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Wednesday, 27 May 1942


Mr CONELAN - He was invited down.


Mr JAMES - Never mind whether he was invited or not. The opposition expressed to-day by the honorable member for Kennedy (Mr. Riordan) should have been stated in the party room. He was present when the proposals were put before the party.


Mr Conelan - He never had a chance.


Mr JAMES - He had every chance. The honorable member is trying to excuse the honorable member for Kennedy and himself. The speech of the honorable member for Kennedy was the worst he has ever made. I do not believe that he spoke from his heart, for at heart he is in accord with his party's policy, but the dictation of the Premier of Queensland has made the honorable gentleman swerve from his beliefs. The dictatorial attitude of the Premier of Queensland is similar to that which he adopted when a referendum was submitted to the people at the time of the 1937 general elections.


Mr CONELAN - That is unfair.


Mr JAMES - It is not at all unfair. It is time that we had a show down and that the policy of the Australian Labour party was obeyed by its adherents. The 1937 referendum provided an amazing spectacle, for, owing to the attitude taken up by Mr. Forgan Smith, we had the leader of our party remaining at his home in Cottesloe unable, because of the split in the movement, to take part in the campaign. The Premiers of the States have dictated, not only to this party, but also to the previous Commonwealth Government. It was because of the pistols drawn by the Premiers at a conference of Commonwealth and .State

Ministers that the Commonwealth was forced to hand over to the administration of the States certain vital features of war policy. For instance, the administration of national emergency services has been handed to the States and an unholy mess has resulted from different States applying different policies. We have " brown-outs ", '* blackouts " and " half -outs ". Again, as the result of representations made by the Man-power and Resources Survey Committee offices of the Department of Labour and National Service were established in order to provide man-power for our various war industries. The States complained that this was entrenching upon State instrumentalities such as the Departments of Labour and Industry, and . they set out to sabotage the new federal department. The Queensland Government refused to allow State servants to be interrogated in order to help the department, and ultimately requested to be allowed to administer the work through the Labour and Industry Department. That was finally conceded. Now, on ;this question of uniform, taxation, opponents in our own ranks are cutting across their own policy to which, whether they be members of State legislatures, Ministers or members of the rank and file, they are pledged. They have signed the same pledge as I have signed. I direct their attention to the fact that the federal platform and objective of the Australian Labour party includes under the heading of " Methods " the following : -

Amendment of the Commonwealth Constitution - {ยป) To invest the Commonwealth Parliament with unlimited legislative powers and authority to create (or re-order) State or provinces with delegated powers.

