7th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. W. Elliot Johnson) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– Isit true that Mr. F. W. Hughes, the managing director of the Colonial Combing, Spinning, and Weaving Company, has resigned from the Central Wool Committee? If so, will the Acting Prime Minister see that due notice of the appointment of some one else is given to the wool scourers, and that their wishes are consulted in the choice of a person to represent them on the Committee?
– I learnt for the first timelast week, in conversation with the chairman of the Committee, that Mr. F. W. Hughes had resigned, but I have not yet discussed with Mr. Higgins how the vacancy shall be filled. When I do, Ishall bear in mind the suggestion of the honorable member.
– Has the Acting Prime Minister read the paragraph which was published in this morning’s Argue under the heading, “ Babel in Brisbane at Political Gathering.” According to the newspaper account, at the meeting referred to, disloyal utterances were made by many persons. What action does the Acting Prime Minister intend to take in the matter ?
– I have not read the paragraph referred to, but the honorable member has just placed it in my hands. It is worded as follows: -
BABEL IN BRISBANE.
Brisbane, Wednesday. - MayDay was celebrated in Brisbane at a large meeting of Socialists to-night. The gathering was remarkable for its polyglot nature, there being a real babel of tongues and a jumble of nationalities. The sentiments expressed were socialistic, anti-capitalistic, and anti-militaristic. Disloyal speeches were delivered in English, Russian, French, Polish, Greek, and Esperanto. Russian songs and recitations were rendered. One of the features of the evening was, apparently, to have been the presence of a German comrade. It was announced that he was un able to attend, as he said he feared internment. The chairman, Mr. J. S. Collings, said:- “I want to say here, and I hope the press will note it, that it is through no fault of ours that the German speech is not delivered here to-night. (Applause) If there are any German men or women in this room they are to understand that every time we use the word comrade they are included in it. (Loud applause.) The chairman, at a later stage, referring to the Russian situation, said that he claimed Trotsky and Lenin as comrades. Finally the meeting agreed to a motion protesting against the calling up of 40,000 Australian men for home defence Cheers were given for the Internationalists and the “ Bed Flag” was sung.
I shall see that the paragraph is at once placed in the proper hands.
– Apropos of the determination of the Government in regard to a recent meeting in Queensland attended by Russians, Frenchmen, Italians, Esperantists, and others, I desire to know whether the Acting PrimeMinister proposes to suppress the poems of one Tennyson, which contains a reference to the parliament of man and the federation of the world?
– I must point out that it is altogether out of order to ask questions arising out of an answer given by a Minister to a previous question.
-Is the Minister representing the Minister for Defence able to reply now to the question I asked yesterday regarding unemployment at Lithgow among persons who were employed in the Small Arms Factory there?
– I have not yet been furnished with a reply, but the matter is receiving attention, and I hope to give an answer to-morrow.
– Can the Acting
Prime Minister state whether assistance is to be given to those who suffered through the recent cyclone in the Cairns and Innisfail districts, and, if so, what assistance is to be given? The honorable gentleman promised last week that the matter would be considered.
– In accordance with my promise, the Cabinet on Tuesday last considered the matter. It is favorable to recognising the claims for assistance of those who have suffered; but before determining the amount that it is prepared to give, the Premier of Queensland has been communicated with, in order that we may know what sum is being given by the Government of that State.
– Last night Professor Meredith Atkinson, lecturing on the note issue, said that he considered that, having in view the value of the notes issued and the value of the bullion behind them, we are within the danger zone. Are the Treasurer andhis officials of that opinion ?
– I have not seen the report of the lecture, but I say plainly that we are not guided by professorial utterances on this matter. I do not consider that we are within the danger zone. What should be the extent of currency reserves is largely a matter of opinion, but I feel that at the present time the Australian note issue is perfectly safe.
– As leather cannot now be exported, the tanning industry is being seriously injured, there being practically over £1,000,000 worth of leather lying here which cannot be sold. The British people take our raw hides, but not our leather. This is a great hardship, and I therefore ask the Acting Prime Minister if he will cable to the Old Country to see whether some shipments of leather cannot be sent from here ?
– The Minister for Trade and Customs and myself have been in close touch recently with the interests affected. Having known something of the trade some years ago, I am doubly interested. We have cabled to the British authorities representing the need for reconsidering the position. The Customs Department is willing to permit the export of leather to relieve the local congestion, but nothing can be done until we know the decision of the British Government, and we have not yet received an answer to our last cablegram.
Mr.FINLAYSON.- Some time ago, I called attention to the use of national flags and emblems, coats-of-arms, and so forth, for trade and advertising purposes.
Some good resulted; but the practice is creeping in again, and I desire to know whether the Acting Prime Minister will favorably consider the issue of a regulation to prohibit such use of national emblems, making it subject to permission, with a view to their display being confined to national or patriotic purposes?
– I have no personal knowledge of the matter, but my colleague, the Acting Attorney-General, informs me that he has been dealing with it for some time, and hopes shortly to complete his proposals respecting it.
– I understand that the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Greene), as Assistant Minister, is in charge of price fixing, and I desire to know whether it is true, as stated in the newspapers, that the price of butter has been increased by l½d. per lb. ; and, if so, in how many States such increase will take effect? I also desire to know whether the increase is due to the shortage of butter in Australia, or to the fact that too much has been shipped away, thereby creating an artificial shortage?
– The only two States in which there has been any increase in price are Tasmania and Victoria, and it has become necessary, owing to a very rapid decline in supplies in Victoria, following the dry conditions, particularly in the Western District - a decline more rapid than I think in any other season for some considerable time past. As a consequence, it is necessary to import into Victoria a considerable amount of butter, probably over 3,000 cases a week. Under the circumstances, it is necessary to raise the Victorian price to enable the butter to be imported from Queensland - the only Statethat has any considerable surplus at the present time.
– The 3,000 boxes is only 75 tons, and we use four times that amount, or 300 tons, a week in Victoria.
– That is quite true; but the honorable member, as an exMinister for Trade and Customs, knows perfectly well that it is not possible to have two prices running side by side in one State; therefore, the price in Victoria has to be raised to the level at which butter can be imported from other States.
– It is significant that the price goes up by 1½ per lb. the minute you get into office.
– I have gone very carefully into the figures, and I find it is impossible to import butter from Queensland under l½d. per lb., and, consequently, the cost is increased by that amount.
– Is there any ground for the rumour that it is the intention of the Minister to increase the moisture in, as well as the price of, butter?
– There is no ground whatever for that rumour.
Mr.FINLAYSON. - The honorable member for Barker (Mr. Livingston) last week asked a question in regard to the formation of Highland Regiments and the wearing of the kilt. It is difficult to understand, from the press, exactly the position in regard to the proposal to raise a Scottish Regiment. The Director- General of Recruiting is in favour of the proposal ; but, according to the statements by the Minister,there is some difficulty. May we hope that any difficulty may be got over, and a Scottish Regiment established?
– That is a matter for the Minister for Defence. I may say that, while personally very fond of the kilts, and of seeing Scotchmen wear them, I have no patience at all in seeing young Australians wear them:
– I desire to know whether the Minister representing the Minister for Defence would be willing to give permission for a Scottish Regiment to be raised in various towns in Australia ? I may say that the honorable gentleman is the first man I ever heard say that he was ashamed to see young Australians in the kilt.
– I shall submit the honorable member’s desire to the Minister for Defence. I did not say it was a shame to see young Australians in the kilts. I think a very great deal of the Highland dress, and like to see Scotchmen in it, because they wear itfrom national sentiment; but I have no patience in seeing young Australians so don themselves from personal vanity.
Mr.FINLAYSON.- In view of the request that has been made by the Retail Grocers Federation for an increase in the price of sugar, will the Minister in charge of price fixing, in considering this matter, not overlook the fact that the Colonial Sugar Refining Company has recently issued a balance-sheet disclosing a profit of £148,000 on their Australian business for the last half-year. Further, I suggest that the price of sugar to the public may not be raised without considering how the profits of this company may be affected ?
– The whole matter is having my attention at the present time.
– Has the Minister for Trade and Customs seen a paragraph which appeared in the commercial columns of the Argus on Saturday last, on the question of price fixing, to the following effect : -
In isolated cases a certain section of traders in Melbourne and Sydney may lay themselves open to censure through creating artificially high prices. This especially applies to chemical lines, such as cream of tartar and acids not under control, and also to certain classes of jutegoods.
Then follows a comment that this is not the time for profiteering. If the Minister has seen the paragraph, will he have it brought under the notice of the Minister in charge of price fixing, with a view to action being taken to stop the alleged profiteering?
– I have not seen the paragraph, and I ask the honorable member to address his question to the Assistant Minister in charge of price fixing.
– The Assistant Minister has heard the question.
– All I can say is that I shall look into the matter, and. take whatever action is deemed necessary in the public interest.
– Has the Minister in charge of price fixing noticed the very drastic action by the British Government for the purpose of dealing with profiteers ; and will he endeavour to induce the Government to take the same action in Australia to protect the consuming public?
Mr.GREENE. - If the honorable member will bring any particular case under my notice, I shall look into it.
The following paper was presented: -
Reinforcements - Report of the Proceedings of the Conference convenedby His Excellency the Governor-General on the subject of the securing of Reinforcements under the Voluntary System for the Australian Imperial Force now serving abroad (held atFederal Government House, Melbourne, April, 1918).
Ordered to be printed.
– I have received from the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) a letter intimating his desire to move the adjournment of the House today, to call attention to a matter of urgent public importance, namely, “ the compulsory deportation of Italians resident in Australia for compulsory military service overseas.”
Five honorable members having risen in their places,
.- I had hoped that a motion of this kind would have been rendered unnecessary by wiser and juster counsels prevailing with the Government. It appears, however, that the Government are not disposed to do the right thing in connexion with these forcible deportations, and that nothing remains for us - I think I may say all honorable members on this side of the House - but to express our indignation and our protest against the application of conscription to people in Australia in face of the most definite pledge and assurance to the contrary by the Prime Minister. It must have come as a very rude shock to the majority of the people in this country to learn that within about a week of the definite declaration on the part of the Prime Minister that he was done with conscription, and that voluntarism was nailed to the mast, conscripts were openly paraded through the streets of Melbourne. I do not know that the principle becomes any more justifiable by reason of the fact that the censorship has been invoked in all the earlier stages of this proceeding in order to prevent the people knowing what is taking place. In spite of the censorship, the people do know, and partly in spite of it and partly because of it, they are deeply indignant at what the Government are doing. I sometimes think with regard to this Government that they ought to substitute the ostrich for the emu in the Australian coat of arms, so prone do they appear to be to put their heads in the sand by means of the censorship, and by stifling discussion conclude that they have stifled public feeling and public indignation. There is not much consolation in the fact that the men who are to be deported are not people of our own race. They are, however, people of an allied race; they are people who have been attracted to Australia by the BritishFlag, and who have come on our invitation and our representations as to certain conditions prevailing here, only to find that in regard to themselves the best traditions of the British race, and all that is signified by the British Flag, have been either discarded or dishonoured. It was part of my duty on Friday of last week to attend a deputation introduced by the Leader of the Opposition to the Minister for Defence in respect of this matter, and I submitted to the Minister, as I submit now to the House, that when the people of Australia definitely, emphatically, and by a very large majority, declared on the 20th December last against a policy of conscription, their declaration was not limited to the conscription of our own people, but meant that they were unfavorable to the conscription of any white man in Australia for military service overseas.
I propose to show that thepeople and the Government of Australia are solely responsible in this matter. The Acting Prime Minister has been very courteous and conciliatory, but he cannot shelter himself or the Government behind either the Imperial Government or the Italian Government, because the responsibility for doing the right thing, according to British law and tradition, rests with the Commonwealth Government, and they alone must answer for what they are doing. When in speaking at the deputation to the Minister for Defence, I said that Australia’s declaration against conscription applied to all white men in Australia, the Minister replied, “If conscription had been adopted in Australia, it would not have applied to these very men in whose behalf you are speaking; these men have deliberately determined to remain Italian subjects, and not to become, as they might have done by naturalization, British subjects.” Doubtless, the contention that aliens in conscript countries may not be required to serve is substantially correct; although they may be called upon in certain circumstances. But if it is a fact that aliens in this country would not have been conscripted under a conscription law passed as the result of a referendum of the Australian people, it is equally true that the Commonwealth Government in acquiescing in a request by the Italian Consul to conscript these men, would, in the event of conscription here, have been on infinitely stronger ground than they occupy to-day, having regard to the fact that conscription has not been adopted in Australia. Therefore, it is idle to suggest that, in those circumstances, these men would have been immune from military service. Personally, I would still have offered objections to the conscription of any men, for reasons which honorable members of this House doubtless know perfectly well. But my objection would have had considerably less force if we had adopted conscription in Australia, and that conscription had not in itself applied directly to these aliens, but, by arrangement with the Italian Government, had at a later stage been so applied to them. I shall say something a little later about the request from the Italian Government. For the present I shall content myself with saying that, so strongly do I feel with regard to the conventions of civilized nations on the question of deportation and extradition, that I venture to say that no direct request ever came to the Commonwealth Government, either directly or through the Imperial Government, from Italy, that we should deport these men.
– The honorable member is wrong.
– Then I am justified in asking the Acting Prime Minister to inform me, either in the House or confidentially, what modifications or qualifications were associated with that request.
– I know of none. <
– If it be perfectly true that an unqualified request came from the Italian Government, I hope to be able to convince the House as to what the Commonwealth Government’s reply to such a request should have been. My case does not rest for a moment upon the strong feeling which I had that no unqualified request had reached the Government. It rests rather upon the traditions of the British people and upon the application of well-known principles of international law, in regard to approved immigrants and domiciled persons within any British community. In the closing hours of last Friday’s sitting the Treasurer, when referring to a statement made by an honorable member of the Opposition, said that we should have to be guided by well-known conventions existing between civilized countries. If the Treasurer had had greater opportunity to do himself justice he would have found that there are no conventions, agreements or treaties, and no practice Upon which he can securely rely for what his Government are proposing to do in this case. It is true that he will find some precedents illustrating how very far the British practice has gone since those precedents, if they may be so described, were laid down by other countries. Let me give one or two illustrations. Precedents, for instance,- were created in the American Civil War. During that war some of the non-slave States received fugitive slaves and dishonoured themselves by surrendering those fugitive slaves to the State from which they. had fled. That is a precedent which Britain has never followed. Another precedent of a sinister character is the Treaty of Berlin - a treaty between Germany, Austria, and Russia in regard to the deportation or extradition of certain political criminal prisoners. That is a precedent which I think the Acting Prime Minister should be, and no doubt would be, very loth to follow. The more one looks into this question the more One learns, with pride and satisfaction, that the practice of Britain has always been an example to the rest of the world, in that she has not- merely declined to surrender men who have been guilty of no offence, or men guilty of the faintest shadow of a political offence, but has been very hesitant in surrendering even those said to be guilty of criminal offences in other countries.
– Does the honorable member know what the British Government have done in respect of this very matter during the present war?
– I invite the honorable member to show me a case parallel to those which we are now discussing - a case in which persons who came to this country, at our invitation, who are obedient to our laws, and are conforming to the policy of the Commonwealth, have had violent hands placed upon them.
– That is another question; I was dealing with the honorable member’s reference to Great Britain.
– It is the whole question involved in this instance, since the principles laid down by British jurists have to be applied to the special case of Australia as a British dependency.
Let me give a very brief historical sketch showing how Britain has regarded this matter of extradition - for this, after all, is a question of extradition, as well as deportation - and the grounds upon which law-abiding persons may be expelled from a British country. There is, for instance, what is known as Forsyth’s case, which dates back as far as 1836. In that case it was said that a ship load of convicts was accidentally thrown upon the British isles of the Bahamas. It was agreed by the leading jurists of Britain in that case that it would be absolutely illegal to surrender even the greatest criminal amongst those men thus accidentally thrown upon British territory. The Creole case, which occurred in 1841, is very similar, and interesting references will be found toit in the British Hansard LXIV.,xxvii.-xxx., page 317. Every lawyer in the House of Commons, as the official report discloses, was agreed that it would be alike improper and illegal to surrender men known to be criminals who had been in that case accidentally thrown upon British soil, not as immigrants, but as fugitives. It has been well settled for at least halfacentury that no man under any extradition law may be deported from Britain for a purely political offence. The present position in Britain is that the schedules to the Extraditon Act set out the offences - all grave, criminal offences - for which in certain circumstances men may be extradited from Great Britain. I mention these facts to show how jealously
Britain has guarded her reputation as an asylum for those who are required by their country of origin to be deported for one reason or another, and it is a matter upon which the people of the British Empire may be justly proud.
-Has that been done?
– I have a very limited time at my disposal, and I wish to follow the line of my argument. I have already pointed out that it has been done, or that, as a last resort, this course is involved in carrying out the Government policy.What have these men done that they should be so treated? They have come here at our request - our invitation. They are law-abiding citizens; they are approved immigrants; they are domiciled with us ; there is not a scintilla of evidence against them; they are dependent upon our hospitality, and. upon the application of those principles of justice which we held out to them when we invited them to come here. Why, then, should we lay violent hands on them? Italy’s answer is, “ Because we are at war, and they are our citizens.” To that reply, we counter by saying, “ But Australia is also at war; we are all in this war, and we stand to lose - with great respect to our Ally - as much as they do ; we are by their side in the war, and they are by our side; but, as we do not propose to conscript our ownpeople, how can we put forward the fact that an Ally is at war as a justification for laying violent hands on its citizens who are within our shores ?” If the matter is examined in that way, there will be no difficulty in coming to the conclusion that, when we are asked to seize these men and deport them, our conduct must be regulated by British standards, and not by Italian or any other standards. One of the attractions that led these immigrants to settle in Australia was the undoubted fact that they wished to rid themselves of the curse of continental militarism.
– Did they not leave a country of universal service to come to a country of universal service?
– They may have left a country of universal service to come to a country of universal service within certain prescribed limits, of which they were well aware, but they did not leave a country of universal service in order to come to a country which would apply the principle of universal service to them invidiously as against other Australian residents. That was not their intention, nor was it the intention of the Government which brought them, or allowed them to come here. I say with some deliberation that it wears a sinister appearance of fraud - not intentional on the part of the Government - to bring men here on representations, direct or implied, as to their rights and liberties, and then to have them tricked into a service which is not imposed upon our own people. What can be our excuse as Australians ? What sort of a figure do we cut as a people when we do that sort of thing? Honorable members opposite are feeling very comfortable. They believe in conscription. Is this part of their conscription policy? If so, it is logical, and I can understand it, though I do not approve of it, as a breach of faith. On the other hand, if it is not part of their conscription policy, it can have no justification in law or in equity.
Owing to the limited time at my disposal, I leave to others to point out in more detail the condition in which the dependants of these alien residents among us will be left. They are in a foreign country, not able to speak the language of the people amongst whom they are living. In many cases their children are not able to speak it. The husbands are taken away, and their wives and children are expected to live on the separation allowances which we give to dependants of members of the Australian Imperial Force. We are apparently regardless of the fact that the pay of the Italian soldier is only 2d. per day. How can any allotment be made out of that 2d. per day? I do not know how honorable members opposite expect women and children to live solely on the separation allowance. It is an impossibility for them to do it.
Lord Forrest. - Are they not reservists ?
– I suppose that most of them are reservists, and that probably some of the naturalized persons are reservists. The Government have drafted a regulation Which is quite sufficiently wide to include naturalized persons, and I am sorry to hear that in some cases these men have been put into camp, and are now there. However, I am prepared to accept the assurance of the Government that they do not intend to deport them, although it is very embarrassing and wrong to find that many naturalized persons have been treated in this way. Having regard to the condition of- the dependants, and to the well-known traditions and practice of Great Britain, I ask that the Government may stay its hand, and not create a want of harmony by introducing the thin edge of conscription in its application to a few aliens resident on these shores.
.- The honorable member for Batman has acted like a politician, and has spoken like a lawyer. He has acted like a politician because, really, he is endeavouring to embarrass the Government over an issue that has arisen through its relations with an allied Power; and he spun words like a lawyer, half of which, I am sure, my honorable friends opposite did not follow, and spoke about matters which half of the members of this House have not had the opportunity to consider. He juggled with deportation and extradition, and tried to lead, the House to believe that the two words mean the same thing. In one breath, he said that there were no precedents and no practice to guide us; and a few moments later declared that Great Britain had. risen superior to all international precedent, and had established new principles. Does the honorable member know that Great Britain has done more than we have done in respect to Italian reservists and conscripts resident on her shores? I have every reason to believe from recent reading, though I have not confirmed it by departmental information, that eligible Italians who have not returned home have been incorporated in the British Army, and compelled to serve at the Front.
– But Great Britain is a conscript nation.
– She is now, though it makes no difference, on the honorable member’s argument, because his dictum is that, under no circumstances is a nation entitled to conscript naturalized persons or aliens resident within its territory. He has openly proclaimed that doctrine.
