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Thursday, 28 May 1942

Mr WATKINS (Newcastle) . - After listening to the many speeches that have been delivered for and against the Government's proposals, one could probably commence his speech by saying

I do not know if the cause be wrong, or if the cause be right.

I've had my day and I've sung my song, and fought a bitter fight.

In truth, at times I do not know what the men are driving at,

But I've been Labour all my life, and I'm too old to "rat".

Many accusations have been levelled at honorable members on the. government side of the chamber because of the fact that honorable members of the Opposition think that this proposal represents the thin end of a wedge for the abolition of the State parliaments and the introduction of unification. Ever since I have taken an interest in politics I have believed that Australia should have one Parliament, one people, and one destiny. If the present Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) has set out to do away with State boundaries, and to make taxation equitable in every State so far as is possible, honorable members should not be parochial, but should realize that the Commonwealth Government is responsible for the financing of the war effort. We should not speak with out tongue in our cheek, and with one eye on the interests of the nation and the other on the requirements of our own States ox electorates. Would we be in favour of establishing a navy, an army, and an air force under separate control in each of the States rather than having the fighting services united under one control ? This Parliament is asked to give to the Commonwealth Government power to tax the people according to their ability to pay. If, Mr. Speaker, you were the leader of an army in the field, would you co-ordinate your forces under one control, or would you have divided control ?

I have heard arguments in this debate against the legality of the measure before the House, and as to what might happen if an appeal were made to the High Court to determine whether this proposal was constitutional. I am not concerned about its legality or about the arguments submitted by members of the Opposition, but I have great faith in my own leaders, knowing that they have examined the legal position before presenting this measure to the Parliament. Even if these measures were referred to the High Court, I have no doubt that that tribunal would take a national view of them. I express the hope that this bill is the thin end of a wedge designed to bring about unification. The destiny of the people of this country is in the keeping of the National Parliament, and is not in the hands of the State authorities. Therefore this Parliament should be solely responsible for the collection of taxes that are required to ensure the safety and future welfare of the people. I shall conclude with the words uttered by " Toby " Barton over 40 years ago, when he expressed the hope that some day Australia would have one Parliament, one people, and one destiny. It is much more necessary to-day, when the war clouds hanging over this country are very dark, than it was 40 years ago, that that hope should be realized. I trust that members of the Opposition, and some members on the Government side of the chamber who have spoken against this proposal, will look beyond the State boundaries and adopt a national outlook.

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