7th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. W. Elliot Johnson) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– I have, on two or three occasions, taken exception to the use of the term “ partnership “ in connexion with this agreement. I do not regard our arrangement, nor does the Wool Committee regard it, as in any waya partnership.
– The Prime Minister spoke of it as a partnership.
– The word was not used in the sense in which the honorable member uses it. The arrangement is one for the control of the industry. I shall take into consideration the laying of the papers on the table, tut I do not wish to lay them on the table until the whole matter is clewed up.
– May not harm be done if you wait?
-More harm might be done wereI to unnecessarily irritate some of the factors of the arrangement. I wish to conduct the business to a smooth finish.
-Seeing that many country centres have ‘been denuded of farm labour, will the Cabinet consider the advisability of relaxing the provisions of the Defence Act where it is shown that to require continuous camp training will inflictserious loss on the trainees, or on their parents?
– So far as I am able to judge, the Defence Department ‘has considered the influence of this short period of training on the industrial life of the Commonwealth. If the honorable member wishes for a more complete answer, I should like to have notice of the question.
– Has the Acting Prime Minister any information from the Imperial authorities to the effect that Turkey is suing for peace?
– Nothing official, and for publication, has reached me from the Imperial authorities.
Deduction’s from Allowances.
-Honorable members on both sides of the House receive bulky correspondence containing complaints about injustices and grievances suffered by soldiers and soldiers’ relatives, for which no redress can be obtained from the Department, the official replies to our communications bringing us to a dead end. Injustice is done, and the ‘law debars the officials from giving kindly and sympathetic consideration to many requests. For instance, the fact that deductions are made from the payments to the wives of soldiers who have been punished for some slight breach of duty on the other side of the world results in many complaints being sent tohonorable members, and as these complaints are becoming known through the various districts, a serious amount of unrest is being created. Will the Prime Minister introduce legislation to. remedy these evils, or will he give us an opportunity to make a representation to him, or to the Government, so that remedial measures may be adopted ?
– This is the first which I have heard of the condition of things of which the honorable member speaks. I should like him to be more specific in his complaint.
– There are scores of cases of the kind referred to.
– ‘During the war, when everything is topsy-turvy, there is bound to be a great deal of dissatisfaction with departmental administration, but I do not feel justified in going over the head of the Department until I know what the complaints are.
– The honorable gentleman will find them in the correspondence between honorable members and the Defence Department.
– I have not time to read that correspondence. If honorable members will, in some co-operative way, give me an idea of the nature of the complaints, I shall undertake to inquire into them. Until I obtain more specific information, I cannot make a definite promise to do any particular thing.
– The Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Watt) will find that the Defence Department is full of complaints, extending over the last two years, about deductions from the allowances of soldiers’ wives and widows in consequence of penalties imposed at the Front. Does the Acting Prime Minister consider that fines imposed at the Front in consequence of misconduct by asoldier should be visited upon the wife or widow who allowed her husband to enlist on the supposition that she would receive so much per day during his absence?
– If these grievances are of such long standing, they should not be popped, without notice, at a Minister who is not in charge of the Defence Department. The matter may be simple, and Cabinet has been dealing with one phase of the question this week, and has settled it, I think, to the satisfaction of all concerned. But I cannot be expected to be familiar with all the details of Defence administration. I shall make inquiries, and give an answer to the honorable member later.
-Has the Acting Prime Minister seen in one of the morning papers the statement that the Commonwealth Government is taking control of all the woollen mills of Australia? Is that statement true? If not, has any departure been made in connexion with the Commonwealth control of the woollen mills?
– The statement is incorrect. The Defence Department informs me that various causes connected with the war have created an increased demand for clothing material for Australian Imperial Force purposes, and the Business Board, to which the matter was referred, is considering the beet means of meeting that increased demand. For that purpose the members of the Board are in conference with the woollen manufacturers on the subject.
– In view of the necessity for increased production by the Australian woollen mills for military purposes, will the Acting Prime Minister endeavour to induce the mill-owners to work at a little higher pressure, so that the local demands for their products also may be satisfied as far as possible?
– I will convey the honorable member’s suggestion to the Minister for Defence.
– In view of the fact that the sugar crop of 1918 is short of Australian requirements, and the probable shortage of the1919 crop, is it the intention of the Commonwealth Government to insist on the terms of sub-section c of clause 1 of the current agreement between it and the Queensland Government for the purchase of raw sugar?
– The section to which the honorable member refers is probably that under which the Queensland Government undertook not to erect more mills . during the period covered by the agreement?
– That is so.
– That provision was inserted in the agreement to protect the Commonwealth against financial loss in the event of this year’s crop adding to the surplus carried over from last year. Now, however, because of climatic conditions, the estimate of the crop has been reduced by many thousands of tons, and whilst we shall have ample sugar for the year, I think that if the Queensland Government desires to erect additional mills, or to give assistance for the erection of additional mills, and makes application to the Commonwealth Government, we shall favorably consider the waiving of any stipulation in the agreement which now prevents the erection of additional mills.
– Is the Government any nearer a resumption of traffic on the transcontinental railway, and is there any form of punishment applicable to the men who, at the present time, are completely isolating one State from the rest of the Commonwealth?
– The Railways Commissioner is at present in communication here in Melbourne with the representatives of the men, with a view to the resumption of the traffic at the earliest possible date. There is no provision in any law, other than what is contained in the Arbitration Acts, punishing any person for going on strike.
– In view of the complete cessation of traffic on the KalgoorliePort Augusta railway, does the Post- . master-General propose to take any steps to utilize the few steamers running between Fremantle and eastern ports for the carriage of mails?
– That matter is now under consideration by the Shipping Controller.
– Has the attention of the Minister controlling shipping been drawn to the inconvenience occasioned to people in the north-west of Queensland by the transfer of the steam-ship Wyreema? Before that removal took place, the Controller of Shipping assured me that no inconvenience would be caused. Will the Minister take steps to restore the conveniences which existed previously, and the deprivation of which seriously affects the carriage of cargo, passengers, and mails?
– Some time ago I made inquiries into this matter, and was assured that there would be no dislocation of tonnage facilities, and that there would be ample accommodation for all requirements, including refrigerating space. The honorable member’s question is the first intimation I have received that any inconvenience has been caused.
– If two or more sons went to the Front in 1914, will they be allowed to return together with the other Anzacs on furlough, or will only one be returned at a time?
– If two sons embarked in 1914, they will be included in the men who are to return on furlough.
– At my request, the Acting Prime Minister laid on the table yesterday a return of the amounts paid for press advertisements in connexion with the sixth war loan. I am informed that the return will not be published in Hansard. Will the Acting Prime Minister arrange either for the return to be printed, or for a few copies to be typewritten for the use of honorable members ?
– The question as to whether the return should appear in Mansard was submitted to me yesterday, and, as the document was somewhat bulky, I instructed that it should not be published. I think it would be costly to have the return printed, but I shall see that sufficient copies for the use of honorable members are typewritten.
– According to the Government Gazette of the 26th September,the Governor-General in Council has approved of certain moneys being paid to seamen who had lost their effects through enemy action. Has the Acting Minister for the Navy made any arrangements to pay this money to the crew of the Wimmera? If not, will he do so immediately ?
– I have arranged for seamento be recompensed for loss of effects at sea by enemy action; but, as I have received no application from any sea- man, no payments have been made. If the honorable member will bring under my notice the claim of any man who is entitled to such a payment, I will see that he gets his money.
– Will the Acting Prime Minister consider the propriety of asking, or even requiring, persons in high places, and others, while the present difficult and delicate negotiations are happily proceeding to bring the war to an end, to abstain from making, and the press from publishing, vainglorious demands which might be quite inconsistent with the views of responsible Allied statesmen, including President Wilson?
– The question is too indefinite. If the honorable member will give me something on which to base a reply, I will be glad to consider it.
– I was referring principally to your speeches and those of the Governor-General.
– It surely cannot be suggested that the Governor-General or any Minister is in a “high place”?
– Will the Postal Department pay for the damage sustained to parcels intrusted to their care which have been ruined, even in the original despatching office?
– If the honorable member will submit any definite case, I will deal with it.
– Has the PostmasterGeneral made arrangements to install in the principal post-offices a supply of hot water? If so, will any allowance be made to the servants of the Department in whose offices a supply of hot water is not installed?
– I do not propose to answer the question, other than to express my sympathy with the honorable member in his obvious deficiencies.
– With reference to the question asked yesterday by the honorable member for Dampier (Mr. Gregory), as to the steamship Yarra being unable to discharge a cargo of coal at Port Augusta, the Controller of Shipping has informed me that -
This steamer arrived at Port Augusta at 2.30 p.m. on Friday, 26th September, with 2,797 tons of coal on board for delivery to the Commonwealth and State railways, &c. Immediately on arrival discharge was commenced, and continued up to the time of the enginedrivers’ strike. The vessel then had on board 500 tons of coal. The Inter-State Central Committee communicated with the Commonwealth Railway Department, and also with the State Railway Department to ascertain if it would be possible for thebalance of the coal on board to be taken delivery of at Port Augusta. On receiving a reply that it was absolutely impossible for further coal to be landed, as all trucks were full, and the lines congested, the Inter-State Central Committee gave instructions that the vessel should proceed to Adelaide and there deliver the balance of her cargo of coal.
The alternative to this would have been to allow the steamer to remain idle at Port Augusta for an indefinite period, which could not be permitted under present conditions.
Preference to Returned Soldiers
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
Whether he will have inserted in mail contracts a clause which will instruct contractors in carrying out their contracts to give preference to returned soldiers when requiring assistance ?
– A preference is given by the Department to returned soldiers in the letting of mail contracts, and contractors are urged to give such preference in engaging labour to carry out their contracts. Beyond that it does not seem practicable for the Department to go in the direction indicated without involving increased cost and thereby possibly curtailment of country services.
SERGEANT BRYAN McGUIGAN.
asked the Assistant Minister for Defence, upon notice -
If so, (a) what is his present position; (b) what past experience had he to qualify him for his present position; (c) is he not single and eligible for service at the Front;
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
Yes. 2. (a) Sergeant in the Base Records Corps.
asked the Acting Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
The Commonwealth agents are paid 1 per cent. export agency commission, and, where actually earned, a collecting agency comimission of1¼ per cent. The duty of the Commonwealth Government, as agent for the Imperial Government, is to purchase the mineral and deliver same to the steamer. The charges from f.o.b. steamer to London are not available to the Commonwealth Government.
Model Form of Declaration
asked the Acting Prime Minister, upon notice -
– I have no information regarding the matter, but will make inquiries.
asked the Assistant Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
Whether, in view of the Government’s policy of fixing the price of meat having, it is alleged, failed to satisfy either the consumer, butcher, or producer, he will, in the interests of the general community, abandon the same?
– It is not considered advisable in the best interests of the community to abandon the policy of price fixation of meat.
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 answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows: -
The services of two returned soldiers employed temporarily in the Central Audit Office have been dispensed with because they have been replaced by returned soldiers permanently appointed. No single eligible men have been retained in the Central Audit Office. In the Naval and Military branch of the Audit Office there are two single eligible men employed temporarily. One is a supervisor, whose services it is desirable to retain on account of his superior qualifications. He supports his father, and one of his brothers has been killed in action, and one is serving at the Front. The other is a boy aged nineteen, receiving 5s. a day.
asked the Acting Prime Minister, upon notice -
and promotions recommended?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Assistant Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– Allegations were made as stated, but after inquiry the Department was satisfied that nothing irregular had taken place.
asked the Assistant Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable members questions are as follow: -
asked the Acting Prime Minister, upon notice -
Mr.WATT. - The Thermo-Electric Ore Reduction Corporation has been appointed Commonwealth agent for North Queensland. This corporation manufactures practically the whole of the tungsten powder used by the British Government. The corporation, at the instance of the Imperial authorities, has equipped works and laboratories, and has captured the business in ferro-alloys formerly in the hands of the German Metallurgical Works. It is now the largest manufacturer of tungsten powder and ferrotungsten in the world. I am unable to state what profit it makes in England on its manufactures, but it is not considered likely that the Imperial Government would permit excessive profits to be made. The Thermo-Electric Ore Reduction Corporation pays the rates fixed by the Commonwealth Government for wolfram, &c, and it has no interest whatsoever in the price paid for these concentrates. The Government is satisfied with the existing arrangements.
asked the Assistant Minister for Defence, upon notice -
Mr.WISE.-The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
asked the Assistant Minister for Defence, upon notice -
Mr.WISE. - The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
Whether, in the event of a postal official in receipt of £200 per annum enlisting, does the Postmaster-General’s Department make up the difference between his military and postal pay?
– No. The same arrangement applies to all other Departments.
asked the Assistant Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– Inquiries arebeing made, and the information will be supplied as early as possible.
asked the Assistant Minister f or Defence, upon notice -
Mr.WISE. - The answers tothe honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
Court Martial of Officers
asked the Assistant Minister for Defence, upon notice -
Mr.WISE. - The information isbeing obtained, and the honorable member will be informed as early as possible.
asked the Assistant Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The answer to the honorable member’s questions is as follows : -
The regulation has not yet been issued; but it has been announced in response to representations made by the responsible military authorities overseas, that owing to transport difficulties and the general conditions obtaining at the Front, it is becoming increasingly difficult to guarantee delivery of newspapers posted to individuals. Particularly in the case of daily papers, it is stated that they are generally out of date, and therefore useless, on arrival.
It was decided by the Army Administration to enlist the aid of the Australian Comforts Fund and the Red Cross Society, and these bodies have for some time past been working in close co-operation with them, with a view to the bulk supply of Australian newspapers. The Minister is informed that they are now sending forward large quantities of all weeklies to every unit of the Australian Imperial Force, including hospitals, and contributions of such papers would be welcomed by the patriotic bodies mentioned.
It should further ‘be explained that, apart from the special consideration which is thus being shown to the natural desire of Australian soldiers to obtain their own newspapers printed in their own country, the Army Administration have made arrangements for the supply of various publications of interest. For example, the Anzac Bulletin, containing news specially cabled from . Australia, and the British Australasian, a weekly issue of information regarding Australians and Australian affairs generally are being distributed widely to the Australian troops. As is well known, these papers contain copious extracts of matters of interest from papers in all the States. An organization known as the Camps Library also supplies books and magazines to all Australian units.
At the same time, if it is desired to send any particular news item to an individual soldier, this can, of course, be effected by making a cutting or extract from the newspaper, and sending it by letter post, a course which, it may be remarked, will insure speedier delivery to the soldier.
asked the Acting Prime Minister, upon notice -
Whether it will be possible to allot space on the Zealandia, now loading in Sydney for America, for say, 20,000 cases of evaporated apples which have been held up in Hobart for some considerable time waiting shipment to Great Britain.
– There is no immediate possibility of getting any evaporated apples away, as the British Government has repeatedly declined to place them on the priority list. No good purpose would be served by sending the apples to America unless a purchaser is first obtained there.
The following papers were presented : -
Treasurers’ Conference, Melbourne, July, 1918. - Summary of Proceedings.
Ordered to be printed.
Naval Defence Act. - Regulations Amended. -Statutory Rules 1918, Nos. 244, 245.
Defence Act. - Regulations Amended. - Statutory Rules 1918, Nos. 239, 259, 260.
War Precautions Act. - Regulations Amended.- Statutory Rules 1918, Nos. 238, 250, 257.
Statement by Premier of Queensland.
asked the Acting Prime Minister, upon notice -
Will he state whether there is any truth in the statement of the Premier of Queensland, in reply to a question in the Legislative Assembly on the 4th September last, and made in a paragraph which appeared in the Brisbane Courier of the 31st August, which is as follows: - “ During the last Federal election campaign I frequently warned electors that taxation on the necessaries of life, such as tea and kerosene, would be imposed by the Nationalist Government if returned to power, notwithstanding the fact that such proposed taxation was strenuously denied by the Win-the-War candidates,” and referred to his speeches as recorded in the Warwick Argus of 19th April, and in the Daily Standard of 30th April, 1917?
– The Premier of Queensland, in a letter dated 23rd September, forwarded me a copy of the question, and of his reply thereto, and I have communicated with him in the following terms : -
With reference to your letter of the 21st September, I note the questions asked in your State Parliament, and the replies thereto, regarding the Federal Tariff, and desire to direct your attention to the unwisdom of depending for information as to the intentions of the National Government upon unauthorized press gossip.
If you will refer to my speech in introducing the Budget on the 25th September, you will see how unreliable were the prophecies of which you boasted on the occasion of the notice.
Copy of Federal Hansard containing the speech referred to is forwarded herewith.
Message recommending appropriation reported.
Motion (by Mr. Watt) proposed -
That the consideration of the message be made an order of the day for a later hour of the day.
.- I wish to ascertain from the Treasurer (Mr. Watt) the order in which it is proposed to proceed with business to-day. I understand it is the intention of the Government to carry to a certain stage the Bill relating to the entertainments tax. We have also on the notice-paper a Bill toamend the Post, and TelegraphRates Act and the f urther consideration of the proposed new standing order providing for the limitation of debate. Is it the intention of the honorable gentleman to postpone the consideration of this message until a later hour of the day, so that we may deal at once with the Works Estimates? They are usually dealt with early in the financial year, in order that works in progress may not be interfered with.
– I am glad that the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Tudor) has raised this question, since it affords me an opportunity to explain the purpose of this mes sage, and to deal with two or three other related matters. This message is to originate a Billfor loan works, which I hope later on in the day to advance up to the stage at which the second reading may be proposed. If the message be postponed now I intend to take through Committee of Ways and Means, as the notice-paper implies, a resolution fixing the rate of tax on entertainments, and if the opportunity offers to advance to the second-reading stage the Bill founded upon it. I also desire to advance to the second-reading stage the Bill relating to postal rates. After that, if the House is wishful to help the Government as I want it to help us in dealing with the Works Estimates, I shall be prepared, as has been done on many occasions, to lift the Works Estimates out of the ordinary Estimates, and to pass them together with the necessary Bill, which I have ready for the House. That will allow to proceed unimpeded certain works which are in danger of being impeded, because of the strain on the Treasurer’s advance account.
– There are no works in Queensland waiting to be done!
– I think there are; there is the Acetate of Lime Factory.
– That is in Brisbane, not Queensland.
– We poor Southerners regard Brisbane as the capital of Queensland.
– It tries to be!
– If the House will consent to the suggested arrangement for the advancement of business, we can then proceed to the consideration of the closure motion.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
In Committee of Ways and Means:
– I move -
That, in lieu of the rates of tax imposed by the Entertainments Tax Act 1916 upon payments for admissions to entertainments, there be imposed upon such payments, as from a date to be fixed by proclamation, a tax at the following rates, namely : -
Payment for admission (excluding the amount of tax). Rate of tax -
Not exceeding one shilling, one penny.
Exceeding one shilling, one penny for the first shilling and one half-penny for every sixpence or part of sixpence by which the payment exceeds One shilling.
The remarks I have to make on this measure may be made now or on the second reading, if the Committee fie desire.
– I should prefer to have the matter discussed now, because I am wholly opposed to it.
– That is not what I had in view when I spoke of advancing the Bill to the second-reading stage, which I suggest is the proper one at which to debate the Bill as a whole, leaving the details to be discussed on the schedule. This tax is proposed as part of the new taxation which is rendered necessary by the increasing bills for interest on war loans, war pensions, and repatriation. The reason of the Government for introducing this and the Postal Rates Bill early is that the tax and new rates cannot be collected until the Bills are passed, and the earlier we get the measures through the larger will be the harvest for the financial year. Other Bills, such as the Land Tax Bill and the Income Tax Bill, may be passed at greater leisure, because they operate retrospectively for the whole financial year; but I ask due celerity in the consideration of the Postal Rates Bill and the Bill now before, us, because the amount of revenue depends on how soon they are passed. Honorable members are aware of the conditions of taxation at present in regard to entertainments. Tickets at the price of 6d. and under are not liable to the tax, and tickets exceeding 6d., but not exceeding ls., pay Id., and l£d. for the first 6d. above ls. ; and so on with a d. increase for every 6d. The proprietors of the establishments who sell these tickets, invariably, I understand, pass the tax on to the purchasers of the tickets. I gave certain figures in the Budget speech showing that the number of amusements is increasing, the taxable entertainments for 1917-18 being 2 per cent, more than in the previous year, 1916-17. In 1917-18 this tax yielded a revenue of £245,890, but in the present -year, without allowing for the increased rate, it is expected that the return would be only £205,000. The ‘ taxation officers estimate ‘ that this decrease will be due to the curtailment of horse-racing and entertainments at stadiums generally. Up to the present, as I have explained, 3d. and 6d. admission tickets have not been taxed, arid the effect of the motion, and the Bill which will be based on it, is that all admissions up to, and inclusive of, 6d., will henceforth pay a tax of Id. No alteration is proposed in the rates of taxation on the higherpriced tickets at this stage. The entertainments tax is not charged at present where the Commissioner is satisfied the entertainment is intended for the amusement of children. That is provided for in the Assessment Act, where the charge is not more than 6d. per person.
