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Wednesday, 4 May 1921

Senator KEATING (Tasmania) . - Like other honorable senators who' have not a great deal of practical acquaintance with the wool industry, much of the debate to-day has been, to myself, highly educative. I feel to some extent at a loss unless I can be assured that behind the proposal of the Government there is the support of the great bulk of the wool-growers, both large and small.

Senator J.D. Millen has referred to the loss which will certainly be incurred by some of the growers, even if the minimum average rate be fixed at 9d. instead of 8d. Some of the wool, it has been stated, will be of the cross-bred variety, and it is likely to be sold at as low as 2d. per lb. I am not sufficiently acquainted with all the details of the scheme to understand whether every individual grower will have returned to him from the realization the precise amount which his wool has realized, or whether the fixing of the average at a particular figure will affect him at all. Will the small grower, who forwards a certain quantity of cross-bred wool of a grade which realizes only 2d. per lb, participate solely to that extent in the proceeds of the Pool?

Senator GUTHRIE (VICTORIA) - That is so.

Senator KEATING - Then it will not matter to him whether the minimum be fixed at 8d. or 9d.

Senator GUTHRIE (VICTORIA) - It will, because the appraisement is done on the 848 types of wool in Australia at a ratio which is a fair proportion to 8d. If the average basis is made 10d., then wool sold at 2d. will average up to 2id. ; whereas, if the basis is 8d., the price for that same wool will be only 2d.

Senator KEATING - I now appreciate that to some extent each grower will be affected, and will thus have some interest in the matter of fixing the minimum average rate. I am inclined tq support the proposal to make the minimum average the sum specified by Senator Guthrie rather than that indicated in the proposal of the Government.

As to whether the whole business should be dealt with by legislation or according to the procedure indicated by the Minister (Senator E. D. Millen) in his statement, I interjected, when the Minister was speaking, that this was a matter which should be dealt with by legislation rather than wholly and solely by regulation. There has been a good deal of unnecessary legislation by regulation. That, however, has been inevitable and inescapable. In many Bills, which, subsequently became Acts, the Legislature could only outline principles. With respect .to many details we have had to leave them to be dealt with by regulation as circumstances arose; and only experience of the administration of the Act in question has revealed the necessity for regulation. It would be almost impossible to carry on the administration of an A.ct, however comprehensive and detailed in character, if, whenever experience showed the need for some greater smoothness in working, it were absolutely necessary to wait until Parliament had met in order to add to or supplement the Act. I might say here that an Act cannot be amended by regulation. We find in many of our more important Statutes, which involve great administrative control, that authority is expressly delegated to the Executive to make regulations, within certain limits, to carry into effect the purposes of the Act. When the Minister for Repatriation was speaking, I asked why the proposal in respect to wool could' not be treated as Parliament treated the Butter Agreement last year. When the war period had ended, there was no longer power, to 'deal with butter as "hitherto. However, representatives of the- butter producers in Australia went Home and negotiated a contract with the Imperial Government. In order to secure the observance of that contract by all the butter producers in the Commonwealth, representatives of the growers, and the growers themselves, next asked the Federal Government to assist them. The Government did not prepare to organize them into a pool, but introduced! and passed legislation whereby the-

Minister concerned was given power, during a certain period, to prohibit the export from Australia of any butter unless satisfied that it was going to be exported under -arrangement' and in conformity with the requirements of the butter organization. I have examined the Statute in question, namely, Act No. 20 of 1920. It comprises only a few sections. There is the short title, and then there is that section which is the most effective of all, providing that the Governor-General may by proclamation prohibit the export of any butter unless satisfied that it is being exported in conformity with the conditions of the arrangement made between the representatives of the butter producers of Australia and the British Government. The next section provides that any of the butter so prohibited to be exported should be then regarded as and deemed to be a prohibited export under the previous Customs Act - to which Senator J. D. Millen has just referred. Although we adopted' the direct legislative method of dealing with the problem,, there then comes that inevitable section to the effect that the GovernorGeneral may make regulations. So, if we follow the course suggested by Senator Gardiner,, that this proposal of the Government in respect of wool be sanctioned by legislation, I am willing to guarantee that one of the clauses, and probably the most important, in whatever Bill is submitted, will be to the effect- that the Governor-General may make regulations tq carry info effect " the purposes of this Act." In speaking after this manner, I. aim not against the desire for legislative enactment. I favour it. But I quite perceive that we shall still have to agree to make provision, for supplementing whatever details are put into the Bill with the power to make regulations. I do not anticipate that if the Government introduce a Bill modelled on the Statute dealing with butter export, they will have had sufficient experience to be able to forecast the necessary regulations and embrace them in a schedule.

