7th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. W. Elliot Johnson) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
Mr. MANIFOLD presented a petition from certain electors of Victoria, praying the House that immediate steps be taken under the War Precautions Act to prohibit “ shouting.”
Petition received and read.
Assent to the following Bills re ported : -
Appropriation (Works and Buildings) Bill 1917-18.
Public Service Bill.
The following papers were presented : -
Commonwealth Advisory Council of Science and Industry Executive Committee - Return of Attendance Fees and Travelling Expenses for the period 16th April, 1916, to 30th June, 1917.
Meat, Butter, Fruits, and Babbits intended for Export and in Cold Storage on 28th July, 1917 - Statement showing quantity of, so far as Returns are available.
Commerce (Trade Descriptions) Act- Regulations Amended - Statutory Rules 1917, No. 184.
Customs Act - Regulations Amended - Statutory Rules 1917, No. 183.
War Precautions Act - Regulations Amended -Statutory Rules 1917, No. 198.
– On Friday last I asked the Prime Minister a question concerning evidence given before the Inter-State Commission by a baker. At the time I was not aware, of the name of the witness in regard to whose evidence I asked for information, but on Saturday morning a Mr. Bowden Ball waited on me, and told me that he was the person referred to; that he was a native of Somersetshire, England, as were also his parents; that his wife did not, as was alleged, work in the bakehouse ; and that his daughter is a married woman, whose husband went to the Front, and, unfortunately, is missing.
I made no allegations against Mr. Ball, but I think it fair to make known these facts concerning him.
– In reply to the question of the Leader of the Opposition, which was put bond fide, I made certain statements concerning Mr. Ball which, if what he has since told me, is correct - and I have nodoubt that it is - were unwarranted, and I regret having made them.
– When the question referred to was being answered, I suggested that the Prime Minister should inquire into the rumour that this man was a German, and in this morning’s newspaper the Prime Minister is reported to have said that it was alleged that he was a German. I made no allegation of the kind, and Mr. Ball waited on me last Saturday, and satisfied me that he is not a German. Therefore I have great pleasure in contradicting the rumour. My only regret is that Mr. Ball was not born in Scotland instead of England.
– Is the Minister for. Home and Territories aware that communications sent from the Northorn Territory, in no way containing anything offensive under the War Precautions Act, are censored and interfered with before being sent south? If theMinister is aware of this, will he say who ordered the censorship of telegrams and letters from the Territory?
– I have had no complaint regarding the censorship of communications from the Northern Territory, but I shall make inquiries concerning the matter. The control of the postoffices in the Territory is in the hands of the Postmaster-General.
– Is it the intention of the Government to repeal the regulation which differentiates between the wages paid to trade unionists in the PostmasterGeneral’s Department and those paid to non-unionists?
– The matter is receiving the close attention of the Government. I hope to make a statement regarding it shortly.
National Volunteers : Preferential Employment - Reference of Dispute to New South Wales Arbitration Court - Industrial Trouble in America - Card System.
– What steps does the Prime Minister intend to take to see that the National volunteers who have come to the aid of the Government, to carry on the work of the country in the present crisis, have preference in their present employment over those who have left their work?
– The position of the wharf labourers is sub judice, and will not be determined by the Arbitration Court until to-morrow. It would, therefore, be improper for me, as Attorney-General, to express an opinion concerning it.
– My question related to all labour.
– The matter is one entirely for the employers. They will make what terms they please with those whom they now employ, and the Government will do what is necessary to insure that the contracts are carried out. That is the function of the Government. We shall endeavour, as far as possible, to enforce whatever contracts, arising out of this crisis, may be made between employer and employee.
– Has the Prime Minister been made aware that a very high judicial officer, a Justice of theHigh Court, has expressed surprise that the matter in dispute between the New South Wales Railways Commissioners and their employees had not been submitted at an early stage to the appropriate tribunal in New South Wales; and will he be good enough to inquire into the matter that has occasioned the Justice of the HighCourt such surprise, and to see that elementary justice may be done to the disputing parties in New South Wales?
– I am not able to disentangle from the honorable member’s question the point to which he wishes to direct my attention. I am aware that it has been reported that His Honour expressed surprise that the matter had not been referred to the State Arbitration Court of New South Wales, but I am not aware that the matter to which he referred was an industrial one, and therefore one within the jurisdiction of that particular Court. I am not aware that elementary justice, or justice of any kind, has been denied to any person in this country, and unless and until it is I do not propose to make any comment about any Justice having expressed surprise, or about any other matter relating thereto.
– Has the Prime Minister observed that a very significant interview has taken place in America between the representatives of the Government of the United States of America and the Federation of Labour, for the purpose of dealing with industrial trouble of a parallel nature to that which we have in Australia? If so, will the Prime Minister take into consideration the advisability of following the excellent example that has been set by our noble Ally in regard to a conciliatory measure of that kind?
– I have not observed the item of news to which the honorable member refers. I note, however, his eulogium of America’s entry into the war. Coming from such a source, no doubt this will be thoroughly appreciated. In reference to the conference, if any, that has taken place between Mr. Gompers and the American Government, all I have to say is that the situation in Australia and in America is not parallel. Here we have Courts of Arbitration.We have adopted a system for the legal settlement of strikes; in America they have set their faces resolutely against such methods. Therefore the holding of a. conference was the only course open in America. Here, certain gentlemen have deliberately refused to take the course open to them for the peaceful settlement of disputes.
– Why do you not admit that you cannot do anything? Your party will not allow you to do anything.
- Mr. Speaker, I ask to be protected from this pacifist. The unions here have appealed to force, and they now ask that the mantle of the law shall be thrown over them.
– Is not the Prime Minister aware that the American speedingup system - known as the card system -introduced, or proposed to be introduced, into the railway and tramway workshops of New South Wales, is a departure from existing awards and determinations applying to the men in those workshops?
– I would remind the honorable member that questions should be put to seek, and not to give, information. He is not in order in endeavouring, under the guise of asking a question, to impart information to the Prime Min
– Then, I shall put my question in another form. I ask the Prime Minister whether the card system, as proposed to be introduced in the railway and tramway workshops of New South Wales, is not. a departure from existing awards and determinations applying to the employees in those shops?
– I know nothing at all about the card system, either here or in America.
– Several weeks ago I brought under the notice of the Honorary Minister the matter of the different costs of obtaining recruits in various States, and I shall be glad to know if he has obtained any information in regard to it.
– The information has not yet come to hand; but I shall let the honorable member have it as soon as possible.
– Can the Minister for Works and Railways say whether sites have been selected on . the Upper Murray for storage purposes under the agreement between the Commonwealth and the States, and whether the work of construction has been commenced ?
– Investigations are still proceeding, and, before any final selection of sites is made, it will be necessary for the Commission to visit the spots, accompanied by expert engineers.
– Will the Treasurer say whether the Bill which has just been issued embodying the amendments to the War-time Profits Tax Assessment Bill is the matured opinion of the Government?
– The honorable member cannot submit that question.
– I wish to know whether the Treasurer will permit any amendments to be made in Committee?
– That is a question which should not be asked. The information can be obtained during the ordinary course of business in the House.
– The honorable member for Maribyrnong recently asked for information in regard to the quantity of foodstuffs in cold storage. I lay on the table a return showing the quantity of foodstuffs in cold storage awaiting export.
– Is it not possible for the Minister to supply information in regard to the quantity of foodstuffs held throughout the Commonwealth, whether in cool store or otherwise?
– I have no power to obtain that information under the provisions of the Commerce Act.
– Can it not be done under the War Precautions Act?
– That is a matter for the Minister controlling the War Precautions Act.
– With commendable judgment, and in order to secure a continuance of the production of wheat in Australia, the Prime Minister, some time ago, assured the wheat-growers that a minimum price of 4s. f.o.b. would be guaranteed for the next harvest and the following harvest. Will the Prime Minister confer with the Governments of the wheat-growing States, with a view to having legislation passed for the purpose of sealing the compact, seeing that Governments may change in those States ?
– This Parliament has three years to run, and the Government, which has behind it an ample majority, has given its word, and each of the States concerned has assented to the fixing of the minimum price referred to. However, I promise to communicate with the various States, and get the assent of each State Premier, which, when given, will in my opinion bind the Commonwealth Government.
– Has the attention of the Prime Minister been drawn to efforts which are being made in England to prevent the making of undue profits, particularly the action of Lord Devonport, who has prevented importers and merchants from selling to one another, and thus artificially raising the price of goods? If so, will the Government give consideration to the question of fixing the selling price of imported goods on the basis of the net cost of their importation?
– I am unable to say what Lord Devonport has been doing; but I know that, whatever he has been doing, he is doing it no longer; he has resigned. It can hardly be suggested that we should follow a course which, to the pioneer, has brought such evil consequences. However, the Government will give consideration to anything which1 will prevent the undue inflation of prices. I shall be very glad to do what is possible to prevent undue profits being made during this war. I shall consider the proposal made by the honorable member, and, possibly, attention may be given to it in connexion with the Prices of Foods Inquiry.
– Can the Minister for Works make any announcement in regard to the steps that the Government contemplate taking towards enabling passengers to go to Western Australia/ whether by train or by boat ?
– It.is not possible to make any promise in reference to conveying passengers to Western Australia over the gap between the completed sections of the Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta railway, but the Government are taking steps to restore the steam-ship service to Western Australia. They hope to be able to do that in a day or two.
– Is it true that the Queensland Government have instructed the Railway Department of that State to refuse to carry Inter-State freight over the Queensland railways? If so, is not such action a violation of the Federal Constitution ? What steps does the Prime Minister propose to take?
– I sent to Mr. Ryan last evening a telegram to the following effect - I quote from memory -
I have been informed that your Government have instructed the Railway Commissioner not to carry parcel post mails to and from the State of New South Wales. Further, I am informed that your Commissioner has instructed the employees of the Railway Department not to handle goode and merchandise, and passengers’ luggage in brake vans, passing to and from New South Wales. I call your attention to section 118 of the Post and Telegraph Act, which makes it an- offence to interfere with Commonwealth mails, and to the powers of the Commonwealth under the Constitution.
From Mr. Ryan I received this reply -
Your telegram of yesterday received. You are evidently under a misapprehension as to the position. The Minister for Railways waa advised by railway employees that, after 27th inst., they would not handle or haul any InterState goods or merchandise going to or coming from New South Wales, including parcel post mails, but not including letter mails and passengers’ luggage. Minister thereupon conferred with Commissioner for Railways. Both formed the opinion tha£ it would be useless for Commissioner to accept for conveyance anything which he would be unable to carry or to take care of, through the refusal of the employees either to handle or haul same. All persons interested, including Deputy PostmasterGeneral, were notified accordingly. The notification to Deputy Postmaster-General was made under clause 15 of the agreement between Deputy Postmaster-General and Commissioner for Railways with respect to the carriage of mails. The section of the Post and Telegraph Act quoted by you has no application whatever to the situation. The Queensland Government is most anxious to maintain full normal service with respect to passengers, mails, and goods, and is using its best endeavours in that direction, while avoiding the precipitation of an industrial upheaval which would, in my opinion, be most disastrous to the public, both of this State and of the Commonwealth.
I received also the following telegram from Mr. Fuller, the Acting Premier of New South Wales, in reply to a telegram sent to him by Mr. Ryan, suggesting that the industrial trouble in New Souh Wales should be submitted to arbitration: -
Have sent to-day following telegram to Premier Queensland: - “Your telegram received. Our railway men out on strike against the Government. We have informed the strikers they must return work on conditions when they struck, and after three months’ trial, an independent tribunal would be appointed to inquire into the card system. These terms rejected by men. Government have no intention of receding in any degree from position taken up. Cannot tolerate revolt of State employees,”
As to the attitude of the Federal Government, our powers under the Constitution are clear, and, so far as I can see, plenary. Inter-State commerce must be free, and upon us devolves the responsibility, as far as we are able to bear it, of insuring its freedom when any parties to the compact fail in their duty. I do not say that Mr. Ryan has failed in his duty, but I do say that he has acquiesced in a refusal of duty by the employees of hia Government. That refusal amounts to a revolt against constituted authority in this country, and is incompatible with the relations between employees of the State and the Government, and is a denial of the right of citizens to have free access from one end of the country to the other by railway and by sea. I propose to tell Mr.’ Ryan that I hope he will, without’ further delay, make such arrangements as will enable all mails, including parcels post) mails and merchandise, to and from New South Wales, to be carried on the Queensland railway system.
– Will’ the Prime Minister state whether, in the event of the Premier of Queensland, Mr. Ryan, refusing to do anything that will injure ‘the railway workmen of New South Wales, there is any provision in the Constitution under which he can be punished ?
– The Commonwealth Constitution, as the honorable member must know,, is grievously deficient in many particular^. I regret that, so far as I can see, there is no provision under which he could be punished. <
Formation of Sixth Division - Weekend Leave
– I have a letter written from Perham Downs by a soldier, who says: “We have been sent here, and are all pub into the new division they are forming, namely, the Sixth Division.” Two other letters are to the same effect. I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Defence to make further inquiries in order that he may be able to state, definitely, whether a sixth division, in addition to the five divisions in France and the 15,000 men in Mesopotamia and Egypt, is being formed in England ?
-On Friday last I gave the honorable member a definite answer to the effect that no Sixth Division is being formed. However, I shall be glad if he will give me the letter he has quoted in order that I may make further inquiries.
– In view of the recent decision of the Minister to allow week-end leave, with extension of time where necessary, how is it that men in the Maribyrnong Camp cannot obtain the time to visit their homes in Geelong and district during the week-end ? Will the Minister see that his instructions are carried out, and at once ?
– The instructions were that those who live in country districts, and who desire extended leave, ‘ should make application. If the instructions are not being carried out, I shall have inquiries made.
– Will the Minister for the Navy state what restrictions, if any, are being imposed on manufacturers at the present time in respect of the consumption of coal ?
– Until this day week, there will be no restriction on the use of coal by any manufacturer. All that we require of them is that they should let us know what stocks of coal they have on hand. There will be no restrictions at present. Victoria is very fortunate in this respect. In my own State, the household restrictions have been very severe for almost three weeks. I can only say, generally, that the aim of the Coal Board over which I am presiding is to put back these restrictions until the last moment when they become urgent.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether he will obtain, through the Food Prices Commissioners, monthly returns of foodstuffs held in cool stores and elsewhere in the several States 1 The Minister for Trade and Customs is only able to supply me with returns as to foodstuffs for export held in cool stores. I should like a return of all foodstuffs held in every store throughout the Commonwealth. ‘
– For some eighteen months or two years after the outbreak of war, we went to a good deal of trouble to supply such returns. So far as I know, not a hum.an being read them, and no one was benefited by them. ‘ In some cases they reached us so late that the food to which they referred had been consumed before we saw them.
I should like to say, for the information of the public of Australia, that there is enough wheat in the Commonwealth to last us, at a very moderate estimate, for five years; so that, so far as that staple product is concerned, we have no cause for fear. There is enough sugar in Australia to satisfy our requirements for at least fifteen months; and we have, or can obtain in Australia, enough jam to supply our requirements for about two years. We have also quite a number of sheep and cattle in the country - enough, probably, to supply our needs for the next ten or twenty years. I need not) go on referring to other foodstuffs.
– Following on the attack by some of the members of that peaceloving organization known as the “Pacifists “ upon the rooms of the OneWomanoneRecruit League, is the AttorneyGeneral aware that a soldier’s widow, who has been left with five children, is at present lying ill and receiving medical attention owing to injuries inflicted upon her by those people, and-
-Order! In asking a question, the honorable member should not give expression to any opinion.
– The honorable member’s statement is absolutely false.
– I rise to a point of order. Did you, Mr. Speaker, hear the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) describe as absolutely false the question put by the honorable member?
– I did not. I ask the honorable member, if he made such a statement, to withdraw it.
– I withdraw.it.
– I desire, further, to ask the Attorney-General whether the Government intend to take action against those persons whose names have been handed in to the State Recruiting Committee in connexion with this outrage upon the liberties of the people?
– I have not been informed of any of these facts. I shall cause inquiries to be instituted, and if the facts are as stated .1 shall take what steps are necessary to punish those who have been guilty of this offence.
– I wish to ask the Minister for Home and Territories for what purpose the following purchases have been made by his Department, as announced in the Commonwealth Gazette of 23rd instant: - £306 3s. 6d. - James Watson and Company Limited, Melbourne; 100 cases No. 10 Scotch whisky. £616 13s. 6d. - Dalgety and Company Limited, Melbourne;. 200 cases 50 per cent, gelignite. £5U0 18s. Od. - Carlton and United Breweries, Melbourne; 50 barrels ale, 266 cases beer and stout.
Will the Minister state, further, whether Customs duty has been paid upon the whisky and Excise duty on the beer and stout, and what connexion the gelignite has with the whisky?
– I have not tasted intoxicants for something like thirty-seven years, so that I am unable to say what gelignite is as a liquid. As to the whisky, beer, and stout, the purchases have been made for the Government hotels in the Northern Territory. I am unable to say whether duty has yet been paid; but for the information of the House I may mention that the last report to hand shows that the hotels are making a profit of about £6,300 a year.
– In the event of the reports in the press, to the ‘effect that the notorious James Larkin is on his way to Australia, proving correct, is it the intention of the Government to allow this stormy petrel to land in this country, or will they interpret the wishes of a . very large section of the people, and compel him to seek some other Mount Ararat ?
– I am unable to say whether the information contained in the press paragraph, to which my attention has been directed, is true or not, but instructions have been issued which will prevent Mr. Larkin landing in this country. The reunion which has been looked forward to with much pleasure by a number of his friends will, therefore, hardly take place. As to whether those who are here will join those who are not here, that is a matter in the womb of time; and who shall say what will take place?
Appointment of Mk. Oliver, C.E
asked the Minister for Home and Territories, upon notice -
Will the Minister be good enough to place on the table of the House all the papers in connexion with the appointment of Mr. Oliver, C.E., to report on the water supply and sewerage scheme at Canberra?
– Many of these papers are already printed in the correspondence relative to the Federal Capital, but I will place the file upon the table of the Library.
Infliction of Fines
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– Tha answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The .Governor of the Commonwealth Bank has supplied the following information : -
“MILLED BUTTER”: INGREDIENTS.
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answer to the honorable member’s questions is as follows: - “ Milled butter “ is defined by the Commerce Regulations as butter which is a mixture or blend of two or more butters ordinarily packed alone and under separate names or brands, and which have been mixed or blended at a place other than where manufactured or packed.
