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Tuesday, 10 August 1926

Senator FINDLEY (Victoria) .- I listened with very great interest to the speech delivered by Senator Barwell. He has given serious consideration to this bill, but particularly to one aspect of it which apparently some honorable senators are disposed to treat with levity. I refer to the constitutional position. The honorable senator ranks high in the legal profession, and in a measure he has staked his professional reputation on the opinion that what this bill proposes to do will be found to be unconstitutional. He has backed that up with the opinion of other legal authorities. Some honorable senators have said that the representatives of the States have in a measure expressed their approbation of the main provisions of the bill, and that some of the States are without hesitancy prepared to accept anything in the way of financial assistance that the Commonwealth Government is disposed to offer them. Why is that so? It is because they need the money? When the representatives of some of the States accepted the offer which was made by the Commonwealth Government they believed that no responsibility or liability would be incurred by them.

Senator McLachlan - In what way ?

Senator FINDLEY - They were under the impression that the assistance would be given without any qualification, and that no inroad would be made on their methods of imposing taxation. Press reports now indicate that whilst the Government is prepared to assist them in the making and maintenance of roads it also intends to make inroads on the field of State taxation.

Senator Crawford - Not where that taxation is constitutionally levied.

Senator FINDLEY - I do not intend to argue the constitutional question involved. I speak merely as a layman. Some honorable senators have said that whether the bill is constitutional or unconstitutional they intend to support it. Why were these offers made by the Commonwealth to the States? Because at that time this Government was embarrassed with riches. If it had more money than it expected to receive, why did it not proceed with development works in its own territory. I give place to no man in my sincere desire to advance the interests of Australia as a whole. I have intense affection for this, the land of my birth, and, if there is one part of Australia about which I am seriously concerned, it is the Northern Territory, which is under the control of the Commonwealth. The Commonwealth is able to advance money to the States for developmental purposes, but little or no money is available for constructing roads in the Territory under its control. To encourage land settlement a Development and Migration Commission has been appointed, and the Government expects us. to believe that these modern wizards will, with a magic wand, develop Australia as no other four persons possibly could. If we are to accept the utterances of the Minister who introduced the bill under which the commission has been appointed, they will also make Australia safe from a defence view-point. The North Australia Commission has not yet been appointed.

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