– Will you judge “ children “ by age, or some other consideration ?
– I am not referring specifically to my honorable friend, who might fail by either of the tests. As I was saying, the Assessment Act does not tax entertainments exclusively designed for children, and it is not intended to alter the law in that respect.
– But the tax will apply to ordinary picture shows which children attend ?
– I am not now speaking of entertainments which children attend as part of the audience, but entertainments exclusively for children, which, under the Assessment Act, are exempt.
– My children are not old enough to go “ on their own,” and what will occur if I have to go with them ?
– The honorable member has solved domestic problems more difficult than- the one he has suggested, and I shall leave the matter to him. I should like to give honorable members the rates of taxation charged in Great Britain, because, by reason of an interjection made when I was delivering the Budget speech, the exact position may be misunderstood. . According to the latest advices we have obtained, there is charged in Great Britain on admission tickets, not exceeding 2£d. in price, Jd. ; on tickets exceeding 2d., but not exceeding 4d. in price, Id.; on tickets between 4d. and 7d. in price, 2d.; on tickets between 7d. and ls. in price, 3d. ; on tickets between ls. and 2s. in price, 4d. ; on tickets between 2s. and 3s. in price, 6d. ; on tickets between 3s. and 5s. in price, 9d. ; on tickets between 5s. and 7s. 6d. in price, ls. ; on tickets between 7s. 6d. and 10s. 6d. in price, ls. 6d. ; and on tickets between 10s. 6d. and 15s. in price, 2s: The tickets exceeding 15s. in price are charged at the rate of 2s. for the first 15s., and 6d. for every 5s. or part thereof above 15s. It would merely weary honorable members were 1 to give them the rates of taxation in other countries. But it is safe to say that in belligerent countries wherever the cinema, has gone, and its province is now the world, there is an increasing tendency to tax some or all of the prices for admission whenever the Treasury needs money. Entertainments are beneficial to a community in many ways, but in time of war they are a luxury which is a fair subject of taxation. As the prosperity of the people generally is indicated by their ability to patronize picture shows freely, this Parliament is justified in altering the free list which it originally set up, and asking for additional revenue from tickets which have hitherto not been taxed. I am aware that arguments may be raised as to the grading of the tax. I have already heard it suggested that the tax on the ‘ lower-priced tickets is relatively greater than that on the high-priced tickets. I say that tickets up to ls. in price might well be taxed’ Id., and that tickets above that price might well be taxed more, and next year we may have to impose heavier taxation on them. In the framing of our financial proposals, we have remembered that next year there will be another Budget, and many legitimate opportunities of taxation have been expressly reserved for the inevitable demands of that year, whether the war is over or whether it is still raging. I do not ask honorable members to regard our proposals as ideal, or, as in common parlance, “ scientific,” whatever the word may mean in relation to taxation. The Government have considered this matter as closely as possible, and Ministers consider that there is ample justification for their proposals, which I hope will be passed into law as quickly as possible.
– I shall vote against the proposed tax at the earliest opportunity. If we let the motion go now as formal, honorable members opposite will say when we oppose the second reading of the Bill which will be founded on it that we have already agreed to the tax.
– The first reading of a Bill is not opposed.
– W,e are now considering the propriety of imposing this taxation. According to the Budget papers, the taxation of tickets of a price not exceeding 6d. will increase the revenue by £275,000, or about 130 per cent., the revenue now obtained from the taxation of tickets above that price being only £205,000, and in the Budget the Treasurer states that he expects a total of £480,000 from this form of taxation. I do not know that in Australia any picture theatre charges less than 3d. for admission, but all over Australia practically every- picture show is open on Saturday afternoons for the entertainment of children, when 3d. is charged for admission.
– It is not children alone who make the attendances.
– In its anxiety to let off the rich landholder, the Government proposes to tax the children who pay 3d. for . admission to a picture show at the rate of 33J per cent. ; the rich land-owner is to be taxed only an extra 20 per cent.# I am informed that there are only four picture theatres in Australia at which the ordinary price of admission is 3d. ; but at practically every picture show on Saturday afternoons, and at, I think, all the continuous picture shows in the big cities during the day-time - I suppose there are half-a-dozen of them in each of the capitals - admission can be obtained for 3d. It is proposed to put a tax of Id. on these 3d. tickets. The Acting Prime Minister says that his proposal is not scientific, and it is not. The 3d. ticket is . to be taxed at the same rate as the ls. ticket. Few persons would pay only 3d. if they could afford to buy more expensive seats. The rate of taxation on the 3d. ticket is 331/3d. per cent., and on the ls. ticket it i3 only 8 per cent. The Government is proposing to hit up thos’e who pay only 3d. and 6d. for admission to picture theatres. It may be argued that there are lots of persons attending football matches on payment of 6d. ; but it must not be forgotten that in Victoria, at any rate, practically all the profits of football matches now go to swell the patriotic funds. I speak as an official of one of the clubs. I know how the clubs are being run to-day. Thev are not run as they were in the time of the honorable member for Indi (Mr. Leckie), when it was a matter of the secretary arranging the balance-sheet. Of course, I know that the honorable member never received a penny, and he was as fine a player as I ever looked at. The balance-sheet of the League was published in last Saturday’s newspapers. They divided the whole of their money, some £4,000, among the patriotic funds. The Treasurer proposes to take one-fifth or one- sixth of this money. The proposal of the’ honorable member for Grey (Mr. Poynton), when Treasurer, was to tax the sixpenny seats, but the Committee would not agree to it.
– What, does the honorable member desire ?
– My wish is that the tax should remain as it is. A private member cannot move to increase taxation.
– Rut Ministers can take an instruction from the Committee.
– In my view, it is wrong to propose to take £275,000 a year from those who pay for 3d. and 6d. tickets, when those who pay for higher-priced tickets contribute only £205,000 a year to the revenue.
– No one is compelled to go to a picture theatre.
.- Money is so urgently needed by the Treasury - We are told that over £5,000,000 must be obtained this year by additional taxation, and probably £6,000,000 more the following year - that it is only reasonable that we should go for our taxes where money is readily obtainable. If we can collect the amount estimated by the Treasurer by a tax of Id. on 3d. and 6d. tickets, we should impose that tax. Next year the taxation on higher-priced tickets will have to be increased considerably. This is only the beginning of our entertainments taxation. I have attended a number of picture shows about Melbourne, and, judging by their apparent prosperity, the patrons of such entertainments car well afford to pay the additional penny that will be asked for by this Bill. Although a tax of a penny on a 3d. ticket does seem large on a percentage basis, still I think a father would much prefer to buy half-a-dozen tickets at 4d than to pay for half-a-dozen adults. I do not think the tax will lower the attendance at picture shows at all, but if it did have that effect in some instances it would be a benefit to the community. There are some picture entertainments that could be dispensed with to the public advantage, and which are especially harmful to immature minds. No honorable member desires to deny the children the privilege of attending picture shows, and J do not think this tax will do that. Having regard to the fact that this proposal is only the commencement of increases which later will be extended to the higherpriced tickets, I do not see how the Treasurer can do other things than he proposes.
.- I agree with those who consider that the children ought not to be taxed. This proposal will tax children who pay 3d. to go into a picture show. Therefore, I move an amendment -
That before the words “Not exceeding One shilling,” the following words be inserted : - “Exceeding Fivepence and”
The effect of that amendment, if carried, will be to impose a penny tax on all tickets exceeding 5d. and not exceeding ls. The honorable member for Grey (Mr. Poynton) said that I, when Treasurer, calculated to receive £1,000,000 from this tax. At that time the Imperial Government were getting such “a lot of money from the amusements tax that we, having regard to the fact that the Australian people are more fond of amusement and sport than any other people on earth, thought that we might naturally expect to receive a very large revenue from that source. But the honorable member will recollect that I made no attempt to raise a large sum from the people who buy 3d. tickets.
– The honorable member’s proposal did not reach that stage.
– When the honorable member, who succeeded me as Treasurer, introduced his Bill he made such drastic alterations in the tax that it yielded only £225,000.
– The honorable member proposed to commence with a tax of 2d. on ls. tickets, and to collect a further penny for every additional 6d. paid for admission.
– Yes, and I propose that a man who paid £1 for a ticket to a race-course or theatre should pay 3s. 4d. in taxation. I think that was a sensible proposal. But the Government ask us to impose a tax of 33^ per cent, on the people who pay 3d. to go to a picture show.
– The honorable member’s tax was not so heavy on the man who paid £1 as is the proposed penny tax on the man who pays 3d.
– That is so. Men take to the picture shows their wives and three or four children. The Government’s proposal is wrong, and I hope that the Treasurer, after his statement the other evening that’ he was not exactly bound to adhere to his proposals as out-‘ lined in the Budget, will be prepared to accept my amendment, which has for its object the exemption of 3d. tickets.
.- It is necessary at the present time for the Treasurer to obtain revenue, and an obligation rests upon every section of tha community to contribute a reasonable share towards the financial requirements of the country. I can conceive of no better way in which revenue might be gathered in a small way from, certain sections of the community than by means of the entertainments tax. We have heard from the members of the Opposition a good deal of talk about this proposal being likely to press heavily upon a section of the community which ought not to be called upon to pay any tax during the war. Those honorable member’s have been, apparently, in favour of fixing the price of every other commodity, but I have not heard from them one word about the necessity of preventing the proprietors of entertainments from passing the tax on to the public. Why should it not be possible to compel picture theatre proprietors to pay this tax instead of passing it on to their patrons ?
– Does any picture show proprietor make a profit of 33J per cent. ? .
– It is quite reasonable and practicable for this House to fix the prices for tickets of admission to entertainments, and. that is the best course for honorable members to follow if they wish to protect the public from exploitation by this tax.
– There would be no 3d. tickets if -we did that. The cheapest seat would be 6d.
– -No honorable member can say that 4d. is too high a price for a person to pay for an entertainment.
I agree with other speakers that there are too many picture entertainments, and that some of them are of a questionable character. I have witnessed over and over again the presentation of pictures which, in my opinion, have a tendency to lower the moral tone of the community. Not only do I believe that the Government may very properly tax these entertainments, but I think that Parliament might take a step further, in cooperation with the State Parliaments, and exercise a very much more rigid censorship over the picture shows. It is very easy for honorable members of the Opposition, probably .for vote-catching purposes, to claim that they are trying to provide cheap entertainments for that section of the community which they know will be able to cast a very large vote on election’ day. But honorable members opposite have no financial responsibility for the carrying on of the government. I think that this is a tax that should be imposed, and I hope that the Government will stand firm with their proposal, and that this Bill, as a part of the Government’s financial policy, will be agreed to.
.- I heard a remark from the Treasurer today which rather pleased me as being, I hope, the forerunner of an attempt to deal scientifically with taxation. This Bill is a crude proposal that might have emanated from the brains of a lot of amateurs, and not from the intelligence of men who understand the principles of taxation. I am making no personal attack on the Treasurer; he is not the only amateur who is dealing with taxation. If the Government were not such financial muddlers they would have brought forward a proposal for the meeting of revenue requirements by the taxation of incomes. Why do they not impose a tax upon the incomes of the picture show proprietors ? Why do they penalize children with a tax of 33 J per cent, when the proprietor of an entertainment pays only 10 per cent? There is nothing scientific in this entertainment tax. I am not the only person who is advocating scientific taxation. The views I am urging have been stressed by many men in the British Parliament. Men who dealt with the Imperial finances both before . and since the war have admitted that the present system of taxation is not based on scientific or just principles. To-day the Treasurer is hurrying forward this proposal to tax the entertainment tickets of children, but measures for the taxation of the incomes of profiteers are kept well in the background. The Government were returned to power on the promise that they would help to win the war. “We are told that money is as essential as men for the successful prosecution of the war, but no steps are being taken to. get by a proper system of taxation our revenue needs from those who are making huge sums of money. To-day wealth is being accumulated by the few in Australia at a much greater rate than at any period in our history. Those who have taken an interest in matters of taxation know that the time to tax a community is when it is wealthy, and not when the war is over, and when loan moneys cease to be expended, and hundreds of thousands of people who are receiving payments from the Defence Department, the Navy Department, and other Departments which are furnishing the necessities for the war will cease to draw that money which now enables them to contribute something towards the cost of the war. I am continually calling attention to this fact, and I hope that my earnest endeavours in this regard will meet with some reward. We should not wait until after the war is over to face these problems. They will be greater after the war, when the Government willbe involved in the heavy task of maintaining people in such employment as will enable them to meet the taxation which of necessity must be imposed. I am grieved that no one has arisen on the Government side to attempt to solve the problem of taxation. It can be solved. There is no problem on earth which cannot be solved. I have already told honorable members what is being done in Great Britain, Canada, and New Zealand. The people of those countries are not handing down, to posterity the whole cost of the war. Of course I am aware that we cannot do without raising loans, but interest must be paid on the money borrowed in that way. Ministers seem to have put the control of the finances into the hands of a Board of Advisers, or Finance Committee. I would not give utterance to any sentiment that might offend those estimable citizens who are giving advice to the Government on financial matters, but I think the Ministers have made a mistake in making these appointments.
– How does the honorable member propose to connect his remarks with the amendment before the Chair?
– I understand that the Treasurer accepts advice from financial advisers. We are now dealing with a financial matter, and until I am otherwise informed, I must conclude that the Treasurer has accepted their advice in regard to it.
– The amendment before the Chair has nothing, to do with financial advisers of the Treasurer.
– The purpose of the amendment is to reduce the amount of taxation, which, I assume, is a proposal from those financial advisers. Therefore, I take it that I am in order in referring to them.
– The honorable member will not be in order in continuing to speak on those lines.
– Of course, if that is your opinion, Mr. Chairman, T have to bow to it, but it is not my opinion. I was under the impression that the Treasurer had been advised in this regard by this Finance Committee, and it seems to mo that Ministers should accept the responsibilities attaching to the positions they occupy. Too much responsibility is imposed on persons who are not Ministers. It is not a good policy to pursue, and I hope that we have heard the last of it. If I continue to have any voice in Parliament or in the country I shall certainly raise it against this practice on every occasion that presents itself. I shall oppose this Bill on the ground that the tax proposed is an extortion on children who attend picture shows. One honorable member has spoken of picture shows as immoral and as something we could do without, but it should be our purpose to bring up our Australian children as brainy citizens, with that power of initiative about which we have heard so much from all those who know anything about warfare in their eulogy of the grand fellows we have sent overseas. We want to give our children the opportunity of seeing something besides gum leaves or dust. Attendance at picture shows will give them initiative, and make them better pupils in our public schools. I am not against the practice of allowing children to attend picture shows. In any case, even if we were opposed to it, the people of Australia would continue to send their children to them. In the State of New South Wales, wherever there is any community of people, a picture show is to be found, just as we find an hotel or a church established there. The three seem to be a feature of Australian country communities. I think it is the general feeling of honorable members that the imposition of the tax on 3d. tickets should be omitted from the Bill. The other portion of the Government’s proposal is not at all scientific. I would rather see the Treasurer proceed with his income tax proposals, and deal with this matter afterwards. Why he has brought this forward first I cannot understand.
– I have just explained the reason to the Committee.
– Very few men in the Australian Parliaments have applied themselves to the study of finances, but sooner or later they must do so. Figures are dry matters to place before an audience, but the time has arrived when close study must be given to them by representative men. I hope that the proposal of the Government to impose this tax on 3d. tickets will be defeated.
.- By imposing a tax on tickets of admission to entertainments for which less than1s. is charged, the Government anticipate receiving additional revenue to the extent of £275,000. Last year not more than £245,000 was raised from the taxation of amusements, and the estimate for this year without the additonal impost is £205,000, but the Treasurer anticipates receiving a total revenue of £480,000 this year by the extension of the tax. He expects to get more out of the taxation of tickets for which the charge is lower than1s. than the total revenue received last year, when these tickets were not taxed. The reason for that is that the number of tickets sold below1s. is far in excess of those sold above that price. The great bulk of the population who spend money on football matches and picture shows will, under this proposal, contribute something towards the revenue. The salient feature of the whole proposal is, however, that no- compulsion will be imposed upon one individual in the community to contribute to the revenue in this way. No one need do so, if he does not so desire.
– Then the people will have to stop away from picture shows.
– What did the people do before there were picture shows? Let them indulge in some other form of amusement. Honorable members of the Opposition have been indulging in mock heroics about this matter. They have been trying to catch votes by tickling the ears of the groundlings.
– When the honorable member is seeking election to Parliament, does he not try to catch votes?
– I can secure support without “ tickling the ears of the groundlings.” Having regard to the increased prosperity existing in the community today, it is idle to say that the people cannot afford to pay this tax on amusements.
– It is easy to see that the honorable member has not to maintain seven young children on a wage of £2 2s. per week.
– The honorable member has no children, whereas I have. It is ridiculous to assert that when an adult patronizes a picture show he ought not to be asked to pay an extra tax of1d. Honorable members opposite insist on harping upon this increase as one of 331/3 per cent. In this way they seek to magnify the increase in the eyes of the people.
– It is true, all the same.
– It is sheerbluff. Is there a more profitable business in the community to-day than the picture show ? We have many theatres scattered over Melbourne, and in Bourke-street alone, in two cases, there are picture shows next door to each other. There are at least eight or ten picture shows in this city, and we know that a man would not invest his money in a picture show if it were not a profitable enterprise. The fact that this class of amusement has spread over the whole community justifies the Government in treating it, in time of war, as a legitimate source of taxation.
– This means a tax on poor children’s tickets.
– Why talk such “tripe”? It is remarkable that those who have no children talk most loudly of them. Some honorable members opposite have suggested that there should be an increase of 33^ per cent, on the more expensive theatre tickets. The charges for admission to our theatres to-day are fairly high. If a young fellow in ordinary circumstances proposes to take his best girl to the theatre, will he take her up in the gallery, where lie can secure a seat for ls.?
– No; no girl would go with him.
– Quite so. He takes her into the reserved stalls, where he has to pay 7s. 6d. for a seat on a Saturday night, and 63. on other evenings. To increase this tax proportionately on the higherpriced tickets would be to impose an undue burden-on such men. An increase of 33$ per cent, on the higher-priced theatre tickets would press more heavily than would such an increase upon tickets of admission to a concert given, say, by Madame Melba, for which a man would pay a guinea each. The taxation of 3d. tickets will injure no one. A man who can afford to give his child 3d. for a picture-show ticket can just as well afford to pay 4d. for that ticket. If, as the result of this taxation, it should be necessary for -a man to deny himself something, then let him follow the advice so often given by the honorable member for Brisbane (Mr. Finlayson), and take a glass of beer less per week.
– Does the honorable member say it would be as easy for a man with six children to find 4d. for each of them to go to a picture show as it is for him to provide each of them with 3d. ?
– Would it hurt the children if they went one night a week less to the picture shows? The income tax has gone up to 8s. Id. in the £1, and there is a prospect of a further increase in the future. Taxation is to be increased to raise an additional £6,000,000 next year; and as our interest bill on the £80,000,000 that we’ are borrowing each year goes up, further taxation must be imposed on the incomes of the people, whether they be derived from personal exertion or from property. In view of all these circumstances, surely it is not unfair to say that those who patronize picture shows and other forms of entertainment shall contribute something to the revenue of this country, which is today more prosperous than it has ever been.
.- Therecan be no doubt that additional revenue must be raised by the Government, but my experience is that honorable membersare always prepared to “ tax the other fellow.” I do not object so strongly to the tax on 6d. tickets, but I certainly think it is unfair to impose a tax on the 3d. tickets sold to children. When I was a youngster, I had to work very hard. I had no chance for recreation or sport of any kind.
– That is why the honorablemember is having so much of it now.
– As I get older, I have an increasing relish for. sport. In this respect, I am like a poddy calf, which ispractically starved until it gets strong enough to butt its owner over, so that it may put its head into the bucket and obtain for itself the milk it requires. When I was young, I was very much in? the position of the poddy calf, and as soon as I got my nose into the bucket I kept it there.
