7th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. W. Elliot Johnson) took the chair at 11 a.m., and read prayers.
Investigation of Accounts
– Will the Minister for Works and Railways, in accordance with the promise ofthe Prime Minister, made some time ago, ask the Committee of Public Accounts to investigate during the adjournment the cost of the east-west railway?
– I am not aware that the Prime Minister gave any promise on the subject, but, in any case, it is competent for the Committee appointed to make such an investigation whenever it likes, and my Department will welcome investigation.
Graduates on Active Service : Distinctions Won.
– Last night the Honorary Minister spoke of the distinctions won during the war by the graduates of the Duntroon Military College. Has he obtained fuller details?
– I spoke from memory last night, and promised the honorable member to furnish an accurate statement to-day. I find that 148 graduates of the College have goneto the war, of whom thirty-one have been killed and forty-two have been wounded or are missing, and that ninety-four are still serving. Of these graduates fifteen have received the Military Cross, one has received theCroix de Guerre,5th class, another the Serbian Order of the White Eagle, another the Distinguished Service Order, and sixteen have been mentioned in despatches.
– Has the. Prime Minister any objection to laying on the table a copy of the attack made on the President of the Arbitration Court by the Argus newspaper on the 17th September, and the reply of the President, of the 20th September?
– As it is not in order for an honorable member to attack the President of the Arbitration Court or the Court, would it be in order to make such! an attack in the indirect manner of the honorable member by causing to be laid on the table a newspaper article containing it?
– The question is entirelyone for the Prime Minister to answer.
– I have not seen any of the reports in the press. These things go on without my knowledge.
– Is it the intention of the Prime Minister to bring in a Bill to amend the Income Tax Assessment Act this session, in order to remove some of the anomalies which have crept into the interpretation of various provisions?
– The Treasurer has before Parliament a series of amendments which it is hoped will remove many, if not all, of the anomalies to which the . honorable member refers.
– In view of the want at present in Australia, and of the serious food”riots that have occurred-
– Last night.
– In view of the serious food riots which have been taking place in different parts of Australia, will the Prime Ministertake immediate steps to deal with the high cost of living ?
– The subject is now being investigated ‘ by a competent tribunal, whose reports will be considered by the Government immediately they come to hand, when such action as may be necessary will be taken upon them.
– Yesterday, when I was referring to the proposal of the Government to tax eligible single men, I spoke of conscription as a party issue. The honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Lynch) retorted that it was never a party issue, and subsequently interjected, “ The honorable member ran upstairs on the 14th September, and then ran away again.” At thetime I did not understand the interjection, but thought from the context that it had something to do with conscription. Having spoken to him since about it, I have ascertained that he was referring to the fact that when a member of the party- I do not know who - called a meeting to make a protest to the Central Political Labour Executive of New South Wales regarding the indorsement of candidates, and I found that a. petition was being prepared which I was not prepared to support, I left the meeting. This meeting was held in the room upstairs on the Senate side.
– Last year?
– Yes, some time last year. . I have no objection to the statement so long as it is known to what the honorable member was referring.’
-Does the honorable member speak of the protest that- was signed ?
– Then his explanation does not fit in with the facts.
– My statement is that a protest was. drawn up, and that I refused to sign it.
– The honorable member ‘ indorsed it. Ask the man who drew it up.
– That statement is absolutely untrue. The Prime Minister thinks to injure me by his interjections. But he will fail, as he has before.
– I ask honorable members to cease from interjecting.. The honorable member for Cook (Mr. J. H. Catts) is entitled to make a personal explanation, but cross-questioning and interjections are out of order, and lead to digressions.
– I submit that this is not a personal explanation, and that everything that has been said by the honorable member ‘ for Cook is entirely new matter, such as ought notto be introduced under cover of a personal explanation.
– The point of order raised by the Minister for the Navy emphasizes theinadvisability, to which I have already called attention, of making interjections during a personal explanation. Interjections in the first place distract the attention of the Chair from what is. being said by the honorable member addressing the House, and also give (provocation for going beyond the making of a personal explanation. As to the point of order itself, when an honorable member feels that a statement made by him. has been put in a false light, and . a wrong has consequently been done him, he is entitled to remove the erroneous impression by a personal explanation, but to do no more.
– Are we to understand, sir, that your ruling is that a personal explanation may be made merely for the purpose of replying to an interjection ?
– Interjections are disorderly, but when an interjection places an honorable member in a wrong light, then the honorable member affected is entitled to” refute a misrepresentation, hut to do no more than that.
– When interrupted I was about to conclude by saying that I did not know that the object of the meeting to which reference has been made was to sign the protest mentioned. I certainly had no sympathy with such an object, and I left the meeting as soon as I discovered what it was.
– I desire to make a personal explanation. When by way of interjection I took exception yesterday to a statement made by the honorable member for Cook (Mr. J. H. Catts) he replied, “ Why did you leave the Labour party to support a conscriptionist Government “ ? I wish to remind the honorable member that the issue before the party and the country at the time was not that of conscription, a principle to which I have always been opposed, but as to whether freedom and liberty of opinion and conscience was to be retained within the Labour movement. I was amongst the first to protest when, following on the resolution passed by the Labour Conference in 1916, a notice was sent to members of the Labour party that, unless we opposed conscription both inside and outside of Parliament, we would lose our indorsements. It was at a meeting’ on the 14th September, 1916, that we made a strong and emphatic protest. We said that the threat to withhold our indorsements was without constitutional warrant and opposed to the principles of the Labour party and Democracy. That was the attitude we took up, and I was prepared, if necessary, to go out of Parliament, in support of it. I also said that the honorable member, seeing perhaps that his seat was in danger climbed down and left the room. I have only to add that the majority of the party at that time - including the honorable member for Cook - knew perfectly well that the protest was against tyranny in the Labour movement, and had nothing to do with the issue of conscription itself.
– I asked the Minister for Trade and Customs yesterday whether he would lay on the table of the ‘House copies of the instructions under which all “ loading “ of invoices of British goods is made. The honorable gentleman did not say whether he would or would not, but replied that such instructions were of a confidential character. I desire now to ask him if he can give any public reason why those instructions, . confidential or otherwise, should not be disclosed to honorable members of this House ?
Mr.JENSEN. - I shall be glad to give the honorable member’s question consideration, and to inform the House later on of my decision.
– Will the Prime Minister state what steps, if any, the Government have taken to provide for uniform income tax returns for both State and Commonwealth purposes?
– The position, as I understand it, is that the Commonwealth and State Governments have agreed that uniformity is both desirable and necessary, and that the hitch which is preventing the completion of the arrangement has arisen through the difficulty of applying it to the varying circumstances of State and Commonwealth taxation. My right honorable friend the Treasurer could tell the House exactly where the trouble is. It lies with the Income Tax Commissioners themselves. The Government have assented to the principle.
– On the motion for the adjournment of the House on 6th September last the honorable member for Brisbane (Mr. Finlayson) read a statement with regard to the cancellation of what is known as extra duty pay to noncommissioned staff officers, and I promised to furnish him with a reply. I am now in a position to give him the following answer: -
The allowance referred to was payable only to such members of the Instructional Staff as were employed in Australian Imperial Force Camps and Schools. When it was granted, large numbers of recruits were coming forward, and owing to the shortage of instructors, those available were called upon to work long hours, and for practically seven days per week. As these conditions no longer exist, the allowance has been discontinued.
In lieu thereof, a special allowance of 9d. per diem has been granted to all members of the Instructional Staff for the period of the war.
– Will the Prime Minister state whether the Commonwealth Government have any control over the erection of the grain silos, “whether tenders have beer invited for their construction, and, if so, who are the successful tenderers?
– I remind the honorable member that under the Commonwealth Statute the control of these silos is vested in a Commission, on which the States and the Commonwealth have representatives. Replying more directly to his question, each State has control of the construction of the silos subject to the design and price being approved by the Commission. The , price of construction is fixed. We do not control the tenderers, and we cannot distinguish between one tenderer and another. The tenders do not come before the Commonwealth’ Government, 30 that in the State of New South Wales, for example, any tender can be accepted, and the Commonwealth has no voice in the matter.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether his attention has be,en drawn to the fact that there was a large congregation of people in the streets last night, that windows were broken in various parts of the metropoliton area, and that injuries were received by constables in the execution of their duty? If so, will he take steps under the Unlawful Associations Act to deport the leaders who incited large numbers of the people to this ruthless and unprovoked destruction of property and interference with individuals ?
– I understand the gist of the honorable member’s question. I assume that that which is alleged to have taken place last night is an offence against State law, or, perhaps, an offence against Commonwealth law, in so far as it happened within the proscribed area. As to what steps will be taken, it is not usual to speak of these things; but the law will be enforced. The question as to whether we should take the unusual step of dealing with certain persons in the manner suggested is to be considered. I shall say no more about the matter now.
– How can it be an offence against Commonwealth law if no meeting was held within the proscribed area?
– The honorable member is not in order in founding a question on an answer by the Minister to a previous question.
– Yesterday I received a telegram from the Perth Chamber of Commerce stating that unless . another steamer arrived in that State within a. fortnight there would be a shortage of several kinds of foodstuffs. I would like to know whether the industrial situation has. improved sufficiently to enable regular sailings to be resumed shortly, or, failing that, whether steps will be taken to provide the people of Western Australia with necessary food supplies ?
– The difficulties created by the industrial trouble are, of course, very widespread, and not easy of settlement. As the honorable member knows, one vessel has been despatched to Western Australia, and an effort has been made to despatch another. There are now in Western Australia two vessels, which were- there before the strike. I- communicated some time ago with the Premier of the State, asking if he could make arrangements for the despatch of those steamers eastward, in order that we might have the advantage of the tonnage; but probably he found it impossible to do that. However, we are endeavouring to despatch another- steamer. I point out, not by way of excuse, but by way of explanation, that the position in Northern Queensland is equally bad, and in the State of Tasmania little better. Where railway communication does not exist, such difficulties must arise, but the Goeminent are doing what is possible.
– When does the * Prime Minister propose to carry out his promise to lay on the table the information I asked for some time ago with regard to the number of prosecutions and the terms of imprisonment inflicted under the War Precautions Act?
– I suppose that the information is being prepared now.
– Will the - Prime Minister, at the same time, lay on the table-
– The honorable member cannot ask two questions in succession to the exclusion of another honorable member.
– Has any decision been arrived at in connexion with the postage on catalogues?
– The following is what I have decided to agree to : -
Printed matter to be allowed in catalogues -
The postage on catalogues to be a minimum of1d. to cover first 4 ozs., each addition 4 ozs. to be½d. as at present. This means that on each catalogue an additional1½. will be charged to cover the printed matter allowed therein, and is in accordance with a suggestion made by parties interested.
Pending legislation, I am prepared to pass through the post catalogues with printed matter as above indicated, if prepaid, an extra½d. each.
– Can the PostmasterGeneral say whether he has completed satisfactory arrangements with the various Railways Commissioners throughout Australia for the carriage of country mails by train?
– The Inter-State Commission came to a decision in connexion with this matter, but the details of the method of working out that decision have not yet been finalized. However, we are proceeding in this matter as quickly as possible.
– Has the Prime Minister’s attention been called to the fact that the policemen on duty at Parliament House, who are a large body of deserving men, are kept here for long hours, and are paid no overtime? If that be the fact, will the right honorable gentleman arrange that these men be adequately paid ?
– It is highly disorderly, I know, for a man to express amusement here, but I think that the question is really funny. However, I shall look after the police, and ask the police to look after the honorable member’s constituents and friends.
– I desire to know from the Prime Minister whether the Colonial Sugar Refining Company, as the representatives of the Commonwealth, although there is an advance of only £15 a ton on sugar that is left on the wharfs and in the stores awaiting transport, have the right to demand that there should be insurance to the amount of £29 per ton on the sugar? I desire to know further whether the company, as the representatives of the Commonwealth, have the right to expect interest on those advances, when we understand that there is an agreement with the company that the Government shall pay interest?
– I have not looked into the details of this particular phase of the matter, but I have done what I could for the holders of sugar. I think it may be suggested that there is one method by which a good deal of the difficulty might be. overcome, namely, by having the sugar handled and put on the steamers. At present the steamers cannot call because nobody will load the sugar; but if those gentlemen now in possession of the sugar would put it on the steamers, there would be no trouble for anybody.
– Some days ago the honorable member for Melbourne asked a question, suggesting that, in some way, the party adherence of members should be indicated in the body of the Hansard reports, and I promised to consider the matter and give a reply later. I have since had a consultation with the Chief of the Hansard staff, and asked him to supply me with a memorandum in regard to the matter. This the Chief of the staff has done, and in the course of his memorandum he says -
Subject to the unanimous concurrence of honorable members in the proposed classification, and to the staff being officially informed, from time to time, of changes in party membership, there would be no difficulty in making the proposed addition.
I would, however, respectfully suggest that if it be desired to give greater publicity than the reports already afford to the party adherence of honorable members, the object might be conveniently attained by the inclusion of the letter (M) or (O) after their names in the list which is published on the wrapper of each weekly issue, and is afterwards incorporated in the bound volumes. This list would be subject to constant revision by honorable members as circumstances might require, and could be easily referred to by readers of Man sard.
In considering such an alteration of practice, regard must be paid to the factthat every change of Government would inevitably involve considerable changes in the party designation of honorable members, which might, therefore, have but a very limited significance or value. I point out that the indication of party membership is generallyto be found in the speeches of honorable members as reported in Hansard, and that a rigid or accurate designation of party adherence is not always practicable. For’ example, during the latter part of the life of the last Parliament, certain changes of political and party adherence took place, which involved considerable difficulty in’ the matter of classification for some time. Subject, however, to the unanimous concurrence of honorable members themselves, but not otherwise, I propose to adopt the suggestion of placing the letters “M.” and “O” after the names of honorable members printed on the Hansard paper cover.
– It would be a very reprehensible practice.
– If members do not wish it to be done, it will not be done.
– I do not know whether a question upon this matter will be disallowed as being one arising out of an answer already given.
– This is not to be made the subject of debate.
– Will honorable members have the opportunity of objecting to the method proposed to be pursued?
– Questions arising out of an answer to a question are not in order. I have already stated that there will be no departure from the existing procedure unless it meets with the unanimous concurrence of honorable members. If there is any objection the matter remains where it is.
– May I make a suggestion in regard to the Ministerial and Opposition business ?
– The matter cannot be debated now. I have already stated very definitely that nothing would be done to institute any change if objection was raised. As objection has been raised by honorable members, that is anend of the matter.
– Will the PostmasterGeneral say whether a decision has been arrived at with regard to the representations that friendly societies have made to him on the matter of the new regulations relating to postage on circulars?
– A decision has been arrived at, and a new regulation is being prepared for gazettal.
– Has the Prime Minister seen the report of a statement made in America by Mr. Holman, Premier of New South Wales, setting forth the aims of the Commonwealth Government in regard to German Possessions in the Pacific? I would like to know whether Mr. Holman is the representative of the Commonwealth abroad in reference to these matters, and whether his statement is an accurate description of the policy of the Commonwealth Government in regard to those Possessions which have been captured from Germany?
– That question is neither urgent nor important, and I do not propose to answer it.
Mr.CONSIDINE.- Will the Prime Minister give the reasons for prohibiting the publication in the Commonwealth of magazine and newspaper articles which have been previously published after having been submitted to censorship in Great Britain and other Dependencies.
– I am not aware of the publications or the magazines to which the honorable member particularly refers, but a broad distinction must be drawn between the circumstances here and those of Great Britain. It is this which differentiates between the policies of censorship in the two countries. In Great Britain there is conscription, and it does not matter what any one says. Here we have voluntary recruiting, and public opinion most materially affects recruiting. There is obviously a fundamental distinction between conditions in Great Britain and Australia in this respect. I can say this on behalf of the Government, and, I am sure, on behalf of the country: That if the honorable member and his friends would agree to conscription they could say what they like.
– Is the Prime Minister aware that Mr. Fitzpatrick, the Treasurer of New South Wales, has stated that the £30,000 which the State Government propose to devote to the supplementing of the pensions of soldiers recruited from New South Wales was withdrawn because the Commonwealth Government proposed to increase soldiers’ pensions to such an extent as to obviate the necessity for the State Government making this money available?
– I have not noticed the statement, nor have I noticed the paragraph about Mr. Holman. If the honorable member wishes to have my opinion upon any matter, let him put his question on the notice-paper, and Iwill give it for what it is worth.
“THE FIDDLERS”: CENSORSHIP.
– On Friday last the honorable member for Cook asked me a series of questions in regard to a booklet called The Fiddlers, as follows : -
I have just been furnished with the following reply: -
Regulation 28. (1) “ No person shall, by word of mouth, or in writing, or in any newspaper, periodical, book, circular, or other printed publication -
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
asked the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
– Theanswer to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
No new practice has been inaugurated during the past twelve months in regard to mail services other than my decision in December last that, with respect to non-paying services in outlying districts established prior to Federation, such were not to be interfered with where the disparity between revenue and expenditure had not unreasonably increased in the interval, having in view the effect of penny postage and where contracts could be renewed at existing rates or thereabouts. As regards mail services generally, no discrimination is made in treatment as between services in country districts and those serving towns and large centres.
Considerable reduction has been made in capital cities and suburbs in the number of postal deliveries as compared with pre-war days.
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
Whether he will give the House the following information: -
The amount of money invested in War Bonds lent without interest or theinterest of which is returned to the Treasury?
A list showing by numbers, in lieu of names, the various amounts making such total?
– The following particulars give the information desired by the honorable member:’-
The number of persons who contributed the £79,627 is not known, as in some cases the amounts have been received through newspaper offices or through associations or organizations.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Whether letters addressed to correspondents in Great Britain are subject to the censorship and are delayed in consequence, so that they are not sent by the mails for which they are intended when being posted?
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The Governor of the Commonwealth Bank has furnished the following information : - 1, 2 and 3. The Messrs. Kirkpatrick are the Bank’s architects, and the cleaning of the building, maintenance of lifts and electrical appliances, together with the general supervision of the building, are entirely under their control. A large portion of their time is also occupied in conferences with the Bank’s officers on questions of premises and fittings at all branches, and in addition to this ‘they look after all the Banks’ maps and plans of premises, these services being given free in lieu of the payment of rent for the space occupied in the Bank building.
Mr. Gerald Mussen’s Appointments : Munitions Area, Port Pirie
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Whether it is a fact that Mr. Gerald Mussen, investor, 362 Collins-street, Melbourne, is - .
– Inquiries are being made, and such information as can be made available will be furnished to the honorable member.
In Committee of Ways and Means (Consideration resumed from 19th September, vide page. 2293, on motion by Sir John Forrest) -
That a tax be imposed on incomes derived from sources in Australia . . . [For full text of motion see page 1411.]
– I propose to ask the Committee to deal with the motion in subdivisions, and that will enable us to discuss all parts fully without again having a general discussion on the whole proposal, and making no headway. Until we reach subdivision F, I shall not propose any amendment, except the correction of a clerical error in subdivision B, where £559 10s. should read £599 10s. Subdivision F was the subject of practically the whole of the discussion yesterday, and I asked the Committee to report progress in order that the Government might further consider the matter in the light of the views expressed by honorable members. When we reach that subdivision, I shall propose some amendment, which I hope will meet with the concurrence of the Committee. Perhaps I shall be meeting the wishes of honorable members if I indicate now the alterations I shall move. In sub-paragraph ii of paragraph a, I shall propose to strike out the words “ and was under the age of forty-five years.” That will make the tax apply to every unmarried man or widower without children who is not under the age of twenty-one years. Then, in the following line, I shall propose to strike out the word “ ten,” and substitute “ five.” That will provide for the imposition of a tax “ of £5 or 5 per centum of bis taxable income, whichever is the greater.” In paragraph 6 sub-paragraph 1, as already indicated, I shall propose to add after “ Australia “ the words “ or has enlisted for service outside Australia on a ship of war.” I shall then ask the Committee to strike out sub-paragraphs ii and iii, which read -
We propose to delete paragraph 3-
That, notwithstanding that he has not endeavoured to enlist in an Expeditionary Force raised for service outside Australia, he is obviously unfit for any naval or military service whatever.
We intend to retain paragraph 4 altered in this way -
That a majority of his brothers of military age have been on active’ service outside , Australia during the present war, or are members of an Expeditionary Force raised for service outside Australia, or have enlisted for service outside Australia in a ship of war.
We propose to retain paragraph 5, which reads-
That he is permanently incapacitated for work.
We wish to delete paragraphs 6, 7, and 8, which read -
That he is employed in the police orprison services of the Commonwealth or of a State ; or
That he is employed on a lighthouse; or
That he is a minister of religion.
We propose to add a new paragraph to this effect -
Thathe is in receipt of an invalid or oldage pension.
We propose that subdivision G shall stand as it was on thenotice-paper for yesterday to be followed by this new subdivision : -
There shall be payable in respect of a cash prize in a lottery income tax to the amount of 10 per cent. of the gross prize money.
These are all the alterations which we wish to submit. I would like to get the concurrence of honorable members to this suggestion, that the Chairman should take the motion in parts, because by that means we should be able to deal with the parts in. a far better way than we could by taking them as a whole. I remind honorable members that subdivisions A to E are the law at the present time. I propose to move, sir, that you take the motion before the Committee in parts. It will not deprive any honorable member of an opportunity to speak. It will be very convenient, and, I think, will tend to expedition.
– Do you not think it advisable to alter the title to The Bachelor’s Tax?
– I do not.
.- I take it, sir, from the way in which the motion was submitted to the Committee that every honorable member will have the same right as we had yesterday to deal with the proposal as a whole, andthat it will not be competent for you to rule that an honorable member cannot debate subdivision F whilst subdivision A is being discussed. The motion was submitted to the Committee in seven or eight different parts or sections, and I take it, sir, that it will only be possible to do what the Treasurer desires by him asking leave to withdraw the motion, and submitting an amended motion.
– You agree that it would be the most convenient way to deal withthe proposal?
– I am in this position, that I have already spoken to the general question. I admit thatpart F is the most vital one, and I am opposed to its adoption, even in the amended form which has been suggested. Other honorable members, however, have not had an opportunity of discussing the motion, and they desire to discuss it as a whole, and not to be tied down to any particular section. If certain parts were passed, they would be prevented from doing that. It is to safeguard the rights of honorable members that I protest against the Treasurer being allowed to take the course which he suggests.
– I wish to speak on the general question. First, I take the objection that, inasmuch as the Government was elected to carry on the business of the war, it has no justification for seeking to impose taxation which has not been submitted to the electors. No honorable member can say that the Government received a mandate from the country to introduce a bachelor’s tax.
– It is a very good tax.
Mr.RILE Y.- That may be; but the people of this country have not yet had an opportunity to say whether they approve of its imposition or not.
– On a point of order, sir, I understood the Treasurer to move that the Committee should agree to take the parts of the motion seriatim.
– No; he did not.
– I have moved a motion.
– My point of order is that this matter of procedure ought to be decided before a general discussion is entered upon.
– I object to the motion being taken in parts.
– I did not understand the Treasurer to submit a motion; but, if he did, I am bound to put it before the Committee. I point out to honorable members that, both in a Committee of the Whole, and in the House itself, the Presiding Officer may, of his own volition, divide a complicated question in order that it may be better understood. This procedure is followed in the British House of Commons, and is sanctioned by our own Standing Orders. .
– I move.
That the motion be put in sections as alphabetically headed.
This procedure is perfectly regular. It will not take away any opportunity to speak.
– You had a good say yesterday.