Reduction of Pay
asked the Minister repre senting the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Whether he has considered, as promised, a further reply to his (Mr. Sampson’s) question, without notice, as to whether it would be possible during the present investigation of the Inter-State Commission into the cost of living, to have an inquiry also made covering a period of, say, seven years to the present date, to ascertain whether the statement was true which was made by Mr. Murphy, Secretary for Labour, Victoria, that the cost of living had increased beyond the standard of increase of wages, and that such increase was due to general slowing down of workmen, resulting in a diminution in their output, or in the return in service rendered for the increased wages received?
– The answer to the honorable member’s questions is as follows : -
These matters may be referred for inquiry after the Inter-State Commission has been consulted in regard to them.
asked the Minister representingthe Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Prime Min ister, upon notice - Will he inform the House -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
Bran, from 550 to 650 lbs.
Pollard, from 250 to 350 lbs.
In Committee (Consideration resumed from 17th August, vide page 1246) :
Clause 1 agreed to.
Clause 2 -
This Act shall apply to the profits of any business arising up to the end of the accounting period ending after the 30th day of June next after- the declaration of peace in connexion with the present war.
Sir JOHN FORREST (Swan- Trea honorable members I am circulating copies of the Bill showing the amendments to be proposed by the Government, and giving the explanations for those amendments. I hope that this will facilitate the passage of the measure.
.- I should like to know from the Treasurer whether it is not his intention to move an amendment upon this clause. I remind him that the clause was put to the Committee, and was almost carried without his intervention.
– I move -
That the words “the end of the accounting period ending after “ be left out.
As shown inthe copy of the Bill which I have had circulated, it is proposed that this clause should be amended, so as to limit the operation of the Bill to the profits arising up to and including the 30th June next after the declaration of peace in connexion with the present war.
.- This clause fixes the time for the commencement of the operation of the Act. It is known to honorable members that throughout the Commonwealth many business men held stocks at the outbreak of the war.
– This clause does not affect the beginning, but the end of the operation of the measure.
– The honorable gentleman should try again.
– I direct the attention of my brilliant friend to the last paragraph of the explanation supplied by the Government for the amendment just moved by the Treasurer, which reads -
In view of the intention of the Government that the first profits to be taxed are those arising after 30th June, 1915, it has been decided that the last profits to be taxedshall be those arising up to the 30th June following the declaration of peace.
I am dealing with the fact that it is the expressed intention of the Government that the people who made huge profits during the first eleven months after the declaration of war are to he allowed to escape scot free.
– The honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Higgs) can tell the honorable gentleman the reason for that.
– He can answer for himself, but I desire that this measure should operate from the first day of the war.
– The honorable gentleman took a long time to make up his mind.
– No, I did not. The manifesto issued by the Labour party at the last election stated distinctly that we intended that the War-time Profits Tax should operate during the first twelve months of the war. I am still anxious that that should be the course adopted. I find that I was led somewhat astray by the explanation of the amendment given by the Government. This clause, instead of informing the Committee when the measure will begin to operate, informs us when it will cease to operate. I do not know whether the Government have included in any of the clauses of the Bill a statement as to the date when the measure will commence to operate.
– The honorable gentleman will find that in clause 7.
– Itwould have been better if that had been stated in clause 2, but in the circumstances I shall reserve what remarks I have to make, about the people who made profits shortly after the declaration of war, until we come to clause 7.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 3 (Parts).
– I do not know whether, by passing this clause in its present form, we should limit our power to make subsequent amendments in the Bill, which might require the alteration of the form of this clause. I notice that Part III. of the Bill is entitled “ War-time Profits Tax,” and Part V. is entitled “ Pre-war Standard.” Subsequent amendments to the Bill might make it advisable to alter the title of the different parts of the measure.
– I do not think that will be necessary, but if the Committee pleases the clause can be postponed.
– I think that would be the better course to adopt.
Clause 4 - “ Australia “ includes the Territory of Papua. “ Business “ includes any profession or trade. “ The Commissioner “ means the Commissioner administering this Act.
– I notice that “Australia” is defined as including the Territory of Papua. I think it is a very grave mistake that this Bill should be made applicable to Papua, which is the first of the Territories acquired by the Commonwealth. Its people already suffer from serious disadvantages and handicaps as compared with those of other communities. So far as the Commonwealth is concerned, Papua, for some purposes, is regarded as a foreign country. Exports from the Territory, for instance, have to pay duty upon entry into the Commonwealth in the same way as exports from Java or any other foreign country. In addition to that, the inhabitants of Papua have to purchase all their stores in Australia. They are not in a position to procure them on equal terms with the people of other States, such as Java, for example. Our anxiety at all times will be to advance the interests of Papua. But under this Bill we shall be going a strange way about that task. Ostensibly we wish to encourage Papua in the development of its splendid resources. The Possession occupies a gravely difficult position inasmuch as it has practically to pay between 50 per cent. and 100 per cent. more for its labour than has a parallel island like that of Java. These are a few of the actual disabilities which are suffered by this first colony of ours. Then I may mention that a number of enterprising men have been induced to invest a considerable amount of capital there. I am given to understand that eight companies have invested something like £1,000,000 in plantations of rubber, hemp, and copra. Under the terms of this Bill, these companies will be very adversely affected. There is not one of them which has yet paid a dividend. They are practically just reaching a producing stage, and the prospects are that, either this year or next, they will be able to pay a dividend. It may be argued that they will be entitled to an exemption of 10 per cent. on the capital which they have invested. But that would be a very poor result for the vast sums of money which they have expended without any reward hitherto.
– Ten per cent. on £1,000,000 represents something.
– If they had been getting 10 per cent, on £1,000,000 during the past ten years, it would represent something.
– They are allowed to deduct 10 per cent.
– If they had rewived 10 per cent, on their capital during the past ten years, they would have an excellent proposition. But in the future they have to make their dividends pay for all the losses suffered by them during the past decade, while they were engaged in planting and cultivating their plantations, and bringing them up to the productive stage.
– Will they come Under any other form of taxation?
– I do not think
– Just when they hope to realize in dividends more than 10 per cent, on their capital to compensate them for the expenditure and losses of the past, it is proposed that their profits in excess of that limit shall be confiscated to the extent of 50 per cent, during the first year, and of 75 per cent, subsequently.
– Have not they been protected at the cost of the Commonwealth?
– Australia has been protected by the British Navy. Undoubtedly, Papua has been similarly protected.
– Papua is paying as well, and better, than is the Northern Territory.
– So, far as labour is concerned, Papua has to pay for black labour between 50 per cent, and 100 per cent, more than is paid for it in Java.
– But Papua is nearly paying its’ way.
– But just when it is reaching the stage of production, and when investors are expecting to reap some reward for their enterprise, it is proposed to confiscate all profits in excess of 10 per cent, on the capital invested to the extent of 50 per cent, during the first year, and of 75 per cent, subsequently. That is not the way to encourage enterprise or the development of Papua, and I ask the Treasurer to bear in mind the difficulties encountered by the pioneers of this first colony of ours.
– It is part of the Commonwealth.
– Of course it is. It is a part of the Commonwealth I hope that we shall endeavour to develop - a part of the Commonwealth that has not proved so expensive to us as has the Northern Territory. Our desire should be to invite the world to expend money in the development of Papua. To-day it is receiving practically no encouragement from Australia. What does it get from us - about £20,000 a year.
– A great deal more than that.
– This is not the best way to encourage the development of Papua.
– Then why bring in the Bill at all?
– I say that the measure is a huge mistake, and will inflict such severe and grave injustices that the community will .rebel against it. and it will be repealed within a year.
– It may be a huge” wrong, but I do not know that it is a huge mistake.
– Are we serious in our desire to develop Papua? If we are, it will be a mistake just when these various companies are reaching a productive and dividend-paying stage, to confiscate their profits in excess of 10 per cent, on their capital, to the extent of 50 per cent. in one year, and of 75 per cent, subsequently.
– Losses will be allowed for under the Bill.
– They are exactly what will not be allowed for. If the Treasurer will accept the amendment which I have circulated, it may confer some benefit in. that direction. It is only a fair and reasonable thing to permit the companies of which I have spoken to enjoy the benefits that may accrue from their own enterprise.
– The honorable member’s arguments are not confined to Papua. They touch every business.
– I quite agree with that statement.
– Clauses 11 and 14 of the Bill will apply to the matter to which the honorable member is referring.
– No, they relate to quite another matter. I ask the Treasurer to give this question his consideration, in order that the companies to which I have alluded may have a fair show of recouping themselves for past losses .
– I think there are much graver objections to this clause than those which have been urged by the honorable member for Kooyong. He went off into a criticism of the equity of the method of taxation regarding Papua, but I should like the Treasurer to consider this position : this is almost a pioneering attempt to do with Papua what England attempted to do with America more than a century ago. The ultimate decision of that trouble was . that, without representation, an outlying dependency pf the Crown ought not to be taxed. Papua has no representation in this Parliament, and her case cannot be put here. She also has a method of taxation of her own. We are attempting to impose on top of that a system of taxation without any member of the Committee knowing very much about Papuan conditions. .It is only a few years since Papua was made a Territory of the Commonwealth. The whole of her industries are in a pioneering stage. Her resources are only now being opened up, and huge sums of money may have to be spent before her citizens realize the wealth’ which we anticipate will be obtained by their efforts. If we were to attempt at this stage to apply to Papua, with its infantile industries, this tax, which is conceived entirely on the supposition that we are dealing with established businesses, we should simply show that we altogether misconceived the nature of her industrial and commercial efforts. We are taking a pioneering step which recalls the whole of the American difficulties.
– That step has already been taken in connexion with the income tax.
– I know, and I think that was wrong, also. The circumstances of America, although on an infinitely larger scale, were not properly considered on that occasion either.
– Would not Papua come automatically under this Bill, even if she were not specifically included?
– That is another question. It may be so; but the point is brought very prominently before us by the inclusion of Papua in this marked manner. My argument is that Papua at present has powers of taxation through the Legislative Council we have given her, and we are attempting to overlay those powers from this House in which she has no representation.
– Does not the Papuan Council have to bow to the decision of the Minister on all sorts of questions?
– No doubt; but in this early stage of Papua’s selfgovernment, we propose a great overriding taxa-tion which the people of Papua have no opportunity of criticising in this Parliament. I shall not follow my honorable friend in his detailed criticism of the unfairness of the tax, because the question whether Papua should be included at all is distinctly preliminary to the question of the form of taxing her on the supposition that it is desirable to do so.
.- If we omit all reference to Papua, as advocated by the last speaker, because she has no representation in this House, we shall also have to exclude the Federal Capital Territory and the Northern Territory, because neither of those places is represented here. I see no reason why Papua should be exempted. She has received a fair amount of consideration from this Parliament, and ought not to be released on the ground given by the last speaker, unless Parliament wishes to release other portions of the Commonwealth which also have no representation here. We surely cannot make fish of one and flesh of another.
– Every part of Australia has representation here.
– No. Neither the Federal Capital nor the Northern Territory has representation in this Parliament, yet they are subject to taxation. Unless some better reasons are advanced than I have yet heard I shall object to any such amendment.
.- I agree with the honorable member for Grey (Mr. Poynton) that even the peril of a popular rising in Papua should hardly sway our judgment on this issue; but I would point out that sub-clause 11 of clause 14, which the Minister imagines meets the position of the planters in Papua, hardly applies to their particular case. A number of persons, mostly resident in Australia, have formed companies with Australian or other capital for the production of rubber and other things in the Possession. It was known, in the case of rubber, that there would be no return for many years, and that fact was taken into consideration in the amount of capital subscribed. All the losses which have had to be suffered during the years Willie the trees were growing have been taken from capital account, a fact which .the shareholders expected from the start, and for which they contributed capital. This Bill, as I understand it, is intended to prevent any Australian getting appreciably more during the time of war than he was getting before. For that purpose, a pre-war period is taken.
– No. It says, “ We will give you the first twelve months for nothing, and then take half.”
– The honorable member’s amendment seems to be almost a thirteenth-hour repentance, because he took part, I take it, in the drafting of the measure, and knew quite well to what it applied when first presented. It was presented then in this form, so far as the particular matter under discussion was, concerned. I would suggest that the planters of Papua should be put in identically the same position as planters all over Australia, such as orchardists, who have to wait seven’ years for their trees to come into bearing. Most of our orchardists are on exactly the same basis as the rubber planters of Papua.
– Orchardists are exempt.
– The rubber planters of Papua, if they were called orchardists, would also be exempt. I am not urging that Papua should be entirely exempt.
– Has the war appreciated the price of rubber f
– lb has, but 1 do not think that has affected these people up to the present. In fact, I should be inclined to doubt whether rubber, even now, is as high as it was when the plantations were first put down. Practically no rubber has been produced from them yet, and all the fear is for the future. The plantations are just now beginning to bear. I am not in favour of excluding Papua from the Act, because if that were done, traders and others would become exempt merely on the ground that, although getting Australian and British protection, they were off the mainland of Australia, which would . be manifestly ridiculous. But rubber planters should be put on the same basis as orchardists, and the capital expended during the period before the trees begin to bear ought to be taken into account as if it was money actually lost? on income account. If that is done, I have no objection to the Bill standing as it is.
– The Bill provides for that.
– No. If my right honorable friend will read sub-clause 11 of clause 14, he will see that it states -
Where, in the case of any business -
That means the accounting period on the income derived from the capital in the business - - then in estimating the profits a deduction shall be allowed equal to the amount of profits so applied.
Unfortunately, in this case it is not a loss on income, but an. expenditure of capital, just as in the case of a mine before it becomes reproductive.
– It would be the pre-war standard of capital.
– The formation of “such a company, as in the case of a mining company, would be based on the amount of money required to be expended before a return was made, and it is not fair not to exempt them.
– There is provision for loss.
– But that would be charged to expenditure of capital, not an income account.
– Under this clause we. are discussing whether we shall include Papua.
– But I point out that the interests of Papua which will be affected, may be safeguarded by a provision applying to the whole of the Commonwealth.
– There is nothing peculiar about Papua.
– Similar, industries in Australia have been specifically exempted, but rubber plantations have not. They should be exempted for identically the same reasons as orchards. I am raising the question now in order to give the Minister in charge of the Bill an opportunity of considering the point, because I recognise it is not fair to expect him to draft an amendment immediately he receives notice.
– I remind the honorable member for Kooyong (Sir Robert Best) that if it is desired to specifically exempt any business on account of its peculiar character it would be better to do so at a subsequent stage.
.- I move-
That the words “ any profession or,” in the definition of “ Business,” be omitted.
This amendment goes to the root of one part of this Bill, and raises some very fundamental questions. I had hoped, after the discussion at the second-reading stage of this measure, that the Governmentwould have seen fit to alter the general structure of the form of taxation, so as to render any amendment of this character unnecessary; and I must confess to a certain amount of disappointment that we have again had presented to us this scheme of taxation which is not a war-profits taxation at all, but an impost upon a portion of the people in respect of profits which they have made in excess of profits earned prior to the war. To limit that principle, even with the exemptions now included, or with further exemptions which justice may require, will do an immense amount of mischief in this community. There never was a time in the history of Australia when, having regard to the burthens which will have to be borne in the near future - the huge burthens with respect to repatriation and the added interest upon our public debt - it was so necessary that this Parliament should endeavour to stimulate rising industries throughout Australia. That should be its primal duty. As it stands, this measure is directly a tax on, and will in many cases paralyze, those enterprises which we should, as . far as possible, stimulate and encourage.
– It will also restrict credit.
– It will, as the honorable member states, restrict credit that is, by the circumstances of this war in this and other countries., necessarily being restricted already. If the Bill is passed in its present form it will hamper the springs of industry in thiscommunity. Members on both sides of the House are agreed that we should tax war profits heavily if we can get at them, andI, for one, take no exception to any degree of taxation such as that.
– Take all of the profits.
– I take no exception to taxation of that nature. I intimated during my second-reading speech what was my attitude on this subject, and in assenting to the second reading of the measure I did not for a moment deprive myself of my right to object to its fundamental principles. I supported the second reading to afford the Government an opportunity of recasting it and making it more nearly a tax on war profits, but the amendments that have been introduced by the Government have not carried the measure very much further. The Minister has added a patch here and there, but patches in this kind of legislation only tend to open new leaks in other directions. We shall never be able to cover all the possibilities of injustice that mayarise. The amendment I now move is necessary to remove certain injustices, but I do nob know how far I may be justified in submitting in a portion of the Bill a proposal that involves general alterations. At some time during the Committee stage we ought to have an opportunity of testing the question to which I have referred. We shall certainly have that opportunity on clause 7, and perhaps I had better leave the matter until that clause is reached. As regards the cases I desire to submit of how this measure will act with cruel injustice to a certain class of professional men, I admit freely that I touch only one small section of the people upon whom similar injustices will be imposed and who are not professional men. I refer to men who are engaged in businesses of all kinds.
– Do you intend by your amendment to exclude the members of all professions from the operation of the Bill?
– If the Bill is passed, certainly. I do not approve of the principle of taxing war-time profits. We cannot work the principle. We cannot create a measure which will not work an injustice and will not have a paralyzing effect upon the younger industries in the community. As the honorable member for Wannon interjects, it is putting an embargo upon enterprise. If the Government are going on with the measure, and they include professional men, especially the younger class of professional men, they will do something which I feel confident no section of the House desires to do,
– If the Government are not going on with the measure, they ought to tell us.
– I intend to give one or two instances which I am sure will commend themselves to the common sense of honorable members on all sides. I shall speak first of my own profession, because I am more familiar with it than with any other profession. In my profession, as in most other- professions, a man has to work for a considerable time before he makes a living out of it. Those who have the ability and the luck suddenly find themselves with a rapidly growing practice, and that growth is in no way connected with the war, directly or indirectly. I have taken the trouble to ascertain that my facts are correct. The instances I am about to give affect the junior Bar, and not the men who are established. One of the grave injustices of this Bill, I should think, is that it is going to impose an enormously heavy burden of taxation upon the struggling members of the junior Bar, who have just got into positions which for years they have been striving to attain, and to let off those members who have for many years been earning a large income, but who, like most of such men, have not increased their income, but rather the opposite, during the war, who have also managed to save some capital, and could afford to pay, and have to pay, a heavy income tax.
– That is ah argument in favour of a super-income tax.