I thank the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Sampson) for his cheap sneer as to the claim of the Oppositionside of the House that they represent the working classes. The hardest taskmaster* I have ever met are those who have themselves sprung from the working classes. No wonder the honorable member forget* the workers to-day, since he sprang from a working-class father and mother. Because he wants no pleasure for himself, he proposes to deprive other people’s youngsters of a little cheap amusement. I agree with him, however, that soma films are not fit to be seen by adults, let alone children. If a man is receiving £3 per week - there are many in Australia who receive less - and has a number of children to support, it is difficult for him to provide much in the way of pictureshow money for his little ones. It is a curious fact that the poorer a man is, and the harder he has to work, the larger is his family. I wonder how the honorable member for Grampians (Mr. Jowett) would have managed if he had had to rear his family on the same amount of money that I had. Every sixpence that I anc! my wife earned between us had to be turned over half-a-dozen times before wa could decide how it should be spent. Owing to the thriftiness of my wife, I am in the proud position to-day of being a member of this Parliament. The honorable member for Wimmera said that the
Opposition took upon themselves the responsibility of protecting the interests of the working classes. No one knows better than the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Watt) what has been the trend of politics in Australia since 1890. We were then told that if we desired proper representation we should send men from our own ranks to Parliament to help to make the laws. That advice we took, with the result that the Labour party has on’ two occasions been in command of the great continent of “Australia ; and I hope it will not be long before that party is in power again.
– I do not share that view at all.
– I know; we may agree to differ on the point. I was returned primarily by the votes of the working men and women of Maranoa, in Western Queensland, and I came here fully imbued with the spirit with which the electors themselves were imbued. If I cannot look after their interests, I certainly would not be satisfied to have the duty delegated to the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Sampson) ; indeed, I feel sure they have sufficient faith in me to know that I will do my best on their behalf. I have never failed them up to the present, and I am not going to fail them now.
This tax affects the people in the country much more than it does the people in the towns. It is, perhaps, only once a week, or. once a month, that country youngsters have the chance of going to a picture show in my constituency ; and I should here like to make a suggestion for the consideration of the Government. I have sufficient faith in honorable members behind the Government to know that even if the tax does mean 331/3 per cent, on a 3d. ticket, they have no desire to specially tax the children of the working man and woman, or of the soldiers who are fighting at the Front. My suggestion is that, on picture shows given before: 6 o’clock in the evening, the 3d. . tickets should be free of taxation, leaving only the evening tickets at that price liable to the impost.
– Most of the workers’ children do not attend the picture shows until night.
– They have no business there; I have no sympathy with people who take young children to entertain ments at night. In Melbourne here, any Saturday afternoon we may see parents taking four and five children along to shows of the kind.
– How many parents in the country can get away in the afternoon ?
– The mother can take them; “ where there’s a will there’s a way.”
– Have you ever seen a dozen prams at a picture show at night?
– There are no prams out in my part of the world; there the mother carries the children as long as she can, and when she cannot, some one else has to do it - the horse is left to do the rest.
– If the Treasurer cannot remove the proposed tax altogether, I shall be very glad if he can see his way clear to act on the suggestion I have made, for I believe it would go a long way in preventing the incidence of the taxation pressing too “heavily on people least able to bear it.
– One of the difficulties is that tickets of admission to theatres may be bought in the day-time, and used either in the afternoon or evening.
– The tickets might be distinguished by a stamp, or coloured differently.
– That is so; but I am afraid the proprietors would not do it, because it is of no advantage to them - they pass on the tax.
Mr.PAGE. - It has been pointed out by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Tudor) that if we made the proprietors pay the tax there would be no 3d. tickets; and I would sooner see the price at 4d.
– I shall take an opportunity to consider, and, before we finish with the Bill, see whether the suggestion of. the honorable member is feasible.
– I think it will prove a means of surmounting the difficulty.
– The suggestion of the honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. Page) might very well be considered by the Committee. It was, I think, the honorable member for Capricoruia (Mr. Higgs), as Treasurer, who first introduced the measure to tax entertainments admission tickets, and his proposal was for a tax of1d. on the 6d.. tickets. Hewas succeeded in office by the present Acting Minister for the Navy (Mr. Poynton), and, very much to the disgust of a number of honorable members who were amongst his supporters - though I think it was the Cabinet rather than the Minister who decided the question - the tax was reduced to what it is now. The proposal of the honorable member for Capricornia was that the 6d. tickets should pay a penny, and that the 3d. tickets should pay½d., but, as we know, under the present Act, these two classes of tickets are in no way affected. There is no doubt that in the future money will have to be found to a very much greater extent than up to the present. Thank God, the newsboards today tell us that one more of the enemy has made submission, and I think we can fairly see the beginning of the end. However, if the war ceased to-morrow, I believe that, before we have cleaned up all its horrors and effects, the war debt of Australia will be somewhere about £300,000,000, which, at 5 per cent., means an interest bill of some £15,000,000 per annum. Not only will the capital wealth and income of Australia have to be taxed, but I am afraid that we may have to tax even the necessities of the people.
– Pass a law that poor children shall not wear boots!
– If we are going to pay our way - and we are - there is no country more fitted than Australia to do so.
– Get the money in the right quarter.
– I think we shall get it in the right quarter; the debt is extremely large, and the mesh of the net will have to be much smaller than hitherto. When drastic taxation is necessary itis better to tax the luxuries, sports, and amusements of the people rather than their necessities. The Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Watt) has given some figures relating to similar taxation in England. The taxation that has been put on wealth in the Old Country has surprised the whole world. The income tax, the land tax, and all direct taxation there, is excessively heavy; in the case of amusement it is : - The 2½d. ticket pays a tax of ½d., a 4d. ticket pays1d., . a. 7d. ticket pays 2d., a1s. ticket pays 3d., a 2s. ticket pays 4d., and so it goes on, until the 10s. 6d. ticket pays1s. 6d. Will any honorable member say that the people of Australia are not in a better position to pay such taxation than are the people of England to-day?
– Do not forget that in England the taxation rises gradually on the higher-priced tickets, which is not thecasehere.
– I do not forget it, and I hope that before the Bill is through Committee we shall have placed more taxation on the higher-priced tickets.
– That is not suggested by the Acting Prime Minister.
– I cannot help what the Acting Prime Minister suggests ; if we tax the 3d. ticket of the child, there ought to be a higher tax on the higherpriced tickets. An appeal has been put in for football teams, but both onlookers and players ought to be quite satisfied to pay something for the men who are fighting at the Front on their behalf. The suggestion made by the honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. Page) is a practical one, and I hope it will be seriously considered. Nobody wants to tax the afternoon amusements of the “ kiddies.”
– The Government do.
– If the Treasurer is proposing it, it is because of a sense of duty, and not with any sense of pleasure. Surely to heaven there is no one in this chamber who thinks there is any desire to tax the poor in this way !
– That is what the Government are doing!
– At present I am merely urging that the very fair compromise suggested by the honorable member for Maranoa shall be seriously considered. What the Government lose on the 3d. tickets we can easily make up by increased taxation on the higher-priced tickets; indeed, we can more than make up any loss sustained in this way. Will any one say that the howling throngs at the stadiums, where people are boxing who ought to be boxing somebody else in another part of the world, ought not to be made to pay a fair amount for their amusement? I am not here to suggest what people ought to do, but I cannot think it is altogether an advantage to the community for young children to attend picture shows in the evening. There is no doubt that it will be absolutely essential to impose heavy taxation in the future, and it is much better to tax the luxuries, pleasures, or vices of the people rather than their necessities.
.- I recognise that some system of taxation is necessary in order to meet the present and future liabilities of the country; but Ioppose any system of taxation which means hardship to the working classes, while the wealthy classes are left untouched. I am opposed to any system of taxation that places undue hardship on any section of the community. It is strange that the Government should concentrate attention on the taxation of picture entertainments, more especially the taxation of the 3d. tickets of the children. Much has been said on the subject, and a number of honorable members have come to the conclusion that such taxation will not interfere with the attendance of children at picture shows. It means, however, that a man, who is in the habit of taking four or five children to such an entertainment once a week, will be called upon to pay from1s. 8d. to 2s. extra for the recreation of his family. The picture show is practically the only possible means of enjoyment that the poorer classes have. The Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Watt) in his Budget speech, said he hoped to receive £450,000 from the war-time profits tax, and a similar amount from the taxation of picture show entertainments; in other words, the honorable gentleman intends to tax the children of the poorer classes to the same extent as the” profiteers in the country are taxed.
– At how many picture shows are 3d. admission tickets sold in the evening?
– Practically every picture show sells 3d. admission tickets to children under the age of fourteen years. Why should 3d. tickets be taxed at the rate of 331/3 per cent. , and1s. tickets at the rate of only8¼ per cent. ? The honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. Page) suggested that the tax might be applied to 3d. tickets only when these were sold after 6 o’clock in the evening, so that the children of poor parents might be able to go to the picture show without being taxed. But the great bulk of the children of the workers cannot go to the picture show before 6 o’clock in the evening. Their occupations prevent the workers from getting home sufficiently early to enable their wives and families to attend picture showsin the afternoon.
– They could go to the Saturday matinee.
– How many men working in the continual process industries can get off at 12 o’clock on Saturdays ? The men in these industries - take the mining industry, for example - have to work from 8 in the morning until 4 in the afternoon. Such men cannot accompany their families to the picture show before 6 o’clock.
-Does the honorable member say that we are going to collect only £500,000 from the war-time profits tax?
-I said that the Treasurer stated in his Budget speech that he would get only £450,000 extra from the war-time profits tax.
– The total amount that is to be obtained is £1,800,000.
– I was referring to extra taxation.
– The honorable member’s speech is spoiling the case for the exemption of 3d. tickets.
– Nothing said on this side of the House is likely to have much effect on the Government.
– The speech of the honorable member for Maranoa had a good effect.
– A good effect in the wrong direction. I enter my protest against the taxation of those who cannot afford to pay. Much has been said about the immorality of picture films, but, although I attend picture shows as much as the next man, and ran one for a considerable time, I have never seen an immoral film. There are such films, but not many of them get into the country, and my concern is for the protection of the people in the country, who do not get a fair deal from this Government, and did not get a fair deal from preceding Governments. The honorable member for Henty (Mr. Boyd) said that, as people were not compelled to attend picture shows, the payment of the tax is not compulsory. To that I would reply that the children of the poorer people must have recreation, and this is the only kind of recreation available to them.
– Perhaps if we increased the accommodation for visitors in this chamber, some of the picture shows might close.
– At times there are scenes in this House equalling any presented in a picture theatre. Honorable members opposite are always willing and able to produce such scenes.
– We shall need a children’s gallery.
– If the children of the poorer classes could hear our debates it would have a good effect, because they would learn what is going on here.- T protest against taxation which will impose hardship on the poorer section of the community. Ministers know that this taxation will not affect the picture show proprietors’, who, according to the honorable member for Henty, are making enormous sums of money. The taxation of entertainments will be passed on to the patrons of the show.
– Is not most taxation passed on?
– The man on the land cannot pass on taxation.
– This Government have made no provision for preventing the passing on of taxation to the consumer. No doubt, some members would be glad to see the picture shows closed, and all other opportunities of recrea’tion taken from the rising generation.
– It is not fair to say that.
-Some honorable members opposite believe that from the time a boy leaves school he should have his back bent at the pick and shovel, and suffer nothing but hardship from the day he came into the world until the day he passes out. Some honorable members have no time for the working people; they think that they are there merely to carry on certain operations, and that when this has been done it is the end of their section. I hope that the tax will not be imposed.
.- Although I am opposed to the taxing of 3d. tickets, I shall not base my opposition on arguments similar to those of the last speaker, and, indeed, feel some diffidence about taking the same side as he takes on this question. Never since I entered this Chamber on the inception of Federation have I heard a more reckless and silly charge than he has just made against the honorable gentlemen on this side. Although fully seized of the importance of increases of the revenue, I do not regard it as necessary to tax 3d. tickets. I am prepared to increase the rate of taxation on 6d. and higher-priced tickets.
– Has the honorable member calculated how the amount required could be obtained by a revision of the scale?
– I leave that to theTreasurer; but I should be prepared to support any increase of taxation on 6d. and higher-priced tickets that might benecessary to make up the estimated deficiency caused by exempting 3d. ticketsfrom taxation. ‘ Exception has been taken to certain classes of pictures that are shown. Undoubtedly some picturesare in the highest degree objectionable, and many others are exceedingly trashy. In the early days of picture shows, pictures were displayed which were not only unobjectionable, but were also highly interesting and educational. I cannot understand why these have been supplanted by the silly productions that areimported in such numbers from America.
– Because people do not wish to see them.
– On the contrary, I of ten hear people expressing regret at thedeterioration of the picture shows, and* wishing for a return of that class of film which was so popular a few years ago. T feel sure that if the picture-show proprietors would give us that class of scenic, industrial, travel, and educational film* which were included in most programmessome years ago, they would be well rewarded by -the increased patronage. I remember a beautiful series of educational pictures showing the blossomingand development of flowers and plants,, and the theatres at which they wereshown were crowded. With regard to matinees, I am very pleased to find that the picture-show proprietors, as a ruler are putting on a clean and wholesome programme on Saturday afternoons.
– I heard two children in? Richmond expressing pleasure last Saturday afternoon that the matinee programme had included two educational, pictures.
– I hope that the tendency will be to revert to those wholesome pictures. The children should be encouraged, rather than prevented from, attending such shows. I do not like to see them attending pictures at night. It is a sad sight to see a child nodding in the arms of its mother at a night show. But we ought to encourage the attendance of children at the matinees if we can at the name time improve the character of the pictures. As we have appointed censors for that very work, I cannot see what is to hinder them from insuring that the matinee pictures shall be of a better class than many which have been shown lately.
My objection to the Government’s proposal is that it taxes the mother in the home, where every penny of expenditure must be studied. If a mother has three or four children, ranging in age from three to ten or twelve years, they will all desire to go to a picture show, and the mother who can refuse them is Tare. But I know that the tax they are paying for tickets for children, even- under present circumstances, strains the monetary resources of the home, and to add even Id. to the 3d. tickets of the children is a big consideration to a mother who already spends many an anxious evening trying to make ends meet. There can be no question that, though wages are high, it is a hard struggle for the thrifty mother of a family to keep out of debt. This tax will fall upon the woman in the home, who, it must be remembered, is already paying an excessive amount of indirect taxation in connexion with .the purchase of commodities. I do net think that there is any person in the community who is tit so hard to-day by taxation as is the mother of a family, and I feel sure that no honorable member wishes to increase h&r burden, if it can possibly be avoided. In connexion with this tax, we can save her a little addition to her burden; the relief may not be great, but it all tells on purse that is not weighty at the end of the week. We have no desire to deprive the children of their afternoon at the picture show, nor do we wish to make any mother feel that she is taking more out -of her thin purse for entertainments than she ought to take. I hope, therefore, that the Committee will adopt the very excellent proposal of the honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. Page), who, as we all know, has, in regard to matters that affect the welfare of the people, a heart of gold, and whose suggestions in that regard can he invariably followed with advantage.
– I raise my voice in protest against the proposed tax on the smaller-priced, tickets. I regret that I cannot support the suggestion of the honorable member for Maranoa, because I agree with the honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Nicholls) that, whilst the exemption of matinee tickets may be beneficial in the cities, it will be of no benefit in a mining town like Broken Hill, where, especially since the 6 o’clock closing of public houses, families simply flock to the picture shows in the evening. The mines work three shifts, and women, who must attend to the requirements of their husbands, or, perhaps, a few boarders, have no opportunity of taking children to picture shows in the afternoon.
– The oldest child in the family generally takes charge at the picture show.
– That happens in some cases, but if the honorable member has attended many picture shows at night he must have seen that nobody in particular was in charge of the majority of the children. The proposal of the honorable member for Maranoa will be of no advantage to the people in mining and country towns.
– Are there 3d. tickets in Broken Hill?
– Yes ; as far as I know 3d. tickets for children are universal.
– Not in some country towns.
– That must be where the profiteers are. I regard this as a serious matter, inasmuch as it affects one of the forms of amusement mostly patronised by the great bulk of the people who can least afford any kind of amusement under the present circumstances. To-day wages are nominally large, but those who are receiving them have very little left on pay day after satisfying the butcher, the baker, and the grocer. Now the Government propose that the householder shall be further penalized through his children’s amusement. Honorable members know that the mother of a family would deny herslf a almost anything rather than prevent her children from getting some cheap recreation. The children are looking for amusement, and most of us have been besieged by children asking for our passes when we have come out of a picture show at the interval. Naturally. parents will do their best to see that the children are not denied the opportunities for amusement that they crave. Money must be obtained, and nobody will deny the necessity for taxation, but I wish to see the increased imposts start in the dress circle. The Treasurer intimated that he has not proposed certain other increases because he is reserving them for another Budget. If there are unexplored avenues of taxation, those who are able to pay high prices for admission to the theatres, race-courses, or boxing stadia should be the first to be tackled by the tax collector.
– Make the tax 33 per cent. all round.
– That would not be fair. A tax of 33 per cent. on a cheap ticket hurts the purchaser more than a 33 per cent. tax on a 6s. ticket. Directly or indirectly, the workers pay all taxation. They carry all the other sections of the community on their backs.
-The man on the land carries the lot.
– The man on the land is a worker equally as much as the industrialist.
– The man on the land bears the greater burden of taxation.
– I know that a lot of industrial workers would like to exchange positions with the man on the land. However, I do not distinguish between the industrial worker and the agricultural worker. Any person who works with his brain or muscle is a worker, but I do distinguish between the worker and the parasite, and I look forward to the day when the industrial worker and the man on the land will form an alliance which will enable them both to get rid of the parasite who is battening on them.
– Is a member of Parliament a parasite?
– It all depends on whether he is doing the work he is paid to do. Taxation should not be imposed on the worker, who at the present time has a sufficiently hard struggle for existence without having further burdens placed upon him. but upon those people who are making fortunes out of the war. They it is who should be called upon to find the £15,000,000 which the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. McWilliams) has said will be needed to pay interest onour war loans. The working men and women of this country are only get ting a starvation wage at the present time. Wages are nominally high, but, as statistics conclusively prove, they are relatively worse than they were ten or fifteen years ago, and if this Parliament were performing the duty which the people of Australia expect it to do, it would notbe tinkering around taxing the 3d. tickets of children, or the 6d. tickets of workers who, if they are desirous of obtaining amusement, can only get it in a form within their means by attending picture shows. Some honorable members have talked about the morality of this form of entertainment. A few years ago we used to hear about the dreadful effects that would follow State interference with the individual. To-day, we have not only censorship of the press and of utterances in Parliament, but also a proposal to censor picture shows.
– They are already cen- sored.
– I am aware of that, but evidently the existing censorship is hot drastic enough for some honorable members who have been voicing their opinions this afternoon. I have not seen a picture show that I considered should have been censored. One section of the community wishes, not only to tax the working man, but also to lay down the form of amusement he must patronize, regulate his mode of life, and, in fact, restore the drastic blue laws of Kentucky, under which if a man kissed his wife on Sunday he was fined.
– Does the honorable member intend to connect his remark with the question before the Chair?
– I will endeavour to do so if you will assist me by maintaining order so that I will not be thrown off my track. Certain honorable members have commented adversely on the class of amusement the proposed tax will deal with, and in following their vagaries and particular foibles in connexion with the censorship of films, I was led to illustrate the conditions that prevailed in-. America regarding amusements of a different character. I would like to see an addition to the proposal before the Committee in the following shape: -
Add the words “ exceeding 3s.,1d. for every 6d. or part of 6d. by which the payment exceeds 3s.”
I would even make it more drastic.
– Make it 33 per cent, all round.
– No. I am not having any of your 33 per cent. I want to lower the taxation on the section of this community which is .already hearing the brunt of the war. You have already taken the working class people to fight.
– Who has taken them 1
– Honorable members opposite. You have taken the working classes to fight in the war, and now you propose to tax their dependants; and from the small wages which will be paid in the factories and workshops to these men when they come back again, you and the representatives of the people who are piling up fortunes on their blood and sufferings will deduct this tax. You, who ask these men, about whose glorious deeds you will talk, to bear the brunt of the war, are the people who have taken them to fight. You, with your Wheat Pools and your Wool Pools - - -
– Have saved Australia.
– They have saved Australia in the eyes of the honorable member, who can only see the people who are exploiting the great bulk of the community.
– What becomes of the farmers’ interests, about which the honorable member was talking a few moments ago, seeing- that he now denounces, the Wheat Pool ?
