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Wednesday, 24 September 1958


Mr THOMPSON (Port Adelaide) . - This bill is very pleasing to me. It has reference to several matters in which I have a special interest. One of them is uniform taxation on which I come to grips with honorable members at times because I believe that uniform taxation is a boon to the smaller States. I also strongly favour the system of grants to the claimant States. This measure shows how successful the scheme has been in helping in the development of South Australia. That is evident from a study of the amounts that are recommended as grants to the States. In introducing the bill, the acting Treasurer (Mr. Menzies) stated -

In arriving at the recommendations contained in its twenty-fifth report, the Grants Commission has continued to adhere to the general principle of financial need. The commission has interpreted this principle to mean that, provided the efforts made by a claimant State to raise revenue and control expenditure are reasonable by comparison with the efforts made by the non-claimant States, its special grant should be sufficient to enable it to function at a standard not appreciably below that of the non-claimant States.

That statement is very pleasing to me. I have looked forward to such an expression of opinion for many years, going back to the time preceding the provision of this financial assistance from the Commonwealth to the States which were lagging behind the stronger and more progressive States of New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland. The amounts to be provided for the claimant States under this bill are -

 

The acting Treasurer pointed out that the grant to South Australia was lower this year, but the grant to the other two States had been increased so that those States could be placed on a comparable basis with the bigger States. That shows that South Australia has advanced greatly over the past ten to fifteen years. Before I was elected to this Parliament, South Australia was faced with great financial difficulties, particularly in the early 1930's. It was difficult at that time to get the State Parliament to agree to taxes which would enable the government of the day to keep pace with the other States. After grants to the States and uniform taxation were introduced, South Australia began to develop. We were able to provide services comparable with those available in the other States and to advance generally. The honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Duthie) and the honorable member for Moore (Mr. Leslie) have referred to the great cost of services provided by the States. In proportion to its total population, South Australia has had the largest increase in population of all the States and, consequently, it has been faced with the greatest expansion in education, hospital and other services. Despite those extra calls on the State's finances, industrial progress has been rapid and South Australia might become one of the nonclaimant States before many years are past.

During the Second World War when there was an urgent need for munitions, great buildings were constructed in South Australia. As a result, at the end of the war when there was a tremendous call on building materials, we were able to get overseas companies to establish themselves in that State and to use buildings which had been constructed for war purposes. We are still continuing to make industrial advances in South Australia.

I remember when members of the State Parliament were envisaging great progress in industry. I should like to give credit particularly to one member of the State Parliament of those days, and I am sorry that he did not live to see the advances which he forecast and for which he worked so hard. I refer to the late honorable member for Port Pirie, Mr. John Fitzgerald. Mr. Fitzgerald adopted the role of pioneer in the State Parliament, advocating the bringing of water from the Murray River to Whyalla and Port Pirie and adjacent areas. He also spoke of the desirability of establishing shipyards in that locality. He predicted that a time would come when the iron ore being taken from Iron Knob and Iron Baron, and which was being sent to New South Wales and overseas ports for smelting, would be processed in blast furnaces at Whyalla, and that a big city would grow up there. I was very sorry that Mr. Fitzgerald passed away before he could see these things come to pass.

These are the developments that have taken place in our State which have enabled us to grow so rapidly. I learned just recently that in the course of a few years we will have a big steel industry with a number of blast furnaces at Whyalla. For some years we have had one such furnace, producing pig iron, and justifying the forecast of the late Mr. Fitzgerald. Instead of the iron ore being shipped to other places, it is now being turned into pig iron right on the spot. The gentleman of whom I have spoken advocated the establishment of a shipbuilding industry in this district, and we have there at the present time, I think, the biggest shipyards in Australia. The majority of men engaged in the Australian shipbuilding industry are employed at Whyalla.

T am recounting these happenings, Mr. Deputy Speaker, to show what can happen when a State is assisted by what I may call equalization legislation. I use that term because I believe that this measure is designed to place the smaller States on an equal footing with the bigger and stronger States. Having been equalized in that way, we have been able to record the achievements of which I have spoken.


Mr Forbes - And under a good government.


Mr THOMPSON - The government is doing, in many instances, only what the Labour party has enabled it do do. The honorable member knows very well of some of the things that have been done in South Australia to push the State ahead. Let me refer to the Leigh Creek coal-fields, as a result of which electrical services have been provided throughout the country areas of the State. This undertaking was made possible by the Labour members in the Upper House supporting the members of the Ministry in that place. I remind the honorable member that the government control introduced by the Playford Government has nationalized our electricity undertakings in South Australia. We are really socialistic in that State so far as electric power is concerned, and this has been of great benefit to our industries. But it could not have been brought about if the Labour members had not been prepared to support it. The only members who opposed it in the Lower House were Liberal party members. When it went to the Upper House for the first time, five Labour members, two members of the Cabinet and one Liberal member voted for it. All the other Liberals voted against it and defeated the measure. Then the Premier persuaded one of the Liberals to change over. He brought the bill down a second time and it was carried by the votes of five Labour members, two Ministers and two Liberals.

