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Wednesday, 25 November 1914

Senator BAKHAP - I am not on my own account stating that it is a contravention of the Constitution. I say that it seems to me to be so; and it certainly seems to me to be action taken in a spirit that is most un-Federal. I am not to be the deciding authority in this matter. The Commonwealth Parliament has, by legislation, set up tribunals which, I believe, have the power to adjudicate upon this particular matter or matters of this kind. My object in bringing the question before the Senate is to give the fullest publicity to the transaction, .and to indicate to honorable senators and to the Administration what I consider is the proper course of action to take. I ask Senator O'Loghlin not to provoke me to any comment upon the matter, which would be improper, seeing that the whole business will probably he relegated to some tribunal for judgment. In the Adelaide Advertiser of Saturday, 21st November, there appears an article dealing with the export of wheat, and making direct reference to the peculiar position set up by the abrogation of this particular contract, and particular reference to what evidently is the intention of the Grain and Fodder Board in South Australia. I quote the following: -

Board can Seize Wheat.

The question was raised in several quarters whether the Grain and Fodder Board had power to prevent the shipment of wheat to other States. Men who say they have looked into the matter declare that the Board could not issue a mandate against export, but that it could reach the same end by another course is not denied.

That is to say that the State cannot take action which would be in contravention of the Commonwealth Constitution, but may endeavour to secure the same unFederal objective by a different means -

The Grain and Fodder Act provides that the Board may take possession of wheat and other things, and pay the owners a price agreed between the parties, or, failing a price being fixed within fourteen days, the Board may apply to the Foodstuffs Commission to state a reasonable market figure. It can be seen that if export may not be directly prohibited, it may he checked effectively by indirect means.

I maintain very respectfully that indirect means cannot be properly and constitutionally employed by any State to effect an objective which would be prohibited by the express terms of the Commonwealth Constitution. The article continues

The merchants and millers, as a rule, declared themselves to be so much in the dark as to what the Board proposed to do that they were unwilling to make statements. The manager of a big shipping and milling firm remarked that if the export of surplus wheat was stopped, it would reduce the price received by the producer for the commodity, for better prices could be got for grain outside than inside the State. For instance, although Victoria had fixed the price of wheat at 5s. 6d. a bushel, Victorians would pay5s. 6d. in South Australia, which meant5s.10d. a bushel landed in Melbourne. The growers of wheat were entitled to get the full market value for their product, he said. He was not concerned whether the export were confined to floor or not, so far as it permitted the mar keting of the surplus. Not only should it be. permissible to fulfil Victorian and Tasmanian contracts for wheat, but future shipments to Tasmania should be allowed.

The position of the State which I have the honour to assist in representing is well known to be that of a wheatproducing State that does not produce sufficient for the needs of its own people. It is in years of plenty, as well as in years of leanness, obliged to depend on the crops of the mainland States. I very respectfully ask the Senate and the Administration to consider the position if it is contended, notwithstanding the power in regard to trade and commerce conferred upon the Commonwealth Legislature in connexion with trade between State and State, that it is within the power of the Government of any one Stateto take action to deprive a Commonwealth citizen of his right to enter into a business contract and to see that it is fulfilled. In this case a State authority has intervened, and a position has arisen which was con-, templated by the founders of the Constitution when they provided for the establishment of an Inter-State Commission. The Inter-State Commission has been duly established, and a case has arisen which, I consider, requires the determination of that Commission. I believe that the action of the South Australian Government is unconstitutional, and, seeing that the Inter-State Commission has been established, I think the Administration should determine that this question of' so much importance to the people of my State in particular, and of the Commonwealth in general, should be brought to issue at the earliest possible date before a tribunal of competent jurisdiction, and preferably the Inter-State Commission. The merits and demerits of the whole business may be fought out there, when experts in the interpretation of the Constitution will, no doubt, handle the whole affair. I confine myself now to a demand which I make in no arrogant spirit- - a demand which has made history before to-day - that there shall be a free circulation of grain within this Commonwealth, of which Tasmania is an integral portion, and to the Constitution: of which it was a contracting party at the time Federation was established-..

I ask the Administration to take the facts, upon which I make no further comment, into consideration at the earliest moment and to have this issue, so important in its all-round effects, decided by a competent tribunal.

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