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Thursday, 18 July 1946

Mr FADDEN (Darling DownsLeader of the Australian Country party) . - The honorable member for Darling (Mr. Clark) has asked the committee to consider the intention of the amendment. That is exactly what we want to do. We desire to have a more satisfactory reason for it than has already been given to us. The amendment would bestow enormous power on the Minister, because it provides that the board may do certain things " subject to any direction of the Minister ". That power is wide enough to enable the Government to implement the policy of the Labour party for the socialization of the means of production, distribution and exchange. In order to understand the reason for this amendment it is necessary to delve into history. I direct the attention of honorable members to the debate which took place on the Government's referendum proposals, with particular reference to the proposal for orderly marketing. When the honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Bernard Corser) tried to insert a safeguard to ensure that the proposed new power would not be used to socialize the means of production, his amendment was defeated on a party vote. Now, a further opportunity has been created by the Government to place wide powers in the hands of the Minister so that he may do practically anything, including the taking over of flour, mills, the gristing of wheat and the sale of the proceeds of gristing. This proposed power is too wide and dangerous for any vigilant opposition to allow to pass unchallenged. It amounts, in effect, to a power of veto, and it is ironical that the Minister for External Affairs (Dr. Evatt) should be overseas protesting against the power of veto in the United Nations while action is being taken here to place that very power in the hands of a Minister of the Crown. I draw attention to the excuse made by some Government supporters for the placing of this power in the hands of a Minister. They have claimed that the plan will involve Treasury responsibility, and that it is, therefore, only right that the Treasury should have a representative on the board in order to protect Treasury interests. This practice has been followed in the case of other boards, and it is a reasonable proposition, but it is not necessary in this instance, because no financial . obligation will devolve upon the Commonwealth - immediately, at any rate. The scheme is to be financed with the wheatgrowers' money, 50 per cent, of the difference between 5s. 2d. and the export parity price being paid into a fund. At some time in the future, the Treasury may be called upon to make a contribution, but that is not likely to happen for many years to come. If it does, it will then be time enough for the Government to provide for Treasury representation on the board. Even if the Treasury were immediately involved, and there was justification for bestowing certain powers upon the Minister, they should not be so extensive as is proposed in the amendment.

Sitting suspended from 5.55 to 8 p.m.

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