– I put the case under two heads.
– I do not remember the distinction to which the honorable member refers, though I followed his argument with -reasonable closeness. He put on the Commonwealth Government the ‘ entire responsibility of what has been done. We accept it. We are responsible. That is to say, the Italian Consul-General had not sufficient force, and could not have acted without the aid and consent of the Australian Government. For that we take the responsibility. But the honorable member is wrong in saying that no request came to us from the Italian Government. There came to us a definite and explicit request from the Royal Italian ConsulGeneral resident in Melbourne. As the Result of a long conversation which I had with this gentleman to-day on the many issues arising out of this matter, I say, unhesitatingly, that a request was made by the Italian Consul-General to the Commonwealth authorities, and with the full knowledge and concurrence of the Italian Government.
– Was the request made to you directly, or through the British Government ?
– Directly. The British Government does not interfere in matters of this kind, nor is it a channel of communication. Where a Consul-General is permitted to live in a Dominion, he has direct communication with the Government of that Dominion for purposes of this kind.
– Was the Italian COO.sulGeneral acting under instructions from the Italian Government or on his own initiative?
– I have said that he was acting with the full knowledge and concurrence of his Government.
– Was he instructed by his Government so to act?
– I do not know; that is his responsibility. The Italian ConsulGeneral is an accomplished man, who has gained distinction in his profession, and is by training a lawyer.I take leave to add also that he is a cultured gentleman. No one who knew him would accuse him of the stupidity of acting in a matter of this kind without instructions. A man having had a distinguished career in the service to which he belongs would not otherwise act in the discharge of an unpleasant duty of this kind.
– Is it a fact that the Italian Consul-General is an Austrian ?
-It is no more a fact than that the honorable member for Barrier (Mr. Considine) is a Turk.
– I ask the honorable member, whose own lineage has been questioned at different times, to converse with the Italian Consul-General, if he has any doubts on the subject.
– Some of his own countrymen are doubtful about him.
– Some of his countrymen, as is natural, do not like the action which he has now taken. Did I share their views, I should probably feel ill disposed towards the instrument of the National Government.
– They have the same feeling towards the Commonwealth Government.
– Putting aside questions of convention, and of international treaty, and the principles of international law, of which the honorable member for Batman talked so glibly, and which none of us have had the opportunity of reading up so recently as obviously he has had, let us take the broad situation in which the Government was placed when the request came to it from the Italian Government. Our soldiers are fighting alongside Italian soldiers on the great Front which stretches from the Adriatic to the British Channel. We aregiven to understand that Australian soldiers have done duty in Italy since the famous retreat to the Piave River. The situation is that we are allied with the French, the Italians, and the Belgians, whose forces are fighting with ours against the common enemy. It must be remembered that when a request of this kind was made, we had to answer either yes or no. Had we refused it, what would have been the position of the Australian Government?
– It would have been disgraced.
– Our action would have been a disgrace to the alliance. Altogether apart from what has happened on the question of conscription, and putting aside the views that we may hold regarding therightness or inevitableness of the war, it seems to me that the ordinary principles of good faith between nations demand the considerate reception of, and compliance with, a request of this nature. The Government took the responsibility of acceding to the request of the Italian Government, and I venture to think that the British people will applaud what we have done; and that so will other wellwishers of the national cause in other British Dominions. No violence has been done to the principles of British policy. I like the Italians, and all who know anything of their country’s great past must admire them.
– They do not like the honorable member’s Government.
– That is because we happen to be the instruments of a fate which they dislike. It is plain that the alliance with Italy must be respected. I believe, though I have not checked the information, that two or three naturalized Italians have been put into camp. That was not done with the concurrence of the Australian Government, and these men will not be deported, nor will they leave the country except by their own wish. There are other naturalized Italians who are in camp as volunteers.
– Good Italians.
– They are men who have obeyed a call that they were not obliged to obey, having changed their nationality. Under Italian law, however, a man who passes to another country, and is naturalized there, is still liable to service if called on while within military age.
– Are we to act as policemen for the Italians?
– Thehonorable member would make a poor policeman in a case of this kind. I am informed that if un naturalized men, liable under the Italian law to serve in the army, did not respond to the call for their services, and visited the Fatherland at some future time, they could be dealt Avith as deserters from the army in time of war, and the penalty for that crime is, I believe, six years’ imprisonment. I do not say that- they would be so dealt with.The penalty, however, shows how gravely the Italian people look upon the question of military service, living as they do in a peninsula with a huge coast line, and having had such a chequered military history. I have discussed the subject of compulsory military service with Italians here, and with others in their own country during the week or so that I was privileged to be there. They regard it as necessary for the preservation of their nationhood. Happily, because of the flag of which my honorable friend spoke, and the Navy that backs it, we in Australia have not had to- look at things in that way; but the people of European countries with frontiers always menaced by their foes, regard compulsory service as vital to the preservation of their national life. I ask my honorable friends to realize the attitude that the Italian Government must assume towards its citizens at home and abroad, remembering the past and knowing the requirements of the present. I take the rer spoiisibility for having listened to the call of an Ally, and helped them to gather their soldiers. As to the naturalized Italians, those who want to go will go; those who do not want to go need not *go.
– If naturalized men go, should it not be as members of the Australian Imperial Force ?
– That rests with them. I have not discussed the matter with the Defence authorities.
– Some Italians came here when mere babies.
– I have heard many of the facts of the lives of these men from the lips of the Leader of the Opposition, and the members of the deputation that he introduced to me. I speak with full sympathy with them, but with a sense of responsibility as to what a Government must do when a request is made by a friendly or allied Government. In wartime many traditions are modified, and many conventions altered, I venture to think that out of this great war will come, perhaps, the establishment of new traditions in relation to nations that have fought together against the common enemy. I have always been sympathetic with the dependants of naturalized and unnaturalized Italians. I understand that their position was fully stated to the Minister for Defence at the interview to which the honorable member for Batman referred. Since then we have had an opportunity of consulting as to how the relatives of those men shall be treated. The separation allowance which the Italian Government allows is mighty little for a woman to maintain the conditions under which Australian women try, or hope to live; and we are doing our best to meet the circumstances, with no expectation of any repayment; it is purely an act of grace to meet special cases.
Extension of time granted.
– I appreciate the consideration shown to me, and hope to avail myself of it for only two or three minutes. The Italian soldier’s pay is 2d., and separation allowance, 8d. per day, with 4Jd. for each child under twelve, whereas in the Australian Imperial Force the scale is 2s. per day for the wife, and 6d. for each child. The difference between these two amounts is to be made up by the Commonwealth Government, and as this, I admit, leaves the wife still somewhat short, the Cabinet has approved of the payment to her of 2s. per day extra. I need not burden the House with calculations as to what that means, but the Italian Woman, whose husband goes on “service, will draw within ls. or 9d. per day of the amount given to the wife of the Australian soldier. We are quite content to accept that debit, and wipe it off as a condition of the fair treatment of these women, whose husbands or fathers, because of the law of their country, are called upon to serve abroad.
– That will mean 4s. 6d. a day for a woman and one child ?
– That is so.
– How many married men are there concerned
– I have not the figures. This matter has only begun to move, and the whole work has not yet been done. The Consul-General finds his task a very difficult one.
– Would the Acting Prime Minister consider sending first the unmarried men? »
– That is not within my ken or control. I do not know whether I am entitled to make the statement that the Italian Consul, in communication with his Government, tried to get married men exempted, but the Italian Government - and I say this plainly to the House - was in such need of men that it had to ask that the request be not persisted in.
– They cannot all go together.
– That is a matter for the Defence authorities to arrange with the Italian Government. Please do not associate this matter with the old question of conscription; in my mind, they have no association. Whether the referenda had been defeated or not, we should still have felt obliged to obey the call of the Italian Government. It is an erroneous political move to try to mix up the two questions, for the people will not be misled, and the move will only react against the men who make it.
.- I regret exceedingly that the occasion has arisen for the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) to move the adjournment on such a question. This is not quite such a new trouble as the Acting Prime Minister would lead us to suppose. As a matter of fact, about 26th March two women waited upon me regarding it, and I wrote to the Prime Minister, from whom I received the following reply, dated 3rd April: -
With reference to your letter of the 27-th ultimo, on the subject of Italians in Australia called up by the Italian Government for active military service, I am directed to inform you that the Commonwealth Government has arranged to pay the difference between the Italian and Australian rates of separation allowance, but that it does not propose to make up the difference in the two rates of pay.
The matter is being brought to the notice of the Consul-General for Italy.
I quote that letter merely to show that the question is not so new as the Acting Prime Minister seems to imagine. I am glad to know that the Government, since last Monday, has reconsidered the position so far as the hard cases are concerned. This may have nothing to do with the general question, of conscription, but we cannot get it out of the mind of some people in the country that it is the thin end of the wedge. However, we have the assurance which the Acting Prime Minister last Monday gave to a deputa tion of ladies, some of them Italian, and some born of Italian parents in Australia; while others were Australians, of British parents.
The Acting Prime Minister tells us that these men are being sent away at the request of the Italian Government; and I should .like to know whether a similar request has been made by any other. Allied Government? Has the French Government ever suggested that the Frenchmen here, who are not reservists, should be sent to serve abroad under the French colours ? Many of these Italians who are being called up are not reservists in the ordinary conception of the term.
– Some are.
– It is quite possible that some are; but I am assured that, in the great majority of cases, they are not, the bulk of them having come to Australia without undergoing a single day’s military training in their own country. Military reservists who have had training, and who ‘ come to Australia, are, of course, liable to be called, upon by their own Governments; and, as a matter of fact, at the beginning of the war, British reservists here were compelled to rejoin the colours. There is the difference that every British soldier who has served his term is placed on the reserve for a certain number of years, and, further, that every one of them volunteered for the Army. Many of the Italians came to this country when they were quite young, and I am informed that there are amongst those affected natural-born Australians.
– None of the latter have been taken to camp.
– If these latter are allowed to volunteer, I should like to know which corps they will join, because, if they are Australians, their only proper place is the Australian Imperial Force. I say that in no opposition to the Italian Government or nation, for it will be remembered that some objection was raised here to Australians .going abroad and joining other corps. No similar request has been made to the Commonwealth Government by any other Allied country, where conscription is the law. Great Britain and Canada have conscription; and what would be the position if Great Britain made a request that every eligible Britisher in Australia, single or married, should be called up? It may be said that 10,000 or 30,000 Italians are not to be compared with the hundreds of thousands of Britishers here ; but it appears to me that the same principle must apply. Once such a request by an Allied Government is granted, we must, I think, be prepared to grant it to any other Allied Government. Within a few days or weeks such a call as I have ‘ indicated might come from the British Government for the services of every Britisher here.
– We are all Britishers, “whether born in Australia or not.
– That I admit, and I am not using the word in the sense that the honorable member implies. I am speaking of natural-born Britishers who are now resident in Australia - the Englishmen, Scotchmen, and Welshmen - to “whom conscription would apply if they were in Great Britain. It appears to me that the Government have started on a course the ‘end of which it is difficult to foresee. The Britishers who have come, here during the last few years have not enlisted in any greater numbers than have the natural-born Australians.
– They are Australian citizens.
– If the Italian Government, as an Ally, has the right to call en Italian residents in Australia, the British Government has an equal right to call on British residents here.
– The latter are Australian citizens, whereas the former are Italian citizens.
– It is quite possible that we might have the same request from theBritish Government.
– The cases are totally different, because these men who are being called up are Italian citizens.
– I should like the honorable member to explain the difference between the two positions. Take the case of a Canadian who comes to Australia, a,nd who, owing to his being born in another British Dominion, becomes a citizen here; if we agree to Italians being called up at the request of their Government, we must also grant a similar request made by the Canadian Government, which has adopted conscription.
I regret the limitation of this debate to two hours, which is all too short a time in which to deal with a question so important. We are laying down ‘a precedent - making history, and, from my point of view, very bad history. The other day, as I say, a deputation of ladies waited on the Acting Prime Minister, and amongst those present were two young ladies born here of Italian parents, one of them over twenty-one, and the other a little younger. It was stated that in one family there were two brothers, one of whom was three months old when he landed in Australia. He is an Italian citizen, and has been seized for deportation for service overseas.
– Has he not become naturalized ?
– His father, became naturalized after the boy’s birth, but the naturalization of the father does not carry with it the naturalization of’ the son. Honorable members who were in this Parliament when we were dealing with the Old-age Pensions Bill will recollect the difficulties we experienced in regard to naturalization. On two or three occasions we had to extend the time allotted for aliens to become naturalized in order that they might qualify for an old-age pension. A brother of the young Italian I have mentioned is under twenty-one years of age, and will be left in Australia while his brother is forcibly deported. Recently, a Conference was held for thepurpose of promoting harmony in the community, but actions of this kind lead to discord.
– The honorable member is arguing like a Petticoat Lane Jew.
– No doubt the honorable member is a good authority on Petticoat Lane, and on Jews also. He looks as wise as an owl, but is as simple as a kewpie. I was glad to hear the Acting Prime Minister say that, in order to afford some relief in cases of hardship, the Government have agreed to increase the allowances to dependants of Italians who are being sent overseas. If it is difficult for the Australian woman whose husband has gone to the Front, and who has children dependent upon her, to make both ends meet, how much more difficult will it be for the Italian women, many of whom cannot speak a word of English? I regret exceedingly that the Government have acquiesced in the deportation of these men, but I hope they will take every possible step to modify the hardships that are imposed, in order that we may fulfil our part in the present great struggle.
– The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- Boiled down, the Acting Prime Minister’s explanation was merely a statement that the Government take the responsibility for aiding the Italian Government to force Italian citizens out of this country. The honorable gentleman made no attempt to justify the complaisant attitude adopted by the Government, except to say that Australia would have been disgraced if the Government had refused the request of the Italian Consul for the rounding up of Italian residents, and shipping them to Europe in order that they may be brought under the jurisdiction of the Italian military authorities. As the Leader of the Opposition has pointed out, there could be no difference in principle between the request from the Italian Government and a similar request from the Government of Great Britain, or Canada, or any other of the conscript selfgoverning portions of the British Empire, that persons born under their jurisdiction, and now resident in Australia, should be conscripted, and sent abroad to fight. The Australian people must watch this sort of thing very carefully, otherwise they will find that, in spite of their emphatic pronouncement against conscription, tacit understandings between the various conscriptionist authorities in the Empire and the Government in Australia will result in the wishes of the Australian people being defeated, leaving only Australianborn citizens in the Commonwealth to be dealt with by the conscriptionists when the time is opportune. The same people who, at the time of the conscription referendum, rent the air with cries about the disgrace of getting other nations to fight for us, will point to the fact that Italians resident in Australia were conscripted without any great outcry being raised, and possibly that Servians, Frenchmen, and Americans, who were in Australia, have been treated in the same way, without any public protest being made. Who is to say that the British Government will not request that Englishmen, Scotchmen, and Welshmen, who are liable to conscription in Great Britain, but are resident in Australia, shall be treated in the same way as the Italians have been, and deported from Australia to fight against their will? If such a request were made, the Commonwealth Government could offer no objection, and I have not the slightest doubt that they would acquiesce in the deportation of Englishmen, Scotchmen, and Welshmen as tamely as they agreed to the deportation of the Italians. The Acting Prime Minister said that this question is apart from the conscription issue. The forcible deportation of Australian residents for compulsory military service overseas is absolutely bound up in the conscription issue, and represents an attempt to defeat piecemeal the verdict of the Australian people against conscription. The honorable gentleman also told us that if the Government had refused the request of the Italian Government, Australia would have been disgraced. If that be true, how much more would Australia be disgraced if a similar request by the Imperial Government in regard to Englishmen, Scotchmen, and Welshmen resident in Australia were refused. I have not the slightest doubt that such a request would be granted by the party now in power.
Again, the Acting Prime Minister stated that naturalized Italians who have been seized, and are now in camp, can please themselves as to whether they go to Italy, or remain in Australia; if they go abroad, they will go voluntarily. If that is the position, why do not the Government release these men from camp? If they are naturalized British subjects they should be released immediately, and be free to exercise their own choice as to whether or not they join the forces fighting overseas.
Lord Forrest. - The plan of the honorable member is to prevent anybody from going.
– I would offer no objection to the departure of anybody who wanted to go to the Front - even a peer of the realm. Despite the assurance of the Acting Prime Minister that naturalized British subjects will not be forcibly deported, they are still detained in camp.
Lord Forrest. - They are in camp of their own free will.
– They are not.I have received a letter from the secretary of the Amalgamated Miners Association, Broken Hill, in which he says -
The Italian members had a meeting last Sunday, and decided in a body not to be conscripted. They are desirous, if possible, of finding out what stand is being taken by their fellow-countrymen in other .parts of Australia. . . We would point out that they are crying out here that they have not enough men for the purpose of raising ore for munitions, and yet we find that the Government is prepared to allow 200 men who are working in the mines raising ore to be taken away for the purpose of conscripting them for the war. Each of the Italians at Broken Hill has received notices from the Italian ConsulGeneral for Australia intimating that he will’ be here the second week in April for the purpose of enrolling them to take part in the war. You might be able to find put for us from some of the authorities in connexion with the Act as to whether or not they have the power to do this.
I have copies of the orders issued in Italian by the Consul for Italy, in order to call up all Italian subjects who are fit for military service, but apparently Broken Hill proved a very unproductive field. I understand that the Italians there have refused to answer the call of the Italian Consul. There is not the slightest doubt that public feeling is overwhelmingly against the action of the Government. The people have become aware of the facts of the case, in spite of the suppression of news through the censorship. All mention of Italian conscripts was carefully kept out of the press, but the day before a batch of Italians marched from Spencer-street through the city paragraphs appeared in the press stating that the loyalty of the Italians would be shown by a parade of these men, who had been rounded up by the Australian Government at the instance of the Italian Government, in order that they might be compelled to fight. Then we read in the press next day of the “ patriotic fervour “ that blazed in the eyes of the Italians as they caught sight of their national flag. Not a word was said about conscription, or about forcibly taking men to the barracks to ascertain if they were medically fit. Not a word was said about an Italian who was rejected as medically unfit and then grabbed again by a military squad, which was waiting at his home, and taken back to the barracks and subsequently released. Not a word was published about the protest meetings held in Melbourne and elsewhere and attended by thousands of people, but there was a whole column about the “patriotic fervour” of men who are forced to go away and fight. Then we talk about the privileges which residents in Australia enjoy. As the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) has said, the aliens resident here are liable equally with the native-born citizen to every penalty provided for a breach of the civil or criminal law. The Acting Prime Minister has offered as the only excuse for the action of the Government the statement that it would be disgraced if it did not acquiesce in the request of the Italian Government. This action in regard to the deportation of Italians for military service must be fought here and now. If we allow these Italians to be deported, it will not be long before British-born subjects resident in Australia will be called upon, at the special request of the British Government, or as the result of the Prime Minister’s visit to the Old Country, to return there for military service. In that way we shall be getting nicely behind the verdict of the people on the question of conscription, and there will remain in Australia so few that have not been conscripted that a referendum on the subject will be of no material consequence. When that stage is reached, the Government will probably pluck up sufficient courage to say, “ You must have conscription, whether you like it or not.”
.- I do not propose to occupy the attention of the House for more than three minutes. I rise to express my sense of satisfaction that the Government propose to make a compassionate allowance to the dependants of these Italian citizens, and so to save them from the otherwise inexpressible rigour of this proceeding.
– The honorable member admits the “ inexpressible rigour “ of the proceeding?
– It would be inexpressibly rigorous if these women and children were to be allowed to remain without assistance in Australia when their breadwinners had gone away to defend their own country. I never find the honorable member for Capricornia, who has just interjected, meddling in a matter of international relations in a way that does not involve the embarrassment of the relations of the Mother Country with some other country that is friendly disposed towards us. I well remember him denouncing the Mother Country for entering into a conspiracy with Russia; I remember him also going back to the long distant past to denounce the Mother Country for her “ outrageous treatment “ of China in the matter of opium. I can imagine the honorable member interfering with the international relations of the Mother Country in almost any direction that is embarrassing to her, but I have never known him to interfere in a direction that was helpful.
I did not rise ‘ to enter into any sort*of controversy on this matter. My . object was simply to point out that, in my judgment, the Government have done the right thing in deciding to look after the dependants of these men, without any request, and without expecting any return from the Italian Government. Now that controversy has been raised by my honorable friend’s interruption, however, I should like to say how strange it seems to me that the Opposition should take this action in view of their constant protest, a year or so ago, against permission being given to any person of Italian descent to land in this country. Their attitude to-day seems to me to prove that this Government can do noright thing. A year or two ago the importation of about 140 Maltese - British subjects, of Italian descent - was de- nounced as a crying shame to Australian labour. These Maltese, it was said by the Opposition, were going to take the bread out of the mouths of the good, honest Australian labourer that my honorable friends opposite pretend solely to represent. ;
– Are the Maltese to, be ‘conscripted?
