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Friday, 25 June 1937

Senator ALLAN MACDONALD (WESTERN AUSTRALIA) . - I assure the Assistant Minister (Senator Brennan) that what is agitating Senator Johnston's mind is not what might happen at some distant date on the transAustralian railway, but what actually has already happened. There have been instances in which the Commonwealth freight rates in Western Australia have been much lower than those of the State. Complaints on that score have certainly been countered by the Commonwealth Commissioner of Railways declaring that the State rates were too high. To a degree, I agree with him. The point raised by Senator Johnston also exercised my mind during the secondreading debate, but the Leader of the Senate (Senator Pearce), in his reply, convinced me that more than sufficient authority exists under this bill to cope with the very position with which Senator Johnston wishes to deal by his amendment. Confirmation of what he said was given to me by the qualified legal officers of the Crown Law Department. 1 am assured by them that, in the event of discriminatory railway freights being charged by the Commonwealth to the detriment of a State, that State may take appropriate action under clause 18 1 a, and I have no doubt that in such an event a State government would have no hesitation in exercising its right to do so. I am also assured by legal authority that it is impossible to insert Senator Johnston's amendment in thebill, because it would mean that a. set of circumstances might arise which would demand the Attorney-General of the Commonwealth to take action against himself; such a situation would be ridiculous. Some years ago a similar Gilbertian situation arose in an outback part of Western Australia, when, assecretary to the local hospital board, a public servant applied to himself, as Registrar of Titles, for the grant of a piece of Crown land for the purpose of building a hospital. As Registrar of Titles he wrote to himself as secretary to the hospital board refusing the application on the ground that the land was the inalienable right of the Crown, and pointing out that if the hospital board wanted a site for a hospital it would have to purchase land in the normal way. Then, as the representative of the hospital board, the gentleman appealed to the Minister against the decision which he himself had reached in his official capacity as a State officer. And so the comedy went on. Senator Johnston could himself have ascertained what I have already learned from competent legal authorities, namely, that his amendment could not possibly be inserted in the bill. There is no need for the honorable senator to be anxious about the position in our State. Every Western Australian senator is equally anxious to see that nothing is done in respect of railway freights to prejudice the position of that State. I respectfully urge him to withdraw his amendment because, according to legal advice, there is no virtue in it.

Amendment negatived.

Clause agreed to.

Clause 22 agreed to.

Clause 23- (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 -

(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.

Amendment (by Senator E. B.

Johnston) agreed to -

That after the word " freighters," paragraph (e), the words "or producers" be inserted.

Clause, as amended, agreed to.

Clauses 24 and 25 agreed to.

Clause 26 verbally amended, and, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 27 agreed to.

Clause 28 consequentially amended, and, as amended, agreed to.

Clauses 29 to 34 agreed to.

Clauses 35 and 36 consequentially amended, and, as amended, agreed to.

Sitting suspended from 12.45 to 2.15 p.m.

Clause 37 consequentially amended, and, as amended, agreed to.

Clauses 38 to 44 agreed to.

Clause 45 -

The Governor-General may make regulations . . .

(a)   for regulating the conduct of proceedings before the commission;

(b)   for enabling the commission in cases to be specified in such regulations to exercise its powers by any one commissioner ; and

(c)   for prescribing penalties (not exceeding in the case of a pecuniary penalty One hundred pounds and in the case of imprisonment a period of three months) for any breach of the regulations.

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