House of Representatives
19 October 1938

15th Parliament · 1st Session

Mr. Speaker (Hon. G. J. Bell) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.

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Sir EARLE PAGE (Cowper- Acting

Leader ‘of the House). - by leave - It is with feelings of deep personal regret that I refer to the death in London of the Right Honorable Lord Stanley; Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs.

Entering Parliament at an early age, the deceased gentleman had been associated with the parliamentary life of the United Kingdom for nearly twenty years, but it was only recently that he became closely associated with the work of the dominions.

As honorable members are aware, the deceased succeeded Mr. Malcolm MacDonald as Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs on the reconstruction of the British Cabinet about five months ago.

During the recent visit of my colleagues and myself to London, it was our privilege to be in close consultation with Lord Stanley, and we were thus able to form an opinion as to his great ability and his keen desire, in his new and important office, faithfully to serve the interests of the Dominions, as well as the other portions of the British Commonwealth of Nations. It is regrettable that he was not spared to carry out the important work which had been entrusted to him, and in which he had shown such brilliant promise.

In their negotiations with him, Commonwealth Ministers were impressed with the very capable manner in which he presented the viewpoint of his Government. His tact and graciousness were most helpful, and we shall remember gratefully many personal courtesies which he accorded to us.

The Government of the United Kingdom has sustained a severe loss in the death of Lord Stanley. He was a young man, imbued with a real desire to serve his country, and through it, the British Commonwealth of Nations. In the Commonwealth of Australia, we were looking forward to his valued co-operation in matters of mutual interest to both Governments.

It is appropriate that this House should place on record its deep regret at the death of one whose position in the Government of the. United Kingdom was so closely related to the interests of the Commonwealth of Australia.

The late Lord Stanley served with distinction in the Great War and his death was no doubt hastened as’ the result of wounds sustained during his war service.

To Lady Stanley and family we extend our sincere sympathy in their sad and untimely bereavement.

I move -

That this House expresses its deep regret at the death of the Right Honorable Lord Stanley, Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs, places on record its appreciation of his distinguished service to the British Commonwealth, and tenders to his widow and family its profound sympathy in their sad bereavement and also to the United Kingdom Government in the loss which it has sustained.


– I beg to second the motion. I associate myself and honorable gentlemen sitting behind me with all that has been said by the Acting Leader of the House.

Question resolved in the affirmative, honorable members standing in their places.

Motion (by Sir Earle Page) agreed to-

That Mr. Speaker be requested to transmit the foregoing resolution, together with a copy of the speeches delivered thereon, to Lady Stanley, and to the United Kingdom Government.

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– On Friday last, station 20A broadcast a misleading statement concerning an incident in this House. Has the Postmaster-General power to prevent the transmission over the air of misleading statements? The statement in question was to the effect that the “Whip of the Country party was absent from the division taken in this House last Friday, when he really acted as teller.

Minister without portfolio assisting the Minister for Trade and Customs · EDEN-MONARO, NEW SOUTH WALES · UAP

– If a mistake has been made the station concerned will no doubt correct it. Indeed, I understand the management will get in touch with the honorable member and tender a suitable apology. It is not the custom of the department to interfere with the working of commercial broadcasting stations. Before a licence is granted inquiries are made to enable the department to inform itself as to the repute of the applicants.

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– Under the national health and pensions insurance scheme, certain public servants have ‘been granted exemption.Will the Treasurer state in what cases exemptions have been granted ?


– The exemption of State public servants is granted only on the application of the Government of the State concerned. I understand that no exemption has yet been granted.


– Has the Treasurer decided upon the request that I made last week or the week before last that the papers in connexion with the appointment of temporary officers from outside the Public Service to the National Insurance Commission be laid upon the table of the Library?


– I thought that that matter had been attended to, but I shall attend to it right away.

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Ministerial Statement

Acting Leader of the House · Cowper · CP

by leave - Acting on behalf of the Commonwealth Government, I have addressed a memorandum of importance to the States in regard to our financial problems of defence and development. I take this opportunity to inform honorable members of the nature of the memorandum.

The proposals provide for a national co-operative attack onthe problems of defence and development, and the Commonwealth Government has suggested to the State governments that these should be considered at the meeting of the Australian Loan Council next Friday. Consideration by the Loan Council is necessary because ‘the provision of essential public works as a base for such a . plan is of fundamental importance and, therefore, the raising and allocation of loan funds is of immediate concern.

It is obvious that, if Australia is to spend such funds as are available to the best advantage from a defence and developmental point of view, some form of procedure must be agreed upon between the Commonwealth and the States for determining the order of priority of the various public projects of the Commonwealth and of each State. . This, of course, should be done in association with the Loan Council, but it will not be done unless Australia as a whole has a ‘balanced . plan for the future which envisages a programme of the more important public works for a period of years ahead.

The adequate provision and proper location of major public facilities, especially those concerned with power, water supply, transport and communications generally are essential to all industry. An efficient plan for these should be a sine qua non for future loan appropriations. The Commonwealth and States could co-operate in any plan for the expenditure of moneys on defence works in the various States by fitting in such works, as far as possible, from the point of view of employment, with current State programmes. The Minister for Defence (Mr. Thorby) will indicate to the Loan Council specific items in this connexion in every State.

This programme involves a plan of co-operative action by the Commonwealth and State Governments and also by industry, over a period of years, the objective being the proper economic utilization of our limited financial resources. Only a certain amount of money is available in the national .pool of savings, and such portion of this pool as is not utilized for private investment is made available to governments by means of taxation an,, public loans. The object is to apply this amount to the defence and development of Australia, in the most effective way, so as to ensure continuity of our national progress and defence, side by side with the requisite expansion of our primary and secondary industries.

The lessons of the last few weeks have indicated the paramount importance of the problems of defence and development, and now is the psychological moment for a definite call to national service, a national outlook, and a national programme.

The Government’s object is to mobilize, in the most effective manner, for use in defence works, national developmental works, and private industrial expansion, such funds as are available from all sources. Having regard to the definite limits to the moneys thus available, the Government regards it as the height of wisdom to plan both Commonwealth and State programmes in the best possible way. The aim of this policy is to put Australia in a position of the greatest possible security in the quickest possible time. This will involve substantial expenditure along two avenues: First, actual defence equipment, and secondly, industrial development in its widest national sense, designed to supplement the direct defence programme by securing a mobilization of Australia’s full resources.

The first step is to plan which industries ought to be initiated or expanded. There is obviously room for considerable development in this direction. The second step is to plan the location of these industries, having in mind the disposition of as many vital undertakings as possible at the least vulnerable points, and of promoting the best distribution of our population. That involves the planning of Australia’s public works in order to provide for the possibility of industrial development at the most suitable points, having regard to the proximity of raw material, the distribution of the finished product, and facilities for export. The important point is that the Commonwealth and State Governments should jointly plan the use, during the years immediately ahead, of the total revenue and loan resources which will be available for new development by the Commonwealth and the States.

This foundation for the whole defence structure will assure the best defence for Australia, and, at the same time, so distribute its cost through increased and properly distributed production as to make the cost tolerable and even a relatively less heavy burden, to the community and to the individual than it is today.

In the planning of public works there might be two broad categories : First, reproductive, in the sense that they are expected to lead to, or aid, increased production, that is, power development, water conservation, developmental roads and railways, postal and telegraphic facilities, new ports and harbour improvements; and secondly, other public works such as new buildings, town water supplies, sewerage, traffic and transport conveniences and improvements.

The extent of the major developmental works will depend on the prospects for the. expansion of primary and secondary industries. The Commonwealth and State Governments must examine the essential foundation works required to enable Australia to engage in manufacture as close as possible to the source of production of raw material ; to use the shortest land haulage; to use the nearest convenient port for oversea distribution; to have the finished product made in the best distributing centre; and to ensure the minimum capitalization of industry - at the same time hearing in mind defence considerations.

It is obvious that the classification of works in the order of their priority is necessary from the points of view, both of the public works programmes themselves, and of the industrial expansion which should proceed concurrently. Those developments in industry and in public works will uncover many opportunities of great commercial value, and will increasingly direct the minds of investors to the possibilities of the further exploitation of Australia’s resources.

As more capital is attracted to industry, a need for more employees is created in both rural and city industries and, in fact, in every calling in the community. The measure of our expansion may well demand additions to our .population m excess of our natural increase.

Here I may say that the Government considers that no policy of defence and development can be effective, or, in fact, worthy of consideration, which is not based upon the maintenance and improvement of the living standards of an everincreasing population. We cannot hope to develop or to hold Australia without a steadily increasing population. The policy of the Government is directed towards the creation of conditions that will ensure such a living standard as will check the fall of the birth-rate, encourage natural increase, and attract a steady flow of suitable immigrants.

The present world situation places Australia in a favorable position for expanding its population by attracting overseas citizens of the best type. Their reception and absorption would require co-operative action by all governmental authorities, and voluntary and semigovernmental bodies, which, in the past, have welcomed and placed immigrants in Australia. The Government has no doubt that this co-operation will be forthcoming, because population is necessary for the security of Australia as well as for the promotion of its full national expansion.

A plan such as I have outlined, which would co-ordinate all national activities, would be “ national “ in the widest sense. It would include the activities of State governments, private investors, and the defence undertakings of the Commonwealth. Such a plan would give Australia the biggest and most certain return for the moneys expended, and would enable it to place its defence, development and employment policies on a sound basis.

I should add, as honorable members will readily see, that the Government’s policy has two aspects. The first relates to purely defence works. Those works, which are of the greatest urgency, will be classified in their order of priority, and the immediate co-operation of the States will be sought at the Loan Council in order that as many of these works may be done as soon as possible by a pooling or partial pooling of both Commonwealth and State loan resources. No apology need be made for such a proposal, since the security of the Australian nation is of the first importance to every government and to every citizen within its boundaries.

The second aspect relates to works for our general economic development. These are not of a purely defence character, though they have an obvious and intimate relation to the general problem of security. In relation to these, Ave propose to suggest to the States that the services of an advisory committee, to consist of representatives of both Government and industry, should be enlisted. Such a committee would be in a position to advise all governments as to the correct location of new facilities and the proper utilization of existing ones. If its detailed reports were available to the Loan Council early in each calendar year, the governments, at the meeting of the Loan Council, at which the loan programme and allocation for the financial year is arrived at, would be infinitely better equipped for the adoption of spending plans of a wise character, and a good deal of the wasteful or dubious expenditure of the past would tend to be eliminated.

The issues before Australia are vital, and call for the co-operation of all of us, irrespective of party. The Loan Council, which is composed of delegates from each government in Australia, represents all parties. I trust and believe that the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) and all parties in this Parliament will be ready to co-operate in this national effort in every (possible way.


by leave - The Acting Leader of the House (Sir Earle Page) gave me a copy of his statement just as he proceeded to read it. Quite frankly, I find that it consists of six platitudinous pages. Insofar as it indicates any definite proposals, the statement intimates that at some other place, the meeting of the Loan Council, concrete proposals are to be tabled by the Minister for Defence (Mr. Thorby) in respect of works which are definitely of a defence character, which he will ask the State Premiers and Treasurers to consider so that they may, perhaps, be co-ordinated with the works programmes of the States-. I remind the House that last week this Parliament dealt with the works programme from revenue of this Government for the current year, and agreed to it. If the programme that we then considered, which was formulated by the Government, was inadequate for the servicing of defence works, then the Government already stands condemned by itself for its faulty preparation of the works services necessary to enable Australia to establish an effective defence organization.

It is also suggested that other than works for defence shall be considered by the Premiers Conference, so that our general industrial and primary development may proceed, to the end that we should quicken, as I appreciate the statement of the right honorable gentleman, the progress of Australia in respect of industrialization and self-reliance. To that extent I -welcome the statement that has been made. I find that it is on all fours with everything the Opposition has said during the last few years as being the basis upon which to make Australia a safe country. I remind you, Mr. Speaker, that on two occasions during the last three years I moved- ‘amendments to certain measures which had for their purpose directing the Commonwealth Government to take the initiative to establish a National Employment Council so that this Government and the governments of the States might have the machinery for effective collaboration in the organization of the works services of the Australian people. I am glad to see that, at this late day, in another way perhaps but none the less having the same ultimate purpose, the Government has come to the realization that what it had previously rejected was excellent procedure. I am in favour of the Loan Council dealing with much more than merely the allocation of loan funds. I am of opinion that in its present form the council has outlived its usefulness ; it has become outmoded by the requirements of these times. I suggest now the formation of a National Works and Services Council, for the lack of a better name which would com’bine the functions of the Council of Defence and the Loan Council and call attention to the need for the establishment of an Australian Employment Council.

Mr Casey:

– That would involve an amendment of the Financial Agreement.


– That is so, but it would not involve any greater amendment than the procedure which the Acting Leader of the Government has now suggested, if anything is to be done other than to have a mere discussion. If it is intended to go beyond the stage of discussion it will be entirely at the will of the Premiers as to whether they will act or not. I believe that the suggestion for an advisory committee is a good one. I prefer that the expanded activities of the Loan Council should have a secretariat associated with them on which the State Ministries for Labour and Industry and the Defence Department technical experts would act so as to provide the council with data as to economic defence works, public works, and general avenues on which public security could be reached. Defence works and public works have been interlocked for an indefinite period. Inevitably a clash on matters of public policy with the desires of the States will occur when financial provision- for defence and public works arises. I am convinced that it is realized that the Commonwealth Government’s requirements for increased defence activities, over and above that for which the Treasurer has asked us to budget are the root cause for the discussion which is to take place on Friday. The States are to be asked to prune to some extent the allocation already given to them for ordinary works so as to accept in lieu thereof works which will be suggested to them by the Commonwealth Government, or, more particularly, by the Min- ister for Defence. I understand that the

States know that. I would urge them to make certain that they do not diminish their capacity to provide employment, and, furthermore, I warn some of the States that they must regard their obligations to drought-stricken settlers as having imperative calls on their resources, calls so serious, I venture to say, as to be placed at least in a position of equality in priority with the claims now being made for defence. In any case, insofar as the Commonwealth Government and the State governments will collaborate, I would welcome that; but insofar as there is recognition of the necessity for them, to collaborate then obviously there must be consideration given to the unsatisfactory form- of government under which Australia at present labours. Ministerialists are absolutely opposed to unification.

Sir Frederick Stewart:

– No fear!


– The statement that has been given to us can be regarded as inviting the Loan Council to set itself up as a sort of unified Parliament of the Australian people. That may be a compromise arising inevitably from the development of our . political system. I am glad to recognize, however, that the Government has made it plain that the preservation of our living standards is an essential condition to any attraction of population so that we may have more than our natural increase to add to our numbers in the years ahead. Living standards, employment for the people, work for the people, the surety for those industries which are at present labouring under adverse seasonal conditions that they will be assisted - all represent, I believe, firstclass constructive activities in the discussion of which the Premiers and Prime Minister can usefully engage themselves at the week-end. I say not a word about what can be regarded as an implied slight upon this Parliament that it is to another body rather than to the Parliament that the Minister for Defence will give his detailed statement of defence works. It was promised here, but we have not had it. If the Premiers get it first - I regard them as important servants of the Australian people - that is a matter for the decision of the Government. It has the right to choose which place it will first address itself, but I say to the Acting Leader of the House that we in no way abate our claim that, however much he talks elsewhere, he has eventually to talk here.



– Is the Minister for Defence correctly reported in the Sydney Morning Herald of to-day’s date in which he is alleged to have said that, amongst other matters in the defence plan, he has prepared a schedule which would involve the standardization of the railway line from Kalgoorlie to Perth? If the facts are as stated, when is the matter likely to be considered by Cabinet, and when is work expected to be proceeded with?

Minister for Defence · CALARE, NEW SOUTH WALES · CP

– I am not responsible for any statements that have appeared in the daily newspapers in relation to defence matters and the proposals that are before the Government at the present time.

Mr Green:

– Are they all lying statements ?


– I cannot say whether they are lying.


– Will the Acting Leader of the House bring under the notice of the State Premiers at the meeting of the Loan Council on Friday when it is considering matters pertaining to defence, the advisability of constructing a cross-country section of railway somewhere between Newcastle and Brisbane, to connect the main north-south line with the hinterland, there being no such a connecting link at the present time in a distance of about 600 miles?


– I have no doubt that the Minister for Defence will discuss that matter with the Premier of New South Wales.


– Seeing that Port Stephens, which is inadequately defended, is only about 10 miles by air from the port of Newcastle, and is capable of sheltering a large enemy fleet, and in view of the fact that it has been stated by army officers’ that the roads leading to Port Stephens are in such a deplorable state that it would be impossible to transport guns and war materials over them, will the Minister for Defence recommend to the Loan Council that this work be undertaken, not only for defence purposes, but also to absorb the unemployed of the district?


– The defence programme has been designed according to the plans of much higher military authorities than those cited by the honorable member. The Government is acting on recommendations of its military advisers, in conjunction with the heads of the Defence Department, in deciding upon the most urgent works, and the order of priority for their construction.


– Is the House to assume that if the States’ representatives at the Loan Council accept the proposals which the Acting Leader of the House has just outlined, there will be a substantial increase of expenditure this year upon public works by the Commonwealth and State Governments as against the programme which was previously formulated?


– Insofar as defence as a whole is concerned there would be, because there would be a substantial amount of money available that would have been spent on other activities by the States that would go towards meeting the defence requirements.


– Is it correct that the Minister for Defence made a statement yesterday that, as the standardization of the railway line between Albury and Melbourne would cost a vast amount of money, and, as the country lines could not be linked up with it, the standardization of this line would not be undertaken? If so, is it intended to leave (lie vital link in standardization between Albury and Port Pirie, South Australia, not done?


– I have made no specific statement in relation to railway standardization propositions. In reply to a question asked by the press, I said that the Defence Department did not look upon the elimination of the breakofgauge as an urgent matter at the present juncture. While the break of gauge is certainly a disability, there are other works which are more urgent and which have a higher place on the list of priority of railway works.

