14th Parliament · 2nd Session
The President (Senator the Hon. P. J. Lynch) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
Presentation to the GovernorGeneral.
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. P. J. Lynch). - I desire to inform the Senate that, accompanied by honorable senators, 1, this day, waited on the. Governor-General and presented to him the Address-in-Reply to His Excellency’s Speech on the occasion of the opening of Parliament, agreed to by the. Senate on the 23rd June. His Excellency was pleased to make the following reply: -
Canberra, 24th June, 1937.
I desire to thank you for the AddressinReply which you presented to me at Government House, Canberra, to-day. It will afford me much pleasure to convey to His Most Gracious Majesty the King the message of loyalty from the Senate of the Commonwealth of Australia, to which your Address gives expression. (Signed) Gowrie,
– by leave - I inform honorable senators that advice has to-day been received from the Australian Delegation at the 23rd Session of the International Labour Conference in Geneva that the Conference adopted a draft convention applying the principle of the 40-hour week, with maintenance of the standard of living, to the textile industry; out rejected similar proposed conventions in connexion with (a) printing and kindred trades, and (&) the chemical industry. The existing conventions concerning the minimum age for industrial and nonindustrial employment were revised so as to raise the age from fourteen to fifteen years, subject to certain excep tions and special provisions modifying the convention in favour of Japan and India, for which a lower age is prescribed. Finally, the Conference adopted two recommendations relating to international co-operation in connexion with the timing of all works undertaken or financed by public authorities.
The instructions issued by the Commonwealth Government to its delegate at the Conference in regard to the proposed conventions for the reduction of hours of work were as follows: -
As honorable senators are aware, a convention is adopted at the conference by a two-thirds majority of government, employers’ and workers’ delegates voting together. The obligation of governments under the Constitution of the International Labour Organization is that they will, within a “period of one year from the closing of the Conference, bring a draft convention before the authority or authorities’ within whose competence the matter lies for the enactment of legislation or other action. The draft conventions and recommendations referred to above, on receipt in Australia will, in accordance with the usual practice in such cases, be presented to this Parliament and communicated to the State governments for consideration, and an expression of their views on the question of implementation.
It will be recalled that the 1935 conference adopted a convention generally affirming the principle of the 40-hour week, and the application of this principle to specific industries was to come before -future conferences. At the conference which has just closed, three industries were considered in this connexion, but only one of them obtained the necessary majority for the adoption of a draft convention in relation thereto. A draft convention was adopted in 1935 applying a 42-hour week, on the basis of four shifts, to automatic glass-bottle manufacture, while in 1936 the conference adopted a draft convention applying the 40-hour week to public works.
– I ask the Leader of the Senate whether, in the event of the Inter-State Commission Bill being passed by this Parliament, it is the intention of the Government to appoint to that commission any members of Parliament?
– The appointment of members of the commission has not yet received considerationby the Government.
The following papers were presented : -
Letter, dated 25th May, 1937, from the Acting Prime Minister to the Wheat Growers Union of Western Australia (Inc.) on the subject of the application for a bounty on wool sold during the period Japanese buyers were not operating at the Australian wool sales.
Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act - ‘ Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1937. No. 56.
Nationality Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1937, No. 38.
Passport Act- Regulations - Statutory Rules 1037, No. 43.
– Can the Leader of the Senate say whether, in the event of the Commonwealth and the States agreeing to pass the necessary legislation, a 40-hour week can be established in Australia?
– It is not usual to give legal advice in reply to questions.
– Was not the Loan Council created by agreement between the States and the Commonwealth that theirborrowing powers were to be handed over to the council?
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.As the honorable senator well knows, the Loan Council was constituted by an amendment of the Federal Constitution.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Health, upon notice -
Regarding the admitted necessity for improving the health of the nation, will the Minister state what is being done to give effect to, or implement, the policy outlined in his broadcast speech of the6th May last?
– The Minister for Health has supplied the following answer to the honorable senator’s question : -
The improvement of the health of the people depends upon attention to many aspects of social welfare, each of which must receive attention and depends very largely upon the co-operation of the people themselves. Already the Commonwealth has secured effective co-operation with the State Health Departments through the Federal Health Council, and has endeavoured by subsidies and other action to stimulate progress in important aspects of public health which call for attention. A campaign to arouse interest and educate the public in matters of health has been begun, and has already evoked considerable interest and response. Cancer, maternal and infant welfare, restoration of cripples, have all received attention. The important questions of diet and personal hygiene have been dealt with, and an Advisory Council on Nutrition has been appointed. The Government proposes to introduce a measure to establish medical research on a permanent national basis.
White Paper - Compensation of wool-growers.
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Will the Government give consideration to the publication of a white paper setting out the negotiations that took place on the Japanese trade diversion policy?
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.The Acting Prime Minister has supplied the following answer to the honorable senator’s question : -
The suggestion that the Commonwealth Government should consider the issue of a white paper setting out details of the trade negotiations with Japan was made by the Primary Producers Association of Western Australia in February last. This suggestion has received the consideration of the Commonwealth Government. The Government does not consider that any good purpose would be achieved by reviewing the factors which led to the trade dispute, which has since been amicably settled.
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The Acting Prime Minister has supplied the following answer to the honorable senator’s questions : - 1, 2 and 3. Certain claims for compensation were made by the Wheat-growers Union of Western Australia. The Government gave careful consideration to the representations made, but could find no sound grounds on which any such claim could be based. A comprehensive reply was forwarded to the Wheat-growers Union of Western Australia by the Acting Prime Minister in May last, a copy of which I now lay on the Table of the Senate.(SeePapers.)
asked the Minis ter representing the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
Is it the intention of the Government to construct suitable patrol boats for the preservation of our pearling beds, and to prevent smuggling on the north-west coast of Western Australia ?
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.The Minister for Trade and Customs has supplied the following answer : -
The whole question of providing an efficient patrol service on the Australian coast is at present receiving the careful consideration of the Government. A powerful vessel is. at present under construction for the Customs
Department for use in the prevention of smuggling and other breaches of the Customs Act in the northern waters df Australia. The Commonwealth Government has, however, no power to legislate for the control or protection of pearl or other fisheries within territorial waters, this being a. function of the State Government.
asked the Minister representing the Treasurer, upon notice -
In view of its importance to the State Treasurers concerned can the Minister representing the Treasurer state when the report of the Commonwealth Grants Commission will be received by the Government?
– The Acting Treasurer has supplied the following answer to the honorable senator’s question: -
The Government has not yet received any indication from the Commonwealth Grants Commission as to when its report will be submitted.
asked the Minister .representing the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
This meeting is also of the opinion that the appointment of the committee is in direct conflict with the declared policy of the Ministry that it will not make drastic tariff changes or increase existing duties without reference to the Tariff Board.
This meeting, therefore, requests the Federal Government to refrain from proceeding with the establishment of the proposed advisory tariff committee”?
– The Minister for Trade and Customs has supplied the following answers to the honorable senator’s questions : -
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The Acting Prime Minister has furnished the following answers to the honorable senator’s questions : - 1 and 2. The extent of the losses in un- “ known to the Commonwealth Government.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.In a series of question which he addressed to the Postmaster-General on the 18th June, regarding matters pertaining to the wireless broadcasting service in Queensland, Senator Collings inquired whether any satisfactory reason could be given as to why a news bulletin originally put on the air at 7 a.m. was altered to 6.30 a.m.?
On behalf of the Postmaster-General I am now in a position to inform the honorable senator that the Australian Broadcasting Commission states that the reason the news bulletin for 4QN was altered to 6.30 a.m. was because 4QN now opens at that hour. Other early morning news bulletins are broadcast up to 8.5 a.m.
Why permission was refused by the Australian Broadcasting Commission to Mr. C. E. Badger, of Perth, to broadcastthe second of his series of talks entitled “ Machiavelli and Modern Dictators”?
The Postmaster-General has now received advice from the Australian Broadcasting Commission as follows : -
Mr. Badger refused to give his second talk when our manager for Western Australia suggested minor alterations eliminating two paragraphs which were considered unsuitable for inclusion in the script as they referred to certain present dictators.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
This is a very short measure containing merely two provisions, the second of which may be said to be divided into two small amendments. The first provision seeks to repeal section 4 of the principal act which reads as follows : -
At present certain ports have been specified, and this amendment seeks to name those ports, thus giving them that form of permanency which a statute gives as distinct from notification in the Gazette through ministerial authority. The ports named in this measure are exactly the same as those which have already been notified in the Gazette; no change will be effected in that respect.
The two parts of the second proposed amendment, which seek to amend section 12 of the principal act, are entirely ameliorative in character. It has been the subject of representations by the waterside workers to the Government, and in presenting this amendment, the Government is, indeed, doing what it has been requested to do. The first part of this amendmentrelates to sub-section 3, which reads -
By that provision, a licensing officer cannot cancel a licence for a period of less than six months. The second part of the second proposed amendment relates to sub-section 6, which reads -
A restraintis placed upon the licensing officer that he cannot suspend a licence for less than six months, and, further, if an aggrieved waterside worker appeals and is successful to the extent that he convinces the magistrate that his offence was of a triflng nature, the magistrate, none the less,cannot reduce the term of suspension to less than six months. Under the” proposed amendment, the licensing officer may cancel a waterside worker’s licence for any period not less than one month, and the magistrate, on appeal, may vary the sentence so long as he does not reduce the period of suspension to less than one month. This provision is entirely ameliorative.
No hidden powers are sought under this measure, as will be clear to honorable senators from the explanation which I have just given. In these circumstances, I suggest that honorable senators should give the measure a speedy passage. The second provision is entirely in the interests of the men themselves, whilst the first provision is more in accordance with the spirit of this chamber because it puts into statute form what, up to this time, has been accomplished by administrative action.
– As the Assistant Minister in charge of the bill is aware, the Opposition is entirely opposed to the Transport “Workers Act as a whole. I am pleased that it is now sought to ameliorate tinpresent position by allowing the term of suspension of a licence to be reduced to one month. We do not oppose that proposal because wc believe that it is a step in the right direction, but we are opposed definitely to the whole system of licensing waterside workers. I emphasize that we shall vigorously oppose any increase of the number of ports to which licensing applies, although I accept the assurance of the Assistant Minister that the ports mentioned in the bill are exactly the same as those to which the act has been already applied by proclamation. I have no other comment to make, except that the Opposition regards the bill as the the Government’s responsibility, but if, at the next election, the electors give us the opportunity to do so, we shall remove the Transport Workers Act from the statute-book.
– in reply - In order that there shall be no misapprehension on the part of the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Collings), I repeat that the Government has no present intention of increasing the number of ports to which this act applies, but at the same time, I do not deny that the power is retained by which they could be increased.
– I understand that, but I have warned the Government that we shall oppose any increase.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill lead a second time and reported from committee without amendment or debate; report adopted.
Debate resumed from the 23rd June, (vide page 240), on motion by Senator Sir George Pearce -
That the tit 1 1 lie now read a second time.
– As the representative of the Opposition in this chamber, I intend to oppose this bill vigorously.
– Under instructions ?
– I do not know whether the honorable senator receives instructions concerning the attitude which ho is to adopt on the measures that come before this chamber, but as the members of the Labour party always faithfully adhere to that party’s policy there is no need for them to receive instructions. It may be well for honorable senators to review the history of the Inter-State Commission before coining to a decision on this measure. I realize that any reasons which we may give why this bill should not be passed will be wasted upon honorable senators opposite, who doubtless have already received instructions and must vote accordingly. I shall, however, endeavour briefly to outline the history of the InterState Commission. The establishment of such a commission is provided for in sections 101-104 of the Commonwealth Constitution, and the Inter-State Commission Act of 1912 purported to give effect to those sections. In moving the second reading of the Inter-State Commission Bill in 1912, the then AttorneyGeneral (Mr. Hughes) said -
It lias to bc noted that the Inter-State Commission will not be merely a commission of inquiry. It will possess, as I have already pointed out, powers of administration and of adjudication. It will be a Court of Record. It may make orders and enforce them in exactly the same way as any other Court. It will lie subject, of course, to’ the limitations imposed on its jurisdiction and powers by the Constitution and in matters of law by the right of appeal to the High Court, but” upon matters of fact within its jurisdiction its decisions will he final.