– A few moments ago’ I was trying to point out that the farmer, or any one who works mentally or physically, is a worker, and that I looked” forward to the formation of an alliance between the agricultural and industrial interests of Australia, which would sweep out of political life the honorable member and others associated with him, because it would mean that the working man would have the chance to live a decent life with a proper share of the wealth he produces. This taxation is part and parcel of the class of taxation that is imposed by those people who are exploiting the great bulk of the people of the community. We cannot expect anything else but taxation of this character from them.
– What shocking people we are !
– I did not expect the honorable member to be shocked so quickly. Now that he is shocked, I expect that he, and those in common with him, will make restitution to the rest of the people of Australia, and endeavour to give relief to the kiddies, and the wives and families, of those who are carrying the burden of the war which has helped the honorable member and others in his class of business to make money out of the necessities of the people.
– I am not at all surprised at the character of the debate. I do not think that I was alone in anticipating that some of the old ideas would be brought forward again to-day. The chief idea of some honorable members who profess to represent the workers is to get a. war-cry, and the more misleading it is the better it pays. That is the kind of stuff we have heard to-day, with the exception of a splendid relief in the shape of a speech by the honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. Page), who has spoken with’ courage and conviction, and with loyalty to all that is best. We have heard again the old cry that the whole of the burden is being placed on the poor working man. I am quite certain that the vast majority of the working men of Australia will regard such talk at its proper value. Some honorable members are exceedingly disappointed that the Government, in its taxation proposals, did not introduce a policy which would have enabled them to revive the old “free breakfast table” business, which would have been a very fine stock phrase for some honorable members to use all over Australia. But it has not come. And now that there is, to begin with, a tax of Id. on amusements, that is to say, on a luxury - whether it is the poor man’s enjoyment or the rich man’s enjoyment it is certainly one of the luxuries - it is claimed to be an increase of 33Jj per cent. ; and that increase will be presented before a section of the people of Australia, the unthinking section, not in its proper relation, but “with quite a different intention. This kind of talk has served its purpose in the past, but it will not do so again, because the real facts of taxation will b6 put before the people of this country in their proper light. Where has there been any intention displayed to impose taxation on the “ poor working man “ ? - making use. of a phrase which is hawked about with the deliberate intention of misleading. When has that intention been shown ?
– Every time.
– My friend is a decent fellow. The only place in which he goes wrong is in the head. “ ‘Tis the heart, and not the brain, that to the highest doth attain.” So far as my friend’s heart is concerned, he is pretty nearly all right. The burden of direct taxation has not yet fallen upon the “poor working man.” This is a tax on amusements, and if the Government are determined that the people shall contribute, on a very wide basis, to the revenue of the country, surely there can be no harm in such a proposal, from which practically no one can escape, more especially when the tax is only Id. per ticket.
– It is- far better than a tax on tea.
– Much better. The Opposition are disappointed because such an impost has not been proposed by the Government. One would imagine, from their criticism of this proposal, that the Government contemplated a form of taxation calculated to bring ruin upon the country. In this time of war it seems to me that too much attention is given to picture shows and amusements generally. I have no desire that the people should grow morose, but I do not think they should go to the other extreme, and it is certainly not a healthy sign that, ever since the war began, all avenues of amusement in Australia have been more crowded than ever.
We have heard a good deal during this debate about the “ taxation of poor children.” In the “broadest sense of the term we have no “ poor children “ in Australia, thank God, nor have we the “ poor working man” in the sense that honorable members opposite would have us believe. It would be a great deal better for the children who attend picture shows - many of them almost nightly - if they were taught “something of the spirit of self-sacrifice. The Opposition prate about oppression in this country, but I invite them to consider the position of the people in France and some of the other belligerent countries. Have they ever given a moment’s consideration to the sacrifices which the people of those countries are making? . The financial and commercial exploiters here ought to be well taxed.
– The honorable mem ber will not help us to tax them.
– I will, and I have shown a disposition to do so ever since the Avar began. The greatest exploiter of the working man to-day is the man who professes to represent him, but really does not do so. The industrial development of Australia, on which so much must depend after the war, is more menaced by the exploiters of the working man, who profess to represent him, than by any other section of the community. The honorable member for Barrier (Mr. Considine) has spoken pretty freely. As a rule, he expresses his views without any hesitation, and in a way that I do not think his colleagues always appreciate. Surely he will admit that all classes, from the poorest to the richest in the community, should be prepared, in proportion to their ability, to make some sacrifice. It would be better if the Opposition would recognise their duty in this regard, and forget for a moment the almighty vote outside, and the fear, not only that they may not be returned, but that they may not even secure selection to go before the people. Let them recognise that this question of taxation must be faced. The burdens of taxation must continue to increase, but that is a matter of no concern to those who do not believe in discharging honorable obligations. Happily, there are not many of that type in this Parliament.
It is the parents and not the children to whom picture show tickets are issued that will have to bear this tax. If people who have been accustomed to attending picture shows practically every night in the week were induced to do so only one night in the week it would be better for the future of Australia. Let honorable members generally get away from the cant and hypocrisy which is indulged in, merely with the object of exploiting the unthinking of the community. Unless we do so, the day is not far distant when the people will rise up and sweep away this Parliament, with a determination to return men who are prepared, come what may, to do their duty.
– The debate on this question has developed into one of a party character.
There can be no doubt that honorable members of the Opposition represent the poorer section of the community, while the Government and their supporters represent the plutocrats. This is not only a brutal, but a contemptible increase of taxation, and many of those who have discussed it appear to have not the slightest conception of $ie position of the workers to-day. We are here to get the best that we can out of the world, as well as to give to it the best that is in us ; and I hold that the child of a working man has as much right to recreation, amusement, and luxury as has the child of the wealthiest man in the country. Like “the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Archibald), I represent a division where there are far more children than in any of the more Conservative electorates of the Commonwealth. There are in my constituency dozens of families of eight and nine children, not one of whom is over fourteen years of age, and the fathers of the<=.e families are earning an average of about £2 5s. per week.
– Nonsense! What are they employed at?
– On casual work. These men cannot afford to pay for highpriced amusement tickets. While some honorable members condemn picture shows, I regard them as having a high educational value. When I get a night off I always go to a picture show.
– What does the honorable member prefer - a Charlie Chaplin film?
– No ; when he is on I do not go. We are told that the morals of the children are sapped by what they see at picture shows. What about the bald-headed men in the stalls watching every movement of the ballet girls ? . Their morals are in more danger of being sapped in that way than are the morals of the children who go to picture shows. There are various forms of amusement.’ Some people find amusement in listening to the debates of this House. There are others who go to church for amusement.
– Where is the amusement?
– That is what I am trying to explain. It is an amusement to many women to show other women at church that they have better hats than their neighbours
– I think that is beside the question,
– I bow to your ruling, sir, but I remind you that the amusement of the workers’ children is being attacked and condemned. I knew a girl once, and her idea of amusement was to go to the cemetery and read the poetry on the tombstones.
– She did -not last long!
– That may be. What I am trying to show is that the main or only amusement of the workers’ children should not be attacked. In my opinion, these picture shows do not have the bad effect on the children that some honorable members would make us’ believe. There is a section of our community whom nothing can amuse - who are blind and deaf to any form of amusement - and because of this they would prevent other men’s children from obtaining healthy entertainment. It is a damned pity we cannot tax that crowd - that is M I have to say about it !
– The honorable member must not use expressions of that kind.
– The many children of poor fathers, who earn a very small wage, ought not to be deprived of this means of entertainment. We are told that it would be better if these children stayed at home.
– Like the children in the bush.
– The honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Mathews) is not putting the matter fairly - that was never said.
– The fact that I have no children does not make me less considerate of the children of others ; arid, moreover, I represent a community of large families. To them the picture theatre represents the main, if not the only, form of amusement, and, in my opinion, instead of being restricted, the picture shows ought to be extended. Indeed, if we were civilized, there would be a gymnasium in every locality, where the children of the workers could build themselves up. That idea has been preached by the Labour movement for years; but I can remember when I was laughed at for advocating in the House that the community as a whole should provide amusements and playgrounds for the children.
The profit-mongers and exploiters - all the fraternity of profiteers - have been allowed to escape in the matter of taxation, although we know that enormous fortunes have been made out of the war. Now we have a suggestion from the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Sampson) that the picture show proprietors should pay the tax. As to that, does any one here think that these proprietors make a profit of anything like 33-J per cent.?
– They make quite a pretty fair profit, all the same.
– I have no pecuniary interest in picture shows - I wish to heaven I had! - and I have no reason to defend them or their proprietors, but I have friends amongst them, and I do know that they do not make anything like 33^ per cent. Like all other business men, with the exception of a few who are always making money, they are subject to a rise and fall of profits. The Acting Prime Minister (Mr.. Watt) has admitted that the advertising of a War Loan cost £124,000 ; and in this connexion it must be remembered that, while the newspapers were paid special rates, the picture show proprietors did the advertising for nothing.
– The newspaper advertising pays the Government very handsomely.
– Quite so; but, unfortunately, the same advertising is used on behalf of conscription, and some people had a halo of patriotism out of which they made money.
The honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. Page) has made a suggestion which ought to be considered, for no one would contend that the ‘3d. ticket of the child should be taxed. The Acting Prime Minister has drawn a comparison between these charges in Australia and similar charges in Britain. But in Britain, as we are informed by a daily paper which supports the Government side - and here I must say that i think that the Saturday issues of our daily papers are well worth the extra Id. - some 400 picture shows have been closed in the provinces, while, at the same time, the number has been increased in London. And what is the reason? It is that, in spite of the men who have gone to the Front, the population in London has been kept normal, or has even been increased, by the influx of people from other countries. Thus, only Loudon has been paying the tax.
– That is not correct, because the great provincial cities are still being levied upon, and are paying heavily.
– In the great provincial cities of Britain, shows of all. kinds have decreased in number, but, particularly, picture shows, to the extent of 400. Is the Treasurer proud of his proposal to tax the children Id. on a 3d. ticket? .
– That is only a “catchpenny “ cry that has nothing to do with the question.
– Of course, it is open to the honorable gentleman to make that assertion; but he will agree that every argument advanced by a politician, if it is not with a view to making his seat secure, is, at any rate, intended to voice the opinion- of those whom he represents. In the Melbourne Ports division there is the biggest birth-rate of any in Australia, and that in spite of the fact that many of the mothers, owing to theirpoor circumstances, have to avail themselves of the Lying-in Hospital in Mel’bourne. Of course, I know that the Treasurer, in using the phrase “catchpenny,” is not attacking me personally, and we may let the matter rest at that. At any rate, I represent a constituency in which the children are in greater numbers than elsewhere, and in which the fathers earn less money than is earned in other parts of the country. The children ‘ of the workers have as much right to their pleasures and luxuries as has any other section of the community, and we must not forget that, not only picture shows, but every little concert or association gathering will be subject to the tax. These are the only forms of amusement in congested areas of the city, and min© happens to be the most closely populated of the lot. We all like to see the youngsters enjoy themselves, and this proposed tax is not only unworthy of the. Government, but unnecessary. Tax the tickets of the adults if you like, but leave, the tickets of the children alone. These children have not the opportunities for enjoyment that the children of the well-to-do possess, and their amusements should not be taxed.
– I am sorry that I cannot support the Government in this part of its financial programme. At times like the present, we mustbe ready to concede a great deal; but in this case we are being asked too much. I have not forgotten what1d. meant to me when I was a youngster, although I was one of a small family. In the poorer communities the picture show provides the children with their chief amusement. It has not been, and I think cannot be, shown that the Government has drawn upon other avenues of taxation to an extent which justifies this tax. Somehonorablemembershave pointed out that there is not a tax on tea. I venture to say that a tax on tea would not be so burdensome as a tax on 3d. tickets would be to poor persons with large families. To my mind, the proposed tax is grossly unfair. A man with a family of four, if he went to the pictures weekly, would have to pay a tax of 4d. on the children’s tickets, and 2d. on his own and his wife’s tickets, whereas his nextdoor neighbour, with, perhaps, only one child, or no children at all, would escape much more lightly. It is impossible to avoid the imputation that this is a tax on children, and I am not prepared to give a vote to increase the difficulty of those who are trying to bring up children decently. On the contrary, we should do all that we can to lighten their burden, and the Commonwealth and State Governments will have to give attention to this matter of devising means for encouraging our people to take upon their shoulders the burdens of parentage. It is unfortunate that, at such a time as this, when the need of population is accentuated by the war, a proposal such as that under discussion should be made by the National Government. It will be with reluctance that I shall vote for a tax on 6d. tickets; I am quite unable to support the proposal to tax 3d tickets
.- I regret that thisproposel has been brought forward. The Government made no announcement to the electors that it would increase the taxation of the poorer classes of the community. A great number of those who are at the Front have left behind them wives and families. Their children are without their father’s company in the home, and at night many a mother finds it convenient to take her offspring to the picture show for amusement. Why should we specially tax those who have allowed their home life to be broken up in the interests of the country? It is unfair to put a tax on the amusements of the children. I represent a large metropolitan constituency, and I know that the numerous picture shows in my district are well patronizedby children on Saturday afternoons and during the summer evenings. Yet it is proposed to tax the children’s admission tickets at the rate of 331/3 per cent.
– Do the children pay only 3d. for admission to a night show?
– Yes. The Government could get the revenue that it needs from some other source. There is no statesmanship about the present proposal. The public has not asked for this taxation; and when it was last proposed, a majority voted against it. I have here a list of firms which, since the war, have increased their reserves enormously. For instance, the reserve funds of Messrs. Burns, Philp, and Company were increased last year from £294,817 to £498,530.
– We get 75 per cent. of their excess profits.
– The same thing happens in Great Britain.
– In Great Britain they take allbut 20 per cent; we take all but 25 per cent. But the trade of some British concerns is enormous.
– Messrs. Huddart Parker and Company have increased their reserves from £75,405 to £308,000, and the Bacchus Marsh Concentrated Milk Company has increased its reserves to £10,265. The taxation of these reserves should be proposed.
– We get 75 per cent. of the excess profits in all these cases.
– After having given the companies two years for nothing.
– That was not our fault; it was the fault of the honorable member.
– I moved an amendment to prevent it, which you voted against.
– The fact that such large reserves are being put aside shows that the Government are not doing enough. The number of big firms in Sydney and Melbourne which are increasing their reserves enormously is astonishing. I am not looking for a political catch-cry; I oppose this tax, because I think that 3d. and 6d. tickets of admission to entertainments should be exempt from taxation. If the Government will withdraw the present proposal, I shall be willing to assist to raise revenue in other ways. The poorer people must be protected from extra taxation. It has not been proposed to increase taxation in other directions at the rate at which 3d. tickets are to be taxed.
– Will the honorable member deny that wages are higher than they were, and money more plentiful ?
– Wages are higher than they were, but, as Mr. Knibbs’ statistics show, the cost of living has increased more rapidly than the rate of wages, and, therefore, the workers are not so well off now as they were before the war. Clothing and the various necessaries of life have increased in price by 30 to 35 per cent. Rates of wages have not increased to that extent. In view of the opinions that have been expressed, the Government should withdraw this proposal. I would favour the increasing of the taxation on ls. and higher- priced tickets. If that were done, and 6d. tickets were exempted, the revenue would benefit.
.- As the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Fowler) and the honorable member for Illawarra (Mr. Lamond) have largely voiced my opinions on this matter, I shall not detain the Committee long. Many years ago, when a fight was being made for women’s rights, we heard a great deal about the principle of no taxation without representation. I maintain that the tax now under discussion falls upon the married men of the community, or, rather, upon those possessing large families, and is a violation of the principle to which I have referred. The Federal and State authorities, by giving certain exemptions from income taxation, are seeking to make things better for the married man, and I do not propose to discuss now how far that legislation goes in the direction of equity. The great majority of parents, however, are not subject to income taxation, and, therefore, do not benefit by these exemptions.
On the casual labourer or small-salaried person with a big family the tax now under discussion would fall heavily. I cannot support such taxation, although I recognise the. need for revenue. Some time ago I made a suggestion whereby several millions a year could be raised, by tempting those who now rush to race-courses to bet, or take part in raffles and lotteries, to put their money into a Commonwealth lottery, with war bonds as prizes. We all aim at the millennium, when Parliaments will be able to tax people into prosperity, or to trick them into reform, but I have not heard any sound arguments advanced against my suggestion, though it has provoked prejudice on the ground that it encourages, or gives legal protection to, gambling. I think that foe should take advantage, not only of the patriotism of the people, but also of their fondness for distraction or their wish to take short cuts to fortune, by gambling, to get the revenue which we so greatly need. The country is in such dire straits for money that we should avail ourselves of all legitimate means. We could easily sell at the’ various postoffices throughout Australia, through the Postmaster-General’s Department, 5s. lottery tickets, and the extra A. postage would pay the cost of administering the lottery. Then, out of every £1,000,000 collected we could allot £800,000 in war bonds at 5 per cent, for prizes. If we did this we should knock out of business every sweep in Australia and help to do away with all other gambling. I may be told that New Zealand and other parts of the world have not taken the initiative in this matter, but Australia is making precedents for the world. Australia, by claiming as a people’s right the right to say what shall be done with its man power, has shown what a true Democracy is entitled to do before it canbe regarded as a real self-governing community. I have never gambled, and have no desire to win other people’s money, and much less to lose my own. But I know that the majority of the people would prefer to nut their money into a gamble rather than into anything else. They are doing that in connexion even with the churches and many other institutions. But we, in this Parliament, are on such a pedestal that we dare not do that for fear that public morality would be outraged.
– The honorable member will be excommunicated if he is not careful.
– Perhaps it is a case of fools rushing in where angels fear to tread. The vast majority of the people, when they realize what was pointed out by the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Mcwilliams), that we are about to be faced with an interest bill of £15,000,000 per annum, would support the suggestion I have made. Quite a number of good people, who think that they would be booking a passage for the lower region if they were to pay 5s. into a lottery, with war bonds as prizes, will speculate on the Stock Exchange, the seasons, and even on the life blood of their fellow citizens. Those people, when they realize that the interest bill will have to be paid, will recognise that a scheme which promises to earn annually millions of pounds for the revenue, and to place war bonds into the hands of hundreds of thousands of people, who will thus be given a strong interest in maintaining the stability of the country’s finances, if for no higher motive than self-interest, is one that they cannot afford to neglect. Many people who hitherto were strongly prejudiced on this matter have thawed considerably, and, to my certain knowledge, now admit that they can see no. moral objection to the proposal. I hope that the Treasurer, instead of, as the Bulletin says, “ putting everything on the kid,” will see that the chap who selfishly takes advantage of the high rate of wages, but refuses to marry, though willing to speculate, is made to pay his share. The high . wages benefit only the single man, because, as the honorable member for Calare (Mr. Pigott) has shown, whilst wages have risen, the cost of living has increased, and that increase is borne by the married man only. Those persons who do not take on themselves family obligations are free of the chief disability which the high cost of living puts on the people, and I trust that they will be made to pay by the means I have suggested.
– I have pleasure in heartily indorsing the suggestion made by the honorable member who has just resumed his seat. At present every member of the House is acting as a rank hypocrite-
– We are all pretending to wear the white garments of purity when in reality our garment is drab and discoloured. I allude to our attitude towards Tattersalls sweeps. Every honorable member knows that he can break the law by taking a ticket in those lotteries, and that our big Postal Department is placed at the disposal of this gambling concern in order that profits may be made for the few who control it.
– The Postal Department declines to deliver letters for Tattersalls.
– The Acting Prime Minister is not so innocent as not to know that that regulation is a farce.
– I think that the barrier is broken through, but the post-office is not placed at the disposal of Tattersalls.
– I am prepared to wager with the Prime Minister one month’s salary that I can post money to Tattersalls and get a ticket for it through the Postal Department.
– I do not bet.
– The honorable member knows that I am speaking the truth. I or any other honorable member can get a ticket from Tattersalls through the post-office, and the Department will benefit by the sale of so many stamps - one stamp for the letter carrying the application, another for the letter bringing the ticket in return, and. possibly a third stamp if the ticket wins a prize. I would prefer that the lottery should be controlled by the Commonwealth. I know that the State of Tasmania cannot make ends meet if it is deprived of the revenue from this gambling concern; but every member of Parliament is dishonoured by the pretence that in regard to Tattersalls we are as white as saints, whereas we are as black as any gambler.
– The honorable member suggests that we should become entirely black.
– I would prefer that we should be a decent straightout black rather than that we should be a discoloured white. 1 ‘see no reason why the Commonwealth should not establish a lottery. I have heard the Acting Prime Minister described as the “ Vaccination” King, but he broke the vaccination law in a manly way.
– Order! The honorable member is going beyond the scope of the amendment.
