6th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– Yesterday the honorable member for Melbourne asked the following questions : -
I promised to give him an answer later, and am now supplied with the following information : -
The rate paid to the gunner on joining the Permanent Garrison Artillery is three shillings and sixpence (3s. 6d.) per diem (seven days a week), together, with rations, quarters (including fuel and light), clothing, and free medical attendance. The total value of these is considered to be equivalent to at least six shillings (6s.) per diem. A married gunner, after three years’ service, is granted either free married quarters, fuel, and light, or an allowance in lieu of one shilling and sixpence (ls. 6d.) per diem. In addition, all gunners axe eligible to receive good conduct pay up to a maximum of sixpence (6d.) per diem, and may also qualify for positions carrying specialist and special duty pay, ranging from threepence ( 3d. ) to one shilling ( ls. ) per diem, and for promotion to higher rank. Whether they qualify for specialist’s pay, or for promotion, depends upon their own exertions.
– It would appear from, the statement of the Engineer-in-Chief for the Commonwealth railways, read to the House yesterday by the Vice-President of the Executive Council, that a number of engines were ordered by a previous Government in excess of the requirements of the transcontinental railway, and apparently, in anticipation of their use upon a strategic line of which mention has been made, but for the construction of which’ Parliament has given no authority. I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Works that steps may be taken to see that in future the authority of Parliament will not be anticipated and prejudiced by charging to one service already approved engines that can be of no value to that service.
– I shall bring the remarks of the honorable member under the notice of the Minister for Works..
– Is the policy of this Government in reference to preference to unionists similar to that of its predecessor ?
– The policy of the previous Government in reference to preference to unionists was set out in a memorandum. I shall answer the question after I have read that memorandum.
– Last .week the Prime Minister said that he thought that he would be able to make a statement this week of the .intentions of the Imperial Government concerning the wheat harvest of 1917-18. Is he yet in a position to do so?
– I am not yet in a position to do so.
– I have already directed the attention of the Prime Minister to the decision of the High Court in the stock embargo case, and I ask him now if he will consider the advisability of putting before the Premiers of the States, when next they meet in conference, a suggestion for mutual action by which the impeding of legitimate trade between the States will be prevented ?
– I have noted the decision referred to, and have already expressed my opinion regarding the action of the Queensland Government. ‘ The matter was brought before the Premiers’ Conference, a,nd the attention of the Premier of Queensland .was drawn to the interference with Inter-State trade which has been caused, but I was unable to gather from his remarks any indication that he was prepared to act as the majority of the Conference desired. On Friday next a deputation of representatives of the export meat industry is to wait on me to point out that the best interests of their business and of the stock-raising industry generally are being prejudiced by the present policy of the Queensland Government.
– Would it not be possible to deal with the whole of the meat for export as the wool and wheat are being dealt with, the Commonwealth Government becoming the sole agent of the British Government?
– I think -that it would be possible, and that it is desirable; but from my reply to the honorable member for Darling Downs, the honorable member for Yarra will gather that the Government of Queensland is not in favour of such an arrangement. I expressly forbear from setting out what I conceive ought to be done in the circumstances, until I have heard what the deputation has to say, and .the views of the Premiers’ Conference, which is to meet on the 5th January.
– I observe that in the Senate the representative of the Government gave notice of motion on the 14th December to fill a Senate vacancy on the Public Works Committee. Will the Prime Minister say why the Government did not, in this House, at the proper time, give notice of their intention to move a motion to fill a vacancy on the same Committee from among the representatives of this House?
- Mr. Speaker, is that a form of question that should be put - why I do not do things? The honorable member might just as well have asked why the Government did not adjourn the House until 3 o’clock instead of 2.30 o’clock^” to-day. The Government did not give notice because it did not give notice.
– Now the Prime Minister will understand why I objected to his having his motion dealt with without notice.
– Is the Prime Minister in a position to make a further statement with regard to the wool clip, particularly with regard to the advanced stage of the machinery that has been set in motion, the cataloguing of the clip, and the date on which the first sales will be held?
– I propose to make ‘ available to honorable members a full abatement of the whole of the arrangements under the wool acquisition scheme; but, first of all, I wish to reply to two questions that have been raised by various honorable members during the last few lays. ‘ I was asked what provision had been made for the representation of the small wool-grower on the .Central Wool Board. Provision has been made for the representation of the small wool-grower on all the State Boards, and one or more large growers, already on those Boards, have been requested to retire from them in order to make way for representatives of the small growers. There is no necessity for their representation on the Central Wool Board. The honorable member for Maranoa asked me yesterday how prices were to be fixed. As an indication of the complexity of the task of the Committee dealing with this matter, and of the manner in which it is carrying out its work, I would like to point out that the wools for this clip have been divided into no less than 311 classes, ranging in price from 48d. down to as low as 1Od., and possibly lower. I propose to lay all this information on the table of the House. I merely mention this fact because it shows how complex and difficult the matter of appraisement is.
– Will the return be printed ?
– Yes. The chairman f the Committee has made available a ready reckoner, which will give the value of any quantity of wool at a given price.
