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Wednesday, 18 November 1936

Senator ALLAN MACDONALD (WESTERN AUSTRALIA) . - Exactly the same number of people will say that this referendum proposal is going too far as the number who cavilled at the decision of the High Court in 1920. There is a kind of individual, especially in Western Australia, who resents the mere suggestion that some extra power should be given to the federal authority. These people will be as loud in their opposition to this referendum as they were loud in their condemnation of the finding of the High Court in 1920. They have continued to criticize the High Court ever since it gave its decision, and I am afraid that they will continue to criticize that or something else until they disappear. What is exercising the minds of the primary producers of Western Australia, is what is going to happen to them if the referendum be not carried. Senator Guthrie, in an excellent speech this afternoon, claimed most of the virtues in Australian export marketing for the primary producers of Victoria, but, dumping is something else at which Victorians are champions. The primary producers of Western Australia arc very concerned about what is going to happen to them if we cannot restore to them the protection which they had until the decision of the Privy Council. I should like to ask honorable senators, who are dubious about the carrying of this alteration, what is going to happen to the group settlement schemes of Western Australia if a negative majority is recorded at the referendum. It has only been during the last two years that the small group farmer has been able to see some glimmer of hope as the result of the increase of the price of butter fat. But if Western Australia and the other, smaller States are to be inundated with cheap Victorian butter, the sum of f8,000,000, which has been invested in the group settlements of Western Australia, will disappear as if down a sink. These small dairy-farmers have little or no hope of competing against the more advanced dairy-farmers of a State like Victoria. What may defeat the proposal to be submitted to the people at the referendum are the red herrings which, I fear, will be drawn across the trail, particularly the cry emanating from the Premier of South Australia, Mr. Butler, that this Parliament already has adequate power to deal with the difficulty that has arisen. How far, I ask, can the excise power of this Parliament take is in regard to the organized marketing of our primary products overseas? What has excise, for instance, to do with the marketing of dried fruits and butter in the important district of Hull? Nothing whatever. I am amazed at the repeated announcement by Mr. Butler that this Parliament already has power to bridge the gap that has been disclosed in regard to marketing legislation by the recent decision of the Privy Council in the James case. Another cry that may defeat the proposal in the bill is that under organized marketing the consumers would have to pay increased prices for their foodstuffs. The Privy Council's decision has suspended the regulation of the marketing of certain primary products; how can the resumption of such regulation possibly increase the price still further? The people of Australia have been paying the equivalent of home-consumption prices for butter and dried fruits, and the mere carrying of the proposal to be submitted to the people cannot conceivably increase the present high prices which many people contend they are paying, but which many others believe the primary producers are entitled to, if they are to receive an adequate return for their labour. I venture to offer the opinion that provided no red herrings are drawn across the trail during the referendum campaign, the people of Australia will be prepared to grant to this Parliament the power which for many years it was thought to possess. Even in Western Australia, which is notorious for its opposition to the granting of any increased power to this Parliament, the electors will, I believe, favour the proposal embodied in the bill, if they are not side-tracked by catch-cries and electioneering dodges.

I was surprised to hear an honorable senator suggest that no appeal should lie from judgments of the High Court to a tribunal silting in a country beyond Australia. In my opinion, as long as citizens of a dominion have the right to appeal to the Privy Council, so long will that dominion be in the ascendency. I should hate to think that the time might come when an Australian elector would be denied the right of appeal to the Privy Council in regard to what he may regard as a threat to his rights and liberties. I commend the bill to honorable senators, and I shall do all in my power to assist its passage.

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