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Annual REPORT and Balance-sheet.


– I desire to inform honorable members that copies of the annual report and balance-sheet for 1937-38 of the Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited have been placed on the table of the Library.

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– Can the Minister for Commerce inform the House what stage has been reached in the various State Parliaments with the necessary legislation for establishing a homeconsumption price for wheat? Has the matter proceeded sufficiently far enough to enable the Commonwealth supplementary legislation to bc introduced at an early date?


– I am unable to state the exact position regarding legislation in the various State Parliaments, but I have received a telegram from each of the State Premiers saying that they hope to introduce and pass the necessary legislation this week. When we know what they have done Ave shall proceed on the lines agreed upon.

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– In view of the fact that the Commonwealth Government in conjunction with the State, authorities, is giving financial assistance to the pearlers of Thursday Island and Broome, will he also give, favorable consideration to the application of the pearlers at Darwin for assistance?


– Yes.

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– Has any provision been made in the defence proposal to increase the numerical strength of the militia, and has provision been made for training youths from sixteen years of age upwards?


– That is a matter of Government policy, and I am not prepared to answer the question without due notice.

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– Was the Minister for Defence correctly reported in a section of the press to the effect that the cause of the crash of an Avro- Anson aeroplane last Sunday was an error by the pilot? If so, does he not consider such a statement to be contempt of the inquiry by the Air Accidents Investigation Committee?


– I have no detailed information regarding the accident other than that it was an Avro- Anson aeroplane, the pilot’s name and address, and the unfortunate fact that he was killed instantly, and the aeroplane destroyed. The report referred to was published in the Sydney Daily Telegraph, and was allegedly founded upon the replies given by me in answer to a series of questions asked over the telephone. In that interview I refused to give any information beyond the facts supplied to me by the Richmond authorities.

Mr Forde:

– So the Minister did not make that statement?


– I had no information on which to make such a statement.


– In view of the many mysterious accidents that have occurred to defence aeroplanes in Australia, I ask the Minister for Defence whether the possibility has been investigated of their having been tampered with?


– I have been definitely assured by the highest authorities in the Air Force and in the Defence Department generally, that no air force aeroplane leaves the ground until the senior officers are satisfied that it is free from all defect. I do not think that it would be possible for air force machines to be tampered with because of the precautions taken at air force stations. Unless accompanied by defence force officers, unauthorized persons are not given access to the aerodromes, and, accordingly, they cannot possibly interfere with the machines. In any case, as I have already said, all machines are thoroughly inspected before they leave the ground.


– In view of the increasing uneasiness in the public mind at the frequent fatal accidents in the Royal Australian ‘Air Force, will the Minister for Defence agree to meet the insistent public demand for a public inquiry into the latest of the accidents?


– I have no knowledge of any “ insistent public demand “ or of “ public uneasiness “, but I know that there is political agitation. It is significant that each accident has been entirely different from the other accidents. That is a clear indication that there is no general fault in the Royal Australian Air Force aircraft. The inquiries into accidents which are carried out by highly qualified men also show that there is no serious fault in the machines that cannot be overcome. A comparison between the Royal Australian Air Force and the air forces of other countries shows that there is little difference in the percentage or number,, comparatively speaking, of the accidents which are so unfortunately and regrettably associated with the training of young air pilots.

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Minister without portfolio, assisting the Treasurer · NEW ENGLAND, NEW SOUTH WALES · CP

– Recently, the honorable members for Darling (Mr. Clark) and Watson (Mr. Jennings) asked questions, without notice, regarding a public report that the Italian liner Urania had been chartered to bring 900 refugees from Europe to Australia. The Minister for the Interior has asked me to state that he has received a letter from the agents in Australia for the Lloyd.Triestine, owners of the Uremia, stating that this company is not contemplating sending the vessel to Australia.

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– In view of the fact that successive Tariff Board investigations have been made and reports issued regarding Douglas fir, and that these have invariably recommended that increased duties should be imposed, and in view of the fact that governments have repeatedly ignored or suppressed such reports, with the result that the Government’s tariff policy on this item has made necessary the installation of expensive plant for log-sawing in Australia, how can the Government now justify again referring the matter to the Tariff Board to inquire into a situation for which the Government itself is responsible?


– The honorable member is expressing a very definite view in his question. To do so is not in order.

Mr.WHITE.- The honorable member is not quite right in his facts. It was because the duties on oregon logs were not in proper relation to the duty on sawn junk that a trade grew up in the importation oforegon logs. An attempt was made to adjust this at the time of the trade diversion policy, but this relationship has since been lost by price changes; it was intended to adjust this by departmental inquiries but without success, and it was this margin that was referred to the Tariff Board. I assure the honorable member that the Government has not ignored any reports, all of which have been duly tabled.



– If it is a fact that the Tariff Board inquired into the Douglas fir industry in 1935, will the Minister for Trade and Customs make available to me a copy of the report which he says exists? I have made repeated inquiries, but cannot get any report . by the Tariff Board on Douglas fir other than that dated the 9th November, 1933.

Minister for Trade and Customs · BALACLAVA, VICTORIA · UAP

-I shall send the honorable member a copy of every report that has been made by the Tariff Board on Douglas fir.

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Acting Prime Minister · Cowper · CP

– I move -

That the House, at its rising, adjourn until 1 1 a.m. to-morrow.

It was originally intended that the Loan Council should meet at 2.30 p.m. However, several members of the council have asked that the sittings begin in the morning in order to avoid the possibility of their having to remain in Canberra over Sunday. The Government considers the request reasonable, and it has been decided that the Loan Council shall meet on Friday morning. In the circumstances, the Government desires that the House shall meet at 11 o’clock to-morrow, and proposes that it shall adjourn at 6.15 p.m., so that honorable members who wish to go away by the evening trains will have an opportunity to do so. Next week, the House will meet on Tuesday,

Wednesday, and Thursday, and on the following week on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. Thereafter, the sittings will be as I announced last week.

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– I ask the Minister for Defence whether it is a fact that Mr. Stuart F. Doyle has communicated with the Commonwealth Government on behalf of a company desirous of manufacturing aeroplanes in Australia? Has consideration been given to the proposal ? If areply has been given to Mr. Doyle, is the Minister in a position to indicate the Government’s decision on the proposal and what was the nature of the reply?


– I understand that several private firms have indicated their intention to explore the possibilities of establishing aeroplane factories in Australia, but it is a matter entirely for private enterprise. The Government has no obligation to the firms to give them contracts. There is at the present time no definite proposal before the Government relating to the establishment of additional aircraft factories.

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– Has the Assistant Minister for Commerce any late reports in respect of the Australian harvest prospects?

Minister without portfolio assisting the Minister for Commerce · BARKER, SOUTH AUSTRALIA · CP

– All reports take a dark view of the prospects. Without doubt, the prevailing conditions are adversely affecting the possible yield in practically every State.

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– In view of the fact, Mr. Speaker, that all portrait painters of famous men and others desire to have their names before the public, will you take action to see that the names of the painters of the portraits in King’s Hall are displayed on their work?

Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. G. J. Bell).The names of the artists responsible for the three portraits most recently hung in King’s Hall are not yet displayed, but brass name-plates will be placed on the frames. Brass name-plates are already on all of the other portraits.

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– Has the attention of the Treasurer been drawn to the persistent reports in the press of Sydney that he intends to resign in order to make way for Mr. B. S. B. Stevens?.


– My attention has been drawn to those reports, but I have not yet been able to give the matter my consideration.

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– Will the Treasurer give early consideration to the extension of superannuation rights to a number of Commonwealth employees, for instance, the attendants and typists in the federal members’ rooms in the capital cities? When I raised this matter some time ago during the debate on a bill which extended superannuation rights to other Commonwealth employees, it was suggested that something would be done.


– Although from time to time I have dealt with such matters as this I do not think that they are strictly the concern of the Treasurer. I shall, however, look into the matter and see that the honorable gentleman is given an adequate reply.

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Second Reading

Debate resumed from the 14th October, 1938 (vide page855), on motion by Mr. Lyons -

That the bill be now read a second time.


.- On Friday last, the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Blackburn), in a most admirable speech, presented what I take to be the attitude of the Opposition on this bill. His contentions were under three main headings. First, he said that, as the result of the decision of the High Court of Australia, in what is known as the Wheat case, the Inter-State Commission had been shorn of its usefulness. He also said that the principal reason for the establishment of the commission was to curb the activities of the Railways Commissioners of the States, and, in consequence of an agreement arrived at in that respect it was no longer necessary. The honorable member’s argument in that direction was entirely the converse of what he advanced last year. Speaking in this House on the 26th August, 1937, he said -

As the result of the decision given in the Wheat case in 1915, the commission regarded itself as being deprived of most of its powers, and this view was generally accepted, although it does not seem to me to be the correct view of the position. The only powers of which the commission was denuded were judicial powers; that is, power to hear cases, to pronounce judgment upon them, and to effectuate that judgment by what it regarded as appropriate remedies. But the power to do the principal work for which the Constitution created it or contemplated for it was not taken away from it and cannot be taken away from it.

That is entirely contrary to the statement that he made last Friday. If we are called upon to decide between the two, I should say his first thoughts were the better. In his speech on Friday, the honorable member affirmed the belief that the power to make decisions, and to carry them out, should not be entrusted to such a body. I respectfully concur in that view. I do not think that the Parliament should delegate its powers to a royal commission or to any other body; the final decision should rest with the Parliament.

The next point made by the honorable member was that the principal reason for the establishment of an Inter-State Commission was to avoid differential railway rates, and to curb the unfair propensities of the State Railways Commissioners in this respect. Discriminatory freights are rife in the State railway systems to-day, with the result that the natural course of trade is interfered with. As between States, the tendency has been to place obstacles in the way of the free carriage of goods across the border from one State . to another. Take the popular subject - beer. As the result of a tripartite agreement between the Commonwealth, South Australia and Victoria-

Mr Paterson:

– Not the governments.


– No, the Railways Commissioners. The charges are based according . to the mileage in the respective States. The Victorian Railways Department carries beer to Serviceton for £1 4s. a ton, whereas the average rate over the Victorian railways for that distance is £41s. a ton, a differential rate of practically three times as great in the one case as in the other. Obviously that is unfair discrimination. The rate over the South Australian railways from Adelaide to Port Augusta is £1 4s. 2d. a ton, whereas the charge within the State over the same distance is £4 12s. a ton. The Commonwealth Railways Department is an accessory to this practice. The excuse is that it is better to have some freight than none at all. Its charge for a distance of - 1,051 miles is £4 10s.. Id. a ton, while the charge per 1,000 miles is £11 14s. Sd. in New South Wales and £.! 6 19s. 8d. in Queensland. These figures are taken from the official rate books issued by the railways departments of the States. They show quite clearly that there is discrimination for the purpose of diverting traffic to the eastern States. Broken Hill affords a striking example of the discrimination practised with the object of diverting trade to Sydney which normally should go to Adelaide. The Riverina is another example. The honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson) can give “more definite informationin regard to the action taken to divert to Sydney trade which should naturally flow in a southerly direction. The Murray river is the border between Victoria and New South Wales. . Geographically, the trade of the Riverina should go to Melbourne rather than to Sydney, but the State of New South Wales has used its powers, quite unreasonably, to raise all sorts of obstacles against the free carriage of goods between the Riverina and Victoria. That is a clear breach of one of the leading principles of the Constitution, in relation to interstate freetrade. Last year I read an article in, I think, the Australian National Review, by Sir Isaac Isaacs on this subject. He was discussing the Riverina case which had gone to the High Court, and he wrote most indignantly about it. His article was headed, “PreFederation Barbarism “. He referred to the action of the States in interfering with the principle of Australian freetrade, and roundly condemned the Attorney-General (Mr. Menzies) for notappealing, or taking other action, to enforce the sacred principle of freetrade.

Mr Menzies:

Sir Isaac Isaacs said that I should have appealed to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council. He, of course, is a member of that body.


– I have no doubt that the Attorney-General has read the article. Yet Sir Isaac Isaacs, having published such an indignant article respecting interference with the sacred principle of freetrade, now seems to be opposed to the proposal to re-establish the Inter-State Commission which is designed, in part at least, to deal with undue interference with border traffic between the two different States. Sir Isaac Isaacs has also been cited as an opponent of the Inter-State Commission on the ground that a High Court judgment has deprived the commission of its sphere of usefulness. Sir Isaac Isaacs did not always hold that opinion. I refer honorable members to the following remarks which he made in the Wheat case cited on Friday by the honorable member for Bourke (Mt. Blackburn) : - :

I do not see any obstacle to investing the commission with sufficient and effective power provided they are created in the proper way. There lias not been any difficulty in arming the American Inter-State Commerce Commission with ample quasi-judicial power.

Those observations appear in the Commonwealth Law Reports, 1915. The case was the Commonwealth v. the State of Now South Wales. The American InterState Commerce Commission referred to was really the model upon which our Inter-State Commission was ‘based. The only reason why our Constitution specially mentions State railways is that, in the absence of any such mention, the Commonwealth Government would have had no control whatever over the State railways.

I differ from the honorable member for Bourke, who, by innuendo .at any rate, suggested that the Inter-State Commission was appointed primarily to deal with discriminatory rates on State railways. The only real necessity for mentioning State railways in relation to the Inter-State Commission was, as I have said, to ensure that the Commonwealth Government would have some authority in respect of State railways.

In support of my contention that Sir Isaac Isaacs was not always opposed to the re-establishment of the Inter-State Commission, I refer also to the case Appleton v. Moorehead reported in 8 Commonwealth Law Reports at page 387. That case was mentioned by the honorable member for Bourke. In the report upon it, Sir Isaac Isaacs suggested that there were functions which an InterState Commission could legitimately and effectively exercise. I cite the following passage from his judgment : -

If for any reason Parliament thought it desirable to invest the commission when created with powers under the Australian Industries Act it certainly could do so.

Armed in this way with the weighty opinion of the honorable member for Bourke, and also with the opinion of such a distinguished lawyer as Sir Isaac Isaacs, I feel a good deal of confidence in asserting that the Inter-State Commission has not been deprived of the principal powers conferred upon it by the Constitution, even if it cannot exercise judicial authority.

Mr Brennan:

– This bill does nothing to equip the commission with effective powers.


– .’Nor does it deprive the commission of any of the powers conferred upon it by the Constitution.

Mr Brennan:

– The bill does not seek to create a commission such as Sir Isaac Isaacs envisaged in the judgment to which the honorable member for Perth has referred.


– I do not follow the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan). The words- which I cited from the judgment of Sir Isaac Isaacs in the Wheat case were intended to indicate that Sir Isaac Isaacs was of the opinion that, although the Inter-State Commission had been deprived of its judicial powers, there were still useful functions which it could exercise. The Government has done its best, in this bill, to give the commission all the powers which, consistent with the Constitution, can * be given to it. In the light of the High Court judgment, it would, of course, be useless to attempt to equip the commission with judicial powers. The Government has done the right thing in having the bill drafted so as to conform with the High Court judgment in this respect.

The main objection raised to this bill i» that, if the commission is re-established, there will be no work for it to do. I shall indicate some very useful activities in which the commission could engage. “We have had brought under our consideration, from time to time, the action of certain State governments in resorting to the quarantine laws to defeat the principle of interstate freetrade. It will be recollected that certain potatoes grown in Victoria were found ro be infected with corky scab. Some Tai.manian potatoes were also infected with the same disease. The Victorian potatogrowers did not wish to suffer competition from the Tasmanian potato-growers, and they therefore influenced the State government to take advantage of the quarantine law to cause Tasmanian potatoes infected with corky scab to be excluded from Victoria. Some potatoes are grown in Western Australia, and at certain periods of the year the Sydney market offered a very profitable outlet for our product. That, however, did not suit the potato-growers of New South Wales, who wished the Sydney market to be reserved for them when peak prices were offering. Steps were therefore taken to cause the State government to resort to the quarantine law to prevent potatoes from Western Australia being admitted to New South Wales on the ground that they were infected with lucerne flea.

Mr Curtin:

– How could the InterState Commission alter that state of affairs?


– It could investigate cases of that kind to ascertain whether the resort to the quarantine law was bona fide, or merely a subterfuge to defeat the principle of interstate freetrade.

Sir Frederick Stewart:

– Matters of that description have been investigated by other bodies in the past, but legislative effect has not been given to their decisions..


– If Parliament refuses to legislate, that is the fault of the Parliament. The honorable member for Bourke also, unwittingly, I believe, gave an excellent reason why there should be an Inter-State Commission. He referred to the evidence given by the Deputy Commissioner of Railways in Western Australia, Mr. E. A. Evans, before the Royal Commission on the Constitution in 1926. Mr. Evans had objected to the Inter-State Commission on the ground that it might interfere with the railways development in Western Australia; the honorable member for Bourke interpreted this as meaning that Mr. Evans contemplated discrimination against goods manufactured in the eastern States. In my opinion, that is the sort of un-federal action which this Parliament should endeavour to prevent. As a Western Australian, it might suit me to impose differential rates on goods entering Western Australia from the eastern States, but as an Australian I consider such action to be quite improper and contrary to one of the main principles of the federation. I am afraid that many citizens desire interstate freetrade so long as it suits them, but clamour for restrictions in other circumstances. This Parliament should do its utmost to see that the principle of interstate trade is honestly observed in respect of the whole of the Commonwealth, and if should not offer any facilities to State governments or State departments to to defeat this important principle by means of regulations.

Another duty which a revived InterState Commission could perform with advantage to the whole Commonwealth lias relation to the recent embargo on the exportation of iron ore from Yampi Sound. In consequence of the action of the Government in that respect, claims for compensation aggregating some hundreds of thousands of pounds have been made. Mining companies, shipping companies, business people, workmen and even the State government have made claims for compensation in. respect of losses sustained in consequence of the embargo imposed by the Commonwealth Government. Of course, these bodies have no legal claim against the Commonwealth for the political action it took, but as the Commonwealth has indicated that it is willing to recognize legitimate claims, an impartial investigating body could do good work in investigating the claims that have been made. The Inter-State Commission would be an admirable body for such a .])u,’pose

We have been informed that the Government contemplates the payment of subsidies to certain shipping companies operating in the Pacific. It is highly desirable that, before any amount is agreed upon in this connexion, the whole subject should be closely investigated.

