6th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
Assent to the following Bills reported : -
Treasury-billa Bill (No. 2). Inscribed Stock Bill.
Mr. JOSEPH COOK presented a petition, signed by over 5,000 women in New South Wales, praying on behalf of the women of that State, who are giving their sons to the Empire, that any attempt to amend the Constitution may be postponed until after the proclamation of peace.
Petition received and read.
– Is the PostmasterGeneral able to say whether the new steamer for the Tasmanian mail service is likely to take up her running at or about the date contracted for 1
– There is no chance of the steamer being able to take up her work at the date contracted for. She waa launched in June last, and under ordinary circumstances would have been finished within three months; but as tha shipbuilding yards have been commandeered by the Imperial Government, the fitting-up is a sort of spare-time job, and it is impossible to say quite when she will reach Australia. The company is not to blame for the delay ; I believe that it has done its best to secure expedition.
Transports : Blackboyhill Camp : Non-deliveryofletters.
– Can the Minister for the Navy say whether it is the intention of the Government to take as transports any of the Inter- State vessels now trading between the eastern and western shores of Australia ?
– The Transport Department intends to take any steamer that it may deem necessary to employ for transport work, with a view to bringing the war to a successful conclusion. As to whether vessels will be taken from InterState lines, that is a matter about which I cannot give information here. I cannot promise any honorable member that this, that, or some other vessel will not be taken. We shall do what we think best in the interests of the whole community, without regard to the possible upsetting of local arrangements. Our study must be the national welfare. I cannotmake any promise as to any vessel engaged in trading between, say, Fremantle and Melbourne.
– Has the attention of the Minister been drawn to a statement reported to have been made by the Premier of Western Australia, to the effect that soldiers at Blackboy Hill have been sleeping in six inches of water? Will the honorable gentleman cause an inquiry to be made as to the truth of that statement, and if there is anything amiss, will he have it rectified?
– I hardly think it possible that any person in any part of Australia sleeps in six inches of water, but to satisfy the honorable member I shall have an inquiry made as to the facts.
– Cannot something be done to prevent the non-delivery of letters addressed to soldiers at the front ? I have had brought under my notice the case of a soldier who is in hospital on the other side of the world. Although for a time he received his letters regularly, the last three or four addressed to him have been returned to his parents.
– The case may be an exceptional one. The Defence Department, in conjunction with the PostmasterGeneral’s Department, is doing all it can to see that all letters sent to, or sent by, members of the Expeditionary Forces are delivered to the addressees.
– I have received a letter, in the course of which it is stated that the Customs authorities are sending officers round to manufacturers asking if the manufacture of the goods which they are making would be helped by a protective duty. I ask the Minister if hehas given instructions for this inquiry to be made, and if so, what is the object of it, seeing that he has decided to postpone the consideration of the increased tariff under which additional duties are now being collected?
– I should like notice of the question, and I should like, also, to be supplied with the names of the manufacturers who were approached, and of the officers who approached them, together with a statement of the kind of goods which they manufacture.
– I should like to know from the Minister of Trade and Customs whether he has obtained any additional figures in regard to the slaughtering of female stock?
– Figures in this regard are obtained every month, and those to the end of June are now ready. These are as follows: -
In January last the collectors (excepting Western Australia) were asked to supply particulars of the number of female calves, heifers, cows of breeding age,&c., slaughtered for export during 1914.
Replies were received as follows : -
On 30th April last the Prime Minister communicated with the Premiers of New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland, and South Australia on the subject. The concluding paragraph of his letterreads as follows: -
My Government views with concern the effect on future supplies of beef which such practices must inevitably entail. It is recognised that in an abnormal season stockowners are compelled to dispose of female stock for which there is not fodder, but with the return of normal seasons the hope is expressed that your Government may see the way to adopt measures which will prevent indiscriminate slaughter of female calves and cows of breeding age.
The replies received, so far, are to the following effect: -
New South Wales. - The Meat Industry and Abattoirs Board has been instructed to inquire into the matter with a view to the introduction of legislation.
Queensland. - The Minister for Agriculture is making exhaustive inquiries, but feels unable to express a definite opinion. His inclination - from what he has learned - is in the direction of prohibition, for a certain number of years by the State and Commonwealth Governments of the slaughter of female cattle under a certain age, such prohibition to be subject to exception to authorized permission. A further communication will be made conveying the Minister’s decision.
South Australia. - The Minister for Agriculture does not feel disposed to indorse the opinion that indiscriminate slaughter of female cattle takes place in normal seasons. Suggests the remedy will probably be found in opening up suitable cattle country with the consequent demand for female stock.
– Is the Minister for the Navy in a position to make a statement in regard to the progress made in organiza tion for the manufacture of shells and munitions in Australia?
– The honorable member was good enough to intimate to me that it was his intention to ask this question, and the reply is as follows: -
Specifications for steel and shell, with drawings, have been sent out to all States Munitions Committees for issue to prospective tenderers for the manufacture of high explosive shell bodies.
General conditions of tender and contract and tender forms have also been sent out.
Samples of steel produced at Newcastle are being tested, and arrangements are being made to test steel from other works, to ascertain whether the steel conforms to specification.
Steel produced by a process approved by Federal Munitions Committee, and tested by proof and analysis, will be made available for purchase by shell manufacturers.
Contracts for manufacture of shell will be entered into by shell manufacturers with the Defence Department.
Shell when passed by shell inspector will be accepted by Defence Department, and forwarded to England for final acceptance by War Office.
Preliminary experiments in manufacture are now being made at Government Railway Workshops in Victoria, New South Wales, Queensland, and Western Australia. These experiments are being carried out to determine the’ best method of manufacture with available machinery, and the experience so gained will be available to all manufacturers.
An Inspector of Steel and a Chief Inspector of Shell have been appointed; a staff of Inspectors of Shell is about to be appointed.
By last English mail information was received that several modifications and additions in specification and drawing had been made, but the War Office was unable to alter the drawings in time to catch that mail. Until the amended drawings are received further steps will have to be deferred.
– Can the Minister for the Navy inform ns what action the Government are taking to retain in Australia men who are competent to undertake the manufacture of munitions, but who have enlisted for active service abroad?
– I know that it is the intention of the Minister of Defence, if possible, to retain all artisans and mechanics who might be required in the manufacture of munitions ; and he is now considering whether it would not be advisable to almost stop the enlistment of any men suitable for such calling in Australia. The Minister is giving the matter serious consideration ; and I may say that it is his intention to retain all such men here for war munitions purposes.
– I should like to know from the Minister for the Navy whether the Department of Defence is giving any special consideration to those soldiers who have been mentally deranged owing to the war ?
– The Department is doing everything possible for those soldiers who are returned mentally deranged from the seat of war. It would be almost unkind to have the whole of these soldiers placed within one State, involving thereby separation from their nearest relatives, and causing great inconvenience to all concerned. The Department is endeavouring to have arrangements made whereby those men whose minds have become unhinged should be located in the States in which they enlisted, so that they may be near to, and have the attention of, their relatives. We are doing all that is possible to insure the greatest comfort and care for these soldiers.
– Outside the ordinary asylums ?
– Does the PostmasterGeneral propose to increase the rates on the trunk telephone lines in country districts ?
– That matter has not yet been decided.
– As complaints regarding the non-receipt of letters in Egypt, and at the Dardanelles, seem to be general, will the Minister consider the advisability of sending a postal expert to make inquiries and report, so as to insure that our men shall receive their correspondence with some degree of regularity ?
– I am pleased to give the honorable member and the House the information that the Minister of Defence is considering the advisability of sending with the next contingent a number of postal officers who have enlisted, with the idea of insuring proper control of all postal matter in Egypt.
Bill presented by Mr. Hughes, and read a first time.
Bill presented by Mr. FISHER. and read a first time.
– Will the Prime Minister include amongst the referenda questions one as to the advisability or otherwise of renewing the term of Sir George Reid as High Commissioner?
– If the honorable member puts the question seriously, I “ can only say that we shall have to consider it.
– In view of the large number of cases in which, according to newspaper reports, proceedings have been lodged against men for alleged disloyal utterances, and in view of the fact that many of these cases are of an obviously trivial nature-
– Will the AttorneyGeneral state what standard of disloyalty has been set up by the Government, and its policy in regard to these prosecutions ?
– I cannot lay down any standard, and unless the honorable member can bring before me some concrete case, I do not think I ought to be asked to express an opinion at all on the subject. If a concrete case is brought before me, I will then say whether a prosecution ought to take place or not.
– Some time ago the honorable member for Flinders asked a question regarding speeches against enlistment, and I promised that an inquiry would be made. I am now able to saythat the Minister of Defence has informed me that each individual case brought before his Department is inquired into, and where necessary the ?dvice of the Crown Law officers as to a prosecution is taken. In cases where a good case has been established, prosecutions have been instituted. Any specific case brought forward will be investigated and dealt with in this manner.
– As arrangements for the transport of grain between Australia and Europe are now being made, will the Attorney-General say whether the question of transporting next season’s fruit crop has also received consideration ?
