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Monday, 21 March 1927

Senator NEEDHAM (Western Australia) . - I have no hesitation in opposing the title of the bill, and I move as an amendment -

That the word " Grants " be left out with a view to insert in lieu thereof the word " Burglary."

The short title will then read, "The States Burglary Act." I contend that in essence and in fact the bill has been wrongly named. Senator Pearce interjected a moment ago that it proposes to make grants to the States, and he instanced clause 6. That clause does not say that this is a measure to make a grant to the States. It reads -

Subject to the terms of any agreement made between the Commonwealth and all the States, and adopted by the Parliament, the Treasurer shall, during the financial year commencing on the 1st day of July, 1927- do certain things. The clause has no relation to the title, in so far as it purports to make this a States Grants Act. There is certainly a reference to grants to the States of Western Australia and Tasmania. I point out to the committee that if the hill becomes an act it will lessen the income of the States, notwithstanding the fact that grants may continue to be made in one form or another. The point I wish to stress is that, under this proposal, the States will not receive an equivalent of the per capita payments. There is not the slightest doubt that this is one of the vital clauses of the measure, l t has been argued that those who oppose the bill speak as the representatives noi of the States, but of the governments of the States. We have listened this afternoon to a lecturette on our constitutional position. If my amendment were submitted to the people, I venture to think that it would be carried. We who oppose the bill do not claim to voice the opinions of only the governments of the States. An opportunity has not been given to the people we represent to express their views respecting it. In my opinion the word " Grants " wrongly appears in the title, and a more suitable word would be "Burglary." The Commonwealth Treasurer proposes to enter th'e States household, rob it of its ready cash and leave it with a few shillings to carry on; just as a burglar would take all the money and jewellery he could find, and leave behind him only the price of a tram fare. It is idle to say that the Commonwealth is not proposing to rob the States of the benefits which they now enjoy, and to curtail to a great extent the special grants that certain States at present receive. Clause 3 sets out that there is to be a curtailment of existing grants. That is a breach of the promise which the Government made when appealing to the people in 1925. Senator Pearce has stated that the payment of £450,000 to Western Australia is to be continued in two ways.

Senator Pearce - I rise to order. Is the honorable senator in order in proceeding to reply to a speech that I made on the motion for the second reading of the bill, dealing particularly with the grant to Western Australia, which is specifically provided for in a clause other than that which the committee is now considering ?

The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN (Senator Duncan - I ask the honorable senator to confine himself to clause 1. The grants that are to be payable to the State of Western Australia may be discussed when the committee is considering clause 3.

Senator NEEDHAM - I dare say that I deviated slightly from the question before the chair ; but I contend that, as a result of the operation of this measure, the State which I represent will suffer in respect to the grant that it receives. It proposes to fix the grant to Western Australia at £300,000, whereas under a former proposal the amount was £450,000.

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