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Thursday, 27 November 1941

Senator COLLETT (Western Australia) . - Any one who has studied the reports of the Commonwealth Grants Commission from year to year must be impressed with the thoroughness with which the commission has carried out its work. Any one who desires to make himself familiar with the economic struc ture of any State can readily do so by studying the commission's reports. However, I submit that no one can be satisfied with the results which the commission has achieved, beyond the fact that it has kept the claimant States going. General satisfaction will not exist until there is a fuller recognition of the disabilities suffered by certain States, particularly Western Australia because of sparseness of population and geographical remoteness. The arguments advanced by the Commonwealth Grants Commission are perfectly logical so far as the bases upon which the commission works are correct, but an examination of these bases does not always render thom readily acceptable, and until there is an alteration of the Constitution, and perhaps of the Financial Agreement Act, nothing very definite will be achieved. The Leader of the Opposition (Senator McLeay) mentioned the development of secondary industries in Western Australia, and the effect of such development upon the economic structure of that State. I have been privileged to make a close examination of Western Australia's potentialities in recent months, and I am convinced that given wise administration and a better understanding on the part of the Commonwealth of its duty to the less populous States, something very substantial will result. The Government has set up an Western Australian Industries Expansion Commission to survey the position and if that commission functions properly, it should achieve valuable results. I do not agree with its personnel, not because of any lack of merit on the part of its members, but because they are all public servants and are naturally restricted by the suggestions made to them by the government for which they work. There is also another factor which I think has escaped notice. These public servante are already being worked hard, and it is difficult to seu how they can carry out research activities and make a close examination of all factors affecting the development of secondary industries. Although Western Australians are not entirely satisfied I am sure that they are eery glad to have this assistance.

Senator Leckie - They can take it.

Senator COLLETT - Yes, and they have no conscious reluctance in doing so. However, at the same time they look forward to the adoption of a more suitable basis of relations with the Commonwealth.

Senator HERBERTHAYS (Tasmania) [3.55 | . - In supporting this bill, 1 as a representative of one of the claimant States, am glad to see that the guiding principle in accordance with which grants are made to the States, now embodies a true federal spirit. For many years the grants were left to the judgment and discretion of Parliament, and the guiding principle then was that the economic standard of any State should be allowed to fall below that of other States. The Commonwealth Grants Commission was set up by the Lyons Government, which undertook to give effect to whatever recommendations were made. The commission is to be commended for the valuable work that it has done in an impartial way. Grants have varied from year to year with due regard to the manner in which claimant States have handled their finances, and to their standard of social services. I support the bill and commend the commission for the detailed way in which it has presented its findings thus enabling honorable senators to ascertain how the grants have been arrived at.

Senator ALLANMacDONALD ("Western Australia) |3.58|. - 1 wish to deal with the reduction of the grant to Western Australia this year. That State is the only one of the three claimant States which has suffered a reduction, and from the remarks made by the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator Keane) when introducing the bill, one might gather the impression that the reduction was due in the main to the action of the Legislative Council of Western Australia in rejecting certain bills submitted to it by the Government of that State, in relation to motor car registration fees.

Senator Collett - It is misleading.

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