a desire for the States and the Commonwealth topulltogether, why has nothing been done tocall a convention, wherepeople who arecompetent to deal with these thingscan discuss them in all their aspects?
– In 1920 theStates unanimously agreed tohand tothe Commonwealth powers in respect of aviation. Theyre-affirmed that decision six years later, but they have not acted on it.
– If, in respect of aviation, the fault is withthe States, can the same be said inregard to broadcasting?
-I am notat allconvincedof the powers of the Commonwealth in respect of broadcasting.
– The High Court hasmadeapronouncement in regard to broadcasting.
– Is there any likelihood of its decision being upset ? Personally, I am in favour of the control of aviation and broadcasting by the Commonwealth, for noother authority could control them effectively. If it is obvious that certain powers should be vested in the Commonwealth, why not approach the people, by way either of a convention or a referendum, and ask for them? It would be better to do that before assuming such powers, than to act, only to find later that the Commonwelalth is legally incompetent to dowhat it has done.
– That has not been done because the States have already agreed to act.
– Why not ask the people?
– And in the meantime leave aviation unregulated?
-Is it not better to have the power from the people before an assumed power is exercised? That legislation passed by this Parliament should be declared ultra vires is undesirable.
– When the legislation was passing through Parliament, did the honorable senator or any one else point out that it would be ultra vires?
– I cannot answer with respect to all the legislation; but I remind the Minister that, even when I have pointed out things of that nature, my view has not always been accepted, although it has been accepted in relation to one or two regulations. A private senator must carry a lot of weight to get the Senate, on his statement alone, to agree that a bill which has the approval of the Attorney-General of the Commonwealth is ultra vires. In effect this proposal asks for the restoration of something which had no legal existence. Behind all this is a direct drive towards unification.
– Is not unification a feature of every successful federation in the world?
– I do not know. Some day the people of Australia may agree to some form of unification voluntarily; but it will be only after they are convinced that it will provide a fair deal all round. They have not that confidence at present. In saying that, I am not saying that the present Government has not done move for the smaller States than any other Government has done. The fact remains, however, that dissatisfaction is still very evident in the smaller States. I should think that senators representing the three smaller States may fairly be expected to take a stand against the drive towards unification.I read in the newspapers recently that the Government is going ahead with its referendum proposal, having reached an understanding with a group of members of Parliament that, later, consideration will be given to the granting of fuller industrial powers to the Commonwealth. In other words, it is being allowed to bring in this referendum proposal as a return for something larger which it may give in the future.
– That was promised by the Prime Minister in 1931.
– Prime Ministers, and private members also, have promised a good deal at times. I am concerned not so much with promises, as with performances.
– In 1926 the honorable senator supported a proposal for the granting offull industrial powers to the Commonwealth.
– I think not.
– I can assure the honorable senator on that point.
– I assume that the honorable senator is speaking of the industry and commerce power, concerning which it was proposed that section 51 of the Constitution be altered by omittingparagraph(xx) “Foreign corporations, and trading or financial corporations formed within the limits of the Commonwealth “.
– Several alterations were proposed, one of which dealt with industry, by omitting the limiting words and adding another paragraph.
Sena tor DUNCAN-HUGHES. - To which does the honorable senator refer? Does he mean the proposal - (xli). Investing State authorities with powers as the Parliament confers on them with respect to the regulation and determination of terms and conditions of industrial employment and of rights and duties of employers and employees with respect to industrial matters and things; or -
– The first one struck out the limiting words in section 51.
– I am prepared to hand these papers to Senator Massy-Greene if he will point out in what respect my attitude to-day differs from that which I adopted in 1926. ft seems to me that the two matters are entirely dissimilar. As I was saying, the suggestion that we should now seek to get an amendment accepted by the people, and later on have a wider referendum, does not appeal to me. I am not prepared to give a possible something for what I regard as an almost’ certain nothing. That is my attitude. It is not for me to say what other course the Government should adopt. That is its responsibility. My concern is to say that I consider that this referendum will not be passed by the people, and that in my judgment the Government’s best course is to act within its existing powers. lc has the power to act, and why does it not use it instead of asking for powers which, in my opinion, will not be granted?’
– Would the honorable senator support an excise duty and a bounty for every primary industry that cared to ask for them?
– That is not suggested. We are told that under this referendum proposal it is not intended to exercise universally the powers which are sought, but merely to keep alive the industries at present affected.
– Would the honorable senator support an excise and bounty scheme for the butter, wheat and dried fruits industries, which are th*s industries affected?
– I shall wait till that issue arises. It is preferable for the Government to act within its powers. The question now before us is not how I should vote, but how the problem confronting the producers should be dealt with.
– Does the honorable senator propose to vote for this bill?
– Most certainly I do not. I invite the attention of honorable senators to an excellent speech made on this subject in the South Australian House of Assembly on the 29 th September by Mr. R. J. Rudall, who represents the Barossa electorate. He traversed, rather from the State point of view, the whole history of the legal actions associated with this matter right down to the present time, a task which he is eminently competent to do. Although he said that he desired to know the exact terms of the amendment before stating whether or not he would oppose it, his whole speech was a criticism of the proposal to deal with this matter by a referendum to secure more powers for the Commonwealth rather than by the exercise of the powers of excise and bounty which the Commonwealth already possesses. He dealt, for instance, with the intention of the founders of the Constitution, and went on -
The point now arises as to whether there are any other unchallengeable powers in the Constitution by which the same end may be achieved. I address myself, therefore, to this question at issue and say most emphatically that the same object can be achieved by other means: that although one road to the desired objective has been declared closed another remains open, and no constitutional objection can bo raised to its use. Is there any one bold enough to assort that by the exercise of the excise and bounty powers contained in the Constitution the Commonwealth Parliament cannot achieve the same objective? If the end desired by the legislation is the maintenance of prices in Australia which would compensate for the unremunerative prices which may from time to time he received in the export market, than an excise duty, the proceeds of which will bc ultimately distributed in the form of a bounty, will meet the same objective. This was the remedy which, I understand, was asked by those concerned in the industries immediately affected. From thu practical aspect, therefore, it seems apparent that this remedy would be sufficient. From a constitutional point of view it cannot he attacked, and my authority for this is the speech of the Commonwealth Attorney-General himself.
Then he said -
I am perfectly aware that the present occupants of the Government benches in the Commonwealth Parliament are drawn from my own party, but the relationship of the Commonwealth and the States is not a matter of political parties. It is the fight of the States to maintain that sovereignty which it was thought was guaranteed to them by the Commonwealth Constitution, and which under federation should remain a.nd belong to them.
