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Thursday, 12 November 1936

Senator COLLINGS (Queensland) . - Although there are quite a number of points which I desire to raise in connexion with this bill, which I commend to the earnest consideration of honorable senators, my remarks on the measure will be brief. It is the considered opinion of the Opposition in this chamber that the bill does not go far enough, but the habit of the present Government is to tinker with problems; the more serious the problems, the more superficial the tinkering seems to be. A scientific survey should be made of the whole Constitution in order that the remedies proposed may be calculated to relieve entirely the difficulties which have arisen. It will be admitted by all honorable senators that the Opposition in this chamber has never failed to support every proposal brought before the Senate for the benefit of primary producers.

Senator Hardy - Even in connexion with tobacco.

Senator COLLINGS - Exactly. We have always done so when we have known, that a measure of benefit would accrue to the primary producers. In such circumstances, we have always given our unqualified support although sometimes, as becomes an earnest Opposition, we have been somewhat critical, as we are entitled to be. We have always pointed out the incomplete, and therefore unsatisfactory, nature of most of the proposals submitted with the object of assisting primary producers. We cannot overcome the difficulties confronting primary production by mere piecemeal legislation. We are not dealing scientifically with problems when we leave those engaged in primary production in various forms in the position of having to come annually to this Parliament for some measure of relief. It is quite obvious to every one who takes au intelligent interest in Australian affairs that the Australian Constitution, which has not been altered to any extent during the last 35 years, cannot serve us adequately to-day, and that in that long period problems Have arisen which show the need foi" alteration in various directions. If there is one thing that the Opposition believes in more firmly than in another, it is that the Commonwealth Parliament, regardless of the political party in power, should be clothed with full legislative powers. For example, we believe that this Parliament should have full control over industrial matters.

Senator Herbert Hays - What does the honorable senator mean by full industrial powers?

Senator COLLINGS - There can be only one meaning to "full", which is a short English word in the superlative degree. The Opposition believes that this Parliament should have all the legislative powers, and nobody else should have any. This Parliament should have full industrial, and also full tariff, powers. We do not believe that it should delegate its authority to commissions and boards, but that it should take on the job itself. It should have full power to say just what relief should be granted to primary producers, and there should be no limit to its constitutional capacity to decide what measures are necessary in order to put every form of primary production on a proper basis. We also contend that it should have full power in the matter of orderly marketing, and that it should be able with or without calling for the cooperation of the States, to legislate in respect, of commodity boards, and to give such bodies properly constituted power to do the job. We also believe that the Commonwealth Parliament should have full control over trade and commerce, aviation and broadcasting. Any honorable senator could occupy the full time he is permitted to speak on the second reading of this bill in showing how essential it is that the Commonwealth Parliament should be clothed with fill 1 legislative powers in various directions. Surely the Assistant Minister (Senator Brennan) realizes that oven this measure will not give the Commonwealth Parliament full power over orderly marketing, the. constitution of commodity boards, and other assistance to which primary producers are entitled. Having regard to the experiences gained in the last 35 years, and the fact that the Commonwealth's power in other directions may now be successfully challenged, ir, is a pity that the bill has been introduced in such a form as will give to the Government only partial powers. Since the measure was drafted a successful appeal has been made to the High Court. The Government knows as well as I do - and if it does not I am informing it - that this is only the beginning of a number of similar challenges to be made which will show that the Commonwealth has not the power which it and the States and the people believed it possessed. I am surprised that the Government has not introduced what might be regarded as a. reasonably satisfactory proposal to ask the people to take an intelligent view of the Constitution and give to this Parliament the power to go ahead avid do the job.

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