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Friday, 13 November 1936

Senator DEIN (New South Wales) . - I was particularly interested in the remarks of Senator DuncanHughes, who mentioned some aspects of this matter concerning which there were certain doubts, but those doubts were completely removed from my mind by the lucid speech of the Leader of the Senate (Senator Pearce), who convinced me that the powers sought are absolutely necessary. Senator Duncan-Hughes expressed the opinion that the framers of the Constitution did not intend that this Parliament should pass marketing laws, or, otherwise, specific provision would have been made for it. Assuming that the framers of the Constitution intended that this Parliament should not deal with marketing, could they be blamed for their inability to foresee the wave of economic nationalism that has swept the world in the last few years, or the gap that exists in the Constitution? They could no more forsee these things than they could anticipate the tremendous advance in aviation and the invention of wireless broadcasting. Had they done so, provision would have been made for this Parliament to legislate also in regard to these matters. The Privy Council, in delivering its decision, did not concern itself with the merits of the case, and consider whether it was necessary for the powers sought to be in the hands of the Commonwealth Parliament; it merely interpreted the language of section 92. In giving judgment against the Commonwealth, it realized that the Parliament had the remedy in its own hands. This bill is designed to provide the remedy.

I understood from Senator DuncanHughes that he would prefer that, instead of seeking an alteration of the Constitution, the Government should introduce legislation providing for an excise duty and the payment of a bounty. Certain State legislators have expressed a similar view. From the point of view of the States, that- may be a very good idea. This Parliament would remain the taxing authority, and would have to bear the odium of raising the tax, but, as it would hand the money over to the States, they would get all the credit attached to its expenditure. I believe that the Parliament which raises revenue should have the satisfaction of spending it. Senator DuncanHughes made an appeal to us to forget party politics, and to vote in accordance with what we believe to be correct. I am entirely in agreement with him. My party has not. directed me in any way in regard to this bill, and in supporting it I am merely guided by what seems to me to be right. The honorable senator then proceeded to quote from a speech by an eminent South Australian parliamentarian, in order to remind honorable senators of their duty. In the opinion of this legislator, a senator should have no interest other than that of his own State. I do not concur in that dictum. I came into this chamber as one of the senators from New South Wales, and, naturally, I desire to do all I can in the interests of that State; but this is the Parliament of the Commonwealth, and it is my duty to serve the people of Australia as a whole.

Senator Duncan-Hughes - Why has each State six members in this chamber?

Senator DEIN - To look after the interests of the States, to a degree, but the legislator whose remarks the honorable senator quoted, stated definitely that, unless an honorable senator is prepared to sacrifice all other interests to those of ' his own State, he has no right to remain a member of this chamber. A month or two ago we passed bills providing for grants to States. New South Wales received no benefit, but senators from that State voted in favour of a grant to South Australia of £1,330,000. According to the legislator mentioned by Senator Duncan-Hughes, New South Wales senators should have opposed that measure because their State received no benefit from it. During the last few years several marketing bills have been passed. I supported them because I thought that the schemes proposed were necessary. I believed the measures to be constitutional, but I supported them primarily because I thought that they were in the interests of the primary producers and of the people generally. To be con- si stent, I must take all steps possible to give to this Parliament the powers which it thought it had, prior to the recent decision of the Privy Council.

Senator Brownstated emphatically that the Labour party was treating the measure as a non-party one. That is not a fact. The federal Labour caucus, which, I suppose, is an insignificant body as far as Labour policy is concerned, decided to adopt a certain line of action, but instruction came from the executive of the Labour party in Queensland to the Labour representatives of that State in this Parliament to support the bill. The caucus, in order to escape from an awkward situation, merely excused the Queensland representatives from opposing the measure. On the other hand, the New South Wales Labour representatives were instructed to oppose the bill; therefore, it cannot be truthfully said that Labour is dealing with the measure on a non-party basis. Labour men in both Houses of this Parliament supported the marketing legislation, but the Labour Opposition in the House of Representatives declared that it would not support this bill. Who has ever heard of the Australian Labour Party declaring any issue to be a nonparty one? The reason advanced by it for not supporting this proposal in the other chamber was that it did not go far enough. Whether it does or not, the principle of the measure is clear and definite.

Sitting suspended from 12.^5 to 2.15 p.m.

Senator DEIN - In the last seven or eight years several bills have been passed by this Parliament to give to the primary producers certain advantages which were thought at the time to be in conformity with the provisions of the Constitution. Notwithstanding the fact that the members of the Labour party, in the House of Representatives particularly, undividedly supported that legislation, they are now not prepared to support this bill to validate the existing marketing schemes. In my judgment, it will be difficult for them to explain to the electors their reasons for this inconsistency. Labour members claim also that they cannot support the bill because it does not go far enough. I contend that in principle this bill is cither right or wrong. If it is right it will remain so, whether anything else bc added or not. If ,it is wrong, the addition of something else, will not make it right. When the Opposition endeavoured to have the scope of this bill widened by the inclusion of other powers and the Government refused to accede to the request, Labour, with the exception of the Queensland section of the party, declared that it would relentlessly oppose the bill. Thus a remarkable position has been created in the part j'.

I intend to vote for the bill ; indeed I must do, so to be consistent with my attitude when the various marketing bills were before this chamber. In supporting the bill I am not actuated by party considerations; indeed as the measure has opponents as well as supporters within the ranks of the United Australia party, it can be said that as far as the United Australia party is concerned it is a non-party question. But my support is based on the conviction that the bill is in the .best interests of not only the primary producers, but the Australian community as a whole. Whilst I expect that it will pass through this chamber by a comfortable majority. I realize the difficulty of convincing the electors that it is necessary. Notwithstanding that difficulty, I have no alternative but to be true to my conscience and wholeheartedly support the bill in this chamber. I shall also do all that I can to assure an affirmative vote when the issue is placed before the electors. The difficulty will arise not from the nature of the powers sought, but from the political considerations that have actuated our opponents in the Parliament. They say definitely that they cannot support the bill because it does not include other powers, but I venture the opinion, that if the Government had included additional powers the Opposition would have looked for some other excuse for opposing the bill. Conceivably it would have still said. "No, it. does not go far enough. The No. 1 plank on our platform is unification, and if the Government submits a proposal to put unification into effect we shall support it."

Senator Collings - Who said that?

Senator DEIN - Nobody has said it. I am expressing ian opinion based on the attitude of the Labour party over anumberofyears,andIsay that if the additional powers had been included in this bill the Labour party, excluding the Queensland section, would have opposed it. because it did not go far enough. The members of the Opposition would have demanded unification as the price of their support, indeed, 1 believe that if the Government introduced a bill to make a constitutional alteration that would enable the institution of unification, the Labour party would even oppose that. It would say, " Unification may be all right if controlled by our own party, but controlled by the present Government it would be unsafe." The Labour party's attitude to-day is consistent with the attitude it always adopts, namely, party first ; everything else last.

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