7th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. W. Elliot Johnson) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– According to a press statement, a Naval Welfare Committee, composed of fifty-four representatives of the lower deck, has been formed in Great Britain to enable the men of the lower deck to represent their views directly to the British Admiralty, and an Advisory Committee of eighteen men will assemble at an early date at the Admiralty. The press report goes on to state that, “ There is much satisfaction at the Admiralty’s policy of establishing this direct avenue.” I wish to ask the Minister for the Navy whether, following the policy of the British Admiralty, his Department will give the lower deck men in the Australian Naval Service the same opportunity to appeal direct to him on matters appertaining to their interests ?
– I also observed in the press the statement referred to by the honorable member. The Commonwealth Naval authorities have already taken a similar course. A Welfare Committee, on which there are representatives of the lower deck ratings, is already at work.
– But that committee consists of ships’ officers as well as men of the lower deck.
– I understand that in this respect we are following exactly what has been done in the British Navy.
– I understand that the men of the lower deck have to appeal to the Minister through their officers.
– Order! The question cannot be debated.
– I do not know what the honorable member means by his statement as to the men having to appeal through their officers. At the present time, on the ships of the Australian Navy, there are Welfare Committees on which the lower deck ratings are fully and completely represented. My own impression is that we are following exactly on the lines laid down by the British Admiralty; but, in order to make that point clear, I shall look into the matter, and will advise the honorable member.
Lt. -Colonel ABBOTT.- Will the Minister for the Navy state when Admiral Viscount Jellicoe’s report to the Commonwealth Government, or so much of it as can be made public, will be laid before honorable members?
– I hope at an early date.
Lt. -Colonel Abbott. - May I ask whether the report will be tabled before the session closes?
– I hope it will be laid on the table of the House before the session closes. If the honorable member will give notice of his question, I will see that he receives a definite answer.
Report of Australian Metal Exchange
– Last week I asked the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) whether he would lay on the table of the House or the Library the majority and minority reports of the Australian Metal Exchange in regard to the export of base metals. The matter is urgent, and, in the absence of the Prime Minister, I ask the Minister for the Navy whether he will have the report at once laid on the House or Library table, so that honorable members may peruse it?
– The question is obviously within the purview of the Prime Minister’s Department, and I therefore suggest to my honorable friend that he should give notice of it. Meantime, I will call the Prime Minister’s attention to the inquiry as soon as he returns to town this afternoon.
– Will the Deputy Leader of the Government state whether the Cabinet objects to inform the people of Australia of the approximate date on which it is proposed to hold the general election for the House of Representatives and another place?
– I suggest to my honorable friend that he should address his question to the Minister for Home and Territories, whose Department controls the electoral arrangements.
– May I ask the Minister for Home and Territories whether he has yet made up his composite mind as to the date on which the Federal elections shall be held ?
– I confess that, wing to the honorable member’s persistency, my mind is not very much composed at present. I cannot for the moment’ say on what date the general election will be held.
– I desire to ask the Minister in charge of the House whether, havine regard to the importance of the matter and its bearing on the ability of taxpayers to pay the taxation levied on them, he will make a statement as to what the Government intend to do, or are doing, in relation to the huge carry-over of wool, canned meats, hides, pelts, tallow, and all other Australian primary products? Do the Government intend to try to get the produce exported in less time than the two years which the Chairman of the Overseas Shipping Board says will be occupied, at the present rate of progress ?
– An answer to that question, even if I were in a position to. give it, would occupy quite an hour. If the honorable member regards the matter as sufficiently important to be made the subject of question and answer, he should give notice of his question. What he is asking for is a comprehensive statement of the Government’s intentions for the next two years.
– I desire only a short statement as to whether the Governmentintend to expedite shipping.
– I am unable to answer that question without notice.
– As one who is very rauch interested in the report of Lord Jellicoe on the naval defence of Australia, and especially upon theRandwick Wireless Works, which he and his advising engineer visited, and the purchase of which was recommended to Cabinet by me when I was a Minister of the Crown, I desire to know definitely from the Minister of the Navy when that report will be tabled? I do not desire the Government to disclose any confidential information regarding naval defence, but I do think-
– Order! The honorable member must not debate the matter.
– In view of the fact that this report has been in the hands of the Government for three months, it is due to me that I should be allowed to know Lord Jellicoe’s opinion regarding the Randwick Wireless Works. I demand that that report beimmediately placed upon the table, because my honour is at stake.
– I shall be glad if the honorable member will repeat that question to-morrow. I hope it may be possible then for me to give him an answer.
– I desire to know why the Government are able to deal with the reports of someRoyal Commissions in forty-eight hours - for instance, the report made upon my own administration as Minister for the Navy - and yet find it necessary to delay for three months dealing with the report of Lord Jellicoe?
– Because it is favorable to the honorable member.
– That is the reason. I have suffered enough, and I shall not suffer any longer for anybody.
– All I can say is that I hope the Government will be able to get the honorable member what he desires at the earliest possible moment.
– A little time ago I received a promise from the then Assistant Minister forRepatriation that a report would be presented to the House showing the progressmade in the erection of war service homes. Will that report be available shortly?
– The Department is collecting the necessary information, and I hope to be able to make a statement to the House some time this week.
– I ask the Acting Prime Minister to let the House know what businessis to be proceeded with to-day.
– The Budget.
– Following the delivery of the Budget speech, will other business be proceeded with, or will honorable members be expected tocontinue the Budget debate?
– It is usual, after the Budget has been delivered, to proceed at once with the Works Estimates. Probably that will be done on this occasion.
– Can the Minister for Trade and Customs inform the House whether an opportunity will be given, before the dissolution of Parliament, to deal with the Customs Bill, which is now the second Order of the Day ?
– I stated previously, in answer to a similar question by the honorable member, that the date when we shall be able to deal further with the Customs Bill will depend entirely upon the course of business in this House.
asked the AttorneyGeneral, upon notice -
Will the Government take into consideration the necessity for amending the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act so as to provide against employers being allowed to have legal representation for the purpose of delaying by technical objections the registration of organizations, such as, it is alleged were employed by the Theatrical ManagersAssociation in the cancellation of registration of the Actors Federation?
– It is not clear from the honorable member’s question whatis the scope of the amendment which he suggests. Under section 27 of the Act, no party on the hearing of an industrial dispute can be represented by counsel or solicitor, except by consent of all parties ; but, if the honorable member means that neither party should be allowed legal representation in any proceedings under the Act, I do not think that that would conduce to better or more speedy administration.
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
Royal COMMISSION’S Report.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
When will he lay on the table of the House the progress report of the Royal Commission on Departmental Economies which was submitted to the Government same weeks ago?
– The Acting Treasurer (Mr. Poynton) will make an announcement in relation to this matter in the course of his Budget speech this afternoon.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Will he furnish the House with a statement showing the individual salaries paid in Australia House, London, and the total cost of the upkeep of that establishment for each year since its inception?
– The following tables give the information desired ;by the honorable member : -
Court Martial : Remission of Sentences
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
asked the Assistant Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Will the Government at an early date use the Commonwealth-owned steamers to convey from Lord Howe and Norfolk Islands passengers, and also primary productions and other cargoes much needed on the mainland?
– The primary object of the Commonwealth Line of Steamers is to assist the producers of Autralia in placing their products on the markets of the United Kingdom and other portions of the world. If, however, it can be shown that the existing facilities are inadequate for the proper handling of the products of the islands mentioned, the honorable member’s request will receive consideration.
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Assistant Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Whether, in view of the urgency of the position, fat stock having to be placed upon the market because of the continued dry weather, the Prime Minister can make an announcement to the House respecting the date of the termination of existing meat contracts and the result of negotiations with the Imperial Government respecting new contracts?
– As soon as it is possible to do so, a statement will be made in regard to the negotiations now proceeding with the Imperial Government respecting new meat contracts.
Refunds for Losses
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
Payment of Salvage Money - Instructional School, Perth - Separation Allowance
asked the Assistant Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– Salvage of guns, waggons, and other warlike materiel collected by Salvage Details, as part of the ordinary duties of troops of all armies, is regarded as the property of the Imperial Government, in view of the per capita agreement with that Government for maintaining Australian Imperial Force troops and replacing Australian Imperial Force equipment in the theatres of warlike operations. The relation of “ blood money “ to the question is not understood, as “ blood money “ is a colloquialism for the gratuities given to Imperial troops in respect of wounds, by way, apparently, of some compensation for certain extra duty pay and allowances not drawn while absent from the relative duties.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Sir JOSEPH COOK (for Mr.
Hughes) . - The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
– On the 17th September the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Archibald) asked the following questions : -
Will the Assistant Minister -
State why, when the increased separation allowance was granted to families of privates fromthe6th April, 1918, and later extended to corporals and sergeants whose maximum rates per diem were respectively 10s. and 10s. 6d., provision was not made for the families of second corporals, whose maximum amount per diem was 10s.?
As it is alleged that a great injustice has been done to the families of second corporals, will the Minister give instructions for the increased allowance to be paid to those families from 6th April, 1918?
I am now able to furnish the honorable member with the following information : -
asked the Assistant Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: - 1. (a) The area of the Maribyrnong Remount Depot is 80 acres, valued at £8,000; in addition the Remount Section has the use of two paddocks, comprising the danger zone at the Maribyrnong Magazine, also a portion of the land belonging to the Cordite Factory - about 260 acres in all.
Salaries and wages amount to £392 per month. Other expenses, such as forage, agistment, rations, uniforms, and incidental expenses vary with the seasons; but the average expenditure under these headings may be taken as £569 permonth, or under 7d. per diem for each horse on charge. The animals on charge to this depot include horses required for transport and other work connected with the Australian Imperial Force, and when demobilization is completed, these will be disposed of, and the expenditure for wages and other expenses considerably reduced.
It may be mentioned that this depot was; established about three years prior to the outbreak of war for the purpose of assembling, breaking, and training remounts for the Permanent and Citizen Forces. During the war it has also dealt with the. horses obtained for the Australian Imperial Force It will shortly be reduced to its pre-war footing, the breeding being regarded only as a side issue.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Sir JOSEPH COOK (for Mr.
Hughes). - A full statement in regard to this matter will be made: shortly;
asked the Prime Minisster, upon notice -
Is it the intention of the Government to speedily introduce a scheme of superannuation to secure retiring allowances to those serving in the Naval and Military Forces?
– The Prime Minister is not yet in a position to announce the intentions of the Government in regard to this matter.
asked the Minister for Home and Territories, upon notice -
Whether, in allotting the war trophies, ho will arrange for the same to be distributed on the basis of enlistments in the various States, rather than on a population basis?
– The Australian War Museum Committee has decided, after making the -necessary provision for the National War Museum to give to each State trophies captured by the units it has raised, on the principle that these trophies are of the greatest value and interest in the place where their captors are personally known. In the case of units coming from more than one State, the trophies will be divided amongst the States concerned. Trophies not identical with any particular unit will be distributed between States on a population basis. The question of relation to enlistments in distribution within a State has been considered by the Committee, but it cannot well be made the sole basis.
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The Prime Minister is not prepared to make any statement in regard to this matter at present.