– I do not know. They are British subjects, of Italian descent.
– No one knows what their descent is.
– That is a cheap reflection which might apply to all of us. We all so back to Adam. I do not wish, however, to bandy words with the honorable member, nor do I think this is an occasion for heat. I do not know what else the Government could have done. They have received a request from the Italian Government, and have acceded to it. They have gone beyond the request, and have behaved generously to the persons affected. Is it not time that my honorable friends tried’ to stop making poli’ tical capital out of such incidents?
– Are the Government allowing the wives and children of these Italians the same amount as is allowed1 Australians ?
– I am glad the honorable member has made that, interjection. A fact which seems to me to have been deliberately overlooked ‘in a good deal of the agitation that has been worked up over this matter, is that these people are not Australians. They have deliberately chosen not to accept Australian citizenship. During the years that they have been in Australia they could have become Australian citizens, but have neglected to do so. Since they are not Australian citizens, as a matter of legal obligation we have no responsibility to them at all ; but we are assuming a responsibility, and are giving them apparently at once almost as much as is being allowed to the dependants of Australian soldiers. For that fact I am grateful to the Government. I hope, however, that the country will not be humbugged by this pretended love of persons who only a year or two ago were regarded by the Labour party as dangerous competitors for the livings and wellbeing of Australian labour.
– Enough has been said, perhaps, regarding the particular application of the action taken by the Government with respect to these Italians. The few remarks I shall offer will be of a more general character, since I am concerned in this case, as I have been on previous occasions, with the position of Australian citizens in Australia. It would be a good thing if we could erase from our records the disfranchisement of Australian citizens which has, unfortunately, stained those records. But the particular feature of this case that appeals to me is that the action of the Government in . regard to these Italians amounts to a standing invitation to the other Allies to ask that we shall deport their citizens in order to make them conscripts. It is a standing invitation to France, Belgium, the United States of America, Japan, Servia, Roumania, and Brazil - to all the Allied nations, in short - to ask us to deport for foreign military service the people of their several nationalities resident in the Commonwealth.
– Surely that would suit the honorable member’s “all Australia” policy ?
– Not at all. Australia has opened its doors wide, and has extended a hearty invitation to European people tocome here. We have set out to make this a home for white peoples. We have set out with high ideals; but, unfortunately, in the actual working out of those ideals we have so degraded Australian citizenship that neither our naturalization papers nor our laws are any protection to Australian citizens. Residence in Australia is no guarantee of the protection of Australian laws. The honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Kelly) sought to compliment the Government because they are endeavouring to cover up a wrong by a mantle of charity - because, to somewhat smooth the roughness of the action they have taken, and which they know has caused much public concern and indignation, they have agreed to an extension of the separation allowance to Italian women and children. To that extent the action of the Government is satisfactory, but it does not touch the root principle involved!
– That is, that we ought to forfeit our obligation to our Allies ?
– If the PostmasterGeneral’s contention is sound, then our first duty is, not to our Allies, but to the rest of the Empire. If we apply to the Empire the same principle that the honorable member suggests we must apply to our Allies, then the Imperial Government would be amply justified in demanding that every Britishborn subject in Australia should be conscripted for service overseas.
– Are Italians resident in England compelled to return to Italy?
– I think the Acting, Prime Minister was correct in his statement that reservists of the Italian Army are compelled to return.
– But have nonnaturalized Italians in England been compelled to return to their country?
– I think not. The Acting Prime Minister suggested that after the war was over traditions and conventions would probably be rearranged. That appears to be necessary, and the re-arrangement which seems to me to be most necessary is that we should go back to those firm and just principles which until the outbreak of this war were always the proud boast of the Britishpeople. We have forgotten the traditions of the British Empire. We have thrown overboard the highest ideals associated with British history. We, in Australia, have abandoned all those things for which the Empire has been most famous, and here in Australia to-day we have an action on the part of the Government that further demeans our citizenship. It involves a further abandonment of those high and noble principles for which we have stood. It means that Australia is to be used as a sort of handy tool for the collection of foreign elements at the behest of foreign Governments As an imported but a thorough Australian, I protest against the use of Australian laws for the service of the Allied nations in a direction that we are not prepared to take in regard to our own Empire. The only position that the Government can now logically take up is that they should say to the British Government, and to the Governments of all the Allied countries, “ What we are prepared to do for Italy we are prepared, on request, to do for you.” I do not imagine that the Government would seriously adopt any such course, but that is the logical deduction from their present attitude, and when they come to realize its significance, I do not think they will be proud of it.
– I regret that I offended the honorable member for Wentworth. I certainly had no intention of doing so. When he used the words, “ inexpressible rigour,” I desired to remind him. that the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Watt) had suggested that we could not understand the language of a cultured gentleman like the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan), and that he should, therefore, make his speech, as far as possible, monosyllabic. I agree with the honorable member for Batman that Britain has alwaysbeen known as the home of freedom. It has received political refugees from almost every country, but has never given up one. In this case, however, a different attitude is being taken up. We invited these Italians to make their homes here. The Queensland Government sent a representative to Italy to secure emigrants from that country, and many gladly came here. Honorable members sitting behind the Government may not agree with me, but I consider that the action of Australia in defeating the conscription proposals of the Government at both referendums was the very best advertisement she could possibly have secured. After the war there will be in all the belligerent countries many who, like the Germans after the FrancoPrussian War, will be anxious to get out of those countries where militarism is rampant. They would, but for the action of the Government, have turned their attention to Australia, but we are now destroying the value of the action which was taken by the people of Australia. We have been asked to produce foodstuffs for the Empire and the Allies, but the action of the Government in taking away Italians will deprive the great sugar industry of Queensland of thousands of workers. I understand that there is a desire to close the debate almost immediately. All I have to say, in conclusion, is that the Government, in view of the opinion expressed by the people of Australia at the last referendum, when” conscription was defeated bya larger majority than ever, could easily have side-stepped the matter, and it would have been very much better if, instead of sending Italians out of the country by means of conscription, they had asked Italy whether she was prepared for peace by negotiation.
– I indorse every protest that has been uttered against sending Italians away. I can imagine what would have happened in the days of Palmerston if England had dared to say that she would give up political refugees. These Italians have come to Australia. The law does not permit them to become naturalized until they have been here a certain number of years. I informed the Minister yesterday of one case, in which a man who had been previously turned down as being physically incapable of bearing arms had been threatened with a bayonet and kept under control for about three hours.
Question - That the House do now ad journ-put. The House divided.
Majority . . ..18
Question so resolved in the negative.
LordFORREST. - I wish to know from the Minister for Home and Territories whether clause 12 of the Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta Railway Lands Bill, which passed this House yesterday, will not cover claims for compensation submitted prior to the passing of the Act, and whether the clause will not be operative in regard to the claim for £70,000 submitted by a pastoral lessee for water from a well not used by him, and which cost him nothing? I would also like to know whether, during the passage of the Bill through another place, the Minister will make provision in it, so that the right of the Government to make counter claims under clause 12 in regard to claims submitted prior to the passing of the Act will not be impaired?
– The question submitted by the right honorable gentleman has reference to that provision in the Bill which stipulates that where a claim is submitted by any person for compensation, and the High Court finds that the property had reallybenefited to a greater extent than the amount of the claim, the excess will have to be paid by the claimant to the Crown if the Justice so orders it. The right honorable gentleman wishes to know whether that provision should not be extended to existing claims. On the whole, our legislation is never retrospective, except in very rare instances, and there are very few claims, not involving more than 6,000 or 7,000 acres of land, which can be regarded as outside the scope of this Bill - that is, land acquired and not paid for - but there is one big claim, amounting to £104,000, which, as I said last night, the Department assesses at £3,355. That case is now going before a High Court Justice. I scarcely think that we should be justifiedin amending an Act of Parliament in order to apply a new principle to a case which is actually before a Court. Furthermore, the principle of betterment is not provided for in the Bill with which we dealt last night. It is merely provided for incidentally in respect to claims for compensation ; it does not apply to all the lands affected by the railway. The object of the measure is to prevent claims, which might be regarded as unfair, being submitted in the future, and as those to which the right honorable gentleman has referred are existing claims, the principle laid down in clause 12 as a deterrent to unfair claims could not possibly operate in connexion with them.
– Has the attention of the Acting Prime Minister been drawn to a paragraph in this morning’s newspapers pointing out that Mr. Elmslie, the Leader of the Opposition in the Victorian State Parliament, has drawn the attention of the Premier of the State to a case in which flour has been refused to bakers who will not conform to the price fixed by the combine who hold the flour? It was also pointed out that one man at least had been pushed out of business. In view of the fact that many of our War Precautions Regulations impose imprisonment as well as fines on those who commit breaches of them, will the Acting Prime Minister consider the advisability of gazetting a regulation by means of which a person who refuses another the right to live may be put in gaol for twelve months?
– I know nothing of the matter, but I recommend the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Greene), who has recently assumed control of the matter of price fixing, to consider the suggestion submitted by the honorable member.
– I would like to know from the Acting Prime Minister if we could not adopt the practice of treating amendments to the War Precautions Regulations as amending Bills are treated, that is, by some attempt at consolidating them. I have in my hand a War Precautions Regulation No. 98 of 1918. A certain regulation is amended by thirtyeight others. In such circumstances I find great difficulty in arriving at the meaning of any regulation, but if the principle I have suggested could be adopted we should see exactly what each regulation was intended to mean.
– I think that the honorable member has misread the regulation to which he has referred. It does not amend thirty-eight other rules; they are merely cited for certain purposes.
– It says certain rules are amended by certain others, and it mentions thirty-eight.
– There is, I admit, a good deal of interlocking as the reguations now run. It might involve considerable expense to codify in every case, but I shall consult the AttorneyGeneral to see whether it is not possible to effect consolidation now and again.
asked the Acting Prime Minister, upon notice -
– ‘It is not proposed in future to answer questions as to whether a particular message was or was not detained by the censor. In the present instance, however, an exception will be made, and the following are the replies : -
Certificates: Commission on Consignments.
asked the Acting Prime Minister, upon notice -
-The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Acting Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
Sydney Harbor Dockyard Sites : Unused Slips: Isherwood System
asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Navy, upon notice -
Whether the special facilities for shipbuilding in Sydney Harbor are being overlooked by the Government?
– No. Consideration is now being given to proposals for the construction of ships at three sites in Sydney Harbor.
Mr. RILEY (for Mr. Mahony) asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Navy, upon notice -
Why the three slips now lying idle at the Naval Dockyards, Cockatoo Island, are not being used for shipbuilding?
– There is only one slip suitable for shipbuilding not in use at present, and the question of its utilization is engaging the attention of the Government.
Mr. RILEY (for Mr. Mahony) asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Navy, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
PostalRobberies -Soldiers’ Letters.
asked the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
– The answer to the honorable “member’s two questions is “ No.”
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– I have seen the publication and the article referred to. It was submitted by the general secretary of the association with a suggestion by the honorable member that I should have it inserted in the press. Before doing so, I desired to know if the article was authentic, and if it was original and the property ofthe Transmitter, but, although the general secretary was asked for that information over a month ago, no reply has yet been received.
asked the Acting Prime Minister, upon notice -
– I am making inquiry, and will furnish the information as early as possible.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The answer to the honorable member’s questions is as follows: -
All members of the permanent units, whose normal rates of pay are less than those of corresponding ranks in the mobilized Garrison Artillery, receive an allowance equal to the difference between the respective rates. Should any member of the No. 7 Remount Depot be not in receipt of a special allowance, it is for the reason that his rate of payment is, at least, equal to that for his correspondingrank in the mobilized Garrison Artillery.
asked the Acting
Prime Minister, upon notice -
Will he give the following information, specifying each case separately -
The fines imposed for all breaches of contracts with the Department of
Defence in connexion with the supply of food, clothing, &c, showing the names of individuals, the amount of fines, the nature of offences, and where committed, from the beginning of the war to the present date?
– I shall endeavour to furnish the information, in the form of a return, at an early date.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice - .
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– I am having a detailed reply prepared, and will furnish it to-morrow.
asked the Acting Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answer to the honorable member’s questions is as follows : -
In a cablegram dated 5th November, 1917, on the subject of the issue of passports in the United Kingdom for Australia, the High Commissioner advised that the Imperial Government were adhering strictly to the existing regulations, which only permitted women and children to travelin case of extreme and urgent necessity. These cases were accepted on the recommendation of the High Commissioner after the fullest investigation. The women accepted were mostly wives and mothers of invalided soldiers, and could travel only by ships convoyed and escorted through the danger zones. In a cablegram dated 26th February, the High Commissioner reported that the practice outlined above was still adhered to,but that the authorities regarded the term “extreme necessity” as applicable to bona fide Australians who require to return home and satisfy the High Commissioner as to urgency. Women were only permitted to travel by guarded liner. The most approved cases were those of women domiciled in the Dominions who needed to return to their families or rejoin invalided husbands. The High Commissioner added, however, that there were still a large number awaiting accommodation, and that the rule will be strictly interpreted. It was not possible to provide at the present time for soldiers fiancees, nor for persons desirous of settling in Australia. ‘
Combing, Spinning, and Weaving Company’s Accounts - Exportation to Japan - Profits
asked the Acting Prime Minister, upon notice-
– Inquiry is being made, and the information will be furnished as early as possible.
asked the Acting Prime Minister, upon notice -
– Inquiry is being made, and the honorable member will be furnished with information at a later date.
asked the Acting Prime Minister, upon notice -
– Inquiry is being made, and the information will be furnished as earlyas possible.
Debate resumed from 1st May (vide page 4265) on motion by Mr. Watt -
That this Billbe now read a second time.
.- I thank the Treasurer for having brought the Bill before us in a very intelligible way. He has not attempted to sneak through its provisions by strategy or finessing, but has had printed a statement of the law as it would stand were the amendments of the Government adopted, showing in black letters the provisions which the Government propose to insert in the present Act, and in erased type those which they propose to strike out. The Minister for Defence might well follow this example in legislation amending the Defence Act, because the arrangement saves members much study and research. All who have observed the lavish expenditure of the past few years, no matter what Treasurer was in office, have sought for some way to economize. There is an agitation for making uniform the Federal and State taxation returns. I believe that business people generally, both producers and distributors, would welcome uniform legislation. There are many complaints throughout the States as to the number of returns that have to be furnished. There are the State and
Federal income tax returns, war profits tax returns, factory returns, stock returns, and land tax returns, Commonwealth, State, and municipal; and no doubt a great many people, either through not having time to prepare them, or because they have not the clerical capacity, are put to the trouble and expense of engaging skilled accountants. While one should hesitate before throwing cold water on the efforts of reformers, to chloroform the taxpayer, and make him insensible, as far as may be, to his sufferings, it is necessary to point out some ofthe difficulties in the way of the Commonwealth Government collecting the State as well as the Federal income tax. The methods adopted in the States are not uniform; for example, the States tax companies’ profits at their source, whereas the Commonwealth taxes them when they are distributed amongst the shareholders. Any proposed alteration in the methods of assessing the income tax, or collecting the same, would have to run the gauntlet, not only of the States Legislative Assemblies, but of the Upper Chambers. But there is no question that the Commonwealth could collect the States’ income tax, and do all the work, at a very much cheaper rate than can the States themselves, though I doubt very much whether the States are likely to give that work to Commonwealth officers. There is an insuperable difficulty, I think, in the way of the States undertaking to collect the Commonwealth tax. Honorable members will recollect that when we had six different commissioners administering the Customs Acts for a period, and giving decisions - that is, before the Commonwealth Customs administration got into full swing - there was the greatest irritation in the business community; and I can imagine that if we had six different State Income Tax Commissioners giving decisions about Commonwealth taxation, there would be trouble again. The objection to the States collecting the tax is, it seems to me, that we must have Federal Commissioners in the various States, because we impose, not only an income tax, but also a war profits tax. The latter, I suppose, we shall have with us for a time. The Treasurer did not respond to my courteous invitation to tell the House whether he proposed to make it a permanent institution during the war, or whether he proposed to abolish it next year, and substitute some more equitable and preferable tax. However, we shall have the amusement tax for a period; and, under the circumstances, there must be Federal officers in all the States. That seems to me a serious difficulty in the way of the proposal to hand over the Commonwealth income tax administration to State officers. As to the suggestion that the States would not allow the Commonwealth to collect State- taxes because the .Commonwealth might keep the revenue collected, I cannot think that any Treasurer, or any Government, would be so foolish as io entertain such, an idea. There would, I am afraid, be a rebellion in the Commonwealth, and an endeavour by some of the States to secede, with a possible breaking up of the Federation. We remember that historic move on the part of the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes), who, because he was assaulted at Warwick,- established there a Commonwealth Police Force, which is now playing the part of the fifth wheel of a coach. There was also the raiding of the Queensland State Printing Office; and the two events almost gave rise to an. insurrectionary movement in Queeusland, with a proposal to secede.
– Surely not?
– That is a, fact. The Treasurer has told us that this is. a giveandtakeBill. I do not think such a Government is giving very much to the taxpayer, but rather that the Act has been tightened up so that the Government may take a little more than at present from the taxpayer. We must all sympathize with and approve of the action of the Treasurer and his officers in trying to obtain all the revenue that the taxpayers ought to contribute under the law; and anything that can be done in reason to perfect the machinery ought to be done by this House. I suggest, however, that some of the penalities proposed in the Bill are severe, such, for example, as that of £1 per month for delay in lodging a return. Although the Commissioner has power’ to exercise discretion, which may be challenged, it is, in my opinion, a bad system to make such an officer also a dispenser of justice. We ought to pass the law, and the Commissioner ought to carry it out as far as may be, and any infringement should be dealt with by magistrates or Judges, who are accustomed to hear and weigh evidence. The minimum penalty is £2, and a magistrate or a Judge may punish to the extent of even a fine of £100. The Treasurer seems to have lost sight of the fact that if a man is brought to the Courts, even if he is not fined, he is subjected to considerable trouble and expense, quite apart from the objectionable experience of being haled before the tribunal.
The Bill proposes that employers shall garnishee the wages of their employees; and that, of course, is always irritating to the general public. Amongst the poorer classes of wage-earners who come under the income-tax law, it will cause much inconvenience and dissatisfaction if employers are notified by the Commissioner to deduct any arrears df income tax from the wages earned; and I fancy that, generally speaking, this proposal will be resisted. Where the Commissioner finds that those who are called upon to pay the lower amounts fail to meet their obligations, a warning - or, perhaps, an example such as. the Commissioner has sometimes to give in the Courts-ould I think, have its due effect, without our resorting to the unusual method now proposed. An employer may not always be aware when an employee can spare the arrears - when he can go without his wages. As a rule, in the case of the lowerpaid wage earner, with from *£3 to £5 a week, every shilling is laid “out before it is received; and it may be inconvenient to have arrears of taxation deducted. However, I shall be anxious to hear in Committee argument on this and one or two other similar points.
There is a new provision that the Commissioner of Pensions may call on the Commissioner of Taxes for information as to income. There is, naturally, a very great objection on the part of most people to let their incomes be known; and officers in the Taxation Department have to take an oath of secrecy. This proposed departure is unusual, though I do not see any objection provided it is confined to information in cases . where the Commissioner desires to know the income of a person who might be an applicant for a pension.
– That is all that is intended.
– But it may happen that the officer who gets the information for the Commissioner is under no obligation to keep that information secret. No doubt, however, the Commissioner of
Pensions will see that the public are protected by demanding that all such officers shall make a declaration similar to that necessary in the Taxation Office.
There is a clause increasing the amount which the Commonwealth may take out of prizes won in lotteries. I have no desire to pose as a puritan, or an extreme wowser - which, I understand, is defined as a kind of kill-sport or kill- joy - but I do think that enlightened public opinion is against gambling. As we generally condemn Tattersalls, and decline to legalize it, we are not doing right in, so to speak, taking a share of the loot”. We say to an investor in these sweeps, “ We are not prepared to allow you to loot, but since you will loot we want a share of it.-‘’ -
– There is a, big difference between Tattersalls and the recent War Loan lotteries, in which nobody stands to lose. In Tattersalls a big percentage of the investors lose.
– I do not agree with the Treasurer in approving of these two Sydney firms, estimable firms though they may be, conducting a lottery in their establishments. It was, in my opinion, a mistake; and I am prepared to argue that Tattersalls has done great injury to the Commonwealth. I have a great belief in hereditary tendencies; and I believe that in this Commonwealth there are wage-earners, with wives and families, who, for more than a quarter of a century, have put a weekly contribution into the Tattersalls consultation. The majority of these people have never won anything, but all their spare time has been occupied in wondering whether they would win a prize which would place them beyond the reach of want, and in the certainly profitless study of the pedigrees of the horses. There is nothing to recommend the clause, which provides for the Government taking 10 per cent, of the prizes distributed in Tattersalls and other lotteries.
