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Wednesday, 9 March 1904


Mr HIGGINS (NORTHERN MELBOURNE, VICTORIA) - Yes, but there is to be no legislation on the subject until next Parliament. I an> concerned with what this Parliament has to do. The speeches of the Prime Minister and of the leader of the Opposition, however, contain something which, if not novel, was at least interesting, though, as the self-made merchant said to his son -

Repartee makes lively reading but dull business, and what the house wants is more orders.

I suppose that if we were to paraphrase that advice we would say that what this country' wants is more markets for its produce. I cannot see much guidance to these markets yet. The opening speech consists principally of 'the unpassed Bills of last Parliament, and illusory hopes for the present Parliament. There is the usual bow to the great farming interests, and to the other leading interests, but one cannot see exactly that there is more than a bow. There is a hope of bounties to the farming interests, but nothing about what the bounties are to be. There is a hope of increased facilities of transportation; but nothing to show the mode by . which transportation is to be facilitated. There is the usual bow to the working classes, not only with regard to the Arbitration Bill which was before the House in the last Parliament, but also with regard to old-age pensions. It is hoped that a uniform system of old-age pensions throughout the Commonwealth will be established upon the taking over of the debts of the different States. The taking over of those debts, according to the Treasurer, cannot be achieved until the Constitution has been amended, and the Constitution cannot be amended, as he says, until the next elections are held. So that it does not need much logic to come to the conclusion that the question of old-age pensions is not within the pale of practical politics at the present time. Then there is the usual bow to the commercial and producing interests with regard to preferential trade. In the opening speech of last session there was some allusion to this question, and in this speech we find a reference in a more specific form. But the great mover towards preferential trade in England, Mr.. Chamberlain, has admitted publicly that he does not expect to carry his proposals at the next elections. That does not appear to be sufficiently recognised. If the leader of the movement does not expect to win at the next elections, and if the Prime Minister tells us that he means this to be a matter of bargaining with the home country, where does preferential trade come in for this Parliament?


Sir John Forrest - He may win, but he is not sure.


Mr HIGGINS - I never yet knew a general to succeed who went into the fight saying that he would not win. Of course, to Western Australia, that great colossus of the west, there must be a bow, or else no Government could hold its own. It is stated, in the speech, that a certain line is to be surveyed.


Sir John Forrest - That is since the visit of the honorable and learned member.


Mr HIGGINS - Yes, I went over to Western Australia ; but, fortunately for me, I had not to travel across the sand between Kalgoorlie and Port Augusta. I find that the Government has gone so far as to announce a Bill for a survey of the line. There is nothing to show that South Australia has given its consent, and without that consent, nothing can be done towards the construction of the railway ; to say nothing of other difficulties with which I shall deal when the time comes. All I say is that it is not within the pale of practical politics at the present time.


Sir John Forrest - The honorable and learned member is wrong.


Mr HIGGINS - I do not wish to get into an argument with the right honorable gentleman, who could crush me at once without any scruple or difficulty. Then I find, from the opening speech, that there is a hope of immigration. There is no more than a hope. I do not blame the Ministry for making no proposal. No Federal Ministry can properly promote immigration ; it has not got the materials. It is forgotten, I think, sometimes that in the United States the Federal power started off with the control of the great area of prairie lands in the west. The success of an immigration project depends upon the availability of land, and until the proper authorities buckle to and determine to get over the difficulties with regard to land settlement, until they can show people .who are thinking of coming to Australia that they can get land or work, it is of no use for them to talk about promoting immigration.


Mr Deakin - They can get land now in Western Australia.


Mr HIGGINS - I have gone through those glorious hills that surround Bunbury, and I have seen as good land there for ros. an acre, on long payments, not carrying interest, as land for which one would have to Pa)' £10 an acre in the market here. I believe that arrangements have been made by the Government to bring intending selectors to the land, and to pay their fares. I should not won'der if they also gave a free lunch, because my experience has been that free lunches are the rule in that State. It does provide facilities to people for getting land, but for some inexplicable reason there is a general impression that the State is an arid waste. It is nothing of the sort. It contains great wastes, but there is a very fine area of splendid land in the south-west. I do not wish' to be drawn- into matters of detail. No thoughtful man can but be impressed by the want of increase of population from immigration, and the want of increase of population from ordinary growth. I think that both phenomena are the result of practically the same root cause - the difficulty of finding work, and the difficulty of getting access to land. If parents could see that their progeny would have a decent chance of living without the worry, wear, and anxiety to which they themselves have been exposed, there would not be this continual cry about restriction of population: There is a reference in the opening speech to a contract with the mail steamers: The outlook is not good. I fear very much that the Ministry, unless they look out, will be shoved into a corner.


Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - They are practically in one now.


Mr HIGGINS - I hope not. I am sure that the honorable member will rise above party feeling, as he always does, and recognise that it is not well for this country to have its Ministry driven into a corner in regard to its mail contracts. I sincerely hope that the Ministry will not yield to the wellmeant suggestions to amend section 16 of the Post and Telegraph Act until we see further how it works. We ought not to alter our policy for the mere reason that in London and elsewhere ignorant critics, basing their remarks on ill-natured and mendacious reports from here, oppose the provisions which we put into our Acts. We deliberately adopted that provision in the Post and Telegraph Act, and we ought to keep to it. Let us not wobble from one thing to the other. If we think that the claim is right I think that the House would be willing, even if it had to pay more for its mail service for a time, to fight the combination which at present is working to prevent the application of this particular provision.


Mr Bamford - There is no necessity for that.


Mr HIGGINS - That may be. But I am looking at the matter in its worst possible phase. I believe that the House will back up the Ministry if they show a determination to carry out the present policy until it is proved to be wrong. I hope that the Government will not waver with regard to the introduction of contract labour into the Commonwealth. Here, again, I am sorry to say that some men who have proved themselves to be utterly disloyal to Australia have sent to England ill-founded, | coloured, and mendacious reports with regard to the six hatters, the Petriana case, and so forth. All those who are acquainted with the facts know that these reports have been unfairly coloured, and it was pitiable to see the extent to which Sir Frank Swettenham, formerly the Governor of the Straits Settlements, was misled by what he read in the London Times or some other newspaper. We ought to know what we want, and to stand to our guns, refusing to be influenced by the criticism of strangers who are unacquainted, with our circumstances. If we do this we shall earn the respect of our neighbours.


Mr Conroy - Then we ought not to criticise others, as in the case of the introduction of Chinese into the Transvaal.


Mr HIGGINS - Others are free to criticise us, and we are free to criticise them. If we were justified in interfering in the affairs of the Transvaal when it was not a British possession, how much more title have we to do so now when it is.


Mr Conroy - Then the people of the Transvaal would have an equal right to interfere with us.


Mr HIGGINS - I wish that the Ministry had shown more vim, more strenuous effort; with regard to the question of the admission of Chinese into the Transvaal. Their protest was too lady-like. Whatever faults Mr. Seddon has - and, to my mind, he was greatly misled a few years ago - he has thrown all his rough and rude force against this iniquity. I decline to treat the present Government of the Transvaal in the same way that I would deal with the responsible Government of a self-governing colony. I look, as Mr. Seddon has done, straight to the power behind the throne. We all know that Lord Milner has practically a number of marionettes who do his will - that it is his will which governs in matters of the kind referred to, and that Downing-street is behind him. Although it is unlikely that our protest will have much effect, we were perfectly right to speak our mind. We are called upon to contribute to the navy of the Empire, and, as we also contributed to the subjugation of the Transvaal, we should be allowed to have some say as to the use to which that country is to be put. Where the coloured races go white labour cannot exist under prosperous conditions. The same condition of things that exists in South Carolina and Alabama will soon be brought about in the Transvaal. In those American States, only a few degraded whites exist alongside the masses of coloured workers.


Sir John Forrest - There are already millions of blacks in the Transvaal.


Mr HIGGINS - Of course there are; but that is no reason why millions of yellows should also be imported. We should not transfer the Chinese from their proper place. Up to 1899 we were told that the object which the British Government had in view was to give white men the franchise, and to make the Transvaal a place in which white men could live. Now, however, we find that there is no franchise at all, and that the white men are being driven out of the territory. 1 feel that Mr. Seddon was fully justified in the language he used, which was direct, blunt, and strenuous. He said -

I boldly say, however, that whether the Australasian Colonies gave little or much help to South Africa during the Boer war, that help would not have been given if it had been dreamed that its effects would be to enable white labour to be excluded or penalized, while Chinese or other Asiatics are to be introduced and encouraged.