– That point has not been lost sight of, but the transport of wheat is the primary object of present negotiations. I am now in communication with the Premier of Tasmania on the subject mentioned by the honorable member, and I shall take an early opportunity of bringing it before the Ministers of Agriculture in the various States, who are dealing with the whole question, along with myself. In the meantime the honorable member may rest assured that the matter will receive attention.
– I desire to ask the Attorney-General if he has received any information as to the fact that a working man, suspected of being a sufferer from cerebro-spinal meningitis, and possessing a certificate to that effect from Dr. Godfrey, who is carrying on the practice of Dr. O’Hara at Victoria Parade - that doctor being now at the .front - was refused admission to either the Melbourne or the Alfred Hospitals? I should also like to ask the Minister, seeing that he is the possessor of great powers under the Defence Act, whether he will commandeer one of these hospitals and run it, so that working men will not have to be carried round like rabbits on a cart-
– Order ! The honorable member is now going beyond the asking of a question.
– Well, will the Minister de-Germanize and Christianize these hospitals?
– The matter mentioned by the honorable member does not concern my Department. I think tha question should have been addressed to the Minister of Defence.
– Will the AttorneyGeneral say if the terms of the agreement between himself and the various Stat© Governments with respect to the transport of wheat have yet been finally decided upon? If so, is the Minister in a position to give the House any information as to its details?
– As soon as the terms of the agreement are put into writing they will be made available to the House.
– Has the Prime Minister noticed a report appearing in the Melbourne Herald, of 12th August, in which reference is made to an article in the London Times which reflects upon the conduct of honorable members of the House of Representatives by saying that-
– Order ! The honorable member cannot be allowed to read extracts from newspapers.
– May I be permitted to say that the article in question refers to the conduct of honorable members of this House by saying that honorable members dealt in innuendoes and recriminations that have flooded this chamber. It also states that we take no consideration of what is happening in the outside world. I should like to ask the Prime Minister, in view of such an article, whether he does not consider that it would be to the advantage of the Commonwealth for us to have a representative in London who would truly reflect the Democratic sentiment of the Commonwealth, and resent, on behalf of the Australian people, the publication of such Tory balderdash?
– I saw the report of an article of that kind published in the Times, but I do not think the Times has usually been unfair to Australia.
– It certainly has not been unfair to this Government.
– In this case the Times has been misinformed. With regard to the honorable member’s query regarding a representative in London, I do not think that is a point of importance. The material statement, that we are forgetful of our duties to the Commonwealth and to the Empire, is not only misleading, but it is wilfully misleading and wrong.
– Will the Minister of External Affairs say whether it is his intention to transfer any officers from his Department from Melbourne to the Northern Territory? If it is, how many officers is it proposed to transfer?
– The transfer of certain land officers from Melbourne to the Northern Territory was considered, but no definite decision has been arrived at. The chief officers of the Department argued the proposal before me, and I came to the conclusion that a case had not been made out which justified the removal of these officers to Port Darwin. The matter is one that Mr. Atlee Hunt will inquire into during his visit to the Territory.
– Will the Minister for the Navy be good enough to ask his colleague the Minister of Defence, to give his personal attention to complaints as to the insufficient accommodation and staff provided at the Base Hospital at Melbourne ?
– The question asked by the honorable gentleman shall be brought before the notice of the Minister of Defence. Whether the suggestion contained in it is correct or not, I cannot say.
– On Friday the honorable member for Calare, when speaking about the advisableness of establishing district camps throughout New South Wales, addressed a question to me, asking whether I would establish a district camp at Orange, and apparently he was under the impression that I said “ Yes “ to that question ; but what I understood the question to be was whether I would mention the matter to my colleague the Minister of Defence? I do not wish the honorable member to fall into the error of thinking that I pledged the Government to the establishment of a camp at Orange. All that I agreed to do was to refer the matter to my colleague.
– I understand that each country newspaper despatched to the front must bear a penny stamp, but as there are so many men from the country districts who have gone away, and who are very anxious to receive local papers, a request has been put forward that more than one paper should be contained in the one wrapper, so long as the weight does not exceed that which can be carried for one penny. I spoke of this matter last week. Has the Postmaster-General come to any decision in regard to it?
– I am sorry that I have overlooked the honorable member’s question, but I shall furnish a reply tomorrow.
– As many men have stated that they will not enlist while Austrians and Germans continue to be employed in State and Federal Departments, will the Prime Minister, in order to remove this very serious obstacle to recruiting, dismiss all Austrians and Germans from Federal employment?
– The Government will do nothing of the kind.
– Hear, hear! Ram it down his throat. Do not give him a polite answer.
– Those citizens of Australia within the law and complying with the law, and who are carrying out their duties as good citizens ought to do, should have extended to them the same consideration as our own people. We are fighting the enemy, but not those citizens of foreign birth who have accepted our laws and made their home among us.
– Last week the honorable member for Nepean submitted a question with regard to the charges for wireless* messages. The answer to the honorable member’s question is -
The rate of 6d. per word for wireless messages was, with the concurrence of the Amalgamated Wireless Company, made to apply to vessels in the local Australian or New Zealand trade, the rate of lid. per word applying to vessels engaged in the oversea trade, and the basis on which it was decided to fix the rate to be charged in the case of a particular vessel was made the place of registration, that is to say, messages to and from vessels registered in Australia and New Zealand were charged 6d. per word, and messages to and from vessels registered elsewhere were charged lid. per word. The Runic being a vessel registered outside Australia, the charge of lid. per word applied to her. A slight anomaly occurs when, as happens in some cases, an Australian registered vessel is taken as a troopship, because, under the arrangement above referred to, the charge in her case would be 6d. per word. It would, however, be practically impossible to keep our offices advised in regard to every vessel as to whether she was engaged in troopship work or in local trade, seeing that as soon as the vessels finish with one class of work they resume the other. The anomaly cannot well be remedied.
– Can the Minister for the Navy give the House any information as to the result of the inquiries that were being made in connexion with nurses’ uniforms, and the influence that was being brought to bear to compel nurses to purchase their outfits at certain places?
– The only information that I can give is that the Minister of Defence has allowed a larger sum for nurses’ outfits; also that they are permitted to make their own uniforms, or secure them wherever they like in Australia.
– In reference to the contemplated action of the Government by way of inquiry into public statements which may tend to discourage enlistment, and the possibility of prosecutions, I would like the Prime Minister to inform me what is the policy of the Government in that direction, and what is their attitude towards the preservation of free speech and the rights of citizens to express their minds freely ?
– Some time ago I stated very clearly that the Government intended to keep the law, and to see that every one else did so.
– I ask the AttorneyGeneral whether the Postmaster-General is breaking the Trading with the Enemy Act by having a contract with a German for the carriage of mails in Western Australia ?
– I do not know whether the Postmaster- General is doing so, but I shall look into the matter, and, if I find it is a fact, prosecute him with the utmost rigour of the law.
– I wish to ask the PostmasterGeneral whether the alleged statement in the interview recently given by him as to his being the saviour of the Commonwealth by charging a penny a word for all telegrams with the exception of suburban wires., and to increase the telephone rates, enunciated a policy which had the final assent of the Cabinet ? Also, will the Postmaster-General inform honorable members as to whether it is his intention to place on the table of the House the regulations that he intends to bring into effect with regard to telephone charges ?
– The alleged interview
– “ Alleged interview “ ?
– Yes; no such statement was made by me. I gave no information about the rates. I could not do so. I do not myself know what the rates will be. The statement was simply a clever press fiction.
– In regard to Mr. McLean’s desire to import 10,000 head of cattle from the Northern Territory, can the Minister of Trade and Customs say whether the objections of the Victorian Government would be removed if the cattle were brought down by boat, and treated, on their arrival, to a sea bath in order to kill the ticks?
– I understand that, although the Victorian authorities were aware that it was the intention of Mr. McLean to bring the cattle down by boat, they still refused to grant the necessary permission.
– Can the Minister of Trade and Customs state whether the Queensland Government desire that the Federal Government should take over the control of the whole of the surplus meat supply of Australia, so as to enable the respective States to get a share of that surplus)
– I do not understand that the Queensland Government are anxious to do what the honorable member suggests. If they are, I am sure the Commonwealth Government will be pleased to do their best to help the Queensland Government.
– I asked the Minister for the Navy last week what had become of the travelling kitchens donated to the Department, and he promised to make inquiries. Has he done so I
– I sent the honorable member’s request to the Defence Department, and hope to have the answer for him to-morrow.
– Is it a fact that all those being dismissed at the Flinders Naval Base are married men? If so, will the Minister for the Navy give instructions that some discrimination be made in favour of married men?
– The report that the . Engineer-in-Charge of the Naval Base is dismissing married men in preference to single men is absolutely untrue. The Department is doing no such thing. Wherever we can do so, we will keep in employment married men.
Interference bt Military.
– Has the attention of the Minister for the Navy been called to the .fact that a meeting being addressed by Mr. Hills, M.A.. m Adelaide, was broken up by the crowd, some of whom were soldiers in uniform, who endeavoured to attack the speaker, and prevent him from discussing a subject of public interest?
– What was the subject of public interest?
– The question of defence.
– He got off very luckily.
– If the Minister for the Navy makes inquiries and finds that the facts are as stated, will he issue to the military in question an injunction against interfering in a matter of that kind?
