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Thursday, 19 November 1936

Senator DEIN (New South Wales) . - It seems to me that Senator Badman, by his amendment, is splitting straws. The object of the bill is to afford assistance to certain primary producers. Particular products are not specified, because the Government cannot anticipate the precise nature of the assistance that may be required in the future. Supporters of the alteration proposed in the bill believe that this Parliament should have the power which we thought it pos sessed, and which the High Court said it possessed, prior to the decision of the Privy Council in the James case. Some honorable senators interpret this to mean that only those commodities in respect of which legislation has previously been enacted should be covered by any future marketing laws. That would mean, I suppose, that butter and dried fruits would be among the first commodities to -be controlled. Fortunately, owing to the present high price of wheat, it may not be necessary to deal with that commodity at all. There is no guarantee, however, that it may not again be necessary to assist the wheat-growing industry. A couple of years ago, it looked as if the wool industry might have needed legislative assistance, but the increased prices which have obtained recently have rendered unnecessary any action in that direction. In the future, it may be necessary to include other foodstuffs, such as eggs, and products which cannot be classed as foodstuffs, such as timber and tallow, and a host of others. We all hope that the time will never come when it will bn necessary to pass legislation to assist those industries, but as we cannot foresee what will happen in the future, the Government is justified, when seeking an alteration of the Constitution, in asking for power sufficiently wide to enable legislation to be introduced to aid an,v industry which may need assistance.

Senator Duncan-Hughesvigorously opposed the second reading, and yet he gave his blessing to the amendment of Senator Badman. In the event of that amendment being agreed to by the Parliament, I assume that Senator DuncanHughes will take the platform in South Australia and urge the electors to support it.

Senator Duncan-Hughes - The honorable senator is making a wrong assumption.

Senator DEIN - As the honorable senator is not prepared to support Senator Badman's amendment 'before the electors, his blessing of it appears to be ill-timed and worthless.

Senator Sir GeorgePearce. - Senator Duncan-Hughes thinks that this is a good opportunity to rock the boat.

Senator DEIN - Apparently so; but when I heard the honorable senator bestow his blessing so liberally upon Senator Badman's amendment I was confident that he would support it, both in this committee and before the electors. If the proposal submitted to the electors - whether in its original form or as amended in either of the ways proposed by Senator Badman and Senator Payne - be not accepted, any Commonwealth Government in the future will find it extremely difficult to justify, in any circumstances whatsoever, the introduction of legislation designed to assist primary producers.

Senator A J McLACHLAN (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - And what is worse, the States also will be without power in that direction.

Senator DEIN - The proposal of the Government is designed to enable assistance to be given to needy primary industries, but if the electors refuse to alter the Constitution to make that possible, it is very questionable if they would approve of the adoption of the backdoor method - by that I mean the imposition of an excise duty - to assist an industry, because they will have shown by their vote that they do not desire industries to be assisted. No other construction could be placed on a negative vote by the people. A most important principle is at stake. Honorable senators who desire that means shall be provided whereby primary industries maybe assisted by the Commonwealth should provide an open door for that purpose. This measure provides that door, and, in my opinion, honorable senators who oppose this legislation will be attempting to close the door.

Senator Herbert Hays - Senator DuncanHughes contends that the Government should first exhaust the means it has at hand.

Senator DEIN - In my secondreading speech, I referred to that aspect of the subject. I disagree with the imposition of an excise duty, principally because it means that money raised by the Commonwealth Government would be expended by the States. In my opinion, that principle is wrong; the Government which raises the money should disburse it. An excise duty is not only difficult to collect, but also unfair. This measure provides the open door whereby primary industries may be assisted; and if that door be closed it will be difficult for any government in the future to justify the granting of any form of assistance to an exporting industry.

Sitting suspended from 12.45 to 2.15 p.m.

Senator DEIN - Whilst I do not agree with either of the amendments, I do not think that the verbiage of the bill is the best that could be employed. Had the framing of this proposal been my responsibility I would, seeing that the whole of the marketing legislation revolves around section 92, have submitted to a referendum the following simple question: "Are you in favour of the Commonwealth being bound by section 92 of the Constitution?" I suggest that, had the proposal to be submitted to the people been framed in that way, the present difficulty would have been met and there would be brighter prospects of its approval by the people. However, the proposal has been framed, and we must do the best we can in the circumstances. Feeling that it is imperative that this power should be vested in the Commonwealth, I have no course open to me but to support the bill as it stands.

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