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Wednesday, 27 May 1942

Mr MARWICK (Swan) . - I was astonished to hear the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) say that he was endeavouring to view this subject nationally. It is the first time since I came into this Parliament that I have known him to consider anything beyond the boundaries of his electorate. I appreciate the attitude of the honorable member for Kennedy (Mr. Riordan) and the courage with which he has attacked this problem. The honorable member for Hunter was most unjust to him, because the honorable member for Kennedy told me at least five weeks ago of the attitude that he intended to take on this matter.

Sir frederick Stewart - That was before the caucus meeting.

Mr MARWICK - That is so. I wish that I could bring myself to believe that the proposals now before the House are necessary for the successful prosecution of the war. If I could do so, I should have no hesitation in supporting them, but, after hearing the speeches of some supporters of the Government, I am convinced that this measure merely represents another step in the Labour party's plans for unification. This system of uniform taxation will take us about four-fifths of the way to unification. I am glad that the honorable member for Hunter has let us know where he stands. At least he was honest. However, I assure the honorable gentleman that the result of a referendum on this question would be different from the result which he envisages. I speak with conviction about the attitude of the smaller States. The honorable member may be able to speak with some authority about New South "Wales, because that State has always advocated unification since I have been interested in public life, but I know that any unification proposal would be soundly defeated in Western Australia and South Australia. I have no doubt that, even at the present time, the people of those States would refuse to grant the powers that are sought by the Government in this measure, because of their fear of unification.

The Government has some justification for seeking means of taxing the enormous amount of money that is circulating throughout Australia to-day as the result of war conditions. However, there are fairer means of doing so than are proposed. The methods of approach to this subject both by the Prime Minister and by the State Premiers has been most unfortunate. The State Premiers could have done much more than they have done to help the Commonwealth. For instance, when the Commonwealth suggested that there should be a return to the taxpayer of taxes in excess of 18s. in the £1, the States could have legislated immediately to relieve the position of unfortunate people in some States who to-day are paying considerably more than 20s. in the £1. However, the failure of the States in that regard does not encourage me to take away from them their entire taxing authority in respect of income. If a State's power to tax be taken away, its power to govern also will be taken away. In fact, in such an event, a State will be left with less power than is possessed by some local governing bodies within a State, which at least have power to raise sufficient revenue to enable them to perform their allotted functions.

Mr Calwell - This plan applies only to income tax.

Mr MARWICK - That is so, and that brings me to the point that there is no equity whatever in this proposal. Taxpayers in the various States have to meet imposts of varying kinds. In some States the land tax is heavier than in others. That remark also applies to estate duties, licence-fees of one kind and another, and other imposts. In some States, practically half the revenue is raised from sources other than income tax. In these circumstances, how can any honorable member expect that equality of sacrifice will be secured by approving of 'this plan? My view is that, by adopting this plan, we shall place a premium on extravagance. In the last two years, the States in which considerable war expenditure has been incurred have enjoyed greatly increased revenues. This has been accompanied by a reduction of responsibility. That is not the position in Western Australia, where there has been little war expenditure. It appears to me that the Government's plan favours New South Wales. In consequence of the enormously increased purchasing power of the people of New South Wales, the Government of that State will enjoy a surplus of nearly £2,000,000 in this financial year. Probably in the next financial year the State surplus will be double that amount.

Mr LAZZARINI - Victoria has enjoyed a much greater advantage from war expenditure than has New South Wales.

Mr MARWICK - That is because the men of Victoria have remained at work, whereas in the early days of the war, at least, when munitions and supplies of one kind and another were urgently needed, the men of. New South Wales went on strike day after day, week after week. I do not begrudge Victoria the prosperity it is enjoying owing to the war, because the men. of that State have done a magnificent job.

This proposal is not the product of the last few weeks, nor has it come into public prominence only since the war has approached our shores and since Japan has become our enemy. On the 1st October last, when speaking on the budget presented to Parliament on the 25th September by the then Treasurer (Mr. Fadden), the present Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin), who was then Leader of the Opposition, referred to the subject. I quote the following passage from Hansard of the 1st October at page 613 :-

Mr CURTIN - The right remedy for having seven taxing authorities is to substitute one taxing authority.

Mr Fadden - Give us the practical remedy.

Mr. CURTIN; The Government, of which the honorable gentleman is the leader, is in charge of the country at this juncture. It could take the requisite steps, if it had the courage to do so.

Mr Fadden - What steps?

Mr CURTIN - The steps to bring about one taxing authority in Australia.

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