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Wednesday, 23 March 1927


Senator PEARCE (Western Australia) . - If honorable senators wish to amend the clause they are perfectly free to do so'; but I shall let them know what will probably happen. I take it that honorable senators generally are in favour of giving to this industry the measure of relief that they gave to the canned fruits, dried fruits, and butter industries. These pearlers have been dissatisfied with their marketing conditions. They have an association which, I understand, has in its ranks the whole of the pearlers. They obtained copies of legislation that had been passed for the benefit of other industries, such as that relating to the export of butter and dried fruits, and from it they drafted a bill, which they submitted to the Government. The owners of boats number about 100 at Broome, two at Darwin, and ten at Thursday Island.


Senator NEEDHAM - How many vessels do they own ?


Senator PEARCE - Whether they own ten or 10,000 is not material to my argument. The majority of the pearlers are at Broome. The member for that district in the House of Representatives is Mr. A. Green, and through him they have made representations to the Government to pass this legislation. These gentlemen know their business very much better than we can be expected to. lt is not proposed to create a governmental authority, or to lay down a basis for the election of a local governing body. The proposal is to provide a basis upon which the people who own these boats may run their own business. The basis fixed is that foi* which they have asked. If it is amended they will say, " This is not what we have asked for," and they will reject it. H we really wish to help them, why not do so along the lines that they have suggested? They are merely asking to be given statutory control over the export of the pearl-shell which they are producing and they are seeking to have the board elected in the manner prescribed by the bill. The interpretation which some honorable senators have placed upon thu measure is not the correct one. It is very easy to make the mistake which they have made. Clause .(2) reads -

A proclamation under this section shall not issue unless and until, at a poll of producers taken in the prescribed manner throughout the Commonwealth, a majority of votes-

At first glance, I placed upon that provision the interpretation that has been given to it by some honorable senators. It does not mean that the number of votes which each man shall have is to be prescribed. Obviously it would not be possible to conduct such a poll in the manner in which Commonwealth elections arc held. Regulations would have to be drafted to meet the exceptional circumstances connected with the collection of the votes. That which is to be prescribed is the manner in which the votes shall

Le cast. It will be a form of postal voting appropriate to the occasion. Seeing that it will be a poll of producers, one must ask oneself, "What is a producer?" That term means the owner of any pearling vessel or vessels. If a man owns ten vessels it does not follow that he is ten producers; he is a producer whether he owns one or 100 vessels. There is nothing in the bill which indicates that he is to have a vote for every vessel thai he owns. Honorable senators are confusing the provisions in clause 4, which relate to the election of the board, with the poll that is to be taken to decide whether the act shall be or shall not be brought into operation. Those provisions shall apply solely to the election of the board. That is the construction which has been placed upon the clause by the Government, and it is clearly the construction intended. Honorable senators may, if they wish, make it the most perfect system of government the world has seen; but if they do it will remain on the statute-book unoperative. It is not intended, as Senator Needham appeared to think, to operate a piece of State socialism. This is not to be a governmental authority, but merely a board which will manage the business of the pearlers in the way that they wish to have it managed.


Senator H Hays - What is the object of having a Government representative on the board?


Senator PEARCE - Simply to see that the control of the issue of licences is not abused. Power is given to the board to advise the Minister to withhold a licence, and it is, therefore, necessary to have a representative who will see that nothing wrong is done. I appeal to the committee not to try to make this a fancy system of government, but to give the association that for which it has asked.







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