He ended -
The rights of the States, and the smaller States in particular, nest in the Senate. At present I am convinced that it is essential for the smaller States to stand firmly together, and if the people of the smaller States desire to resist, as I believe they should resist, the inroads of unification and the usurpation of their rights, then they must send to the Senate only men prepared to fight upon that ground, and who are prepared even to refuse the acceptance of any office that may weaken the unbroken front they should present. Unless they do this then the smaller States will continue to lose their attributes of sovereignty which are their rights and will increasingly become merely subordinate departments of a Parliament in which the predominating influence will be the larger cities of Australia.
I agree very substantially with what he said. He is a man, as the PostmasterGeneral (Senator A. J. McLachlan) knows, of great legal ability, particularly on the constitutional side, and of high character also.
Senator Sir Walter Massy-Greene contrasted my attitude towards this proposal with my attitude in 1926 when I supported an amendment to confer further industrial powers on the ‘Commonwealth.
– If that amendment had been carried the entire industrial powers would have been given to the Commonwealth.
– tion. It was proposed to delete the words “extending beyond the limits of any one State “ from paragraph xxxv, of section 51 of the Constitution. That has nothing to do with marketing.
-^’ I did not say that it had, but the honorable senator is talking about the danger of extending the Commonwealth powers, whereas in 1926 he supported a proposal that the Commonwealth should possess full industrial powers.
– I accepted that proposal and supported it and tired myself in speaking in support of it. I do not apologize in any way for that. The honorable senator is suggesting that my action to-day is inconsistent with my attitude in 1926. The two issues are entirely different. So far as giving general powers to the Commonwealth is concerned, if, after ten years’ experience in this Parliament, during which I have observed the raising of the tariff wall and the gradual financial drift of the smaller States, I say that I am not now prepared to give to the Commonwealth the extended powers which I was prepared to give then is inconsistent, I shall accept the odium for such inconsistency.
I appeal to honorable senators to conelder this question independently and regardless of party allegiance. It has been staid that the Ministry affirms that this is not a party question. It is a que?’ tion of one point of view against another point of v.ew he.d by people in the same State, the two very often conflicting. I suggest that we ought to exercise our own fully-considered judgment on this matter. It is very likely that the strong States will, in the main, vote for the amendment, and that the smaller States will vote against it, but I urge honorable senators to regard this proposal oil its merits as it appears to them in the light of all the information that they can get. I was struck the other day by these sentences, written by an English philosophical writer of the last century to the Duke of Devonshire concerning the Home Eulo Bill -
I think we may go right or wrong about Ireland, or almost any great matter, and, if wrong, recover from our mistake, but the one thing from’ which I think there is no salvation is when men begin to have no confidence in themselves and their own opinion, and to become the mere instruments of party . . .
I hold that the Senate primarily represents the States. That may be an additional reason to give to Senator MassyGreene for my apparent change of attitude. When in the Lower House I represented a district, whereas to-day 3 represent a State. I think that we should exercise our full and impartial judgment. This is not a party House, and I hope that every honorable senator will consider the bill on its merits, and regardless of party affiliations.
[5.2].”- I must express my surprise at some of the criticism directed at this bill, because I think much of it arises from misapprehension of what the proposed amendment would effect. And I wag particularly surprised to hear a Tasmanian, Senator Millen, oppose an alteration of the Constitution which is designed to give to the primary producers an opportunity to secure for themselves what the secondary producers already have.
– Hear, hear!
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.I can understand the opposition of the Premier of Tasmania (Mr. Ogilvie). That arises from that party attitude to which the last speaker referred. Nothing that this Go- vernment can do can be right, according to Mr. Ogilvie. But I take it that a Tasmanian senator should look at this matter as it affects the interests of his State. I have been for a considerable time a member of governments that have had to deal with appeals by primary producers for assistance to their industries. We have had more appeals for assistance from more sections of primary industry in Tasmania than from any other State in the Commonwealth. Those appeals nearly all arose from a set of circumstances due to disorganization in the industry, and in nearly every case where assistance was given it had to be accompanied by some stipulation that the industry would do something to help itself by some form of reorganization. In other words many of these appeals came to the Commonwealth because of the lack of organization in the industry and because of lack of the means of orderly marketing.
– Can the right honorable senator name any industry of that nature in Tasmania?
– I could name several.
– Name one.
– I suggest that there is no part of the Commonwealth in which the primary industries would benefit more by the adoption of orderly marketing and organization in industry, than would the States of Tasmania and Western Australia. Senator Millen, who took exception to the word” marketing”, conjured up dreadful consequences to the people of the Commonwealth if the proposal in the bill be accepted. He contended that “ marketing “ has a much wider meaning than the supporters of the bill say it has. I advise honorable senators to read carefully the terms of the proposed alteration : - 92a. The provisions of the last preceding section shall not apply to laws with respect to marketing made by, or under the authority of, the Parliament in the exorcise of any powers vested in the Parliament by this Constitution.
In any law we pass with respect to marketing, we are limited to the powers vested in us by the Constitution.
– And with respect to interstate trade and commerce.
– Yes, but not intra-State trade and commerce. Therefore there is nothing we can do in regard to marketing that would exceed the powers already vested in this Parliament under the Constitution.
– Because section 92 prevents us.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE. - The honorable senator is quite wrong. The suggestion is that the present proposal would interfere in some way with the trade and commerce power of the States, but the trade and commerce power of this Parliament is limited to trade and commerce “ with other countries and among the States”. That limitation is found in section 51 itself, and does not depend on section 92. Therefore there can be no dread spectre behind the word “ marketing “. Senators Millen and Duncan-Hughes pointed out the very obvious fact that the duty of the Senate is to safeguard State rights. I hope that they do not assume that only those honorable senators who oppose the bill are prepared to stand for the rights of the States. Some of us consider that by supporting the bill we shall also support State rights. What are State rights, and what is a State right in respect of the subject of marketing! Here, let us say, is a State that desires to assist its primary producers by means of orderly marketing. Whether we believe in orderly marketing or not, if we favour State rights we must believe in the right of a State to assist its primary producers by the means which it thinks fit; but the State finds that it cannot do that because the people of another State can, by reason of the freedom now declared by the Privy Council to be enjoyed under section 92, defeat the object of legislation passed to assist producers. Thus the right of that State has been destroyed ; because of the judgment of the Privy Council it has no right to protect and assist its own primary producers.
I shall not leave the matter there. I point out that this right at one time existed. Prior to federation, every colony had the right to assist and protect primary or any other industries within its own borders. Is it imagined that when the people of the colonies joined the federation they intended to destroy their rights? What was federation? It was merely a distribution of powers. Certain powers were to be exercised federally and certain others were to be exercised by the States. Nobody intended that some powers should disappear altogether and cease to be exercisable by either the Commonwealth or the States. Yet that is what has happened. Schemes for orderly marketing could have been carried out completely and absolutely by any one of the six colonics, prior to federation. They could have not only devised such schemes within their own borders, but they could also have prevented their destruction through intercolonial competition, and could have regulated marketing so as to cope with the competition of foreign trade.
