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Monday, 21 March 1927

Senator FINDLEY (Victoria) .- I should not have risen had it not been for the statement made during the debate that honorable senators who oppose this bill do so because of the influence exercised by the various State Governments. I am a representative of Victoria, in which State there is in power a government which has lost no opportunity to denounce the party with which I am associated. Every candidate for election to the Victorian Parliament, irrespective of party, is, I believe, opposed to the withdrawal of the per capita payments. Some honorable senators representing Victoria have spoken in favour of the bill; but if they were candidates for election to the State Parliament they would be rejected by the electors.

Senator Givens - It is not safe to prophesy.

Senator FINDLEY - It is rare that such unanimity among members of all political parties is found, but there is no question that the opposition to this bill comes from all parties. The Government says that, if this measure becomes law, it will see that the States are not injured. What Government can guarantee a permanent and satisfactory settlement of the serious financial difficulties now confronting the Commonwealth and the States? I remind honorable senators that that which this Government may do to-day may be undone to-morrow by another Government. The Bruce-Page Government cannot bind the people of Australia for all time; nor can the present State Premiers bind the people of the States. It has been said that, because of certain other proposals which the Government intends to bring forward, the passing of this measure will place no great burden on the States. So far we do not know what those proposals are. The per capita payments are to continue until the 30th June, 1927.

Senator Pearce - Unless an agreement is arrived at in the meantime, payments will continue to be made to the States, but not as per capita grants until 30th June, 1928.

Senator FINDLEY - By the 30th June, 1928, this Parliament will have approached the end of the period for which it was elected; a general election will not be far off. The Government proposes to appoint a committee to consider constitutional matters. I remind honorable senators that not long ago some proposals submitted to the people by the Government were defeated, largely because the electors disapproved of the Government's proposals in relation to the per capita payments. Many electors believed that if they voted for the Government's referendum proposals they would be voting for the abolition of the per capita payments. That was a wrong belief, it is true, nevertheless, it had a considerable effect on the result of the a ppeal.

Senator Ogden - The Government did much to kill its own proposals.

Senator FINDLEY - The Government now proposes to take away the per capita grant, and then to ask the States to meet the Commonwealth in conference. When, in another place, it was pointed out that that was not the way to promote harmony between the Commonwealth and the States, the Treasurer (Dr. Earle Page) said that at the conference there would be an open field, and that whatever decisions were arrived at would be submitted to Parliament later. He even went so far as to say that the result might be the restoration of the per capita payments to the States. Senator Ogden said that the Government's proposals would impose an additional burden on the taxpayers of Tasmania. That will be true also of Victoria. I shall endeavour to show how the Government proposal will mean additional taxation and heavier burdens on that section of the community which I represent in this chamber, namely, the working class. Senator Givens said that as the States had authority to raise all the revenues they required in their own way, they should look after their own finances, and should not rely upon the Commonwealth Government for any payments. Does he approve of the Government's advances for wire netting, of its road scheme, or its proposal to spend £20,000,000 on a housing scheme ?

Senator Givens - I am not in favour of any of those proposals.

Senator FINDLEY - Nevertheless, the honorable senator is a supporter of this Government. I am not speaking as a representative of the Government of Victoria. I am doing all I can to bring about the defeat of that Government at the coming election. I am opposing the bill because I object to its principle, and because I believe it will mean an additional taxation burden on the working classes. The Government proposes to evacuate certain fields of direct taxation. It proposes to drop the federal land tax, but it will hold on to 60 per cent.ofthe income tax, so that there will still be direct taxation by the Commonwealth.

Senator Ogden - And two taxgathering authorities.

Senator FINDLEY - There will be a federal income tax; but, if this measure is carried, there will be no federal land tax.

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