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Thursday, 12 November 1936

Senator MILLEN (Tasmania) . - It seems to me that the inescapable and logical conclusion to be reached, if we accept the statements of the last two speakers, is that the bill should not contain the proposed new provision, but should provide for the introduction of unification. The contention advanced by the Government is very difficult to understand. Section 92 of the Constitution merely provides that trade between States shall be absolutely free. In 1921, members of the High Court seemed to have great difficulty in understanding the meaning of the words " absolutely free." They declared that the section did not bind the Commonwealth. It was staggering to be told that the meaning of those words was not the same as we were taught to attach to them when we were at school. The Privy Council gave to the words an interpretation which everybody had thought to be the right one prior to the judgment of the High Court in 1921. If the High Court considers that " absolutely " means " partially," I should like to know what interpretation it will place upon " marketing." I have no doubt whatever that " marketing " would cover almost every activity in the Commonwealth. I desire to help the primary producers as much as I can, but let us do things with our eyes open, and not camouflage the position. Senator Collings said something about restoring the status quo. I point out, however, that the proposed new section would confer powers greatly exceeding those believed to have been enjoyed prior to the decision in the James case. As I understood the matter, , formerly, if any State Parliament desired to enact marketing legislation, it would arrange for the Commonwealth Parliament to pass supplementary legislation to enable the marketing scheme to be put into operation. But the amendment proposed in this bill far outsteps this position, and at the same time will practically nullify section 92. It states that section 92 shall not apply to marketing, although the Constitution provides that there shall be absolute freetrade between the States. We must not forget that we have been sent here for the purpose of protecting the rights of the States. Whilst we should do the best we can for the Commonwealth as a whole, the States look to us to safeguard their rights. If proposed new section 92a be accepted without any -amendment, section 92 will, to all intents and purposes, be deleted from the Constitution. It would be utterly futile to retain it.

Senator Brennan - The honorable senator cannot be serious in that assertion.

Senator MILLEN - I contend that "marketing" covers every activity.

Senator Brennan - We must at least alter the wording of section 92.

Senator MILLEN - Then alter " absolutely" to "partially." If that alteration had been made when the Constitution was framed, Tasmania would never have voted for federation. If we are going to do something to assist the primary producers we should not tell them these tarradiddles. Does the Minister mean to say that the people think that the measure relates only to primary production, when the term used is " marketing"? They believe that there is another and sinister motive behind the proposal.

L say nothing against the speeches delivered by Senators Collings and Hardy, but the inescapable log.o of their contention is that we should adopt unification, and that is not what is proposed by tho Government in this bill.

Senator Grant - The Leader of the Opposition stated that he would take all powers from the States.

Senator MILLEN - I do not intend to discuss the question, of unification, but, unless the proposal in the bill is very materially altered, I shall not support the measure.

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