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Thursday, 19 November 1936

Senator BADMAN (South Australia) . - It appears to me remarkable that so many honorable senators have hastened in this debate to assure members of this chamber and the Australian public as a whole that the Government is seeking far wider powers than even the Government itself is prepared to admit are connoted in its proposal. The last four speakers in particular, Senators Arkins. Dein, Hardy and Abbott, have been outspoken and very clear in their statements that they would like the Commonwealth to be granted wider powers than are necessary to give it control solely in respect of interstate trade in conformity with section 92 of the Constitution.

Senator Dein - Section 92 of the Constitution gave the 'Commonwealth unlimited powers.

Senator BADMAN - It did not. The Government thought it did, but that is where the mistake was made. It was said last night that my amendment would bring about undesirable limitations of the Government's powers. To me that is an indication that the Government does not desire to have its powers limited to the control of marketing, and that the primary producers will suffer in other directions. I point out that my definition of foodstuffs includes foodstuffs for domestic animals as well as for human beings, and, therefore, covers not only such commodities as dried fruits and butter, but also cheese, wine, wheat, barley, oats, flour and oatmeal, eggs, potatoes, onions, maize and maize products, meats and canned meats. Surely we do not want a wider range than that.

Senator Foll - What about wine?

Senator BADMAN - Wine also is a foodstuff. I gather that the Leader of the Senate is prepared to make the Government's proposal apply specifically to primary products; he objects to the limitations imposed by my proposal. I ask him whether he is prepared to accept my amendment if the reference to foodstuffs is omitted. Most likely the Government will not be prepared to accept this suggestion, and will ask what is meant by primary products.

Senator Sir George Pearce - Yes; what is a primary product?

Senator BADMAN - I am aware of that difficulty, but I desire to have the Government's proposal defined as clearly as possible. That is my reason for using the word foodstuffs. The list which I have just given, shows that the term covers a very wide range of commodities. Senator Arkins suggested that if the term foodstuffs were mentioned in the proposal, it would focus the attention of the public on the idea, already propagated, that it was the intention of the Government to establish a system of marketing which would increase the cost of food. Surely every honorable senator knows that if prices of food rise, the consumers can secure relief through the Arbitration Court.

Senator Brennan - The Arbitration Court cannot settle constitutional questions.

Senator BADMAN - I do not say that it' can, but if the cost of living were increased the Arbitration Court naturally would take that fact into consideration when making awards. In any case this aspect of the Government's proposal has already been discussed throughout Australia. Its opponents have been preaching that it is the intention of the Government to increase the cost of living by raising the price of foodstuffs. In these circumstances, why should the Government, despite the fears expressed by Senator Arkins, try to create the impression that the price of foodstuffs is not involved in its proposal? Why should the people be hoodwinked in that way? The Government should be honest and make clear the full purport of its proposal. Surely Australians who enjoy to the full our high standard of living would be prepared to extend that standard to the producers, even if it involved a little sacrifice on their part.

Senator Hardy - Does the honorable senator think that the Government's claim, that it seeks to give a reasonable standard of living to the primary producers, is a hoodwinking subterfuge ?

Senator BADMAN - No, but when Senator Arkins contends that any mention of foodstuffs in the proposal will endanger its approval by the people, I say that we should be honest in the matter and explain its full purport to the people. Senator Dein said that, at the moment, the Government could not say what industries it might be found desirable to assist in the future.

Up to the present no attempt has been made to control the handling and marketing of products other than foodstuffs. The iron and steel industry and other secondary industries have received bounties; but we are now dealing with foodstuffs of the people. A marketing system was in operation for twelve years until the Privy Council decided in the James case that the Commonwealth had not the constitu tional power to legislate in respect of marketing. The Commonwealth has now to ask the people to give it the power which it thought it possessed.

Senator Dein - Section 92 is not limited to foodstuffs.

Senator BADMAN - No; but the recent decision of the Privy Council has shown that the Commonwealth has not the power, even in co-operation with the States, to legislate in respect of marketing. Secondary industries have been protected by the payment of bounties, and they can, if necessary, be assisted in that way in the future. We do not wish to revert to assisting primary industries in that way, and compel them to accept what may be regarded a dole. Other industries having been assisted in the past, we should provide that those engaged in the production of foodstuffs should not be compelled to receive a dole If my amendment were carried, they would not be in that position. Senator Hardy who said that the proposal does not go far enough, and that he could not follow my reasoning, was sufficiently outspoken to say that he favoured the Commonwealth having full power over trade and commerce, and that section 92 should be less restrictive than it is at present. I trust that honorable senators will realize that my object in moving this amendment is to bring this proposal before the people in such a form that they will be willing to accept it, and that they will not be in doubt as to what the word " marketing " really means. At present there is grave doubt, and I should like the people to have a definite assurance that the object of the Government in endeavouring to obtain additional power is merely to enable it to pass legislation, in co-operation with the States, to facilitate the handling and marketing of primary produce as it had been doing prior to the decision of the Privy Council in the James case. I trust that those honorable senators who have followed the debate and have studied my amendment will admit that we must be able to convince the people that the power which the Government seeks . to obtain is essential.

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