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Wednesday, 2 December 1936

Senator COLLINGS (Queensland) .- Evidently this is an " all-in go ". During the last few days I, as Leader of the small Opposition in this chamber, have been endeavouring to prepare myself to deal with the important legislation which has yet to be decided before the Parliament adjourns over Christmas. I understand that the Government desires that Parliament shall adjourn this week; and at an earlier hour to-day that seemed probable, but I should say now that it is impossible.- I, for one, propose to take the full time allowed under the Standing Ordei'3 to discuss the matters which come before us, and I hope that my colleagues will do the same. Honorable senators who do not agree with my attitude will not put me off the track. Senator Grant appears to think that I objected to his speaking to the third reading. I did nothing of the kind. But I do desire to know the reason for repeating at this stage the arguments which were advanced on the second reading. Honorable senators then had ample opportunity to say all that they wanted to say regarding every phase of the proposed alteration of the Constitution, and the referendum in regard to it. Various amendments were proposed, but all of them were decisively defeated.

Senator Herbert Hays - I rise to a point of order. Is the honorable senator in order in repeating the arguments advanced at the second-reading stage? I submit that he is not entitled to do so on the third reading.

The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. P. J. Lynch). - The honorable senator will be in order in making passing reference to what took place at the secondreading stage, but not in repeating at length what was said then.

Senator COLLINGS - I have not yet said one word about the speech of any honorable senator on the second reading. I have merely said that speeches were made. The speeches of honorable senators who opposed the bill at that stage did not contain sufficient material to enable any honorable senator to ' occupy an hour in replying to them. As I have said, a full opportunity to say all that was necessary was presented on the second reading, and I believe that every honorable senator then said all that he wanted to say on the subject. Therefore, 1 am at a loss to understand why, in view of the congestion of business, there should be a re-hash of speeches already delivered. ' But that having taken place, I believe that I shall be entirely in order if I review the whole of the arguments for and against the proposals of the Government. I propose to do so. Australia is operating under a Constitution. Let us see what the Constitution provides. A little book which I have here contains a good deal of information upon this subject. Senators from Tasmania have said that we must get back to the attitude adopted by the State-righters. Senator Sampson gave to the Senate the history of the federation. I probably know the story better than he does,' for I am very nearly old enough to be his father. I was old enough at the time to take an intelligent interest in the proposals for a federation, and I know of the desire of those patriots who wished the people of the colonies to discard their parochial views and adopt an Australian outlook and a federal spirit. Section 92 of the Constitution, about which there has been considerable heat and eloquence lately, provides -

On the imposition of uniform duties of customs, trade, commerce, and intercourse among the States, whether by means of internal carriage or ocean navigation, shall be absolutely free.

No one in_ the committee suggests that trade between the States should not still be absolutely free, unless it be that those who oppose this measure believe that the sale and marketing of primary produce on such terms and conditions as will give to the producers thereof a better return than previously is- a restriction of trade.

Senator Grant - The proposals of the Government do take away that freedom.

Senator COLLINGS - I have here the judgment of the Privy Council, andbefore I sit down I hope to show what the brilliant legal gentlemen who dealt with the James case thought of the proposals submitted to them; but before I do so, I wish to refer to section 51 of the Constitution which provides -

The Parliament shall, subject to this Constitution, have power to make laws for the peace, order, and good government of the Commonwealth with respect to -

(i)   trade and commerce with other countries, and among the States;

Why should we have regard to the provisions of section 92 and overlook section 51 ?

Senator Hardy - Will the honorable senator read section 99?

Senator COLLINGS - I shall leave that to Senator Hardy. In this chamber a few honorable senators are opposed to the proposed alteration of the Constitution in respect of marketing; others, including myself, agree with the proposal. The statement made by me on behalf of the Opposition in favour of the alteration of the Constitution was accepted as being so satisfactory that nervous senators from other States who were fearful of the consequences which their attitude in regard to this matter might bring on them, stated that I should endeavour to convince their constituents in the manner in which I convinced this chamber. That invitation was very flattering to me; but I do not propose to campaign in States other than Queensland in respect of the referendum. How has the difficulty which concerns us to-day arisen ? Why are honorable senators reiterating secondreading speeches on the motion for the third reading of the bill? The reason is to be found in the fact that some honorable senators who are averse to witnessing a victory recorded against them, in a proper manner on the floor of the chamber, resort to " win, tie, or wrangle " methods. Their attitude in initiating this debate reminds me of the boy on the cricketfield. The team was playing with his bat; but when he thought that he had fielded for a sufficient length of time he took his bat and went home. Because they are unable to get their own way, those honorable senators are endeavouring to ensure that others who are in favour of the bill shall not get their way until considerable debate has taken place. What is the " villainy " which has been alleged to have been taking place under section 92 of the Constitution? Senators Sampson, Payne and Grant grew most excited about this socalled " villainy " this afternoon. What harm has been done to the primary producer generally, and in what manner has damage been inflicted on Tasmanian producers? In what respect has the Dried Fruits Act operated to the disadvantage of Tasmania?