– And with their eyes open they decided upon interstate freetrade.
– No. They did not give up any of the powers they enjoyed when they federated. They thought that they redistributed the powers in this way: As it was essential in connexion with federation that there should be interstate free trade, they thought that each colony gave up the power to interfere in that regard. But they believed that the power reposed somewhere, and so did the High Court. For years the court held the view that, whilst the words of section 92 bound each State, they did not bind the Commonwealth. The interpretation of the High Court was that the power reposed in the Commonwealth. Therefore the people as federal electors and the same people as State electors, enjoyed the same powers and not less power than they had before federation. Those who talk of State rights are not the champions of the States which they claim to be when they take up this attitude, but would deprive the people of a right they had before federation.
– If we were proposing to take away State rights would not the Premier of South Australia, for instance, object to it?
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.The attitude to which I have referred is due in many cases to a misunderstanding.
The proposal in this bill is to restore that right, so that the Commonwealth and the States, acting together, may be able to do what is necessary to protect the interests of the primary producers. Senator Duncan-Hughes somewhat incorrectly stated the attitude of Mr. Forgan Smith, the Premier of Queensland. . 1 attended the conference of Commonwealth and States Ministers held in Adelaide from the 26th to the 28th August last, and therefore have direct knowledge of what was done there.I have the official report of the conference proceedings before me, and in the quotations which I am. about to make I shall not omit anything essential to the consideration of the matter. Turning to page 37 of the report, I find that Mr. Forgan Smith, after congratulating the Attorney-General (Mr. Menzies) upon hit presentation of the case, said -
It seems an extraordinary position that there should continue to exist a gap in the legislative powers of the people of Australia. That, to me, is the main issue which must be decided by the Commonwealth and the States . . . Obviously, however, in bringing about federation and the establishment of a Commonwealth Parliament the people intended to amplify and extend their legislative powers. They had no desire to stultify their rights of self-govern ment. Consequently, the power to regulate trade and commerce between the States should reside somewhere. Under a federal system the only authority that can operate it effectively is the federal authority … I remember a few years ago a fierce and bitter controversy as to who should control grading for export. The matter was submitted to me by Mr. Rodgers, then Minister for Trade and Commerce. I asked myself: Is it desirable to have uniform grades and standards for export in respect of dairy and other produce? Obviously that question had to be answered in the affirmative. The question then arose: How is this uniform control to bo exercised? Obviously only the Commonwealth could exercise it because it had authority in all the States. As a result we have the Commonwealth exercising authority in regard to uniform grades and quality for export. I venture to say that those who opposed it a few years ago would not desire now to go back to the old system of each State fixing its own standard, with resultant confusion in regard to quality and grades on our markets . . .
The right thing to do is to take legislative powers and exercise them for and on behalf of the people of Australia. The gap in the Constitution is one that must be bridged at the earliest possible moment, otherwise the people will be stultified in the exercise of authority which they must have to give a fair and decent deal to all sections of the community . . .
I am prepared to recommend to my Government that an amendment of the Constitution should take place to bridge the gap.
Referring to the proposal to assist primary producers with bounties provided by means of excise duties, Mr. Forgan Smith remarked -
The other suggestion put forward can he regarded as a temporary measure. The securing of an amendment of the Constitution is a long and tortuous proceeding, so I suggest that in the meantime the bounty and excise powers should be operated to bridge the gap temporarily. However, the exercise of t 110 se power, and their implementation by the Commonwealth authority may create a fresh problem. Often a Statute is found valid, but regulations under it are ultra vires. It is a complicated matter to control marketing throughout Australia of all the products sold within Australia and exported, and, therefore, it will be difficult so to devise a system of bounty and excise as to achieve the objective and keep within the Constitution. It may be held that any operation of the bounty and excise provisions aimed at defeating the provisions of section 02 will be invalid. Great care must be exercised in drafting and giving effect to such provisions. The orderly marketing of primary products is an essential part of our legislative system. It is immaterial what may have been in the minds of the people who agreed to the Constitution 36 years ago.
I now refer honorable senators to page 42 of the report, of the conference, on which the position of “Western Australia was stated by Mr. Millington. He did not think that there was any doubt about the attitude of his State. He said that it would not hand over any additional power to federal authorities, but at page 44, he said -
The Commonwealth says that it should he given increased powers, and uses as an argument the urgent needs of certain industries. We are not prepared to give that. It may be possible to show how additional power, which can be controlled to an extent by the States, oan be given to the Commonwealth. Without expressing this as the view of my Government since the recent Privy Council decision. I would be prepared to discuss such’ an alteration.
At that time the proposed alteration of the Constitution as now- drafted had not been framed. Under the bill the power cannot be exercised unless the States first legislate in regard to marketing schemes. Senator Duncan-Hughes said that the Commonwealth Parliament had ample power to deal with this matter, but what power, I ask, has the Commonwealth without an alteration of the Constitution ? It is the power to impose excise and pay the proceeds of excise by means of bounties. Yet excise and bounties do not deal at all with orderly marketing, which is the very thing that has saved the dairying and dried fruits industries. 1. know a good deal concerning the history of the dried fruits industry, because I was the Minister controlling the Development and Migration Commission which conducted an inquiry into the conditions in the industry. Senator MassyGreene will remember that extraordinary action was taken before that inquiry was held to save this industry from utter ruin.
– That is so.
– Large sums of money had to be expended, not merely because of unpayable prices - subsequently prices did not improve - but also to enable the industry to get on a business footing. At that time, there was complete disorganization in the industry, a lack of marketing methods, and a low standard of efficiency. I invite honorable senators to peruse the report of the Development and Migration Commission on one of the most valuable investigations conducted by that body. The report revealed a shocking state of inefficiency and lack of organization in the industry. The drying sheds were more or less hopelessly inefficient, there was no standard of quality, cut-throat competition prevailed, and, generally speaking, the industry was dying on its feet.
– To-day it is conducted on a highly efficient basis.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.Exactly. The commission recommended not doles of money, but that the industry should be organized and proper business methods introduced. In consequence of the commission’s recommendations, a number of the drying plants were amalgamated and made efficient, and, to-day, the whole industry is on an efficient commercial basis. Arrangements were made for the control of marketing in Australia and overseas, and a Dried Fruits Export Control Board was appointed. But all our efforts could have been defeated by men like James had it not been that, in the matter of orderly marketing, each State, in cooperation with the Commonwealth, gave legislative effect to the commission’s recommendations in order to prevent pirates from -going over the borders and destroying the effect of the legislation in States which had asked for control.
– South Australia asked the Commonwealth to intervene.
– Yes. The Commonwealth did not intervene until it was asked to pass complementary legislation.