I do not wish to make invidious comparisons between those admirable formula? -we were discussing yesterday in regard to the income tax and this table, but I venture to say that this will take no mean place in such a comparison. I wish now to state broadly the outline of the scheme.
The purchaser is the Imperial Government. The agent for the Imperial Government is the Commonwealth Government; and the head of the Commonwealth Government is in actual control of the scheme. The Central Wool Committee will work directly under the Prime Minister, and be assisted in technical matters by an Advisory Board of wool experts of the highest standing in Australia appertaining to the marketing of wool. There will be a State Committee in each State of the Commonwealth, and there will be subCommittees under the control of the State Committees to advise on all details respecting the handling of sheep skins. Wool appraisers will be attached to the wool-selling houses in order to watch the interest of the wool-growers, and in order to represent the interests of the Commonwealth Government. There is one tribunal to determine the value of each lot of wool, and that is a matter of vital importance. This tribunal will consist of three sworn appraisers - one representing the woolgrowers, and two the Commonwealth Government. The flat price of ls. 3½d. per lb. of greasy wool having been fixed for the Australian clip, the duties of the appraisers are to determine the true value according to percentage of clean scoured wool present, together with spinning qualities, length and condition of staple, and the many other characteristics which have to be taken into account in arriving at the actual value. In order that the wool-growers and the public may have some idea of the work involved in the appraisement of the wool clip, it is a fact that the Advisory Board of wool experts consider it absolutely necessary to classify the clip into over 300 standards, so ag to arrive at the true appraisement, and to maintain the correct value relative to the flat rate of 15 $d. as the average price for the clip. It may be stated that the wool appraisers have been engaged for the past three weeks in preparing the basis of valuation, and the work involved has been very onerous indeed. It is only justice to that body of workers to state that they have freely given their time, life-long experience, and private formulae, in order that the appraisement of the wool shall be as mathematically accurate as it is humanly possible to make it.Each wool-selling broker, and each wool . appraiser, will before acting under the wool regulations sign a declaration prepared by the AttorneyGeneral for the faithful discharge of his duties; the same conditions apply in regard to sheep skins. The Committees and appraisers recognise that the work is of national importance, hence the desire to establish a machine that will perform the work to the satisfaction of the woolgrowers, scourers, fellmongers, manufacturers, and others interested in this very important primary industry. The limits upon which wool will be appraised in the Commonwealth have been cabled to London, so that the basis of valuation of Australian wool, consigned before the purchase of the clip by the Imperial Government, will be identical with that employed in Australia. The Committees, central and State, consist of two members representing wool -growers, three members representing wool sellers, one buyer, ohe manufacturer, and one scourer or fellmonger. On the Central Committee is an independent chairman, who is the Government nominee. The members of the State Committee appoint their own chairman.
Wool regulations have been drawn up, and have been approved by me, and are now in process of being gazetted. They will cover the whole of the points to be dealt with, and will,in fact, lay down a code of rules under which the scheme is to be carried out.. If experience of the working qf it may suggest improvements, those improvements willbe made. The intention is to interfere as little as possible with the industry, and at the same time to secure the best results for all concerned. For theinformation of honorable members, and because they bea,r directly on the question, I propose to lay those papers on the table. These are now in the hands of the printer, and they will shortly be made available to honorable members. There is no necessity to order that they beprinted, but if an order is passed, it will be taken to apply to something that has already been done.
That the papers be printed.
– Will the Prime Minister say on what date he expects the actual work of appraisement to start ?
– In effect, the appraisement will be a kind of wool sale, and it is suggested that the first shall be held on the 3rd January. The honorable member for Capricornia mentioned that persons who have been in the habit of shipping wool direct from other than the principal ports of the various States, and are now compelled under the scheme to ship wool to the principal ports for appraisement, are somewhat apprehensive as to the effect which this arrangement will have upon their receipts. Without going into details, I may say that the arrangement arrived a.t is such that the extra expense, if any, of taking the wool from one place to any other place will not be borne by the grower, but by the pool generally.
– In view of the important cablegrams that have been received by the press stating that the British Prime Minister intends to call a conference of representatives of the Dominions immediately, willthe Prime Minister say whether he has received from the British Government any invitation to visit Great Britain ?
– I have not received any such invitation, but the following cable from the Prime Minister of Great, Britain has just been laid before me: -
On taking up the high office with which His Majesty has charged me, I send to you, on behalf of the people of the Old Country, a message to our brothers beyond the seas. There is no faltering in our determination that the sacrifices which we, and you, have made, and have still to make, shall not be in vain, and that the fight which we are waging together for humanity and civilization shall be fought to a triumphant issue. We shall need every man that we can put in the field, every £1 that rigid public and private economy can provide, and every effort which a united people can put forth to help in the heavy task of our soldiers and sailors. The splendid contributions to the common cause already made by the Dominions give us sure confidence that their determination is no less high than ours, and that, however long the path to final victory, we shall tread it side by side.
– With a view to economizing in the enormous expense in preparing and printing electoral rolls, have the Government given any consideration to the recommendationsof the Elec toral Commission for the adoption of a joint roll for the Commonwealth and States.
