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Thursday, 28 May 1942

Mr HOLLOWAY (Melbourne PortsMinister for Social Services) (5:24 AM) . - I hope that the committee will not take the proposal of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Fadden) seriously, because a literal interpretation of it means that a State shall automatically cease to grant social benefits if the Commonwealth appears to duplicate them. When the Commonwealth introduces new social benefits, it does not necessarily assume responsibility for similar services performed by the States. In Victoria, a paltry sum is paid in respect of destitute children. When the Commonwealth Parliament passed the child endowment legislation, it did not expect the State to cease making those payments.

Mr Spender - The matter may be considered by the Commonwealth Grants Commission, but the Government is not bound to accept its recommendation.

Mr HOLLOWAY - It is dangerous to submit the proposed new clause at this juncture. The Leader of the Opposition previously emphasized the necessity for achieving, not chaos, but unity. If the Government were to accept his proposal, the States would regard it as an intimation to them to refrain from continuing their social services if the Commonwealth grants similar 'benefits.

Mr. ARCHIECAMERON (Barker) [5.27 a.m. - The remarks of the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Holloway) confirms what was said a fortnight ago during the debate on the legislation to authorise the payment of widows' pensions. Some members of the Opposition, as distinct from the Opposition as a whole because it has ceased to oppose the Government, declared that the Commonwealth will not interfere with the prerogatives of the States in regard to social services. The kernel of the argument in favour of this legislation has been that every possible penny that the Commonwealth can obtain must be marshalled for the conduct of the war. Two things have happened since the last division was taken, which prove the utter fallacy of that contention. Two supporters of the Government stepped down from the national pedestal that they had occupied, and asked whether the matter of reimbursements to States would be reconsidered automatically by the Commonwealth Grants Commission when the basic wage was increased. So we find amongst the newly developed super-patriots of the Commonwealth Parliament, who had nothing whatever in their minds about State rights before the vote was taken, concern as to what will happen in New South Wales and Queensland in the even* of an increase of the basic wage. Then we have the statement of the Minister for Social Services that, regardless of what the States like to do ' in regard to social services, the Commonwealth Government will not interfere. The very essence of this legislation is the greatest, deepest and most carefully cal.culcated interference with the internal management of the States which was ever proposed in this Parliament, and, according to the dictum of the Minister, that interference shall apply only in the realm of income tax. The State of New South Wales, foremost, and almost alone, in the race for the development of social services of a State character, is not to be interfered with, and is not to have its reimbursement reduced in the event of the Commonwealth taking over any of those services. The whole case of the Commonwealth Government is now clearly shown. It is stripped naked, and it has been so stripped, not by anything said or done in this corner of the committee - I cannot say this side - but by private members sitting doubtfully behind the Government, some of them, perhaps, wistfully looking in this direction, and by tho Minister for Social Services himself. Those who opposed the bill are justified in the action they have taken. There never has been any necessity to lecture us on the need to get on with this war. Again we see confirmed early in the morning, as it was in the afternoon and in the evening, that what is paramount in the minds of a good number of honorable members opposite is that, come what may, certain social services and conditions of the States are not to be interferred with by this or any other piece of legislation. There is no doubt about where I stand on the war issue. The big thing behind this legislation is not the prosecution of the war, but the persecution of the States, and the provision of legislative armour-plate, which will prevent the Germans, the Japanese or any one else from interfering with certain things which are held very dear to a considerable majority of honorable members on both sides of this committee. The people should learn exactly what is behind this proposal. If the Government is sincere in its protestations that above all, first and foremost, and to the very last, this uniform tax proposal is directed solely at securing things needed for the prosecution of the war, the Treasurer, in the name of common sense, will take the advantage of the opportunity to put into his Treasury every penny he can get and accept the amendment of the Leader of the Opposition.

Mr Chifley - This Parliament will decide what will be taken off the reimbursement payments to the States, in respect of State services taken over by the Commonwealth.

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