Loans Sinking Fund
asked the. Acting Treasurer, upon notice -
Having reference to a statement made by the Acting Treasurer of dealings and transactions under the Commonwealth Inscribed Stock Act, viz., “ Other bonds amounting to £99,350 were repurchased by the Loans Sinking Fund at the rate of £97’ 19s. 4d. per cent.” - Were those bonds purchased on the Stack Exchange; if not, in what manner?
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
What amount of gratuity or bonus does he intend to pay to soldiers for war services; and when will the same be available?
– This matter is receiving the consideration of the Government, and the Prime’ Minister will make an announcement in regard thereto as soon as he is in a position to do so.
– On the 24th September the honorable member forCorio (Mr. Lister) and the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) asked if I would inquire into a complaint made that while single members of the Royal Australian Garrison Artillery at Queenscliff received a war bonus of1s. 6d. per day, and bombardiers and upwards 4s. 3d. per day, a married gunner suffered a decrease, his total pay being now only 7s.10d. I have inquired into the matter, and find that the position is as follows: -
A complaint has reached the Minister, who has now appointed a Committee to go into the whole question.
– On the 2nd October the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Mathews) asked the following question : -
We have been told that only a limited quantity of a certain class of ammunition is being used by ourRifle Clubs and Citizen Forces. We have evidence, however, that the Department of Defence has a large quantity of foreign made cartridges marked W15, in which black powder is used. Will the Assistant Minister for Defence take action to see that, as far as possible, these cartridges are not distributed among the Forces?
I am now able to furnish the honorable member with the following information : -
The total stock of.303-inch ball ammunition in Ordnance Magazine, Melbourne, other than that made in Australia, is 1,154 rounds. These will be expended for purposes other than musketry by Citizen Forces and Rifle Clubs.
Report of Joint Committee of Public Accounts, Commonwealth Railways, presented by Mr. John Thomson, and ordered to be printed.
The following papers were presented : -
Customs Act - (Proclamation (dated 17th September, 1919) prohibiting the Exportation of Preventives of Conception, &c.
Proclamation (dated 24 th September, 1919) prohibiting the Exportation (except under certain conditions) of Rabbit Skins.
Proclamation (dated 24 th September, 1919) revoking Proclamation (dated 29th November, 1916) so far as relates to the prohibition of the Exportation of Wire Ropes.
Defence Act - Regulations Amended - Statutory Rules 1919, Nos. 231, 235.
Public Service Act - Promotion of D. B. Wheeler, Prime Minister’s Department.
War Precautions Act - Regulations Amended -Statutory Rules 1919, Nos. 140, 172, 175, 195, 202, 232.
Mr. SPEAKER reported the receipt of messages from His Excellency the Governor-General transmitting Estimates of Revenue and Expenditure and Estimates of Expenditure for Additions, New Works, Buildings, &c, for the year ending 30th June, 1920, and recommending appropriations accordingly.
– I have the honour to submit for the information of honorable members the Financial Statement for the year.
The purpose of the Budget Speech being to set out as clearly as possible what the financial position is, it is necessary to make many comparisons, one year with another, and naturally a retrospect claims first attention.
The Customs and Excise Revenue yielded £3,387,022 more than was expected. This occurred in consequence of the signing of the armisticeand the larger amount of shipping which became available.
That is to say, in the year just closed more than twice as much revenue was raised as in the year before the war.
The income tax results have been attained after allowing, in the case of married persons, for an exemption up to £156 per annum, plus £26 in respect of each child. As showing what a small proportion is paid by wage-earners, it may be stated that, in 1917-18, taxable incomes of £200 and under contributed only 4.4 per cent. of the total revenue from this tax. A taxable income of £200 means much more than that sum in actual income, because the former is what remains after all exemptions have been allowed for. It will be seen that the wageearner has not contributed very largely towards the total income tax.
The small farmer has not paid land tax, there being an exemption of £5,000 on unimproved land values.
Few persons pay succession duties or war-time profits tax, and the small business man has not been levied upon in respect of the latter.
The only new sources of direct taxation to which the wage-earners have contributedto any considerable extent are the entertainments tax and the postage war tax. The revenue under these heads amounts, approximately, to £1,100,000, and the wage-earner’s share is very much less than the total.
The figures are important in view of the oft-repeated suggestions for the conscription of wealth. It may be said that wealth really has been conscripted, and has met practically the whole of the war charges to date.
These war expenses have not yet reached their maximum, as willbe indicated at a later stage.
The decrease of £1,555,817 in ordinary expenditure was due to large reduction of new works, and the decrease will probably astonish many critics who claim that the Commonwealth is lavish in disbursements. - Revenue and Expenditure - 1918-19 -
Accumulated Surplus at 30th June, 1919. As a general rule, a large surplus is to be avoided, if possible, because a Government with funds in hand is usually beset with proposals for expenditure. Then there is the consideration that taxation reduces the funds available for im.portant private enterprises, and money should not be drawn from the people before it is needed.
The present series of surpluses may be said to have begum on 1st July, 1915, because the year 1914-15 ended with neither a surplus nor a deficiency, the revenue having been used as far as it would go for payment of war charges, and the additional/war expenditure having been charged to Loan.
It will be seen that at the commencement of the present year, the Treasury still had a large portion of the surplus of four years ago. This, has arisen accidentally, and may be ascribed chiefly to the disturbance of war and the consequent difficulty of making close estimates.
Loan Works, 1918-19. The loan expenditure on works in 1918-19 should now be referred’ to. During ‘the year, the foi] owing sums were expended: -
Honorable members are probably aware that the Commonwealth has never floated a loan for public works. No doubt appeal must be made to the’ public at some future time for a works loan, but the necessary funds are at present being obtained, as has been the practice, by the investment of General Trust .Funds and of the interest earned by the Australian Notes Fund.
Total War Expenditure to Date. The total War expenditure of the Commonwealth has been as follows : -
Of the total cost of the war, up to the close of the last financial year, the Revenue had borne 15 per cent., and 85 per cent, had been charged to Loan.
Primary Products. In view of the heavy financial burdens placed upon us by the war and the fact that Australia has a large over-seas debt, bearing interest, it is fitting that at the beginning of the period of reconstruction following upon the war, some particulars should be given of the great primary industries oi Australia.
Pastoral. The pastoral industry was one of the earliest to be established, and, despite fluctuations, continues to grow.
The most important branch of the industry is the growing of wool, though the production of mutton, beef, tallow, hides, skins, &c, adds considerably to our wealth.
The results of the 1917-18 season were highly satisfactory, as the value of pastoral production amounted to £93,700,000, the highest sum on record, while all round increases occurred in the live stock ‘ figures throughout Australia.
In all States of the Commonwealth, cattle raising is carried out on a more or less large scale, the main object in certain districts being the production of stock suitable for slaughtering and in others the raising of dairying herds. The cattle in the. Commonwealth in 1901 numbered 8,491,428. In 1917, there were 11,956,024. The1 high- prices ruling have encouraged land settlers to rebuild, their herds, and their efforts have been attended with so. much success that the num-ber of cattle in Australia during 1917 approaches close to the record of 1894, when 12,311,617 were pastured in Australia. It may be interesting to honorable members to know that Australian herds are greater than those of any other Dominion, the total in Canada being 5,968,000, and in South Africa 5,797,000,
Australia has for many years occupied a leading position among the sheepbreeding countries of the world, and for half a century has been the source of the world’s chief supply of fine merino wool. There were 72.040,000 sheep in the Commonwealth in 1901, as compared with 84,965,000 in 1917. The- flocks of the Commonwealth increased by 7,411,000 and 8,962,000 respectively in the two sea sons 1916 and 1917. If this rate of increase were maintained in 1918, the number of sheep then in Australia must have exceeded the 1911 total of 93,000,000, which is the highest number recorded for the past twenty -three years. The number of sheep in Australia obtained its maximum as far back as 1891, with a total of 106,000,000.
Prom estimates published in the Tear Book of the United States Department of Agriculture, it would appear that the approximate number of sheep in the world is in the neighbourhood of 614.000.000, of which total Australia has about 15 per cent.
The following comparison, taken mainly from the same source, gives the latest available figures relative to the number of sheep in the principal countries : -
The bulk of the wool produced in the Commonwealth is exported, but with the increased activity of the local woollen mills, there has in recent years been an increase in the quantity used in Australia, although even now the wool used in local manufacture represents only a . small proportion of the whole clip.
The total value of pastoral production during the last five years for which we have figures is: -
It will be seen that the value has increased by £35,900,000, or over 62 per cent., during the five seasons. The principal items in the value of pastoral production during 1917 were:-
Agricultural. Wheat. The area under wheat in Australia far exceeds that devoted to any other crop. It generally represents about 70 per cent. of the total acreage under crop.
The area and yield of wheat reached their highest point in 1915-16, when the farmers sowed 12,400,000 acres and reaped 179,000,000 bushels.
The area devoted to wheat decreased from 12,400,000 acres in 1915-16 to 7,900,000 acres in 1918-19, while the yield decreased by about 103,800,000 bushels in the same period.
While admitting that 1915-16 was a record year, and the estimated yield per acre for 1918-19 was generally below the average, the seriousness of the position brought about by the decreases in the acreage and yield of Australia’s chief agricultural product in the short space of three seasons cannot be overstated, and every means should be utilized to encourage wheat-growing. The following are some particulars of the production and yield per acre of wheat in the leading wheat-growingcountries during’ 1916:-
United States, 620,000,000 bushels; average yield, . 11.7 bushels.
Russia in Europe (in 1914), 561,000,000 bushels; average yield, 9 bushels.
India, 308,000,000 bushels; average yield, 10.2 bushels.
Canada, 213,000,000 bushels; average yield, 21.1 bushels.
France, 206,000,000 bushels; average yield, 16 bushels.
Italy, 171,000,000 bushels; average yield, 14.6 bushels.
Argentine, 167,000,000 bushels; average yield, 10.1 bushels.
Russia in Asia (in 1914), 167,000,000 bushels; average yield, 12.4 bushels.
Australia, 152,000,000 bushels; average yield, 13.2 bushels.
Hungary, 148,000,000 bushels; average yield, 17.8 bushels.
Spain, 147,000,000 bushels; average yield, 14.6 bushels.
Germany (in 1915), 137,000,000 bushels; average yield, 27.7 bushels.
The average world’s production per annum for the ten years ended 1916 was 3,641,000,000 bushels, according to the estimate of the International Institute of Agriculture, Rome. Australia’s annual average for the same ten years . was 91,600,000 bushels, or 2.5 per cent, of the world’s wheat production.
That the Australian yield per acre is capable of considerable expansion is suggested by the very high yields obtained in some other parts of the world.
Other Grain Crops. The principal grain crops cultivated in Australia other than wheat are barley, maize, oats, and rye.
Sugar Cane. Sugar cane is grown in only two of the States - Queensland and New South Wales. In 1913-14, 2,271,000 tons of cane were grown, producing 265,000 tons of sugar. In 1918-19 the yield was 1,674,000 tons of cane, which produced 190,000 tons of sugar. The annual consumption of sugar in Australia is at present about 280,000 tons.
Orchards and Fruit-growing. Fruitgrowing has made rapid progress during recent years, the area devoted thereto having increased in the past ten years by 92,835 acres. The increase is mainly due to extensive plantings with a view to the London market, for fresh fruit.
