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Friday, 25 June 1937

Senator E B JOHNSTON (Western Australia) . - This clause relates to Inter-State traffic on railways. I move -

That after the word " for", first occurring, the words " the Commonwealth or " bo inserted.

If my amendment be accepted, I shall move a further amendment to make the clause read: -

It shall not be lawful for the Commonwealth, or any State, or for any Commonwealth or State railway authority, to give or make upon any railway the property of the Commonwealth or of the State, in respect of Inter-State commerce, or so as to affect such commerce, any preference or discrimination which the commission adjudges undue and unreasonable, or unjust toany State.

The object of the amendment is to bring the Commonwealth Railways under exactly the same control asthat which may be exercised over State railways. The Commonwealth railway between Port Augusta and Kalgoorlie is the only line connecting "Western Australia with the eastern States; therefore, unless this amendment is carried, Western Australia will have no protection whatever under Part IV. 14 of this bill. In his secondreading speech the Leader of the Senate (Senator Pearce) inferred that Commonwealth and State railways were similarly controlled .

Senator Sir George Pearce - They are controlled in other Parts of the bill.

SenatorE. B. JOHNSTON.- In those other Parts no action can be taken except on a complaint either of a State or of the Governor-General.

Senator Sir George Pearce - Or of any of the authorities mentioned in clause 23.

Senator E B JOHNSTON - Those authorities may submit complaints against any State railway, but not against a Commonwealth railway. Clause 23 applies only to Part IV., which deals with State railways. It means that a State Railways Commissioner may complain against another State Railways Commissioner, but not against the very railway that is exercising unjust discrimination in respect of freights on goods to Western Australia - the Commonwealth railway.

Senator Sir George Pearce - There is nothing to prevent a State Railways Commissioner from taking action against the Commonwealth under section 99 of the Constitution.

Senator E B JOHNSTON - The right honorable gentleman is attempting to drag a red herring across the trail. We have no redress to-day under section 99.

Senator Sir George Pearce - This bill must be read in conjunction with the Constitution, which already contains the necessary powers.

Senator E B JOHNSTON - Under this bill the Inter-State Commission will be given direct power over State railways and the freights charged thereon. My amendment would give to it the same power over freights on Commonwealth railways.

Senator Brennan - What does the honorable senator think is likely to happen, and what does he want to prevent ?

Senator E B JOHNSTON - The bill provides that, should any freight rates on State railways be regarded as discriminatory or unfair, any State railway authority, or any borough, municipality, body politic, harbour board, marine board, or other State authority, or any association of traders or freighters, or chamber of commerce, manufactures, or agriculture may make complaint, whereupon the whole machinery of this legislation will be set in motion, and such discrimination may be declared to be illegal. No such power is given to those bodies in respect of Commonwealth railways. I. want that power to be vested in them in respect of Commonwealth railways; the Commonwealth railway freights are most unjust to Western Australian primary and secondary industries, and I hope, therefore, that the Government will accept my amendment. Unless it be incorporated in the bill, State railway authorities who prescribe discriminatory freights will be subject to control by the Inter-State Commission, whereas the Commonwealth railways authorities may not be challenged for similarly offending, unless the authority of a State government or of the Governor-General is invoked, if at all. From the point of view of a State which is responsible for making its railways pay, the carriage of onions and potatoes on a Commonwealth line from one side of Australia to the other at low freights is a matter of considerable importance. If the Inter-State Commission is to be empowered to deal with a complaint against a State railway, it should be able to act similarly when the complaint is against the Commonwealth railway authorities.

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