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Thursday, 8 July 1915

Senator MILLEN - Senator Gardiner referred to the matter in his secondreading speech.

Senator Bakhap - The transaction with the State of Queensland was referred to by the Minister.

The PRESIDENT - The honorable senator will remember that I was absent from the chamber for a time, and the reference must have been made then. He ought not to go beyond a reference to the matter as an illustration of his argument.

Senator BAKHAP - I shall endeavour not to be discursive. T think I am entitled to allude to the matter by way of illustration, because, the main Labour .objective, the securing of power to fix prices, is involved in the action of the Government to which I have referred. It should not be forgotten that this involves, in the opinion of Mr. Holman and other eminent men, a substantial and radical alteration of the Commonwealth Constitution in respect to the relation between the National and State Governments. I feel like a lioness robbed of her whelps when I reflect upon the fact that there can be no Free Trade between the States comprising the Australian Commonwealth if it is within the power of the Government of any State to render nugatory the whole system of commercial transactions involved in the term " Free Trade." Although a layman, I am in agreement with many lawyers in the view that trade and commerce in the Federal sense becomes very largely a matter of. transport, and the right of a State Government to entirely isolate the whole of any particular product produced within the borders of a State is not imperilled by the Constitution as it at present exists, and will not be imperilled by any or all of the proposals now under the consideration of the Senate. In fact, it is confirmed, because honorable senators will find that the Constitution Alteration (Nationalization of Monopolies) Bill, under which it is proposed to give the Commonwealth power to deal with monopolies expressly exempts from its operation any monopoly carried on by a State. Sub-clause 2 of clause 2 of that Bill provides^ -

This section shall not apply to any industry or business conducted or carried on by the Government of a State, or any public authority constituted under a State.

That being so, New South Wales can continue to grab wheat ; Queensland can continue to grab sugar; Tasmania may grab potatoes, tin, or timber- which I am sure it will not do - and the Commonwealth Government expressly inhibits itself from any interference with any such State monopoly. By virtue of this Bill the power of New South Wales or Queensland to interfere with Inter-State trade and commerce in the widest and most fruitful sense of the term is neither impaired nor inhibited. I venture to say that there is not one of these Bills which remotely affects the power, as declared by the High Court, of the Government of New South Wales, or of any other Australian State, to constitute itself an outright monopolist of any product raised or manufactured within its borders. Honorable senators challenged my statement that the adoption of these proposals would not secure perfect Free Trade and commercial relationship as between the Australian States.

I now make them a present of my opinion, and ask them in what way they can refuse to acknowledge that each individual Australian State .under the Constitution Alteration (Nationalization of Monopolies) Bill is protected in respect of any monopoly that it cares to establish. If this were a truly Federal Government; if it had truly Federal ideals, would it not at once ask the Parliament and the people of the Commonwealth to remove the disability under which the people of the different States clearly suffer by reason of the decision of the High Court in the New South Wales wheat case? But it is doing nothing of the sort. Senator Keating is a lawyer whose opinion on legal questions is respected, not only throughout the Commonwealth, but boyond its confines, and I think I am not anticipating if I say that he entertains the view that not one of these Bills will impair, in the slightest degree, what has been adjudged by the' High Court to be the right of each State to monopolize anything raised or manufactured within its borders. I have obtained the opinion of three eminent barristers who are unanimous in the view that these Bills do not touch in any degree the decision of the High Court in the wheat case. That being so, what value are they as making any substantial provision for the amelioration of the grievance disclosed by the quite recent action of the States, and by the quite recent decision of the High Court? They are of no value whatever; they are only so much waste paper.

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