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Friday, 17 August 1906

Mr STORRER (Bass) .- It is not my intention to take up much of the time of the Committee in dealing with the matter of States rights, because so much has already been said upon the subject. But I think that it is necessary for me to indicate my feelings in reference to some of the questions which have been mentioned. I believe that the debts of the States should be taken over by the Commonwealth as soon as possible. I believe that if it had been done long ago, many exhibitions of jealousy and questions of State rights in reference to finance would have been, avoided. Unfortunately the question of distributing the expenditure -per capita and transferring the States debts has so fully seized the minds of State Treasurers and Premiers that it has become a cause of friction: between the States and the Commonwealth, which, I think, should not exist. I am aware that many of the charges made bv the State Premiers are not well founded, and that some of them are exaggerated. The electors were told that Federation would result in the transfer of the States debts, and the saving of a considerable sum to the States.

For that reason, I think the Commonwealth should have been represented long ago in London by a High Commissioner doing the business of the States, and thus saving a large expenditure on brokerage and other services during the year. Even if the saving in the rate of interest were only J per cent., it would mean an annual saving °f j£500i0°o or -£600,000 to the people of the Commonwealth. That is worthy of consideration, I submit. The Treasurer has talked of putting off the performance of this duty until we have learnt to think more Federally than we do.

Sir John Forrest - Not at all. I urge the opposite.

Mr STORRER - I understood the right honorable gentleman to say that he proposed to put off dealing with the question of States debts.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - No ; he proposes to put off dealing with the distribution of expenditure on a per capita basis.

Mr STORRER - I am very glad to hear that the Treasurer is willing to deal with the question of the States debts, and I trust that he will be able to effect their transfer, if not this session, as quickly as possible afterwards. I realize that many difficulties lie in his way, but, as the honorable member for Wide Bay said this morning, some one must take up the question with a determination to carry it to a successful issue. I feel satisfied that; but for our system of parliamentary management, this question would have been" dealt with long ago, and in a business-like way. Perhaps the best course would be to appoint a Committee to take into consideration the best means of carrying out the object, and to bring up a report. I believe that if a Committee consisting of the honorable member for North Svdney, the honorable member for Mernda, and the Treasurer were to agree to a report, it would be adopted bv a majority of honorable members. But while our system of parliamentary government continues - with all the party questions cropping up. and changes of Government taking place - it will be difficult to deal with a question of this kind.

Mr King O'Malley - This is no party question. '

Mr STORRER - No. I am very glad that party considerations have been totally absent from the debate. I also appreciate the very fair way in which even speaker, especially the honorable member for North Sydney, has dealt with the question. A great deal has been said as to how the transfer of the debts would affect the various States. I should be quite willing to grant a special concession to Western Australia if it were shown that her finances would be affected in an injurious way. When the people of the Colonies were urged to federate, they were assured that they would become one people, with one destiny, and one purse, and they voted accordingly. I did not vote for the acceptance of the Constitution, because I recognised how much Tasmania would lose by entering into the Federation. Now, however, that we are a federated people, we should not recognise boundary lines. The Government of Victoria, for instance, never considers whether a proposal would suit Ballarat, or Geelong, or Echuca, or Bendigo, All it considers is whether the proposal would suit the State. All questions ought to be dealt with here on a Federal principle, and less attention should be given to State considerations. Until that is done the causes of friction will not be removed, and we shall not have a true Federation. If I entered into a partnership, I should consider, not what would be best for myself, but what would be best for the partnership, and that is the way in which pub- '<: questions should be dealt with here. I am glad that, so far as the post and telegraph service is concerned, Tasmania has been brought up to the level of the other States, and is to receive justice under this Budget. I" shall have some remarks to make in that connexion when the Estimates are being considered. Having made a careful examination of the Estimates, I believe that they contain many items which could be done without at the present time, and that the proposed expenditure is too large. In a time of prosperity, it is our duty to be careful. Last year we had a prosperous season, but we cannot expect it to be often repeated. I shall consider the Estimates very carefully and require an explanation concerning many items. I shall support any Government or any man who brings, forward a proposal to deal with the question of the States debts this year, or at the earliest possible opportunity.

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