The Inter-State Commission could do useful work in this regard. I feel quite sure that its recommendations would carry considerable weight. We complain sometimes of monopolies, commercial arrangements by manufacturers and the like, acting adversely to the interests of the people of the Commonwealth. This Government is powerless to deal with that subject, but I am sure that an investigation into it by the InterState Commission would be most useful in enabling the State governments to take effective action. The other day a request was made for the appointment of a. commission to inquire into the price of butter ; if an Inter-State Commission were in existence it could readily deal with such a matter. Interstate shipping freight rates form another subject which might very properly be investigated by a body such as the InterState Commission.

The third point made by the honorable member for Bourke was that, as the Commonwealth Grants Commission has done excellent work, there is no reason why another body should be appointed to replace it. The honorable member said that he did not know what more Western Australia or the other smaller States could hope for from the Inter-State Commission over and above what they had been able to obtain from the Commonwealth Grants Commission. He said, furthermore, that the Inter-State Commission would have to apply the principles established by the Commonwealth Grants Commission. I dispute that. The honorable member listened to the discussion that took place in this House on the subject of the grants to the States, and heard complaint after complaint from representatives of the smaller States with respect to the principles adopted by the Commonwealth Grants Commission, chief among them being that the Commonwealth Grants Commission refused to take into consideration the disabilities of the claimant States arising particularly from the operation of the tariff and navigation laws, and from the effects of federal policy in general. The representatives of the outer States claim that these matters should have been very carefully weighed by the commission. One of the chief reasons why we hope that this bill will be passed is that the Inter-State Commission will not find itself obliged to continue the principles adopted by the Commonwealth Grants Commission. I am inclined to agree with the honorable member for Bourke that the power of the Inter-State Commission to deal with grants to States may be questioned.

I express this doubt particularly in view of the remarks made by Sir John Latham in this House some years ago, but at the same time I think that the fear is one which is not likely to have much practical import. I do not know what authority would raise the question. Certainly the Commonwealth would not raise it, and I very much doubt if the States would. It is quite within the power of the Commonwealth, however, to cure any defect in that respect by appointing the Inter-State Commission as a royal commission to inquire specifically into these matters.

It was mentioned in the debate on Friday last that Sir George Pearce was opposed to the establishment of an InterState Commission in 1909. The opinion advanced by the right honorable gentleman on that occasion was merely a political opinion. A great deal of the adverse criticism levelled from, time to time against the appointment of an Interestate Commission comes from the official Opposition at the moment. When the proposal for the establishment of an Inter-State Commission was introduced in 1909, Sir George Pearce, as Leader of the Opposition in the Senate, naturally opposed it. Nevertheless, three years later, when the Labour government of which Sir George Pearce -was a member, introduced and passed a bill for the establishment of an Inter-State Commission, I have no doubt that Sir George Pearce supported it. I feel sure that, if honorable members could ascertain his views in regard to the present proposal, they would find he would entirely support it.

I rather regret the decision of the Government to increase the personnel of the commission from three to five. I feel sure that it has been responsible for a good deal of the opposition to the measure, particularly from those who allege that the Government proposes to reconstitute the commission merely as a means of providing an asylum for some of its old political supporters. I feel sure that the Government itself can very well meet that criticism. In regard to the numerical strength of the commission, I shall be glad to support an amendment in committee to restore the number of members to that originally proposed.

We, in the outside States, have a moral claim on this Parliament for the establishment of the InterState Commission. That right is contained in the constitutional bond. It is true that it is not a mandate which is enforceable in any judicial way, but nevertheless it is a mandate which I think the Parliament has a moral obligation to carry out. When the federation was proposed, and the outer States were hanging back and chary about joining in, it was held out as an inducement for them to join that the Inter-State Commission, an impartial body with wide powers, would be set up to protect the interests of the smaller States. That promise should now be redeemed.

Senator BADMAN:

.- I do not consider myself capable of dealing with the legal aspect of the proposal for the appointment of an Inter-State Commission. I would not have had anything to say on this question but for the remarks made by another representative of one of the smaller States, the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Nairn). In my opinion, the arguments advanced by the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Blackburn) against this proposal,, were so complete and so unanswerable that its legal aspect need hardly be elaborated by honorable members on this side of the House. I feel sure that, after the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) has had something to say in support of the honorable member for Bourke, nothing more need be said. I was, however, particularly interested to hear the views of the honorable member for Perth, because he, too, represents one of the smaller States. In my opinion, the only common bond shared by the smaller States is that they suffer disabilities as the result of federal policy. Whether those disabilities can be definitely placed at the door of federation is beside the point at the moment; what we have to consider is what means should be adopted to overcome them. I fail to appreciate the soundness of any of the reasons advanced by the honorable member for Perth in justification for the re-establishment of the Inter-State Commission. I fail to see how such a body could remove any of the obstacles that now confront the smaller States, nor can I see how any of the matters mentioned by the honorable member could be more adequately dealt with by an expensive body such as the Inter-State Commission than they are by the ‘ Commonwealth Grants Commission, or were, in earlier years, by royal com- missions appointed from time to time. It seems to me that expert bodies are necessary . on occasions to deal with the complex questions confronting Australia as a nation. I agree, however, with the honorable member for Bourke that, when the necessity arises, matters at issue can be inquired into by a body the members of which have some specialized knowledge of the subject under review. In my opinion, a glorified royal commission, such as the Inter-State Commission, could not adequately replace the Commonwealth Grants Commission. The question of whether or not some impartial body should be set up to investigate the matter, for instance, of the export of iron ore does not seem to me to be a good argument for the re-establishment on a permanent basis of an expensive Inter-State Commission. The former Inter-State Commission involved the country in an expenditure of approximately £10,000 per annum, lived but one term, and after a very hectic career, during which it achieved nothing worth while, died a natural death. Following its first class with the High Court, when it was determined that it had no judicial power, the Inter-State Commission died through inaction. It seems to me that the body proposed to be established by this bill would be as useless as its predecessor. It would have no legal powers, and it would be up against a dead end. Its style would be cramped all the time. Probably it would be charged with the task of investigating the claims of the small States for Commonwealth assist- “ ance. I represent a constituency in the smallest State, and I have tried to learn the feeling of the people of Tasmania towards this proposal. The general consensus of opinion, I believe, is that the work of investigating State claims might very well be left to the Commonwealth Grants Commission, which has been doing it very satisfactorily for the last five years. During the whole period of its existence, it has cost the Commonwealth only about £4,000, whereas the InterState Commission, if appointed, will probably cost, more than £10,000 a year. The people of Tasmania will regard that as an unnecessary extravagance. The press of Australia, even that section of it which supports the Government, has almost unanimously condemned this bill as serving no useful purpose. Sir Isaac Isaacs, in discussing the measure, when it was first introduced in the Senate, expressed his opinion under six headings. His first point does not, of course, apply at the present time, because in it he stated that the bill should not have been considered in the Senate until those members who had been defeated at the elections had retired, and the newly elected members had taken their place. His other points are as follows: -

  1. No constitutional mandate exists for such a commission as is proposed, and whatever mandate does exist for the establishment of an Inter-State Commission has not been followed.
  2. Provisions in the bill relating to State railways violate an important mandate intended for the protection of the States.
  3. The legislation is not shown to have been necessary and nine-tenths of it is practically admitted to be unnecessary.
  4. The measure in many important respects is in conflict with the principles of responsible and representative government.
  5. Of seven paragraphs in the bill specifically defining functions of the commission, at least five provide powers in conflict with the mandate given by the constitution.
Mr Gregory:

– He is getting maudlin in his old age.


– That may be the opinion of the honorable member, but most of us would be well satisfied if, upon reaching the age of the ex-Chief Justice of Australia, Sir Isaac Isaacs, we still retained the same mental vigour that he has. His opinion upon legal and public matters is still sought and respected by those in very high places. Sir Isaac Isaacs continued -

The constitutional functions of an InterState Commission are limited to trade and commerce. A large part of the bill refers to finance. Before such legislation is proposed, definite information satisfying to those who have to bear the burden, should be gathered and formulated by the Government as to the evils in connexion with trade and commerce, commercial disabilities, pastoral hindrances and obstruction to modern transport develop- ment with which it is proposed to deal. Many of these could be dealt with, if desired, by the ordinary processes of legislation. If State railway preferences are found to be oppressive or unjust as to demand removal, and the States themselves are so untr actable and obdurate as to persist in that refusal to abate the evil, it will be time enough to establish a constitutional Inter-State Commission.

That is an opinion that -will be shared by a. great many people in this country, and respected even by those who do not share it. I am particularly impressed by his statement that most of the objectives sought by the creation of this commission could be equally well obtained by ordinary processes of legislation; yet the Government proposes to reconstitute this commission at a cost of £10,000 a year at a time when money is urgently required for matters of great public importance. It has been suggested that the desire of the Government is, not to satisfy a public need, but to . placate some of those who have been, or who may be, relegated to political oblivion, and it seems that some credence can be placed in the suggestion. As I have said, even those newspapers which support the Government have scathingly condemned the proposal. One such newspaper, in an editorial, stated that the new commission would have no judicial powers. Other royal commissions have been established to deal with certain aspects of State and Commonwealth relations, and the article concludes by saying that no inconvenience has been caused by the non-existence of a standing royal commission, the appointment of which seems to be suggested by an inclination to create lucrative Government posts.

I condemn the proposal to create an Inter-State Commission because it will serve no useful purpose, it will be costly, and it will be ineffective, inasmuch as it will have no authority to enforce its decisions. Clause 23 of the bill provides - ( 1 . ) The Commission may commence an investigation of any alleged contravention of the provisions of this Part either of its own motion or on the complaint of any of the following authorities, that is to say -

  1. the Commonwealth;
  2. any State or any State Railway Authority;
  3. any borough, municipality or body politic ;
  4. any Harbour Board, Marine Board or other State Authority; or
  5. any such association of traders or freighters or producers, or chamber of commerce, manufactures,- or agriculture, as in the opinion of the Commission a proper body to make the complaint, and it shall not be necessary for any such authority to prove that it is directly aggrieved by the matter complained of, (2.) Whenever the Commission is investigating an alleged contravention of this Part, any authority specified in the last preceding sub-section may appear before the Commission if it appears to the Commission that that authority is or may bo affected by the investigation.

I admit that I have had no legal training, but it seems to me that Clause 23 is so ambiguous that very few persons will be able to understand it. What does it mean ? Is the commission to consider the sub je jct of differential rates on State railways? Since I have been a member of this Parliament, although the subject of differential railway rates has been mentioned in a casual way, no serious complaint has ever been made. On no occasion have I heard any serious reference to differentiation in railway rates, but one of the reasons given for the establishment of this expensive body is that it will deal with it. It is hard to understand just what is in the mind of the Government or what useful purpose this commission will serve if it is reconstituted. As one of the representatives of the State of Tasmania, I say that, if there is any feeling that the small States can be better served by an Inter-State Commission than they are now being served, I disillusion the Government that that is so, because I have heard no complaints at all. The reverse is the case. Members of Parliament, the men one meets daily and business men all speak against the reconstitution of the InterState Commission, and I am in full agreement with honorable members of the Opposition in opposing its reestablishment. The bill is a retrograde step and should be dropped. I agree that there is work to be done; but there is very little work that the Interestate Commission could do that cannot be accomplished by Parliament or by bodies appointed from time to time. Either the Government seeks to salve its conscience by disposing of its responsibilities in this way, or the bill represents a vulgar attempt ,to provide jobs for future political discards.


.- I can hardly understand the attitude of the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Barnard), a representative of one of the smaller States, in opposing this bill. There is no doubt that the intention when the Commonwealth Constitution was being framed was that there was to be created an Inter-State Commission that would be able to acquaint Parliament with the effects of federation and of the difficulties and disabilities that might arise as the result of bringing together the colonies under one central government. It was laid down that members of the commission should have a tenure of seven years, and could not be turned out of office except under special conditions. Naturally, one of the difficulties that might arise would concern railways. Tasmania would not be concerned with that aspect of the matter, but it may suffer shipping difficulties. A combination of shipping companies could do a great deal of injury to Tasmania.


– Tasmania is now suffering shipping disabilities, but the Inter-State Commission could not do anything to rectify them.


– But these matters could always be rectified if the Commonwealth Parliament had information from an untainted source. Members of Parliament always seek to uphold the rights of their States in this Parliament, but if we had an outside body collecting information and giving to the Parliament the full results of its inquiries as to disabilities or injuries which were being done to a State, I feel satisfied that the great majority of honorable members would give more serious consideration to its reports than it now gives to complaints made by individual honorable members on the floor of this House. The appointment of an Inter-State Commission was held out as an inducement to the States to join the federation. The colonies felt that an Inter-State Commission would be a body that would be able to advise the Commonwealth Parliament in regard to disabilities which they might suffer under federation.

Mr Barnard:

– Will the honorable member tell me why he has not pressed for the re-establishment of the Inter-State Commission for a long period of years’?


– Personally, I have always urged its need, but during the war the necessity for the Inter-State Commission was not there. Other matters were of such weight that we did not want to be bothered with matters of less importance.

Mr Curtin:

– The Avar has been over for twenty years and in any case it only lasted for four years.


– It was felt up to 1919 that the Inter-State Commission was not needed, and there was no great agitation for it. It Avas not until after 1920 that Western Australia began to realize its disabilities. When the bill for the establishment of the Commonwealth Grants Commission was introduced I was one who urged that we should re-establish the Inter-State Commission. The legislation under vhich the Inter-State Commission was established has never been repealed; it remains on the statute-book, and the wonder to me is that the Government has brought down a new bill instead of bringing down amendments of the existing bill which have been rendered necessary by the fact that the commission cannot be given judicial powers. When the first Inter-State Commission Bill was before Parliament, Mr. Deakin said that the commission would be “ the eyes and ears of Parliament “. He said -

It Will bc a Board of Trade - an independent critic not only of social, industrial, and commercial events and tendencies, but of the operations and administration of laws.

It Will be a Board of Advice to make recommendations and suggestions to Parliament as to amendments of the law.

This Parliament has great powers, but the old saying that “ knowledge is power “ applies in each case. Without knowledge, this is certain to be misused, intentionally or unintentionally. Under our Constitution, Ave have an authority of the widest kind; what we need to guide us is accurate knowledge. Without this, legislation and administration must fail. Hence, it has always seemed to me that one of the most natural endowments of this Go- vernment would be some body of high character which could be trusted to be the eyes and cars of the Government, and of the people as a whole, with respect to the great interests with which we are surrounded.

Mr. Deakin said that without this knowledge that is knowledge of the conditions, difficulties and disabilities that might occur from federation - Parliament could not or might not do right, but that with that knowledge Parliament was almost certain to do the right thing. It is particularly desirable, therefore, that there should be either an Inter-State Commission or the Commonwealth Grants Commission to supply Parliament with information which would enable it to decide on what action it should take.

The honorable member for Bass laid stress on the attitude and words of Sir Isaac Isaacs. In answer to the honorable member I make this quotation - I do not know whether it was given fully by the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Nairn) - from what Mr. Justice Isaacs said when he was a member of the High Court which heard the case which resulted in the losing of judicial powers by the Inter-State Commission- -

On the whole, I reject the notion of the commission as a court of justice, and regard its quasi-judicial powers, where given, as incidental and assistant to its main and paramount purpose, as in the making of some executive order. Its order, subject to any appeal to this court on law, is taken to be lawfully made and binding, if the necessary judicial powers are given and exercised. But the end must be administrative, either by way of order or by way of an application made to a recognized court to deal with the question in the ordinary exercise of judicial power. I do not see any obstacle whatever to investing the commission with sufficient and probably equally affective powers, provided they are created in a proper way. There has not been found any difficulty in arming the American Inter-State Commerce Commission with ample quasi-judicial powers, while leaving the body iis it may bc left an executive organization.

I think it clear that Sir Isaac Isaacs considered then that the Inter-State Commission was an important body in Australia, one that should be kept in existence, one that, although- it could not have judicial power, could have ample quasi-judicial power given to it in the same way as quasi-judicial power is given to the Inter-State Commerce Commission of the United States of America.

Mr Brennan:

– It is a pity then that Sir Isaac Isaacs was not given the responsibility for drafting this bill.


– As GovernorGeneral of this country for a long period it was Sir Isaac Isaacs’ duty to see that the Constitution was upheld. The Constitution provides, “ there shall be an Inter-State Commission”. It was Sir Isaac Isaacs’ duty as Governor-General to report to the Government of the day that it was not observing the Constitution. It was his duty to see that the Constitution was observed, but apparently he did not perform it.

The honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Blackburn), in speaking to the second reading of this bill, mentioned the attitude of Western Australia towards the federation and created the impression that the people of Australia were contented and satisfied under the federation. He gave quite correctly the history of Western Australia’s part in the federation up to5 1919, and I am pleased with the high tribute of loyalty which he paid to the people of Western Australia. There was no State amongst all of the States which was so loyal to the federation and to the Empire as was Western Australia during the troublous times between 1914 and 1918. No State gave greater assistance or played its part so effectively as did Western Australia -d during the war years and before. I held with the honorable member up to that point, and I cannot understand how it was that he refused to answer an interjection from me to the effect that he should go beyond 1919. Apparently he did not do so because he well knew that it was the attitude of this Parliament onwards from 1920, when we had imposed on us an extraordinary tariff, that brought about changed relations between Western Australia and the federation. This country had been doing remarkably well under a tariff policy, which was admittedly protectionist, but, at the same time, was based on low tariffs, and its industries had been able to make great progress. Then in 1920 we had the appalling spectacle of the introduction of the high tariff which now operates. Under it great powers were given to the Department of Trade and Customs. From that day the people of Western Australia began to realize the unfortunate position into which they had drifted. A royal commission was appointed in’ 1925 to inquire into the disabilities suffered by “Western Australia under federation, and by a two to one majority that commission advised that Western Australia should withdraw from the federation, unless, for a long period, it was given control of its own tariff. If Western Australia had had control of its own tariff for 25 years it would have been able, I believe, to make good. It has not had it, and that is the reason why, whereas up to 1919 no State was more loyal to the federation than was Western Australia, from 1920 onwards no State felt that it had been caught in the trap or dealt such serious an injury more than Western Australia. We were brought to the conclusion in that State that the sooner we got out of federation the better. At the referendum taken in Western Australia on the question of secession there was an enormous majority in favour of the .severance of the bond, all because of the effect on the State of the high tariffs and other restrictions. All that we ask is that there should be an Inter.State Commission to inquire into disabilities under federation and to inform the Commonwealth Parliament as to what effect its legislation has on the different States. There is sufficient honour among our people for them to say that there should be compensation to any State which has restrictions imposed upon it. If trade and commerce is to be confined to one section of the Commonwealth there should be some recompense to the other sections. [Quorum formed.’] We should be supplied with th ,2 information so that the Parliament might be able to realize the difficulties engendered by federation. I do not care whether the body constituted to inquire into the disabilities of States is designated the Grants Commission or is given any other title. The Constitution provides that there must be some such body. It matters nothing to me whether it is of five or three members, but I should prefer the smaller number. Admittedly, a body constituted under the terms of the Constitution would not have the judicial powers originally contemplated, but it could inquire into and report upon production and trade generally. Surely in a time like the present that is very necessary. Under the existing statute, the Inter-State Commission would have power to report in regard to the production of and trade in commodities. Surely that is most necessary. A further inquiry contemplated was in relation to the encouragement, improvement and extension of Australian industries. Surely it is not desirable that an outside body should make that inquiry ! In regard to external trade, I have been battling for five or six years with the object of effecting a trade agreement between the Commonwealth and India, so that the fruit and vegetable production of Western Australia might be stimulated, but nothing in that direction has been done. With a body such as the Inter-State Commission, the possibilities of promoting and developing trade would be brought prominently before honorable members.


– The operations of an Liter-State Commission would have far-reaching effects on the various States, and on that account it behoves honorable members to give very serious consideration to their attitude towards this measure. Listening to the arguments that have been advanced, particularly those of the Minister who introduced the bill, I asked myself a series of questions, with a view to arriving at a reasonable and logical conclusion. The first question was: In view of the fact that the proposed Inter-State Commission can do little more than the present Commonwealth Grants Commission, has the Commonwealth Grants Commission fallen down on its job? I have heard honorable members eulogize its work, and advance the opinion that an average should be struck of the amount of the grant recommended over the last five years, for adoption as the payment for the next five years. The consensus of opinion has been that general satisfaction has been given by it. I next asked myself whether other bodies appointed to do the work originally intended for the Inter-State Commission had fallen down on their job. On page 56 of the report of the Royal Commission on the Constitution the following passage occurs: -

Portion of tlie work assigned to the Inter state Commission is now carried out by boards or commissions appointed for definite and limited purposes.

The report then cites the Tariff Board and the Development and Migration Commission, and goes on to say that grievances caused by differential railway rates had been removed by agreement between the railways commissioners of the several States, and by the extension of the Victorian railway system into the southwestern Riverina, although there appeared to be still ground for the belief that goods were attracted away from their natural ports, both by classification for freight purposes, and by the building of railway lines to a point short of the State boundary. Taking the questions in sequence, surely honorable members cannot argue that the Tariff Board has had assigned to it more work than was intended for the Inter-State Commission, or that it has fallen down on its job! I believe that there is universal satisfaction with the excellent work it has performed. I should also combat the suggestion that the Development and Migration Commission had fallen down on the task entrusted to it. I therefore affirm that work “ farmed “ out to other bodies has been carried out very satisfactorily. The honorable member for Bass (Mr. Barnard) has clearly shown that neither in this House nor outside of it has there been any criticism in regard to differential rates on the railways of the States.

The third question I asked myself was: Is the reason for the introduction of this bill the threat of secession from the federation by Western Australia ? I have n lively recollection of the Prime Minister (Mr. lyons), and other members of the Government, and also the representatives of Western Australia, in this Parliament declaring that that, in effect, was the reason for the introduction of the bill. In view of the fact that the Commonwealth Grants ‘Commission has been working efficiently in dealing with the disabilities of the small States, and doing it at a very much lower cost to the taxpayers of Australia than will be involved in the setting up of this commission, I cannot see my way clear to accept that as a reason for supporting the bill.

I direct attention to the following paragraph which appears on page 56 of the report of the Royal Commission on the Constitution, indicating that Western

Australia desired the re-instatement of the .commission : -

The re-instatement of the Inter-State Commission was strongly recommended by the royal conranission which inquired into thu finances of Western Australia. The royal commission appointed to inquire into the finances of South Austral in also recommended the establishment of the Inter-State Commission ur of an independent body, appointed for u limited period, for the purpose of considering and advising on Replications, for grants byStates.

As the Commonwealth Grants Commission has been able to satisfy the requirements of certain States which claim to suffer disabilities under federation, I cannot see any reason for supporting the substitution of that body by the proposed costly Inter-State Commission.

The fourth quest-ion I asked myself was : Is the reason for the introduction of this bill to be found in the fact that it is laid down in the Constitution that an Inter-State Commission shall be established? I admit that the Constitution provides for the establishment of such a body. The subject is dealt with in section 101 of the Constitution, which is amplified by section 102, and supported by section 104. But, in the light of our experience of federation, an argument based on this contention leaves me completely cold. So much has happened since the framing of the Constitution, and so many steps have been taken to assist States which contend that they suffer from disabilities, that the mere contention that the Constitution does not “stack up” to modern requirements is insufficient to warrant me supporting the bill.

On examining the bill itself I find it very difficult to believe that the Government is convinced that it is necessary to reconstitute the Inter-State Commission simply because the Constitution makes provision for such a body. Moreover, the bill appears to me to widen the powers of the Inter-State Commission, as laid down in section 101 ‘of the Constitution, although all the decisions given by the High Court have tended to restrict the activities of such a body. The bill makes it very clear that the intention of the Government is to establish a kind of permanent royal commission to inquire into anything and everything that may be referred to it by the Government. Honorable members who ate aware of the circumstances surrounding the appointment of the several royal commissions which, in the last few years, have inquired into the petrol industry, taxation, our ‘banking and monetary system, the wheat and flour industry, and even the Constitution itself, must realize that it is essential that the members of royal commissions shall have particular knowledge of the subjects into which they arc expected to inquire. No standing body, such as is contemplated in this bill, would be capable of inquiring satisfactorily into all the matters which need expert inquiry from time to time. Even the ‘honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) would not suggest, I think, that a .permanent royal commission would be capable of inquiring into all the legal technicalities which must necessarily come before a body charged with the duty of inquiring into the effect of the Commonwealth Constitution ! The very fact that the Government has found it necessary to indicate in the bill that the proposed Inter-State Commission is intended to be a kind of permanent royal commission is evidence that it feels that there is insufficient work for an Inter-State Commission to do.

It has been suggested that the InterState Commission may be regarded as a kind of adjunct to the Loan Council, and be charged with the duty of advising Governments concerning the complexities of State and Commonwealth finances. I suggest that the Loan Council, as at present constituted, is already doing this work. That body, and certain other bodies that have been constituted since the establishment of federation have, in fact, taken over a considerable portion of the duties that, in other circumstances, may have been undertaken by an Inter-state Commission. If any additional body is required to give advice to governments concerning complex questions of Commonwealth and State finance, it should lie a kind of secretariat associated with the Loan Council which would give its whole time to the work. If the InterState Commission were charged with this duty, among others, it might be found that at the very time governments required advice on certain points, the commission was engaged on other important duties, and could not devote its atten- lion to financial affairs. I cannot support the bill on any such grounds as these.

Until such time as further evidence is adduced, to show, beyond any reasonable doubt, the necessity for reviving the Inter-State Commission, or until it can be shown that other statutory bodies which have been established to do the work which in other circumstances might have been done by the Inter-State Commission, have failed to effectively and efficiently do their work, I shall oppose the re-constitution of the Inter-State Commission.


.- I wish to speak briefly in reply to the observations of the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison). The Constitution unquestionably provides for the establishment of an Inter-State Commission, which was to give oversight to the operation of Commonwealth law3 in the various States, and also to report upon any injustices which might be inflicted upon States by the operation of Commonwealth policy. The establishment of the Inter-State Commission was an integral part of the Constitution. The commission was actually appointed, but unfortunately the full adverse effects of Commonwealth laws, such as the Navigation Act, the heavy customs duties, and so on, and of certain Commonwealth policies, such as industrial arbitration and the like, did not become apparent until after the Inter-State Commission ceased to function. It was because of the adverse effect of federation upon certain States with small populations that the Bruce-Page Government appointed a royal commission to inquire into the alleged disabilities. Western Australia was particularly vocal in regard to its disabilities, and the Royal Commission on the Constitution declared that the complaints made by that State were justified. One of the commissioners of the Royal Commission on the Disabilities of Western Australia said there was no hope for Western Australia until it seceded from the federation. Other members of the commission recommended fiscal autonomy for Western Australia for 25 years. Instead of reviving the Inter-State Commission, the Government appointed the Commonwealth Grants

Commission, which was a semipermanent body, and it inquired into Commonwealth and State relations. Unfortunately, however, it gave up all attempt to assess State disabilities due to Commonwealth enactments and policy, and based its recommendations on needs.

Mr Harrison:

– It said that States were not suffering disabilities.


– It said no such thing. It turned its attention to the budgetary requirements of certain States and adopted what has come to be known as “ the needs standard “ for determining the assistance that certain States required. This procedure does not satisfy Western Australia. I remind honorable members that Mr. Alfred Deakin stated in this House that the Inter-State Commission was intended to be the eyes and ears of this Parliament. Since the abolition of the commission, the Parliament has, in many respects, been working “ in the blind “. If we are to have a contented federation, we must, in my opinion, have an Inter-State Commission. I admit that the effectiveness of such a body will depend a good deal upon its personnel. Persons with the right qualifications should be appointed to the commission, which should go more deeply into the subject of State disabilities than the Commonwealth Grants Commission has seen fit to do. It should inquire whether the Navigation Act has been helpful or injurious to certain States, particularly to Western Australia, and also whether the fiscal policy of the nation, which has resulted in the bulk of our manufacturing industries being established in the eastern States, has been a help or a hindrance to the true development of Australia. It is well known that the goods manufactured in the eastern States can be transported to the people who require them in those States at a relatively low cost, whereas freight charges from Melbourne and Sydney to Western Australia are at the highest rate imposed anywhere in the world. This has undoubtedly been most detrimental to Western Australia. That State derives little or no advantage from the fact that enormous sums of money are spent in the establishment of those . factories.

Mr Bernard Corser:

– Why not establish factories in that State?


– Because there are already too many in Australia to-day to permit their economic establishment. If the number of factories is increased to such a degree that they must operate uneconomical ly costs of production are increased. As every honorable member knows, the output ofevery factory must be sufficiently large to cover overhead expenses, and allow for a margin of profit. If, as provided in the Constitution, an Inter-State Commission were established, it would be able to inform this Parliament whether Western Australia suffers a distinct disadvantage by reason of the operation of the Navigation Act and whether the goods manufactured in Australia are not sold at higher prices in Western Australia than in the eastern States.

Mr Harrison:

– I think the honorable member claims that manufacturers in the eastern States dump goods into Western Australia and prevent the people of that State from starting secondary industries.


– When it suits them to do so, dumping by the manufacturers in the eastern States does take place. That, however, does not affect my argument. I contend that the employment of people in factories in Australia does not give that advantage to the primary producers of Western Australia that it gives to those in the eastern States. Under Commonwealth laws Western Australia is forced to buy from the eastern States, the dearest market in the world, and sell its products in open competition in the world’s markets. Surely that is a disability which should be reported to this House by a body of competent persons. If Western Australians were able to buy where they are forced to sell they would be able to save millions of pounds’ annually. That fact can be tested and. proved. All I ask is that it be examined. In. my opinion an Inter-State Commisson would bo eminently suitable to undertake that task and advise the House faithfully as to the facts.

Mr.Rosevear. - Does the Commonwealth Grants Commission do that now?

Mr.PROWSE.- As is admitted in its report, the Commonwealth Grants Commission seems to have become confused.

The marked disabilities of Western Australia have been adequately put to that commission, but it has entirely neglected to deal adequately with that factor in the economy of the State. When speaking the other day I did not mention sugar, yet the honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Corser) saw fit to “ tear into me “ for the remarks I made. Western Australia is a distinct advantage to the State of Queensland in the matter of the sugar industry. The Inter-State Commission should be appointed to inquire into the disabilities of the smaller States and to ascertain how little they actually get back for the advantages they confer on a State such as Queensland. As a matter of fact, if Western Australians were able to purchase their sugar requirements where they wanted, they would be able to buy three tons of sugar for the same amount of money that they now pay to the Queensland sugar industry for one ton.

Mr Martens:

– Nothing of the kind!


– In addition to that they would not be required to pay one penny in cash for their sugar requirements; sugar would be exchanged for other primary products. The States entered into an agreement with the British Government to settle people on the land in this country, but it is useless putting people on the land to produce things if the market for their production is killed. Had Western Australia been able to obtain its sugar requirements from Java, it could have shipped in return apples, pears, grapes, potatoes and other marketable products. As the result of the Commonwealth sugar policy, however, the very good trade enjoyed by Western Australia with the Far East was destroyed.


– Order ! The honorable member appears to be discussing the fiscal policy rather than the bill before the House.


– I am discussing the very definite disabilities suffered by Western Australia, and the fiscal policy of the Commonwealth is a related subject. Because of the insular attitude adopted by the Commonwealth towards Western Australia, the markets for the products of that State have been greatly affected, and its progress and development are being retarded because of the hampering restrictions imposed by Commonwealth laws, notably the Tariff and the Navigation Acts. As the result of the sugar and banana policy, the trade enjoyed by Western Australia with Java was lost. The Javanese people” said to Mr. John Scaddan, the then Premier of Western Australia : “ We like your fruits and butter, but we will not buy them if you refuse to buy from us”. When that trade was lost to Western Australia, the Javanese set out to make arrangements with Canada and the United States of America for their supplies.


– Order! The honorable member does not appear to be discussing the bill now.


– I ask you, sir, is not that a disability which has had a serious effect upon the primary producers of Western Australia? I was pointing out that it is very necessary to have a body such as the Inter-State Commission to make inquiries as to the disabilities suffered by the States as the result of Commonwealth laws. I understand that that is the object underlying the proposal to reconstitute the Inter-State Commission. I favour the bill, and I trust that when the commission is appointed, it will make full inquiries into the effect of the, commerce and trade powers exercised by the Commonwealth to the detriment of the smaller States. The new body should be clothed with all the powers provided for its predecessor. In my opinion, the number of commissioners should be reduced to three, provided that they are all capable of carrying out the very important tasks which will be allotted to them. Why should honorable members be afraid of receiving proper and definite information regarding the disabilities of the States, particularly of a State 2,500 miles from Canberra, in respect of which they have little opportunity of ascertaining the real disabilities that exist? Why should not a body be appointed such as was visualized by the framers of the Constitution to collate information in regard to these matters and present it to this House in order that the Commonwealth Parliament may enact legislation which would give greater satisfaction and contentment to thevarious members of the union?

Such a body would allay the dissatisfaction that exists and the desire that is apparent in some quarters to break away from the union. A good deal of what is said in this House in connexion with matters of this sort is responsible for, and foments, that desire. The reports of an. expert body, such as the Inter-State Commission, would result in this Parliament being able to act more wisely in framing legislation for the government of this country.


.- I was opposed to the bill before the honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Prowse) spoke, but now my opposition to it has been intensified one-hundred fold. Apparently, the honorable member is looking to the Inter-State Commission to destroy the White Australia policy or our navigation laws, hoping that it will permit black labour to replace labour in Australia. I do not think, however, that the Inter-State Commission would ever permit that. If I believed that there was any danger of its doing so, I would be even more opposed to this bill than I arn now. ]’n that respect, I feel sure that the hopes of the honorable member for Forrest are vain. The Inter-State Commission can report, as much and as often as it likes, but it will have no judicial powers to enforce its recommendations, and I am sure that no honorable member in this Parliament would ever vote in favour of clothing the commission with such powers. I remind the honorable member that, if the Inter-State Commission is constituted as provided in this bill, and evidence is placed before it on the lines of the remarks of the honorable member for Forrest this afternoon, plenty of evidence will be submitted in rebuttal. If it were not for the existence of the sugar agreement, the Australian people would possibly bc paying three times as much for their sugar requirements as they do now, and. further, they would be exploited by outside interests as they were in the past before Australia became self-contained. I am not afraid of :111 Y finding which the Inter state Commission may reach. The honorable member for Forrest has complained about the disabilities of the small States, and has made certain observations as ‘to what he thinks .the Inter-State Commission might do in regard to them-

We have now the guidance of the Commonwealth Grants Commission, whose recommendations have- done much to alleviate the position of the claimant States. That body has now said that, in its opinion, the smaller States are suffering no descernible disabilities. I ask the honorable member what’ right he has to expect that the Inter-State Commission will bring in any findings different from those of the Commonwealth Grants Commission? It appears to me that the honorable gentleman desires to scrap the Commonwealth Grants Commission and to replace it by the Inter-State Commission simply in the hope that his State will get something better from the latter than it has had from the former. If he finds himself dissatisfied with the recommendations of an Inter-State Commission, he will then want to scrap it and have it replaced by some other body.

