WAR PRECAUTIONS: PRICE FIXING WHETHER COMMONWEALTH HAS POWER IN WARTIME TO FIX PRICE OF BREAD
WAR PRECAUTIONS ACT 1914, s. 4: WAR PRECAUTIONS REGULATIONS, reg. 49E
The question has been raised whether the Commonwealth Government has power, as a war measure, to fix the price of such a commodity as bread. In my opinion it has.
The Parliament has power to make laws with respect to the naval and military defence of the Commonwealth and the several States; and all matters incidental to the execution of this power.
In pursuance of this power, the Parliament has passed the War Precautions Act 1914-1915, the operation of which is limited to the continuance of the war, and which empowers the Governor-General to make regulations 'for securing the public safety and the defence of the Commonwealth, . . . and in particular with a view' to certain specified matters.
The generality of the words [emphasised] is not limited by the subsequent enumeration of particular matters.
The defence power embraces all means which are appropriate to the end-the armed defence of the Commonwealth; and the power given by the War Precautions Act to the Governor-General is commensurate with the constitutional power.
This war is not a gentlemanly game between armies; it is a trial to the uttermost of all the resources of the opposing nations, and of their powers of endurance.
It is impossible to set a limit to the sphere of Commonwealth control in this regard. If there were any kind of control, which was thought necessary for the successful prosecution of the war, and which the Commonwealth could not compass, the defence power would be maimed, which is unthinkable.
Most of the warring nations have found it necessary during the war, in order to husband their resources and the resources of the people, to assume control, to a greater or less extent, of the production and distribution of many articles of commerce, and especially of foodstuffs.
It cannot be doubted that the price of bread may be a vital factor to the endurance of the people-and especially to the success of the recruiting movement; and it seems to follow that the Government, which is responsible for the prosecution of the war, and which must be the judge of what is necessary for that purpose, has power to control the price of foodstuffs.
It may be mentioned that, in accord with this view, the Government has already passed a Regulation fixing the maximum price of sugar.
[Vol. 14, p. 281]
- This opinion was endorsed 'Approved' by Mr Mahon, Acting Attorney-General.