The principal work we have before us is the consideration of the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill, the Navigation Bill, the Federal Capital Site question, the Papua Bill, the Trade Marks and Copyright Bill, the Quarantine Bill, and a measure dealing with Rings and Trusts. The GovernorGeneral's speech, however, omits reference to what I regard as the most interesting - I do not say the most important - item relating to the political situation, although it has evidently been the chief matter in the minds of the party leaders. I refer to the fact that we have three parties of nearly equal strength in this House. I do not say that this is the most important matter, because experience has shown that responsible Governments have often been conducted for the peace, order, and good government of the country, even with three parties of equal strength in the Legislature. The Prime Minister has used a cricketing analogy, and has asked how matters could be managed, if there were two cricket teams in a field and a third came in to interfere. The Prime Minister must acknowledge that that analogy ought to be used only by mere politicians and not by him, because I decline to recognise that the game of politics is one of " ins " and " outs " between two teams. It is quite possible, . even with three parties in the House, for the Government, relying upon the average good sense of the House, to carry out a useful programme, and that is what I hope may happen in this case. At the same time, I feel that there is a danger in having one party which has not taken any share of the work of Executive Government, and which does not expect to do so for the present, and, therefore, is not called upon to face the responsibility of carrying out the Government of the King.


Mr Carpenter - Every honorable member has a share of responsibility.


Mr HIGGINS - Yes. But the honorable member must recognise that a great deal more responsibility and anxiety is felt by those who have, as the Executive, to carry out the policy of the country for the time being.


Mr Carpenter - They have added responsibilities as Ministers, but not as the members of parties.


Mr HIGGINS - The members of the Government have to administer the affairs of the country under all kinds of conditions, and a most difficult and responsible task to perform. It is a misfortune for a country to have a large and solid party which has not felt the pressure of such a responsibility. I do not like the cricketing analogy, but I should prefer to compare the Labour Party to a young horse, full of oats, which has not been in the shafts, and has not had to pull the load, and which is very apt to be restive and refractory.


Mr Carpenter - Then it is time that the members of the Labour Party had Ministerial experience.

Mr.HIGGINS.- Very likely it is. The' best frends of that party, and even perhaps some of its foes, would like it to feel the responsibility of pulling the political cart up the hill. It would be one of the most wholesome correctives to extravagance of which I can conceive. At the same time, it is only due to the leader of that party that I should say that, in my judgment, a great deal of the success which it achieved at the recent elections was owing to his strong good sense, his collectedness. and his attention to the business of the House. I do not think that the power of that party, - because we must recognise its power - will be misused, so long as he has control of it.


Mr WILKS (DALLEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Was the Labour Party not successful owing to the presence of two other parties in the field?


Mr HIGGINS - There is no need to have two other parties. Now that the

Tariff question has been disposed of, surely we must recognise that- there is nothing between the Ministerial and the Opposition sides of the House, other than the table ! There are more differences of opinion between individual members of the Opposition than there are between members of the front Ministerial and front Opposition benches. Similarly there are more differences between Ministerial supporters themselves than there are between the political views of Ministerialists and Oppositionists. Honorable members, however, must recognise that there is a distinction between two parties, although it has not yet been officially displayed. There is a distinction between the party which favours State action, and the party which does not, or between the party which favours much State action, and that which favours little. There is a wide gulf, I repeat, between the party which is in favour of the cautious, steady, sober, application of the powers of an organized community, and the party which is not. I will put one more qualification, by saying that there is a big gap between the party which seeks to apply the powers of the State to the whole of the people, and that which seeks to apply them to only a few. I was travelling not long since with a friend who afforded me a very good illustration of what I mean. He opened the conversation by declaring that we are suffering from too much legislation. " Why not shut up the talking shop," said he; " we cannot raise our hands without finding that we are interfered with by some law or other." We then passed on to the discussion of other subjects, and after a brief interval, my friend began to impress upon me the extreme importance of passing a law providing for the payment of a bonus to an industry in which he was interested. I replied - " I thought that you were opposed to State interference in these matters." " Oh, yes," said he, "but not to that class of legislation." Whatever we may think, I hold that it is one of the healthiest signs of the present position that the party which is most strongly in favour of State action is least in favour of the flotation of loans - is the least disposed to ask for borrowed money.


Mr Carpenter - That is a very good sign.


