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Wednesday, 13 May 1942

Senator SPICER (Victoria) .- I desire to remind honorable senators that, in dealing with this subject, we are not in the same position as the Parliament of Victoria. If I were a member of that Parliament considering this problem I should have no difficulty in reaching the conclusion that the ban on the marketing of Werribee beef should be removed. It has always been my view that the ban was imposed unnecessarily, and sufficiently strong medical evidence has- never been adduced to support the action which was taken by the State Parliament. One medical authority who has expressed his approval of the ban was Dr. Shields who, at the time, was a member of the Victorian Legislature. He spoke not only as a doctor, but also as a member of a political party. In making that remark, I do not desire to reflect upon him in any way, but I point out that the Government of Victoria did not invite him as a medical adviser to express his opinion upon the matter. However, certain persons were approached, and in 1934 Dr. Gilruth reported that the regulations which then existed for the purpose of preventing the sale of meat unfit for human consumption, constituted a sufficient safeguard. Some persons suggested that Dr. Gilruth was not a very satisfactory authority upon the subject because he was a veterinary surgeon, and the matter was then referred to a committee of three doctors, who were nominated by the British Medical Association. They were Professor Woodruff, Dr. Dale and Dr. Kellaway, and after investigations, they supported the opinion of Dr. Gilruth. This year, those three gentlemen, in a letter to which the Leader of the Senate (Senator Collings) referred, expressed the view that the ban should he removed. In those circumstances, I confess that I have had great difficulty in deciding whether I should support the motion.

The conclusion which I have reached is that it is not sufficient for the Government to satisfy me that the ban on the marketing of Werribee beef is unjustified on medical grounds. That is not the problem with which this chamber is concerned. Our problem is that the Commonwealth Government, in the exercise of its war-time powers, has taken drastic action, the effect of which is to override a piece of State legislation. That being so, I consider that a heavy onus rests upon the Government to satisfy me that the regulation is necessary for the proper prosecution of the war. Had the Leader of the Senate submitted to me material which was calculated to satisfy me that this was a bona fide exercise of the Government's war-time powers, I would vote for the retention of the regulation. However, no such evidence has been adduced.

Senator Fraser - That is not correct.

Senator SPICER - Let us examine what is suggested as evidence to support that view. A suggestion has been made that a shortage of foodstuffs is likely to occur.

Senator Fraser - There is a shortage now.

Senator SPICER - I am aware of the shortage, even of beef, hut honorable senators have been informed that the contribution which Werribee beef would make to the solution of the problem represents less than 2 per cent, of the requirements of the Victorian market.

Senator Cameron - It is all needed.

Senator SPICER - There must be some limit, in order to make the promulgation of the regulation a bona fide exercise of the war-time powers possessed by the Commonwealth. The ultimate result of the conduct of the Government in this respect should be such that it will make a substantial contribution to the war effort.

Senator Fraser - It will be some contribution.

Senator SPICER - In my judgment it is not a sufficient contribution to warrant the action of the Commonwealth Government in overriding legislation which the Parliament of Victoria saw fit to enact. It is solely on that ground that I am disposed to support the motion. If the Government were able to convince me that its action would make a substantial contribution towards relieving the shortage of foodstuffs, my attitude would be entirely different.

Senator Fraser - What does the honorable senator define as " a substantial contribution"?

Senator SPICER - If the contribution which Werribee beef would make to the solution of the problem represented 10 per cent, of the requirements of the Victorian market, there might not he the same difficulty.

One thousand men might be released for military duty if all health safeguards, such as meat inspection, were suspended. Would that justify the removal of those safeguards by federal action? Surely not. The contribution that the lifting of this ban would make to the war effort must be weighed against the fact that this regulation overrides health legislation which the State Legislature has seen fit to enact. The comparatively small addition to the quantity of beef available on the market is insufficient justification for the Government exercising powers granted to it under the National Security Act for the prosecution of the war to override a law which the State Parliament has seen fit to keep on the statute-book for years.

Senator Fraser - The 2 per cent, mentioned by Senator Gibson may be an understatement.

Senator SPICER - Senator Gibsonread a letter from Mr. Dunstan in which the percentage was given as 1.7.

Senator Cameron - Four thousand head.

Senator SPICER - That represents one week's supply of beef for the Melbourne market. If the choice lies between the people doing without beef for a week and the maintenance of a State law, I choose the latter, and I shall vote for the disallowance of this regulation.

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