One of the gravest disabilities suffered by the smaller State3 is inherent in the fact that they are States. If the Inter-State Commission, after adjudicating on this most, important question, recommended to the. national Parliament that, in the interests of the economic development of this country, it was desirable to provide £1,000,000 or £10,000,000 for any particular area as portion of the Commonwealth no honorable member would refuse it. But if it were recommended that the Commonwealth should provide £10,000,000 for the development of Western Australia, for instance, the Commonwealth could not take adequate steps to see that the money was used for the purpose for which it, was granted. It would most likely be found that the State would simply use the money as a means of honouring; its own obligations. These economic difficulties arise because of distance. We cannot solve the problem by getting black men instead of white to man ships, or by importing black-grown sugar instead of using our own whitegrown sugar. We are not getting to the root causes of our difficulties, but are merely dealing with the effects. We have not approached these matters from the right aspect. In my opinion, the disabilities of the Slates arise more from. the fact “that they are States, and not parts of a unified Commonwealth.

As for the bill itself, outside a few interested individuals, it has no friends at all. It is a bill to create jobs for some interested persons. T do not know whether it is primarily for the benefit of Sir George Pearce, or for the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons), or for both of them. The Prime Minister has denied that he has any idea of accepting a position on the Inter-State Commission. I shall believe that statement when the commission is constituted,, and the chairman appointed - not until then. I am not the only person who believes that this proposal is for the benefit of interested persons. I am not the only person who says that the commission is being created simply to provide jobs. I quote from a very conservative journal, the Australian Mining Standard - not a Labour paper - which, in its issue of the 5th June, 1937, says-

It appears to nic that the main reason tho Government can have for the re-establishment of an Inter-State Commission is the opportunity it offers them of being in a position to give lucrative posts to disappointed politicians.

We know that ex-Senator Pearce, when he was still a member of the Senate, said that he was not looking for a job on the Interestate Commission, but if his country wanted him to accept one, he waa prepared to make a sacrifice in his country’s interests. Now that he is out of Parliament, and his acceptance of the position would not involve any sacrifice, no doubt he will be all the more ready to accept it.

Ever since the bill was introduced there has been a sustained chorus of opposition from all over Australia from the electors, from public organizations and from the pres3 of all shades of political opinion. The following is from an editorial published in the Melbourne Herald of the 4th January, 193S: -

The chief duty of the official body the Government proposes to appoint would bc the investigation and recommendation of needy State grants. The State Grants Commission is doing its work well and should be let alone. In general the new official body would be a permanent royal commission, to add to the tonnage of largely useless reports already accumulated by the Commonwealth at the cost of hundreds of thousands.

That has been the complaint of the Opposition against this Government for years. Every time the Government has been confronted- with a difficulty it has failed to take its courage in its hands and act decisively. Always it has been prepared to waste tens of thousands of pounds on royal commissions to advise it, and the stupidity of the thing is that very often it does not accept the advice which the commissions give. Commissions of one kind or another have travelled all over Australia on first-class warrants ; picking up a swagman on the road and taking him into an hotel to ask his opinion on this or that; picknicking here and there and spending public money; then bringing in reports that are thrown into the archives without even being read.

Mr Menzies:

– They seem to have been behaving in a very democratic fashion’.


– Democracy postulates that the Government shall do the job that it is sent here to do instead of delegating its responsibilities to commissions. This commission, when appointed, will bc the cause of further needless expenditure. It will travel all over Australia doing things that are being done quite well now, and doing other things that would be better left undone. The Herald continues -

The Government has not attempted to advance an)’ justification for its proposal. Tho bill was certainly included in the last ministerial election programme, but it was lost amongst issues of far greater importance. The royal commission to be made permanent will lie unlikely to give any significant service for its huge expenditure.

The following is an extract from the Melbourne Age : -

The fact that it was not created during the first thirteen years, and that it has not existed during the past eighteen ‘yon rs. makes plain that that Dart of the agreement has been more honored in the breach than in the observance. There is no convincing evidence that the welfare of the States has suffered in consequence.

Had there been any great conflict of interests, or any grave State disabilities necessitating the existence of an Inter state Commission, a demand for its appointment would have come from the States themselves. The appointment of this commission is supposed to be a constitutional necessity. Well, we have broken the Constitution in this respect for eighteen years, and I think we could very well go on breaking it. The Prime Minister, .when announcing the Government’s proposal to create, the commission, said that it had never been of much use in the past, but the Government proposed to give it another chance.

Mr Prowse:

– The appointment of this commission was part of the Government’s policy as announced at the last two elections.


– Yes, but the water seems to be getting colder now, and it is necessary to provide a bank to scramble on to. There is no excuse for this legislation except to provide five jabs at good salaries for five interested persons. There has been a good deal of talk lately about the need to get the Premier of New South Wales, Mr. Stevens, into this Parliament. Must somebody get out of the way in order to make a place for him?The honorable member for Parramatta (Sir Frederick Stewart) has lately become one of the urgers for the Premier of New South Wales. Is he to be appointed to the Inter-State Commission so that Mr. Stevens may have his seat in this House? Is the honorable member for Parkes (Sir Charles Marr) going to retire in order to make way for Mr. Stevens? This sort of thing is not democracy. It is what makes democratic government stink in the nostrils of decent people. It was originally proposed that the chairman of the commission should be a High Court judge. Why has that been altered? Every feature of the bill, as we examine it, makes it more and more clear that the only purpose of the measure is to make a soft cushion for the Prime Minister or some one else to fall on.

Mr Menzies:

– I think the honorable member is in error in suggesting that, under the original act, it was necessary that a High Court judge should be chairman of the commission.


– I said that in the original proposals for the reconstitution of the commission it was stipulated that the chairman should be a High Court judge. The members oil this commission are to be appointed at fixed salaries, but they will be paid travelling expenses as well, and, make no mistake, they will travel. Are they toreceive travelling expenses at the rate of three guineas a day, or will it be three guineas to the chairman and two guineas to the other members? The average person does not need anything like three guineas a day for travelling expenses.. Even after the commission is appointed,weshall still have our Premiers’ conferences and meetings of the Loan Council, and we shall still continue to bring experts from overseas to advise us on national insurance and other matters concerning which we find ourselves in difficulty. All the ordinary expenditure will continue, and the cost of this commission will be super- imposed on it.

Considerable stress has been laid upon the work which the commission will do in the direction of inquiring into discriminatory freight rates on State railways. I say to the Attorney-General now, and he knows it as a lawyer, that this commission can make what recommendations it likes regarding discriminatory freight rates, but it will be powerless, and the Commonwealth Government will be powerless also, to do anything about the matter. The Government is guilty of hocus-pocus in placing in the bill a provision which it knows cannot be enforced. The Inter-State Commission will expend tens of thousands of pounds in discovering whether New South Wales or Victoria is discriminating against another State by means of railway freight rates; but whatever its findings may be, they cannot be enforced. I understand that for years the Commissioner of the New South Wales Railways has allowed rebates of freight on goods carried to the Riverina in order that manufacturers in New South Wales might compete there against the manufacturers in Victoria, but I am led to understand that it is still possible for goods to be taken by rail to Albury on the Victorian railways system and then sent to Wagga or Junee and sold at prices cheaper than the prices which are asked by the manufacturers in New South Wales for similar goods. Whether it be true or not that New South Wales discriminates against Victoria in its freight charges, nothing can be done about it by this Parliament, no matter how watertight the case contained in the evidence brought by the Inter-State Commission may be.

Mr Martens:

– The freights of the New South Wales railways are discrimi- natory, not only in respect of goods carried into the Riverina, but also in respect of goods carried to places near the Queensland border.


– That is so. It has been claimed by supporters of the bill that the Inter-State Commission can tell the Attorney-General that such practices are being followed, but there is no need for the appointment of a commission for him to get that information. It is common knowledge. At any rate, this Parliament cannot pass laws to interfere with what the States do with their railways. There might be some excuse for an Inter-State Commission which had judicial power to enforce its own decisions, but I repeat that it is hocuspocus to set up a commission whose only power will be to make recommendations in respect of railway discrimination to this Parliament, which will have no power to do anything about it. The only reason for the bill is the apparent desire of the Government to find jobs for five favoured political adherents. The honorable member for Perth (Mr. Nairn) spoke about motor traffic, by which I suppose he meant freight motor trucks. I have read this bill, and have seen no reference in it to motor traffic. The only traffic which it mentions is railway traffic. The honorable member for Perth is a lawyer, and E am. a layman. I venture, however, to pit my opinion against his if he suggests that the Transport Act of New South Wales could .be interfered with by this Parliament, if the commission reported that it was detrimental to Victoria or Queensland by discriminating against goods brought from across the State boundaries.

Mr Nairn:

– Anything which is inconsistent with free trade and commerce as between the States can be stopped.


– If that be so. there is no need for the commission.

Mr Nairn:

– The commission is needed to prove the case.


– I challenge the honorable member or the Attorney-General (Mr. Menzies) to show that my opinion as a layman is in conflict ‘with the legal position. These States are sovereign States; they have sovereign powers to legislate for the conduct of the railways that they build.

Mr Nairn:

– -But not against freetrade as between the States.


– Restriction of trade does not come into it. I simply state that the States’ railways are conducted by the States according to their own policies, and that this Parliament cannot do anything about it. The Constitution prevents States from putting up protective barriers against goods from other States such as existed before federation, but this Government, acting on the report of an Inter-State Commission or any other body, cannot interfere with the laws of sovereign States which apply only within those States. I believe that the commission if established will be only a glorified court of investigation. It will not be able to enforce its own decisions, and it will not be competent for this Parliament to enforce them. I concede that the commission will be able to gain much information for the benefit of this Parliament, but it will be an expensive way to get it. For that reason I again object to this legislation.

In Sir Isaac Isaacs we have a man who has the highest qualifications to talk about this bill. Not only has he occupied the highest position which this country can offer him, but also he has been an occupant of the highest judicial position in the land, as well as a member of this Parliament. In a letter to the Australian Natives Association he said that there were so many objections to the measure as it stood that one might truly say of it, and of its parliamentary career, as a great English judge once said of a case before him, that “ it is as full of holes as a colander Sir Isaac Isaacs then proceeded to criticize the bill. I give to the House my own criticism of this measure; I do not wish to draw on Sir Isaac Isaacs or any other person for assistance in my criticism. But Sir Isaac Isaacs, than whom no one is more competent to speak on this matter, has made a statement, the reading of which I commend to honorable members.

Mr Brennan:

Sir Isaac Isaacs framed the law and adjudicated upon it, so he ought to know something about it.


– The honorable member refers to the fact that Sir Isaac Isaacs was one of the framers of the legislation under which the Inter-State Commission was first established, but the statement to which I refer deals with this new bill. This Government and honorable members who support it cannot afford to treat Sir Isaac Isaacs’s words lightly. If holes exist in this legislation, it is the duty of the Attorney-General to find them and, if possible, stop them, but my opinion is that the legislation should be absolutely scrapped. I do not believe that anybody has asked for it or wants it.

Mr Pollard:

– Do you not think that Sir George Pearce does?


– I ask the honorable gentleman not to anticipate. No one wants it, but possibly there are a score of people who think that they may get positions upon the commission and they may want it.

Sitting suspended from 6.1S to 8 p.m.


.- I am wholly, opposed to this bill. The commission which it is proposed to constitute is quite unnecessary, and would serve no good purpose. It would add unnecessarily to the already staggering cost of government in Australia. To do that is at any time deplorable, and at the present juncture, when the people of Australia have to face a tremendous burden of defence expenditure, and at the same time face what is probably one of the worst seasons in this country’s hislory, is evidence that the Government is not properly seised of the realities of the situation. I am not opposed to the commission because of- any lack of sympathy with what are termed, loosely, the “minor” States. I fully realize the existence of . the disabilities outlined earlier in the debate with such a wealth o’f feeling by the honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Prowse). Although I cannot raise myself to quite the same pitch of feeling about the matter, I feel that his arguments are sound. Whatever be the merits and demerits - the benefits and the handicaps - of our protectionist policy, there is no doubt that some States have more than their share of the handicaps, and less than their share of the benefits that accrue from it. Whatever may bo said to the contrary, there is no doubt that our primary-producing States suffer disabilities. The great majority of the primary-producing industries suffer disabilities as the result of our protectionist policy, but many of them receive definite benefits indirectly in the form of better markets. This does not apply in equal degree in all States. I consider that the Commonwealth Grants Commission has functioned very satisfactorily indeed during the last few years. It has collated a wealth of information concerning the disabilities of the States, and each year its decision has met with general approval. In the initial stage its work must have been very great. First, it had to decide on the lines of its investigations and then collect and sort an enormous volume of evidence; hut having developed its technique its task must have become progressively lighter. Therefore, instead of having an all-time commission, one might be set up only once in three or even five years to fix the grants for the respective .States in advance. This would reduce the cost, and be welcomed by the States, because it would enable them more readily to budget for the future. There is a sound argument for having the grants determined for considerably longer periods, and reviewed well before the. end of each period, so’ that -the’ States would know, in advance, what they were to receive. I oppose the till, therefore, on the ground that the task to be performed grows considerably lighter each year, and that a full-time commission is not justified.

It has been suggested that there are .many other interstate problems which require investigation. I am prepared to admit that that is so; but if a commission is necessary, I cannot imagine a more capable body than the present Commonwealth Grants Commission. It could he set up for the period necessary to investigate any particular problem as it arose. . I cannot see any argument in favour of setting up a commission for which the people of Australia will be required to pay for all time. One need only listen to this debate to realize the widely differing views that are held as to what constitute the problems and disabilities of the various States. By some it is considered that there are no disabilities; and even where their existence is admitted, it is thought that the States have been overcompensated. It would he a very good thing if an all-party committee of members of this Parliament, constituted on the lines of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public “Works, were set up to investigate these problems. It would be useful for honorable members to hear the different views dispassionately expressed without the restraining influence of Mansard or the press. By that method we could gradually introduce into this Parliament a better appreciation of the real problems that face us on interstate matters. I believe that many honorable members would welcome the formation of such a committee. Nothing could be more calculated to drive men out of parliamentary life than the lack of opportunity for private members to do anything constructive. I believe that many of them,, year after year, feel that they are becoming merely “ gas-bags “, and that they could do more useful work outside of this Parliament. Even if they are prepared to continue because of any particular attractions which this House offers, they realize that they are deteriorating every year because of the lack of opportunity to do useful work. The more committees which are formed from the ranks of this Parliament, to study the problems which face it, the better it will be for the personnel of the Parliament, and for the people of Australia. The formation of this commission is quite unnecessary and unjustified. On that ground I should be opposed to it at any time, but it is more deplorable at this stage in the history of Australia, when, as every honorable member realizes, we are faced with tremendous expenditure on defence, and any one whose vision is not bounded by the confines of the cities knows that the nation is faced with what is probably one of the driest seasons in its history.


.- I cannot but feel that there is at least a well-grounded suspicion of insincerity on the part of those responsible for this measure, having regard to the manner in which the subject has been treated on this occasion as well as on others in this chamber. I have heard the Government accused, and rightly, of being a body which governs by commissions; and it has been freely stated, again with some truth, that whenever the Government, or for that matter, its predecessor, found itself in a difficult situation, with a knotty problem to solve, it referred the matter to a royal commission. I have no quarrel with commissions themselves as such, and although I have frequently thought that the Government had disembarrassed itself, by adopting that method of approach to difficult subjects, I must admit that, as a general rule, the commissioners have applied themselves with great industry and a high order of intelligence to the elucidation of the points submitted to them for investigation. The matter for regret in most cases is that so little study has been given to the reports of these commissions, rather than that the commissioners themselves have been at fault, or that their work has been faulty.

This is not the first hill which has been introduced in this House under the designation of an Inter-State Commission Bill or some other such title. The Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) pointed out in his second-reading speech that an Inter-State Commission Bill was introduced last year. The right honorable gentleman said, with becoming artlessness, that owing to the sittings of the Parliament having come to an end, the bill itself came to an end as a matter of course. It may be said, as a general chronological fact, that if a bill be postponed long enough, either the bill itself, or its sponsor, is sure to die eventually, Thus that bill died. It passed away unmourned, with “no flowers by request”. Doubtless there were anxious thoughts and heartburnings in the minds and breasts of competitive individuals behind the scenes, but the bill was not greatly missed. But, Phoenix-like, it bobbed up cut of its own ashes, and a new InterState Commission Bill was presented to us this year.

This bill is singularly like its predecessor, but is not quite the same. The difference, in my opinion, makes it worse. The number of commissioners’ is to be increased to five; the salaries, unhappily, are to’ be reduced but are still substantial, and committees are in contemplation by the process of breaking up the commission, which, to my mind, suggests constitutional and other complications. A sub-committee of two may be appointed out of the personnel of the commission to do the work of the commission. The findings of this sub-committee will not enjoy the status of a report to the GovernorGeneral. Nevertheless the subcommittee’s deliverances will be very similar to the report of the whole commission, in that, in both cases, they will be merely reports. The sub-committee will report to the commission, and the commission will report to the Governor-General, which, in effect, is to the Government. We may assume that in many cases the matter will end there; but, of course, it may not do so. If it does not end there, it may end where, in a sense, it should have begun, in a discussion in Parliament; or it may end in the High Court, where it could equally well have been initiated, and with a prospect of finality - distant finality it may be - but even that degree of finality may not be reached by mere report!

The sponsors of this bill may seek to justify or, I should say, excuse it, on the ground, first, that .it will provide suitable appointments for the Lord’s poor; and, secondly, that it will provide a sola tium for Western Australia whose eloquent protagonists on this issue spoke from the opposite side of the House this afternoon. The honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Prowse) broke out in a new place concerning the grievances of Western Australia causing you, Mr. Speaker, some passing anxiety, though I must not dwell on that point. The honorable gentleman devoted himself to an eloquent repetition of everything that he said a few days ago, concerning the disabilities of Western Australia, when the States Grants Bill was before the House. I have never known an honorable member who could assume the mendicant’s air in a more plausible or more eloquent fashion than the honorable member for Forrest. Really the disabilities of Western Australia do not arise iri any direct form and barely in an indirect form under this bill. I should be inclined to admit that Western Australia, by reason of federation, now 37 years old, groans under some disabilities ; and I am also prepared to admit that the honorable member for Forrest is the chief groaner for that State. But what does he hope for from this bill? ‘ Has the Government tickled the ears of the representatives of Western Australia and led them to believe that in this measure lies their hope of salvation ? If it has so persuaded them, I am afraid that they are “ being deluded ; but I rather think they are not being deluded,1 but are endeavouring to persuade their consciences, and their constituents, that they are making a great fight to assist Western Australia in its disabilities.

