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Thursday, 22 October 1931

Mr C RILEY (COOK, NEW SOUTH WALES) .- I intend to support the amendment of the honorable member . for Swan (Mr. Gregory). I do not propose to go into the merits or demerits of the embargoes imposed by the present Government. My attitude is determined by my desire to afford Parliament an opportunity of discussing such prohibitions, and for that reason I support the amendment. My concern is not whether it was advisable for the Minister to prohibit the importation of canary seed, or any other article, but whether this Parliament should retain its supremacy as a legislative body; whether prohibitions of this kind are to be applied by proclamation in a manner which places them beyond the criticism of Parliament, or by regulations, subject to the review of Parliament. I am strongly opposed to government by proclamation. I have felt for some time that these powers vested in the Minister, though they have not been abused by the present Government, are subject Lo abuse, and have, as a matter of fact, been improperly exercised by previous governments. In the past, the power has been used, to prohibit the importation of certain goods, allegedly in order to prevent the entry of plant diseases. That was not the real reason for which the prohibition was desired. The application was made because the imported goods competed with certain trading interests in Australia. The honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett), when he was Minister for Customs, slipped badly iti regard to peanuts some' years ago. Interested parties in Australia were anxious to prohibit the importation of peanuts, and they, therefore, asked the Minister to place an embargo upon them, not for the reason that there was insufficient tariff protection, but because, they said, there was a plant disease affecting peanuts in some parts of China and elsewhere.

Mr Latham - About 80 per cent, of the members of this House were behind the Minister on that occasion.

Mr C RILEY (COOK, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I was not one of them. I believe that whether embargoes are imposed for such reasons as that, or because the Government is grappling with a situation in a statesmanlike way as this Government has been doing, they should be subject to review by this Parliament. The Minister said that this power had been enjoyed by Ministers for 31 years past. It does not follow that because a position was acceptable in 1901, it must still be acceptable in 1931. I cannot see any strong objection to allowing Parliament to exercise the fullest control over these matters, and I ask the Minister to review his decision. This amendment, if carried, would not lessen the power of the Minister to take what action he thought necessary during recess in the interests of the primary producers or other sections of the community, whether for quarantine or protective purposes. The Minister could take action, and, in due course, the matter would be reviewed by Parliament.

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