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Friday, 23 March 1928

Senator HOARE (South Australia) . - I agree with the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Needham) that the further consideration of the bill should be postponed. Before its introduction a vote- of the people ought first to have been taken. If the people had agreed to the proposal, the Government could have proceeded with the measure with the assurance that it would become a permanent arrangement when it had been passed by both Houses. As it is, there is nothing to prevent the people from rejecting the proposal. If they do, all our trouble will have been in vain ; because in such an event this legislation cannot become operative and the Government will have to find some other means of making payments to the different States. I think it was the late Sir Alfred Deakin who said -

Federal Government might 'be, and in my opinion ought to be, introduced with a guarantee to each colony of the return to it of the sums it at present receives from the sources which the Federal Government takes over - of course, deducting the cost of the departments which the provisional Governments at present pay in order to obtain the revenue: and I would make the guarantee obtain not for five or twenty years, but for all time. The States have not been given back anything like the amount that has been taken from them.

Under this proposal the States will not receive the amount that should be given to them. Seemingly, the agreement will remain in force for a period of 58 years. In that time Victoria would receive under the per capita system £190,000,000, whereas under the agreement it will receive only £123,000,000, a- loss of £67,000,000, Queensland would receive under the par capita system, £132,000,000, but under the proposed system will re ceive only £64,000,000, a loss m £68,000,000. South Australia under the old system would receive £72,000,000, but now will receive only £41,000,000. Under the old system Western Australia would have received £73,000,000, but under this agreement only £27,000,000 will be paid to that State. That represents a loss of £46,000,000. The payments to Tasmania under this agreement will be £15,500,000, as against £20,000,000 under the old system. Under this agreement the States will lose between £400,000,000 and £500,000,000 during the next 5S years. Speaking in the South Australian Parliament, the Hon. L. L. Hill, Leader of the Opposition, in support of his statement that customs and excise revenue is continually increasing, gave the following figures: -

Revenue collected in South Australia - Customs and Excise (actual) 1919-20, £1,157,057; 1920-21, £2.460,106; 1921-22, £2,221,284; 1922-23, £2,806,638; 1923-24, £3,196,314; 1924-25, £3,031,543; 1925-26, £3,902,626.

From those amounts South Australia received the following amounts as per capita payments: - Per capita payment (actual) 1919-20, £578,094; 1920-21, £588,603; 1921-22, £621,862; 1922-23, £635.833; 1923-24, £650,453; 1924-25, £068,084; 1925-26, £684,932.

Senator Sir GeorgePearce. From what publication are those figures taken ?

Senator HOARE - I am quoting from the South Australian Hansard of 20th December, 1927. If the Commonwealth Government had desired to treat the States fairly, it would have- paid them according to the figures I have quoted. Under this agreement the States will receive the same flat rate each year, al though there is every indication that the amounts received as customs and excise duties will increase.

Senator Herbert Hays - Under a policy of protection the customs revenue should decrease each year.

Senator HOARE - Perhaps it should ; but it does not. A period of 58 years is a long time for which to bind any people. Before the expiration of that period some better arrangement may be evolved; but difficulty will be experienced in altering this agreement. Provision should be made for an alteration should the States desire it. Notwithstanding its defects, this bill is an improvement on the one Ave had before us previously, but, in my opinion, the States should have been consulted before the Commonwealth took the action it has taken,

Senator Sir George Pearce - All the States have accepted the agreement.

Senator HOARE - The State Parliaments may have done so; but they may not correctly represent public opinion. The fairest way would have been to consult the people.

Senator McLachlan - The electors must be consulted before the agreement can become operative.

Senator HOARE - That is so; but I still maintain that the cart is being put before the horse. The per capita payments should have been continued until the people had been consulted. The Government could then have gone ahead knowing that, it had the approval of the people.

Senator Duncan - Was not the abolition of the per capita payments at one. time a plank in the Labour party's platform ?

Senator HOARE - I do not think so; but even if it were, time brings many changes. In any case, the people are superior to any party or parliament. They should be consulted. The bill contains one redeeming feature, in that it consolidates our borrowing. Instead of the several States going on the market perhaps at the same time, there will in future be one borrowing authority. I am glad that the New South Wales Government has decided to join the Loan Council. To the extent that it provides for uniformity of action and prevents overlapping and competition, the bill is an improvement on the Government's original proposal, but something more is necessary. I therefore hope that the Senate will agree to the amendment.

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