For these reasons I say to the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Forbes), " Do not consider all the industrial achievements in South Australia as being due to the government of that State ". I want to give the government all the credit that is due to it, but I am concerned as to what we are doing for South Australia, and not what we are doing for a particular government that may be in office in that State. The Labour party accepts the principle behind this legislation. It is one of the things that Labour stands for. Honorable members opposite at times call us socialists and all sorts of other things. I have always said that I do not care what name you call me by, and that what I am concerned about is what I stand for.


Mr Drummond - We do not call the honorable member for Port Adelaide names.


Mr THOMPSON - Whether you call me names or not, I stand for what my colleagues stand for. I stand for the policy of my party, and I suggest that the provisions of this legislation are, to a great extent, in line with that policy.

Honorable members opposite have stated that they do not like unification. Uniformity is a part of unification, and uniformity is really the keystone of this measure - uniformity for the people of Australia. Years ago we had some capable men in the public service of South Australia, men doing very good work indeed. Our finances, however, did not allow us to pay them salaries comparable to those being paid in other States and in Commonwealth departments. I think the honorable member for Barker will agree that we lost some very capable men because they could command larger salaries in another State or in the Commonwealth service. But when we received the benefit of this uniformity that I am speaking about, when we began to be helped by the Commonwealth to attain a position comparable to that of other States, we were able to retain some, although not all, of those men whom we would otherwise have lost.

I should now like to refer to a matter this is always very dear to my heart. I refer to the education of our people, whether they be children commencing school, at kindergarten level, or in the infants' schools, the primary or superprimary schools, the high schools or the universities. I have been very much interested in all these phases of education throughout my lifetime. I was associated for many years with the council of the University of Adelaide, and I know what we tried to do for that university. Some of the suggestions that I put forward were quite valuable. I always endeavoured not to push my own barrow or that of my party, but to push the barrow of the people of the community. In the days before we received this assistance from the Commonwealth we were in a position in which we could not pay our teachers the salaries that should have been paid to them. 1 have previously referred to the attacks that were made upon our educational system by those in opposition to the Labour party at that time. South Australia was referred to as the State not able to pay even an award wage. When the Labour party was defeated and the Liberal party came to power, the Government tacked on to legislation that we had introduced a provision that whatever the award wage for teachers in the State happened to be, it was to be reduced by 5 per cent. That was done not by a Labour government but by a Liberal government. At that time it felt that it could not pay even the award that had been given to teachers, and teachers' salaries we reduced by 5 per cent. The position has altered and South Australia is now brought into a position almost equal with that of other States.

In his second-reading speech, the Prime Minister said that the Commonwealth Grants Commission had examined the budgets of non-claimant States as well as the budgets of claimant States, to satisfy itself that the efforts of the claimant States to raise revenue compared favorably with the efforts of the non-claimant States. For quite a long time after hospital benefits and other measures to assist hospitals had been introduced, the Royal Adelaide Hospital was not charging for its services. However, we were eventually compelled to come into line with the other States and the hospital had to impose charges so that we could say that our efforts to obtain revenue were comparable with those of other States. Time has gone on and I am pleased to see that South Australia is in a position where it will be able to manage with a smaller amount this year than it has received previously.

I am pleased to see that substantial assistance is being given to Western Australia. I for one feel no jealously and no resentment at the amount being granted to Western Australia, because I feel that the Grants Commission is attempting to put us as Australians, no matter what State we live in, in a comparable financial position. I suppose that if it were not for losses on railway, tramway and bus services in South Australia, we would not be getting this amount now. South Australia's deficit is caused mainly by transport losses. How- ever we find that other States suffer in the same way. For instance, New South Wales has huge losses on its transport services. I do not know how we will overcome these losses, but attempts are being made to do so and I believe that the position will improve. However, the States face a difficult task in avoiding losses on transport services. In South Australia, we have attempted to meet the position by the introduction of diesel-electric locomotives. They are now operating between Adelaide and Melbourne and have effected substantial savings in transport operations. Diesel-electric locomotives are being introduced generally in South Australia and I feel that they will' ease the position there.

Until South Australia's position is improved generally by the establishment of bigger industries in the State, we will still need some assistance from the Commonwealth. The honorable member for Moore was most emphatic that the soil was the source of our wealth. I do not doubt for one moment that unless our primary industries are prosperous we cannot hope to progress. However, secondary industries and not primary industries have been responsible for the advances made by South Australia.

I do not desire to discuss at this stage the amounts that have been granted and the methods by which the Grants Commission, arrived at them. I know that this, year South Australia is receiving a small amount representing an adjustment to the grants paid some two years ago. We are told that the estimated needs of South Australia for 1958-59 amount to £5,201,000, and we are to receive £49,000 to make up for a short payment in 1956-57. I went into the question of this short payment two or three years ago and pointed out that an adjustment could become very difficult for a State if it had to refund a large amount that had been overpaid. I do not want to go into that again because the amount is not very large at this time. I appreciate the value of this legislation and look upon the work of the Grants Commission as being really Australian in its attempts to give all the States and the people in the States an equal opportunity.

Debate (on motion by Mr. Barnard) adjourned.







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