The Conference of Taxation Officers suggested that- realized assets furnished a fitting subject for income tax. Prior to the war I heard of many instances of men in Queensland buying a station property for £5,000 and selling it for £10,000, or buying one for £10,000 and selling it for £40,000. Similar transactions occurred in Sydney in connexion with the extraordinary commercial de velopment that has taken place in recent years.’ Large blocks of buildings have been erected, and others have been extended, and buildings and building sites have been changing hands at big figures. Sometimes a man -.bought premises for £10,000, and sold them within a year for £30,000. Under our existing law the men who made those huge profits would pay no income tax, on the ground, as stated by the Treasurer, that the realization of assets was considered to be in the nature of a return to the pool of original capital. But I understand that if the Commissioner of Taxation finds that a man is’ making a business -of buying and selling property, that man is taxed on. his profits.
– The legal decision is that where the buying and selling of property is a business the profits are taxable.
– Yes, but there are many persons who would make only one deal in a lifetime, and would get from it more” profit than a man buying and selling for twenty years would, make.
In regard to the proposal that the Commonwealth should take over from the States the responsibility for the collection of taxes, and in regard to the ten’dency indicated by this proposal, I would point out that all these so-called reforms, which involve centralization, lead in the direction of Unification, a development which, no doubt, would be very acceptable to the honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Bamford), but which, I think, would be a very bad thing for the Commonwealth. Although there are in Australia fourteen Houses of Parliament, it must be remembered that Queensland, South Australia, Western Australia, and New South Wales are each larger than many of the closely populated countries of Europe, like Austro-Hungary, France, and Italy. The Australian Parliaments have ample scope for the exercise of their legislative and administrative functions, and I am not in favour of centralizing every governmental activity in the city of Melbourne.
– Unification will not necessarily involve such centralization.
– The collection of the income tax, for instance, would be administered from Collins House, in Melbourne, and later on, if that proved a success, there would be an agitation for the taking over of various other State instru mentalities. I need only refer to the
Post Office and the Northern Territory to remind honorable members that the Commonwealth is not very successful in administering the powers it already possesses. I have no desire to throw cold water on the efforts of the reformers, but I feel sure that the State legislators will view the matter in the light in which I have stated it, and will refuse to adopt the proposal to be brought forward by the Treasurer.
This is largely a machinery measure, and although it was admissible, and, indeed, advantageous to the House, for the Treasurer in his second-reading speech to deal with the Bill clause by clause, in order to let us know exactly what he proposes to do, I shall reserve my further remarks until the Bill reaches the Committee stage.
– I join with the honorable member who has just resumed his seat in congratulating the Treasurer on his excellent exposition of the Bill. All taxation measures are full of intricacies, and very difficult to follow. I think it was a happy idea to call together the officers of the Commonwealth and States who are engaged in the administration of taxation, with a view to arriving at some degree of uniformity, if possible. The suffering public have indeed had a sorry experience in the manner in which they have been harassed and harried by the multiplicity of returns they have been required to furnish, and there is an incumbent duty upon the Commonwealth Parliament to endeavour, if possible, to put an end to this multiplication, and minimize the difficulties and expense borne by the general public, in addition to the privilege of paying taxation. Iam sorry that I have not had an opportunity of refreshing my mind in regard to the proceedings of the Conference of Taxation Officers, but I recollect having been impressed with the number of outstanding differences which had been dealt with and the genuine effort made to arrive at a common understanding between the Commonwealth and the States. But there were some differences of a fundamental character that had not been settled, and towards the reconciliation of which I hope we shall bend our energies. One of those was mentioned by the Treasurer yesterday, namely, the different systems of taxation. The States, following the British taxation laws, have adopted the system of taxation from the very source. In the Old Country, and under the State laws, a company is required to pay taxation on the whole of its profits. There is no doubt that objection can be, and was, taken to that mode of taxing the whole of the profits, on the ground that if a company had a large number of small shareholders, many persons, who were not directly taxpayers, became subject to this mode of taxation. If that defect could not be overcome it would be a very grave objection to the system. It is not regarded as a serious objection in connexion with State taxation, and no means exist for the purpose of granting relief to the small shareholders; but, as we would in this Parliament regard . it as objectionable, I shall indicate to honorable members the steps that are taken elsewhere to afford that relief. No doubt the taxation of companies upon the whole of their profits is a very simple method, and has a great deal to commend it. The Commonwealth method is to first tax the undistributed profits of companies, and to then tax the distributed profits in the hands of the taxpayers. Thus we have an aggregation of income and a graduated taxation. I think most honorable members approve of that system as being fair and reasonable; therefore, the Federal Parliament is not likely to forego the system of graduated taxation. If we were to adopt the State system of taxing at the source, without the precautions which I shall indicate later, the maximum taxation would be1s. 10½d. in the £1, representing the ordinary tax, of1s. 6d. and the super-tax of 25 per cent. Having regard to the fact that the Commonwealth taxation reaches 6s. 3d. in the £1 in connexion with very large individual incomes, it is obvious that a vast amount of revenue would be lost, as steps would be taken by taxpayers to convert their properties into proprietary companies, and thereby get the advantage of a lesser scale of taxation. What we should endeavour to do is to find some workable compromise between the systems of the States and the Commonwealth. I believe that a compromise on the lines of Imperial taxation is capable of accomplishment - a compromise whereby the States would conserve their methods with some qualification such as I have referred to, and the Commonwealth also would maintain its system of taxation.
It is possible to devise a scheme embracing the fundamental features of the two systems. I suggest to the Treasurer that the Commonwealth, following the system in force in the States and in Great Britain, should tax income at its source, or, in other words, that companies should be taxed on the whole of their profits. ; The effect of that would be that the company would pay the tax on dividends of shareholders who were in receipt of incomes up to £800 a year, and would be liable for the taxation rate of1s. 10½d. in the £1. It is obvious that, following the system adopted by the States, the income tax arising from shares would be collected by the company and paid by the company. Then in order to conserve our system of aggregation and graduated taxation, the Commonwealth should follow its present practice of compelling all shareholders to include in their returns dividends drawn by them from corporations, but such taxpayers should be entitled to a refund of the amount which had already been paid by the company in respect of income tax on the dividends so drawn. A taxpayer’s schedule would practically be drawn up just as it is at present. Income from dividends would be included in the schedule, and we would be able to follow the present Commonwealth system of aggregation. It has been objected that if we were to tax the whole of the profits of a company, the result would be the taxation of small shareholders who would not otherwise be taxable. The British Government, however, have already adopted an effective means of meeting that objection. In Britain a coupon is issued to every shareholder in a company, and upon the return of that coupon to the Finance Department a shareholder who would not otherwise be a taxpayer is enabled to collect his proportion of the amount paid by the company on the whole of its profits. He is required to make a declaration, the form of which is furnished to him, and in this way the objection that has been taken to the system is completely met.
– The position is altogether different in England, because there they are nearly all large shareholders.
SirROBERT BEST. - I do not think it is different; even if there were only a limited number of shareholders in a company, the principle would be exactly the same. Where but for this system of taxing a company on the whole of its profits, a small shareholder would not be taxable, he is entitled to a refund on presentation of his coupon. The coupon has to be verified.
– The States, with the object of securing greater simplicity of administration, have discarded that system.
SirROBERT BEST. - It was never in force in the States. The States have not found it necessary to adopt it. Their ideas of taxation are different. Speaking generally, the taxation of companies in Victoria is higher than the taxation of individuals. In Victoria, I think the taxation in the case of individuals runs up to something like1s. in the £1, whereas the taxation of a company is in excess of that amount. Under the Commonwealth system the taxation of individuals runs up to something like 6s. 3d. in the £1, whereas’ our company taxation is only 1s.10½d. in the £1.
We have the precedent set by the Mother Country for the proposal I make, and I contend that it would furnish a sound and working compromise as between the Commonwealth and State systems. It would get rid of the present cumbersome and complicated Commonwealth system under which we deal first of all with the taxation of undistributed incomes, and subsequently, in the case of shareholders, with the distributed dividend in their hands.
– I do not think the system is found difficult to administer.
SirROBERT BEST.- Clause 10 is, I think, of the most complicated character.
– It is designed to correct a mistake in our previous legislation.
SirROBERT BEST. - Iam aware of the mistake to which the Minister refers, but the principle for which I am contending is practically conceded in the last two provisos to clause 10.
– That is only to prevent double taxation. It does not touch the question of taxing at the source of income.
SirROBERT BEST. - It does not; but I am dealing with the objection that has been raised to the taxation of the whole of the profits of a company, rather than the undistributed profits. The principle that I am advocating appears to be conceded in the last two provisos to clause 10. The first of these reads-
Provided further that, where the Commissioner is satisfied that the holder of debentures or share stock payable to bearer is a person who is not liable to furnish a return, the Commissioner may refund to that person the amount of the tax paid by the company in respect of the debentures or share stock of that person.
That applies to cases where stock is issued’ to bearer, and will enable a refund to be made, just as I have said should be done in the case of the small shareholder who would not otherwise be taxable.
– Does the honorable member prefer the English system?
– In that connexion, I do.
– Because it is less complicated ?
– Yes. I contend that the present State system is far simpler than our own, but I realize that to attempt to apply it to the Commonwealth would be to lose revenue, and to give rise to difficulties, unless with the safeguards to which I have already referred. The last proviso to clause 10 is as follows : -
Provided further that, where a company pays tax under this sub-section on any dividend or interest, and the member, shareholder, ov person includes that dividend or interest in his return, the proportionate amount of tax paid by the company in respect of the dividend or interest shall be deducted from the total tax payable by the member, shareholder, or person.
That practically’ admits the principle for which I have been contending. I have no desire to reflect for one moment upon our taxation officers. We were very fortunate in the choice of our first Commissioner of Taxation, and we are equally fortunate in the present Commissioner. I am aware, however, of the vast volume of correspondence that takes place, and of the irritation which is caused to a large number of taxpayers by reason of the adjustments which become necessary under the present system. Our object should’ be to simplify that system, and we should endeavour also to amalgamate the systems in force in the States, together with “ the main principles of our Federal taxation. In this way it is possible, as I have shown, . to secure a good working compromise.
Under the system at present in force in the Commonwealth, it is necessary that the Commissioner shall first of all ob- tain a list of shareholders, and then carefully trace every payment of dividends to the individual. That, in itself, is a complicated process.
– If companies furnish, returns regularly, they have only to be checked from time to time.
– Under the present system, every dividend paid to a shareholder has to te traced by the Commissioner, whereas under the process I suggest a company pays on the whole of its profits, and the individual shareholder has the responsibility of furnishing a return in order to secure a refund of the taxation paid by the company in respect of the dividends drawn by him. My scheme would largely serve the main principle of the State system, while it would completely meet our system of aggregation and graduated taxation. Those are two fundamental features of my proposal. The third is that, under it, the small shareholder would be protected by the issue of coupons. The responsibility is cast upon us of securing a uniform method of taxation throughout Australia, and if we can bring about a working compromise in the way I have indicated, we shall make a great stride towards that uniformity and central administration which are so necessary in the interests of economy, as well as to avoid irritation and annoyance to the taxpayer.
It is a very serious matter to introduce anything of a retrospective character into a taxation measure. Clause 48 provides -
The amendments of the principal Act made by paragraph e of section two, section five, paragraph d of section eight, and paragraph 6 of section ten of this Act shall be deemed to have come into operation on the date of the commencement of the Income Tax Assessment Act 1915.
The commencement of the Act was in September, 1915. The object of this amendment is to tighten up the Act and remedy some defects which have been’ discovered by certain decisions of the Court. In the Meares’ case a system had been adopted of placing profits - I think it was £26,000 - to an appropriation account, but the Court held that this was not a profit and loss account, and consequently could not come within the provisions of the Act dealing with profit and loss and profits accumulated prior to the 1st July, 1914. There were also the Commercial Bank case and the Bank of New South Wales case, where the practice of the Department was differed from, rendering an alteration necessary. The object of this amending clause is to cure these defects in the Act, and make the taxpayer, other than the men who got their judgments, retrospectively liable. Clause 8. which was not emphasized by the Treasurer last night, has this purpose in view. It amends section 14, which is to be altered to read as follows : -
Provided further that where a company distributes to its members or shareholders any undistributed income accumulated prior to the 1st day of July, 1914, the sum so received by the shareholder shall notbe included as part of his income. For the purposes of this proviso, amounts carried forward by a company in its profit and loss account, appropriation account, revenue and expenses account, or any other account similar to any of the foregoing accounts, shall notbe deemed tobe accumulated income.
The effect of the case mentioned was to exempt the taxpayer from a substantial amount of taxation. In the case of that firm, it was held by the Court that an appropriation account was not a profit and loss account, and did not come within the exemption provided in section 14. The amending clause will rectify this matter in avery desirable direction. Although I protest against retrospective legislation and claim that it is vicious and undesirable, I do not propose to take the responsibility of opposing it in this case, because I believe that the success in the case mentioned was more technical than on the merits, and that the administration of the Department was in accordance with the spirit and intention of Parliament, and that if the law were allowed to remain unaltered it would involve, as in Meares’ case and in other cases, vast sums of money.
Another principle which should be embodied in the Bill is one which was incorporated in the War-time Profits Tax Assessment Act, providing for an independent tribunal where disputes exist between the Commissioner of Taxation and the taxpayer. I have complete confidence in the fairness of the present Commissioner, but there is not the slightest doubt that many taxpayers have suffered endless embarrassment and irritation by reason of matters which are legitimately the subject of dispute, in which they feel that they have been harshly treated, and that the law has been unjustly interpreted against them. It is true that they can resort to litigation, but many people would rather suffer the present loss than go to the expense of litigation in this connexion. If we can concentrate our efforts on simplifying the form of returns and of avoiding the multiplicity of them weshall be doing very valuable work. In some respects the provisions of the Bill have been tightened up so far as penalties are concerned. The words “wilful” and “ intent “ have been deliberately omitted. That may be all very well when there is a fair-minded man administering the Act. but the innocent taxpayer is liable to most harsh treatment. Many men send in returns according to their interpretation of the law, and in some cases there are quite unintentional omissions, with no view to defraud, but in both cases the taxpayers nominally are liable to the severest penalties, although they may have been quite honest and most innocent in what they have done. I am afraid that I cannot go very far in objecting in this matter, because, on many occasions, I have had to defend the Customs Act, which was framed on similar lines, and that fact could be flung at me; at the same time, there has been a distinct advance in this direction by reason of the drastic provisions which appear in the Bill before us.
– Could not greater simplicity be achieved in regard to the forms?
– I would hardly be justified in saying that they could be simplified very materially, but there is room for reform in that direction. We cannot simplify the forms until we simplify the mode of taxation, and that is What I am aiming at. By simplifying the system, we can simplify the forms, andno doubt we should concentrate our efforts as far as possible towards simplifying the machinery and simplifying the forms, and towards reducing the multiplicity of them.
In the former Act, section 15, now repealed, made resident agents representing British or other merchants liable for the taxation on their principals. Clause 46 provides for certain refunds, but the
Bill does not go far enough. As the Act stood, the agent was held to be personally liable for ali taxation due by his absent principal after 30th June, 1915. Clause 46 provides that, where an agent has had to pay or has actually paid on behalf of his principal he can secure a refund from the Commonwealth Treasury; but that provision is grossly unfair to those honest absent principals who have actually paid the taxation according to the law which was then in force. Those who did not pay will not be called upon to pay, but those who paid promptly will not be permitted to obtain a refund. It would not involve a large sum of money to remove this injustice. I hope that the Treasurer will give his best attention to the scheme, which I have submitted as a compromise between the Commonwealth and the States, and I hope that it will result in a simplification of the existing forms. 1
– In common with other honorable members, I desire to congratulate the Treasurer upon the manner in which he has presented the Bill to us. It saves a great deal of trouble on the part of honorable members to have the old sections with the amending clauses immediately beneath them. If that system were followed throughout, it would be of great advantage. I realize thai; this is a machinery measure, and one which could he better discussed in Committee; but there are one or two matters to which I wish to briefly refer now, because I consider that they should receive a little further consideration before they are finally incorporated in the Bill
It is the desire of the Government to prevent duplication in connexion with income-tax collection, and the Treasurer has told us that the Commonwealth machinery for the collection of the tax will save the taxpayer something like 2^. per cent- on the cost of collection through the States. There can be no difference of opinion as to which Government should collect the income tax; Commonwealth and State Governments serve the one set of people. But if there is - any way in which we can economize in-our public expenditure we should adopt it, and the collection of income tax by one authority would both effect economy and convenience many taxpayers who at present have to fill in two or more forms at different times in the year, and make two or more payments. It would be a good thing for all concerned if an amicable arrangement could be come to in this matter between the Commonwealth and the States.
I wish now to direct attention to the effect of the Bill on co-operative societies. Hitherto, we have wisely excluded the profits of those societies from taxation, realizing that the societies are composed of persons who have put their money together to purchase necessaries and other requirements, distributing by way of dividend or discount anything in the way of profit over and above their expenditure and working expenses. To tax the profits of these societies will do injustice to many persons. We are desirous of avoiding double taxation, and the Treasurer stated that the object of some of the amendments is to prevent double taxation in respect of the proceeds from mining investments, but the provisions relating to the taxation of co-operative societies will bring about the double taxation of their members. Under the law, as it is proposed to be amended, persons with dependants, whose income is less than £156 per annum, and persons without dependants’, whose income is less than £100 per annum, will not be taxable. In my district, and in many other districts, there are many such persons who are members of co-operative societies. If. the profits of those societies are taxed in the aggregate, and also taxed as shown in the returns of their individual members, there will be double taxation of their members.
– The co-operative societies could reduce their prices, and thus extinguish their profits.
– They must have a margin on which to work. Suppose, for the sake of the illustration, that a cooperative society makes a profit “of £3,000, its taxation will probably be at the rate of 2s. in the £1, a little more or a little less. The aggregate’ profits of the society will be taxed at that rate. In addition, the individual members of the society will be taxed on the amounts of profit or dividend distributed to them - £5, £6, £7, and similar sums. On thi* the rate might be 5d. in the £1. Therefore the members of the society will be doubly -taxed, and at two different rates. Furthermore, many of these members, as they do not earn £156 per annum, would properly not be taxable at all, but by compelling them to make a return of the profits distributed to them they will be taxed, notwithstanding any exemption. A man having less than a taxable income might receive a dividend of £5 from a benefit society, and if that were taxed 2s. in the £1 he would be forced to contribute 10s. to the revenue, although properly not taxable at all. A co-operative society is a different thing from a company or private business, being run merely to enable its members to make cheap purchases. I shall do my best in Committee to prevent the taxation of these societies.
Coming to another matter, the Bill provides that an employer may be compelled to recover money owing by a taxpayer who is in his employment. That provision may work very unsatisfactorily. I do not know why it would not be enough to provide for the prosecution pf defaulters. Some employers might dismiss men rather than be bothered with the collection of taxation due by them, and the non-payment of taxes might cause a mark to be set against a man, preventing him from getting employment.
As to the penalty for the making of false statements, I would point out that it is the easiest thing in the world for a man to make a mistake when filling in a return, though he may have no fraudulent intention, believing that his return is absolutely correct. But for such honest mistakes the man will be liable to prosecution. We must not lose sight of the fact that, by reason of the reduction of exemptions, many persons will be compelled to furnish returns who have had no experience of this kind of thing, and do not know what is required of them. Take such persons as men working in a mine and being paid by results. These men do not keep accounts of their earnings -week by week with a view to making a return concerning them at the end of the year. A party of several men may draw their money on the one ticket, but they keep no accounts, and cannot tell at the end of the year exactly what they have received or what their expenses were. Nor does the mining company keep an- account of the off-takes, because it cannot know what these have been. The men put in a re turn which is as nearly correct as they can make it, but on comparison with the return of the mining company for which they have been working it may be found incorrect. Moreover, mistakes occasionally occur through the Taxation Commissioners attributing to one man payments which have been divided between two or more. The man may make a mistake in regard to his deductions, and is liable to a penalty if he makes a deduction which is not permitted by the . law. How many men are there in the community - employers or employees - who know much about the provisions of the income tax law? All that most of us know is that we must go to the Post Office and get and fill in a return every twelve months. Most men put down whatever deductions they think they are entitled to make, and they are to be liable to penalties for mistakes, which , may have been made with the best intentions.
– Is the honorable member sure that he has stated correctly the provisions of the measure in regard to co-operative companies? Would not tha returns from such societies be treated similarly to the dividends distributed by ordinary companies or partnerships?
– The Bill says that income is to include, in the case of a cooperative company or society -
All sums received from members in payment for commodities supplied to them, or received in respect of commodities sold by the company or society, whether on its own account or on account of its members.
And the subsequent provision makes the dividends of such an association taxable.
– But there is no double taxation. A society will be taxed only in respect of undistributed profits.