According to the wording of the 1912 act,’ particularly part II., Mr. Hughes’s words were justified. It was under part II. that eventually the activities of the commission were upset. Section 5 (2) provided -
Every appointment to the commission shall be for seven years.
That is the period provided in this measure. Unfortunately for those sponsoring this bill, section 72 of the Constitution reads -
The Justices of the High Court and of the other Courts created by the. Parliament -
Shall be appointed by the GovernorGeneral in Council;
Shall not be removed except by the Governor-General in Council on an address from both Houses of the Parliament in the same session, praying for such removal on the ground of proved misbehaviour or incapacity ;
Shall receive such remuneration as the Parliament may fix but the remuneration shall not be diminished during their continuance in office.
The members of the commission appointed in 1912 fulfilled all those conditions except that they were appointed for seven years, and not as provided for in section 72 of the Constitution. The High Court held in 1915, in the case New South Wales v. the Commonwealth, C.L.R. 54, that as section 103 of the Constitution provides that members of the Inter-State Commission shall hold office for seven years, the Constitution does not authorize the Parliament of the Commonwealth to constitute the Inter-State Commission a court, and that the commission could not issue an injunction. In consequence of that decision the 1912 act became to a great extent inoperative and so did the commission, because the only powers it retained were those of investigation. Mr. Hughes’ words, in relation to the 1912 legislation, have therefore been rendered meaningless by that decision of the High Court, and all that has happened since. It is interesting, therefore, to compare the present bill with the former bill, and also Mr. Hughes’ words, some of which I have quoted, with Senator Pearce’s words last night. The sections of the 1912 act, which conferred judicial powers on the commission, and were proved invalid, have disappeared, and only an anaemic set of provisions on the subject of investigation remains. The commission’s sole function - it is not a power - is that of investigating and reporting. I commend that to the notice of the Senate. As explained by the capable Minister who explained the bill last night, it may appear an attractive proposition; if honorable senators are not critical in their approach to the bill,’ they may easily be carried away by the eloquence and special pleading of the Minister whose job is to get the measure accepted. I repeat that the commission’s sole power is that of recommendation; it can only investigate and report. It may, or may not, make a recommendation, and there is no suggestion that if a recommendation is made there will be any necessity for the Government to act upon it. Compare Mr. Hughes’ introductory words with those of the right honorable senator who submitted the bill last night. Mr. Hughes concentrated his remarks on the powers of the commission as a judicial and administrative body, not forgetting that a function of the commission was to arbitrate in disputes. His hopes, of course, were soon dissipated by the High Court. Senator Pearce, on the other hand, confined his remarks to the investigatory powers of the commission. “ Powers “ is a word, which, I have indicated, should not apply to any commission, board or advisory council set up merely to investigate. With all respect to the Leader of the Senate (Senator Pearce) I say that some singular feats of reasoning were performed by him in his remarks in introducing this bill when he said -
I desire to refer once again to the provision relating to the initiation of inquiries on the complaint of any State.
We know why that was done. Innocent members of the Opposition do occasionally wake up to things. We realize why that special appeal was made to the representatives sent to this chamber from the different States. Senator Pearce continued -
In this right of initiation the States are to be given a very real power to bring before the public notice any anomalies, preferences, , or discriminations alleged to exist in relation to interstate commerce.
We all know that that is a serious bone of contention at the moment. We have had a referendum on the matter. The Government now wonders what it is going to do to get out of its difficulties - difficulties which I contend should not “have arisen, and which a government ready to take its courage into both hands would readily surmount. It is ridiculous to say that these problems of legislation and administration cannot be got over if the Government is prepared to adopt a courageous course in relation to them. Senator Pearce continued -
It is real in the sense that any State which feels that it is being unfairly affected by Commonwealth legislation as to trade will have a statutory right to bring its complaint before an independent body empowered to investigate the complaint and report the result of the inquiry to the Governor-General.
I am opposed to this continued delegation of powers and functions which should be exercised by the Government to commissions, boards, advisory councils, and other bodies. I believe that the time has arrived when there should be far less paraphernalia of government than there is to-day. I believe that the people are prepared to scrap the State parliaments and, if asked sanely, give full power to the Commonwealth Parliament when they feel that they have a government that they can trust.
– The honorable senator is optimistic.
– I prefer to be an optimist rather than a pessimist like the honorable senator. I have heard that a pessimist sees difficulties in every opportunity. I claim to see opportunity in every difficulty. I am doing so in this debate. I believe that the day has arrived when Commonwealth Ministers should accept the responsibilities of their office and return to the taxpayers of the country value equivalent to the salaries’ theyreceive. I interpose that the salaries are not high enough if Ministers accept their responsibilities and do the job they are supposed to do without putting the nation to the needless expense of this ever growing number of commissions. There is no reason, except indolence or ignorance, why a Minister should not do the job that devolves upon him in the department he undertakes to administer. He does not need to call on commissions, boards and advisory councils, or get people from overseas to make reports and who are amenable to the Government’s will or prepared to recommend delays. Ministers have expert advice at their hands, and they should use it. There are enough intelligent young men in Australia - public servants and others - to supply them with advice and information on any point.
SenatorBrennan. - Did the honorable senator say that in 1901 ?
– In 1901, I was a fervent supporter of federation. In my support of that cause, I went as far as” my limited opportunities allowed me. Indeed, I had to make sacrifices in doing so. I was only a wage-earner and, owing to the succession of Tory governments that had held sway in Queensland, that wage was very low. I believed in federation because its exponents promised one flag, one nation, one destiny, one parliament. Later I realized that they had sold to us a “ gold brick “, for they had given us merely another parliament. If, in my youthful enthusiasm for federation, I overlooked some things which should not have been overlooked, I plead that I was not at that time a member of Parliament, but only a wage-earner, earning little and working long hours.
In a previous debate this session, I alluded to the fact that accommodation for members in this building was becoming more limited owing to the encroachments of the personnel of various departments which should be accommodated in the secretariat buildings. I emphasize my complaint now and I suggest that the President and Speaker, who supervise the domestic arrangements for the convenience of members, should at once advertise for a number of capable carpenters to carry out some necessary alterations in this building. I know that it will be necessary to pay those artisans a bonus in addition to their ordinary wages because they would not be able to live here. They would have to go to Queanbeyan, simply because of the failure of the Canberra authorities to provide sufficient housing for the people. The business of these carpenters, I suggest, would be to construct innumerable pigeon holes in which the recommendations or reports of the many investigatory bodies and commissions already existing or to be created might be placed, because I am quite certain that the Government will give no guarantee of its intention to take any notice of those reports.
The history of interstate trade and commerce shows clearly that instead of appointing a commission to give the people an opportunity to ventilate grievances, the Commonwealth Government should have a definite domestic policy which would put an end to such complaints or disputes. Even the Canberra Times, which certainly has riot Labour sympathies - usually it supports this Government - asserts that all that is required to ensure the free flow of interstate commerce i3 not another expensive commission to inquire into problems which may arise, but a government with the necessary courage to do its job. For once I agree with the Canberra Times. Of what use is it to tell people that they will have an opportunity to ventilate their grievances before this proposed commission? It will not be vested with power to do anything worth while, and certainly it will not have authority to remove any cause for complaint in connexion with interstate trade. The only authority with power to rectify grievances is the National Parliament. Therefore, in all seriousness, I ask honorable senators of what use is it to appoint a body with power only to investigate and report to one of the parties to a dispute, namely, the Commonwealth Parliament through the GovernorGeneral?
Another statement made by the Leader of the Senate last night is worthy of more than passing notice. The right honorable gentleman said - ‘
The States, secure in the knowledge that their grievances will be entrusted to a body in which they can repose their trust, will bo in a position to proceed to carry out their policies for the betterment of the peoples within their respective jurisdictions, and to co-operate more contentedly in the great work which the Australian people set themselves to do when they federated in 1900.
– Very true.
– I doubt that Senator McLeay has read the speech delivered by the Leader of the Senate; if he has, he has probably forgotten the paragraph to which I have directed attention. It certainly means nothing to me. There is no reason at all why we should succumb to the tyranny of words, or that we should swallow euphonious phrasessimply because they have been uttered by the leader in this chamber. What is there in the constitution of the commission that will especially command the respect of the States? What is there in the bill, from the first word to the last, that can honestly be said to command respect? The entire measure is distasteful and nauseating to anybody who takes an intelligent interest in the proposal. This expensive commission, we are told, will have investigatory powers.
– What power would the honorable gentleman give to it?
– I am opposed to its appointment. I thought I had already indicated my attitude to the measure, and that even Senator Arkins would be able to understand reasonably plain English. Are we expected to believe that simply because the appointments will be made by the Commonwealth Government, the commission will be attractive to the States? That, at all events, is not the impression which I gained during the referendum campaign, and later, in the Gwydir by-election. Wherever I travelled, the people said to me, in effect, “ If you ask us to give that power to a Labour ‘Government, very well; but we will never give it to this Government “.
– That was not the view of the electors in the Darling Downs division.
– The honorable senator may know something about public opinion in his own State. It is obvious that he is ignorant of conditions in Queensland, because the Darling Downs seat was not held by a representative of the Labour party. Its last representative was the late Sir Littleton Groom, one of the best men who ever; sat in this Parliament, and prior to his election it was represented by his father.
– Darling Downs was never a Labour seat.
– My colleague is right. In returning a Country party representative, the electors of that division were merely true to their former allegiance.
But let me return to the bill. I have already shown that the provision relating to appointments to the commission by the Commonwealth Government is not likely to command the respect of the States. I now ask whether the provisions that the commission will be appointed for a limited term, and with limited powers, are likely ‘ to persuade the .States that they will receive anything of value at the hands of that body. Are these conditions likely to appeal to intelligent people in the States? If the commission is to be of any value, why i3 its life to be limited to seven years, and why is its authority to he restricted? Of course I shall be told that the wider powers given to the InterState Commission appointed in 1912 were over-ridden by decisions of the High Court. It appears, from the speech of the Leader of the Senate last night, that the only way in which the commission could supplement the work of the High Court would be in connexion with legislation which, while it might not infringe the provisions of the Constitution, might place one State at a disadvantage in relation to another. Let that sink in. If that were one of its functions, the work of the commission would only further confuse an already worried business community. Anybody without a biased mind who considers the bill will agree that; under the Government’s proposal, the business of the commission will be to tell the Commonwealth Parliament how to do its job. I object to that. We, the members of this House of the Parliament, are here for that purpose. I know of the provision in the Constitution to appoint an Inter-State Commission; I know also that the High Court ruled that some of the powers entrusted to the original commission were an infringement of the Constitution. In so many words the High Court said : “ Gentlemen of the Commonwealth Government, you do not know your own job. You set up an Inter-State Commission vested with powers quite outside the Constitution “. As a result of that ruling we have been without an Inter-State Commission for many years, and it is indecent for this Government now to introduce legislation to appoint a new commission just prior to the dissolution of this Parliament. Of course the Government may be returned to power. I am not making any forecast about the result of the next ejection; but I consider that the Government would have acted more wisely if it had not introduced the bill at this stage. It has already been criticized from one end of the continent to the other. People are saying that the bill is merely a subterfuge; that the real intention is to provide a refuge for certain politicians.
– That is not so.
– It is all very well for Senator Arkins to voice his dissent. If he does not know what people are thinking about the” bill, it is because he has not placed himself in. contact with public opinion. Everywhere, I am being asked who will be appointed to the commission, and every one knows that the names of two gentlemen are being canvassed as likely to secure appointment to two of the three positions to be created.