Root Crops. Root crops, apart from potatoes, are not extensively grown in the Commonwealth. In 1917-18 the yield of potatoes was 347,000 tons, or about 2i tons per acre under cultivation.
Wine. The wine industry has made little progress in Australia during the last sixteen years. The slow development is extraordinary in view of the fact that South Australia, Victoria,- and New South Wales are richly endowed by nature for wine producing. The great advantages of climate and soil are assisted by high protective duties of Customs. The world demand for the class of wine that Australia can produce is practically unlimited.
Raisins and Currants. In addition to grapes .for wine-making, large quantities are grown for the manufacture of raisins and currants. In this industry substantial progress has been made. In 1901-2 the quantity produced in Victoria and South Australia, where these products are chiefly grown, was 34,873 cwt. of raisins and 5,959 cwt. of currants. In 1917-18, 147,103 cwt. of raisins and 105,723 cwt. of currants were marketed. The highly satisfactory increase was largely due to irrigation and improved methods of cultivation, while the introduction of ringing the vines was also responsible for an increased yield of currants. In 1917-18 the total Australian production amounted to 151,000 cwt. of raisins and 109,000 cwt. of currants.
Farmyard and Dairy. Dairying. The dairying industry is a very important factor in the wealth and prosperity of Australia. The dairy cattle, in the Commonwealth in 1917 numbered 1,900,000. This industry carries in its train the allied industries of raising calves, pigs, and poultry.
The exports of. butter have brought into the country £34,300,000 within the last ten years.
The geographical position of Australia gives her first call on the Eastern trade, for which purpose the dairy production of the Commonwealth can be increased indefinitely.
One of the most significant developments of the past few seasons has been the increased activity among dairy farmers in securing valuable stock. The higher prices obtained by them have enabled them to invest in a better class of sire.
Herd-testing associations are becoming more numerous, and farmers are learning that it is profitable to keep milk records and to cut out the cows that do not give payable yields. The application of uptodate methods is becoming general. The total production of milk was 588,000,000 gallons in 1917. The production per cow has increased from. 285 gallons in 1913 to 322 gallons in 1917, or nearly 13 per cent.
In 1917 there were produced 200,000,000 lbs. of butter, 27,000,000 lbs. of cheese, and 56,000,000 lbs. of condensed and concentrated milk. The total value of these commodities is set down at £16,900,000.
Pigs. Not least among the rural industries awaiting wider development in Australia is that of pig raising. The rate of progress is’ quite unequal to the requirements of local demand, and there is an opportunity to build up a large export trade, as the countries of Europe are short of animal foods. During 1917, Great Britain paid £37,000,000 to foreign countries for pig products.
Considerable attention has been paid of late, both privately and by the various State Governments, to improving the breed of pigs. In 1914, Australia had 862,000 of these useful animals, while in 1917 the number was 1,169,000.
Poultry. Poultry stocks are largely maintained by farmers, and furnish a considerable addition to the annual agricultural or dairying returns. During recent years, however, poultry keeping has assumed an independent position, and it is also carried on in conjunction with pig farming. Special poultry farms have been, instituted for scientific breeding, and poultry experts engaged by the State Governments give lectures and instruction. The . value of poultry and egg production in 1913-14 was £4,500,000. This had increased to £6,000,000 in 1917-18.
Minerals. The discovery of gold in payable quantities attracted population to Australia, and thus laid the foundation of its nationhood.
Our total mineral wealth cannot yet be regarded as well ascertained, and the mineral exploration of the country is still in its infancy. The large production of gold, silver, copper, and tin, the extent’ of the coal deposits, the presence of large quantities of iron ore, and the1 great variety of other: minerals found in1 appreciable- quantities, suggest that the future of mining will be even more remarkable than the past. The total value of the mineral production in 1914 was £22,200,000; in 1917 it was £25,600,000. The total production in Australia to date has reached the large -sum of £931,000,000.
In 1917, coal produced was valued at £5,600,000; copper, £4,900,000; gold, £6,200,000; silver, lead, and ‘ lead ore and concentrates £5,500,000; zinc concen.trates, £1,750,000; and tin, £1,000,000. The other minerals produced are alunite, antimony, bismuth, wolfram, diamonds, gems, gypsum, iron, iron ore and flux, limestone flux, manganese, .molybdenite, opal, osmiridium, platinum, salt, scheelite, - shale, and zinc.
Manufacture. The development of Australian manufacture has been greatly influenced by the war, and’ the consequent decline in shipping facilities. Some industries have decreased on account of the difficulty of securing essential constituents, while others have greatly advanced from the necessity of supplying locallymanufactured articles in place of those formerly imported.
The number of factories was 15,179 in 1917, as compared with 15,536 in 1913. This is a decrease of 357, but the condition of manufacture cannot be gauged from a mere statement of the number of factories. Some of them were practically in their infancy in 1913, employing but few hands. Amalgamations have in some instances also accounted for a reduction ir. the numbers.
The average number of hands employed in 1917 was 321,000, representing an increase of 4,700 on the 1916 figure, but showing a decrease of 15,400 on the total number in 1913. This decrease was due to the withdrawal of large numbers of young males for military purposes, the number of males having decreased by 20,100, while females increased by 4,700’>
The largest number employed in any particular class of industry was in clothing and textile fabrics, in which there were 83,200 employees; or 25.87 per cent, of’ the whole number. Metal works, engineering, &c, came next with 62,100 employees! while the class of industry connected with the manufacture of food, drink, &c, occupied third place with 52,700 employees.
As an indication of the permanent character and stability of the industries which have been established, it may be noted that the values of land and buildings and of plant and machinery used in the factories are rapidly increasing. Thus for the whole Commonwealth the total value has increased from 1913 to 1917 by £16,000,000, that is, from £74,000,000 to £90,000,000, or at the rate of £4,000,000 per annum. Of the total capital so invested for 1917, the sum of £43,000,000 represented land and buildings occupied as factories, the remaining £47,000,000 being the value of the plant and machinery.
The salaries and wages paid to employees in 1917 amounted to £36,600,000. Male workers received £31,800,000, ‘or £143 10s. per head, and female workers £4,800,000, or £54 9s. per head. In 1913 the males received £29,700,000, or £123 6s. per head, while the females received £3,900,000, or £47 14s. per head.
The amount expended on fuel and light in factories is of .considerable importance. In 1913 it amounted to £3,200,000, and in 1917 to £4,000,000, an increase of about 25 per cent. The additional cost of fuel has materially assisted in bringing about this increase, but the main contributing factor has been the greater use of machinery, the driving force of which expressed in units of horse-power has increased by 120,000 since 1913.
The total value of raw material used or worked up in factories during 1917 was £132,000,000, or 64 per cent, of the total value of the finished product. Since 1913 the value of materials used has increased from £96,000,000 to £132,000,000, or 37 per cent. The large increase is mainly due to the rise in the price of these materials,, but. in some cases, such as those relating to cheese, condensed milk, jam, sugar, woolleus and. tweeds, boots and shoes, gas and coke, and electric light and power, greatly increased quantities are also in evidence.
The importance of the manufacturing industries is indicated by the fact that the total value of the output for 1917 was £206,000,000. This represents an increase of over 27 per cent, since 1933. The output value, per employee continues to show a substantial upward tendency, having risen from £479 in 1913 to £642 in 1917. This is attributable to the great assistance received from the increased use of machinery, as well as to the higher cost of raw materials.
Of the total output of £206,000,000, the sum of £132,000,000 represents the value of the raw materials. The difference between these amounts, namely, £74,000,000, is the real value of production from factories. The corresponding amount for 3913 was £65,000,000.
Room for Expansion. There, is room for1 great expansion of Australian manufacture, and the woollen industry may be cited as an example. We produce immense quantities of wool. It is anomalous that so much is exported as raw material and brought back in the form of manufactured goods.
Total Value of Production. The total value of primary production in Australia in the year 1917 is as follows: -
Government Control of Primary Products. Having completed a survey of the producing interests of Australia, I now desire to make reference to those products which have been handled by the Government during the war.
Wool. The sale of the Australian wool clip to the Imperial Government was carried through for n the seasons 1916-17, 1917:18, and 1918-19, and will be continued to the 30th June, 1920, on which date the present contract terminates.
The purchase price is 15½d. per pound greasy wool, plus handling charges at the rate of fd. per pound.
In respect of the wool sold for purposes other than the military and naval requirements of Great Britain and the Allies, 50 per cent, of the profits, if any, will be distributed to Australian wool-growers.
Wool -growers have been paid, to date, the following amounts : -
Appraisements for the season 1919-20 have already commenced, and it is anticipated that by the 31st December of this year, 952,000 bales will have been valued, with payments to growers aggregating approximately £22.,500,000, subject to the retention of 10 per cent.
The balance of the clip, about 1,038,000 bales, with an approximate value of £24,500,000, will be appraised as early as possible in 1920, with a final clearing up appraisement in June.
The total value of the 1919-1920 clip is estimated at £47,000,000.
The Commonwealth Public Account has been credited with the sum of £216,034, representing licence-fees payments by the wool tops manufacturing companies.
The sale of the wool to the Imperial Government has been of enormous value to the pastoral industry and to the Commonwealth generally. It has been of great assistance, in the stabilization of finance.
Wheat. The deliveries to the Wheat
Pools have been :
This includes a gain in weight on the 1915-16 Pool of 1,150,000 bushels, and makes provision for losses in New South Wales on the 1916-17 and 1917-18 Pools to the extent of 3,247,000 bushels, and of 134,000 bushels in Western Australia on the 1916-17 Pool. Extensive losses have occurred in other States, a close esti- mate of which will soon be available, surveys of stocks being now in progress.
A considerable proportion of this amount will ‘not be paid for some time. “Under the contract with the New Zealand Government, the balance is not due till August, 1920, and shipment of the 1,500,000 tons sold to Great Britain is not likely to be completed earlier than June, 1920.
The sale of 1,500,000 tons by the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) has been a very great help to wheat-growers. It afforded the first indication of the clearance of the accumulation of stocks since the inauguration of the pooling system. The wheatgrower, now has a sense of independence which was completely lacking at the close of the last financial year.
In all, the Wheat Pools have to date paid to growers a total of £88,500,000.
Sugar. Prior to 1915, the price of raw sugar was less than £14 per ton, but, when the Government fixed the price at £18, such increases were made in the wages of the field workers that the farmers did not reap as much benefit as was expected. In 1917, the Government increased the price to £21 per ton, and this was followed by further increases in wages.
Over 50,000 tons of foreign sugar were imported in 1918, and during the present season some 100,000 tons of foreign sugar will be required.
Owing to the Government control, sugar has been retailed, since January, 1916, at the low rate of 3½d. per lb. for 1A white granulated. The prices in all other parts of the world have been much higher. For example, consumers in the United States of America have been compelled to pay not less than 4£d. per lb., though the very large production of Cuba, amounting to some 4,000,000 tons, was available, also the sugar, produced ‘ from beet in the States. In other countries the cost to the people has been more than double that paid by Australians. In addition to the advantage of low price, Australia has enjoyed abundance of this commodity, while in other countries there has been scarcity or famine.
Liberal concessions have been made lo manufacturers of jam and other goods for export, the sugar having been supplied at £24, and recently at £26, per ton. The price in Java is £45 per ton f.o.b.
