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Wednesday, 16 November 1910

Senator MILLEN (New South Wales) . - I shall not occupy the time of the Senate long in the few remarks I wish to make on this Bill. I am in entire sympathy with nearly all that the Minister has said. Every member of the Senate must recognise that it is essential that, with our large export of primary and other products, we should see that they are placed upon the markets of the world under conditions which will enable us to command the best prices possible there. . The action of a few selfish and short-sighted individuals ought not to be allowed in any way, or in any circumstances, to damage the export trade of this country. I am, therefore, in entire sympathy with the purpose of this measure, and in favour of the extra police powers sought to strengthen the hands of the Department in dealing with those who would seek to break our Customs laws. But, while I agree with what the Minister has said in moving the second reading of the Bill, I have some doubts when I turn to the Bill itself. By interjection 1 indicated those doubts, and though the Minister dealt with the matter to some extent, he scarcely met my objection completely. I direct the attention of honorable senators to clause 4, embracing the proposed new section 112. There can be no possible objection to the Government taking whatever power is necessary to see that our exports are prepared and despatched under conditions providing for all that is necessary in the way of sanitation and cleanliness. But the proposed new section goes far beyond that. It proposes, for instance, that -

The Governor-General may by proclamation prohibit the exportation of any goods.

(d)   which have not been prepared or manu factured for export under the prescribed conditions -

It is idle to say what is in the mind of the present Minister of Trade and Customs, or of the officers of the Department, as this provision would give the Government absolute power to prescribe the hours of labour, conditions of employment and wages to be paid in the preparation of goods intended for export.

Senator Givens - Does the honorable senator not think that that is a strained interpretation?

Senator MILLEN - I think it is a literal interpretation.

Senator Pearce - The prescribed conditions will be "as to purity, soundness, or freedom from disease."

Senator MILLEN - No; the paragraph reads - which have not been prepared or manufactured for export under the prescribed conditions, or which do not conform to the prescribed conditions as to purity, soundness, or freedom from disease.

Senator Pearce - The last words applyto both conditions.

Senator MILLEN - No; the Minister will see that the conditions are separated by the word " or. " There can be no exception taken to prescribing conditions as to purity, soundness, and freedom from disease. We ought not to take power to prescribe anything more than is necessary for the purposes of the Bill. It may be desirable, as I think it is, and as the Senate has frequently said it is, to fix the rates of wages, the hours of labour, and the conditions of employment ; but this is not the right measure in which to do that.

Senator Givens - We are not trying to do it here.

Senator MILLEN - I do not think that the honorable member quite grasps my point.

Senator Givens - The High Court has already decided that we cannot do it in an Excise Bill.

Senator MILLEN - What the High Court held was that we could not do indirectly that which we had no power to do directly. We have power to fix directly the conditions of labour, and, therefore, this would not be, in my judgment, an interference with the Constitution.

Senator Givens - I think that the honorable senator is making a mistake.

Senator MILLEN - I hope that I am, in a sense. What is the use of these words if they are not intended to provide for something more than is covered by the latter portion of the paragraph - that is purity,soundness, or freedom from disease ?

Senator Givens - You know that where drastic remedies of this kind are required, it is usual for the Government to take extra powers.

Senator MILLEN - I am prepared to give all the power that is necessary for the purpose for which the Minister said he is seeking power. But I do not see that we are called upon to give him power to do something which he says he does not desire or intend to do. This matter becomes, to my mind, a little more serious in view of the declaration and the efforts which have been made by a certain section to restrain the export of some commodities. It is not long since a deputation asked the Minister to restrict the export of wheat and hides. In the language of the newspapers which reported the interviews, the Minister gave what was termed a sympathetic answer. A similar request was made in regard to the export of ores. When I know that a certain section is seeking to have that view embodied in a Statute, I am entitled to regard with some anxiety such a power as this when it is asked for by a Ministry which gave a sympathetic reply to a request of that kind.

Senator Pearce - It has not.

Senator MILLEN - I quoted the language of the newspapers. I, as a journalist, would have felt justified in reporting it as a sympathetic reply.

Senator St Ledger - I was at the deputation regarding the export of hides, and the Minister would not commit himself one way or the other, although we pressed him to do so.

Senator MILLEN - I was referring more particularly to the deputation which wanted a restriction put on the export of wheat. I am very glad to hear that statement from Senator St. Ledger, but the fact remains that a certain section wants a restraint put on the export of some commodities.

Senator Pearce - In Committee, I shall remove any doubt you have by repeating the words "as to purity, soundness, or freedom from disease."

Senator MILLEN - I am much obliged to the Minister for meeting my objection.

Senator Pearce - We believe that the provision has that meaning, but, in order to remove any doubt in your mind, we are willing to repeat those words.

Senator MILLEN - The only other matter to which I desire to refer is paragraph c of proposed new section 112, which empowers the Governor-General, by proclamation, to prohibit exports where necessary for thepreservation of the flora and fauna of Australia.

Senator Guthrie - Hear, hear!

Senator MILLEN -I thought that there would be a sympathetic response to that remark. In the main, I am sympathetic with the object of this proposal, but I would point out that we can allow sentiment to carry our legislation too far. It is today carrying us to a point in which it is constituting a real danger in Australia. In New South Wales, we have had an attempt made to preserve the emu. It is protected - with what result? Damage to the extent of thousands of pounds is done in the State, because the emu has become a pest. I do not know that the Commonwealth Government can do very much in that regard, but I hold that we can carry sentiment to an unreasonable length, as has been done in regard to that bird.

Senator Givens - Emus are not likely to be exported, anyhow.

Senator MILLEN - There are other pests in Australia, though. It has always seemed to me that a sort of one-sided sentiment has prevailed in these matters. Whilst laws have been passed to protect the fauna of Australia, that has always been done at the expense of the man on the land.

Senator Vardon - Women do not wear emus on their hats.

Senator Guthrie - They wear emu feathers for muffs.

Senator MILLEN - I am not speaking of that particular Torm of feminine decoration. I grant that this provision is well designed, and I hope that the Government will not' allow itself to be moved by sentiment to place an additional burden on the class I have referred to. Nothing has been done in a small way which has created more injury to the rural industries of New South Wales than has this sentimental attempt to over-protect the emu.

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