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Wednesday, 27 May 1942

Mr LAZZARINI (WERRIWA, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Minister Assisting the Treasurer) - It does not say that.

Mr ARCHIE CAMERON - That is the effect of it. What it says is worse. It virtually says: "If you do so and so. you will not get anything, but, if you are a perfectly good little boy and agree to everything you will get certain pickings ". The pickings are not altogether contained in the bills, because we had a statement from the Treasurer this afternoon that separate pickings had already been given to two of the sparrows which come up here every now and again. One of my colleagues interjects that they are Labour governments. I shall not press that point except to remark that a man will not always take a certain course of action because he is a member of a particular political party. It is interesting to note that some of the strongest opposition to this measure has come from a man whose orthodoxy as a member of the Labour party is unlikely to be challenged even in this place. I refer to the Premier of Queensland, Mr. Forgan Smith, whose election to this House has often been heralded, but has never come to pass. If any action of the Commonwealth Parliament is capable of provoking that gentleman into coming here, this proposal will do so, and I shall withstand the shock if, in due course, the honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Martens) is sent away as a viceroy and is succeeded in this Parliament, by Mr. Forgan Smith.

Mr Lazzarini - Does the honorable member think that we will repeat what governments which he supported did?

Mr ARCHIE CAMERON - This Government has not been game enough to undo what previous governments did, and that is the test of whether the previous governments were wrong. I heard, frightful roars from the zoo not long after this Government came into office about what would happen to a certain gentleman in India.. He was to have been brought home even faster than an aircraft could bring him, judging by the noise that was made, but so far as I know he is still on the Ganges or looking at the Taj Mahal. There is also a gentleman named Essington Lewis, who appeared to be in clanger of suffering the fate of the baker in Brussels who overcharged for bread in the time of the Duke of Alva, but he is still in charge of the Department of Munitions. The only person to escape beyond reach of the net that was to have been cast was the former honorable member for Corio (Mr. R. G. Casey), and apparently he got out in the nick of time. These proposals contain all the elements of a first-class revolution, involving as they do the relationships between State and Commonwealth, between .State and State between taxpayer and Commonwealth, and between taxpayer and State. There could not be anything much more revolutionary than such proposals. Had the Government said that its necessity was so great that it was forced to apply this scheme to every field of taxation, I could have had some sympathy with it, but there is nothing in this proposal to say that, after the scheme is carried out, the Commonwealth Government will not decide that it is necessary to impose a uniform land tax, motor tax, or amusement tax. It may even go into the field of leaseholds and say that a Commonwealth tax on leasehold properties shall be imposed in place of the State taxes now imposed and that, provided that the States do certain things, they will .be entitled to their slice of the loaf, but that, if they do not, not a crumb from the table of Dives will they get, even though they be reduced to the poverty of Lazarus. In the early days of this Commonwealth there was in operation a system of reimbursements to the States - it existed for ten years - which was known by the name of " the Braddon Blot ". If this system of reimbursements should survive the hurdles of the High Court and the Privy Council - I have no doubt that it will be asked to jump them in due course - I have -a strong suspicion that, amongst some of us at any rate, it will be dubbed, for eternity " the Spooner smudge ". It is a common practice, under the Commonwealth Constitution, for the States to be given certain grants by the Commonwealth Government. This bill does not mention the word "grant"; it refers to "reimbursement of tax". A grant may be given to a State by the Commonwealth to compensate it for the effects of Commonwealth policy, to enable it to carry out certain works which are regarded as essential for Commonwealth purposes, or in the event of it agreeing to hand over certain powers or responsibilities to the Commonwealth. A State may not be granted a reimbursement of taxes without its consent. On the subject of whether or not the States are consenting parties to this proposal, there are some precedents which we ought to consider. One of these is the case of buyer and seller. Under the land tax laws, which were debated here not very long ago, the question of what constituted a fair market value for land was raised. The law states that a fair market value is the price paid by a willing buyer to a willing seller. This proposed reimbursement of taxes to the States could not in any sense be termed a payment by a willing Commonwealth to willing States. The States have no option. They must take what the Commonwealth gives, go without, or enter into other fields of taxation which have already been fairly well exploited. There is another precedent, which has arisen frequently in history. Many of us have read of men who, in order to save their lives, have agreed to swear to do certain things. Such cases raise the subject of the free will of the individual. One British historian laid down, in connexion with a famous case in English history, that an oath compelled should be annulled. The Treasurer will find that any undertaking by the States to surrender certain rights when force is used, or is implied, as it is in this case, will be annulled by the courts. It cannot he argued that a State which agrees to this proposal enters into a free-will agreement. Take the case of the Premier who came here last week. I have no doubt that he asked for more than he was given, and no doubt the Premier who is here now will ask for more than he will get. It is natural that this should be so. The very essence of the Government's case for reimbursement has crashed to the ground as the result of the two concessions which the Treasurer related to us this afternoon.

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