– These men will not have to pay anything. To every commercial, trading, agricultural, except so far as it is exempt, and pastoral business, large and small, the Bill applies. I will now give some examples of its operation in my own profession, because I know that profession better than the others, and because the cases have been . brought under my particular notice. Take the case of a young man, about forty years of age I think, who has been at the Bar for about twenty years. During the last few years he has got into a practice, his ability is beginning to be recognised, and he is going through the stage which all who have acquired a practice have passed through at some time or other. He is not making a very big income; I should say that he has a good junior .practice worth about £1,500 a year. He has a wife and a considerable family. He has not yet had time to lay by any money. He finds that if the Bill is passed he will have to pay in respect to the last two years, a tax of £700. He is not in possession of that amount of money or anything like it. I will now give the case of a man who is a little younger, and who has been at the Bar for some seven or eight years.
– Suppose that that man has entered into a contract to purchase a home by instalments?
– I am not giving the Committee the man’s obligations. Of course, men do enter into such obligations. However unjust it may be in other respects, at all events in this respect the Bill will work a grave injustice. This second man has been at the Bar. for some seven or eight years. He had very little practice before the war started. He was making about £600 a year. He was getting a small junior practice. Since the war broke out he has risen, but not because some members of the Baf have gone to the war. A good many barristers have gone, but the number who have gone, and the practice which they have released, has not. been sufficient to account for or make any practical difference in this case. This young’ man is now getting into a good junior practice. He finds that the amount he will have to pay in respect to the two years will be £600. Not only is he not in possession of that sum, but he has a house which is heavily mortgaged. He says : “ The house is mortgaged. I have a young wife and four children. I have not had time or opportunity to lay by any money. .1 was never told anything about this measure affecting me. I was given no warning. I have not the money. What am I to do ?” I will give the Committee one more case. A member of the Bar was making a fair junior income before the war broke out. His practice has largely increased. He is a man of the highest public spirit, as’ I think his actions will’ show. In the first place he offered to go to the war as soon as it broke out, although he had a -family. But he could only go as an officer, because the amount allowed for the support of the family of a private would not, in his circumstances, be sufficient to meet the medical wants’ of a member of his family. During last year he found that he was able to save a certain sum, which would enable him to make provision for the medical attendance necessary for a member of his family. He then enlisted as a private. However, the authorities were wise enough to see that they could make better use of him here, and during this year he has entirely given up his large practice, and has been doing war work under the Government at a salary just one-fifth of the income that he was earning. He says that he has not now got the money that he made in the previous years. What is to be done in Iiia case? The mere statement of these facts shows how unjust is the proposal in the Bill. These men say, as hundreds of others in all kinds of businesses say, “ We who have managed during the last few years to struggle into positions in which we are making more than we made before the war are to have this extra income taken from us, although it is in no sense due either directly or indirectly to the war, while those of our fellows who have been earning large incomes for many years, and have large sums of money laid by, are to be absolutely exempt from this special taxation.” These cases, I admit, do more than support my amendment to exempt professional men ; they apply with equal force in support of the contention that the hundreds of men in small and rising businesses, or engaged in occupations that are not classed as professional, should also be exempted.
– They apply to nearly every new business.
– I am sorry that I have been obliged to raise upon a sectional issue, namely, the case of professional men, a question which fundamentally affects the whole Bill.
– We should know as early as possible how we stand.
– For that reason, and in order to prevent the discussion and determination of a principle in connexion with the case of professional men only, I suggest to the Treasurer that the definition clause might stand over until the whole matter had been decided on clause 7. I think that honorable members generally will agree that it would be more satisfactory to get at once to the root of the matter, and to determine before we alter the definitions whether we are going to tax war-time profits or war profits, and, if we are going to tax war-time profits, whether we are going to do so under these extraordinarily complicated provisions for establishing a pre-war standard, or under a simple method like that of the Canadian legislation.
– I think that the best course would be to pass the clause on the understanding that if any amendment be made in’ clause 7 which necessitates an amendment of this clause, we shall recommit the Bill to let that amendment be made.
– The suggestion is that on that understanding we should pass all the clauses preceding clause 7 1
– Yes, and if any amendment be made later, we shall recommit the Bill to make the consequent amendments necessary in the earlier clauses.
.- The honorable member for Flinders has suggested the postponement of the first six clauses, so that we might deal at once with the root of the whole matter. When speaking on the second reading, I said that the three fundamental questions to be dealt with were: When shall the tax start, what shall be its rate, and what exemptions shall be allowed ? Ministers naturally wish to get clauses passed, but if I had amendments to move I would fight out the matters involved wherever the opportunity to do so occurred.
– Perhaps the honorable member for Flinders will withdraw his amendment for the present.
– I am willing to do so on the understanding suggested by the Treasurer.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
– il wish to move -
That to the definition of “Business,” the following words be added, “ and any transaction not in the course of a person’s business for the sale and purchase of any commodity.”
The object of the amendment is to require the tax to be paid in cases in which a private individual may have speculated in a line of merchandise for the purpose of making a profit. It is not improbable that some persons ‘ may have bought largely, at comparatively low prices, goods which they have sold, or are selling, at high prices, and it is intended that such persons shall be taxed on the profit that they have thus made. This is a reasonable proposal.
– I understood that all the clauses preceding clause 7 were to be passed on the understanding that they would be recommitted if recommittal were necessitated by the amendment of subsequent clauses.
– My suggestion was that we should pass the clause as it stands with regard to the inclusion of professions, recommitting it later should a subsequent amendment make that course necessary. Many of these clauses are not controversial.
– They are highly controversial. If we are to consider any amendment to the clauses preceding clause 7, it will open up discussions on questions which can be better dealt with later. It would meet the convenience of the Committee if the Treasurer were to consent to the postponement of all these clauses.
– I do not see why we should not discuss other matters, such as “capital.”
– “ Capital “ will raise a big discussion.
– Of course there are some matters in the clause which should not raise much discussion, but the definitions of “capital” and “wasting asset” will cause a considerable amount of discussion. It is highly undesirable and inconvenient that the Committee should be asked to deal piecemeal with the Bill until the main issue has been settled.
– I think honorable members are a little unreasonable in asking for the postponement of the clause, but if it will meet their convenience I am willing to agree to postpone it.
Clause 5 (Act to extend to Papua).
.- This clause repeats what is already set out in the postponed clause. “Australia” is defined as including the Territory of Papua. Apparently, the draftsman has gone out of his way to make doubly sure that this tax is to extend to Papua.
– In this respect we are doing exactly what the honorable member’s Government did. The wording is the same as in a section of the Income Tax Assessment Act.
Mr.TUDOR. - What the honorable member for Kooyong (Sir Robert Best) has said is perfectly true. There are probably some businesses in Papua that should not be taxed.
– They can be exempted.
Mr.TUDOR. - And they will have the right of appeal. I rose primarily to draw attention to this apparent duplication.
– I think that “ Australia “ has a definite meaning under the Acts Interpretation Act.
– The term “Australia” is defined running through the Bill in order to make it perfectly clear that each reference isalso to Papua.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 6 -
– Is it the intention of the Government to establish a new Department, or will the existing Taxation Department be sufficient to administer the provisions of this Bill?
– The present Commissioner of Taxation will have the general administration of the measure.
.- To say that the administration of the measure will be under the present Commissioner is simply an evasion of the issue. There is no doubt the Taxation Department will be considerably increased if this. Bill becomes law, because the extra work imposed upon the staff will be double the work now undertaken by it. If it is contended that the present staff can also deal with the extra work that the passage of this measure will entail, the only conclusion we can come to is that half the staff now employed cannot be required to carry out the duties at present imposed upon it. But we know very well that the existing staff is already fully employed.
– We need not have a new Commissioner, but we will require more men in the office.
– The provisions of this Bill are so complicated that double the present staff will be required to carry on the work of the Commissioner of Taxation. It is estimated that this tax will produce £900,000 in the two years of its operation, and we ought to be told what the cost of administration will be. During my speech on the second reading, I pointed out that practically a new Department would be created, because the Commissioner, who is to administer the tax, is to have power to create Deputy Commissioners, who, in turn, will require staffs. I know, as a matter of fact, that the present staff of the Taxation Office cannot cope with this additional work.
– In making an estimate of the receipts from the tax, ought not the Treasurer to deduct the estimated cost of collection?
– He ought. We are all agreed that men who are making profits out of the war should not be allowed to retain them, but we ought to have from the Treasurer an authoritative statement of what the cost of administering this tax will be.
– This is a temporary measure, and we think that the administration will cost about £35,000 a year.
– I estimated the cost of administration at £50,000, and I think I am well within the mark.
– The honorable member may be right.
– Before we allow the Bill to pass we ought to have some idea whether, for the revenue it is expected to produce, the Bill will be worth while.
– Apparently, the cost of collecting this tax will be 10 per cent. We collect customs revenue at a cost of about 2 per cent.
– Sub-clause 4 seems to be unsatisfactory, inasmuch as it provides that the Commissioner shall furnish a report “when required by the Treasurer.” Parliament ought to stipulate that a reportshall be made at least once a year, so that we shall have the whole facts regarding the operation of the tax before us. I move -
That the words “ when required by the Treasurer furnish “ be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words “ furnish to the Treasurer annually.”
– I will agree to that.
.- I do not think the proposed amendment will improve the clause. The Treasurer might require a report three months after the tax had been in operation, in order to see how it is working. I do not think we should curtail the Treasurer’s powers in this way.
.- I think that the contention of the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Higgs) is right. The Treasurer ought to be able to call for a report at any time, but at least once in each year.
– I am willing that the report should be made “ annually or when required by the Treasurer.”
– If the honorable member will alter his amendment to read in that way, I shall support it. There are two disappointments in connexion with this Bill, one in regard to the small amount of revenue which the Treasurer estimates to receive, and the other in regard to the cost of administration. The Commissioner and his staff are already employed on similar work in connexion with the Income Tax Act, and after the necessary forms have beer drafted he should be able to administer this measure with the addition of afew capable clerks to his Department. I do not suppose that any Bill introduced in this House has been so handled and over hauled and amended as this has been As it stands to-day, it is certainlymore equitable than as introduced ; but then are still some serious objections to it.I do not know, however, that we can get away from such legislation in view ofthe fact that both parties promised itwhen before the country recently. Many people think that excessive profits are being made out of the war, and are therefore demanding that such profits shall be taxed. This is a more flexible measure than the New Zealand Act, which ha proved a failure, but if it should , prove unsuccessful the Treasurer should beable to ascertain that fact as soon aspossible so that we may deal with further legislation to meet the situation.
– I ask the Committee to agree to the amendment proposed by the honorable memberfor
Henty (Mr. Boyd). As the Commissioner for Taxation works under the control of the Treasury, the Treasurer may call upon him at any time to furnish a report, so that it is unnecessary to include in this clause a direction that he shall furnish a report “ when required by the Treasurer “ to do so. The sub-clause as amended will harmonize with an exactly similar provision in the Land Tax Act and the Income Tax Act.
Amendment agreed to.
.- I think we are all agreed that sub-clause 4, as amended on the motion of the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Boyd), is an improvement on the original provision; but we can hardly follow the honorable member when he points to the cost of administering this Act. The whole of the existing machinery at the disposal of the Commissioner of Taxation will be available to him for the purpose of carrying out this Act, so that I think the honorable member has laid unnecessary stress on the question of the cost that is going to be incurred in giving effect to it. It would be just as reasonable to suggest that the honorable -member would decline to add to his own business a lucrative branch which he was specially fitted to conduct, because, although it would return a magnificent profit, it would involve a considerable expenditure. Men trained in the work of administering the direct taxation system have been dealing with this class of machinery for years, and if we have confidence in the Commissioner, as I believe we have, we must leave it to his good sense to administer hia Department as economically as possible. I do not think the honorable member’s objection is well founded. It is one that might be levelled against any form of taxation.
Clause), as amended, agreed to.
Clause 7 -
– I move -
That all the words after “ paid “ be omitted, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the following words : - “ On all war-time profits from any business to which this Act applies, arising after the thirtieth day of June, 1915, a tax (hereinafter referred to as ‘ war-time profits tax ‘) at such rate as is declared by the Parliament.
The war-time profits arising in a financial year shall be calculated as follows: -
By ascertaining the monthly average of the profit or loss arising in the accounting period ending in the financial year, and separately the monthly average of the profit or loss arising in the accounting period beginning in the financial year;
by multiplying the respective monthly averages of profit or loss (as the case may be) by the number of months of the respective accounting periods falling within the financial year;
by adding together the amounts of the profit or deducting the amount of the loss from the amount of the profit (as the case may be) and deducting from the sum so obtained the pre-war standard of profits as defined for the purposes of this Act; and
by deducting from the sum remaining in paragraph (c) hereof the deduction (if any) allowed by the next succeeding sub-section.
Where the sum remaining under paragraph (c) of the last preceding sub-section -
does not exceed £200, the total sum shall be deducted; (b) exceeds £200, there shall be deducted the sum of £200, less -
in the financial year ending on the 30th day of June, 1916, £1 for every £2 by which the excess exceeds £200;
in all succeeding financial years, £1 for every £4 by which the excess exceeds £200.
For the purposes of this Act the accounting period shall be taken to , be the period of twelve months for which the accounts of the business have been made up for the purposes of the Income Tax Assessment Act 1915-1916, and where the accounts of any business have not been made up for any definite period, or for the period for which they have been usually made up, or a year or more has elapsed without accounts being made up, shall be taken to be such period not being less than six months or more than a year as the Commissioner determines ending on such a date as the Commissioner determines.
Where a business has not been in existence during the whole of the financial year this section shall have effect as if there were substituted for £200 a proportionately reduced amount.
In this particular case it is proposed to alter the basis which was laid down in the Bill as originally circulated. If honorable members will look at that Bill they will find that clause 7 provides - (1.) There shall be levied and paid on the amount by which the profits arising from any business to which this Act applies, in any accounting period ending after the thirtieth day of June, One thousand nine hundred and fifteen, exceed (after deducting the amount referred to in the next succeeding sub-section) the pre-war standard of profits as defined for the purposes of this Act, a tax (in this Act referred to as “war-time profits tax”) at such a rate per centum of that excess as is declared by the Parliament.
Shortly, the proposal is to levy a war tax on all war-time profits from, any business to which the measure applies. War-time profits are those which arise after the 30th June, 1915, and the tax will be at such rates as art) declared by Parliament. We take the war profits for the financial year, and the tax is levied on the profits of that year. Then the question is - How are we to ascertain the war-time profits earned during the year? The procedure is to work on the ordinary accounting periods of the business concerned. If, for instance, the 30th September is the end of the accounting period of a business, tbe way of assessing is to take the financial year beginning the 1st July, 1915, and ending the 30th June, 1916. We, first of all, assess the profits made during the period ending the 30th September, 1915, and thus we see that there are three months of those twelve months in the financial year. We take the period beginning the 1st October, 1914, up to the 30th September, 1915, and,, dividing that by twelve, ascertain the monthly averages for the accounting period. Then we come to the next accounting period, and find that nine months of that will fall in the financial year; so we take the average for the whole period from September to September, and,calculating the nine months that fall in that, we obtain the average for the accounting period within the financial year. The two are added together, and by that means we ascertain the profits made during the twelve months. All businesses will be put on a similar footing, and treated alike, and the profits to be taxed are those made during the financial year.
– Monthly averages will be taken.
– Yes; we take the averages for the whole year.
– How will this affect banking institutions, with their halfyearly periods?
– I am not prepared to answer that on the spur of the moment; just now I am merely explaining the general principle. I forgot to mention that when there happens to be profits in one period, and not in another, provision is made for an adjustment.
.- As pointed out by the honorable member for Flinders (Sir William Irvine), clause 7 involves the whole principle of this proposed method of taxation. 1 think that the Treasurer, after the discussions in this House, and in the public press, will be quite satisfied that to pass the measure in its present form will mean grave hardship; even in cases where it would be possible to get at the true war profits, much injustice might be inflicted on many people, who ought really to be taxed by means of an ordinary income tax and not by a measure of this kind. I understand there are two ways in which it might be possible to get at war profits. My own opinion is that in Australia income taxation presents absolutely the fairest form of taxation of any in operation, for either war or ordinary revenue purposes. That, I ‘think, will be admitted.
– I have never heard it disputed before, and the honorable member, if he consulted authorities in almost any country where there is taxation under constitutional government, he would find that that principle is admitted. If honorable members are satisfied that an income tax is the fairest form of taxation, and having imposed income taxation already, it is the duty of the Committee to limit the taxation under this Bill, as fax as possible, to purely war profits. That is the spirit in which I think we should approach the consideration of this important measure. If it is possible to devise some means by which profits earned as a direct result of war operations, and those only, should be liable to taxation under this measure, that is the course which should be adopted. I admit that it is a very difficult problem to solve. We know that it was less difficult in Great Britain.
– They tried to do it there, and had to give it up.
– As the honorable member for Kooyong (Sir Robert Best) reminded us, on the second reading of the Bill, Great Britain is. at the present time a vast arsenal, and it was not a difficult matter there to tax profits derived as a direct result of the war.
– Chiefly from munitions and shipping.
– That is so. I have, from the beginning, held the view that it ought to be possible to levy for the purposes of this measure on industries directly concerned with war service. I have had in mind chiefly two great industries that would be liable to taxation upon war profits. One of these is the shipping industry, and the other the base metal industry of Australia.
– Would the honorable member distinguish between direct and indirect results of the war ?
– If we believe that the principle I have enunciated is a sound one, it is the duty of the Committee, under this Bill, to levy taxation upon profits which pay more than the ordinary percentage which is usually levied upon for income taxation.
– Have the Australian shipping and base metal industries done so very well ?
– We have no definite information on the subject. Statements have appeared in the press that the base metal industries of the Commonwealth have not made greater profits since war was declared than they made in the prewar period, although we know that the prices of metals have very considerably increased.
– The difficulty has been to market them.
– That may be. The base metal industry is one which- we expected to be able to get at under this measure. If we are to tax war profits i we can do so only in two ways. I give the Treasurer and the Commissioner of Taxation credit for having tried, in this Bill, to frame a measure which will bear as lightly as possible upon incomes that would be more equitably levied upon by an income tax, and to deal chiefly with industries the profits from which can be directly traced to the war. I give the Treasurer credit for endeavouring to do justice under this measure by providing for the taxation of war-time profits, and, at the same time, providing liberal exemptions to limit the taxation as far as possible to profits directly the result of the war. We have to consider whether the Bill will really accomplish its object. It will do so more nearly than as at first introduced by the exclusion pf the professional sec tion of the community, whose incomes, for the most part, are earned by personal exertion.
– What about the commission agent and the small storekeeper?
