Your correspondent does not generally comment on the politics of the day. Wouldn’t want the trolls to get restless. But the current brouhaha over the States taking on some income tax responsibility jogged my memory: did not the inestimable Sir Robert Garran pen a stanza on this very subject? Well, yes.
Are Prime Minister Turnbull and Treasurer Morrison students of history when it comes to considering passing taxation rights to the States? They are, if history is any guide, proposing measures which will again not be accepted. In 1934 Prime Minister Lyons called a Constitutional Conference. Amongst the matters for consideration were financial items. According to “Prosper the Commonwealth” by said Sir Robert, a man who knew a bit about Federation, the Constitution and the early years of the Commonwealth: “All States were dissatisfied with their dependence on Commonwealth grants….. Some States suggested that the Commonwealth could vacate the field of income tax, but when the Commonwealth called their bluff and seriously offered this, there was a marked cooling off. The States have never been blind to the political convenience of letting the Commonwealth have the unpopular task of imposing taxation whilst the States enjoy the privilege of spending the money. Their complaints, therefore…..were seldom pressed home. In the end nothing came of the proposal.”
Except this stanza:
We thank you for the offer of the cow,
But we can’t milk, and so we answer now-
We answer with a loud resounding chorus:
Please keep the cow, and do the milking for us.
One R G Casey, whom alert readers may recall was another astute fellow, Commonwealth Treasurer at the time, is understood to have retorted that the stanza was the only positive result from the Conference.
It seems there is still much to learn from history, and perhaps even doggerel.