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Thursday, 22 April 1915

Mr HUGHES (West Sydney) (AttorneyGeneral) . - Representations have been made to us in regard to this matter. In substance, what the honorable member asks is whether we are able, and, if so, whether we propose to, clothe the Inter-State Commission with such powers as will enable it to exercise the judicial functions given to it under the Act as it stands. The Government have not had the opportunity of considering this matter. I speak, therefore, with the reservations that this implies. Obviously, there are very considerable difficulties in the way. One of these may be stated at once. Under the judicature chapter of the Constitution, Judges who are to exercise Federal jurisdiction are to be appointed for life; on the other hand, under the Constitution and the Inter-State Commission Act, the Commissioners are appointed for seven years. Clearly, we cannot clothe the Inter-State Commissioners, as such, with She powers of a Federal Court. That much is perfectly obvious. The terms of the Constitution relating to the Judiciary and to the InterState Commission, as well as the decision of the High Court in the Wheat Acquisition Case, make it impossible. There appears, indeed, to be no way by which the Inter-State Commission, as such, can be clothed with the powers of the Federal Judiciary. In any case, to create the three Inter-State Commissioners Judges under the Judicature chapter of the Constitution, if that were possible, would not help the commercial community, because the Commission as such, would not then be able to exercise the general functions of the Inter-State Commission in regard to commerce and trade vested in it under the Constitution. For we cannot get behind the decision of the High Court in regard to the exercise of judicial functions by the Commission. Of course, there is another objection, and I think a very real one. Two members of the Inter-State Commission are laymen. It would certainly be impossible to make them Judges since they do not possess the necessary qualifications. I have stated the facts shortly. They have not yet been considered by the Government, but I lay them before the Committee so that honorable members may be aware of the difficulty confronting the Ministry in the matter.

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