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Wednesday, 27 May 1942

Mr PERKINS (EDEN-MONARO, NEW SOUTH WALES) - The views of the Premiers were already known.

Mr ARCHIE CAMERON - When I was a Common wealth Minister, T experienced no difficulty in reaching agreements with the States on ticklish subjects. Unfortunately, some of those agreements were not allowed to remain in force for very long.

Honorable members should ask themselves whether this legislation arises out of the necessity of the Government, or the policy of the Government. My own opinion is that policy has been more responsible than necessity for the introduction of the measure. If the Government had declared that the financial situation was so serious and so difficult that it required the whole of the financial resources of the Commonwealth for the purpose of waging the war, I could understand it. I could appreciate the necessity for a measure which would deprive the States, for the duration of the war, of their right to impose taxes. But it leaves me completely befogged when the Treasurer says that, from the variety of taxes imposed by the States, the Commonwealth has selected the income tax alone.

Mr Duncan-Hughes - That is for the present.

Mr ARCHIE CAMERON - I shall deal with the future in a moment. Two methods were open to the Government. The first was the open method, and the second was the secret method. In my opinion, the Government has adopted the secret method and there is a dark and awful mystery to be explained about the genesis, operation and report of the committee. The Government had the choice of attempting to introduce its proposal by agreement with the States, or by imposing force. Of the two, the Government selected the method of force. Of course, the Government has not threatened the States that it will impose the system by force of arms. But if the States contravene this legislation, the legality of which is open to question, they will be deprived of the bulk of their revenues for the duration of the war. I do not know that anything more drastic than that has ever been suggested in this country. There are all sorts of ways of doing things, and [ think when the history of this proposal comes to be written the method it adopted will be the part .of which the Government will have least cause to feel proud. The question of compulsion has been introduced by the Government. I could understand the use of force, if the Government was prepared to make it of universal application, but only lately we had an interesting debate in this House, and the Government absolutely refused to accept the weapon of force which the Opposition wanted to put into its hands. It seemed to be in a dilemma, but about the 1st May the Government said, " No. The force method is one thing which we cannot touch. Everything must be left to individual agreement". Yet before the end of the month, the Government said that the force method was the only one 'by which it could handle the State governments in the matter of taxation. Coercion is of the essence of this proposal. Other countries have governments and constitutions very much like ours. In spite of whatever arguments may be adduced in certain well-informed journals and by prominent honorable members on both sides in regard to the necessity for unification and abolition of State parliaments, let us remember that in the United States of America, towards which country many of our countrymen look with longing and hopeful eyes, there are 49 parliaments, each with two Houses. I shall not say anything more on that, but some taxpayers think that they have a terrific load to carry with seven Australian parliaments. For there to be effective unification in this country, as the taxpayers must recognize, this Parliament will have to be differently constituted and conducted. If this Parliament is to take' over all of the activities of the State governments in regard to railways, roads, harbours, education, police, hospitals, land, "Werribee beef, and one hundred, and one other things, there will be a different kind of Commonwealth Parliament. There are people of Australia who think that we can administer this vast continent entirely from this little place of Canberra. The state of chaos to which this country would be brought by unification would have to be experienced; it cannot be imagined. The method of compulsion, which will be applied to the States under this law, will prove to be bad. It will certainly he acceptable in quarters where some people are to get much more than they are entitled to, but the bills as they stand, will produce unification of this country. There is no doubt about that. But 1" warn the Government that they will not produce unity. We have never had unity in this country since the war broke out, and of all measures that I have ever seen this is the least calculated to produce unity.

Mr Martens - The honorable member is a good representative of unity.

Mr ARCHIE CAMERON - I am when we are right, but not when we are wrong. I said here not so long ago that the only things on which this Parliament is united, are things which do not matter. The moment that anything of first importance arises there must be differences of opinion, and on this very measure time and the division lists will show there is a division of opinion, not only as bet ween the two sides, but also, as I have every reason to believe, as between members on each side of the House. That will be tested in due course. On this question of overawing the States by use of force I say that the Government's attitude now is entirely inconsistent with its attitude on certain other matters. We saw a use of force here not long ago in order to override an act of the Victorian legislature in regard to Werribee beef. I do not know for certain, but I have a strong suspicion that, but for the fact that the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) is a member of the Melbourne and Metropolitan Board of Works, the Government would not have overridden that State law. That, in itself, creates a precedent in this country so far as my knowledge goes. I have no memory of any other Commonwealth Government previously attempting by regulation to abolish a law of a State. Another matter in which the Commonwealth could exercise control, in respect of which unity has been asked for by all kinds of public bodies, and which was discussed at the last conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers, is the liquor trade. That was a thing which came right inside the province of the Commonwealth Government, hut it said : " Oh no, it does not matter what may he the effect on the forces of this country, either our own or visiting, or on public morale; this is one of the little niggers that we are not going to kick. The

State governments can look after this. This is sticky, unpopular. Some one is going to be displeased, no matter what we do ". If, in the interest of running the war, it is necessary to suborn the States, surely that was one of the things on which the Commonwealth had a perfect right to come in and say that there should be uniformity and most rigid control, but Commonwealth Ministers shied off like young colts into the bush.

I am mindful of the ass that the National Assembly made of itself when in 1815 with the Allied armies marching on Paris it discussed the question of a new constitution for a country which it did not control. I do not want to see this Parliament in that position. Therefore, I do not stress very greatly the constitutionality of this proposal. Not being a lawyer, like some honorable members. I am not perhaps entitled to. But whether we like it or not we live under a system of constitutional government, and there is only one method of changing the Constitution. Certain powers are allotted to the Commonwealth Parliament and all powers not specifically allotted to it are automatically within the province of the States. Reading th, Constitution as a layman, I am entirely at a loss to understand how the Government can read into the Constitution authority to do what it proposes to do. It has a perfect right to say that it wants more money with which to carry on the war and a perfect right to say that it will impose any scale of income tax it likes, but I have yet to learn that it has the right to say that the States shall not impose income tax.

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