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Wednesday, 20 May 1936

Senator COLLINGS (Queensland) .- I thank Hie PostmasterGeneral (Senator A. J. McLachlan) for his courtesy in having supplied mo with a proof report of his second-reading speech. I have done my best to assimilate it, even though imperfectly, in the short- period which has intervened between the adjournment of the Senate last, night and the hour of meeting today. I protest against the practice of withholding from members of this chamber the. opportunity to arrive at a proper understanding of measures before having to deal with them. With me, this is a complaint of long standing. Senators are not afforded the opportunity to which they are entitled, to give proper consideration to bills before "being called upon to express their opinions concerning them. Their only alternative is to remain silent knowing that they have not an adequate knowledge of the, contents of bills. Seemingly, protest against the practice is useless, and in the circumstances, wo must discharge to the best of our ability the obligation that rests upon us.

Having studied the bill, and the speech of the Minister upon it, I should be lacking in my duty did I not, on behalf of the Opposition, express concurrence with the comments of the honorable gentleman in regard to the stupendous nature of the work involved in the preparation of the measure and the essential steps which preceded its preparation. That the commissioners have performed excellently is unquestionable-, even though we may not agree with th, whole of their findings. I would couple with them in my remarks the draftsman, whose task must have been an exceedingly difficult one, as well as the ministerial representatives of the States and their taxation officials, who attended the several conferences which preceded the drafting of the measure. There can be no questioning the desirability of the goal aimed at by all parties, that the taxpayers of Australia should be enabled to discharge their liabilities by means of one return and one assessment. That, of course, has not yet been attained. Still, it is as well that wc should strive for it. There is not the slightest doubt that sooner or later, and the sooner the better, the federal idea will have to give way to that of unification which to us seems inevitable The sooner we can secure the abolition of six competing and conflicting States, and the passage of all legislation by one national parliament, the better. In the matter of taxation, there would then be one authority instead of seven, each having different ideas.

The matter of the abolition of the board of review, and the substitution therefor of an appellate tribunal presided over by a single judge of the Supreme Court, has not been brought to fruition so on that matter I need not express any opinions' at this juncture. It is to be regretted that agreement between the States and the Commonwealth 'has not been found possible in relation to the profits derived from a trade or business which is carried on in more than one State. I understand that Queensland is one of the offenders in this regard, for reasons with which I am unacquainted. The failure 'to reach agreement is further evidence of the wisdom of my suggestion for the abolition of competing authorities.

Every source of information should have been made available to honorable senators. I am sure that the Minister is not responsible for the fact that we have not before us the Treasurer's comparisons.

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