– A scheme has been formulated to bring into operation uniform rolls for the Commonwealth and the State. A system of grouping will require to be considered in order to make Federal and State electoral boundaries conterminous as far as possible. The scheme is ready, but cannot be put into operation until the States give their consent. As soon as that consent is given, effect can be given to the scheme.
The following papers were presented : -
Third Annual Report of Inter-State Commission, presented by Mr. Archibald.
Ordered to be printed.
Land Acquisition Act - Land acquired under, at -
Abbotsford, New South Wales - For Quarantine purposes.
Kensington, New South Wales - For Postal purposes.
Public Service Act - Promotion of R. J. Mair, Department of the Treasury.
– Will the PostmasterGeneral sympathetically consider the position of officers who are called upon to work on the 27th of December and the 2nd January, and who are not now entitled to payment for those holidays? Will he endeavour to allow such officers extra pay or time off in lieu ?
– The services of such officers as will be on duty on the days mentioned are necessary in the interests of the public. They are kept on duty for the shortest possible period. They are paid for a full day, although thev may work for only an hour or two. About 25 per cent, of the officers are called upon to perform this duty. I may add that, while we have two authorities assessing the payment and conditions of the Public Service, we shall never have anything like uniformity with regard to the wages in the postal service. One authority decides that a section of employees shall have holidays, and another authority decides that other sections shall not have holidays. By these conflicting awards, anomalies arise. I cannot promise the honorable member that the officers on behalf of whom he has spoken shall have better treatment than payment for a full day when they merely work for a short portion of that day.
asked the Assistant Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
Will he place on the table of the House a. statement showing the number of recruits that have enlisted in the Expeditionary Forces for each month, since the beginning of the war, in each of the States?
– I have not the information, but I shall obtain it, and forward it to the right honorable member by post.
Advances on Stock and Bonds.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– I communicated with the Governor of the Commonwealth, Bank, and the following is his reply : -
Replying to your telegram to-day regarding question asked by Dr. Maloney in House of Representatives. Each application for advances against Commonwealth Bonds or Inscribed Stock is dealt with on its merits, and, so far, all applications to the Commonwealth Bank have been granted.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
As a deduction from income tax is allowed on amounts of £5 and over given to patriotic funds, will he permit similar deduction for amounts of £1 and over which total £5 and’ upwards ?
– If any person’s contributions to a particular fund are each less than £1, but amount to £5, or more, in the aggregate, he is allowed a deduction in respect of those contributions, but. if he contributes less than £5 to each of two or more funds, he is not allowed to make any deduction in respect of them.
On Friday last the right honorable member for Swan asked the following question : -
The reply to the question is as follows: -
The Acting Commissioner of Taxation has furnished the following statement showing in grades of income the amount of tax assessed in the Central Taxation office and in each State in respect of income derived from the following sources : -
Personal exertion and property combined ;
The Acting Commissioner of Taxation has also furnished a statement - not in grades - showing the amount of tax collected in respect of tax assessed under sections 15 and 22 on the Income Tax Assessment Act, being 5 per cent. on -
Sales of goods by an agent for an absentee principal.
Freight paid to owners or charterers of ships, whose principal place of business is outside the Commonwealth.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
With reference to patriotic loans without interest - Will he give consideration to the issuing of certificates, similar to those issued to electors who voted for Federation, to all citizens who lend money without interest to their country in its hour of need, certifying that their names are inscribed upon the Legion of Honour list for loans without interest?
– The matter will be considered.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Works and Railways, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
The Minister for Works and Railways has already intimated that he proposes to visit this line, and personally inspect various works next month, and pending such visit, it is not proposed to discuss the. matter further, nor to favourthe holding of an inquiry.
Bill returned from the Senate with, amendments.
That the message be considered in Committee forthwith.
Sitting suspended from 5.18 to 5.30 p.m.
In Committee (Consideration of Senate’s amendments) :
Clause 4 -
Section 11 of the principal Act is amended - (a) by omitting from paragraph e the words “ the War Loan Act (No.1) 1915,” and inserting in their stead the words “ a Commonwealth War Loan.” . . .
Senate’s amendment -
Leave out the words “ a Commonwealth War Loan “ and insert in lieu thereof the words “ Commonwealth War Loans authorized up to the first day of January, One thousand nine hundred and seventeen.”
– The effect of this amendment is that all Commonwealth war loans so far’ authorized will continue to be exempt from certain taxation, but should it be necessary to issue any further war loans the Parliament will have to consider what should be done in the matter of exemption from taxation. As we have authority to issue some £20,000,000, this amendment will not affect our next war loan, and, in the circumstances, I shall ask the Committee to agree to it. I move -
That the amendment be agreed to.
Motion agreed to.