Section 101 of the Constitution reads -

There shall he an Inter-State Commission, with such powers of adjudication and administration as the Parliament deems necessary for the execution and maintenance, within the Commonwealth, of the provisions of this Constitution relating to trade and commerce and of all laws made thereunder.

I regard that section as one of the blots on the Constitution. There are other blots, notably the Braddon blot, now happily forgotten in the march of history. This particular blot, however, is the result of the adventitious attempt made by some very mean-spirited State-conscious public men to foster unjust and quite improper competition between the govern- ments of tlie States, principally those of New South ‘Wales and Victoria. The principal cause of the trouble - and I turn now to my friends of the Labour party of New South Wales - was a most unfair endeavour to prevent the natural flow of commerce from the Riverina to Melbourne, and, by arbitrary and quite improper methods, to direct it to the great metropolis of Sydney. I am happy to be able to say, however, that, in this new era in which we live, so many wise Labour men have been returned to Parliament that that practice can no longer be repeated. This is one of the many occasions on which I have, at different times when my observations have been relevant, directed the attention of the Blouse to the curse of what I describe as “ Statemindedness.” It was out of that kind of thing that this section of the Constitution grew. An examination of the reports of various proceedings at the period when the Constitution was being framed show that there was a great deal of admirable finessing and backing and filling on the part of each colony to overbear the other colony. In consequence of this, the somewhat pedantic section of the Constitution to which I have referred was inserted.

I do not say that some such section should not have been included in the Constitution. No doubt it was rightly put there. It was the state of mind, I may even say the lack of public rectitude that made it necessary, which is to be deplored.

However, the simple fact ‘ is that the conditions which rendered the section desirable and necessary in the Constitution have passed away, and with the passing of them there has passed also the necessity for an Inter-State Commission. Of course, some honorable gentlemen opposite say that the appointment of an Inter-State Commission is mandatory because the Constitution says : “ There shall be an Inter-State Commission.” Well, if there be any such obligation on the Parliament, it lay lightly upon its conscience for the first twelve years of federation. The Inter-State Commission that was then appointed lived a life of doubtful usefulness until 1915, when it received a deadly blow at the hand of the

High Court. That “deadly blow” will be found recorded in 20 Commonwealth Law Reports at page 54. The decision of the High Court there recorded should really have ended the career of the Inter-State . Commission, for it was to the effect that the commission could not exercise the judicial functions of a court of law. It is granted, of course, that the commission could exercise what lawyers call quasi-judicial functions. Nevertheless, the deadly blow which the High Court dealt the Inter-State Commission in 1915 should have ended its career. But not so! It lived on for the time of its appointment, to enable its members to draw salaries.

Mr Beasley:

– It lay down, but it did not die!


– For the reason that it was stimulated by monthly applications of salary at a high rate, which prevented it from dying - and there were no resignations !

Mr Nairn:

– Did not the honorable gentleman vote for the appointment of the commission in 1912?


– Well, the honorable gentleman tests my memory. It is quite likely that I did, but I do not commit myself. It is a long time ago. I was very new to Parliament at the time andT was a very loyal party man.’

The moneys paid out in respect of this commission were surprising. I shall direct attention to the amounts received by the commissioners after they should have considered themselves to be respectably dead. The following table shows the expenditure on the Inter-State Commission from 1913-14 to 1920-21 :-

The total is the quite respectable amount of £81,936 for a commission which enjoyed so . short and inglorious a life, and perished at the first early blow administered’ to it.

Mr Pollard:

-No wonder Sir George Pearce wanted to be appointed to the new body.


– It seems to show very good reasons for any right honorable gentleman who is now out of the Senate seeking to become chairman of such a commission.

It has been claimed that the Inter-State Commission, by reason of the mandatory provisions of the act, is within the bond, and that there is a moral obligation in this respect. The new enthusiasts- who are supporting’ this measure say that it is in the bond. If there is an obligation to appoint a royal commission, a legal and certainly moral obligation, I should like to know precisely at what point of time that moral obligation arose. There is very little in the Constitution about the subject except insofar as it refers in plain terms to what was known in popular language as the cut-throat competition between the railways. Apart from that there is very little said in the Constitution except that “ there shall be an Inter-State Commission”. I suggest that the time for the appointment of such a commission was when the duties assigned to it were determined or determinable. In other words, the duty to appoint the commission would naturally arise _at the time there was work for the commission to do. However, as I have said, it lay lightly on the consciences of the people at all events for many years. It is not generally the function of the Constitution to issue mandates to the people or to the Parliament. The Constitution defines the arena within which the people through their Parliament may act. In section 51 it states that Parliament shall have power to make laws, and then it instances the 39 articles in particular in respect of which, the Commonwealth Parliament may make laws; but it imposes no obligation on the Parliament to make laws in respect of any one of those; nor does it limit its power - at all events it does not prescribe in so many words the limits to the powers of the Parliament - to make laws in respect of these matters.

Mr Nairn:

– Nor does it say that the Parliament shall make laws.


– I am about to deal with that. It merely empowers the Parliament to make laws. Some of these powers have been exercised and some of them have not. The Parliament has slept on these powers in many cases, and when it moves it has to move cautiously for fear that it will transgress the all too narrow limits of the Constitution.

This business of the bond, however, has been- settled judicially. It is not merely a matter of my opinion, or of the opinion of the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Nairn) ; it was settled in the case Appleton v. Moorehead, reported at 8 Commonwealth Law Reports. Three eminent counsel, as Sir Isaac- Isaacs points out in his illuminating memorandum, two of whom ‘became chief justices, and one of whom is still a High Court justice, appeared for the Commonwealth. Their contention at page 344 is reported in these terms -

Section 101 of the Constitution only confers a power to create the commission, hut imposes no duty to create it and when created, Parliament need not confer upon it allor any of the powers, as to trade and commerce, but may entrust some or all of them to the ordinary administration of the law.

Barton at page 367 said -

If section101 is mandatory in any -sense, it appears to me to be a mere mandate to Parliament, which it may be the political duty of Parliament to obey, but not a mandatory enactment in the judicial sense.

I am of opinion that section 101 is entirely enabling.

Then Mr. Justice Isaacs himself said-

Though the creation and organization of the commission at some time is contemplated as a certainty, the only express constitutional necessity for its action is in relation to interferences with State railway preferences and discriminations . . . The powers which the commission is to have are only such as Parliament may in its discretion confer as Being in its opinion necessary to be conferred on that body for the execution and maintenance of the trade and commerce. No others are contemplated by the Constitution, except those expressly given with reference to railways.

And as a matter of fact if there was a mandate that mandate has been greatly exceeded, because the constitutional mandate refers only to railways and interstate commerce. The mandate given under the present hill under the heading “ Investigations “, is set out in clause 18, to which I hope to refer in greater detail in Committee. It gives a long list of the matters that, on any reasonable construction of terms, far exceed the mandate which, if any, was given by the Constitution. I would like my honorable friend, the Attorney-General (Mr. Menzies), to refer, for his guidance and for the guidance of the House, to some observations made by a learned kinsman of mine in another place then holding down, as it were, the place, as well as he could, of my honorable friend the present Attorney-General. The then, or shortly before, Acting Attorney-General of the Commonwealth prefaced his observations on the second reading of practically an identical bill with the words -

At the outset I wish to make it clear that I shall not oppose the passing of this bill, although I have to confess to a certain lack of conviction as to the necessity for it, and also as to the good results which are expected to follow from the re-creation of the InterState Commission. I do not overlook the fact that the constitutional provision for its creation is couched in mandatory terms. Section 101 of tho Constitution begins “ There shall be an Inter-State Commission “, but, strange as it may seem, I fmd myself in agreement with the view expressed by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Collings). The honorable gentleman did not use the term, but that provision is in fact an instance of “a duty of imperfect obligation “.

Mr Hawker:

– I do not think he was Acting Attorney-General at that time.


– I bow to the superior memory of the honorable member; he may not have been Acting Attorney-General at that time.

Mr Archie Cameron:

– It seems as though he had been in conference with the honorable member.


– No; much less is that likely to be the case before he made his speech. He submitted the view, at any rate, that the bill was unnecessary. At a later stage he argued that it was doubtful constitutionally.


– Order! I ask the honorable member not to refer any further to debates that have taken place in the Senate during the present session.


– Very well sir, we shall not pursue that matter any further. It certainly was thought, when the Constitution spoke of adjudication and administration, that it meant adjudication of the kind which was exercised eventually by the Inter-State Commission of 1912. The High Court, however, in the case to which I have referred, decided that that was not so, and I suggest that, in so deciding, it not only upset the legal view that had been taken by the Crown, but also acted contrary to the view of the framers of the Constitution itself, who undoubtedly had in mind some such adjudication as was in due course exercised by the InterState Commission. The honorable member for Perth quoted Sir Isaac Isaacs as being, favorable to the maintenance of the Inter-State Commission, subject to the limitations which he himself helped to impose by his judgment. But, of course, as I understand the argument of the learned judge, as he then was, he directed it to show that the commission, in the terms of the Constitution, certainly could exercise useful powers, and powers of adjudication, but not powers of adjudication exercisable by a court of law. That is the sum and substance of his argument on that point, and I interjected when the honorable gentleman was speaking that it was a great pity that we did not have the advantage of the skilful precision of mind of that distinguished lawyer when a bill of this kind was being drawn, because then it might have possessed qualities of usefulness which are not to be discovered anywhere in the present measure. In the course of his decision, at page 87 in the volume to which I have referred, Sir Isaac Isaacs is reported to have said -

TJ ic case therefore emphasizes the point that though an “ adjudication “ in the true sense - and as effective and binding as if made by a Court of Justice - may bo made by an administrative body, it docs become tlie adjudication of a Court of Justice. The nature of the power conferred does not alter the character of the body exercising it, and convert an executive body into a strictly judicial body.

Wc have therefore to look beyond the word “‘adjudication” to see with what character the Constitution itself invested the Inter-State Commission, or permitted it to be invested.

That explains the sharp distinction which lie drew between adjudication of a quasijudicial character for administrative purposes, and adjudication by a properly constituted court within the meaning of the Constitution. The present bill is limited, as wc see, to inquiry and report.. The question we have to answer now is this: Is the bill necessary, and is there being created a body such as that intended by the Constitution? If this Inter-State Commission is not such a commission as the framers of the Constitution had in mind, as fairly judged from the terms of the Constitution, it can be nothing more than one of those periodic appointments of commissions of various kinds, of which this Parliament and various governments have approved from time to time. As to whether the commission is necessary, the question answers itself. Nobody has asked for it, and nobody has missed it. It is very freely suggested that some people want it because of” the emoluments and distinction which it will bring to those “who arc appointed to it, and I take leave to say that if the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) were to be appointed chairman of the commission,’ the natural indignation which his becoming Prime Minister aroused would bo nothing to the indignation which would bc n roused by the circumstances attending his ceasing to be Prime Minister.

Sir Frederick Stewart:

– Naturally, there would be indignation among the public if Mr. Lyons ceased to be Prime Minister.


– I know that sometimes the honorable member for Parramatta (Sir Frederick Stewart) likes to say the nice thing about the Prime Minister. He is not unmindful of the favours he has received. At any rate, the answer to the question : Is the bill necessary, must be in the negative, by the test of experience, lt is not suggested, even by our friends from Western Australia - 1 am not referring to the principal representative for Western Australia, the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. Green) and my Leader (Mr. Curtin), but to the subordinate members from that State - that the particular work which they say this commission will have to do in the interests of Western Australia has been badly done by the commissions which have handled it in the past. I have not heard a word of complaint in this regard. It is true that the honorable members from Western Australia, when they hold out their hands with the palms upwards, do not get as much put into them as they desire, but who does? I have never yet known those who have waited for a hand-out to be satisfied, and certainly they always come again. But there has been no dissatisfaction with the Commonwealth Grants Commission, and I point out that the great advantage which a commission appointed for a particular purpose has over a standing commission, as was stressed by the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison), is that the commissioners are chosen for their fitness for a special job. They are chosen because, in regard to the matter which is to be investigated, it is considered, if the appointments are honestly made, that they are persons specially qualified, and that the chairman, especially, is a person of undoubted gifts which make him peculiarly suited for the position. In this instance, however, it is proposed to appoint a standing commission, and there is no guarantee of special fitness in regard to any of the possible appointees. [Leave to continue “given.’] The commission is not necessary because there is no function that it can discharge which has not been discharged, or is not being discharged, by special commissions appointed for special purposes. The commissioners appointed to sit on a commission should be suited to the particular job, and should possess special qualifications for it. If this bill is passed - ‘and I am very glad to know that it is being approached in a nonparty spirit - it will create a good deal of public misgivings as to the reasons for it. It was pointed out by the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Barnard) and the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr.Lazzarini) that there has been manifested ah extraordinary unity of opinion against it. That is evidenced in the press and on the platform, and by personal contact with individuals, as I am sure is within the experience of others as it has been within mine. The opinion will !be strongly held that the appointment of this commission will be what is known as a political .job; no other excuse can be discovered foi1 it. I therefore devoutly hope that honorable members who have spoken their minds on this subject from both sides of the House will vote as they have spoken, that the second reading of the bill will be rejected, and that we shall hear .no more of this frequently recurring, and always futile proposal, to reconstitute .the Inter-State Commission.


.- This bill, quite apart from’ its detailed provisions, embodies a principle of .major importance to the proper working of the Federal Constitution of Australia. It is very regrettable that we should have to listen to the petty personalities which have been introduced into the debate. The opposition to the measure from the other side of the House seems to be inspired by the fear that Sir George Pearce, or some other former member of Parliament, may be appointed to the Inter-State Commission. That is a deplorable attitude. Irrespective of the personal qualifications of the gentlemen “whose names have been mentioned, they have, other high qualifications. This bill embodies the fulfilment of a principle which is laid down definitely in the Constitution, and it is a deplorable thing that the honorable members for Bass (Mr. Barnard), Werriwa (Mr. Lazzarini) and Batman (Mr. Brennan) are ready to bilk some of the States of their safeguards under the Constitution in order to spite individuals who have happened to sit on the other side of Parliament. The Inter-State Commission, as has been said in the debate, is provided for in the Constitution in mandatory terms. There was no mistake in the making of the Consti tution, because it was actually discussed as ‘to whether the section of the Constitution dealing with the Inter-State Commission should begin “ There shall be “, as is actually the case, or whether it should, be amended to read, “Parliament may constitute an Inter-State Commission”. That very point was discussed at the Convention of 1898 in Melbourne, and the mandatory term “ There shall be “ was adopted by 23 votes to 13. The Constitution was so worded after it had been debated before the people of Australia. The parochialism, that so often is manifested in this Parliament and the sectional and personal motives that characterize its proceedings are evidence that it is necessary to-day to have the safeguards that are provided for in the Constitution. Honorable members from the populous States, however, are prepared to use their votes in order to prevent the safeguard of the rights of the smaller States - the Inter-State Commission - from being established.

Mr Lane:

– Give us something about the smaller States.


– If the larger States think that they are being penalized for the benefit of the smaller, it will be open for them to have the matters complained of investigated. The smaller States could not possibly object to that, and, therefore, we are prepared to stand by the institution of the organ which, as was foreseen by the framers of the Constitution, was designed to help the proper working of the Constitution.

I am not in agreement with all the details of this bill, but details will be matters for consideration in committee; it is the principle that I support. I support it, not merely because it is laid down in the Constitution, but also because my experience of the working of this Parliament is that it is national only in spasms ; more often it is sectional, and petty in the Way it follows sectional points of view.

The work that has been done by the Commonwealth Grants Commission has been good, but there would he more confidence in its findings if it had .the authority and status which will be pos- sessed by the Inter-State Commission. The Commonwealth Grants Commission is restricted in what it can do; whereas, there are all sorts of matters in which there has been serious friction between the Commonwealth and the States - tariffs bounties, financial questions and other “matters. Some measure of satisfaction has been given by the various authorities which have been set up from time to time to deal with the matters which cannot be dealt with by the Commonwealth Grants Commission, but it is my belief that that satisfaction would be deeper if the investigations were entrusted to the body which was contemplated by the framers of the Constitution, and which this bill purposes to establish. I do not know why the Government, when it set up the Commonwealth Grants Commission, did not take the full step and establish the InterState Commission. On two occasions it has been pledged to the people at elections to establish it, but since the clear mandate of the Constitution has been disregarded for so long, I suppose it is too much to expect that an election promise will be carried out in full. I do not doubt the genuine intentions of that promise, and I suggest to honorable members who were elected on the Prime Minister’s policy speech that they were elected on promises which included a promise to re-establish the Inter-State Commission. That goes for honorable members from New South “Wales.

Sir Frederick Stewart:

– There were other promises in the policy speech of the Prime Minister which have not yet been redeemed.


– The promise of an Inter-State Commission is one that might well be honoured. Quite apart from relations between the Commonwealth and the States, there is a whole range of important matters which would have the attention of an Inter-State Commission, such as the matter of discrimination in railway freights. Mention has been made of the way in which States which control freight rates in certain areas use those freight rates to draw trade, against geography, to the sea ports within those States. That has happened in several States. By those means goods in the Riverina, the Northern Rivers district of

New South Wales, in the Mallee in Victoria, and in the south-east of South Australia have been diverted from their natural outlet to another outlet. This Parliament would have power to rectify that if an Inter-State Commission were appointed. It is desirable, ifwe do have as our objective better national unity and better development of resources on a national basis, that this Parliament should exercise the powers that it would have if it re-created the Inter-State Commission.