– The chairman need not necessarily be a legal man !
– Just so, but I do not wish to elaborate the point. The Senate is supposed to be a States House. Is there any need to set up a commission of this kind? Cannot we in this chamber be trusted to do justice as between the States? In the event of difficulties arising between one State and another, or between the States and the Commonwealth, a government possessing courage and ability would introduce legislation to meet the situation. After the InterState Commission was shorn of its judicial powers by the decision of the High Court it acted for a while as a kind of standing royal commission, and carried out a number of investigations. Its influence, however, was practically negligible. The work performed by it consisted of one investigation in 1913-14; the hearing of the Wheat case in 1915, an appeal from which led to the decision of the High Court, which robbed the commission of its judicial powers; an inquiry in the South Pacific in 1916; another inquiry in 1917; and several minor investigations. I do not say that those investigations were of no value, but I do say that the work could have been done as effectively by a Minister sitting in his room and pressing a button - to call to his side departmental experts, with a view to deciding upon a policyto meet the situations as they arose. As
Leader of the Opposition in this chamber, I do not regard it as my duty to speak merely for the sake of opposing the Government. Recently, Senator Hardy twitted me with having allowed certain measures to pass last session without debate. He interpreted my silence as being due to indolence. It was nothing of the kind. Either I approved of the measures, or regarded them as so hopeless that a discussion of them would have been a “waste of time. I am strongly opposed to the ‘reconstitution of the Inter-State Commission, as is also every other member of the Labour party, both in this chamber and in the House of Representatives. The Inter-State Commission probably did some good work in connexion with tariffs, but not long afterwards the Government of. the day set up another similar body, when it constituted the Tariff Boa.rd. I do not want to say anything that has any semblance of impropriety about it, but I say ‘definitely that during the last months of the regime of the .Bruce-Page Government, commission after commission was established, and numbers of disgruntled members of this Parliament were appointed to them. The creation by the Government of royal commissions and other bodies with nothing but investigatory or advisory powers, whose members roamed around the continent and drew elaborate fees, amounted to a public scandal.
– “Will the honorable senator mention a few of the names of the members of Parliament so appointed ?
– The honorable senator who has interjected should he sufficiently acquainted with the facts to know the names; but, if he desires it, I shall place on the notice-paper a question asking for the number of commissions appointed by the Bruce-Page Government, and the names of the persons appointed thereto.
– The honorable senator said that numbers of disgruntled politicians were appointed to such bodies.
– That is so. From time to time new bodies were created, and supporters of the then Government who were getting obstreperous were given jobs on them.
– Several Labour members received appointments.
– The honorable senator’s interjection does not trouble me. The appointment of so many commissi Dns was wrong. The Bruce-Page Government should have done the job; it is the duty of the government in power to accept responsibility. If its members have not the technical- ability required in some cases, they can call to their aid expert advice.
– According to the honorable senator’s reasoning, a politician is disqualified for ever from appointment to a royal commission.
– If I had my wa3T, I would warn certain politicians off the course for ever. One valuable permanent result of the creation of the InterState Commission was the establishment of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, which took the place of the temporary Bureau of Science and Industry. The Council for Scientific and Industrial Research is the outcome of a report by the Inter-State Commission in 1916 in relation to new industries. . The existence of such a body is most desirable, but there was no reason, why Ministers of the Crown themselves should not have seen the need for it. Looking around’ this chamber, I can see at least half a dozen men who at that time were capable of realizing the need for a scientific body like the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research. All that the proposed commission is likely to do can be done as well by Ministers in collaboration with experts. I believe that the framers of the Constitution, and the Government which appointed the Inter-State Commission, were actuated by the best of motives. The commission had wide powers or, at least, it was thought to . possess them; its members were men of ability and experience; yet, despite some inquiry work which might be of value to economic historians, it did little. Even economic historians could have obtained similar information in other ways. With the exception of a few lawyers and others who have taken a special interest in constitutional matters, I doubt whether the people of Australia remember that there ever was an Inter-State Commission.
– Did not the honorable senator vote for the appointment of an Inter-State Commission? . .
– I battled for the Constitution. “ Like many others, Senator McLeay believes “that a constitution prepared 40 years ago must not be criticized, much less altered, nothwithstanding that during those 40 years problems have arisen which could not have been foreseen by the framers of the Constitution.
– If there was need for an Inter-State Commission then, the need must be greater to-day.
– After the commission had been shorn of its judicial powers it had nothing to justify its continuance, and the attempt of the Government to revive it by means of artificial respiration is an insult to this chamber and to the people of Australia.
– Did the framers of the Constitution intend that the InterState Commission should have judicial powers ?
– I know as little of the intentions of the framers of the Constitution as I do of any subject discussed by the honorable senator, when he has concluded his speech. Last night the Leader of the Senate referred to the powers of the commission. Why did he use the plural “ powers “ ? The commission, if appointed, will have only one power - that of inquiry, investigation and report. Those are merely duties. Its only power will be to clutter pigeon holes. Three years ago the Prime Minister said that the Government realized the necessity for an Inter-State Commission as a working part of the Constitution, and, accordingly, proposed to reconstitute the commission. He also said that the Government would consider later whether there was any necessity for an amendment of the Constitution to enable the commission to function effectively. For three years the Government did nothing, but now, in a moribund Parliament, a government that is discredited, according to all the latest evidence, proposes to reconstitute this body. I suggest that that is scarcely a decent thing to do. The Prime Minister would have acted more honorably had he said that, although it was the intention of the Government in 1934 to reconstitute the Inter-State Commission, it had not been able to do so because of pressure of other business, and that now, with the dissolution of Parliament not many weeks off, it preferred not to do anything in the matter, but to leave it to the new government.
– If a change of government occurs, the commission will not bc appointed.
– I think that the Leader of the Senate was never more eloquent than when making his secondreading speech on this bill last night. When I read his speech in cold print this morning it seemed even more ornate and convincing than it did when I listened to it. T was particularly impressed with his concluding remarks. The honorable senator said -
T.he ‘proposed commission would necessarily require the services of an expert staff to obtain and collate information under the direction of the commission.
The Government is not doing the job; the first Inter-State Commission apparently did not possess the power it was thought to have; it is proposed, therefore, to set up a new commission, but as this commission will have only investigatory powers we know it will not be able to do the job either. So we shall be obliged to build up an expert staff to obtain and collate information under the direction of the commission. In other words, the expert staff will tell the commission what is its job and how to do it. If an expert staff is appointed to obtain and collate information under the direction of the commission, it will, so it appears to me, have to teach the commission its job. Or is it intended, perhaps, that the commission shall teach these expert public servants their job? Honorable senators are very well aware of the actual position. They can easily visualize the appointment of the three members of this commission, and they know that these men will be well paid for their work. Senator Pearce also stated that this expert staff will be recruited from the Public Service. I can imagine many young bright men in the Public Service, on hearing that information, sitting up and saying to themselves, “ Here is another avenue of promotion ; we shall not have to wait until someone dies before we can move up.” The honorable senator also said that “ at the present time skilled assistants are made available to royal commissions.” As. undoubtedly, these royal commissions cannot do their job without help from skilled assistants, they are not needed; on the other hand, however, we need the skilled assistants. The honorable senator’s statement continued, “ These are largely drawn from the Public Service, and upon the completion of a royal commission return to their respective departments.” Thus, after building up the hopes of bright young public servants with the prospect of higher classifications, the Government admits that, when the job is over, they will have to return to their respective departments. I was considerably interested in this statement until I noticed that there was that string to it.
– I said that it was the general practice in relation to royal commissions for these men to return to their departments; but I pointed out that the officers appointed to the service of the Inter-State Commission will remain with that body. The honorable senator has misunderstood me.
– I admit that the right honorable senator’s speech at a later stage contains further remarks on this subject, but the paragraph with which I am now dealing reads as follows : -
These assistants arc largely drawn from the Commonwealth Public Service, and upon the completion of the work of a royal commission return to their respective departments.
– But the honorable senator is now dealing with the Inter-State Commission. I did not say that the experts to be appointed to assist that commission will return to their respective departments.
– If I have misunderstood the position my condemnation is all. the more justified. Are we to continue building up elaborate staffs to do ibis job? The Government should do it, but, instead, proposes to refer it to the Inter-State Commission, knowing that that body cannot do the job without the assistance of expert public servants. I do not usually throw bouquets at the Minister, but I feel sure that Senator Pearce, for instance, could do this job with the assistance of his expert public servants. The Government prefers to follow a sys tem whereby it merely increases the evergrowing expense of government under which this country is labouring to-day. I still hold the view that one national parliament should have full power to govern this country completely, delegating certain powers to advisory councils, or whatever such bodies may be called, thus centralizing the work of law-making at Canberra, and de-centralizing the work of administration over the whole of the States. That is the trend of public thought on this matter to-day, and every honorable senator should aim at achieving that goal. Instead of attempting to do that, however, we are complicating our forms of government, and increasing costs, by setting up all kinds of boards and commissions, to all of which I am totally opposed, because, as I have already said, the Government itself ought to be able to do its job.
– I agree with my leader that at this juncture, particularly, it is wrong for the Government to bring in this measure, because legislation of this nature was promised several years ago, and it is only now, on the eve of the dissolution of this Parliament, that it has seen fit to attempt to fulfil its promise. Furthermore, if we can rely upon current rumours, one or two members of this Government are to be appointed to lucrative positions as members of the proposed commission. Frankly, I do not object to the appointment of a parliamentarian to any position which he is capable of filling. It seems to me, however, to be indecent on the part of the Government to make this proposal in the dying hours of the Parliament. If it had brought this measure forward early in its term of office, possibly our attitude might have been modified.
Some time ago, I saw a film entitled Mr. Deeds Goes to Town, which was claimed to be one of the finest productions in recent years. That picture contained a scene of proceedings in a court in which an alienist gave evidence; after he had testified regarding the crankiness of people of certain types, the .defendant went into the box and called attention to the mental aberrations and nervous habits of many other kinds of people. For instance, he described as “ 0 fillers “ certain people in the court, who, while listening to the evidence, occupied their time by filling in the “ O’s “ in printed matter before them. And the alienist happened to be one of those people ! Sometimes 1 believe that members of this Government suffer from mental aberrations, and although they may not be aptly, described as “Ofillers”, they certainly are “pigeon-hole fillers”. One of our complaints against this Government is that it is a filler - of pigeon-holes, and the proposed commission will probably give it further opportunities to indulge its proclivities in that direction. One of the blots on modern democratic systems is the readiness with which parliaments delegate their duties to boards and commissions, aided by well-paid officials. If any very great advantage accrued from the work of royal commissions we could not oppose their appointment, but it i3 common knowledge throughout Australia that this Government and its predecessor has expended about £100,000 on royal commissions, although most of the work accomplished by them has been disregarded and their reports have been pigeonholed. It is admitted that most of the reports of the previous Inter-State Commission were pigeon-holed. My Leader has referred to one suggestion of the Inter-State Commission which resulted in the formation of a valuable body, and. in that respect I endorse his remarks in regard to the establishment of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research. A writer of an article which appeared in a recent issue of the Australian Quarterly Review, mentioned that many of the reports of royal commissions were used merely to fill up the volumes of parliamentary papers. Dealing particularly with the work of the Inter-State Commission on the tariff, he said that undoubtedly it conducted an intense investigation of tariff matters, and added, “ Those investigations comprise two enormous volumes of parliamentary papers, including masses of statistics and reports of evidence “. Most of these, of course, have been pigeon-holed, and only a few historians ever see them. Possibly there would be less objection to the re-constitution of the Inter-State Com mission if the Government were to declare that no other royal commissions would be appointed, but that all work of a nature previously referred to royal commissions would be done by the Inter-State Commission. However, we are not sure that, if the Government should, by some chance, be returned to office at the nexelection, the appointment of royal commissions will cease, and a stop will be put to the increasing cost of such investigations and the wasted effort they represent. Within seven years the salaries of members of the Inter-State Commission will amount to £45,000, in addition to considerable contingent expenditure. We know that, as soon as a commission is set up, its members require assistants and must travel from one end of the country to the other. It is questionable whether these commissions ever achieve anything to justify the money expended on them. It has been said that under section 101 of the Constitution, the appointment of an Inter-State Commission is mandatory, but I believe that thirteen years elapsed after the inception of federation before such a body was appointed. The Inter-State Commission which functioned until 1920 or 1921 was thought to enjoy extensive powers, but in the wheat case New South Wales v. The Commonwealth the High Court ruled that the commission, by virtue of its limited tenure under section 103, could not be a court and could not exercise judicial powers. According to an interesting article which appeared in the Australian Quarterly, the powers vested in the Inter-State Commission were so extensive that it could hear and determine complaints, award damages, inflict heavy fines for disobedience of its orders, and even commit persons to prison for failure to pay. It could also compel witnesses to attend, and be examined on oath. The Government now contends that, in view of section 101 of the Constitution, the InterState Commission should be reconstituted, and the bill sets out fully the scope of the work which the commission is to undertake. If the people really thought that ‘the appointment of such a commission would be of advantage to the Com-, monwealth, there would not be strong opposition to its reconstitution; but many of the subjects which would be referred to the commission for investigation and ‘ report have already been fully investigated by other commissions, and their reports are at the disposal of the Government. Instead of creating additional investigating authorities, definite action is required. For instance, the Government is well aware of the difficulties being experienced by the less populous States, and all that is needed is immediate financial relief to enable the governments of those States to function satisfactorily. A democracy should be as ‘active as a dictatorship. While we have bourgeois governments we shall always have inquiries by commissions.