– That is so. The societies will not have to pay taxation if they distribute their profits.
– At what rate will their profits be taxed?
– They will be taxed on a flat rate, which is about ls. 6d. in the £1.
– That is at a rate about ls. Id. more than that at which the amounts distributed to the individual members will be chargeable. Our societies make up their balance-sheets every quarter, and return to their members whatever amount is available for disbursement. Such members, if their incomes are taxable at all, will be called upon to pay tax at the lowest rate, which would be about 5d. in the £1, yet the undistributed profits of the society to which they belong are to be taxed at 1s. 6d. in the £1. Take the case of a large number of shareholders in cooperative societies, who, under the present law, are not taxable. Under this measure they will be called upon to pay a flat rate of 1s. 6d. in the £1. There can be no escape from that position.
-They will not pay that rate on the distributed profits.
– All the profits are distributed quarterly.
– Many of the societies have reserve funds..
– As the honorable member knows, many of these societies have small reserve funds. But whatever amount may be derived from them as trading concerns is handed back to their shareholders.
– That is not done in the case of co-operative butter factories.
-I can speak only of what I know.
– The society in which the honorable member is interested has no fixed reserve fund?
– Sometimes it keeps a small reserve fund, for fear of some emergency arising; but, generally speaking, these societies live from hand to mouth.
– Their reserve funds are undistributed capital.
– Those funds represent profits.
– If there is a general distribution of all the profits, the honorable member need not worry about the tax, because, in that case, it will be the individual who will be taxed.
– Under the law, as it stands to-day, each shareholder is obliged to pay taxation upon the amount which he derives from the society. But under the Bill which we are now considering, he will be called upon to contribute a flat rate of1s. 6d. in the £1.
– That is in respect of the reserve.
– It is in respect of the profits of the society.
– But as soon as this money is paid over to the Income Tax Office, the individual is credited with what the company has paid.
– The taxpayer gets credit?
– But if he were taxed at the same rate as he is taxed today, he would be required to pay only 5¾d. in the £1. I repeat that many members of these co-operative societies who at present contribute nothing by way of income tax, because their incomes are not sufficient to bring them within the operation of the Act, will be obliged, under this Bill, to pay a flat rate of1s. 6d. in the £1.
– Will not the net result bethat each individual will have to pay upon the amount which he receives?
– No. I have just stressed that point in order that the Minister may offer an explanation in regard to it before we reach the Committee stage. The Acting Prime Minister stated last night that this Bill was intended to adjust certain matters in connexion with the principal Act, and that it would not yield additional revenue. I do not say that it will yield much additional revenue, but I am certain that it will return some. Take, for example, the provision relating to persons without dependants. Instead of their exemption being reduced £1 for every £4 earned in excess of £100, under this Bill it will be reduced only £1 for every £5 earned in excess of £100. In the case of married men, the position will be reversed. Instead of their exemption being £1 for every £4 earned in excess of the general exemption, it will be £1 for every £3 earned in excess of that exemption. I am not complaining of this. I believe that we ought to get all our revenue from an income tax. But, in my opinion, there are in the Commonwealth far more taxpayers with dependants than there are without dependants, and, consequently, so much more revenue must be collected under this Bill. Then, again, co-operative societies are a big thing in New South Wales and throughout Australia, and a good deal of additional revenue will be collected from them. Personally, I would prefer to see a straight-out tax imposed, even if the rate were increased. It is essential that we should procure additional revenue, and about the only way in which we can get it in time of war is by means of an income tax.
.- I think it is a great pity that before this Bill was submitted for our consideration the Government did not review the whole system of taxation. The cost of our civil government is very large, and, with our war expenditure . added to it, taxation in the Commonwealth is becoming a very serious matter. Next year, for example, we shall have to raise £7,000,000 or £8,000,000 for the purpose of paying interest on our war indebtedness. The Insurance and Banking Record sets the amount down at £7,000,000. We have to recollect, too, that the money to be taxed is gradually becoming less. According to Mr. Knibbs, the income of the whole of Australia is, approximately, £240,000,000. I think we may take it for granted that practically no tax will be paid by persons in receipt of less than £200 per year. That means removing from the firing line of taxation about £140,000,000, leaving only £100,000,000 on which to levy. Out of that sum the Commonwealth and State Governments are already taking £18,000,000. Before any tightening up of the Income Tax Act was proposed, the Government should have reviewed the whole system of taxation. In regard to a uniform income tax schedule, both for the States and the Commonwealth, there is no doubt that that is very desirable. We also require to adopt a uniform date for the close of the year over which the tax is to operate.
– There is a uniform date now.
– No. In New South Wales the taxpayer has to put in his return for the year ending in December - that is to say, for the calendar year. Coming to the question of the collection of the tax, I would point out that the States had their Income Tax Departments in existence long before the Commonwealth. Wemust recollect that the adoption of a uniform schedule, and the establishment of only one collector would mean depriving a great many civil servants of their jobs, and we can hardly expect the States to dismiss their officers in order that officers more recently ap pointed by the Commonwealth may be retained. I am of opinion that the latter should be allowed to collect the tax only from those taxpayers who have incomes in more than one State. The establishment of a Commonwealth Probate Office, a Commonwealth Land Tax Department, and a Commonwealth Income Tax Department, necessarily means an increase of civil servants, and the time has come when these officials must realize that we cannot go on multiplying their number indefinitely. In clause 41 of the Bill it is proposed to penalize a man who includes in his return the deduction of an amount which is not lawfully allowable. I regard that as a monstrous proposal.
– Order ! I would direct the honorable member’s attention to the fact that on the motion for the second reading of a Bill it is not permissible to discuss its clauses.The fullest latitude inthat direction willbe enjoyed by him in Committee.
– As a general principle, I say that to tax a man for an unwitting error is absolutely monstrous. I quite concur in the statements which have been made in regard to both the late Federal Taxation Commissioner and the present Commissioner. But I have a lively recollection of a State Commissioner in New South Wales taxing me to the extent of 10 per cent, for having put in my return a fortnight later than the prescribed date - which was equivalent to imposing on me a fine of £100. A suggestion has been put forward that mining companies should be allowed to deduct from their income any money which has been expended upon development or plant. Nobody has been louder than Ministers in urging the producers of this country to increase production. Now, we all know that the rabbit pest is one of the most serious menaces to production in Australia, especially since the trade in rabbits has become a commercial industry. As a result, people are now able to make money out of them, which they could not make before. At the present time, ifa land-owner, instead of playing with the pest by spending only a few hundred pounds per year in their destruction, destroys them absolutely, that expenditure is regarded as one in the nature of an improvement, and he is taxed upon it.
– Last year a promise was made to give redress in that matter.
– I understand that the right honorable member for Swan (Lord Forrest) promised to consider allowing expenditure on the destruction of rabbits to be deducted, and in acceptance of that promise many people have destroyed the rabbits on their property. I do not think that the subscriptions paid to clubs should be taxed.
– Some clubs are in debt, and are trying to liquidate their debt. Their subscriptions are to be taxed as income.
– Very few clubs, at the present time, are paying their way. I should like to see a higher graduation of the income tax. The bachelor tax should be abolished, and those men and women who have had the self-denial to accept the obligation of rearing families should be given a really substantial exemption for each child; in fact if a man had a certain number of children, he ought not to be taxed at all.
I agree with the remarks made by the honorable member for Kooyong (Sir Robert Best) in regard to retrospective legislation. This is a most pernicious principle, and was unknown in our legislation until it was introduced by the Labour party. I think it is quite right to tax the estate of a man who has died during the financial year. I see no reason why, because a man has died during the year, his estate should not pay any income tax. Some estates, I understand, have avoided taxation on that ground. Whilst the taxpayer is subject to all sorts of penalties for any evasion of the law, wittingly or unwittingly, the man who sells a property, and practically sells his income, is not taxed at all. In regard to landed estate, a man may have held land for a number of years, and paid rates and taxes upon it, and if he has not used the property he may be out of pocket when he sells. In such cases, it might rightly be contended that the proceeds of the sale should not be taxed. But if a man buys a pastoral property off the shears, and sells it before the sheep have been shorn, or before the ewes have lambed, he makes a profit, providing he bought wisely, representing the year’s income from the property. Such a profit is treated as accretion ofcapital, and is not taxed. I say that such profit should be taxed. By the taxation of income which has been sold, the Government would gain a tremendous amount of revenue, and they could then afford in other ways indicated, to give relief to producers.
– How could the profit on the sale of income be ascertained ?
– If the value of a leasehold in Queensland can be ascertained, for taxation purposes, there need be no trouble in arriving at the value of the wool on the sheep, and the probable increase from lambing. Viewing the amendments as a whole, they seem to represent a tinkering with the principal Act ; and I think that, before introducing any amending Bill, the Government would have been well advised to have reviewed the whole system of taxation in order to meet the enormous military and civil expenditure which is now being incurred by the Commonwealth.
Sitting suspended from 6.25 to 7.45 p.m.
.- I realize that this is a measure that can be dealt with in Committee; but there are some clauses to which I wish to refer before that stage is reached. When the Treasurer was speaking yesterday, I interjected in regard to the alteration made in the case of clubs. The Bill provides -
Income includes -
I take it that no honorable member desires to compel clubs to pay income tax on the amount they receive as subscriptions, when those clubs are not formed for the purpose of making a profit, but are purely sporting bodies, such as the swimming club I spoke of when I interjected. The honorable member for Henty (Mr. Boyd) remarked at the time that swimming clubs would not have an income sufficient to pay tax on. Do not make any mistake, this clause makes all income received by all clubs liable to be taxed. It does not impose the tax on the profit that the clubs make. No swimming club in this State has made a penny profit since the war started. The whole of the profits from carnivals has been given to patriotic funds. The entrance fees of members are about 2s. 6d. per head as a rule. I do not think any swimming club charges more than 5s. Then there are the donations which patrons or officials of the clubs give, including those of members of Parliament, and on all these amounts the clubs will have to pay income tax. Purely residential clubs that are making profits ought to pay. In the Treasurer’s own electorate, the St. Kilda Cricket Club, having had no football matches at all from which revenue could be derived in the district since the war broke out, as no football has been played on that ground, while the rent has been going on all the time, found, according to lasE week’s newspapers, that it was £700 in debt. A few good “sports,” publicspirited citizens, met together, and £105 was raised in the room towards liquidating the liabilities of the club. Under this Bill, the club will have to pay income tax on the whole of that £105.
– I do not think so. They have only to pay on the difference between receipts and expenditure.
– The honorable member will see by clause 2 that what I say is distinctly the case. The part dealing with clubs was introduced on account of a decision given in the Courts. Previously clubs were called upon to pay taxation on their receipts, but the decision of the Courts made them exempt, and this sub-clause has been introduced. I am sure no one wants to penalize genuine sporting clubs in this way. I have spoken privately to the Treasurer on the matter, and I think that, if we can find a way out, clubs not run for profit will not have to pay.
– A club pays only on its profits.
– If the honorable member will read the clause, he will see that clubs have to pay on their subscriptions.
– No; subscriptions are only included in the income.
– There is no exemption. They have to pay on all their receipts, even if they have made no profits, or are in debt. I am a member of a cricket club that owes about £4,000 on a grand stand. That club will have to pay on its income, although it is in debt to that extent. That was* never intended. I know there are leakages, which I am as anxious as any honorable member to stop.
– My honorable friend is quite wrong.
– Secretaries of clubs put the matter in quite a different way from the honorable member. They have asked me to bring the matter before the House, because they have had to pay on this basis, and they are anxious to be exempt, as they should be.
– My honorable ‘ friend is under a misapprehension.
– Then the secretaries have had to pay the tax under a misapprehension. If the money has been wrongly collected from them within the last two years, I presume that under this Bill they will be able to get a refund. It is a serious matter for the clubs, and I hope we shall be able to relieve them of this liability in cases where they are not run for profit. If a club is piling up huge profits, and spending money on erecting grand-stands, and improving its property in times like this, perhaps we have a right to make it pay a little, but it was never intended that clubs of the kind which I have described should be taxed, in this way. In many cases where the club is in debt, the debenture holders have received no interest for years. The clause introduces a wrong principle as far as many clubs are concerned, which I hope we shall remove.
We are all desirous of obtaining uniformity in the collection of taxation. It will be a good thing if we can do away <s with the necessity of making out two returns, which in practice means three or four, because most taxpayers keep duplicates. All this means a big expense in issuing the forms, and in printing. We should do all we can to secure uniformity. Personally, I think it is better for the Commonwealth to collect the whole of the income taxation. That view is borne out by the figures given by the Treasurer, showing that the cost of running the whole of the Commonwealth Taxation Department is only 2.63 per cent. The argument put forward by some honorable members, and by the State Treasurers, is that if the Commonwealth is allowed to collect all the money the States may not be able to obtain their share, and the time will come when the people will ask, ‘ What is the use of keeping up the State institutions, seeing that the Commonwealth is doing the work, and merely handing the revenue over to the State authorities?” It is most desirable to have uniformityof collection and uniform returns. I was surprised to hear that New South Wales had not adopted the same period for the collection of taxes as the other five States and the Commonwealth. We took a good step in 1915, when we made the income-tax year for the Commonwealth coterminous with the financial year. To most people the time now fixed is a better time to close accounts, as it is slacker than at the end of the calendar year. The wheat crop and the wool clip are all in by then, and most people have a better opportunity of making up their returns. Now that five of the six States are in line with the Commonwealth, it should not take much pressure to bring New South Wales into line also. When that happens we shall be able to simplify the preparation of the returns. The Treasurer astounded me when he said that doing away with duplication would save the people ofAustralia £1,500,000 a year. If we can save that, or any portion of it, it is our duty to do so. I trust the Government will instruct their officers to devise a uniform return to be used all over Australia.
– Do you think that £1,500,000 is correct?
– It can be only an estimate, but there is no doubt that many people employ and pay others to make up their returns. There is a great deal of worry and anxiety involved in making up the various returns, and now it is proposed in the Bill that a person who includes in his return a deduction which is not found to be allowable shall be finable.
– Surely we will knock that out?
– I hope we shall. I am anxious to tighten up the laws to punish wrong doers, but we should not punish persons who make innocent mistakes. We should be on right lines if we followed what is known as Part XV. of the Customs Act 1901. This provides that the cases of persons who make errors can be heard by the Collector, and afterwards dealt with by the Minister. Once a person agrees to have his case taken under that section of the Act, there is absolutely no appeal from the decision of the Minister. The honorable member for Kooyong (Sir Robert Best), who had a long experience as Minister for Customs, will know that the Minister deals with at least twenty cases of that kind per week. That means thousands in a year, and very little dissatisfaction is caused. Persons against whom no fraudulent intent can be charged have a right to some cheap, easy method of rectifying their mistakes.
– They may go to the Court under the Customs Act if they so desire.
– They can, but. not if they decide to have their cases tried by the Minister under Part XV. No doubt Mr. Ewing, Commissioner of Taxation, knows all about that procedure, because he was in the Customs Department. Persons who neglect to furnish returns ought to be punished, and the section making them punishable has worked well. I do not think that any one will say that they get off too lightly, nor can it be said that they are punished too severely for the offences they commit, but persons who commit simple errors, with no fraudulent intent, ought to be dealt with simply, without being dragged into Court.
The Bill provides that interest derived from war loan investments shall not be taxable unless it is set forth in the prospectus that such income will be taxable. From this it would appear that the Treasurer intends that future war loans shall not be exempt from taxation. As I said in September or October last, that is the proper course to adopt. If the rate of interest is not high enough to attract investors, the Treasurer should reconsider the whole question; but we certainly have no right to exempt any future war loans from State and Federal taxation. It is not right that one section of investors should be allowed an exemption equal to 6s. 3d. in the £1, while another should have an exemption equal to only 4d. in the £1, and in many cases no exemption at all. I am glad that the Government also intend totake action with regard to the taxation of dividends derived from companies. The honorable member for Kooyong (Sir Robert Best) this afternoon suggested ‘two alternative schemes, but my view is that we should see that our taxation operates fairly on every person in the community.
– Does not the honorable member recognise that the result of making future war loan investments liable to taxation will be to putthe present Commonwealth issues, amounting to £140,000,000, and £125,000,000 of State loans, at a premium ; and this for the sake of securing a little by way of taxation from future issues ?
– I recognise that there are difficulties in the way. In connexion with the last war loan, the Treasurer gave investors the opportunity of subscribing at 4½ per cent, free of taxation, or of receiving a higher rate of interest without any exemption from taxation. Out of the total subscription of some £43,000,000, however, about £37,000,000 was subscribed at 4½ per cent, free of taxation.
– That is equivalent to a return of about 7¼ per cent.
– Allowing for the fact that the income derived from such loans is free of both State and Federal taxation, I should say that the return is even greater. It is equal to nearly 2½ per cent, over and above what the small investor obtains.
– Did not the majority of the subscribers take up the war loan at 4½ per cent, free of taxation because they knew “that such issues would be at a premium ?
– No doubt that is so; and it is another reason why we should do our best to avoid any section of the community being placed in a very advantageous position compared with other persons. Already something like £148,000,000 has been raised by way of war loans in Australia, and the income on less than £5,000,000 of that amount is taxable. If this system is to continue, the time will soon come when this Parliament will have to look for some other means of taxation. I would not for a moment break faith with those who have invested in our war loan on the understanding that they are to be exempt from taxation. I would point out, however, that these are all short-dated loans. The first falls due in 1925, and it is an undoubted fact that, as they become due, the Treasurer of the Commonwealth will have to see that the redemption loans are not exempt from either State or Federal taxation.
– The whole trouble originated with a Government in which the honorable member held office
– I admit that. But it should not be forgotten that when the first war loan was issued there was no progressive income tax in operation. The existence of a progressive income tax today makes the position infinitely worse.
– The honorable member knows who was responsible for the action of the Government of the day in exempting the first war loan from State and Federal taxation.
– Every member of the Ministry, and, indeed, every member of the Parliament, who voted for that proposal must accept his share of responsibility.
– Not many on the other side at that time opposed it.
– Not one.
– I, for one, opposed it.
– I shall refer to Hansard to learn what the honorable member had to say on the subject. One of the first to propose that war loans should not be issued free of State and Federal income taxation was the Honorary Minister (Mr. Poynton). Many of us at that time could see that a mistake had been made in connexion with the first issue, and we were not afraid to admit it. We were anxious to retrace our steps, and to do the fair thing.
– In Canada war loans are issued at £97, free of taxation, and bearing interest at 5per cent.
– The principle of exempting from taxation income from war loans is wrong, particularly where a progressive income tax is in operation.
– Is notthe investor who puts money into a war loan at 4½ per cent., free of taxation, indirectly paying the tax, inasmuch as he could obtain 5 per cent, or 6 per cent, from other forms of investment?
– Quite so; but every one recognises that both State and Federal taxation is likely to be higher. In every civilized country to-day taxation is increasing instead of decreasing. - The gradations of our taxation are also likely to become steeper. It is a wrong and vicious principle to allow some persons in the community to entirely escape taxation by investing in certain stocks.
The Treasurer, in his second-reading speech yesterday, said that under this Bill mining companies would have to pay income tax on a scale similar to that operating under the war-time profits tax. It is well known, however, that the majority of our mining companies escape the war(-time profits taxation. In the Sydney Bulletin, of 4th April last reference was made to the position of the Wallaroo and Moonta Mining and Smelting Company of South Australia. In 1914 - the first year of the war - this company paid a dividend of 1 per cent., and had a reserve fund of £55,236. In 1915, it paid a dividend of 18f per cent., and increased its reserve fund to £163,321, while it reserved £136,000 for the payment of taxation. In 1916, it paid a dividend of 37^ per cent., and since it was found that the war-trim profits tax did not apply to the com- (pany, the £136,000 reserved for taxation purposes was restored to accumulated profits, making the total reserves £274,826. In 1917, the company paid a dividend of 31 per cent., and its reserves amounted to £308,118, as against a 1 per cent, dividend and a reserve fund of only £55,236 in 1914. These are facts of which the Treasurer should take notice. If these companies are able to build up huge reserves, and to escape war-time profits taxation, we should endeavour to tax them in another way.
– Some of them lessen their output as the price of their products increases.
– That is so; although I do not think it can be said of many mining companies in Australia which are producing material of value for munition purposes.
It is proposed in this Bill that the exemption shall remain at £156 in the case of married persons, with an allowance of £26 per annum for every child under sixteen years of age. 1 hold the view that the allowance in respect of children should be increased. No one will say that it is possible, in these days of high prices, to maintain a child on £26 per annum. Then, again, under the principal Act the exemption tapers off at the rate of £1 for every £5 in excess of £100 per annum derived by the taxpayer, whereas under this Bill it is to be reduced at the rate of £1 for every £4 in excess of £100. In the case of single persons without dependants, the exemption of £100 is to disappear at the rate of £1 for every £4 in excess of £100 earned by the taxpayer, so that in each case the exemption will entirely disappear at about the £600 level. The taxation officials may describe this as a scientific means of reaching the point at which every £1 of income will be taxable. In the one case that stage will be reached at the £624 per annum level, and in the other at the £600 level. I would urge the Treasurer to agree to a larger allowance in respect of children. In the first instance, we made an allowance of £13 in respect of each child. That was subsequently increased to £26, and I. think that. we might well make a still further increase.