– I am prepared to say that if the honorable gentleman persists in the proposal now before the Committee, he will Ve christened the bogy of the babies. If my information is correct, the honorable member has given many a kiddie money with which to get admission to a picture show. We all have done that, and it does seem pitiable that in Australia, where we have not yet touched even the first penny of “ the last shilling,” we shoud impose a tax of 33$ par cent, on the kiddies. There is no theatre in Australia that has not raised its prices considerably above the pre-war rates. Now one nas to pay 7s. 6d. for a ticket which used to cost 5s.
– It is not because the entertainments are any better in quality.
– I quite agree with the honorable member, and I am sorry that Australian talent, in the musica! and theatrical professions must leave these shores to be appreciated. The Government are proposing to tax children who never should be taxed. We know that the Defence Department thinks that a child can live upon air when there are more than four in a family, because no allowance is made for a soldier’s children in excess of that number. I ask the Government whether it is worth while to persist with this tax. Tax the shilling tickets’ if you like, but an impost of 33$ per cent, on the tickets of the kiddies is too much. Imagine the joy the children would have in seeing the pictures if they had the extra penny which will be gathered by this tax to spend on lollies or peanuts. I ask the Treasurer, in memory of the old days, when so many children used to crowd about him and me in North Melbourne, whether it is fair to make the children pay an extra Id. for their amusement. I promise him that I will help him to tax the higherpriced tickets as much as he likes.
I again commend to the Government the suggestion of the, honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Lynch) for the establishment of Commonwealth lotteries, and if the few “wowsers” object, let them “wowse” and “ wowse “ on. Their howls will not prevent a common-sense man like the Treasurer proceeding on his way. I strongly protest against the infamy that was done in connexion with the existing tax on entertainments. Hoyt’s organization, with others, did not wish to pass the tax on to the people, but was compelled to do so, because otherwise its theatres would not have been supplied with films, and the business could not have been carried on. The Treasurer will agree that the proper way of taxing the picture shows is to attack the profits of the proprietor.
– We already get them in two ways
– Yes; but the Government do not fine everybody who goes into a butcher’s shop or grocer’s shop.
– That is an argumentagainst having an entertainments tax at all.
– I am against the ‘ entertainments tax because of its incidence. The tax is not scientific. 1 would prefer that amusement enterprises should be taxed on the basis of the income earned or the gross receipts. Certainly, we ought not to make the customer pay the tax. If that policy were carried out to its logical conclusion, we should make’ every customer in every trade pay taxation according to his purchases.
– That is being done in England and Prance in connexion with luxuries.
– Those who are able to purchase luxuries at the present time should be prepared to pay more than they paid in the past, provided the increase does not add to the profits of the manufacturer or seller, but goes into the coffers of the Government. Whilst we all agree with the Treasurer that in this time of the country’s trouble increased taxation must be raised, especially having regard to the clouds that are looming up on the horizon, I ask him to waive this trifling tax, and to tackle the profits of the proprietors. Of such a policy nobody could complain.
.- The honorable member for Melbourne (Dr. Maloney) has made out a strong case for the exemption of the 3d. tickets. I suppose the honorable member was not aware that such an exemption would not benefit the country children.
– I should have proposed to exempt the 6d. tickets also.
– In most country districts the minimum charge is 6d.I suggest that the Government should exempt from taxation the tickets of all children under fourteen years of age, regardless of whether the value of the ticket be 3d., 6d., or1s. I have always fought for taxpayers with families. They pay heavy taxation, and their expenses have been greatly increased since the outbreak of war. Most honorable members on the Opopsition side use as the spear-point of their argument the fact that the children of the soldiers will have to pay the tax. As honorable members on both sides seem to think that the children of soldiers should not be taxed, I ask the Treasurer to exempt them, and also the children of married nurses who are serving with our Forces.
– An accepted principle inregard to taxation is that it should always be imposed on people best able to bear it, and as the proposal of the Government is to tax lower-priced tickets, which are undoubtedly those mostly used by the working classes of the community, means placing taxation on those least able to bear it, I am deterred from giving it my support.
– Then the honorable membeTr would strongly support a bachelor tax?
– If a bachelor tax is brought forward accepting the principle which I have laid down, I promise to give it my support. This is the third occasion on which an entertainments tax has been before the Chamber. I opposed the proposal of the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Higgs) to impose a tax upon 6d. tickets. I opposed the proposal of the honorable member for Grey (Mr. Poynton) to tax 3d. tickets as well as 6d. tickets, and my regret was that even 1s. tickets were not exempted; but how. that a tax is imposed on1s. tickets, I am prepared to allow it to stand, though my objection still holds good in regard to 3d. and 6d. tickets. Although the major portion of the expenditure on small-priced tickets is in connexion with picture shows, this proposedtax will affect an enormous number of socials which are run by small societies, not for the purpose of making a profit or even to gain some particular advantage for the institutions which hold them, but purely for the sake of encouraging a social feeling among members of the societies. The tickets are sold at a nominal figure merely to cover actual expenses. The gatherings are not profitmaking concerns, but are fulfilling a useful function in the community, particularly in these times when we need all the fraternal feeling engendered it is possible to get. This tax will press very unfairly, not only on the children, but on their parents. It will not be paid by the children. It must be paid by the parents. The fathers and mothers will pay not only the tax on the children’s tickets, hut also the tax on their own tickets ; and if, through unfortunate circumstances, parents should be unable to pay the tax imposed on the children’s tickets, then they will be equally unable to pay the tax on their own tickets. Compare this proposed tax with the taxation on the higher-priced tickets. I do not attend theatres very often, and I cannot speak with any authority on the matter, but I have not noticed that the higher-priced seats have been less patronized since the imposition of this form of taxation. It does not seem to have made the slightest difference to the attendances in the stalls, dress circle, and boxes. The men who are to be seen in the higherpriced seats in the theatres mostly follow some commercial or professional pursuit, and consequently they are in a position to recoup themselves for the extra tax they have to pay, because they can pass it on to their customers or clients. As a matter of fact, they look upon the purchase of theatre tickets as part of their regular expenditure in their affairs, and consequently they collect it from their customers. From whom can the working man collect the tax? He is the only man in the community who cannot pass it on. He must either pay the tax or do without entertainment. The argument which the honorable member forWakefield (Mr. Richard Foster) has applied to the workers - that if they cannot afford to pay this tax they can stay at home - should also be made to apply to the man who pays higher prices for seats in the theatre. If the Treasurers idea is to secure revenue, and if he will relieve the workers of this particular tax, I am prepared to give him my support in an endeavour to secure the necessary revenue by increasing the tax payable on the higher-priced tickets. By doing this, we would not be laying ourselves open to the charge that we are putting an increased tax on the poorer people out of proportion to the tax which those people who are better able to bear it have to pay.
Sitting suspended from 6.30 to 7.45 p.m.
– In ordinary circumstances I contend that the healthy amusements of the people are not fit subject for taxation. It is an entirely wrong principle to select the recreations of the people as a means of revenue. It is accepted that relaxation from ordinary toil is necessary. The Arbitration Court, in fact, has established the principle, and, in estimating the cost of living, it has taken into consideration such items as recreation.
– Man does not live by bread alone.
– He sometimes takes hot water.
– And good for him, too!
– Does the honorable member think picture shows are healthful?
– Mental development is just as important as ordinary physical recreation may be. There may be education of a character which is healthful, and also that which is neither healthful physically, morally, nor mentally.
When I say that ordinarily the recreations of the people should not be a source of revenue I am immediately confronted with the fact that these are not ordinary circumstances. Rightly or wrongly, we have now decided that people who can afford to have amusements in time of war can afford to pay the tax; and, if they desire to evade paying, it is competent for them to forswear the luxury of amusements. It is a sound principle in time of war to confine taxation as much as possible to luxuries. It is when we tax the necessities of life that the pinch is felt. In time of war we can dispense with a number of things which, otherwise, would be looked upon as perfectly legitimate, so far as our means of entertainment are concerned.
It has been suggested that one satisfactory result of the imposition of this tax, especially upon the 6d. ticket, will be that it will hit a large number of people who patronize cricket and football matches. If it is intended to impose additional burdens upon such people, this is rather an unsatisfactory method. Persons who pay 6d. to see a football match will not be deterred by having to pay an extra penny. If it is desired to make it uncomfortable for them to go to football matches there are other than financialways of getting at them. The fact is, this is purely a revenue-producing proposal, and, from that point of view, may have its advantages; but, in securing revenue from those who can afford it, we not only penalize them, but a number of other people who have not equal opportunities of recreation. It must be recognised that the people from whom the Government are to draw this revenue are the people who can least afford to pay any increased taxation at present. We cannot be oblivious of the fact that the working classes are staggering under heavy financial burdens. They are carrying a load which, under ordinary circumstances, they should not and would not be expected to shoulder. We are proving every day that it is the working class that pays the expenses of a war, and gets the least advantage from a war, whether the nation concerned wins or loses. It is notorious that the only people in the country to-day who are making money, and whose incomes have advanced, are the people who can afford to pay for their seats at a theatre up to 10s. and one guinea. The same argument does not apply, even proportionately, to the people who can afford to do no more than attend a picture show.
– That is hardly in accordance with fact.
– It is a matter of ordinary observation and intelligence. If it is revenue the Government require, there are people in the community who can afford to contribute that revenue, and who can do without their entertainments if they wish to evade paying this tax. Those are the people who pay 4s., 5s., 10s., and even up to 20s. for a seat.
– Would you make the tax 33 per cent. all round?
– I would, starting with. ls.
– That ia not all round.
– I am prepared to go from la. upwards, but not to concede one penny under that.
– Make no invidious distinctions.
– We are compelled to. The income tax makes invidious distinctions. The compulsory measure in respect to the purchase of war loan bonds will make distinctions.
– This is a voluntary tax. No man need pay it.
– The same argument applies to all taxes. If the honorable member desires to live like a wild man in the bush, he need pay no taxes; but we have to recognise that the people desire to live as human beings in a social community, and that they are entitled to such recreations as they are able to pay for. And their ability to pay for relaxation should not be determined by those who can afford to pay big prices for their amusements. They are not in the position to understand what is a reasonable thing for the people who cannot afford to buy costly seats at a show. We cannot have equality all round unless there is equality of circumstances, demanding a proportionate equality of sacrifice.
There are enormous numbers of people who are “ hard up,” compared with such gentlemen as the honorable member for Grampians (Mr. Jowett). The whole method of taxation, if equitable, must be based on the recognition of the principle that those who can afford to pay should pay, and that those who cannot afford to pay should not be asked to pay. The people who are to be asked to pay this tax are already carrying the burden of the community in unreasonable proportion. The people who cannot afford to pay it have, in the ordinary course of life, to count every penny ; and now they must either accept an additional burden or give up relaxative amusement.
– According to your argument there should be free picture shows, free circuses, and free publichouses.
– We are recognising the fact now that the country should provide healthy amusements for the people-
– And free public-houses.
– There is nothing wrong with the public-houses. It is only the stuff they sell. Taking the broadest view to-day, this tax is going to hit people who cannot afford to pay it, and the people who can afford to pay it are not going to be penalized at all.
.- Among people who have anything to do with the working community, it is recognised that there are two nights in the week, particularly, when mother, father, and the children go to the picture theatre. In many working centres the weekly pay-day falls upon a Friday. Sometimes the pay is on a Friday night, and then the picture show is patronized on the Saturday night. But, surely, the National Parliament can engage in more important duties in regard to taxation proposals than in trying to penalize the children. Many honorable members in their juvenile days had few opportunities for amusement. Some of us as children had little; if any, pocket money, but, like the honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. Page), as one who as a youngster did not enjoy these privileges, I do not wish to deny to those who follow us that amusement and recreation which are part and parcel of the life of the rising generation. Without the opportunities for recreation and amusement which they have enjoyed, our soldiers would not have acquitted themselves as they have done. I have never seen an objectionable film exhibited in any picture show that I have attended in this or other States. If undesirable films are thrown upon the screen to-day the Board of Censors is to blame. Every film has to be examined by the Board before it is released for exhibition.
– Who constitute the Board of Censors ?
– Mr. Archibald Strong, Dr. Cumpston, and Sir Harry Wollaston.
– They examine the films, and I understand that every undesirable film is excluded from exhibition.
– At the very time that a controversy was going on in the press between Mr. Strong and another citizen, I saw two most disgraceful pictures screened in Bourke-street shows.
Mr. FENTON. Since the Board of Censors are responsible for the proper supervision of films screened in Australia, the argument that this tax will tend to do away with objectionable picture shows falls absolutely to the ground.
The honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Richard Foster) delivered a most impassioned speech this afternoon. The burden of his cry was, “ This is only a tax of Id.” If it were the only tax that had to be paid by those who patronize picture shows, the position would not be so bad ; but there are thousands of people who are passing on to the working classes the taxation imposed upon them.
– No one has ever suggested a method by which that passing on of taxation may be avoided.
– Surely we can evolve a scheme by which those best able to bear taxation will be compelled to pay it instead of passing it on to the masses of the people.
– No economist has yet conceived such a scheme.
– Economists all the world over are discussing it now, and never before was it so generally admitted that taxation is consistently passed on to the shoulders of the poor. The Victorian State Treasurer (Mr. Mcpherson), who, I believe, is a member of the Conservative party, recently announced, in addressing a municipal gathering, that the State Government did not intend to impose any additional taxation this year. His statement was greeted with cheers, and he went on to say, “I am glad to hear your cheers. There are others who will be cheered by my announcement-^ I refer to the working classes who have to shoulder the great mass of taxation.” Tha’t was a candid admission. It is this constant imposition of additional levies upon the poor that compels us to protest. The breaking point must come; the day will come when those who are bearing the great load of taxation will say, /’ We cannot carry it any longer.”
– And then they will demand that extravagance in public expenditure shall be done away with.
– You cannot raise a revolution over this tax.
– It is coming. Here we have a proposal to impose an additional burden of taxation to the extent of £270. 000 upon the workers, and really upon their children, who visit picture shows.
– Rubbish !
– It is not rubbish. The mere fact that thousands of people flock to places of. amusement does not detract from the reasonableness of my argument. There are thousands of homes in Australia where at the week end the husband hands over to his wife his week’s wages, less a day’s pay, which he has lost, perhaps, through sickness. The loss of that one day’s pay means that there is no picture show for the children that week. Even when the full wage is brought home, if one of the boys wants a pair of boots or a pair of knickers, that extra demand upon the family purse means that the children have to be deprived of their right to a little amusement. When this is the position in thousands of homes in Australia to-day, why do honorable members opposite persist in overloading with taxation the workers, who have such a hard fight to live?
– Why has Mr. Lloyd George imposed’ a similar tax on much poorer people?
– If we tax the top crowd as heavily as he has done, it will be all right.
– Undoubtedly. The Treasurer, who is usually strong in argument, advanced this afternoon a paltry reason for the imposition of this tax. He told us that the people would have to bear this year an additional £6,000,000 of taxation, and that, whether the war ends this year or not, it would be necessary next year to impose still further taxation to the extent of £6,000,000. In other words, he says that since there is a likelihood of additional taxation next year we should begin this year with taxation of the poorer people, and allow the -taxation of the rich to stand over for another twelve months. The ,people cannot go on carrying these burdens. Surely we can devise some better means than this of raising revenue. If the Government would nationalize insurance business, and open insurance offices throughout Australia, they would secure an additional revenue of hundreds of thousands of pounds per annum.
I hope that we shall induce some honorable members opposite to vote with us against this proposal. I do not know whether it has already been considered in Caucus, but I think the arguments that have been advanced during this debate should be sufficient to at least induce tha
Treasurer to withdraw his proposal to tax amusement tickets of less than ls.
– Would the honorable member accept the compromise suggested by the honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. Page) ?
– No; I do not think it is reasonable. I would not tax any amusement tickets below ls. each. Let us have a little sympathy for those who find the battle of life so hard. The big merchants of Australia are’ making handsome profits, and they are passing on to their customers, not only the taxation imposed upon them, but the interest on our borrowed money.
– That shows how little the honorable member understands what he is talking about.
– My statement is correct. The honorable member’s leader’ himself admitted it in this House. The honorable member was then a freelance in opposition, and I remember that when Mr. Fisher, the then Treasurer, was imposing his first income tax and probate duties he had something to say about the matter.
– But he has changed his views since then.
– So far as I can remember, the honorable member said, in effect, “The masses of the people will pay this tax. How do I know? I know because in all human activities there is a filtration process going on until the tax reaches bedrock, and the working people of this community constitute the bedrock.” The leading thinkers and economists in Britain and elsewhere all admit this fact, although some of them do not agree with the politics of the Labour party. It is recognised that the poorer people of the community pay the bulk of the taxation and the interest bill. Surely the Government do not intend now to overload them to the breaking-point.
– But this tax is not an imperative impost.
– I have been endeavouring to point out all along that recreation and amusement for our young people are part and parcel of their wellbeing.
– They can get plenty without going to picture shows.
– But that may be their form of amusement. The honorable member’s attitude reminds me of the stand taken by a former honorable member of this House, who used to complain about the large crowds attending football matches in the various metropolitan areas. The same critic, by the way, used to go to his club every night to play bridge and billiards and indulge in that form of recreation, which, apparently, he did not deny himself, although he thought it a great sin that people who took an interest in football should pay 6d. entrance-fee to a match in war-time. I say that, although there are weeping eyes in this community, because of what the war has meant to Australia, it is a good thing to keep some of our recreation and amusements going, because we need an occasional laugh in our community amid all these sorrows and trials.
– But how shall we get the revenue ?
– If our municipal authorities were up-to-date in their methods, as they are in some of the other countries of the world, these amusements would be supplied by the municipalities free, or, if not free, at a nominal charge. That is my idea of what municipal government means, and I believe we would then have a healthier form of amusement, and that it would be much better for the community generally.
– The Glasgow municipality controls amusements.
– Yes ; in Glasgow the municipal authorities even cater for the spiritual requirements of the people, and are paying seven clergymen £400 a year each to carry on that work. We should proceed along similar lines, and should not seek to tax the amusements of the poorer people of the community while we leave the richer people alone.
.- When I remember what is happening on the other side of the world, I can hardly believe that the time of this Parliament is being taken up in the discussion of a motion brought in by the Government to tax the amusements of the little children of our soldiers who are over in France.
The tax will only apply to thechildren of the poorer people, and God knows a soldier’s wife and family can get little enough amusement on his allotment money. I appeal to the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Watt) to seek some other avenue of taxation which, as yet, has been unexplored, instead of wasting the time of the Committee in discussing the question of a tax on a 3d. or 6d. entertainment ticket. This represents an impost of 33 per cent., and, personally, I have not the heart to waste time discussing the matter. Surely honorable members on the other side have not changed all their political views because they differed with members on this side of the House upon the question of conscription? Surely they hold some of the views to which they subscribed prior to the time that we separated? Up till then we had laid it down clearly that taxation should be imposed only upon those who were best able to bear it.
– And your own side proposed this very thing.
– It was never brought to the House.
– When I sat on the Ministerial side of the House I voted against the Government on many occasions, because I was not satisfied with them by any means.
– And you have voted against many things in connexion with the war, too.
– I was against the method of getting the money; but, while I hold those views, I recognise that since then an appeal has been made to the people. On 5th May they pronounced judgment,and, as a Democrat, I believe that the wishes of the majority should be respected. They decided certain methods by which money shall be raised, and I have just answered a telephone message arranging to speak at Ballarat to-morrow night on behalf of the War Loan campaign. I have done this becauseI realize that the majority of the people have said that this shall be the means of obtaining money, and I know that money must be obtained. I deplore, however, the fact that the time of Parliament is taken up discussing such a paltry question as the taxation of1d. upon the amusements of children; and I appeal to the Acting Prime Minister and his supporters to delete that portion of the motion.
Question - That the words proposed to be inserted be so inserted (Mr. Higgs’ amendment) - put. The Committee divided-
Ayes . . . . . . 17
Noes . . . . . . 32
Majority . . . . 15
Question so resolved in the negative.
– I move -
That there be added to the motion the words : “ Provided that no tax shall be imposed upon payments made by, or on behalf of, children of the age of sixteen years and under.”
Honorable members have probably made up their minds upon the question, and, therefore, I shall not debate the amendment.
Question put. The Committee divided.
Majority . . . . 12
Question so resolved in the negative.
Question - That the motionbe agreed to - put. The Committee divided.
Majority . . . . 20
Question soresolved in the affirmative.
Motion (by Mr. Watt) proposed -
That the Standing Orders be suspended to enable the remaining stages to bepassed without delay.
