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Friday, 17 August 1906

Mr BROWN (Canobolas) - I do not know whether the Government desire to bring this discussion to a close to-day.

Mr Deakin - Hear, hear.

Mr BROWN - I understand that several members who have gone away on a trip to the Federal Capital sites are anxious to have an opportunity to discuss the Budget. I do not think it is quite fair to them to close the debate to-day.

Mr Deakin - They all understood before they left that it would be closed today. They will have an opportunity to speak on the Estimates.

Mr BROWN - At this stage, an honorable member can discuss a good many subjects with which he cannot deal when the Estimates are being considered in detail. I believe that if the Government could see their way not to close the debate until next week, it would convenience many honorable members. In the first place, I wish to congratulate the Treasurer upon being able to bring down this Budget. Generally, he is optimistic, and on the present occasion, he has very good reasons for his optimism, because the revenue is coming in very satisfactorily. That indicates the advantages springing from the good seasons with which latterly the Commonwealth has been blessed. I believe that all sides of the Chamber heartily entertain the hope that the present outlook of fair and promising seasons will continue, and that on the next occasion, a similarly optimistic Budget may be submitted. On the question of taxation, I am pleased to note a falling off in some items which appeared in the. Budget of 1902-3, and of 1903-4, when the Commonwealth was going through the trials of, I suppose, one of the severest droughts which had occurred since settlement first took place. From grain duties, the Treasurer netted in 1902-3, £597,000; and in 1903-4, £265,000." This taxation was imposed, not upon luxuries, But upon absolute necessities. Even those who, because of their protectionist principles, advocated the retention' of the grain duties will learn with satisfaction that the Treasurer estimates that, given a good season this year, the revenue derived from these duties will be only £29.022, as compared with £597,719 in 1902-3. I have no desire to refer at length to the fiscal issue, but there are one or two facts relating to it that I wish to place before the Committee. When New South Wales entered the Federation her Customs and Excise taxation was equal to £1 6s. 4½d. per head of the population, but, according to the Treasurer's estimate, the revenue "derived from those sources this year will be equal to .£2 4s. 7d. per head of the population. In other words, under the State Tariff a man with a wife and three children had to contribute by way of Customs and Excise taxation something like £6 ns. io£d. to the revenue, whereas under the Commonwealth Tariff he has to contribute £11 2s. nd.

Mr Isaacs - But the State receives three-fourths of the revenue so collected.

Mr BROWN - I was about to refer to that point. During the last five years the Commonwealth has returned to"~&ew South Wales no less than . £6,123,359 in excess of the amount which would have been collected under the State Tariff, on the basis of the Customs and Excise returns for 1900. If the Treasurer's estimate for this year be realized, it will mean that the people of New South Wales will have contributed to the Customs and Excise revenue a Sum of . £7,475,188 in excess of what they would have'had to pav under the State Tariff. It is true that the State Government has benefited bv this increased revenue, but the people themselves have had to put their hands in their pockets to provide it. The difficulty is that, whereas the New South Wales Government have been able to draw upon this increased revenue, thev have been under no obligation to the people with respect to its collection, and sufficient control has not been exercised over its expenditure. Although the large amount I have mentioned has been raised by Customs and Excise taxation in New South Wales the Government of that State has since Federation added very considerably to the public debt. That being so, the position of the taxpayers there is even worse than is that of the people of other States, whose revenue has not been, so largely increased under the Commonwealth Tariff. Had there been a smaller revenue available greater economy would have been exercised by the spending powers and the taxpayers would have received a corresponding benefit. I regret that, whilst the Federal Tariff was under consideration, those who were fighting for reasonably low duties were unsuccessful. At that time there were in this House a number of freetraders under the leadership of the right honorable member for East Sydnev, and it seems to me that there was a possibility of the campaign being carried to a far more successful issue. I regret that, as the result of the lightning changes that have since taken place, the chances of success in this direction have been reduced, and I fear that many years will elapse before an equally good opportunity will present it self. It would seem that the Free-trade Party have ceased to recognise free-trade as an important plank in their platform. They have even changed their name, and have blossomed forth, as the " anti- Social - ist " or the "anti-Labour" party. Whilst the Tariff was under consideration, the P'ree-trade Party received substantial assistance from members of the Labour Party.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Does the honorable member classify labourites as Socialists ?

Mr BROWN - No.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Are "labour" and "Socialism" synonymous terms?

Mr BROWN - It is the honorable member who refers to the Labour Party as Socialists.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - We refer to Socialists as Socialists ; I do not know that we could do more than that.

Mr BROWN - The honorable member uses the word " Socialism " in a much wider sense. Those who espouse the labour cause are branded as Socialists by his party. The Free-trade Party, which at one time existed in- this House, had, amongst its supporters the following members" of the Labour Partv : - The honorable member for West Sydney, the honorable member for Barrier, and mvself, as representatives of New South Wales ; the honorable member for Kennedy, the honorable member for Maranoa, and the honorable member for Wide Bay, all representatives of Queensland.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - The honorable member for Wide Bay has denied that he was a revenue tarifEst.

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