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Tuesday, 21 June 1949

Mr THOMPSON (Hindmarsh) . - As a South Australian, I desire to take this opportunity to express my appreciation of the action of the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) in providing this financial assistance to my State. The people of South Australia generally realize that the Treasurer is not the bugbear that the press and the opponents of the Labour party so often depict him to be.

Mr White - Such assistance to South Australia has been granted for years.

Mr THOMPSON - I am aware of that, but, for some years, certain interested parties have claimed that, under the uniform income tax legislation, the States have lost the power of the purse and have thereby been deprived of some of their sovereign rights. The truth is that the employees of South Australian Government departments, for instance, are enjoying better conditions now than they did before the introduction of the uniform income tax. For many years teachers employed by the South Australian Education Department received salaries below those that were paid in other States. The State Government in those days had the power to increase taxation in order to finance higher salary rates for its public servants, as honorable members opposite say the Playford Government could do now but for uniform taxation, but it failed to do so. I recollect the severe depression period in South Australia when there was a shortage of money for public finance. I think that the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) was a fellow member of a committee to which I was appointed at that time.

Mr Archie Cameron - What coInmittee was that?

Mr THOMPSON - The budget committee.

Mr ARCHIE Cameron - I do not remember it.

Mr THOMPSON - I think that the honorable gentleman was a member of that committee, which was formed as the result of a suggestion by the Leader of the Opposition in the State Parliament at that time that financial problems could be discussed more effectively by such a body than by means of argument in the Parliament.

Mr Archie Cameron - No. I was not a member of that committee.

Mr THOMPSON - I was chosen from the government party as a member of the committee. The then Leader of the Opposition in that Parliament, now Sir Richard Butler, was very concerned about what he called the " high salaries " paid to officers of the Education Department. I mention that fact in passing in order to demonstrate that members of the anti-Labour forces in those days were very much opposed to the payment of adequate salaries to public servants. The costs of the South Australian Education Department are now practically double what they were a few years ago despite the fact that the State Government complains that it is not able to levy taxes on its own account. I am not satisfied that the increases that have been made, which I fully support, would have been made if taxing authority had been left in the hands of the State. Under the present arrangement with the Commonwealth, whenever the States of South Australia, Western Australia and Tasmania sustain a budget deficit, the Commonwealth comes to their aid. I am very appreciative of the fact that this Government is prepared to provide any extra money that is needed by those States. The Commonwealth Grants Commission has now seen fit to recommend the grant of an additional sum of £600,000 for South Australia. When the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) introduced this hill last week, he cited certain figures in order to show that even this amount might not be sufficient to enable the State to balance its budget. However, it may reasonably be expected to bridge the gap. I shall not deal with the amount of the proposed grant for Tasmania, because I am not intimately acquainted with the affairs of that State. The proposals provide evidence that refute the propaganda of those people who decry the uniform tax system and claim that it prevents the State governments from exercising their sovereign rights with regard to expenditure. The bill demonstrates that this Government is prepared to consider the needs of the less populous States. It will help them willingly if it is convinced that their losses have been caused by forces beyond their control and not by efforts to outbid other States that are not eligible to receive Commonwealth grants. The readiness with which aid is provided is an indication of the good spirit of the Australian Government, the Commonwealth Grants Commission and the Commonwealth Treasurer towards the States. I support the bill, and I trust that it will enable the Government of South Australia to place its public servants on an equal footing with those of other States.

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