The total paid by the Government to Australian growers for raw sugar, in the last four years, is over £17,000,000.
Butter and Cheese. Beginning with the 1917-18 season, the Commonwealth took over the control of butter and cheese> through the Commonwealth Dairy Produce Pool Committee.
Up to the 6th Sepember, 1919, 2,074,926 cases of butter were purchased for £8,334,727, and 80,860 crates of cheese at a price of £484,373.
The average price given by the Pool for butter during .its operations up to the present hae amounted to almost 160s. per cwt. , whilst the export price for the three years immediately preceding the war, when there was no Government control, averaged only about 106s. per cwt. The price for the current contract, which extends to 31st August, 1920, is 175s. per cwt. for butter grading 90 points, with ls. per cwt. up or down for each point over or under 90.
The price obtained by producers for cheese, during the period of the Pool’s operations, has likewise increased from about 60s. per cwt. (export price) in pre vious years to 84s. per cwt., which has been the average price obtained from the Pool.
Rabbit Skins. The rabbit skins scheme was introduced in April, 1917, and continued until March, 1918. Authorized agents were appointed in New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia, and Tasmania. They were the only persons allowed to sell skins, and trappers were invited to send their skins to them. The skins were classed by Government experts, and the trappers paid- according to fixed schedule. The prices were net to the trapper, and it is quite safe to say that they were from 25 per cent, to 50 per cent, above the prices realized by trappers during the four preceding years.
The total number of skins dealt with was approximately 50,000,000, valued at about £400,000.
Jam. In the early part of 1918, the Commonwealth Government was ‘instrumental in securing contracts for the supply of large quantities of jam to the British and United States Governments. Since that time 72,000,000 lbs., valued at £1,631,250, have been supplied at from 5(d. to 6d. per lb. Those prices are almost unparalleled in the history of the industry in Australia.
The striking effect of the Commonwealth Government’s operations can be seen by a glance at the statistics of jam exports. The exports rose steadily from less than 2,000,000 lbs. in 1913 to 79,000,000 in 1918-19. This has been a great boon to both fruit-growers and jam manufacturers.
The Government also made special arrangements to secure freight to carry the jams overseas, and thus avoided serious complications at a time when shipping was much disorganized.
Meats. Since the beginning of the war, Australia has been filling orders from the British Government for the supply of meats for the British and Indian Armies.
The State Governments have been arranging for the supply of frozen meats, while the Commonwealth Government has had the. supervision of the orders received for canned meats
During the period of its operations the Government dealt with canned meats to the value of £1,746,840.
Bacon. Among the foodstuffs that have been supplied to the British Government through the agency of the Commonwealth Government is bacon. Contracts were secured in the early part of the war, and in all, nearly 2,500,000 lbs. in weight, valued at about £145,000, have been supplied.
The orders received through the Government were a factor in causing the exports of bacon to rise from less than 2,000,000 lbs. in 1913 to over 5,000,000 lbs. in 1917-18.
Flax. The Federal Government obtained orders from Great Britain for- the 1918 and 1919 crops, and gave a guarantee of £5 and £6 per ton respectively for green flax to the growers. The growers have been guaranteed £6 per ton for 1920. Any profits the Government derives from the scheme will be given to the growers in the form of a bonus.
Cornsacks. As the wheat harvest of 1917-18 approached, it became evident that the supply of cornsacks would not be sufficient. The Government averted the shortage by commandeering the stocks on hand or- to arrive, and by prohibiting resales to Calcutta. By this means, and the purchase of sacks in Calcutta, the requirements of the early harvest were met. In this way, serious loss to the farmers was avoided.
For the 1918-19 season, the Government purchased in Calcutta about 130,000 bales at a price which enabled the sacks to be sold to the farmers at practically the price of the previous year.
It is safe to say that a saving to the farmers of at least £650,000 was made on the transactions for 1918-19, during which about 150,000 bales were handled, valued at £1,598,432. ‘
The Government was compelled to discontinue the purchase of cornsacks because, in reply to representations by the Government, the Viceroy of India notified that the mills refused to quote a pf ice, the opinion being held that - the business should go through the usual channels.
Rabbits. The Commonwealth Government acted as agent for the Imperial Government for the purchase of the 1917 pack. All rabbits for export were purchased, the quantity being approximately 1,674,000 crates, of a value of £1,260,000.
Metals. The signing of the Armistice threw the metal industries throughout the world into chaos. Prices fell rapidly, and the Allies found themselves with huge accumulation of stocks- The delay in the settlement of Peace also affected the market, users working upon the barest requirements, and speculators declining, to operate. The situation is gradually improving.
It is safe to say that, owing to the efforts of the Commonwealth Government during the war, the position of the Australian producers was as good as, if not better than, that of producers in any other country.
The policy of the Government to have all ores . treated in Australia has been maintained; and now practically the whole Australian output of metallic ores, with the exception of zinc, is treated locally.
Already the capital invested in new industries established as a result of the Government’s policy amounts to over £7,000,000, and fully £1,500,000 is paid in wages every year.
The Metal Exchange has been firmly established, and since its inception contracts for the sale of metals and- minerals to the value of £35,000,000 have been registered by it.
Zinc. Owing to the sale of zinc concentrates to the Imperial Government, new life lias been given to the Broken Hill mines, which are assured of a satisfactory price for ten years. The Australian output of. zinc concentrates amounts to 400,000 tons annually.
Copper. During the war the Imperial Government purchased practically the whole Australian output of copper. Sales of copper by the Copper Producers’ Association to the Imperial Government during 1918 amounted to £3,850,000.
Lead. At Port Pirie is now the’ largest silver-lead refinery in the world, and there is also a refinery at Cockle Creek. The output of lead by both refineries, with certain reservations, was sold to the Imperial Government during the war. and under the contract £4,523,000 was paid to the suppliers.
The Port Pirie refinery produces approximately 6,000,000 ounces of silver per annum. Though the demand for lead has been dull, the price of silver has never be n so high.
Iron and Steel. Australia until lately neglected her iron and steel industries, and was dependent on importations. The Broken Hill Proprietary Company has now embarked upon iron and steel production on a large scale at Newcastle, and has invested £4,288,000. The wages and salaries paid amount to about £750.,000 per annum.
Wolfram, Scheelite, and Molybdenite. In Sept-ember, 1915, the Commonwealth Government, acting as’ agents for the Imperial Government, acquired the Australian production of these minerals. The requisition was for the period of the war and six months afterwards. Since then the Imperial Government has purchased tungsten ores to the value of £1,141,000, and molybdenite to the value of £372,500.
Total Value of Primary Products Handled by Government. The following is a summary of the moneys paid to primary producers in respect of their commodities sold during the war by or under the control of the Commonwealth Government : -
These are the figures to date- Many more .millions will be paid to primary producers in the next few months.
Banking. The total deposits in Australian banks in June quarter, 1914, amounted to £157,000,000; in December quarter, 1918, the figure was £178,000,000. These figures do not include those of the Commonwealth Bank, which’ had deposits of £6,700,000 in 1914, and £66,000,000 in 1918, including the very large balances of war loan moneys lying at the credit of the Commonwealth Treasury.
The Australian banks have been of the greatest assistance to the Treasury during the war, and it is satisfactory that a period of. such great financial disturbance has been passed through without in any way impairing the stability or the usefulness of the banks. The present banking position is sound, and the outlook for the future distinctly good.
Australian- Savings Banks call for attention, because of the gratifying increase both in the number of accounts and in the amount of credit.
As a set off to the well justified complaints which are made as to the increased cost of living, it must’ be pointed out that, notwithstanding all disadvantages, the people have during the war saved large sums of money. At 30th June, 1914, there were 2,108,000 Savings Bank accounts; these had increased to 2,S31,000 in 1918. In 1914, the amount at credit was £83,500,000, and had grown in 1918 to the very fine total of £116,874,000.
The increase in the number of depositors is somewhat misleading, because, since the opening of the Commonwealth Bank, many persons have more than one account. Even when allowance is made for this, however, it may be said that at least one-half of the population now have accounts with Savings Banks. The actual average deposit was £42 ls. lid. in 1918 as compared with £39 12s. 4d. in 1914.
The- increase in the amount at credit is no less than £33,000,000, and this is the more remarkable seeing that large sums, have been withdrawn for investment in various loan issues, and amounts which would have been placed in the (Savings Banks have been directly invested in war loans and war saving certificates. The’ large amount deposited and the increase in the practice of life assurance show that the Australian citizen is more provident than is usually believed.
Life Assurance. The last year unaffected by the war was 1914. In the first two years after that, the addition to life assurance funds was about £6,000,000 per annum, an amount which suddenly fell to £2,500,000 in 1917. This was, of course,’ the result of the great increase in death claims owing to the war. The claims by death were, approximately, £1,500,000 in 1914, and were double that amount in 1917. They are likely to remain rather above the normal for some years owing to the impaired lives of returned soldiers. Notwithstanding this handicap, the funds increased from £55,000,000 in 1914 to £63,000,000 in 1917, or about 15 per cent.
Commonwealth Government Ship Construction. The Government’s shipbuilding programme is for six steel steamers, each with a dead-weight capacity of 5,500 tons, and fourteen steel steamers with a dead-weight capacity of 6,000 tons each. Of these twenty vessels, three have alreadly been launched, one is actually in commission, and the second almost ready for commission. The others will he completed and ready for service at reasonably short intervals.
The cost of twelve of these vessels will be, approximately, £2S per ton, whilst the cost of the other eight will” be between £28 and £33 per ton, according to a sliding scale which takes into account the actual cost, plus profit.
The cost at which these steamers are being built in the Commonwealth compares favorably with the cost of steamers in the United Kingdom, America, and other parts.
Provision has also been made for building four vessels, each of 12,S00 tons capacity, two at the Government Dockyard, Walsh Island, and two at the Naval Dockyard, Cockatoo Island. Each of these vessels will be provided with 250,000 cubic feet of refrigerated space for the carriage of perishable goods. The ships will be of the highest class of cargo boat, and will compare well with any similar class engaged in the Australian trade.
Contracts have been let with two firms in England to build five vessels, each of 12,180 tons dead-weight capacity and each with 370,000 cubic feet of insulated space. Work on these vessels has been started. The first is due for delivery early in 1921, and the whole of them before the end of that year.
Contracts for sixteen of the eighteen wooden ships which were to be built in Australia have been cancelled.
Commonwealth Government Line of Steamers. In 1916, fifteen steamers were purchased by the Commonwealth Government. Since then the Line has grown considerably, and has filled a useful purpose in the commercial life of Australia.
Two of the steamers referred to were lost as the result of enemy action, and, since the armistice, two of the older vessels have been sold - the Australstream for £113,355, and the Australfield for £169,290. Their respective costs were £80,000 and £109,215.
During the war period, three sailing vessels were acquired, and arrangements were made for the building of nine wooden motor vessels and five wooden steamers in America. Eight of these vessels have been completed, and are in commission. While the war lasted they performed good service. Had the fourteen vessels been completed within the specified time, the Commonwealth would have benefited materially. Unfortunately, however, prolonged strikes and difficulties in obtaining materials resulted in serious delays.
