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Wednesday, 23 March 1927

Senator DUNCAN (New South Wales) . - The committee would be foolish to adopt the amendment suggested by Senator Grant, the effect of which would spell disaster to the industry. I do not think the crews of these vessels are at all concerned in the marketing of the product. This measure deals merely with the overseas marketing of pearl-shell, and the crews of the vessels, unless working on a co-operative basis, are not vitally concerned. It cannot be said that they know anything at all about the problem of marketing. To throw upon them the onus of electing representatives to the board which is to deal only with marketing would be of no advantage to them, and would perhaps be disastrous to the industry. The amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Needham) is in a different category, and I think the Minister would be wise to give further consideration to the question of whether the voting should be on the lines provided in the bill or in the manner suggested by the Leader of the Opposition. I feel that in this bill, as is the case in most legislation, the intention is to protect the weak against the strong.

Senator Crawford - How can there be in this matter a clashing of interests amongst the producers of pearl-shell?

Senator DUNCAN - I shall show the Minister shortly. I know a little about this matter, as certain representations have been made to me from time to time by a number of persons in Sydney who are deeply interested in the industry. The difficulty that I see, and which is foreshadowed by the amendment is that in the pearl-shelling fleet there are men who own several vessels. Quite a number are owned by one man or by the crew acting in co-operation; but if we are to give the owners of vessels a vote for each vessel it must be evident that the men who own a number will dominate the board. In such circumstances we can readily see the effect that will be produced in the marketing of the product. Wide powers are given for the control of marketing. The members of the board could withhold the product from sale for a certain period without inconvenience to themselves; but the smaller owners would be most seriously handicapped, and could not successfully carry on. If only the big owners were represented on the board, the time might come when, in order to crush the small men out of the industry, it might decide not to market the product for a considerable time. The small men should be protected. It is not wise to provide that there shall be one vote in respect to each vessel. That principle is obnoxious to all democratic sentiment. I think that the Government would be wise to accept Senator Needham's amendment.

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