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Tuesday, 22 June 1926

Senator LYNCH (Western Australia) .- I move-

That after the word " things," proposed new paragraph xl., the following words be inserted : - "but the exercise of suc h powers shall not apply to the regulation of any State activity engaged in the manufacture of products which enter into competition with similar products in the ordinary course of trade."

The purpose of my amendment is to exclude from the provisions of the section State enterprises that do not enter into competition with private individuals and firms.

Senator Duncan - Is it intended that the amendment shall apply to industries controlled by the Commonwealth, as well as by the States?

Senator LYNCH - Only to industries controlled by the States. The Commonwealth, of course, must be master in its own household. The amendment still leaves the States free, if they do not engage in ordinary trading, to look after their own affairs without interference by the central authority. Some of the States have established . brick-yards, timberyards, fish-shops, and meat-shops; but, on the other hand, there are activities which traditionally the State Governments have engaged in for many years. . Some of the States have made up their minds, from well or ill-considered motives, to enter the industrial arena; and to the extent to which they do that they should be subject to the same regulations, laws, and limitations as private manufacturers and traders in the same field. There is a steadfast conviction in the minds of the people that the States, as well as the Commonwealth, should look after their own affairs. The States are sovereign authorities, just as the Commonwealth is sovereign' within its own domain. They took a prominent part in the creation of the Federation, and they are included in a very specific way in the definitions in the Constitution. The people of New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia, Queensland, and Tasmania are specially mentioned in the preamble to the Constitution, and, later, the word " States," like the word " Commonwealth," is defined. The States, as such, are an integral portion of our governmental system. It is proposed in the bill that the Commonwealth shall have the right to invade the arena of all State undertakings, large and small.

Senator DRAKE-BROCKMAN (WESTERN AUSTRALIA) -brockman. - Under the present Constitution, the Commonwealth can regulate the conditions in State undertakings. We have the same power with respect to them as to other industries in Australia.

Senator LYNCH - When the Commonwealth arbitration system was created it was assumed that there were only two classes of interstate employees - shearers and seamen. Since then, however, unions have federalized and manufactured many interstate industries and disputes. There is no warrant for a central authority demanding to know of a State what it is doing in its different activities. Let me remind honorable senators of the extent of the undertakings of the States. The State railway systems are worth about £250,000,000, which is about twenty times more than the value of the Commonwealth railway system. They have embarked upon schemes for the supply of water for drinking and irrigation purposes, and have engaged in many other activities to develop the country; and in those undertakings they should not be subjected to hindrance or interference, or to the prying eyes of a Commonwealth authority. The object of these powers, if they have an object, is to secure industrial equity. They aim at removing social injustice, but such forms of abuse ought not to exist under the aegis of a Government. A Government, State or Federal, is an instrument by which the people secure the well-defined end of "peace, order, and good government," to use a hackneyed phrase. The people are now asked to believe that the States are incapable of doin<-" what the Commonwealth is doing. I am not disposed to go the length proposed in the bill. I am opposed to the concentration of power in the central authority, and that is where this bill is leading. The Prime Minister has declared that the power of fixing wages will be taken at first gradually, and finally entirely, from the Stateauthorities. I ask honorable senatorswhether they are prepared to accept that as an objective. Within limits, I am. I should limit State authorities to operating within their own sphere; but I would' leave them to carry out their own work to the best of their ability. This would be paying them the only compliment they deserve. The Commonwealth is veryjealous of its own prerogatives, and we should not like any one to interfere with Commonwealth instrumentalities. It is; not because the Commonwealth is the superior authority that we should claimthe privilege of non-interference with whatever we do; but because of that quality inherent in the agency of government, which is possessed as fully by a State government as by the Commonwealth Government. This matter should! be given very serious consideration. I am against the proposal to load up the central authority with all these powers. It can only end, as a member of the last Parliament said, in imposing such a strain upon the central organization of government that we shall be compelled later to unload some of its burden and undo very much of what we are proposing to do to-day. It is proposed to federalize the authority to decide wages and conditions in industry, and, in another bill we have to consider, it is proposed that the Commonwealth authority shall have practically complete control in regulating the whole of the commerce of Australia. I submit my amendment with a view to leaving the State authorities free to revolve on their own axes, and to formulate their plans without any prying interference by the government of the Commonwealth. Is it assumed that a State government cannot be trusted to deal out even-handed justice and fair play to its subjects in the carrying on of these activities? Such an assumption must be the basis of this bill. But I would ask any honorable senator, who thinks in that way, to consider the work of the State parliaments. We all know that, if, in connexion with the operations of any State activity to-day, there is a single individual who feels injured or aggrieved, his grievance will find an echo in the State parliament, and will be inquired into and rectified. In this respect the control of a State activity differs entirely from the control of any private enterprise. It is true that I supported & somewhat similar proposal in the past; but, in common with others who supported it, I hope I have learned something from experience, and it appears to me now to be an unwarrantable interference with the State authorities. My experience supplies no justification for it. I desire that it should be embedded in the Constitution that, so far as this class of activity is concerned, the right of the State authorities to deal with them should not be subject to any interference by any Commonwealth government.

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