– ‘What does the honorable senator mean by that?
– If the honorable senator will refer to the Oxford Dictionary, he will see what bourgeois means. There is a difference between a bourgeois democracy and a proletarian democracy. For the edification of Senator Leckie, I may say that when I speak of proletarian democracy, I am referring to the type of democracy which, owing allegiance to the people, solves problems by action rather than by investigation.
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. P. J. Lynch). - The honorable senator must confine his remarks to the bill.
– I was merely showing that we should have a clear understanding of the word “ democracy “ before we vote on the second reading of this bill. If the Government perused reports of commissions which have already inquired into various problems, it would find that there is no need for the appointment of an Inter-State Commission. Section 101 of the Constitution provides -
There shall be 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.
Clause 21 of the bill reads: -
It shall not be lawful for any State, or for any State railway authority, to give or make upon any railway the property of the State, in respect of interstate commerce, or so as to affect such commerce, any preference or discrimination which the commission adjudges undue and unreasonable or unjust to any State.
The Minister should study that clause in conjunction with clause 22. If a State government, objecting to a decision of the commisison based on clause 21, took the case to the High Court, its judgment would be similar to that given in the case New South Wales v. The Commonwealth.
– In the Wheat case, the commission had adjudicated ; under this bill, it can only ascertain the facts.
– If a State authority decides to impose certain freight charges on its railways, the commission will have power to decide whether such charges- are lawful.
– The court will decide whether they are lawful. The commission will have power to determine whether there has been any undue or unreasonable preference or discrimination. If it answers in the affirmative, the court would then have to deal with the matter.
– That point is covered by section 102 of the Constitution.
– There is nothing to that effect in the bill. The Government is setting up a commission with power to override the decisions of a State government.
– The commission will not decide whether any act is - unlawful. It will decide only whether there has been any preference or discrimination, which is undue and unreasonable or unjust. The action to restrain a State would have to be taken before the High Court.
– The word “lawful “ is used in clause 21.
– That word must be read with its context.
– I still contend that the commission will have the power to say whether the act of the State Government is lawful or unlawful.
– The commission will not decide whether an act is unlawful. ‘
– The commission will have the power to determine whether the act of a State is undue and unreasonable. If the commission were to determine that the rates charged on, say, the
Queensland railways were unreasonable and unjust, the Queensland Government would be charged with acting unlawfully. The matter may later be referred to the High Court, which would give a decision similar to that given in the Wheat case. The view of the Opposition is expressed in the minority report of the Royal Commission on the Constitution, which was signed by Messrs. T. R. Ashworth, M. B. Duffy, and D. L. McNamara. Instead of setting up commissions, the Government should act on the recommendation contained in the following paragraph of that report: -
Despite some surface indications to the contrary, we believe that the Australian people are in a specially favorable position to achieve a consistent national outlook. We are nearly all of one race; approximately 98 per cent, of our people are British; the great need is a constitution which will tend to still further develop national ideals. The Constitution of 1900 was a big stop in the right direction. We record our conviction that the time has arrived for placing full power and responsibility in the national Parliament as the means of achieving social unity.
As a step towards unification the rail- ways, for instance, could he put under the full control of the Commonwealth. It would be advisable for the Ministry to withdraw the bill. If it should happen still to be in power after the election, it could then re-introduce this legislation.
Senator ALLAN MacDONAlD (Western Australia) [4.53]. - I regret the Labour party’s opposition to this bill. It is a measure for which we have waited many years, and its enactment will tend to dissipate the feeling of some of the smaller States that they have suffered ill-treatment as a result of Commonwealth legislation and policy. Although I deplore the attitude of the Opposition, I am not astonished, since it is in keeping with its policy of aggrandizement of the larger States, to the detriment of ths smaller. Nothing is to be gained by traversing the ancient history contained in the musty tomes of the previous InterState Commission. This bill has been framed to meet present needs, the greatest of which, I contend, is the amelioration of the position of the financially weaker States. We have to face the position as it exists to-day, and that, is where the Opposition lamentably fails to help the smaller States. The feeling in Western
Australia is that some competent body, able to hear and determine evidence regarding its position under the federation, is needed. W e want a permanent body of men, who, in time, will become experts in their job, and do it thoroughly. We shall then find that the union of the Commonwealth is a union in spirit as well as in law, but until a permanent body, adjudicating on the disabilities of the lesser States is appointed, we shall continue to hear rumblings of discontent and agitations for secession. Even at this late hour, I appeal to the Labour party to try to visualize something better and greater than is indicated by its opposition to the bill. We in Western Australia particularly, want to have examined every means by which we may be assured of the proper consideration which our case warrants. It stands to reason that, while the Commonwealth Grants Commission is functioning as a temporary tribunal, the smaller States will continue to feel justifiably that their financial position in the union is irksome. I think that the term of seven years, which the bill stipulates as the period for which members of the Inter-State Commission shall hold office, is too short.
– That period is prescribed in the Constitution.
Senator ALLAN MacDONALD Members of that commission will, in fact, be judges and their position should be as inviolable as that of any other judges in the Australian courts.
– The bill does not give the commission any judicial functions.
Senator ALLAN MacDONALD.Members of the commission will adjudicate on matters as important as any matters upon which the courts of law adjudicate. Accordingly, the very ablest men available should be tempted to take up appointments on the commission, and this cannot be accomplished unless the tenure of office be of a much more permanent nature than is provided for in the bill.
There are a few features of the measure in regard to which I desire enlightenment. I should like the Minister, in his reply, to elucidate clauses 21 and 22 -
The clause contemplates a state railway authority imposing very cheap freightrates on goods needed for developmental purposes, but my main concern in that matter is the freights charged on the East-West Railway. The residents of Western Australia have for a long period been annoyed at the fact that the Commonwealth Railways Commissioner imposes on goods carried on that line from Adelaide to Kalgoorlie freights much cheaper than are charged by the Western Australia Railways on goods carried on the State section from Perth to Kalgoorlie. It is possible that the I nter-State Commission may consider that this cheaper freight is necessary for development at the South Australian end of the railway, but does this clause compel the commission to exclude any argument or evidence on behalf of Western Australia that the Commonwealth freight rates on goods which will be in competition with goods manufactured within the State should be increased? Western Australian merchants have long suffered disability through the Commonwealth Railways charging lower rates on goods carried between Adelaide and Kalgoorlie.
I compliment the Government on its having included clause 23, which reads : -
– (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 -
I welcome the insertion of paragraph e because the Chambers of Commerce and the Chambers of Manufactures have given a great deal of thought, time and study to the commercial aspects of interstate relationships. Most of the agitation in Western Australia for the appointment of this commission has come from those recognized authorities, and for many years they have brought to light anomalies which I hope will be corrected by the commission. I commend the bill to the Senate and also commend the Government for having introduced it. It should not be deferred until after the general election; it is an urgent measure and should be passed and put into operation without delay.
– I intend to support the bill, but I should like a further explanation of clause 19. which reads: -
That provision in the bill states that the Governor-General “ may “ cause the report to be brought before Parliament. These reports may relate to investigations carried out by the commission with respect to anomalies, preferences or discriminations in connexion with InterState commerce, alleged contraventions of the Constitution, or applications by a State for a grant of financial assistance. Such reports should automatically come before the Parliament for discussion and decision. The word “ shall “ should be substituted for the word “may” in the first line of sub-clause 1, otherwise a government which regarded a report or recommendation unfavorably, might with- hold it and decline to give Parliament an opportunity to consider it.
– There is the same phraseology in the Commonwealth Grants Commission Act.
– That does not remove my objection to clause 19 in its present form.
– There is a very good reason for the language employed in that provision.
– If that be so, I shall be glad to hear the Leader of the Senate on that point. As to the personnel of the commission I should have preferred a provision that the chairman of the commission should have been a Justice of the High Court or a Judge of the Supreme Court of a State, instead of the requirement that “ one member “ should have had judicial experience. It is most desirable that the chairman should be a man possessing sound judicial knowledge and capable of conducting the proceedings of the commission in the proper manner. I do not know why clause 6, which deals with this matter, was inserted in its present form. I disagree with Senator Allan MacDonald with reference to the tenure of the proposed commission. Appointment for seven years is, I think, quite long enough, but that is the term prescribed by the Constitution. An appointee who was 60 years old at the date of appointment, would be 67 years of age at the end of his term. There should be some time limit governing appointments, otherwise an appointee may be well over 60 years of age at the date of appointment, and although he may be in complete physical and mental health at that time, seven years later he may not be fit physically or mentally to discharge his duties.
– Such a personcould resign if he were in ill health.
– My experience is that if a man holds a lucrative position, he is reluctant to resign!
– He may be removed.
– Only for proved misbehaviour or incapacity, and incapacity, as the Leader of the Senate well knows, is difficult to prove. We have had experience of one gentleman who should have been removed from a Commonwealth board many years before he retired. Eventually he was forced to resign, on account of ill health.
Motion (by Senator E. B. Johnston) put -
That the debate be now adjourned.
The Senate divided. (The President - Senator the Hon. P. J. Lynch.)
Majority . . 13
– The proposal to reconstitute the Inter-State Commission is illtimed. An Inter-State Commission was appointed in 1912, but, apparently, it was a failure, and we have been for so long without it, that many honorable senators have almost forgotten that such a body had existed and they regard its valueas small. The bill to reconstitute the commission within a few months of an appeal to the electors appears to lend support to the current belief that some highly-placed persons are to benefit from its passage. The principal daily newspapers have made frequent references to the probable appointees. When one remembers that the chairman will get £2,500 a year for seven years, and the two other members of the commission £2,000 a year for the same period, one is inclined to think that there is substantial ground for current rumours, especially as the Government is anxious for the quick passage of the bill through a Parliament that is hastening to its dissolution. If the bill assured me of a lucrative appointment for a term of seven years, I could support it heartily. Such things have been done in the past. I have in mind a gentleman who was appointed to a position for which he had no qualifications; nevertheless, he was paid a handsome salary over a fixed term, and the total payments ran- into many thousands of pounds. Public opinion is against the appointment of boards and commission’s to do work which the Government should do. This bill proposes to continue a practice the evil effects of which were most evident during the regime of the Bruce-Page Government. By appointing commissions, governments can evade their duties, and, at the same time, distribute largess to their friends and those from whom favours have been, or are likely to be, received.