– You would only pay about 13s. on that.
– It would depend largely upon the rate. If a man . were paying ls. in the £1, it would mean £1 6s. However, I will ascertain the amount I paid last year.
When the Treasurer was speaking yesterday, he intimated that the Government proposed to take 10 per cent, of receipts from lotteries, so evidently the Government intend to get some income from Tattersalls sweeps.
– And yet they will not legalize them.
– Nearly every week the newspapers contain an intimation that the Postmaster-General has caused “John Smith” or “Thomas Jones,” or somebody else in Hobart or Launceston, to be struck off the list of persons to whom letters may be delivered. Everybody knows then that another channel of communication with “ Tatt’s “ has been discovered, with the result that the persons named have been placed on the black list. The Government profess to be opposed to lotteries, but in the Bill before us they contemplate making “Tatt’s” another source of income tax revenue. I wonder what those gentlemen who waited on the Treasurer (Mr. Watt) the other day will say to this proposal to-
– Share the loot!
– Yes; I wonder what they will say about the Government proposal to seize some of this ill-gotten gain.
– It is rank hypocrisy.
– It is political hypocrisy, at any rate; and it will be interesting to know what the Rev. Henry Worrall, Dr. Leeper, and Archdeacon Hindley, who waited on the Treasurer the other day, will have to say on this subject, because they said, in effect, that they would sooner lose the war than that the Government should indulge in any form of gambling to encourage war loan investments. The Government, as we now find, intend to require all winners of Tattersall’s sweeps to hand over 10 per cent, of their winnings. It is political hypocrisy; and the point is, the Government cannot stop there. Either they will have to legalize this system of gambling, or else they must have no part or share in money made from it.
– It is equal to political bigamy.
– Well, I have not been guilty of that crime, and no doubt the honorable member isan authority, and therefore I will not dispute the matter with him.
I desire now to refer to the proposal to make the measure retrospective. Where there is reason to believe that fraud is being committed through the Act not being made retrospective, I would favour making it so ; but the principle is bad. I have always objected, as far as the War Precautions Regulations are concerned, to any proposal to make them retrospective, because the Government may, by that method, use a regulation to catch some one. The principle is vicious; and in regard to this Bill it should only be applied in cases where there is reason to believe that persons are endeavouring to perpetrate a fraud on the revenue. Whenever we introduce an alteration of the Customs Tariff, the Customs Houses throughout Australia are closed on the day that the Bill is introduced, and the new duties, as a rule, date from 4 o’clock in the afternoon. That is a fair method; but it is altogether a vicious principle to say that a taxation proposal such as that now under consideration may be dated back three months, six months, or three years. Unless the Minister in charge of the measure can show good reason for breaking away from a time-honoured principle, the departure should not be made. I am heartily in favour of the proposal to tighten up the measure to meet the cases of persons who are endeavouring to evade the payment of income tax, and I shall give the Government every assistance to prevent fraud, because all people should pay their fair share of taxation, particularly at this time, when every pound is required to meet our obligations and overcome the difficulties that confront us.
– I can heartily indorse the remarks just made by my leader (Mr. Tudor). I have always regarded the attitude of the Government towards Tattersall’s sweeps in Tasmania as being rank hypocrisy of the vilest type. It is absurd for the Government to say they cannot stop Tattersall’s sweeps. Whenever I go to Tasmania I usually take a ticket, and, notwithstanding all the “ wowser “ yelping and yapping at the Treasurer (Mr. Watt) the other day, I urge that the Government, during the war, at all events, should take over Tattersall’s sweeps. A friend of mine who attended a drawing told me he could see nothing wrong with it. It is the height of absurdity for the Government of this mighty Commonwealth to say that they cannot stop it if they want to. We know, however, that Tasmania depends upon it for a certain portion of her income, and that may be the reason that prevents this Government from using their powers in the direction of prohibiting the sweeps. Whenever we go down our streets we can see wheels of fortune humming round, and, in my judgment, it is hypocrisy to pick out Tattersall’s for special treatment. Let us run these sweeps in Melbourne or Sydney under Government supervision, and let everything be above board.
– With war bonds for prizes?
– That is a good suggestion.
I regret deeply that we are not taxing wealth as it should be taxed to meet our obligations in regard to this war, and I honour men like Sir John Grice, the chairman of directors of the National Bank, who stated the other day that men of great wealth were able to get from war bonds a return of7 per cent., and even more than that, whereas smaller investors, who invested all they could spare, could only secure a return of 4½ per cent. I do not accuse Sir John Grice of providing a peg for Labour agitators like myself to hang arguments upon. I think he was wisely looking into the future, and could see the debacle that would probably come upon Australia after peace is declared if the Government continue the policy of exempting war loan investments from taxation. I have given much study to this subject, and I know what a terrible commercial crisis ‘came upon Prussia after conquering Prance, notwithstanding that Germany had £200,000,000 in gold stored in the fortress of Spandau. Sir John Grice, I repeat, was wisely looking into the future when he uttered his warning, and could see the disastrous effect which the withdrawal of a large sum of money invested in our war loans - about £130,000,000 in round figures- from the area of taxation would have upon our financial position. He could see the danger ahead of this country, and realized that we are standing on the brink of a precipice, because that large amount cannot be withdrawn from taxation without making the burden fall more heavily upon the middle classes and the poorer sections of our community. We all know how countries in Europe have been devastated by this war, for which the brutal and bloodthirsty scoundrel of a Kaiser lias been responsible; and, even if I weary honorable members, I repeat that I hope one day to hear of the Kaiser’s body, as well as the ‘ body of every kinglet and princelet who caused this war, swinging in the streets of Berlin, in spite of what might have been said by Archdeacon Hindley, who does not hesitate to avoid telling the truth occasionally in the pulpit.
There is not one of those who have been engaged in trade and commerce in all its varied forms who would not thank his Creator if he could get back to those devastated places, even if he did not have one penny profit through all these terrible years of war. But what have been the profits of the big companies in this community during this war? I take this opportunity of thanking the Bulletin for its weekly summary of financial news. One may look through any issue of that paper and see what is happening. I have here a copy, and find that Paul and Gray, of Sydney, in 1913, the year before the war, had a reserve fund of £16,000, and, in 1917, it was £39,000. Let me take another. Finney, Isles, and Company, of Brisbane, in 1913, had a reserve fund of £44,000, and paid 8 per cent, dividend. In 1916 they wrote down £31,000; and yet, in 1918, they had still a reserve fund of £43,000, and still paid 8 per cent. Wunderlich, in 1913, had a reserve of £61,000, and, in 1918, £98,000. The Vacuum Oil Company, in 1914, had a reserve of £600,000 ; in 1915-16 it had increased to £800,000, and in 1917 to £1,600,000. According to the Bulletin of the 18th April last, the Commercial Bank of Tasmania had a reserve of £224,000 in 1913, and, notwithstanding the fact that two amounts- of £4,200 have been written off in the meantime, and dividends of 24 per cent, have been paid, that reserve has been increased this year to £283,000. The Cascade Brewery Company, of Hobart, paying a dividend of 6 per cent., had a reserve fund of £18,781 in 1913, but that reserve increased to £34,462 by the end of 1917, though the same rate of dividend has been paid. The South Australian Brewing Company had a reserve of £50,968 in 1913, and,, notwithstanding the fact that £69,000 has been written off since that date, it has now a reserve fund of £54,384. The Civil Service Co-operative Company, in Sydney, has increased its reserve fund from £49,011, in 1914, to £51,590 during the present war, although large amounts have been paid away by way of bonuses to shareholders. If honorable members will look at the Wild Cat column in the Bulletin, they will see from week to week how the wealth of companies is increasing, and how very rarely it is that a loss is shown, or that a company’s accounts balance fairly.
In addition to thanking Sir John Grice, I wish to place on record my appreciation of the manly statement made by Mr. Baillieu, that our war-time profits taxation does not touch him or people like him. Mr. Baillieu is now on his way to reaching his second million. I do not care how much money the Broken Hill Companies may make, because I know that when our party come back to power the Government will take its share. Fifty per cent, of our men have enlisted, but we have not reached 50 per cent, of the last shilling yet. In her hour of danger Australia ‘ asks her children to help her, and she, the kind mother, in her generosity pays -4£ per cent. How many of the great patriots of Australia have lent their money to the Government free of interest? I dare say that if the request was flung wide throughout Australia, asking people to lend their money during the war time free of interest, there are many who would give it. The Secretary to the Treasury has informed me in a letter that eight persons have loaned to the Commonwealth £640, for various periods, free of interest, that four persons have made free contributions of £40 10s., that interest on war loan bonds, amounting to £20 17s. 6d., has been repaid to the Commonwealth by five persons, and that donations have been made to the War Contributions Fund of £87,785 17s. 3d., this amount having been donated by a large number of persons, a number, however, being unknown to the Treasury. If the names of those who have contributed that £87,785 could become known, it would be “ up “ to the Commonwealth to grant them a certificate of honour similar to that which was issued to any person who voted at the Federation referendum.
America has been in the war for a little over a year, but J. D. Rockefeller, on an income of £12,000,000, pays £7,600,000 in taxation; Andrew Carnegie, who is not a resident of the United States, pays a greater proportion, namely, £1,300,000 on an income of £2,000,000; Henry Ford pays £600,000 on an income of £l,0O0,00P; and J. Pierpont Morgan pays £450,000 on an income of £700,000.
Once when I was in the Victorian State House, and the Probate Duties Bill was under discussion, there was a proposal before honorable “ members to impose a graduated scale of duties on estates rising from £10,000 to £100,000. The hour was late, and I endeavoured to have the words added “ and shall continue in the same ratio.” My amendment might have been carried had not one man, an unfortunate Scotchman, whom I have always blamed, got up and said that he did not object to the increase which his young friend, as I was termed in those days, had proposed, if the proportion ceased’ to rise at £200,000, because that would mean more than 20 per cent. I was pulling his coat tails at the time, trying to persuade him to let the amendment go, and have it knocked out in another place, because I was exceedingly anxious to get the amendment passed. If it had been agreed to it would have meant 30 per cent, on estates valued at £300,000, and that on estates valued at £1,000,000 everything would go to the State. In America, Mr. Ford pays 60 per cent, on his income of £1,000,000.
The income of the Broken Hill mines can remain the same with a limited output, because of the increase in the price of the metals. The metal is there to be mined, but it is found that with a smaller output they can still earn the same revenue as was earned prior to the war. Having the same income as they had prior to the war they escape our wartime profits taxation. That is the statement which they make. They are perfectly open on the matter. They say that they will escape all taxation under the War-time Profits Tax Act.
According to the Bulletin of the 14th March last, the North Broken Hill Limited paid a 20 per. cent, dividend in 1913, and had a reserve of £78,753. That reserve rose to £109,000 by the end of the year, but in 1917 the company, after paying dividends of 40 per cent., increased its reserve fund to £528,482. According to the Bulletin of the 11th January last, the Mount Morgan Company made a profit of £144,000 in 1913, and £141,000 in 1916. That was a case in which there was a drop of a few thousand pounds, but the profit increased to £168,000 in the following year.
– Can the honorable member suggest how we can make these companies increase their output?
– I cannot offer any suggestion. When these mines threatened to close down at the outbreak of war, the only way that I could see of keeping them going was for the Commonwealth Government to purchase all their metals at the cost at which they were selling in London previous to the war. For example, silver was selling at 2s. per ounce. I suggested to Mr. Andrew Fisher that we should do this in consideration of the companies keeping on full time, and that if. they failed to do so, the State Government, by the law of eminent domain, should seize the mines and work them in order to keep the town going. We have no keener instance of a town depending on mines than in the case of Broken Hill. The Age was kind enough to publish in its best columns a letter which I sent in dealing with this subject. It drew more attention to the matter than any remarks I made in the House would do. The outcome of it was that the Baillieus asked me to meet them. I gladly complied with their request, and we went into the matter thoroughly. After a few conversations, Mr. Baillieu empowered me to offer to Mr. Fisher the output of the mines at 30 per cent, less than the selling price in London. Had that offer been accepted it would have brought down the price of silver to ls. 4 4r5d. per ounce. I understand the price is now 4s. 3½d. per ounce. An ounce of silver will coin bullion to the value of 5s. 6d. If £1,000,000 worth of our Australian notes had been expended in so many ounces of silver at ls. 4 4-5d. per ounce, it would have given a profit of 300 per cent. But there was no necessity to have- the silver minted. It could have been kept in ingots at the Treasury. I said to Mr. Fisher that if, for argument’s sake, the German arms prevailed, and the German Fleet came here, the value of our notes or our bank balances would be nil, but that if we had all these ingots in the Treasury every citizen could take out his savings in gold and silver in the proportion of 25 per cent, gold and 75 per cent, silver, and plant, it in his back” yard. . I could not persuade Mr. Fisher to adopt my suggestion, and an opportunity of paying a large portion of the war expenditure was lost.
However, I would go further than America has gone. I would allow every company to make a profit equal to that which waa earned prior to the war, and I would take everything in excess. We are not feeling the war as those who are on the frontiers of the fighting are feeling it. We are only in the shadow of it. We see a uniform here and there in the streets, and we see, unfortunately, one of God’s images minus a limb, and the sadness of the sight grips our hearts, but we do not know what war is. I have never seen an actual war, but I passed over a battlefield shortly after a battle had taken place, and the’ horrors and miseries attendant upon war were very patent from what I saw there. I say that in our hour of need, as a part of the British Empire, we should not allow any one to retain profits in excess of the pre-war profits of his business. I am always thankful to Sir Alexander Peacock for putting on record the increased profits shown by insome tax returns. In one case, he showed that the increase during war-time was over 2,000,000 per cent, of the pre-war profits. The number of businesses started only a few years before the war must be comparatively small, and an examination by accountants would soon disclose the profits that should be allowed in such cases on a fair basis of, say, 10 per cent.
Honorable members must, in this connexion, bear in mind that we are dealing with enemies within our gates. We have many such enemies. Every man who has raised rents during the war, and every man who has unduly raised the prices charged for foodstuffs is, in my view, an enemy more vile than the enemies in front of us with weapons in their hands. They are our avowed enemies, but the man who, for the sake of filthy lucre, makes excessive profits during the war in the time of his country’s need, is a viler being than is the enemy who tries to destroy us with a rifle in his hand. That will be found to be the view entertained by the mothers in Australia who, after all, are the really heroic amongst us. The woman who is striving to keep a roof over her children, and to bring them up on very limited means, is a real .heroine. Hers is a life of constant worry and annoyance, and she is under a constant feeling of dread every moment in every day of the week, from the time of the landlord’s knock on Monday morning until he knocks again on the following Monday. A Jewish gentleman in this city, when I questioned him about raising rents, gave me an answer which I shall never forget. He ‘ brusquely refused to reduce ‘ his rents, and was careless of what I proposed to do in consequence. I informed him that I was going to do it, and do it hard. I received a courteous letter next day, asking me to come down and see him, and when I did so, he told me that he had considered the matter after I left; that he wanted only his 6 per cent. ; and that as he had decided that there ought not to be an increase of profits during war time, he would not increase the rents of his houses until the war was over. He said that he had thought it right to tell me that, and when’ I inform honorable members that he was the owner of fifty or sixty houses, they will understand the nature of the concession he was prepared to make. But he said to me, “ Why does not your Parliament bring in a law to stop landlords doing, this? Why should it be necessary for you to come down as you did last night and bully me to prevent rents being increased?” Well, I also ask why Parliament does not attend to this matter, and also the question of the increase in the price of foodstuffs 1 There should be a simple list posted up at every post-office in the country giving the local price over the counter of different kinds of foodstuffs, and there should be posted with that list the name of an officer to whom any one might address a post-card which would be followed by a prosecution where an overcharge was made. That would give the people a chance. A member of one of Mr. Gladstone’s Governments is credited with the saying that the introduction of the income tax made the English a greater nation of liars than did all the taxation that had ever been introduced before.
There are some amendments proposed by this Bill with which I agree. I have not been able to give a great deal of time to its consideration, but there are questions involved in this form of taxation which it will be somewhat difficult to deal with. I take the case of an orchardist, and it will be admitted that from the time he begins the laying-out of his orchard he must look forward to seven or eight years of continual expenditure without any practical’ return. During that time, he must spend money in wages, in the purchase of plants, in fencing and wire netting. He cannot deduct anything for this expenditure from his income during that period. In the eighth year he may derive a small income from his orchard, and in that year his expenses may be deducted from that income. I point out that the income derived in that eighth year is not the results of the orchardist’ s efforts in that year, but the accumulated effect of his efforts during the preceding seven years. After a little advice I received from the Commissioner of Taxes, I can quite see that it would perhaps open lie door to defalcation; but I point out that, whilst we can never hope to entirely prevent burglary, we can make it very awkward for the burglars whom we catch; and in the same way we could make it very awkward for the man who studiously endeavours to rob his country by falsifying his income returns. The same problem arises in the case of many settlers upon’ the land. If land is not cleared, it is merely an asset for the future. It brings in no return to the owner, and supplies no produce to add to the traffic upon our railways, or to be of use in meeting the requirements of the community. Some time is occupied in the clearing of land before it can be made productive; and I understand that if a man puts up a new fence on land he cannot deduct the expense from his income, whilst if he repairs or patches up an old fence, he mav deduct the expenditure which that involves.
On the whole, I believe the Bill is one which we can support, and for the introduction of which we may commend the Government. I trust that it is only the herald of another Bill which will serve to repeal that fraud upon finance known as the War-time Profits Tax Act. I do not know how any fair-minded man can support such a measure The party on this side objects to any loans the interest upon which is to be free from taxation;’ but what are we to do later on? The problem before us is one which will tax the keenest of our financial minds if we are to save our face and still keep our contract with the people.
I want to say that, so far as repudiation in this connexion is concerned, I shall not have anything to do with it in any shape or form. I cannot see how any good could possibly arise from it. I can recognise the nation’s need, and that necessity knows no law; I can understand that the nation may have to appeal to its members, and may, even by force if necessary, have to take what is needed for its preservation; but as for repudiation, I will have none of it.
Suppose we come out of the war with a debt of £300,000,000, I shall strongly object if it is proposed that’ future generations of Australians shall’ be called upon to pay for a war initiated by the Kaiser and his gang. I am with Sir John Grice all the time when he says the removal’ of so much money from the field of taxation must limit advances by banks and other financial institutions to manufacturing and similar concerns, because the removal of money invested in war loans from the field of taxation must produce the effect of increasing the taxation upon other forms of investment. I do not intend to speak at any greater length, but I may say that if honorable members will turn up almost any issue of the Bulletin they will find cases reported similar to those which I have quoted.
Our country needs revenue at the present time. In the Home Land for every £3 raised by borrowed money they raise £1 in revenue; whilst here we do not raise £1 in revenue for every £10 of borrowed money that we spend. We cannot continue in that way. I have said all that I intend to say on the second reading of this measure, but I hope the Government will introduce a Bill which will force those who have accumulated huge profits during the war to pay a fair proportion of those profits to meet the needs of the country.
– One or two honorable members haveasked that I should say something about the position of co-operative societies under the Bill. There is really no change made upon the existing law. A co-operative society is taxed upon the income it has made, but this income is earned in order to be distributed to the members of the society. The managers of a co-operative society may accumulate a part of one or two years’ profits, but it may be generally assumed that a distribution of all profits takes place, because a co-operative society is established for the mutual benefit of its members, and not” for the accumulation of capital.
– Then the1s. 6d. flat rate will not apply to the profits of such societies ?
– It will apply so long as the income of the society is not distributed. When a distribution of the income takes place, the individual members of the society will have to account for what they receive in the way of a dividend from the society, in the statement of their ordinary income, and the taxation levied upon it will vary with the taxation chargeable upon the income of the individual member. I agree with the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. Charlton), that there are cases where the co-operative company may have to pay the flat rate, and the individual member will then receive a little less than he would receive if the company were not taxed, but it is impossible to frame any system of taxation free from all inequalities.
– What I understand is that the method of taxation will continue asat present, except where money is placed in reserve by a co-operative society, when it will be taxed at the flat rate of1s. 6d.
– Yes, but if it is ever distributed in dividends to the members of the society, the individual members will have to pay income taxation in respect of the proportion of the income of the society distributed to them.
– They will not be taxable on the amount of money they have paid for the purchase of goods in cooperative stores.
– Payments made for the purchase of goods are taken into account as revenue of the society. A payment by an individual would not be taxable, and that touches the question raised about clubs.