.- I have no objection to the motion for the suspension of the Standing Orders. I merely desire to point out that when we gave the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Watt) the opportunity yesterday to introduce the War Loan Subscription Bill, there was not a single objection from this side of the House. I desire to show the hollowness and the sham of the closure motion which we discussed yesterday, and which we shall further discuss at a later stage. At the proper time I shall oppose this taxation Bill just as I did the proposed bachelor tax, which the Government have not had backbone enough to put into operation.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
That Mr. Watt and Mr. Groom do prepare and bring in a Bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill presented by Mr. Watt, and read a first time.
– I move -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
I desire to submit for swift passage, in view of the discussion in Committee of Ways and Means, this small Bill to amend the Entertainments Tax Act of 1916. . I think that all the facts that honorable members need were given in my former remarks, and it is therefore not necessary for me to labour the matter now.
.- Evidently the great majority of honorable members are willing that the children who attend picture shows shall be taxed to the extent of per cent, upon their 3d. tickets. It has been insinuated that honorable members upon, this side of the chamber are opposing the Bill for electioneering purposes. No such charge can lie against me. I emphatically protest against the children of the poor of the community being taxed 33^ per cent, upon their 3d. tickets for admission to picture shows, whilst the rich landholders are allowed to escape with a tax of only 20 per cent. This proposal is absolutely an infamous one.
– The people in the country will not be taxed 33^ per cent, upon their picture show tickets.
– Personally, I was anxious that no tax should be levied upon the 6d. tickets. I believe that* that would be quite fair. But it is obviously unjust that the children of the poorer section of the community shall be required to pay a tax of 33J per cent., whilst the wealthy landholders, who are piling up their millions at the expense of the people, are allowed to escape with an impost of 20 per cent. The honorable member for Wide Bay said that this is voluntary taxation, inasmuch as no person need attend a picture show. Iu reply, may I be permitted to remind him that no person need own land. To my mind, the speech delivered by the honorable member for Ballarat was the most effective criticism that has been launched against this proposal. While thousands of our fellowcountrymen are fighting at the “Front, and freely making the supreme sacrifice, the children whom they have left behind are about to be taxed, to the extent of 33-J- per cent., upon the little entertainment which they can get at the picture shows. Hitherto South Australia and Tasmania have imposed no tax upon 3d. picture show tickets, but when the Commonwealth taxes those tickets I have no doubt that -the States in question will follow its example iu oppressing the poor. The proposal embodied in this Bill is estimated to yield £275,000 per annum. That amount is to be wrung out of the people who patronize the very cheapest form of amusement obtainable in this country. What has been the action of picture show proprietors in our midst? Everybody knows that they have freely advertised our war loans, and have also made constant appeals for recruits, without any payment whatever. Night after night these appeals are thrown on the screens. Contrast their conduct with that of the patriotic newspapers, which charge up to 25s. per inch for advertisements relating to the same subjects. Yet the patrons of our picture theatres are to be penalized by this unfair and discriminating tax. The Government are after the widow’s mite. The honorable member for Perth said that Ministers had found themselves in a difficulty at the end of the year, and consequently had to resort to further taxation in this direction. May I suggest, that the poorer classes of this community find themselves in a difficulty to make ends meet soon after each payday? Cotton, for example, has increased in price from 3d. to 7£d. or 8d. per reel since the outbreak of the war. The cost of every household requirement has increased, so that poor people are at their wits’ end to know how to live. Yet the Government are now attempting to rob them by imposing an additional tax of 33 1/3 per cent, upon their amusements,- in ‘ order to prevent the taxation of those who are making millions sterling out of the war.
.- I protest against this Bill on the ground that it is unjust to apply such taxation only to the poor people of this country. It cannot be denied that the 3d. and 6d. patrons of our picture shows comprise the Very poorest classes of the community. These are the people who, owing to the war, have been put to sore straits to provide themselves Avith the necessaries of life. The purchasing power of the sovereign has decreased by 30 per cent, or 40 per cent., and in such circumstances are we justified in levying this tax upon the very poorest section of the people? There are many soldiers’ widows who have been left with families whose only amusement consists of a visit to a picture show on Saturday night. Under this Bill these persons will be taxed to the extent of 7d. per week. It has been urged that in country districts there are very few persons who purchase 3d. tickets. But throughout my own district the number is exceedingly large. I could quite understand a proposal to tax people who are in affluent circumstances, but a proposal to tax the amusements of the poorest section in our midst is quite a different matter. In their desire to obtain revenue, the Government are going to levy an impost upon people who cannot even get the necessaries of life.
– Right through the Empire that condition obtains.
– That may be so, but that fact is no justification for this Parliament loading those who are least able to bear taxation with more than their fair share, especially in a country like Australia, which is richer than is any other part of the world. If the honorable member for Wide Bay will direct his attention to the rich profiteers of this country, he will be rendering the State better service. I have heard the question asked why it is proposed to increase our land tax and our income tax. My own opinion is that the income tax should be made to pay the entire cost of the war to Australia. To-day most of the persons who are paying income tax are better off than they ever were before, because they have been able to make inordinate profits by reason of the increases which have taken place in the price of the necessaries of life. I repeat that nobody can justify the taxation proposed in this Bill. There are other avenues of taxation open to us without the necessity for burdening the poorest class of the community with this impost.
– Many of the people who will pay this tax ought to be provided with entertainment free.
– Exactly. Amusement is far better for them than is medicine. There are many families in Australia to-day whose members require the services of a doctor merely because they are denied a little wholesome amusement. They are unable to get away for an occasional holiday, and are obliged to remain in the one place year after year. Their only recreation is a night at the picture show, perhaps once a week. To these people the Government are saying, “ On account of the war in which we are engaged, we intend to levy a tax of 33-j per cent, upon your 3d. tickets of admission.” That is grossly unfair. A trifling addition to our income tax would yield the £275,000 which the Treasurer estimates he will obtain from the taxation of these tickets. If the cost of living had not been allowed to increase so materially since the outbreak of war, the same objection might not be urged against the Bill. But during that period the cost of living has risen by 40 per cent. What is the position of a soldier’s wife whose husband is fighting for our liberties today? She is not receiving a larger amount than she did formerly. The soldier is being paid only 5s. per day apart from his deferred pay of ls. per day. Let a soldier be as careful as he likes, fie must have at least ls., and should have 2s., a day to spend. Notwithstanding the increase in the cost of living, we have not increased the pay of our soldiers or the allowances of their dependants. A woman with a small family, whose husband is at the Front, has a very hard task in making ends meet, with prices as high as they are. Yet it is proposed to add to the burdens of such women. Parliament does not give sufficient thought to tEe difficulties of the poorer section of the community, who gain nothing from the war. Our men have shown their loyalty to the country, to the Empire, and to the Allies by risking everything in their defence, so that we may remain here in security, yet we do not hesitate to pile taxation on the dear ones whom they have left behind. Parliament should be above taxing the 3d. ticket which gives the child admission to a picture show. Some honorablemembers seem to think that the proposed tax would not affect a large number of persons. I know that in the Newcastle district every one goes to the 3d. seats. People there cannot afford more.
– In Melbourne the picture theatres are full every night.
– Are not the attendances composed chiefly of the poorer members of the community ?
– There are many persons there in fur coats.
– The fact that persons with money go to the cheaper seats in the picture theatres doss not justify us in taxing the poor persons who are forced to go there. Very often a mother finds it a very difficult matter to get sufficient money to take her children to the pictures. When she has calculated what it will cost in tram fares and entrance money, she often discovers that the shilling or two in her purse is insufficient, and the family have to forego an anticipated pleasure. In New South “Wales tram fares have been increased, and it is proposed to increase them still further. How can we expect the manhood of this country to respond to appeals to patriotism when those who have gone to fight find that in their absence we are overloading their loved ones with taxation.
– It will create discontent.
– It is creating discontent. So many things have been done since the war commenced which are prejudicial to the interests of the men who are serving with the colours that there is a great reaction against recruiting. No one is more anxious than I am to obtain recruits, but I know that we have done many things which have told against recruiting. I get many letters from mothers containing complaints in regard to separation allowances administration, and I know what their feelings will be when they find that it will cost them 6d. or 7d. a time more to send their children to a picture show. In many cases the tax will prevent the children of such mothers from going to the pictures. There are many other sources of taxation of which the Government has not availed itself. If there were not, it would be a bad thing for us. The Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Watt) has told us that each year we must be prepared for additional taxation. If there were no other source of revenue than the taxation of picture theatre tickets, our position would be a bad one. As a matter of fact, there is much wealth yet untaxed. The wealthy should have contributed more towards the cost of the war from the very beginning, and the Government should have borrowed less. Those who have benefited by the increase in prices should contribute more towards the expenses of the war. In all countries there are persons who benefit by a war. We hear about price fixing, but in my district the fixing of the prices of meat has made that article of food 2d. per lb. dearer. The poor have little for which to thank this Parliament. Instead of assisting the poor, we assist the rich. Those who are rearing cattle, or growing wheat and wool, are doing well ; but instead of requiring them to find the money necessary for the war, we tax the poor to get it. It is proposed to increase the income tax bv only 30 per cent. , and to put a tax of 33j per cent, on picture-theatre tickets.
Many of those who pay income tax are receiving more money how than they could earn before the war; but the position of the poor grows persistently worse, and will continue to do so while the war lasts, because the purchasing power of money is diminishing. Sooner or later, we shall be forced to give consideration to the claims of those who are not well off. It is surprising to me that there should be a majority in favour of taxing 3d. and 6d. theatre tickets. I should not object to increasing the taxation of higher-priced tickets; but 3d. and 6d. tickets should be exempt from taxation. ‘ Legislation of the kind proposed will injure the Government in the eyes of the people. I shall strenuously oppose the Bill, and in Committee will test the feeling of honorable members in- regard to its various provisions, so that there may be a record of the names of those who vote for the taxing of 3d. and 6d. tickets.
.- This is the first time since I entered the House that I have heard the Opposition in full blast on their particular electioneering stunt. We have heard to-night, ad nauseam, their expressions of sympathy with the poor children, of the widow, and of the soldiers’ dependants whom this tax will prevent from going to the picture theatres. I could not help wondering what the children did years ago, when there were no picture shows. How was it that honorable gentlemen opposite managed to grow up so happy and prosperous, with a childhood in which picture shows were unknown. Let us go into figures a little to study the effect of the Government proposal. It is estimated that a tax on 3d. and 6d. admission tickets will yield £275,000. That means that £1,500,000 is paid for admission on 3d. and 6d. tickets. There are in Australia about 1,000,000 children between the ages of four and sixteen. If the proposed tax will fall wholly upon the children, each child between those ages must visit a picture show 100 times a year, or twice a week. We know that many thousands of children do not go to the pictures twice a year. Therefore, to make up the average, we must assume either that the children in the big cities go to the picture theatres about five times a week, or that the tax falls not wholly upon children, but largely upon adults.
– In Melbourne, more adults than children go to the picture theatres.
– My point was that the tax falls on the poorer members of the community, children and adults.
– Then the children are to be abandoned ? I have some children who are rather inclined to be picture fiends. If they go to a picture show more than once a week they are unfitted for school the next day,- and completely unfitted for the training they ought to have. If this tax does nothing else .than restrain some of the younger children from going to picture shows four or five times a week it will do good work for Australia. I have shown by a few figures that, after all, children will not be deprived of the little pleasure of going to a picture show. Picture shows are not an absolute necessity, although I grant they give great pleasure. We are all anxious to give the children pleasure, but the children of ten years ago did not have this particular form of it, and they grew up just as good men and women as the present ones will. There is, therefore, not such a large amount of reason in the argument the Opposition have put up with such fervour.
– It is all bluff.
– I would not say that. I think they believe it, but they did nos have exact figures, and the figures I have given them will show them that there is not quite so much in their argument as they thought.
.- In dealing with this question the workers’ share in ;this war must be taken into consideration. I refer to their share, not only in contributing over 85 per cent, of flesh and blood, but money too. It has been said, and truly, in this chamber that the working classes - the producers - pay for this war. They will continue to pay for it; and if we continue under the existing financial conditions, the workers hundreds of years hence will still be paying for it. In the last twelve months there have been France Day, Violet Day, Wattle Day, and innumerable Red Cross days. Hardly a week goes by when I do not pass such a day in operation when going through the streets of- Melbourne or Sydney. Huge sums are constantly raised from the people by these means, and the money goes to relieve the Government of certain financial responsibilities,- especially in regard to the Red Cross, the Comforts Fund, and many other funds. Most of those who have children know that the schools have systems whereby on certain days the children are expected to bring a penny or twopence, or a pound of potatoes, or a pound of sugar, or a couple of eggs instead. Very large sums are raised through that avenue. The people of Australia, particularly the working classes, have been intensely patriotic in subscribing to patriotic funds.
– All classes.
– So intensely patriotic are some of the wealthy people that the Government are compelling, or bluffing, them to put their money into the war loan. What a travesty ! Government supporters talk about the patriotism of their class. Only for the Government’s bluff the Government’s war loan would probably fall to the ground. Because the Treasurer and Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Watt) is afraid it will fall to the ground, he has brought forward this bluff to-day.
– I do not slander any class like you do
– So intensely patriotic are the wealthy of this community
– You are always sneering at decent people.
– Order ! I ask the honorable member for Grampians to cease these constant interjections.
– Compare the sacrifices made by the working classes during the last four years. Think of the pennies, and twopences, .and pounds of commodities taken by the children to school in order that comforts may be found for the soldiers and that Red Cross facilities may be provided, and then when you have considered what the working classes have done, turn to the wealth of the community, and you find that they are so intensely patriotic that they have to bo compelled to help their country. What an admission is made by the Government and by every member opposite who votes for that Bill !
– Order ! I ask the honorable member not to go into that question.
– Put taxes on the working classes who have done their share, and then you discover that there are in the community several people who are compelled to recognise their obligations. The honorable member for Indi (Mr. Leckie) is not sure, after all, whether this tax will not confer a boon on the community by preventing people from going to picture shows. He is not at all sure that it would not be better if all our children, and probably ourselves, were obliged to keep away from pictures. I am wondering whether this is another of those pieces of repressive legislation under the disguise of patriotism and of winning the war.
– You have to close the picture shows if you want to win the wai .
– That is so; the war must be won.
– We are winning, you know.
– I have no doubt that many honorable members opposite believe they are* responsible for Bulgaria going out and Turkey suing for peace. If the Government persist in putting this tax on the poor of the community-
– And the rich.
– My honorable friend will pay 20 per cent., and his boundary rider, or his chauffeur, or his gardener, or their children, will pay 33 per cent. The rich pay their share- ^ don’t think. When they do pay their share, they do it very reluctantly, so much so that some of them have to be compelled. The working classes have not to be compelled to do their share in Australia. If this tax is passed, I predict that the money which is received by means of collecting boxes throughout the cities and towns will diminish considerably. The fathers and mothers of the children of the working classes will be justified iu refusing to contribute further.
– You libel them in suggesting it.
– They will be quite justified, because they are now doing their share. They have raised millions of pounds by means of collection boxes, and they would be quite justified in calling a halt. If the working classes have to finance this war, if they have to bear the whole brunt of it, and pay the interest on it, they will be quite justified in re fusing to do it other than through the taxation channels. Of course; we all know that the Compulsory Loan Bill is bluff, and that the Government have not the courage to bring it into operation. It is something like a Bill brought before this House some time ago by the late right honorable member for Swan (Lord Forrest), with all its . trappings and all its glitter, and its quotations from Macaulay. Every honorable member opposite cheered the then Treasurer when he brought down that Bill; but it was taken out of the back door very bedraggled, and afterwards dropped. The fate that befell the bachelor tax will befall the Compulsory Loan Bill. My friends opposite do not represent the people of Australia. They represent the wealthy classes, and will do nothing to hurt the feelings of the capitalist. That is what the Employers Federation, the Pastoralists Union, the Farmers and Settlers Association, and many other organizations put their cash, into the party funds for. In New South Wales they put up £50,000 to get their party into power, their object being to protect their interests, to allow them to inflate prices ad lib., to increase the price of tobacco, and rob the people right and left. That is what honorable members opposite are in Parliament for. That is why their party machinery has been so well oiled with golden sovereigns. Honorable members opposite laugh, but I would remind them that there is nothing like gold to oil things, and there has been a good deal of oiling going on in our community recently. To carry out a promise, and to gull the people, a wartime profits tax was brought down, but it turned’ out to be an insignificant thing bringing in a paltry quarter of a million pounds from the wealthy of the community. I believe the receipts from the tax on 3d. and 6d. tickets will exceed that. There is one tax on the working classes and another on the very wealthy, and the receipts from the working class tax exceed those from the other. Where the wealthy pay 20 per cent., the working classes pay 33 per cent. The organizations which put money into the National or Liberal party’s campaign funds are getting their dividends back threefold, and in some cases twentyfold. . I wish honorable members opposite well of their effort to win the war. I wish them well of their endeavours to place further restrictive taxation on the people who can least afford to pay it.
Question - That the Bill be now read a second time - put. The Committee divided.
Majority … … 19
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time and committed pro forma.
Navy Department : Reports on Administration - Naval Works: Transfer of Staffs: Eligibles and Casual Employment - Expenditure on Works: Federal Capital: Position of Mr. Griffin - Long Bay Military Hospital Site - Northern Territory : Administration : Cotton Growing - War Precautions Regulations: Censorship: The Red Flag - Use of National Flags and Emblems for Trade Purposes.
In Committee (Consideration of GovernorGeneral’s message) :
– I move -
That there be granted to His Majesty for or towards defraying the services of the year 1918-19 a sum not exceeding £4,537,700.
There will be based upon this resolution, if consented to by the Committee, the usual Supply Bill, which covers roughly three months, and will carry us almost to the middle of January next. Included in the total asked for are the following amounts : - Ordinary departmental expenditure, £2,619,715 ; war expenditure payable from revenue, £1,767,985 ; refunds of revenue, £150,000. The amount included for salaries covers a little more than three months, because under the system of fortnightly pays, seven payments will fall due within the period covered by Supply. It is anticipated that large payments will fall due within the next three months for refunds of income tax and war-time profits tax. This has necessitated a provision for refunds of revenue in excess of one-fourth of the total estimated expenditure for the year. The provision for ordinary services is £182,250, less than one-fourth of the estimated expenditure for the year. The amount included for war services is mainly for war pensions and repatriation of soldiers, and is based on the estimated requirements for the year. Provision is included for increases to salaries only in those cases where increments are automatic under Act or Regulation or Arbitration Court award, and even in these cases increments are not provided where the increased salary will exceed £200 per annum. Increments to salaries above £200 will, as usual, await the passage of the Appropriation Bill. The services provided for in this resolution and covered by the Bill to follow have been previously approved by Parliament. I hope the Committee will agree to the resolution and to the passage of the Bill before the House rises to-night. To-morrow will be a very broken day. We will assemble as usual at 11 o’clock. The usual time must be allowed for questions with and without notice, and then we shall have only about half-an-hour of actual deliberation time before the sitting must be suspended to enable us to prepare for the arrival of our distinguished visitors from France. When the House assembles after the refreshment hour there will be again broken time, with the usual difficulty of assembling a full House after so important a function. It is essential that we should pass the Supply Bill to-night, so that it may be available for the. Senate when it re-assembles next week.
– The guillotine motion has not been passed yet.
Mr.WATT.- I know that. After all, the guillotine is only a name, and the honorable member need not personally feel afraid of it. It will be applied with measured discretion, and only when it is necessary.
– It is the recollection of the French visitors that brought the guillotine to the honorable member’s mind.
– And no doubt recollections of the French Revolution, of which the honorable member dreams nightly.
– Such recollections fill me with hope, I assure the Acting Prime Minister.
– If the guillotine were now included in our Standing Orders I Should not be appealing in quite the same way to the good-natured friendship of the Committee. Honorable members know that Treasurers are obliged to find money for the public services and the commitments of the realm, and in order that public works may proceed, and that the Treasurer’s Advance, which is heavily loaded, may be unloaded for the discharge of those commitments.
