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Wednesday, 3 June 1942

Senator FOLL - Defence expenditure in South Australia has been greater per head of the population than in any other State.

Senator JAMES McLACHLAN (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - South Australia is considered to be the safest State in which to erect munitions establishments.

Senator FOLL - If that be so, then it is the good fortune of South Australia. The fact that South Australia is regarded by this Government's advisers as the safest place for war industries is an added reason why the people of that State should not grumble at this scheme.

Senator JAMES McLACHLAN (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - They are not grumbling about it.

Senator FOLL - Its representatives are opposed to the bill. Queensland and Western Australia are the battlegrounds which are helping to defend South Australia. Legislation to bring about uniform taxation in this country is long overdue. It is all very well for opponents of this bill to say that State Premiers have opposed this scheme. That makes no impression upon me at all. Conferences of Commonwealth and State

Ministers have been held in this country for years past, and I venture to say that any proposal which it was considered would infringe the sovereign rights of the States, even to the slightest degree, has been vigorously opposed by the Premiers even though it may have been in the best interests of the Commonwealth as a whole. For instance, many conferences of Commonwealth and State officials have been held with a view to inaugurating a uniform electoral roll, but they have not been able to agree even upon such a minor matter as that. A uniform roll should be a very simple thing in this country where every man and woman over the age of 21 years is entitled to a vote, but objections have been raised because such a proposal might infringe State rights, or abrogate the authority of some State public servant, and therefore nothing has been done. In Queensland, to-day, there is a State roll and a Commonwealth roll despite the fact that there is no real difference in the franchise. The only reason is that some petty jealousy exists between State and Commonwealth officials.

I consider that in saying that this is only a temporary measure the Government has been too apologetic. I know that it is being introduced as such, but I make no apology for saying that I hope that it will continue, not only for the duration of the war, but so long as it will be of service to the people. E am supporting this measure because I believe that it is a step in the direction of unification, of which I am a strong supporter. Senator Spicer stated that this proposal was constitutionally unsound. I am not a lawyer, and I shall not attempt to express a legal opinion, hut I say with a full sense of my responsibility as a member of this chamber and as an ex-Minister that I do not believe that any Government, regardless of its political colour, would bring down a measure such as this unless it had obtained legal opinion in regard to it. It is significant that a certain eminent legal gentleman in the House of Representatives who is opposed to the Government has expressed the view that this measure is constitutionally sound, and that the Commonwealth has priority over the States in the collection of taxes for war purposes. It has been stated also that had these bills been brought down as separate measures, allowing a reasonable time to elapse between their presentation, no question would have been raised as to their constitutionality. It is recognized that the Commonwealth Government has prior rights in regard to all legislation, and those prior rights must operate in regard to taxation. If the Commonwealth Government brings down legislation providing for a new method of collecting taxes, it must have prior right over the States, and if, after having collected the taxes, it wishes to compensate the States for their loss of revenue, there can be no question of its constitutional right to do so. That is the whole principle upon which this measure is based.

I should like to congratulate my colleague, Senator Cooper, upon the very able manner in which he dealt with the question of compulsory loans. I agree with the honorable senator that there is an obligation on every income earner in the community to play his or her part in providing "money, material or services for the war effort. It is not possible to achieve a 100 per cent, war effort from every person in the community unless a measure of compulsion is applied. Therefore, I am strongly in favour of compulsory loans. Senator Cooper referred to the fact that men of our fighting forces had to put up with deductions in the form of deferred pay ranging from 2s. a day in the case of privates, and rising according to rank of 7s. or 8s. a day for senior officers. Surely, if the system of deferred pay is good enough for our fighting men, it is good enough for the civilians.. When members of the fighting forces, who sometimes serve 24 hours a day seven days a week, are compelled to deduct from 2s. to 8s. a day from their pay, I do not see why men in civil occupations should not be called upon to make a similar sacrifice in order to assist in financing the war effort. Why should members of the Navy, the Army and the Air Force be compelled to make interest free loans to the country by a system of deferred pay, when all other members of the community are to be permitted to please themselves whether they make a similar contribution. Senator Cooper remarked that many people, including those with small incomes, hare contributed to the cost of the war by purchasing war savings certificates. I admit that the sales of those certificates have been large, and I give all credit to the purchasers; but the system of post-war credits proposed by the Fadden Government, of which I was a member, was far more equitable than that proposed by the present Government. I believe that before the war is over this Government will be compelled to call upon every person in the community who is in receipt of an income to contribute a percentage of it, in the form of compulsory savings, to the cost of the war effort.

I regard the attack made by the Leader of the Senate upon the Opposition as unjustified. He did not wait to hear all of the speeches from honorable senators on this side of the chamber. He assumed that because the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McLeay) and Senator Spicer had spoken they had expressed the views of the Opposition as a whole. They spoke only for themselves, and I have the right to express my own views. There are nineteen honorable senators in the Opposition, and, if eighteen of them agree to any proposal, and one of them dissents, he has every right to express his views and vote as he pleases. Members of the Opposition are not governed by caucus rules. When the Leader of the Opposition spoke against the bill, he was not speaking on my behalf. I have my own views as a representative of Queensland, and I shall support or oppose any bill or amendment according to my convictions, irrespective of the opinions or votes of any other member of the Opposition. I do not suggest that every measure submitted by the Government will receive my unqualified support, but I am aware of the problems with which the Government is confronted, and I shall help it in every way I can to promote the war effort. I am under no obligation to cast a vote in accordance with the views of the majority of the Opposition, and therefore I intend to vote for the second reading of this bill.

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