– They are practically on the same footing. A tax on war profits should be chiefly a tax on businesses, because it is from businesses that war profits are made. To invade, under this measure, the realm of personal exertion, which should be taxed under an income tax, would be to inflict grave injustice upon, many people in the community, for reasons which have been stated by the honorable member for Flinders (Sir William Irvine), because the profits they have made are in no way due to the war. I know of men in my own district who started only three or four years ago, and, as a result of their skill, have developed a considerable practice.
– No one has said that this is taxation on income due to the war, but that it is war-time profits taxation.
– I am arguing as to the justice of that. I want to know whether honorable members are prepared to levy what would really be a superincome tax in the form of a war-time profits ‘tax, or whether they are prepared, as I think they should be, to tax war profits only under this measure.
– Does the honorable, member think that it is possible to tax war profits only?
– I think that it is possible to get at the profits made “in certain industries, but the taxation of war profits can be achieved only by liberal exemptions under this Bill. I do not care whether we derive a large or a small revenue under this Bill.
– That will not do; we want the money.
– If we can derive a revenue of £300,000 or £400,000 by the taxation of war profits only, I have no objection to offer.
– We cannot do it.
– It can be done in two ways. It may be done by the direct method suggested last week by the honorable member for Flinders (Sir William Irvine), or by- a Bill like that under consideration, which provides for the taxation of war-time profits, but with liberal exemptions of all whose profits are) not derived as a direct result of the war. If provision for these exemptions is not made, incalculable damage may be done to many small businesses. I could give illustrations to show that new businesses earning profits of £6,000 or £7,000 ,a year mav be taxed to the extent of, perhaps, half their small revenue, whilst an established business earning £50,000 a year may escape scot-free, because that income does not exceed its pre-war standard. I should like to hear the honorable member for Flinders elaborate the proposal he suggested to levy taxation directly on war profits. I do not know that it is practicable.
– How can we say in this Bill what are war profits?
– We can overcome the difficulty by taxing war-time profits with liberal provision for the elimination of profits not directly due to the war. Whilst levying taxation on war-time profits we might lay down the principle that the measure should exclude all profits that are not properly the subject of income taxation. Take, for example, the pastoral industry. In my own district the term “ pastoral “ is very much misapplied. Because there happen to be there a number of large pioneer graziers - men who by their enterprise have assisted to make the country productive - people are’ inclined to regard them as pastoralists. The idea is commonly held that every person who grows stock is a pastoralist or squatter. But in the dis.trict which I have the honour to represent, almost every man is both a grazier and an agriculturist, and his agricultural operations are made very much more productive than they would otherwise be by reason of the fact that he grazes’ stock upon his land. He is thus a greater asset from a national stand-point than he would be if his activities were confined to agriculture alone. Everybody is agreed, I think, that at the termination of the war we shall have to face very heavy taxation. It is incumbent upon us, therefore, to create new wealth, and that wealth can only be extracted from the soil. It must come from our primary industries, and consequently those industries should be excluded from the operation of this Bill. Why should not the pastoral industry be also excluded ? In Canada and other countries, all primary industries are exempt from the operation of the war-time profits legislation.
– Why tax anybody? We would make the Bill acceptable to all if we exempted everybody.
– No. We would make it acceptable only to those who would otherwise be called upon to pay under it. I submit that it is the duty of this Committee to confine the operation of the Bill as far as possible to the taxation of profits earned as the direct result of the war. There is no other way in which such taxation can be equitably imposed. We need to make liberal exemptions in the case of particular industries; we certainly should exempt all primary industries, and if we wish to save new businesses we should grant them a large exemption.
-‘- Does the honorable member mean an exemption in regard to the profits which they earn ?
– We ‘ should absolutely exempt all primary industries, because we wish to encourage them.
– Does the honorable member include the pastoral industry?
– I am not going to press that point at the present time. But some amendments require to be made in the Bill in the direction I have indicated, including the pastoral industry.
– Seeing that the pastoralists are getting 50 per cent, more for their . wool solely owing to the war,- they ought not to pay taxation upon their profits ?
– Let me put a concrete .case for the purpose of illustration. It is that of an individual who, three years before the outbreak of the war, made a profit of £3,600. The second year prior to the outbreak of war his profit was £2,896, and the year immediately preceding the war, his profit was £7,393. But during the drought year - I refer to 1914-15- he lost £9,136. The following year he made a profit of £739, and last year. £7,213. Now let me stress the injustice that would be inflicted upon him under this Bill. He would be obliged to take as his pre-war standard the two years prior to 1914-15.
– He would be at liberty to select any two years out of the six years.
– I know that. But that circumstance does not alter my argument. If he took the two years after 1914-15, and deducted from his profits the losses which he made during the drought year, he would absolutely wipe out all profits, but now be unable to do this.
– The honorable member’s argument is that the Bill should be amended to meet such cases. But his main argument is directed against the taxation of war-time profits.
– The basic principle of the Bill is the taxation of war-time profits.
– To which the honorable member is opposed.
– No. But it is the duty of this Committee to make this measure as far as possible a War Profits Bill. A War-time Profits Bill, if applied to incomes and profits generally, would inflict grave injustice, because in the great majority of cases taxation could be more equitably levied in the form of an income tax. In the case which I mentioned just now the profits derived during the two years immediately prior to the outbreak of war, would be balanced by the loss incurred during 1914-15. But in the following, year the individual in question made a profit of £739, and in the succeeding year of £7,213. Half of these amounts would be confiscated under this Bill. If the profits were averaged over the three years during which the war has been raging, justice would be done to this pastoralist. If the Bill is to be persisted in, certain amendments will require to be given- more consideration than has hitherto been bestowed upon them.
– Surely it is going to be persisted nit
– We ought, for example, to abolish the pre-war standard in the case of the pastoral industry, and we should make a big exemption, in the case of new’ businesses. . There should be an exemption of at least £1,000 in the case of new businesses.
– What does the honorable member mean by a “ new business “
– I mean a business which was started within a brief period prior to the war.
– Not a business that is being conducted by a new man ?
– I mean a new business.
– If a business were transferred from one individual to another it would be a new business so far as B was concerned. Would he be taxed, under the honorable member’s suggestion ?
– The case mentioned by the honorable member would merely be the continuation of an existing business, which is already dealt with in the Bill. “ Then we know that it is the policy of the Government to encourage all sorts of co-operative companies. Yet there is no provision in the Bill to grant any preferential consideration to this form of trading within the Commonwealth. I have here a protest from one of the biggest co-operative trading companies, in Australia. It commenced business in 1910, and during the first year of it* operations sustained a loss of . £2,834, in the second year £1,4)23, and in the third year £1,000. Then in the three succeeding years iti made profits of £1,350, £433, and about £10,000. Thus, during the period of the war, that business has come into its own. It has no pre-war standard to go upon, and cannot make up its losses to any extent.
– What is it dealing in’
– Primary produce.
– Foodstuff si
– All sorts of things, live stock, and so on. The result is due entirely to the expansion of the business.. During the last four years it got the whole of its organization into proper working order and expanded enormously, not only because it was well run, but because there seems to be a disposition on the part of the primary producers of Australia to enter into forms of co-operation, believing that that is the best way to eliminate the middleman and deal more directly with the consumers. I urge the Government, at this stage, to consider seriously whether they will give the Committee an opportunity to insert amendments that will make the Bill as far as possible a warprofits taxation measure. ‘ I have indicated several ways in which it should be amended : by the elimination of th e prewar standard in the case of the pastoral industry ; by the insertion of a big exemption in the case of all new businesses; and by considering how far not only professional men, but every form of profitearning which is the result of personal exertion, should pe exempted.
– That is the real distinction.
– Yes. The question is whether the Bill should levy in any form on small businesses run with limited profits, which are the direct result of personal exertion. One business may be a success and another a failure, because of the difference in the abilities of the men controlling them. In Australia the great success of many businesses has been due more to the ability of the men ‘conducting them than to the amount of capital invested. A large profit may be made on a new and small business in process of establishment; but if that profit is not allowed to be put into the business for its further development, it will mean ruination to the men conducting it. I trust the Treasurer will give the Committee an opportunity to review the whole question of how far the principle of the Bill is to be preserved as a war-time profits tax, or how far some form of direct taxation to touch war profits only shall be substituted, excluding all those whose profits have not been made as the direct result of the war.
– What will be the position of a member who wishes to insert other words than those which the Minister has circulated in the blank which the Minister’s amendment proposes to create ?
– The desire of the Government is to allow every opportunity to ascertain the opinion of the Committee. My amendment can be temporarily withdrawn, if necessary.
– Can we move any amendment on the words the Minister proposes to insert?
– Yes,, any relevant amendment.
– The amendment is to omit certain words. If that is agreed to, a blank will be created. The Minister proposes then to move the insertion of other words, and upon those other words it will be open to any honorable member to move an amendment.
Question - That all the words after the word “ paid “ be left out - resolved in the affirmative.
.- The question whether there shall be a wartime profits tax, or a war profits tax, is raised in this clause, and I point out that when the imperial Parliament attempted to bring down a War Profits Bill, the whole position was found to be so complicated that the scheme was considered unworkable. Honorable members should, therefore, consider what is involved in this question of war profits. Is it intended to create a huge staff to examine every transaction to the minutest detail to ascertain whether there has been a war profit or not? Unless that is done, the whole scheme will he unworkable.
– Who will settle the question?
– The question will be a difficult one to settle. Judging by the remarks of the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Sampson), he does not consider the pastoralists have had any war profits ; but, while there may be some difference of opinion as to whether the present price for stock can be regarded as a war profit, there can be ho doubt about the price of wool. The honorable member also mentioned other businesses that should be exempted; but does he think that war profits are not being earned in Melbourne, where some retail establishments charge 100 per cent more for goods .than in pre-war times? I take it that the opinion of the Committee will be tested on this clause, and I am satisfied that the more the question of war profits is looked into the more unworkable will the scheme prove to ‘be. Under this Bill the administration will cost £35,000 a year.
– A good deal more than that.
– It will cost that much, at all events, and if the measure is made a War Profits Bill, I doubt very much if we shall be able to get together a staff large enough to carry out the work of examining every detail of a transaction in order to discriminate between what are war profits and what are not. It would be better to impose a superincome tax.
– Your argument is against any exemption at all.
– I am not sure that there is any good reason for exemptions, and I am satisfied that any grave danger of injustice has now been practically removed. With reference to new businesses, there is power to grant exemptions from a pre-war standard of profits.
– That is based on the financial stability of a business ; and who is going to decide that?
– 4The Board of Referees. This tax, like all other forma of taxation, is objectionable to the persons affected by it.
– But we want to encourage, instead of strangling, new businesses.
– Great consideration has been shown to them, because every small business will have an exemption of 10 per cent., and that is not sufficient, and if the business is in jeopardy, there will be practically no limit to the relief available. Principals will get an exemption of £200, and if they devote the whole of their time to their businesses, they will get another £300 exemption. I am not prepared to face the constituencies again on this question, because we have already been to the country, and have talked all round this subject of war-time profits. This is the Bill, and not one suggestion that has been made so far, will get us out of our difficulty with regard to distinguishing between war profits and war-time profits, though many suggestions have been made to exempt certain businesses. The honorable member, for Flinders (Sir William Irvine) was the very first to suggest, in this House, that professional men should be included in the measure. I remember quite well, when the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Higgs) introduced the original Bill, the honorable member for Flinders, who was then sitting on the other side of the House, asked, “Why exempt professional men V Evidently the professional men have been on the job ince then, and have been pulling the strings, because now, according to Sir William Irvine, they ought to be exempted.
We are pledged to this form of taxation. Honorable members may try to make taxation as free as they can from the possibility of inflicting injustice, but they will not attain that object by passing a mere war-profits tax. It is impossible to work such a tax. The cost of administration will be nearly as much as the amount derived from the tax. But the legislation van be so framed that the possibility of doing any injustice can be removed. The honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Sampson) has referred to the loss of stock in the pre-war period. Why cannot the Bill be so amended that such a loss should not be considered as the withdrawal of stock?
– In this Bill big concessions are .made to pastoralists.
– There is nothing to prevent the measure from being altered to meet the case of the pastoralists. What I fear is that some persons wish to get clear of this taxation. We had better settle the point on this clause. While I do not bind myself to support the Bill in detail, I intend to adhere to the principle of the Bill so far as the taxation of war-time profits is concerned.
– I wish to take exception in as strong terms as I can to the statement of the honorable member for Grey (Mr. Poynton) . that the National party is bound or pledged to the War-time Profits Bill introduced by the Labour party in the last Parliament. I can say that on any occasion on which that matter was discussed at the recent elections I took a good deal of trouble to draw a distinction between a War-time Profits Tax Bill and a War Profits Tax Bill. I urged that the War-time Profits Bill would work extremely unjustly, and said that what people wanted to tax were the profits made by reason of the war.
– I think that if you will look at the policy announced by the Government, you will find a distinct statement.
– I speak as far as my policy is concerned. .Each honorable member is only responsible for himself. All I can say is that, if in a matter of this sort honorable members did not take the trouble to explain their doubts, but said that they were for the Bill right or wrong, then they will have to vote for this Bill. But I am not in that position. I am not going to vote for a flagrant injustice because of an imaginary speech given by some member of the House. Let us for a few moments discuss this subject without any kind of. feeling. Every one wants to tax the profits caused by the existence of a state of war. That must be the object whether honorable members pledged themselves to the former Bill or not, whether it was perfect or imperfect for that purpose. That is undoubtedly the object which every one has in mind in dealing with a measure ‘of this kind. It seems to me that there are three courses open tq us in this case. The Government can, in the first instance, have the present measure - a War-time Profits Bill - which is based on a comparison between the incomes made by the war and pre-war incomes.
In passing,I may tell the honorable member for Grey (Mr. Poynton) that when he talks about the administration of this Bill costing £35,000 to raise the sum estimated - even assuming that that will be. the cost to the Government, although it will probably be much exceeded- he leaves’ out of account the enormous loss of time, as well as of money, which the community will suffer from attempting to comply with its provisions. ‘ Every one knows what trouble is caused to taxpayers when a new form of tax is introduced. Even yet honorable members require a great deal of assistance to help them to make up their income-tax returns, unless, of course, their business is very simple indeed. This tax will be to . an income tax as a Goliath is to a dwarf. Not only will a man have to do all that he now does under the Income Tax Act, but he must take his mind back three or four years and investigate his accounts, and he will have to apply for it if he wishes to get the real benefit of an exemption. He cannot do this work without an accountant and a lawyer at his elbow all the time. There is the plain, simple position. If the honorable member for Grey talks about the cost of administering this measure, I point out that the irritation and the cost to those who try to prosecute their claim to the exemption will be infinitely greater. That arises from its necessarily complicated provisions. It is like an attempt to patch up a leaky house by putting a shingle here and a piece of. galvanized iron there. A man will get no nearer to his end. When the Bill is finally constructed so as to be a habitable house, so to speak, it will be very much like that jerry-built house which fell down before it was completely constructed. The builder came and told the owner that, unfortunately, one of the beautiful houses he was building for him had fallen -down. The owner asked how it happened, and the builder said, “ We unfortunately took the scaffolding away before the walls were finished.” This really is a measure of such a kind that it will fall to. pieces of its own weight and complexity before we are finished with it ‘here.
– Do you mean to say that it is jerry-built?
– He means to say that it is all scaffolding and no house.
– I advise the Treasurer not to take the scaffolding away before he has the house erected.
What I was pointing out just now was that two other methods are open to me, one of which is to tax war-time profits. Honorable members say that that is practically impossible. It is quite true that’ it has been found difficult in England, and no doubt it will be found difficult here. It certainly could not be done with scientific accuracy. No measure of this kind can be carried out with scientific accuracy. There must be a rough-and-ready method for a temporary measure of this kind. The question is whether, if you try to get atthe war profits by some such means asI shall suggest, the complications or the difficulties will be so great as in working out this system.. A method of arriving at war profits I suggested in my second-reading speech. What is in the mind of people generally are certain classes of businesses which it is rather difficult to define, but which might number from twelve to twenty lines in which war profits have been made. We might take, for instance, the ‘ base metals. It is disputed that the profits have been anything like so great as has been suggested. Certainly the ‘value of base metals has gone up immensely since the war began. Whether profits have been made is a matter which could easily be shown. Then you might take things out of which very large profits have been made directly out of the war. Softgoods and other stores of that kind have been sold retail at, perhaps, very much more than their value at the commencement of the war.
– And galvanized iron.
– Take ironmongery generally.
– You may take ironmongery generally. Then chemical stores have gone up; perhaps more than anything else.
– And dye stuffs.
– And defence equipment.
– No enumeration of this kind will be scientific or exhaustive. If it were in contemplation to establish a new scheme of taxation- to last for many years, the difficulties of securing an absolutely scientific’ method would be very great ; but, as the Treasurer has pointed out, we are dealing only with a temporary measure, and we can, therefore, adopt more or less rough-and-ready provisions. Under these circumstances, it should not be beyond the capacity of a Board of Referees, under the Commissioner - if you choose the right men - to indicate, first of all - and this need not be conclusive - a schedule or classification of goods and services, the returns from which have, by reason of the war, increased by 30 per cent., 40 per cent., 60 per cent., or whatever other percentage you like to fix. That might be the, basis of the taxation of those who had made war profits, every one else in the community being compelled to contribute to the revenue by payment of the ordinary income tax. Then let business men send in their returns. If you are going to keep a pre-war standard, let it be assumed that the excess of income over it is war profits, unless the Commissioner or Board of Referees is satisfied that it is not. I do not say that any scheme that rests upon a comparison between a pre-war standard and present income will avoid causing the gravest difficulties and embarrassments to the community that has to make returns; no system of the kind would be ‘ free from that objection. But if you adopt a prewar standard, and give to those who show increases of income the opportunity of satisfying the Commissioner, or, on appeal, .a Board -of Referees, that these increases are not due to the war, that should meet the case. This is only a crude, rough-and-ready method of doing what bas to be done, but it would create fewer difficulties than will be created by the Bill as it stands.
The third alternative, -if you have, not a war profits tax, but a war-time profits tax, is the adoption of the Canadian system, which, perhaps, under all circumstances, might be the most practicable. This system is very simple, and was described by Sir Thomas White in his last Budget speech, after it had been in operation for a year, as having worked extremely well. He increased the higher rates, and those increases were accepted without demur.
– He pointed out that the profits came mostly from munitions.