– I know nothing abou, the matter. I have not even read the account of the meeting, but will bring the matter under the notice of the Minister of Defence.
– Is the Minister for the Navy able to name a definite date for the launching of the cruiser Brisbane^ Will arrangements be made for the suitable representation of the city of Brisbane, and for the presence of the members of both Houses at the ceremony?
– The Brisbane is to be launched on the 30th September next. Every member of the Senate and the House of Representatives will be invited, and I trust that, as this is the first cruiser to be launched in Australia, representative citizens from each State will also be invited.
– Is it true that the Public Service Commissioner is evading the Arbitration Court award with regard to postal letter sorters by imposing a barrier test? If so, what action does the Postmaster-General propose to take?
– A reply from myself and the Public Service Commissioner is in the hands of the organization, and we are awaiting their reply. On presentation of the case to myself, some modification was made in regard to a matter objected to, and I am hopeful that the question will be finally settled.
– Is it true that there are vacancies in the engineering branch of the Telephone Department, and that the Department is sending to Great Britain and other places for officers to fill them? If so, will the PostmasterGeneral practise Australian principles by engaging Australians to fill the positions if they are fitted for them ?
– Two engineers have been appointed’ who are coming from Great Britain, but they are not displacing anybody here.
– They are keeping others from getting the positions.
– The trouble is that Australian engineers are not available. They cannot be obtained.
– Has the PostmasterGeneral yet come to an arrangement with the Western Australian Government so that the trains running through country districts may carry the mails, thus saving the expense of motor vans, and giving the people a reasonable service?
– One of the members of the Western Australian Government when here made a proposal which he was to submit to the railway authorities. I have not yet been advised as to what has become of it.
Medical Officers : Desertions
asked the Minister for the Navy, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are -
asked theMinister for the Navy, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are -
asked the Minister for the Navy, upon notice -
Will the Minister of Defence give the date of the Rev. J. B. Ronald’s first letter to the Chaplain-General at the Victoria Barracks offering his services to go to the front?
– The date of the first application from the Rev. J. B. Ronald is 14th July, 1915 ; but, on inquiry from the Chaplain-General of the Presbyterian denomination, the Right Rev. J. L. Rentoul, M.A., D.D., it has been ascertained that the Rev. J. B. Ronald made a personal application to the ChaplainGeneral for service as a chaplain in the Australian Imperial Force, which was considered by the selection committee of the Presbyterian Church authorities, along with eighteen other applications for two appointments then vacant, and the Rev. J. B. Ronald was not selected.
asked the Minister for the Navy, upon notice -
In view of the fact that from August, 1914, to June, 1915, the number of permanent officers and the number of temporary officers who worked overtime were 113 and 150 respectively, at a total cost for overtime of £4,478, will the Minister of Defence, in view of the great amount of unemployment amongst clerical workers, give instructions that more officers be employed, and thus relieve the overworked officials in his Department, some of whom are suffering severely in their health?
– The Minister has directed that temporary clerical assistance is to be availed of to the fullest possible extent with a view to obviating, as far as practicable, the necessity for overtime; but it has to be borne in mind that the period mentioned is the period of the beginning of the war, and that it would have been impossible to intrust much of the work to clerks having no previous experience in the Department.
asked the Minister of External Affairs, upon notice -
In regard to a naturalized Chinese named Leung See, otherwise known as Ah See -
Did he work as a carpenter, to the satisfaction of the railway officers for a period of twenty years?
Has he now been dismissed; and, if so, is it because he is a non-unionist?
Is it known that he is willing to become a unionist, but cannot do so, because Chinese are not admitted?
Was his claim for employment supported by the Government Secretary at Port Darwin?
Were instructions issued that he should be dismissed; and, if so, by whom, and was it because of unionist pressure?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are -
Position of Lawyers
asked the AttorneyGeneral, upon notice -
Whether there is any provision in the War Precautions Act to prevent lawyers trading with the enemy. If not, would be introduce further legislation for the purpose of placing lawyers in the same position as all other members of the community with regard to trading with the enemy?
– Trading with the’ enemy is forbidden to lawyers as much’ as to other members of the community. But a person of enemy nationality resident here is not debarred from briefing counsel. The question whether lawyers should accept briefs from enemy subjects, where the interests of the client are opposed to the interests of this country, is one for each lawyer to decide for himself.
asked the Minister of External Affairs, upon notice - Wl ether he will supply a list showing -
– The following statement gives the desired information: -
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Whether) pending the motion now before the House to disallow the regulation (Statutory Rules 1915, No. 127) being dealt with, he will give directions postponing the operation of such regulation until the decision of this House has been given?
– It is not proposed to take action to postpone the regulation; the subject is one that has been decided by the electors.
Bill returned from the Senate without amendment.
The following papers were presented : -
Lands Acquisition Act -
Easements over Land acquired at Preston, Victoria - For Defence purposes.
Land acquired under, at-
Caulfield, Victoria - For Defence purposes.
Cowra, New South Wales - For Defence purposes.
Epping, New South Wales - For Postal purposes.
Lindfield, New South Wales - For Postal purposes.
Paddington, New South Wales - For Postal purposes.
Waterloo, New South Wales - For Defence purposes.
Public Service Act -
Promotions of -
Coal Mining Industry - Report of the Departmental Committee appointed to Inquire into the Conditions prevailing in the Coal Mining Industry due to the War. - Part 1. - Report - Presented to the British Parliament.
Returned Soldiers - Summary of Inquiry in Connexion with the Care and Transport from Melbourne to Sydney of Sick and Wounded Soldiers, Australian Imperial Force, returned per s.s.Kyarra.
– I move -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
In introducing the measure, it is proper that I should refer to the circumstances responsible for its introduction and the principles upon which all sound schemes of taxation must rest. That additional revenue is necessary to meet the great and growing liabilities created by the war is amply apparent, and the Government has decided that this can be best raised by an income tax. The Commonwealth has hitherto not resorted to taxation of incomes. But I have always regarded this form of direct taxation as peculiarly appropriate to the circumstances of a moderate community; and, if the incidence of the tax be based upon sound principles, not only an effective means for raising money for the conduct of government, but serving as an instrument of social reform. This measure, however, is to be regarded merely from the fiscal aspect. It is a Bill to impose a tax upon incomes for the purpose of obtaining revenue, and must be considered from that point of view. In imposing taxation, it is necessary to consider not merely the requirements of the revenue, but also the incidence of the tax, so that the economic equilibrium may be disturbed as little as possible. Australia is a very rich country, her production per capita being very great; perhaps the greatest in the world. It has rapidly grown during the last decade, increasing from £36 14s. 2d. in 1906 to £45 8s. 6d. in 1913. A country’s productivity is the measure of its labour force, its energy, and its resources. The productivity of labour depends mainly upon two things: the amount of capital available and the manner in which it is being used, and the efficiency of the labour. At this juncture it is of the utmost importance that we shall do nothing to discourage enterprise; on the contrary, we must do all that we can to encourage it. We hear a great deal about economy just now. The organs of the Conservative party assure us that economy is the very corner-stone of the national edifice. But from the rather hysterical manner in which they state their case, it would appear that they consider that economy should be applied to the “ other fellow.” This is certainly their hope, but this hope appears to be premature, and, in any case, the Bill supplies a useful antidote.
I shall now lay down what I conceive to be the lines on which economy, which has become essential, should be based, and I invite those who differ from me to prove these unsound. As the. productivity of a country and its development depend mainly on the amount of capital invested in it, and the employment of that capital, it follows that income taxation must distinguish between that portion of wealth which is destined for the production of more wealth, namely, capital, and that portion over and above that destined for consumption, and in excess of the amount necessary to maintain the community, which may be called surplus consumption wealth. I invite the close attention of honorable members to these matters, because, if the basis of our scheme of taxation be wrong, the superstructure must fall. It may be regarded as axiomatic that to tax wealth used for the production of more wealth reduces the productivity of the country by diminishing its capital; but to tax the surplus wealth affects merely the margin available for luxuries, and so leaves the nation’s power of productivity unimpaired. It is to this margin that economy ought to, and must, apply at the present time. One of the basic principles of this Bill, then, is the taxation of surplus wealth as distinguished from capital. In my opinion, the principle is sound. It is consistent with tie manner in which production is carried on in these days. Modern production is conducted largely, if not mainly, through the agency of companies. I have found it impossible to obtain from the Commonwealth Statistician a statement of the amount of capital invested in Australian companies, but it is certainly more than 50 per cent, of all capital invested in the Commonwealth. The capital invested -in companies whose names are listed by the Stock Exchange is about £138,000,000. The total amount of capital invested in companies is probably about £202,000,000. Practically all enterprises requiring large quantities of capital are conducted- by companies. It is thus obvious that a tax which pressed heavily on companies would tend to retard production should the impost be more than the companies could earn on an average.