– Honorable members had all yesterday to discuss the general question.
Mr.Riley. - We never got a chance to do so.
– You want to deprive me of my right.
– The honorable member’s right is to keep quiet when another member is speaking. I remind honorable members that, after the motion has been approved, if we get that far, a Bill embodying its various proposals will have to be introduced, and on the second and third readings they can discuss the whole question. It is idle, therefore, to say that an opportunity to speak on the subject would be taken away from any honorable member. In my opinion, the only way to deal with this business is to take the motion in sections, the same as the Estimates are taken. I did not anticipate yesterday that we would have much discussion until we reached part F. I cannot understand how any honorable member can, take exception to the course I propose.
– You have already moved the whole motion.
– And it is now in the possession of the Committee.
– I wish to meet honorable members in every way I can, but I do not think it is quite reasonable on their part to desire another day’s discussion on the general question, and make no progress. We shall have to come to a decision.
– Have I no -rights, sir ? I am in possession of the floor, and yet you have allowed the Treasurer to speak for almost half-an-hour.
– If honorable members destroy the motion there will be no income tax collected for this year. Does any one want that ?
– Bring down a proper measure.
– We can pass this motion, anyhow.
.- I submit that this supplementary motion is out of order, because the Treasurer has already submitted a motion, namely -
That a tax be imposed on incomes derived from sources in Australia at the following amounts and rates.
The amounts and rates cover three pages of print, and until that motion is withdrawn there is no power under the Standing Orders to divide the motion. The object of getting into Committee of Ways and Means is to allow honorable members to voice their opinions on questions of taxation, and to give the widest possible latitude of discussion. I submit that the Treasurer is not in order in practically superseding his original motion with a proposal to take that motion in sections, because were that course taken it would deprive honorable members of their right to discuss the question as fully as they desire.
– Could I not move an amendment to part F now ?
– Of course the right honorable gentleman could. .
– But that would not be so convenient to us.
– I am aware that the Treasurer can amend his proposal as he likes, but really the best thing to do would be to withdraw the motion and bring down an amended proposal so as to allow honorable members an opportunity to discuss it.
– I do not propose to do that.
– The present proposal, if adopted, would deprive honorable members of. the right which they enjoy in Committee of Ways and Means.
– If I agree to move my first amendment to the motion, will that suit you?
– Until honorable members have had the fullest opportunity to discuss the original motion, I do not consider that it would be right for the Treasurer to take away from them their right to express their opinions.
– Does he propose to do that?
– Yes; he proposes to withdraw a right from those honorable members who could not speak to the motion yesterday. Honorable members on both sides of the chamber protested at the time. I do not know what arrangement has been made by honorable members opposite. It is quite possible their objections to the motion have been met by the Government, which may now represent a solid party. Ministers may, have taken this question, as they have taken other questions, to a party meeting so as to obtain unanimity.
– No, you are wrong there.
– I submit, sir, that there is no right in the Chair to accept the motion just made by the Treasurer, because it is impossible for him to have two motions before the Committee at one time. I take it, sir, that you will not deprive honorable members on this side, even though they are very few in number, of the right they possess under the Standing Orders to discuss a proposal which they think is of a peculiarly obnoxious character.
– I do not appreciate the arguments of the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Tudor). Honorable members would not be curtailed of their full right to debate each part of the taxation motion by the proposal of the Treasurer (Sir John Forrest). On the contrary, it would give to them, if possible, a fuller right than they had yesterday. I did not speak on the important matter on which other honorable members spoke then. I reserved to myself the right, if necessary, to debate it, and so did honorablemembers on both sides. With regard to the actual proposition before the Chair now, I submit that it is entirely in accordance with the best parliamentary practice that is set out in May in regard to questions of some complication.
The ancient rule that when a complicated question is proposed to the House, the House may order such question to be divided, is observed in’ the following manner.
– “ The House may order.”
– The same practice is applied in Committee of the whole as in the House.
– From what is the honorable member quoting?
– From May, 10th edition, page’ 271.There it is stated -
When two or more separate propositions-
As is the case here ; indeed, I think there are in this motion six or seven entirely distinguishable propositions, each more or less independent of the other - are embodied in a motion or in an amendment, the Speaker calls the attention of the House, to the circumstance; and if objection be taken, he puts the question on such propositions separately, restricting debate” to each proposition in its turn; though to this course resort is unfrequent, because it is generally recognised, if a motion formed of a series of paragraphs is submitted to the House,the question should be proposed on the principal paragraph, which determines the decision of the House upon the various proposals contained in the whole motion.
That could not possibly apply to a motion which contains within itself seven different taxing proposals.
– Which is the principal proposal ?
– There is no principal proposal. Consequently, if the Committee desire to have a full discussion on each of these matters, it may direct the Chairman to put the various proposals separately. That is to say - if the necessity should arise, separate subjects contained in a motion can be placed seriatim before the House by way of amendment.
– But that is usually done at the beginning of a discussion, and not when we are half through it.
– There may be strong reasons why we should not interrupt a debate in the middle of it, but I fail to agree with the contention of the Leader of the Opposition that the Treasurer’s proposal, if adopted, will curtail the rights of any honorable member.
– When they come to deal with it, the Government may “gag” it through.
– They may do that anyhow.
– Does the honorable member think that the authority which he has quoted enables the Treasurer to move two motions at the one time?
– Nobody can do that. The Committee is now in possession of the motion, which covers all these matters. Thus far, I agree with the Leader of theOpposition.
– But the Treasurer has moved a second motion before his first motion has been disposed of. Surely that is not in order.
– But the Chairman himself can, at any stage-
– At present, we have before us two motions which have been submitted by the Treasurer.
– Any honorable member who has proposed a motion may seek the direction of the Committee as to how it shall be dealt with. That is the very position that is laid down in May. I submit that-, under the course which the Treasurer proposes to adopt, no honorable member will be deprived of any of his rights.
– As the honorable member for Flinders has stated, this motion is already in the possession of the Committee. When an honorable member in charge of a motion desires to substitute another motion for it, is it not the usual practice for him to ask the leave of the Committee to do so?
– I am not seeking to substitute another motion for my first proposal.
– The right honorable gentleman cannot have two motions before the Committee simultaneously.
– In my previous remarks I pointed out that both under our Standing Orders and under the practice of. the British House of Commons the Presiding Officer, either in the House or in Committee, has power vested in him to subdivide any motion for convenience of debate. Our standing order dealing with this matter is standing order No. 122, which provides that the House may order a complicated question to be divided. The same powers are vested in this Committee as are vested in the House, and, therefore, this Committee has power to divide the Treasurer’s proposal into sections. The honorable member for Flinders (Sir William Irvine) has called attention to the practice of the House of Commons, as laid down in the 10th edition of May, page 271. There it is stated -
The ancient rule that when a complicated question is proposedto the House, the House may order such question to be divided, is observed in the following manner.
Then follows the extract which has already been quoted by the honorable member. The point taken by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Tudor) is, in my opinion, hot applicable to this particular case, because here the original motion, which was “ That the motion be agreed to,” is not removed from the Committee. That motion still stands. The intervening proposal of the Treasurer (Sir John Forrest), is that, for the sake of convenience, the motion shall be divided into parts. Some honorable members apparently think that if the procedure proposed be adopted they will be deprived of their rights. I would point out that, so far from that being the case, their rights will be multiplied, because, instead of being restricted to speaking twice upon the motion itself, they will be at liberty to speak twice upon each alphabetical section of it.
– The first part of the motion deals with the income tax. Some honorable members desire to alter that particular part of it so as to more accurately describe what is proposed in section F . If the motion is to be dealt with in sections, I trust that we shall not be prevented from giving the proper name to this proposition before we reach section F.
– Each section will be open to discussion.
– I take it that we shall’ be at liberty to debate the first section of the motion in the light of each of the other sections. Therefore, I apprehend that we shall be permitted to traverse the whole ground covered by the motion. Only upon that understanding will I consent to the Treasurer’s proposal. At the same time, I cannot understand what the right honorable gentleman hopes to gain by adopting this procedure.
– I do not wish the position to be misunderstood. I have already intimated that each of the alphabetical sections of the motion will be open to legitimate amendment, but the debate upon each alphabetical section must be confined to its subject-matter.
Question - That the motion be put in sections as alphabetically headed - put. The Committee divided.
Majority . . . . 25
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Section A - rate of Tax upon Income Derived from Personal Exertion.
The average rate of tax per pound sterling for so much of the taxable income as does not exceed £7,600 may be calculated from the following formula : -
.- I should like to learn what alteration is proposed in this section. Great objection is taken by mathematicians to this method of calculation of the income tax, and Mr. Knibbs’ formula is questioned. Yesterday the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Austin Chapman) asked whether it was not possible to adopt some simpler method of calculating the tax.
– I have already promised that attention will be given by the Taxation Department to this matter to see whether some more simple form of calculating the income tax than that now in force can be devised. There has been a great deal of complaint, not only with regard to the complexity of the form, but also with regard to duplication in making out schedules forthe Commonwealth and States. The whole matter has been discussed at the Conference of the Commonwealth and State Statisticians and the taxing officers. We hope to be able to do something in the matter, but it is not very easy, because we must secure the concurrence of the six States. There has been some question raised by mathematicians as to the accuracy of the formula, but the only information I can give with respect to section A is that the word “ average “ has been inserted to make the meaning clearer. That is the only alteration shown in this section upon the existing form. I informed honorable members yesterday, and on the 23rd August, that the wording in sections B and C has been altered slightly from that used under the Act of 1916. But the legal effect is the same in each case. I also informed the House that some doubt was raised as to whether the wording used in the Act of 1916 achieved the purpose of the Act. The Department is advised that the desired purpose was achieved, but in order to set the question beyond all doubt the wording has been altered, though the legal effect is in no way changed. The actual rates imposed under this resolution will not in any way differ from those imposed by the Act of 1916.
Section agreed to.
Section B (Rate of tax upon income derived from property).
– There is a clerical error in this section which requires correction in the line “ 12.768 pence for one pound sterling between £559 10s.0d. and £600 10s.0d.” I move-
That the figures “ £559 10s.0d.” be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the figures “£599 10s.0d.”
Amendment agreed to.
Section, as amended, agreed to.
Section C -
Rate of Tax in Respect of Taxable Income Derived Partly from Personal Exertion and Partly from Property.
For every pound sterling of taxable income derived from personal exertion, the rate of tax shall be ascertained by dividing the total amount of the tax that would be payable under Subdivision A if the total taxable income were derived exclusively from personal exertion by the amount of the total taxable income.
For every pound sterling of taxable income derived from property the rate of tax shall be ascertained by dividing the total amount of tax that would be payable under the” Subdivision B if the total taxable income were derived’ exclusively from property by the amount of the total taxable income.
.- I presume that the Government do not propose, so far as the present financial year is concerned, to submit any alteration of the income tax.
– There is an Assessment Bill which we propose to bring in as soon as we can.
– Are we to understand from the Treasurer that the Government have definitely abandoned any idea of, a super-income tax this year?
– “ Sufficient to the day- “
– That is all very well, but it is advisable that we should know exactly where we are, and whether the Treasurer intends to let off the companies referred to by the honorable member for Flinders (Sir WilliamIrvine).
– Order! The honorable gentleman will not be in order in discussing that matter.
– Why not, sir?
– Because the Committee is dealing with the Tate of tax as set out in section C, and that does not apply in any way to the intentions of the Government with respect to future taxation.
– There is a supertax.
– There is a super-tax of 25 per cent. over the existing rate. I am well aware of that. I was afraid when the proposal was made to subdivide the resolution that in discussing the different sections seriatim we should be prevented from discussing the general application of taxation. Honorable members are aware that persons who have made investments in companies are, in some cases, receiving huge profits. The matter was referred to by the honorable member for Flinders (Sir William Irvine) when discussing the War-time Profits Tax Assessment Bill.
– The honorable member may not proceed on those lines. He must see that he is discussing a matter that is quite outside the section of the motion now before the Committee.
– I candidly confess that I do not think I am discussing a matter outside the motion, or outside this section, which deals with the taxation of property.
– It has nothing to do with the war-time profits tax.
– It would appear that the Treasurer has no intention of taxing the people to whom I have3 referred at all, but that, so far as another section of the people is concerned, he is prepared to penalize them as much as he possibly can.
– What section am I going to penalize?
– I am not allowed to refer to section F whilst we are discussing section C. I wish to know from the Treasurer whether he intends to impose any additional taxation on the people who are now heaping up huge profits, and paying out large dividends? This section deals with income derived partly from property and partly from personal exertion, and I know that the persons to whom I refer are interested in both ways. I, therefore, ask the Treasurer whether the Government have any proposal for a superincome tax? If I am out of order in putting that question, the right honorable gentleman would be out of order in foreshadowing the intentions of the Government. That is why I “ desire that the Committee should be given the fullest opportunity to discuss the whole of this motion.
– I shall state as clearly as I can what are the financial proposals of the Government for this year.
– Order ! The right honorable gentleman maynot discuss that
– I can only say that they are before the country in the Budget.
.- I point out that this dual method of taxation bears, in some instances, very unjustly on persons whose income from personal exertion is probably all that they have to depend upon. Under the Federal Income Tax Act every man who owns a house is assumed to be receiving income from property. I take the case, for instance, of a man whose income is £500 a year from personal exertion and £25 a year from property. His exemption is equally divided between the two, and not pro rata; so that part of his exemption of £156 disappears altogether in his property tax.
– Perhaps the honorable member will give an instance.
– I can give my own case as an instance. Last year I was asked to pay on an amended assessment, because I happened to have a small income from property in New South Wales, which, when added to my other income, increased the tax out of all proportion to the income I derived from that property. I concluded that the way in which the results were arrived at was that my exemption was divided, £78 going to personal exertion and £78 to income from property. The income from the property in New South Wales was only £8, and was only income at all because it was declared to be so by the Act. As a matter of fact, I did not receive a penny of income from it, but as I said that I owned a house in New
South Wales for pleasure I had to pay taxation on it. One-half of my exemption disappears in the assessment of the New South Wales property. I should likethe Minister to look into this matter to see that no injustice is done to the small taxpayers of the community.
.- I desire also to call attention to this subdivision dealing with property, and the method adopted of applying it to income. What the honorable member for Moreton has said is perfectly correct. The value of property is to be capitalized at 5 per cent. and treated as income’. In my own district there are many working men who, after a lifetime of struggle, have got a home together, perhaps on money borrowed from financial institutions, and they will have to pay under this measure. A home might be valued at £400, and 5 per cent. on that would represent £20 of income upon which the man would be taxed to the extent of £1, while another man who had been earning perhaps equally good wages during the whole of his life, but did not provide himself with a home at all, would escape this additional (taxation.
– That is a very good conservative argument.
– At all events it is a justargument, and we should, if possible, protect men who have been thrifty and have provided a home for their wives and children.
– How can you expect a man with ten or twelve children to provide a home ?
– If it is wrong to tax a man with children, it is equally wrong to tax a man who has built a home for himself out of his earnings.
– What is the difference between a house worth £400 and a house worth £1,000? It is home just the same.
– There is a difference of £600, and by comparison one would be regarded as a mansion.
– The taxpayer would only have to pay correspondingly on the higher value.
– What I am complaining about is that under this particularmeasure a working man who has provided himself with a home, and is paying municipal and other taxation, will be called upon to pay additional taxation as compared with the man who has not provided himself with a home.
– Why not move an amendment excepting houses of the value of £500?
– This is a matter for consideration in the Assessment Bill.
-Exactly. That is the object I had in view when I rose to draw attention to it.
.- The honorable member for Hunter (Mr. Charlton) is on dangerous ground, because his argument might be applied with equal force to the old-age pensions scheme, and the man who has been thrifty all his life might ask why should he be taxed to provide old-age pensions for others. The case is on exactly all fours with the Pensions. Act. I want also to say a word or two with regard to the point raised by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Tudor), who referred to something which we have already dealt with. It must be well known to the Treasurer (Sir John Forrest) from the list furnished by his Department) that a large number of people will escape taxation under legislation recently passed ; and if one notes the rise in the price of certain shares it would not be very hard to understand the cause.
– But I understand that we can get them in under section D.
– We are not permitted to mention the other matter referred to, but the Treasurer said, “ We will deal with them in another way.” That was his reply to the honorable member for Flinders (Sir William Irvine), who pointed out clearly that a large number of people would escape taxation under the Bill recently passed, because the prewar period of business was good.
– I do not remember saying that, and I did not say that there would be any further taxation this year, because our financial arrangements are settled.
– But the Treasurer must know, from the big list furnished by his Department, that a large number of people will escape taxation.
– I do not know that.
– In reply to the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Sinclair), I think the effect of this proposal will be to deprive taxpayers of the exemption, but they will get exemption under section 19 of the original Act, and will make the deductions before this measure becomes operative. This deals with the taxable income, and not with the gross income as affected by the deductions. Under the amendment made last year the deductions were rather more than had previously been allowed, both from property and personal exertion.
.- The honorable member for Hunter (Mr. Charlton) mentioned the case of taxpayers who had saved enough money to buy homes for themselves.
– They have paid for the houses out of their wages. You seem to think they had some accumulated capital.
– What is the difference between £600 in the bank and a house worth £700 or £800? Personally, I would prefer to have the house. The honorable member for Hunter was very solicitous about the man who was thrifty enough to save money and buy his home, and I admit it ought to be every man’s ambition to live in his own home, whether it is large or small. I know it was my ambition, and Australia was good enough for me to achieve my object. But there are other men who, when married, have children coming along every one or two years, and they have no chance of saving money for a home.
– But this Bill does not apply to the man with children. It applies to single men.
– In that case, I would favour the Government taxing them. But I want to point out that the man with a family gets no consideration at all under this measure.
– Most of the men who have houses in my district also have large families.
– My experience is that a man who has to work hard for his daily bread cannot save any money with which to buy a house, but that he is taxed on everything he gets, from the time he is married.
– I would like to know, from the Minister in charge of the Bill, how the matter will be adjusted in the case of a house valued at, say, £400, and which is only partly paid for. Will the whole value of the home be deducted? .
– I do not think that will be the effect of the measure. The man will be regarded as the owner of the land, although he has not paid for it. The allowance comes under another part of the income tax return.
– Do they divide the tax, the building society paying part and the purchaser paying part?
– I do not think so. All the purchaser is liable for as regards his residence is a percentage on the value of the land he uses as a residence.
.- He pays 5 per cent. on the house whether it is paid for or not, but is allowed to deduct from his taxable income any interest he is paying on the unpaid balance.
Section agreed to.
Section D -
In addition to the tax payable under the pre ceding provisions, there shall be payable, in the case of incomes in respect of which the tax is calculated under the foregoing provisions, an additional tax equal to 25 per centum of the amount of the tax so calculated.
.- I should like to hear from the Treasurer on this point.
– There is no change.
– I understood from the Treasurer that the super-tax was not to be increased, and that the financial proposals of the Government are now before the people.
– What do you want to know ?
– I was thinking of the statement made by the honorable member for Flinders (Sir William Irvine) early this month. He said, in effect, that the Government’s taxation policy was definite, andthat under the War-time Profits Tax Bill, then before the House, shipping companies, metal companies, and others that were piling up huge profits were being let off.
– My argument was that the operation of the income tax in the case of big incomes nullified the effect of the “Bill then before the House.
– Yes, the honorable member said the Bill then before us would not touch those people for that reason. I urge the Government now to increase the super-tax. The only one who can move in that direction, of course, is the Treasurer himself. Instead of being 25 per cent., the super-tax should be more like 100 per cent. Every one obtaining one of these high incomes should be paying at least 10s. in the £1.
– If you do that under the income tax you still leave that additional tax as an exemption from the war profits tax. It cuts both ways.
– They are exempt now from the war profits tax. We have dealt with that Bill, and the Government are not likely to amend it now. The proposal I am putting forward would be instrumental in obtaining more revenue than any other the Government could make.
– Then you would suggest a heavy additional income tax? But in order to carry out your idea you would exempt or deduct from that moneys paid under the war profits tax.
– Certainly. We have no right to tax a man twice for the same thing. If we tax him under the war profits tax, I presume the amount he pays under the income tax would be allowed as an exemption, and viceversâ. It is all very well for the Treasurer to say we have no need of this money. I cannot understand a Treasurer saying that, who only last week brought forward a Bill to borrow £80,000,000. We are the lightest taxed people in the British Empire today.
– That is not correct.
– We have already adopted the principle of graduation, and can graduate the super-tax in the same way.
– What do you think it ought to be ?
– The Treasurer should bring forward some additional proposal.
– Why? People generally want to avoid taxation, but you seem to want to put more on to people.
– I do; butthe object of the Government is apparently to let people off instead of taxing them.
– They will have to pay.
– They will not have to pay enough under these proposals.
– In 1915-16 we paid 6s. 8d. per head - equal to what Great Britain was paying then.
- Mr. Bonar Law only the other day told some people who waited on him in relation to a wealth levy that the British Government were taxing some people to the extent of over 95 per cent. of their incomes.
– That would suit you, I should think.
– Yes, on the very large incomes, part of which should pay at the higher rate; but there are no people taxed more than 6s. 3d. in the £1 by Commonwealth taxation.
– The income tax in Great Britain goes up to 10s. in the £1.
– I honestly believe that our income tax should go up to the same amount to-day.
– There is the land tax besides.
– Great Britain has a land tax and Customs duties on luxuries, and on sugar and tea. These’ taxes are’ infinitely heavier than ours.
– Then there are the State taxes.
– If the Commonwealth neglects to tax these people the States will tax them, and the Commonwealth, which has to bear the full cost of the war, will not be obtaining the revenue that it should. It would be -very easy for the Opposition to sit down and let this pass, and then go on the platform and tell the people how the Treasurer had neglected his duty. I prefer to do it here first, and am now pointing out to the Treasurer the opportunities he is neglecting in not increasing the income tax.
– It will be increased all in good time.
– The honorable member for Grey (Mr. Poynton) pointed last night to the fruitful seasons we have been enjoying and the enormous profits that are being made in many businesses. I showed, in discussing another measure, that in Victoria alone 1,308 individuals or companies made profits of £8,500,000 in 1914, whereas in the year ending 30th June, 1917, 1,362 individuals or- companies had made over £10,000,000 in profits, or an increase of over £1,500,000 in the three war years. The Government have golden opportunities of taxing these people that they will not have in the near future. That is why I ask the Treasurer now to grasp this chance.
– We have told yon what we are going to do.
– I shall sit down if the Treasurer will say that the Government have the question of additional taxation under consideration now.
– He will not tell you anything of the kind.
– It is very strange to hear the Opposition asking the Government to tax the people more.
– No one in this chamber would ask the Treasurer to divulge information that would be the means of causing the Commonwealth to lose one penny of taxation. But that does not apply to an Income Tax Bill.
– What I meant to indicate was that the Treasurer has already told the honorable member that his taxation proposals are settled for the year.
Sitting suspended from 1 to 2.30 p.m.
– A magnificent opportunity for obtaining revenue by mean’s of taxation presents itself at this time. No doubt it would be better, in the party interests of the Opposition, not to make suggestions to the Treasurer with a view to improving the taxation proposals of the Government, but to go on to the public platform, and there criticise them.
– The increasing of taxation will not be very popular when preached from the platform.