Clause 11 (Special deductions) -
Senate’s amendment -
Leave out clause 11 and insert the following new clause: -
Section 19 of the principal Act is repealed and the following section inserted in its stead: -
– (1) In the case of a person (other than a company, an absentee, or a person without a dependant) there shall be deducted, in addition to the sums set forth in the last preceding section, the following sums: -
in respect of the income derived from personal exertion, the sum of One hundred and fifty-six pounds, less One pound for every Four pounds by which the income exceeds One hundred and fifty-six pounds;
in respect of income derived from property, the sum of One hundred and fifty-six pounds, less Five pounds for every Eleven pounds by which the income exceeds One hundred and fifty-six pounds.
When the total taxable income consists partly of income from personal exertion and partly of income from property, the deduction under this section shall be apportioned pro ratâ between the income from each source.
In the case of a person (not being an absentee) without a dependant, there shall be deducted, in addition to the sums set forth in the last preceding section, the sum of One hundred pounds, less One pound for every Four pounds by which the income exceeds One hundred pounds.
– I move-
Thatthe amendment be agreed to.
The Senate has struck out clause 11, under which the exemption was gradually reduced until it disappeared altogether when an income of £500 per annum was reached. That provision related to income earned both from personal exertion and from property. The Senate has introduced in its place a provision that in respect of income derived from personal exertion the exemption of £156 shall be allowed less £1 for every £4 by which the income exceeds£156. The effect of that provision is that the exemption in the case of income derived from personal exertion will vanish altogether when an income of £780, instead of £500, as before, is reached. This amendment will not apply to income from property. It is estimated that the loss of revenue that we shall suffer in consequence of this amendment - of course this is only an approximate estimate - will be about £50,000, whereas if the amendment had also applied to income from property, it is estimated that it would have involved a loss of revenue amounting to £150,000 for the year. Let me show the effect of the proposed amendment in its alteration of the burdens of the taxpayers. Under the Bill as it went to the Senate, a man whose taxable income from personal exertion was £200 had to pay. £11s. 7d., or ½ per cent. of his income; but under the amended arrangement he would have to pay only 18s. 4d., or . 46 per cent. A man with a taxable income of £300 would have had to pay £4 2s. 3d., or1¼ per cent. ; and he will now have to pay £3 8s. 10d., or 1.1 per cent. On a taxable income of £400, the tax would have been £7 19s. 7d., or 2 per cent.; and is now £611s. 8d., or 1.6 per cent.; and on £500 it would have been £12 13s. 3d., or 2½ per cent.; and is now £10 6s. 7d., or 2 per cent., the man with a taxable income of £500 being relieved to the extent of a little over £2. These variations continue until an income of £1,500 is reached, and from that point on there is no variation. Briefly, the effect of the Senate’s amendment is to relieve the possessor of an income of £200 of taxation to the extent of 3s. 3d. ; the relief on an income of £300 being 13s. 5d.; on an income of £400, £1 7s. 9d.; on £500, £2 6s. 9d. ; on £600, £1 14s. 4d. ; and on £700, 17s.
– I do not know how the alteration will affect the revenue to be derived from the tax. There must be an enormous number of taxpayers whose taxation has been reduced. The Treasurer has spoken of the relief that the amendment will give to certain taxpayers. I would remind him, however, that a man with a taxable income of £500 will have his income tax increased from about £6 last year to over £10 this year - a pretty large increase.
– He will be asked to pay a tax amounting to only 2 per cent. on his taxable income, which is not excessive during a time of war.
-It is not excessive, taking this tax by itself, but such a statement is not a fair account of the obligations of the taxpayers. When a man’s money is going out in all directions, it is not fair to draw attention to the fact that the outgoing in one direction is only slight. It must not be forgotten that the cost of living has increased tremendously in recent years. However, there seems to be no escape from the present position. What I extremely regret is the alteration of our financial measures by the Senate. The practice of making these alterations seems to be a disease which is very catching. If it is to continue, this House will lose all financial control. I do not say that the Senate has not the power to do what it has done; but if it persists an amendments of this kind, we must inevitably lose control of the finances, and the centre of financial gravity must shift to thathouse.
– If senators are more plucky than we are about going to the country, they ought to have control.
– I know how desirous my honorable friend is of getting to the country. If they will wait for a little while, even the stalwarts in another place may be accommodated with all that they want, and perhaps more, but that time is not yet, and no one is better pleased at it than those who are playing these pranks. They are doing these things because theyknow that, for the moment, it is perfectly safe to do them. However, the festive season is near at hand, when there must be peace and good-will, even in regard to our friends in the Senate, who are thus mutilating our financial proposals.I think that the Government will be able to survive the present onslaught, but if the Senate continues to amend financial measures, it will come to dictate, ana will control the financial affairs of the Commonwealth. When the position is made clear to the electors, they will soon put an end to it. It was never intended by the framers of the Constitution that the Senate should have this control; but in regard tothis, as in regard to many other difficulties, they said, “ We must leave it to be solved by those who live under the Constitution.”
– They did not anticipate the existence of parties as they are today.
– Quite so.
– They framed the Constitution purposely to keep a certain party out.
– I do not know as to that, but I do not believe that they anticipated that there would be a Senate with such spasmodic fits of political madness as the present Senate appears to possess.