If this were a light income tax, we might follow the practice usual in the various States, of imposing a flat rate on companies and treating them as individuals. But this is a graduated tax; distinguishing between incomes in such a way that the rate on small incomes is very much less than the rate on large incomes. The rate of tax increases as it proceeds, upon an even scale of graduation, so that each additional £1 of taxable income bears a higher rate of tax than that which precedes it. Companies as such are not taxed on their distributed profits; and dividends from companies are treated in exactly the same way as income from any other source. By this method each individual shareholder will pay such a rate of tax as his income from companies, together with that from all sources, warrants. And this is fair. Companies are aggregations of individuals. Some companies have hundreds of shareholders, and one or two in this country have thousands. Under this Pill, dividends are very unevenly distributed; in some cases, hundreds of shareholders do not average more than £50 or £100 each, while a few shareholders, on the other hand, get the lion’s share of the dividends. To tax companies’ incomes as such, would be to place on the small investor an impost that he should not fairly bear, and which would certainly deter him from investing his savings in companies. But as we have seen that it is through the agency of companies that modern production is mainly carried oh, this would mean to seriously discourage production. Therefore, companies, as such, are not taxed under this Bill on their distributed incomes. On their undistributed incomes, they are taxed at a low flat rate. The Bill draws a very sharp distinction between that portion of wealth used for production, and that portion of wealth over and above that which is necessary for- maintenance - which is, in short, devoted to luxury. The tax falls on the shoulders of the community in such a way as to bear most heavily on those who have an ample margin over and above that which is necessary to maintain themselves according to the station in which they live.
This Bill, of course, is frankly a war measure, designed to meet the present circumstances. It calls on those who have the means, to pay according to their means. No doubt, this Bill touches the high-water mark of income taxation, but it does not do so without ample warrant. Our present circumstances are such as to justify, and more than justify, the tax; and I know of no other means whereby we could raise the necessary revenue. Certainly there are none which would so little disturb the economic equilibrium of the community, and impose so little hardship on individuals. The tax is equitable, and, so far as the data at our disposal will permit, economically sound. I wish to say here, frankly, that there is a complete absence of statistical information showing the distribution of wealth and incomes throughout the Commonwealth. In Riches and Poverty, Mr. Chiozza Money shows the manner in which the income of Great Britain is distributed. I desired to get something analogous here, but no figures are available for the purpose. Without complete data, I have to rely on rough estimates of the Commonwealth Statistician. I shall give these estimates, and what figures are available, to the House. I have only one more observation to make in this connexion. The absence of statistical data has prevented that proper scientific adjustment of the tax which the Government desired. It also prevents an accurate statement of the distribution of incomes amongst the masses of the people. There are some who suggest that all war expenditure should be met out of loans. I have no doubt whatever that this is the ideal of those gentlemen who speak so loudly to-day of economy. What they mean is that there should be imposed on the poorer classes of this country an economy which would reduce them below a fair and reasonable subsistence level, and that all extra expenditure should be provided for out of loans.
On the other hand, there is a section of the community who believe that all expenditure should be met out of taxation. The first of these plana is grossly inequitable to the mass of the people, who are always too heavily taxed, and everywhere contribute more than their fair share to the cost of government; and the second plan is impossible. The Government is satisfied that its proposals are equitable and suited to our present circumstances.
I now come to the provisions of the Bill, with which I . shall shortly deal. The rate of tax is graduated, and a distinction is drawn between incomes derived from , personal exertion and incomes derived from property, the rate of tax upon incomes derived from personal exertion being lower than the rate on incomes derived from property.
– That is not dealt with in the Bill before us, but in another Bill.
– That is so, but I am giving honorable members sufficient in formation to enable them to understand what I am talking about. I propose to deal with the schedule afterwards. I now come to the exemptions. The exemption for incomes derived from personal exertion is £156, no tax being paid on any income below that amount. On incomes from personal exertion between £156 and £500, the full exemption of £156 is allowed. On incomes between £500 and £1,000 the exemption abates in such a way that at about £1,000 it disappears. On incomes derived from property there is an exemption up to £156, but the exemption begins to abate on the first £1 thereafter, and continues to abate in even gradations until it disappears at £500. For absentees no exemption is allowed. Exemption for children- under the age of sixteen years is granted to all taxpayers, and is unaffected by the amount of income. This exemption amounts to £13 for every child under the age of sixteen years.
– Can you tell us why the exemption in the case of children has been fixed at £13 f
– It has been fixed at £13 because, under the War Pensions Act, £13 is the amount allowed to a widow for each child. It is considered that if we ask a widow, who has lost her husband in fighting for his country, to keep a child for £13, we must ask every taxpayer’ to consider that a fair amount for his child’s keep. Otherwise it is not enough for the widow.
A fiat rate of ls. 6d. is imposed on the undistributed -profits of companies. Before I give some figures showing the actual amount that will be paid by taxpayers, I wish to review shortly the scheme of taxation, Municipal, State, and Federal, as it now exists, with a view of comparing it with the proposed tax; for we have to consider not merely this proposed tax by itself, but its relation to other taxes imposed by the Commonwealth, States, and municipalities. I have said that it has proved impossible to ascertain precisely the distribution of incomes in this country; and’ it is extremely difficult, if not impossible, to do more than guess at the manner in which taxation is paid. I have, however, endeavoured’ to do what was possible in this direction. What I did desire to do, and what’ we ought to be able to do, is to show, as Chiozza Money does in his book, exactly how the wealth is distributed in the country, and who pays the taxes. I think one of the most striking and powerful sermons ever preached on social and economic conditions in the modern world is set out in two diagrams in that book. There we are shown that for the year 1908 the income of the United Kingdom was, roughly, £1,800,000,000. Approximately one-half of that goes to 5,500,000 people, and the other half to 39,000,000 people. The other diagram shows that there are 1,400,000 rich people who divide amongst them £634,000,000, another comfortable class of 4,100,000 people divide £275,000,000, leaving only £935,000,000 for 39,000,000 people.
It is impossible to say how the national income in Australia is distributed amongst those persons who receive under £200 per annum; but of all the people who earn money in this country, only 115,000 get over £200 a year. That is the first fact to be borne in mind in discussing a measure of this character. Of this number, 59,000 get over £300; 26,000 get “over £500; 16,000 get over £750; 10,000 get over £1,000; 5,500 get over £1,500; 4,000 get over £2,000; 2,850 get over £2,500; 965 get over £5,000; 165 get over £10,000; and 75 get over £15,000. The figures showing the distribution of incomes are as follows : -
If companies are excluded, as they ought to be, from that calculation, the number ,of persons in receipt of over £200 a year is relatively very small indeed.
It will, no doubt, be said that the amount of taxation proposed by this tax, plus the land tax and the State taxes, will be very high. I do not deny that it will be high, but I deny it will be higher than it ought to be. In this country the rich have been more lightly taxed than any in the world, and it is time, and high time, for them to do something for the government of their country. We have been told, and no doubt we shall be told again, that this tax is iniquitous : Let me give some figures that speak for themselves. These figures show the position of the various classes of the community under this tax, and set out, by way of comparison, the position of the rich under this tax and that of the rich under the income tax in Great Britain. The comparison is a complete answer to all criticism.
The poor always pay more than their share of indirect taxation, and in this country indirect taxation has always borne to the whole a much larger proportion than is the case in tie United Kingdom. Even now, with this tax - the heaviest income tax in the
Commonwealth - the proportion of indirect taxation is still higher here than in the United Kingdom. I will give the figures -
May I express the matter in another way by quoting the proportion of income paid by the bulk of the community as compared with that paid by the well-to-do classes. The following figures will explain it: -
My point is the man who receives £156 a year pays - the overwhelming majority of the people of this country pay - from one-third to twice as much in proportion to their income as the men who will have to pay taxation under this measure, plus the whole of the other imposts under State and Federal taxation. The man who has £104 a year will have to give up a larger proportion of that income by way of taxation than the man of £500 a year, or £1,000 income, including not only Customs and Excise, but all direct and indirect taxation paid by the latter. May I state further, as bearing upon this point, that the cost of living has very greatly increased during the last few years. Particularly has it increased, as everybody knows, during the last twelve months. Mr. Knibbs, in figures which certainly do not err on tie side of exaggeration, shows that what in 1911 could be bought for a sovereign would, in 1901, have cost 17s. 7d., and in 1914 22s.10d. I have not the figures for 1915 with me, but I ask every honorable member in the chamber this question: If he had to live on £156 a year, or, as most of the people in this country have to live, on an income of between £104 and £156 a year, how would he do it? Every man knows that there is absolutely no margin left for taxation with such incomes. And this is the complete and satisfactory answer to all suggestions that the tax should fall upon incomes below £156. Those who receive such incomes - that is, the bulk of the community - could not pay any more taxation and live decently. The inevitable result of imposing additional taxation would be that the whole wage system of Australia would have to be readjusted. The masses of the people would have to be given more wages if the Government sought to compel them to pay any more than they now have to pay.
Then there is another point. The poor are not only taxed disproportionately to their incomes, but taxation is distilled from them in various insidious -ways. In rent all taxes appear. Whatever tax is imposed comes out in the shape of rent, and the people have to pay it. Interest is another insidious way through which the poor are taxed. The House will be interested in the following tables : -
This is partly due to difference of volume ; partly to difference of price.
Change in the purchasing power of one Sovereign in different years. amount, calculated on the basis of the amounts expended on Food, Groceries, and Rent by Average Individuals.