– Undoubtedly. As we have not been making munitions here, we cannot expect the same return of war” profits. The Canadian system avoids the irritating and exasperating necessity of having a pre-war standard, and a comparison between the incomes of to-day and those of three or four years ago. It deals only with businesses the profits of which are derived from capital. If, during the war, a company has made a profit of more than 7 per cent., or if an individual has. made a profit of more than 10 per cent, on the capital employed in the business, taxation to the amount of 25 per cent, of the excess must be paid. If an individual has earned 15 per cent, on his capital he must pay taxation at the rate of 50 per cent, on the excess, and if he has made 20 per cent., he must pay at the rate of 75 per cent., on the excess. All small businesses are exempt.
– How is a small business defined ?
– A business in which, during the accounting period, capital amounting to less than ?50,000, that is, about £10,000, has been em- ployed, other than a business of which 10 per cent, or more has been the manufacture of, or dealing in munitions of war or material of any kind used for war purposes. We in Australia have no war businesses.
I do not plead for any particular exemption. The exemption could be made low, or omitted altogether. The demand for this taxation is addressed more to the large companies and firms that have been making big profits during war time than to the smaller concerns, and what the exemption shall be is not now essential. This is really a super income tax on big business profits.
– There are no great objections to that.
– The Canadian system nas been found to work extremely well.
Sitting suspended from 6.30 to 7.^.5 p.m.
– Very little labour is entailed on the community in the preparation of returns under the Canadian system. Furthermore, the Canadian Act is free from most of those inequalities and inequities which attach to a Bill such as the one before us, which is based on a comparison of pre-war profits with existing profits. The criticism will at once attach to the Canadian measure that it is little more than a superincome tax on businesses, but I do not think that there is any income tax in Canada.
– They have just introduced one.
– At any rate, there was no income tax in existence when this Act came into force. Therefore, to make the Canadian principle applicable in Australia it would be necessary to deduct from the tax collected under the Canadian measure the actual income tax paid by the same class of taxpayers. The result would be that in large businesses, whose profits represented a very considerable rate of interest on the invested capital, instead of paying income tax under the existing rates, they would, pay on a much higher basis, even to the extent of 75 per cent, of excess profits in the higher grades. I do not recommend the scheme to the Committee as one that fulfils the idea of a war-profits tax. It is no more a warprofits tax than is the tax proposed in this Bill. The Canadian Bill taxes all high profits made during the war time, and is thus open to the same criticism as attaches broadly to the results that our Bill will have; but it has this immense advantage over our Bill, that it is not based upon a comparison of pre-war profits with existing profits, a comparison which, no matter how it is worked, and no matter what safeguards, and exemptions, and conditions we endeavour to place around it, will work gross injustice in hundreds of cases.
– The Canadian Bill places competitors on the same plane.
– I prefer the adoption of a war-profits tax. If we have a proper Board of Assessors, and adopt something like the general guiding lines which I was indicating before the adjournment, it ought to be quite practicable ; but if the Committee are not prepared to adopt a war-profits tax, it would be much better to adopt the Canadian system, which does not involve a comparison of a pre-war standard with existing profits.
– Can the honorable member give any estimate of the amount of revenue that would be derived from a war-profits tax?
– I would not attempt to make any such estimate. The officers of the Treasury may be able to say that, if we adopt, either of the methods I have suggested, the revenue will not be so great as that derived from a. war-time profits tax; but there is a ready answer : The difference in revenue can be obtained much more easily by an additional income .tax, which will press equally all round without any exemptions.
– What people would be hit by a purely war-profits tax that will not he touched by a war-time profits tax?
– A wartime profits tax hits a great many people who will not be hit under a war profits tax.
Seeing that the total amount of revenue from this extraordinary new machinery that it is proposed to put into existence will be about £500,000 a year in comparison with the enormous annual expenditure which the Commonwealth has to meet, it seems to me that we are establishing an immense engine for the purpose of grinding out a small bushel of meal, and an engine that will work unjustly and cause endless inconvenience and irritation to the people for whom we are legislating. Honorable members who are not familiar with legal difficulties and entanglements do not recognise the enormous scope for trouble that will arise from the Bill before us. I have the clearest recollection of the immense amount of trouble which was caused to the people by the imposition of the Federal income tax with its curious provisions, curves and exemptions, and so forth. It caused an immense amount of heartburning and dissatisfaction at first, though people have gradually become accustomed to it. Similarly, when the Federal land tax was first imposed, there was an immense amount of embarrassment and friction. This is inevitable with the institution of any new taxation. If it is really a question of securing revenue, why should we start a third system of taxation, which really is far more serious in regard to the amount of trouble and inconvenience that it will cause to the people than the other two systems put together ?
– If we were honest we would say that it is because of politics.
– If we were honest we would say that the Bill has been brought down because some honorable members told their electors that they were going to bring in the measure which was introduced by the late Government. I do not wish to be the keeper of any man’s conscience except my own, but if honorable members will take their minds back to what was really the substantial question put before the electors, I think they will see that the substance of the pledge was that the people being anxious to get at the profits made out of the war, an effort would be made to do that.
The Canadian Bill became law on the 18th May, 1916, and Sir Thomas White, in delivering his Budget speech on the 4th April of this year, said -
The question of further revenue then narrows down to abnormal profits made by business firms during the period of the war, and this, in my view, is the proper and legitimate source from which to look for increased revenue to meet the increased cost ‘ of the war. If a business is making, in war time, profits above the normal, they must be due to the abnormal conditions created by the war, that is to say, such a business is deriving advantage from the war.
It will be observed that he speaks about abnormal profits. He does not refer to a man making more profits out of his business than in the year before, because they may have been made from a hundred circumstances, just as he may have made less profits. He went on to say -
It follows that it may properly be required to contribute a share of such profits to the Government for the purposes of the war. I do not see, Mr. Speaker, that it makes much difference whether the business in question is the making of munitions or any other class. Munitions are needed, and no discredit attaches to the enterprise which provides them. The steel company which engages in the production of munitions could, in most cases, make as much, if not more, money by selling its steel products in world markets. Moreover, it would be inequitable to discriminate against the firm which makes a profit upon the finished article, known as munitions, and leave untaxed the profits (it may be equally large) of those firms which manufacture and supply the raw material or partly manufactured products from which they arc ‘made, or the businesses throughout the country which make abnormal profits from the distribution of money expended by Governments in payment of such munitions. If higher profits are made in the manufacture of munitions, the higher the tax taken under business-profits legislation.
This is a complete answer to the Treasurer, who, when I mentioned that the Canadian system would be more just than this Bill if we are going to tax war-time profits, interjected, “ The difference is that in Canada they are making munitions of war.” That is quite true, but, as I pointed out, has no reference to the point I am making, viz:, that under an equitable system of taxation in time of war, it does not matter whether the abnormal profits are made from munitions or from anything else. If they are abnormal, they are a fair subject for taxation. Sir Thomas White continued -
In accordance with the principle which I have enunciated, the Government last year imposed the Business Profits War Tax. Under that legislation, profits in excess of a certain percentage upon capital invested were taxed to the extent of 25 per cent, of such excess. This measure has proved quite successful, not the least of its merits being the small cost of its administration, which will probably not exceed one-half of 1 per cent, upon the amount collected.
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- I did not contribute any reflections on the Bill at the second-reading stage; therefore, I take this opportunity in Committee to say a very few words. What I did say before was out of order, because it was a sentence uttered on the motion for the adjournment of the House, to the effect that some of us regarded the Bill as being entirely too contemptible for any1 measure of support at all, whilst others of us, on the other hand, thought that, as it is at least a pretence , at taxation of wartime profits, we were justified in supporting the second reading of the Bill. When I said that the Bill was too contemptible for any measure of support at all, I thought I had denounced it in language sufficiently strong to meet the case; but I am bound to confess that, in the interval, the Government have succeeded in making the Bill a good deal worse than it was at that time.
– From whose point of view ?
– Judging from the discussion on the Government side of the House, it is worse, mainly from the point of view of the honorable members who, in such large numbers, have occupied the Government benches to-day. In fact, the discussion has been so animated, and so interesting, as to- satisfy me that the Bill is exciting a good deal of interest in the electorates, and that honorable members on the Government benches have a definite commission to ameliorate the lot of their constituents, a small and select number of whom were touched by the Bill as” it was originally submitted to the House. I may tell honorable members that they will have my support in seeking to have amendments made, particularly an amendment of the clause now under consideration; but, before I lend them the full measure of my support, I should like to remind them of the utter _ inconsistency of their position as whole-hoggers and the Win-the-war party, when they, who haveasserted the right of the State to seize the bodies and the capital of the common people, have sought, with meticulous care, to devise means of protecting the interests of the particular class of persons who sent them to Parliament to win the war.
– This matter has been bottled up for some time by the honorable member.
– On the contrary, it has not sufficiently aged to have properly matured. My reflections only began to mature this afternoon when I saw the Government benches crowded, and honorable members one after the other jumping up to say a word or two on behalf of their class. The honorable member for Kooyong was not quite speechless with indignation, but was palpably indignant at what he called the cruel and relentless operation of this Bill; and the Committee listened with solemn silence, and naturally sympathetic silence, to the honorable member for Flinders, who, as the arch-protagonist of the “all-in “ policy in this waT, was soliciting our sympathy for some person who was to be taxed over and above his salary of £700 per year, and was only making, as a young man, £1,500 per annum. Why should we not put down these processions in the street of unemployed persons who are looking for bread, in the presence of such real hardship ?
– Order !
– You, sir, are probably right in bringing me back more closely to the clause.
Having said so much by way of a reminder to honorable members of the utter inconsistency of their position, let me say .that I quite agree with a number of honorable members in the contentions they have raised in regard to this clause. In the main, I concur in the remarks of the honorable member for Flinders. In response to an interjection, the Treasurer said, “ This is not a War Profits Bill; it has nothing to do with war profits ; it is a War-time Profits Bill.” May I ask what on earth we have to do with the taxation of war-time profits as such ? What is wrong with wartime profits that they should be the subject of our special concern? War pro. fits as such should be taxed; but this measure, although it is supposed to be a War-time Profits Bill, is carefully and most inequitably directed against a certain limited class of persons, and those by no means the best able to bear its incidence. If the position in regard to the war is what we are told it is, let us by all means have taxation to the bone, and I would commence by asking Ministers themselves to submit their salaries, which have arisen directly out of the war, to taxation to the bone. I would commence with them, ,and extend the tax, if necessary, to honorable members generally.
– We would not squeal as much as some people are doing.
– Here we have a proposal .to tax a certain limited class of persons. Who and what are they? They are men, with small businesses just beginning to expand, men who are just getting their heads above water, professional men beginning to make their way in the world. And the proposal is not to take from them 2s. or 3s. in the £1, but three-fourths of the whole of their increased income. Men with established businesses, yielding enormous profits, are to remain untouched by this Bill. One hesitates to introduce the personal element into a discussion of this kind; but, in order that there may be no misapprehension as to my attitude, let me say that this Bill does not touch me or my business. It will not touch, either, men who are, and for years have been, enjoying incomes up to £4,000 and £5,000 a year; but ‘it will take from young men who, during the last two or three years, have succeeded in establishing themselves in their professions, three-fourths of their increase. This is an utterly iniquitous proposition-.
– It was proposed by the honorable member’s own party.
– Never. The particular proposal to which I am now addressing myself, and which is to be retrospective, was not made by our party when we were in power.
– Surely it is wrong to make it retrospective.
– It is unjustifiable.
– Are the seven pages of amendments which have been circulated by the Treasurer any part of the proposal we made?
– No. When the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Higgs), as Treasurer, introduced his Bill, he said, “ I am introducing this Bill now, not with the intention of proceeding with it this session, but in order that the public may know its scope and incidence, and be prepared to meet it when it does become law.” Men to whom I have been referring have earned money, and have spent it, in the belief that they were to be immune from this taxation. They were promised that they would be, and many of them, having a very high conception of their duty to their country, have spent a great deal of their money on purely patriotic purposes. Having done so to the very limit of their powers, they are now to be asked to pay, by way of taxation, money which they have not got. Many of them, indeed, do not know where to obtain it.
– Does the Treasurer think that Ministers’ emoluments should be taxed ?
– I did not like to stress the point too strongly, but the Treasurer’s only reply to my suggestion was that if their emoluments were brought within the scope of this Bill, Ministers would not squeal as much as others. Let me tell the right honorable gentleman that, despite the small emoluments which private members enjoy as compared with members of the Cabinet, I am quite prepared to meet the exigencies of the present situation by a little sacrifice in the same direction.
– To carry out the principles of this Bill logically, we should tax Ministers’ salaries and the salaries of new members, but not the emoluments of old members.
– I do not think the honorable member for Flinders (Sir William Irvine) is quite fair. Old members might not be making much, and so with old companies.
– If this were made anything like a just measure, it would become so profitless that it would be better to withdraw lt altogether. I cannot believe that it will be passed in the form now proposed.I cannot believe that any honorable members on my own side, or a majority of those sitting opposite, are going to perpetrate such palpable injustices as are contained in the amendments now before the Committee.
– I am afraid the honorable member has not studied the . amendments.
– Have any further amendments been circulated since we adjourned for dinner? Numerous amendments came before us at the end of last week as a sort of volume de luxe, bub I did not know that there were still further amendments, although I expect’ that there will be.
I hope that the whole Bill will be withdrawn. After all, our object can be achieved in a fairer and much better way - in a way that will apply to all, according to their means to pay. It can be achieved by means of an income tax’, and if anything be required to supplement an income tax it can be secured by means of a fax on the unimproved value of land.
– Then the honorable member abandons the idea of war-profits taxation ?
– The Treasurer has no patience with those who talk of war profits. He says there are no war profits, and that the Bill will be worthless if it be confined to them.
– No. I said that we could not ascertain what were war profits. .
– I shall be quite frank with honorable members. I do not think there is anything very wrong with war profits, as such. They may be obtained quite honestly and honorably. Some poor wretches may have obtained, in that way, something that they never got before. War profits are not necessarily blood money. It is not necessarily wrong that men’, by the fortune of war, so to speak, have been able to make a little extra money.
– Quite a lot of men have made a big loss as the result of the war.
– Quite so. It is the fortune of war, and of business, that some go up, while others go down. The amount of revenue that we can gain by searching for purely war profits is, apparently, so small that I would ask the Committee earnestly to consider whether our taxation should nob be based, not on war profits, but on incomes and unearned increments. If we do that, then everybody that has will be called upon to pay.
I hope it will nob be thought that I am urging that these young professional men and small business men, having regard to the necessities of the case, are hit too hard. My sole contention is that they are hit too hard in comparison with other men, and that the proposal is inequitable. We have varied views as to where taxation should be placed, and as to the measure of it; but I venture to say that no member of this Committee will support a tax which must be palpably inequitable in its operation. I hope, therefore, that this part of the measure will be rejected. I should, indeed, very much like to see the Bill, which I referred to on a previous occasion as being contemptible, and which I conceive to have become more contemptible, withdrawn altogether. Let us, by -the direct method, get to the people with’ the money.
.- I do not think we have ever had before this Chamber a taxation measure in regard to which there has been such diversity of opinion, and in discussing which we have found honorable members rising to advocate one form of amendment, and, before sitting down, suggesting another,” altogether different. The honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) displayed much contempt for those who have launched this measure.
– No - for the Bill itself.
– The honorable member had the lash in his hand, and gave it, hip and thigh, to those responsible for the Bill, and he, after urging that it should not be a War-time Profits Bill, but a War Profits Bill, resumed his seat with the suggestion that it should be transformed into an Income Tax Bill. A distant part of the Empire, like Australia, is playing a very insignificant part, so far as war industries are concerned; every industry here, in my judgment, stands almost equal in this respect. This Bill, in its incidence, unlike other direct taxation measures, has failed to take - into consideration the capacity of the taxpayer to pay. Other Bills of the kind have started off with a well- defined exemption, and then proceeded in gradations until everybody’s capacity to pay has been reached. This measure starts off by saying that every man, although he may be carrying on a young business, must yield 50 per cent., and finally 75 per cent., of his war-time profits, while the most successful contractor for war equipment will be called upon to pay no more. There is, in this respect, an absolute failure to discriminate as to capacity to pay. When I spoke on the second reading, I said that I regarded the Bill as a misfit - as an attempt to graft commercial principles on a political measure that will not work. It would be much better, in my opinion, if the Government, as the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) has suggested, would make this an Income Tax Bill. That honorable member may be regarded as a f.a.q. sample of the opponents of the Bill, though the Leader of the Opposition, when he spoke on the second reading, counselled the Government to take all war-time profits.
– I stick to that.
– I ask the honorable gentleman to cast his mind back a little to the time when he, along with others, helped to formulate a policy which was called the “ Conscription of wealth.” That policy the honorable member yelled from every platform in Australia, and his supporters followed his example. However, immediately after the New South Wales election, and just before the Federal election campaign, the honorable member, in a manifesto, climbed down, and said that experience had proved the principle to be wrong.
– You have a very lively imagination !
– My memory serves me well, and the exact words of the honorable gentleman are indelibly written on my mind.
– I have never “ yelled “ anything but what was written in that manifesto. Be honest for once !
– Honest ! The birds in the trees yelled it for the honorable, member, who did an excellent climb down. It would, I think, be in the interests of the country if the Government of the day would climb down in regard to the measure before us. As I said on a previous occasion, I do not believe that the present Treasurer conceived this measure’, but rather that it is an inheritance. Under the circumstances it would be more honorable to the taxpayer to admit that the Bill is a misfit. To-night the honorable member for Flinders (Sir William Irvine), speaking with a close knowledge of his own profession, instanced the young man who, by painstaking devotion to his practice, has just “ come into his own.” That argument might be extended to every industry in the community. A man who has for long years carried on an industry, and who has ample capital and a perfect organization, will, by virtue of the pre-war standard and the exemption, receive such protect tion as scarcely to be affected by the impost, whereas a young man in. the legal profession, for instance, who is just beginning to make his way, will be hobbled, and permitted, as it were, to graze only within the limit of his previous income. The , public cannot be prevented from giving such a young man briefs, and he has to perform this service for the community, and yield up to 75 per cent, of his income, although his more fortunate brother, as exemplified, if I may say so, in the honorable member for Flinders himself, may go on undisturbed in the full enjoyment of his income worthily earned.
