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Wednesday, 3 June 1942

Senator SPICER - Why not do it now!

Senator FRASER - The Premier of Western Australia is concerned about the effect of this legislation upon State' taxation. Such fears are understandable when one remembers that the system of deductions and allowances, which was built up in Western Australia over a period of many years, disappeared at the hands of an anti-Labour government. After a long time, Labour administrations succeeded in having those concessions restored, and now there seems to be a fear that that good work will be undone.

Senator Cooperreferred to equality of sacrifice, but equality of sacrifice is not achieved by taking 2s. or 3s. out of the wages of typists who receive £3 a week. What is really important is the amount that a wage-earner has left after his tax is paid. That is the real test Equality of sacrifice is not achieved by leaving some income-earners with £3,000 or £4,000 a year and imposing a heavy taxation upon incomes of £200 a year or less, as is done in South Australia. Apparently, that is the principle which the Opposition supports. Such a proposal will not be countenanced by this Government.

It has been claimed by Senator Sampson that the Labour party has only itself to blame for the present defence position, 'but apart from the short term in which the Scullin Government was in office, the political parties represented by honorable senators opposite had an opportunity extending oyer many years to build up the defences of this country. Therefore, it ill-becomes Senator Sampson to endeavour to throw upon the present Government the responsibility for whatever shortcomings may exist to-day. As has been pointed out by my colleagues, at two successive Commonwealth elections, the present Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) tressed the necessity to build up a strong air force, and it cannot be denied that had that policy been adopted, Australia would be in a much better position to defend itself than it is to-day. I repeat that unification should be brought about by a decision of the people, but surely no one will suggest that, because there is a difference of opinion in regard to the legality of these measures, a referendum should be held. This legislation will operate only for the duration of the war and for twelve months thereafter.

Senator McBride - That does not make it valid.

Senator FRASER - I do not say that it does, but that provision is conclusive proof that the legislation is being introduced as a war measure. If it is to continue, it will have to be re-enacted upon the expiry of that term, and I predict that it will be re-enacted . regardless of what government is in office. I am convinced that, if a referendum were taken, a vast majority of the people would favour a scheme such as this. Also, I predict that there will be many other constitutional changes after the war.

Senator Collett - They are overdue now.

Senator FRASER - I agree with the honorable senator. I supported the referendum to give the Commonwealth greater marketing powers and it is generally admitted that, had that referen dum been carried, the Commonwealth Government would have been in a far better position than it is to-day. As a matter of fact, there is hardly a. problem of government to-day which does not. relate directly to the Constitution. I supported the referendum for increased marketing powers because I was not propared to be a dog in the manger just because the State which I represent could not persuade the Commonwealth to incorporate the question of greater indus trial powers in the questions submitted to the people. I shall have no qualms in facing the electors of Western Australia and giving them my reasons for supporting this legislation. I am confident that the scheme will stand the test of time and will become a permanent feature of our legislation.

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