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Friday, 24 August 1923

Dr EARLE PAGE (Cowper) (Treasurer) . - The honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Fenton) suggested ' that the Bill aimed at the subversion of the powers of the Commonwealth. A perusal of the measure will convince any one that nothing of the kind is attempted. The arrangement for the collection of Commonwealth taxation by the States interferes . in no way with the rights of the Commonwealth. In the agreement with New South Wales, which I laid upon the table of the House two or three weeks ago, clause 9 specially provides -

Nothing in this agreement shall be deemed to restrict or impede the Commonwealth or the State in the exercise of its rights and powers under the Constitution of the Commonwealth or the State, and the laws of the Commonwealth or the State now or hereafter in force.

During the last three or four days we have been considering the Income Tax Assessment Bill, and we have fixed our rates. All this talk about Commonwealth rights being endangered has no relation to the question under discussion. If the original proposal of the Commonwealth had been accepted by the Conference of State Ministers, there might possibly have been some reason to discuss the point that has been raised, but under this Bill there is no question of

Commonwealth rights being infringed in any 'way. There is no need for me at this early hour of the morning to labour that point, and, therefore, I shall turn to 'the criticism levelled at the measure by the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Anstey). I regret, that he was unable to make himself familiar with the information that was available to him. I had no idea that he had not seen the agreement with New South Wales, which, as I said, was laid on the table of the House two or three weeks ago. If the honorable member cares to peruse the document, he will find that clause 4 states - 4. (») The State shall transfer to the Permanent Service of the State all officers who, on the 1st day of July, 1923, were, and at the date when this Agreement comes into operation are, permanent or probationary permanent officers in the service of the Commonwealth engaged in income-tax work in the State of New South Wales (not including officers employed in what .is known as the Central Office of the Commonwealth Taxation Branch).

(6)   Subject to this Agreement, each officer so transferred -

(i)   shall be subject in all respects to the laws of the State regulating the public service; and

(ii)   without prejudice to the last-preced ing clause, shall preserve all his existing and accruing rights, and shall bc required to continue to contribute to the superannuation fund of the Commonwealth such sums as he would have been liable to contribute if he bad remained an officer of the Commonwealth, and shall be entitled to retire from, office at the. time and on the pension or retiring allowance which would be permitted by the laws of the Commonwealth if his service with the State were a continuation of his service with the Commonwealth; and

(iii)   shall, so far as practicable, be employed on duties of a status not less than the status of the duties now performed by, him.

Mr Scullin - Is the agreement with every other State in similar terms?

Dr EARLE PAGE - We have been able to secure a similar agreement with Victoria, and hope likewise to arrange the same terms with South Australia.

Mr Makin - Has the Minister read in this morning'* newspaper, the statement made by Sir Henry Barwell? He is reported to have said that he is not prepared to accept the suggestion made by the Commonwealth.

Dr EARLE PAGE - Anyhow, there is no difficulty with regard to Victoria and New South Wales. '

Mr Anstey - Has Victoria signed the agreement ?

Dr EARLE PAGE - That portion of the agreement has been accepted by Vic-, toria, but there are still minor details affecting other portions of the agreement to be settled.

Mr O'KEEFE (DENISON, TASMANIA) - Is it worth while going on if only two States have accepted the agreement ?

Dr EARLE PAGE - We shall be able to come to terms with Tasmania. With regard to Queensland, I may say that Mr. Theodore has accepted the principle, but details as to the exact proportion of Commonwealth and State staffs have still to be considered.

Mr Scullin - What about Western Australia 1

Dr EARLE PAGE - We have had one collecting authority in that State for the last two years.

Mr Scullin - That is the Commonwealth staff.

Dr EARLE PAGE - The arrangements in Western Australia will stand. Very shortly we expect to agree upon one uniform return for the whole of the States.. Early next month we expect to have completed arrangements with practically every State. The point at issue with South Australia is the proportion and status of officers to be transferred.

Mr Anstey - Is the Minister referring to the' classification of officers?


Mr Anstey - Will transferred officers be secured in) t|heir« remuneration and status?. That is to say, if an officer is getting £10 a week and £1 cost-of-living allowance will that remuneration be secured to him ?

Dr EARLE PAGE - So far as we can do that, yes. Sir William McPherson recognised the necessity of agreement upon these points, and has emphasized the determination of his Government to carry out the spirit, as well as the letter, of the agreement. In New South Wales the conditions are better than in the Commonwealth Service.

Mr Scullin - Will the agreement prevent State Governments reducing men from the fourth to the fifth class?

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