If the Government cannot see its way to alter the whole character of the Bill, I shall move at the proper stage that there be fixed a minimum income below which no tax shall be imposed. I had in my mind such an income as £800, but, perhaps, a better limit would be £1,000; and I am sure that no one when thinking of a tax of this kind, ever had any idea of taking 50 per cent, or 75 per cent, of such an income. My idea is that on incomes above £1,000 the taxation should be graduated until we reach the maximum amount. I warn the Treasurer, however, that if a tax of 75 per cent, be placed on the profits from industries, unemployment will be increased in this country ; we cannot by Act of Parliament take away the wages fund, and, at the same time, expect industries to be carried on. As the honorable member for Flinders (Sir William Irvine) pointed out, Australia will have to face an expenditure of at least £60,000,000 for repatriation. What we ought to do in this connexion is simply to lay down a basis or skeleton of an idea for repatriation, and leave the community to build on it. We shall have to ask the industries to evolve some scheme by which to absorb the returned men. If we start by taking away all the money, we shall do an injustice, not only to the taxpayers, but to the soldiers. If we curtail the resources of individuals to the extent of 75 per cent, we must take over the obligations of those individuals, and one of those obligations is to our soldiers. There has been quite enough of encouraging individuals not to bother about developing in their own particular sphere, but rather to follow the State as if it were a circus. If we are to face the problem, we must create new wealth, and open up fresh avenues for the development of our resources. The Government would be well advised to reconsider the proposed wartime profits taxation on the lines I have suggested. . We should start with a minimum of £1,000, below which no one should be liable for this taxation, and we should work up then by gradations according to the capacity of the taxpayers to meet the tax. That is the basis of taxation which we have previously laid down, and I see no reason for departing from it for the taxation of war profits. To tell men newly starting in business that from 50 per cent, to 75 per cent, of their incomes may be taken from them under this measure, whilst others engaged in similar industries for years may carry on without the tax affecting them, will create such a feeling that the’ present Government, and the . party supporting them, will have reason to rue the day that they ever touched a measure of this description. I believe that the Government should come down with what would practically be an additional income tax. That is practically the Canadian system. If we are to judge a man’s income during the war period by pre-war standards, we must roam over a period of six years, and discover, not only what a man’s income has been, but the capital with which he has earned that income. I know that there are many people carrying on business on the land who are unable to say what is the capital from ‘ which they earned their incomes during earlier years.
The honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) talked of exemptions, and of enlarging’ the scope of the exemptions. I am prepared in this matter to go further than any other honorable member whom I have heard speaking on the measure. I should be prepared to wipe out all exemptions under this Bill, excepting
– Agricultural industries.
– No; the honorable gentleman is off the track. I was not going to say agricultural industries. I should be prepared to cut out all exemptions under this Bill, provided that my proposal to start a graduated tax with a minimum exemption of £1,000 were adopted. Above that minimum, I hold that all should be in. The wives and children, and the lives and interests of every one in the community are being fought for, and I believe that all should stand in equitably under this taxation.
– If the proposal were altered on the lines the honorable member has suggested?
– Yes ; I say that if my proposal were adopted, there would be no reason to distinguish between the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) as a professional man and myself as an agriculturist. We are both enjoying equally the protection of the laws, the men at the Front are fighting for both, and all the resources of the country are being used in our interests; and there is, therefore, no reason why, because we belong .to different sections of the community, one should be called upon to pay this taxation and the other should not.
I have always been against the principle of legislation to protect political friends. I have at all times opposed taxation proposals submitted by my political opponents, and directed almost in a punitive way against those opposed to them politically, and I shall be no party to giving a dose of the same medicine from this side of the House. Under clause 11 of the Bill, there is a sufficient provision to enable those engaged in rural industries to recover their losses due to the drought.
– I remind the honorable member that the whole Bill is not under discussion.
– That is so; but clause 7, which is before the Committee, is the pivot upon which the whole Bill turns. I intended to make but a passing reference to clause 11, under which those engaged in rural industries may recover from the drought period. There is a provision under which they may set war-time losses against war-time profits ; and, granting that provision, and a minimum taxable income of £1,000, I contend that all should be iu, and the whole of the resources of the country should be at the disposal of the Government for taxation purposes, in order to win the war. In this connexion, I see no difference between a taxation measure and a national service measure.
.- I should think that one of the sorriest spectacles that has ever been presented in this Parliament has been exhibited by the discussion which has taken place on this Bill. I advise honorable members on the Government side to adjourn to their Caucus, and come back to the chamber with a Bill upon which they can agree. One honorable member opposite says that we should have a War-time Profits Bill, and another asserts that what we need is a War Profits Bill. Honorable members who have given any attention to the subject are aware that these are two very different things. x
– Has the honorable member just found it out ?
– To listen to the discussion of this measure, one might believe that very few honorable members on the other side really understand the difference between them. There are a great many business and professional men in Australia who have made very large profits since the war broke out. I believe that if the Government were prepared to do their duty, and carry out their election pledges, very many of these people would be willing to assist them when they know that the Government are looking everywhere for revenue with which to carry on the war. The Government and their supporters captured the constituencies by reason of their “ Win-the-war “ cry, and their promise to extract from the people who are best able to bear taxation the means to enable us to prosecute the war to a successful end. I am satisfied, from the interjections which have come from honorable members opposite, that they would be glad to break away from their electioneering pledges. I admit that the
Treasurer appears to be desirous, of fulfilling bis hustings pledges, and I sympathize with him because of the embarrassing position in which he has been placed by the Ministerial followers.
This afternoon I listened to an extraordinary appeal by the honorable member for Wimmera on behalf of his friends. He wishes to exempt quite a number of persons from the form of taxation that is proposed in this Bill. I am credibly informed that some individuals are at present selling stock which is ten or fifteen years old, and which, but for the outbreak of war, they would have gladly given away. Such profits are a fair subject for taxation. Then our shipping, companies, since the outbreak of war, must have made far greater profits than they did previously. Surely they should be obliged to pay taxation upon these profits. If this measure be made an effective one, I am satisfied that it will return a revenue far in excess of the Treasurer’s estimate. My honorable friends opposite know perfectly well the punishment that will be inflicted upon them if they refuse to give effect to their electioneering pledges.
– I have allowed the honorable member considerable latitude, but his remarks are altogether outside the scope of this clause.
– It is of no use quarrelling with you, sir. I must obey your ruling. But no Bill has ever been brought before Parliament on which Ministerialists have exhibited such a- difference of opinion as they have exhibited upon this measure.
.- My honorable friend in the course of his clear and statesmanlike utterance told the Committee that he had no power. My honorable friend has the power of lucid expression, and I regret that on this occasion he allowed it to be somewhat marred by a. zeal to derive political advantage from the fact that honorable members on this side have some differences of opinion about this measure. I assure my honorable friend that members on this side are not ashamed of having differences of opinion. Those differences are the blossoms upon the crown of our freedom.
I am rising in a corner of the chamber which has for the last hour or two been opposing the measure. I have risen to do no such thing, but would like to ask those who have been opposing it to endeavour to recollect . what we are doing and where we stand.
The suggestion of the honorable member for Flinders (Sir William Irvine) as an easily workable way out of an absolutely hopeless quagmire of possible legal difficulties, was tried in the first place in England and discarded, because it was found that it would give rise to those very difficulties which the honorable member anticipates from this Bill. He said, “ Let us differentiate between war profits and war-time profits.” How can we? Take the case of a station. One station may have the benefit of an extra thunderstorm or two, and for this it would thank Providence.
– And pay.
– But would it pay? It would also enjoy the excellent price that wool is fetching.. How would this harried Commissioner decide as between the shower of rain and the war price of wool ? No matter what phase of industry you go into, it is a matter of the greatest and gravest difficulty to decide what is a “ war profit.” In the case of munition-making, an industry which, unfortunately, hardly exists in Australia, the industry is a contract one directly connected with the war, and the connexion with the war is absolutely and easily proved.
– What about the base metals ?
– Take any other industry you like - take any base metal you like. We actually exempted gold-mining. Some one interjects “quite right,” showing that there is at least one exemption on which we are apparently agreed. But we have included other industries.
– But there is a standard for gold.
– There are two schools of economists in regard even to that matter. The honorable member for Flinders and others ask us to give up what has been before this” country for a few years, and try something which has been abandoned in England, or alternatively try something which has been introduced in Canada.
– We are only asking you to. do what New Zealand did. Having tried lt New Zealand gave it up.
– But are we in the same position as any of those countries ? What this Government is seeking to do, and what the previous Government sought to do, is to secure for the public revenue a proportion of those large profits which were made in two past years. That is the whole thing in a nutshell. It is no alternative to say, “ Let us now have an income- tax,” which is like saying, “Let off the fat kine and tax the lean.” We are coming to times when incomes might be expected to contract rather than to increase, and we are asked to tax those incomes and take off an impost of which due notice was given to businesses throughout the country that made large profits in the two years with which we are particularly concerned. I do not know that that is a. fair thing in view of , what honorable members everywhere were saying in the last Parliament, and at the last election. For my part, I shall’ be no party to it.
Whilst, however, that argument stands absolutely true so far as the basis of this measure is concerned, the very converse holds good so far as concerns bringing new sections of the community within the comprehension of this retrospective V measure. It would be quite indefensible to ask people, who had made no provision, to pay in one year back taxes for years. When people have expected it, when they have realized what they will have to do, when they have made provision for it, and put aside the money, there is no hardship in retrospection as we see iti in this measure, but to put it on to new classes, such as doctors and professional men of all kinds, and date it back, with practically a promise of exemption standing before .them for years-
– No. Only for one year.
– To make it retrospective now, even for one year, would be a grave act of injustice to those two professions.
– Would it be fair to make it retrospective in the one case and not in the other?
– It is not really mad« retrospective where notice was given, and notice was given in the previous Bill and in the platform pledges of the party on this side.
– And it was stated in Budget speeches prior to the introduction of that Bill.
– -Exactly ; and therefore all the persons included in the original measure have been duly warned, and have, I presume, made provision accord ingly. I am not in any way now attacking the measure, which is practically comprised in this clause, so far as its broad compass is concerned, but let us date from to-day anything we propose to do with regard to the professions, and not make it) retrospective. We shall have to be very careful even then what we do with the. professions. We have laws directed against the Industrial Workers of the World. We chase them, and hunt them from pillar to post, but this Bill practically preaches the doctrines of the Industrial Workers of the World to the great faculty of medicine.
– I thought some surgeons were supposed to have made a lot of money simply because other surgeons had gone to the war.
– Some have done so, but they have made those profits, not by asking for bigger fees, but by working from six in the morning until late at night, taking on their own shoulders the work of the men at the war as well as their own. If we take from those men their excess profits it simply means that their skill is going to be used for only half its time.
– Is not all this special pleading?
– I do not know that my honorable’ friend has had more experience of surgeons or physicians than I have, but surely he will not say that any eminent surgeon in Australia, who has made a big income lately, has put up his fees since the war began.
– I agree with you on that point.
– Then we are entirely agreed on the whole argument.
– Not on the whole.
– If it is only by working longer hours that they have made their increased incomes, they can save .themselves a good deal of worry, to the detriment of the community, by working less and getting the same net result.
– That applies to other businesses as well.
– But not in the same sense, because the actual extension of another business may not be due, as in the case of a surgeon or physician, to an overload of personal effort, without ultimate benefit.
– What is the difference between a professional man and an’ agent?
– In the case of a prominent professional man, extra business during the war is not necessarily an advertisement of greater ability; but in the case of an agent, added business is an additional guarantee of the extent and development of future business.’ However, I do not know that small agents will be brought under the operation of this Bill.
– I know of dozens who will be affected.
– The Bill is hedged with so many exemptions, that they will escape.
– I heard yesterday of a man who was on a salary twelve months ago, and is now a member of his firm.
– The honorable member, I think, must have been listening to other people, instead of going to the fountainhead, the Commissioner, for information.
– I am afraid you have been doing that.
– I have been listening to a great number of people as well.
A number of gentlemen came to me about this matter the other day, and they found out that they had nothing to fear.
The Committee will do well to remember that there will be no equivalent for this taxation in the future, because future years are likely to be years of loss for many people. For that reason, if honorable members want to secure the revenue, required, they should face the issue which has been placed before them by the Government. I hope the Government; will stand to the Bill. I do not like certain sections which involve hardship ; but in cases where notice has been given, where provision has been made, and where payment of the tax will nob involve . the dislocation of private finances, there should be no reason to depart from the scheme outlined in the Bill.
.- There seems to be an idea that the measure should be confined merely to war profits, but I am not sure that that can be done. I have been listening to the advocates of that principle, and up to the present they have not advanced any workable scheme. I presume the Government went carefully into this matter,’ and came to the conclusion that it was not possible to do that. If, under the scheme, every individual had to approach the Commissioner of Taxation to get him to decide what were war profit’s, the Act would be an absurdity, because no Commissioner could possibly do the work in the time at his disposal. It seems to me, therefore, that if the tax is to stand in anything like the form to which honorable members of both sides pledged themselves at the election, we shall have to take the Bill as it. is. Unless this course is adopted, the scheme will not provide the money anticipated ; but if some honorable members are not satisfied, they should endeavour to work out the scheme in what may be to them a more equitable and more businesslike way.
– What do ybu suggest: a joint Caucus meeting ?
– If some honorable members could get away from the political aspect of this question, and consider the interests of the country, by doing somethingfor the common weal, I would suggest that all members of Parliament might meet in secret session with the Government, to see if a better scheme could be evolved.
As far as I can see, there is not so much profiteering in Australia as is suggested in some quarters. Certain people, including, probably, some warehousemen who held large stocks when the war broke out, have made big profits since the war began; and I am sure all honorable members are anxious to reach them with some form of taxation. I do not know if this measure will do that ; but if it does not, neither will any other proposal that has been made up to the present. This country is not in the same position as Great Britain, which has been practically turned into a huge arsenal, so that the Imperial Government are better able than the Commonwealth Government to determine what are war profits and what are not. Notwithstanding this, the Imperial Govenment are not very pleased with their war-time profits tax, and I would not be surprised if they dropped it for some other form of taxation.
– They have increased the tax to 80 per cent., and are raising £50,000,000’ more by the increase.
– Yes; but they hava allowed taxpayers to deduct a larger percentage of profits than hitherto.
Both parties have pledged themselves to this measure, the following being the announcement made by tie Prime Minister on behalf of the Government, in his speech at Bendigo : -
The Government intend to proceed with the War-time Profits Bill. Every consideration will bc given to new businesses for exceptional industries, and to individual cases where hardships would arise; but the principle that no man will be allowed to make undue profits in war time is sound, and will be applied.
– That is a fair proposition, but according to the criticism of this Bill the proposition put forward by the Treasurer is the very opposite.
– If my memory serves me aright, I have heard honorable members saying to-day that it was not the policy of the Government; but at the general election they said that their policy was a war-profits tax. I read their policy speech very carefully. I went to my constituents on a war-time profits tax, and took very good care to show how very much superior the proposition of the Nationalist party was to that which appeared in the manifesto of the Labour party. This Bill has been through the Sausage machine. It is of no use to say that it has been in the melting pot. It has been turned inside out; it has been amended and re-amended, and apparently it is not giving satisfaction now. There is one feature of the Bill which certainly has the appearance of being inequitable. No doubt under its provisions certain business men who- are not so well off as are the proprietors of old businesses, will have to pay very much more in proportion to what the latter will have to pay. But I do not see how we are to get over that position if we are to have a tax of this sort.
– By having a liberal exemption.
– I do not object to the minimum being raised. I am inclined to do anything to avoid cases of hardship or injustice.
I am one of those who we’re responsible for the inclusion of professional men in this measure. At different places in Australia I have heard that members of the medical profession have been doing exceedingly well out of the war; that the incomes of certain surgeons and physicians have doubled; that where a manused to earn £8,000 in Sydney, or some other city, he is now earning £16.000 because certain competitors were away at the war.
– Only one case.
– It may be only one case; but the statement has appeared in the press and is current talk. If such a case has happened, it is certainly one for the imposition of a war-profits tax, because the increased income is as much due to the existence of the war as, are the enhanced profits of some warehousemen, who have been able to dispose of certain stocks. Why should not these persons pay the tax ? If an injustice is going to be done by including professional men within the scope of the measure, I am not here to press the amendment. We hear and read certain statements as to great profits being made. If men do not earn great profits they will not have to pay the tax, so I do not see how any great injustice is likely to occur.
– By doing one act of justice you might perpetrate twenty acts of injustice.
– Yes, but is it only one instance? Professor Anderson Stuart, of the Sydney University, said that practically all the doctors who went into Macquarie-street made an income of £10,000 a year.
– He did not say that.
– I read a report to that effect in the Age, and it led me to the conclusion that a good many men in the medical profession were doing very well, through the absence of leading surgeons who were away at the war. If these men are making such incomes they are as much war profits as are the earnings of other men except those who are making a profit out of a munition contract or transport work.
Are great war profits being made in Australia? For instance, is the shipping of Australia doing wonderfully well ?’ We read of great dividends being paid by shipping companies in Holland, Sweden, Great Britain, and- other countries. But are our shipping companies doing uncommonly well?
– They are doing very well.
– Again, are the base-metal companies of Australia doing uncommonly well? I am seeking information on this point. I am not aware that these companies are doing very well. Take a company like the Mount Lyell Company. It will not be touched by this tax.
– Yes, it will.
– Take the ease of the Argus or the Age, or any other great journal which has been making a large income for many years. It will only pay tax on excess income which is derived from the war, and which may be only £5,000 or £2,000 a year. The proprietors of a newspaper will only pay the tax on a percentage of their income. They will not pay the tax on their profit of £50,000 or £60,000 a year which they have been in the habit of making.
No matter how we may look at this proposal, money has to be obtained.
– This measure is designed to get at the big businesses, but the biggest businesses are not going to pay the tax at all.
– How are we going to make concerns pay when they are not making war-time profits or war profits according to the policy with which our party went to the country? We have to show some respect for what we said on the hustings. I do not know that this pledge was not as sacred as any other pledge we gave. The community expects this sort of tax to be imposed. If it is imposed and proves to be a failure, Parliament can enact something more suitable.
– After we have mined scores of people.
– I do not know who is going to be ruined under this measure.
– I do.
– If we have a liberal exemption of, say, £1,000 a year for professional men, I do not know many men at the Bar who are earning-
– The trouble is that they will not have that exemption. ‘
– At any rate, professional men will have an exemption of £600. They can either start on that basis or take a pre-war standard, whichever suits them, before they become liable to be taxed. Moreover, the Commissioner is given a very wide discretion in dealing with special cases. If, however, the provision is not sufficiently elastic in that respect, we can easily amend it.
