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Thursday, 14 November 1935

Senator McLEAY (South Australia) . - I appreciate the position that has arisen and I thoroughly understand the reasons actuating Senator Brennan in raising the point of order which you, Mr. President, have decided in his favour. Some time ago I was informed that it was not within the power of the Senate to disallow a single regulation, but on the following day the Assistant Minister advised that it was competent for this chamber to do so.

I am grateful to the Assistant Minister for the assistance which he has given to me in this matter. My main reason for objecting to certain regulations in Statutory Rule No. 30 which came into force on the 8th April, 1935, is not that I am opposed to control or fixation of prices in connexion with the dried fruits industry, but that I consider that three or four of the sub-regulations are altogether too drastic and would unduly trespass on the rights' of a number of citizens. I was under the impression that, if my motion were carried the regulations which were in force on the 7th April would still stand. As there appears to be some legal doubt on this point, it is imperative, because of the far-reaching nature of these new regulations, that the Senate should know what are its powers in the matter of the disallowance of regulations. The Assistant Minister should give earnest consideration to this statutory rule, which contains nine regulations, and one of them has seventeen sub-regulations, including twelve paragraphs. Some of these provisions are very far-reaching in their effects. I understand that the Senate has not the power to disallow or amend a single subregulation or paragraph contained in a regulation. If it has not this power, 1 am afraid that before long we shall be facing a sea of trouble.

My motion is a protest against the present unsatisfactory state of affairs in the industry. In the course of this debate we have heard a good deal said about the success of the dried fruits industry in Australia. For that we have to thank the Commonwealth Government and State governments for passing legislation making possible the satisfactory development of the industry, and also the governments of Canada, New Zealand and Great Britain for the measure of preference which Australian exporters now enjoy in those markets. I was rather surprised that, with the exception of the Assistant Minister and Senator Duncan-Hughes, all those who took part in the debate this afternoon failed to note that I am supporting by motion all the regulations which were in force up to the 7th April, and that my opposition is directed against three or four of the new sub-regulations of regulation '7 which came into operation on the Sth April. The regulation reminds me of the story of the cynical draftsman who observed that, as razors were made to sell, regulations were drafted to pass. The statutory rule against which my motion is directed - by the President's ruling I am not permitted to amend it - contains nine regulations, some sections of which I consider are unduly oppressive, yet we are told that we must accept or reject them in their entirety.

Senator Brennan - The Senate has no power, by itself, to pass a law. If it had authority to amend a regulation, we should have the position of one House of the Parliament instead of two, being a law-maker.

Senator McLEAY - As even lawyers differ on so many occasions, I am not prepared, at this stage, to express an opinion on the point raised by the Assistant Minister, but I repeat that the Government should give the Senate a lead as to the correct procedure. My objection is to certain of the sub-regulations which came into force on the Sth April, and in particular to regulation 7, sub-regulation 6, which enacts that an exporter shall sell " to such purchasers through such agents and in such quantities as the board determines." Let honorable senators consider the position from the point of view of a seller who goes to Canada to appoint agents for the sale of his products. Before he can appoint an agent or enter into any contract to sell dried fruits at the price fixed by the board, he has to obtain the approval of the board as to whether the purchaser shall be allowed to receive the goods. From the view-point of those controlling packing sheds, such a position is most undesirable. A packer may purchase 1,000 tons of dried fruits, and after entering into the contract the board then determines whether the contract to sell may be carried out. If the board is to have the power to exercise such control over commerce, the Senate should give these regulations most serious attention. Let us consider subregulation 10. The members of the board may be in different parts of the Commonwealth, and the secretary does not possess the necessary authority to issue a licence, unless fourteen days' notice is given for each shipment. The secretary may say that the person desiring to export is a reputable trader, that his licence is in order, and that he should be entitled to ship a consignment, but he has not the power to authorize shipment under fourteen days. It has been reported to me that after these regulations came into force a firm cabled from Colombo to Adelaide in September for a shipment to be forwarded within three days, but those desiring to comply with the request were reminded by the board that fourteen days' notice had to be given. Is it any. wonder that there is such a strong protest against these regulations when such restrictions arc imposed? The Assistant Minister has said that the Senate has not the power to amend these regulations; but even the best of draftsmen are not infallible, and mistakes may occur. I remind honorable senators that before the Sanctions Bill' was disposed of by the Senate last night, it was found necessary to amend it. That shows clearly that even at the last moment alterations were found to be necessary. Sub-regulation 16 of regulation 7 reads -

That the licensee shall, whenever so required by notice in writing, signed by the secretary or an authorized person, withhold from export the whole or any portion of any dried fruits intended for export.