-Hughes. - I rise to a point of order. Is the Leader of the Senate (Senator Pearce) in order in describing as a pirate a reputable citizen whose appeal has been upheld by the Privy Council?
– I merely said that the Commonwealth cooperated with the States in order to prevent pirates going over the borders and destroying the effect of the legislation of other States. I applied the term “ pirates “ to those operating under conditions contrary to those laid down by the States. These men came in to reap the harvest which they did not help to provide. How could a system of orderly marketing be conducted under excise duties and the payment of bounties? An excise scheme does not touch that essential point at all. Such a system could not regulate the trade between the States which is essential in an orderly marketing scheme. One State provides standards and quotas, but the producers in another State can by disregarding the regulations destroy the effectiveness of the scheme.
– They are starting in Western Australia in respect of butter.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE. - I believe that they are. It is useless throwing dust in our own eyes by saying that we should use the powers we possess and everything will be well, and I am sure that if we did propose to exercise the powers which we possess we should not have the support of Senator DuncanHughes. I cannot imagine the honorable senator supporting an excise duty on dairy produce, dried fruits and wheat. Consider the complications that would arise in federal finance if millions of pounds were being poured into the Federal Treasury in the form of excise, and millions being paid out by way of bounties. Another objection to the suggestion is that there would be no per manency in such a scheme. There is no guarantee that such a scheme would extend beyond a year or beyond the life of one parliament. Political parties would be bargaining and competing against each other. I ask Senator Duncan-Hughes if that is a desirable element to introduce when there is already too much political bargaining in respect of other matters?
– There is that danger. Does the Minister think that the referendum will be carried?
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE. - I do. I am confident that when the people understand the proposal they will say that it ought to be agreed to. When I read the statements made from time to time concerning the proposal to-be submitted to the people by means of a referendum, I am convinced that many persons, including some who are members of this Parliament, do not really know what is intended. Some have an entirely wrong conception of what is proposed. Those engaged in industry should have some guarantee of permanency; they should not be in doubt from year to year as to what their actual position is to be. Our secondary industries are guaranteed some degree of permanent protection in that Customs duties are not altered until they are inquired into and reported upon by the Tariff Board. Why should not the primary producers have some better guarantee than an excise duty and the payment of a bounty which could be altered from year to year? The impermanency of such a policy is one of the fundamental objections to dealing with the subject in that manner. Senator Duncan-Hughes suggested that industries not wishing to be controlled may be brought under this scheme, but I point out that there has never been an instance under Commonwealth or State legislation where an industry has been compelled to come under a marketing scheme. A poll has always been an essential part of the legislation.
– That may be because the present political party has been in power so long.
SenatorSir GEORGE PEARCE. - Polls have been conducted in Queensland where the Labour party has been in power for many years.
-Yes, in every instance.
– Polls are an accepted feature of such legislation.
– In the States interested ?
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.Yes.
-But stronger States can bind the weaker States.
– Not under Commonwealth legislation.
– An overwhelming majority of dairy producers in Tasmania voted against control, but the legislation was put into operation.
– Perhaps I misunderstood the honorable senator. Commonwealth legislation is ineffective unless complementary legislation has been passed by the States; the States must initiate the legislation. Commonwealth legislation would have no effect unless complementary legislation had been passed by the States. The State legislation deals only with one phase of marketing, the internal regulation of the industry.
– Could any future Government control an industry without the consent of those engaged in it?
Senator Duncan-Hughes said that the wool industry might be endangered. That industry possesses possibly the best organized marketing system of any Australian industry; there has been no agitation from any substantial number of wool-growers for any assistance or alteration of the present system.
– That is because they employ the best methods available, and those conducting the industry know how to control it.
– Quite so; they are quite satisfied to run their own business. Can any one contemplate any State Government endeavouring to assume control over the wool industry?
– The Leader of the Opposition said this afternoon that the Commonwealth should have full powers overallindustries.
– The Labour government in Queensland does some unusual things, but if it attempted to control the wool industry its political life would not extend beyond the next election. After all, a government, whatever its political colour may be, must have some regard for the wishes of the people, and if it introduced a system contrary to the wishes of those engaged in the industry it would be courting disaster.
– It could if it were so foolish, ruin the industry byimposing an export bounty.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.It could; but I do not think that there is the slightest danger of anything of that kind. Such suggestions are brought forward merely with the idea of endeavouring to promote opposition to the Government’s proposals. I was interested to hear Senator Duncan-Hughes quota from the report of the Fruit-growers’ Conference, because I know some of the gentlemen who attended the gathering, at which all the States were represented. That conference was called not to consider the proposal to be submitted to the people by means of a referendum-
– I did not suggest that it was.
– What is the value of the opinion of 33 men who met not to consider this proposal, but other problems? This proposal was brought before certain representatives of the fruit-growers quite unexpectedly, and they were asked to express their opinions. They had no opportunity to consult the branches which they represented.
– A number did not vote.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.No. Probably they declined to doso because they had not an opportunity to consult the interests which they represented.
– They did not know the terms of the referendum question.
– I shall be surprised if any considerable number of fruit-growers will vote against the Commonwealth having the power to supplement any legislation passed by the parliaments of their States at the request of the fruit-growers themselves, to assist them in protecting their industries. That is all that this proposal involves. I hope that, if honorable senators feel , they cannot vote for this bill, they will give better reasons than we have heard so far. The reasons given for the opposition to the bill appear to me to be due to an entire misapprehension of. what the proposed alteration of the Constitution means, and the relations of the Commonwealth and the States in regard thereto.
– I agree with honorable senators who referred to this hill as being one of the most important we could discuss. Naturally, having that view with regard to it, I have taken much interest in the speeches delivered on this bill, and also’ in the causes that are responsible for its introduction. May I say at the outset -that I know as well as most honorable - senators the .difficulties that have’ surrounded the establishment of the dried fruits industry of Australia on a sound basis. I .shall be the last man to do ‘ anything to’ jeopardize an industry -which is so useful to Australia, and which has proved to be the foundation of the best example of closer settlement I have seen in Australia. I well remember when I first visited the Murray irrigation settlements and saw for the first time the difficulties confronting the growers there. No one was more pleased than I when the industry was brought under proper and effective control in the interests of not only those engaged in it, almost all of whom are returned soldiers, but also the people generally. I have appreciated the success which has Attended the operations of the .dried fruits industry ever since the organization which now controls it was made so effective by legislation. I appreciate to the full what has been done for the butter and dairying industries of Australia. If I r.ra compelled to criticize this bill, I hope honorable senators will be’ gracious enough to recognize that I do so with the very best of intentions, and wi.th no desire to injure any industry ; my only desire is to prevent injury being done to industries in future. I listened very carefully to the remarks of Senator Collings, who opened his address on the bill to-day by saying that, with the progress of time, it becomes essential that the Constitution be reviewed and, perhaps, altered. That may .be so; but there are essential and important parts of the Constitution that cannot be so lightly regarded. That part of the Constitution’ which 1 have in mind is section 92, which, definitely states that trade between the States must be absolutely free. .The insertion of that section in. tho draft (Constitution, I believe, was one of the main reasons why the State which I help to represent in* this Senate accepted by a large majority the proposal for federation. Tasmanians, occupying an isolated position in Australia, feel very keenly the disability that in any law, no- matter how carefully it be drafted, there may eventually be found loopholes through which very grave injustices may be inflicted, on them. Consequently, anything 1 say to-day must be regarded as the earnest convictions of a representative who is determined to do everything in his power to conserve the interests of the State which he represents.