– The honorable member for Flinders (Sir William Irvine) said that if there was one definite pledge made to the people before the election it was that those who had been making excess profits during the war should be called on to repay part of them to the Government, but he said that the War-time Profits Tax Assessment Bill let these people off. The Treasurer, however, does not propose any other taxation to deal with them. The Government makes a tremendous mistake in not proposing a super-tax to get at these people. We. are agreed that no profits should be made out of the war, but we know that many persons are making fortunes out of it, and they should be taxed. The Treasurer could get at them by increasing the super-tax provided for in subdivision d.
– I am astonished that the Leader of the Opposition should attack the Government on the ground that its taxation proposals are not sufficiently heavy. The complaint usually heard from the Opposition is that there is too much taxation, that the people have too great a burden to bear. The financial proposals of the Government were laid before honorable members when I made my Budget Speech on the 8th August last. I then showed exactly what revenue we expected, and what we intended to expend, and I stated what the new taxation proposals would be. I said, further, that additional taxation would have been necessary but for the surplus ‘from last year and the transfer of £825,000 from the London Liabilities Account. The people, as I then pointed out, are already heavily taxed, the Federal, State, and municipal taxation of Australia being equivalent to £7 4s. 2d. for every man, woman, and child within the Commonwealth. Now we have imposed a Wartime Profits Tax.
– That Bill exempts every one.
– Honorable members complain of the high cost of living; but do they think that to increase taxation will make things cheaper ?
– Then do you want more taxation in order to make things dearer? Of the income tax 84 per cent, is paid by persons having incomes exceeding £1,000 a year. However, this is not an occasion for speaking on the financial position of the country. The Committee is asked to re-enact taxation which is now in existence. ‘Should the Government need more money than was anticipated when the Budget was made, we shall have to provide it.
.- I shall avail myself, of every opportunity to make it plain that the financial proposals of the Government are not what should he expected from the occupants of the Treasury bench. There are times when a community can bear taxation, and other times when taxation is difficult to enforce, but in my opinion there could be no better opportunity than the present for imposing it. There is an immense amount of borrowed money in circulation, and the profits that are being made are much greater than they have been in any previous period of our history. The year 1913 was a prosperous one’, but the bank balances now are higher than they were then. Ministers think that they can carry on with borrowed money, but the people,
I am sure, are against heavy borrowing for any but war purposes. A little later the community will not be as well able to pay taxation as they are now. No one knows what will happen after the war, but we may be sure that an immense amount of money will be needed to carry on the service of government, and to provide for the repatriation of our returned men. Most of these will wish to resume the occupations which they were following when they went away, and thus employment must be found for them. . At) the last election the people were led to believe that taxation would be increased, and they are prepared for extra taxation. A Government that cannot look ahead is un- . fitted to govern. Even the Treasurer must be ashamed of the War-time Profits Tax Assessment Bill as a means of providing revenue, so many exemptions being made in it. Ministers should recognise their responsibilities, and should not allow things to drift. No private member can move to increase taxation, and therefore it is the more necessary that the Government should state the true position, and take steps to prepare for probable eventualities. I am sure that many honorable members opposite are not in favour of land taxation as the sole means of obtaining revenue - I myself” am not - but it will not be long before we have a bigger land tax. Honorable members must abandon the idea that the ordinary services of a country oan be carried on with loan money. We should borrow only for war purposes. If honorable members do not give attention to the financial affairs of the country, the people will choose other representatives. It is proposed shortly to have an adjournment for a period of , five or six weeks, during which time the ; country will ‘be at the mercy of the. Go- .vernment. I do not know why there should be such an adjournment, ‘. when so much work remains to be done. It is not in accordance with the wish of the people. There is too much indifference to public affairs. By shelving things we shall only make the position worse. If honorable members opposite are not sufficiently patriotic to look after the welfare of Australia then at least it can never be said that I failed to draw attention to their lack of duty, and to their want of appreciation of the public demands.
.- The criticism which the Opposition level at the Government proposals is somewhat amusing. They condemn the Government for their proposals of taxation, but they carefully refrain from suggesting any new scheme by which the requisite revenue should be raised. In the one breath they declare that the cost of living- should be reduced, and in the next they make proposals for taxing every industry, and so increasing the cost of living. I am glad that the Treasurer has amended his motion. He now makes it perfectly clear that the tax on single ‘ men and widowers without children is not, as the Opposition would have the public believe, anything in the nature of economic conscription, but to obtain money for repatriation.
– I would remind (he honorable member that the whole motion is not now before the Chair. We are dealing only with subdivision D.
– Then I shall reserve until a later stage the remarks I had intended to make. We have to raise additional revenue, and if the Opposition object to the means proposed by the Treasurer, they should at least come forward with some concrete proposition. The scheme of taxation now under consideration will, in my opinion, bring in considerably more than is anticipated, while the War-time Profits Tax Assessment Bill will affect the very people of whom honorable members opposite have been speaking. The Treasurer has assured us that later on further taxation will be necessary, and that a super income tax will then be proposed.
– Why not have it now ?
– Why should we impose taxation before it is required ? Is it not better that the money that would in that way be collected by the Treasury should remain in industry and give employment to the people?
.- The honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Corser ) complained that the Opposition was not prepared to suggest other sources for the raising of revenue. I understand that the honorable member for Grey (Mr. Poynton) when speaking this morning intimated that there had been placed before the Treasurer a return showing those who would escape the War-time Profits Tax. The honorable member assures me now by nodding assent, that that is so, and I would commend that source of additional revenue ,to the honorable member for Wide Bay. There we have an area of taxation embracing the very wealthy people of the community who escape the operation of the war-time profits tax, and who might well be made the subject of additional taxation.
– Even now the honorable member does not explain himself.
– Then I shall give my explanation in the words of the honorable member for Flinders (Sir William Irvine) who, speaking in this House said -
If there was any pledge to the country, if the late election was really fought on this issue-
That is the issue of taxing war-time profits and there were no other issues before the people, or if this was one of the material issues before the people, the substance of it was that we should so frame our legislation that we should, as nearly as possible, tax under this form of taxation the profits of those metal companies, those shipping companies, those softgoods companies, those chemical businesses, and others whose gains, whose stocks, whose freights, or. whose other sources of revenue had, by reason of the war, enabled them to make larger profits.
This Bill lets them off.
– Order ! The honorable member is going outside the particular, subdivision of the motion with which we are now dealing.
– Subdivision “ d provides for an additional tax, and I submit I am entitled to suggest a still further additional tax.
– No proposition for additional taxation not connected with the subdivision immediately before the Committee will be in order.
– .The honorable member for Flinders, at all events, made the position perfectly clear. His statemerit is to be found in Hansard for 5th September. In reply to the honorable member for Wide Bay I submit that instead of placing the burden of taxation upon those least able to bear it, the Government would be acting, according to one of its own supporters, in conformity with its election pledges if it availed itself of the area of taxation which he indicated.
.- I am surprised that the Treasurer should say that he does not want more revenue.
– What surprises me is to hear the Opposition “barracking” for more taxation. I have never heard anything like that before.
– The honorable member is surprised to hear a Labour Opposition demanding more taxation. Unfortunately we have to find more money for the conduct of the war, and the carrying on of the general services of the country, and it is still more unfortunate that this taxation for the most part is passed on to the lower grades of society. If one could complain of the position in which we find ourselves, I should complain very loudly, in view of the fact that the Government propose to go into recess without making any provision to relieve the awful pressure caused by the high cost of living. The Treasurer, in his Budget speech, said that hewould require £4,702,000 more than in the previous year.
– That is provided for in the Estimates.
– I dare say that is because the Commonwealth is borrowing, and continuing to borrow, extensively; but if there is ample provision made, why impose this penal tax ? The Treasurer also tells us that he will receive this year less from the land tax than last year, and that there was a similar position in regard to the probate and succession duties.
– There is very little difference.
– But every deficiency, however small, has to be made up somehow.
– We shall obtain a good deal more from the income tax than previously.
– Only about £300,000, which is very little in comparison with £4,702,000.
– The Budget debate is not. the business before us.
– The real taxing authority is not the Federal Government, or the State Governments, but the capitalists and large employers outside, who pass all taxation on.
Section agreed to.
Section E -
Tax Payable in Certain Cases by Persons not married and having no Dependants.
Notwithstanding anything contained in the preceding provisions, the tax payable by any person who-
. -It must not be supposed that because the next section of this memorandum discloses even graver injustices, I, as a member of the Labour party, can assent for a moment to a proposal to levy an income tax of this kind on men who are receiving less than a living wage.
– The proposal was originally introduced by the Labour party, and the honorable member supported it.
– Whenever the Treasurer is challengedhe always refers to somebody who is alleged to have done something quite as bad as that which he proposes, and he regards that as a complete excuse. I shall have somethingto say in regard to the next section, and I rise at this stage merely to voice my protest against the proposal immediately before us, as one in the highest degree politically discreditable to the Government. In time of war, and after a series of measures of legislation designed to protect their friends and the wealthy people of the community, the Government now seek to penalize men of small incomes, who are receiving, as I have said, less than a living wage. There is not an industrial tribunal in Australia to-day which would declare a living wage to be as low as £100 a year; yet this “ Win-the-war “ Government, who have so sedulously saved from taxation men of large incomes, now propose to tax persons of the class I have referred to.
.- The honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) is somewhat late with his opposition.
– I never supported such a proposal.
-Last year the Labour Government introduced a proposal to levy a tax of £1 on men with incomes of £100. Does the honorable member, really object to a single man, who receives £100 a year, paying taxation to the extent of £1 ?
– Then the only explanation I can conceive of the honorable member’s attitude is that he is “ agin the Government.”
.- I should like to move the deletion of section E. It proposes a bachelor tax, pure and simple - a direct tax on those who are bachelors for the simple reason that they have not enough to marry on. The Government seek to increase the single misery of such men by making them pay £1 per annum; and even if paragraph a were deleted a great injustice would remain. We know that, with the cost of living continuously rising, £200 or £250 a year is small enough for the man to live on, especially if he has any children; and yet if a man is unfortunate enough to be too poor to marry, he is to be further penalized. It does not concern me whether this proposal was originally introduced by the Labour party; it is wholly unjust and ought to be rejected.
Question- That section E be agreed to - put. The Committee divided.
Majority … … 22
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Section agreed to.
Section F -
Tax Payable in Certain Cases by Male Persons Between the Ages of Twenty-one Years and Forty-five Years.
There shall be payable by every male person (whether in receipt of a taxable income or not) who, on the first day of July, 1917 -
was unmarried or a widower without children; and
was not under the age of twenty-one years and was under the age of forty-five years, income tax to the amount of £10 or 10 per centum of his taxable income, whichever is the greater :
Provided further that where the Commissioner is satisfied that by reason of the support given by a person to his dependants the payment of the full amount of tax would impose hardship on the person, the Commissioner may reduce the amount of tax payable by that person to such amount’ as the Commissioner in his discretion determines.
The preceding provisions of this subdivision shall not apply to a person who satisfies the Commissioner -
that he has been on active service outside Australia during the present’ war or is a member of an Expeditionary Force raised for service outside Australia; or
that he has since the first day of January, 1917, endeavoured to enlist in an Expeditionary Force raised for service outside Australia, but has been rejected solely on the ground of physical unfitness; or
that, notwithstanding that he has not endeavoured to enlist in an Expeditionary Force raised for service outside Australia, he is obviously unfit for any naval or military service whatever; or
that all his brothers of military age have been oh active service outside Australia during the present war, or are members of an Expeditionary Force raised for service outside Australia; or
that he is permanently incapacitated for work; or
that he is employed in the police or prison services of the Commonwealth or of a State; or
that he is employed on a lighthouse; or
that he is a minister of religion.
For the purposes of this subdivision “ taxable income “ means the amount which is ascertained by deducting from the taxable income of that person within the meaning of the Income Tax Assessment Act 1915-1916 the sum of £26 in respect of each dependant wholly dependent upon him, and such less sum as the Commissioner allows in respect of each dependant partially dependent upon him.
.- I move as an amendment -
That after the words “ unmarried or,” in sub-paragraph i of paragraph a, the words “ married or “ be inserted.
The object of the amendment is to include In the area of the tax married persons who have no children. I want an expression of opinion from the Treasurer as to why this section of the community, which is well able to bear taxation, should be exempted. They have not the responsibility that should give them any claim to exemption over bachelors.
Mr.J. H. Catts. - I rise to a point of order. Is a private memberin order in moving for the purpose of increasing taxation ?
– I expected the Labour party to take that view.
– The proposal is not one to place the onus of the tax on those able to bear it. It is simply one to increase the area of the tax.
– I have ruled on a previous occasion that a non-official member may move in Committee of Ways and Means to increase taxation, but not on a Bill. The honorable member is in order in moving his amendment.
– If a private member moves an amendment, and the Treasurer accepts it, it becomes a Government proposal.
– I do not accept this amendment. I submit to the ruling, but I am surprised at it, because I was under the impression that a private member could not move to increase the burden of taxation.
– It will save time if I quote the ruling that has already been given on a similar point. If honorable members will look at the Votes and Proceedings for 1901 they will see a ruling which I gave and the authorities I quoted on that occasion in reference to an exactly similar matter in Committee of Ways and Means. For the purpose of settling the point definitely for all time, it was submitted to Sir Frederick Holder, and I shall read what he said in regard to it. This was the ruling he gave -
I may Bay I have known for some few weeks past that this question would arise at some stage of the proceedings on the Tariff, and I have, therefore, given it very careful consideration. When first this was made known to me, I at once conceived that the idea of any unofficial member proposing an increase of an item of taxation asked for by the Crown was contrary to the spirit of parliamentary governmentthe spirit of parliamentary government being that the Crown asks for ah impost to be made on the people, and the people’s representatives in Parliament consider the request of the Crown, and may grant the request, or may grant a lesser amount, but would not conceivably give to the Crown a larger sum than the Crown asks should be imposed. When, however, I went from the question of the spirit of parliamentary government to the practice which has grown up as parliamentary institutions have developed, I am obliged to admit that in the House of Commons, which is the standard of our proceedings where it is not otherwise set out in our Standing Orders, the practice of imposing imposts on items not suggested as subjects of taxation by the Crown, and of proposing increases on items which are suggested as subjects for taxation, has sprung up, and that on several occasions, without any objection being taken, new taxes have been proposed and increases by unofficial members, on details of taxes suggested by the Government. There are cases which I am prepared to quote, but which I understand the Chairman has already cited. One case dates back to 1840, and another can be seen in Hansard, vol. 218, page 1041. Striving to interpret the practice of the House of Commons by the practice in other Parliaments, I find that in Canada the same course has been followed, and also in Victoria, where attention was called to the importance of the matter. In South Australia, according to Blackmore’s Practice of the House of Assembly, the practice was followed in 1870 and on other occasions. Therefore, ruling as I have to rule, that neither standing order No. 171 nor standing order No. 247 applies to this case, as we are now dealing with resolutions in Committee only, and the Bill stage will come later; and, falling back on standing order No. 1, which incorporates the practice of the House of Commons, I am bound to decide that the Chairman has correctly determined the practice of this House, which is that duties on items may be increased, and that other items which are mentioned in the Tariff on which no duty is proposed may be proposed as subjects for duty, and that, in that way, the House will have the freest possible hand in debating the Tariff. I may say I should have been better pleased to have decided the other way had my duty permitted me so to decide, because I can see that the ruling I have given may tend to produce considerable discussion beyond that which otherwise would have taken place. But with the practice of the House of Commons before me I can only rule as I have ruled, that the Chairman is correct inhis decision.
I give the same ruling now. A private member may move an amendment increasing the burden of taxation in Committee of Ways and Means, but not after the Bill has been introduced.
– I wish to say that it would be very unwise on our part to enlarge the area of this tax. It is already proposed to extend the operation of the Bill by striking out the words “and was under the age of forty-five years,” and it would be unwise to go further than that at the present moment.
. -I am altogether opposed to subdivision F. It will inflict an enormous hardship on a section of the community least able to bear additional burdens, and it also has the fault of discriminating between’ different classes of the community. This tax was not framed with the intention of raising revenue for repatriation purposes, because the amount required cannot be collected from those whom the Treasurer seeks to reach.
.- In order to get the advantages of the exemption, must a widower have children of his own? Although a manmay have no children of his own, he may have adopted somebody else’s children and be responsible for their upbringing. In such cases will the man be exempt from the operation of the tax?
.If the Treasurer is anxious to do justice according to his point of view, I, like the honorable member forIllawarra (Mr. Lamond), fail to see that there is any justification, for exempting married men who are without children.
– A married man has a wife to keep.
– The accusation against bachelors is that by not getting married they are not doing their duty to the country. If the bachelor is a sinner in that respect, and is to be penalized, those who get married and do not do their duty in the matter of rearing children, are far greater sinners. If the Treasurer wishes to stimulate the birth-rate as well as recruiting, he should agree to the tax being applied to married persons who are without issue. I am opposed to the tax in its entirety, but if the Treasurer has any wish to deal fairly with all sections of the community he will accept the amendment.
.- On no logical grounds can the Treasurer refuse to accept the amendment.
– The tax I propose is directed against men who are untrammelled by responsibilities.
– From the Treasurer’s point of view, a widower without children should be no more subject to this tax than should a married man without . children.
– The married man has a wife and home to maintain.
– We know the reason for the Government’s opposition to a widening of the scope of the Bill. Only under the strenuous pressure of a few of their own supporters did they consent to remove from the measure some of the crude injustices that it proposed when introduced in its original form. I am opposed to this tax entirely, because it rests upon an unjust and improper foundation. It is crude, class, penal legislation. I rose merely to point out the inconsistency of the Government in refusing to accept the amendment.
.- I am opposed to this special tax, but in reference to the amendment it should be borne in mind that a man who is married is, at least, responsible for the support of somebody, and he has to maintain a home. The tax proposed by the Treasurer is intended to apply only to persons without encumbrances.
– Is a married man with dependants in any worse position than a single man with dependants?
– Certainly not; and in my opinion the single man with dependants should be exempt. I cannot support the amendment.
– I, also, am opposedto this tax, and I cannot understand why a proposal of this nature should have been introduced. The subdivision to which we have just agreed provides that a man in receipt of an income of £100 per annum shall pay a tax of £1. That is sufficient. It is also provided that a man in receipt of an income of £2,000 per annum shall be taxed only to the extent of 2½ per cent. of his income. Now the Treasurer proposes that, because a man is unmarried or is a widower without children, he shall pay further heavy penalties. The proposal is unfair. The Government might as well tax a man because he has red hair. If revenue is required, I am in favour of equitable taxation, but I cannot support a tax which discriminates between sections of the community.
– This is an endeavour to distribute the burden of taxation.
– All economists are agreed that taxation should be borne equally by the whole community, and that every man should pay in proportion to his ability to pay. I worked for many years and never earned more than £100 per annum, and I found it very difficult to pay £3 or £4 out of that sum. If a person with that income experienced illness or other adversity, how could he. put by enough money to meet this tax ?
– How would the married man get on inthose circumstances?
– I confess that I do not know how the marriedman does exist on an income of £3 per week in these days. Why should we not preserve in connexion with this tax the exemption of £156, which is already in operation in connexion with the ordinary income tax?
– The honorable member must confine his remarks to the amendment.
– If we are to apply taxation, let its application be equitable, and let us give every man an opportunity to earn sufficient money to keep himself.
– The various excuses and reasons that are pub forward for exempting persons from taxation are amusing to listen’ to. During . my parliamentary life I have heard sympathy expressed with the struggling selector and with the lone widow, and now the members of the Opposition and a few on this side are pouring out their sympathy on the poor bachelor. Of these the honorable member for Fawkner is the worst. He tried to secure sympathy yesterday for the unfortunate University students. The basic principle of taxation should be equality of sacrifice and ability to pay. If of two brothers employed in a business, or working together in a mine or factory or on a farm, one be married and have four or five children, and the other be single, which will contribute the more to the revenue ? A bachelor has nothing to pay for but his board and lodging, his clothing, and his pleasures, and it is mere hypocrisy to talk about his hardships. I have always held, apart from the necessities of the war, that those who are too selfish to maintain homes - and there are men with incomes ranging from £300 to £600 who prefer not to undertakefamily responsibilities- should be specially taxed. It is said that this matter has not been before the electors, but it has been before some of them. Last year I outlined a proposal in connexion with the repatriation scheme-
– The honorable member cannot discuss that matter on the amendment, which is to include married men.
– My opinion is that it is the bachelor whom we . should tax. I have never met a young unmarried man who objected to the proposal that he should pay a fair and reasonable tax. Afterall the foregoing of two or three drinks a week would pay for this tax. I have a better opinion of the young men of Australia than to think that they desire that the taxation of the country shall be paid almost exclusively by the married men.
– Let us deal with those who have money.
– The honorable member is prepared to exempt every wanderer over the country who is too lazy or too selfish to make a home for himself. I wish to tax these persons specially, and, therefore, I am opposed to the amendment, which would tax married men as well as bachelors.
.- Like most honorable members on this side, I am against the proposal of the Government, lock, stock, and barrel, and, as I believe that the amendment of the honorable member for Illawarra would only make things worse, I shall vote against it.
.- I do not agree with the honorable member for West Sydney that a bachelor who is earning £100 a year should not becalled upon to pay £1 a year to the War Fund. Such a man is better off than the young fellow who has done his duty and gone to the war.
-I ask the honorable member to confine his remarks to the proposal to include married men.
– The married man contributes much more largely tothe revenue than does the single man. Compare two men getting, say, £150 a year, one of whom is single and the other married, with eight children. Our Customs revenue amounts to about £15,000,000 a year, or about £3 per head of the population. Therefore, the married man that I speak of would contribute £30 to the revenue, and his fellow, the single man, only £3. For this reason, I think that single men. should have to pay extra taxation.
.- In this country .there are hundreds, possibly thousands, of persons -who, having no children of their own, have adopted children, and have assumed toward them the responsibility of parenthood, lt would be unjust to penalize such persons.
– Provision is made for their case.
– No; mere discretionary power is given to the Commissioner. In my opinion, the householder who has adopted children in infancy, and brought them up as his own, is entitled to as much consideration as the father of a family. I think that the words “natural or permanently adopted “ should be inserted after the word “children.” That would prevent injustice.
– Are not married persons exempted in any case?
– A widower might be left in charge of adopted children, and he would not be exempt.
– The remarks of the honorable member deserve consideration, though I think that hardship is provided against, because, under the income tax legislation, dependants are defined as relations natural or by adoption. Should there be any case of hardship, the Commissioner will have power to deal with it.
Amendments (by Sir John Forrest) agreed to -
That in paragraph a (ii) the words “and was under the age of forty-five years” be left out.
That the word “ ten,” twice occurring, be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the word “five.”
– I move -
That after the words “ raised for service outside Australia,” in paragraph b (i), the words or has enlisted for service outside Australia on a ship of war “ be inserted.
This amendment is to make it quite clear that a man who has enlisted for service outside Australia on a ship of war shall be in the same position as a member of the Expeditionary Force.
– It seems to me that, quite apart from the amendment, the wording of the sub-paragraph makes it quite clear that the exemption is intended to apply to a man who has enlisted for service on a ship of war outside Australia as well as to a member of the Expeditionary Land Forces. The introduction of the amendment, however, raises a doubt in my .mind as to whether Australians serving with the Allies, but not in any Australian Force, will be exempt. Some thousands of Australians are serving in the British Army, as well as with the French. I know of men who have done very fine work in the French air service. One man, whom I knew very well, was sent by the Commonwealth Government to study aviation in Great Britain, and on the outbreak of war was refused an appointment to the British aviation service because he was over age. He then joined the French air service as a pilot, and did very fine work. After serving for two years in that capacity he has returned to Australia, and now holds the rank of major in the Australian Flying Corps. He was unable to obtain a commission in the French service because his knowledge of the French language was insufficient. All such men should come within this exemption.
