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Friday, 9 October 1936

Senator E B JOHNSTON (Western Australia) . - I gave notice yesterday of my intention to move an amendment to the motion for the second reading of this bill but you, Mr. President, ruled that I could not do so, as I had already spoken on the measure. I believe that ruling to be correct. I wish now merely to record the terms of the amendment that I intended to move, particularly as they are in conflict with remarks made by the Leader of the Senate (Senator Pearce) as to the attitude of honorable gentlemen who supported the amendment that was defeated a few minutes ago. The amendment that I desired to move was as follows: -

Leave out all words after " That " insert " the bill be withdrawn and the Commonwealth Grants Commission be requested to reconsider their recommendation for a reduction of £300,000 in the grant to Western Australia, and submit an appropriate recommendation giving weight to the evidence submitted by the Government of Western Australia with regard to the disabilities of that State under federal legislation, and particularly: -

(a)   the relationship of population to the size of the State and the consequential high administrative costs of the services of government,

(b)   the inequality in the relative burdens of federation upon a State which is predominantly engaged in agriculture and other primary industries.

(c)   the absence of economical compensation to the State to balance the effects of national fiscal policy, and the resulting inability of the State to assist adequately the primary industries or develop secondary industries without a special enabling grant by the Commonwealth,

(d)   the effects of the foregoing, and of the droughts of 1935 and 1936 inthe pastoral and agricultural districts, on the finances of the State."

If I had been permitted to move that amendment my proposal might have commended itself to the majority of honorable senators. Some honorable gentlemen might have supported a reference of the recommendations back to the Commonwealth Grants Commission although they were not prepared to go as . far as was desired by the amendment, namely, to fix the grant to Western Australia at £800,000, the amount recommended last year by the commission and accepted by the Commonwealth Government. In fact the beneficial effects of this amendment on Western Australia might have gone a good deal further, because I feel sure that if the commission gave full weight to the request for special relief owing to the drought conditions in the agricultural and pastoral districts of the State, the claim made by Western Australia for a grant not of £800,000, but of £1,500,000 would have been allowed. Something substantially in excess of the money voted last year would have been recommended by the commission.

Senator ALLAN MACDONALD (WESTERN AUSTRALIA) - The commission based its recommendation on evidence in relation to conditions that existed two years ago.

Senator E B JOHNSTON - Yes ; that is entirely wrong. It should give weight to the existing position. However, I do not wish to detain the Senate as I have achieved my desire to have my proposed amendment placed on record.

Question resolved in. the affirmative.

Bill read a third time.

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