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Tuesday, 9 April 1946

Mr FULLER (HUME, NEW SOUTH WALES) - That is too far back.

Mr BERNARD CORSER - It proves that I- am consistent. What I then believed to be necessary is now exercising the mind of the Government. This is the motion that I submitted in 1932 -

That, ill the opinion of this House it is desirable that constitutional a!~-ra.tions be provided to make possible the organization of primary producers on an Australian basis with complete sectional control of the internal and external marketing of each primary product, such control to" be exercised exclusively by. the organized producers of such commodity, which would, enable the producers of each commodity, to speak with one voice and authority in regard to any arrangement which may bo deemed by them to be necessary to conserve their interests.

In 1930, I used this language -

To-day a State has power to organize marketing within its boundaries, and the Commonwealth has power to organize export marketing. But there is no single legislative authority with power to bring into being an Australian organization, other than one under voluntary, honorable agreement between the producers, or by an agreement of all six States and. the Commonwealth.

Where I then stood I stand to-day. I stand for organized marketing of commodities' on an Australia-wide basis, of commodities when the producers so desire, such marketing to be controlled by the producers themselves. I do not want it to be controlled by the Government. Parliament, having been given this power, should delegate it to the producers themselves. Until section 92 of the Constitution is amended, the Commonwealth will not have this power, which is more necessary now than ever. Without such an amendment, effective control can be obtained only by agreement between the Commonwealth and the States, such as exists in regard to the marketing of butter. This system may be satisfactory for exportable commodities, but for non-exportable commodities, such- as maize, it is impossible to organize any Commonwealth system of marketing, with the result that there is cut-throat competition between the States in times of crisis, such as drought, and there is no authority, either State or Commonwealth, which can prevent it. No organization established by a State to protect its own growers can be effective against competition from another State. Primary producers should have the right to organize and control markets for the disposal of their commodities, just as trade unionists have the right to organize. If the producers had that power there could be a really effective council of agriculture, . which would assist the government of the day to control products and oversea markets. It has been suggested that the power now being sought might be used by some government to put into effect a policy of socialization of all forms of production. That, however, is true ' of many powers now held by the Commonwealth Parliament, and, in the final analysis, the result depends upon the nature of the Parliament which the people elect. Producer-control has advantages for the nation as well as for the producers. I do not think that the producers would stand for the nationalization of their industry. The Attorney General should make it clear without delay that the control of the proposed marketing system must remain with the producers. Otherwise, it will be difficult to persuade the people to concede the powers asked for. The Government should also enumerate the commodities over which it is intended to assume control. By agreement with the producers, a list of commodities could be drawn up, including butter, cheese, wheat, meat, fruit and vegetables, and processed products derived from there and many other products. The publication of such a list would give the voters confidence. Now, as always, I stand for producer-control rather, than parliamentary control. That was what I desired on the three occasions when I submitted in this House motions providing for the establishment of a system of organized marketing. The Paterson butter scheme was the earliest attempt to organize the control of a commodity on an Australian basis, and it formed the pattern for similar schemes introduced later. During the war, no difficulties were experienced in connexion with the control of marketing, but we should remember that throughout that period the demand for goods was always greater than the supply. No difficulty was ever experienced in selling the commodities, but. in. some instances, the producers found it difficult to get from the Government some fair prices foi their commodities. On occasions, the Government fixed prices which were below the cost of production, and then paid a subsidy to the producers out of the profits which it made by selling the commodities on the open market. In this way the Government was able to provide cheap food for the people. We have all heard Government supporters ranting in the Sydney Domain about the three cardinal points of Government policy - high wages, shorter hours and cheap food, but it is necessary to ensure that the primary producer, too, shall receive a fair wage out of the price which he receives for his commodity.

The Government's third proposal is that the control of employment and industrial conditions should be given to this Parliament, instead of being exercised by the Arbitration Court, All parties are pledged to the support of industrial arbitration, and only recently the Prime Minister himself made a statement reaffirming his adherence to the principle. I have here a statement issued by the Furnishing Trades Union in their official journal -in March, 1943, in which the following passage occurs: -

We look to every citizen of the State and of the Commonwealth to appreciate the tremendous value of the arbitration system to the community. We ask for their support to ensure that it is maintained.

Industrial arbitration has given the workers of Australia better conditions than are enjoyed by any other workers in the world. It has lifted "the weakest of the workers. It has given them a standard of living and a political system better than that which is enjoyed by any other country.

For over 40 years we have lived and prospered under the arbitration system, which is administered by a court of learned judges who are specialists in industrial matters. They have given a great part of their lives to the study of industrial problems, and one asks what good reason has been given for upsetting the present system. It is true that it is not proposed to abolish the Arbitration Court, but it is to be shorn of an important part of its authority. It is proposed that Parliament shall have the right to fix hours of work, wages and other conditions. We know who has been pressing for this, and we know, also, the danger of placing in the hands of a political party, which may happen to have a majority in this Parliament, power to fix wages and working conditions.

I hope that a convention will be called, representative of the: States and the Commonwealth, to discuss fully proposed alterations of the Constitution, and that an amicable decision will be reached for the States to concede to the Commonwealth the necessary powers. This should meet with the approval of the States, and should enable us to surmount the difficulties with which we have been for so long confronted.

Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.

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