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Thursday, 28 May 1942

Mr BECK (Denison) (4:26 AM) .This wearisome debate is drawing to a close. My remarks will be brief. In fact, I rise to speak simply because I do not wish to cast a silent vote on the measure. I agree entirely with honorable members who have approached this matter from a national point of view. We have heard weighty arguments for and against the legality of this proposal. However, I am not concerned about its constitutional aspect. We shall have no constitution at all if we waste as much time in trying to win the war as has been wasted in this debate. Any State which raises the constitutional aspect at a time like the present will do a grave disservice to the nation. Therefore, I hope that no State will do so. The Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) proved conclusively that the Commonwealth's case for uniform taxation is unanswerable. In this time of national crisis, the expenditure of the States should be curtailed as much as possible, in order that every available £1 shall be expended on our war effort, which is the only matter of real importance at the moment. This proposal will cause no hardship to any State. It should help to improve our war effort by releasing many employees now engaged by the States on work not directly connected with the war. How can any State claim to be assisting our war effort if it insists that its revenue be increased at a time like the present ? Only one government is entitled to increased revenue, in the existing circumstances, as the result of expenditure by the Commonwealth Government, and that is the Commonwealth Government itself. At the same time, no one can justly claim that this proposal will bring about real uniformity of taxes. It reeks with inequalities. South Australia and Victoria, for instance, will be placed at a serious disadvantage. However, sufficient has already been said on that aspect. The honorable member for Deakin (Mr. Hutchinson), and other honorable members, stated that the support of Tasmania for this proposal had more or less been bought by increasing the grant to that State. The Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) has fully explained the reasons for the extra allocations to that State. Any allegation that Tasmania's support for the proposal has been bought is entirely without foundation. There was an essential fallacy about the Tasmanian figures as at first presented. The figures on which the original allocation was made were not a true reflection of the income of that State during the period on which the allocation was based. At the time when Tasmania began collecting its taxes by instalments, the wages tax was abolished, and, generally speaking, the business of taxgathering was thoroughly disorganized. Many assessments were sent out months later than usual. Therefore, the Tasmanian position is quite clear. The Government realized that the Tasmanian allocation would have to be increased to bring it to its proper proportion. It is quite erroneous to suggest that Tasmania's support was bought by the Government.

I do not propose to speak at length on this measure, because I realize that the debate has dragged on long enough. Generally speaking, I support the measure with all its imperfections and inequalities.

I support it because I believe that it is a step in the right direction. It will rid the taxpayers of Australia of many of the difficulties which they now encounter in the maddening maze of taxation laws. It will also reduce the huge expenditure which some individuals and businesses have to incur in the preparation of income tax returns. This is the beginning of real uniform taxation and I hope that all taxation will be placed on the same basis as soon as practicable.

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