If that does not mean unification I do not understand the word. This proposal is for uniform taxation. It is a step towards that goal which we wish to reach. I do not believe that federation would have been' brought about if the people had not been led to believe that the formation of a Commonwealth Parliament above the twelve Houses of Parliament that they then had would mean, not only the abolition of State Governors, but also, ultimately, State parliaments. A predecessor of mine in the Hunter constituency, Australia's first Prime Minister, the late Sir Edmund Barton, declared in a speech at Maitland that that would be the outcome of federation. The same statement was made in other parts of Australia by other supporters of the federal system. The Australian Labour party subscribed to the policy implied in the statements made to the Australian people when they were being persuaded to unite in a federal system. It is admitted that for some years it might hare been difficult to administer this vast continent through one parliament, but in the last decade conditions have changed and, whereas in the early days it may have taken anything up to fourteen days to travel from distant parts of Australia to the Seat of Government, the most remote place in this country can now be reached by air in less than twenty hours. Australia is now a small place, and it has a popula-ion of only 7,000,000 people. So there is no justification for having so many taxation authorities as we now have, seven in all. It is tragic to compare our seven parliaments with the one parliament in countries with populations of 40,000,000 and more. One House of Parliament should suffice for us. I have often advocated that. I have laid stress on the costs involved to the taxpayer in maintaining State parliaments. It is easy to get plaudits when you speak in favour of the abolition of State parliaments, but immediately you leave the platform you know that you have raised the ire of State parliamentarians, because they say, "It is all right for you to advocate the abolition of State parliaments. You have a job. But what about us? " That is the whole crux of the trouble. It is the same in the trade union movement. Before being elected to this Parliament I was a coal-miner. In 1927, I was sent out to try to organize one union for the coal-mining industry. That arrangement would have been more economical and more efficient. But the officials of the small craft unions were opposed to the proposal because they feared that they would lose their jobs. Most of us are afraid to face the State members of Parliament on this problem, but I do not care whether I lose my seat in this House or not so long as this reform is brought about. I agree that it would be useless to try to fool ourselves that the country could be governed efficiently by one Parliament of the same size as the present Commonwealth Parliament. I understand that in most federal electorates there are approximately five State electorates, and I have been told that the Commonwealth electorate of Kalgoorlie contains fifteen State electorates. Our system of government would be far more economical and efficient if the States were abolished and each Commonwealth constituency were divided into three so that the membership of this chamber would be trebled. The country would be better governed under that system than under the present arrangement with each State pulling against the others and, on this question, all States combining against the Commonwealth authority. We need money to prosecute the war, and we could obtain it more efficiently by co-ordinating our taxing services under one authority. J congratulated the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Fadden) when, as Treasurer in a previous government, he made a proposal somewhat similar to this. It is anomalous that most of the Premiers who oppose the proposed system of uniform taxation are pledged to a policy of unification even to the abolition of State Parliaments. We should not ask the Premiers whether they favour a uniform taxation system, because we know that the people of Australia are in favour of the proposal. They are ripe to have the question submitted to them, by means of a referendum, in a clear and concise manner. They should not be fooled with " hiffalutin " language but should be asked straight out, in the plainest language: "Are you in favour of the abolition of State Parliaments?" I have no doubt what their answer would be. The Commonwealth Government is showing to the people of Australia and to other countries that, at the time of the nation's greatest crisis, one government can direct the affairs of our country. We should have the courage to ask the people to agree to the abolition of the States. One of my predecessors in this Parliament got himself into trouble because he supported the Bruce-Page Government in the referendum which was taken in 1925. It is unfortunate that the Labour party was split on that occasion as it has been split to-day. I believe that in 1925 the people would have voted in favour of the proposals submitted to them had not some of the members of the Labour party twisted on the then leader, Mr. Charlton, who was my predecessor in the representation of Hunter. Honorable members on both sides of the chamber agree that this should not be a party question. Therefore, the people should be asked squarely, without the introduction of political side issues, whether they desire to have not only a uniform system of taxation hut also a central system of government, as was promised to the nation 42 years ago. To-day the States are practically "on the bum". They have only what the Commonwealth gives to them by way of hand-outs. Most of the Commonwealth's defence work has been handed over to the States, which have frequently rationed it out, although that was not intended by the Commonwealth Government. We have in our Works Department Commonwealth servants who have been employed parttime for many years. They have never had many opportunities to advance themselves, and now they have even less chance of obtaining promotion because defence work is being performed by the States. That is wrong. The Commonwealth should have endeavoured to build up its own services. Had it done so, it would not now have to rely so much on the States. The honorable member for Kennedy (Mr. Riordan) and some other honorable members from Queensland have apparently submitted to pressure brought to bear upon them by one individual from that State. They should remember that the last triennial conference of the Labour party resolved that no State executive should have the right to instruct members of the Federal Labour party on matters that come before the Commonwealth Parliament.


Mr Riordan - We have not been instructed.


Mr JAMES - The president of the federal executive of the party, who presided at the conference, was also the Queensland emissary who came to Canberra to hold a meeting with Queensland members of this House. I do not know what will happen to him when the federal executive of the Labour party meets next. He has contravened s resolution of his own party and has endeavoured to coerce Queensland members of Parliament into following a course of action which is opposed by the party. It is a great pity that some of them have yielded to his demands, although they said, before their meeting with him, that they would not be dictated to by Mr. Forgan Smith or anybody else from Queensland. The people should be consulted on this matter as soon as possible. I asked the Prime Minister to-day whether he would consider taking a referendum on the subject of uniform taxation. He said that the Government had no desire to amend the Constitution. I know, and the right honorable gentleman knows, that the Labour party is keenly desirous of amending the Constitution, and the present is the opportune time to do so. We have demonstrated to the people what the Commonwealth Parliament is capable of doing. I hope that the Government will take its courage in its hands and submit the question of unification to the people. I am sure that they will not think along narrow State lines, as many of us have thought and talked to-day. I have at least endeavoured to approach the subject along national lines. Let us all be Australians from one end of the land to the other, as my great predecessor said was the intention of federation. We do not recognize any State differences in the enlistment of our sailors, soldiers and airmen. From whatever State they come, they all wear the same insignia. We are one people; we have one destiny; and, if we take a referendum, I am sure that the people will demand one Parliament.







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