Mr Brennan:

– The Inter-State Commission will only bo able to make reports.


– But this Parliament could act on those reports.

Mr Brennan:

– It could act without them.


– Whether the commission should, be composed of three members or five, is relatively speaking, a detail, which, with other matters of similar character, can be discussed in committee when it will be possible to move amendments. There is a good deal to be said in favour of having five members instead of three, because the larger number of commissioners will enable the commission to reap the benefits of a wider range of experience. There is also a good deal to be said in favour of having the lesser number because the question of expense must be considered. There is also the question of time because it takes a larger committee longer to hold sessions and to reach conclusions. I repeat that these are matters of detail which can be decided later. They are minor matters compared with the principle which is involved as to whether this Parliament is prepared to carry out the direct mandate given to it by the Constitution. The creation of the Inter-State Commission would do a great deal to replace the atmosphere of controversy and log rolling which now characterizes relations between the States by an atmosphere in which there is a spirit of nationhood rather than one of sectional interests.

Mr.CURTIN (Fremantle) [9.10].- If we were in this Parliament to-day discussing for the first time that portion of the Constitution in respect of the creation of the Inter-State Commission, I should attach a considerable amount of weight to the observations just made by the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Hawker). But we are living in 193S ! We have had nearly four decades of the working of this federal system, and we have had an Inter-State Commission. This Parliament did give effect to the mandatory- words in the Constitution to establish an Inter-State Commission, and the commission was found, as the result of its working, to have no power of its own decision to determine, and to enforce its determinations in regard to the very matters that have been raised here to-day. The Parliament and the Government of the day found that it was futile to continue the Inter-State Commission, because it could at the best be ;but an investigatory body. I need not remind honorable gentlemen that the greater portion of the time during which the commission functioned was occupied in work which for many years past has been performed by the Tariff Board. As a matter of fact, it will be found, if one looks at the reports of the inquiries carried out by the Inter-State Commission, that the overwhelming proportion of the time it worked related to inquiries into the tariff. This Parliament, for good or for ill, instead of allowing the Inter-State Commission to continue as an investigatory authority to advise it in respect of the effects of tariff-making, has, by statute, created another authority to do that work. I know that, whilst there may be criticism of the Tariff Board, none the less, its work has been done ably and impartially, and that a succession of governments has confirmed the Tariff Board as an important and valuable adjunct to this Parliament in carrying out its legislative work in connexion with the fiscal system. If one reads the debates at the Federal Convention,- and the discussion in this Parliament and in tho ‘States immediately after the federation was consummated, one finds that the general belief was that the InterState Commission would act as a fetter upon the States, and not upon the Commonwealth; that it would, in fact, deter the States from applying policies that were violating interstate freetrade and commerce, or were, as the result of rail- way freight administration, giving to their States advantages which, otherwise, they would not have. The honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Blackburn) pointed out that the whole question of railway freights has ceased to be a vexed question in Australia and that by agreements the States have resolved that difficulty. If it be urged that this Parliament has to-day to make certain that the States do not use railway powers in a way that will be detrimental to the adjoining States, the most recent answer is that, when the aviation referendum was put to the people, the objection to it was that the Commonwealth would have control over the transport, and that the States, as the result, would have less authority in determining their own transport policies than in the absence of additional power to the Commonwealth would be the case. The people rejected the aviation referendum. I am quite sure that they were in favour of the Commonwealth Parliament having complete control over aviation, but were fearful that that control would be exercised in such a way as to interfere with the solvency of the railway systems of the States. The chief difficulty with which those railway systems have to contend to-day is in respect of new forms of transport. Therefore, the argument submitted at the Federal Convention in Adelaide in 1897, in favour of providing means whereby railway competition among the States could be divested of any element of unfairness, has been met either by the march of time or by the agreements which the railways commissioners of the States have reached.

It is now said that the free flow of commerce interstate is being interfered with as the result of certain quarantine practices which the State governments exercise in the interests of certain producers. Potatoes have been cited as an example. The answer to that, briefly, is that the preservation of interstate freetrade, mild the complete freedom of intercourse between the States in respect of commerce, are the responsibility of this Parliament, and any act that we may pass in order to ensure such freedom is one the validity of which wc may test in the High Court should it be disobeyed by any person. There is no occasion for the appointment of an Inter-State Commission or of any other body with a high-sounding title, to enable this Parliament to enforce legislation in respect of interstate freetrade.

Mr Gregory:

– Sometimes it is necessary to obtain information.


– Does the honorable gentleman suggest that an Inter-State Commission would be better equipped than an ordinary royal commission to obtain whatever information was needed?

Mr Gregory:

– I think that it would be, because its work would be continuous.


-Having regard to the enormous burden which other policies now impose on the citizens of Australia, I shall not feel disposed to spend money in that way unless and until I am satisfied that a situation exists which warrants the making of the investigation. When this Parliament considers that such an investigation ought to be made, it should have freedom of choice in respect of the personnel of the body entrusted with the task. If we begin by appointing this permanent inquisitorial body to make this investigation and a number of other investigations, we shall be tied to that personnel. So conscious of its limitations in certain special spheres of research will the Inter-State Commission be, that it will recruit trained advisers to assist it in its investigations; it will requisition economists, accountants, and other persons, and will establish a large department. It is perfectly true that the royal commission appointed to investigate the disabilities -of Western Australia in 1924 or 1925 recommended the appointment of an Inter-State Commission; but that recommendation was only one of a number of recommendations, and the appointment of an Inter-State Commission was not the crucial portion of, but rather was incidental to, the report. I also agree that the Royal Commission on the Constitution recommended the appointment of an Inter-State Commission; but as I read its findings, the Inter-State Commission to be established was to be a body set up in the light of the application of its other recommendations. It would be very useful if an Inter-State Commission could add anything to the knowledge which the Parliament ought now to possess in respect of the disabilities claimed by certain of the States under section 96 of the Constitution. But that is very doubtful. In 1925, a royal commission presided over by a former Commonwealth Treasurer, investigated the position of Western Australia. In the following year, a royal commission presided over by a former Prime Minister of the Commonwealth investigated the finances of South Australia. Two years later, a royal commission presided over by a former Comptroller of Customs and a former member of the Inter-State Commission investigated the position of Tasmania. Each of those commissions made a report, and they are still available to us. In addition, the Public Accounts Committee, one of the statutory bodies of this Parliament, investigated the affairs of South Australia, and began an investigation in respect of Tasmania.Reports are available from that body. For the last five years we have had the truly monumental work of the Commonwealth Grants Commission, which has investigated the claims of South Australia, Western Australia, and Tasmania. I acknowledge thai that commission has discharged its functions at a very modest charge upon the accounts of the Commonwealth; it has not been a highly-paid commission, yet it has performed its duties well. But this bill contemplates the payment of £8,000 a year in salaries, in addition to the travelling expenses of the commissioners. I am quite certain that the commission will need a secretary, an accountant, and two or three research officers. The Treasurer would not regard as a very high estimate of the probable cost £15,000, £18,000 or £20,000 a year. The commission will have no power to rectify any of the grievances of the States that claim to have them. In that respect, its authority will be completely analagous to that now exercised by the Commonwealth Grants Commission. It will hold inquiries, summon witnesses, examine the data furnished to it, and. report to the Parliament. That is What the Commonwealth Grants Commission now does. Upon the government of the day will devolve the responsibility of either accepting or rejecting the report. The present

Government has carried out the financial recommendations of the Commonwealth Grants Commission, but no previous government carried out the recommendations of the other royal commissions which operated in respect of incidental phases, of the Commonwealth Constitution. I cannot ‘recall any State Premier having made the announcement that he would .welcome the formation of an -Inter-State Commission, but certain newspapers and a section of public opinion in some of the States ‘believe that such a body would be useful in protecting those States against the Commonwealth. That is a complete delusion. It is hot tho Commonwealth Constitution, but the legislative policy of this Parliament which excites criticism in the .States. The remedy for that lies with the electors themselves; they can defeat those of their representatives who vote in the wrong way. It may be urged that members of States are out-voted in the Parliament, but party divisions exist in all of the States, and are reflected in this Parliament. I venture to say, however, that although my disagreement with the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) in “respect of fiscal policy is irreconcilable, however much we personally esteem each other, it would be as impossible for me to defeat him in his electorate as it would bc for him to defeat me in mine. - Therefore the people of Western Australia are not of one mind either upon this or upon any other subject. If I could feel that the Inter-State Commission would’ be a better policeman than the ‘Commonwealth Grants Commission has been in respect of the special claims of the States I might bc tempted to say, as both are investigatory bodies : “ Let us see whether we can do better with the new one “. But this is not a new body; if is merely the resurrection of one ‘that’ has been dead for many years, and I see no justification for dragging it out of its grave. The High ‘Court of Australia delivered a judgment which put an end to any judicial authority being exercised by the’ InterState Commission, and to revive it now would mean that we should have to use it merely as an alternative means of inquiring ‘into a’ variety of subjects. The investigational side of the matter appears to me to be too comprehensively stated to admit of any given personnel being able to discharge the whole of it properly. It is not a matter of interpreting the law. I. can understand the High Court Bench, consisting of four or five judges, sitting for a number of years and determining all the cases submitted to it. This is an entirely different sphere of activity. It includes transport, commerce and the financial relations of certain States to the Commonwealth and to one another. Then there are “ any matters relating to the making of any grant of financial assistance by the Parliament to any State in pursuance of this section, which are referred to the commission by the Governor-General, and any matters concerning the financial relations between the Commonwealth and any State, and any other matters, whether related to any of the matters specified in the preceding paragraph of the section, or not.” All of these matters may be referred, to the Inter-State Commission. Compared with the cost of tlie Tariff Board and the Commonwealth Grants Commission, it appears to me that the probable cost of this commission is unjustifiable, on financial grounds, at the present time.

Having regard to the Constitution, and to the prescription that there shall be an Inter-State Commission, I say that, until such time as the relations of the Commonweal th and the States aro readjusted - and I am not here to say how that readjustment should be effected - until there has been a revision of tho powers which the States and the Common wealth shall exercise, .until the Constitution has been brought up to date, so that, in the existing necessities of Australia, we shall be able to reestablish our political .system, it appears to me ito be unnecessary, and in all probability mischievous, to resurrect the Inter-State Commission. If we pass this bill certain ‘ States with grievances will have some expectation that the commission will be the means of resolving them, whereas that will not be the case. The disappointment that would be caused thereby would be followed by bitterness, with the result that, instead of making the national life more orderly, and of introducing a greater degree of cohesion anions; the Commonwealth and tlie States, it would have the very opposite effect. It would he far better for us to say that until some, or all, of the recommendations of the Royal Commission on the Constitution are carried out, until we have dealt with the more urgent problems that are now perplexing this Parliament, and, particularly, until we can spare the money for this very costly and, I believe, superfluous commission, which would make a series of unspecified investigations, we should reject the bill at the second reading stage.

Debate (on motion by Sir Henry Gullett) adjourned.

page 941


Bill returned from Senate without amendment.

page 941


The following papers were presented : -

Fourth General Papers Index., including Presented Papers, Committee Reports, Returns to Order, &c, of both Houses, during the Sessions 1020-30-31, 1032-33-34. l!)34-35-3ti-37 and 1937 (12th, 13th, all( 14th Parliaments).

Ordered to be printed.

Australian Imperial Force Canteens Funds Act - Eighteenth Annual Report by the Trustees for year 1937-38 (including the Sir Samuel McCaughey Bequest for the Technical Education of Soldiers’ Children ) .

Papua Act - Ordinances of 1938 -

No. .10- Appropriation 1038-1930.

No. 11 - Prisons.

No. 12 - Superannuation.

House adjourned at 9.35 p.m.

page 941


The following answers to questions were circulated: -

Defence : Tasmania

Mr Barnard:

d asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -

  1. What amounts have been spent in Tasmania upon defence during each of the past five years, and what was the total amount spent?
  2. How much is it estimated will be spent in that State under the present defence programme V
Mr Thorby:

– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -

  1. The amount spent in Tasmania on defence during each of the past five years and the total defence expenditure for these years were -
  2. The estimated amounts to he spent in Tasmania during the three years of the defence development programme are -

Migration: Encouragement to Dutch Subjects

Mr Curtin:

n asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -

  1. Is the Government endeavouring to arrange for a yearly quota of 2,000 Dutch migrants to come to Australia?
  2. If so, does the Government propose to assist these migrants in regard to their passages to Australia, settling on the land, or in any other way?

Mr. Lyons (through Sir Earle Page). -The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -

  1. Arising out of certain approaches made by the Netherlands Government through its Consul-General in Sydney, the Commonwealth Government informed the Netherlands Government that it welcomed the proposal to encourage the migration of Butch subjects to Australia. No suggestion of a yearly quota has been made.
  2. No.

Civil Aviation: Radio Beacons

Mr Sheehan:

n asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -

  1. Is it the view of the Government that the chain of ultra-short wave radio ranga beacons at main airports in Australia is unnecessary for the safety and regularity of airline operations?
  2. If so, -why were the stations ordered?
  3. If not, why have no tests been carried out of these beacons, which the former Minister, Sir Archdale Parkhill, promised would bo in operation by the winter of 1937?
  4. When does the Minister propose to begin the official teats, which he said in June last would be carried out within six or eight weeks ?
  5. Is it a fact that, although the Essendon beaconhas been in working order for nearly two years, and others, such as at Sydney, for some months, these are not normally available for the use of pilots flying aero.planes fitted with the special receivers?

    1. As, during the summer, static is frequently so bad on the medium wave length used by theexisting radio-direction finding stations that no radio aid to navigation is available, has the Government any alternative plan for protecting air travellers in the next few months ?
  6. Is it a . fact, as published, that major air-line companies have made repeated representations for the early operations of the beacons ?
Mr Thorby:

– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -

  1. No.
  2. See reply to No. 1.
  3. Delays have occurred which have prevented these beacons being placed in operation as early as was at first anticipated. Most of the delays have been due to two main causes - (a) Delays in provision of buildings and power supply owing to heavy demands made on the Department of the Interior due to defence activities ; ( b ) delays on the technical side inseparable from the provision of new and relatively untried principles.
  4. It is anticipated that the hand-over tests from the radio contractor will commence within two weeks, and these will be followed immediately by the air tests.
  5. The Essendon beacon has only about one month ago become available for acceptance test. Only three aircraft have been fitted with beacon receivers, and those receivers have not received the Civil Aviation Board’s approval, and are not the final type that will be acceptable to that board, Certain flight tests have been conducted as preliminary tests of both the radio beacon transmitters and radio receivers. These tests have not been sufficiently comprehensive as yet to permit of the beacons being used at this stage. As the use of ultrahigh frequencies is quite a new departure, the Civil Aviation Board is loath to place the beacons in operation until complete tests have been conducted on each beacon and full information as to what a pilot may expect to find under all conditions and at all heights and positions is available for issue’ to all concerned.
  6. The Government is pressing on as rapidly as possible with the installation of ultra-short wave beacon and short wave direction -finding stations, which will overcome the disadvantages of static interference on the medium frequencies.
  7. Inquiries have been made by certain commercial aviation companies as to when the, radio beacons will be available, and I have already indicated that active steps are being taken to bring them into use as early as possible. Meantime, the existing medium direction-finding facilities are a valuable aid to the pi lots on the air lines.

Western Junction Aerodrome Radio Station

Mr Barnard:

d asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice -

Can ho indicate when the temporary radio station now in use at Western Junction aerodrome will bo replaced with a permanent modern structure ?

Mr Perkins:

– The Postmaster-General has supplied the following information: -

The equipment for the permanent radio station at Western Junction aerodrome is now being installed by the radio contractor and it is expected that the new station will be ready for operation in approximately three weeks’ time.

Canberra and Australian Capital Territory: Policing of Industrial Awards - Unemployment

Mr Beasley:

y asked the AttorneyGeneral, upon notice -

  1. Has any provision been made to police awards in the Australian Capital Territory?
  2. If not, what powers, if any, are vested in representatives of trade unions to carry out this work?
  3. In the -event of breaches of awards, what jurisdiction do the trade unions possess in the way of penalities?
Mr Menzies:

– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -

  1. At the present time, determinations of the Industrial Board arc not policed by any oflicer of the Commonwealth as awards of the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration are policed, but arrangements are being made whereby the Arbitration Inspector will visit the Territory periodically to ensure the observance of the board’s determinations.
  2. In certain determinations such as hotel employees, shop assistants and catering establishments, tea shops, &c, an authorized official of the union concerned has the right of entry to interview employees and inspect time-sheets.
  3. Section 19 of the Industrial Board Ordinance 1936-1938 providesthat any private employer who has committed any breach or non-observance of a determination or industrial agreement is liable to a penalty of £20 and any such penally may be sued for and recovered . by, inter alia, any authorized officer of the organization affected, or any of whoso members are affected, by the breach or non-observance.
Mr McEwen:
Minister for the Interior · INDI, VICTORIA · CP

n. - On the 13th October, the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Barnard) asked . the following questions, upon notice: -

  1. What was the total number of unemployed in the Australian Capital Territory at the 30th June, 1938?
  2. What was the average number of persons on part time or relief work during the last financial year?
  3. Is it the intention of the Government to provide full time work for those unemployed; if not, how much work a week is provided for (a) married men, and (6) single men?
  4. What is their daily rate of wage?

I am now in a position to furnish the following replies: -

  1. . No person registered with the Department of the Interior for employment was unemployed at the 30th June, 1938.
  2. 275 married men and 300 single men were employed during the financial year 1937-38.
  3. Work will be provided to the fullest extent possible, having regard to the funds available.

    1. All married registered men are on full-time employment.
    2. Single men are at present given employment on the basis of one week’s work in four weeks.
  4. The minimum daily rate of wage is 17s.11d.

