COAL INDUSTRY NATIONALISATION OF COAL INDUSTRY: ACQUISITION AND OPERATION BY COMMONWEALTH OF PARTICULAR COAL MINES IN ORDER TO MAINTAIN SUPPLY OF COAL FOR ITS OWN NEEDS: EXTENT OF DEFENCE POWER: EXTENT OF DEFENCE POWER IN PEACETIME: ACQUISITION OF PROPERTY ON JUST TERMS
CONSTITUTION s 51(vi)
I am in receipt of your letter of 5th January relative to your earlier request for an opinion as to whether there is any legal impediment to action by the Commonwealth Government to nationalise the coal industry if it should desire to do so.
Unfortunately, I have been away from the office for some time in consequence of a surgical operation which took place early in November. I have only within the last few days returned to the office. I regret that there has been considerable delay answering your letter.
Under the Commonwealth Constitution the Commonwealth could, in my view, acquire and operate particular coal mines in order to maintain a supply of coal for its own needs, for instance supply to the Navy, to the Commonwealth Railways, to Commonwealth Territories, to munitions establishments and the like.
I think it is clear that under the defence power the Commonwealth could not engage in the general business of coal mining in time of peace and could not acquire all mines or ‘nationalise’ the industry.
In any event, it would be necessary for it to acquire on just terms any property which it was obliged to acquire for the purpose of operating any mines used for its own needs.
[Vol. 36, p. 339]