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Thursday, 12 August 1926

Senator PEARCE (Western AustraliaVicePresident of the Executive Council) . - I may point out for the information of the Leader of the Opposition {Senator Needham), and other honorable senators, that in order to give this chamber an equal opportunity with another place to discuss the budget proposals, it has been the practice for many years, to submit a motion - " That the Estimates and budget-papers be printed," and honorable senators have been specially invited to discuss the whole of the budget proposals on that motion. It is the invariable practice in this legislature, as in all Parliaments, not to dispose of the Appropriation Bill until the end of the session is approaching. The procedure we have adopted, however, gives this Chamber a full opportunity to discuss the budget proposals,.' and, on this occasion, that opportunity has been availed of to a greater extent, I believe, than by another place. There has been a full and exhaustive discussion of the budget proposals in the Senate. I am glad there has been, and I trust honorable senators will always avail themselves of the opportunity thus afforded them. " The main principles of the budget, having been debated, honorable senators now have an opportunity to discuss the departmental Estimates in detail, which cannot be done at any other time. The Leader of the . Opposition knows, as I do, that practically all members resident in distant States have made arrangements to leave Melbourne tomorrow.

Senator Needham - If my suggestion were adopted that would not be prevented.

Senator PEARCE - Serious inconvenience would result if the business were so long delayed that they would have to cancel their arrangements. That would be of little consequence to members resident in Victoria, but those living in other States would be seriously inconvenienced. In justice to these members the business in this Chamber must be so arranged that honorable senators will have a full opportunity - and after all it is in their interests^ - to discuss the bill in detail. That can only be done by proceeding with the measure to-night. Honorable senators are aware that there are 'also several other important bills, for which reasonable time for discussion must be provided.

Honorable senators, particularly those from Queensland, who are interested in the payment of a cotton bounty, and other honorable senators who are interested in the bounty on cotton yarn, must be afforded an opportunity to express their views on those proposals. I sympathize with the Leader oi the Opposition, because I do not wish to be here all night. I loathe all-night sittings, and nothing will persuade me' to take them as a form of recreation. Later we shall be able to see what progress has been made. It may be possible to adjourn at a reasonable hour and meet again tomorrow, but it would not be wise to adopt such a course before the Appropriation Bill had been disposed of. Whilst I should like to meet the wishes of honorable senators, and also meet my own convenience, it would not be safe to delay the discussion of this measure until tomorrow.

Coming now to the question raised by Senator Needham and Senator Payne as to special grants to Western Australia and Tasmania, may I say in reply first of all to Senator Payne that provision will be made for those grants in another bill. As a matter of fact they are contained in a special appropriation bill, which has come before another place and is now on its business-paper. They are not contained in this measure, because they are not appropriated by it. The Government has already announced that it has no desire to proceed with the proposals contained in the States Grants Bill at this stage of the session,, but that will be the first business to be taken when Parliament reassembles early in the coming year. Honorable senators are aware that the general discussion on the budget has not disclosed any opposition to these special grants.

Senator J B Hayes - Will the State Treasurers be safe in budgeting in the expectation of receiving that money 1

Senator PEARCE - I think that they will. It appears to me that these grants are likely to meet with general acceptance. No inconvenience will be caused to the States. Last year, this Government budgeted for a special appropriation for the State of Western Australia. I think it amounted to £450,000, including approximately £80,000 of the existing grant. That money was made available to Western Australia before the close of the financial year, which ended on the 30th June last. Not only has it not been spent, but the Government of "Western Australia has not yet announced the directions in which it proposes that it shall Be spent.

Senator H Hays - But these grants are connected with other financial proposals, are they not?

Senator PEARCE - That is so.

Senator J B Hayes - Will they be contingent upon the passage of the States Grants Bill ?.

Senator PEARCE -I am not prepared to say. The Government's policy has been put forward as a whole. What is to happen if either House of the Parliament carves up that policy is for the Government to decide. As an ex-Premier, Senator J. B. Hayes knows that it is a very serious thing for the financial proposals of a government to be carved up.

Senator Needham - Does the Minister suggest that because Western Australia has not indicated the direction in which the grant shall be allocated, no further consideration will be given to it?

Senator PEARCE - I have not made the slightest suggestion of that sort. What I say is that when this Parliament reassembles in the early part of next year, and deals with these special grants, there will be ample time for the Treasurers of Western Australia and Tasmania to make their arrangements. In support of that, I mentioned the fact that last year's special grant to Western Australia had been in the hands of that Government for some months, and had not yet been allocated. The Treasurers of both the States and the Commonwealth frame their financial proposals in the early part of every financial year, but a great deal of the money is not spent until the end of the year. The Parliament is committed to the expenditure in the expectation that the estimated revenue will be received. I do not doubt that the Treasurers of Tasmania and Western Australia have framed their budgets in the expectation that they will receive these amounts. They are justified in doing to. It may be that they will not receive them until after the first half of the financial year has expired, but that is the experience with a great deal of their revenue. Although a Treasurer budgets for a whole year's receipts from income tax and makes preparations for expenditure on that basis, those moneys are not received until towards the close of the financial year. Tasmania and Western Australia, therefore, will not be in any worse position in regard to these grants than they are in regard to income tax and other revenue. I can merely refer honorable senators to the speech of the Treasurer when he introduced his budget. He then committed the Government to these payments, and made it clear that Parliament would be asked to authorize them. He also stated later on, in announcing that it had been decided to defer consideration of the proposals contained in the States Grants Bill, that they would be proceeded with when Parliament reassembled in the early part of the next calendar year.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

Bill read a first time.

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