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Monday, 24 September 1906

Senator PLAYFORD (South Australia) (Minister of Defence) . - I move -

That the Bill be now read a second time.

Honorable senators will recollect that section 105 of the Constitution provides that the Commonwealth may take over from the States their public debts as existing at the establishment of the Commonwealth, or a proportion thereof, according to the respective numbers of their people, as shown by the latest statistics, and that the Commonwealth may convert and consolidate such debts. Honorable senators are familiar with the other provisions of the section. From the very inception of the Federation, the States Treasurers and the Federal Treasurers have given consideration to the best course to be adopted in the taking over and consolidating the States debts. Several Conferences have been held, and I think I may safely affirm that, with hardly an exception, representatives of the Commonwealth and of the States have agreed that the proper course to adopt is to take over the whole of the States debts, instead of only those existing at the time the Commonwealth was inaugurated. Honorable members will recollect the proposal of the late Treasurer, Sir George Turner, that the whole of the States debts should be taken over, and that, as the three-fourths of Customs and Excise revenue returnable to the States would not be sufficient to meet the whole of the interest charge upon such debts, the States should consent to the Commonwealth taking from the railway revenues of the States a sufficient amount to make good the deficiency. If honorable members will look at table F in the report that the Treasurer has presented, they will see a statement showing the public debt of Australia as at 30th June last. They will also notice that the indebtedness per head varies considerably, Victoria having considerably the smallest indebtedness, and Queensland very much the highest. The amount of the States debts at the time that the Commonwealth was established was £20 1,983, 386. In the interval, the States have floated loans which have increased their indebtedness by £34,697,353. New South Wales has been the largest borrower, having added to her indebtedness to the extent of some £19,000, 000. Victoria has borroweda little more than£2,000,000. Queensland slightly more than £4, 000, 000, South

Australia .£2,930,000, and Western Australia ;£4>393;°°o-

Senator Pearce - They have borrowed more than that, but they have only added to their indebtedness to that extent.

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