Defence Forces: Rejection of Applicants

Mr Ward:

d . asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -

What percentage of recruits offering for service in the Australian naval, militia and permanent military forces was rejected in each of the past five years because of physical unfitness?

Mr Thorby:

– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows : -

The percentage of recruits offering for service in the militia and permanent military forces who were rejected in each of the past five years because of physical unfitness was -

The figures regarding rejections of recruits for the naval forces are being obtained from the several naval districts and will be supplied to the honorable member when available.

Defence Officers: Furlough Rights

Mr Green:

n asked the AttorneyGeneral, upon notice -

With reference to the statement thatan amending Public Service Bill to provide for eligibility for furlough of certain persons in the Defence Department is now in preparation in the Attorney-General’s Department, when is the preparation of the bill likely to be completed, and when is it expected to be submitted for the consideration of ‘Cabinet?

Mr Menzies:

– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows : -

Consideration is being given to other clauses of a proposed amending Public Service Bill. When all details have been settled, the bill will be introduced into Parliament. It is anticipated that this will be done at an early date.

Oil Research

Mr Ward:

d asked the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -

What is the total amount of money expended by the Commonwealth to date, in the search for flow oil, and what proportion of the amount so expended was advanced to private interests?

Mr McEwen:

– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows : -

The total expenditure under the Petroleum Oil Search Acts 1936, to the 30th September. 1938, was £95,696, of which the sum of £26,119 was paid in respect of advances to companies, the balance being accounted for by an expenditure of £52,585 on the purchase of plants and £16,992 for administrative expenses.

Commonwealth Servants Brought from Overseas.

Mr Lyons (through Sir Earle Page:
Minister for Commerce · COWPER, NEW SOUTH WALES · CP

e). - On the 27th September, the honorable the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) asked the following question, upon notice : -

  1. How many persons has the Government brought from overseas to carry out work for the Commonwealth Government since 1931 ?
  2. What are their names?
  3. What work did they perform or are they performing?
  4. What is the amount of salary and allowances paid to each of them?
  5. Is it intended to import the services of my other persons? If so, what are the duties involved and the salary and allowances to be paid in each case?

I am now in a position to furnish the following reply: -

  1. Twenty-four. In addition, under the established systems of loan and exchange duty the following have also come to Australia in the period mentioned: -

Loan. -Navy, 86 (comprising five flag officers - two at present serving; fourteen captains - four at present serving; one commander; 22 warrant officers - seven at present serving; 44 petty officers and men - thirteen at present serving).

Loan. - Army, two (one major; one warrant officer - at present serving).

Exchange duty. - Navy, 74 (comprising two captains - one at present serving; ten commanders - four at present serving ; 23 lieutenant-commanders - seven at present serving; 20 lieutenants - eight at . present serving; two engineer officers; four accountant officers - one at present serving; seven warrant officers - two at present serving).

Exchange Duty. - Army, eight (four lieutenant-colonels - two at present serving; four majors - one at present serving).-

Exchange Duty. - Air Force, seven (one vice-marshal; one wing-commander - at present serving; three squadron lenders; two flight-lieutenants - one at present serving). 2, 3 and 4. Prime Minister’s Department. - Dr. C. E. Stehn, vulcanologist, Netherlands East Indies. Report on vulcanological dangers of Rabaul area. Period of service 8th July, to 26th October, 1937. Salary £548, travelling allowance £142.

Council for Scientific and Industrial Research. - Dr. J. Hammond, consultation and advice on animal husbandry and research. Fee of £753, plus cost of fares in Australia, viz., £97; H. E. Winiperis, visit of six months to advise on the developments of aircraft research. Fee of £3,000, which included all travelling expenses; Dr. K. H. L. Key, assistant research officer (grasshopper investigations), division of economic entomology. Salary £438 per annum; F. N. Ratcliffe, research officer (termite investigations), division of economic entomology. Salary £574 per annum; Dr. H. Thompson, officer-in-charge,. fisheries section. Salary £1,250 per annum; A. Proctor, technical officer, fisheries section. Salary £316 per annum; G. Clarke, technical officer (seagoing), fisheries section. Salary £316 per annum; D. A. Gill, officer-in-charge, McMaster Laboratory (division of animal health and nutrition), Sydney. Salary £802 per annum; G. A. H. Helson, assistant research officer (oriental peach moth investigations), division of economic entomology. Salary £420 per annum; Dr. J. S. Fitzgerald, assistant research officer (codlin moth investigations), division of economic entomology. Salary £420 per annum; P. Dixon, assistant research officer (irrigation, soil and viticultural studies). Commonwealth Research Station, Merbein, Victoria. Salary £348 per annum; H. D. Ingle, assistant research officer (wood structure investigations), division of forest products. Salary £330 per annum; L. Corkill, assistant research officer. Salary £392 per annum.

The following further information is offered in. regard to these persons. Under arrangements which were made in conjunction with the Government of New Zealand, Dr. John Hammond, of Cambridge University, the noted authority on animal breeding and husbandry, visited Australia during March last, and remained for a period of ten weeks to advise the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, and State departments of agriculture, on animal problems, generally. Mr. H. E. Winiperis was brought to Australia during 1937 for a period of six months to advise the Government on the question of the initiation of aeronautical research. Four of the officers mentioned in the schedule, Drs. Key and Fitzgerald and Messrs. Ratcliffe and Helson, are entomologists. There is only one Chair of Entomology in the universities of Australia. This chair was established in Adelaide within the last twelve months. While there have been lectureships in other universities extending over longer periods there is, nevertheless, a dearth of well-qualified entomologists in Australia. Three officers - Dr. Thompson, and Messrs. Clarke and Proctor - were brought from abroad for the initiation of Commonwealth fisheries investigations. No Australians with adequate experience were available for- these positions. Messrs. Gill, Dixon, Ingle and Cork ill wore New Zealand applicants for positions with the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, and were appointed to the positions they now hold, because they possessed qualifications superior to those of Australian applicants.

Department of the Treasury. - Sir Walter Kinnear, investigation of all aspects of national insurance in the light of Australian conditions. First visit 28th June, 193G, to 30th December, 1937. Services on loan from United Kingdom Government. Salary ?1,279, travelling allowance ?237 (sterling); Sir Walter Kinnear, advice in connexion with the drafting of national insurance legislation and regulations and in negotiations with friendly societies, &c. Second visit 6th January, 1938, to 3rd September, 1938. Services engaged as an officer retired from United Kingdom Government Service. Honorarium ?3,500 (no salary paid). Travelling allowance ?435 (sterling) ; G. H. Ince, investigation of all aspects of national insurance in tlie light of Australian conditions. Period 28th June, 193G, to 7th April, 1937. Services on loan from United Kingdom Government. Salary ?992, reimbursed to that Government, travelling allowance ?380, equipment allowance ?60, honorarium ?400; T. Lindsay, national insurance. Period 1.1th December. 1937, to 17th October, 1938. Salary ?1,171, reimbursed to United Kingdom Government, travelling allowance ?545, special allowance ?723; G. S. Mackay, formerly officer of Ministry for Health in the United Kingdom. Engaged for purpose of assisting in connexion with the inauguration of the national health and pensions insurance scheme, and advising on the preparation of legislation for the voluntary insurance for pensions of self-employed persons. Engaged from 17th August, 1938, at salary of ?1,200 per annum during stay in Australia, plus travelling allowance of ?1 10s. a day, travelling allowance, 12s. 6d. a day during voyage to Australia.

Department of the Interior. - E. A. Kodyen, drilling inspector (petroleum oil search). Twelve months’ appointment from May, 1938. Salary ?1,200 per annum, plus travelling allowance when absent from head-quarters - 25s. a day capital cities, 20s. a day outside capital cities.

Defence Department. - Marshal of the Royal Air Force, Sir Edward L. Ellington (accompanied by two staff officers). Report on the organization and development of the Royal Australian Air Force. The proportion of salary and allowances to be borne by the Commonwealth has not yet been determined; Lieutenant-General E. K. Squires, InspectorGeneral, Australian military forces. Salary and allowances ?3,(i3S per annum; Mr. G. P. Tinker, supervision of installation of electric furnaces for heat treatment of guns at Munitions Establishments, Maribyrnong. Salary and allowances ?500 (total amount including fares).

  1. The following appointments have been made, but the appointees have not yet arrived in Australia: -

Council for Scientific and Industrial Research. - L. P. Coombes, officer-in-charge, Aeronautical Research Laboratory, Melbourne. Salary ?1,500 per annum.

Department of the Treasury. - W. C. Balmford, formerly assistant actuary in the Department of the United Kingdom Government Actuary. Appointed Commonwealth Actuary, Department of the Treasury, on and from the 22nd October, 1938. Will be engaged in national insurance work and will act as actuary member of the Superannuation Board. Suitable qualified actuary not available in Australia. Will commence duty in Canberra about the end of November. Salary ?1,730 (nominal ?1,750) per” annum. Travelling allowance for voyage ?1 a day if accompanied by wife, 10s. a day if unaccompanied by wife.

In the case of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, the question of future appointments from overseas will depend upon the availability of suitably qualified persons in Australia. When such a course is considered desirable vacancies will be advertised abroad, as well as in Australia, and the best qualified applicants will be appointed.

Tlie system of loan and exchange of overseas officers and other ranks for service with the Royal Australian Navy, the Australian Military Forces and the Royal Australian Air Force is a long standing one which has been found to be of much value. It is not possible to forecast what numbers of such personnel are likely to be -required in future.

It will be observed from the reply to part 1. of the question that the majority of the loan personnel are obtained for service with the Royal Australian Navy. In this connexion it is pointed out that the supply of Australiantrained officers has been inadequate for the more senior appointments and for specialist appointments. Two graduates of the Royal Australian Naval College have now attained the rank of captain, and the position will gradually improve until tho time is reached when Australian officers will be available for most of the senior appointments in the Royal Australian Navy. Similar considerations apply in the case of naval ratings, as most of those obtained on loan from the Royal Navy are for specialist duties for which the supply of trained Australians is as yet inadequate.

Ministerial Visits Overseas.

Mr. Lyons (through Sir Earle Page) : On the 27th September, the honorable member for Newcastle (Mr. Watkins) asked the following questions, upon notice:

What Ministers or members of the Government have made official trips overseas since the 13th March, 1930?

What countries did each Minister visit on each trip?

For what period was each Minister absent from Australia?

What was the total cost of each delegation with which Ministers were associated?

I am now in a position to furnish, the following ‘ reply ‘:-

Am Forge Machines at Air Pageants

Mr Thorby:

y. - On the 14th October, the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. Pollard) asked the following questions, upon notice : -

  1. What charges, if any, were made for tlie time occupied by eleven Royal Australian Air Force aeroplanes whilst demonstrating at Wagga airport on the 11th October, 1938?
  2. What organization requested tho visit to Wagga of those aeroplanes?
  3. What organization received the gate admission charges made on the occasion of the opening of the Wagga airport?
  4. Will the Minister consider the_ abolition of the charges made to Aero Clubs’ for time occupied by Royal Australian Air Force aeroplanes in demonstrating at aero pageants?

I am now in a position to inform the honorable member as follows: -

  1. No charges were made. At the request of the Government of New South Wales the Commonwealth Government approved of airforce aircraft visiting air displays at fourteen country centres in New South Wales during March, 1938, in connexion with Australia’s 150th Anniversary Celebrations. Wagga was included in the number of towns selected, but the celebrations at Wagga were postponed and, therefore, the air display did ‘not eventuate on that date. Later, the celebrations at Wagga were arranged to commence on the 9th October, 1938, and the air display in connexion therewith took place on the 10th October, 193S.
  2. The Government of New South Wales.
  3. No knowledge.
  4. The policy regardingRoyal Australian Air Force aircraft visiting civil air displays is -

    1. Annual training flights to distant capital cities are authorized and, during these flights, the aircraft may participate at displays, en route, subject to the out-of-pocket expenses incurred at the display being met by the body concerned.__ .
    2. Displays at other centres may be attended only when the funds to be derived from the display are to be devoted to improvements to the aerodrome and when the particular aerodrome is considered by the Air Board to bo of strategic value in the air defence of the Commonwealth.

New Regiments.

Mr Thorby:

y. - On the 12th October, the honorable member for Brisbane (Mr. George Lawson) asked the following question,without notice : -

Can the Minister for Defence say whether there isany truth in the report current in Brisbane that his department has been approached with a request for the formation of two new regiments in Queensland, one English, and the other Welsh?

I am now in a position to inform the honorable member that no requests for the formation of such units have been received at army head-quarters.

Militia Forces: Formation of Units

Mr Thorby:

y. - On the 14th October, the honorable member for Gwydir (Mr. Scully) asked the following questions, upon notice : -

  1. Will the Minister for Defence reconsider the decision in reference to applications made by certain bodies in country centres that desire the formation of volunteer militia units, which were previously refused on the ground that the limit had been reached in the number of volunteer enlistments?
  2. Canhe further extend the quota so as to make provision for additional volunteer defence units?

I am now in a position to inform the honorable member as follows : - 1 and 2. With the proposed increase to 42.000 Citizen Forces, the position of units will be reviewed in each district, the first allotment being made to existing units that have waiting lists. Recommendations by formation commanders for the establishment of additional units at new localities as the result of increased numbers allotted to the formations will receive favorable consideration.

Tobacco Industry

Mr White:

e. - On the 14th October, the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Forde) asked the following questions, upon notice: -

  1. What were the imports of stemmed and unstemmed tobacco leaf for each of the years 1927-28 to 1937-38?
  2. What was the total weight of Australiagrown leaf produced, and what was the quantity used by Australian manufacturers, for each of the years mentioned?
  3. What was the revenue in excise and import duty from the tobacco industry for each of the years mentioned?
  4. What alterations were made in excise and import duty between the periods 1927-28 and 1937-38?

I am now able to furnish the honorable member with the following information : -

Auditor-General’s Report.

Mr Casey:

y. - On Wednesday, the 12th October, thehonorablemember for Lilley (Mr. Jolly) in’a.question without, notice, asked for advice’’ as” to when the Auditor-General’s report for the year ended the/ 30th June^1938, /would be available, i. ‘ -1’ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ “ I am ‘ -now in a position to inform the honorable “member, that the AuditorGeneral’s report, together with the Treasurer’s statement- of receipts -and expenditure for theyear 1937-38, will be tabled^ about the end of November.

Telephone Meters.

Mr Perkins:

s. - On the 14th October, the honorable member- for Wentworth(Mr. Harrison) ‘asked’ the” following question, without ‘ notice- . ‘ ;

In view of the repeated . statements by , the.;. Postmaster-General and. his officers that no :. technical equipment has yet., been evolved which will permit of the registration of tele- ; phone calls in the homes . ofsubscribers, and. having, regard to the desire of the department to see that justice is done, will the Minister representing the Postmaster-General consider offering a reward of £500 as an incentive to engineers inside and outside the department to invent a meter which will satisfactorily record all telephone calls by subscribers?

The Postmaster-General (Senator’ A. J. McLachlan) has supplied the following . information : — .

The suggestion made by the honorable member has . received very careful consideration, but a close examination of all the circumstances docs not indicate that-, there- is any.; justification for offering the monetary reward referred to. Other major telephone administrations abroad utilize the same system of recording calls as in operation in Australia,, and no meter has been designed anywhere for installation’ at a subscriber’s premises . which, would discriminate in all the variable conditions respecting free and paid calls which necessarily arise on the end of a telephone line. Apart from the extremely difficult: technical considerations involved, the expense of providing meters in all subscribers’ premises would be very serious, and subscribers generally would : strongly . resent the imposition of asubstantial . addition- to: the rental in order to; cover the extra cost entailed. Under existing conditions, the department takes extreme care, and adopts every’ reasonable precaution, to ensure accuracy in the preparation of ‘accounts covering calls’ made from ‘subscriber’s’ tele-‘ phones. Systematic checks of the whole of the recording arrangements are performed with considerable frequency in accordance with a prescribed plan, and every effort is ‘made toensure the “ correct functioning . ‘of the recording apparatus. It is doubtful whether any : telephone administration in the world has succeeded in doing more to safeguard the interests of subscribers than has been done by the Aus- tralian Post . Office Administration. v-it “… (

J.”.-1’ -

Townsville Post Office

Mr Perkins:

s. - On. the 13th October, the honorable.’member’ -for Herbert (Mr. Martens) asked the following question, upon notice- r,

What was;the cost of the recent painting of the post office _at Townsville?

I am now in a position to inform the honorable member ‘that the -amount expended was £1,217 18s.1d.

Governor-General’s Residences

Mr McEwen:

n. - On’, the 14th October, the honorable: member . for Bass (Mr. Barnard) asked the following questions, upon notice- . ‘ “ ‘. ‘,’

  1. How many’ residences have been established in Australia for the use of the GovernorGeneral ? ;
  2. . Where are they -.situated?
  3. What wasthe purchase price of each ?
  4. Howmuch has been spent upon renovation and repairs during the past five years?
  5. How much is it proposed to spend upon these residences during the present financial year?

I, am now in a position to furnish the following information : - 1- Two.

  1. In. the Australian Capital Territory and at Sydney”:( Admiralty House).
  2. The Governor-General’s residence in the Australian Capital Territory was the homestead of . the Yarralumla Estate. When the compensation money was determined . -no dissection was specially made for the homestead, out-buildings . and . grounds. At the time of acquisition in 19 12 the value. of the. main residence, out-buildings:.and. grounds -.was: in the vicinity of £4,000. : With regard to Admiralty House, Sydney, the- State Government-, of. New! South Wales ‘.has- -made . this property available for use as a . residence” for the GovernorGeneral. No consideration: money -has been paid by the Commonwealth’. :’.’ ‘’’. ‘:
  3. The following amounts were expended during the past fivefinancial” years -on repairs, renovations, additions and alterations: -
  1. The following: amounts ‘have been provivided on the Estimates for the: present financial year for ‘repairs,’’ - renovations; additions and alteration’s:-^’ -‘ : ‘: ‘ ‘

Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 19 October 1938, viewed 22 October 2017, <>.