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Monday, 21 March 1927

Senator GIVENS - No one , would have advocated that course then. In addition to returning to the States the agreed-upon proportion of the Customs and excise revenue, the Commonwealth has also returned to them, in round figures, about £7,000,000. Since the Commonwealth and the State Governments have co-equal authority in taxation, is it not the obligation of both to raise the revenue it requires, and no more ? The position appears to me to be similar to that of two men, camped beside a wellwooded stream in the bush, each with a full supply of tucker, and one complaining that he will starve because the other will not draw sufficient water or cut enough firewood for him. That really represents the position which the States are taking up, because, as I have shown, they have full authority to raise all the revenue they require, and, therefore, it is their duty and obligation to do so. But, after all, we need not wonder at this whining of the State Governments. Have honorable senators never heard the bellowing of an overgrown calf when it is undergoing the process of being weaned ? That is what is about to happen to the State Governments ; but everybody knows, of course, that it is good for the calf to be weaned, and good also for the mother. Therefore, we need not pay too much attention to all this clamour that the State Governments are making. The opponents of the bill talk with their tongues in their cheeks when they declaim about the injustice which the Commonwealth Government is doing the States. Actually they mean, not the States, but the State Governments. There should be no confusion on this point.

Senator H Hays - I think the honorable senator is unfair in saying that. I have never been influenced by the attitude of my State Government.

Senator GIVENS - - Let me ask the honorable senator one question. How can we do an injury to the States by refusing to tax their people ?

Senator H Hays - That does not justify the honorable senator in saying that we are being influenced by the State Governments.

Senator GIVENS - Then I shall exempt the honorable senator.

Senator Needham - The honorable senator must exempt all other opponents of the bill.

Senator GIVENS - Very well, I shall exempt them; but I made the statement, and I stand by it. Briefly put, the position is that the State Governments desire to be relieved of their obligations to raise the revenue which they require for State governmental activities. It has been stated that the passage of the bill will beggar the States. Are they not in the position of beggars now, seeing that they are dependent on our bounty, and are reaching out their hands every month for Commonwealth payments? Our aim should be to make them financially independent of the Commonwealth. That is what this bill proposes to do. I regretted to hear the Vice-President of the Executive Council say, when moving the second reading of the bill, that it was intended to convene another conference between the Commonwealth and State representatives in order to, if possible, agree upon proposals to adjust the financial relations of the Commonwealth and the States. In my view nothing of the sort is required. What is required is complete severance of the financial relations with a view to making the States absolutely independent of the Commonwealth.

Senator Findley - The Government does not propose to do that. It says that it hopes it may be possible at another conference to arrive at an agreement which might even include the continuance of the per capita payments.

Senator GIVENS - I am opposed to any arrangement that will not provide for the absolute independence of both the Commonwealth and the States. I lake this opportunity to remind Senator Findley that that was the attitude which the old and courageous Labour party took when this issue was before Parliament seventeen years ago. It is the only reasonable and sensible attitude to take. At present the Commonwealth has nothing whatever to do with' the spending of certain revenue which it collects. Approximately, it raises £7 per head of population by indirect taxation. This burden presses more heavily upon the poor, and the man with a large family, than upon the wealthier sections of the community. If the Labour party of lo-day had its way the Commonwealth would be compelled, not only to raise the revenue which it requires, but also to provide for the needs of the States. To do this, it would have to impose an unduly heavy indirect tax by way of Customs and excise duties, upon the poorer classes in the community, which honorable senators opposite claim exclusively to represent. As a matter of fact, they do not represent that section of the people at all; they misrepresent them. If the alleged Labour representatives of to-day had the courage of the old-time Labour party, they would not tolerate the attitude of the State Governments for a moment, lt appears to me that a large proportion of these alleged Labour men have neither sufficient brains to know what is the right thing to do nor the courage to do it if they had. I can easily prove the truth of that statement.

Senator Grant - Who is responsible for the amount of Customs and excise revenue that is being received today, if not the Government of which the honorable senator is a supporter ?

Senator GIVENS - I am not supporting the bill because this Government introduced it; and I did not support- the tariff because it was brought in by this Government. I have never supported the raising of high Customs and excise revenue by any Government. If wc- had an effective protective tariff we should derive little or no revenue from it.

Senator Lynch - What does the honorable senator call the existing tariff ?

Senator GIVENS - It is not an effective one. How much revenue does the Commonwealth derive from the importation of wheat, butter or sugar, in respect of all of which items there are protective duties? None whatever; simply because the tariff in those cases is effective.

Senator Lynch - The problem is to deal with the conditions that make the existing tariff ineffective.

Senator Grant - The Customs and excise receipts this year will amount to £44,000,000, equal to £7 per head of the population.

Senator GIVENS - That is the correct figure. I may be pardoned for showing the effect that that has upon me. There are nine persons in my family for whom I am responsible. I live in such a fashion that I suppose my contribution is well up to the average. Therefore, I and my family are taxed indirectly to the extent of £63 a year. That is intolerable. My objection to the continuance of the per capita payment is that it will compel the Commonwealth to continue for all time to collect an enormous revenue from indirect taxation, thus placing a heavy burden upon the poor people in the community.

Senator Findley - If we succeeded in obtaining an effective protectionist tariff we should have to revert to the imposition of direct taxation.

Senator GIVENS - I do not object to direct taxation ; it is the onlyreally honest form of taxation.

Senator Findley -Why, then, vacate that field?

Senator GIVENS - Simply because the Commonwealth does not require it. It proposes to give to the honorable senator's party, which is in power in five of the States, the opportunity to impose direct taxation to its heart's content if it is not afraid to do so.

Senator Findley - What chance is there of securing the passage of a progressive land tax through the Victorian Parliament?

Senator GIVENS - I do not know. I am not worrying about that. We hear a lot of " tosh " spoken about the inability of the States to impose taxation on aggregated incomes or to aggregate estates for land taxation purposes. That has absolutely nothing to do with the question which we are considering. It would be a piece of impertinence on our part, and it is impertinent for the Commonwealth Government, to suggest what taxation the States should impose, or the methods they should adopt to secure the amount that they will lose by the withdrawal of the per capita payment. All that we have to do is to raise sufficient revenue for our own purposes, and to throw upon the States the onus and the obligation of raising sufficient to enable them to carry on their services. Let them raise it in any way that seems good to them, without any suggestion or dictation from us. The Vice-President of the Executive Council (Senator Pearce), desires that a further conference shall be held to bring about an adjustment of the financial relations of the States and the Commonwealth. Such action will not do away with the squabbles and bickerings that have accompanied the consideration of this question. We want a complete severance of the financial relations of the two authorities, and complete independence for each. Both the Commonwealth and the States have absolute and. plenary power within their own spheres. Every avenue of taxation, with one exception, is as wide open to the States as it is to the Commonwealth. It is the bounden duty and the obligation of the States to raise their own revenue by any method that pleases them.

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