In respect to purchasing power, the following amounts are equivalent in the different years’: -
The poor man who borrows pays a much higher rate of interest than the man who borrows in large amounts. He pays, not the true economic interest, but the interest that his circumstances compel him to pay. On the other hand, the poor man with savings to invest receives a smaller rate of interest than the rich man who has much to invest. In every way, then ; in the amount that he pays in Customs and Excise taxation, in the taxes he pays in the shape of rent - for he pays all taxes in the shape of rent - in the disabilities under which he labours in regard to interest, always paying a heavy embargo for borrowing and receiving a smaller return for the money he lends, in the increased cost of living the circumstances of the poor man are sufficient to show that in this scheme of taxation, when it is necessary that there should be sacrifice, the burden must fall, not upon those who have already borne, and are bearing, more than their fair share, but upon those who have too long escaped it. I speak not here of the middle classes, but of those who, at the other end of the scale, with their large incomes, have an ample margin on which they might be fairly called upon to retrench.
For that reason, incomes below £156 are exempt from taxation, and the rate of tax on small incomes above that sum is low.
I come now to the further figures I spoke of showing what the tax will bs at various points on incomes from personal exertion, and affording a comparison between what will be paid by taxpayers of the Commonwealth and what is paid in the United Kingdom. I submit the following table : -
It will be seen that the rate in the United Kingdom is heavier than ours.
– Will the income tax now proposed, when added to the tax now paid in New South Wales, equal the British tax?
– No; not until the £8,000 margin is reached. I come now to the tax on income derived from property in the Commonwealth. I have here a table showing what the tax will be at different amounts of income. As already pointed out this is a pro gressive tax, and proceeds in such a way that the tax on each succeeding £1 of income is the same irrespective of the amount of income. The man with £10,000 a year pays on the first £1,000 the same as the man who has £1,000 and no more. I have had this progressive rate reduced to a flat rate, showing the equivalent flat rate at each point at which the progressive tax is illustrated in my table. For example, where the progressive tax is 27. 6d., the flat rate is only 15d. The table is as follows: -
– Can the AttorneyGeneral say whether this income tax, together with the direct taxation in the States, exceeds in general the amount of the income tax in Great Britain ?
– It is considerably less on incomes below £8,000. The machinery sections of the Bill follow those of the Land Tax Assessment Act very closely, and provide for the usual penalties, and for the usual provisions for objections and appeals. An appeal can be made from the assessment of the Commissioner to a Supreme Court, or to the High Court. An appeal may be heard by a single Justice, and a case can be stated for the decision of the High Court or a Supreme Court. When the High Court hears an appeal, it will do so under its appellate powers. The usual provisions are made for the recovery of the tax. It is a debt due to the Crown, and the Statute of Limitations does not run against it. Provision is made by which all contracts to evade the tax or pass it on are void. Further explanations can most usefully proceed when we are dealing with the schedule.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Joseph Cook) adjourned.
In Committee of Ways and Means:
– I move -
That an income tax be imposed on incomes derived directly or indirectly from sources within Australia, at the rates set out in the following schedules: -
Rate of Tax upon Income derived from Personal Exertion.
For so much of the taxable income as does not exceed £7,600 the rate of tax per pound sterling shall be Threepence and three eighthundredths of one penny where the taxable value is One pound sterling, and shall increase uniformly with each increase of One pound sterling of the taxable income by three eighthundredths of one penny.
For every pound sterling of taxable income in excess of £7,600 the rate of tax shall be sixty pence.
The rate of tax for so much of the taxable income as does not exceed £7,600 may be calculated from the following formula: -
Rate of Tax upon Income derived from Property.
The rate of the tax shall increase continuously with the increase of the taxable value of the income in a curve of the second degree in such a manner that the increment of tax per pound increase of taxable income shall be - at a taxable income of £546 - 11.713 pence at a taxable income of £600 - 12.768 pence at a taxable income of £700 - 14.672 pence at a taxable income of £800 - 16.512 pence at a taxable income of £900 - 18.288 pence at a taxable income of £1,000 - 20.000 pence at a taxable income of £1,500 - 27.600 pence at a taxable income of £2,000 - 33.600 pence.
For so much of taxable value as does not exceed £6,500, the rate of tax shall increase continuously with the increase of the taxable value of the income in a curve of the third degree in such a manner that the increment of tax per pound increase of taxable income shall be - at a taxable income of £2,000 - 33.600 pence at a taxable income of £2,500-40.000 pence at a taxable income of £3,000 - 45.300 pence at a taxable income of £3,500 - 49.600 pence at a taxable income of £4,000 - 53.000 pence at a taxable income of £4,500 - 55.600 pence at a taxable income of £5,000 - 57.500 pence at a taxable income of £5,500 - 58.800 pence at a taxable income of £6,000 - 59.600 pence at a taxable income of £6,500 - 60.000 pence.
For every poundsterling of taxable income in excess of £6,500 the rate of tax shall be sixty pence.
Rate of Tax on the Income of a Company.
For every pound sterling of the taxable income of a company the rate of tax shall be one shilling and sixpence.
The whole of the formula relating to incomes derived from personal exertion is set out in the first paragraph. Although it appears somewhat involved, it is really quite simple. For so much of the taxable income as does not exceed £7,600 the rate of tax per £ sterling is to be 3d. and three eight-hundredths of1d. where the taxable value is £1 sterling, and increases uniformly with each increase of £1 sterling on the taxable income by three eight-hundredths of1d. Thus, if one wants to find the rate on £1,000 of taxable income, it is only necessary to multiply £1,000 by three eighthundredths of one penny, getting thus three thousand eight-hundredths of1d., or 3¾d., which, added to 3d., gives the rate of tax on £1,000 as 6¾ d. Thus every taxpayer can find what he has to pay on income derived from personal exertion by multiplying three eight-hundredths of1d. by the amount of his taxable income. I can hold out no hopes of such simplicity with regard to the second schedule relating to the taxation of incomes derived from property. There is a difficulty in the formula which I amunable to express other than in the terms of the higher mathematics. I am credibly informed it has something to do with the perturbations in the curve. Mr. Knibbs has very finely expressed the difficulty in the first paragraph following paragraph &, to which I direct attention. Paragraph a gives the formula for ascertaining the rate of tax in cases where the taxable value does not exceed £546. Therethe difficulty is not great, because in those cases the exemption does not disappear until £546 has been reached (in the case of personal exertion it disappears at £1,020). In order to ascertain what the rate of tax is for incomes of £546 and under derived from property, it is necessary to multiply the amount of taxable income by 8.713/1032, add this to three, and thus get the rate of tax. With regard to incomes above £546, the Government Statistician sets out the difficulty in the beautifully simple terms of the mathematician. It represents a curve of the second degree - a term peculiarly appropriate for the noose of taxation that will fall round the neck of the unfortunate taxpayer. A curve of the second degree appears to be a curve which can be cut by any straight line at only two points. The manner in which the rate of tax is to be determined on all amounts over £546, but under £2,000, is set out in paragraph b at various stages of its progression. At £546 it is 11.713d. At £600 it is 12.768d., and so on. For the benefit of the community generally I would explain that the rate of tax is to be calculated for incomes in between the points set out in paragraph b by means of a table .that is being prepared by the Statistician. Paragraph c sets out the rate of tax for incomes above £2,000. At £6,500 the rate is 60d., and for every £1 sterling of taxable income in excess of £6,500 the rate is 60d. The third schedule deals with the rate of tax on the income of a company, which, under the machinery Bill, is its undistributed profits. Its distributed profits are taxed separately per shareholder.
– They are taxed only once?
– Certainly once only.
– Are you treating life insurance companies at ls. 6d. under the third schedule?
– That schedule has to be read in conjunction with the machinery Bill.
– Clause 15 of the machinery Bill deals with all companies.
– A company is to be taxed upon its undistributed income. Policy-holders in life insurance companies are dealt with in some respects specially, but life insurance companies as such are not. Clause 17, subclause c of the Income Tax Assessment Bill, deals with life insurance premiums so far as the insured person is concerned, and its effect is that there is no tax on the distributed profits. No distinction is made, however, with regard to the undistributed profits.
– The point is worth noting.
– I shall certainly note it. The average taxation per head in Great Britain is £7 5s. 7d., and, when the Bill has become law, it will be in New South Wales £7 16s. lid., in Victoria £7 14s. 9d., in Queensland £8 0s. 8d., in South Australia £7 17s. 8d., in Western Australia £7 9s., and in Tasmania £8 5s. lOd. I am to have a table prepared which will show the amounts paid by a taxpayer in Great Britain, compared with the position of a taxpayer here, under Federal, State, and municipal taxes.
– According to the Victorian Statistician, the income taxation in the United Kingdom is £5 3s. 9d. per capita._
– My information was furnished by the Commonwealth Statistician, and I give it for what it is worth. It has been found impossible to obtain from State Acts a consistent principle on which to deal with mining companies. In some of the States, calls are a set-off against taxation, and in others a set-off against dividends. We propose to regard them as capital upon which the shareholder is entitled to a return, and have put them on the same basis as mortgage charges. A taxpayer living in his own house must put down 5 per cent, of its value as an equivalent of rent, but is entitled to deduct what he pays in mortgage charges. If clause 16 is read in conjunction with paragraph i of clause 17, it will be seen that mining companies are to be fairly treated, although the proposal is open to suggestion.
