Transfer of certain departments.

69. On a date or dates to be proclaimed by the Governor-General after the establishment of the Commonwealth, the following departments of the public service in each State shall become transferred282 to the Commonwealth:—

Posts, telegraphs, and telephones:

Naval and military defence:

Lighthouses, lightships, beacons, and buoys:


But the departments of customs and of excise in each State shall become transferred to the Commonwealth on its establishment.

HISTORICAL NOTE.—The clause as passed in 1891 was:—

“The control of the following Departments of the Public Service shall be at once assigned to and assumed and taken over by the Executive Government of the Commonwealth, and the Commonwealth shall assume the obligations of any State or States with respect to such matters, that is to say—Customs and Excise, Posts and Telegraphs, Military and Naval Defence, Ocean Beacons and Buoys, and Ocean Lighthouses and Lightships, Quarantine.” (Chap. II. sec. 10.)

In Committee, Mr. Wrixon asked whether sub-departments attached to the Customs department (e.g., Immigration Office, or Mercantile Marine Office) would be included. Sir Samuel Griffith was clear that they would not. Mr. Baker raised the question whether telephones would be included in “Posts and Telegraphs.” Mr. Douglas thought that the Customs and Excise Department was the only one which need be taken over at once. He moved to omit “Posts and Telegraphs,” and also “Ocean Beacons,” &c.; but this was negatived. (Conv. Deb., Syd., 1891, pp. 778–9.)

At the Adelaide session the clause was introduced in substantially the same words. In Committee Mr. Higgins raised the question whether “obligations” included public debts. Mr. Barton thought that only current obligations were meant. Mr. Walker moved to add “railways,” but after a short debate this was negatived by 18 votes to 12. (Conv. Deb., Adel., pp. 920–34.) Verbal amendments were made on reconsideration. (Id. pp. 1201–2.)

At Melbourne, a suggestion of the Legislative Assembly of New South Wales, to provide for the transfer “as soon as possible after” the establishment of the Commonwealth, was negatived, and a suggestion of the Legislative Council of New South Wales, to provide for the transfer on “a date to be proclaimed by the Governor-General after” the establishment, was adopted. On Mr. Barton's motion, the words “Executive Government of the” were omitted. Sir John Forrest suggested that the internal posts and telegraphs of each State should be retained, as the existing postal union was sufficient. On Dr. Quick's motion, “telephones” were added. (Conv. Deb., Melb., pp. 262–5.) Drafting amendments were made after the first report and before the fourth report.