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Tuesday, 6 September 1960

Sir EARLE PAGE (Cowper) .- Mr. Makin,it is with great pleasure that I see you in the Chair. I recall that for a couple of years you occupied the Speaker's Chair and I will never forget the manner in which you handled the House at that time. I well remember your naming the Leader of the Government, which is a substantial thing for any Speaker to do. We all admired your courage. I deeply regret the absence of the Chairman of Committees,

Mr. GeorgeBowden, as I am sure everybody else does. I hope that he will have a very speedy recovery and that he will soon be able to come back to our midst. In the meantime, the honorable member for Lyne (Mr. Lucock) and his assistants are doing a good job as temporary chairman and I think we are getting on quite well.

I wish to examine, for a few minutes to-night, the changes that are being steadily forced on this Commonwealth Parliament and also on the various State Parliaments by the rapidly increasing growth of our gross national product. Last year, this production growth was 8 per cent, while the growth of the population was just over 2 per cent. This disparity between production and population growth makes it more obvious every day that the formula originally agreed upon for uniform taxation, will need to be carefully looked at. Some legislative device must be brought into being to enable the Parliaments of the States and the Commonwealth to examine the problems that have arisen.

The original formula was based on population. Now we have an extraordinary difference between the rate of production growth and the rate of population growth, and queer things are going to happen to the development of the States. The difference in these two rates of growth which was apparent in last year's figures is not a chance one. Over the last eighteen or twenty years, since the change was made to uniform taxation, population has increased by about 50 per cent, but production has increased between 200 and 300 per cent. It is imperative, therefore, that this Parliament should devise some parliamentary means of solving this problem equitably. Perhaps we could decide upon having a cabinet of the Parliaments - something like the Australian Loan Council or the Australian Agricultural Council - in which both the Federal and the State Parliaments would be represented. This cabinet could carry out a policy of development which would ensure that we were able to feed the people whom we need to defend this country.

I would like to explain how we can improve the situation in respect of one matter alone. Similar considerations apply, of course, in the case of other aspects of our development. I refer to water conservation. Water is our scarcest and most important commodity, and we should use our available water supplies as efficiently as possible. The fact that we do not use them in an efficient manner is due to high capital costs of water conservation projects, and to the fact that the State Parliaments cannot get from the Commonwealth sufficient money to deal with the problem effectively.

In earlier times we had to arrange collaboration between the Commonwealth and State governments in order to settle the question of loan raisings. It seems to me that we will have to achieve the same kind of co-operation on the matter of development. The point is that if there is a particular economic sphere in which benefits are accruing both to the people and to the Government, we should decide whether those benefits are equitably distributed. When we realize that since the introduction of uniform taxation there has been a tremendous increase of production, with a consequent increase in revenue from taxation, it is obvious that we must find some legislative means of dealing with the inequitable situation that arises.

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