Senator MILLEN (TASMANIA) - The -honorable senator does not object to the regulations, provided that they come under a Bill?

Senator KEATING - I do not, but I warn honorable senators that they cannot deal with this matter-wholly in an Act of Parliament. An Act in its scope and effect would be practically a legislative expression of the intentions of the Govern ment as indicated by the Minister with regard to a proposition. I am in favour of legislative action, but I wish honorable senators to understand that I do not anticipate, and 1 do not think the Senate should anticipate, that we are going to get what we require in such detail as will necessarily and in ordinary practical experience have to be provided for by regulation hereafter.

Coming to the matter referred to by Senator J. D. Millen, the honorable senator quoted the section of the Customs Act dealing with the power to prohibit exports in certain circumstances. I did not catch all that the honorable senator quoted, * and I have not recently looked - at the section referred to; but, speaking offhand, I should say that its original purpose" was to empower the Minister in certain circumstances to prohibit exports of certain articles, not as a general thing, but in what we may call extreme circumstances. Then came the war, and it was thought desirable, under certain conditions, to prohibit wholly the export of certain products. I think that probably the law officers of the Crown wisely advised that the original section, though it might be used, could not be used with safety and security, and that there might be actions against the Government if the law were invoked in "a general and wholesale way. Therefore, Parliament was induced to give such general power expressly and directly, and for the purposes of the war.-. That, I think, was the only reason why it was introduced.

Senator MILLEN (TASMANIA) - Sub-section a of section 112 deals with the question of arms, explosives, military and naval stores, and so forth. 1

Senator KEATING - Exactly. The original Act was designed to operate under ordinary circumstances, and we gave the prohibiting power to be used in certain emergencies. But it was not intended that this power should be used in a wholesale way.

When it was to be used in the interests of the Empire during war, for abundant caution if for nothing else, and in order that there should be no doubt about the validity of the exercise of this power, Parliament was asked, and expressly gave, the Minister authority to exercise this power for war purposes. I do not think that the giving of that power in any way indicated that the original provision in the Customs Act did not meet all requirements in normal times.

In the legislation passed last year there is express provision that under certain circumstances the export of butter could be prohibited, and deemed to be a prohibited export under the original Customs Act, so that in passing that provision we were strengthening the Act in every possible way.

SenatorE. D. Millen. - There would be no necessity,' then, to add that section to the Act.

Senator KEATING - Prohibition would depend on the Act, and the consequences of attempting to avoid it would be the consequences we imposed by the Act itself. But, in addition, we also say that it would be a prohibited export under the Customs Act, and the consequences provided for in that Act would also become operative.

Having said this much, I propose, if the matter is put to a vote, to support the amendment moved by Senator Gardiner, although I do not . think it is going to carry us much further than to affirm the principle that the Senate, in dealing with this matter, must, as far as it can, assert that it should not be wholly left to persons outside Parliament. If the question of the minimum average rate comes to the vote I intend to support the proposal indicated by Senator Guthrie.

Senator Gardiner - In view of the fact that all our laws must be uniform, can we by regulation permit one section of the community to export wool and prevent another from doing so?

Senator KEATING - There would be no question of uniformity involved.

Senator E D MILLEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - All people will be under the same bond, and will be entitled to the same opportunities.

Senator KEATING - That will be the position.

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