– I do not think that there is any special provision regarding insurance companies. In England a special rate applies to them.
– There is no such special rate here, and there seems no reason why they should be specially treated, seeing that they are not taxed on their income as such. Qua companies they are not taxed. We do not wish to press hardly on any particular kind of company. Companies are instruments of production, the means whereby enterprise is conducted, and we are desirous not to discourage them. If it can be shown that we are treating any particular class of company unjustly, the matter will be considered.
– Why is the last calendar year not made the basis on which the income returns are to be made up?
– It is quite fair to tax on the income of 1914, because that is a completed year, and one for which returns have already been compiled in many cases. It is the almost universal practice to tax on the income of calendar years; that is done by the State Governments without exception. It may be urged that there has been a shrinkage of incomes this year, and I do not deny it, but during 1914 the pastoral and farming interests suffered as much as they will suffer this year.
– In Great Britain income for the present year is estimated on the basis of a three years’ average. The honorable member does not propose to take the returns of last year for the calculation of the incomes of this year; he proposes to tax the income of last year.
– It is impossible for a man to say what he will earn during a year not yet completed; but we can ask taxpayers to say what they earned during the calendar year which ended on the 31st December last, or during the financial year which ended on the 30th June last. We cannot tax the income of the current year during this year. _
– The practice is to wait until the following year.
– We tax for this year on the income of last year. Clause 25 says -
– The question is, when are you going to commence to collect the tax?
– That is a question of machinery. It is proposed to collect the tax in two instalments, but the dates on which they must be paid is a matter for the determination of the Government or the Commissioner. Honorable members must know how necessary it is that revenue from the tax shall be available at the earliest possible moment.
– I move -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
This is a Bill to amend the Public Accounts Act of 1913. It will be remembered that in that year, by two Acts, we established the Public Works Committee, and also a Public Accounts Committee, and that the former measure provided for the payment of fees to the members of the Public Works Committee. This was not done in the case of the Public Accounts Committee.
– That was done deliberately - it was not an oversight.
– I quite agree with the honorable member, but it has been, I think, unassailably held that, as the Public Accounts Committee would travel, the members of it could not be less liberally treated than were the members of the Public Works Committee. This Bill will practically bring the members of the Public Accounts Committee within the same scale of payment as is allowed in the case of another similar Committee. Innumerable questions have arisen as to what should be the payments made, and it has proved an endless problem for any one in a position like mine. Travelling expenses, of course, are necessary; and the Government have come to the conclusion that if the Public Accounts Committee is to be of any utility at all, and relieved of the necessity of appealing to the Treasurer from time to time for money, it ought to be placed in the same position as the Public Works Committee or any other Committee of the Parliament.
– There was not a solitary voice in the House that asked for payment for this Committee.
– I am of the same opinion; but, seeing that the Public Accounts Committee has to travel, it cannot be successfully contended that they should not receive travelling expenses.
– But this Bill provides lor payments over and above travelling expenses.
– It could not be successfully contended, I think that, if the members of this Committee are to leave their homes in order to perform their duties, they should receive no -fees.
– Not travelling expenses?
– No - fees. I wish to put the case fairly. Can it be contended that these Committeemen should be asked to go to other States, and there take evidence in their own time, and not be given the ordinary remuneration that is given to a Committee?
– I do not quite follow the right honorable gentleman.
– The right honorable gentleman’s statement means that the members of this travelling Committee should be paid travelling expenses and fees.
– That is the position at present, for all practical purposes.
– Select Committees are not paid anything beyond travelling expenses.
– Perhaps the Prime Minister is thinking of Royal Commissions; but even the members of these receive only travelling expenses.
– Royal Commissions get travelling expenses and fees.
– Not in all cases.
– Does the Prime Minister believe in clause 7, which provides fees for attendance?
– In my opinion, that is the only logical way in which we can deal with this Committee if we are to make it a useful and independent body. When the original Act was passed, it was with the idea that the Committee would sit and do their work in Victoria, much! as the Public Accounts Committee of the State does; but when we consider that they have to cover the whole of the Commonwealth, we get a different outlook altogether. I am doubtful whether Parliament made a good move in the appointment of this Committee, but, having appointed it, we ought to put those gentlemen, intrusted with this important work, in the same position as the Public Works Committee. Briefly, this Bill rnakes provision for the appointment of a chairman and vice-chairman, and for other improvements. It empowers the Committee to summon witnesses, and to take evidence, and provides for the remuneration of members of the Committee on the same basis as in the case of the Public Works Committee. It is proposed that the fee of the chairman shall be £2 for each sitting, and for the other members of the Committee £1 10s.,- with an allowance of £1 per day for travelling purposes. The total amount to be paid out of the Consolidated Revenue for this purpose, in any one year is limited to £2,000, which is precisely the amount fixed in the case of the Public Works Committee. At the present time, the members of the Public Accounts Committee are paid, as travelling expenses, 25s. per day to the chairman and £1 per day to the other members.
– This Bill will have only a future effect
– I do not know whether it will have only a future effect or not. I think that ‘the members of an ordinary Committee of the House receive 25s. per day when travelling.
– That is only as travelling expenses.
– It is the same thing, practically. I prefer to have these matters provided for by Statute, rather than that the point should be raised again and again.
– The Prime Minister seems to forget that it is proposed to pay the chairman £2 a day as well as 25s. a day expenses, or a total of £3 5s. per day. Read the proposed new section 1Q.
– The proposed section is as follows : -
In addition to the sum payable to every member of the Committee as a fee for attendance, each member shall be paid a further sum of One pound per diem on account of travelling expenses incurred by him in and in the course of travelling, whether by land or water, whenever such expenses have been incurred bona fide in the performance of his .duties as a member of the Committee, and such sums as may bc necessary to pay the cost of conveyance on land of each member by any means other than by rail.
– I take i’t that a member of the Committee must show that he has incurred that expenditure - that it is not a payment per day.
– It is for the House to say whether this Committee should be placed on the same plane as the Public Works Committee. I think this should be done, otherwise the Committee should be abolished.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Joseph Cook) adjourned.
In Committee (Consideration of Senate’s amendments resumed from 13th August, vide page 5801) :
Clause 3 (Definition).
Senate’s Amendment. - After “ amended “ in line 11, and before paragraph (a), insert the following new paragraph : - “ (aa) by omitting the definition of ‘ Dependants ‘ and inserting in its stead the following definition : -
Dependants ‘ means the wife or widow and children, or ex-nuptial children of a member of the Forces, whose death or incapacity results from his employment in connexion with warlike operations, and includes such other members of the family of that member of the Forces as were wholly or in part dependent upon his earnings at any time during the period of twelve months prior to his enlistment, or who would, but for such incapacity, have been so dependent, and parents who, though not dependent upon the earnings of the member at any time during the period of twelve months prior to his enlistment, are, at any time within five years after his death, without adequate means of support; and where the member -
Clause 14(Pensions payable for limited period in certain cases).
Senate’s Amendment. - At end of clause add - “ (3) A child to whom a pension has been granted, who, on attaining the age of sixteen years, is, in the opinion of the Commissioner, unable to earn a livelihood, may then be granted a pension at such rate as may be assessed by the Commissioner, but not exceeding the rate specified in column two of the Schedule opposite the rate of pay of the member :
Provided that an application for the pension shall be made to the Commissioner or a Deputy Commissioner within six months of the child attaining “the age of sixteen years.”
Upon which Mr. Thomas had moved :
That the Senate’s amendment No. 1 be amended by leaving out the words “by omitting.”
– I ask honorable members not to press the amendments foreshadowed in the earlier debate. The whole matter has been gone into very carefully, and honorable members should bear in mind that, although this Bill does not represent the last word in pensions, if passed it will become quite the most generous Pensions Act ever passed in any Parliament. While honorable members may desire to do justice to every one, they must be careful not to impose an unlimited burden upon posterity. This is not a party question. It cannot be made a party question, and I ask honorable members not to support the amendment now before the Committee.
.- While it is perfectly true that we do not desire to burden the country with a heavier pensions bill than the country can bear, and while it is equally true that this is probably the most liberal pensions scheme that has ever been put before any Parliament in any British Dominion, it must not be forgotten that this is the only occasion on which this Parliament will have an opportunity of insisting upon anything like reasonable provision being made for military dependants. Later, we shall have no opportunity of increasing the pension. If anything is to be done onbehalf of the dependants of those who are now fighting the battles of the Empire in Europe, now is the time to do it. We know very well that little consideration will be shown to them in later years when the burden of war taxation begins to be felt. The proposal before the Committee is simply that the widowed mother of a deceased soldier should be entitled to a pension without the necessity of proving dependence being imposed upon her; and I certainly think such a provision ought to be inserted in this Bill. It is proposed to make the widow and children of a soldier entitled to pensions as of right, whether they be dependent upon the soldier or not, because we recognise that the payment of these pensions is the least the country can do for those left behind. Surely the widowed mother of an unmarried soldier leaving neither wife nor children ought to be put in the same position. I hope the Committee will insist upon this amendment being carried. It may mean that a few widowed mothers who are independent may get the pension as a right; but why should they not get it? Can any woman make a greater sacrifice for her country than the sacrifice of the child she has borne? We pay the maternity allowance as a recognition of the act of maternity whether a woman is dependent or not; and if we can make that recognition of her service to the country in giving birth to her son, we ought to do something to recognise the act of the widowed mother who gives up the son she has borne and raised to manhood.
