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Friday, 18 March 1927

Senator J B HAYES (TASMANIA) - That charge has been levelled against Tasmania for quite a long time.

Senator Barnes - It is true.

Senator J B HAYES - It is true for exactly the same reason that the country districts of New South Wales, Victoria, and the other States cannot keep their men. The Treasurer (Dr. Earle Page) the other day stated that to-day there were 7,000 or 8,000 fewer farmers, and 10,000 or 12,000 fewer farm employees in Australia than there were ten years ago. The magnet that is attracting the population from the country districts to the big cities is identical with that which is depleting Tasmania of her manhood. But for the apparent prosperity that is caused by what some regard as a not too sound policy of protection, the conditions in this country would be much worse than they are. The argument of Tasmania is not only -that it is adversely affected by the system of per capita pay.ments, but also that there are many other ways in which it loses money, and for which loss it ought to be recouped out of the national revenues. Take education, for example. In this and in every other mainland city I can find men holding high and responsible positions in commerce, trade, and the professions, who were reared, educated, and received their early training in Tasmania. Those men were a charge upon the State until they arrived at the most useful stage of their lives, when they left it, and other States have benefited from their endeavours.

Senator Payne - They have been the salvation of at least one State.

Senator J B HAYES - They have made their mark in many of the States. Everybody knows that amongst the leaders in the Commonwealth Service arc men who at one time were a charge upon Tasmania. Some little time ago the Commonwealth Government sent to Tasmania a commissioner to inquire into the disabilities that had been caused to that State by federation. A great deal cf work and anxiety were involved in the preparation of the case that was placed before him. He went into it exhaustively, and after months had elasped a grant of £378,000 was made for a period of two years. The unsatisfactory nature of the method of finance adopted is illustrated by the fact that not one penny of that sum has yet been received, al though nearly a year has passed since the grant was made. By the time that the first payment is made a fresh case will have to be prepared. It is a perpetual worry and anxiety to Tasmania to be called upon to prepare a case for financial assistance from the Commonwealth, lt has no desire to seek charity, but it does want redress for what it has suffered because of the adoption of the national policy. That can be achieved only by a complete re-arrangement of the financial relations of the Commonwealth and the States, on the basis that those States which are most in need of assistance shall receive the largest amount. A re-examination of Tasmania's figures has been promised by the Government, and for that I commend it. One way by which it could assist that State would be by taking over the Tasmanian Government railways. They were built in good faith, to serve the people who are producing and to develop the country, and they have resulted in a loss.

Senator Thompson - If that precedent is established, the Commonwealth will have to take over the Queensland railway system and shoulder a loss of nearly £2,000,000 a year.

Senator J B HAYES - A precedent exists in the transcontinental and other railways, that are under the control of the Commonwealth Government. This matter was very pointedly referred to when the last examination was held into Tasmania's financial condition, and I submit it for the .consideration of the Government. I assure the Senate and the people that I represent that, although I shall vote for the withdrawal of the per capita payment, I am determined- to see that something as good, or even better, is substituted for it.

Senator Payne - And the honorable senator believes that that will be done ?

Senator J B HAYES - I believe that the Government will treat the States generously. I also have the assurance that this Parliament will guard the interests of the States and see that they get an absolutely fair deal. I am not enamoured of the per capita system. A more equitable method is necessary. So far as we can judge, this matter will again come before Parliament in a few months, when, I am sure, a substantial majority of members will take every action that lies in their power to see that the States get a fair deal.

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