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Thursday, 24 June 1937

Senator LECKIE (Victoria) .- I indicated yesterday that I was in favour of this measure, and gave briefly my reasons for supporting it. I was interested a little while ago, to hear the Leader of the Opposition state the definition of a pessimist. I regard the honorable gentleman as an optimistic pessimist and would say that the difference between a pessimist and an optimistic pessimist is this - a pessimist is a man who fears that the worst will happen; an optimistic pessimist is a man who hopes and believes that the worst will happen.

Anybody would think, from the remarks of honorable senators in opposition, that the Commonwealth had been standing still for the last twenty years; but no one with his eyes open could have failed to notice the remarkable development that has taken place in all branches of industry since the Inter-State Commission was abolished.

Senator Collings - I did not say that the Commonwealth had been standing still.

Senator LECKIE - It is evident to every one that the conditions affecting trade and commerce in Australia have materially altered. In recent years there has been a surprising increase of governmental activities. The new conditions that have arisen point to the absolute necessity for the reconstitution of the Inter-State Commission. My only regret is that the commission will not have the judicial powers which the Parliament intended the original commission to have. It may be that the Commonwealth will have to take drastic steps against some of the States, thereby placing itself in an awkward position ; but if it has the backing of the commission it can proceed against the offending States without being accused of bias. In some respects the relations between the States are deplorable, as, for instance, in respect of interstate freights. Such things should not exist in a country which is supposed to be federated. Objection has been raised to the reconstitution of the Inter-State Commission on the ground of expense, but as it will replace the Commonwealth Grants Commission, the additional expenditure will not be great. The existing body already costs more than half the estimated expenditure on the new commission.

Senator Johnstonseems to be afraid that, with the passing of this legislation, the Commonwealth railways will engage in a campaign against Western Australia. The honorable senator seems obsessed by the idea that every man's hand is against the western State. That is not so ; every honorable senator entertains the kindliest feelings for Western Australia, but the extreme remarks of the honorable senator on occasions tend to make other honorable senators feel that their sympathy is wasted. The honorable senator is wrong in his judgment of his fellows both in this Parliament and outside it.

Senator ALLAN MACDONALD (WESTERN AUSTRALIA) - There is ground for complaint about certain freight rates on Commonwealth railways.

Senator LECKIE - I understand that the chief complaint of Senator Johnston and others from Western Australia is in respect of railway freights to Kalgoorlie, and relates particularly to beer from the eastern States.

Senator E B Johnston - I had in mind onions and potatoes also.

Senator LECKIE - It would appear that the drinkers of beer in Kalgoorlie prefer beer brewed in Adelaide to that of the Swan Brewery at Perth. The honorable senator should calm his fears, for he has only to read Part III. of the bill to realize that the committee may inquire into and report to the GovernorGeneral upon any anomalies, preferences, or discriminations, alleged to exist in relation to interstate commerce. If railway freights are not associated with interstate commerce, I do not know what is. Under this legislation the commission may investigate the grievance which the honorable senator has voiced, and should it find that the complaint is well founded, I cannot imagine that any Common- wealth Government would fail to take immediate action to remove the cause of complaint. 1 hope tha't there will he no opposition to the bill. I should like the commission to be vested with the judicial powers that it was thought the Constitution provided, but, even in the absence of those powers, I believe that it will be of great value in removing anomalies and the bad feeling which is growing between the States.

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