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Wednesday, 4 May 1921

Senator FAIRBAIRN (Victoria) . - I ani afraid that some of those who are conversant with the position have not made themselves as clear .as they might have done. Of course, many of us have been connected with the wool business for many years, and it is unreasonable to expect such honorable senators as Senator Bakhap, who have only looked at the proposition casually, to understand the real position at a glance. Senator Bakhap compared the position of the wool-growers with the coal miners in England ; but, if we had been contending for the 15$d., which was the price ruling during the war period, some such comparison could be made. If the coal miners in Great Britain would accept a wage which would enable the mines to be carried on, they would be in a similar position to that desired by the woolgrowers in Australia.

I am as much opposed to government by regulation as any one could possibly be, but I do not look upon this as government by regulation in the ordinary sense. If a regulation is issued, it will not be on the authority of the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Greene), but on the authority of Parliament, and, as such, will be similar to an Act of Parliament, which expresses the will of both Houses. We know that both branches of the Legislature are at present discussing this proposal, and, in these circumstances, it cannot be compared with a regulation issued in war time. If the precedent which the Government are establishing is followed by a Labour Government, that Labour Government will also have to submit a motion to Parliament so that the matter can be fully discussed.

Senator Elliott - If we had the actual regulation before us there would be a great deal in what the honorable senator says; but we have no knowledge of what will be embodied in the regulation.

Senator E D MILLEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - The Senate does not know what it embodies in regulations framed under an Act.

Senator Gardiner - Regulations can only be in conformity with the principle of that Act under-which they are framed.

Senator FAIRBAIRN - We know the time required to pass a Bill through both

Houses of Parliament, and if a measure were passed to cover the position, the hands- of the Government would be tied. It may be necessary to extend the term beyond six months, and as Parliament may not be in session when that period expires, the Government would not have an opportunity of extending it without summoning Parliament. If it is left, as suggested, the Government can take the risk of extending the period, and placing the regulation before Parliament in the ordinary way. I do. not wish to see the Government hampered in any way, because whatever is done must be done quickly. The wool sales commence on the 16th of this month, and if the situation is still chaotic, probably we shall not be -able to sell any wool at all. The market is panicky, and if no price is fixed before the 16th May, when the wool sales commence, the result will probably be that no wool will be sold. I know that it is a leap in the dark, as Senator Bakhap suggests, but there seems to be no other alternative. I do not think any one ob.jects to a regulation being issued when it has the support of both Houses of Parliament.

Senator Bakhap - If honorable senators believe in the issue of such a regulation it is better to act quickly.

Senator FAIRBAIRN - That is why I am stressing the point and favoring a regulation instead' of a Bill.

Senator Crawford - There would be just as many regulations under an Act if one were passed.

Senator FAIRBAIRN - Possibly so. Even if we are establishing a dangerous precedent we know that the question has been fully debated. We are endeavouring to meet the urgent necessities of the wool trade, and the introduction of a Bill might be the means of deferring action for a considerable time.

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