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Thursday, 28 May 1942

Mr MARTENS (Herbert) (2:47 AM) . - 1 do not propose to remain silent on* this measure. I have never opposed any proposal designed to increase the powers of the Commonwealth. Indeed, I have supported such proposals publicly, sometimes in opposition to a majority of my colleagues, simply because I believed that the Commonwealth should have the greatest possible powers. I walked twelve miles in order to cast my vote against the enabling bill, and I shall never regret that vote. No nation should tia itself inexorably to a written Constitution. The. dead hand of the past should not determine our future. We should not allow ourselves to be hamstrung in that way. A wrong impression has been created, particularly among many sections of the community, by the stand taken by the Government of Queensland in regard to this proposal. Erroneous inferences have also been drawn from the visit to

Canberra during the last few days of Mr. Fallon and Mr. Bryan, as representatives of the Queensland Labour party. It has been alleged that they came here to tell honorable members representing Queensland electorates how they must vote on this measure. They came here for an entirely different reason. I, personally, regret the fact that they were unable to achieve their objective, because I should prefer that no friction should be caused between honorable members on this side in dealing with this measure However, that is by the way. I simply take this opportunity to deny the allegation that any honorable member representing Queensland has been browbeaten. None has been asked to vote on this measure other than according to his convictions. Of course, there was a time when the executive of, not only the Queensland Labour party, but also all State branches of the party, dictated how Labour members should vote in Parliament. In those days Labour members were not even asked for their opinion. However, it is" impossible for executives of the State branches of the Labour party to adopt that attitude to-day, even should they desire to do so.

The honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) claimed that present-day conditions in Queensland have resulted from the extravagance of governments in that State. I point out to him that for a very long time Queensland was governed by governments very much akin to those which, as a general rule, have been in power in Victoria and invariably encouraged low wages and "sweating" in industry. Under such governments industries were not developed in Queensland. Victoria is a comparatively small State, with a very high productive capacity. However, it has a great area of poor land in proportion to its size, and it has not nearly so extensive a railway system as Queensland. Queensland's railway system covers a mileage of 6,000 miles. The railway from Brisbane to Cairns is 1,040 miles, and that from Townsville to Mount Isa, 670 miles. Huge sums of money were expended on the construction of those railways. Thus it became necessary to levy comparatively heavy taxes. I also point out that Victoria and New South Wales had move orless established themselves as industrial States before Queensland was proclaimed a State. The earliest governments of Queensland were determined that the State should remain solely a primary producing State. They were not concerned with the development of secondary industries. I also remind the honorable member for Fawkner that many Victorians who have settled in Queensland have done so well that they are not anxious to return to Victoria. I admit that taxes generally are high in Queensland.; but, whilst the rates of tax imposed there on the wealthier classes are higher than those levied on corresponding incomes in Victoria, the rates imposed on incomes in the lower ranges are considerably less. Further, a higher exemption is provided in Queensland than in Victoria. Many people who have made their money in Queensland have invested it in Victoria because the " sweating " conditions prevailing in industry in the latter State provide greater profits. Since I became a member of this House, the number of electors on the roll for Herbert has increased from 57,000 to 68,500, although in that time the area of the electorate has been considerably reduced. That electorate contains no secondary industries, only primary production being carried on within its boundaries. Those facts clearly indicate that the State government is doing a good job.

I shall support the bill. I shall be prepared tosupport every measure designed to give greater power to the Commonwealth, as I shall support every referendum that may he taken for that purpose. I hope that a referendum will be taken, for instance, on unification. However, if such a referendum be taken, I hope that the question will be submitted clearly, and will embody the principles which Labour has always supported, namely, the establishment of a system of communal governments, possessing clearly defined powers which will enable them to do more effectively and intelligently much of the work now done from Canberra. The present lack of uniformity in our laws is tragic. In this respect, I mention the laws dealing with public health, industry, and transport. They should be uniform through out the Commonwealth. Under such a system no section of our people would have cause to worry because they lived in a so-called maltreated State. All would realize that they enjoyed equal benefits, subject directly to the national Parliament. I hope that the day is not far distant when such a system will be inaugurated in this country. I trust that this measure will be carried.

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