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Wednesday, 24 July 1946

Mr ARCHIE CAMERON (Barker) . - I cannot allow this bill to become law without making some comment on some strange provisions contained in it. Clause 4 is. in such striking contrast to other measures which we have had before us in the not far distant past that I cannot let it pass without comment. That clause provides for the establishment of- a board of twelve members, consisting of three members to represent the lamb producers of Australia, one to represent the mutton producers, two to represent the beef producers - the bulk of our, beef exports are from Queensland, so that does not present a great deal of difficulty - one to represent pig producers, two to represent meat exporting companies of Australia, one to represent the publicly-owned abattoirs - as these are situated in almost every State there may be some competition in the selection of their representative - and one to represent the employees. I have no doubt that some dispute may occur on both sides of the river Murray, and, perhaps, in the vicinity of "the Brisbane line" as to which trades hall shall have the right to select that representative. Perhaps the dispute may be remitted into the Australasian Council of Trade Unions and be happily resolved. , Then, finally, one member is to represent the Commonwealth Government. That makes a total of twelve, perilously, close to an-, unlucky number. The clause provides that these gentlemen are to be appointed by the Governor-General. Iri ordinary common English, that means that they will be selected by the Minister. I have also noticed that the clause provides that if a'n insufficient number of nominations is received the GovernorGeneral may make such appointments as he thinks fit. These, of course, would be made upon the recommendation of the Minister.

Mr Makin - That is a very good provision.

Mr ARCHIE CAMERON - This provision is in striking contrast to some other administrative proposals of the Government in the not far distant past. I pass on to the procedure at meetings of the board and the power of veto as proposed in clause 7. In one of my more illuminated moments I marked this clause - as the " Molotov clause ". Under it anything that may- be agreed upon by the other eleven members of the board as their sincere and honest conviction and ou the basis of their expert knowledge may be vetoed by the chairman. According to the rather striking and forthright language of the clause, if the chairman happens to dissent from the views of "the other eleven members of the board he must signify at the meeting to the other members present in person his intention to bring his dissent to the notice of the Minister and, within 24 hours after the close of the meeting, transmit to the Minister notice of his dissent with,fu particulars of the decision. If the Minister approves of the decision, or varies it - to what extent he may vary it is not stated - the decision so approved is deemed to be a decision of the board. I assume that if the Minister agreed with 10 per cent, of the decision and vetoed 90 per cent., it would still be deemed a decision of the board. How in the name of common sense can such a provision be contained in an act of parliament? Personally, I would not esteem it a great honour to be asked, to become a member of a board which had to function under those conditions. I, and perhaps ten worthy colleagues- -much worthier than myself - might be entirely opposed to 90 per cent, of a certain decision which the Minister, acting upon the advice of the chairman, decided was necessary in the interests of the country, yet we would find that the decision of the Minister would be represented as expressing the views of the board. That, to 'my mind, rather savours of the old method of attempting to invert the pyramid. I suggest that before this bill becomes law the text of clause 7 might be transmitted overseas for the opinion of the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt), not only from the legal aspect, but also from the aspect of a practice and procedure with which the right honorable gentleman has been connected in a rather intimate way of late. He might have some interesting and illuminating views to transmit to the Government on this matter and, as the result the Governmentmight change its views. The provisions of clause 14, which relate to section 16of the principal act, are very similar to those which have "appeared in other measures. There- fore I am- obliged, much against my inclinations, to call ' attention to the inconsistency of the ' Government in matters like this. -However, where the Government is consistent is in a way that I cannot approve. As proposed to be amended, section 16 of the principal act will provide -

The Board shallhave power - and (e) on behalf of the Commonwealth andsubject to any directions of the Minister -

(   i ) to purchase any meat, meat product or edible offal ;

(ii)   to sell any meat, meat product or edible offal ; 1 or

(   iii ) to manage and control all matters connected with the handling, storage, protection, treatment, transfer and shipment of any meat, meat product or edible offal purchased by the Commonwealth;".

One of the Minister's colleagues may regret that this bill did not become law a couple of years ago when it might have been very handy in the famous case of the Portland butcher, Mr. Dargan. It would perhaps have saved him and his colleagues in the Ministry a lot of headaches in solving the intricate problem of what to do about the Portland meat supply. Had the hill been law, under this provision, they could have gone to Portland and, on behalf of the Commonwealth, and subject to directions of the Minister, purchased any meat, meat product or edible offal that they liked and, as far as - I can see, there is nothing in the bill that would have prevented them from giving it away. That may be an unfortunate omission, but, in the absence of contrary provision, they could have disposed of the commodity so purchased in any manner that they thought fit. I leave those matters with the Minister because they concern the people who produce meat. Some are big producers, others are very little producers, like me, and others go in for meat production as a pleasant pastime.

The last point that I make is that raised by the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Bowden) and one or two of his colleagues about the strange attitude of the Minister towards the people who form the " Australian Primary Producers Union, 'a'! "'fairly' 'Well known organization. At the request of the honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. McDonald) I journeyed with- him to Warrnambool and met some 500 or 600 of them, and they seemed ' to be a fine class of people,' as. I 'would' naturally expect, -some of them being my own constituents. I know these people. They are devoted to the ' , one objective -of improving the position of 'Australian primary producers generally. They are interested, not "only in meat, but also in almost everyother kind of "primary product.' Yet the. Minister has consistently and' repeatedly refused to meet them. There are certain points that they want to put to him, 'and I think it is better, in the interests ofthe association, that they should put them to him personally. Not. long ago I asked him whether he was prepared to meet them before this legislation became law, because in my younger days, when I was at school, I read something about the mouse, and the lion, and I know that even small things may be of help to the great and the mighty. I think that the men who represent different kinds of primary production, and are willing to leave their dairy farms, their wheat farms', their pastures, their potato patches and so forth in order to put their views before the Minister, may have some views that would be useful to the Commonwealth Government in the framing of legislation of this kind. I can only regret that the Minister, in his wisdom,' decided that he would meet them, to use his own language, I think, in his own good time. The Minister nods his head, so, for once, I seem, to be near the mark. I may be wrong, but I took that to mean that the Minister did not propose to meet them until after this bill had become law. I say with all good feeling towards the Minister, who is one of my political opponents, that in all these matters, whatever he may happen to think personally of an organization, it is a fair thing for the Minister to meet its .representatives in what may be described as their own. good time, in order that anything they might represent as of benefit to the Commonwealth, to industry or even to persons individually, may be submitted to him for - his consideration. I regret that my honorable friend has not seen fit to pursue, that rather well-worn path, but has elected to take the path that he lias taken on this occasion.

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