– I must express regret that the Government have not seen their way to accept the reasonable request contained in this amendment. Since the matter was previously before the Committee I have1 received quite a number of letters quoting cases that ought to* meet with the most sympathetic consideration. I do not think that the extra expenditure involved by the acceptance of this amendment would be very great, and in my view it is only right and proper that action of this sort should be taken on behalf of the widowed mother who has allowed her unmarried son to go to the war. It may happen that a widowed mother has to take charge of a soldier’s children. A widowed mother placed in that position will not be in the same category as the widow who has children to look after.
– But children will be provided for.
– Certainly the widow aud children are provided for, and no obstacle is placed in the way of their receiving their pensions. My argument ia that the widowed mother should also have no obstacle placed in her way.
– If she is dependent, she will get the pension.
– I do not know whether the right honorable gentleman has had any experience in matters of this description, but one case that recently came under my observation has led me to take up the stand I have taken on this Bill.
– The Commissioner appointed under this Act will have extensive powers to deal with all the cases that come before him.
– Only one thing will induce me to relinquish the position I have taken up in this matter; that is an assurance to the Committee by the Minister that the most libera] consideration will be shown towards the widowed mothers of unmarried soldiers.
– I am prepared to give an assurance that instructions on the point will be issued. As I pointed out, the Commissioner has extensive powers.
– That is the unfortunate aspect of the question because the officers upon whom - the duty of administering the Act will devolve will not be conscious of the tone of this discussion, and will not be able to interpret the wishes of members of the Committee in the same manner that the Minister would. It is proposed to remit cases where the widowed mother is concerned to an officer, yet we know that, as a rule, when an officer is called upon to decide he decides in favour cf the least possible expenditure.
– That is a very good thing.
– I do not know that it is, in a matter like this. feil John Forrest. - He must carry out the law. A Minister cannot go further. A Minister cannot break fie law.
– But the right honorable gentleman knows very well that under the operation of the Old-age Pensions Act, when there is an appeal to the Treasurer-
– Only to inquire; not to give orders to the Commissioner.
– I do not suggest that the Minister can give orders to the Commissioner, but if the Prime Minister or the Treasurer considers that any case brought under notice is a particularly hard one, the Commissioner may be induced to relax somewhat. I have letters supporting what has been said in this House regarding the hardships that may be inflicted unless a very liberal and generous interpretation is placed upon this clause. I know of one case where a man has been wounded on two occasions, and is now going back to the trenches for the third time, leaving his widowed mother behind. Such a man goes out to fight the battles of his country, and yet, in case he is killed, his mother will have to go to all kinds of trouble in order to establish her right to a pension. If she were his widow, all that she would be called upon to do would be to prove her identity to the pensions officer, and receive “the full pension, notwithstanding the fact that she might be worth a considerable sum of money. I place the wife and the widowed mother in the same position. So long as the wife can prove her identity she can receive the full £52.: but the widowed mother who may be earning a few shillings a week at present, but may not be able to do so in a few years, is cut down to the paltry sum of £26 a year.
– If she receives £26 a year only, she must have some other source of income. The honorable member must not forget that the Government must also look at this matter from . a financial stand-point.
– I am informed, on the best of authority, that our pensions are not so liberal as those of New Zealand, which has done even better than the Commonwealth in the matter of the proportion of soldiers she has sent to the front; and, though it is only a little Dominion, with but a shade over 1,000,000 of population, and with resources which are small in comparison with ours, it has framed a more liberal pension scale than ours. I do not feel inclined to play second fiddle to a small Dominion such as New Zealand is - I mean that it is small in comparison with this great country of ours, which, with its magnificent resources, should deal magnanimously and in a liberal spirit with those people who are dependent on those of its soldiers who fall at the front.
– The amount will be small compared with the money we are spending on the East-West railway.
– The East-West railway is a big national undertaking; but a still greater national undertaking is the matter of providing for the dependants of those who go to the front to fight our battles. I hope that, even now, the Ministry will give way. Possibly the Minister for the Navy might have progress reported, in order to make inquiries as to whether our pensions scheme is equivalent to the New Zealand scheme; so that if ours is behind the New Zealand scheme it may be brought level with, if not ahead of, it. I hope that the honorable member for Barrier will not withdraw his amendment. I hope that he will press it to a division, and, if it is carried, that the Government will take it that the Committee wish to see more liberal treatment given to the dependants of those who go to ‘the front. A certain amount of disgrace will attach to the Australian Parliament if it passes a Pensions Bill containing less liberal terms than the
New Zealand measure. Surely the Minister will seek the opportunity to make the necessary inquiries? I shall vote for the amendment, because Parliament will be doing right if it confers upon the widowed mother of the fallen soldier the same rights as are given to the soldier’s widow.
.- I support the amendment. I am surprised that the Government have not acceded to the request that has been generally put forward from both sides of the chamber. The widowed mothers fully believed that they were to be entitled to the pension; and it is surprising to learn that they are to receive a portion of it only.
– They are entitled to the full pension if they are in need of it.
– Mothers should be placed in exactly the same position as wives. That is the intention of the mover of the amendment.
– Whether they are rich or not?
– The Minister did not see anything unfair in the Maternity Allowance Act. The principle in that Act was considered the right one.
– I am not referring to the right honorable gentleman.
– I would give it to the poor, but not to the rich.
– At any rate, the Minister for the Navy believed in the principle of the Maternity Allowance Act. I know of a case at Ballarat where, since the son has gone to the front, the father has had to cease work through the rapid development of miner’s complaint. If the son is killed the mother will get only a portion of the pension because he was not her sole support prior to enlistment, though, had he remained, that would have been his position. The father will probably die soon, but the widow will not be entitled to the whole of the pension.
– Yes, she will.
– No ; because the son was not her sole support prior to enlistment. If the Ministry cannot accede to the general request of the Committee, I hope that the amendment will be put to a division and carried. The Ministry can then take it as an injunction to them to withdraw the measure and bring forward an amendment which is in accord with the wishes of honorable members.
.- I regret that the Minister, after having heard the expression of opinion of the Committee, has not withdrawn the Bill for further consideration and brought forward an amendment in accordance with the wishes of honorable members. I cannot distinguish between mothers and wives. In accordance with the wishes of Parliament, the Government have brought down an amendment to the War Pensions Act, entitling every fallen soldier’s widow to claim the pension without any qualification. In my opinion, the fallen soldier’s widowed mother should also be entitled to make the same claim without any qualification. There are nearly 500,000 married women in the Commonwealth between the ages of twenty-one and forty-five, and though we hope that not a very large percentage of these wives will find it necessary to claim a war pension, no one can forecast what that percentage will be. There are 50,000 widows between the ages of fortyfive and sixty-five, who are not likely to draw war pensions for anything like the length of time that the widows of fallen soldiers would draw them. Some time ago I noticed statistics which showed that 12 per cent, of our soldiers are married, but there is no information available as to the number of soldiers who have left behind them widowed mothers dependent or partly dependent upon them. Probably 80 per cent, or 90 per cent, of the widowed mothers of the Commonwealth are dependent in some way or another on the earnings of their children, and by taking away the son we are depriving the widowed mother of the main portion of the revenue received from her children, on which she may be dependent for her livelihood. If the Minister will secure a return from the Commonwealth Statistician as to the extra expense involved in placing the widowed mother in the same position as the widow, he will probably find that it will not be a considerable sum. In all likelihood a large proportion of the widowed mothers will prove absolute dependence under the Bill in its present form, and the number who are perhaps receiving partial support from their families should not be very large. There will be very few absolutely independent of the earnings of the son who has gone to the front. Thus the acceptance of the amendment should not involve the Government in any considerable expenditure, and it would be performing only a simple act of justice. Even at this eleventh hour I hope the Government will not find it necessary to force the amendment to a division; but, if they are determined not to carry out the wishes of honorable members, I shall support the honorable member for the Barrier, whose desire is to place the widowed mother in the same position as the wife of the soldier who falls at the front.