Mr HIGGINS - It is one of the healthiest of signs. There is not the slightest doubt that the greatest incentive to the spending of borrowed money comes from those persons who are most opposed to the Labour Party. The demand for the expenditure of loan money does not come from the labouring classes in the towns, or from their leaders, but from the outlying agricultural districts which are far removed from the centres of civilization, and which, naturally, require far more of the assistance of the State. One factor, however, is wanting. We need a more specific and direct disapprobation of the wretched loan system. The position also requires us to face the Public Service problem, because the greater the area of State action, the larger will be the number of our public servants, and the more pressing will the problem become. No one can consistently ask for an extension of the powers of the State unless he is prepared to devote his intelligence towards devising a system under which the Public Service shall automatically work out the best results.


Mr Deakin - Can any control of human beings work automatically to obtain the best results from them?


Mr HIGGINS - Perhaps the term " automatically " is not strictly correct. What I mean is that changes are constantly occurring in the Public Service, and that there are thus questions of promotion and transfer continually arising as the result either of resignation or death. I say that we must face the problem of how, without provoking discontent, without permitting a charge of favoritism to be raised upon one side, or allowing of promotion by the dead stony rule of seniority on the other, we may have a public service which will work reasonably well and to the content of its members. It is a desirable thing to make our public servants contented. One of the greatest blunders which has been committed by the Victorian Government is that of separating its public servants from the rest of the community by giving them separate and distinct interests. Such action has led to the consolidation of the Public Service of this State. Previously its interests were scattered. Unfortunately the Victorian Government has now consolidated it into voting for itself. Talk about class legislation ! What worse class legislation can there be than that which results from class legislators? I come now to the question of the transfer of the States debts. I do not think that much has been said upon this subject by previous speakers. I have had the advantage of carefully reading the papers which were presented to the Conference of States Treasurers by the Federal Treasurer and Sir Frederick

Holder. I find that the Treasurer proposes to have the Constitution amended at the next election, and subsequently to take over the whole of the State debts. During the sittings of the last Parliament I foresaw something of this sort, and upon three ocasions I endeavoured to induce the Government to afford time for the discussion of a motion which I had submitted bearing upon the subject. The then Prime Minister, Sir Edmund Barton, promised to afford me an opportunity to move the motion, but unfortunately arrangements could not be made to that end. What was the result ? I had hoped to obtain the Treasurer's view of the position, and to endeavour to work in with it. Unfortunately, however, no time was available for the discussion of the motion, and as soon as Parliament had been dissolved and the elections had taken place, the Treasurer called a Conference of Treasurers and said to them - " We cannot do anything until we have a referendum at the next elections upon the question of an amendment of the Constitution." If an amendment of the Constitution be necessary, it is a pity that it could not have been submitted to the people at the last general elections, because the problem is a pressing one. Every year during which it remains unsolved loss is occasioned to us, and I contend that it should be grappled with at once. I agree that the present provision in the Constitution with regard to the taking over of the States debts is unworkable and impracticable ; and in this respect I share the view expressed by the Treasurer. It provides that we can take over all the debts, or a certain proportion of them in equal proportion to the population. The form in which that provision was inserted in the Constitution was due to the jealousy of the States. The feeling at the Convention was that the Federal Parliament could not be trusted to take over, say, the debts of Tasmania, and not to take over the debts of New South Wales ; or to take over the debts of New South Wales and to avoid taking over those of Victoria. It was said at the Convention that equal consideration must be shown to all. But the proposal of the Treasurer is that we should take over all the debts unoflatu. That proposal is obnoxious to the criticism of Sir Frederick Holder, who has shown, in a short and able paper, that by taking over the debts of the States we should make a handsome present to the bondholders, without receiving' anything in return. Let me furnish the House with an example. The experience of Canada is that the bonds of the Dominion are of greater value than those of the individual Provinces ; that the 3 per cent, bonds of the Dominion may be worth £100, and the 3 per cent, bonds of say Manitoba, worth only £92, showing a very substantial margin of j£8. That is a margin on which it should be possible for us to bargain.


Mr Glynn - In Canada the lands and the railways are held by the Dominion.


Mr HIGGINS - That does not affect my argument.


Mr Glynn - Then as against the Dominion debt of ,£68,000,000 the debts at the Provinces amount only to about

£8.000,000.