– I find that all such men are included in the exemption.
– I accept the Treasurer’s assurance. I merely desired to be clear on the point that any Australian citizen serving with the fighting forces of the Allies would be exempt from this tax.
– The Commissioner assures me that he will be.
– I beg to draw attention to the want of a quorum. [Quorum formed.]
Amendment agreed to.
Amendment (by Sir John Forrest) agreed to -
That paragraphs b (ii) and b (iii) be left out.
– I move -
That the word “ all,” in paragraph b (iv), be left out with a view to insert in lieu thereof the word “a majority of.”
Under this sub-paragraph as it stands it is provided that the exemption shall apply to a person . who satisfies the Commissioner^ -
That all his brothers of military age have ‘ been on active service outside Australia during the present war or are members of an Expeditionary Force raised for service outside Australia.
That was the original proposal of the Government, and we retained it because we thought that the Parliament and the country would desire to show their sympathy with, and admiration and consideration’ for, those families who have sent all their men folk to the war. I am sure, however, that no one desires that every son in a family should have to go to the Front. It is open to every son to enlist, but we think that if a majority in a family voluntarily go we should in this way show our respect and admiration for that family.
– But why substitute the word “ majority “ for the word “ all “ ?
– There is no difference in the result as far as three sons going is concerned ; but in the case of four or five sons going, the exemption would be greater if the word “ all “ was retained. If a majority of them have volunteered, that is quite as much as we should expect. I think we should take this opportunity of showing our admiration of, and consideration for, such families. I know of many families every son in. which has gone to the Front, and we should express our admiration for the fathers, and especially for the mothers, of these men, who have sent them out on active service. We are saying, in effect, to the mothers and fathers of Australia, “If you choose to send all your boys to the Front, you may do so, but if you send only a majority of them, we think you have done enough, and that we should not impose any special taxation or restrictions on those who remain behind.”
– I hope that the Treasurer will move to omit the whole sub-paragraph. Now that we have decided to strike out other exemptions, we should also remove this exemption. The Treasurer has made an emotional speech regarding those who have sent the majority of their sons to the Front. I do not believe that the boys who have gone to the Front were sent there by any one. They went because they wanted to go,, and I do not think their fathers or mothers had anything to do with their volunteering. There are families other than those mentioned by the Treasurer who have made still greater sacrifices. I refer to small families all the male members of which have volunteered, and to large families consisting of a number of girls and only one boy. I know of such families who are attempting to carry on dairying after the only boy has enlisted. Believing it to be their duty to go to the Front, they have done so, and have left their fathers’ farms in a worse position, perhaps, than that of those owned by men a majority of whose boys have enlisted. I would point out to the Treasurer that under his amendment this exemption would be extended to a man who has refused to go, and will not go, to the Front; he is going to extend it to men who are working to fill their own pockets and not to assist their parents.
– And who are living on the reputation of their brothers who have volunteered.
– In many cases that is so. In this instance no question of conscription is involved. A man may please himself whether he enlists or not, and if he does not go to the Front he is only asked to help in repatriating those of his brothers who have”. I know many cases where only a certain number of sons have gone to the Front, because families are like other communities, and every member is not imbued with the same sentiments and purposes. In my opinion, the proposedamendment makes the clause even worse than it was before, and I intend to vote against it.
– Honorable . members seem to lose sight of the fact that this Bill is for repatriation purposes.
– No fear!
– It is to provide funds for repatriation purposes.
– That is so much bluff !
– If one son goes to the war, and another son stays at home, and keeps the farm going, he is actually engaged in repatriation . work. When a member of a family goes to the Front, the family income is reduced by the loss of his services ; and, therefore, I again say that the “son who remains at home is really doing repatriation work. I know many cases in which brothers have decided amongst themselves that a certain number of them shall enlist.
– There are cases in which they have taken a ballot.
– Sometimes they have tossed up, or left it to the medical officer to decide. In my opinion, if there is any person doing patriotic work it is the brother who remains at home and keeps the family property going. . Of course, different mem-, bers of a family may have different ideas of their patriotic duty, but, as as a rule, if one member is loyal the rest are loyal.
.- The speeches that are now being delivered, together with the interjections from the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Richard Foster), shows that the purpose of this tax is still to reach those who are not enlisting.
– And not a bad idea!
– That interjection shows that the real character of this tax has not been altered. Great efforts were made to chip a bit off here, or add a bit there, in order to cover up the real purpose, but the idea is still to impose a penal tax on persons who do not do what honorable members opposite think they ought to do; it is still a tax on persons whether they have an income or not. It. would be very interesting to find how honorable- members opposite, who were at. such ,pains yesterday to point out the evil principle contained in this section, will square their consciences with their voting for it to-day simply on the ground that the amount has been altered.
– Why bother yourself about their troubles?
– I do not bother myself much about their troubles, but surely it is permissible in debate to point out the inconsistencies of honorable members ? I think that the paragraph ought to be struck out.
– Those ‘ whom it is proposed to exempt have in many cases contributed very heavily to the prosecution of the war, not only in men, But financially. I cited a case yesterday of a family of five sons, three of whom have gone to the Front, leaving their places to be filled on the farm by men from the labour market. If we place the value of the services of these sons at £100 a year each, with an additional £40 for their keep, we here have a total of £420 per annum as the cost of replacing their labour. Surely there ought to be some discrimination between such a family as that and a family with an equal number of sons who can boast of no enlistments, and have made no sacrifices at all. The majority of those at the Front are single, and, therefore, in the main, under home influence. I agree with the honorable member for Cowper (Mr. John Thomson), rather than with the honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. Manifold), that en listments of the kind are very often the result of a family council, and those who remain here to ‘ ‘ keep the home fire burning” are called upon to make big sacrifices. I think that the Treasurer’s amendment is on the right lines.
.- I regret that the Treasurer has discarded the provision that a remaining son shall be exempt if the whole of his brothers weak to the Front.
– There is not much difference.
– The honorable member for Wannon (Mr.- Rodgers) has cited a case in which three sons out of five have gone to the ‘Front, but there may be families in which two sons comprise the whole of the eligibles. In such a case, I take it, that if one son goes to the Front the remaining son is not exempt from taxation.
– If there are two brothers in a family the remaining son does not pay the tax.
– Then the amendment really means, not that a majority must go to the Front, bub that half the eligible members of a family must go.
– The amendment is nearly the same as the original proposal.
– The amendment means that if one half -of a family go to the Front the other half is exempt..
– That is only in the case of where there are four brothers.
– But I take it that if one out of two brothers goes to the Front) the remaining son is exempt, seeing that he is one half of the eligible members of the family. In all cases where there are even numbers, it will mean that one half df the family is exempt.
– Nob’ in the case where there are three brothers.
– It must be the case where there are even numbers, such as four or six brothers.
– If there are six brothers, then four will have to go to the Front in order to earn the exemption; bu’b six is an exceptional number.
– I know families of six sons, not one of them has gone to the Front, and all over Australia we have examples of large families who have not contributed one man while other families have sent the whole of their sons. In my own district there are contrasts of that kind. According to the proposal as it stands, two or three brothers who have offered themselves and have been rejected will be subject to the tax, whereas in a healthy family of six sons, if three go, the remaining three will be exempt.
– That is not so; where there are six sons four must go.
– In any case I regret the proposed amendment, and hope the Treasurer will give an opportunity for its reconsideration .
Mr. MAXWELL (Fawkner) [4.291. - I hope that if this paragraph is not deleted altogether it will be allowed to remain a? at present. The Treasurer has said that the Government do not look for the whole of a family of sons to go to’ the war.
– I said that no one wished the whole of a family to go unless they themselves desire.
– There are instances in which there is only one eligible in a family, and, according to the present preposal, although the whole of a family is not1 expected to go, he, as an only son, will be taxed.
– Why should he not be ?
– I hold that no one should be exempted, and that the amendment will weaken the subdivision. If there is only one son in the family, he should not be penalized, because it would be a great sacrifice on the part of his parents to accede to his going to the Front.
– Under the conscription law of France, the only son is exempt.
– Under the conscription proposals of last year, only sons were exempt, and the Treasurer would be consistent in exempting them from this taxation.
– This Bill compels no one to go to the war.
– My desire is to see the thing equalized, and in my opinion the whole .of the exemptions should be deleted in order to make our legislation consistent; but if the Treasurer will not consent to that, he ought to allow this particular exemption to remain.
.- While we are all impressed with the sincerity of the Treasurer in bringing forward this proposal, still the fact was sufficiently demonstrated yesterday that it had at- its base a principle which is repugnant to a true sense of Democracy. If we ask ourselves whether it is really a conscription tax or a bachelor tax, we have to admit that it is a shandygaff. About 50 per cent, of the objections raised yesterday to the original proposals of the Treasurer apply to the proposals put forward to-day. If it is to be purely a bachelor tax, the only exemption allowed should be in reference to a man who changes from bachelorhood into the ranks of the benedicts. Since we are not allowed to capture brides as a blackfellow does, with a nulla nulla, and we have to go upon our knees to do so, some exemption might reasonably be given to the person whose offer of marriage has been rejected, ‘ bond fide, more than twice a year. My objection to the tax is that it is aimed at those people who have not gone to the war. The people of Australia put a bar to our actions, however small, in the direction. of penalizing those who do not go to the war ; but within the limits of the people’s will the Government are deserving of every credit for attempting to raise money for repatriation purposes, and a tax on all unmarried men earning over £100 per annum is a reasonable source of revenue for that purpose. I made a suggestion in December of last year that 10 per cent, of all wealth over a margin of *£2,000 should be conscripted for repatriation purposes. Had that proposal been accepted, the Government would have been strongly entrenched to-day, and could have put a strong object-lesson before those” people who have failed in their duty.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN (the Hon. F. W. Bamford).- The honorable member is going beyond the amendment.
– There is a limitation upon the exemptions under a tax of this kind. I feel constrained by the principles which I support to vote against the amendment as well as against the main proposal before the Committee.
.- I cannot see the analogy that the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell) referred to in regard to only sons. Under conscription, the only son stands in a very different position from that he must occupy in relation to taxation. As a rule, the only .son is far better endowed with worldly goods than the son who has four or five brothers, and he is well able to pay the tax now proposed. A little while ago a young man came to me. He had three brothers at the Front, and he was anxious to enlist. His aged parents did not raise objection to his going to the Front, hut they asked him, before doing so, to seek my advice ; and my advice to him was that he should remain at home, and look after the interests of his aged parents. He accepted my advice, but I do not think that he should be penalized for so doing. The parents of those who have gone to the Front have had a great deal to do ‘with getting them away. In the majority of cases taxation on the remaining son will have to be paid by the parents, who have done their level best to persuade their sons to enlist.
Amendment agreed to.
Amendment (by Sir John Forrest) agreed to -
That in sub-paragraph iv of paragraphb, the words “or have enlisted for service outside Australia on a ship of war “ be inserted after the words “ raised for service outside Australia.”
Amendment (by Sir John Forrest) proposed -
That sub-paragraphs vi, vii, and viii of paragraph b be left out.
.-The Treasurer proposes to allow the exemption, of those who are permanently incapacitated for work to stand. The honorable member forCapricornia (Mr. Higgs) has asked me to mention a case that has been submitted to him of a man suffering from some infirmity, who has been prohibited by medical men from’ marrying. There are many cases in which persons refrain from marrying ‘because of some hereditary taint, which they do not desire to transmit to children. I have heard of cases where there has been insanity in the family, and those afflicted have deemed it unwise to marry. Would the Treasurer consider the question of exempting such persons ?
– If I accepted the pro- posal of the honorable member, it would l eave the position very uncertain. I think he will agree with me that it would be very difficult to frame a clause to meet the cases of all those who are prohibited from marrying on account of hereditary taints, and so on.
.- The Treasurer proposes to leave out the exemption applying to ministers of religion, although they are exempted under the Defence Act and other proposals. As this proposal is practically a tax on bachelors, those members of religious bodies, particularly, one religious faith, who are obliged to live a life of celibacy should be exempted from it.If theyare taxed, it will be a case of taxing those who have, nothing with which to pay the taxation, because they are also obliged to renounce worldly goods. The tax will fall, not upon them, but upon the order to which they belong. I prefer to see no discriminiation made amongst ministers of religion, but it is well for honorable members to understand that this tax is . to be imposed for two purposes - to raise revenue, and to tax bachelors - and in neither case can it be equitably applied in the instance that I have mentioned.
– I cannot see any ground for retaining the exemption of ministers of religion. Neither they nor parliamentarians should be exempt from either this taxation or obligations under the Defence Act. In my opinion, all exemptions should be removed. It may be quite true, as the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Rodgers) stated, that there are ministers of religion whose church requires them to remain single. But that is one of the penalties which attaches to their choice of a vocation. They must bear the consequences of their choice, just the same as any other man who remains single, . apart from religious obligations. Many of the clergymen who are exempt from military service under the Defence Act are very active on the public platform in urging other young men to go to the Front.
– And many others are doing good work in the danger zone.
– Men of all classes in the community and of all creeds and occupations are doing good work, but the mere fact of a man being a minister of religion is no valid ground for his exemption.
– Clergymen have not the same opportunity in commercialism as other men have.
– That is a condition which attaches to their choice of an occupation. If the honorable member had chosen a religious vocation instead of being a member of Parliament he would have to bear the consequences of, that choice.
.- I should like to hear some explanation of the retention of sub-paragraph v, which exempts persons who are permanently incapacitated. Many such persons are very wealthy. They are not able to go to the Front to defend their possessions, but they should not be excused from contributing towards the cost of repatriating those who have gone. On the other hand, it is hardly conceivable that the Treasury officials would endeavour to extract £5 from men who are permanently incapacitated and are without any possessions. I ask the Treasurer to consent to the deletion of subparagraph v.
– That subparagraph has been already agreed to.
.- There is a good deal in what the honorable member for Illawarra^ said regarding persons who, though permanently incapacitated, are possessed of means.
– Unless the -Treasurer withdraws the amendment now before .the Committee the honorable member cannot discuss sub-paragraph v.
– Does the honorable member wish me to withdraw the amendment ?
– No. But as we desire to raise revenue, and to collect, it from those who are able to pay, the Treasurer would be wise if he were to propose an amendment which would make the tax applicable to those persons who are permanently incapacitated but can afford to contribute towards the cost of the repatriation of our soldiers. I agree with the honorable member for Wannon that the taxation of ministers of religion may impose hardship. There are some clergymen who, by the rules of their church, are not permitted to marry. A man who i6 compelled to he a bachelor is entitled to some consideration. Many ministers of religion have no money, others are very poorly paid, and have little opportunity of saving money. What is the use of asking them to pay?
– What about Quakers and Christadelphians, who, although not clergymen, are conscientious objectors, to military service?
– The conscientious objector is just as much beholden for his protection to the men who go to the Front as is anybody else in the community, and if he has the means to pay he should not be exempt. There is no analogy between conscientious objectors and ministers of religion.
.- I had already given notice that I intended to propose the removal of the exemption of ministers of religion, and I am pleased that the Treasurer has forestalled me. There is no valid reason why such an exemption should be allowed. The fact that certain ministers of religion are absolved from responsibility for military service, as well as from the perils of’ matrimony, is no ground, why they should be exempt from the payment of this tax. The Treasurer stated yesterday, in answer to a question, that this exemption had been included in this resolution because ministers of religion are exempt under the Defence Act. It is most illogical to exempt a man from one obligation for no other reason than that he is exempt from another obligation. To carry that reasoning to its logical conclusion, a man who is absolved from liability for active service and financial contribution should be absolved from every liability. There are many men who, although they are in holy orders, felt so strong an impulse to defend their country that they have gone into the trenches. At least one clergyman, the Reverend Hulton Sams, of North Queensland, has been killed at the Front, and there are many other clergymen who have not sought exemption from any liability in connexion with this war.
An Honorable Member. - Thousands of priests are fighting in France.
– Chaplain Gillison, of this city, was killed at the Front.
– There is much to be said for the exemption of ministers of religion, but I shall support the Government proposal to strike out sub-para,graph viii. The reduction of the number of exemptions will minimize the difficulties that will present themselves in connexion with the collection of the tax. The exemption of persons who are permanently incapacitated whilst we tax men who have been declared physically unfit for military service will lead to a great deal of confusion in the levying of the tax.
Amendment agreed to
Amendment (by Sir John Forrest) proposed -
That the following new sub-paragraph be inserted: - “ (vi) that he is in receipt of an invalid or old-age pension.”
.- I ask the Treasurer whether it would not be wise to fix a minimum below which the tax shall not operate? The right honorable gentleman now proposes to exempt old-age and invalid pensioners, who receive a little over £30 a year; but every other single man in the community is taxable. In my opinion, it would be fair to fix a minimum of £100.
.- I support the suggestion of the honorable member for Grey. There should be an exemption in this subdivision similar to that in subdivision e. It is with the utmost reluctance that I shall vote for a proposal to take £5 a year from every single person in the community, no matter how small his earnings may be. The Treasurer might well make this exemption, because he will not be able to collect the tax.
Amendment agreed to.
.- I object to this subdivision altogether, because it introduces a new form of taxation, in regard to which the electors have not had an opportunity to express an opinion. I do not know of any country worth living in where there is a tax on bachelors, and the Government has not had a mandate from the people to propose such a tax here. With the exception of the ex -member for Oxley, no candidate at the last election advocated a tax on bachelors, and I think that his defeat was due largely to several speeches which he made on the subject in this House. This is a departure in ‘taxation which is without justification. It is very hard for a man of fifty or thereabouts to get steady employment in a manual occupation, but the Treasurer proposes to tax such a man, shouldhe be a bachelor, at least £6 a year.
– Yesterday honorable members opposite objected to the imposition of the tax only on persons below the age of forty-five years.
– I am altogether against this form of taxation. Invalid and oldage pensioners are to be exempt, but men who have spirit enough to continue earn ing their own living will be taxed. Many of those who are doing the hard, pioneering work of the country are bachelors. They are employed in shearing, mining, and similar occupations, and have no homes, tramping from one part of the country to another to get employment. It will be impossible to collect taxation, from them, because they do not remain sufficiently long in any one place. At the same time, this proposal will make criminals of them. Are we to make the building of gaols a Commonwealth industry ?
– No penalty is provided for the non-payment of the tax.
– Then the law will be a farce. But I do not think that the Government will allow men to escape. We hope that after the war a large population may come to this country, but a poll tax of £5 a head on bachelors, with the addition of a minimum income tax of’ £1, is not an attractive advertisement. We have got) on very well without this class taxation, which would never have been proposed but for the desire to get at. eligibles who have not gone to the war. I should like to be a parliamentary candidate who can say that he opposed the tax, because the feeling against it will be very strong. Indeed, by this proposal the Government is digging its own grave. Only £250,000 is estimated to be received, and it will cost a great deal to collect that money. It would be more reasonable to increase the super -income tax and use machinery which we now have instead of creating new machinery. If the Government needs revenue to provide for repatriation, I suggest an export tax on wool and skins in their raw state.
– What about wheat?
– An export tax on wool and leather would stimulate local industries and make the country more selfcontained.
– And would not prejudicially affect the honorable member’s constituents.
– It would help the tanneries and . wool-washing establishments in my electorate.. Bachelors have as much right to consideration as any other persons in the community. Honorable members opposite, who were elected largely by the votes of wealthy men, tried to exclude as many such persons as they could from the operation of the war-time profits tax. I would ask my honorable friends opposite to have some consideration also for the many bachelors who support them. I look upon this as a pernicious tax, altogether unworthy of a progressive community. The Government have no mandate from the country to impose what is virtually a tax on bachelors. They have never consulted the people on the question, whereas the Labour party, in imposing the land tax, had a direct mandate from the people to do so. I think the Government would be well advised if they agreed to eliminate this tax on bachelors, and proposed a super-income tax, which all who had the means would cheerfully pay.
.- The gravamen of the charge which the honorable member for South Sydney (Mr. Riley) has made against the Government is that they have no mandate from the people to impose this tax. He seems to overlook the fact that the conditions to-day are altogether different from those prevailing in time of peace. The Imperial Government, I would remind- him, have since the war repeatedly imposed taxation for which they had no mandate from the country. We are perfectly justified, in time of war, in resorting to any form of taxation that will swell the revenue. It is quite impossible for the Government to anticipate to any extent to what particular form of taxation they will have to resort, since they have to legislate from time to time to meet the exigencies of the situation. The Government are justified in resorting even to the imposition of a bachelor tax to assist in raising the money necessary for the prosecution of this war. The honorable member for South Sydney said that bachelors would be unable to pay this tax, and that the bulk of the shearers and shed workers travelling through the country were single men. It was only a few weeks ago that the President of the Conciliation and Arbitration Court increased the wages of shearers, rouseabouts, and shed hands to the extent of £4,000,000 per annum. A shed hand now receives £2 8s. a week, in addition to his keep. Surely he should be able to bear a fair share of the taxation necessary to raise funds for the prosecution of the war. As to the further statement made by the honorable member that many single men are not receiving more than £40 or £50 a year, I think that, having regard to the awards of the Arbitration Courts and Wages Boards, it would be difficult to find in Australia today any young man who is earning less than from £120 to £150 a year. The minimum wage is 9s. per day - far more than I received when I was a young man - and I consider that, in dealing with all these matters, we must not lose sight of the fact that we are at war, and must adopt extraordinary methods to raise the requisite revenue.
.- I have to oppose this subdivision, on the ground that, it does not place fairly on the whole of the people the responsibility of finding the money necessary for the purposes of government. It discriminates to no small extent, and particularly against that section of the community which can least afford to pay. It is most extraordinary that the Government should ask single men receiving £100 a year to pay a tax of £5. I know that the Treasurer is very sincere in the measures he puts before us, but I think that, on this occasion, he has overlooked the fact that, in a great many cases, those who will be called upon to pay this tax will be unable to do so. In those circumstances, they will either be sent away or put in gaol. No provision is made for a deferred payment system. So far as these men are concerned, it will be a case of pay up or be shut up. If they do not pay up, they will probably, be sent away to fight. That is really a system of economic conscription.
– Does the honorable member suggest that a single man cannot pay 2s. a week?
– There are in, New South Wales to-day men earning only £100 a year who have not £5 by them. They are not all carrying on farming operations upon a huge scale’ as the honorable member is doing. If, like him, they owned large tracts of land, I do not suppose they would be called upon to pay a tax of this kind. They belong to the working section of the community, and it seems to me that, on each and every occasion, the workers are called upon to bear the burden. It may be said that those who are asked under this subdivision to pay a tax of £5 per annum have not contributed their share towards the repatriation of their comrades at the Front. I am prepared to say that, in proportion to their earnings, the bulk of the workers have contributed to repatriation funds to a greater extent than have those who possess considerable wealth. In proportion to their means, they have paid more than some people have done.
– Have they also enlisted in the same proportion as have those who possess wealth?
– They have to a still greater extent.
– Then why should they be afraid of this tax?
– Because they are not in a position to pay it. The primary purpose of this tax is not to raise money for the repatriation of soldiers, but to punish those who have not enlisted. It is most iniquitous that a penalty of £5 should be paid by every single man in this country. This tax will affect a young man who is serving his apprenticeship, and is receiving £80 or £90 a year, and even less. There are in Australia to-day men of twenty-one who receive considerably less than £100 a year. After they have paid for their clothes and their keep, they are not likely to have sufficient money to meet this tax. If they are called upon to pay it, they will probably apply to their employers for an increase of wages to enable them to meet the additional liability thus thrown upon them, and that will have the effect of upsetting quite a number of awards. The Arbitration Court, in giving awards, makes no provision for extra taxation; and it is only reasonable to expect that, if this measure be passed, there will be application after application for variations. So far as I can see, this taxation is not going to have the expected effect of stimulating recruiting, but, on the contrary, is going to do recruiting much harm.