– The Senate has the power to make suggestions in regard to money Bills, and this House has the right to veto them. Why do not the Government ask us to veto this proposal from the Senate ?
– Because they are consulting the feelings of the honorable member; because they know that he does not wish them to do so. The Government are taking this course out of pure consideration for my honorable friends in the Corner who are fearful lest at some time the Government may take them at their word, and do the things that they are so loudly asseverating both through the country, at their nightly meetings, and here. In my judgment, the Government do well in the circumstances to accept the suggestions made in tha Senate, but we must guard against this kind of thing developing into a custom. If it is to develop into a custom, the sooner we make the people of the country acquainted with it, and point out all ite disastrous consequences on our system of responsible government, and more than that, on the control of the finances of this country, the better it will be for all concerned. I hope that when next he sends financial measures to another place, the Treasurer will not make himself so much a slave to the mere affectation of control in this matter of finance as we have been prone to in recent years. I do not like these curves. They may be mathematically correct, but in the working of them they lead to some strange anomalies. What honorable members want in connexion with our finances is a rough-and-ready by-and-large proposition or scheme which will do substantial justice from time to time to all concerned. By adopting such methods the Treasurer would escape the trouble that has now come on him. If there had been in the lower ranges of the income tax a flat rate rising bv easy stages to a given amount, he would have avoided this thing at which both Houses have jibbed. I hope that we shall avoid future trouble in this respect. I regret the position in which the Government find themselves, and I sympathize with them completely ; but, in the circumstances, there seems to be no escape from the position they are taking up.
– The Government have to choose between a complete dislocation of their financial arrangements or the acceptance of the amendment that the other Chamber has made. There is no remedy at their disposal for dealing effectively with the matter. It is idle to speak of “ what should be.” We have to deal with “what is.” If there were at the disposal of the Government means by which this Parliament could be sent to the countrv tomorrow, I should send it there, but sending to the country a Chamber which unanimously approved of this Bill in order to serve the purpose of a Chamber that almost as unanimously has rejected it, does not appeal to me. It would be incompatible with representative government, let alone responsible government. ‘I wish to add nothing to what the Leader of the Opposition has said with regard to the honorable gentlemen in another place, except that his remarks would” have more weight if his followers up there had acted differently. . The acceptance of this amendment means a loss of £50,000 in revenue. To deprive^ the Government of this £50,000 means to deprive it of the means to govern the country wisely and well. An alternative was offered to increase the rate of interest from 25 per cent, to 28 per cent, or 29 per cent., which would bring in the same revenue, but that proposal was not approved of. All systems of taxation are disagreeable, but the honorable gentlemen in another place have not been affected by the curves referred to by the Leader of the Opposition. I can find no reference to curves in their request. They have taken exception1 to plain words. What they have done is perfectly clear. They have pushed the vanishing point of the exemption, £280, further back, and the result is that we shall lose revenue to the extent of £50,000. It is better than losing £150,000, and that is all I can say for it. These are war times; the Government must have money. The Government’s fiscal policy must be supported by this House, which, as the- right honorable gentleman has pointed out, under the Constitution, and if not under the Constitution, then under the ancient privileges of the House of Commons, is the custodian of the public purse. If the honorable gentlemen of the Senate impair our rights in that regard they rob us of the chief power we have. They have done this on two occasions, the latter rapidly succeeding the first. I am very sorry, but nothing remains to be done but to accept the amendments.
.- I was rather struck by the remarks of the right honorable member for Parramatta. My memory goes back to a time when the Senate took precisely the same action as it has taken to-day. When dealing with the first Tariff it requested reductions in the duties, and sent the Tariff back to this House with those requests. Amongst the honorable members who were in Parliament at that time were the right honorable member for Parramatta, the Prime Minister, the Treasurer, and the honorable member for Barrier, and a reference to the records will show that those four gentlemen voted in such a way as to allow that the Senate had absolute power to request reductions in taxation.
– Is a Protective duty taxation?
– Many of the duties were Excise duties, which the Senate altered.
– Has anybody denied the Senate’s power to request.
– ‘No ; but the right honorable member expressed the hope that the alteration of taxation proposals would not become a disease with the Senate. His reference must have been to the requested reduction of the amount of the Supply Bill, otherwise his illustration meant nothing. I expressed yesterday my regret that we should be asked to proceed with this measure without having full information before us. I think the Treasurer agreed with my contention that certain information should be available to honorable members when dealing with a question like this. We should know, for instance, what amount of taxation is to be collected from persons with incomes of from £200 to £500. I believe that in the particulars of the wealth census that information is available; but it is not ready to honorable members’ hands on every occasion. I am anxious to know how many persons there are with incomes of between £200 and £500 who will pay a proportionately lower tax by reason of the alteration which the Senate has made. I agree with the Prime Minister that if the members of the Liberal party in the Senate choose to vote with the members of the party to which I belong in making the range of exemption longer, so as to ease the tax on the smaller incomes, that is a matter for them, and not us, to decide..
– Why does your party adopt one attitude in this House and a different attitude in another place?
