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Tuesday, 15 November 1983
Page: 2736

Mr CADMAN(11.07) —This legislation reminds me of the cocky farmer who goes along to his bank manager at a time of need and asks for additional funds. Of course, when he is in need the bank manager says no. But when the season is good the bank manager wants to lend a lot of money. This legislation reminds me exactly of that situation. The Inter-State Commission Bill deals with transport between States other than the area of transport covered by the two airline policy. The Inter-State Commission will act as an ongoing royal commission to look at areas relating to transport, which could include commerce, trade, financial support and terms of financial support by States, local governments and other authorities. It could look at government subsidies, government programs of support for transport, and industrial relations. It could look at road systems, rail systems and shipping systems. The objectives of the Bill are as follows: That the Inter-State Commission should look at interstate transport services. The terms should be reasonable and the Commission should consider them to be reasonable and just. It can look at instances where there is preference or advantage in relation to interstate transport given to any particular person, State, locality, class or kind of transport and at whether or not that preference or advantage is undue or unreasonable. The Inter-State Commission can also examine discrimination or disadvantage in relation to interstate transport to which any particular person, State, locality, class or kind of transport is subject. It can also examine whether the doing of an act or thing by a State or an authority of a State will affect the trade or commerce among States. Those are the four broad objectives-the reasonableness and justness of services and conditions, the preferences and advantages that are shown, discrimination or disadvantage, and the acts between States which may affect trade or commerce.

I contend that these objectives are exact duplications of the objectives of already existing authorities and the legislation is not needed. The areas of commerce, trade, financial support and terms of that support, government subsidies, industrial relations, road and rail systems and shipping are already covered by a multiplicity of organisations. They are covered by the Economic Policy Advisory Council, the Loan Council, the Premiers Conference, the Advisory Council for Inter-governmental Relations, the Bureau of Transport Economics, the Australian Advisory Council, the pricing authority which has yet to be established, the Industries Assistance Commission and the Australian Conciliation and Arbitration Commission. I could keep going. There are many organisations that can cover exactly the processes which are outlined in this legislation. Therefore, I believe the establishment of an inter-state commission is unwarranted and unjustified. If there are specific needs we have had specific inquiries.

Honourable members will remember the inquiry into the long distance road transport of Australia by Sir David Hay. It was an excellent inquiry that produced results. The Minister for Transport has established an examination of the road transport systems of Australia. That was an ideal inquiry to add to the Inter-State Commission but the Minister chose not to do that. These provisions are unwarranted, unjustified and duplicate existing systems.

The past history of the Inter-State Commission has been outlined by other honourable members. However, I also wish to lend my weight to the proposition that the history of the Inter-State Commission has been divisive and has always been an object of suspicion among States and members of the Commonwealth as well as parliamentarians. The reason for that suspicion and divisiveness is easily assessed when one considers the words of Mr W. M. Hughes. On 13 December 1912 in his second reading speech introducing the Commission stressing the wide scope intended for it, he stated:

The power of our Interstate Commission will not be confined to dealing with railway rates. In addition to this it will have power with regard to carriers generally . . . it will have power in regard to shipping . . . to deal with all matters incidental to the Anti-Trust Act, the Tariff, and to make inquiries in relation to all questions relating to trade (and) commerce . . . In addition, there is no limitation to the subjects that may be referred to it by resolution of either House of the Parliament. The Interstate Commission will be, amongst other things, a Board of Trade.

The powers that were ascribed to that Commission and the powers that were retained for it in its various forms over the years have been the capacity to investigate and adjudicate on matters such as prices of commodities, profits of trade and manufacture, wages and social and industrial commissions, labour employment and unemployment, bounty paid by foreign countries to encourage shipping or export, population and immigration. The powers of the Inter-State Commission have been wide and that is the reason why at every stage during its history it has been regarded with real suspicion.

The Inter-State Commission Act was introduced in 1912. It lapsed in 1920 following a wheat case before the High Court of Australia. It was reintroduced in 1937 and again lapsed. In 1959, it was discussed at the Constitutional Convention where Mr Whitlam took a very strong role in promoting the activities and concept of an interstate commission. He promoted it in exactly the form that Mr Hughes established it originally. In 1974, a Bill was introduced and eventually passed after being modified very considerably by the Senate. At that stage Mr Charles Jones said in his second reading speech that the Inter-State Commission was a commission for transport only but it had all of these other incredible powers attached to it. Those powers were the powers that concerned members of this House and the States of Australia. The powers of the Inter-State Commission, as it is now before us, are also matters of concern to me. If honourable members were to examine the adjudication powers when the Commission is given a reference by the Minister, they would find that the Inter-State Commission is required to adjudicate on all matters. I shall read the relevant part of the Bill.

any adjudication by the Commission in relation to that matter and any recommendations that the Commission thinks fit to make in consequence of those findings . . . The Commission may, if it thinks fit, recommend a system of freight cost equalization or subsidy.

So the capacity to adjudicate in the instances I have outlined connected with transport is very wide indeed. There are no rules of evidence required for this Commission. That is something that the Government is not prepared to adopt for its National Crime Authority. It is not prepared to give that body investigating crime the same power as it wishes to give this body-absolute power concerning evidence. Mr Wran, in his recently established inquiry into the affairs of Mr Jackson, was not prepared to give that inquiry the powers that the Government is giving to this Inter-State Commission.

Taking the matter further, one sees that there are matters relating to the appearance of witnesses. Witnesses may be summonsed, and the Commission shall gaol, if necessary, or fine those who fail to appear. The imprisonment period is one of six months, and there is a fine of $1,000 if people fail to appear before the Commission. One cannot avoid incriminating oneself before this Commission. These are all matters that the Labor Party claims are matters of civil liberties . We have read in the Press about the difficulties it has had in accepting a National Crime Authority that has any teeth. In fact, it is an emasculated Authority for which this House will eventually see the legislation.

In this Inter-State Commission Amendment Bill we have those very powers that the Government has chosen to take out of its National Crime Authority Bill. The powers are there in relation to evidence, incrimination and appearances, and in relation to fining and calling for documents. They are there for all those aspects that are so thoroughly objectionable. That is why I said at the beginning of my speech that this legislation is like the banker who will provide , when the need is not there, every wealth that a farmer desires, but when the need is there he will not provide the wherewithal. Where the powers are needed, they will not be given. The Government will not give them to the National Crime Authority, but where the powers are not needed the Government has provided them. The legislation is bad. The concept is bad. I am opposed to the concept of an Inter-State Commission.