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Thursday, 18 July 1946

Mr McEWEN (Indi) .- I now move the amendment that was temporarily withdrawn earlier this afternoon -

That, in sub-clause (2.), paragraph (i), after the words " Western Australia ", the following words be inserted: - "who shall hold office for three years from the date of their . appointment ".

The purpose of the amendment is to provide in the legislation itself that the representatives of the growers shall sit for a known period of time. I wish to make" effective the principle of growerrepresentation. The essential feature of representation, whether it .he of the wheatgrowers on a' board, or of the public in Parliament, is that those who do the choosing' shall have an opportunity at stated intervals to indicate whether they are satisfied with their chosen representatives, "-' or '.whether they wish to change them. This bill does not give to the growers1 recurring opportunities to express their- opinion of their representatives; . 'T accept the interpretation of the Minister, that, sub-clause 3' could be construed to permit of the promulgation of regulations' ito -fix the conditions of election and; T think the Minister said, the period- for- "which representatives would be elected.. That is satisfactory up to a point. It is unsatisfactory only in that it does not ensure that the representatives of the growers shall hold' office for a specified time only. In short, it will still rest with the Minister of the day to give tq the growers a short period of representation or a long one.

Mr Scully - The period could be prescribed in the regulations, and be indicated at the time of the election.

Mr McEWEN - That is true, but by the same token, at any time during that period another regulation could be promulgated to alter it. The growers should not be in any sense dependent upon the goodwill of the Minister, so far as their representation is concerned. The elected representatives can function effectively only if they are dependent for their positions entirely upon those who . elected them, but that principle is denied in the bill. The honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. Pollard) has already spoken on this sub-clause. We know that he has for some time acted as an assistant to the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture. Indeed, he has many times been referred in the press as the Assistant Minister for Commerce and Agriculture.

Mr Scully - And he has done a good job, too.

Mr McEWEN - I have no doubt that he has virtually acted as assistant to the Minister, and, in the Minister's opinion has done a good job. The honorablemember for Ballarat said that paragraph a of sub-clause 2 provided for the appointment of a chairman and a member to represent the flour millers, and that they would be appointed by, and hold office during the pleasure of, the Minister. He said that that was a good arrangement, so why should it hot apply to the representative of the growers, also? That t opinion should be considered in conjunction with the honorable member's known association with the genesis of. 'the bill, because at the time he was acting virtually as., Assistant Minister for Commerce and Agriculture. If the opinion which he has expressed is to be regarded as the official opinion of the Government, I cannot disagree with it too strongly.

Mr Pollard - It is exactly the same principle as- the honorable member, and governments of which he was a member, adhered to.

Mr McEWEN - The honorable member is not wholly correct in that statement. The first wheat board was appointed by a government with which I . was not connected, but it is true that I was connected with other governments which continued the appointment. However, I am not now discussing my previous actions, the support which I gave to this government or that,1 or my sins of omission of years ago. I am prepared to argue all those matters, but this is neither the place nor the time. I am concerned now with the future of the wheat industry, and no interjection is going to divert me from discussing it. Positions on the wheat board are positions of pay and privilege which are quite understandably sought after. They. are worth up to £500 a year, and carry with them comfortable allowances in addition. Experience has shown that the interests of the wheat-growers, or their idea of where their interests lie, are not always identical with the wishes of the govern-' ment of the day, whatever it may be. If the representatives of the growers are to hold office at ' the will of the Minister, if they know that the first time they seriously disagree with him they will lose their jobs, then they cease to be representatives of the growers and become representatives of the Minister. All that need not have been said if the member for Ballarat had not spoken. He is a more forthright man than some politicians, and he, with his association with the origins of the bill, has said in his direct style what he believes in. A few months hence - though God forbid - he may be Minister for Commerce and Agriculture. Then we shall .have a Minister who has already proclaimed himself to be in favour of the principle that the representatives of the growers , should hold office only as long as they do not offend the Minister of the day. That is entirely opposed to my idea of what should be the position of men supposed to represent primary producers on board's which handle their affairs. Since this issue has been confused by statements of conflicting opinion as between the Minister and his assistant, there is only one way in which to resolve it - namely, to write. into the bill my amendment which will put beyond doubt that the growers' representatives have been elected to hold office for a definite period. Then, if they feel it to be their duty in the interest "of those who elected them, they will be able to express disagreement with the Minister of the day without fearing the consequences of his displeasure. ' I said previously that I thought three years was a fair period for representatives to hold office, but on that I am prepared to compromise with the Minister. He regarded three years as a reasonable period. On that issue we do not seem to be in disagreement. I see no reason why this amendment should not be accepted. On the contrary there is every justification why it should be embodied in the clause.

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