Mr HIGGINS - I admit that the honorable and learned gentleman is a veritable encyclopaedia of information, but at this stage I wish only to put one fact. Rightly or wrongly, there is a tendency, which will be operative in the case of the Commonwealth, to place a higher value on the bonds of the larger organizations, than upon those of the smaller ones. I have not the slightest doubt in that regard. I am dealing not with what honorable members may think ought to be the case, but with what are the facts, and it will be found, unless something happens which cannot be foreseen, that the Commonwealth securities will be regarded in London as being of more value than the bonds, say of Victoria, Western Australia, or indeed, of any other State. They 'will be more sought after than will the Bonds of the States. Let us suppose for a moment that a 3 per cent. Commonwealth bond is worth ,£1.00 and that a 3 per cent. South Australian bond is worth only £92. In that event we should have a margin of £8 between the two.


Mr G B EDWARDS (SOUTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - The margin would, be greater.


Mr HIGGINS - I hope that I shalt not be interrupted in regard to mere details. I am stating a case which is milder than: that which I am entitled to put forward. I know, of course, that sometimes the margin will be greater, but let me keep to that which I have stated. If, in these circumstances, the Commonwealth took over the South Australian bonds, it would give a present of £8 in the £100 to every bondholder.


Mr G B EDWARDS (SOUTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - It would depend on the way in which we took over the debts of the States.


Mr HIGGINS - I am putting the matter before honorable members in this simple form. If the Commonwealth made 'one of these South Australian bonds a Commonwealth bond, then, all other things being equal, it would make a present of to the bondholder.


Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - It would if there were a difference of £,% between the two.


Mr HIGGINS - I am assuming that there would be that difference. I consider it very probable that there will be a difference, and 1 think that the suggestion which you, Mr. Speaker, embodied in your paper, and which you also submitted to the Federal Convention, should if possible be carried out. The suggestion was t hat we should be able to say to the holder of a South Australian bond, which is not to mature for some years to come - " If you like to accept for the State bond, worth £92, a Commonwealth bond for ^95 or £,96, we will give you that Commonwealth security, but otherwise we shall not do so." Accepting these figures, the adoption of this system would be, of course, a distinct gain to South Australia, which would thus have a debt as regards the bond in question of only ^95 or ,£96, in place of one of ^100. The difficulty is that the proposal, although most desirable, is impossible of fulfilment under our Constitution. The section, which provides for the taking over of the debts of the States does not allow us to make bargains of this description. We must take over either the' whole of the debts or a proportion of them. But what we must all desire, and what would be eminently to the advantage, of the States and the Commonwealth, as a whole, is the power to bargain. For my own part I think that an effort ought to be made to amend the Constitution, and to amend it in a much wider way than that suggested by the Treasurer. His proposal is merely (hat the Constitution should be amended so as to allow the Commonwealth to take over the States debts which have been incurred since the establishment of Federation, and which amount to about ^25,000,000 or £26, 000,000. I consider that we should have an amendment of the Constitution - and I fancy that the. people would readily grant it - to the effect that the Parliament may take over all or any part of the public debt, with the consent of the holders, on such terms and conditions and in such manner as it thinks fit. I believe that the people of Australia are accustomed to large undertakings, and are not averse to them.


Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I think that they would give us anything that we desired in that direction.


Mr HIGGINS - I believe that the honorable member is quite right. The jealousy of the States, the fear that one may get an advantage over another, is unfounded. There are forces at work which will prevent unfair dealing. We can see how the Government are driven to try to placate the feelings of each of the States. There is a strong tendency on the part of all Governments to approve their conduct to the people. I take it that nothing can be done in this matter without an Act of Parliament, and that the people are willing to trust us with it as they have trusted us with

Other powers: Their sense of the fairness of honorable members, and of the competence of the Government, no matter what Ministry may be in power, will be sufficient to induce the members to give us their, confidence in regard to the carrying out of this great undertaking. Of course, it would not be fitting for me to deal with the subject more elaborately at the present time. It is one to be worked out more by discussion between financiers ; but some alteration in the direction I. suggest is most desirable. It may be objected that it would not be fair to bondholders to convert some loans, and not to convert all ; that bondholders may complain if debts due to others are taken over by the Commonwealth while their own debts are not taken over. I do not agree with that contention. It is purely a matter of bargaining. So long as we in this country perform our -undertaking to the bondholders of England, or elsewhere, to repay principal and interest, we shall do all that we can be justly asked to do. We have no concern with market conditions any more than directors have to consider the effect of their action upon a market. We must consider only the best interests of the country.


Mr Mcwilliams - If we fulfil our undertakings, the bondholders cannot complain.


