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Friday, 24 August 1923

Mr STEWART - Honorable members on this side have an entirely free hand.

Dr Earle Page - Most of them want to go to bed.

Mr FENTON - And most of us are fit to go to bed. We are not in a condition to legislate.

Mr Prowse - Why not let us get to the details of the Bill.

Mr FENTON - May we then expect pearls of wisdom from the honorable member? It is always a convenient excuse, when a Minister wants to hurry a measure through, to impress upon honorable members that it is essentially one for the Committee stage. In this Bill the Government are taking steps towards the aggrandizement of State authority. I am one of those who believe in the maintenance of the rights of the Commonwealth. I have always endeavoured to do what I could to maintain them against all encroachments by the State. I mentioned the other night that, after twenty-three years of Federation, during which time successive Administrations bad resisted the encroachment of State-righters, it remained for this composite Government to surrender Commonwealth powers. This agreement, under which State authorities will collect the Commonwealth income tax, will place the State authorities on a higher pedestal than they have occupied in the past. I do not wish to take upon myself the role of a prophet, but I believe that many of these so-called agreements will be violated before many years have gone by. The Bill' is premature. The Commonwealth Government went to the Conference with State Ministers with a proposal to evacuate under certain conditions the field of income taxation so far as individual incomes were concerned. That proposal was not favorably received. I intend to quote for the information of honorable members the opinion of the New South Wales Treasurer, Mr. (now Sir Arthur) Cocks, of the proposal submitted to the Conference by the Federal Government.

Mr Latham - Is the honorable member opposing the Bill ?

Mr FENTON - I am, because the Government propose to hand over to State authorities functions which should be reserved exclusively to the Commonwealth. Sir Arthur Cocks, referring to the Prime Minister's proposal at the Conference, said -

The figures of the Commonwealth Treasurer attribute to New South Wales a gain of ?348,000. But by reason of the 10 per cent, reduction which has since taken place in the Federal income tax, the increased exemptions, the averaging of incomes, and the additional allowance for children, we claim that we would be from ?170,000 to ?200,000 worse off if we had accepted the Commonwealth proposals. Unless we could say to the people, " We have relieved you of the necessity of making out two income-tax returns and paying two separate taxes," it would be foolish of us to face the odium of reimposing the taxation which the Federal Government had relinquished.

Sir AlexanderPeacock. We would all lose our jobs if we did so.

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