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Tuesday, 18 October 1904

Mr ROBINSON (Wannon) - I had hoped that this important proposal to give away £324,000 of the people's money would have been debated at greater length. I think that a proposal of this kind deserves serious consideration from a full House. I feel rather despondent about the manner in which a larger number of us view our responsibility to the States Treasurers, when we see an important proposal of this kind, which will lead to very serious depletion of the States revenues, taken in a most casual wanner. I have listened to most of the speeches on the proposal, and I am sorry that I was unavoidably prevented from hearing all of them. My predecessor in the representation of Wannon happened to be a member of the famous Royal Commission

On the iron bonus. He was one Of those gentlemen who signed a report, which was prepared by the honorable member for Bland, and the then member for Kalgoorlie, all of whom did not believe in giving an iron bonus. As honorable members are aware, there were six members of the Royal Commission who did. My predecessor took the view which was set out in the minority report. The grant of a bonus was opposed by the honorable member for Bland, the honorable and learned member for West Svdney, the then member for Kalgoorlie, the honorable and learned member for Illawarra, the honorable member for Wannon, and the honorable member for Parramatta. I entirely indorse the decision which thev came to, and which, it seems to me. was warranted by the evidence and' the financial position of the States. The grant of this sum of £324,000 would mean another large increase in Federal expenditure. Honorable members must not forget that the other night we agreed to the expenditure of £20,000 on the survey of a railway to Western Australia. We were told by the Treasurer to-day that, in connexion with the sugar question, there will be a great falling-off in Federal revenue, which means that a lesser sum will be returned to the States. We are, therefore, confronted with the position that this proposal must lead to a further depletion of the money returnable to the States, a further impoverishment of the States Treasuries, and consequently increased retrenchment in the various States Departments. . As one who was a member of the State Parliament when retrenchment had to be undertaken, I have no wish to see such a state of affairs brought about again. But I am confident that the granting of this sum, together with the loss of revenue which will occur in other directions, will inevitably impose a very severe strain on the finances of the States generally, and particularly, I believe, on those of Victoria and Queensland.

Mr Carpenter - They have not suffered vet.

Mr ROBINSON - I can assure the honorable member that they have suffered a good deal. The experience of Canada in connexion with these bonuses shows that as soon as the sum provided for in the first Act is paid away, a demand arises that a further sum shall be granted, and that has been the experience in other parts of the world. The Canadian experience speaks volumes for the habits of mendicancy that bonuses produce on big manufacturers. They have been consistent beggars at the doors of the Canadian House of Commons, consistent log-rollers and lobbyists to get further money out of the pockets of the people. I am not one of those who believe that the whole of the people should be taxed for the benefit of a small section. I look upon this proposal as a method of taxing the whole of the people for the benefit of a very small section. The sum proposed to be expended seems to me to be outrageously excessive. I have given notice of some amendments which, if carried, will have the effect of reducing the proposed expenditure by £190,000 - that is to what seems to me an enormous expenditure, namely, £134,000, instead of £324,000. I see no justification for paying as much as £1.34,000. The only recommendation it has is that it is less than £324,000, and will- not injure the finances of my State so much, or injure the finances of some other States which, as we know from the press every day, are being strained very severely. One has only to read the financial statements of South Australia and Queensland to know .that their Treasurers must have before them a verv difficult task. I do not wish to .make their task any more difficult by giving away money in this manner to one of the wealthiest sections in the community. I therefore intend to oppose the second reading of the Bill, and, if it is carried, I sincerely hope that the sense of the Committee will be in favour of placing the expenditure on a far more moderate scale, In view of the financial exigencies of the States, I feel that to spend a large sum would be a very serious- injury to them, and would not be likely to render Federation any more popular ,than it is in some of the States Parliaments. For these reasons I enter my protest against the Bill.

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