Another matter of importance was mentioned by the honorable member for Kooyong (Sir Robert Best), and also by the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Higgs), that is, the question of taxing dividends at their source. No doubt it is fairer to tax dividends in respect to the incomes to which they belong than to tax them at the source, that is, to tax the shareholders in respect of the dividends which they have received ‘in proportion to the total amount of their income.
– I have not disputed that.
– That is so; the statement is almost a truism universally acknowledged. What grounds should we have for altering our system an.d taxing dividends at their source? The only reason could be to provide a simpler method of collecting the tax.
– And to bring our legislation more into conformity with that of the States.
– With all respect to the States, I think their method a wrong one. The principle of taxing the shareholder which is adopted by the Commonwealth is the fair method. It does exactly what is wanted, making each shareholder pay according to the scale of progression prescribed by the Act. The States, to obtain simplicity in administration, and regardless of the perfection of incidence, tax dividends at the source.
– Does not the Commonwealth method cost more?
– I do not think so. What is done is this: A company sends in its return together with a list of the dividends paid to its shareholders. From the total income of the company there are deducted the dividends paid to .its shareholders, the balance, which is the undistributed . income, being taxed on a flat rate. If that balance be subsequently paid to shareholders, they are credited with their proportion of the tax already paid on it under the flat rate. That is a fair system, and as simple as the method adopted by the States. If the Commissioner wishes to ascertain whether a taxpayer has paid in respect of the dividends that he has received, he merely consults the list of shareholders, and should no return have been made toy some particular shareholder, the fact is at once apparent. I have been told by the Commissioner, and I believe that his statement is correct, that our method is simpler than that of the States.
– The British method ‘ is quite different.
– In Great Britain they have a recoup system. There the bulk of the shareholders have much larger incomes than our shareholders, and it is, therefore, easier to make to them a recoup of what has been paid by a company on their behalf. The English system is less simple than ours, necessitating a recoup department and a certain amount of duplication. The administration in Great Britain is at least as complex as ours is alleged to be by hostile critics. The principle embodied in our taxation is more equitable than that in the English law, and, taking, all things into consideration, our administration is, at least, as simple as that of Great Britain. The States, I think, must have looked at the English system and found it too complex to apply. They tax the dividends of companies on a flat rate, but do not allow recoups. Why? It cannot be on the ground of honesty, but must be to save expense and trouble in administration. We had better leave well alone. With all modesty, J say that our system is better than that of the States.
The subject of penalties has been mentioned, including the penalty of £1 per month for delays in furnishing returns, which is an alternative penalty. One must have regard to the evil that exists when criticising the character of the remedy applied. I have been told that it is exceedingly difficult to get certain things done. The imposition of most of these penalties is a matter of administration, and the Commissioner, or whoever may act for him, will not apply them harshly, nor more than is necessary for the proper working of the law. The same remarks apply to the omission of the word “wilful” in certain cases. It would be hard in some cases to punish for omissions, but unless a penalty is provided there will be serious omissions, with consequent loss of revenue and increase in the cost of administration. The Commissioner has power to say that penalties shall not be enforced, and all that we ask is that the spirit which actuates legislators may imbue the actions of the Commissioner when dealing with mistakes that are unwittingly made.
As to the retrospective character of the measure, it is rather complicated, some clauses being retrospective to 1915, others to another date, and others, again, to the 30th June, 1917. The. Bill is to cure some mistakes which it would be very harsh to continue. For instance, there is double taxation now in respect of the dividends of some companies. If the Commissioner finds that a reasonable amount of the income of the company for a particular year is not being apportioned among the shareholders, he may declare a tax on it as if it had been distributed; but this is without prejudice to the remedies against the company, with the result that the company is taxed at the flat rate, and its shareholders are’ also taxed, there being double taxation. That is inequitable, and was not intended by Parliament, and we have made those provisions which put an end to it retrospective. ‘ There are cases, therefore, where, to do justice according to the original intent,’ the measure is retrospective.
– It is not retrospective against the taxpayer.
– Yes, it is.
– I should not like to speak absolutely on that point, because I have not been able to go through the measure recently. The honorable member for Kooyong (Sir Robert Best) put very fairly the difficulties in the Meares’ case, in which it was decided that a payment to an appropriation account is not a payment to profit and loss, and, therefore, that the income so paid is accumulated income within the meaning of the Act, and consequently subject to taxation. We now provide by> this Bill that payments to profit and loss or- appropriations account will be in the same category, and regarded as accumulated income, and that it will, therefore, he subject to taxation. This is also to be retrospective. It would mean, if such were not the case, that a great many taxpayers would have to be granted refunds.
– The Wallaroo mining case is met here.
– It is- the principle of it.
As regards the club question, perhaps I ought to speak with bated breath, because I do not know what should or should not be done. There has been a decision of the High Court, in the case of what is known as the Bohemian Club, to the effect that the subscriptions of clubs aTe not regarded as revenue in relation to the taxation of those bodies. This Bill proposes to regard them as revenue of a club, and that, therefore, taxation will be levied. The point arises whether these clubs should or should not be taxed. II a man pays for the benefits which he gets from the club it will be an expenditure by himself, and, so far as it was not all gone, the balance would return to the same pocket. If three or four men paid in sums for certain particular benefits, the whole of the contributions not spent - the balance - would go back to their own pockets. It will be said, therefore, that the payments made should not be regarded in any sense as income. The theory is, however, that a club is an entity, as is a corporation, distinct from the members, and that, therefore, what it receives from its members is revenue. I think that is the theory on which the Act is based. The subscriptions are regarded as revenue, and the ground taken by the Court was that it was not revenue because it was a capital payment by the members themselves. I have not had an- opportunity to look up the matter ; but I might mention that, in connexion with the Defence of the Realm Act in England, there were two decisions as to companies. In one it was laid down that a company was quite distinct from the shareholders, and although 99 per cent, of them might be Germans by origin, the company itself might be English, and, therefore, would not be subject to the War Precautions Act. ‘ The matter went to the House of Lords, and I think they decided that the colour of the company depended on the colour of the shareholders as a whole. I do not know exactly how that touches clubs. I thought I would just open the question,’ and leave it to the common sense of honorable members in Committee to deal with it.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clause 1 agreed to.
Debate resumed from 1st May (vide page 4294), on motion .by Mr. Glynn -
That this Bill bc now read a second time.
– I do not think there is much to delay honorable members in regard to this measure. The question was raised last night as to what was likely to occur with respect to the parks if this acquisition took place. I believe there is a park named Leichhardt Park. I mentioned last evening that there was a number, of other parks within 2 or 3 miles of the site of these five acres. Leichhardt Park is only about 300 yards away, and it is a very pretty spot. It was stated also by honorable members that children, played upon the ground in question, and that if we took it away they would be deprived. There is this Leichhardt Park for them, and two others near at hand. Besides, this particular place is not suitable as a park for the district. It is cut off by a railway from the very population which is supposed to discharge its children upon this ground for recreation purposes. Objection was also taken on the ground that big ships ‘ could not come- up. It is not intended that they shall do so. It is not proposed that they shall go under the bridge. The whole of the work in Darling Harbor, T understand, is done by lighters and barges, so that the depth of 9 feet at high tide is sufficient for the passage of vessels of that class. Reference was also made to a reserve named Callan Park. There is a sort of prorogation to take place at the Asylum there, I understand; the lunatics are to vacate it, for a time, and it has been suggested that we might acquire it. But I would point out that the railway is about 3 miles behind the Callan Park site, whereas one of the chief recommendations of the site which we are discussing is that it possesses a water frontage, that it is near the city, near the manufacturing centres, near the trams, and close to the railway.
– Cana suitable foundation for the buildings be obtained there?
– According to Mr. Swinburne’s report, “Yes.”
The only other matter to which I desire to refer is the suggestion that the Government will be taking away this park from the people without giving them another in its stead. I have here a telegram from Colonel Sands, addressed to the DefenceDepartment, which I did not read last night, because I really did not know whether it was confidential. It reads -
Kindly advise the Minister, also the Minister for Home and Territories, that I attended special meeting of the Leichhardt Council, and that no antagonistic public attitude need be expected from that body. In fact, they say the proposition is a good thing for their municipality. They intend approaching the State Government, however, to get the purchase money allowed to them, so that they canbuy another site. The State Government will be in favour ofdoing this.
The Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Watt) has already promised that if the Bill be passed in its present form, when we shall merely have acquired power to take over the site, regard will be paid to the views put forward by honorable members that we ought not to finalize matters until some definite assurance is forthcoming that the money will be applied by the State to the acquisition of another park to serve the purposes of this particular district. If that be done, everything that honorable members desire will have been attained. I do not believe in depriving our citizens of their parks. But paragraph 15 of the Defence Committee’s report refers to thenecessity for securing some suitable site for ordnance stores in Sydney, which are at present scattered all over that city.
According to Mr. Swinburne’s report this is the best site that is available.
– How much are you pay- ing for it?
– That has not been finally determined. We have merely obtained a valuation. But there will be sufficient money for the purchase of a new park. I am also informed that the existing buildings for ordnance purposes will realize something like £70,000 or £80,000. They are admirably adapted for business purposes, so that there will be quite a lot of money available for the erection of ordnance stores.
Question - That the Bill be now read a second time - put. The House divided.
Majority . . . . 16
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clause 1 (Short title).
.- I move as an amendment -
That the words “ Lands Acquisition Act “ be struck out with a view to inserting the words “Robbery of the Public Parks Act.”
– That amendment is decidedly disorderly.
– Do you rule, sir, that I may not move an’ amendment to describe the Bill in those terms?
– The words proposed to be inserted by the honorable member are outside the scope of the Bill, and are entirely disorderly.
– May I substitute the words, “Departure from a Great Public Principle Act “ ?
– Such an amendment would not be relevant to the Bill.
– I submit that the Committee may give the Bill any title it chooses.
– If the honorable member disagrees with my ruling, he may make a motion of dissent and appeal to the Committee.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 2 (Power to acquire land de. scribed in schedule).
.- I hope that the Minister for Home and Terri- * tories (Mr. Glynn) will agree to the postponement of the Bill. I understand that, in addition to taking possession of the park mentioned , in the schedule, the Defence Department is acquiring land on the opposite side of the street and canal, and that it proposes to spend upwards of £100,000 - in fact a quarter of a million pounds has been mentioned - on the erection of. stores on this and the adjacent sites. Nobody can contend that these works are urgent, because these large* buildings cannot be erected in time to be of any service during the present war. The building material for their erection is not available, and they cannot be ready for occupation inside two years. If ever there was a work which should be referred to the Public Works Committee, it is the erection of these stores. When Parliament was asked to exempt Defence works from the operations of the Public Works Committee, it was on the ground that such works would be of an urgent character, and that inquiry by that body might delay their construction. No such argument can be applied in connexion with the proposed ordnance stores. As the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Higgs) said, the Government are proposing a departure from a great public- principle. The Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Watt) promised last night that the Government would -substitute other grounds suitable for park purposes. That assurance has Been given in connexion with every bit of park taken by the Government in this or’ any other country. It is said that these stores are to be erected for the purpose of concentrating in one locality all the ordnance stores in the Second Military District. That is an excellent idea, but there is no need to rob the public of their parks in order to give effect to it. Has any honorable member ever known a public park to be taken so hurriedly as this one is being taken? We saw this Bill last night for the first time. The honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Mahony) returned to Sydney to-night in order to tell the people in his electorate what the Government propose to do. The Government would do well to hold their hand, and to allow a full inquiry by the Public Works Committee. Surely there are hundreds of other suitable sites in the Sydney metropolitan area. The Minister stated that goods can be transported in barges under the bridge that spans the Iron Cove. There are hundreds of places where goods can be handled in barges. The proposed site is no better than dozens of others that are available. We were informed by the Minister that, had not this area been gazetted as a park some time in the present year, the Government would have been able to acquire it by proclamation. Would the State Government have resumed and paid for this land if there was a beautiful park within 300 yards of it, as we have been told ?
– I said there were a number of parks within 3 miles of this place, and that one is only 300 yards away.
– It is separated from the proposed stores site by a canal or drain. The Government are making a big mistake. Municipal authorities have often objected to factories being erected near public parks because they depreciated the value of those reserves to the public. There is not a place in Australia that has not some local government provision to prevent certain trades being established in particular localities. Apparently, we are going to take part of this park without any inquiry. So far as I know, no honorable member on this side has had an opportunity of seeing the reports. There is nothing confidential in them, nor can they be of any advantage to the enemy. If it was a question of putting up a fort in a place where it would help us to defend Australia, I would have no hesitation in voting for taking part of a park, but I shall not do so where the purpose is merely to erect a store that could be put in almost any part of the metropolitan area of Sydney. If Parliament does that in this case, the Government may come down next week with a proposal to take 50 acres out of Albert Park, Fawkner Park, Yarra Park, or Royal Park, on the ground that the Victoria Barracks in St. Kilda-road are too small. Last night the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Boyd) pointed out how, on numerous occasions, Governments have taken park lands in the desire to obtain cheap sites for buildings. Instead of taking away part of the recreation reserves from the people, it should be our desire to increase them. What the honorable member for -Melbourne (Dr. Maloney) said last night is absolutely true. Melbourne Ls fairly well supplied with parks within a 3 miles radius of the General Post Office, but outside that area little provision has been made. Go east from Parliament House across the river to Hawthorn Bridge, and you will find very few reserves as you go further out. There is a small reserve at Grace Park, another at Henry-street, Hawthorn, and another at Canterbury, and there may !be a few other, parks, but you would travel pretty well to Ferntree Gully, a distance of 20 miles, before finding a park of any size. We are asked now to take away from the most densely populated city, in Australia, as Sydney is considering its area, part of its public reserves, without any protest from honorable members on the Government side.
– You must not ignore the water space we have in the harbor.
– Nature provided that for Sydney, and Sydney is putting advertising stands all round it, with electric light designs at night boosting somebody’s wine or somebody else as a good tailor.
Sydney is ill-provided with park lands, and I shall not allow the Bill to go through without a protest on behalf of the citizens of that city. Does the Minister mean that the Government are going to resume other land, which is already built on, for the purpose of preparing other park lands in place of this site? If so, that is all the more reason why we should have an inquiry before we go further. All those parts of the reports which are not confidential should be made available, and the people in the Leichhardt district who are interested should be allowed to be heard on behalf of themselves and their children. One difficulty is that local councillors often do not live in the district they represent. That is the case in many metropolitan districts in Victoria. Let us hear from the people who have to live in the district what they think of the proposal, and let us know what the Department of Home and Territories proposes to do, and how much it intends to spend on various buildings. Is it true that over £200,000 is to be spent there? Is it true that the frontage, of the Victoria Barracks to Oxford-street is to be remodelled, and the frontages all sold? No doubt, when that site was first taken, it was part’ of park lands.
No honorable member can point to a single case where land taken from a park has ever been put back again. One of the worst examples in Melbourne is at the corner of Wellingtonparade and Punt-road. There was a reserve there in the early days for a police paddock. A State school was built on the corner, and when the police horses were removed to St. Kilda-road, the Treasurer or Premier of the day sold the surrounding land. The whale corner, comprising from ‘5 to 7 acres, was taken out of the park, and the children attending that State school - all my children have gone there - have practically no playground, because houses have been put all round the school, and to reach the park the children have to ,go on the road, where trams and other vehicles are continually passing. That corner is one of the deathtraps of the city. There is a sign on the other side calling on motorists to drive slowly because of the proximity of the school, as the children have to cross the public road, where there are trams running, instead of going into the park. I shall vote against the clause.
– I agree with the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Tudor) as to the necessity for preserving the park lands in every city, and if the Minister had not given the House the assurance that the value of the land will be applied to the purchase of a park elsewhere for the use of the residents of Leichhardt, I should have voted against the second reading. I am. acquainted with the locality, and should imagine that the site was very valuable, as it has a direct water frontage, as well as a frontage to the canal. It is in close proximity to a park, but is not a park itself. So far as I know, it is bare land.
– It was only dedicated on the 1st March this year. How could they make a park in a few weeks?
– That is news to me, because, many years ago, when I lived in Leichhardt, it was used as a playground. I do not know under what title it was held.
– It has been filled up with silt since you were there. It is a different place altogether.
– I spoke in the Leichhardt Town Hall on the iniquity of the State Government destroying that same area of land by erecting big stores there, thus spoiling the utility of that particular site for a park. They took away so much that what remained is of very little value for park purposes, because it is surrounded by very ugly buildings, and has an overhead railway at one end of it. I should like the money paid for this park land to be spent in securing three or four smaller parks in the congested parts of Leichhardt. This area is on the extreme edge of Leichhardt, and far removed from the congested area in that suburb. It is in close proximity to a very fine park overlooking the foreshore, and is in a direct line with the large open space around Callan Park Asylum, which, I hope, will soon be converted into park lands. If the promise of the Minister, that the money spent in acquiring this land is to be applied to the purchase of other park lands for Leichhardt, is carried out, I am sure that the local municipal council will be able to indicate an area in the district which can be better used for park purposes, and will be more serviceable to local residents than is this particular area.
– It is certainly most cheering to find that honorable members on both sides are beginning to realize their responsibilities in regard to the preservation of the open spaces in our big cities. It is quite a recent development, and ought to be encouraged. I support the contention of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Tudor) that we should hasten slowly in this matter, so that the people most concerned may have an opportunity to express their views in regard to it. I do so for the special reason that in all probability the Public Works Committee, which has been specially created by this Parliament to avoid the unnecessary expenditure of public moneys, will be called upon, in all probability, to report on the class of buildings proposed to be erected on this site. The very fact that the land has already been acquired will prejudice the minds of the Committee, and will prevent them from arriving at a reasonable and unbiased decision in regard to the erection of the buildings. There was a somewhat similar case in connexion with the Postal Department. When Mr. Agar Wynne held office as PostmasterGeneral, he purchased a piece of land in a lane off Castlereagh-street, Sydney.
– And, as PostmasterGeneral, I referred the matter to the Public Works Committee.
– When the Public Works Committee proceeded to examine the plans for the erection of a telephone exchange in Sydney it visited this site, and unanimously refused to recommend the erection of the proposed buildings on the site in question. The land, which was purchased at a very high cost, is now being used, I understand, as a sort of dumping ground for certain postal material. The proposal to erect buildings upon it has not been proceeded with, and I question whether it will be. The same situation may arise in connexion with this site. If the site be purchased before any reference is made to the Public Works Committee, it will then be too late for that Committee to report that it is not suitable. It may be eminently suitable for the purpose for which it is required. I am willing to admit that, from my rather cursory acquaintance with the district, the site possesses some exceptional qualifications, but, even if it possesses every advantage, I venture to suggest that there are two features of this proposal which ought to condemn it. In the first place, the site is part of achildren’s playground, and in the second, there can be no necessity to acquire it, since there must be quite a number of suitable areas in the neighborhood. Obviously, we cannot say definitely whether there are or not, but if the question were referred to the Public Works Committee, I am sure that Committee could find a site at least equally convenient, and probably more advantageous, from the view that its acquisition would not involve any encroachment on park lands.
It is rather significant that the Government have found it necessary to introduce a special Bill to cover this particular transaction, notwithstanding that’ we have a Lands Acquisition Act on the statute-book. That in itself is a suspicious feature, because under the Lands Acquisition Act there must be quite sufficient power to acquire all land necessary for public purposes.
– But there is not power under it to acquire park land.
– That is a very satisfactory feature of the Act. When in Townsville last year, I was interviewed by the authorities in regard to a park, part of which had been compulsorily resumed by the Navy Department for the erection of a wireless mast. Although only part of the park had been acquired, the rest of it was rendered useless for the purpose for which it had been laid out. The guys from the wireless mast stretched across the cricket pitch and football ground, so that their utility was entirely destroyed. Those who are familiar with the advantages of water communication and opportunities for railway communication know that there must be quite a large number of sites that are just as suitable as this for ordnance stores. I understand that this reserve covers 10 acres.
– Five acres have already been acquired. We are now proposing to acquire a little over 5 acres more.
– Ten acres is not too large an area for the purposes of ordnance stores in such a big State- as New South Wales. No doubt, extensive rail way sidings and landing stages will be necessary, and I think the Department is in danger of cramping itself just as it is on the edge of a big scheme. Nothing is more likely to destroy the utility of the undertaking, and to cause the expenditure to be questioned, than is the selection of an area so restricted that future developments would be possible only at enormous cost.
– The Government are proposing to acquire the water frontage, and * thus destroy the beauty of the park.
– If the water frontage is utilized exclusively for ordnance stores, the utility of the park would be destroyed, but if the Government said they wanted the whole of the 10 acres, I do not think it would be an extravagant request.
– I have already explained that 5 acres have been acquired for this purpose.
– I have heard some rumours about the acquirement of land in that vicinity, but I have no facts to go upon.
– All the facts I know are taken from the documents, and from the examination of those concerned. Half the area has already been acquired.