– Apparently the same charge can be levelled against members of the Liberal party. The honorable member interjected that he was in favour of the Government proposal to reduce the exemption ; but I stated that it should not have been reduced below £156. I do not find much fault with the lessening of the range of the exemption.
– The honorable member agreed to that at the party meeting.
– I do not object to that; but I pleaded yesterday for fuller information. The Treasurer will find always that the more information he gives to honorable members the more expeditiously will his business be dealt with.
– I cannot subscribe to the doctrine that the Senate has done anything that it is not authorized to do. Indeed, the Senate is there for the very purpose of revising legislation, and the alteration which has been made in this instance makes the Bill fairer than when it left this House. On reading the Argus this morning, I noticed thatthe tax on incomes of £600 and £700 had been increased to an extent that surprised me, and this amendment will perhaps lessen the objection of honorable members on that score. I had not had much opportunity of going into the matter closely, but I think the Bill is improved by the amendment. “We know that the Senate cannot alter taxation measures, but that it can ask that they be altered. I have known the Senate to increase duties, which I consider was a monstrous action, and contrary to the Constitution, although, by ruling of the Speaker of this House, the alteration was allowed. The Constitution is perfectly clear that the Senate cannot amend proposed laws imposing taxation, or appropriating money for the ordinary annual services of the year; or increase any proposed charge or burden on the people; but it may at any time return such Bills as it cannot amend with a request for an omission or amendment. Except for those restrictions, the Senate has powers equal with those of the Representatives. If the Senate has no power to request reductions in taxation it is not of very much use. As a matter of fact, I do not think it is of much use at all as at present constituted ; but it ought to have this power of suggesting amendments; but, of course, it should act warily, and avoid even a semblanceof coercion. At the Federal Convention I fought to give the Senate power to amend money Bills. In this case I do not think the alterations which the Senate have made are so serious that we can find fault with them.
– As the right honorable member for Swan has remarked, the Bill is better than when it left this Chamber; it is a fairer Bill. Why the Prime Minister singled out the Liberal members in another place for his taunt I do not know. I made no such distinction, and I wish to say to the right honorable member that my supporters in another place did as his followers have done many a time. I know of no power which can control them.
– I never suggested that
– I know of no power to require them to accept anything the Government likes to send them, without consultation, and without any chance to consider it. I suggest to the Prime Minister that the best way to get these “followers” of mine in another place to accept his financial proposals is to see that the proposals are fair and just when they leave this Chamber.
– As these were.
– The reason those proposals were allowed to go to the other Chamber was not because we thought they were as they ought to be, but because we surrendered our judgment to that of the Government. This my “ followers “ in another place did not do.
– Do you think that 2½ per cent. on £500 is excessive ?
– I do not think it is fair that I should be taunted at this table with what my “ followers “ do in auother place when they, in the performance of their duty, have, as I believe, done something to make the proposals of the Government more just and fair to all concerned. However, I am now speaking of a matter which is of far more importance, and I recognise, with my right honorable friend, the honorable member for Swan, that the Senate has “this power. I only point out what ‘the consequence of the exercise of this power are likely to be if another place is to continue, as it appears to be doing at the present. There can be only one result, namely, that the control of the finances will go to the Senate, and not remain here.
– The Senate cannot originate money proposals.
– The Senate has a much more deadly power than that of origination; and we may have repeated here what has occurred in America, where responsible government, as we understand it, centered in the Senate, and dominated the whole political situation.
Mr.Fenton. - We can consider that when we alter the Constitution.
– If the Senate continues to strike at the very heart of responsible government as we understand its operations here - responsible government which always reserves, sensitively and delicately, as well as firmly, the right of the popular control over the finances of the country - and the time comes for an amendment of the Constitution, it will be for the country to say something. I suggest to the Government that when next they set out with taxation proposals they would save themselves much trouble-
– If they introduced them a few days earlier!
– The Government would save themselves much trouble if they supplied a little more information, and gave the House more time to consider it.
– What will you do if they do not?
– I shall do anvthing that the honorable member’s friends in the Senate say I must, but I hope for only a little while.
Mr. RODGERS (Wannon) r6.101.There is only one aspect of the alteration made by another place to which I desire to refer. There are at present men on active service who, in order to take part in the war, had to either sell or lease their properties in both town and country. According to another place, while it is sought to ease the position of many of those who earn their livelihood bv personal exertion, the same consideration has not been shown to those men on active service, and to their relatives and dependants, who derive their incomes from properties, or from the interest on the purchase money of properties which have been sold or leased. On the contrary, they are to be subject to a 25 per cent. increase in the income tax; and I hope it is not now too late for the Treasurer to consider the matter. I mentioned previously that a very unfair discrimination had been made between two sets of soldiers on service abroad - those who derive their incomes from personal exertion, and whose businesses may be carried on during their absence, and who are exempt altogether from taxation under the Bill, and those who have been called on to realize or lease their estates and invest the proceeds for the benefit of their relatives, and who are liable to the increased taxation. Another place has seen fit to afford relief only to those who gain their incomes from personal exertion; I commend to the Treasurer the suggestion that the other class ought to receive some consideration.