With the cessation of hostilities, it was recognised that the commercial value of the wooden vessels ordered in America was not very great, and an opportunity presenting itself for disposing of them, it was taken.
In addition to handling the vessels of the Commonwealth Government Line, a fleet of twenty-one ex-enemy vessels has been run and managed by the same organization. Of these latter vessels, two were sunk by enemy action, and three are on hire under charter.
The Commonwealth Government Line has carried to and from Australia 682,576 tons of cargo, including 3,366,686 bags of wheat and flour, 146,472 bales of wool, and 43,321’ tons of cornsacks. In addition to the foregoing, the ex-enemy fleet has carried 337,496 tons of cargo, making a total of 1,020,072 tons.
The gross earnings of the Commonwealth Line of Steamers (exclusive of ex-enemy vessels) during the financial years ending June, 1917, and June, 1918, were £1,390,457 and £2,095,978, while the net earnings for the same periods were £426,394 and £905,879 respectively.
The capital cost of the fifteen Austral vessels, up to 30th September, 1918, was £2,105,000.
The receipts and working expenses of the Line from its inception to 30th September, 1918, were: -
It will thus he seen that in approximately two years the net receipts of the Line exceeded the capital cost of the vessels.
Since their purchase the vessels have considerably appreciated in value.
Until June, 1917, ex-enemy vessels were run by the Navy Department, and as each voyage was completed after that date, they were put under the management of the Commonwealth Line of Steamers. The gross .and net earnings of these vessels are as follow : -
Freights charged by the Commonwealth Line, although in excess of those of pre-war times, have always been much below those charged by the shipping companies.
There has necessarily been fluctuation, but, at the time when the ruling rates to the United Kingdom for wheat were 125s. and 130s. per ton, the rate charged by the Commonwealth Government Line was 120s.
At a later date the Line found it necessary to increase its rate to 150s. Then the ruling rate was 235s., while 275s. was offered to neutral vessels for wheat to Europe.
One of the new steel vessels built by the Commonwealth Government in Australia has recently been taken over by the Line, and is now on her maiden voyage. She will return with a cargo of phosphate rock.
One of the results of Commonwealth ownership- of vessels has been that large sums of money have been spent in Australia for docking, repairs, purchase of stores, &c.
The Line runs a sailing vessel which, as well as carrying cargo, is used for training cadets for the mercantile marine. Sixteen boys are in training, and it is expected that they will become useful officers.
Control of Inter-State Shipping. Inter-State shipping during the year has presented many difficult problems. At the close of 1918, although the shortage of tonnage was very acute owing to war requirements, the Inter-State Central Committee, by organization under one management, was able to use the available ships so that the requirements were almost satisfied. Early in the present year, however, the influenza epidemic and the quarantine restrictions resulted in accumulations of cargoes, and after the quarantine restrictions were relaxed the seamen ceased work.
The strike having now ended, the congestion is being; cleared up. It is hoped that in the course of a few weeks conditions will again become normal, but the reserves of coal in the various ports will be much below a safe margin for some time to come.
The difficulty in obtaining despatch for colliers, owing to the lack of facilities for discharge, prevents the best use being made of this class of tonnage.
The position with regard to Inter- State shipping after the lapse of the War Precautions Regulations, when the ships will revert to their owners, is receiving the consideration of the Government. In order to obtain efficiency with depleted tonnage, it would appear necessary that the ships should be run in combination as at present.
During the war, Australian coastal trade has been in an exceptionally favoured position with regard to freights, which have practically remained at prewar rates. This cannot be said with regard to any other country. It is evident, however, that the position cannot be maintained much longer- Bunker coal, repairs, stores, wages, and cargo handling have all become more expensive. Apart from other increases of various kinds, it may be stated that, to give effect to the recent seamen’s agreement, to raise other wages, and to meet the extra cost of bunker coal, as authorized by Statutory Rules passed in May last, an additional charge of £535,000 per annum was entailed. A substantial increase in fares and freights was therefore inevitable.
Demobilization. The number of soldiers abroad on 11th November, 1918 - the date of the Armistice - was 175,076. The number returned to Australia between that date and 27th September last was 152,494. These figures show that apparently 22,582 men were still members of the Forces abroad, but many have been discharged abroad and some are missing. The personnel overseas on 20th September numbered 18,374.
Repatriation. For the current financial year it is expected that the repatriation of our soldiers, exclusive of the provision of homes, will involve an expenditure of £2,500,000. This sum will be applied principally in connexion with vocational training, payment of sustenance, and assistance of soldiers, all of which are expected to absorb £2,326,352. Administrative expenditure is estimated at £173,648. In addition, it is necessary to provide establishments for vocational training and hostels for totally incapacitated men, at a cost of £455,000.
Advances to the various State Governments for the purpose of assisting soldier settlers to obtain stock, implements, seed, &c, and to make necessary’ improvements on their holdings, are expected to approximate £6,085,000.
State Forestry Departments may require £70,000 to carry on the work of reafforestation, which will afford employment for discharged soldiers.
Grants to local government bodies for the purpose of undertaking additional worksto open up avenues of employment for discharged menamount to £250,000.
In addition, a sum of £1,500,000 is being provided by way of loans to State Governments for other reserve employment through local government bodies.
It is expected that 8,000 applicants will be providedwith homes under the housing scheme at a cost of £4,000,000. Administrative expenses therewith are estimated on a basis of 3½ per cent. to total £140,000.
Provision to the extent of £4,885 is made to assist ex -Imperial soldiers and others.
War Pensions. At 30th June, 1919, there were 181,529 war pensions, an increase of 71,355 during the financial year. Incapacitated members of the Forces in receipt of war pensions numbered 71,512, and. dependants 110,017.
The expenditure during the twelve months was £4,828,072, an increase of £2,055,995 over the preceding year. The expenditure for 1919-20 is estimated at £5,450,000. This is a large bill, but one which Australia will honorably meet. Indeed, our obligations to the widows, the dependants, and the incapacitated fighting men must be held sacred.
Federal Capital. It is intended to proceed with the construction of the Federal Capital, and the Government proposes to appoint a competent Committee to report as to the steps necessary to provide at an early date the accommodation for Parliament, the administrative offices, and the residences for officers. The Committee will also report upon the cost necessary to effect occupation.
River Murray Scheme. The River Murray Commission’s estimate of the amount required for expenditure in 1919-1920 is £311,000, the Commonwealth Government’s quota being £66,700.
The works authorized by the Commission include the following : -
Upper Murray storage at the junction of the Mitta and Murray Rivers.
Weir and lock at Torrumbarry, near Echuca.
Lake Victoria storage.
A commencement has been made with preliminary works of the Upper Murray storage, and arrangements are in progress for the assembling of the plant required, and the acquisition of the necessary lands. Good progress has been made with the weir and lock at Torrumbarry.
A contract has been let for portion of the work at the Lake Victoria storage, and it is anticipated that shortly a further contract will be entered into. Arrangements are being made for the supply of plant to enable an early commencement with work at locks 3 and 9.
The lock at Blanchetown is now practically completed, and work has commenced on the weir.
Progress is being made with surveys and investigations on the river between
Echuca and Wentworth, and it is expected that at an early date the sites for further weirs and locks on that section - particularly in the vicinity of Mildura, Merbein, and Curlwaa - will be decided upon.
The total estimated cost of the River Murray scheme, which was based on conditions ruling before the war, is £4,663,000. Towards this the Commonwealth has agreed to advance £1,000,000. The works authorized by the Commission to date involve an expenditure of about £2,600,000.
Primary production will be greatly increased as a result of the expenditure, and a large prosperous population will be settled in these fertile localities.
Regulation of Capital Issues. The amount of share andother capital authorized to be raised by companies from January, 1916 (when Treasury control commenced), to the end of September last was £94,287,470. This consisted of £51,748,122 for subscription in cash by shareholders, £10,287,554 from the capitalization of existing reserves and undivided profits, and £32,251,794 by the transfer of assets such as buildings, machinery, and patent and other rights.
For mining purposes the capitalization allowed was £11,803,312; for manufacture and production, £44,301,903; for public utilities, £4,644,304; for trade and finance, £24,317,246; and for other purposes, £9,220,705.
In all, 5,626 applications have been dealt with by the Treasury. All requests for consent to register new companies, or for the raising of capital by existing companies, have been readily granted where the immediate object was trade, finance, production, or manufacture, and where the proposals were framed on lines which were found to be in ageneral way satisfactory.
Consent was refused to the raising of capital, amounting in all to £12,632,194, because the proposed issues were regarded as unnecessary. This does not disclose the full effect of the Treasury control. It has been made clear that many proposals for companies and syndicates have not been placed before the Treasury because the persons interested knew their schemes would not be approved.
On the 23rd April last, the Regulations controlling expenditure en buildings for amusement and other public purposes were repealed.
Loans Made to States by Commonwealth: Loans Made from Notes Fund, Before the War. Prior to the war, the Commonwealth lent various sums to the States out of the Notes Fund. The loans thus made and outstanding on 30th June last amounted to £2,634,000. These are repayable at different dates between 1919 and 1926. The amount maturing in 1919, namely, £800,000, has already been repaid, leaving £1,834,000, which matures between 1921 and 1926.
Agreements between Commonwealth and States. . Shortly after the outbreak of the war, the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) and the Premiers met in Conference to consider the financial situation. At this Conference, the Commonwealth and the States (except Queensland) entered into an agreement in relation to borrowings for State public works for a period of twelve months from 5th November, 1914.
A year later, on 6th November, 1915, an agreement was made in regard to borrowing for State public works till one year after the end of the war. New South Wales did not join in this agreement.
The agreement of 5th November, 1914, provided : -
The £18,000,000 was lent to the States from the Notes Fund between November, 1914, and December, 1915. It was at first agreed that the money should be repaid two years after it was advanced. The term was afterwards extended for twelve months, and subsequently the £18,000,000 was made repayable five years after the war, but not later than 1925. The rate of interest payable by the States on the £18,000,000 was fixed at 4 per cent., subject to adjustment.
The agreement entered into with the States (except New South Wales) on 6th November, 1915, includes the following:
The arrangements do not apply to renewals by the States of their existing loans. The moneys’ referred to in the agreement are for the ordinary public works, &c, of the States, and are not for the settlement of returned soldiers on the land or for other repatriation purposes.
The operations under the agreement of 6th November, 1915, are: -
The Commonwealth is directly responsible to the British creditors for the moneys borrowed for the States. The Commonwealth collects the interest from the States, which must also pay the principal to the Commonwealth when due.
Co-ordination of Australian Public Borrowing. These agreements in relation to borrowing for State public works, and difficulties arising out of the war, brought the Commonwealth and States into closer connexion than before. The position, however, still remained unsatisfactory, and the Government therefore made a proposal that the State Governments should give to the Commonwealth full control of all State and local government borrowing for the three years ending 31st December, 1921.
A temporary arrangement of this nature could have been at once entered into, and would have afforded time for consideration of a permanent scheme based upon experience in the three years.
The proposals were considered at a Conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers in January last, but the New South Wales and Victorian Governments would not accept the scheme. The Commonwealth Government thereupon decided it would not be wise to proceed only on behalf of the smaller States.
