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Wednesday, 23 March 1927

Senator MCLACHLAN (South Australia) (Honorary Minister) . - There seems to be some misapprehension regarding the provisions of this measure. If honorable senators will look at clause 2, sub-clause 2, they will see that before the board can be constituted, or the act proclaimed, a poll of producers must be taken. Unless a majority of votes is cast in favour of the act being brought into operation, the proclamation will not be issued. I direct the attention of the committee to clause 3, which provides that-

*\ Producer" means the o\wner of any pearling vessel or attendant schooner licensed by any State authority to carry on pearlshell recovery operations.

In harmony with the principle that governs similar legislation, it is provided that a majority of the producers, the owners of schooners individually, must put their imprimatur upon this measure before it is brought into operation. Apart from what the honorable senator has said 83 to the method to be adopted for the election of the board, there is the additional safeguard that if the majority of those engaged in the industry do not approve of the scheme they may vote against it.

Senator Chapman - But those men will have no knowledge of the details of the act.

Senator McLACHLAN - This bill, like other measures of a like nature has been introduced at the instance of those who are engaged in the industry. There would be something to be said for the point made by Senator Duncan were it not for the fact that we have the additional safeguard in sub-clause 2, which states that a proclamation bringing the act into force shall not issue until at a poll of the producers, a majority of votes have been given in support of the scheme.

Senator Duncan - That voting would not be on the basis of one voter for ona boat.

Senator McLACHLAN - Has the honorable senator overlooked the definition of " producer? It means, " the owner of any pearling vessel or attendant schooner licensed by any State authority to carry on pearl-shell recovery operations." Therefore, the majority of the people engaged in the industry must vote in favour of the scheme before it can be brought into operation. The bill is truly democratic, because if a majority of the producers vote against the scheme that will be the end of it. Clause 2 might appear to be a little subtle. The first sub-clause states that sections 1, 2, 5, and 29 of the act shall commence on the day on which the act receives the royal assent, and the remaining sections shall be commenced on a date to be fixed by a proclamation. That is to provide that before the machinery is put into motion, the Ministry will be definitely informed that the persons engaged in the industry really approve of the scheme.

Senator Duncan - That is no reason why we should not give them a better scheme.

Senator McLACHLAN - Is it likely that any proposal could be better than that devised by the men engaged in the industry? This proposal has, I understand from Senator Pearce, emanated from the pearl-shell associations of Broome, Thursday Island, and Darwin, who submitted a draft bill. There is no possibility of injustice, because, even if at the eleventh hour the pearlers do not like it, they will have an opportunity to vote against the issue of a proclamation bringing it into force.

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