We are only at the beginning of the Bill, and we have plenty of time in which to consider and amend its provisions. If, as is suggested, we cannot ?et to the end of the Bill, it cannot be helped. The Government will have to get support for their measure. I intend to support them on this clause. They have done their best to excise the possibility of inflicting injustice and hardship, and many of the objections which were patent in the first Bill of twelve months ago and in the succeeding Bill are absent from this one. There is a better chance of’ escaping hardship and unf airness under this Bill .than under the earlier measure. I do not see how the Bill can be much improved, but, surely, it is a non-party measure. Both parties are agreed as to the principle, but differ as to the rate of the tax. The Opposition would take 100 per cent, of the excess profits, which would make it not worth the while of any person to trouble to earn them, and would go back over a period of three years. If, however, neither side can offer any improvement on what .is proposed, the Government must proceed on the lines that it has laid down, and will have my support in doing so. I am disappointed to learn that it will cost £35,000 to administer the Bill. I thought that the cost would be less, and that the revenue would be greater than was estimated.
– The cost will be twice the amount stated.
– J do not see why the cost should be much more than that of the additional clerical assistance required.
The Opposition should rise to the occasion and study the interests of the country in this matter. We must tax those who ‘have money, even though some injustice may be done.
– Would it not be better to get the revenue that is needed honestly ?
– Will the honorable member, instead of criticising the Bill destructively, show how revenue can be obtained in what he terms an honest way?
– I did so in my secondreading speech.
– The honorable member’s suggestion was the imposition of something like a Federal income tax.
– A super-tax.
– Would the imposition of such a tax be a .fulfilment of the pledge that we made to the country?
– Certainly. It would be a tax on profits.
– If so, well and good.
– The honorable member is not now discussing the question before the Chair.
– If no constructive criticism can be advanced, the Government ought to proceed with its proposals, with such amendments as may be thought to improve the measure.
– I find it a little difficult, after the rambling speech that we have just heard, to criticise the measure on first principles. The honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Atkinson) indulged in a sort of lament because this party has ventured to criticise the Bill, and even went so far as to invite the other side to join us in a meeting to evolve a measure which would be intelligible. I hope that neither the Ministerial party nor the Government will be held responsible for the honorable member’s hopeless attitude, or for the invitation which he has given to the other side. I have not given any pledge to my constituents, and feel quite free to criticise the Bill.
– I suppose the honorable and learned member did not even stand as a Nationalist candidate?
– 1 did; but I did not talk about war profits, nor did I offer any political inducement to put me into Parliament.
I propose to criticise the measure on its merits. In the first place, it is an inherited measure - we took it over from the other party. It was announced by the Prime Minister^ Bendigo, almost in the terms in which the first Bill was introduced by the other party, but has been modified in a manner which, I think, makes for its improvement. I have never before heard of a measure being condemned stock, lock, and barrel, by those who ‘ introduced it, because members have now voiced the complaints of individuals and classes likely to be hurt by it in its unamended form. We are in ‘Committee to frame a better measure; to do our best to get rid of alleged injustices and inequalities, and, generally, to meet the objections raised by those who fear that they may be treated unjustly. I am prepared to help to make this Bill both just and useful. It has been brought forward because we are at war, and there is the’ general impression that some of the profits - whether war profits or not - which have been made during the war period should contribute towards the revenue of the country. That is its primary purpose. The measure has been discussed very freely this afternoon, and the honorable member for East Sydney- (Mr. West), who seems to have forgotten that for years the measures introduced into this House had been already criticised and settled before they reached us, thinks that because the discussion has been absolutely free, open, and above-board, we are, therefore, like sheep that have gone astray, and that we do not know what we want.
The measure was introduced by the Labour party, and has been taken up by the National party, to increase the revenue by taking some of the profits that aTe being made during the war. That has given rise to the terms, “ War Profits Bill “and “ War-time Profits Bill.” Some people seem to think that these terms are totally different, and that no one can mistake one for the other, but if we begin a War Profits Bill with a basis of 10 per cent., there is no difference between it and a War-time Profits Bill. The one is a tax upon the period during which the war lasts, and so is the other; the other difference is £hat in a war-time profits tax we find, necessarily, a pre-war basis to go upon, whereas, in the case of a war profits tax, we need not have that. It is quite immaterial what we call the measure so long as we start by admitting a man’s right to earn profits up to a certain percentage which are untaxed, and then say that we shall treat them as his normal profits and treat everything above that standard as profits made on account of the war.
– As long as it is on a graduated scale.
– That is one of the details.
No doubt there are many inequalities in the Bill. A wide distinction will have to be drawn between profit earned from capital which is, in a measure, dead, and profit made from personal exertion which comes from a live man who is moving forward in his business or profession. In the first year in which I practised as a barrister I did not earn half of what I earned in the second year, and in the second year I earned only twothirds of what I made in the third year. It would be obviously unfair to say that my first year’s earnings were my normal earnings, and that everything I made above that standard was the result of some war or other circumstances which operated at the time. It was simply that I, like other young men who worked hard to get on, exerted myself more and more to get an increased income, and so increased my practice. There should be some recognition of the fact that, apart from the war, a man may be increasing’ his normal income or earnings, and the failure to recognise this principle is one of the inequalities of the Bill before us.
– How does the honorable member propose to overcome that inequality?
– When we come to the clauses that deal with that matter, I shall move an amendment.
All I wish to say at the pr esent moment is that this is a Bill which we have inherited from the other side, and that it is useless for honorable members opposite to treat the measure in a jocular way as if they had nothing to do with it. They thought it out in the first place.
– We have no responsibility.
– Honorable members have a moral responsibility. They may have no political responsibility, but they are under an obligation to help us to put into final form the measure which they introduced into this Parliament. Fortunately, we are not depending on honorable members opposite. There is no need to have any joint meeting to consider the Bill. The measure is before us as the result of the matured consideration of the Government. The Treasurer has set out proposed amendments, and has put before us, in black and white, reasons for every amendment that he has made. When we reach those amendments we shall have the benefit of considering his reasons. In the meantime, I am perfectly willing and anxious to support the Bill, subject to whatever amendments the Committee thinks fit to make in order to prevent the injustices to which honorable members have alluded.
There is no provision for what I may call direct and indirect profits. An abnormal movement in one industry may lead to great profits in another. I happen to know that in some businesses in which metals are largely used the freights between America and Australia have gone up from 12s. to £12 per ton. There are industries in Australia which would be highly profitable today, but which are actually running at a loss, because contracts have had to be carried out, though these extraordinary freights have had to be paid. There will be great losses in businesses in consequence of the war as well as great profits. The Bill provides for this.
I do not take the hopeless view that many honorable members on this side of the House seem to take. The very free discussion which has taken place between honorable members of the National party is regarded by the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. West) as evidence of want of cohesion on this side. All his political life the honorable member has been accustomed to see measures brought here by his party cut and dried, and no discussion taking place on them ; not only was there no discussion, but there was also no opportunity for discussion by the Opposition.
– The honorable member knows the reason for that. The measures were perfect when they were brought to the House.
– I admit that they were perfect from the point of view of the Labour party, because the whole of the discussion had gone on in their Caucus room until the measures reached such a condition that, though all of the members of the party might not have agreed to them, they had to be content with the decision of the majority.
– That statement does not happen to be true.
– The honorable member knows as well as I do that it is absolutely true. We all know that the rule of Caucus was that the majority bound the minority.
– That is a democratic principle.
– We have now one honorable member of the Labour party saying that it is a democratic principle, and another saying that it is untrue,. I leave the matter there, and leave the two honorable members to settle the matter themselves and reconcile their differences. On the other hand, we are bringing forward a measure, and demonstrating to the party opposite that we have no such institution as a Caucus by which we bind one another. No one is bound on our side. We are open to discuss each measure, and to show our differences to the outside world. I was in Parliament long before Caucuses existed, and I have seen hundreds of Bills discussed freely in exactly the same way as this Bill has been discussed.
– The honorable member is going beyond the scope of the clause.
– I have no desire to say more, except that I think we have material in the Bill to make a measure which will properly take from those who have made abnormal profits during the war a share of those profits. We can do it with a minimum of cost; and whatever injustices will result from the succeeding clauses, we possess sufficient intelligence in this Committee to remove them and make this a fair and honest measure.
.- I have listened with interest to the speeches on this Bill, and it is evident that honorable members opposite are in a very uncomfortable position. It is all very well for honorable members to say that they inherited this Bill from the party now sitting in opposition, but there was nothing mandatory in this regard upon those who “ ratted “ from the Labour party. They could have been out-and-out Liberals if they had chosen. Some of those now sitting behind the Government advocated the taking of 100 per cent, of war profits, but to-day they are silent. There seems to be so much diversity of opinion amongst the supporters of the Government that nobody knows where the war profits are, or where they are made. I have pointed out before that the. bank deposits increased between 1913-14 to 31st March, 1917, by no less a sum than £49,249,149. I understand the banks to be the repositories of money that is left after all liabilities, including income tax, have been paid. I realize that this Bill is part of the policy of making the man who will not fight pay, and honorable members opposite have to take care that he pays as little as possible. In return for the votes they received on the 5th May last, they, are pledged to look after the fellow with the dollars. When I rise and speak on behalf of the fellows who returned me, those on a daily or weekly wage, I am accused of assisting strikers and of backing up men who would bring about industrial turmoil in this time of war, but honorable members are doing for their masters what I am doing for those who sent me here.
I wish to quote a parallel case to show whether the Government are ‘ serious in this matter. A few days ago the Treasurer promulgated another taxation measure, which singled out eligible unmarried men for special taxation, with a minimum of £10, regardless of whether or not those men have got the money, whether they are in work, or whether they have responsibilities to parents and relatives.
– Order! That tax is not dealt with in this Bill.
– I am merely drawing a parallel between the methods proposed to be adopted in collecting the special tax on eligibles and those . to be adopted in connexion with this war-time profits tax. If the Government are sincere, and believe not only in winning the war, but also in paying for it, they will find those profits. The bank balancesI have quoted clearly reflect the. profits which have been made during the war. It is the clear duty of the Government to get that money, and not to be so mealy-mouthed about their methods. If the Government cannot find the profits, why tinker with the tax as they are doing ?
I believe in a tax on war profits, although it may be that the filtration process referred to by the honorable member for Balaclava, by which all extra imposts ultimately fall upon the wage earner, who cannot dodge taxation, may assert itself in connexion with this tax as with others. I do not anticipate the receipts from this tax being more than a drop in the ocean of expense incurred in connexion with the war, but when the time comes for raising the next instalment of money for war purposes, there will be no hesitation on the part of the Government in going again to the kingdom of Shylock, and paying 41/2 to 6 per cent., or whatever price is demanded, for this class of patriotism. A responsibility rests upon the Government to lay hands upon that £50,000,000 of extra bank deposits. Those deposit’s represent war profits, and the Treasurer, who has been more years in political life than I have been on this mundane sphere, ought to be able to get that money for the Commonwealth. The Government would go so far as to force a man by conscription and other means of coercion to fight in this war, whether he thinks it to be his duty or not. In that respect they will think for him. Let them be honest. Let them give up talking the flap-doodle that we hear as to a business being worth so much in one year, and so much less in the next, with the result that when the two years are put together, hey, presto ! the taxable margin disappears altogether. The Government propose now to fasten this tax on professional men. I do not think the additional bank deposits, amounting to £50,000,000 represent the increased earnings of professional men.
– One-half of that increase consists of Government deposits.
– That is immaterial. Recently in this House a question was put to a Minister as to the amount which the Australian Mutual Provident Society had invested in war loans, and as to what proportion of that amount was subscribed through agents. We found that more than one-half of it was subscribed through the medium of brokers. Instead of dealing directly with the Commonwealth, and so relieving the Government of the payment of any commission, these patriots felt it necessary to compel the Government to pay to their friends a little blood money. Men whose incomes have increased in that way cannot say that their increased returns are not due to the war.
I shall not follow up the intricacies of business with the object of showing where the war profits are made. I am content to go direct to the depository of such profits. I have pointed to £50,000,000 made during the war period, and if the Government wish to show that they can finance the war successfully without putting the burden on those least able to bear it, it is up to them, instead of quibbling as to who are making the profits, to conscript, commandeer, nationalize, or take over for the benefit of the nation, the whole of the financial institutions of the Commonwealth for the period of the war.
.- Whatever may be the individual opinions of honorable members on this side, it is perfectly clear that we as a party pledged ourselves to support a measure of this kind. It is equally clear that money has been made as the result of the war. The object of this Bill, as I understand it, is to reach such earnings. No one antici pates that we shall stop at the taxation of war-time profits. I cannot understand the complaint of honorable members on both sides that this Bill will not reach such enterprises as the Mount Morgan Mining Company, the Mount Lyell Company, and some of the large shipping companies, since it was never intended, that other than war-time profits should be taxed by this Bill. Unless such companies have made war-time profits this Bill will not reach them.
– It does reach the shipping companies.
– It will affect some of them. We are well aware that the revenue derived from this tax will not prove anything like sufficient to enable us to carry on the war and to meet our obligations. I have no doubt that the Treasurer will have to come down to the House again with a proposal for a super-income tax. A super-income tax on a graduated scale will reach those who do not show any war-time profits, but who have made large profits since the war, just as they were making them before the war broke out. In proposing to reach in this way those who have made profits which they would not have secured but for the war, we are merely fulfilling a pledge that we gave to the people. It is idle for any one to say that no such profits have been made. They have been made in every State. In many instances mercantile men have secured a return of 200 and 300 per cent, more than they would have obtained for certain goods but for the war.
– The bulk of those profits were made in the first year of the war.
– A large number of importers and merchants had a lot of goods en route for Australia when the war broke out, and many of them held them for a much higher price, knowing that they would not be able to repeat their orders. There is no doubt that a very handsome profit has been made in such cases. I have been unable to ascertain during this debate what objection there can be on the part of some honorable members on this side at the attempt of the Government to reach war-time profits. Their only fear seems to be that it will also apply to what in their opinion are not war-time profits..
– In firing at the pigeon we may hit the crow.
– It would be impossible to frame a measure of this kind that would not inflict an injustice on some one. We have to do the best we can to raise, as equitably as possible, the revenue we require; and I contend that we should be able so to amend the Bill as to avoid the perpetration of any great injustice. The plea that this Bill may work an injustice here and there is no justification for allowing men who have made large war-time profits to escape this tax, and for taxing them under a graduated income tax in the same way as men who have made no war-time profits.
– If they have made no war profits, they will not pay a super-income tax.
– The honorable member and others who oppose this proposal wish to put those who have made large profits out of the war on the same level as we shall probably put, next year, men who have made nothing out of the war itself, but who at the same time have derived some profit from their business. Our endeavour should be to get at those who because of the war have reaped profits which others in Australia have not. I hope that this Bill will be passed. It will certainly be necessary to make a good many amendments in order that we may avoid injustice, while at the same time reaching the men that we were out to reach when the measure was framed.
.- The last two speeches to which we have listened have come rather as a surprise to me. The honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr, Corser) began by practically abusing those of us who have been criticising the measure, and concluded- by expressing the hope that the Bill would be carried with a good many amendments. All that we ask is that it shall be amended.
– I was speaking of those who have said, “ Wipe out the Bill.”
– I have not heard any such suggestion during this debate.
– Well, I have.
– The only suggestion of the kind was made by the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan). We on this side are unanimously in favour of reaching the war profits - that is, profits due to the war - but the difficulty is that, with new machinery such as we are now establishing, . and of which we have hat. no previous experience, we are going to do irrevocable harm to a considerable number of people who have not yet found their footing in business. The case put by the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Bruce Smith) illustrates the position. Numbers of young men who are beginning in business, or in the professions, are going to be unduly taxed because, prior to the war, they had not developed their business so far as had some of their older competitors. Similar illustrations were given by the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan), who, if we eliminate the first part of his speech, made a very sensible contribution to the debate.
The remarks of the honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Yates) are the most original that we have yet heard. He says truly that he has no knowledge of finance, but he points to the fact that there is something like £50,000,000 in the banks, and says that we ought to get this money.
– That is the increase in the deposits.
– What we hear from the honorable member is what one burglar says to another - “ There is a ‘ crib,’ crack ‘ it.” May I point out, in the most friendly manner, that money in the banks is no guarantee of profits made? When things are beginning to look bad is the time the bank assets and deposits swell, because men cease to speculate and deposit their money. I can say, personally, that I am never more uncomfortable than when I have money lying in the bank; and I am only typical of hundreds and thousands of business men. When such men have an overdraft ‘they are utilizing their brains with the money of other people, who have deposited it in the banks, and this is all to the benefit of the community. The fact that deposits have so grown that there is now something like £50,000,000 more in the banks than at the outbreak of the war does not mean that this is extra profits. On a previous occasion I said that a man who had sold a house might have no other investment for the proceeds, and put them in the bank.
– But did he not take the money out of the bank to buy the house? ,
– Perhaps not; he may have got it on overdraft.-
Another suggestion has been made that honorable members on this side, in arguing against the Bill, are trying to give a quid -pro quo to the electors who sen them here.
– I said they were trying to safeguard the interests of those who had sent them here.
– We were sent here by 1,250,000 people, whereas, according to the Budget papers, only 233,000, or less than one-fifth, pay income tax, and a very considerable portion of the 233,000 will pay war-time profits tax. The honorable member’s argument is so much clap-trap; and I advise him to use such arguments’ on the Yarra-bank, and not in this, hall of legislature. Of the 233,000 people who pay income tax, and amongst whom will have to be found practically all the people to pay the war-time profits tax, only 13.000 pay on incomes of over £1,000 a year.
– But persons who do not earn £1,000 a year will pay the war profits tax.
– That is what I am saying. Amongst the people who will pay the war-time profits tax there will, be very few below the £1,000 limit, so that practically the war profits tax will be confined to 13,000 odd people. That is not half the number of electors who voted for me, not to speak of those who voted for the other members of the party.
– But what about those whom they control?
– I do not think they control any one.
During the election campaign I pointed out the inequitable effect that a retrospective measure of this kind would have. When the Opposition were in . power, they proposed to make the retrospective action extend over three years, . and the present proposal covers only two years. In addition to this injustice, the tax will have to be paid a yeaT after the money has been spent, and, in some cases, three years afterwards. The retrospective effect of this Bill would be bad enough, but the measure introduced by the party opposite would have carried the tax back for three years in some cases, . and for two years in others. Under that measure, after the income had been spent, a man might be faced with the payment of taxation amounting to 125 per cent, of his income. How is a professional or business man or an agent to get the money to pay a retrospective tax dating back for three years or even two years?
– They knew it was coming.