Loans for Settlement of Returned Soldiers on the Land. The Government has undertaken to provide funds by way of loans to the States for the following phases of soldier land settlement : -
Loans to the States for these purposes are made at a rate of interest corresponding to the cost of the money to the Commonwealth. The rate of any advance is to be reduced, however, during the first five years of its currency by2½ per cent., in order partially to recoup the States for losses which will necessarily be incurred in connexion with land repatriation.
It is not possible at present to estimate the ultimate cost of land settlement of returned soldiers, but it is clear that a. very large sum will be required. The loans to date and the estimated requirements for the present financial year are as follows : -
Loans to States for Municipalities and for Forestry. The Government undertook to advance money through the States to the local governing bodies to finance such works as the local authorities mightundertake. No moneys have yet been loaned for this purpose, but it is estimated that £1,500,000 will have been advanced by the 30th June, 1920.
The Commonwealth has also arranged to lend moneys to the States for forestry work, which will give employment to returned soldiers. It is anticipated that £70,000 will be required for this purpose during the current financial year.
Loans to States for Silos. In order to facilitate the construction of silos for wheat storage, the Commonwealth in 1917 agreed to lend the States a sum not exceeding in all £2,850,000. The advances are : -
Summary of Loans to the States. The following is a summary of loans to the States : -
Australian Notes Fund. On the 3rd October, 1919, the. position of the Australian Notes Fund was : - .
The annual interest at present being earned on investments is £1,339,174.
The Australian banks undertook that, during the war, they would not present Australian Notes at the Treasury for redemption in gold. By this agreement, which is still in operation, the Treasury has been able to create the large circulation which exists. On the 3rd August, 1914, just before the outbreak of war, notes were held by the banks and the public respectively as follows: -
On the 11th August, 1919, the position was: -
The figures show an increase in the note circulation of £45,000,000 since the war commenced. That expansion has frequently been the subject of criticism, but the Commonwealth Government, fully recognising that an excessive issue of notes should be avoided, has kept the circulation to an amount which, having regard to war conditions, was not likely to be harmful.
Artificial finance is not the only reason for high prices, but, if it were, the effect of the increase in Australian notes would be relatively small, because there have been inflated credits all over the world, resulting in a world-wide increase in prices. Had the Australian Note Issue not been increased beyond its pre-war amount, we should nevertheless have had the prices of to-day.
About the time the armistice was signed, the Australian note circulation reached its highest point, namely, £59,670,000. The issue has since been reduced by £5,000,000.
Estimated Revenue, 1919-20. It is now necessary to place before honorable members the Estimates for the year ending 30th June next.
Details of the Estimates of Revenue will be found in the printed Budgetpapers, and there seems to be no need to go further into the matter here.
Entertainments Tax. A Bill will be submitted providing for the abolition of tax on 3d. tickets, except tickets for admission of adults to continuous picture shows, which will be taxed at½d. The tax on 6d. tickets will be reduced from1d. to½d. The tax on other tickets will remain as before. The Government believes this relief can legitimately be granted now that the war is over and the resulting commitments have been more definitely ascertained.
Taxation of Leasehold Estates in Crown Lands. Prior to 1914, the Federal land tax did not apply to Crown lands held under lease, except perpetual leases without revaluation and leases with the right of purchase. In 1914 the law was amended so that leases of Crown land to be used for pastoral, grazing, cultivation, homestead, mining, or timber purposes came within the scope of the tax.
Only a small portion of the tax due upon Crown leaseholds has been collected, because disputes arose as to the operation of the law, and some startling discrepancies existed between valuations of the Department and values alleged by the owners. The matter was so much clouded that a Royal Commission was appointed in December last to make inquiries. The Commission’s report was recently placed in the hands of the Government, and will be laid on the table to-morrow.
The Government have decided to give effect to the following recommendations of the Commission as soon as practicable, namely : -
The other recommendations of the Commission are still under consideration and the attitude of the Government in relation to them will be announced at a later date.
This increase occurs under the following heads: -
This is. an absolute reduction, notwithstanding many inevitable increases. The amount of these may fairly be added, as showing the extent of the effort which has been made to curtail expenditure. The following are unavoidable additions to expenditure : -
That is to say, if the estimated expenditure had not necessarily been increased in the directions referred to, the efforts of the Treasury would have resulted in a reduction of estimated ordinary expenditure amounting to nearly £700,000 per annum.
The task of revising the Estimates was long and difficult, but by patient and resolute work, the Treasury was able to cut more than £4,000,000 out of the Estimates submitted by the Departments. What has been done is not to be taken as a spasmodic effort; the Government is determined that value shall be obtained for all its expenditure, and intends continuously to exercise the closest supervision over expenditure.
Royal Commission on Economies. In November of last year a Royal Commission was appointed to consider and report upon the public expenditure of the Commonwealth, with a view to effecting economies. The Commission has been inquiring closely into the working of Departments, and has furnished its first progress report. The Government will give effect to the recommendations of the Commission wherever possible. The report has been referred to the Departments concerned for consideration, and the Government proposes to place it upon the table, with the departmental replies, as soon as the latter are to hand.
War Expenditure out of Revenue . The war expenditure out of revenue in 1918- 19 may be compared with the estimate for 1919-20. in the following way: -
New Works Expenditure out of Revenue. In 1918-19 there was spent out of revenue for additions, new works, and buildings, £405,159. In the current finan cial year the estimate is £397,144. Details will be found in the Estimates.
With regard to the increases in the Military and Naval estimate, it is to be explained that, notwithstanding the urgent necessity of curtailing expenditure, the Treasury has found itself obliged to provide for large sums to be expended in this year, partly because considerable amounts have already been spent in the first months of the financial year, and partly owing to the fact that harm might have been done to future efficiency by discontinuing services not immediately required, but certain to be useful later.
During the war it was not possible to provide the Postmaster-General’s Department with funds sufficient to carry out important and revenue-producing work. A commencement has, therefore, been made to supply the Department with moneys required to meet the legitimate demands of the public for telephones and buildings.
War Expenditure. Though the war is over, it is necessary still to provide large sums to meet the obligations. Many expenses of direct warfare have yet to be paid, and large repatriation expenditure must be met. It is estimated that during the present financial year a total of £52,334,579 will be expended out of war loan.
Old-age and Invalid Pensions. The Government has had under consideration the difficulties imposed on old-age and invalid pensioners by the increased cost of living, and will introduce a Bill to raise the weekly rate from 12s. 6d. to 15s., to take effect on and after 1st January next.
Repurchase of War Loan Securities. Under the War Loan Securities Act 1918, the Treasurer is required to pay monthly from war loan moneys, into a Trust account, a sum equal to one-eighth per cent. of the total war loans subscribed by the public. The moneys so provided are used in repurchasing war loan securities.
Since the Act was passed, on the 11th June, 1918, war loan bonds and stock re- presenting a face value of £2,650,000 have been bought at market prices.
An additional £200,000 of the bonds and stock has been purchased from the public out of the Loans Sinking Fund, into which the Treasurer annually pays revenue moneys equal to 10s. for every £100 of the public debt, except a small portion thereof.
The purchases have a useful effect in assisting to maintain prices in the market.
Public Debt of the Commonwealth. The public debt was £325,783,566 at 30th June, 1919, made up of the following items : -
In considering this huge debt it must be remembered that there are valuable revenue producing assets which have been constructed out of loan moneys. . The principal of these are the States railways, waterworks, and other public works, which produced in 1917-18 a net income of £9,959,083. This amount is available for the payment of interest.
The States have Sinking Funds of £11,447,107, and Commonwealth Sinking Funds amount to £2,104,202, the total being £13,551,309.
The public debt of Australia is being added to from time to time by State borrowing, and will be increased by about £40,000,000 to be raised by the Commonwealth in 1919-20 for. war and repatriation purposes. On the other hand, the Commonwealth borrowings this year will clear off the deferred pay of £5,500,000, and will enable £4,000,000 of debt to British Government to be discharged. The net Commonwealth increase of debt will, therefore, be about £30,500,000.
In considering the debt to be added in this financial year, it is important to remember that the increase will be set off largely by interest-earning or reproductive assets. In the case of the States, this set-off will represent practically the whole addition to the debt, while the advances to ex-soldiers for homes and land settlement will be wholly repaid to the Commonwealth, with interest, and some of the other Commonwealth loan expenditure will also be reproductive.
The Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) has informed theHouse that even at the best only a comparatively small sum is likely to be received by Australia as a war indemnity from Germany. He said -
We cannot hope to get relief to the extent of more than £100,000,000. . . . Probablyor possibly - we may receive between now and the end of April, 1921, anything from £5,000,000 to £8,000,000.I say, we may. How much we shall get afterwards, I do not know. The rest of the payment is spread over thirty years.
Clearly, Australia must rely on her own resources and on the industry of her people for the ultimate discharge of the debt.
Conclusion. The greatest war the world ever saw has left the nations with staggering debts, disturbed finances, and labour unrest. Of these Australia has a share, but I am happy in the consciousness that Australia’s troubles are less than those of other countries, and that there is every reason to expect our future will be bright. We faced four years of terrible war with courage and the virility of our population was made perfectly clear by hundreds of thousands of Australians upon the battle-fronts. Among the peoples of the world there is no finer stock than that from which our fighting men sprang. Australian character is such that our people can be depended upon to overcome the difficulties of reconstruction and to face the problems of peace with stout hearts and determination to build a proud and prosperous nation in these southern seas. Looking into the future, I see countless flocks and herds, ripening grain covering many landscapes, mines and factories without number, and fleets of great ships carrying produce to the nations. I see, too, multitudes of people, happy, rejoicing in liberty, and accomplished in all the arts which mark a highly civilized nation. “ I conclude by moving -
That the first item in the Estimates under Division 1, The Parliament, namely, “The President, £1,100,” be agreed to.
– By command of His Excellency the Governor-GeneralI lay on the table the Budget Papers for 1919-20 prepared for the information of honorable members.
Ordered to be printed.
In Committee of Ways and Means :
Motion (by Mr. Poynton) proposed -
That a tax be imposed on income derived from sources in Australia at the following amounts and rates, namely : -
– Rate of Taxupon Income Derived from Personal Exertion.
For so much of the whole taxable income as does not exceed £7,000 the average rate of tax per pound sterling shall be Threepence and three eight-hundredths of one penny where the taxable income is One pound sterling, and shall increase uniformly with each increase of One pound sterling of the taxable income by three eight-hundredths of one penny.
The average rate of tax per pound sterling for so much of the taxable income as does not exceed £7,600 may be calculated from the following formula: -
For every pound sterling of taxable income in excess of £7,600, the rate of tax shall be Sixty pence.
In addition to the tax payable under the preceding provisions, there shall be payable, in the case of incomes in respect of which the tax is calculated under the foregoing provisions, an additional tax equal to 25 per centum of the amount of the tax so calculated.
E.- Super Tax.
In addition to any tax (including additional tax, if any) payable under the preceding provisions, there shall be payable a super tax equal to 30 per centum of the total amount of the tax so payable.
Notwithstanding anything contained in the preceding provisions, the tax payable by any person who-
There shall be payable in respect of a cash prize in a lottery won after the thirtieth day of June, 1919, income tax to the amount of 13 per centum of the gross prize money.
