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Friday, 19 July 1946

Mr ARCHIE CAMERON (Barker) . - In my twelve years' membership of this Parliament I have never previously been faced with a set of circumstances similar to those which exist in connexion with this bill. When the Wheat Industry Stabilization Bill was introduced, the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Scully) delivered a second-reading speech. Indeed, he was good enough to have his speech typed beforehand and to supply a copy of it to each honorable member. That speech was headed " Wheat Industry Stabilization Bill; SecondReading Speech by the Honorable W. J. Scully, Minister for Commerce and Agriculture ". At that time we had not seen the Wheat Export Charge Bill. I have read the Minister's second-reading speech on the first-mentioned measure carefully, and only in two places does he refer to the existence of another bill to be brought forward later.

Mr SPEAKER - Order ! I draw attention to Standing Order 266, which reads -

No Member shall allude to any debate in the same Session upon a Question or Bill not being then under discussion . . .

Reference to the second-reading speech of the Minister on a previous bill is therefore out of order.

Mr ARCHIE CAMERON - There has been no second-reading speech on the bill before the House. My experience of parliamentary procedure is that it is customary .for a Minister, when introducing a bill of this description, especially one which may cease to operate after a stated period - in this instance, five years, during which £50,000,000, or even more, may be paid into a fund - to explain what the measure sets out to do.

Mr Dedman - The Minister did that.


Mr Dedman - In Committee of Ways and Means.

Mr ARCHIE CAMERON - A secondreading speech cannot be made in Committee of Ways and Means.

Mr SPEAKER - The Chair has no knowledge of what takes place in committee.

Mr ARCHIE CAMERON - The House has no knowledge of what takes place in committee. From the ministerial bench there has not been, in this House, one word in explanation of this bill; yet the_ Parliament is asked to agree to it. I repeat that this is a bill under which the wheat-growers of Australia will be asked to pay into a fund, the disposal of which will be entirely at the discretion of the Crown, a sum of money which may well exceed £50,000,000. Notwithstanding the importance of the measure, the House has not heard from the King's Ministers one word of explanation as to why that is to be done, or how it will be done. You, Mr. Speaker, have ruled that we may no't refer to a previous debate of this session. I shall not transgress your ruling, but I point out that the second-reading speech by the Minister on another bill did not give the explanation to which the House is entitled. And so we are forced to the conclusion that there is something connected with this bill which the Ministry wishes to evade, or for which it is not ready. It is strange - indeed that two interrelated bills were brought in at different, times, and that although one was explained in a second-reading speech, the other was brought in without such explanation. Any one who takes' even a cursory glance at the bill must realize that it is an important measure. The first question which arises relates to the beginning of the bill. This bill is to have a retrospective beginning, because, according to clause 4, it goes back to the 1st October, 1945. That is to say, it sets out to deal with a crop which has already been reaped - a crop which was sown under war conditions and' 'was subject to . National Security Regulations. It was reaped under those regulations, and was also disposed of under them. 1 challenge the Minister to say that last year's crop has not yet been disposed of.

The Minister wants to put the clock back for nearly a year, and to say to the farmers of Australia that, in respect of a crop which has been in the hands of the Government for many months they are to pay into His Majesty's Treasury a sum equal to 50 per cent, of whatever the crop may realize in excess of 5s. 2d. a bushel - an amount which had been estimated at 2s. 2d. a bushel on 123,000,000 bushels. It does not require a very old f scholar to work out what amount that represents. Retrospective legislation is always difficult to justify. It may be significant that, on this occasion, the Government has had sufficient wisdom, and has shown sufficient political perspi- cacity, to refrain from attempting to justify something which cannot be justified by logic or principle.

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