– It has been accepted that this taxation is not economical compulsion.
– Who accepted that?
– The honorable member for Cook (Mr. Catts), on behalf of the Opposition.
– He did not accept it on my behalf, for I can see nothing in the proposal except economical compulsion.
– You have just said that it is not economic compulsion.
– On the contrary, I am saying that it is - that, instead of stimulating recruiting, it will have the reverse effect.
– Then it cannot compel men to join the Forces,
– It will to the extent that, if men cannot pay the taxation, the Government will see that they join, by some rule or regulation; and that is what I wish to prevent, in the interests of the particular class affected.
– You must decide on what you are going to say.
– I have decided, and I have said what I desired te say. This taxation is not going to do recruiting any good. The very fact that a man will have ‘ to pay a penalty for not enlisting twelve or eighteen months ago will annoy him; and, however good his intentions may have been then, he may possibly decide to think over the position, in view of the extra liability he has to meet. All these circumstances have to be taken seriously into consideration.
The proposal, considered as a whole scheme, does not seem to me to be in accordance with the best system of government. Apparently, one section of the community is to’ be penalized, while another section is allowed to go scot-free. If it is the desire of the Treasurer to collect revenue, he ought to direct his attention to some other channels, from which larger amounts might be obtained, and not ask workers receiving only £100 a year to bear the burden. There are many men who will not be affected at all by this taxation, although they possess huge amounts of money, and have never contributed anything towards repatriation, or .other patriotic purposes - who have not attempted in any one instance to assist in bringing about an effective settlement of the war. On the other hand, people who have contributed towards these objects according to their means, are to be penalized to the extent of £5. It was the original intention of honorable members opposite to make the amount £10, but they realized that such a measure would have no chance of passing. I trust that the Government will turn their attention to those people who possess enormous tracts of land, and control much wealth, in order that sufficient money may be raised to repatriate those who are now fighting in the interests of this country.
.- The Treasurer introduced this measure with a blare of trumpets, prancing steeds, poetry, eloquence, and oratory; and the pictures which he drew for our special benefit were fine. But the procession had not gone very far before the bells began to crack, and the harness began to get tarnished, until the whole of the display had to be temporarily withdrawn for repairs, in order to meet the disapproval evinced by his supporters. The Treasurer, in introducing the measure, said that it represented the policy of the Government as a whole. He also said that honorable members who had been in public life for a long time knew that Ministers were not always in accord with the proposals that they advocated in the House, but that he was in absolute accord with this measure. Evidently, however, the Government were not in accord, for it was deemed necessary to modify the measure, and cut down the original proposal by something like 50 per cent. It is true that the Government have enlarged the scope with a drag-net proposal to embrace men over the age of forty-five. I am not at all concerned about the responsibilities which honorable members opposite will have to carry in connexion with these proposals. What I am concerned about is the interests of the people who will be unduly oppressed by this legislation. Honorable members opposite will have to take the responsibility of meeting their electors on the point; but there was an honorable member, now missing from this chamber, who had certain fads in regard to a bachelor tax.
– Do you think that that affected his election in the slightest degree ?
– He is not the only member who is missing. It might be said that we are unduly anxious as to how the Government are regarded by the general public, but I do not think that the party on this side has any anxiety on the subject. We can go to the country on our platform.
– The honorable member is going outside the question.
– When the Prime Minister delivered his slogan to the country, he said that should national necessity arise, the question of conscription would again be placed before the people. Many honorable members opposite went much further than the Prime Minister in promising to oppose conscription by means of the referendum, or by a Bill introduced in this House. The people of Australia accepted the assurance of the Prime Minister, and they rely on the Government to keep their promise, not only to the letter, but in the spirit. In my opinion, the proposal immediately before us partly achieves the object which the Government, as a whole, have not the courage to introduce, namely, conscription. Probably, if honorable members opposite were a more compact body, they would do directly that which they are endeavouring to do, as it were, by a side track. The Government proposal has a tendency to force into the fighting ranks those who are eligible, and the fact that the penalty has been reduced does not affect the ethics of the proposal. Whether the penalty be 1s. or 200s., as originally proposed, a penalty is there. Those people who refuse to go to the war - who refuse to again present themselves for enlistment so that they may receive a new discharge - will have to pay £5. Several honorable members, and not only on this side, have asked what are the Government’s intentions in regard to the collection of the tax. Personally, I am not at all anxious that the tax should be collected, but the Government, by strength of numbers, can place it on the statute-book. So far, however, they have not told us what they intend to do with those people from whom they cannot collect. I venture to say that there will be great difficulty in collecting this tax, not only from those who are able to pay, but from those who cannot pay. A medical student may be-
– Poor medical student!
– I was merely giving an illustration, but I shall say a son of working-class parents, who may be a medical student. The parents of that son will have to pay £5, and, if he be in employment, and earning over £100, a tax of 5 per cent. In my opinion, no taxation which is oppressive or unfair should be imposed; and it is usually accepted that every person shall be taxed according to what he earns, or according to his means. It will be seen that the particular taxation now proposed is not based on the accepted principle.
Honorable members opposite have spoken of our being at war, and only a. few minutes ago one reminded us of the fact. The great trouble is that honorable members opposite conveniently forgot that we are at war when the Wartime Profits Tax Assessment Bill was before us, though all that they have been saying to-day might have been said when that measure was under discussion.
This taxation will also affect married men, for there are men, single now, who will be married this year. I do not think it is the intention of the Treasurer to tax such people or those who have married recently, and I ask him to take their case into consideration. Many men and women, who are now being married, are not able to pay a sum of £5, or & per cent. on their salaries. They are just starting out in life, and are faced with a continuous increase in the cost of living. This proposal of the Government is an attempt to achieve that which honorable members opposite have not had the courage to bring forward. If they were a solid body they would bring down a proposal for straight-out conscription - during this debate many of them have asked for it quite candidly - and because they cannot get that they should not attempt to achieve it by means of economic pressure.
.- I wish to move -
That the following words he added to the paragraph: - “This Act shall not apply to any person who is not engaged in some industrial occupation and whose services cannot be economically valued.”
As the honorable member has just pointed out, this tax may develop into a tax on married men. A man who has two sons over twenty-one years of age studying at the University will have to pay the tax imposed on those sons, because they will be earning nothing. My idea is that we should exempt any man who is notengaged in some industrial occupation at which he can earn money.
– What about the young fellows on farms who do not receive any wages from their parents ?
– My amendment will cover them, ‘because they are engaged in some occupation.
– The honorable member’s amendment would exempt the man who is living on the interest earned by his money.
– I think that the honorable member is right; but that merely shows that my proposal is too wide. The principle underlying it still remains; parents should not be called upon to pay taxation imposed upon their sons who are not engaged in an industrial occupation producing wealth.
– Are not university students as a rule pretty well off J
– I do not know that they are. I know one man who occupies a very, high position in this country who had to live for a month on porridge in order to secure his university degrees, because his parents could not afford to keep him at a university. The only way in which he could attend the university was by depriving himself of food, and the fact that he now occupies one of the best positions in this country stands to his credit. If he or his parents had had to pay a tax such as is now proposed, he could not have remained at the university. There are many working men who are struggling to keep their children at universities in order to give them a better opportunity of getting on in the world than they have had. These students should be exempted, and if my amendment is too wide, and will go further than I intend, I am prepared to” withdraw it if the Treasurer will agree that men who are not producing wealth of any kind, or are not engaged in some occupation shall be exempted.
– I do not think that the case of university students is sufficient to justify the insertion of a paragraph specially exempting them.
– This was originally a tax on eligibleswith the idea of compelling them to enlist, but by the extension of the age it has become a bachelor tax. If a man marries he should not be called upon to pay a bachelor tax. Therefore, I do not see why last July should be fixed upon as the limit.
– If a man marries during the year the matter can be dealt with when the Bill is brought up next year. The tax is subject to annual review.
– The honorable member for South Sydney (Mr. Riley) would have us believe that the single man is the backbone of the country. Such a plea, coming from a father of a large family, is surprising. My view is that the home, and not the den in which the bachelor lives, is the backbone of any community, and the home is where the children are. I ask those who have put up pitiful appeals for the single man, What man can keep a wife on £5 a year? There is no need for honorable members to raise any plea about a bachelor who cannot afford to pay £5 a year, seeing that wages in this country were never better than they are to-day. Men are earning big money, and there is no difference made between married men and single men so far as securing employment is concerned. On the other hand, the single man can squander his money, while the married man with the responsibility of maintaining a home, wife, and family cannot afford to do so. All this mook sympathy for the single men who cannot afford to pay a tax of £5 per annum is not worthy of our consideration. There should be a means of collecting this tax through the men who pay the wages.
– That matter will be dealt with in the Income Tax Assessment Bill.
– Several honorable members opposite have made a strong point about the inability of the taxation officers to collect this tax, and when he has the assurance that efforts will be made to dodge payment, the Treasurer should be awake to the necessity for providing machinery that will catch these people and prevent them from ‘dodging the tax. There would be no sense in Parliament imposing taxation unless the taxation imposed could be collected. However, it will be a mistake to levy this tax without providing some exemptions. It is not worth while establishing machinery to collect this taxation from incomes below a certain minimum. I am strongly inclined to favour an exemption up to £100. Our income taxation prosposals provide for an exemption. There is an exemption under the land tax, and the war-time profits tax also is subject to exemptions.
– The honorable member said that he was anxious to persuade men to enlist^ by means of this tax.
– I have said nothing of the kind. No one is stronger than I am in the matter of straight-out conscription. I would send every man of military age to the Front whether he be willing to go or not.
– Other honorable members are using strategy to attain the same object.
– There is no strategy about me in regard to that matter. The Treasurer should seriously consider the fixing of an exemption, in order that the tax may be more easily collected. .
. -In my opinion, the Government will have as much chance of flying in the air as- they will have of collecting this tax from 60 per cent, of those to whom it applies. An honorable member mentioned that many single men were earning from £2 .to £3 per week. That may seem a princely wage to some persons, but when a man has met all his obligations he has very little left at the end of the month .
– There is less left for the married man.
– A man does not intend to remain single always. The average Australian desires that when he marries he shall be able to provide his wife with a decently-furnished home. The surplus income which the Treasurer proposes to annex may be just the margin of saving that is possible to the single working man. Earning £100 for some years, I found it very difficult to save £5 per annum. The purchasing power of money ten or twelve years ago was at least 25 per cent, greater than it is to-day. And the man who is receiving £120 now would not be as well off as I was when I waa earning £100. A thrifty man may possibly bank 5s. or 10s. per week out of that income, and at the’ end of twelve months he may have £5 or £6 to his credit. An examination of Savings Bank deposits would show that very few working men have saved more than £7 in a year. Men are thrifty for a number of years, and then, when they have a credit balance of £70 or £80, they marry, and set up a home. A single man, without dependants, and earning £156 a year, would pay 25s. a week for very ordinary board and lodging.
– What is the Treasurer to do if a man has not got the £5 with which to pay this tax?
– 4The tax will not be collectable from many men. The Treasurer expects to get £500,000 from this tax, but he is more likely to have to spend that sum in building gaols to hold themen who do not pay. A man in receipt of a yearly income of £200 or more can very well afford to pay the tax, but an exemption of £100 would not be too much to ask. To take £5 from a man who has only earned £60, and the same amount from a man who has earned even £100 is absurd.
From an income of £100 the Treasurer will take £5, leaving a balance of £95, of which £65 will be paid for board and lodging; only £35 will be left for clothes and other necessaries.- The whole pro,posal is impracticable. There is no doubt that this tax savours of economic conscription ; but I do not think that giving men the alternative of paying £5 or enlisting will greatly increase the number of- recruits. The Government have -nearly exhausted the eligible manhood of the country. The only men to whom they can now look for further enlistments are those at Tooronga Park. The saving feature I see in this tax is that it will hit those men pretty hard, because they are well able to pay. Although the Treasurer is exempting men engaged on military and naval service, he is not exempting those engaged in services incidental to the war. I refer to men engaged on ships and on the wharfs, in transporting troops and foodstuffs, and coaling and loading ships. The work tilley are doing is necessary in connexion with the prosecution of the war, and they should be exempt. Not that I think they will pay any tax in any case, because the majority of them do not earn more than £80 or £90 per annum. The introduction of a tax of this description does not reflect any credit on the Ministry, and the Treasurer, of whom I have always held the highest opinion, has fallen considerably in my esteem.
.- This is a very just and’ equitable tax. There is no doubt that a number of Bingie men have shamefully neglected their duty, both in regard to enlisting for active service and in regard to voluntary work in preparing homes for the men who are returning. To the people of my electorate falls the distinction of being the first to erect, a soldier’s home by voluntary labour. All sections of the community helped, and the home was practically a free gift. Many such homes have been erected, but usually the work has been done by the older and married men. The strong, eligible, single men have been conspicuous by their absence. The young men should recognise that they cannot evade all responsibility - that they cannot refrain from enlisting and yet refuse to help in voluntary work for the benefit of the men who have done their duty at the Front.
– Does .the honorable member mean to say that the single men who have remained behind have not contributed voluntarily to the various funds ?
– I do not make that sweeping statement. But I say that, in connexion with the voluntary workers associations, the single men have not done their duty. If practicable, I should like to see the Government conscript the manhood of Australia to work a certain number of hours each week in preparing homes for the men who are away.
– Have you ever been to French’s Forest, and seen the men who are doing the work there?
– I have. Generally speaking, the men who have responsibilities are doing most of the voluntary work. The bulk of the single men have not been giving the voluntary assistance which, had they realized their duty, they would have given.
– The men on strike offered to go in a body and. work voluntarily on the erection of soldiers’ homes, and the so-called patriotic, committees declined their assistance. ,
– It is to be regretted that we cannot yard in the young men who are so conspicuous at race meetings, and compel them to devote a day’s labour occasionally to the building of homes for soldiers. Young unmarried men were at the root of the recent industrial trouble. When some soldiers’ homes - were being erected at Lidcombe, the young men of the district were asked to give up Saturday afternoons and Sundays so that they might help in their erection. On the first Sunday nine or ten bricklayers and carpenters appeared on the job, but the secretaries to their unions forbade them to start unless they were pa-id the union rates of wages. The men were prepared to work, but the secretaries prevented them. >
– Was Mr. Irons one of those secretaries?
– I do not know. The Mayor of Lidcombe is my authority for the statement.
– It must he wrong; because no man is doing more than Mr.
Irons, the secretary of the Bricklayers Union.
– I was at the opening of the homes in question, when the statements of the mayor were not contradicted. He said that the tools of the men remained on the job almost to the finish. I am pleased that the tax has been proposed, because it will compel single men who have remained ‘here to contribute, to some extent, to the repatriation ‘ of those who have gone to fight.
– There is nothing in the motion to ear-mark, for repatriation purposes, the money that will be received.
– I have promised that it shall be so used, and I shall make that law.
– I am prepared to accept the assurance of the Treasurer.
– It will be used for repatriation, and for no other purpose.
– Honorable members opposite seem much perturbed by this proposal, but next year they will have taxation proposals which may give them cause to talk. If Australia is going to accept her responsibilities, and to fulfil herpromises to her fighting men, we must have more revenue.
– If a graduated income tax is proposed, we shall back you up.
– This is only the prologue to very heavy taxation. As the tax now under discussion will affect primarily the young single men who are neglecting their duty in this war, it will have my hearty support.
.- The honorable member for Nepean has given the show away. He says that the proposed tax is a prologue to heavy taxation on the backs of those who cannot bear it. This is a special tax on a class.
– Do not honorable members of the Labour party say that the workers pay all the taxes?
– My friend used to share that view, but he is now in bad company. The honorable member for Nepean has threatened us with heavy taxation. What we are dealing with now’ is a specific tax on a certain class of individuals.
– A tax upon anticonscriptionists.
– Exactly. It is a tax on those who have not seen their way clear to join the ranks of the benedicts. Far be it from me to say whether their reasons for not entering into the holy bonds of matrimony are good or bad. This is a proposal to hit a particular class. The honorable member for Nepean is a prominent, and promises to be a leading, member of the Ministerial party, and we must assume that he was put up by his party to threaten the country with what will happen if the single men do not get into khaki. He would literally heap coals of fire on the heads of those who, for various reasons, cannot see their way to go to the Front or to get married.
Sitting suspended from 6.80 to 8 p.m.
– It seems to me that some of the reasons advanced by the honorable member for Nepean in support of this tax are an absolute slander upon the young men of Australia, and particularly upon the young men of Sydney and suburbs. One statement made by the honorable member I cannot allow to pass uncontradicted. He declared that young men were neglecting to play any part in the building of homes for returned soldiers in the neighbourhood of Sydney. We have overthere what is known as French’s Forest scheme, and on certain afternoons of the week as well as on every Sunday, a large body of young men and women go there to assist in the erection of homes for soldiers who return from the Front.
– About how many?
– Quite a large number. A tugboat capable of carrying, roughly speaking, 200 leaves the wharf every Sunday for French’s Forest.
There is one phase of this question which the Treasurer seems to have overlooked. The young men in my electorate who are devoting their spare time to the French’s Forest scheme are not at the Front because they have to perform a necessary function in our own country. The great bulk of them are engaged at the Cockatoo Island Dockyard or Garden Island Naval Dockyard.
– I see they are working again; they started to-day.
– It seems to be easy for the honorable member to sneer at the workers, who stuck to him for so many years. Without the assistance of these men, the transport of our troops could not be carried on. Without their assistance, ourtransports, aswell as our ordinary shipping, and such war vessels as may be patrolling the Pacific to-day, could not be docked and repaired. If it is the desire of the Government to be vindictive, they should at least display a little common sense. Honorable members opposite admit that this is a purely vindictive tax. They say that it is to be applied to certain men because they will not go to the Front; because they will not assist in building cottages for returned soldiers, and will not marry and rear families. The men do not seem to have grown old fast enough to suit the Government and their supporters.
I ask the Committee to consider what would be the effect of the application of this tax to single men in the Naval Dockyard. The military eligibles there - skilled mechanics - are essential for the repair of our war vessels. The great bulk of them are single men, who have offered themselves for service overseas. The general manager of Cockatoo Island Dockyard protested against his skilled men being taken from him for such service. As a matter of fact, many dozens of them have asked me to endeavour to induce the authorities to accept them for oversea service. They have represented to me that the general manager’s protest is being accepted by the military authorities, andthat they are told that they are performing in Australia a more useful service than they would oversea. This tax, then, will penalize those men, because of their failure to do something which the authorities will not allow them to do.
– In what capacity did they volunteer?
– They volunteered to serve in any capacity desired by the’ military authorities. They offered, in many cases, to join either the infantry or . the engineers, but have been rejected on the ground that they are required to carry on in Australia the important work of naval construction and naval repairs. I appeal to the Treasurer to say that these men shall be exempt from this tax.
There is another class which should also be exempt. I refer to the men in the Small Arms Factory at Lithgow. No one will say that they are not performing a useful function in connexion with the war. Then there are the whole of the waterside transport workers, who are also engaged in work associated with the war. Unless our shipping and transport arrangements be attended to we cannot send our troops to the Front. These men therefore also have a just claim for . exemption.
– I thought they were all out on strike.
– The strike is a sort of ‘King Charles’ head with the honorable member. This is a matter of vital’ importance to a big section of the community, and should be discussed with the seriousness it demands. The ‘Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Jensen) will remember that when he held office as Minister for the Navy in a previous Administration he selected a certain number of skilled mechanics for technical training in submarine construction in the Old Country, so that they might secure the expert knowledge necessary to enable us to carry on submarine construction in Australia. A number of those men are unmarried, and the Treasurer should exempt them from this tax. Those who have volunteered as munition workers are likewise entitled to exemption from the tax. A large number of mechanics from my own district volunteered as munition workers, and are engaged in Great Britain to-day either in munition factories or big shipyards. They are engaged on warlike operations for the benefit of the country, and should not have to pay this tax.
One other point, and I shall have finished. We are asked to impose what might be fitly described as a tax on bachelors. There could be no more iniquitous tax than that which is imposed on a man merely because he is not prepared to marry. The Government are proposing to do more than that; they are going to tax a man in the first place because he will not marry, and if he does marry, the tax is still to apply to him. That is an absurd proposition.
– He will not be taxed if he marries; that provision has been eliminated.
– It has not been eliminated. The Treasurer should at least agree to provide that when a man marries this tax shall cease to apply to him. Many of the young men who are engaged on French’s Forest scheme for building homes for returned soldiers are earning only £2 a week. Honorable members opposite laugh, as they always do when a member of our party puts in a plea for the workers, or the sons and daughters of our workers; but this is a serious matter. I ask the Treasurer to seriously consider these representations, feeling sure that if he does be will again “ see the light.” I think that this measure, like another recently before the House, should be withdrawn for docking and overhaul. If the Government desire to obtain money for repatriation, in order to keep faith with our soldiers at the Front, they should tackle this big question in a big way. Our soldiers and their dependants are crying out for some proper system of repatriation, and yet the Treasurer comes along with a miserable proposal, the purpose of which is to tax a mail because he will not get married. It is not worthy of the Treasurer, or of a big-hearted Australian; and I believe, if he gives this matter a little further consideration, he will withdraw the Bill, and approach this important question in a broad national spirit.
– I have not any intention of delaying the Committee for any length of time, but I would not like to give a silent vote on a matter like this. I am somewhat at issue with the Treasurer (Sir John Forrest), and I wish that he had kept to his original proposal for a 10 per cent. tax, because we would be perfectly justified in asking those who have not made any sacrifice to contribute financially towards this scheme for the repatriation of our soldiers. It is a matter of surprise to me to hear complaints from honorable members on the other side of the chamber about the threatened infliction of a small amount of taxation upon the single men of Australia. Surely they can afford to pay something.
– They have put their money into the war loan at 4½ per cent.
– The little they have done to assist Red Cross work, and other similar, activities, is infinitesimal. Is it not strange that, after nearly six years of Labour rule, during which time millions upon millions of borrowed money was spent in this country, there should’ now be any talk about poverty ? ‘ Look at the enormous addition to our national debt. In New South Wales alone, under Labour rule, there has been an increase of nearly £30,000,000 of borrowed money in the last four years, and there has been a heavy increase also in Western Australia and other States ; and yet honorable members opposite dare now to talk of destitution and misery in this country.
– Do you deny that there is destitution?
– Who caused it?
– That is not the question.
– It has been caused by the extravagant policy and the disloyal utterances of honorable members opposite.
– To-day girls are getting 14s. a week’ in some of our factories.
– Well, I know that hundreds of people would be glad to give girls 14s. and 15s. a week, with their keep, if only they would go into service. Just imagine all this talk about poverty and misery in the face of the fact that 300,000 of our manhood are across the seas. Is it not a shame that, after all the years of Labour administration, during which Arbitration Courts were established to insure industrial peace, there should be any talk now of people being in want in Australia.
– The honorable member had better be careful, or the War Precautions Act will be applied to him for criticising “the Prime Minister.
