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Wednesday, 17 September 1958
Page: 1356

Mr COUTTS (Griffith) ,- The bill before the House gives honorable members an opportunity to speak, of the disabilities from which the governments of their particular States are suffering. All honorable members seem to be able to prepare a case on behalf of their own States.

The Labour party believes in uniform taxation. The system was brought into being during the. war years by the Curtin Government after many difficulties and1 much hostility, but I think that it has proved its. value to Australia, and that, generally speaking, the. people are quite happy with it. The conditions that apply to-day are not the same as those applying when uniform taxation was introduced. Thanks to the inflation that has occurred in our economy, attributable largely to the present Government, the system of uniform taxation that was initiated in 1942 seems to have, failed as far as State governments are concerned. But that does not condemn the- system:. The. Labour party believes^ this is its. policy-that uniform taxation should' be-, retained, but, that the formula should i be altered to meet modern con*ditions. We know that at present the States find it- impossible to carry, on. with, the tax reimbursements to which, they are entitled under: the. present formula. All, States receive- ex. gratia payments from the. Com?monwealth. The. State Premiers are united in their appeals to- the Commonwealth Government for more money. For. some months past the Premier- of Queensland has been saying that he is impossible to carry, on with the amounts of money that are paid to Queensland by, the Commonwealth as tax reimbursements or grants. Queensland is proposing to become a claimant State-. If that should happen, only, two States would not be claimant States. The Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) has said that should' the- Premier- of Queensland apply- to have Queensland- made a claimant State, the whole matter of financial relations between the Commonwealth and- the States would have* to be reviewed."

The. Australian Country, party Premier of Queensland, has disputed; the figures on which payments to the: States are made. He. has an idea, that the population, of Queensland: is 3.0,00.0 more than the figure given-, by, the. Commonwealth. Statistician. I find it. difficult to believe that the. Com,monwealth. Statistician, would make, such a grave, error. While the matter, is. being investigated I suppose we must wait and see what will be revealed. No.other Premier has. disputed, the population figures, and. the Premier of Queensland, is leading, the people qf his State, to. believe that his estimate of population is correct and, assuming that it is, that the Government of Oueensland will receive another £200,000 in this financial year because of the readjustment of population figures.

The- discussion of this matter has. been going on for some- months, and I feel it is about time- that the Commonwealth Statistician, reinforced by the acting Treasurer of the Commonwealth (Mr. Menzies), told us what the actual popular tion of Queensland is. The. government of that State would then know where it is going and. would not build its hopes, on false ground-. The people of Queensland would> know, whether the claim made by the Premier is being used merely for propaganda purposes. They would know just what the situation is. I find it difficult to believe that the Commonwealth Statistician would make an error in his estimation of the population of Queensland. If there has been an error, to the extent of 30,000, which is a very considerable number, it appears that somebody in the Statistician's office is worthy of censure, because if such an error can occur in Queensland, it can occur in the other States. If the population of Queensland has been underestimated, then the Government of that State has been denied various amounts of money over a very considerable period of time.

Mr Hulme - This is pure supposition.

Mr COUTTS - It is pure supposition, as the honorable member for Petrie has said. I hope that we will soon get beyond the stage of pure supposition and that we will know just what the population of Queensland is. The matter is in the hands of the acting Treasurer, and I hope that he will shortly make a statement on this very important matter.

The Commonwealth Government, in addition to making the normal tax reimbursement, has made a special grant to Queensland because of unemployment in that State. This is an admission on the part of the Government that unemployment has increased considerably in Queensland. It has come to my knowledge that in some of the provincial cities of Queensland the money made available by means of this grant is being used for municipal purposes. These are worthy purposes, of course, but the tragedy is that the unemployed include many tradesmen, who are being used, as a result of this grant -by the Commonwealth, on municipal works of a very ordinary nature.

Let me refer to the City of Maryborough, where many tradesmen have been discharged from the shipbuilding yards of Walkers Limited. These tradesmen are being employed in digging drains for the Maryborough City Council. This is a tragic state of affairs, when one realizes that an important industry has been almost strangled by the policy of this Government, and the tradesmen formerly engaged in the industry are being used to dig drains for municipal purposes.

The shipbuilding yards of Evans Deakin and Company Limited, in Brisbane, Will be in grave danger, in the not-too-distant future, of reducing output and subsequently closing down, unless something is done to provide orders for them. Only last week the chairman of directors of that company, in his speech to the shareholders, referred to the difficult situation facing the company. If the company is facing such a difficult situation, the 2,500 men associated with the shipbuilding industry in Brisbane are facing a very difficult future. I was interested to learn of a reply given by the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Senator Paltridge) only yesterday to a query raised by a colleague of mine, Senator Benn, in the Senate. The Minister made the point that costs for shipbuilding in Queensland are too high.

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