– -As to the powers of the Senate, I am glad to be able to agree with the right honorable member for Swan and the honorable member for Parramatta. At the present time the great bulk of the population is in New South Wales and Victoria; but those who appreciate the potentialities of Queensland can well imagine how, in the course of development, the greater part of the population may drift into the northern State. If any alteration were made in the scheme of representation, States like Tasmania and Victoria might then fall far short of their present number of representatives in another place. I regard the remarks of the Prime Minister as the thin end of the wedge to bring about an alteration in State representation; and those who believe in State rights ought to watch the situation carefully. If representation in the Senate were put on the basis of population, Tasmania, with 200,000 in round figures, would have, perhaps, one representative as against eighteen from New South Wales, with 1,800,000. My desire is to see the rights of the small States conserved. I do not say that it is quite equitable that a population of 200,000 should have the same representation as a population of 1,800,000; but I warn those who represent one of the smaller States to keep their eyes open. Had the Senate in America previously been elected by the direct vote of the people as it is to-day, much trouble would have been saved in that country. We do not desire to have any swashbuckling heroics here. When the Prime Minister talks of sending the Parliament to the country, I know he does not mean it. In my opinion, he has not the pluck to take such a step; but, if he has, let me suggest, in all good temper, that he set an example by resigning his seat - as I should be very willing to do myself - if only to let the people see a Prime Minister who has no majority, fluttering around for a constituency.
– The honorable member is going beyond the question.
– I apologize; but the Prime Minister is threatening the Senate, and we know that his remarks, in that regard, are all bosh and blather and bunkum. ,
– Let him take up the Senate’s challenge.
– Exactly. .He cannot hope to control the Senate. The Liberal party, from feelings of loyalty to their country, believe it to be their duty to give the right honorable gentleman a certain amount of support, and. because of that support we have this swashbuckling on his part. I hope that the measured words of the right honorable member for Swan will help him to realize that he cannot go too far. The fact that the right honorable member for Swan, with his wide political experience, including that of many years of office as a Treasurer, has said that the Bill has been improved by the Senate’s amendment, and that in that view he was supported by the Leader of the Liberal party, should sink deep into the skin of the Prime Minister, if it is not as thick as that of a rhinoceros. I am glad that the Bill was amended by another place. When the honorable mem- ‘ ber for Capricornia was Treasurer, I objected to the system of determining how the tax should be levied, and I say again that it is the duty of the Treasurer to devise such a scheme as will enable every man to ascertain for himself exactly what he has to pay. It was an infamy to increase the tax by 100 per cent, in the case of the relatively smaller incomes, while the increase became less and less as the income became higher. I am proud of what the Senate has done, and if the members of it seek any further commendation of their action they will find it in the words of the Leader of the Liberal party and the right honorable member for Swan.
Motion agreed to.
Resolutions reported; report adopted.
Motion (by Mr. Hughes) agreed to -
That the House, at its rising, adjourn until 3 p.m. on a date to be fixed by Mr. Speaker, which day of meeting shall be notified by Mr. Speaker to each member by telegram or letter.
Motion (by Mr. Hughes) agreed to -
That leave of absence be granted to every member of the House of Representatives from the determination of this sitting of the House to the date of its next sitting.
Valedictory - Military SERVICE Proclamation: Release of Offenders - Recruiting Campaign - Patriotic Funds.
T6.201. - I move -
That the House do now adjourn.
I regret that this will be the third Christmas which the people of the Empire have spent under the dark shadow .of this dreadful war. I sincerely trust that before another comes round peace will again reign on the earth. It would be out of keeping with this season, when the gospel of peace and good-will towards men appeals most strongly- to -men’s hearts, to say one word about the war. Whatever our opinions may be on the question, we may all join, I think, in the sincere and earnest hope that ere another year shall pass away a lasting peace will have been achieved.
I desire to state that, my attention having been directed to the fact that some men are still in gaol for offences under the proclamation calling up men of military age, I propose to take whatever steps are necessary to secure their immediate release.
On the eve of our adjournment I wish every honorable member the happiest amd best of new years, and trust that when we meet again we shall come to the consideration of the very grave problems that confront us with a sincere desire to do the best that is possible for our country.. This_ House has fallen, so to speak - I will not say on evil days, but - on troublous times. Much of the lack of unity in the House to-day is symbolical, and has arisen ou of the war. But I am content to believe, and do believe, that every, man wishes to do the best that he can to serve his fellowcitizens. When we return, after having an all too brief interval for service in the recruiting campaign, I hope we shall come to our labours in such a frame of mind as will result in great and lasting benefit to the country. I hope that we shall be able to send to Great Britain and to our sister Dominions those assurances of good-will, and of our unfailing support of Britain and her Allies in this great struggle, which the message from the new Prime Minister, Mr. Lloyd George, has evoked. I feel sure that there is, throughout the Empire, firm and unswerving reliance upon his ability and power to bring us out of the trouble which now encompasses us round about, into the sweet, green pastures of peace.