.- So far as I can see the Opposition are not likely to object to this measure. Sometimes I wonder why Parliament has not made the income tax a permanency, because it will doubtless be so, at least during our time.For Parliament to be required to pass a measure each year for the renewal of income taxation seems a waste of time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Resolution reported, Standing Orders suspended, and report adopted.
That Mr. Groom and Mr. Poynton do prepare and bring in a Bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill presented by Mr. Poynton, and read a first and second time.
In Committee :
Clause 1 (Short Title.)
.- I understand ‘ that this measure is similar to the Act of last year, but, after all, that is no reason why the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes), who has used such violent language concerning the profiteer should not be here. He said he would - well, I do not like to use the expletive he used - “d - “ the profiteer, and shoot him if he could. It was an invitation to the Bolsheviks in this country, if there are any, to take action. If the Prime Minister desires to deal with those people who have been availing themselves of the opportunity of exploiting the public, here is his chance. He could have submitted an amendment to the Income Tax Act which would have compelled those people who have been robbing widows, the soldiers who have returned, and their dependants, of their hard earnings, to contribute towards the Commonwealth revenue.
– Order! I would point out to the honorable member that the clause deals only with the short title. His remarks would be more appropriate on the next clause.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 2 -
The Income Tax Assessment Act 1915-1918 shall be incorporated and read as one with this Act.
.- At the present time I should be addressing my constituents and not occupying my time in this way. In spite of the fact that the Prime Minister will not tell the general public that a general election is to take place - doubtless he is keeping that information for his own supporters - it is generally known that an election is pending. I am between two opposing forces, and although I feel it my duty to go to the country, at the same time I owe a duty to the public. The Prime Minister is falling upon the necks of the returned soldiers and asking them to kiss him.
– I am afraid the honorable member is departing from the Bill.
– That may be, but the Prime Minister is wasting his time in trying to get votes when he should be here dealing with the profiteer by means of the Income Tax Bill. We have nine months before us in which the Prime Minister could carry out his promise to protect the people. What better way could he find of dealing with gentlemen who are charging excessive prices than by way of the Income Tax Bill ? If their income tax were increased, profiteers would realize that it was hardly worth while charging excessive prices, as they would only have to return to the Treasury a correspondingly large amount in the form of income tax. We hear how that boots are actually up to £10 10s. per pair.
– I understand that £10 10s. is now the price charged for a certain class of boot, but honorable members opposite pretend they do not know this is so. In yesterday’s press I saw a report to the effect that £10 10s. was being charged for a pair of boots. We know also that the price of a suit of clothes has more than doubled in recent years, and I say that by means of the Income Tax Bill we could deal with those gentlemen who are unfairly taxing the public by charging excessive prices for their goods. If these profiteers felt that they were being unfairly treated they could go before the Commissioner and state their case. A man might be able to show that he was paying 18s. 6d. or 25s. per. yard for material used in a. suit of clothes, or if he were a wholesale distributor that the price at which he obtained his material from the woollen mills allowed him only a certain percentage of profit. Only the other day there came under my notice an instance of 12s. 6d. being charged the general public for a hat which was distributed by the wholesaler to the retailer at 5s. That is profiteering.
– Was that price charged in various retail establishments or in one only ?
– I heard of only one instance.
– Is the honorable member sure of his facts ?
– The honorable member for Fawkner appears suddenly to have awakened to a sense of his duty. I have pointed out to him before that his silence in this House will be his undoing. He is an able man, with plenty of brains and intelligence, but for the last two years he has been a dumb follower of the Govern ment. Now he finds his tongue and asks me an objectionable question, suggesting that I am making a statement not based upon facts.
– I am doing nothing of the kind.
– The honorable member asked me if I am sure of my facts, and in reply I tell him I would not mention the matter unless I were sure. But let us get back to the main point; and that is, that this so-called National Government, since they cannot shoot the profiteer, as the Prime Minister suggested, can only condemn him to perdition. They are asking for certain legislation, because they pretend that they have no power to deal with these commercial pirates, who, if they had not already hoisted the black flag, ought to do so instead of flying the Australian flag over their business establishments. Honorable members opposite declare that they want power to deal with the profiteers, and I reply that, in the measure now before the Committee, there is ample scope for action in this direction. But the Government have no intention of doing that at all, because too many of their supporters are really representatives of the profiteers, of that class represented by the coal mine owner, who, in order tobe able to pay the mine workers an extra 2s. per ton was permitted recently to charge an extra 5s. 9d. per ton to the public. And these are the gentlemen who are going to deal with the profiteers ! The honorable member for Darling Downs (Mr. Groom) is going to his electorate shortly to tell the people there that the Government intend to deal with the profiteers; but is there any reason to believe that the Government will do so, when we know that at a secret conferencethey allowed the coal mine owners to impose an additional burden upon the general community, and thus cause a serious financial disturbance among our secondary industries ?
– This discussion may be in order at another stage, but it is decidedly out of order on this clause.
– I am showing, by way of illustration, Mr. Chairman, that here is an opportunity for the Government to deal with the profiteer. Clause 3 says -
Income tax is imposed at the rates and amounts declared in this Act.
By reference to the Act, I find that the rates are as set out, and I am urging that the Government have an opportunity of increasing the rates so as to deal with those business people who treat the public unfairly.
– The honorable member will be in order in doing that at the proper stage of the Bill, but not now.
– If I am out of order, you will pardon me if I say that you invited me to make these remarks on this clause.
.- It is about time the Government introduced a method of imposing taxation which would prevent the impost from being passed on.
– How would you do that?
– There should be some means of seeing that the person taxed paid the tax. The sources, or authors, of taxation in the Commonwealth are not the Parliaments which pass taxation measures, but the people who avoid paying by passing it on Under this measure we propose to impose taxes to the extent of some £8,000,000 or £9,000,000. That sum will be secured, in the last resort, from the pockets of the poor.
– It will be taken from the pockets of the people.
– From the poor people.
– And the land-owners.
– There are two classesin the- community who cannot pass* on the burden of taxation. One’ of- these- is the- land-owner. During- the’ war the price of his wool was fixed, with considerable advantage to himself ; . the price of his wheat was. fixed, with rather less advantage; the prices of other products’ were fixed, with considerable benefit, generally, to the land-owner. In normal times-, however., he - cannot pass on the amount of his taxes, and, therefore, must pay. The second class- of individual whocannot pass on the burden of taxation is the person receiving a fixed income. He and the land-owner comprise the bulk of the community. They cannot avoid theirresponsibilities in the direction of payment of taxation; and, besides, they are fleeced by the profiteer right and left.
.- I move -
That- the following words be added : - “ With a super tax of 100 per cent, on all persons found guilty of profiteering.”
I admit that I am modest in asking for the imposition of so light a penalty.
– I point out that the amendment is not in order. No private, or non-official, member m!ay move to increase the burdens of the people.
– I am sorry that the honorable member for Capricornia may not move his amendment; but I. hope that the Minister for Works and. Railways (Mr. Groom) will do so. He will, if the Government be in earnest in dealing with profiteers.- I desire to ask whether I would be in order in moving by way of amendment, for the granting of a. deduction of £50 per head to all taxpayers with families of five or more children.
– The honorable member will have an opportunity of moving in that direction when the Committee is considering the schedules.
.- I regret that action cannot be taken here and now in the direction of putting down profiteers. The income tax commences with persons in receipt of less than £2 per week. The incidence of its progress ceases with persons receiving £6,500 per annum.. That is indefensible. Eighty per cent, of the eligible men of the Commonwealth offered their services -to the country, and over 60,000 of them paid the supreme penalty. No one can say that money taken by taxation can be regarded as a. sacrifice equivalent to the offer of human, life. If the Government- are- honestly anxiousto put down profiteering, why should they not continue- the incidence of this taxation so that? persons in receipt of these larger- incomes would pay more than1 they have to pay to-day? We should then be able at least to say that the.- wealthy people of this country are being taxed just as the wealthy peopleof the United Kingdom have been called upon, as the result of the war, to submit to increased- direct taxation. This is a mere, bagatelle compared with the taxation which the wealthy people of Great Britain have to pay. The Government are not taking advantage of the opportunity to bring in a more up-to-date Income Tax Bill. This, I think, is but a replica of the existing Act.
– It is a repetition of the terms of the present Act.
– I enter my protest against it. Persons in receipt of large incomes ought not to object to . increased taxation. I have before me- a report issued by the Inter-State Commission in December last, showing the largely increased prices which the people have to, pay for their commodities, and I protest against the failure of the Government toattempt, by means- of the ‘War Precautions Act or otherwise,- to lighten theburdens of the people, who, as every honorable member must know, are being, robbed- at the present time.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 3 (Imposition of income tax) .
.- I regret that the Government are- again imposing this- measure of taxation without making certain very; necessary amendments of the existing Act. The- position, is that, notwithstanding the great increase in. the cost of living, the working people of this country are again to beasked to pay income tax subject to an. exemption of £100 in the case- of unmarried persons, and of £156 in. the case of married persons. Such an exemption is altogether- too low. The Acting Treasurer (Mr. Poynton), in his Budget statement this afternoon, said that thosein receipt of an income of less than £200 per- annum contribute only about 4 per cent, of the direct taxation of the Commonwealth. I venture to-‘ assert, how– ever, that many who really are not in a position to pay income tax are being called upon to do so. The purchasing power of the sovereign, compared with what it was when the original Act was passed, has been reduced to the extent of at least 7s. 6d., yet the Government propose to continue the imposition of direct taxation upon the great body of the people who are struggling to exist. This Parliament will not be warranted in going to the country without increasing the income tax exemption. There should be no distinction. The lowest exemption under this Act should be £250. With such an exemption we ought to be able to obtain the revenue required by imposing a higher rate upon persons in receipt of more than £250 per annum. It is idle to say that our direct taxation has reached the breaking point. The banking returns show that a section of the community is wealthier than it was, when the original Act was passed. / These people have been able to add to their wealth during the war, largely by reason of the fact that in many cases they have compelled the public to pay considerably more than they should have to pay for groceries and clothing. .It has been pointed out again ,and again in this House that many people have been doing exceedingly well a-t the expense of the great mass of the community. On behalf of those in receipt of small incomes,* I make ; this ‘plea, and urge that the Government ;are not justified in proposing to go to the country without amending the existing Act by increasing the exemption. Then, again, a deduction of only £26 per- annum is allowed in respect of every child. That means that a married man -with one child to support is called upon to pay this tax if he is in receipt of £180 per annum, although on such an income, particularly if he has to pay rent, he can barely exist.
I have a vivid recollection of the position I took up when the original Bill was before us. I then pointed out that it would be impossible to administer it without causing a good deal of friction. The Minister in charge of the measure, after making inquiries from his responsible officers, replied that there was no ground for my fears. Experience, however, has -shown that. I had every justification for the statement I made. In my own electorate hundreds have been prosecuted under the Act for failing to furnish re turns. The Government speak of .large additions to the revenue as the result of fines imposed for non-observance of the Income Tax Act. The .Commissioner of Taxation, Mr. Ewing, is a capable officer and a very fair man. When I brought before the House the .action of his Department in prosecuting a number .of working people in my electorate who had failed to furnish returns because they did not know that they were obliged to do so, Mr. Ewing, at great personal inconvenience, visited my electorate, and found that my statement was correct. He discovered that an office had been established there by the Deputy Commissioner, that ,all round prosecutions were taking place, and that large sums by way of ‘fines were being collected from many of my constituents. These people did not furnish returns, because they did not know that they had to do so. They had been accustomed to an income tax exemption of £250, and did not expect that they would be called upon to pay this tax. They were prosecuted, not because they -would not send in returns, but because they failed to furnish them within a certain date. As <soon as they learned that returns were expected of them, they sent them in, and I was promised in this House that in such cases no further prosecutions would take place. I hold that people so circumstanced should not be> exposed to the risk of prosecution. Surely we are not going to say that the interest bill in respect of our war loan expenditure must be met by the poorer sections of the community.
