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Thursday, 27 September 1906


Senator DRAKE (Queensland) . - Those who remember the debates which took place in 1902 on the Postal Rates Bill, are aware that the provision which it is now proposed to alter, was inserted bv me as Postmaster-General of the day, though with very great reluctance. It was struck out of the Bill, but restored, not with the desire to place burdens upon the people of Tasmania, but because it was thought that the Constitution compelled us to make this extra charge. I have always thought the arrangement an un-Federal one, and was in favour of treating Tasmania and the mainland States equally. But it appeared to me, and to the officers of the Department, that reading together sections 89 and 93 of the Constitution, we could not make the cable rate a Federal charge. Section 89 of the Constitution provides the manner in which the expenditure of a transferred Department shall be dealt with, and deals with the crediting of revenue and the debiting of expenditure. Section 93 gives effect to that provision for the first five years of the imposition of uniform duties, and thereafter until Parliament shall otherwise provide. The sub-section says -

Subject to the last sub-section, the Commonwealth sim" credit revenue, debit expenditure, and pay balances to the several States, as prescribed, for the period preceding the imposition of uniform duties of Customs.

Section 94, that has not been referred to, deals with the distribution of the surplus, providing that it may be on such a basis as may seem fair to Parliament. Here is the point which seems to me to be exceedingly important in connexion with this Bill, and which I should like the Minister to consider. I do not express a definite opinion upon it. Under the first part of section 93, coupled with the sub-section I have mentioned, it is provided that the. revenue is to be credited, and the expenditure debited during the period mentioned, and thereafter " until the Parliament otherwise provides." This bookkeeping period will expire next Monday week. I suggest to the Minister that it is not a strained reading of the section, that after next Monday week in respect to crediting revenue or debiting expenditure, Parliament may deal with the matter as it pleases. If the Minister thinks that there is anything in that contention the date of this Bill might very well be altered.


Senator Keating - This was not an expenditure. It was a guarantee. It has not been operative.


Senator DRAKE - Has it not?


Senator Keating - No. It was not expenditure at all. We did not pay the guarantee.


Senator DRAKE - Did we not pay anything to the cable company?


Senator Keating - This is over and above the subsidy paid to the company. We are making a guarantee operative which has not been operative previously.


Senator DRAKE - It appears to me to be perfectly possible after next Monday week to deal with the matter of crediting revenue and debiting expenditure as Parliament pleases.


Senator Keating - That point was gone into bv the Attorney-General, who advises that it can be done.


Senator DRAKE - This Bill is to come into operation on the 1st October; so that evidently the advice of the AttorneyGeneral was not that this might be made Federal expenditure in consequence of the bookkeeping 'period having run out.


Senator Keating - It was not in consequence of that.


Senator DRAKE - Then the opinion of the Attorney-General is, I take it, different from the opinion that was prevalent in T902 when the Postal Rates Bill was, passed. The opinion held then was that we were debarred by the bookkeeping sections from making this Federal expenditure. I should rejoice very much if in consequence of the bookkeeping section having now practically expired, we could substitute a different method of distributing expenditure and revenue connected with transferred Departments.

Senator Col. NEILD(New South Wales) [10.25]. - I am not opposed to the Bill, because I realize that under circumstances where all the States ought to be equal, Tasmania is at a disadvantage at present.. For instance, a few months ago I was at Thursday Island and was going to Port Darwin. I wanted to secure a bedroom there, and sent a telegram from Thursday Island. That message travelled all the way through Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria, and South Australia to Adelaide, and then all the way by the transcontinental line to Port Darwin. That message involved an expenditure of is. But if I had wanted to send a similar telegram to Launceston, I should have had to pay a larger sum. That is certainly not a Federal arrangement. The Bill is one that aims at achieving a proper reform in that respect, and I hope it will be carried. I like to support measures brought in by a Ministry to which I am in some respects naturally opposed, and in this instance the measure deserves support. If I can send a telegram from Thursday Island to the extreme limits, of Western Australia - say, to Wyndham - for is., it does seem rather absurd that it should cost more to send a telegram from Queenscliff to Burnie or Devonport, or even to Tamar Heads. Of course, the cable is expensive, but I suppose that a telegraph line through the wilds of Cape York, and portions of Western Australia is also costly to maintain. In fulfilment of our Federal understanding we should make our telegraph rates uniform. It therefore gives me pleasure to support the Bill.







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