Senator Hardy - No dried fruits are processed in Tasmania.

Senator COLLINGS - I invite honorable senators to consider the object actuating Senator Grant, Senator Sampson and Senator Payne in speaking on the motion for the third reading of the. bill this afternoon. The Dried Fruits Act simply made provision for the organization of orderly marketing in such a way that people who produce the fruits might obtain a satisfactory home-consumption price in order to compensate them for the sale of the export quota of their crop at world's parity. I refer now to the producers themselves - not to the people who speculate in the industry, those with brass plates on their offices in the main streets of the big cities. They juggle the prices of primary products for their own advantage. They never in their lives grew a pound of fruit or for that matter any other primary product, but they make a better living out of the industry than the unfortunate primary producers themselves. Senator Grant drew a harrowing picture of the frightful condition into which Tasmania is getting. When one of my colleagues interjected that physically the honorable senator himself did not look " too bad " the honorable senator appeared to take the remark as a personal affront. The people of Tasmania are not slave-driven or persecuted in the manner that Senator Grant would have us believe. The fact that the honorable senator himself looks so happy indicates that he did not mean that statement. Being of such a genial nature he would not look so joyful if the people of Tasmania were in such a down-trodden condition as he represented them to be. All that the Dried Fruits Act and similar legislation has done has been to protect the primary producer. In rebuttal of my speech, I shall be informed by honorable senators that the Dried Fruits Board laid it down that only certain shipping lines should be used for transporting dried fruits overseas; that the commodity itself should be shipped only at certain times of the year and then under licence. The desire behind such regulations was not to injure anybody directly engaged in primary production; but to ensure that the shipping companies did not levy undue freight charges. Surely that is not a nefarious provision, something to be regretted! In order to ensure proper control and organized marketing in connexion with the industry, people must not be allowed to do exactly as they choose, even with their own product. At all times a small section will be found who place the sale of their own products before the value of the industry itself. Their sole desire is to get in at the psychological moment when conditions are a little better for themselves than for their immediate neighbours. For such reasons they are opposed to orderly marketing. Mr. James is the mouthpiece of this section. He convinced the Privy Council, which knows nothing whatever of Australian conditions or the circumstances of Australian primary producers, that the dried fruits legislation was ultra vires. He was actuated by the fact that the regulations of the Dried Fruits Board had hit him severely. Is Mr. James a primary producer? Honorable senators who have spoken in opposition to the third reading of the bill expect us to dissolve into tears because Mr. James obtained a chance verdict from this tribunal on the other side of the world.

Senator Hardy - He is the dried fruits buccaneer !

Senator COLLINGS - Of course he is. I did not like to apply that expression to him; but I am grateful to the honorable senator for having done so. The Dried Fruits Act, assented to twelve years ago, provided, inter alia -

For the purposes of this act, there shall he a dried fruits control board.

I quote the Dried Fruits Control Board only as an instance of the so-called " villainy " which we are asked, by opponents of this bill, to end. This is the " villainy " to which Parliament agreed, and which, it is alleged, is so nefarious and disastrous to the people of Tasmania -

The board shall consist of -

(a)   one member (in this act referred to as the Government representative) ;

(b)   three representatives elected by growers in the States of New South Wales, Victoria, and South Australia, and one representative elected by the growers of the State of Western Australia; and

(c)   two members with commercial experience appointed by the GovernorGeneral. . . .

Elected members of the board shall hold office for a period of two years, and shall be eligible for re-election: . . .

The act proceeds to set out what shall happen if a member of the board becomes ill or is unable to attend meetings.

Senator Duncan-Hughes - I rise to order. Are all the details of this act, which the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Collings) is quoting, relevant to the motion for the third reading of the bill?

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