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Wednesday, 18 November 1936

Senator MARWICK (Western Australia) . - In speaking to the budget, I indicated that I intended to support this measure. I shall do so because I am firmly convinced that some system of orderly marketing is urgently necessary if the primary producers of this country are to be assured of a standard of living comparable to that enjoyed by every other section of the Australian people. Honorable senators will agree that some sections of the primary producers of this country are not enjoying a reasonable standard of living to-day. That view is expressed in the report of the Royal Commission on the Wheat Industry, in which it is stated that the farmers of Australia are burdened with a debt of £151,000,000. So serious is their plight, that, a year or two ago, the Commonwealth Government decided to vote £12,000,000 for the rehabilitation of the wheat industry. In Western Australia alone, 2,800 farmers have been forced to abandon their holdings during the last six years, because of circumstances over which they had no control; and another 3,100 have applied for rehabilitation under the recent grant from the Commonwealth. The wheatfarmers of Australia view with some degree of envy the success of the dried fruits industry since orderly marketing was introduced into it ten or twelve years ago. Orderly marketing has saved that industry, and I firmly believe that it will save other primary industries, and ensure to those engaged in them a decent standard of living. I am amazed when I reflect that, seven or eight years ago, two, at least, of the three States which have expressed opposition to this measure, introduced -legislation for the establishment of a dried fruits board, and asked the Commonwealth Parliament to pass complementary legislation. I cannot understand why those who sought that legislation seven or eight years ago should be opposed to this measure. I believe, however, that the majority of the people of Australia have sufficient intelligence to pass the referendum proposal, thereby ensuring to the primary producers of this country a reasonable standard of living. And despite what has been said regarding the attitude of the people of Western Australia, I believe that they, too, will cast an affirmative vote, for they realize the extent to which that State is dependent on its primary industries. The proposed alteration of the Constitution seeks merely to validate what has been done, unconstitutionally it is now known, for eight or nine- years. Until a South Australian fruit-grower contested the validity of the legislation, no one objected to it, because it had proved successful in protecting those in whose interests it was passed. Some honorable senators have expressed the hope that there will never be need to apply legislation of this kind to wool. I share their hope; but, with conditions altering almost daily, it is difficult to predict what will happen in the future. Prohibitions, restrictions and interferences with natural markets may make necessary some measure of protection of the wool industry.

Senator Guthrie - Only a small portion of the wool clip is disposed of in Australia.

Senator MARWICK - A board of control to fix a minimum reserve price for wool may yet be necessary.

Senator Collings - Wool was controlled during the war.

Senator MARWICK - Ja may again be necessary to set up an organization similar to Bawra. As a wool-grower, I hope that wool-growing will never need the protection that has been given to the wheat industry, but the day may come when the wool-growers of Australia will be glad to take advantage of marketing legislation.

Already there has been a good deal of dumping of goods in Western Australia, and should the Government's proposal fail to receive the support of the people, it is difficult to say what will happen. Dumping has begun in New South Wales also, and immediately the existing contracts expire, it will increase.

I know of no means to prevent dumping other than the alteration of the Constitution now proposed. It hasbeen said that the farmers' organizations do not favour the proposed alteration; but I am proud to say that that is not true of farmers' organizations in "Western Australia.

Senator Collings - No bona fide organization of farmers will be opposed to it.

Senator MARWICK - I do not agree with Senators Uppill and Herbert Hays that the appeal to the people could have awaited a trial of the existing conditions.

Senator HERBERT HAYS (TASMANIA) - I suggested waiting, in order to get the co-operation of the States.

Senator MARWICK - That cooperation is most desirable; but if matters are delayed too long, there will be chaos, because orderly marketing will be destroyed and dumping will take place. I ask the Minister when replying to say what the position would be in the event of the Government's proposal being carried by a majority of the people in a majority of the States, should one State decide to stand out of the scheme of orderly marketing. If that should happen it would destroy the very excellent case put up by Senator McLeay for the equal distribution of the home market. I should like this point cleared up. Would it be possible, if this proposal be adopted by the people, for one State to refuse to pass the necessary legislation? I support the bill for the reasons I have expressed.

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