– I am glad to know that the money to be raised by this tax is to be applied to repatriation purposes; but it will not be enough by a long way. However, we want to get the Bill through, and After the Treasurer has been furnished with an estimate of the probable expenditureinconnexion with it, he will know’ how much (extra money will be required. ‘ Personally, I ‘should like to see the heaviest taxation possible imposed upon those who arenot making any sacrifice for their country at the present time. If I had my way, and could not get the real thing, I would go straight out for economic conscription.
– Well, that is honest, at any rate.
– If I had my way I would put a Bill through and force conscription on the people; but, unfortunately, I cannot get my way. That is why I favour the 10 per cent. tax. I believe it would do some good. I hope the Treasurer will take special care to see that the tax is collected, because an enormous number of men, like those employed in the coal mines, £re .earning more than £200 a year, and they should be compelled to pay.
– “ Sock “ it into the workers.
– Who are the workers ? They are certainly not the class represented by the honorable member, because at a> time like this”, when everybody should be trying to increase the production of Australia, they are making every effort, not only to destroy industry, but to destroy their country as well. The proposal has my hearty support, and I hope an earnest endeavour will be made to see that the scheme becomes operative.
.- I notice that it is the habit of honorable members opposite when they have a peculiarly difficult Bill or proposition to pilot through the House, to associate it with some patriotic endeavour. In this case the shield which they hold before themselves is the shield of repatriation; but if’ the party opposite had any sincerity with regard to this matter, the Government would have come down with a taxation Bill capable of producing a useful result. They knew perfectly well that this measure and this clause - limited as it is to a certain class of persons, but which, at the behest of certain members of this House, has been extended to other persons - will be of no practical use whatever.
– Why not?
– Because the right honorable gentleman took very good care that it would not touch the majority of the people who had money to pay.
– I think it will bring in a lot of money.
– Well , I never saw any member in the House’ so disconcerted as the Treasurer, when the honorable member sf or Illawarra (Mr. Lamond) suggested that the tax should be extended to married men without children.
– Do you think that is an accurate statement?
– That would have been the means of- reaching some very wealthy men who would have made, and. ought to have been grateful for the oppor tunity to make, some handsome contributions to the revenue for a purpose of the kind. I sympathize with the Treasurer’s embarrassment, though I know that he does not desire or value my sympathy. He introduced this Bill, as he did the War-time Profits Tax Assessment Bill, in a most eloquent speech. - one of the most able, florid, and touching addresses I have ever listened ‘to in this chamber. We had quotations from the Lays of Ancient Borne and some of the best classics, and there was a touching cadence in the right honorable gentleman’s voice that I have never heard before. Bub, about two hours after he had intro.duced this measure, directing his special attention to the paragraph now under discussion, he had heard sufficient from his own supporters to make him forget those eloquent periods of his, and to hasten round the benches in an effort to find out where he stood in regard to the proposals.
The paragraph is purely penal. I need not pause bo argue that point, because it was well demonstrated by my learned senior, the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell), when he spoke yesterday. Ib is, as a matter of fact, purely penal; and to call it taxation is a mere misuse of language. It is not taxation, but punishment proposed for certain classes of persons because the Government could nob reach them in another way with the referendum last year. There has been some doubt expressed as to how the fine is to be recovered. It is to be imposed on young men without means. I may digress to say that this Government enjoys the distinction of coping with the problem of the unemployed in the most novel way. There is much unemployment and distress outside, and the Government! come here with a proposal to penalize by fine men who have been guilty of no offence - lawabiding citizens without work and without means.
– Including those voluntarily on strike. ‘
– Ah, there we see the cloven hoof ! How the real influences in the minds of honorable members are disclosed from time to -time by interjections - “ We will get at the striker, at the man we have always called the shirker.” The vote of the country at the referendum did not call him a shirker, but that is the term applied to him by the Government to-day. How is this fine to be enforced? The honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Wise) told us not to be afraid- that there is no imprisonment attached to the penalty, and that if a man cannot pay there is an end to it.
– There will be a distress warrant.
– There will be more than that. I could tell my lay friend of quite a number of devices that . the law provides for dealing with persons of that kind. It would be absurd enough if the Government proposed a taxation measure without any method of collecting it, but they know that there are methods at their disposal. There is, for instance, in operation in this country what is known as the Fraudulent Debtors Act.. When I mentioned that Act yesterday somebody interjected that the Government would not for one moment think of applying it in respect of men who had no means. But I ask whether the Government, who seek to fine and penalize men with no means, would’ not be prepared to resort to that or any other Act to give effect to their desires? The proposed measure will not help the Government in the slightest degree, except as a penal Act. The Government were thwarted bv means of the referendum ;, and to-day, by way of giving effect to their promise to win the war - on the eve of their slinking into recess with their whole programme unaccomplished and promises unfulfilled - they come with this paltry penal measure to impose a fine on men on whom they had hoped the referendum would act. Is the conscription of wealth involved in the section now under discussion? I venture to tell honorable members that the proposal involves conscription of more than the wealth of a certain class of people. It says, “ We do not propose to take your all, but to penalize you in the most drastic way if you have not that ‘ all ‘ we desire to take.”
– It means 2s. a week.
– ‘It means that the Government, being wedded to the principle of conscription, and smarting, as they are, under the rebuff they received by the decisive vote of the people of the country, and not having the courage to risk their own seats by making conscription a vital issue before the electors, seek to effect their object by means of this taxation. It has been variously said that the clause might or might not be successful as a method of economic conscription. When the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Tudor) said that he did not think it would be effective as a means of constraining young men to go to the Front,, honorable members opposite asked, “Then? why talk about economic conscription?” I say that the taxation will riot operate, and’ would not have operated even in its original form,’ in the direction of enhancing to any material extent the number of recruits. Honorable members opposite, and the Government, entirely misapprehend the reasons which move the young men of this country who have not, up to the present, enlisted for war service. They fail to appreciate the real reasons; indeed, L doubt if they have ever tried to appreciate them.
– Give us the real reasons.
– I can give some of them, which are suggested to me by the paragraph under discussion. The reasons, cannot be found in those terms of abuse such as “ disloyalist,” “ shirker,” “ proGerm’an,” and other vindictive and virulent epithets. Some of the reasons are, asI say, suggested to me by the paragraph. I see it is proposed to tax, for instance, se. young unmarried man, who may be the sole support of mother, sister invalid or crippled brother - a young unmarried man, who may be, in a variety of ways, which this Committee cannot possibly understand, discharging all the duties of citizenship to the very fullest extent.
– The Commissioner will judge each case.
– It is now suggested that the responsibility which the Government dare not take is to be shifted on to the shoulders of the Commissioner. A’ typical case is that of a man who has, perhaps, one or more brothers on active^ service, or who, indeed, may have no relatives at the Front, but has great pressing domestic responsibilities. Several suchcases have been brought under my notice since this measure was introduced. There are young fellows, loyal and patriotic te a degree, but with all their energies utilized in keeping the home together for mother, sister, or others with claims upon them. But because honorable members’ opposite, and the Government, have never been able to give such men creditfor sincerity, courage, or any manly feeling, they have become imbued with the notion that such men are actuated by no motives other than the most sordid and unworthy. Thus we have now, at the close of the session, a proposal for the penal taxation of such men.
-That is not correct.
– I do not know in what respect my statement is incorrect. There is another intense objection I have to this proposal. If an exemption is sought, the tribunal to which application has to be made is a military tribunal. The person seeking exemption before the Commissioner has to produce his military certificate, and there is no such thing as a civil tribunal in the matter.
– In what clause is that provided?
– The honorable member for Batman is absolutely wrong.
– It is only necessary to read the printed proposal to see that I am right. It is provided -
That/ he has been on active service outside Australia during the present war, or is a member of an Expeditionary Force raised for service outside Australia; or
– Where is this military tribunal?
– It is not a tribunal in that sense, but it is a military authority.
– It is a most unfair statement.
– It is perfectly true. The paragraph reads -
That he has been on active service outside Australia during the present war or is a member of an Expeditionary Force raised for service outside Australia.
The first thing he has to do is to obtain that information from a military source, and produce a military certificate to a. Commissioner, who is a mere public servant, although in a high office. In like manner, the majority of his brothers of military age have to get similar information from a military authority.
– The honorable member said the man had to go to a military tribunal, but he cannot prove it.
– The schedule has been so bowdlerized that I have not got it precisely as it reads at present. The honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Wise) seems to find great pleasure in the repetition of the offensive observation that I cannot prove my statement, but the only contention I wish to advance is that the basis of the whole thing is one of military discipline and a military certificate, with consent or authority given by the military.
I want to rivet special attention on the fact that, probably for the first time in history, we are proposing to tax men below the standard which judicial tribunals have declared to be the lowest at which a man can decently live. That is a grave scandal, aggravated by the fact that the Treasurer, and his Government have utterly failed to impose taxation upon those persons in the community who can best bear it. To me, it is more than repugnant - it is repulsive - that we should be faced with the position that men who have grown to mature years in this country, lived in peaceful times, and accumulated great wealth should, in this hour of dark distress and difficulty, throughtheir representatives in Parliament, be diligently evading their responsibilities to the country, and saddling them upon those who are least able to bear them.
This paragraph proposes a tax upon ministers of religion, and therefore upon religion itself.
– You might as well say a tax. on lawyers is a tax on justice.
– It has been the recognised practice in every Bill placed before this House to make an exemption similar to that originally proposed in this measure. That exemption it is proposed now to cut out.
– Why did you not object to it at the right time?
– Is not this time enough ? I am going to vote against the paragraph for this, among many other reasons. There are curates of all denominations, and my own denomination is certainly not onethat comes morestrikingly before me as an example than another - young men barely able to live, and distributing their small earnings amongst the poor, going about from house to house endeavouring to relieve distress, and spread the gospel of peace and godliness. This Government, that has evaded its own responsibilities and the responsibilities of those who can best pay the tax, proposes to tax them, and by that means to tax religion. This is the first time a. proposal of that kind has been brought forward in this House. The Government have varied the tax from £10, or 10 per cent., to £5, or 5 per cent., and extended the age from forty-five years to the term of the victim’s natural life.
– Clergymen are not exempt under the income tax.
– The tax the Treasurer proposes is not an income tax in any just or fair sense.
– The Treasurer’s statement rather spoils your argument.
– I do not keep before me every instance, but in the Wartime Profits Bill the other day we exempted ministers of religion, and I know many other measures in which they have been uniformly exempted.
– The likelihood of their making war profits is rather remote.
– Still, a great many on the honorable member’s side wanted to include them. It is notable that as the Government moved the age limit up they brought the burden of the tax down.
– What do you think?
– I think the Government argued this way: “If we are compelled by a solid Opposition and some few dissentients on our own side to extend the age limit, we should take very good care that the tax will press more lightly upon our venerable bachelor friends than it would have pressed on the younger men.” I shall oppose the paragraph even more strongly that I opposed the previous one. It is an iniquitous proposal, unworthy of the Government; it is purely vindictive, designed as a penalty against the young men of thecommunity, and it outrages all the recognised canons of taxa tion in that it pays no attention whatever to a man’s ability to pay.
.- This proposal is a great change from the one debated yesterday, which was supposed to refer only to eligibles. Now many of us who would have been exempted will be roped in. I have no objection to the change. I was quite prepared to support the original proposal, because though there were perhaps technical objections to it, or even objections on principle, there was a strong element of justice about it. It was the only way of making those people pay who have not gone to the war, but are making money, and do not even express gratitude to the men who are endangering their lives at the Front. Many of them have neither gratitude nor admiration for their defenders. Many are staying on the land and waxing wealthy. Every member can give instances where five or six sons have gone to the war from one family, while, on adjacent farms, of five or six sons, none have gone, although all are just as fit and have as much at stake. There was enough justice in the proposition for the Committee to have supported it yesterday, but the Government thought fit to withdraw it and substitute a more logical scheme. As the tax is going to touch a great many more people - all bachelors over twenty-one - there is not the same necessity to maintain the high rate. The Government will raise all they require from this source on a 5 per cent. basis, and if that is so, surely they pre justified in lowering the rate. The honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) suggested that the Government were lowering it in order to benefit their friends. Just a moment before he complained that £5 per year was an awful impost to put on certain young men. Five pounds will be hard for some people to raise, especially for those who, unfortunately, are out of regular employment; but many ought to be able to find it, because plenty of them earning wages can easily pay the tax. They should do their duty by helping to repatriate the men who are fighting for them, paying in proportion just as the more wealthy will have to do.
– What will it cost you?
– I am sorry to say it will not cost me very much.
– You have an easy remedy if you are sorry.
– There is nothing better to subscribe to than the repatriation of the men who have gone away and suffered 6o much, and many of whom will have to suffer for the rest of their lives. A person who cannot go himself should do all he can to put those men back into the positions they occupied previously in civil life, and make the remainder of their days as pleasant as possible. Any man who refuses5 to do that deserves no consideration. If we take moire from him no one need worry. I am sorry that I shall not have to pay very much. If I had to pay more, I should have a substantial income. However, what I will have to pay I shall pay quite willingly. There is no point in what the honorable member for Batman has just been saying about the hardships that some people will suffer. Discretionary power will ‘ be given to the Commissioner of Taxation, and if any one who cannot pay £5 can furnish the Commissioner with substantial reasons for his inability to pay he need not fear imprisonment. It may be just as hard for a man with an income of £400 a year to pay the £15 that he will be called upon to contribute under this taxation as ‘it will be for the great majority of wage-earners to pay even the minimum of £5. ‘ A man with an income of £400 a year has already to pay State income tax and Federal income tax, plus 25 per cent., and as he will not be able to look to the Commissioner for relief, the additional £15 will take a little bit of finding. Seeing that the Government were not pledged to any particular form of taxation in this regard, I am sorry that they’ cannot see their way clear to withdraw this proposal with a view to bringing down a repatriation tax to apply to every one, -married or single. Such a tax could be graduated in a scientific way, and would be much more equitable than that which is now under consideration. To say that every one should pay £5, or 5 per cent., of his income is a little arbitrary. However, as the Government are anxious to get on with business, I am prepared to vote for the proposition before us; but I would like to see ministers of religion exempted. This tax has been turned into a bachelor tax, and it will be hard on some clergymen, who by the laws of their church cannot possibly change their bachelor state, to compel them to pay this tax. They cannot escape it by marrying, and in all fairness should be exempted. I regret that we could not get a straight-out vote on the sub-paragraph which exempted them, and which has now been deleted along with others. “I would have voted to retain the exemption of ministers of religion, but I cannot vote against the whole subdivision on the ground of their inclusion. I hope that it is not too late for the Treasurer to take note of the exemption of persons who are permanently incapacitated for work. There are many bachelors who are permanently incapacitated for work, yet have very large incomes. I hold that we should allow a person who is permanently incapacitated for work to have an income of £300 a year, and tax his income beyond that figure.
.- The paragraph has not been rendered any less objectionable by the exclusion of the exemptions which were in the proposal first brought down by the Treasurer. The opposition to the exclusion of the exemption applying to ministers of religion is rather amusing. Honorable members seem to think that the conscience of the person who, from purely religious motives, objects- to military service is not to be taken into consideration, while that of the clergyman is to have specially favoured treatment. I fail to see why there should be any differentiation between clergymen and conscientious objectors on religious grounds. We have heard a lot of talk about alleged shirkers, the men .who have not gone across the seas to fight, but we have heard nothing of the fact that the great majority of the people in Australia today have nothing but their jobs to fight for; and while some people speak about liberty and freedom, and about going across the seas to fight for it, they set about robbing the people of that liberty and freedom in Australia. Honorable members opposite talk a lot about repatriation with their tongues in their cheeks; it is only so much dust in the eyes of the people. They try to persuade the people that honorable members on this side are not genuinely patriotic, and that there is a monopoly of patriotism on their side. I admit that they have a monopoly of what they understand as patriotism, and which is nothing but safeguarding their profits, no matter who else suffers. If they were honest in their efforts to help the soldiers, and to secure funds for the purposes of repatriation, and helping soldiers’ dependants, they would not have come down with a proposal such as this, saying in the one breath that its purpose is to force single men who have not volunteered to do something for the soldiers, and in the next breath that it is purely and simply a bachelor tax. If they are anxious to raise money for the purpose of doing justice to our soldiers, why do they not bring down a graduated income tax, which will fall upon themselves and upon those who stand behind them, who have made profits from the increased cost of living, not only out of those who remain behind, . and whom they term shirkers, but also out of dependants of the men whom they talk of helping? But we hear nothing about bringing down a genuine’ measure to help these men. Instead, we have a vindictive and petty effort to force men to go to the Front. I call it petty, because a man would not be of much account if he would be forced to go to the Front in order to avoid the payment of £5. It is nothing but a paltry and spiteful effort to get, even with a number of people upon whom honorable members opposite spend most of their time in reflecting.’
– How does the honorable member like the idea of paying ?
– The tax will not touch me very much, but it will touch those who are in the position which I occupied before I came here. It will not be much trouble for me to pay the 5 per cent. The people of this country have placed me in a position where even to pay a tax of £10 would not be a hardship to me, but it would be a great hardship, to many persons outside who are in the same position as I was in before I was elected to the House to pay even £5.
With regard to the tax itself, I say again to the Government, “ Bring down a Graduated Income Tax Bill, and take the surplus over and above what you consider a fair living wage, and I shall be prepared to support it for repatriating the soldiers.”
– You will get the measure later, in conjunction with this one.
– I have not the slightest doubt that honorable members on the other side are quite capable, of doing anything. This is, as I said before, simply the old bushranging game of “Your money or your life.” But those persons who have made money out of the war, out of the necessities of the people of Australia, are taking “ darned “ good, care that the other fellows shall pay, and not those who have made the profits.
– Why do you not give us an argument in favour of bachelors?
– Because I. am not particularly interested in defending, bachelors.
– You have been dodging; matrimony all the time, and now you want to dodge this tax.
– I think that if the honorable member had had a little of the experience I had while I was dodging matrimony outside, he would have dodged it, too.
– There must have been* a few after you.
– If the honorable member thinks that it is a fair thing to ask a particular lady of his choice to go through life with him on an income of £100, or a little over that sum, he is quite welcome to try the experiment. Personally, I am in a different position from what I was in before; from a financial point of view, my lot has been bettered. If the honorable member was in the position of a number of the - single men of” Australia, and had to fight, as they have fought, for the conditions they get, he would think twice before he would ask any person to share his. misery with him. It is all very fine for honorable members opposite to make a. laughing matter of this proposal. They can afford to sit back and laugh at the struggles of the fellows outside. I have not been long enough in this position to forget the experience I had in the industrial arena. If many honorable members on the other side would think of the times gone by when they were in a similar position, there would not be so much laughter here.
– Apply that remark to your own men, who were laughing equally.
– It is not necessary for me to apply the remark to honorable members on this side, because what I leave out the honorable member will supply.
This proposal, in so far as it means anything, is in exactly the same position as it was when it was brought down before, with the exception that the whole of these men have been indicted en bloc. According to honorable members opposite, they have been convicted of a new crime. The only thing which has happened since is that the penalty has been reduced. The proposal, in principle, is exactly the same as it was before - that is, an attempt to get behind the verdict of the people given on the 28th October last. Though the attempt will not, in my opinion, secure the vindictive result which was anticipated, the guiding motive or principle is the same. The proposal has been modified as regards the penalty, but the principle remains the same. Nobody with the slightest elementary knowledge of the conditions outside, or of the facts ‘of the matter; nobody with the slightest sense of justice, would vote for such a proposal.
.- The speech with which the Committee has just been favoured is such a speech as we might expect from a man who says that he will not fight.
– He did not say that he would, not fight; he will not fight for “ bosses,” though.
– The honorable member takes up now the position that he will not even contribute towards the repatriation of the men who are doing the fighting for him.
– I rise to order. I never stated that I would not contribute anything. I said that I was prepared* to do everything possible to help the men by means of a ‘genuine repatriation scheme.
– The honorable gentleman is going to vote against the Bill ; that is my answer to his remark- -
– Of course, I am.
– The honorable member talks about privilege in these things. What is he doing, I ask, to protect the privileges of Australia? He talks about men not getting wages enough to permit them to get married. I venture to say that his father had less money and reared him upon it, as many hundreds of us were reared, on less-
– That shows howlittle you know.
– The honorable member talks about the times he has gone through. He does not know anything about the times which have been, gone through in Australia.- Why, the very menhe condemns are those who made the conditions to-day in Australia-
– Yes, the conditions to-day.
– I can tell the honorable gentleman that years ago I had to shear sheep for 10s. a hundred.
– Why did they toss you out of the Australian Workers Union ?
– They did not. Long before the honorable member was thought of, and got his American accent, I did good work for the shearers.- As a matter of fact, if’ he wants to know why they turned me out of the Labour party-
– They did, then?
– As a matter of fact, the reason why I was turned out of the Labour party was because I possessed a conscience, and refused to allow men like the honorable gentleman to say what attitude I should take regarding the war. He claims the right of acting according to his conscience, and because we exercise that right we are called ‘ ‘ scabs ‘ ‘ and “blacklegs.” That is the honorable gentleman’s attitude to us. When he goes through the hardships which some of the men on this side he referred to went through in ‘their early days, he will have some reason to talk here.
– It must have been a considerably long while ago.
– The honorable member, if he had been here long, would know that the conditions in Australia today are the best conditions in the world. If we all acted like the honorable gentleman does, we would allow the German troops to tramp right over thoseconditions, and take possession of this country. I would be ashamed to act as he does; I would sooner cut my throat than be as he is.
– Here is a man capable of fighting, with no impediment, who will not go to the Front.
– You do not know anything at all about that.
– He refuses even to vote a sum of money to help to repatriate the men.
Mr.Considine. - That statement is about as accurate as the rest of your remarks.
– Order ! I ask that this personal interchange shall cease.
– It is very evident that the honorable member is going to vote against this proposal. It certainly does something towards repatriation - it imposes a tax on single men, and that’ is why the honorable member has so much objection to it. Is any honorable member going to argue that in the incidence of taxation to-day there is any comparison between the position of married men and that of single men? In our Income Tax Act we made a paltry exemption of £26 per child, but it only means exemption from the tax on that sum. As a matter of fact, it is equivalent to an exemption of 13s. Does any honorable member really think that the single man cannot be fairly asked to contribute more to taxation, especially for repatriation, than the married man? Can we vote any sum of money which will pay for the lives which have been sacrificed? I had as good a son as ever a man had, and he sacrificed his life at the Front. What did he say to me when he came home to enlist ? He said he thought that it was his duty, especially as he was a single man, to answer the call of the nation.
– That was his belief.
- His attitude was very different from that of the honorable gentleman. Is there anything which could compensate for the loss of that young fellow’s life, a man of about twenty-seven years of age? The honorable member talks about sacrifices.
– What did you sacrifice?
– I told the honorable member before that if I were as young as he is, I would be ashamed tolook a Britisher in the face.
– You would have good reason, but I have not.
– No, because the honorable member has not any conscience.
– Order !
– He has not any courage.
– Order !
– He has only impudence.
– Order !
– Which I share with the honorable member.
– I shall leave the matter at that. I believe that we are doing the proper thing in reducing the difference in the incidence of taxation between the married man and the single man. Any single man with a spark of manliness in his composition will not begrudge the payment of a tax of £5.
