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Wednesday, 30 June 1937

Senator E B JOHNSTON (Western Australia) . - I am surprised at these repeated, paltry and puny corrections, and the attacks that the right honorable the Leader of the Senate (Senator Pearce) makes against the press in relation to this bill. It is perfectly clear, of course, why he is making these attacks. He knows that some Western Australian members of the Senate were probably misled. He knows that the Commonwealth railways do not . come under Part

IV.   of this bill, and are not subject to oversight from the Inter-State Commission, which, under this measure, is so rigidly to be applied to the State railways at the request of any association of traders, freighters or producers. There is very great objection in Western Australia to the exclusion of the Commonwealth railways, which so unfairly compete with the Western Australian railways and favour the eastern industries as against' the western primary and secondary industries. When the -Government introduced this bill, which is designed to create a commission which is to be the "eyes of Parliament", and which is to do so much good, the Government deliberately excluded the Commonwealth railways from Part IV., which will, however, apply to every State railway. That means that Western Australia alone of thefive mainland States is to have no protection at all from the Inter-State Commission against the unjust interstate competition, which is directed exclusively against our primary and secondary industries, whereas interstate trade and commerce between any of the other four mainland States isbrought directly under the purview of the Inter-State Commission because their interstate railways are owned by the State and not by the Commonwealth. That oversight can he exercised at the request of any small association or chamber of commerce, but Western Australia, in regard to its interstate trade and commerce, is unfairly excepted from that protection by this Government and in this measure.

SenatorFoll. - No ; it is not.

Senator E B JOHNSTON - If the Minister wants to put the matter right, I invite him to recommit the bill and accept the amendments I moved on the subjects - amendments, which you, Mr. President, came down from your high position in the Chair to support so vigorously. I advise the Government to reconsider the matter and accept the advice which you, Mr. President, and I gave to it in order to put this matter right. At present, the eastern States annually send something like £10,000,000 worth of goods to Western Australia.

Senator Arkins - Will the honorable gentleman specify the items?

Senator E B JOHNSTON - The honorable senator knows them, or if he does not he may look them up. The products of the factories of the Eastern States - produce, potatoes and onions - are sent to Western Australia from the Eastern States whenever there is a glut on the eastern markets.

Senator Hardy - We do not send £10,000,000 worth of potatoes and onions.

Senator E B JOHNSTON - No, they are only two small items. The eastern States send the products of their factories to Western Australia and use that State as. a dumping ground.

Senator Arkins - Do they send them by rail?

Senator E B JOHNSTON - Only to Kalgoorlie, which is the finest market in Australia. Eastern products are carried to the metropolitan and coastal markets by steamers charging low sea freights, and are sent to the Western Australian market by the East-west railway at freight rates which, I am advised, do little more than pay for axle grease. Those charges are absolutely unprofitable and do not obtain on any other railway in the Commonwealth. Yet the one railway which offends against the Constitution by charging differential and preferential railway freights to the detriment of western industries is the railway which this national Parliament refuses to bring under Part IV. of the bill, Part IV. being put there entirely to prevent unjust discriminatory railway freights for the protection of the other four mainland States of the Commonwealth. The whole attitude of the Minister in this matter is unjust to the State which he and I represent. I suggest that the reason why he is rushing forward day after day with these deliberate attacks on the press is because he is frightened that the real position caused by the defeat of my amendments might be clearly understood in Western Australia. In the paltry and puny attacks on the press made yesterday by the Leader of the Senate, the right honorable gentleman magnified things and made mountains out of molehills. Such attacks on our free institution, the press, are unworthy of the National Parliament.

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