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Friday, 25 June 1937

Senator BRENNAN (VictoriaAssistant Minister) .- I like to give the honorable senator credit for being solicitous for the welfare of his State when he persists in his statement that, unless they are manacled, the other States will do an injustice to "Western Australia. It should not he necessary for me to disclaim any such intention on the part of the representatives of the other States. I should have thought that every honorable senator sits in this chamber as an Australian, not only to represent his own State, but also to have careful regard to the rights of every other State. "When the Leader of the Senate (Senator Pearce) was speaking, Senator Johnston interjected somewhat heatedly that the right honorable gentleman was attempting to drag a red herring across the trail. Senator Pearce stated an elementary fact when he said that this legislation must be read in conjunction with other legislation already on the" statute-book, particularly the Constitution Act. I remind Senator Johnston that even the High Court cannot wipe out the Constitution, or any portion of it. Nor can this Parliament do so, other than by the methods set out in the Constitution itself. The honorable senator must have in his mind the possibility of something happening; otherwise he would not have moved an amendment designed to make provision for that happening. When I asked him what he feared would happen, he replied that, in the event of a State railway providing for discriminatory freights, a number of bodies could make complaint to the Interstate Commission with a view to the discontinuance of the objectionable practice, whereas, should the Commonwealth railways discriminate in respect of freights, there would be no means of cheeking it. For that reason, it is necessary to look elsewhere in the Constitution. Yesterday, Senator Pearce gave some reasons why the Commonwealth railways were not mentioned in the bill in exactly the same connexion as the State railways. There is a further reason why the honorable senator's amendment is not necessary, namely, should the Commonwealth railways authorities discriminate against the railways of a State their action will come within the scope of section 99 of the Constitution, which provides that -

The Commonwealth shall not, by any law or regulation of trade, commerce, or revenue, give preference to one State or any part thereof over another State or any part thereof.

Moreover, the Constitution empowers an individual to move under that section, as Mr. James did recently.

Senator E B Johnston - Not every individual can afford the expense of fighting the Commonwealth.

Senator BRENNAN - Let us assume that goods are in transit across Australia by rail. I take it that the idea in Senator Johnston's mind is that when those goods reach the portion of the railway which is under the jurisdiction of the Commonwealth, a differential ratu might apply to them.

Senator Sir George Pearce - The argument is that .the rate charged on the' Commonwealth railways from Port Augusta to Kalgoorlie is unfair to the trade and commerce of Western Australia.

Senator BRENNAN - Under section 99 of the Constitution there can be no differentiation against goods coming from any part of Australia to Western Australia, and section 92 provides that there shall be no interference with the free flow of trade between the States. It is not intended that the Inter-State Commission shall take control of either the Commonwealth railways or the railways of the States. All that it will do in this connexion is to ensure that there shall be no discrimination or differentiation as between the States. The provisions of the Constitution meet anything that can be imagined by Senator Johnston. If agreed to, his amendment would serve no good purpose, and I ask the committee to reject it.

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