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Friday, 16 July 1915

Mr SPEAKER - I have frequently had to call attention to the fact that one question has led to the asking of about a dozen others on the same subject. This morning, I think about six questions have been founded on the one originally asked by the honorable member for Capricornia. When I drew attention to the earlier practice, the Government took the course of asking for notice of each question. However, if the Government is prepared to allow these questions to be asked as they are being now asked, I do not think that there is any necessity for me to try to curtail them.

Sir John Forrest - I do not think the gag should be introduced-

Mr SPEAKER - Order! Will the honorable member ask his question?

Sir JOHN FORREST - I only wish to ask the Attorney-General whether I was correct in understanding him to say that it is proposed to give preference to the five eastern States over Western Australia in regard to the price of sugar, and whether, in his opinion, that will be within the scope of the Constitution?

Mr HUGHES - I will answer the last part of the right honorable member's question first. No constitutional question at all is involved in this proceeding. We are doing as we are, not by virtue of our powers under the Constitution, but by virtue of the Executive power of the Government as such, and we could act in the same way if there were no Constitution at all. As to the first part of the right honorable member's question, I can only say that it is notproposed to grantpreference to any State, but it is proposed to treat this as a commercial transaction. If the right honorable gentleman will only realize that the distance increases as one passes from Queensland round the coast, he will understand that by the time Western Australia is reached a great deal more expense in freight charges will have been incurred than would have been incurred had the journey ended at Sydney.

Sir John Forrest - So it does when you get to Adelaide.

Mr HUGHES - The honorable gentleman knows perfectly well that the cost of freight and other charges must be added to the price of a commodity if things are to be dealt with on a commercial basis. Knowing that, how can he say that what is proposed is preference? I am astounded at him.

Mr JOSEPH COOK - Will the services rendered by the Government in dispensing sugar to the sugar buyers of the Commonwealth rest upon a different basis from that upon which services are rendered, for instance, by the Post Office, under which, irrespective of distance or any other consideration, the same uniform charges are made in every State ?

Mr HUGHES - The honorable gentleman is very fecund of suggestion and idea, but I would refer him to the system adopted on our railways, which does not lend itself to the brilliant idea of the right honorable gentleman. If he wishes to travel to South Yarra - if he is not a member of Parliament - he has to pay one amount, but if he wishes to travel to Sydney the fare is a great deal more. It is on that basis, not on the basis of the Post Office, that we are carrying out this work.

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