The commission is to consist of three members, and as their duties will be of a semi-judicial nature, a highly-qualified legal man should be selected as its chairman. Apparently, however, the way is to be kept open for some one else to * occupy that position.* There are rumours that a prominent politician, . or ex politician, will be selected for the important post of chairman; but prominence in politics is not necessarily a qualification for a position of this nature. Even on the High Court Bench the influence of politics is apparent. That men who have been prominent in politics occupy high judicial positions is one reason why British workers sometimes refuse to have anything to do with arbitration. They reason - not without justification - that a judge who is in receipt of a salary of £7,000 or even £10,000 a year, cannot do justice to men working for wages of from £2 to £4 a week.
The Opposition cannot prevent the passage of this measure, nor can it hope to secure substantial amendments. It can only make suggestions for its improvement. I therefore suggest that, if one member of the commission is to be a man holding views favorable to the Government, one of the other positions should be filled by a man who favours Labour.” That would make for better balance on the commission.
– Why should not a man belonging to the Country party be appointed?
– In Queensland, the State from which Senator Cooper comes) there is- no difference between the Country party and the United Australia party. The honorable senator himself entered Parliament as a representative of the Country Progressive Nationalist party. There are only two sides in politics in Australia - on the one . hand, the Labour party, and on the other hand, the parties opposed to Labour.
– The honorable senator is only surmising that political appointments will be made.
– If capitalistic and financial interests are to be represented on the commission, Labour also should have representation there. Clause 12, (1), provides -
For the conduct of business any two commissioners shall be a quorum and shall have . . all the powers of the commission.
That is a bad principle. With a commission of only three members, all of them should be present at meetings. I suggest that the bill be amended accordingly. Subclause 2 provides that at all meetings of the commission, the decision of the majority shall prevail. There is no majority in a meeting of two, unless, , of course, both members are in agreement. A third sub-clause recognizes this, and so provides that, should the two commissioners differ in opinion on any matter, the determination shall be postponed until all the commissioners are present. The bill should provide for a quorum of three commissioners. I object also to the delegation of power to one commissioner as provided for in Clause 13. It may be necessary to make such provision in respect of a large body, but not with a commission of three members.
Clause 3 repeals the Commonwealth Grants Commission Act 1933, which, on the coming into force of this legislation, will go out of existence
By Clause 23, the commission is empowered to commence an investigation of any alleged contravention of the provisions of Part III., either of its own motion or on the complaint of any of a number of authorities mentioned in the clause.
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. P. J. Lynch). - At this stage, the honor- able senator is not entitled to discuss the measure clause by clause. He must confine himself to the general principles of the bill. “
– I was proceeding to deal with the principle contained in Clause 23. That clause provides for action by the- commission in the event of complaints being made to it by a number of authorities which are named. They are: a, the Commonwealth; b, any State or any State railway authority; c, any borough, municipality or body politic ; d. any harbour board, marine board, or other State authority; or e, any such association of traders or freighters, or chamber of commerce, manufactures, or agriculture as is, in the opinion of the commission, a proper body to make the complaint. Honorable senators will observe that no provision is made for representations to be made to the commission by any organization of workers. If these other authorities . are to be empowered to bring complaints before the commission, surely the workers whose interests are affected should be able to do the same.
Finally, the Labour party objects to the reconstitution of the Inter-State Commission, because there is no obligation on the part of the Government to follow its recommendations. The Government will accept the commission’s recommendations when it suits its purposes so to do, and will hold the commission responsible; but otherwise the recommendations will be pigeon-holed. “We have seen how the present Government has treated reports of the Tariff Board. Recommendations favouring reductions of duties have been followed, but others have not been accepted by the Government. The appointment of an Inter-State Commission is not justified, and I shall oppose the bill.
– I wish that a bill of this nature had been brought before this chamber about eleven years ago, when I was first elected to the Senate. We in Tasmania were then clamouring for the reconstitution of the Inter-State Commission because we were having a bad time, due mainly, in the opinion of most Tasmanians, to the hardships imposed by federal policy. I recall that at some of the meetings held then, we said, in effect, “If only there were an Inter-State Commission before which we could put our case and have it thoroughly investigated!” At that time, strangely enough, Sir Nicholas Lockyer, one of the original members of the Inter-State Commission* was appointed by Mr. Bruce, the then Prime Minister, to come to Tasmania and investigate matters on behalf of the Commonwealth Government.
I have consistently maintained that section 101 of the Constitution, which is mandatory, should be put into effect; it says that there “ shall “ be an InterStateCommission. It is very interesting to recall what the Royal Commission on the Constitution had to say about the appointment of an Inter-State Commission, although, I admit, the statement which I shall quote in this respect, wascontained in a majority report; in fact,, at least two, or three, reports were presented in respect of some sections of the Constitution. I was amused to some extent by the remarks of the Leader of theOpposition. I do not know whether his ferocity is simulated - I think it is - but on this occasion he excelled himself; he was like a roaring lion, and made some of” us shiver. At one stage I was fairly knocking at the knees in fear of what might happen to this measure if the honorable senator had his way - and still may happen, if, unhappily, a Labour government is returned at the next election. I have always been of opinion that grants to States should not be made under. section 96 of the Constitution until recommended after thorough investigation by the InterState Commission - that is, when such a commission is in existence. What hasbeen the position since the lapse of theprevious Inter-.State Commission? Various inquiries have been held from timeto time into the affairs of claimant States ; some years ago a Royal Commis- sion was set up to investigate a claim on behalf of South Australia; whilst, in more recent years, the Commonwealth Grants Commission has dealt with thesematters. Because this measure will enable us to replace the Common-wealth Grants Commission, which is only a temporary, or transitory body, with a more permanent tribunal, I welcome it.-
Members of the Inter-State Commission are to be appointed for a period of seven years and, furthermore, it will be a semijudicial body. Incidentally, I had to smile at the suggestion that an age limit should be stipulated in respect of the appointees. I feel sure that our esteemed friend, the Leader of the Opposition, has passed the age indicated.
– That is so.
– I do not believe that the honorable senator could be in better health or more alert mentally than he is at the moment; in fact, I envy his vigor and I sincerely wish that when I approach his age I shall possess something like his measure of energy and cheerfulness.
Dealing with the appointment of an Inter-State Commission, the report of the Royal Commission on the Constitution stated, at page 2,49 -
We are also of opinion that there is scope for the work of an Inter-State Commission in carrying out tlie inquiries and investigations enumerated in the Inter-State Commission Act of 1!)I2, referred to on page 54 of this report, or such other inquiries and investigations as might be substituted or added, and in exercising thu powers of adjudication conferred by that act, which may bc validly conferred if sections 71 and 72 of the Constitution, relating to the tenure of judges of courts created by the Commonwealth Parliament, arc amended as we recommend.
We think that important duties may be carried out by siu Inter-State Commission in addition to those mentioned in the Constitution, and in the Act of 1012. In the section nf this report, dealing with the financial relations of the Commonwealth and the States (section xix. ). reference is made to the sums of money granted from time to time to the States of Western Australia and to Tasmania, and to the grant to South Australia recently recommended by a royal commission. These grants were recommended partly on the ground that the finances of a State had been adversely affected by federation and partly on the ground that the State was in financial difficulties. We think that a penna nun t body should be established which should continuously watch thu effect of federal laws and administrative machinery on the various States, and should bc in a position to advise, either with or without .a special inquiry, whenever applications for grants are made to the Commonwealth.
I emphasize that that commission recommended the appointment of a body of a permanent character which would be outside the sphere of political opportunism. I recall that not so very long ago, prior to an impending election in Tasmania, the suggestion was thrown out as a sort of bribe by members of a certain political party that Tasmanians would have better prospects of receiving a liberal grant if that particular party were elected to office. The appointment of an InterState Commission, which will bc charged with inquiring into the claims of Statesin a judicial manner, thoroughly sifting their pros and cons, and which by its very character, will be enabled to come to sober and well-considered judgments, will be all to the good. For this reason I support the measure.
– The members of such si commission will become experts in their work.
– Yes ; they will have the machinery at their disposal to enable . them to become experts, and all political parties will rest assured that they will be more likely to receive justice in this way than if the old haphazard method of setting up various committees of inquiry from time to time is continued. The report of the Royal Commission on the Constitution also stated -
The advantage of the establishment of such a body for these purposes would, we think, be twofold. There would be a tribunal in existence equipped with a knowledge of Australian conditions and of the working of the federation, and the claims of necessitous States would no longer afford an opening to thu benevolence or the opportunism of political parties.
I agree entirely with that view. Most of what has been said concerning the probable personnel of the proposed commission is claptrap; it is no more than supposition. Obviously, in the selection of the personnel of a body of this kind, the Government’s choice will rest on men possessing vast experience in the subjects which they will be called upon to consider, men who have an intimate knowledge of the working of federation within the last decade. Such men, undoubtedly, will weigh very carefully all of the evidence placed before them. As to the contention that this Government is delegating the powers of Parliament to another body and squibbing its job, or running away from its responsibility, the fact must be realized that in the final resort the Parliament itself will deal with this matter. Parliament, however, has not got the time, even if it possessed the ability, to carry out exhaustive investigations of this nature, and, therefore, it must be guided by reports placed before it by experts.
– Imagine Parliament sitting down to wrestle with the cases presented by the three claimant States!
– As Senator Col lings has remarked, the Senate is the States House; it is on the floor of this chamber that we should sift these matters. However, I tremble when I conjecture what might happen at times if the Senate were to deal in detail with the claims of the States. Our debates, undoubtedly, would become very warm. In such circumstances I feel sure that my five colleagues and myself would put up a good fight on behalf of Tasmania. The honorable senator’s suggestion, boiled down, would very likely result in undesirable bargaining between honorable senators representing the claimant States. Tasmania ns would certainly be eager to advance the claims ofthat at State and, likewise, honorable senators from South Australia, Western Australia, “and even Queensland, would not be backward in supporting the claims of their States. When a grant was wanted from the Commonwealth Government, honorable senators from a particular State would very likely approach honorable senators from other States with a proposition something like this, “ Look here, you give us a hand in this particular matter, and we shall reciprocate.” It would be a very bad business.
– We always support the claims of the weaker States.
– Honorable senators generally take a broad view of the claims of the weaker States, but a system of bargaining, leading to “ gentlemen’s agreements “ between the representatives of claimant States for mutual support, would not be in the interests of the Commonwealth. The InterState Commission will be able to examine carefully the claims of such States and in that way much good can be achieved. It is unfair and unjust to suggest that a government has not the capacity to govern, merely because it appoints an authority to hold, inquiries which cannot be conducted by Parliament. I commend the bill to the Senate.
– I intend to support the bill; but I protest strongly against the action of the Government in rushing the measure through before honorable senators have had an opportunity to compare its provisions with the Act of 1912. The Leader of the Senate (Senator Pearce) moved the second reading of this important bill only yesterday, and within 24 hours we are asked to express our considered opinion on it. Does the Leader of the Senate realize that for fifteen out of seventeen years he has been a member of governments which have refused to re-constitute the Inter-State Commission? Now the Senate is asked to deal withthe bill without having had time to consider it. The debate on this measure, which is bristling with legal intricacies and technicalities, should be adjourned until next week. On numerous occasions when I have asked whether the Government intended to. re-constitute the Inter-State Commission, I have met with rebuffs. At last a bill providing for a commission has been introduced, and an adjournment of the debate has been refused.
– Perhaps the Minister will agree to adjourn the debate at this stage.
– If he will I shall ask leave to continue.
– The honorable senator has had ample time to study the bill, and doubtless his speech on it has been prepared.
