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Wednesday, 2 December 1936

Senator ARKINS (New South Wales) . - I desire to reply briefly to some remarks made by Senator Sampson, who said that apparently we fail to recognize that the Senate is a States house. The honorable senator went on to quote, some constitutional authorities in an endeavour to direct our attention to that fact. As I interjected when the honorable senator was speaking, though he chose to disregard it, although the Senate is a States' house, it is a case of each for each and all for all. The members of this chamber have a duty not only to the States they represent, but also to the federation of the States. If ever the federation is to be a national union for the benefit of the whole nation, which the fathers of federation thought it would be, that factmust be recognized. Senator Sampson said that the larger States - I have no doubt he had in mind Victoria and New South Wales - were always overbearing and somewhat intolerant towards the smaller States, and he went on to assert that since federation there has been a serious decline of secondary industries in Tasmania. There has been no such decline; Tasmania to-day has almost a monopoly of the jam and zinc industries of the Commonwealth; and it produces and exports beer to practically all of the other States of the federation. It has a virtual monopoly of carbide, a product of which we all know the history, and it is probably the largest manufacturer of confectionery in the Commonwealth. I fail to see how honorable senators from Tasmania can say, in the face of these facts, that there has been a decline of secondary industries in that State. Considering its very small population and its isolation it has done remarkably well. It is of no use for Tasmanians to be looking jealously at Victoria and New South Wales, and saying that those States have been inconsiderate of the needs of Tasmania. I would never be a party to the passing of legislation which would be detrimental to the smaller States of the federation. In the field of primary production Tasmania leads the Commonwealth in the production of potatoes and apples.

Senator Guthrie - Not potatoes. The honorable senator is also in error in regard to jam.

Senator ARKINS - Tasmania, at any rate, if not the largest producer of those commodities, is the second largest. I know the difficulties that surround the marketing of primary products, and I can anticipate how those difficulties will be increased if the proposed alteration of the Constitution be not agreed to.

Senator Hardy - The primary industries will be thrown in a state of chaos.

Senator ARKINS - In the past we have legislated for the marketing of primary products on the assumption, based on the decision of the highest tribunal in the land, that we had the power to do so.

Senator Hardy - And Tasmania did not object.

Senator ARKINS - That leads me to say that if the proposed alteration of the Constitution be not made, a day will come when the primary producers of Tasmania will realize what a mistake they made in voting against the proposal. If any primary industries need the benefits of orderly marketing schemes they are the apple and pear industries of Tasmania. I believe that this building up of the old school of State -righters, good as it may have been in the early days of federation when some men could not see beyond the sovereign rights of their States, is contrary to the practical needs of the present day. With the growth of intense nationalism in the various countries throughout the world, and the restrictions placed upon our trading, not only with foreign countries, but also within the Empire itself, the day has arrived when people must agree to an amendment of the Constitution to enable the National Parliament to exercise control of markets. We afford protection to secondary industries, and to the workers through the arbitration courts. In the light of modern developments, it is only right that we should also give to the primary producers of this country some control over the marketing of their products, in order to help them to overcome the difficulties associated with the marketing of products in overseas countries as well as at home. I regret that Senator Sampson has seen fit to condemn the larger States. On many occasions I have heard similar charges of intolerance, but I, personally, have not seen any evidence of it. On the contrary, I believe that the larger States have been considerate towards the smaller members of the federation, because they realize that it is the duty of the strong to help the weak. The alteration of the Constitution, as proposed by the Government, would enable greater assistance to be given to the weaker States, and do much to increase Australia's strength in the southern seas, which is vitally necessary to a country so isolated. I hope that the Government's proposals will be accepted by the Parliament, and that, subsequently, the electors will endorse them. After all, these proposals merely mean that powers which the Commonwealth erroneously thought that it possessed shall, in fact, be given to it. I support the bill.

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