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Wednesday, 10 October 1956

Mr MENZIES - The abolition of the uniform tax law is something which ought not to be undertaken except on a broad basis of agreement with the State Premiers. In other words, uniform tax cannot be abolished in one State and not in another, and we must have a co-operative approach to this matter. The simple truth is that the interests of the taxpayers, of whom there are many hundreds of thousands in Australia, must be considered. We do not want a multiplicity of tax laws, if we can avoid them. We want a good, sensible system that will work. We have repeatedly stated our views on this matter at conferences with the State Premiers. I do not think that the attitude of any one of the Premiers should be over-simplified. We stand by the statements that I have made in the past. If and when the Premiers are prepared to agree to a return of their taxing powers on terms which meet the various conditions that I have stated, this Government will be delighted to take the necessary steps. Perhaps I ought to take advantage of this opportunity to point out to honorable members that the question of policy as to whether there should be a return of taxing powers to the States is quite different from the legal question - which is now being approached, I gather - as to whether this Parliament has the power to pass a uniform taxation law. I want to keep those two matters in separate compartments. We cannot interpret the Commonwealth Constitution by consent. No doubt the High Court will give its view on the legal issue in due course. On the matter of policy, I have nothing to state in modification of the views which I have expressed on behalf of this Government to Premiers conferences more than once, but I suggest to my friend, the honorable member for Sturt, that we cannot operate on the basis of one, two, or three of the Premiers being in that mood. Indeed, 1 venture to suggest that, inadvertently, he has rather over-simplified the view of my friend, the Premier of South Australia. His view has never seemed to mc to be quite so simple as that.

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