– Probably, then, we may hear the real facts in connexion with the acquirement of the other portion of this park, about which some sinister rumours have been in circulation.
– I have not heard anything about that matter.
– I have not heard sufficient to enable me to make any state-, ment or charge. I understand that the Bill giving the Government authority to acquire 5 acres 3 roods of the area will practically give them control ‘of the whole park, ana in my judgment, it is not too much for. the purposes mentioned.
– Why did the Government acquire the first 5 acres without consulting the House?
– This is the first we have heard of the Government having already acquired 5 acres, and it seems that we are just now getting at the facts in connexion with this matter.
– We will not get at all the facts until the Public Works Committee has been instructed to make inquiries.
– The House can get all the facts. “I will give them now if the honorable member desires.
– It would be more satisfactory if the Minister would agree to the suggestion, which I assure him has not been made in a hostile spirit, that the matter should be postponed until the Public Works Committee has inquired into the question of the suitability of the site. By adopting that course, we get at the facts publicly ; we will know exactly what is the position, and be able to say how much further we are prepared to go. The Minister has a sketch plan, and reports, but the House has not; and if this matter were referred to the Public Works Committee, we would get all the facts ; we would know if the site is suitable, and if the terms are fair and reasonable. I think the Minister will see that we are putting up a fair case for a postponement of this matter. There is no hurry. There can be no danger in postponement, but, on the other hand, if we can save a public park for the people, and- protect the Government in the erection of the proposed buildings, there is likely to be some advantage from the adoption of this course.
– I really did not want to trespass on the time of honorable members by going into matters not relevant to the subject, and so destroy the sense of proportion by the introduction of a number of facts which do not affect one’s judgment. The Minister ought to study economy of time a3 well as other things.
– But we cannot have too many facts.
– I think we can. Honorable members might not be able to digest them, and intellectual dyspepsia might lead to obstruction of business. However, I again remind honorable members of the fact that we have already acquired 5 acres, as indicated in the plan made available last night. If honorable members do not remember what was on the . plan, I cannot help it. The plan showed that 5 acres had been acquired, and the Bill now before the House seeks to give the Government authority to acquire an additional 5 acres 3 roods 23 perches. The area we require faces Long Cove Canal, and on the other side are the Public Works Stores. The recreation ground is cut off by the Stores and by the railway. As a matter of fact, it is only a park in name, though, of course, children will get on it from day to day. Quite a number of other parks are within 2 or 3 miles of this place. I think there are, at least, seven or eight, including Leichhardt Park, Wentworth Park, Petersham Park, Robson Park across the water, King George’s Park, Federal Park, and a great number of other reserves. Leichhardt Park is within 300 yards. This particular site is on the edge of the district, and, as I have already said, it is cut off by the railway from the population it is supposed to serve. Therefore, it is only so much sentiment to talk about depriving the people of parkland facilities. I would remind honorable members also that plans and specifications for these works have been prepared, and that the Ministry have not slept on the suggestions of the Defence Committee, which recommended that we should at once do what we are now doing. The paragraph of their report dealing with the matter states -
The undue accumulation of supplies necessarily raised the problem of storage accommodation. In some districts suitable accommodation was available, or has been provided, but in the largest i district (2nd Military District - New South Wales) the provision for the storage of ordnance stocks is most unsatisfactory. In that district the stocks are housed in about twenty -dive stores, mostly inconveniently situated and unsuitable, in and around Sydney, and under such circumstances efficient or economical supervision cannot be exercised. The cost of labour involved in handling and in providing against the ravages of rats, mice, moths, and other pests is considerable, and the immediate erection of a properly equipped ordnance store in that district is imperative. Meanwhile, in order to reduce the heavy stocks located in Sydney, the stores required for overseas should, as far as practicable, be drawn exclusively therefrom.
The Ministry are acting upon that suggestion. As a matter of fact, specifications and plans have been drawn up in the United States of America, and will be here within the next three weeks, and, except that we were waiting for parliamentary approval for the control of this 10 acres, we could have acquired the area on the 28th of last February by proclamation. It was owing to the desire of the Government to see that nothing is done without full inquiry that, notwithstanding the strong reports in favour of this site from officials of the Defence Department, Mr. Swinburne was asked to furnish a special report on it ; and it was owing to our delaying the issue of the proclamation that the State stepped ‘ in with a proclamation on the 18th March, gazetting the piece of ground as a public park. That is the reason why we have now to ask for an Act of Parliament to do something which we could have done without an Act of Parliament in February last, and which we could do now, though perhaps with temporary effect only under the War Precautions Act. In my opinion, it is right that Parliament should have the opportunity of dealing with the matter. In 1906 I was one of the strongest opponents of the talcing of park lands, and I secured against the Ministry of the day the excision of the provision in the definition clause of the Lands Acquisition Bill, enabling park lands to be taken, because I held the view that, if, in a case of extreme emergency, there was justification for acquiring such land, the step should not be taken by the Administration, which always looks to the nearest way of getting at its needs, but by Parliament, which takes a wider view of public interests. That is the reason why ‘this Bill has been submitted. Mr. Swinburne submitted his report on the 13th March. He said -
All the officers connected with the various Departments were very frank and willing in giving me all the information I required. I also interviewed Mr. Chalmers, member of the Royal Commission, and had a long conversation with a Mr. Sharpe, to whom Mr. Chalmers referred mc, with regard to probable available situs. Mr. Kendall, engineer of existing lines, also discussed the matter fully. … I took the opportunity of having a long conversation with Mr. Lance, the chairman of ‘the Harbor Trust, and his chief engineer, as to the possibility of other sites being obtainable with a water frontage, and adjacent to a railway.
Mr. Swinburne also interviewed the Chamber of Commerce.
– Did he go to the Trades Hall ?
– I do not think so.
– He had as much right to go to the Trades Hall as to go to the Chamber of Commerce.
– The Chamber of Commerce was consulted in relation to manufacturing matters. If it were not for the fact that we had to ask for the Bill, the question of whether the site was suitable for the purpose or not ‘would not have come before honorable members. That is not the issue before us to-night. The only issue is- whether we should or should not take away this nominal park land. Mr. Swinburne also said -
At present large stocks of waggons are placed in the Agricultural Grounds and Moore Park, which have to be removed from time to time. . . . Mr. Kendall informed me that a receiving station would be placed very near the site, probably at a carting distance of 300 or 400 yards, which in itself would be a distinct advantage. . . . The water frontage, although of limited benefit in peace time, is, and may become, especially in the future and during the war, a distinct advantage. The Quartermaster-General and Mr. Brown, the Director of Stores, were both of the opinion that water carriage would not -be used to any extent, except for big loads or heavy material, which are of rather rare occurrence. At present 9 feet of water is available in the canal.
– Vessels cannot go under the bridge.
– I understand that in Darling Harbor .the work is all done by barges, and that in this case the work will be done by barges. The matter has been fully considered. The question is simply whether there is sufficient depth of water at the site or not. This is practically the only site obtainable with such an opening to the harbor frontage, and with railway accommodation. That is what Mr. Swinburne says.
– He was only over there on a flying visit.
– If the Almighty sent . . down an expert from Heaven, there would be some objection to him, for the sake of dialectical opposition. The site is within a few minutes’ walk of a tram, and electricity can be supplied from the Balmain electric mains, or from the Railways Commissioners, who are laying wires to the State works adjoining. Mr. Swinburne summarizes his report as follows : -
I am of opinion, from the general information I have gathered, that it is highly improbable that the Department will be able to obtain any better site, or one more generally suitable for the purposes of an ordnance store, of similar area, with the same advantages or at less cost than the estimate of £20,000, even allowing for the added expenditure of levelling, filling in, and piling.
Honorable members have asked as to the expenditure on these stores.. I believe that an .estimate has been made that we are likely to receive £90,000 for the twenty-five places where stores are now placed. That amount should go a long way towards the total expenditure on the new stores. I again dwell upon the fact that the State Government is not opposed to this proposal. Colonel Sands was sent over particularly to see the State Minister for Lands, the site in question, and the municipal council concerned. Last night I read a telegram which came from him, and I saw him again this morning, so that there would be no misapprehension upon the point. He told me that the council are in favour of this being done.
– So they ought to be, because there is a lot of rateable property adjoining, upon which they will be able to collect rates, but from which they are not getting any revenue now.
– Another reason is that it is not a suitable site for a play -ground, because it is cut off by the railway. The municipal council propose to request the State Government to apply the money paid by the Commonwealth for the land towards the purchase of another piece of ground for recreation purposes. Colonel Sands, who saw the Minister for Lands, states that the State Ministry are, favorable to that idea. Unless there > might be a mistake on that ^particular point, the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Watt) has promised that this matter will not be finalized until provision is made for the money to be applied to the purchase of a park in lieu of this site. I do not see how honorable members can suggest that we are interfering unduly with the rights of the public. It can only be suggested that there is a mere technical interference, and, in the circumstances, I hope that honorable members will permit the Bill to pass.
– The explanation of the Minister is good so far as it goes, but it is based on reports of officials. I cannot blame the honorable gentleman for taking their view of the matter; but I remember that the Public Works Committee were called upon to report upon the erection of an automatic exchange in Sydney, and they found that the building recommended by experts of the Defence Department and of the Home and Territories Department, and approved by the Minister, was, in many ways, unsuitable for the purpose. The Committee found that the reports were made in a very slipshod manner. The officer of the Home and Territories Department reported that the land was big enough for what was required, and that was all he was concerned about. An officer of the Post and Telegraph Department reported that the floor space was all that was required, but the Public Works Committee found that had the building been erected as proposed, without making arrangements for another entrance into it, it would in case of fire have been a perfect deathtrap for every person employed in it. In spite of this, all these departmental experts reported in favour of the proposal.
– Was this under the present Postmaster-General ?
– No; under Mr. Agar Wynne. Every member of the Public Works Committee condemned the place as unsuitable for tha purpose required.
– The site should never have been bought for that purpose.
– That is so; but when we examined the departmental officers, each put the blame upon some other officer. The same kind of thing has been evident in the reports which the Minister for Home and Territories has just read, and I say that a report from the Public Works Committee, upon which the Government have a majority, and, therefore, need not fear hostile action, would be much better than these reports by officials. If, as the Minister says, the plans of the buildings are ready to be submitted to the Public Works Committee, why not delay the acquisition of the site until we have received a report from that Committee ? For the last three and a half years, during which we have been engaged in the war, the existing ordnance stores have proved sufficient to meet the great demand for the equipment of our troops. I hope that by this time we have got over the busy part of the war, and our ordnance stores are not likely to be called upon to supply the same quantity of stores as have been required in the past. There is no reason, in my opinion, why they should not continue their work for another month or two while an inquiry is being made into this proposal. I believe that every member of this Parliament would be satisfied with a report from the ‘Public Works Committee on the proposal. On the suggestion that this would lead to a saving, let me say that 1 do hot believe that it is a good thing to have all our., ordnance stores under one roof at one end of the city of Sydney, as this must lead to considerable extra expense for cartage. This site is a long way from Liverpool Camp, and there is plenty of land at Liverpool on which a large ordnance store might be erected. I do not see why this matter should be rushed.
– I assure the honorable member that as early as last February I was asked to hurry the thing on.
– I do not doubt it for a moment. Like the honorable member for Brisbane (Mr. Finlayson), I have heard some nasty things which I do not desire to mention, but I may say that, from what I have heard, I suspect that some of those who are responsible for originating this proposal are interested in land quite close to this site.
– There is not a tittle of evidence of that.
– I do not say for a moment that the Minister has any evidence of such a thing, and I do not make any charges, but I do say that the Government would be adopting the right course in having an inquiry by the Public Works Committee into the matter, and that certainly would relieve the minds of honorable members.
– The Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Watt) inspected the site when he was in Sydney. ‘ <
– He had not the time to inquire as to who owned the land in the vicinity of the site. He merely inspected the site proposed to be resumed. I trust that the Minister will see his way to postpone the further consideration of the Bill. The second reading of the measure has been passed, and there should be no hurry about its consideration in Committee.
– The passing of the Bill does not necessarily involve the taking over of the site. It only gives us power to acquire it.
– Once the Government have that power, the hands of the Public Works Committee will be tied in connexion with any report on the site, and the buildings to be erected thereon. It will be admitted that a water frontage is a very considerable addition to the charms of a public park, and if another site is selected in this locality for a park, it must be at some distance from the water frontage, which is a special feature of the present park. I think that the Federal Government would not be wise in acting against the State Government, who saw fit to resume this land for a park.
– The New South Wales Government are not opposed to this proposal.
– That may be so, but they reserved this land for a park, and in doing so they were looking to the future. We do not know what will take place in the next twenty years, and it is possible that this district may be densely populated. *The New South Wales Government showed foresight in reserving this land for a park. In all the circumstances, I am prepared to vote against the clause.’
.- I entertain some serious suspicion about the. way iri which ‘this Bill has been brought before us. There seems to be a great deal of secrecy about it.
– The Bill was circulated on the 11th April. ‘
– I am afraid there is something behind it. Why did not the Government give us an opportunity to consider this Bill 1
– It was placed in our boxes eleven days ago. I read it eleven days ago.
– -There is nothing in connexion with which there has been so much swindling and robbery carried on as there has been in connexion with the acquisition of land. Any one who has any knowledge of what has taken place in the New South Wales Parliament will take good care that no Government has a free hand in dealing with a land matter. The honorable member for -South Sydney (Mr. Riley) has directed attention to a site purchased for the Post and Telegraph Department in Castlereagh-street. There were certainly four sides to it, but none opened upon a street or lane. It was surrounded by buildings. There was an opening 15 feet wide and 15 feet high to the main street, but the acquisition of that site was recommended by the postal officials. Another site in Oxfordstreet, adjacent to the Post-office, was also recommended. The street had a grade of one in six, but the place would have been built chiefly along a 15-ft. lane, into which a butcher’s shop emptied its offal, and there would have been an eatinghouse opposite the main door. Yet this post-office had a bigger income than any other in New South Wales, with the exception of the General Post Office. I could not convince the honorable member’s predecessor of the need for another site, but, to the credit of the present Postmaster-General (Mr. Webster), I say that he did what was necessary. Mr. Agar Wynne, Mr. Oxenham, and a few others went out in a motor car and took their stand at the top of the hill, but from mere it was impossible to look at the site, because the frontage to the street was only 18 feet, and the lane frontage was 100 feet. I spoke strongly on the subject in this chamber when the honorable member for Darwin (Mr. Spence) was PostmasterGeneral, but my words had no more effect on him than they would have had on a piece of cold steel. Some of the departmental officers told me that if the Government spent money on a building at this site it would be wasted, because no one would see that the post-office was there. It is cases of this kind that make members anxious to know whether suitable sites are being chosen. The reports that the Minister has read to us deal only with the need for ordnance stores, which I do not question. He has not read any report on the site itself. There are in Sydney business men who are as keen as any in the world. When Ministers go there they are entertained by the President of the Millions Club, a gentleman who has sold more land on time payment than any v other man in Australia. He is very plausible, and the equal of* any Commonwealth Minister, and no doubt wins them over to a number of things which they are afterwards sorry they promised. Ministers know whom I mean without the mentioning of a name. I understand that the site for the proposed ordnance stores fronts the harbor and a canal. Ministers should remember, however, that when we were dealing with the Lands Acquisition Bill of 1906 it was the view of Parliament that public parks should not be resumed. Some of the recommendations of officials in these matters have been scandalous. The resumption of land elsewhere was not mentioned in this connexion until the Opposition showed a determination to have daylight upon the proposal. We heard nothing about it until late last night. When Mr. Archibald was Minister, members on both sides showed plainly that in their view public parks should not be taken away from the people. We are not like mere aldermen, trying to make what we can out of our positions, but are men above reproach, and we should insist on a most searching examination of proposals of the kind now before us. I have certain information which I am not able to make public, because of the manner in which it came to me; but I am told that there is an estate in the district in which the site is situated on which there is a large house, which I know very well, having carried out a contract there some years ago. The property has been ‘for sale for a long while, but they cannot dispose of it because of its distance from the tram, and because the house is too large for any one without considerable means, and persons with means prefer localities in which others similarly situated reside. A good many years ago, the late Dr. Renwick built a large house in this district, but after his death his family could not keep it up, and it was eventually pulled down, the neighbourhood not being a fashionable ohe. Wealthy persons prefer to live at Rose Bay, on Bellevue Hill/ and on the North Shore line, where there are the finest residential sites in Australia. To get to the North Shore you have merely a pleasant trip across the harbor in the ferry and fifteen minutes’ run in the train, during which you ascend 500 or 600 feet. Why do not the Government go to other sites, a considerable distance away, and not take this park, with its water frontage? Mention was made by Mr. Webster of Petersham Park. There are plenty of persons in Australia whose fowl-yards are as big as Petersham Park. Here, in the National Parliament, I regret to find a desire on the part of certain members to rob the people of a recreation reserve;, and is this sort of thing to be without protest? We want to be satisfied that there is nothing in connexion with the whole transaction that will not stand investigation. If we give our assent to this action without knowing whether it is right or wrong, we shall be as culpable as the principal parties in the matter.No honorable member who desired to retain his dignity and maintain public respect for his character would allow the Government to take away land like this without first making sure that the business was above reproach. The PostmasterGeneral, when he was in Caucus, was always careful, whenever there was any business proposed to be brought before the House, to see that the Government introduced only such measures as were sure to receive public confidence. Mr. Poynton was of the same mind; hut I am afraid both those honorable gentlemen are losing their characters by the company they are keeping.
I have nothing against the purchase of this land, hut I implore the Government to consider the proposition seriously.If it is to be in the public interest, it will not be easy to deny the claim of the Government; but it would be only fair to see that they give in return a site equal to it in all respects. I do not think it is possible, however, to provide another such park with a foreshore frontage. We should do our utmost, even at this late hour, to conserve the parks wherever they have water frontages. I admit that the Minister in charge of the measure is giving the subject his best attention. Nevertheless, I detect a lack of enthusiasm, because he feels that he is handling something he does not like. That is not the spirit in which a Minister of the Crown should come before the National Parliament, when the Government want to rob the people of one of their parks. I am always determined in watching anything that may be the means of conserving the public health. In accordance with the principles which have actuated me during the whole course of my life, my vote will never be cast to rob the people of a park for recreation purposes. If we could secure a vote upon this question free from all party ties, I venture to say that a majority of honorable members would affirm the view which I have been voicing. I plead for delay in the consideration of this clause. If the Government will consent to postpone the debate upon it until next week, I will undertake to get some of my friends and friends of the Government to inspect the site- men who are well qualified to let us know what is the precise position. The canal to which reference has been made during the course of this discussion is merely a cemented stormwater channel, which is subject to tidal influence. Of course, if the Government obstinately refuse to listen to my entreaties for delay in this matter, I can only find consolation in the reflection that at least I have done my duty. The principle underlying this clause is one which concerns the whole of the people of Australia. In the Commonwealth Parliament of 1906, I am proud to know that there were some exceedingly honorable men who declined to empower the Government to take over park lands under any Lands Acquisition Act.
– Where are they to-day?
– They are not on the opposite side of the chamber. I do not know whether the Minister intends to accede to my request to delay the consideration of this question for a few days.
– Order ! The honorable members’ time has expired.
Question - That the clause be agreed to - put. The Committee divided.
Majority . . . 17
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Clause agreed to.
Amendment (by Mr. Glynn) proposed -
That all the words after the word “plan” in the penultimate line of the schedule be left out, and the following words inserted in lieu thereof: - “ catalogued Ms. 4767 . SY Roll in the Department of Lands of the State of New South Wales.”
Amendment agreed to.
Schedule, as amended, agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported with an amendment.
Motion (by Mr. Glynn) proposed -
That the Standing Orders be suspended, to enable the remaining stages to be passed without delay.
. -I ask the Minister not to press the further stages of the Bill to-night. The suspension of the Standing Orders is only intended to he resorted to in connexion with urgent business. This Bill is not urgent. It cannot reach the Senate in time for consideration to-morrow.
– Why not?
– If the Government desire the Bill to reach the Senate tomorrow, we shall try to prevent that happening. There should be an inquiry into this transaction, and the people in New South Wales who are affected by this proposed transfer have a right to he heard. The honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Mahony) has returned to his constituency in order to consult the people there. I ask the Acting Prime Minister to defer the third reading of the Bill until to-morrow.
. -From one point of view the Bill is urgent, because we desire to give another place some work to do. I hope the Oppositionwill allow the Bill to pass tonight. The honorable member for
Dalley said that he knew the locality well, and had no need to refresh his mind.
– It is a question for the people interested to decide.
– We twice sent to Sydney to consult the local municipal council.
– But the people may not know of the proposal, even though the council knows of it.
Motion, by leave, withdrawn. House adjourned at 11.9 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 2 May 1918, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1918/19180502_reps_7_84/>.