.- I am sorry that the Government have not seen their way clear to agree to what seems to be the evident desire of honorable members not only on this side but also on the . other side. If we could avoid a division I would prefer it. I hope that the Government will not ask for a division. I do not think that the expenditure we are asking the Government to undertake by this amendment. will be a great amount. There is, however, a principle at stake, and I shall be glad if the Government can give way. I have not yet voted against them, so far as I know, either in Committee or in the House, and do not want to begin to do so. There are others in the same position, and if we began to do it, we might develop the habit. I do not think that a number of us have been very unreasonable, and we can surely expect the Government to meet the wish, not merely of a number on this side, but also of the Opposition. I hope the Government will be on the Treasury bench for many years. If they are, and a great burden is involved by the amendment, it is they who will be called upon to finance it. That consideration might also influence them. The arguments in favour of the amendment have been strong, and should be given every consideration. I have heard honorable members in this House urged to think of the traditions of the race and the sentiments of the people from whom we have sprung, but the people from whom we have sprung have never hesitated to give pensions. The Old Country has paid in pensions to the illegitimate descendants of Kings millions more than we shall be called upon to pay in pensions to those who have fought for us and the parents and widows of those who have died for us. I trust the Government will not put some of us in the unpleasant position of having to call for a division. I and a number of others feel strongly on the matter, and the Government should find no difficulty in meeting the wishes of the Committee if a majority desire the amendment to be given effect to. I have not heard one honorable member speak against it. The only argument used by the Minister is that it will cost a good deal of money. The war is costing us a great deal of money, and a great many sacrifices are being made. Some people are making a great sacrifice in allowing their children to go to the front, and to huckster as to whether they shall receive 19s. 6d. or £1 is unworthy of the National Parliament. If. it is necessary, I shall call for a division, and hope that the majority of the Committee will vote as I do, so that the Government may know clearly and unmistakably the wish of this section of the Legislature. At this juncture I would make a ‘ further appeal to the Minister not to force us into the position of voting against the Government, but to say kindly, gracefully, and cheerfully that the Government are prepared to meet our wishes.
– The question is that certain words be struck out, and the carrying of this amendment is to be regarded as an intimation to the Government to insert certain other words, making it mandatory to provide a pension for every widowed mother, whether she is an actual dependant or not.
– If she asks for it, just the same as in the case of the widow.
– The Government have made full provision for the wife, the widow, and the children.
– Only under pressure from the House.
– Where they are actual dependants ?
– No. We have consented to that proposal, which is a great thing to do, because it will enormously increase the pension bill.
– Do not you think it ought to have been proposed by the Government without the House asking for it? S
– The Government have consented to it, and have done it. The proposal now is that a widowed mother, whether dependent or not, should have the right to a pension, and be paid it.
– Of an unmarried son.
– Whether she is a dependant or not?
– It is the last request the House is making.
– It is the last request, and is one which the Government, so far, have not seen fit to accede to, because there must be some finality.
– Hear, hear!
– And the Government think they have gone as far as they can go. The impression should not be allowed to go abroad that the widowed mother is not provided for, because she is. If she can show that she is in want and unprovided for because of the loss of her son, she is provided with a pension now, under the Act already in force.
– Why put her to that trouble?
– Why put anybody to any trouble in getting his rights ? Every one must go to a certain amount of trouble.
– The honorable member for Flinders says that the receiving of pensions undermines the moral stamina of the people.
– It does not.
– Does the Minister mean to say that if a man falls at the front and leaves a widow and a widowed mother, both get the pension ?
– We are asking only on behalf of the mothers of unmarried men.
– If a widowed mother, getting support from her son, sends her son to the front and he falls, she can get a pension of £62 per annum under the present Act. The honorable member for Maribyrnong has cited an isolated case of a lady who lost her son, and on application was granted only £26 instead of £52 per annum. Why? Because the case had been inquired into, and it is found that she has some other source of income.
– If she does not get the whole £52, the Act is not worth much.
– The honorable member must know that she has some other source of income.
– The officers interpret the Act very strictly, and always on the side of the Government.
– The officers must grant such a person £52 per annum under the present Act if she was dependent on the son killed and had no other source of income. I am sure the case referred to has been investigated, and that the widowed mother must have received an intimation from the Commissioner that she is receiving income from other sources.
– The honorable member should wait until he hears the whole case, and not draw on his imagination.
– The honorable member cannot deny that the lady has some other source of income.
– I did not say that I would deny it.
– Then there is the whole case.
– Do not you think that the widowed mother is entitled to as much consideration as the wife?
– Yea; she gets as much consideration if she is in need of it.
– The wife gets the consideration whether she is in need of it or not.
– :We cannot put the rich mother on the same plane as the wife who has lost her only means of support.
– What about the rich wife ?
– The rich wife has to make application, and I suppose m many cases will not do so. However, the Government have given the matter consideration, even since Friday last, and feel that, being responsible for the expenditure of public money, they have gone as far as they can go. We are not prepared to give the pension to the rich widowed mother. The present Act gives it to the widowed mother who is deserving of it, and we do not feel called upon to go beyond that.
– And break the whole thing down by its own weight.
– Yes. That is the position the Government take up. I hope honorable members will not oppose us on this question. We have done everything we could possibly do. The pensions will involve a very heavy charge upon the people of Australia in the future.
– Is it not for our rights and our existence as a nation ?
– Of course, and we realize it. The honorable member for Maribyrnong said he thought the pensions given by New Zealand were far more generous than these given here. I do not know that that is so.
– It will be a disgrace to Australia if our pensions are not as good as those of New Zealand.
– I believe they are, and I have not heard to the contrary yet, except on the statement of the honorable member. The amendment will “make the Senate’s proposal meaningless. I hope the Government will not be put in the position indicated, because honorable members must know what that will mean. I do not stand here to make any threat, but the carrying of the amendment will put the Government in a position whereby what we intend to do, and what we have practically done, will be blocked. I therefore urge honorable members to consider the position in which we will be placed if the words indicated are struck out. The matter, according to my promise, was brought before the Cabinet, and was before the Cabinet even as late as Monday of this week, and my instruction from the Cabinet is to stand by the Senate’s amendment as printed. We cannot go any further.’
.- I regret the Minister’s concluding remarks. If they mean that the Government are going to disagree with the amendment made in the Senate at their own instigation, and go back on their promise to this House, it will be a subject of considerable regret. The words of the amendment before the Committee were selected for the simple reason that to strike them out is the only way to comply with the Standing Orders. We cannot increase the burdens on the people in the ordinary way, and the only course open to us was to strike out some word or words, with the understanding that the carrying of the amendment would have a certain meaning.
– If it means an increase, no Government which is worth its salt will accept it.
– Of course, the honorable member for Flinders, who has, I suppose, as hard a heart as any man in this chamber, holds that view.
– The Government must take the responsibility.
– We heard the Prime Minister say this afternoon that this was not a party matter. That being so, why should the Government stake its existence on the position that it has assumed? I hope that’ members will not be forced to disregard considerations of humanity to maintain the Government. The time has arrived when honorable members should have a free hand on many subjects. Personally, of course, I am free to vote as I conceive to be right, because I am not subject to party discipline by any caucus, and from what I have seen I think that caucus discipline is as severe on one side as on the other.
– Is it not sufficient to provide pensions for widowed mothers who may have been dependent on sons killed at the front?
– Is it not sufficient that dependent widows should get pensions?
– I think that it is.
– Yielding to the wishes of honorable members, the Government promised to amend the Bill in the Senate in such” a way as would make it unnecessary for widows and children of fallen soldiers to prove dependency. It was thought that that would be some slight recognition of the sacrifice they had made in the interests of the nation. Now it is asked that mothers of unmarried sons who fall shall be placed in the same position. The Minister asks, “ Should we pay a pension to a widowed mother who is rich?” But he is prepared to pay a pension to the widow of a fallen soldier who may be rich. In my opinion, the widowed mother of a son who falls makes a greater sacrifice than is made by the widow and children of a fallen soldier. The mother went through the trials of maternity to bear the soldier, and Parliament, recognising the merit of maternity, has provided that all mothers, whether they be as wealthy as Croesus or as poor as Lazarus, shall be entitled to receive a maternity allowance. The women of the community have shown their appreciation of this provision, because practically every mother who has given birth to a child since the Act became law has claimed the allowance, which is a sufficient answer to the statement that the giving of it would degrade women. The mother, in addition to undergoing the trials of maternity, has the trouble and the anxiety connected with the bringing up of her offspring. Yet we are told that, should she sacrifice a son in the interests of the community, she should receive no recognition from those who have been left in possession of their lives and property, unless she comes as a suppliant, and shows that she was dependent on her fallen son. What if it will cost a little more to make provision for widowed mothers? As the honorable member for Wimmera has pointed out, they will claim for a shorter period than that for which widows and children will claim.
– And constitute a smaller number.
– Yes. Even though an extra burden may thus be imposed on the community, ought we not to bear it? We who have remained at home, and to whom our lives, our health, and our bodies are spared unmaimed, should not object to paying something to those who have sacrificed their dearest in defenceof the country.
.- The other day the Minister said the widowed mother is provided for, and that each case would be dealt with according to its merits. But a case which I should like to bring under the notice of the Committee will serve to show the probability that the administration of the Act will not be as sympathetic as we should like it to be, if the provision relating to widowed mothers remains unaltered. In this case a widowed mother had three sons, two of them of military age, and a third a boy of twelve years of age. The two elder lads went to the front, where one has already lost his life. Each of these sons left to his mother 14s. a week, and from one of them she still receives that allowance. When the other son was killed, she applied for a pension, but the Board would allow her only 10s. a week because she was receiving 14s. a week from the son still serving, and would give her nothing for the maintenance of the boy of twelve, whom she will have to keep until he is at least sixteen years of age.
House adjourned at 6.31 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 18 August 1915, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1915/19150818_reps_6_78/>.