– Is the honorable senator putting the- State before’ the country as a whole?
– No; but if State rights are not’ conserved we cannot have a prosperous Australia. We cannot have prosperity over the whole of the Commonwealth when we have decadent States. The States’ must be protected according to their needs, and provision for that purpose was wisely made in the Commonwealth Constitution. I want it to be understood that, although I am a representative of the State of Tasmania, I am as loyal an Australian as any’ honorable senator in this chamber. Senator Hardy, who, from his point of view, delivered a very able speech to-day, said that in this hill an attempt is made to secure a continuation of decent conditions for the. growers. That is quite true. I have every desire to see decent conditions enjoyed in primary industries. I have no desire to see the men engaged in them forced to accept a standard of living lower than I claim -.for myself. I have as much sympathy with the dried fruits growers as with other sections of the community, and I maintain that they should enjoy the same conditions as are enjoyed by those engaged’ in other successful businesses or industries. I point out, however, that the main .reason for the introduction of legislation of this charac- ter is the fact that this marvellous country is capable of producing enormous quantities of foodstuffs and other commodities far beyond the absorption capacity of its small population. That is at the bottom of the whole trouble. If we exploited our resources to the full we would be able to produce commodities sufficient to meet the needs not only of everybody in Australia, but also people in other countries. That is the reason why it is necessary for us to have some provision by which the people engaged in primary industries may get a reasonable return for their labour. In respect of our exportable surplus which amounts to 50 per cent., if not more of our whole production, we have to accept world’s parity. It is essential that something be done to organize our exporting industries, otherwise they will languish. If 2,000,000 or 3,000,000 people could be induced to come to Australia there would be no need to introduce legislation such as that now before the Senate.
– Migrants could not be brought in unless we had work for them to do.
– There is work for many more people than are in Australia at the present time, but I do not propose to deal with the subject of migration today.
– Is the honorable senator a freetrader?
– Not by a long way. During the many years I have been in this Senate I have never said one word that would suggest that I have a leaning towards freetrade. I believe that the industries of this country should be granted proper protection. I use the word “proper” advisedly.
– Does the honorable senator propose to support the bill?
– I propose to make a suggestion which will make the bill perhaps more acceptable to honorable senators generally while at the same time ensuring that the objectives which the Government seeks will be obtained. The Assistant Minister for Commerce (Senator Brennan) concluded his speech yesterday in the following words : -
With great respect, I do not think that much is to be gained by a general discussion of this bill, because it may be taken for granted that practically every individual Senator was in favour of the conditions that prevailed up to the time of the Privy Council’s decision in the early part of this year.
We all endorse that.
If, however, any honorable senator, including the Leader of the Country party, can point to something which suggests that we may not be able to do, by the words we have used, the things we think we can do, that will be a relevant and helpful criticism.
I hope to be able to help the Minister by suggesting an amendment. The honorable senator continued -
I think that the most onecan say is that it may cover a wider field. In the sixteen years when we were, de facto, in the position that we will be in if this alteration is agreed to, marketing difficulties were limited to certain primary industries, and, from the nature of the case, I think they are bound to be limited to those primary industries in which we produce more than we consume.
I desire to see the provision in this bill absolutely limited to the objective mentioned by the Minister who introduced it. The bill should be limited to those goods in respect of which we produce more than we can consume. I desire to include in clause 2 certain words which, to a great extent, would overcome any opposition I have heard to-day to the measure. Everybody understood some time ago that the Federal Parliament had power to do certain things which it had been doing for many years, but this power was contested by a certain individual, and when the case was taken to the Privy Council that tribunal decided that the Commonwealth had not the power. The Commonwealth is justified in taking steps to endeavour to have restored to it the power which it was thought by everybody to possess under the Constitution. My concern is that we should not give to this Government or any other government any additional powers. Clause 2 of the bill reads -
The Constitution is altered by inserting after section ninety-two the following section: - “92a. The provisions of the last preceding section shall not apply to laws with respect to marketing made by, or under the authority of, the Parliament in the exercise of any powers vested in the. Parliament by this Constitution.”.
I suggest that at the end of the clause the following words be added : - at the request of the State or States concerned in the disposal of products overseas.
The sense would not be altered. The Leader of the Senate said definitely that the Government did not intend to take any more power than it thought it had Under the Constitution before the recent decision of the Privy Council. That may be the Government’s intention, but I want to see it in black and white in this m.
– If there is any danger - and I do not think there is - surely it will always be possible to get one State to make a request.
– I am not committed to the precise wording that I have suggested, but I want a definite provision in the bill to ensure that no future government will be empowered to control the marketing of products in Australia.
– The powers sought by the Government will not enable, that to be done. A Commonwealth government could only take action complementary to legislation already passed by the States.
– I want a definite provision which will establish that position beyond doubt.
– “Why insert the words? They are unnecessary.
– If the bill as printed be agreed to, there will be a possibility of a future government taking advantage of it and going beyond what is intended.
– Not unless the States had already legislated. The Commonwealth can do nothing of itself. That is the constitutional position.
– If that be the constitutional position, what objection can there be to the inclusion of words such as I have suggested? If they were included, I could support the bill. A number of electors in Tasmania have approached me on this subject, and have said that, if convinced that there will be no possible extension of the power which the Government thought it had before the decision of the Privy Council, they will accept this legislation. They, however, want the position set out clearly in the bill.
– The Government considered almost the very words which the honorable senator has suggested, and came to the conclusion that they did not provide any additional safeguard. There is a safeguard already in that the power does not become active unless action has first been taken by the States.
– May I suggest to the Minister that, even if not absolutely necessary, it might be wise to add the words that I have suggested, or words like them?
– How could the power that a Government thought it had before the decision of the Privy Council be defined in an act of Parliament?
– If my proposed amendment would overcome the objections of the electors - and, after all, that is the important thing - the Government’s proposal would have a better chance of being carried.
– I can only repeat that the point raised by the honorable senator was fully considered by the Government.
