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Thursday, 12 November 1936

Senator MCLEAY - Is the honorable senator putting the- State before' the country as a whole?

Senator PAYNE - No; but if State rights are not' conserved we cannot have a prosperous Australia. We cannot have prosperity over the whole of the Commonwealth when we have decadent States. The States' must be protected according to their needs, and provision for that purpose was wisely made in the Commonwealth Constitution. I want it to be understood that, although I am a representative of the State of Tasmania, I am as loyal an Australian as any' honorable senator in this chamber. Senator Hardy, who, from his point of view, delivered a very able speech to-day, said that in this hill an attempt is made to secure a continuation of decent conditions for the. growers. That is quite true. I have every desire to see decent conditions enjoyed in primary industries. I have no desire to see the men engaged in them forced to accept a standard of living lower than I claim -.for myself. I have as much sympathy with the dried fruits growers as with other sections of the community, and I maintain that they should enjoy the same conditions as are enjoyed by those engaged' in other successful businesses or industries. I point out, however, that the main .reason for the introduction of legislation of this charac- ter is the fact that this marvellous country is capable of producing enormous quantities of foodstuffs and other commodities far beyond the absorption capacity of its small population. That is at the bottom of the whole trouble. If we exploited our resources to the full we would be able to produce commodities sufficient to meet the needs not only of everybody in Australia, but also people in other countries. That is the reason why it is necessary for us to have some provision by which the people engaged in primary industries may get a reasonable return for their labour. In respect of our exportable surplus which amounts to 50 per cent., if not more of our whole production, we have to accept world's parity. It is essential that something be done to organize our exporting industries, otherwise they will languish. If 2,000,000 or 3,000,000 people could be induced to come to Australia there would be no need to introduce legislation such as that now before the Senate.

Senator McLeay - Migrants could not be brought in unless we had work for them to do.

Senator PAYNE - There is work for many more people than are in Australia at the present time, but I do not propose to deal with the subject of migration today.

Senator Arkins - Is the honorable senator a freetrader?

Senator PAYNE - Not by a long way. During the many years I have been in this Senate I have never said one word that would suggest that I have a leaning towards freetrade. I believe that the industries of this country should be granted proper protection. I use the word "proper" advisedly.

Senator Collings - Does the honorable senator propose to support the bill?

Senator PAYNE - I propose to make a suggestion which will make the bill perhaps more acceptable to honorable senators generally while at the same time ensuring that the objectives which the Government seeks will be obtained. The Assistant Minister for Commerce (Senator Brennan) concluded his speech yesterday in the following words : -

With great respect, I do not think that much is to be gained by a general discussion of this bill, because it may be taken for granted that practically every individual Senator was in favour of the conditions that prevailed up to the time of the Privy Council's decision in the early part of this year.

We all endorse that.

If, however, any honorable senator, including the Leader of the Country party, can point to something which suggests that we may not be able to do, by the words we have used, the things we think we can do, that will be a relevant and helpful criticism.

I hope to be able to help the Minister by suggesting an amendment. The honorable senator continued -

I think that the most onecan say is that it may cover a wider field. In the sixteen years when we were, de facto, in the position that we will be in if this alteration is agreed to, marketing difficulties were limited to certain primary industries, and, from the nature of the case, I think they are bound to be limited to those primary industries in which we produce more than we consume.

I desire to see the provision in this bill absolutely limited to the objective mentioned by the Minister who introduced it. The bill should be limited to those goods in respect of which we produce more than we can consume. I desire to include in clause 2 certain words which, to a great extent, would overcome any opposition I have heard to-day to the measure. Everybody understood some time ago that the Federal Parliament had power to do certain things which it had been doing for many years, but this power was contested by a certain individual, and when the case was taken to the Privy Council that tribunal decided that the Commonwealth had not the power. The Commonwealth is justified in taking steps to endeavour to have restored to it the power which it was thought by everybody to possess under the Constitution. My concern is that we should not give to this Government or any other government any additional powers. Clause 2 of the bill reads -

The Constitution is altered by inserting after section ninety-two the following section: - "92a. The provisions of the last preceding section shall not apply to laws with respect to marketing made by, or under the authority of, the Parliament in the exercise of any powers vested in the. Parliament by this Constitution.".

I suggest that at the end of the clause the following words be added : - at the request of the State or States concerned in the disposal of products overseas.

The sense would not be altered. The Leader of the Senate said definitely that the Government did not intend to take any more power than it thought it had Under the Constitution before the recent decision of the Privy Council. That may be the Government's intention, but I want to see it in black and white in this m.