.- I have not had the honour of listening tothe debate on this proposal. I have certainly heard the impassioned remarks of the honorable member for Grey (Mr. Poynton), but he always gets very impassioned on this point. Judging from the tone of his remarks to-night, he thinks that it is up to the young fellows who are not going to the war. to pay. When the exmember for Oxley (Mr. Sharpe) promulgated the idea of imposing a bachelor’s tax, not only for warpurposes, but as a just measure of taxation - an impost which would make the basis of taxation equitable - he was laughed at. It was only whenthe war broke out that the proposal was accepted by the Government as an amendment in an ordinary taxation measure. To all intents and purposes, this is a bachelor’s tax, with a minimum of £1 per £100, so that single men. may be taxed, as it is said, in accordance with their responsibilities to the nation. The proposal has been brought forward as a special measure of taxation. Surely to heaven, this Win-the-war Government will not say that itis a tax to meet the cost of government! Surely they do not claim that it is really intended to help in the repatriation of the soldiers when they return ! Every honorable member on the other side knows that it is not the case. He knows that he has his tongue in his cheek when he says otherwise. It is of no use to deny that this tax means economic conscription pure and simple. The Government are attempting to do by a subterfuge what they have not the courage to do openly, notwithstanding that they claim to have a lily-white conscience. They ought never to allow the word conscience to pass their lips after the attack they made upon the consciences of every elector in the Commonwealth when they issued pamphlets which attacked men’s religion. The Government had no hesitation then in putting out false and black lies - not to win the war-
– Order! The honorable member must withdraw that statement. It is an exceedingly improper expression to use.
– Do you mean, sir, the remark I made regarding the electioneering pamphlets?
– I do.
– If I have transgressed any rule of the House I withdraw; but I am not aware of any_ other expression that will fit the action of the Government. This proposal is not a measure for repatriation, nor is it just and equitable taxation. The Government dare not tell the community what is the real motive for the imposition of this tax. Its purpose is plain enough, but the proposal to tax single men to the extent of 10 per cent, of their incomes, with a minimum of £10, was too bald, and the Treasurer had to do &n inglorious climb-down to meet the wishes of the Ministerial Caucus. The Government were afraid of what the country would say when next they appealed to the electors if they persisted in inflicting this iniquitous burden upon tha unmarried men of the community. Why have not the Government included within the scope of the tax those young men who have married since the commencement of the war, and are without encumbrances ? “ In other words, why have the men who married to dodge enlistment been allowed to escape this tax ? Is it because a tax on such men would touch too closely home? This proposal reeks of chicanery. The Government are not endeavouring to make those who are responsible for the expenditure on the war pay for it. I again remind honorable members of the statement of the Minister for Works and Railways (Mr. Watt) that it matters not how taxation is placed upon the people, there is a filtration process which indefinably, but surely, carries the burdens on to the shoulders of the masses of the people. I do not say that that filtration process will be in evidence in connexion with this tax, because it is in the imjin a direct tax on the working man. He cannot evade it or pass it on, but will be required to pay every penny of it out of his weekly wage. The purpose of this super-tax is to compel men to go to the war, although we have always been told that enlistment “for active service is a matter for each man’s individual decision. I remember seeing outside the Melbourne Town Hall a quotation from a speech by Lloyd George, in which he asked, “ Will you allow another man to do your share of the fighting ?” A friend who was with me thought that was an admirable sentiment, and I agreed that it was if all -things were equal. But Lloyd George did not say who caused the war. In Great Britain to-*y they will not give a vote to every man who is fighting, or to the wives and widows of soldiers.
– Order ! The honorable member is going beyond the question before the Chair.
– The single men in Australia are doing their duty in connexion with the war as well as > any other section of the community. When the war-time profits tax was being considered, honorable members opposite were very active in conserving the interests of those who had placed them in Parliament.
– Parliament has already dealt with the war-time profits tax, and it cannot be Again discussed.
– I am dealing with taxation introduced for the purpose of meeting the cost of the war, and I wish to show the insincerity of the Government. In connexion with the war-time profits tax, I pointed out that the Government were not sincere, inasmuch as the debate waa allowed to extend over weeks, and honorable members on the Government Bide fought like Kilkenny cats in the interests of their bosses. I prophesied that, when a further sum of money was required to pay for the war, there would be no hesitation about going to the kingdom of Shylock to get it. In less than a week the Government introduced their loan proposals.
– I again call the attention of the honorable member to the fact that the loan proposals have nothing to do with the question before the Chair, which is “ that section F, as amended, be agreed to.”
– I am contending that section F should not be agreed to because the Government are not sincere, and I am referring to previous proposals in proof of my argument. It is immoral to tax one section of the community when there is no desire on the part of the Government to tax those people who should be taxed. I hold that I am in order in referring to what has been done in the direction of levying ‘the taxation necessary for the successful prosecution of the war.
– I again tell the honorable member that he will not be in order in proceeding along those lines.
– This measure of taxation is not fair when compared with the taxation imposed on other sections of the community. Notwithstanding all the taxation that has been levied for war purposes the profits made by the commercial section of the community have increased by no less a sum than £49,000,000 since the war broke out. That represents the increment that has been received by the people who are staying at home, and who are making a profit out of the war. The Government ought to be ashamed to introduce a tax like this, while they leave that huge reserve of wealth untouched. It has been said that honorable members on this side of the House have no desire to do a fair thing by those who have gone overseas to fight the battle of those who have remained, at home. They dare not put to the test the liberality of the Labour party in regard to repatriation. When the War Pensions Bill was before Parliament, I proposed that we should pay to any man who was deprived of his eyesight, or had lost both arms or both legs, 10s. per day for the rest of his life. The Government are not game to carry their repatriation proposals to that extent. I challenge them to put us to the test as to what we are prepared to do for the soldiers. The great majority of the men at the Front are trade unionists, the workers of the community; the men who, prior to the days when trade unionism asserted itself, shore sheep for 10s. per 100, and lived in lousy huts. To-day, they are fighting for the people who control the £49,000,000 of increased profits that have been made since the outbreak of the war. That, money has come from the pockets of the widows, wives, and children of the men at the Front. The capitalists do not feed upon themselves. They feed upon the general community, and amongst that community in the bulk are the dependants of our soldiers at the Front. When it comes to a question of properly doing the thing, I would advise honorable members to read the history of South Australia. The honorable member for Grey (Mr. Poynton) ought to be here whilst reference is being made to this matter, because it has some points for him, and I am sure he would be interested in it. In the State from which I hail they are juggling with land for repatriation purposes, and the inquiry which is being conducted into the matter furnishes interesting reading in regard to the action of the win-‘the-war patriots. These men, who were formerly shearing at 10s. per 100, who were taken by the workers from factories, and who were prepared to abide by majority rule so long as it suited their book to do so, soon, after being elevated to Ministerial office developed such tender consciences ‘that when the question of conscription or no conscription was raised they refused to abide by the decision of the majority of the party with which they were associated. ‘
– Order I am loath to intervene, but I apprehend that, perhaps, the honorable member does not really know what is before the Chair. The’ question of repatriation is not before the Chair at ‘all. It is, however, a subject which appears on the business-paper, and which will be dealt with later. The honorable member must recognise that if I permit him to indulge in a general discussion on repatriation, every other member of this Committee will be entitled to claim the same privilege, and the debate will be interminable. I ask the honorable member, therefore, to confine his remarks to the taxation proposals of the Government as they are set out in section F of the motion submitted by the Treasurer.
– On a point of order, I should like to know whether you, sir, rule that this proposal has nothing to do with repatriation 1
– I have given no such ruling.
– When the Treasurer introduced the Bill he stated that the money derived from this tax was to be applied to repatriation purposes only,
– My ruling is that this is not a Repatriation Bill. The remarks of the honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Yates) are doubly irregular by reason of the fact that he is anticipating discussion of a Bill which already appears upon the business-paper.
– Do I understand you to say, sir, that this is not a repatriation proposal 1
– I have given my ruling, and if the honorable member objects to it he must take exception to it in the ordinary way.
– First, I wish to be sure of what you did say.
– What I have ruled is that an incidental reference by the Treasurer to the disposition of the money to be derived from the proposed taxation does not open up the whole question of repatriation.
– Hear, hear! But we can refer to that question.
– With all due deference to your ruling, sir, I contend that I have not discussed the question of repatriation.
– That is for the Chair to decide.
– The honorable member for Grey (Mr. Poynton), in replying to the honorable member for the Barrier, referred to what he was doing to protect the privileges of to-day. He spoke of what was being done to repatriate our soldiers. I am merely pointing out what can be done under the guise of repatriation.
The first reason advanced for the introduction of this Bill is that it will stimulate recruiting. I venture to say that quite a lot of bachelors will not pay the proposed tax. A great many of them will never be able to pay it. The second reason advanced for its introduction is that the Bill will provide funds for the repatriation of the soldiers who have returned fom the Front. I do not believe ‘that the measure has been brought forward for either of these purposes. It is really intended to enable the Government and their supporters to get back on those who voted “ No “ on the 28th October last. In effect, my honorable friends opposite say, “ We promised not to introduce the question of conscription, but there are other means of securing our objective, and we intend to use them at the first opportunity.” Ido not desire to detain the Committee any longer.
– Does not the honorable member desire to get to the Front?
– I ask you, sir, to call upon the honorable member for the Kelly country to withdraw his insulting innuendo that I am responsible for being in the Commonwealth when I ought to be at the Front. If there be any sincerity in the Minister representing the Minister for Defence he will say what he ought to say in reference to my position.
– If the honorable member takes exception to a remark made by the honorable member for Echuca, the letter must withdraw it.
– The honorable member quite misinterprets the nature of my innuendo.
– Order ! The honorable member for Adelaide has taken exception to a remark by the honorable member for Echuca, which he regards as personally offensive to him. In these circumstances I ask the honorable member for Echuca to withdraw it.
– I will gladly withdraw anything that I have said. But in regard to the innuendo, I protest that the honorable member has no knowledge of what was in my mind.
– I am sorry, sir, that your hearing was not keen when the honorable member interjected.
– Order ! I again appeal to honorable members to preserve their own dignity as well as the dignity of the Chamber. Owing to the noise which prevailed, the Chair has been left open to a retort by the honorable member for Adelaide that my hearing was not keen enough to catch what the honorable member for Echuca said. But it is impossible to hear all that is said in the hum of disorderly conversation.
– I am sorry, sir, that you did not catch the remark of the honorable member for Echuca, because, metaphorically speaking, you would have your foot on his neck in two seconds, and it would have been no loss, from my point of view, if you had crushed the life out of him.
– I must call upon the honorable member to withdraw that remark. He must recognise that it is very offensive.
– I have stood so much from the honorable member that it is up to. me to kick back. I have no desire to transgress the rules of debate, but I am not going to be sat upon by the honorable member for Echuca.
– Order ! I have already asked the honorable member to withdraw the remark which he has made, because it is personally offensive to the honorable member for Echuca.
– I withdraw it, and I only regret that I am not the Chairman of Committees. If I were, I would order the Serjeant-at-Arms to lead the honorable member for Echuca out of the chamber.
– That observation may be humorous, but if persisted in, such remarks may result in something tragic.
– What a pity!
– I ask the honorable member for Maribyrnong to cease his interjections, and I call upon other honorable members to cease their interjections. I have already asked the honorable member for Adelaide to withdraw his remark unconditionally.
– I withdraw unconditionally. I have no desire to disturb the temper of the Committee. The Government are in a very happy frame of mind just now, because they are never happier than when they are squeezing the life out of the worker. Butthemore they squeeze him the more he will kick, and when his boot is large enough they will become as extinct as the dodo. This Bill is an attack on the working classes of the Commonwealth. It ought never to have been introduced. The proposal it contains is an immoralone, which will stink in the nostrils of the community. If it be necessary to impose taxation to enable us to defray the cost of the war, let such taxation be imposed all round. I do not mind if I am taxed down to my underpants, so long as I am covered from the public gaze, and so long as everybody else is obliged to go about in the same attire. I will guarantee that some persons will not look as handsome as I do. This is the most insincere proposal that the Government have brought forward. It will not meet the circumstances of the case. It will not attain its object. It will only provoke friction and produce trouble and chaos. Honorable members opposite only desire to sting those whom this proposal will touch into revolt. After having criticised this taxation proposal, I am not going to resume my seat without offering my alternative to it. I shall continue to offer that alternative until it has been proved that it is inefficient, impracticable, and unjust. I desire the Commonwealth for the period of the war, if it be so desired, to nationalize all the financial institutions of this country - both insurance and banking - and also any money-lending companies.
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- I have only a very few remarks to make upon this proposal. Whilst listening to the debate upon it, I have been wondering whether I ought to admire the patient resignation of the Treasurer (Sir John Forrest) or to sympathize with him in the position in which he has been placed. One would naturally assume that the right honorable gentleman, with his long record of service behind him, and with the heavy responsibility upon him of financing the Commonwealth through this period of war, would have considered well the proposals which are embodied in this motion. We must assume that they were carefully thought out, that they had been the subject of long and serious consideration, and represented, when tabled the mature judgment of the Treasurer and his officials, and of the Cabinet. But, alas, what a ragged scheme it is now ! What a miserable remnant is left of the once proud motion that was the financial proposal of this Win-the-war Government ! What an exhibition of financing ! Has the Treasurer run away from his opinions, or has he been forced into his unfortunate position ? , Was he too sanguine in the first instance, or is he too much afraid now ? What soothing syrup did he give to the recalcitrant members of his party who yesterday tore the Bill to tatters, and threatened the defeat ‘ of his financial proposals, that those who were so noisy are now so quiet? They have been bought; concessions have been made to them ; the policemen, the lighthouse-keepers, and ministers of religion have been sacrificed to placate them. Into what a ridiculous position has the party placed its Leader ! When the Government brings forward a proposal which it considers necessary for the winning of the . war, its supporters turn on it and rend it. Is this an exhibition of strong government?
– We have been told that responsible government has been restored.
– One wonders to whom the Government is responsible. Evidently it is not responsible to those to whom it made promises.
– The honorable member is going beyond the motion.
– I have two remarks to make. The honorable member for Grey (Mr. Poynton) suggested that in opposing the motion we shall be voting against repatriation. I repudiate that suggestion with scorn and indignation. To say that in voting against the motion we show our hostility to repatriation is a disgraceful statement which I cannot allow to go unchallenged. What a comment on the suggestion. is the fact that the proposed tax will yield not more than £500,000, while the needs of repatriation will amount to from £20,000,000 to £50,000,000! We, on this side, are prepared to support whatever taxation may be necessary to provide money for repatriation, but to suggest that this contribution from the single men of Australia is vital to repatriation is ridiculous. And, as I said, yesterday, and as has been said repeatedly by members on this side, the proposed tax is merely an attempt at economic conscription. Evidence in support of that statement is found in the fact that member after member has said that the single men can easily avoid, the tax by enlisting. It is “ enlist or pay up,” or, as the honorable member for Barrier (Mr. Considine) put it, “your money or your life.” I protest that no payment, and this least of all, can be accepted as equality of sacrifice with that of the soldier. ‘ For that reason the proposal is an insult to the men at the Front.
– That is why we oppose it in the form in which it was brought before the Committee.
– If it was an insult to men at the Front to offer as an alternative to enlistment the payment of a fine of £10, can it be said that the payment of £5 is an equivalent to going abroad to fight for the country?
Mr.Wise. - No; but the exemption is now on the same footing as the exemption from income tax.
– If the suggestion ofthe ‘ Government yesterday that the payment of a fine of £10 could be accepted as an alternative to enlistment is an insult to those who have enlisted, much more is the present proposal that the payment of a fine of £5 shall be regarded as an alternative.
– The exemption, like the exemption from income taxation, is a compliment to those who have enlisted.
– The proposal reekswith insincerity. No one believes that it was brought forward to get revenue, or to assist the Repatriation Fund. Its object was to force men to enlist, and for that reason I hope that, it will be defeated by the Committee.. The Treasurer should, by withdrawing; the subdivision, express his appreciation of the conduct of those who oppose it and his disgust at the attitude of those who support it.
Question - That section F, as amended, be agreed to - put. The Committee divided.
Majority . . . . 19
Section agreed to.
Section G agreed to.
.- I move-
That the following new section be added : - “ H.- Tax Payable inrespect of a Cash Prize in a Lottery.
There shall be payable in respect of a cash prize in a lottery income tax to the amount of ten per centum of the gross prize money.”
Taxation is already imposed upon cash, prizes in lotteries, but there has been some difficulty in estimating the amount of the tax. The officials of the Taxation Department believe that a fixed charge of 10 per cent. on the amount of the prize is a better system to adopt than that now followed.
Proposed new section agreed to.
Standing Orders suspended and resolution adopted.
That Sir John Forrest and Mr. Glynn do prepare and bring in a Bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill presented by Sir John Forrest, and read a first time.
– I move -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
This measure is almost a replica of the resolution which was agreed to in Committee. It is not altogether in the words of the resolution, because some of the subdivisions appear in the Bill in the form of schedules, and are referred to in the body of the measure as schedules. The clauses from clause 4 to the end of the Bill are an exact replica of the resolution that has been agreed to.
.- Whilst the resolution upon which this Bill is founded was under consideration in Committee, the Treasurer stated that certain portions of the taxation authorized by this measure would be ear-marked for the purpose of repatriation.
– I wished to have that done, but I found that it cannot be done under this Bill, as a taxing Bill may not deal with more than one subject.
– Is it competent for the House to pass another Bill on this subject?
– We may pass a Bill allocating portion of the money derived from the tax. We cannot insert such a provision in this Bill, because the Constitution forbids it.
– I think I am entitled to point out that the statement was made that the revenue to be derived from this tax would be especially appropriated for repatriation purposes.
– And so it shall be.
– But there is not a line in this Bill appropriating one penny of it to repatriation purposes. On previous occasions we have had a statement by the Minister in charge of a Bill providing for the raising of certain revenue, that the money would be used for the particular purpose, but it has not been so used. I do not doubt the Treasurer’s intention’s, but such intentions have often to be varied by reason of circumstances that arise. The Government will not be able to say that a penny of the revenue to be raised in this way is for repatriation purposes unless they bring down a measure so ear-marking it.
– We would have so ear-marked it in this Bill if we could have done so.
– The right honorable gentleman said he would, but he has not done so. The Government could have brought down a short measure of one or two clauses, providing that the revenue obtained from this tax should be appropriated for the special purpose of repatriation. Such a Bill would have gone through without discussion.
– Without discussion ?
– Yes; there would have been no objection to it from this side of the House. Briefly put, the Government are placing this penal tax on single men without a line of legislation providing that the money so raised shall be used for repatriation purposes.
– We could not declare in this Bill that the revenue to be raised by the tax for which it provides shall be devoted to repatriation purposes, inasmuch as section 55 of the Constitution provides that -
Laws imposing taxation shall deal only with the imposition of taxation, and any provisions therein dealing with any other matter shall be of no effect, while section 81 of the Constitution provides that all moneys raised by the Government shall form one consolidated fund, to be appropriated for the purposes of the Commonwealth. As this Bill deals with taxation, no other subject can be introduced in it, because section 55 of the Constitution provides to the contrary. The Treasurer, therefore, proposes to follow the only constitutional course open to him, by providing in another Bill to be introduced forthwith, that the revenue raised by means of this tax shall be appropriated for repatriation purposes.
.- I do not. intend to allow this measure to pass without making a final protest against it. In the first place, I think the title of the Bill is wrong, since it provides for a tax, not on incomes, but on bachelors. The original motion introduced by the Treasurer provided for a special tax on all single men, and widowers without children, between the ages of twenty-one and forty-five years. Finding that there was strong opposition to that proposal, the Treasurer, in order to pacify his party, so extended the provision as to include every unmarried person in the Commonwealth, with the exception of old-age pensioners and one or two others. I wish to put my protest on record, so that when’ the day of reckoning comes - as it will come when the Government proceed to collect this tax - I shall be able to point to ‘the fact that I anticipated that difficulties would present themselves.
The Government are proposing that aged men, who are obtaining from a little property just sufficient to make it impossible for them to obtain an old-age pension, a tax of £5 per annum. These old men might not have a total income of more than £50 or £60 a year. They might have a little property, to obtain which they have struggled hard, and the income from which, while barely sufficient to keep them, debars them from obtaining an old-age pension, and the Government are now proposing to take from that scanty income £5 a year. A sum of. £5 may not appear of much consequence to honorable members who enjoy a regular income, but it is a big amount to the poor man who is struggling hard to gain his daily bread.
– Such a man asthe honorable member has mentioned would be incapacitated for work within the meaning of the law.
– He would not. Even if he were, he would have to go through certain formalities in order to secure the exemption.
It is a disgrace that such a tax as this should be imposed by a Parliament, not one member of which at the recent elections told the people that if returned he would support the imposition of a tax on the single men of Australia.
– The Government and their supporters had not the courage to do so.
– No. If at the last general elections the people had known that the Government intended, if returned, to impose this taxation, the result would have been different. The Ministerial party would have been in opposition to-day. As originally introduced, the Government proposal was to impose a special tax of £10 on all eligibles who had not volunteered. Subsequently it was widened so as to include all single men, and was reduced to £5, or 5 per cent. of the taxable income, whichever is the greater amount. Had the people known that the Government intended to do this, they would not have returned them with a majority.
– I would not trouble about that if I were the honorable member. After all, it is only a matter of opinion.
– And the right.honorable gentleman will find that I am right when he has to go before the electors.
– We have heard a lot of this from the honorable member, but we do not take much notice of it.
– The right honorable gentleman will have to do so when he goes before the electors.
– Let the honorable member look after himself.
– I am looking after the people who sent me here, just as the right honorable gentleman looks after the interests of the money-bags of Australia who returned him to this Parliament. The Treasurer, who taunts me in this way, has said, time after time, that he would not be prepared to impose any further direct taxation on the wealthy people of this country, either for repatriation or any other purpose. While he takes up that position,, he is quite . proud of this measure, of which he claims to be the father, and under which he is going to take £5 a year from many young fellows who are not earning more than £50 or £60 a year.
– This is a regular coal-mining speech.
– And the Government will hear more . from the coal-miners before long.
– We get too much of this sort of thing.
– Order !
– The Treasurer, who takes care to safeguard the interests of the wealthy, who ought to be paying for the repatriation scheme - who ought to be helping to support our brave men on the other side of the world who are defending their property - is prepared to take £5 from a mere youth who is earning £50 or £60 a year, notwithstanding that a youth cannot keep himself decently under £120 a year.
– The honorable member knows too much about every one.
– Order !
– The Treasurer does not like the plain facts of the position. He does not care for the truth; but he shall hear it from me, whether he likes it or not. He may be able to bluff some honorable members, but he cannot bluff, me.
– And the honorable member cannot bluff me.
– I have several times called for order, and I ask the Treasurer not to keep on interjecting. Every Honorable member is entitled to be heard in silence, and these continuous interjections are disorderly.
– I think we ought to expel the Treasurer.
– Order! I had just resumed my seat after having called honorable members to order when the honorable member for Melbourne Ports interjected. I wish to inform the House that if there are any further interjections I shall be obliged to name the honorable member who offends.
– I admit I have been speaking a little warmly on this ques tion because I know what will be the effect of this proposed tax, and how unfairly it will operate. It willbe a class tax; an imposition on the class least able to bear it.
– A penalty tax.
– Yes, a penalty tax, from which there will be no escape for certain people, and in consequence I feel that I have a perfect right to object to the measure at every stage if I feel so disposed. We have treated the Treasurer very well in this matter, because we have allowed him to get on with the Bill, but we know that when he gets it through this House and, by reason of the majority at his command, through another place, the day will not be far distant when thousands of people who voted for his party at the last election on the strength of the promise made - that conscription would not be introduced without referring it to the electors - will have something to say on this matter. This Bill is really a form of economic conscription. It was intended as a measure to force men to enlist, though subsequently the Government amended the proposition to make it apply to every single man, including those who are now grey-headed and perhaps tottering to the grave, so are too old to go to the Front and assist their country in this hour of its crisis. This is the kind of legislation for which the Treasurer and the members of his Government take so much credit. I could not permit it to go through without an emphatic protest - a protest which I am sure will be indorsed by the people throughout the Commonwealth.
