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Wednesday, 22 August 1906

Mr SPEAKER - The right honorable member must not refer to the debates in another place.

Mr REID - I bow to your ruling, sir, < The result of it is, that I cannot complete my observations on this point.

Mr Bamford - At all events the title was amended.

Mr REID - I think that all honorable members know fairly well what I intended to say. A great deal of time might have been wasted oyer the use of such an expression, and possibly after a prolonged series of brilliant victories and defeats a most indomitable Minister may ultimately have been conquered. At all events the title disappeared. I point to these matters as raising all sorts of offensive issues that have absolutely nothing to do with business men. If mv honorable and learned friend has simply introduced this measure without any intention of proceeding further with it this session. I do not wish to further occupy the time of the House.

Mr Groom - We intend to proceed with it this session,, and expect it to be passed.

Mr REID - That being so, I repeat my protest against the introduction nf such a measure in the last weeks of the session, when a number of matters of vital importance have to be discussed and settled' in the interests of the Government. It is to be regretted even from their own point of view that they should have signalized the last few weeks of the session - weeks which they .should wish, in the interests of the public as well as for their own sake, to put to good account - by inviting honorable members to embark upon a prolonged examination of a Bill which really ought to be considered far less important than are a large number of other measures on the business-paper. The remaining weeks of the session might well be devoted to more important measures. My honorable and learned friend must recognise that the Bill gives rise to a number of points which will provoke discussion, and it is to be lamented' that we should be asked to deal with them now, since the measure is not one of pressing importance. Already the AttorneyGeneral of another State has issued a memorandum in which he protests upon a number of grounds against the provisions of this Bill.. I do not wish at this stage to occupy the valuable time of the House by referring in detail to that memorandum, but it possesses several features that well deserve serious consideration.

Mr Isaacs - I do not think that the right honorable gentleman can support the contentions raised' in it.

Mr REID - I intend to mention one matter of which I have personal knowledge. The Minister referred just now to the objects of the provisions relating to mining leases. On the face of it, that object appears to be a perfectly reasonable one. As the Minister has said, he has actually been led% fo take action so far as thase provisions "are concerned by the Premiers' Conference.

Mr Groom - No - by several' requisitions. We have had twenty or thirty applications from Victoria.

Mr REID - In the absence of the illustration I am about to give, the provisions in question might not seem important, but I think that I shall be able to show that they may have a vitallyimportant effect on New South Wales. Some years ago, when I held office as Premier of that State, an application to. mine for coal near Bradley's Head had been, I think, improvidently entertained. Bradley's Head, as honorable members are aware, now forms part of a military reserve. The Department had to some extent committed the State Government, but I felt that it would be a monstrous outrage to have a coal mine sunk to a depth of 3,000 feet, and vast quantities of debris raised at that point in full sight of every one using the Sydney harbor. I believe that the harbor has been heard of as being rather an attractive panorama. I had t'o use my power to prevent that project being proceeded with, and the result was that the parties interested had to commence operations at the back of Balmain, some miles further inland. I mention the incident in order to show that although on the face of it the issue involved does not seem important, it might give rise to a most painful' conflict between the Commonwealth and the States. Great influence will perhaps be brought to bear on the Commonwealth, and large inducements offered to it to give mining rights under military lands, and the States concerned might in that event be most vitally interested in the question. In these circumstances I think that the suggestion made by the honorable and learned member for Corinella was a very sensible one. We do not wish to create possible causes of friction between the Commonwealth and the States in connexion with business undertakings into which the Commonwealth does not enter. Honorable members must recognise that we do not desire to deal with -mining leases or mining enterprises ; we do not wish to trouble ourselves with matters of that sort. There are States laws and States appliances dealing with them, and, therefore, I think that the suggestion made by the honorable and learned member for Corinella, that power should be given to the States to grant leases, is a verv sensible one. It would, if adopted, save the Commonwealth from embarking on- a line of departmental activity for which it has no vocation, and the exercise of power which, except in rare instances, it has no opportunity to exerciseI should like to suggest that the clause in question be put right.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Does the right honorable member mean that the States should be permitted to grant leases with the consent of the Commonwealth?

Mr REID - I should not have the slightest objection to the Commonwealth having power to decide whether .these things should be done.

Mr Groom - The consent of the Commonwealth would be necessary.

Mr REID - Subject to the consent of the Commonwealth that the land might be used for mining purposes, the States should have power to grant leases.

Mr Groom - The Commonwealth must have power to prescribe regulations.

Mr REID - If the States have in operation machinery necessary for this particular purpose - apart from the question of regulations, which really amount to nothing - economy will be effected if they are left to deal with these matters. I am sure that the intention of the Government is not to establish new machinery. If the Commonwealth consented to the issue of a permit to carry on mining, the States might refuse to grant the necessary appliances, and the Commonwealth would exercise its superior power as owner of the land, and would itself make rules and regulations, and appoint officers to carry them out. All these matters suggest possibilities of conflict and of differences of Opinion which we cannot be too ready to avoid. I do not propose now to deal with the details of the measure. Although there are a number of provisions to which I should like to refer, I admit that this is not the time to do so. I shall, therefore, merely express my regret that, when time is of so much consequence, and there are so many vital matters to be dealt with, the Government % have determined to go on with a Bill which, with all respect to the Minister of Home Affairs, is of trivial importance, remembering the great pressure upon Parliament, and the short period within which we can do useful work.

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