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Monday, 21 March 1927

Senator GREENE (NEW SOUTH WALES) . - This, of course, is the provision of the bill to which I take exception, and I shall vote against it; but I should like to point out that many things have been said during this debate which I regret had to be said. I regret the manner in which Senator Pearce has approached the matter, and that he should have taken it that I spoke with bitterness. I can assure him that I did not. If he will cast his memory back to the events of 1919-20, when it was decided to place before the States tentative proposals for the reduction of the per ca/pita payment. Senator Pearce will remember that those proposals were put forward in a way entirely different from that in which those now before us have been made. He will also recall the fact that when the matter was definitely turned down by the States, and the Government found that the Customs revenue would be sufficient for its purpose, it was entirely dropped. Mr. Brace's statement of 1922 embodied the definite policy of the Government, and. therefore, it is not I who have changed. I still stand where I have always stood in this matter. What are the reasons that have been advanced for the change? The only reason that amounts to anything is the claim that the Government that raises revenue should spend it. A little while ago, the Honorary Minister (Senator McLachlan) said that he regarded this as a matter of abstract right. When we elect to stand on a principle as an abstract right, we cannot follow it and depart from it at one and the same time. lt is, apparently, the one principle upon which the Government stands, as an abstract right, and, if that is so, I maintain that it . cannot make grants to any State. But we have always realized that States situated like Western Australia and Tasmania, are entitled to receive some further consideration from the Federal Parliament than the per capita payment. After all, the present system is simply a basis of payment in which all the States share; and to the amount so distributed the Federal Parliament has added, in the case of several States, amounts that it has thought justified by their special circumstances. To that extent, therefore, the Government lias departed from the per capita basis. I do not want to say anything more on the matter. I have taken a very definite stand against this proposal, and I think Senator Pearce will do me the justice of saying that I have opposed it vigorously and as well as I was able to do, both inside and outside Parliament, ever since it was first suggested by the Government. I have not varied in my opposition, because I think the proposal is wrong and that is why I arn voting against the Government on this issue.

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