– I rise to make a personal explanation. The Leader of the Senate (Senator Pearce) took me to task for a statement that I made with respect to the Premier of Queensland. By interjection, I said that 3 had made an effort to obtain full details of the conference in Adelaide, but had not been successful. In the Parliamentary Library I was told that the printing of the report of the conference was being undertaken by the Government Printer of South Australia, and that, although the draft had been forwarded to him, it had not been completed and returned. I was, therefore, forced back on what I was informed by the Library officials was the fullest account available, namely, the report in the Advertiser of the 28th August, 1936, which stated inter alia -
On reassembling, the Premier of Queensland (Mr. Forgan Smith) moved that the Commonwealth should impose excise duties with export bounties, instead of amending the Constitution, as a solution of the marketing problem.
That surely is a confirmation of my statement. The report continued -
Mr. Butler, in his remarks throughout the day, was unyielding in his attitude that the Commonwealth already possessed ample power., through the medium of excise duties and export bounties, adequately to protect the interests of primary producers. In this he was vigorously supported by the Premiers of Tasmania and Western Australia, who said that it would bc time enough to discuss giving the Commonwealth extra powers if its present powers were chown by experience to be inadequate.
– Surely the honorable senator does not chailenge the statement from the official report which I read. It has been submitted to the members of the conference and, as it were, returned “audited and found correct “.
– My statement was based on the best information available to me, but the Leader of tho Senate, quite properly, in view of the data in his possession, claimed that it was incorrect. I claim that, on the newspaper report, which was all the information available to me, my statement was correct.
– The newspaper report did not give a correct version of the attitude of Mr. Forgan Smith, whereas the report which I quoted stated it correctly.
– In another part of the same issue of the Advertiser Mr. Forgan Smith is reported as having said that it would be dangerous to ask the people to alter the Constitution for a specific purpose. The report in the Advertiser continued -
Such an action inevitably would arouse hostility on the part of many vested and other interests. An approach to the people for approval for an amendment to give general powers would be more likely to succeed.
I claim that, although the information on which I based my statement may not have been correct, I spoke in accordance with the knowledge in my possession, and that in the circumstances my remarks were justified.
– They were justified, but the official report shows that the statements on which they were based were not correct.
– I shall await the detailed report with interest.
.- I have listened with a great deal of interest to those honorable senators who have already spoken on this bill, and especially to the Leader of the Senate (Senator Pearce) with whom I am not always in agreement. The right honorable gentleman knows probably better than any other honorable Senator the state of affairs that existed at the time of the” inauguration of federation. I am old enough to remember the several convene tions which preceded federation, and the feeling which existed between the different colonies at that time. So strong was that feeling that one statesman of the day said that there Was a- possibility of civil war On the banks of the River Murray. The jealousy and hostility we’re such that a person crossing from one colony to another felt that hd was in a foreign country.
– Despite the existence of a common language.
– Only to-day I was reminded by one of my Tasmanian friends that, when visiting Sydney in prefederation days, he hod- to turn out all his belongings at the border, and even shake out his shirt, so that it could be thoroughly examined by customs officer*That was the atmosphere in which federation was inaugurated. At that time the people wanted to be sure that there would be complete freedom of trade between the States ; that charges would not be imposed on goods passing from one State to another. The term “ freetrade “ as then understood has no relation whatever to its more modern meaning.
– At that time the people could not have applied their minds to something which did not exist.
– That is so. They could not, for instance, have provided for developments in aviation. There has been a good deal of loose talk regarding the intention of the founders of the Constitution, but, apparently, no cognizance has been taken of the words at the beginning of section 51- ; -
The Parliament shall, subject to this Constitution, have power to’ make laws for the peace, order, and good government of the Commonwealth With respect to - (i. ) Trade and commerce with other countries, and among the States:
– That is a strong point.
– Yes; there must have been some thought in the minds of the fathers of federation that the Commonwealth Would have some function to perform in regulating trade between the States, and it is only by misfortune that section 92 was worded as it is to express the intention of the framers. There are some honorable senators who declare that the founders of federation intended that there should be freetrade for all time between the States, and that that is the intention expressed by section 92, but it is just as reasonable to submit that they meant what I take to be the meaning of the opening words of section 51, namely, that the Commonwealth should have power to regulate interstate trade.
– Provision was made in the Constitution for the people to alter it as time passed.
– Exactly ; I thank the honorable senator. The attitude adopted by some honorable senators and others is almost heartbreaking. When walking down a Sydney street recently, 1 was engaged in argument on the subject of the alteration of the Constitution by a gentleman who used very much the same words as have been used in the Senate this afternoon. In effect, he said that the founders of federation meant trade among the States to be free for all time. * Good heavens, man ! “ I replied, “ did they say that you had to live 35 years ago? Life can never be static; conditions must change. You are living in 1936, not 1901, and the founders of our Constitution gave us tho right to alter it in accordance with the requirements and interests of the nation.” In a lecture to the Senate this afternoon, Senator Payne claimed that the solution of the problems which had given rise to this measure lay in a great increase of the population of this country. ‘He forgot, however, to rem,nd us that when tho debate on dried fruits took place in this chamber in . the early part of last year, the fact was disclosed that during the depression in California many hundreds of men were driven off their farms, because they were dependent entirely upon the dried fruits industry, which had collapsed. It was also disclosed that, of all the countries producing dried fruits, including California. Smyrna, and Greece, Australia was the only one in which the producers were at least able to obtain a return of production costs on the sales of their commodity. That was entirely due to the existence of the marketing legislation.
– Hear, hear!
– The Australian marketing control legislation is a monument to those who devised it. It had the result in the depression years of ensuring to the Australian producers at any rate a return covering the costs of production, while producers in other countries were being driven off their farms. In Greece, a revolution occurred, I believe, as the result of the collapse of the dried fruits industry, whilst in Smyrna conditions became so bad that the Government of Turkey had to step in and buy up the crops on the off-chance of being able to effect sales in the future. The condition of affairs which existed in Smyrna was due to price cutting by persons who, as James did in South Australia, took advantage of marketing opportunities, to the detriment of all others engaged in the industry. Some honorable senators would allow that condition of affairs to remain so that there would be a prize for the worst quality of human nature - selfishness. Such callous disregard of the interests of others is contrary to the Australian virtues of fair play and comradeship - that readiness of men to share with their mates, which made the worker and the capitalist unite in 1914 to offer their all to the country. These qualities have built up the great character of this Australian nation, but they are now threatened, because pertain people wish to allow an individual to destroy the local market by seizing the plums which are offering from time to time. I believe that in order that tho dried fruits industry of this country shall not be forced to occupy the position into which the dried fruits industry of Smyrna was forced, the marketing legislation in relation to dried fruits and other commodities is well worth retaining
The Leader of the Opposition (Senator Collings) has very strenuously, and I am glad to say, forcibly and, I believe, sincerely, advocated the acceptance of this measure. I could wish for the same sound Australian point of view to be taken by other sections of the Australian Labour movement. I cannot forget that in every industry the worker is protected by some kind or other of industrial award. The rural industries themselves might not give to the workers in them the same standard of wages and con- ditions as operate outside, but the workers on Uie railways, which carry the primary products from the farm to the city, are protected by the industrial courts, and in almost every other direction the same conditions apply. Within the cities and towns the wages and working conditions of the factory employees are prescribed, and if this Parliament refuses the measure of protection to the primary producers that this bill proposes to afford mein, it will be acting very unfairly. I put this question to my Tasmanian friends who are opposed to this measure : if the industries concerned in this proposal go to the wall from what source will the smaller States, which claim grants from the Commonwealth, obtain assistance? It is not at all improper to remind them that, as the other States stand up for Tasmania in the matter of Commonwealth assistance, Tasmania should equally stand behind the great primary-producing industries of the other States, whether Tasmania itself be affected or not. It has been urged that the principal duty of honorable senators is to represent the views of the States which send them here. I contend that our first duty here is to be broadminded Australians.