.- If ever an Opposition had reason to complain of their treatment by the Government we have. Yesterday the Government asked for our assistance in advancing the Compulsory War Loan Bill to a certain stage. We consented without a single protest, and we were told it was an urgent finance measure. To-day they asked us to allow them to proceed with a Bill which imposes one of the most iniquitous taxes ever submitted to any Parliament. Ever since the House re-assembled on the 18th September the Treasurer (Mr. Watt) knew that Supply must be granted before the middle of October. I have not the slightest doubt that the Treasury officials have advised the Treasurer almost every day that Supply must be passed by a certain time ; but at 9.35 the Treasurer rose, and said, “ I want £4,500,000 before honorable members go home to-night.” There could be no better demonstration of the unwisdom of adopting the guillotine than the action of the Government to-night. Not one speech hat been made on the Budget except that by the Treasurer, and yet that honorable gentleman is to-night asking the Committee for Supply for three months. He has said, in effect, “ We know we have a lot of dumb dogs “ - I withdraw that expression and say, “ docile supporters who will do anything’ once they have agreed to our proposals in the Caucus.” The Ministerial party, having agreed upstairs that they shall only increase by 20 per cent. the taxation of the rich landholders, who are their principal supporters, and who paid money into the National party funds at election time, as an insurance against heavy taxation, now come into the chamber, and say, “ We want a vote of £4,500,000 in one hour and a quarter.”
– I am astonished at my own moderation.
– What would the honorable gentleman like?
– Supply for twelve months.
– The honorable gentleman ought to get twelve months without the option for treating honorable members in the way they are being treated to-night. At about half-past 9 o’clock he did me the courtesy to inform me that he proposed to get a three-months’ Supply Bill through to-night.
– How often did we get a Supply Bill through in a night when the Labour party were in power?
– My memory is as keen as that of the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Archibald). He told us recently that he piloted a Bill through this House for compulsory voting, but there never was such a Bill introduced. I suppose the honorable gentleman was only talking in his sleep. I challenge him to point to a single occasion on which the Labour party, when in power, submitted a Supply Bill for this amount with practically no notice at all. If he can mention a single case in which a Labour Government asked the House to put a Supply Bill through in an hour and a half, I shall be willing to withdraw what I said about honorable members opposite being the Government’s docile supporters.
– The honorable gentleman knows that it is true.
– The honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Archibald) must keep order here, or he will be put out.
He need not think that because he sits on the other side-
– With his new friends.
– Yes, with his newfound friends, that he can do and say anything he pleases. He must give attention to other speakers here, as they have to give attention to him. I challenge the honorable member to point to any occasion when a Labour Government was in power, not a Government composed of members who had left the Labour party, and with whom some honorable members opposite are sitting today
– The honorable gentleman had not the courage to come out. What arrangement was made for him?
– Order! I ask the honorable member for Denison (Mr. Laird Smith) to keep order. I ask the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Tudor) not to indulge in personalities; and I ask other honorable members not to interject.
– I had not the slightest intention to reflect upon any honorable member opposite.
– What about the “ dumb dogs”?
– I remind the honorable member for Grampians (Mr. Jowett) that I withdrew that expression and substituted for it the “ docile followers of the Ministry.” Honorable members opposite are prepared to accept anything that the Government propose. They secured their seats pledged to economy, but have never raised, their voices in favour of it. I repeat that the Government are not treating honorable members fairly in coming down at this late hour and asking them to put through a Supply Bill for over £4,500,000 when no opportunity has, so far, been given to discuss even one line of the Estimates. I say that this proceeding is the best evidence that there is no necessity for the guillotine motion which has been submitted. On behalf of honorable members on this side I strongly object to do anything to assist a Government who have treated the Committee so badly in giving them no opportunity to discuss the Supply Bill fairly.
Mr- kelly (Wentworth) [9.50].- Can the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Watt) inform the Committee whether the reports connected with our Naval administration have been brought to the notice of the Minister for the Navy (Sir Joseph Cook)? I admit the difficulty in the matter, seeing that the Minister for the Navy is in England, but I think the Acting Prime Minister will appreciate “at once the importance of the position. In the report of the Commission a suggestion was made that, outside matters of broad policy, the control of the Navy Department should pass from the direct hands of the Minister. The Government take the view that Ministerial control must be maintained. The right honorable gentleman who has been in control of the Navy Department is not present, and it would not be fair in his absence to attack his administration. I should like the Acting Prime Minister, if he has not already done so, to bring the reports on the Navy Department to the notice of the Minister for the Navy as soon as possible, together with the report of the Sub-Committee of. the Cabinet on the same important matter.
.- I think it will help if I answer matters of this kind as they, arise. The honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Kelly) will remember the procedure adopted by the Government in connexion with the reports to which he has referred. The report of the Commission was laid upon the table of this House after it had been carefully considered by a Sub-Committee of the Cabinet, whose recommendations were adopted by the Cabinet, and those recommendations were laid on the table at the same time as the Commission’s report. The decisions of the Cabinet varied somewhat from the re? commendations of_ the Commission. full statement of the basis of the findings and the recommendations of the Commission was sent by cable to the Minister for the Navy (Sir Joseph Cook) immediately the papers were laid before Parliament, together with an intimation of the adop-tion of the recommendations by the Cabinet, in order that he might be fully informed of the exact position. No reply has yet been received from the right honorable gentleman.
– Will the honorable gentle* man say whether the Sub-Committee of the Cabinet consisted of Ministers who bad been Ministers for the Navy during the period covered by the Royal Commission in their report?
– It consisted of three Ministers, two of whom had been Ministers for Defence during the period covered by the report. I have just been informed “by the Secretary to the Prime Minister’s Department that he has received a cable to say that Sir Joseph Cook concurs in the decisions of the Government.
.- When we are asked to vote such a large sum of money as is ‘ covered by the proposed Supply Bill we should be given some information as to how the moneys we are asked to vote are to be expended. If, for instance, we take the Works and Railways Department, we do not know what is being done by that Department. A lump sum will be voted for works at the Federal Capital site, and we do not know how the money is to be expended. The other day I asked the Minister responsible what the officers of a particular staff were doing, and I was told that they were “working out details.” What details 1 We do not know. It has been the practice in this House all along to vote lump sums for various works, and Parliament has no control whatever over the expenditure. I do not know how many staffs there are in the Works and Railways Department. Colonel Owen has a staff, Mr. Bell has a staff, Mr. Griffin has another staff, and, I believe, the Defence Department has a further staff engaged in connexion with works. We do not know how the money is being expended.
– We want to know.
– We certainly do. A lump sum is put. down for works at the Federal Capital. There is, I believe, a big staff employed there, but what are they doing, and what are the other departmental staffs doing? I read in one of the morning .newspapers that a gentleman is being brought down from Broken Hill as draughtsman or designer, or something of that sort. I say that the Departments are overstaffed, and no economy is being practised in them. I find, acording to the Budget papers or the Estimates, that a little time ago a gentleman was appointed to advise the Government in regard to matters in Canberra. During my term in office, I found that a gentleman, at a charge of £7 7s. a day and expenses, was giving advice to the Government which should have been given by the foreman of works at Canberra, if he was properly qualified for his position. I should like to know whether it is the same gentleman who is giving advice to the Government now.
– To whom does the honorable gentleman refer ?
– I shall be prepared to tell the Acting Prime Minister privately. I do not wish “to mention any names here; but I speak by the card and. what I am saying is absolutely correct. I am sure that honorable members generally desire to know how the money they vote is to be expended.
.- The Government should” treat honorable members with more respect, and give them some information in connexion with a Supply Bill. They cannot make the excuse that they did not know that a Supply Bill would be necessary, because they have known that it would be impossible to carry on without passing a Supply Bill. Why should we be asked to vote £4,500,000 without being informed concerning a single item of expenditure? One would think that the Government were spending their own money. No one would believe that any’ Government would ask a National Parliament to vote £4,500,000 without knowing what the money was to be expended for. I intend to agitate for some information before I give my vote for further expenditure in connexion with the government of the country. I quite understand that the public officers’ salaries have to be paid, but we do not know whether increases in those salaries are proposed. We saw, in connexion with the famous report on the Navy Department, that a claim was ‘made upon the Department for something like £30,000, and a member of the Ministry compromised by paying £25,000. We should know who made the claim, what was the basis of it, and why a member of the Government agreed to pay £25,000 of the amount claimed. We know that in connexion with the Defence Department there has been expenditure which will not bear the light of day. Are we . the custodians of the people’s money or are we merely marionettes tied with strings which the Government may pull as they please?
The time has come when that practice must be stopped. When the House met, the Government were well aware of the fact that a Supply Bill was necessary. Why did they not prepare it, and allow honorable members a few days in which to go cursorily through the items? The people believe that their representatives are sent here to criticise the Government expenditure; and honorable members who are intrusted with that task should have some respect paid to them, so that they may, at least, see the items of expenditure they are called upon to authorize, even if they do not have the opportunity of criticising them. Unfortunately, a bad system of dealing with Supply Bills has grown up through our inability to give proper consideration to the Estimates; but the Government should extend to those who are supposed to be their masters that courtesy for which I have just asked. If a-change of Government should take place, and honorable members now supporting the Ministry were occupying the Ministerial benches, they would not let this Bill pass through to-night or to-morrow, and they would be justified in their attitude, because our expenditure is increasing enormously. Of course, some of it cannot be avoided ; but that fact does not justify Ministers in concealing the direction in which it is incurred, or in not permitting honorable members to criticise it. I am sure that the financial editors of the newspapers, when they cease to be so much domineered by the Government as they are now, will admit that the House should be the custodians of the expenditure of the country : but we do not occupy that position. Last year, when Lord Forrest placed the Estimates before us, every item iri them had been spent. That is not a healthy position fpr honorable members to occupy. There is no justification for it.
– Your own Treasurer did the same thing.
– If mistakes were made in the past, it is no reason why they should be continued. We should take the first opportunity of remedying them. Honorable members have an enormous responsibility to posterity, which will have such a heavy burden of taxation to bear. Let us endeavour, not to intensify it, but to lighten it, by paying great attention to the expenditure that is going on at the present time. We have been given very few opportunities to examine it, and we are not doing justice to those whom we represent if we do not discuss the Estimates and find out where the money is being spent. It was only the other day that the Ape pointed out the enormous indebtedness that Australia is piling up. Is that not a matter worthy of serious consideration ? ‘ It should be riveted on the minds of honorable members that it is time we brought about an alteration in our financial policy. I intend to offer no factious opposition to the Bill. I know that it is necessary to pass these measures at regular intervals, but I hope that this will be the last time we shall have to consider a Supply Bill before the Estimates are dealt with.
– With the honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Bamford), I regret that at this juncture we have not the opportunity of dealing at some length with public expenditure. I take it that what the Treasurer (Mr. Watt) is seeking for to-night in this Supply Bill is authority to provide for administrative matters largely; but I want his assurance that no considerable work will be undertaken without the approval of Parliament until honorable members have had the opportunity of discussing the expenditure generally.
– I gave the assurance, when introducing the motion, that there was no work embodied in this Supply requisition that had not already been approved by Parliament.
– Is it not the intention of the Acting Prime Minister very shortly to ask the House to deal with the Works Estimates, so that certain works which the Government desire to put in hand may be proceeded with?
– I hope to afford facilities for that to be dealt with to-morrow, if it can be managed.
– I trust the Acting Prime Minister does not expect that, what with the festivities which are to take place to-morrow, the House will put the Works Estimates through.
– I am getting more humble as I live longer; and, my expectations having been frustrated so often, I am not building them too high now.
– Humility is a virtue to be desired, and is highly appreciated. With that assurance from the Acting Prime Minister, I shall have nothing further to say.
– I had the honour to he Chairman of the Public Works Committee in the last Parliament, and we reported upon certain things in connexion with the Federal Territory. We recommended that the works referred to us should be postponed. These were such as the formation of lakes, the construction of a bridge across the Molonglo, and the laying out of avenues. I understand, however, that these things are now being proceeded with.
– Surely not now!
– Honorable members who have been there quite recently say that some of the works are being carried on.
– Ornamental works, in these times!
– The honorable member has been misinformed. No ornamental work of any character is being proceeded with.
– I understand that a temporary structure has been placed across the “ Molonglo. Parliament has never given its consent for that. What is the cost ? Who is the Minister responsible ?
– It was in a vote for the completion of the railway.
– The Committee’s report was to the effect that nothing be gone on with while the war was on.
– I informed the House, as Minister for Works and Railways, that that specific work was included in the vote for the completion of the railway.
– I am anxious to know what money has been spent there, and who has charge of the work going on. Is the Government keeping the designer of the Federal City, together with a staff? And, all the while, are those gentlemen doing nothing? The designer is in receipt of a salary of £1,000 a year, and yet we are told that no work is going on in the Federal Territory. We do not want the Works and Railways and the Home and Territories Departments to be all muddled up over the one thing. Mr. Griffin gets his £1,000 a year from the Government, and is free at the same time” to do outside work. And, all the while, we have permanent officers doing work, under the designer’s control, presumably. What is he doing for his thousand a year?
– The honorable member must know that once a man gets into the Public Service he is there for life.
– But I understood that this was a reform Government.
– Mr. Griffin had about thirty-nine officers under him, and that number has been reduced to eleven.
– What are they doing?
– They are simply dealing with the plans.
– Eleven men, and one of them drawing £1,000 per annum, dealing with plans; and yet the Government says nothing is being done.
– No construction is being gone on with.
– The Committee on Public Accounts recommended that works in connexion with the Navy should be placed under the Works Department.
– They are taken over as a branch of the Works Department.
– Yes; that was with a view to economy, and for the purpose of having one staff doing it. But I shall cite an instance. A gentleman named Swan has been removed from Melbourne, and has been comfortably established in the Customs House, Sydney. He has offices for his own use, and a staff; and I can see no economy at all. Indeed, he has had a rise of £50 a year, I understand. What is this officer, with his staff, doing? They are erecting a temporary blacksmith’s shop at Cockatoo Island, and calling for tenders. Mr. Swan and his staff are drawing plans, I presume - and dusting them!
Another Department has been recently established under one of the naval officers. It i3 a treat to go into his office, and to see the carpets and furniture which this gentleman and his staff have been given for their comfort. These things are going on under our very eyes. I ask the Acting Prime Minister to look into such matters.
– I was very much interested in that matter, and as Minister for Works I effected that transfer. There have been substantial economies as a result.
– There may have been; but there is room for still more. I shall cite another case in point. There was a man working on Garden Island. He was told he would have to enlist. He pointed out that he had two brothers at the Front, and that he was keeping his mother. He said also that he had been examined on the island, and that he was not fit. Mr. Swan said, “ You must get a reject badge.”
– You have had a statement from the Department, in which you have been informed that that man made no representations at all to the Department.
– I believe the man before the Department, because the Department is always smothering up things. The man had nothing to hide.
– He made no statement.
– -1-1 B was “sacked” because he had no reject badge. I approached the Acting Prime Minister, and brought the circumstances under his personal notice. After six weeks, I got a statement that the Department was not aware that the man had any brothers at the Front, or that he was supporting his mother, or that he could not pass the doctor. A Department carried on upon those lines is a disgrace to the country. Imagine the position of a man who, because he does not enlist under circumstances such as I have indicated, gets the “ sack.” One would think that it would require merely the mention of the facts to the Minister concerned, when the man would be reinstated; but a reply was received from the Department that it did not know the circumstances. I sent that reply on to the man himself, and he informed me that he was prepared to prove to the hilt that he had made those statements to the Department, and that what he had said was true. I realize, of course, that it is of no use fighting a Department. When Mr. Swan came along to carry out his great reforms, and to bring about his great economies, there was a clerk who had been in the habit of starting duty at either 9 or 9.30 a.m. daily. He was told that he must come in at 7 o’clock, or, possibly, it was 7.30 ; and that if he did not, he would have to put up with a’ reduction of wages. I went to see Mr. Swan, and the next thing that occurred was that the clerk was requested to ‘ explain why he had gone to see a member of Parliament. He was told that if he dared again to- approach a member of Parliament he would be cashiered. And this from men who do not object to the influence of members of Parliament “being exercised when they, want an increase of salary! This man was so disgusted that he left the Department. Has Mr. Swan been appointed to do this sort of thing?
– Who is Mr. Swan ?
– I am told he is a friend of the Admiral. I ask the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Watt) to ascertain what this officer is doing. He is not earning £1 a week. He sits in his office” doing nothing, while the country is called on to pay high salaries to such men. I do not like to make an attack Upon any one, but I must say that if one is prepared to wait long enough one will receive from this Department a courteous reply to a letter, but nothing more. There is no hope of obtaining satisfaction. Having regard to the increase that has been made in the number of Ministers, I think we should receive prompt replies to letters that we address to various Departments.
Mr. kelly (Wentworth) [10.21].- I wish to direct the attention- of the Minister who will be in charge of the Supply Bill to-morrow to a question concerning which I should like him, if possible, to make a statement in the morning. It is the important question of the extension of the military hospital at Long Bay. My attention was directed to it by a very prominent member of the medical profession in Sydney, who pointed out that if a hospital for soldiers is located at a point that is not accessible to the medical profession it will be absolutely divorced from that expert technical assistance which is the backbone of every public hospital. The departmental reply to my representations on the subject is not encouraging. In a letter dated 20th September, the Department informed me that -
It has been clearly pointed out that it is immaterial where the accommodation is built provided it meets the full requirements for military patients, and the State or other authority is prepared to take over the buildings when they are no longer needed by the Defence Department.
That does not meet one point put by me to the Department. The question involved relates to the inaccessibility of this site to the experts of the medical profession. Even if a doctor uses a motor car he .cannot go to Long Bay and back in less than half a day. Then, again, the friends of soldiers in such a hospital cannot go out to see them. A hospital so . situated must be inaccessible. It is an absurd proposition, but the Department is persisting in it. I hope, therefore, that the Minister will look into this matter to-morrow.
Mr.Watt. - Surely the medical officers of’ the Department would select the site?
– Yes. I do not know who advised the selection of this site, but generally speaking, the superior medical officers of the Defence Department - the full colonels - are men who were in the Army Medical Corps before the war broke out.
– The site would not be inaccessible to a medical man with a motor car.
– All the specialists have motor cars, but in the case of a public hospital it should be possible to call in at once the best man. immediately available. Medical experts will gladly respond to such a call from a hospital, but will they gladly respond if it will involve half a day’s travelling to and fro? It is obviously out of the question. Replying to the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Watt) I would point out that the military doctors must have sanctioned the selection of this site. I do not wish to labour the subject to-night, but shall content myself with the statement that these old colonels of the Army Medical Corps have sanctioned a whole lot of things which have been cleaned up on active service, but still go on to a certain extent in Australia. Mistakes and bungles of all kinds have happened in the Department, due to the fact that promotion has been given for pre-war services rather than for efficiency during the war period. We all know of these things happening. This matter is vital, and I should like my honorable friend to have ready for the House to-morrow a really sound answer.
– The introduction at this time of the night of a Supply Bill providing for the expenditure of £4,500,000, with the understanding that it is to be passed within an hour, is only another illustration of the contemptible farce to which the parliamentary control of finance has been reduced. For weeks past the country has been deluged with statements as to the overwhelming burden of taxation that is being piled up by the Government, as the result of their extravagance of administration, and the utter absence, in spite of their professions, of any attempt at economy. And here we are to-night asked to meekly accept this Supply Bill, and so to deprive ourselves for the next three months of an opportunity to criticise the Government expenditure.
– Certainly not.
– A Supply Bill offers honorable members the only reasonable opportunity to criticise the financial administration of the Government.
– We shall have the Loan Works Bill before us presently.
– But this Bill relates to the ordinary expenditure of the Government, and upon it we should be able to indulge in the fullest and freest criticism. When it leaves this House tonight, as it will do, our opportunity for discussing items of Supply will have disappeared for three months.
– Not at all. This day fortnight honorable members will have another opportunity to discuss grievances on the formal Supply motion.
– We want something better than that.
– We have hanging over us the guillotine resolution, which will operate when next a Supply Bill is before us. There is scarcely an item in this Bill that is not open to severe criticism. Are the supporters of the Government satisfied with the way in which the finances are being dealt with?
– I do not think they are. Some of them have the courage to say so, but others remain dumb. I am prepared now to devote an hour to the grievances I have against this Government in respect of the waste of money that is going on in every direction.
Last year I devoted some little attention to the condition of affairs in the Northern Territory. Have they improved ? Not in the slightest degree. We are going from bad to worse. The expenditure on the Northern Territory is becoming a national scandal.
– Has the honorable member read the annual report on the Territory? It is like a report on a graveyard.
– I do not blame the Minister in charge.
– No one does.
– If there is one member of the Government who deserves sympathetic criticism, particularly in his attempt to deal with the Northern Territory, it is the Minister for Home and Territories (Mr. Glynn). The Northern Territory problem iff one to the solution of which I think every honorable member is willing to contribute. I believe the Minister is doing his best, but the fact remains that in spite of his efforts the burden which is being carried by this country in connexion with the Territory is steadily piling up.
– You mean that the Minister is making rapid progress backwards.
