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Tuesday, 8 November 1938

Mr BLACKBURN (Bourke) .- The scope of the amendment of the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Frost) seems to be over-estimated by some members of the committee. The bill provides, first, for the licensing of the grower who desires to export. Without a licence he cannot export. That licence is to be given to him by the Minister, or by the Minister's Deputy, on the recommendation of the board, and no principles are laid down for the guidance of the board. It is not told upon what principle it is to grant licences, and yet, apparently, there is no legal right in the grower to obtain a licence. Under the legislation relating to the waterside workers, it has been held by the High Court that the waterside worker has a right to be granted a licence, and, having been granted one, has the right to have it renewed. That ruling is based on the language of the act, but the language of this bill is different. It is not the intention of the Government, as expressed in this hill, to give every grower a legal right to obtain a licence.

Mr Nock - And if he breaks the law?

Mr BLACKBURN - I shall come to that later. The Waterside Workers Act uses the word "may", hut the High Court held that, notwithstanding the use of the word " may ", it was intended that every waterside worker should have the right to obtain a licence, and to have it renewed.

Mr Archie Cameron - Then the High Court ruled that the word "may" did not give discretion.

Mr BLACKBURN - Apparently so. In this bill, however, we have more than the word "may".* The licence is to be granted on the recommendation of the board. Therefore, if the board does not recommend the granting of a licence the Minister cannot grant it, and the bill " contains nothing to guide the board in the making of recommendations. The board may capriciously refuse to grant a licence, and the applicant will have no remedy. The only appeal which tha amendment of the honorable member for Franklin provides is an appeal against the refusal to grant a first application for a licence. If a grower applies for a licence, and the board refuses to recommend that it be granted, lie may appeal from the recommendation, and there will then be an examination of the facts. If a magistrate, after hearing the facts, recommends that a licence be granted, the magistrate's recommendation is to have the same effect as if the board had made the recommendation, and the Minister may act upon it. It is not suggested that there shall he an appeal from the Minister. The Minister does not investigate; he merely acts upon the recommendation of the board.

So much for the first application, but there is a later stage. A man in possession of a licence may have that licence suspended or cancelled. In this regard, principles are laid down for the guidance of the board. The board will not recommend the suspension or cancellation of a licence unless it reports that the licensee has contravened or failed to comply with the prescribed conditions and restrictions. The board has to find certain things before it can recommend the suspension or cancellation of a licence. The honorable member's amendment does not propose an appeal from the cancellation or suspension of a licence. He may have intended it to provide for that, but it. does not, in fact, do so. All that it does is to provide for an appeal against the refusal of an original application for a licence.

Mr Paterson - Suppose the grower applied again after having been refused a licence, would not his case then be covered by the amendment ?

Mr BLACKBURN - I should think not, because that would enable the whole purpose of the clause -to be defeated. I should say that the original application is regarded as something different from the subsequent application.

Mr Paterson - But it is not stipulated that the provision is confined to the first application.

Mr BLACKBURN - There is no mention of a renewal of the licence. Apparently, a grower, once having been given a licence, will remain licensed for all time unless his licence is suspended or cancelled.

Mr Scholfield - What is meant by the reference in sub-clause 5 to the issue of a fresh licenced

Mr BLACKBURN - That refers to the special power given to the Minister to issue a fresh licence to a man whose previous licence had, on the report of the hoard, been suspended or cancelled. That makes it clear to me that the original application is regarded as quite distinct from any later application. It seems undesirable to leave the grower at the mercy of the board in the first instance. He should have the right to continue in the business he was in before the passing of the act, and he will ]10t have that right as the clause now stands. The board should not be given unrestricted power to refuse a licence, without which a grower cannot carry on the business of exporting. It is not suggested that wo should disturb the power of the board to recommend the suspension or cancellation of a licence, because in that case the board must report certain facts against the grower. The Minister will have the report before him, and the Minister will probably be in a better position than a police magistrate would bc to examine the matter. I agree with those who say that they would rather trust to the discretion of the Minister than to n police magistrate, who would be unfamiliar with the matter. Some provision, however, should be made to protect the grower in the absence of an appeal against the refusal of the board to recommend a licence in the first instance. I am sure that it was never the intention of the Government to give to the board power arbitrarily to deprive any man of the right to carry on his liv ing, and to export his goods. 1 suggest to the Minister that if he is not satisfied with the clause as it is drawn, he should let it pass now, and have it revised later. He should give an undertaking to thi committee to have the matter reconsidered, and a suitable provision inserted, when the bill is before the Senate, to provide against the arbitrary refusal of the board to recommend the granting of a licence.

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