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Wednesday, 4 May 1921

Senator FOSTER (Tasmania) .- It is not because I believe that any result will follow action by this Senate, but because I know that every honorable senator must stand a certain amount of criticism in connexion with this matter if it comes to a vote, that I rise to place on record my reasons for voting as I intend to vote. To my mind, what Senator Gardiner proposes, that the Government should give effect to this scheme by legislative means, is the right thing to do. I do not know of any position ever having been dealt with as is now proposed by the Government. I understand that members of another place are dealing with this question on a similar motion, so I take it that whichever way the Senate vote goes, the Government need not take any notice, because if they seriously propose to deal with this matter by means of regulation under the Customs Act, they will be guided by the vote in the Chamber where Governments are made and unmade.

Senator E D MILLEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - It is hardlyfair for the honorable senator to assume that the Government would not pay respectful attention to a decision of this Chamber.

Senator FOSTER - I suppose we must at least thank the Minister for the courtesy of the Government in giving us a chance to discuss this matter, but I do not think that the Government would be unduly excited if their proposals were indorsed elsewhere, but were not approve J. in this Chamber.

Senator E D MILLEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - At any rate, it is fair to point out that, if such a position arose, and the Government proceeded to give effect to its policy by regulation, the Senate could annul a regulation if it felt so disposed.

Senator FOSTER - Quite so; but I do not know that I need say any more on that point, except that I favour legislation rather than regulation as a means to give effect to the Government policy. And my reason for supporting the Government proposal as against the amendment submitted by Senator Guthrie is not that I believe it will solve the difficulty entirely, or that I want particularly to look after the interests of the pastoralists, for, despite what has been, said to-day about their having fallen badly in .connexion with wool prices, I think they are well able to look after themselves. I support the Government because I think it is necessary to maintain whatever credit we have abroad. But we must bear in mind that the woolgrowers of Australia made very big profits during the war period, and that, over and above the 15½d. flat rate, they will have distributed amongst them an excess profit of between £15,000,000 and £20,000,000. This might foe used "as a set-off against any probable loss which might accrue owing to the new fixation of ratio in regard to the price. The old axiom referred to this afternoon by Senator Fairbairn concerning the law of supply and demand is, I am afraid, not generally observed, and probably it cannot be observed in dealing with some of the post-war problems with which we are now confronted. While, as I said, I do not think we can hope to solve this problem in the immediate future, I intend to support the Government proposal because I believe that probably within the time fixed, or at least at the expiration of that period, we shall see something which will lead us to believe that the markets of the world, which have been closed on account of war conditions, will be re-opened, so that' we may be able to get rid of some of this wool, which, in the meantime, has been held off the market. Because the primary industry really stands for so much, and because we need very -much larger credit in England, we should, I think, do all we can to stabilize the wool industry.

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