-It is all very well to say that, but when a man has money in his pocket he spends it. The retrospective effect even of this measure is calculated to place a number of people in financial difficulties. It is absolutely immoral for Parliament to make taxation retrospective. Mr. Bonar Law apologized to the House of Commons for introducing a warprofits tax and making it retrospective for four months, yet we have here a measure making a tax retrospective for twelve months, and the party opposite introduced a measure making it retrospective for two ‘years or three years. Taxation should be levied in the year during which the’ money to be derived from it is required. If this money was required last year the Bill then introduced should have been gone on with. The fact that the financial year ended with a surplus of nearly £4,000,000 showed that there’ was no justification for the taxation proposed last year.
– Not £4,000,000. It was £3,000,000, and then only a nominal surplus.
– How much had we borrowed in the meantime?
– No matter what we had borrowed, the financialyear closed with a large surplus.
– It was a surplus of £2,000,000.
– The amount has come down to £2,000;000 now, but it does not matter for the purpose of my argument. The point is that the Treasurer was able to balance the financial ledger, and if he could not balance it, then the measure introduced last year should have been proceeded with.
– There was a deficit last year but for the surplus remaining from the previous year.
– I do not agree with the honorable gentleman. If we impose taxation upon the people which they cannot pay, we shall place them in financial difficulties.
If we were endeavouring by a subterfuge to defeat the object which the Treasurer (Sir John Forrest) has in view, nothing he could say against me would be too severe. But I contend that without going to the expense of creating a new Department of the Public Service, it is possible for the right honorable gentleman to get all the money he requires in one collection of income tax. If Parliament decided to impose a super-income tax the schedules now being sent in would be sufficient,- and the officials could make one assessment carrying the new taxation into force. That would do away with all the complicated machinery provided for under this Bill, avoid the appointment of hundreds of persons to the Public Service, and the expenditure of from £50,000 to £70,000 a year in administrative expenses.
I have seen a good many financial measures introduced into Parliament, but this is the most complicated of them all. We know that the practice is for the Government to lay down the principles which they desire to have incorporated in a measure, and it is left to the Parliamentary Draftsman and other officials - in this case I suppose the Secretary to the Treasury and Income Tax officials - to draft the Bill. We cannot hold the Government responsible individually or collectively for any more than the general principles of this measure. I say now, as I said on the second reading, that the Treasurer has done his best to overcome the intricacies and difficulties which a Bill of this kind imposes upon those who come under its operation. I give the right honorable gentleman credit for his efforts to solve those difficulties, but if we are to deal fairly between man and man in this community the difficulties raised by this Bill are, in my opinion, insuperable. If we could discover a means whereby we could secure the money which the Treasurer needs without imposing all these difficulties upon the taxpayers, we should adopt those means.
– Can we tax those prosperous years by income tax ?
– I think so.
– Can you make an income tax retrospective ?
– I have said that I am opposed to the retrospective effect of the proposed tax altogether. It is immoral and unfair, and will work hardships. I think that most of the people affected will have spent the money earned in previous years, and will require financial assistance to meet this taxation if it is made retrospective.
– The honorable member should remember that fair warning was given to every one.
– A warning is not sufficient. We have had promises made for years that certain Bills would be introduced that never have been introduced.
– The honorable member should distinguish between normal times and war time.
– If honorable members consent to make this taxation retrospective for a year,two years, or three years, what action will they be able to take against a Government subsequently occupying the Treasury bench, and proposing taxation retrospective to the beginning of the war ?
– Does the honorable member think that any Parliament would agree to that?
– I do not think that honorable members should agree to the retrospective effect of the taxation proposed by this Bill. If we once ratify the principle, the degree to which it becomes retrospective will be of very little consequence.
– It was a concession to the people that the Bill was not passed last year.
– If the money was required by the Treasurer, the tax should have been imposed then. Because it was not imposed is no reason why it should be made retrospective now. if it be necessary to give effect to the pledge that a war profits tax would be imposed-
– The pledge was that it would be a war-time profits tax.
– There seems to be a considerable difference of opinion on that point. I am quite prepared to’ accept it as a war-time profits tax, but I say that effect could be given to this principle in a more equitable fashion by the imposition of a super-income tax.
– And. by letting off those men who should pay.
– Suppose that a man made a profit of £5,000 this year, and that he had made a profit of only £2,500 for the three years preceding the outbreak of war.
– The honorable member would put him on a par with the individual who made no war-time profits.
– A super-income tax on excess profits-
– That is what this Bill would practically impose.
– Suppose that before the war a man earned £10,000 per year, and that since the outbreak of war he has earned £20,000 a year. His excess profits would be £10,000 yearly. What is to prevent the Government from taxing his excess profits up to the standard rate that is proposed under this Bill?
– That is what we are doing.
– But the Government are doing it in such a complicated manner that it will create endless work.
– This is a special income tax, with a special name. That is all it is.
– If it were, I would not object to it.
A war-time profits tax, to be on equitable lines, should provide for no exemptions. I am not in favour of exempting the professional man, neither am I in favour of exempting the agriculturist. There should be no exemptions whatever.
– What about a church ?
– Any church which goes in for business and makes a profit out of it, ought to be taxed in the same way as is any other business. The general principle underlying the Bill is all right, if it be applied universally ; but the moment we touch individual cases, we shall learn where the shoe pinches. The honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell) has but recently entered this Chamber as a new member, and he will thus receive an extra remuneration of £600 a year. Under this Bill, he will be taxed £450 on his parliamentary salary.
– He is not growling.
– But the honorable member for Barrier (Mr. Considine), I am sure, will growl if he were taxed 75 per cent, on his parliamentary salary. The honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Watt) instead of drawing £600 a year, is now in receipt of about £1,750. Out of that amount, he would have to pay about £S00 a year under this Bill. As a matter of fact, under this Bill, all Ministers will be hit extremely hard. If we are going to have a fair war-time profits tax, every man who’ is earning more than he did prior to the war should be obliged to pay it.
Order of the Day for the consideration of the Governor-General’s message, in Committee, read and discharged.
Mr. SPEAKER reported the receipt of a message from the Governor-General recommending an appropriation for the purposes of a Bill to authorize the raising and expenditure of a sum of £80,000,000 for war purposes.
Colonial- Combing and Weaving Company : Wool Top Agreement - Substitute for Petrol : Formation op New Companies - Food Stocks and Food .Prices - Military Camps -. Nondelivery of Telegrams.
Motion (by Mr. Joseph Cook) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- Will the business to-morrow be the War-time Profits’ Assessment Bill first, and will that be continued for the whole sitting ?
Mr.- Joseph Cook. - Yes.
– I ask the question in order that honorable members may know what business is likely to be. taken tomorrow.
.- Will the Acting Prime Minister notice the difficulty I have had in getting information from the Prime Minister about the Colonial Combing and Weaving Company ? I make no complaint against the members of the Central Wool Committee, but am informed that- the contract or agreement made by the Government with the company through the Committee on 1st March last is somewhat irregular. Under it the Government entered into partnership with the firm. I have been trying to get information from the Prime Minister, but have had the greatest difficulty in doing so. On 9th August I asked for a list of the shareholders, and the Prime Minister told me the information was not available, but the list could be inspected in Sydney under the provisions of the Act. An endeavour was made in Sydney to inspect the list, but it was not there. Under the companies law of New South Wales the list of shareholders must be registered, and can be inspected. If the list is not registered the company is liable to a fine of £5 for every day of default. The list of the shareholders of this company is hot in the Registrar’s office in Sydney, or was not there two or three days ago. All this difficulty in getting the information from the Government would appear to support the view of those who consider that the transaction is irregular. It is said ‘that a member of the Wool Committee is interested financially in this concern. The list of shareholders would show us whether that is so. I wrote to Mr. J. M. Higgins, Chairman of the Central Wool Committee, about the matter, and he sent me a letter couched in such heated terms that I do not feel like replying to it.- I have the very highest opinion of Mr. Higgins, and my relations with him at, the Treasury/ were most satisfactory. I stated in at least one Budget speech that the Government were grateful to him for the work he had done. At that time he was assisting us in the matter of considering fresh issues of capital. He has taken exception to my asking these questions about the company and the Committee. The Government ought to lay the list of shareholders on the table of the House. Surely there is nothing to conceal. I asked the Prime Minister to-day whether he was aware that the list was not available in Sydney. He said he was not. I then asked him whether he had carried out the clause in the agreement providing that the company must lodge with the Government a list of its shareholders. He then informed me that the Government had the list, but it was regarded as confidential. This apparent objection to give information would lend colour . to the belief that there is something irregular about this new Government partnership with ‘the” Colonial Combing . and Weaving Company to share the profits made out of the manufacture, sale, and export- of wool tops. -Will the Acting Prime Minister inquire into the matter and ascertain the reason for the objection to placing on the table a list of the shareholders in the company who are in a business partnership with the Government ?
.- I should like to suggest to the Treasurer that in connexion with his power to withhold the right to issue capital his Department might bestir itself in cases where the industry sought to be established is of value to the country.
– I anticipated, when I interrogated the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Jensen), and . the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) to-day, that the Prime Minister would have made a full statement with regard to foodstuffs in cool store. It is no use the Prime Minister telling us that we have fifteen months’ sugar supplies on hand, as well as enough wheat for five years, and that our mutton supply is assured fora number of years. The object of the Government should be to bring these commodities within reach of the great bulk of the people.
– Are you complaining about the cheapest food in the world today?
– The honorable member can pub it that way if he likes ; but I am making a complaint, and I think he will find, when I am finished, that I am right in requiring that certain information should be made available’ to this House. The Prime Minister made a paltry excuse to-day when he said that the monthly returns which had been made regularly to the order of the previous Government had been discontinued because, so he said, they came to hand too late to be of any value. That is either a very serious reflection upon the officers, or else it suggests inefficient Ministerial control. The Government should know exactly where we stand every day with regard to our food supply. I asked the Prime Minister last week whether he was prepared to do with foodstuffs in cool stores on order to the British Government, for which freight was not obtainable, whatthe New Zealand Government are doing in similar circumstances, and that is that meat and other , produce in cool stores is being- let out and made saleable to the public. I find that in reply to a question asked in the New Zealand House of Representatives by Mr. C. J. Parr last week as to whether the Government meat shops at Auckland. had ceased to do their own killing, Mr. F. W. Massey, the Prime Minister, stated that for the coming season the manager of these shops had been instructed ‘by the Board of Trade to obtain the whole of his supplies of either chilled or frozen meat from the Imperial stores, and in his discretion to make the best terms possible so as to insure selling the meat at rates agreed upon between him and the Board of Trade. In other words, meat and other produce in store for the British Government in New Zealand has been released, and the Government meat shops there are being supplied with chilled meat, and it is being dispensed to the public, relieving much of the distress and some of the high prices existing there. To show how incomplete the returns are which were presented today by the Minister for Trade and Customs, I will take one item alone. We are told in a return that there are only 542 cases of fruit in cool store for export, whereas the Minister for Trade and Customs stated last week that in apples alone there, were 400,000 cases in Australia. There is a great disparity between the figures.
– The 500 odd cases are for export.
– I know that. I will not say that the intention is to try to make us believe that that is the quantity held in cool store. Even in the return given to-day, the meat stored in Queensland is not included, nor is some of the meat stored in New South Wales. I am glad to know that some of the rabbits have been released for public consumption, that is, rabbits which have been1 on order to the British Government. People are very glad to get hold of any food now because the price of meat is so high. It is the duty of the Prime Minister, as well as of other Ministers, to give us the latest possible information in regard to the foodstuffs held in store. When an honorable member asks a Minister a question on a subject, he is entitled to correct information, and not to be laughed at by the Minister saying, “ I, as Prime Minister, guarantee a fifteen months’ supply of sugar in sight, a five years’ supply of wheat in sight, and quite sufficient sheep and lambs to supply Australia for years.” I intend to repeat this question or to speak on the motion for adjournment, or to move the adjournment of the House until I have obtained satisfaction, or that full information which the Prime Minister promised to give to us to-day.
– I will give to-morrow a reply to the question asked of me by the honorable member for Wentworth.
.- I do not know which Minister is in charge of the Postal Department for the present time.
– I am supposed to be in charge, but I am utterly incapable of following you.
– I hope that the honorable member is ; he ought to he from the lengthy experience he has had. He has followed a lot of devious ways since he has been here, but God knows where he will end ! I could pick his final place.
– You are an impertinent little prig.
– I want to bring under the notice of the Acting Minister-
– You ought to be at Camp instead of here with your impertinence.
– Order ! Will the honorable member proceed ?
– I desire to brins* under the notice of the Acting Minister something which has reference to the camp. It is a camp matter which I wish to speak about.
– I will take no notice of it.
– I will refer the matter to the Acting Minister, but I can hardly see how he can take up that attitude in regard to me, because the inference from his remark was impertinence.
– I say that I will take no notice of you. You can say what you like.
– This is rather a funny position for the Acting Minister to take up.
– It is the position which I take up.
– I claim that I have the right to expect the Minister to treat me fairly and justly.
– Was it not only a playful remark which he made?
– If I have misjudged the remark I am prepared to apologize, but it was rather satirical. I am not bringing this matter forward for the. sake of hearing myself talk. What I want to bring under the notice of the Acting Minister is the fact that telegrams to soldiers at Maribyrnong are not delivered until they happen to attend at the postoffice to receive their mail. In some cases, it has been ten days before a man has gone near the post-office, because he was not expecting to receive mail matter. It was ten days before one soldier received a telegram which arrived for him at Maribyrnong. One instance which I brought under the notice of the Minister, who promised to look into it, was the case of a soldier from South Australia to whom a telegram was sent calling his attention to the fact that there was sickness at home, and asking him to return. The lad received a letter telling him that a telegram to that effect had been sent to him. It was only when he went to the post-office and asked for the telegram that it was tendered to him . He had been to the post-office to get a letter, but the telegram was not handed to him. The other day an incident was brought under my notice where a resident of Melbourne, who does not expect much mail matter, did not go near the post-office; as he had his mail matter addressed to the Young Men’s Christian Association, there was nothing, on the board for him. Five days after a telegram arrived at Maribyrnong it was tendered to him. Only the other day another soldier came to me and stated a similar case where the delay in delivery was greater than five days. These telegrams are paid for at the delivery rate, and the Department is under an obligation to deliver them with the same despatch as they deliver telegrams to other persons. As the camp is not a mile square in area, it can be traversed very easily. Any man in the camp can be readily found by a messenger going to either of the two depots. It is not a diffiCUt matter to deliver a telegram. The post-office is practically closed during parade hours, that is, from 9 to 12.30 and from 2 to 5. There are three persons engaged in the post-office, namely, two> men and a boy. It is only fair that the Minister should see that the telegrams are delivered to the men with a certain degree of despatch. It is hardly fair that a telegram should be sent to a soldier telling him of a case of sickness in his family at Adelaide and that he should have to wait for the receipt of a letter advising him that a telegram had been sent to him and asking him why he had not replied.
– What are the messengers doing there?
– That is for the PostmasterGeneral to find out. I do not know what they do in the interval. I believe that the older assistants have to deal with the money-order and telegraphic business. The boy, I take it, is just a kick-about in the office.
– It only needs an instruction from the Minister to the postmaster.
– I judge that that is all that is required. Perhaps it is a. custom that has grown up and which would not be tolerated once attention was drawn to it. I drew the attention of the Minister to the case, and I assume that, owing to sickness intervening, nothing has been done. That is why I now bring it under the notice of the Acting. Minister. ‘
– If I were you, I would get in touch with the Deputy Postmaster-General the first thing in the morning.
– Being in khaki, I do not care to go to the Deputy PostmasterGeneral. I have exercised my right as a member to bring the matter before the Minister direct. He can get in touch with the Deputy Postmaster-General if he pleases, or he can direct that those who pay the extra rate for telegraphic despatch shall get what they pay for. . I hope, notwithstanding the little brush I had at the beginning of my speech, that he will do his duty to the soldiers in this regard, and have this anomaly rectified.
– The custom is growing up of making insinuations of all kinds against the Government under cover of questions. The honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Higgs) to-night made insinuations against us* of a very sinister character. Instead of asking if certain information could be obtained, he suggested that there is something wrong in the relations of the Government with a particular firm. Then the honorable member for Ade(Mr. Yates) began his remarks with a tirade of abuse. Since he has been in camp he never comes here but to attack the Government. I decline to reply to questions addressed to me in this way. There is no obligation on a Minister to allow himself to be subjected to insinuations and abuse. When last the honorable member was here he abused the Minister for Defence (Senator Pearce) for a solid hour.-
– I have no apology to make for what I said about him.
– I remind the honorable member of a salutary law still in force which I think limits a man’s right to criticise his own Department. The honorable member is going very near to violating that rule.
– It does not’ apply .to speeches in this -House.
– Yes, I think it does; and was enforced, I believe, by the Government which the honorable member supported when it decided to give full political rights to civil servants. It is time that honorable members ceased from abusing the Government under cover of seeking information. If there is anything wrong wilh the Post Office, we shall try to put it right. I know nothing of the relations of the Government with the company whichthe honorable member for Capricornia referred to.
– There was no insinuation in my questions. I spoke of the difficulty of getting information from the Prime Minister. I did not insinuate anything against’ the Government.
– The honorable member spoke of the Government, and of the secrecy observed regarding its partnership with the firm that he mentioned. I know nothing of the firm or its operations.
– I do not think that many - members of the Government do know anything about it.
– I shall bring the matter under the notice of the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes). Regarding the question about cheap food, and stocks of food-
– I asked for returns, and there was a general impression that full information would be given, but when a question was asked, it was laughed off with a statement of the number of sheep, tons of sugar, and bushels of wheat in store.
– The Prime Minister pointed out that the information had been furnished, but that it was thoughtthat no useful purpose would be served by it.
Mr.Fenton. - He said that the returns arrived too late. That is a reflection on officers engaged in important duties.
– May I suggest that the honorable member should address his question to the Prime Minister?
Mr.Fenton. - I am tired of addressing him. He has too big a load ito carry, and is beginning to forget a lot.
– The role of my honorable friend is a very easy one at the present time; I know it well. It is particularly easy to criticise. The Prime Minister is carrying what is a crushing burden for one man. I refer particularly to the strike. He has more work in connexion with that matter alone than one man should really have to do.
– I am afraid that what tha honorable member for Maribyrnong asks for will involve a food census.
Mr.Fenton. - The Government should know what food supplies are in the country.
– For what purpose ?
– So that we may know whether supplies are being withheld.
– Our barns are bursting, and we have more food than we know what to do with. ‘ However, I shall bring the matter under the notice of the Prime Minister.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 11.5 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 29 August 1917, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1917/19170829_reps_7_82/>.