Senator Sir George Pearce - If there is any danger - and I do not think there is - surely it will always be possible to get one State to make a request.

Senator PAYNE - I am not committed to the precise wording that I have suggested, but I want a definite provision in the bill to ensure that no future government will be empowered to control the marketing of products in Australia.

Senator Sir George Pearce - The powers sought by the Government will not enable, that to be done. A Commonwealth government could only take action complementary to legislation already passed by the States.

Senator PAYNE - I want a definite provision which will establish that position beyond doubt.

Senator Sir George Pearce - "Why insert the words? They are unnecessary.

Senator PAYNE - If the bill as printed be agreed to, there will be a possibility of a future government taking advantage of it and going beyond what is intended.

Senator Sir George Pearce - Not unless the States had already legislated. The Commonwealth can do nothing of itself. That is the constitutional position.

Senator PAYNE - If that be the constitutional position, what objection can there be to the inclusion of words such as I have suggested? If they were included, I could support the bill. A number of electors in Tasmania have approached me on this subject, and have said that, if convinced that there will be no possible extension of the power which the Government thought it had before the decision of the Privy Council, they will accept this legislation. They, however, want the position set out clearly in the bill.

Senator Sir George Pearce - The Government considered almost the very words which the honorable senator has suggested, and came to the conclusion that they did not provide any additional safeguard. There is a safeguard already in that the power does not become active unless action has first been taken by the States.

Senator PAYNE - May I suggest to the Minister that, even if not absolutely necessary, it might be wise to add the words that I have suggested, or words like them?

Senator Collings - How could the power that a Government thought it had before the decision of the Privy Council be defined in an act of Parliament?

Senator PAYNE - If my proposed amendment would overcome the objections of the electors - and, after all, that is the important thing - the Government's proposal would have a better chance of being carried.

Senator Sir George Pearce - I can only repeat that the point raised by the honorable senator was fully considered by the Government.

Senator Duncan-Hughes - I rise to make a personal explanation. The Leader of the Senate (Senator Pearce) took me to task for a statement that I made with respect to the Premier of Queensland. By interjection, I said that 3 had made an effort to obtain full details of the conference in Adelaide, but had not been successful. In the Parliamentary Library I was told that the printing of the report of the conference was being undertaken by the Government Printer of South Australia, and that, although the draft had been forwarded to him, it had not been completed and returned. I was, therefore, forced back on what I was informed by the Library officials was the fullest account available, namely, the report in the Advertiser of the 28th August, 1936, which stated inter alia -

On reassembling, the Premier of Queensland (Mr. Forgan Smith) moved that the Commonwealth should impose excise duties with export bounties, instead of amending the Constitution, as a solution of the marketing problem.

That surely is a confirmation of my statement. The report continued -

Mr. Butler,in his remarks throughout the day, was unyielding in his attitude that the Commonwealth already possessed ample power., through the medium of excise duties and export bounties, adequately to protect the interests of primary producers. In this he was vigorously supported by the Premiers of Tasmania and Western Australia, who said that it would bc time enough to discuss giving the Commonwealth extra powers if its present powers were chown by experience to be inadequate.

Senator Sir George Pearce - Surely the honorable senator does not chailenge the statement from the official report which I read. It has been submitted to the members of the conference and, as it were, returned "audited and found correct ".

Senator Duncan-Hughes - My statement was based on the best information available to me, but the Leader of tho Senate, quite properly, in view of the data in his possession, claimed that it was incorrect. I claim that, on the newspaper report, which was all the information available to me, my statement was correct.

Senator Sir George Pearce - The newspaper report did not give a correct version of the attitude of Mr. Forgan Smith, whereas the report which I quoted stated it correctly.

Senator Duncan-Hughes - In another part of the same issue of the AdvertiserMr. Forgan Smith is reported as having said that it would be dangerous to ask the people to alter the Constitution for a specific purpose. The report in the Advertiser continued -

Such an action inevitably would arouse hostility on the part of many vested and other interests. An approach to the people for approval for an amendment to give general powers would be more likely to succeed.

I claim that, although the information on which I based my statement may not have been correct, I spoke in accordance with the knowledge in my possession, and that in the circumstances my remarks were justified.

Senator Sir George Pearce - They were justified, but the official report shows that the statements on which they were based were not correct.

Senator Duncan-Hughes - I shall await the detailed report with interest.

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