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Friday, 6 May 1921

Senator E D MILLEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - There is nothing in the resolution to interfere with the free trading of the industries referred to within Australia. I told the Senate the other day that the Government recognised the peculiar position occupied by those industries, and the peculiar circumstances surrounding them. I explained that we were then consulting with experts as to the best means of insuring, side by side with the efficacy of the proposal contained in the resolution now before the Senate, some means which would relieve the industries referred to from the difficulties which otherwise they would have to face.

Senator PRATTEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - It occurred to me that, under paragraph b of the resolution, we should revert to the war control with regard to every thing connected with the wool industry.

Senator E D MILLEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - That is not so. It is merely provided that the same method of assessment shall operate under the resolution , as operated in connexion with the Imperial purchases, the only difference being that under the resolution 8d. per lb. is to be the average price as against15½d. per lb., the price previously fixed. The resolution will not carry us beyond that. I ask honorable senators to accept my assurance that it is the intention of the Government, by means of the regulations which will have to be issued, tosee that no hardship or injustice is done to the industries to which Senator Pratten has referred. At the same time, as every honorable senator will recognise, it is not easy to say, in a few hours, what ought to be done. I think the Senate will accept the assurance I have given that the position of the industries referred to is recognised, and that steps will be taken to protect their interests.

Senator PRATTEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - Will the Minister say whether it is proposed to revive the whole of the wool regulations, or to issue independent regulations ?

Senator E D MILLEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - To what regulations does the honorable senator refer as being existent?

Senator PRATTEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - To the regulations that were in existence before 30th June, 1920.

Senator E D MILLEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - They disappear unless they are revived.

Senator PRATTEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - It is not proposed to revive them?

Senator E D MILLEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - It may be found necessary to revive some of them.

Senator PRATTEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - It is not proposed to revive them en bloc.

Senator E D MILLEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - I should say not ; but as the Senate will be meeting on Wednesday next, and the regulations will be promulgated before that date, honorable senators will, in the next few days, have an opportunity of considering those regulations, and, if they think it necessary, of vetoing them, or suggesting amendments in them.

Senator Keating - To which regulations is the honorable senator referring?

Senator E D MILLEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - Senator Pratten has asked whether it is intended, if this resolution is approved, to revive en bloc the regulations issued under the wool control scheme. It appears that it will be necessary to re-issue very many of those regulations, but what number I cannot say. They cannot be operative unless they are re-issued, which means that they will have to come before the Senate on Wednesday next.

Senator Keating - Those regulations will not be dependent upon this motion.

Senator E D MILLEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - No, but they must be in conformity with it.

Senator Keating - We are not giving authority under this motion to adopt them.

Senator E D MILLEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - Certainly not. Someof the regulations will, I presume, be similar to those which were in existence some time ago.

Senator Keating - They must depend upon the same authority as the previous regulations.

Senator E D MILLEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - Yes; but they cannot beoperative until they are re-issued. It is perfectly safe for us to move in this direction, because we meet on Wednesday next, and any regulations issued in consequence of the passing of this motion will have to be tabled in the Senate. Honorable senators will then have an opportunity of objecting if they so desire, so that no great harm can be done. In the meantime, and on the. assumption that the regulations will be in conformity with the motion, I ask the Senate to allow it to have a speedy passage in view of the great urgency, and of the fact that the Senate will meet again on Wednesday.

Senator THOMAS (NEW SOUTH WALES) - If the matter is of such urgency why was it not introduced before ?

Senator E D MILLEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - Urgency arises, because circumstances change very rapidly, and that is what has happened in this instance. If Senator Thomas wants the Government to admit that we should have acted more promptly in this matter, and looked perhaps a week or a fortnight ahead, I desire to say that this is not the Government's " pigeon "

The business has been handled by men outside, and the question raised by Senator Thomas by interjection should more properly be addressed to Sir John Higgins and his confréres who are dealing with the whole question.

Senator PRATTEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - Will the Minister recount the circumstances which led up to the introduction of this motion ? Is it not a result of a private deputation to the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) a fortnight ago?

Senator E D MILLEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - I would have no objection to detailing the circumstances if the Senate thought it worth while. But I may explain that it is only recently that a concrete proposal was placed before the Government.

Senator PRATTEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - By whom ?

Senator E D MILLEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - Originally by Sir John Higgins. I recited the circumstances which led up to the present position, and tabled a memorandum showing the organizations and bodies which were closely associated with Sir John Higgins in this matter. The Government considered the question, and decided on their present course of action. The point I am making is that if there has been any delay the Government cannot be held responsible.

Senator PRATTEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - How long is it since the proposal was submitted to the Government ?

Senator GUTHRIE (VICTORIA) - About two weeks. A deputation embracing accredited representatives of every branch of the wool industry brought the matter forward.

Senator E D MILLEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - Yes, that was shown in a documentI presented to the Senate. From my recollection of the paper I tabled the first conference was on the 14th April, and negotiation continued until the 29th April.

Senator Fairbairn - Until a day before the Prime Minister left for England.

Senator E D MILLEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - Without fixing the date honorable senators will see that the Government has not been responsible for any delay. These matters are obviously very complex, and the Government, like all other human, institutions, requires some little time to weigh the pros and cons.

Senator PRATTEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - We have not had sufficient time.

Senator THOMAS (NEW SOUTH WALES) - I thought that this was aChamber of review, so that legislation or such motions as this could be carefully considered.

Senator Crawford - Did we not adopt this proposal on Wednesday ?

Senator E D MILLEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - The Senate approved of the general principle on Wednesday, but by carrying this motion the Government will have a more specific direction. That is what we are asking for.

Senator PRATTEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - Mr. President, on a question of privilege, will you inform honorable senators what their rights are in speaking on a motion such as this? What time is an honorable senator allowed, and how often can one speak? During my experience as a senator no such motion as this has been before this Chamber.

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