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Thursday, 28 May 1942

Mr MENZIES (Kooyong) (5:45 AM) . - I support the proposed new clause moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Fadden) ; and I am completely mystified by the ministerial reasons that have been offered for rejecting it. I had understood from a perusal of this bill that what was being aimed at was that there should be a provision, pegged in a broad sense, for the reasonable requirements of the States for such services as they ought to be carrying on during the war. Every body realizes that you cannot peg a thing absolutely, because circumstances change; and those circumstances may change in such a fashion as to increase the requirements of the States. They may change in such a fashion as to reduce the requirements of the States. The bill itself deals only with increased requirements of the States; and it provides that, within limits to be fixed by the Commonwealth Grants Commission, the payment of the extra amount to the States shall be determined by the Treasurer, and whatever he determines within the limits of the recommendation of the commission, will thereupon become payable without any further parliamentary authorization than is contained in this bill. Yet, when we turn to the other side, which is equally possible, because a State's requirements may be reduced during the war, quite apart from social services, instead of applying the same rule, no rule whatever is created. What the Leader of the Opposition is seeking to do seems to me to be eminently sensible. He asks why we do not have this rule operating both ways. Why should it require only the consent of the Treasurer to increase the sum, but all the machinery of Parliament to reduce the sum? I am at a loss to understand it. I can understand how the honorable member for Robertson (Mr. Spooner) recommended along the lines set out in the proposed new clause; but I am at a complete loss to know that the honorable member would lightly abandon what I understand is his first love. Is it because the Government does not want it? If that is to be the attitude of all of us, we might as well clap on our hats and go home.

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