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Thursday, 19 June 1902

Sir GEORGE TURNER (BALACLAVA, VICTORIA) - I cannot do that. I had intended to deal with this matter when I spoke upon the Loan Bill. Section 87 of the Constitution provides -

Duringa period of ten years after the establishment of the Commonwealth, and thereafter until the Parliament othewise provides, of the net revenue of the Commonwealth from dutiesof customs and of excise, not more than one-fourth shall be applied annually by the Commonwealth towards its expenditure.

That means that we can retain up to our full one-fourth if we choose to spend the money. But so far as the total revenue is concerned, we do not retain anything like one-fourth. Unfortunately, honorable members will insist upon dealing with the total revenue instead of with the revenue of the individual States. The same section also sets out -

The balance shall, in accordance with this Constitution, be paid to the several States, or applied towards the payment of interest upon debts of the several States taken over by the Commonwealth.

Therefore it is quite clear that, if we choose, we can appropriate one-fourth of the total customs and excise revenue, quite independently of the consideration that, by so doing, we might return to some of the States far less than the three-fourths of their total revenue, which honorable members desire them to receive. Then section 89 provides -

Until the imposition of uniform duties of customs, the Commonwealth shall credit to each State the revenues collected therein by the Commonwealth.

That refers to the revenue from the Customs, Post-office, and Defence departments, and to some little new revenue that we have. The same section continues -

The Commonwealth shall debit to each State -

(a)   The expenditure therein of the Commonwealth incurred solely for the maintenance or continuance, as at the time of transfer, ofany department transferred from the State to the Commonwealth.

The transferred expenditure is therefore to be debited to each State. The section referred to also provides that the Commonwealth shall debit each State with -

(b)   The proportion of the State according to the number of its people in the other expenditure of the Commonwealth.

That refers to the new expenditure. A proportionate part of that expenditure is debited to the respective States, and the balance is handed over to them. But if we largely increase that new expenditure, some of the States will not receive three-fourths of their total customs and excise revenue. One of the reasons which induced me to consent to the postponement of the consideration of the Loan Bill was that I wanted at the end of the year to be able to get certain information, so as to show honorable members how much each State has been returned. I desire to give honorable members an opportunity of considering the whole position, and seeing whether they are justified in compelling the Treasurer to spend large amounts out of the revenue of the States, thereby causing him to return to some of them less than three-fourths of their total revenue.When I make my next. Budget speech, I hope to show exactly how the matter stands, and then I shall ask honorable members to reconsider the whole question.

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