– It is with a sense of relief that if hail this adjournment, and I regret that we are not yet able to have a prorogation. I shall be glad indeed when the state of business will warrant the latter. We look forward to ‘a surcease from the cares of Parliament, when for a period the Senate will cease from troubling, and the Government will be at rest. The period of the adjournment will not be one of inactivity, because of the recruiting campaign which has to, be inaugurated. Some may be a little dispirited by the prospects ahead; to me there seems but one plain path of duty to tread. Each must do his best, putting aside personal feelings, prejudices, and all considerations other than the interests of the country and the welfare of the boys at the front, to obtain for them all the succour that it is within the country’s power to give. I hope that the Christmas following this will dawn upon a world once more at peace, when the fearful days of the war will seem a nightmare. I wish 1 to acknowledge my obligations to you, sir, to the Chairman of Committees, and to the officers of the House, for the courtesy and assistance that we have received from time to time. It is these patient, alert, and wonderful burden-bearers that oil the wheels of the parliamentary machine, and thus make our work all the lighter. What we would do without them, I cannot pretend to say; but, at a time like this, we must remember with special gratitude the services which they have rendered with so much skill, and the patience which they have shown through the trying hours which they have had to endure. I hope that we may all be able to cast our cares behind us, and, so far as the fearful circumstances oversea may permit, may enjoy the festivities appropriate to the season, and be all the better for the serious duties that will face us in the new year.
.- I echo the sentiments of the Prime Minister in regard to peace. There is not a member of this House, and not one thinking person outside, who is not desirous that peace shall come, and come quickly. But I am not to be misunderstood. I realize that we must see. the war through. The Prime Minister unnecessarily sounded a slightly discordant note when he suggested that the adjournment is too short for the recruiting campaign. We shall all have an opportunity in regard to recruiting. The one thing that will hamper our efforts is references such as appear in the press to-day to the attitude of some honorable members. We are going into the campaign with the intention to do our best, and I trust that our efforts will be successful. I thank you, Mr. Speaker, the Chairman of Committees, the officers of the House, including the Hansard staff, and the gentlemen who sit aloft and write sometimes nice things, and at other times nasty things, about us, for the services you have rendered, and in this season of peace and good will, wish you every happiness. I am glad that those who, perhaps misguidedly, did not obey the recent proclamation, are to be released from gaol, but I hope that something wiE be done - I understand it is the intention of the Government to do something - for those who, having obeyed the proclamation, now find themselves without employment.
– I have said, and repeat, that I must have concrete cases before I take any action.
– I have already given one such case. The employer concerned was absent in another State on semipublic . business, but when he heard of the matter he immediately re-engaged the man concerned. He was very anxious that it should be known that he had done this, and I wrote to the Defence Department about the case. There is another case about! which I informed- the Treasurer last week, and in regard to which I shall send a letter to the Prime Minister. I can hardly believe that the head of the firm in question will tolerate thedismissal of its employee.
– It would be useless for me to issue a general order to employers to reinstate their employees. I must have particular cases to deal with.
– I shall give the right honorable gentleman a case for which I have very good authority. I hope that all members will enjoy the holiday; that they will enter upon the recruiting campaign with vigour, and come back with renewed strength for their work here. This is the third Christmas through which the war has lasted, and the third Christmas of the session.. Probably so long a session will not occur again.
.I indorse the remarks of the Leader of the Labour party. I am glad that he mentioned the recruiting scheme. I impress on the Prime Minister the fact that if he will allow the Defence Department to be guided by the wisdom of the honorable member for Gippsland, the chairman of the State Becruiting Committee, it will be very much better for the cause. As the Leader of the Labour party has said, many of ub are going to throw ourselves wholeheartedly into the campaign, and if the campaign is to be a success cold water must not be thrown on it, nor must there be a continuation of the unfair things that we have had in the past. The task will be difficult enough, and I ask the Prime Minister to impress on the Minister for Defence the necessity to avoid the mistakes of the past, to use a mild phrase, so that recruiting committees may pet a fair show. The Assistant Minister is very courteous, and, during the short period that he has been in his position, he has done more than his predecessors.
Sitting suspended from 6.38 to 7.45 p.m.
– I wish toplace in Hansard a matter relating to the collection of money for war purposes. Earlv in the war I asked the Government if they would appoint some one to superintend these collections. I do not think there is any honorable member but believes that a lot of the money collected has leaked . In my opinion, that has been proved by the prosecution, in Sydney, for a theft of Red Cross funds to the extent of £236. The Crown Solicitor of New South Wales, on being asked for an opinion, stated definitely that a prima facie case would hold against the. two men concerned, and he said that the fund was on a similar footing to many others. There are 200 different collections in existence in the Com monwealth. I asked a question the other day, and the Assistant Minister for Defence informed me that there was no information available in the Defence Department as to whether there was in hand any of the money originally collected for Australian soldiers who returned from the South African War or their dependants. The announcement was greeted with laughter, but a friend called upon me yesterday and placed certain information at my disposal.
– I think that we should have a quorum.
A quorum not being present,
Mr. Speaker adjourned the House at 7.51 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 20 December 1916, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1916/19161220_reps_6_80/>.