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Wednesday, 2 December 1936


Senator DUNCAN-HUGHES (South Australia) . - I should not have spoken on the motion for the third reading had it not been for the remarks of the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Collings), who commenced his speech by saying that those opposed to this proposal being submitted to the people by means of a referendum had initiated the debate in an endeavour to get in a certain amount of propaganda, thereby holding up the business of the country, which he was most anxious to expedite. What are the facts? The debate on the third reading of the bill was initiated by Senator Johnston, who spoke in favour of the proposal. The Leader of the Opposition either overlooked or refrained from mentioning that fact. The second speaker was Senator Sampson, who, Sir, owing to your regrettable illness, was in the chair when the motion for the second reading was before the Senate. In the circumstances, would the Leader of the Opposition deny Senator Sampson the right to speak on the third reading ?


Senator Collings - Certainly not.


Senator DUNCAN-HUGHES - The third speaker was Senator Payne, who announced, to my great satisfaction, that lie intends to oppose the third reading of the bill.


Senator Collings - Although he supported the second reading.


Senator DUNCAN-HUGHES - So far as I know Senator Payne had not intimated that he intended to oppose the third reading before he spoke this afternoon. Surely the honorable senator has the right to support the second reading, and, then, in view of later information, oppose the third reading? Moreover, Senator Payne did not occupy the time of the Senate at length. Senator Grant was the next speaker and he also was very brief. All the speeches, with the exception of that of Senator Sampson, occupied less time than that taken by the Leader of the Opposition. I recall the long debate on minor amendments of the Australian Soldiers' Repatriation Act. Will any one suggest that those amendments are comparable in importance with the bill now before the Senate? I object to the Leader of the Opposition criticizing the decision of the Privy Council, the members of which he accused of being ignorant of local conditions. Several days ago the Assistant Minister (Senator Brennan) replied very effectively to that contention, and there is, therefore, no need for me to do more than advise honorable senators who did not hear the Assistant Minister's speech to read it. The Privy Council, which is a purely legal body, after .hearing lengthy argument, gave a decision entirely within its powers. I object to Mr. James, whom I met some years ago but have not met since and probably would not know to-day, being described by Senator Hardy as a " dried fruits buccaneer ". After tremendous struggles and facing, I presume, financial difficulties, his opinions have been upheld by the highest court of appeal within the Empire. Why should a man who has struggled successfully for his legal rights be termed a buccaneer? If that is a fair way in which to describe him, I do not understand the English language.

A good deal has been said to-day to the effect that those who support the proposal to be referred to the people by means of a referendum are the friends of the farmers, and that those who oppose it are their enemies. That contention will not bear examination. For years I have spoken and voted in this chamber in the interests of primary producers, in an endeavour to prevent them from being sacrificed to other interests ; but when I have done so I have been opposed by some of those who now pose as their friends. Some honorable senators who believe in affording the highest possible protection to manufacturers have stoutly declined to support even slight reductions of the duties imposed on agricultural machinery. I regret that this proposal does not include the amendment moved by Senator Badman, because, had it been adopted, it would have shown that an attempt was made to limit the proposed alteration to the marketing of primary products "being foodstuffs". That amendment was rejected, as the Government desires power in respect of all kinds of primary and secondary products.


Senator Arkins - All primary products cannot be used for human consumption.


Senator DUNCAN-HUGHES - I am well aware of that. I have heard some producers express wonder whether those who prevent them from selling their wool overseas think that it can all be used locally.


Senator Brown - "Who is preventing the wool-growers from selling their products overseas?


Senator DUNCAN-HUGHES - Many, including some members of the Labour party. We shall see within a few days who are the friends of the woolgrowers. I rose at this juncture to make it perfectly clear that there is not the slightest justification for the statement made by the Leader of the Opposition that the debate on the third reading of this bill' was initiated and delayed by those who are opposed to the Government's proposal.







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