– I am anxious to compare the measure with previous legislation on the subject, and, having been fully occupied this morning, have had insufficient time to do so. As I am not in the fortunate position of Ministers and leaders of parties who have secretarial assistance, it is difficult to deliver a fully considered speech at such short notice. The Minister’s attitude to the Senate generally is unjust, but, ashe has the support of the majority, I suppose it is useless to complain.
Ever since I have been a member of the Senate I have consistently urged that the Inter-State Commission be re-constituted, but my repeated requestshave met with direct refusals. I congratulate the Government upon its changed attitude, and I am pleased to find that effect is being given to the promise made in the Prime Minister’s (Mr. Lyons) policy speech prior to the last general election. The intention of the framers of the Constitution is clear. Section 101 reads -
There shall he an Inter-State Commission . . .
Despite that mandatory provision there has not been an Inter-State Commission for seventeen years, and, consequently, the weaker States have been denied the protection they are entitled to expect under the Constitution. The section continues - 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.
– That is an answer to the honorable senator.
– Yes, but what has been done during the last seventeen years when various governments, including a Labour government, have been in office? Despite that mandatory provision, for 30 years out of 37 years the States have been without the assistance of such a body. I am glad that the position is being remedied, even belatedly, because, since 1920, the weaker States have been illegally deprived of the assistance of a tribunal which may be regarded as the oil necessary to lubricate the federal machinery.
– Has not the Commonwealth Grants Commission been working in the interests of the weaker States?
– I do not think much of that commission or of its personnel. I trust that the personnel of the Inter-State Commission will differ from the body mentioned by the honorable senator.
SenatorFoll. - Have its grants to Western Australia been inadequate?
– Yes, entirely, and I objected to the biased attitude adopted by its chairman before it commenced its work. It is rather interesting to note the attitude previously adopted by the Government on this subject. On the 15th September, 1932, Han sard, Vol. 135, page 498, I asked the Leader of the Senate the following question : -
Is it the intention of the Government to appoint an Inter-State Commission in order that the State of Western Australia may receive the protection provided by sections 101 and 102 of the Federal Constitution; if not, why not?
– On behalf of the Prime Minister.
– The Minister replied-
– The honorable senator asked the question of the Minister representing the Prime Minister.
– I intend to read the reply.
– I want those who read this little story to know that I answered on behalf of the Prime Minister.
– The Minister does not suggest that he would give, on behalf of the Prime Minister, a reply with which he was not in entire agreement.
– I know why the honorable senator is putting it in that way.
– I am reading the reply as it appears in Hansard, and I know that the Minister will correct me if I use words which are not in the official report, which is clear and convincing. I have not the slightest desire to misrepresent the right honorable gentleman. The reply by Senator Pearce reads -
In view of the decision of the High Court in the case of New South Wales v. Commonwealth (20, C.L.E. 54), that part5 of the Inter-State Commission Act1912 relating to the judicial powers of the commission is ultra, vires, the Government does not considerthat the appointment of commissioners to exercise the remaining powers of the commission under that act would be justified in view of the financial position of the Commonwealth. In any case, however, the non-appointment of the commission docs not deprive the State of Western Australia of any protection.
I am hopeful that Western Australia will receive protection and assistance from the reconstituted commission.
– Does the honorable senator suggest that this Parliament has not given Western Australia “ a fair spin “ ?
– Yes, and I am prepared to debate that subject with the honorable senator on any public platform. I am glad that the indefensible attitude adopted by the Government has been abandoned, and that one of our vital disabilities is being removed in some degree by the introduction of this measure; but I do not know to what extent, because in the brief time at my disposal I have not had an opportunity to ascertain whether the bill is all that I think it should.be.
– The honorable senator has been sleeping on it for seventeen years
– Not on this measure. I have been at it ever since its introduction seventeen hours ago.
– Has not the honorable senator previously given any consideration to the type of commission he favours?
– Of course I have.
– Then can he not see whether this bill is in accordance with his views?
– I cannot cover the matter as comprehensively as I desire in a few hours. I have not had an opportunity to study the powers to be conferred upon the commission or the scope of its work, and in that way determine whether it differs in any material respects from the previous commission. The Royal Commission on the Constitution recommended not only that the InterState Commission should be reconstituted, but also that it should have the right, by an amendment of sections 71 and 72 of the Constitution, to exercise the judicial powers which the act of 1912 purported to confer upon it. I regret that no steps were taken to adopt this recommendation, which, incidentally, urged that the retiring age for judges should be fixed at 72 years. On page 250 the report proceeded -
The same permanent body should, we think, inquire into and report upon such transactions as the agreement between the governments of the Commonwealth and the State of Queensland relating to the purchase and disposal of the sugar crop and the embargo on imported raw sugar, and inquire into and report on proposed bounties, and the effect of the Navigation Act on the various States.
The advantage of the establishment of such a body for these purposes would, we think, be twofold. There would be a tribunal in existence equipped with a knowledge of Australian conditions and of the working of the federation, and the claims of necessitous States would no longer afford an opening to the benevolence or the opportunism of political parties. Au analogy may be found in the position of the Public Works Committee in the Commonwealth, and in some of the States. Public works costing more than a prescribed amount will not in normal circumstances be sanctioned by Parliament unless favorably reported on by the Public Works Committee, and in our opinion it would be to the advantage of the federation if it were provided by law that grants under section 00 were not to be made unless first recommended by such a body as the Inter-State Commission.
In making these recommendations wo have not overlooked the fact that some of the duties originally assigned to the Inter-State Commission have been curried out by other bodies, and that very important duties are now carried out by the Development and Migration Commission. As has been pointed out elsewhere in this report, the value of an Inter-State Commission has been acknowledged by the royal commission which inquired into the finances of Western Australia and by that “which inquired into the finances of South Australia. We do not think that the reasons for the opinions expressed by these royal commissions have been diminished by the proposed appointment of an economic adviser by the Commonwealth.
In this connexion we would also draw attention to the provisions of the Industrial Peace Act. relating to the appointment of an industrial council, and to the evidence in favour of the appointment of an industrial council or parliament given by Mr. Kneebone and Mr. Sutcliffe, and to’ the suggestion by Professor Cumbrae Stewart that a committee be appointed for the purpose of bringing about uniformity in State laws. Certain of the functions of the industrial council which might be of great value to the Commonwealth might well be carried out by the Inter-State Commission, and the same body might perform a valuable duty in bringing about uniformity in the laws of the State, particularly in the commercial laws.
In view of the recommendations and the views expressed by the royal commission which inquired into the finances of Western Australia under federation in 1926, it is perfectly clear that the proposed Inter-State Commission should be required, at the request of any State, to inquire into the effect of any federal law or regulation on the primary industries, finances and trade and commerce of any State. We in Western Australia believe, and we have ample evidence to prove it - I might, in this connexion, refer to the report of the Australian economists who were appointed by the Bruce-Page Government to report on the economic aspects of the tariff - that that State, more than any other, suffers from the burdens of the tariff. In my opinion, the Inter-State Commission will be futile if it does not have undoubted power to inquire into the effects of the tariff, the Navigation Act and other federal laws and restrictions and regulations on the finances, primary industries, and trade and commerce of Western Australia.
SenatorFoll. - There is nothing to stop it from conducting such an inquiry.
– That is not clear. Under this bill the commission may have power to do so, if so requested by the Commonwealth Parliament. I think that it should be mandatory for it to do so at the request of a State.
– A State may base its claim upon any ground.
– In any case, I propose to move, in committee, an amendment, which, if carried, will bring this bill more into conformity with the act under which the previous commission was set up, and which will require the commission to inquire into and report on the effect and operation of any tariff acts, or any other law or regulation of the Commonwealth, on the primary industries, revenues, manufactures and trade or commerce of any State.
– Would the honor- a ble senator abolish the Tariff Board ?
– That is not my present contention. The Tariff Board takes an Australian point of view in recommending duties. It seems to me that the previous I nter-State Commission was required to inquire into the effect of the tariff on any individual State. I fear that unless my amendment be accepted, the work of the commission will be abortive, and that body will prove an expensive and unnecessary luxury. This power was given to the previous commission specifically in the following words : -
The commission shall be charged with the duty of investigating from time to time all matters which in the opinion of the commission ought in the public interest to be investigated affecting -
The amendment I propose to move is of similar purport, except that I naturally put in the first place the effect of the tariff on Australian primary industries. The deplorable burdens placed on primary industries by legislation, particularly the tariff, are too well known, and have been recorded by too many Australian commissions to need any elaborating. Even withthe amendment I shall propose, the powers of the proposed commission will be reduced in comparison with those of its predecessor. The report of the Royal Commission on the Constitution, in referring to the legislation under which the original Inter-State Commission was established, said -
Part III. of the act relates to investigations by the Inter-State Commission, and is divided into two sections- 16 and 17. By section 16 thecommission is charged with the duty of investigating all matters which in its opinion require investigation in the public interests affecting (a) the production of and trade in commodities ; (b) the encouragement, improvement, and extension of Australian industries and manufactures; (c) markets outside Australia, and the opening up of external trade generally ;
Now follows the paragraph which I wish to see repeated in the present legislation - (d) the effect and operation of any tariff act or other legislation of the Commonwealth in regard to revenue, Australian manufactures, and industry and trade generally; (e) prices of commodities; (f) profits of trade and manufacture; (g) wages and social and industrial conditions;(h) labour, employment and unemployment; (i) bounties paid by foreign countries to encourage shipping or export trade; (j) population; (k) immigration; and (l) other matters referred to the commission by either House of the Parliament, by resolution, for investigation.
It is perfectly clear, therefore, that the commission to be constituted under the bill which we a.re now considering is not to have anything like the measure of power and wide range of inquiry that were specified for the previous commission.
Sitting suspended from 6.15 to 8p.m.
– The list of subjects in respect of which the new Inter-State Commission is authorized to make investigations indicates that it will have much less work to do. Its judicial duties have also been taken away. It seems to me, from a cursory examination of the bill, that everything in connexion . with the commission has been cut clown except the salaries which the Government, with characteristic federal liberality, fixed at the rates paid to the first commissioners - £2,500 a year for the chairman and £2,000 a year for etch member. Part IV. of the bill contains provisions empowering the commission to prevent any State railway authority from fixing unfair and discriminating freight rates, to the disadvantage of other States. It is absurd to confine the authority of the commission to the investigation of freights charged on State railways, anil to exclude any examination of rates imposed by the Commonwealth Railways Commissioner on the transcontinental railway, which carries the interstate traffic between South Australia and Western Australia.
– I assure the honorable senator that the Commonwealth railways are included.
– I doubt this, but the time available for consideration of the bill has been limited. I direct the attention of the right honorable gentleman to clause 21, which reads -
– The Commonwealth railways would not come in under that clause.
– That is my contention, and I have not yet been able to discover in the bill a provision which would include the transcontinental line. The freights on that railway should be under the commission’s review. Australia is served by systems of railway from Cairns to Fremantle, and the freight rates on all of them, except the Commonwealth railways, will be subject to investigation by the Inter-State Commission, with a view to preventing unfair discrimination. This being so, the bill, I believe, inflicts another glaring injustice on the people of Western Australia, because the preferen tial rates charged on the transcontinental railway discriminate unfairly against the primary and secondary industries of that State. The Commonwealth Railways Commissioner is a. law unto himself. On the transcontinental railway he is carrying primary and secondary products from eastern States at rates which pay little more than axle grease. It is difficult, sometimes, to ascertain how low are some of the rates as they are fixed under secret’ agreements. I object to the exclusion of the freights and charges on the transcontinental railway from the list of subjects which may be investigated by the proposed commission. The primary and secondary producers in Western Australia should not be penalized in this way. I have a high regard for Commonwealth railway officials, and pay a tribute to them for their courtesy and attention, but I think that, in order to divert traffic to their lines, they would not be averse to imposing preferential rates on many classes of goods. I have given notice of an amendment to ensure some measure of (protection to our primary and secondary industries from the unfair freight rates that are charged on the transcontinental railway, and I shall depend oh the good sense and fairmindedness of the Senate to support me. I hope that the Minister will accept the amendment, the effect of which will be to bring the transcontinental line under the control of the Inter-State Commission as regards freight rates and other charges.