– Has the honorable senator noticed any inclination on the part of the larger States to do ill to the smaller States?
– Most definitely, no.
– Neither have I.
– The smaller States will he taking an extremely short view and will endanger the prosperity of the nation if they deny this protection to the primary producers of Australia, no matter in what States the primary production affected happens to be conducted. I appeal earnestly to honorable senators not to forget the fact, which I repeat without wishing unduly to impress it on my manufacturing friends, that the success of Australia depends on the prosperity of the primary industries. We should never shut our eyes to that fact. The Senate will be taking a great risk if it denies to the primary producers the protection which the Government’s proposal, if endorsed by the people, will give to them. I think that those who devised the Commonwealth marketing scheme are indeed to be congratulated, and my vote certainly will be cast in favour of the bill.
Sitting suspended from 6.16 to 8 p.m.
– The objection which Senator Duncan-Hughes raised to the proposed alteration of the Constitution, was ably disposed of by the Leader of the Senate. During the latter’s remarks I interjected that the fears of the graziers that the proposed power might be used by some future government in a way detrimental to the glaziers, was unfounded, because, by this bill, the graziers would not be put in a worse position than that in which they are to-day. For years, governments have had the power seriously to interfere with the business of the graziers by taking control of their exports. It is wrong to suppose that future Commonwealth Governments will be a set of lunatics who will try to cut the graziers’ throats. During the regime of tlie Scullin Government an embargo was placed on the exportation of sheepskins, and that meant a loss which, at that time, the graziers could ill afford. Members of the Country party have often been charged with endeavouring to raise the issue of city versus country. When Senator Hardy and I visited several country towns some time ago, we found a tendency among people to whom the primary producers might reasonably look for friendly support, to oppose the proposed alteration of the Constitution on the ground that that would be the safer course to adopt. It was surprising to discover that attitude, because the people who live in towns and cities are fully protected through the tariff and wages awards. If the primary producers were left high and dry, and had to appeal to the Government annually for help in the form of bounties, they would never know exactly where they stood. If they were deprived of the benefits to which they considered themselves entitled prior to the recent decision of the Privy Council, such a feeling of bitterness would be engendered as would result in an attack upon the standards of living of the manufacturers and the workers. All classes other than the primary producers are now protected. Surely the primary producers are entitled to similar consideration.
.- I consider that each member of the Senate should make a definitestatement of his attitude to the proposal contained in this bill. In my opinion no attempt is being made to introduce new legislation. Power is to be sought to validate legislation which wasbelieved to have been passed in accordance, with the Constitution, but which the Privy Council has ruled to be ultra vires. I noticed with interest that Senatop Hardy regretted that the scope, of the measure was not sufficiently wide to enable a compulsory wheat pool to be established.I am glad that it does not so provide. I was particularly pleased to hear his assertion, because, in South Australia, many primary producers are inclined to regard this bill with disfavour, as they think that it might lead to a compulsory pool. The honorable senator said that the provision is not wide enough to cover a compulsory pool.
– The States would have to agree to such a proposal.
Senator JAMES McLACHLAN.Some of the States might agree to it, but I do not believe that a majority of them would.
The exact scope of the proposal in the bill isa matter for legal opinion,but I am satisfied that its ambit is not too wide. I do not imagine that anybody would doubt the value of organizedmarketing, and of the legislation passed in Australia to bring it about. The f ruitgrowersin the irrigation areas along the River Murray and the Murrumbidgee, prior to the introduction of organized marketing of their products, were living below the breadline, but the legislation gave them a chance to feed and clothe their children decently and to take their place in the community as useful citizens. It also enabled them to repay loans raised for the purchase of their holdings. In South Australia it was thought that any fruit-grower not complying with the marketing legislation was liable to have his fruit confiscated. In the case of James v. Cowan, the Privy Council decided against South Australia. This case, and also the peanut case in Queensland furnished convincing proof that there was a loop-hole in the law. As was pointed out to-day by the Leaderof theSenate, the Commonwealth Government was asked to introduce fresh legislation to overcome the difficulty. Unfortunately, the primary producers in some of the States have repudiated their obligation, and have gone almostas far as to say that they were not the instigators of the marketing legislation. I challenge them to show that if they did not instgate it, they did not make, any protest against, it when it was passed.
The worst that opponents of the present proposal can do is to suggest that unreasonable prices have been imposed upon the consumers in Australia by reason of the marketing legislation ; but, during the last six or seven years, the consumers have not been exploited at all on this account, and there is no reason to fear that they will be. Protection, up to 6d. per lb. was granted in respect of dried fruits, but never during the operation ofthe dried fruits export control legislation has that protection been utilized tothe extentof more than 2d. per lb. If the people of Australia had to import sultanas from overseas, they would have to pay £84 a ton for them, yet local supplies are placed on the market at £56 a ton. If there was no danger yesterday, how can there be any particu- lar danger to-day?
