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Friday, 11 May 1928

Mr LATHAM (Kooyong) (AttorneyGeneral) .- The bill does not represent a farming out of the responsibilities of the Government, but it gives effect to its very definite view that, while in some industries a degree of regulation is necessary, governments as a rule are the worst bodies that could possibly be chosen to exercise that regulation.

Mr Scullin - That is certainly true of the present Government.

Mr LATHAM - The proposition would be equally true of the best government that could be selected from the other side. In the modern world there are industrieswhich can compete effectively against their large-scale competitors only if they are organized for marketing upon a largescale basis. If production is to any considerable extent in the .hands of smallscale producers and the producers cannot unaided deal with their marketing problems. There are only two ways to establish a marketing organization which will enable them to sell their products upon reasonably profitable terms and to free themselves from the market irregularities which occasionally are deliberately produced by powerful competitors. Either the Government must itself establish that organization or it must provide the industry with the means to do so. That is the principle upon which export control boards have been appointed in certain industries, in the marketing of whose products there are special and peculiar difficulties. Success in marketing does not depend solely upon the quality of the product; other factors have to be considered, such as continuity of supplies and variation of market prices. The latter in turn are dependent not only upon the supplies which at any given period are available, but also, unfortunately, to a considerable extent upon trade and commercial manipulation. In those circumstances, a small producer is unable to sell his pro.duct in a market which is thousands of miles distant from the place in which it is grown unless he has at his disposal an organization that is sufficiently powerful to counteract the influences to which I have referred. That, generally, is the justification which exists for a degree of control in relation to the marketing of the products of certain industries. Very great care has been exercised in the legislation which has been introduced by this Government, to see that the control of the exportable surplus of any product remains in the hands of the industry itself and not of the Government. Many governments might be influenced by political considerations, and it is most desirable that those considerations should be kept out of trade. Much as I appreciate the merits of the present Government, I realize that its members are not endowed with special insight and inspiration in the actual conduct of trade or industry merely by reason of the fact that they hold commissions from the GovernorGeneral ; and I do not believe that any mem- ber of the Government holds a different view. But we all recognize that it is our responsibility to assist Australian industry and trade; and if means can be devised which will enable those who are actually engaged in the trade or industry to control it in such a way that they are able to compete in overseas markets under conditions which favorably affect their profits, there is no reason why those means should not be adopted. The Minister for Markets (Mr. Paterson) has already explained that it is proposed that the authorities which will issue licences dealing with interstate trade shall consist of persons who are representative of the growers and will exercise their powers under the provisions of State acts. The effective control under this act will consist in the issue of licences to engage in interstate trade. That is the central provision of the measure. Neither the Government as a whole nor the Minister in particular will have any say as to whether a particular application for a licence shall be .granted or refused; those licences will be issued by the authorities in the different States. Accordingly, those authorities will control all operations.

Mr RODGERS (WANNON, VICTORIA) - Assuming that a licence was wrongly withheld , or subsequently cancelled, what power would the Minister have to intervene?

Mr LATHAM - The authorities will be appointed under regulations. What can be made, can be unmade. If the administration of a particular authority should be unsatisfactory, it will be entirely within the power of the Minister by regulation to change the constitution of that authority. It is not at all likely, however, that action along the lines suggested will be taken on arbitrary grounds. The regulations ought to make provision with respect to the tenure of office of the authorities and the limitation of their powers. The honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory), has proposed that the regulations shall be made by the Governor-General in Council only upon the recommendation of the authorities. I submit that it is impossible to make such a provision, because, as the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Mann) has stated, the " prescribed authorities themselves cannot come into existence until they have been prescribed." Under the Acts Interpretation Act " prescribed " means prescribed by the act or by regulations. If this measure provided, for instance, that the authorities should be A, B, and C in Victoria, and D, E, and E in South Australia, those authorities would be prescribed by the act, but in the absence of such a prescription, prescribed in this measure means prescribed by the regulations to be made under the act. There is no method of constituting the authorities other than by regulation, and, therefore, no authority can come into existence until regulations prescribing it have been made. Accordingly, if no regulations could be made except on the recommendation of ." prescribed authorities," and no authority could be created except in accordance with regulations, it follows that there could be neither regulations nor authorities.

Mr RODGERS (WANNON, VICTORIA) - Any succeeding government may prescribe a new set of regulations and conditions.

Mr LATHAM - That is so in connexion with every act which empowers the making of regulations.

Mr RODGERS (WANNON, VICTORIA) - The whole character of the measure may be altered by regulations.

Mr LATHAM - No; regulations cannot be inconsistent with the language and purposes of an act. At times it is necessary to have a more or less elastic system of regulations in order that they may be adapted readily to meet changing circumstances and conditions. Legislation is a process that occupies time, and can only be accomplished when Parliament is actually sitting. Unless we are to introduce an absolutely rigid system of control it is necessary to leave a good deal to be done by regulations. One of the most important features of the system which this bill introduces is its elasticity and flexibility to meet changing circumstances. Nevertheless, the power to issue licences upon which the operation of the act will wholly depend will be with the authorities, and not with the Minister, but if regulations could be made only on the recommendation of a prescribed authority confusion might result, and the scheme become unworkable. When there are several authorities must they confer before a regulation can be made, or will the recommendation of a single authority suffice? The honorable member for Swan will see that his amendment will introduce unnecessary complications. I remind the committee that all regulations of this character are capable of disallowance by Parliament.

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