I welcome the measure and congratulate the Minister upon its introduction. I trust that the bill will be passed with the amendments indicated by me. I also hope that no political appointments will be made to the commission, and particularly the political appointments which have been predicted in the press. Sincethat body will have an important work to do, its members should have the highest qualifications; that is essential. We should be able to obtain from our universities the services of prominent economists or highly trained constitutional lawyers. Perhaps, also, the Government will be able to select a suitable appointee from our efficient Public Service. Great care should be exercised in making the appointments, because the welfare of the smaller States and the smooth working of the federal machine will depend on the efficient functioning of the new body. The Commonwealth Public Service Act stipulates that a public servant must retire when he reaches the age of 65 years. That is generally regarded as a wise provision, and I hope that it will be applied to members of the new Inter-State Commission.
.- I indicated yesterday that I was in favour of this measure, and gave briefly my reasons for supporting it. I was interested a little while ago, to hear the Leader of the Opposition state the definition of a pessimist. I regard the honorable gentleman as an optimistic pessimist and would say that the difference between a pessimist and an optimistic pessimist is this - a pessimist is a man who fears that the worst will happen; an optimistic pessimist is a man who hopes and believes that the worst will happen.
Anybody would think, from the remarks of honorable senators in opposition, that the Commonwealth had been standing still for the last twenty years; but no one with his eyes open could have failed to notice the remarkable development that has taken place in all branches of industry since the Inter-State Commission was abolished.
– I did not say that the Commonwealth had been standing still.
– It is evident to every one that the conditions affecting trade and commerce in Australia have materially altered. In recent years there has been a surprising increase of governmental activities. The new conditions that have arisen point to the absolute necessity for the reconstitution of the Inter-State Commission. My only regret is that the commission will not have the judicial powers which the Parliament intended the original commission to have. It may be that the Commonwealth will have to take drastic steps against some of the States, thereby placing itself in an awkward position ; but if it has the backing of the commission it can proceed against the offending States without being accused of bias. In some respects the relations between the States are deplorable, as, for instance, in respect of interstate freights. Such things should not exist in a country which is supposed to be federated. Objection has been raised to the reconstitution of the Inter-State Commission on the ground of expense, but as it will replace the Commonwealth Grants Commission, the additional expenditure will not be great. The existing body already costs more than half the estimated expenditure on the new commission.
Senator Johnston seems to be afraid that, with the passing of this legislation, the Commonwealth railways will engage in a campaign against Western Australia. The honorable senator seems obsessed by the idea that every man’s hand is against the western State. That is not so ; every honorable senator entertains the kindliest feelings for Western Australia, but the extreme remarks of the honorable senator on occasions tend to make other honorable senators feel that their sympathy is wasted. The honorable senator is wrong in his judgment of his fellows both in this Parliament and outside it.
– There is ground for complaint about certain freight rates on Commonwealth railways.
– I understand that the chief complaint of Senator Johnston and others from Western Australia is in respect of railway freights to Kalgoorlie, and relates particularly to beer from the eastern States.
– I had in mind onions and potatoes also.
– It would appear that the drinkers of beer in Kalgoorlie prefer beer brewed in Adelaide to that of the Swan Brewery at Perth. The honorable senator should calm his fears, for he has only to read Part III. of the bill to realize that the committee may inquire into and report to the GovernorGeneral upon any anomalies, preferences, or discriminations, alleged to exist in relation to interstate commerce. If railway freights are not associated with interstate commerce, I do not know what is. Under this legislation the commission may investigate the grievance which the honorable senator has voiced, and should it find that the complaint is well founded, I cannot imagine that any Common- wealth Government would fail to take immediate action to remove the cause of complaint. 1 hope tha’t there will he no opposition to the bill. I should like the commission to be vested with the judicial powers that it was thought the Constitution provided, but, even in the absence of those powers, I believe that it will be of great value in removing anomalies and the bad feeling which is growing between the States.
– The policy speech delivered by the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) at the last general election stated that the Government intended to introduce legislation to re-constitute the Inter-State Commission. That plank of the Government’s platform was hailed with delight in South Australia, and I am pleased that effect is about to be given to the promise. Like Senator Leckie, I regret that, by a decision of the High Court in 1915, some of the powers which were thought to be vested in the original Inter-State Commission were declared not. to repose in it. In setting out the duties of the new commission the bill makes no attempt to clothe it with judicial powers. Senator Johnston fears that the commission will not be empowered to deal with the tariff and the navigation laws, but the bill clearly says that it will have power to inquire into “ any matter “ that is referred to it by any State or by the Governor-General. By innuendo, some honorable senators have suggested that political appointmentsare to be made to the commission, and they have given, the impression that they know the names of the persons who are to fill some of the positions. I have not the remotest idea of the .Government’s intention in regard to the personnel of the commission.
Objection has been taken to what is claimed to be an omission from the bill in that it does not provide that the legal member of the commission shall be its chairman. I do not think that he should be. Indeed, there will be some advantages in not having a legal chairman. But it is essential that the commission shall contain one member with legal knowledge and training. Senator J. V. MacDonald expressed the opinion that one member should be a representative of Labour.
The honorable senator need not fear that the Lyons Government will act unfairly in selecting men for this important position; it will appoint only men of undoubted integrity and ability, who may be relied upon to act fairly, whatever their political beliefs.
As a representative of one of the weaker States, I express the hope that, with the appointment of an Inter-State Commission, there will be greater permanency in respect of grants to the -States. I have no fault to find with the Commonwealth Grants Commission, except that it does not provide that permanency which is most desirable in the making of grants. State treasurers should have definite knowledge beforehand of the amounts that they are to receive, so that they may prepare their budgets on a satisfactory basis.
Senator Leckie referred to the power of the commission in relation to railway freights. In this connexion, I anticipate that the commission will materially assist some of the weaker States. South Australia, for instance, suffers considerably through having two wealthy neighbours in Victoria and New South “Wales. For many years, almost the whole of the trade with Broken Hill was done with South Australia, but, with the construction of a railway line connecting Broken Hill with Sydney, much of the trade has been diverted from South Australia. Although the distance between Broken Hill and Sydney is about 700 miles, as compared with a little over half that distance from Broken Hill to Adelaide, the freight charges on both railways are practically the same. Victoria has treated South Australia in much the same w(ay. For many years, wool from stations in the Darling country of New South “Wales was conveyed by river to Morgan and then sent by train a further 100 miles to Adelaide. Now, however, much of the wool is transferred from the boat to the train at Mildura, and conveyed to Melbourne, a distance of 300 miles, for no more than it costs to send it 100 miles in South Australia. I am looking forward to the Inter-State Commission doing much for South Australia in the matter of railway freights. I support the bill, not for that reason alone, but because the appointment of an Inter-State Commission should be of benefit to the whole of Australia. Its existence should obviate the necessity to appoint numerous small commissions. I hope, also, that it will not be a body disinclined to deal with small matters for fear of loss of dignity. When appointed, the commission should be used in every way possible, with a view to avoiding unnecessary expense in the appointment of other investigatory bodies. I may have something further to say when the bill is being considered in committee. At this juncture I favour the passage of the measure. I believe that it will be welcomed by at least the representatives of the three weaker States.
– I do not propose to deal with those points which I covered during my speech on the Address-in-Reply, when I outlined my reasons for supporting this measure and complimented the Government on its introduction. My principal reason for supporting the reconstitution of tlie Inter-State Commission is that such a body will enjoy security of tenure, in contrast to the Commonwealth Grants Commission, which was appointed from year to year. When it last visited Western Australia the latter body spent only ten days in that State, and five of those days were spent in the country districts. I suggest that in so limited a time it was impossible for it to inquire fully into the claims of Western Australia. The Inter-State Commission should be able, if necessary, to spend six months in any one State in order that its investigations may be as thorough as possible. Before the InterState Commission representatives of the smaller States will he given every opportunity to set out clearly their disabilities and the grounds on which they claim grants from the Commonwealth. It is for this reason, principally, that I support the bill.
I agree with the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Collings) that it is time that a convention was held to review the Constitution. The deliberations of such a convention would remove many of the causes of the ill-feeling which the smaller. States now exhibit towards the more populous States, and, if it served no other purpose, it would at least bring the various units of the nation into a more harmonious relationship. For this reason 1 hope that steps will be taken in the near future to convene a convention for that purpose.
I disagree with the suggestion made by the Leader of the Opposition that no need exists for the appointment of this commission, because, so he claimed, the job could be done equally as well by a Minister, assisted by an expert staff. I suggest to the honorable senator that, at certain times, on the eve of an election, for instance, if he wore a Minister he would not relish being called to adjudicate in a dispute arising’, for instance, out of the landing of goods in New South Wales from Queensland. However, I agree with his contention that no political appointments should be made to the commission.
– Be careful !
– In all circumstances I shall express what I have in mind ; I am not influenced by the decisions of any political caucus. In Western Australia I have witnessed several political appointments of the nature to which I refer, and I have consistently protested against them. I propose to follow a similar course at all times. Senator J. V. MacDonald suggested that a gentleman with Labour political sympathies should bc appointed to the commission. I disagree with him ; this tribunal should be kept free of politics.
– It is certain that ‘ two of the members to be appointed to the commission will have anti-Labour sympathies.
– -I shall not bc mean enough to believe that that will be so. I hope that the Government will appoint men who are above party politics.
– Is any man above party politics?
– There arc plenty of them. The only comment which I wish to offer in respect of the Commonwealth Grants Commission is that it was impossible for a claimant State to receive justice from that body, because the States put up their case on a certain basis, and that commission assessed it on another. I feel sure that all honorable senators appreciate the need for the reconstitution of the Inter-State Commission in order to give full effect to the Constitution.
Whilst I do not propose to delve into ancient history, let me say that we in Western Australia have felt all along that we have not received justice from the Commonwealth Grants Commission. It is my fervent hope that, while I represent Western Australia in this chamber, I shall win support and sympathy for that State by advancing its just claims in a fair manner; I realize that I cannot hope to win such support by abusing other States. On at least one occasion since I was elected to this chamber I have had the pleasure of submitting a motion on behalf of Western Australia, and although that proposal was defeated, I received sufficient support to encourage mo to continue my advocacy along those lines. Indeed, I am thankful that, included among my supporters on the occasion to which I refer, were the only members of the Opposition then present; I feel sure that I would have received the support of the other honorable senator opposite had he been present.
I ask the Minister, when he is replying, to clear up the point raised by Senator Johnston that, whilst all the State railways will be brought within the jurisdiction of the Inter-State Commission, the Commonwealth railways may be exempt. In this connexion I draw the attention of honorable senators to section 102 of the Constitution, which reads - 102. The Parliament may by any law with respect to trade or commerce forbid, as to railways, any preference or discrimination by any State, or by any authority constituted under a. State, if such preference or discrimination is undue and unreasonable, or unjust to any State; due regard being had to the financial responsibilities incurred by any State in connexion with the construction and maintenance of its railways. But no preference or discrimination shall, within the meaning of this section be taken to be undue and unreasonable, or unjust to any State, unless so adjudged by the Inter-State Commission.
It is possible that the work of the InterState Commission may relate to the provisions of this seddon of the Constitution. I have very much pleasure in supporting the bill.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE (Western Australia - Minister for External
Affairs) [S.39]. - in reply - I thank honorable senators for the very favorable reception they have given this measure, although there have been some spots on the sun, as it were. Senator Collings does not seem to be altogether satisfied with it, but, then, he is generally dissatisfied with any proposal that emanates from the Government. I tremble to think of what the life of a Minister would be when Senator Collings had accomplished all his desires; it is just about as strenuous now as it could possibly be, but if in addition to his administrative and political duties, a Minister was obliged to take the place of boards and commissions, and conduct innumerable inquiries, dissecting all the evidence presented, as the honorable senator suggested, his life would be unbearable.
