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Wednesday, 29 November 1944

Mr SPENDER (Warringah) . - The clause provides : " The agreement is hereby approved ". The agreement is spoken of as a partnership between Tasmania and the Commonwealth, whereas it is nothing of the sort, but is simply an agreement by which Tasmania will provide a certain sum and thereafter will have very limited obligations, whilst the Commonwealth will have full responsibility in respect of the industry. Clause 4 of the agreement contains a vice to which previously I have drawn attention. It says -

Subject to any directions given on behalf of the Commonwealth and the State by the Minister of State for the Commonwealth administering the act- certain powers shall be conferred on the commission. It is obvious that those will be powers only insofar as they are not subject to any direction given upon any matter of either policy or detail, by the Minister of State administering the legislation. My objection is that the very vice of which I previously spoke in respect of the power of the Coal Commissioner is repeated with emphasis in this bill. The powers of the Coal Commissioner were made subject to any direction as to policy, given by the Minister administering the act. Similarly the powers of the Aluminium Commission are to be subject to any direction given by the Minister of State of the Commonwealth in respect of any matter of detail or policy. The Parliament is asked to commit itself to a vicious principle, when it is asked to agree to the establishment of an organization that will be subject to complete political control in respect of any detail of its business.

I can expect no help from the Parliament on my second point, because the Government, which so often has spoken about the principles of democracy, seeks to impose its will upon every aspect of life in the country, and, in relation to this industry, upon every branch of its progress and policy and every technical and other detail of its administration. Although I approve of the establishment of the industry, I take this opportunity to object to the way in which the Commonwealth Government seeks to engage in it although the Constitution, in general terms, prohibits the Commonwealth from engaging in business. This is a direct engagement in business by the Commonwealth. It seems to me that the Commonwealth will seek to defend its right to enter into this agreement by saying, " The State has complete power to make such an agreement " ; and if it3 power be challenged, it will have recourse to the justification that the aluminium industry is essential for the defence of the Commonwealth. It is obvious that the industry has no real relation to the present war. It can have relation to the post-war period, and a relation to defence, only insofar as it may be said that any basic industry is related to the defence of the country. In modern warfare, it is exceedingly difficult to draw the line as to what form of industry the

Commonwealth may not be able properly to say is directed to the defence of th« country. 1 warn the Parliament that this seems to be the preliminary to a further adventuring by the Commonwealth into industry. If the agreement can be supported under the Constitution - upon which point I do not offer an opinion- then it seems to me a logical step that any other basic industry can be related to the defence plan; and if an agreement can be made with a State, one can be made also with an individual. By making an agreement with an individual or a State, the Commonwealth may be able to defend its investment by saying " This is related to the defence of the country ". If that be so, it is not easy to see why any form of economic life cannot be similarly related. The honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Bowden) has suggested that the Commonwealth should engage in the fabrication of aluminium. If it can do that, I see no limit to its power to enter any industry by means of an agreement linking it with a State or an individual. Upon both grounds, I object, not to the purpose contained in the bill, but to the form of the agreement.

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