Mr HIGGINS - Exactly. If we repay £100 and interest for every ^100 borrowed, and do not deprive investors of any of their security, we. cannot be asked to do more. There is nothing to prevent us, however, from going to a bondholder, and saying to him - "You hold a bond for ^100. It is now worth only ^92 ; but we are willing to give you £95 for it if you will take a Commonwealth bond in exchange."


Mr Willis - Perhaps the bondholder may say that the bond is worth £100,


Mr HIGGINS - Of course, the Commonwealth Treasurer will ask Parliament to allow conversion only in cases in which he considers the market suitable. However, I feel that I have said enough upon the matter now. I hope that more strenuous efforts will be made to carry out this very important intention of the Constitution. My hearty support will be given to any amendment, no matter how. drastic, for the taking over of the debts of the States which will enable this Parliament to deal justly and freely with the matter. We require a free hand, however, and if we get it we shall be able to make a good bargain. I have something to say in regard to the proposed appointment of the Inter-State Commission. The honorable member for Gippsland made some wise and weighty remarks upon that head. I said, last Parliament, and I repeat now, that the appointment of the Inter-State Commission is not necessary at the present time. Complaints have been made as to unfair practices on the part of the Governments of the States, but such practices could all be stopped with the aid of existing machinery. For instance, I was told yesterday that the Victorian Government pay back to Gippsland coal companies Jd. a ton by way of re-' bate on railway freight ; that a certain sum is charged for the carriage of coal from Gippsland to Melbourne, and that the Victorian Government place upon the Estimates an amount which will repay a part of that sum to the coal companies. I have no hesitation in saying that that practice is equivalent to the giving of a bounty within the meaning of section 90 of the Constitution, and as such is illegal and could be stopped if the proper steps were taken. I venture to say, too, that if the Victorian Government were properly approached by those interested, and were shown that they are violating the provisions of the Constitution which binds them as well as us, they would stop what they are doing. If they did not, they could be restrained by the ordinary processes of the ordinary courts. Under the Constitution, the States have the power to give bounties for the production of metals such as iron and gold, but they have not power to give bounties for the production of minerals such as coal. It was upon my motion that that provision was inserted in the Constitution. To give £d. per ton to the Gippsland coal companies by way of rebate is distinctly to grant an illegal bounty, and could therefore be restrained. The only matter in which ' the Inter-State Commission is required to act is as to preferential railway rates under section 105 of the Constitution.


Mr Isaacs - How would the honorable and learned member deal with the case of the Victorian Government accepting a reduced freight ?


Mr HIGGINS - Of course, the Victorian Government does not carry the coal ; it is carried by the Victorian Railways Commissioners.


Mr Isaacs - lt amounts to the same thing. Suppose that the Railways Commissioners accepted a reduced freight?


Mr HIGGINS - Assuming that it could be shown that the Victorian Government was carrying Victorian coal at a cheaper rate than other coal, with a view to giving it a preference, that action would be equivalent to. the granting of an illegal bounty. At all events, that is my present opinion, though I do not give it dogmatically. But nobody, except the Inter-State Commission, can deal with preferential railway rates.


Sir John Forrest - It might be argued that certain coal is not so valuable as other coal, and therefore could be carried only at cheaper rates.


Mr HIGGINS - The right honorable gentleman is, no doubt, now giving us' the secrets of the Colley coal. At the present time the number of preferential rates, as distinguished from differential rates, is very small. On three occasions during the existence of last Parliament I asked the then Minister for Home Affairs what instances he could give of preferential railway rates, and each time I was told that he would let me know; but he did not. I think that he is not aware of any preferential rates. At all events, I am entitled to assume as much, having asked three times for the information. No doubt the creation of the InterState Commission is mandatory under the Constitution ; but its immediate creation, or its creation within a year, is not mandatory. Our prophecies with regard to the mistake in urging the creation of the High Court immediately have been largely fulfilled. Now it has been created, we muststand loyally to it, and give it all the moral? support we can.


Mr Thomas - The Government asked for five Judges instead of three.


Mr HIGGINS - Now that the creation of the Inter-State Commission is being made a live question, honorable members will ask the Ministry to prove the need for its immediate creation.

Mr.Thomas. - Let the High Court Judges act as Inter-State Commisioners to fill up their time.


Mr Isaacs - There is. an appeal under the Constitution from the Inter-State Commission to the High Court.


Mr HIGGINS - In conclusion, I am grateful to the House for the hearing that has been given to my remarks. I hope to be able to say what I wish to say. upon the Arbitration Bill when that measure comes before us.







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