– At all events, he is not making much real progress in the development of the Territory. In a re cent issue of the Northern Territory Times the following appeared : -
No good purpose can be served by glossing over the fact that a deplorable state of affairs exists. There is little or no confidence in the Administration or the Judiciary, and the Government and the governed pull in opposite directions. The law finds little sympathy or support from the people; money flows like water, where officialdom - with praiseworthy exceptions - enriches itself, while the council goes to the dogs.
That is only one of many statements that could be quoted as to the feeling in the Northern Territory. The Minister must be aware that the Administrator has neither the confidence of the people in the Territory nor the confidence of the people of Australia, but that, on the contrary, he has proved himself absolutely unfitted for his position.
– Don’t say that.
– But I do say it, and I think that facts can be given to show that, so far from the administration of the Territory being to the advantage of the Commonwealth, it is creating nothing but trouble while, at the same time, the expenses are increasing. What are honorable members going to do about it?
– When you say that the expenses are increasing, have you made a comparison between recent estimates and those of former years?
– Yes, I have.
– Then your statement is incorrect.
– The Supply Bill has come upon me unawares to-night to
I have not readily available some information which I have been gathering; but, speaking from memory, as an illustration, I know that complaint has been made in the press recently about a motor trip which the Administrator took through the country a little while ago, and which cost the country hundreds of pounds, merely to save the Administrator the trouble of travelling either on horseback or in a buggy. It was stated that in this motor trip the Administrator crossed over countryi n which the ant hills had to be levelled down before the motor could proceed, and that they quickly re-appeared. Afterwards the Administrator came down to Melbourne on a little holiday. There was another statement in regard to a steamer that had been bought for the Territory.
I am one of those who believe that the Territory has a great future. I have not been there, but I have read very extensively about the country, and every authority I have consulted is of the opinion that, so far from the Territory being unfruitful or useless, it ought to be a veritable asset to Australia. But, unfortunately, there is something wrong with the administration.
– The whole policy is wrong, and it is time the people knew something about it.
– I believe that the development of the Territory can best be accomplished by encouraging the settlement of people on grazing farms, as against the leasing of the land in large areas to big companies. I was discussing this matter with a gentleman who had lately returned from the Territory, and I have his authority to use the facts as he gave them to me, and, if necessary, to furnish the House with his name, but I do not want to do that.
– I think the gentleman you refer to saw me, and I gave him three hours of my time discussing these complaints with him.
– I was informed by this gentleman that every application for a grazing farm by men who wanted to settle there in a small way was turned down in favour of applications by big companies who wanted to enlarge their already extensive holdings - that the big man was encouraged and the small man discouraged.
– What would you regard as a small area in the Territory ?’
– I would regard 10,000 acres as a small area in comparison with the big leases. ‘ The Northern Territory can be made to produce in unlimited quantities some of the things we need. I may refer again to cotton. I should think that there is no product that we could grow so easily in the Territory as cotton.
– It is a question of labour.
– When we cannot ship leather away, what chance would we have of shipping cotton?
Mr.- FINLAYSON.- The fact remains that the Northern Territory is eminently suited for the growth of cotton, and, while it may be true there would be some difficulty in getting it away, we all know that in a very short time the markets of the world will be open, and . shipping facilities will be much better than they are at the present time. What I complain about is that we are doing nothing to get ready for the time when we shall be able to ship our products away.
– The honorable member knows he raised that question before, and that cotton has been sent Home and examined by the Imperial Institute. It is now only a question of labour and machinery.
– I am aware of that, and I know, also, that an enormous area of the country could be prepared for cultivation in anticipation of future requirements. Look at what is being done in the way of cotton cultivation in Queensland at the present time, and we are only beginning there.
– And ?5 a week is paid for labour.
– The growth, of cotton is not what many understand it to be - dependent on cheap labour. In America, this has not proved to be a labour question to the extent people suppose; in some of the States, particularly in the south, cotton is a product that pays higher wages than many of the other industries in Texas and Florida.
– That is one part of America where labour is paid half the rate of wages that is being paid in the Northern Territory-
– Cotton, like sugar, is not necessarily a. product of cheap labour. I have heard it said that sugar could not pay present-day wages; but the honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Corser) will admit that, while 3s. 9d. a day was at one time considered quite suitable for sugar work, employees are now paid 13s., and the industry -is still nourishing. I have been led on to an argument that I did not expect, and I am not anxious to pursue the criticism too far. I know that it is not the intention of the Government to sit long, and this Bill must go through, and, personally, I would not stop the Government from winning the war through want of money.
There are, however, events in .other directions to which I desire to call attention. One has reference to the censorship - the expense of it, the pity of it, and the disgrace of it. It is a censorship that is getting, worse in its application, in spite of every promise of more, reasonable consideration by tie Government. Ever since the Editors’ Conference in Melbourne, when it was unanimously decided, and agreed to by the Government, that a relaxation would be made, and that there was no need for a political censorship, we find political censorship running riot throughout the country. Recently, in Brisbane, the Standard newspaper was singled out by -the censor for attack; and it may interest honorable members to know what was going on. Jeremiah Joseph Stable, a censor officer, is thus reported during the Court proceedings: -
Are any other newspapers treated on the same basis as the Baily Standard with respect to submitting the matter to you or your Department ? - Yes.
Other newspapers in Brisbane? - Yes.
They have to submit the whole lot of their matter referring or relating to the war? - Yes.
Is that, really done? - Yes.
It is?- Yes.
In every instance ? - Yes.
They submit to you every article and every letter relating to the war? - They submit the’ whole paper.
Mr. Ore. It is the daily papers you refer to?
Witness. - No.
Ah ! Are there any other daily newspapers in Brisbane under this ban? - No.
Was not there an understanding arrived at between Colonel McColl and the Standard that the Standard could publish any matter, provided it did not overstep the War Precautions Act? - Yes.
There was a time when they were not allowed that discretion? - Yes.
That latitude has been allowed to other papers, but it is not allowed to the Daily Standard now? - Yes.
All the other Brisbane daily papers at the present time are allowed that concession? - Yes.
Then the Daily Standard is working under difficulties greater than other newspapers? - Yes.
This has not always been the case ? - No.
Mr. Ure handed witness a copy of the Worker, remarking that it contained a copy of an article published in the Worker of 15th August, which had been suppressed in the case of the Standard.
Mr. Ure. You got his from the Daily Standard, did you not? - Yes, or matter similar to it.
You allowed it to be published in the Worker! - Yes, by mistake.
Mr. Ure. An unfortunate mistake for the public; therefore there was inconsistency there ?
In regard to the Red Flag incident, the evidence is -
You allowed the Telegraph to publish its incorrect version, and refused the Standard permission to publish anything in connexion with it?- I did.
When the Brisbane Standard, three days later, ignoring the censorship ‘and! restrictions, gave the true version of the facts, it was proved that the previous statements were absolutely false and misleading ?
– That fellow ought to get an increase all right !
– You may depend upon it that attention will be called to his valuable services to the Government.
If there is one thing that will make this Government a laughing-stock to any intelligent body of men it is their attitude towards the red flag.
– It is the Bolshevist flag.
– It may be; I do not know; I do not care whose flag it is. Indeed, it has been said that it is President Wilson’s flag. I have a distinct recollection that, when it was reported that the red flag had been hoisted on the Palace of Petrograd, the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) made most effusive complimentary statements about it.
– He did not know much about it.
– The Prime Minister knows more about it than does the honorable member, and he has been delighted to sail under it all his life up to now.
– When was the red flag hoisted in Petrograd?
– When the revolution broke out, under two’ years ago.
– That was by a Bolshevist Government.
– I am not saying what Government it was. Mr. Lloyd George, the Imperial Prime Minister, also congratulated the Russians on the raising of the revolutionary flag.
– Do you appreciate the work that the Bolshevists are doing?
– It is not I, but you, who are talking about the Bolshevists. Honorable members opposite indulge in their feelings of class or political hatred to such an extent as to think that they are going to do us damage by prohibiting the red flag flying over the Trades Hall. What a silly, miserable thing to . do !
– It is a silly, miserable flag - a rotten flag!
– Even if it were the worst that honorable members think, do they imagine that what it stands for is altered in the slightest degree by the regulation? I cam not concerned whether or not the” red flag is flying over the Trades Hall; what I am concerned about is the sentiment for which it stands.
– lt is a danger to all honest people.
– Would you like me to give a little extract from the redflag song, or perhaps honorable members would like me to sing it. It is absurd to suppose that anything that honorable members opposite may do in regard to the flying of the flag will have any effect on what the flag stands for. Honorable members must know enough of history to appreciate the fact that immediately any attempt is made to crush a sentiment in the minds of a number of people, the efforts to stamp out the fire have only increased it. You will not crush the sentiment of brotherhood be cause you destroy the emblem of brotherhood.
– It stands for cutthroat revolution.
– I feel tempted to impose the whole song upon honorable members; at any rate, I will read the first and last verses, which are as follow: -
The people’s flag is deepest red,
It shrouded oft our martyred dead;
And ere their limbs grew stiff or cold,
Their heart’s blood dyed its ev’ry fold.
Then raise thescarlet standard high,
Within its shade we’ll live and die.
Though cowards flinch and traitors sneer,
We’ll keep the Red Flag flying here.
With heads uncovered swear we all
To bear it onward till we fall ;
Come dungeon dark, or gallows grim,
This song shall be our parting hymn.
Honorable members have provoked me into giving these extracts, and I am sure they have often listened to worse things than would be my singing “ The Red Flag.” I do not know to whom the song is dedicated. What I am concerned about is the utter hypocrisy of the Government in ‘ the action that it has taken. Fancy Ministers solemnly passing a regulation to prohibit the flying of the red flag! Need I call attention to the fact, for the third time, that the flag, of which we are all so proud - the Union Jack - is being trailed in the mud and degraded by men who use it as a means for advertising their goods.
– The honorable member is trying to trail it in the mud. He is not worthy of it.
– That is a matter of opinion.
– It is not a matter of opinion at all.
– When Mr. Fisher, was my leader I asked whether any definite action had been taken by his Government to prohibit the use of the Union Jack and of the Australian national emblem in advertising certain goods. I put a similar question to Mr. Hughes when he was my leader, and only a fortnight ago I pressed the same inquiry on the attention of the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Watt). The reply I received from the last-named gentleman was -
The matter was fully considered by the Prime Minister, but it was found impracticable to frame any legislation or regulation to prevent the use by traders of advertisements suggesting loyalty and zeal for the Allied cause.
Impossible to frame a regulation to prevent the use of the flag of the Empire as a cover, say, for a whisky bottle or a jam tin! Yet a regulation was easily framed to destroy the sentimental emblem of other people.
– Quite right.
– That circumstance shows clearly that the regulations issued under the War Precautions Act are not framed with a desire to promote peace or harmony in the country, but with the distinct object of engendering all the political hate and venom that is possible. That is the only reason underlyingthe regulation that has been issued in regard to the use of the red flag. I confess that I feel ashamed when I see our street hoardings covered with advertisements relating to drinks and all manner of goods - advertisements in which the Union Jack and the Australian coatofarms are used as decorations. That is a disgraceful use of the flag. I object to it all the more strongly because the Government have been so busy in straining at a gnat while swallowing a camel.
– Did the honorable member call attention to this matter when his own Government were in power ?
– I have already said that I did. In reply, I was informed by Mr. Fisher that “ the matter would receive consideration.” That was in July, 1915. In March, 1917, Mr. Hughes said that “ the matter would be investigated “; and in September of the present year the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Watt) told me that the Government could not frame a regulation to deal with it.
– The honorable member should lend him a hand in the framing of a regulation.
– I think that I could do that pretty quickly.
– It is a very simple thing to do.
– Exactly. Some persons who have a wonderful regard for the Union Jack under certain circumstances, do not know what it stands for, under other circumstances Quite a number of people do not even know how to fly the Union Jack. Only the other day I saw the Australian flag flying upside down on one of the principal build- ings in Melbourne. Many persons,- I repeat, do not know the value of the Union Jack, or its combination, or what is its history’. But they have a patriotic fetish in regard’ to that flag. What annoys me is that such a flag with such a history should be used for mere moneymaking purposes by traders and that the Government should take it upon themselves to destroy another flag, which is known all the world over as the emblem of brotherhood amongst men.
– The red flag stands for murder.
– I decline to reply to such a statement. I am not a murderer, and I support the red flag.
– Lots of innocent people are misguided.
– (Hon. J. M. Chanter) - Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– The honorable member for Herbert asked what expenditure is going on in the Federal Capital area. My reply is that there is no expenditure going on there in connexion with the Federal City. But a sum of ?5,000 appears upon the Works Estimates for purely preservative purposes. In other words, that expenditure is intended to safeguard the money which has already been expended there. Last year only about ?4,234 was spent in this connexion. The question has also been raised as to what staff is employed at the Capital Site. During the past twelve months the Department has had works officers there for the reason that a large expenditure was being incurred in connexion with the Camp at Canberra. But at the present moment there are only six officers of the Department of Works and Railways located at the Capital Site. They are employed in dealing with the matter of payments, and also with the revenue that is being received from the Territory. The Minister for Home and Territories, too, has a limited number of officers there, who are engaged in dealing solely with land and forestry matters. In regard to other matters to which reference has been made, the building of the tramway there, was authorized several years ago. It is now almost completed, so that there will be practically no further expenditure in that connexion. As to Mr. Griffin, I desire to say that he holds his appointment under contract with the Government. At the present time he and his staff are engaged merely in designing, surveying, and preparing plans for the outlay of the city. His desire is to bring these plans into this position : that within three months the work could be proceeded with should Parliament so desire. It was arranged by Mr. O’Malley, when he was in office, that the construction of certain buildings and works carried out in the Territory should be under the supervision of Mr. Griffin.
– Including the Arsenal?
– I do not think so. His staff is, and has been, engaged in the preparation of plans and specifications, and the carrying out of works in the Duntroon College area. Non-commissioned officers’ quarters and other buildings- and repairs have been carried out there, and tenders have recently been accepted for the administrative building, the designing and carrying out of which will be done by this staff, which has been reduced to the absolute minimum required for the work.
– Where have the other officers gone?
– Some of them were temporary, and have left the Service.
– Are all those who were on the staff at the Federal Capital, except the three or four men who are there now, out of the Service?
– No; some of them were engaged in the construction of the Camp; but as soon as that work was completed those no longer needed were dispensed with. The Director of Works for Queensland was put in charge of that work.
– And another man had to take his place.
– His place in Queensland had to be filled for the time being. In the carrying out of public works, the staff is used to the best advantage, men being transferred from place to place, according to the requirements of the Service. As soon as a work is completed many of those who were engaged on it are .dispensed with.
– How is it that at the Concentration Camp accommodation was provided for some thousands, and there were only 150 internees?
– That is a question with which I am not now concerned. -
– Why is a special set of officers employed in drawing plans for buildings in the Duntroon area, when the ordinary departmental officers could do the work?
– The arrangement was made by Mr. O’Malley, and my opinion is that it should not be continued longer than may be necessary; but works commenced under it have to be completed.
The honorable member for South Sydney (Mr. Riley) spoke of the dismissal of a man because he was eligible, a case which he characterized as one of hardship. I caused inquiries to be made, and ascertained that the man was only a casual employee. This House laid down the rule that preference of employment must be given to returned soldiers, and a Ministerial instruction was issued to that effect. When temporary positions become vacant, they are filled, where possible, by returned soldiers.
– Was this man replaced by a returned soldier?
– Yes. He was a casual employee, and the instruction is carried out in such a way that no hardship shall be inflicted. Eligibles in casual employment must give way to returned soldiers. It is true that the man had two brothers at the Front, and that his mother was a widow, but at the time no complaint or representation was made by him to the Department to that effect. Two or three other men who were similarly situated made representations, and their cases were dealt with on their merits.
– Why not treat this man justly, even though he may have been tardy in making his position known ?
– He was treated justly. He made no representation of the kind.
The honorable member for South Sydney hardly appreciates the position, so far as Mr. Swan is concerned. It was desired to consolidate the naval works in one branch of the Works Department, one of the advantages being that we could thus get experts for each particular line. Mr. Swan is under the “Naval Director, and at the present time is engaged in carrying out important building work at Cockatoo Island, works at Garden
Island, at Jervis Bay, in connexion with the College, naval drill-halls, and other works under the control of the Naval Branch of the Works Department.
Only a fortnight ago I asked the Director of Naval Works, in view of the decrease of public works, consequent upon the revision of the Estimates undertaken by the Cabinet, to see that the staff wasnot larger than was commensurate with the work to be undertaken.
– You always keep the top dogs on at big salaries.
– That remark is- incorrect and unjust.
– Is it the intention of the Government to go. further to-night?
, - The Government does not desire to force a late sitting on the Committee; but it will go on unless some arrangement is come to that it can regard as equitable. It hasbeen suggested that I have not treated the Committee fairly in trying to get. this measure through the House tonightI do not accept that view. I wish to» know whether members will agree to passthis measure, and the Works section o£ the Estimates, before we rise to-morrow.
– No. Several members on this side will not consent to> that.
– If the honorable gentleman appreciated the position, he would not make that remark. It is usual to lift out of the Estimates that section which, deals with Public Works, so that construction may not be delayed for want o£ parliamentary approval. This was done practically without comment last year - I think on my motion. The practice has evoked no hostility from honorable members. It does not in any way deprive honorable members of the oportunity of dealing with important works matters. The third item on the notice-paper is a Loan Works Bill, on which the bulk of the works can be discussed at length.
– When will that come on ?
– I wish to get it through if I can next week.
– Will the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Watt) give the House the opportunity to discuss on that “Bill the question of administration expenses?
– I cannot give a ruling on that question ; but I have never been accused of trying to trick the Committee or the House, nor do I wish to burk any discussion to which myself or my colleagues may be properly subjected. I will afford every opportunity in the power of the Government to properly discuss the important projects embodied in the Works commitments of the Administration.
– Why not be satisfied with Supply to-morrow, and Works on Wednesday !
– Works will be impeded unless we get a fairly early passage for the Works Estimates.
– Why not take the Works to-morrow, and Supply on Wednesday?
– All the services are concerned in the Supply Bill, so that it is important to get it through. With the assurance I have given the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Foster) the Committee is not forfeiting any legitimate opportunity to consider the Government’s works projects.
– We want to consider the cost of general administration, and we expected to do it on this Bill.
– There are two great opportunities for that. The first is on the first line of the Estimates - the Budget debate, which is next on the notice-paper. That gives an opportunity for a full-dress debate.
– I have never known that to be effective yet.
– Then the honorable member’sexperience has been less fortunate than my own. I believe in a fulldress discussion on finance, and I believe the best item of the year is the first line of the Estimates, when the whole policy of finance can pass properly under review.
– Will you give us an opportunity to discuss the Budget on Wednesday next?
– I cannot promise that.
– Can you give us that opportunity within a fortnight or three weeks ? I want to help you to get through certain Bills.
– I am not objecting to the honorable member’s assiduity or importunity. I know his views on certain ques tions; but it is very hard for any Minister to date his projects in calendar form. I have been thrown out of my stride this week already. I hoped the guillotine proposals would go through in one day, Supply in another day, and the Works Estimates on the third day; but man proposes, and somebody else disposes.
– That was colossal audacity!
– No; it was hope. As was said about the man who married a second time, it wasthe triumph of hope over experience. Iam speaking as one who did it. The Budget debate will follow, as soon as the Government can conveniently bring iton. There will be an opportunity for specialized criticism on the Loan Works Bill. That surely is ample opportunity for members on either side to -criticise the most important features of finance. If the Committee agree to pass these two important matters to-morrow, we can rise at once.
.- I am willing to assist the Government to pass the Supply Bill to-morrow, but it is asking too much to expect the Works and Buildings Estimates to be passed tomorrow, also. It will be of no use to send both to the Senate, because the Senate does not meet till Wednesday, and it can take only one at a time. While the Senate is discussing Supply, we can discuss the Works and Buildings Estimates. I am willing to sit to-morrow until the Supply Bill is got out of the road, and those members of the Opposition who are present agree to that undertaking. Practically, the Supply Bill has been sprung on Us, although, of course, I knew it was about due. It will be fair to pass Supply to-morrow, and deal with the Works and Buildings Estimates on Wednesday.
– I will consider the suggestion.
Bill received from the Senate, and (on motion by Mr. Groom) read a first time.
Bill received from the Senate, and (on motion by Mr. Groom) read a first time.
House adjourned at 11.20 p.m.’
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 10 October 1918, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1918/19181010_reps_7_86/>.