A good deal of the discussion on this measure has been somewhat wide of the mark. An old political trick, when a proposalis unpopular is to submit an amendment andto speak only upon that. This course was adopted early in thediscussion of the present bill in the other branch of the legislature, and consequentlymuch extraneous matter was introduced, such as a 40-hour week, the problem of unemployment, and even the subject of the abolitionof State parliaments. I am glad that the Government decided to restrict the proposal to be submitted to the people at the referendum to one simple issue. Since the inception of federation there have been seven or eight referenda, and, according to SenatorDuncan-Hughes, two and a half have been successful. I do not know how the honorable senator obtains the one-half, because I understand that only two proposals, each of which was submitted separately to the people by means of a referendum, have been successful, one being in connexion with the Senate elections and the other providing for the adoption of the Financial Agreement. According to the speeches of the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Collings), the members of the Labour party have always supported the interests of primary producers. In this instance the members of that party suggested that, when this proposal is submitted to the people, they should also be asked to grant more comprehensive industrial powers to the Commonwealth. Had that been agreed to by the Government, both proposals would have had the whole-hearted support of the Labour party, and possibly both would have been carried. It must be admitted that, if both proposals were adopted, those whom the Labour party represent would have received much greater benefits than the primary producers. I do not regard the members of the Labour party as the friends of the primary producers; we cannot overlook numerous incidents which have occurred in the industrial arena. For instance, the waterside workers always decide that the most opportune time to strike is when the primary producers have their wool or their wheat on the wharves awaiting shipment. The shearers strike for better wages and conditions when the sheep are in the shed awaiting shearing, and consequently far removed from their ordinary sources of food and water supplies.
– How long is it since a strike occurred in the shearing industry?
– I realize that times have changed. For some years ample, labour has been available; but, when conditions in the woolindustry are buoyant, they may again revert to their old tactics of holding up shearing operations, and so seriously affect the returns of wool-growers. Slaughtermen at the abattoirs strike when the producers’ fat lambs are awaiting treatment, and the loss of a few pounds on each lamb means a good deal to the owners.
– It is very unfair of the honorable senator to misrepresent the workers; particularly as their repre sentatives in this chamber are supporting the bill.
– I am merely stating facts.
– The honorable senator is not telling the truth.
– The railway workers strike when perishable primary products are awaiting transport.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Sampson). - I ask the honorable senator to connect his remarks with the bill.
– I am merely showing the way in which those whom the Labour party represents treat primary producers.
– The three representatives of the Labour party in this chamber are supporting the Government in this instance.
Senator JAMES McLACHLAN Yes, because the Queensland executive of the Labour party has directed them to do so.
– That is not true.
– It has been suggested to-day that an alternative to the Government’s proposal would be the imposition of an excise duty and the payment of a bounty. It has been said that, as the imposition of Customs duties affords protection to those engaged in secondary industries, the payment of a bounty provided by an excise duty should afford adequate protection to thosee engaged in primary production. We should remember, however; that 90 per cent. of those engaged in our secondary industries carry on their operations under mass production, generally at places where raw material can be obtained readily, and where they have an easy and payable outlet for their finished products. Moreover, their industrial conditions are fixed by arbitration courts and wages boards. Many secondary industries are controlled by companies, which have not a body to be kicked or a soul to be damned. On the contrary, those engaged in primary production are scattered throughout the length and breadth of the Commonwealth, they have to pay excessive freights, and work so long as daylight lasts. Fully 90 per cent, of the labour is provided by the producers or the members of their families. They ‘have to pay Commonwealth and State taxes, district council rates and water rates, and, in common with every other citizen, many indirect taxes. If they have a surplus they have to pay income taxes, ‘and if they happen to become bankrupt they cannot reconstruct as do public companies. Only bankrupts who are granted a first class certificate of insolvency have the opportunity to start in business again. A system of bounty based on excise duties would involve excessive governmental control. This afternoon Senator DuncanHughes quoted the opinion expressed in August of this year by representatives of the fruit-growers.
– I quoted that to show the original ideas of the fruit-growers’ representatives; but a number have now changed their opinion.
– Many who are now conversant with the Government’s proposal are willing to support it. Under the excise and bounty system an army of excise officers would be required to police it. Careful inspection would have to be made and records kept of the stocks in wheat stores, packing sheds and dairying establishments. Moreover, such a system would lead to various fluctuations and would also result in political parties bargaining for votes. Many of these features were stressed by the Attorney-General (Mr. Menzies), but he did not mention that there was a grave doubt of any benefits being conferred upon those entitled to them. It is possible that under a bounty system all the advantage would be derived by middlemen. We should compare the conditions of those engaged– in primary production with the benefits enjoyed by those in certain industries sheltered by customs protection which serves as a subsidy to company promoters. That might occur in the industries involved in this instance under an excise and bounty system. This measure affects ‘directly 210,000 primary producers, the bulk of whose products is exported. When we remember that 96 per cent, of our overseas funds is provided by primary producers it will readily be understood that primary production is of great importance to Aus tralia. Although 210,000 persons ase directly engaged in primary production, their wives ‘ and the members of their families probably bring the number up to 750,000 persons. In the past governments have assisted primary producers, but I trust that this legislation will be passed so that they will not require the governmental assistance which they have been compelled to seek in recent years. I do not believe that the decision in the James case will result in trade and commerce being strangled by a system of socialism or that it is a triumph of right over might. The traders in Australia, who are just as astute as are those in other countries, do not spend their money on law-suits for the good of the country; their object is to increase their income. It is the duty of every government to protect every section of the community from being so poor and hard pressed that it becomes the victim of exploiters. We legislate to prohibit the employment of children under a certain age, and to protect employees from exploitation by employers. Surely the primary producers are entitled to some measure of protection. In the South Australian Advertiser, of the 30th September, 1936, the following paragraph appeared: -
PROPOSES to Claim £25,000 OVER Dried Fruits Case.
That he intended to claim £25,000 damages from the Commonwealth Government was stated by Mr. F. A. James, who passed through Fremantle on the Oronsay to-day after a successful appeal to the Privy Council in the dried fruits case. “I could claim a lot more,” Mr. James said, “ but I do not want to be vindictive. It ia possible that the Commonwealth will meet tho claim without going to court.: but, should it decline to do so, th« matter will bo referred to the High Court “.
Mr. James says that he intends to claim £25,000 for what he alleges to be expenses or damages. Does he suggest that it cost him- that amount to fight the case before the Privy Council, or is that the amount that he alleges that he has lost by being prevented from trading in dried fruit in the way he desired! If he claims to have lost that amount in trading, I should like to know how it is made up. A few years ago he collected approximately £11,000, and it would appear that appeals to the Privy Council have been more remunerative to him than fruit-growing. Honorable senators will recall the time when itwas almost impossible to sell primary products at payable prices. In fact,conditions were once so bad that producers were compelled to accept almost any price.
– I am speaking of wheat, dried fruits and dairy produce.
– I obtained a better price for my dried fruits before the control system was introduced.
– Perhaps the honorable senator was growing fruit in a favorable district. I recall the time when wheat was sold at1s.7d. a bushel, mallee roots at 3s.6d. aton, butter at 3d. per lb., eggs at 3d. a dozen and wool at 5d. per lb. The best fat lambs would not bring more than 3s.6d. each. Because I do not wish such prices to prevail again, I intend to support the bill.
Debate (on motion by Senator Brown) adjourned.
Senate adjourned at 8.32 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 12 November 1936, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1936/19361112_senate_14_152/>.