Question - That the Bill be now read a second time - put. The House divided.
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clause 1 (Short title) agreed to.
Clause 2 (Incorporation).
– I presume that if we pass this clause we adopt the same exemption as that provided for in other Income Tax Acts, namely, £156 ?
– That is so.
– I understand that the honorable member for Maribyrnong intends to raise a point on this clause.
. This clause provides that the Bill shall be incorporated and read as one with the Income Tax Assessment Act 1915-16, and I desire to test the feeling of the Committee as to whether the exemption should not be raised so as to make it £200.
– I suggest that the honorable member is not in order in seeking to amend the associated Act at this stage. He can only do so, I submit, by means of a new clause, proposed at the time when new clauses may be considered. I wish your ruling, Mr. Chairman, as to whether the honorable member is in order.
– I shall give notice of a new clause.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 3 agreed to.
Clause 4 (Rates of income tax).
.- I object to sub-clause 4, which raises the whole point that we have been discussing on the message this afternoon. This clause, I contend, really seeks to impose a poll tax ; that is, every individual who earns £100 per annum must pay at least £1. I intend to call for a division on the clause.
Question - That the clause be agreed to - put. The Committee divided.
Majority . . . . 19
Question so resolved in theaffirmative.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 6 -
There shall be payable by every male person (whether in receipt of a taxable income or not) . . . income tax’ to the amount of Five pounds, or five per centum of his taxable income, whichever is the greater.
Sub-section (1) of this section shall not apply to a person who satisfies the Commissioner -
That a majority of his brothers of military age have been on active service outside Australia ….
For the purposes of this section “ taxable income “ means the amount which is ascertained by deducting . . . the sum of Twenty-six pounds in respect of each dependant . . .
.- On this clause I take the same attitude as that I took towards the message this afternoon - that is, I object to the whole of it as a penal clause.
– I shall submit that you cannot object now.
– We may reject the clause.
– You may not.
– We may, for up to the present only the message has been adopted, and what is now before us is the Bill. If we cannot amend it, where was the necessity for bringing in the Bill? I hope the Committee will knock out the whole clause.
Six John Forrest. - I submit, on a point of order, that, as the Committee previously passed the clause, and the House adopted the report of the Committee, the Committee has no power to go back on that decision.
– If an amendment would have the effect of increasing the burden upon the people, the right honorable member’s objection would be valid; but the Committee has a perfect right to amend any clause in the Bill, subject to that restriction, irrespectiveof what may have happened in Committee of Ways and Means, or in the House.
.- I move -
That paragraph 6, sub-clause 2, be left out.
– Have we to go over all this again?
– I have been a very humble and diligent supporter of the Government, and am not rising now in any exigent spirit, but I want this bachelor tax to be consistent as far as possible, and it is not consistent or logical with paragraph b in it. The tax is intended to weigh upon all bachelors in Australia, irrespective of war conditions, or any disposition or indisposition on their part to take their share in active service. Paragraph b seems to have remained in by accident. The proposal in the first place was a sort of encouragement to enlistment, a means to stimulate recruiting. It has now ceased to be that, because even a man who has been turned down by the recruiting office has still to paythe tax. Under paragraph & a man may not have gone to the recruiting office at all, but by mere virtue of the action of somebody else, he will escape the tax. That is not a logical proposition. We cannot put a tax on the bachelor who has done his level best to go to the Front, and been turned down for physical unfitness, and then exempt from taxation a number of thoroughly fit young bachelors whose only merit is that their brothers have gone to the Front.
– This is a practice to which I am not accustomed. I cannot see how the Committee can undo what a previous Committee and the House have already approved of. If we can undo everything we have done, it appears that we have not done anything, or got anywhere -all day.
– That was a Committee of Ways and Means; . this is a Committee of the House.
– But the House approved of what the Committee of Ways and Meansdid.
– Last night the Minister for the Navy (Mr. Joseph Cook) asked us to put through formally the whole of the resolutions, saying that we could deal with them in Committee to-day.
– I am of opinion that he was in error that time.
– If we had agreed to do what be wanted, we should have found, according to him, that it was we who had made the mistake.
– In the 11th edition of May’s Parliamentary Practice, it is laid down that -
When a schedule of duties has been reported from a Committee, and agreed to by the House, the Committee on the Bill cannot increase such duties, nor add any articles not previously voted; but if the duties so voted are less than those payable under the existing law, it is competent for the Committee on the Bill to increase them, provided such increase be not in excess of the existing duties.
Standing order 170 also provides - 170. Any amendment may be made to any part of the Bill, provided the same be relevant to the subject-matter of the Bill, or pursuant to any instruction, and be otherwise in conformity with the rules and Orders of the House.
I therefore rule that the point of order cannot be sustained.
.- I was unable to speak on the motion in Committeeof Ways and Means this afternoon, having to attend a committee meeting in another part of the building, but I thoroughly support the proposal of the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Kelly). It we wiped out all the other exemptions, this one ought to go out also. The only one we ought to leave in, apart from the exemptions of those incapacitated from work and old-age pensioners, is the first, which is worded very much like the exemption in the Income Tax Act itself. People who said the object of the tax on bachelors was to make them pay up or go to the war, might just as well have said that provision meant “payyour income tax, or go to the war.” It was put in, not as an inducement to anybody to go to the war, but as a tribute or mark of admiration, or respect, from the House to the man who gave his services on the field of battle. To be logical, we ought to strike out paragraph b. It is indefensible to say that those in a household who stay behind, no matter for what reason, are to be exempt from the tax because of somebody else’s sacrifice. It may be said that they are staying at home to help their parents, yet the only Bon, who has to stay at home to help his parents, is not to be exempted, because he has the misfortune not to have two brothers. In any case a majority of the brothers must have gone to the war. If there are four in a family, and only two have gone, the other two are not exempt. The only exemption should be given to men on actual service, who should not be called upon to pay any taxation whatever.
.- I regret that I cannot support the honorable member. My desire is to delete the whole clause. If I cannot do that, I hope to see as many exemptions as possible included.
.- I move as an amendment -
That after paragraph (d) the following words be inserted : - “ or (e) that he is a minister of religion or a student of theology.”
We know perfectly well that ministers of religion very rarely leave anything in the shape of earthly goods when they quit this mundane sphere. I shall not delay the Committee, because this matter has already been fully debated.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.The amendment is not in order, the Cpm- mittee having already dealt with this matter.
– I submit that the matter has not been dealt with by the Committee. It has not yet been discussed on the Bill.
– If the honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Atkinson) will leave this matter over, it will be given further consideration. There are not very strong views against the exemption of ministers of religion-. In -fact, clergymen were exempted in the first proposal, but the spirit of that proposal was different from that which is now before honorable members, and under it ministers of religion and others exempted under the Defence Act could scarcely be regarded as eligible for military service. The present proposal is more a bachelor tax than anything else, and, therefore, certain persons previously exempted are not exempted now. If the honorable member will allow the matter to go ‘now, it will be considered in connexion with any possible amendments in another place. In any case, I do not think that the amendment is as wide as the honorable member would desire. There are many members of religious congregations who are not students of theology.
.- Does the Minister for Home and Territories (Mr. Glynn) intend to have the suggestion of the honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Atkinson) adopted in another place, because if such is the case I consider that the right place for the opinion of this Committee to be ascertained is here and now. I do not think that the Government, after this Committee has decided this matter, should invite another place to alter the decision arrived at here. Should another place alter it, it will be time enough for us to re-consider our decision. I hope that the Bill will stand as it is.
.- May I, in the most humble possible way, suggest that the Government should tell us what their policy is on this matter ? Yesterday they were in favour of exempting ministers of religion. This afternoon they are not in favour of exempting them.
– On a point of order, I have asked for a ruling as to the competency of the Committee to accept the amendment.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.The amendment is not before the Committee; it has been disallowed. “The honorable member is quite in order in dealing with the clause.
– The trouble is that the Government have failed to give the House a lead on the matter. If it is necessary that they should have another consultation in order to arrive at some definite proposal, they should report progress.
.- I move as an amendment - ,
That the words “ whether in receipt of a taxable income or not,” and the words “five pounds,” also the words “whichever is the greater” be left out.
The clause would then read -
There shall be payable by every male person who, on the 1st day of July, 1917, was unmarried or a widower without children, and was not under the’ age of twenty-one years, income tax to the amount of 5 per cent. of his taxable income.
– I cannot allow this amendment. These matters have been dealt with and decided upon in Committee, and cannot be amended now.
.- I move as an amendment -
That in paragraph 3 the words “ twenty-six “ be left out, with a view to inserting “ fiftytwo” in lieu thereof.
I have been so impressed with the fact that the cost of living is high that I am anxious to give a bigger rebate to a man with a large family dependent on him.
.- I wish to support the amendment.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.This amendment is in exactly the same position as the other. The Committee of Ways and Means agreed to include these words, and the House adopted the resolution. We cannot go back upon that decision.
– Do I understand you, sir, to have ruled that the amendment submitted by the honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Atkinson) was not in order ? I have an amendment to insert the following new paragraph : -
Do I understand that I am not in a position to move that amendment now? It was not ruled out of order before.
– That proposal was dealt with this afternoon.
– Not to my knowledge.
– The honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Austin Chapman) will see that his’ proposal comes to exactly the same thing as the one which the honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Atkinson) moved in regard to a minister of religion. The Committee of Ways and Means formally dealt with that proposal, and the House adopted it. We cannot deal with that question again.
– I am at a loss to understand what the Minister for Home and Territories (Mr. Glynn) meant by his statement that the Government would consider the matter. I think that it is a fair exemption to make.
– We cannot do it now.
– In that case I shall be obliged tovote against the clause. Some clergymen are bachelors owing to their vows. The Bush Brotherhood receive an allowance of only £25 a year; how are they going to pay the tax?
– Why did you not move the amendment before? You have missed the opportunity to submit it.
– I was under the impression that in Committee on the Bill we could submit any amendment. If that cannot be done, I shall have to take the only course in my power, and that is to vote against the clause. Without a reasonable amendment of this kind, I shall look upon the clause as being so unfair that I shall feel obliged to vote against it.
– May I point out to the Chair that, although the . amendment mentioned by the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Austin Chapman) may have been before the Committee of Ways and Means, my amendment has not been?
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.The honorable member’s’ amendment was embraced in sub-paragraph c of a proposition which was before the Committee of Ways and Means.
Question - That the clause be agreed to - put. The Committee divided.
Question, so resolved in the affirmative.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 7 to 9 agreed to.
– I move -
That the following new clause be added to the Bill:- “ Notwithstanding anything contained in this Actor the principal Act, all incomes under £200 shall not be subject to the provisions of this Act or the principal Act.”
– I am informed by the Commissioner of Taxation that this amendment cannot be moved in this Bill. Honorable members will notice that this measure does not make any mention of the existing exemption of £156. An opportunity of moving this clause will be afforded later, because the Government propose to introduce an amendment of the Income Tax Assessment Act in order to remove some of the anomalies and give effect to the recommendations) of the Inter-State Conference, with a view to having uniform assessment legislation for the States and the Commonwealth. We hope that the States will adopt the same Bill. I understand that that will be the proper measure on which to move an amendment such as the honorable member has proposed. The Bill is already in print, and it is necessary that it be submitted to Parliament as an early date.
– That amending Bill will not be applicable to the income tax for the year 1917-18.
– It will. That is one of the reasons why I am anxious that this Bill shall be passed as quickly as possible.
– I do not think that the Treasurer is correct in stating that the amendment cannot be moved on this Bill. We are making such excessive demands on certain sections of the community that it is only fair to raise the exemption to £200.
– I cannot accept the amendment
– I submit that the amendment is not , in order. It is opposed to the provisions of the Constitution, and, in any case, it is an amendment of the Income Tax Assessment Act.
– The amendment appears to be outside the scope of this Bill, and might more properly be moved on the Income Tax Assessment Bill. I therefore rule the amendment out of order.
Schedule and title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; reportadopted.
Motion (by Sir John Forrest) put -
That this Bill be now read a third time.
The House divided.
Majority . . . . 21
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a third time.
Bill returned from the Senate without amendment.
Bill returned from the Senate without amendment.
Message intimating that the Senate had agreed to the amendments made by the House of Representatives reported.
Bill returned from the Senate with the message that the Senate had agreed to the consequential amendments made by the House of Representatives.
Bill returned from the Senate without amendment.
.- I move -
That the standing order which prevents the consideration of new business after 11 p.m. be suspended, so as to enable the amendments made by the Senate in the War-time Profits Bill to be proceeded with.
– This motion can be moved only by the leave of the House. I take it that there is no objection to leave being granted?
Honorable Members. - Hear, hear !
Question resolved inthe affirmative.
In Committee (Consideration of Senate’s amendments) :
– The amendments made by the Senate in this Bill meet with the concurrence of the Government, and therefore I propose to accept them.
– Where are they?
– Probably the Committee would like to deal with them seriatem, but I prefer that they should be dealt with en bloc. I do not think that they contain anything of which the Committee will disapprove. Consequently I move -
That the amendments be agreed to.
– Is it intended to deal with these amendments en bloc?
– We ought to have some explanation of them.
– I shall be happy to give the desired explanation. The first amendment of the Senate is in clause 4, where it is proposed to leave out the words “ of foodstuffs, the produce of Australia, for the purposes of manufacture or sale.” These words have been omitted because they have been inserted in clause 8, and it is unnecessary to duplicate them. The second amendment by the Senate relates to the definition of “ co-operative company.” It is proposed that the following definition be inserted: - “ ‘Partnership’ includes beneficiaries under a will, settlement, or other deed of trust, who are carrying on business jointly.” That is necessary to protect the beneficiaries. The third amendment made in the same clause inserts after the word “ Australia “ the words “ so far as regards the manufacture, preparation, or wholesale distribution of foodstuffs, the produce of Australia.” That amendment relates to the definition of a co-operative company, to which I have already referred. That seems fair and reasonable, and has been approved by the Government. It is also proposed to insert in clause 8, after paragraphf, which defines the businesses to which the tax applies, the following new paragraph: - “and (g) businesses commenced since the fourth day of August One thousand nine hundred and fourteen for the purposes of mining for wolfram, molybdenite, tungsten, scheelite, or any other rare metal used in the manufacture of munitions of war, if the output of the mine is disposed of to the Imperial Government.”
In clauses 12, 15, 16, and 59 the words “ to the satisfaction of the Commissioner “ or “ it is shown to the satisfaction of the Commissioner that “ have been struck out, the object of the amendment being to give the taxpayers a wider appeal to the Board of Referees or the Court, as the case may be. The amendment does not interfere with the discretionary powers of the Commissioner generally, but prevents a final determination by him on questions on which the taxpayer may appeal. Clause 15 is amended also in respect of deductions for wear and tear or for expenditure of a capital nature for renewals, &c, by leaving out the words - and if allowed shall be only of such amount as appears to the Commissioner to be reasonably and properly attributable to the year or accounting period.
Then after “fire” the word “flood” is inserted. We provided for losses by fire, accident, robbery, or embezzlement, but omitted to include losses by floods,which have often been very serious. The clause is further amended by the addition of the following new sub-clause: - (4a). For the purposes of this section “ income tax payable in respect of the profits “ shall be -
In clause 17 this new sub-clause has been inserted : - “ (2a.) Where any money paid into or credited to a business is not being drawn upon for the purposes of that business it shall be excluded from the capital of the business for the purposes of this Act.”
That means that dead capital cannot be counted as capital. “ Shall “ has been substituted for “ may “ in clause 23. An amendment to clause 27, to insert “or Boards “ after “ Board,” empowers the Government to appoint more than one Board if necessary. The amendments have been thoroughly sifted by the Taxation Department and by me, and I have no hesitation in recommending honorable members to accept them.
.- In clause 4, as the Bill left us, “ co-operative company” was defined as a company in which - not less than two-thirds of the shares are held by members who are bond fide primary producers or suppliers to the company of foodstuffs the produce of Australia for the purposes of manufacture or sale.
The Senate has amended that definition by leaving out all the words after the word “suppliers.” Therefore, a “cooperative company “ may be a company in which two-thirds of the shares are held by members who are suppliers of any commodity. I cannot understand why such a company should be exempted. Many co-operative companies supply electric light and storage, and some of them sell large supplies of general stores.
– The profits derived from such business would not be exempt from taxation.
– I think that the Treasurer, by accepting the amendment of the Senate, will weaken the clause. Personally, I am opposed to the exemption of co-operative companies.
– The explanation furnished to me is that, as the clause originally stood, co-operative companies engaged for the main part in the manufacture, preparation, or wholesale distribution of foodstuffs the produce of Australia were exempt on all their profits, although part of these might be derived from business other than the handling of such foodstuffs. The amendment limits the exemption to that part of the profits derived from the handling of foodstuffs.
– I think that is incorrect.
– The company may be a town company, supplying anything.
– A Leongatha co-operative company supplies electric light.
– I am informed that the . words were left out of the original form of the definition because they were surplusage, and not for any object such as the honorable member for Gippsland suggests.
– I do not suggest that the alteration has been made deliberately for that object, but that that is its effect.
– I think we had better leave them in.
– I have given the Committee all the information I can. If the honorable member for Gippsland, as a gentleman learned in the law, thinks that it is necessary that the words should be left in, I am prepared to leave them in.
.- As the Bill left this House the definition of co-operative company contained the words -
Suppliers to the company of foodstuffs the produce of Australia for the purpose of manufacture or sale.
A question was raised as to whether foodstuffs did not apply only to something that was prepared. There are a great many co-operative companies, such as bacon-curing companies, whose suppliers supply live animals. There ‘are some whose suppliers supply lambs, which the companies prepare and manufacture into foodstuffs. The term “supplier” is well understood by those who have a knowledge of these co-operative concerns to refer to a person who supplies raw material to the company.
– Or goods which are sold in the company’sstores.
– If honorable members will turn to the exemption in clause 8-
– That is all right.
– The definition of cooperative company has to be read in conjunction with that exemption. Honorable members will find that the cooperative companies that are exempted are those which, in the main, are engaged in the manufacture, preparation, or wholesale’ distribution of foodstuffs the produce of Australia, and, in order that a co-operative company doing this may be exempt under this Bill, two-thirds of its shareholders must be bond fide primary producers or suppliers to the company.
– Would a co-operative company such as the Civil Service Cooperative Company, of Sydney, be exempt ?
– No, because in that case the shareholders pay so much for their shares but supply nothing to the company.
– There are many suppliers to these companies who are not shareholders.
– But in order that the company may be exempt under this Bill two-thirds of the shares must be held by members who are primary producers or suppliers to the company.
– How would a distilling company stand ?
– If there is a cooperative company formed for the purpose of distilling, and two-thirds of its shares are held by primary producers supplying the raw material to the company, it will be exempt. The term “ supplier “ is, as I have said, well known in connexion with these companies. They could not supply electric light.
– They could supply the plant. .
– No, In order that the company may be exempt, two-thirds of the shares must be held by suppliers to the company. The manufacturing company that supplied an electric lighting plant would not be a shareholder of the cooperative company. The definition, as amended by the Senate, appears to cover what is intended. As it appeared in the Bill as it left this House it was doubtful whether it would exempt bacon companies and primary producers’ companies dealing with lambs, and it was intended that they should be excluded. I advise the Committee to stand by the amendment of the Senate.
.- The Minister stated that this would not apply to companies supplying electric light. J know, and so does the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Wise), of a cooperative company, the Leongatha Butter Company, whose articles of association were altered by the Supreme Court in Melbourne for the purpose of allowing the company to supply electric light to the town of Leongatha.
– The exemption provision specifically cuts out any profits that would be made from that portion of the business.
– Clause 8, as amended by the Senate, refers to co-operative companies engaged for the main part in the manufacture, preparation, or wholesale distribution of foodstuffs the produce of Australia.
– Under the Senate’s amendment in clause 8, anything outside of that will not be exempt.
– The Government are taking the words- out of the definition and putting them into the exemption.
– If the Senate’s amendment is accepted, clause 8 will read -
The business of co-operative companies engaged for the main part in the manufacture, preparation, or wholesale distribution of foodstuffs the produce of Australia, so far as regards the manufacture, preparation, or wholesale distribution of foodstuffs, the produce of Australia.
– The exemption will be limited to that?
.- I should like to get an explanation of the words “ foodstuffs the produce of Australia.” Will the use of these words exempt the large jammakers?
– No; they are not cooperative companies.
– Some are co-operative companies.
– If bond fide, they will he exempt; but proprietary companies will not be exempt.
– Take the case of companies that are large exporters of meat under Army contracts to the British Government?
– They are not cooperative companies; they are ordinary shareholders’ companies.
– The Shepparton Cooperative Freezing Company will come under the exemption.
– It will be exempt if two-thirds of its shares are held by bond fide suppliers to the company. That is intended.
.- In amendment No. 15 made by the Senate I find that in clause 17, after sub-clause 2, the following new sub-clause has been inserted - (2a) Where any money “paid into or credited to a business is not being drawn upon for the purposes of that business, it shall be excluded f rom the capital of the business for the purposes of this Act.
What is meant by the money not being drawn upon ? Suppose a man pays out for the purchase of a lease he is unable to draw upon, in the ordinary sense, and may have to write it off.
– I can explain the matter. It sometimes happens that a considerable sum of money may be standing to the credit of the owner of a business, but is not being used for any of the purposes of the business. It would not be proper to treat that money as part of the capital of the business in respect of which a deduction of 10 per cent. on the capital could be made from the war-time profits. As this money is not earning any profits of the business, it should be excluded from the capital of the business in the same manner as the capital which is earning non -taxable profits is excluded.
– It applies only to capital of that kind ?
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Resolution reported; report adopted.
In Committee of Ways and Means:
Motion (by Sir John Forrest) agreed to -
That a war-time profits tax be imposed on the war-time profits liable to tax arising from any business at the following rates, namely: -
Standing Orders suspended, and resolution adopted.
That Sir John Forrest and Mr. Joseph Cook doprepare and bring* in a Bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill presented by Sir John Forrest, and passed through all its stages without amendment.
– In moving -
That the House do now adjourn,
I desire to state that we propose today to go on with a Supply Bill, which we hope to pass through all its stages before we adjourn.
– The Governmentare keeping the Repatriation Bill back until he eleventh hour.
– The honorable member will find that this is being done in the interests of the Repatriation Bill.
.- I understand that the Government propose to endeavour to pass the Supply Bill to- ‘ day, and not to ask the House to meet on Saturday.
– Not if we get the Supply Bill through.
– But the intention is that we shall meet on Monday morning?
– Yes, and proceed with the Repatriation Bill until it has been passed through all its stages.
Mr.TUDOR.- The Government hops to adjourn on Wednesday?
– If we can do so.
– I trust that the Minister for the Navy does not base his hope of adjourning on Wednesday next on the belief that we shall be able to conclude the consideration of the Repatriation Bill, and frame a scheme by that time. Honorable members will not be content with the discussion of a mere machineryBill after we have been waiting for two and a half years for a repatriation scheme. ‘
– I say plainly and emphatically that there will be no attempt to curtail any bond fide discussion of the Repatriation Bill.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 12.7 a.m. (Friday).
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 20 September 1917, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1917/19170920_reps_7_83/>.