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Tuesday, 21 June 1949

Mr SHEEHY (Boothby) .- I listened to both the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Thompson) and the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) and if any one introduced party political matters it was the honorable member for Barker. No one on this side has discussed constitutional rights. The plain facts are that the States that are dependent on the Commonwealth still have the right to certain fields of taxation. They can increase the taxes levied in those fields if they so desire. The honorable member for Barker cannot dispute that. By granting this sum of £600,000 to my State of South Australia, the Australian Government has given it the opportunity of almost balancing its budget. That bears out the statement that the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) has made from time to time that he desires all the States of Australia to have a stable economy. He also pointed out in his second-reading speech on this measure that all the needs of the States should be taken into consideration and budgeted for, because, unless that were done, any State government could be encouraged not to manage its affairs efficiently and to apply for additional grants from time to time. We know where we stand on the matter of the uniform tax. The cry of State governments that they desire to have back the power to tax people amounts to the biggest sham fight ever waged, because they have never set out to increase taxes in the fields to which they have unrestricted and sole access. I fully believe that it is the responsibility of the tax-gatherers of the nation to ensure that the wealth of the nation shall be distributed as fairly and equitably as possible. There may be some truth in the claim of the honorable member for Barker that this Government is the greatest tax-gatherer that the country has ever seen, but it is also true that it has had to face bigger obligations and responsibilities than any other government has had to face. We must look at the complete picture. It is not merely a matter of seeking political party advantage. The Prime Minister is carrying out the very words of his guarantee to the people of Australia that they would have security, as far as it was possible to give them security, and that every State should have a stable economy. On the question of these grants to the States, the people in the major State of the Commonwealth could say : " We are paying the major portion of the tax to enable this to be done and we do not desire it to be done ". I have pointed out in the House more than once that, in 1938-39, taxpayers in South Australia paid, in both Commonwealth tax and State tax, practically twice as much as they are paying to-day. If the State needed money to carry out undertakings to school teachers and to public servants that they would be given more amenities and the same rights as those possessed by their like in States such as New South Wales and the uniform tax were not in operation, the people of South Australia, who have been substantially relieved of taxes, would be very heavily burdened. There is nothing party political in this matter of grants to the dependent States. I agree with the honorable member for Barker about that, but the whole of his speech was based on a party political theme. This measure simply means that the Australian Government is giving the opportunity to two of the dependent States to balance their budgets and to have a stable economy. The Australian Government is to be commended for the way in which it has collected taxes and reimbursed the various States. I commend to the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) particularly, not only for the tax rates that exist, but also for the stable economy that Australia is so fortunate as to possess.

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