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Wednesday, 27 May 1942

Mr CHIFLEY - That is not true.

Mr ARCHIE CAMERON - I say to the Treasurer, with all the goodwill that I can command, that if the Premiers of Victoria and South Australia were to come here and say, in effect, " The price of our agreement to this is such and such ", they would have a fair chance of getting what they asked. In these circumstances it cannot be argued, to me at any rate, that the prime motive of the Government in introducing these bills is the prosecution of the war. Our experience up to date has been that in order to get these bills through the Parliament the Government is prepared to do everything possible to pacify the State Premiers, but the State Premiers will not have the last say. This issue will be decided by the High Court and the Privy Council. It certainly will not be decided according to what this or the other

Premier is prepared to accept for surrendering the right of his State. It will be decided according to the constitutional law governing the rights of the States.

We may safely assume that the Government will need a lot of money in order to win the war, but its case would have been much stronger had it not brought down certain social service measures which have been .before the Parliament during these sittings. It has been proved to my satisfaction time and again that the passage of these bills is not the matter uppermost in the minds of Ministers. They have been chiefly concerned about the passage of certain measures which involve the expenditure of some millions of the taxpayers' money, and the enhancement of the political reputation and achievements of the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Hollo way). Had these taxation bills been the primary concern of the Government they would have been submitted to Parliament before the social service measures, but the opposite procedure has been adopted.

I wish to say a word or two on the subject of the proposed compensation for the States. Putting on one side for the moment the question of whether the adoption of this plan is the wish of the people of Australia or not, I submit that the Commonwealth Government has not adopted the fairest method of reimbursing the States. Had it wished to reimburse the States justly out of income taxation it might have adopted the per capita basis and so placed every State on an equal footing. The proposed reimbursements have been planned with the object of giving first consideration to the States which, in the past, have been most prodigal in their expenditure. Both before and since federation, the governments of New South Wales have been notorious as prodigal spenders. Leaving on one side for the moment the record of thb notorious Lang Government which, of course, will be outdone -by the McKell Government, I say that the Stevens Government, to mention a government of my own political colour, spent vast sums of money on unnecessary works. On not a few of these the name of the honorable member for Robertson (Mr. Spooner) is to be found in some prominent position. Under the plan now proposed for State reimbursements, New South Wales will suffer no injury. The governments of that State have had a most turbulent and undisciplined history, yet New South Wales, with 39 per cent, of the population, is to receive 46 per cent, of the amount of money to be made available for reimbursement. A frugal State like Victoria, with 27.5 per cent, of the population, is to receive only 19 per cent, of the money to be made available for reimbursement, although for a great distance the Murray River is the only dividing line between the two States. If the Commonwealth. Government had desired to do the fair and square thing, and if its prime motive in introducing this legislation had been the winning of the war, it would have adopted a different plan. One of the prime motives behind thi3 plan is undoubtedly to ensure that New South Wales shall not have any grievance against the Commonwealth Government. Queensland also comes out of this business very well. Having about 14 per cent, of the population, it is to be given about 17.5 per cent, of the rake-off. About half the membership of this House is made up of members from New South Wales and Queensland, and it is a bad thing for the federation that two States should be able to dominate the House in a measure of this description.

Mr Clark - There should not be any State divisions. Our policy should be, "One. people, one destiny".

Mr ARCHIE CAMERON - I remind the honorable member for Darling (Mr. Clark) that there are constitutional methods of achieving that end which his colleague, the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Blackburn), will no doubt explain to him if he can find time to absorb the information. His ideal cannot be achieved by our "say so". I have a strong suspicion that in the three States of the Commonwealth of which I have most knowledge - that is, the three less populous States - the people would answer with a resounding " No " any referendum proposals for an enhancement of the powers of the Commonwealth. I am not so sure that Victoria would not also give a negative answer to such questions.

Mr LAZZARINI - What about adopting the per capita basis for obtaining a decision on the abolition of the States?

Mr ARCHIE CAMERON - The Minister for Home Security (Mr. Lazzarini) has spoken to us in this House on many occasions from this side of the chamber. Sometimes he has instructed us, sometimes amused us, and sometimes annoyed us. Nowadays he carries certain responsibilities, and I say to him that if in his interjection he has enunciated the policy of the Government I am very surprised to hear the remark. If the Government desires to achieve the abolition of the States, it should take its courage in both hands and make a clear declaration to that effect. It should also take the legal and constitutional method to achieve its objective. It should not try to achieve it by methods of this description. What it is now proposing is "not cricket". I do not know a great deal about the laws of cricket, but I have reason to believe that they are sound.

Surely by this time the Commonwealth Government has an intimate knowledge of its revenue requirements. I refer to this aspect because I remember that last October practically every honorable member opposite voted against certain financial measures introduced by the previous Government, although their adoption would have increased Commonwealth revenue substantially. I am not at all convinced that the legislation we are now considering will achieve the avowed purposes of the Government. We have been informed that certain additional financial proposals will he submitted to us in the near future relating to the wheat industry. I have been intimately connected with that industry for many years and frequently to my sorrow. We have reason to believe that that proposed legislation will be framed on a different basis from the measures now before us. The Government cannot have it both ways. It cannot argue in one breath that it needs every penny of revenue for the prosecution of the war, and in the next breath argue that increased social services are necessary even though they will be expensive, and that certain bounties on production are necessary. Australia will have a great deal to go through before the war is won. Our people will have to pass through the hot, narrow and dirty vale of adversity. We have lived too easily.

Mr Frost - The honorable gentleman should speak for himself. I have lived a ! hard life.

Mr ARCHIE CAMERON - If we are | to take the matter personally, I am quite prepared to place my record against that of the Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Frost). I have had a strenuous life and have worked hard. I have neither started nor knocked off work at the sound of a whistle.

Mr Conelan - I have not seen any signs of corns on the honorable member's hands.

Mr ARCHIE CAMERON - Perhaps I could deal with that interjection more effectively outside.

The Government's case is considerably weakened by the Government's own conduct. It has been sufficiently long in office to realize the seriousness, the enormity, of the problem with which it is faced; but there are many respects in which it has not squared up to the necessities of the situation. I have desired for some time a debate on the coal-mining industry.

Mr LAZZARINI - What has that to do with the bill?

Mr ARCHIE CAMERON - It has a lot to do with it. Without coal, all the financial measures in the world would not be worth a packet of wet crackers. Coal is the foundation of all heavy industry. The stories related by the Prime Minister a fortnight ago, about the delinquencies of the New South Wales coalminers, need a little more squaring up than they have so far had. This Government and its predecessor have followed for too long the pathway of appeasement and conference in this matter. A somewhat different method will have to be employed before some of the constituents of the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) will do what the Government is entitled to expect from them.

I intend to vote against the second reading of all these bills. A uniform method of collecting income tax would be a good thing for this country; but I do not believe that these proposals will achieve that object, and the Government will regret having introduced them. I have talked of preparation for total war since before the present conflict started. In this Parliament, however, a man cannot get a hearing, especially from honorable members opposite. In the days of which I speak, the Treasurer, perhaps unfortunately for his party, was not a member of this Parliament. When the Labour party occupied the Opposition benches, we heard from its members time and again statements regarding imperialist wars. I am rather interested to learn that the Government has awakened to the necessity for a total war effort. But it cannot combine with social services a refusal to apply the total war principle to the man-power of this country, and simultaneously attempt to impose legislation of this character. Although I know that I am in the minority, not only on this side but also in the House, I must vote against these bills, whatever the consequences may be; and I happen to know them fairly well. I have never yet been deterred from going to Glenfinnan because I knew what would happen after.

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