The Commonwealth law provides that exports shall be withheld, and the State law provides that quotas must be exported. It is quite possible that purchasers would refrain from entering into contracts, because there is always a fear that these regulations may be used against them. I wish it to be clearly understood that I am in favour of reasonable control, and I trust that, if there is any friction under these regulations, the Assistant Minister will see that they are amended. Senator DuncanHughes said that if the Commonwealth decides to take a referendum as to the Commonwealth's powers under section 92 of tho Constitution, these regulations will be quoted throughout the Commonwealth, as showing the effect of Commonwealth control. I am prepared to support any amendment of the Constitution to give to the Commonwealth greater power to deal with exports, but I trust that the Government will see that the regulations which it promulgates are not ridiculous, and that when they come before the Senate, we shall have power to amend them. Subregulation 17 of the same regulation reads -

The licensee shall comply with such other conditions as arc from time to time prescribed. lt is difficult to understand what is meant by that. It has given the independent packers in South Australia quite a scare. Reference was made this afternoon to the representation of minorities. Members of the independent organization in South Australia control eighteen of the 49 .packing sheds, and in addition to the dried fruits which this organization purchases locally, it obtains quantities from Victoria and New South Wales. In the first year of its operation, one independent packing shed handled 100 tons, and this year it has handled 700 tons of interstate fruit. Mr. Howie said that the Australian Dried Fruits Association handled S8 per cent, of the dried fruit produced in South Australia last year, leaving members of the independent organization 12 per cent. The members of the independent organization in South Australia were in business before the days of government control, and did not object to control until these regulations ' became operative on the Sth April. I understand that the Control Board objected because representations were made to it on behalf of independent packers by a firm of solicitors; but, in view of the nature of the regulations and the numerous technical and complex matters contained therein, it is only reasonable that they should obtain legal advice. This small independent organization exported in 1934 a larger quantity of dried fruits than was exported from New South Wales and Western Australia during the samo year, and those States have representation on the board. Some who are not familiar with the conditions under which the industry is conducted in South Australia object to the representation of minorities. In 1934, South Australia produced 20,000 tons of dried fruits, but the total production of New South Wales in that year was only 5,000 tons. We do not complain because New South Wales lias direct representation on the board, but the Assistant Minister should consider the suggestion of Senator Duncan-Hughes that, when another appointment is made, the claims of independent organizations in South Australia should not be overlooked. Unfortunately, some honorable senators do not appreciate the position which exists in the dried fruits industry in South Australia, where there are nonirrigated and irrigated areas. When the South Australian Dried Fruits Control Bill was introduced, one representative of the non-irrigated areas and two representatives of the irrigated areas were to be elected. Although the Australian Dried Fruit Association is a powerful organization, we should not belittle the independent organization which has done much for the industry in South Australia. Some honorable senators are apt to think that I am speaking on behalf of a merchants' organization. Eighteen of the 49 packing sheds are supported by men, of whom 95 per cent, are growers. This organization, which was not formed until December of last year, is making headway and, by resolution, has decided to support reasonable control. Both the Australian Dried Fruit Association and the independent organization arc commercial -undertakings and my desire is that they shall work together amicably.I understand that some grower-members of the Australian Dried Fruit Association welcome the independent organization, which has livened up the industry and introduced healthy competition. Men have been sent to Canada and have done good business. One agent has been buying from the same source for years, but under these regulations confidence might not be retained and competition is likely to cease, giving one organization a monopoly which will not be in the best interests of the growermembers of the Australian Dried Fruit Association or the industry as a whole. Mr. Howie, who is one of the most respected men in the industry, on one occasion said : " I believe that if any individual, however small his interests, is the victim of an injustice his case is worthy of consideration." I cannot understand why I have failed to convince the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Collings) that I and the independent growers are not against control of the industry. I am not opposing the regulations as they were up to the 7th April: indeed, we recognize that they were largely responsible for placing the industry in the prosperous position it enjoys to-day. We oppose some of the new sub-regulations which came into force after that date. With Senator Leckie I ask what are the reasons for these new regulations? Are honorable senators prepared to agree to them with out even inquiring why the old regulations have been superseded?

Senator Hardy - Has the honorable senator heard any expression of dissatisfaction with the new regulations from members of the Australian Dried Fruits Association who represent 94 per cent of the growers?

Senator McLEAY - No. I have no desire to take any part in the work of the Australian Dried Fruits Association or the Independent Dried Fruits Association. I do not seek to express any opinion in this chamber on the merits of disputes between the rival organizations. I am concerned only with the principles which might be involved in such disputes. I have submitted this motion in an endeavour to ensure that justice shall be done to all sections of producers in this industry. I thank honorable senators for the patient manner in. which they have heard my case. There are many other points to which I should like to reply, but I appreciate the feeling of the chamber on this matter. However, I believe that I was justified in bringing the motion before the Senate. At all times I shall be prepared to fight any organization, even though it be as strong as the Australian Dried Fruits Association, in defence of principles. If I have done any injury to Mr. Bell or any member of the board, I am sorry. I. adopted this course in the interests of the growers as a whole, and I trust that the same healthy competition that exists today in the industry will survive, because this will be to the benefit of the industry as a whole.

Motion negatived.

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