– I did not suggest that; do not forget about the bright young experts of whom the Government has spoken.
– Because they believe in a unitary form of government honorable senators opposite overlook the fact that the Commonwealth is a federation, and that, therefore, our legislation must take cognizance of that fact. With a Federal Parliament, and a written Constitution, and the State governments enjoying sovereignty in their own legislative domains, points of difference must necessarily arise between the Commonwealth and the State authorities, or between the State authorities themselves. If a legal dispute arises the High Court is there to resolve it, but friction, and overlapping, cr points of difference upon which the High Court cannot be asked to adjudicate, might also arise. That is why provision is made in America for an Inter-State Commission, and, likewise, in the Commonwealth Constitution, to cover disputes which could not very well be litigated before the court.
I remind Senator Allan MacDonald and Senator Marwick in regard to the vexatious question of freights on . the Commonwealth railway between Kalgoorlie and Port Augusta that that is a railway taking part in interstate commerce. Senator Marwick has just read the appropriate section of the Constitution, and, of course, in Part IV. this bill must conform to the Constitution; it cannot purport to do more than the Constitution provides. Part IV. contains the machinery by which, first of all, an investigation and a report must be made; and if discrimination, or undue preference, is found and not adjusted, redress must be sought by litigation before the High Court. Thus Part IV. contemplates litigation before the High Court. Who would be the parties to such litigation? In the case of the State railways authorities it is clear that it would be either the State government concerned, or a body nominated by that government, or the railway authorities of that State. And who would be the prosecutor to plead before the High Court the facts as found by the Inter-State Commission? He would be the Attorney-General of the Commonwealth. Now, I remind honorable senators that the Commonwealth railways are run under Commonwealth law, and the freights are fixed either by regulations, or by-laws, which are Commonwealth law. Thus, if the Commonwealth railways were sued in the High Court, the Commonwealth AttorneyGeneral would appear as the legal officer for the Commonwealth railways. Thus, if the Commonwealth railways were included within the scope of Part IV., and the commission found that rates on these railways were discriminating, we would have the spectacle of the Commonwealth Attorney-General, under the machinery provided in this bill, prosecuting himself as the Commonwealth Attorney-General - a truly Gilbertian situation. For that reason Part IV. of this measure cannot be applied to the Commonwealth railways. I assured Senator Johnston, however, when he was speaking, that the Commonwealth railways do come within the scope of this bill, and I now give- Senator Allan MacDonald and Senator Marwick the same assurance. If those honorable senators will refer to clause 18 they will find that -
Tlie commission shall inquire into and report to the Governor-General upon -
any anomalies, preferences or discriminations alleged to exist in relation to Inter-State commerce;
Is not a complaint against the Commonwealth railways that there has been discrimination and preference within tlie meaning of paragraph a? I turn now to clause 20 -
The commission may commence any investigation pursuant to- paragraphs (a) and (6) of sub-section (1.) of section 18, either on reference by the Governor-General or on the complaint of any State.
If the Government of Western Australia felt that there had been unjust discrimination by the Commonwealth railway authorities, it would be its duty to lodge a complaint with the Inter-State Commission in accordance with clause 18 1 a of the bill. The complaint having been made, the commission will’ have full power to conduct an inquiry and deliver its finding. A.s Senator Leckie pointed out, although the Commonwealth Attorney-General cannot prosecute himself, there will be, assuming that the complaint has been proved, the report of the Inter-State Commission that the Commonwealth Railways Department is giving undue preference or discriminating in relation to interstate commerce. With that finding before it, would any Commonwealth government continue to uphold a Commonwealth law, regulation, or by-law, which contraverted that fundamental principle of its own legislation? It is unthinkable. Therefore, those honorable senators who raised this point should see that this matter is fully provided for, and that it cannot be covered in the way suggested by Senator Johnston, because the Commonwealth Government would find itself in the ridiculous position which I mentioned previously. Moreover, that is why it is not specifically provided for in the Constitution.
– In section 99 of the Constitution, there is a general provision against differentiating between the States.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.Yes, and a State could bring a case before the High Court.
I come now to the point raised by Senator Grant in connexion with clause 19, which reads -
The Governor-General may cause any report made under paragraphs (a), (6) or (c) of sub-section (1.) of the last preceding section to be laid before each House of the Parliament, and shall, before any proposed law relating to the subject of the report originates in the Parliament, cause the report to bo laid before each House thereof.
I have circulated an amendment to leave out paragraphs a, b or c with a view to insert in lieu thereof paragraphs c, d or e.
-Whyare paragraphs a,b andc being left out?
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.This clause relates to claimsdealing with grants, and not to any others. The reason is fairly obvious. Honorable senators are aware that the report of a commission covering financial grants to States is a very important factor in a Commonwealth budget, and therefore the Government would have to take into consideration the report of the commission, because subsequently it would have to be the subject of budget legislation. The Government might receive a report while Parliament was in session, but before it had decided upon the budget it proposed to submit to Parliament. An obligation upon the Government to table the report immediately it was received would be most embarrassing, and would by no means relieve the uncertainty of the State Treasurer, because he would not know the decision which the Commonwealth Government would reach upon the recommendation. The Commonwealth Treasurer, also, would be embarrassed if the report were made public before he had drafted his budget, because all sorts of pressure would be put upon him in respect of that one feature. Legislation of some kind must follow the presentation of the report, and when the Government brings it3 budget before Parliament it will also table the report. Before Parliament will be asked to agree to the Government’s proposals it will have before it the report of the InterState Commission, so that it will not be in any worse position under this bill than it is to-day. Each year the Parliament is in possession of the report of the Commonwealth Grants Commission before the budget is proceeded with.
Senator Grant also referred to the tenure of members of the Inter-State Commission. The term fixed in the bill is that prescribed in the Constitution, and cannot be amended by this legislation.
Senator Johnston, who foreshadowed an amendment, suggested that there should be a specific instruction to the commission as to the factors upon which a State may claim financial assistance from the Commonwealth. There is a well-known legal maxim,inclusio unius exclusio alterius - the inclusion of the one means the exclusion of the other. I understand that the insertion of a provision to include certain things is held in law to exclude all others. I urge those interested in this matter to read carefully the following paragraphs of clause 18: -
The words “ any matters “ include the tariff, the Navigation Act, or, in fact, any disability under which a State feels that it suffers. The State is the judge - that is the virtue of this measure - upon what basis it will make its claim for a. grant.
– A State can initiate a claim.
– Yes, to the Commonwealth, and I suggest to honorable senators that we could not have it any wider than that. It is unwise to start to particularize when we have such an all-embracing provision. 1 know that the opinion is widely held in Western Australia that the tariff is a disability to that State. The State Government can make that one of the bases of its claim, and bring before the commission all the evidence it can in support. Tasmania feels that the Navigation Act is a hindrance to its development. There again, that State can base its claim on that point, and bring evidence to substantiate it. All such things are covered by the words “ any matters “. I, therefore, suggest to honorable senators that if they commence to select some particular item, they may find that they are doing their State a disservice rather than a service.
To my mind, there is one factor in Western Australia’s claim which obtains to a greater extent in that State than in any other - Senator Marwick mentioned it - and that is that one-sixteenth of the population of Australia is endeavouring to develop, one-third of the Commonwealth .
– A lot of it is sand.
– Not a great area. There is more sand in the neighbourhood of Perth and Fremantle than can be found in any part of the interior. It is difficult to say what the possibilities of development in Western Australia actually are. Can we envisage the possibilities of the north-west of that State? In the Parliamentary Library there are two volumes by that great explorer and administrator, Sir George Grey,- who conducted an exploring expedition in the north-west of Western Australia over 100 years ago. He had earlier traversed large portions of Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia, and in one of the volumes I find that in speaking of an area in the north-west, he said -
In my judgment this part of this country that we have been passing through in the last few weeks, will ono day carry a greater population than any part of Australia that I have ever seen.
The extraordinary part of that prophecy is that there are only a few more white people in that area to-day than there were when Sir George Grey went through it. We cannot envisage the future of that vast area. Its development and the responsibility of the State Government in that regard might be the strongest element in Western Australia’s claim; with greater financial assistance one-third of the Commonwealth might be successfully developed by one-sixteenth of its population. I appeal to honorable senator not to begin to particularize, but to remember that a State can base a claim before the proposed commission on any ground, whether it be the tariff, the Navigation Act, or even that responsibility with which I have just dealt. Once we start to particularize, we may weaken the claim of a State we are desirous of assisting. I thank honorable senators for the way in which they have received the bill.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 to 6 agreed to.
Clause 7 -
Senator E. B. JOHNSTON (Western Australia [9.3].- I move -
That at tlie end of sub-clause ], the following proviso bo inserted: -
Provided that no person who has attained the age of G5 years shall bc appointed as a commissioner.
– The honorable senator should not proceed with the amendment.
– I prefer to do so.
– The honorable senator is not hitting at mc.
– I am hitting at no one. What I am hitting at is the non-recognition of the principle laid down in the Commonwealth Public Service Act that a man may not continue in the Service after he has attained the age of 65 years. That rule obtains throughout the Public Service with much greater severity than I would impose by my amendment on the Inter-State Commissioners. Those men who control our great departments of State, and who make public service their life work, are required to retire when they reach 65 years of age and this principle has been accepted by all parties in .this Parliament. Quite recently, we have seen such distinguished men as the former Commonwealth Statistician, Mr. Wickens, and the Commissioner of Taxation in Western Australia, Mr. Black, forced to retire on their attainment of that age. Under the same rule, Mr. E. W. Parkes recently retired from the position of Clerk of . the House of Representatives, and Sir William Clemens from the position of Chairman of the Public Service Board. The same requirement will shortly apply to the Secretary to the Department of Defence, Mr. Shepherd, to Mr. Ewing, the Commissioner of Taxation, .and ultimately to other equally prominent departmental heads. To some extent my amendment is in conformity with the recommendation of the Royal Commission on the Constitution that judges shall retire when they reach 72 years of age. We do not want a commission composed of septuagenarians.
– Why not substitute 72 for65 in the amendment?
– Because when men are appointed under this proposed act, no retiring age can be applied to them; they will he appointed for the full term of seven years. If a public servant is compelled to retire at a certain age, no other servants of the Crown should be permitted to commence the highly importantduties of the Interstate Commission after reaching that age.
SenatorAllanMacDonald. - How canwe apply that principle to any one else until we have first applied it to ourselves?
– The conditions are entirely different, but if the honorable senator brings down a bill with that object in view Ishall give to it my earnest consideration.
[9.8].-The Government cannot accept the amendment. Any government making appointments of this kind would take into consideration the age and physical fitness of. the appointees and other relevant factors. The important point is to get the best men available.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 8 to 17 agreed to.
Pearce) proposed -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
SenatorLECKIE (Victoria) [9.11 ].- In the last session . I lodged a complaint that certain papers were not made available to honorable senators at the same time as they were distributed to members ofthe House of Representatives. 1 find to-day that an important schedule of new customs duties was tabled in the Houseof Representatives and made available to outsiders, but no senator, so far as I know, has yet been provided with copies. It is only right, I think, that any documents of such importance should be made available to the Senate at the same time as it is madeavailable in the House of Representatives.
[ 9.13]. -The fact thata tariff schedule becomes operative immediately it is tabled in the House ofRepre- sentatives renders it necessary that the resolutions contained therein shall be laid before that House before they otherwise become public. I understand that in the past, when a new schedule was tabled in the Lower House, copies were placed in the lockers of senators and members. I shall ascertain if that course has been followed in this instance.
-Theyare in the lockers.
Question resolved inthe affirmative.
The Senate adjourned at9.14 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 24 June 1937, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1937/19370624_senate_14_153/>.