Some time ago I asked whether the Government were prepared to exempt returned soldiers from income tax in. respect of their earnings from personal exertion. I was told that the matter would be considered. Nothing, however, has been done to exempt them. Our returned soldiers will come under this Bill. I have in my electorate at least 3,000 returned soldiers, and those who are able to work are following their usual avocations. Those who were miners have gone back to their work without troubling the Repatriation Department or asking for any assistance from it. The Government are now calling on these men, who went abroad to fight for us. while we remained at -home, to cor tribute out of their small earnings to the liquidation of the interest bill in respect of money borrowed to prosecute -the war. Nothing in this Bill will afford them relief. Notwithstanding all the protestations of the Government, the fact remains that, under this measure, our returned soldiers will be compelled to pay taxation upon their future earnings for the purpose of defraying interest charges upon money borrowed in connexion with the war. Our Income Tax Act should be entirely remodelled, and proper exemptions should be made in the case of our soldiers who have fought abroad.
Further, we are not justified in attempting to extort from the poorer classes of the community the cost of the war. It is the wealthy people of Australia who should be obliged to foot the bill. Those who have been building up big bank balances during the war have not done their duty either to this country or to the men who fought for it. We ought to insist upon them doing their duty. To this end, exemptions under the Bill should be increased, and the rich should be obliged to contribute more than they are contributing to-day. Instead of the additional taxation which will unquestionably be imposed after the general election being placed upon the shoulders of those who are best able to bear it, I am convinced that the present Ministry will endeavour to place lt upon the shoulders of the workers of this country. The measure which, is now before us will not afford the working classes any cause for satisfaction. In the district which I have the honour to represent, the miners do not keep a record of their earnings, and consequently experience great difficulty in filling in their income tax schedules. Later on, if it be found that the figures in their schedules do not correspond with the figures in the schedules furnished by their employers, the Taxation Department institutes prosecutions against them. The exemption under the Bill should be not less -than £250. I am satisfied that the men who fought for us overseas will never consent to pay income tax on money borrowed for the purpose of liquidating our war indebtedness. Seeing that that money was borrowed to keep them in the field, surely we are not going to tax them in order that we may insure its -repayment. I am not at all satisfied with this measure. We ought certainly to impose a stiff income tax,, and we ought, as far as possible, to prevent it being passed on. Only this week we read in the local newspapers that one big boot manufacturer had been including his income tax in his profits, and thus passing it on to the consumer. That is what invariably happens. Yet the Acting Treasurer tells us that the wage-earners pay only 4 per cent, of the total revenue derived from this form of taxation. I maintain that they pay the whole of it.
It is time we did something to remedy the blemishes upon our Income Tax Assessment Act. During war time we are, to a very large extent, carried away by our feelings and by the imperative necessity to raise as much revenue as possible. As a result, we frequently impose upon the poorer section of the community taxation which ought not to be imposed. But now that things are returning to normal, and we can see the mistakes which have been made, we ought not to, repeat those mistakes. The Government will be acting wisely if they increase the general exemptions under this Bill and provide the requisite safeguards against the tax being passed on to the masses bf the people.
In this Bill it is proposed to perpetuate the injustices inflicted under our present Income Tax Act. It provides that the tax now to be imposed shall be at the rates- and amounts declared in the Bill, which are the same rates and amounts that have operated hitherto. I am one of those who believe that an income tax is a perfectly legitimate method of taxation, and I had hoped that the Government would have submitted some different proposals from those contained in this measure in order that we might more equitably distribute the burden amongst the income-earning section of the people.
The papers presented by the Acting Treasurer (Mr. Poynton) this afternoon in connexion with his Budget have not yet been sufficiently long in our possession to enable us to get a real grip of the financial position. But in the course of his remarks the honorable gentleman said -
The income tax results have been attained after allowing, in the case of married persons, for an exemption up to £156 per annum, plus £26 in respect of each child. As showing what a small proportion is paid by wage-earners, it may be stated that, in 1917-18, taxable incomes of £200 and’ under contributed only 4.4 per cent, of the total revenue from this tax.
Then after, a few illustrations of a somewhat similar character, the Acting Treasurer added -
The figures are important in view of the oft-repeated suggestions for the conscription of wealth. It may be said that wealth really has been conscripted, and lias met practically the whole of the war charges to date.
That statement is in absolute contradiction to the facts of the case and to the experience of the people. If the honorable gentleman had desired to be absolutely fair to the wage-earners, he might have placed before the Committee further figures, because I find in the Budgetpapers that the taxpayers with taxable incomes of under £200 numbered 223,429, and all other taxpayers only 88,511. (In those papers the Acting Treasurer further points out that those in receipt of taxable incomes of under £200 pay 4.4 per cent, of the total tax assessed; those receiving £200 to £500, 5.4 per cent. ; those receiving £500 to £1,000, 7.5 per cent.; those receiving £1,000 to £10,000, 45.4 per cent.; those receiving £10,000 to £100,000, 33.4 .per cent.; and those receiving over £100,000, 3.9 per cent.
– There are not many taxpayers who receive over £100,000 per annum.
– There are only seventeen, and the honorable gentleman overlooks the- fact that they are only assessed to an amount of £273,682, and the percentage they pay of the total tax assessed is only 3.9, which is altogether out of reasonable proportion to their incomes. Most of the trouble in this country is due to the fact that all taxation is passed on in some way, with the result that the wage-earners, although not paying the income tax directly, practically carry th© whole burden indirectly. To say that wealth has been conscripted, and is bearing practically the whole of the war charges, is to beg the question; no person who has an intelligent knowledge of the facts would corroborate that statement.
The honorable member for Hume (Mr. Falkiner) put the position concisely a few days ago when he said that most of our financial troubles, particularly in connexion with income tax ‘ assessment, is due to the imposition of a war-time profits tax. I notice that, although the income from that tax to the 30th June last amounted to £1,206,647, the estimate for the current financial year is £2,200,000. For the purposes of comparison, I call attention to the income tax returns for the last four years - 1915-16, £3,932,775; 1916-17,
£5,621,950; 1917-18, £7,385,514; 1918-19, £10,376,832; 1919-20
(estimate), £10,500,000. Therefore, the Government do not anticipate a greatly increased return from the income tax. I have always contended that it would be to the advantage of the business of the country if the war-time profits tax were abolished-
– I agree with the honorable member.
– And if .the £2,200,000 which the Government propose to raise from that source this year were raised through the Income Tax Office.
When the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Higgs) was suggesting an increase in the income tax, the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Richard Foster) asked whether that would satisfy him. It is not so much the amount to be earned by the tax that is the consideration as it is the effect that the increased income tax would have. There is no denying that to-day there are people in the community who are making extraordinarily large profits. It is admitted that profits are being made to-day at rates higher than were obtained in past years. That may not be true of the whole of the commercial community, but it is a notorious fact that to a large extent commercial operations are conducted on a higher percentage of profit than was the case a few years ago. The problem which this Parliament has to face is, how best to reach the men who make those large profits. They are not reached through the war-time profits tax, and I know of no better method than through the medium of the income tax. I believe that under the taxation powers contained in the Constitution this Parliament has almost unlimited scope for interfering with profiteering. I am not at all impressed by the’ argument that the Commonwealth must have the increased constitutional powers that are to be the subject of a referendum within the next few months in order to be able to deal with profiteering. By a rearrangement of the income tax assessment this Parliament could reach to an effective extent those who are engaged in profiteering.
– - Would that help the man .in the street?
– Of course it would.
– He would still be paying the tax.
– The method I am suggesting would render it unprofitable for a man to make huge profits; the inducement to profiteer would be lacking, just as in order to get rid of war we must remove the causes’ that lead to war.
– That sounds like proposing to get rid of human nature.
– Are we not always trying to improve human nature? In order to get rid of profiteering we must make men realize that it is not worth their while to make exorbitant profits. The war-time profits tax prevents people from engaging in industries be? cause they say, “What is the good of going into an industry when, if we make a profit, the Government will come forward and. claim 75 per cent.”? So, too, we can, by means of the income tax, discourage people from making enormous incomes by profiteering. If we levy taxation upon incomes earned we shall be on an unassailable basis and. nobody will complain.
– The consumer would be infinitely worse off under that proposal than under any other.
– I have no objection to the honorable member holding that opinion, but I am sure that theActing Treasurer (Mr. Poynton) agrees with me that it would be well to get rid of the war-time profits tax altogether.
– That is a different question.
– Then what would the honorable’ member do to secure the revenue that is now earned by the wartime profits tax. Would he waive that altogether ?
– Not necessarily.
– The war-time profits tax was introduced by the honorable member for Capricornia’ (Mr. Higgs).
– From its commencement I have opposed that tax, and have advocated that our revenue collections should be based entirely on earned incomes’. I opposed the tax in the party room up-stairs, and-‘ I opposed it in this
House. I am- not’ caucus-bound as the honorable member, for. Calare (Mr. Pigott) is. I am free to express my opinions in this chamber, and last week I voted against my own’ party.
– The first time for two and a half years ; and I made a note of the fact.
– The honorable member is quite wrong.
– That is about the only time the honorable member has not given a party vote.
– The honorable member is very wrong.
– There were only two honorable members opposite who did not follow the party
– Will the honorable member for Brisbane (Mr. Finlayson) continue his speech?
– The financial position of the Commonwealth was outlined this afternoon by the Acting Treasurer, and .it is a financial position of a most serious character. We are faced with a public debt of’ £32-5,783,566, and we are told that during the present financial year £52,334,579 will have to be expended, and that the interest bill is £15,202,728, while the public debt of the country is being added to from time to . time, and about £40,000,000 -has to be raised for war and repatriation purposes during the year 1919-20.
In view of these figures, how can we contemplate the future financial position, of the country without some perturbation, in our minds as to how to arrange the incidence of taxation so that the- burden will fall on the backs of those most able to bear it. The notorious fact is that,, whoever else in the country may be finding difficulty, in, financing their affairs,, there is only one class- that- knows any stress from, actual experience, and that class is made up of the wage-earners who are earning less than £200 a year. Their income is so uncertain and- so narrow that they are walking on the margin of actual want every day of their lives. Their employment, too, is uncertain; and yet they have to bear a burden while the dividendmaking corporations, and theincomeproducing power in other sections of the community, continue unabated:
Thebalancesheets that appear from time to time show that, whatever may be fluctuating in regard to the finances of the country) the dividends come with persistent regularity, and sufferno reduction.
It is all a matter of how to arrange the incidence of taxation, and I agree with thehonorable memberforHunter (Mr. Charlton) that the exemption should be raised in the interests of thewage-earning classes, and that the returned soldiers shouldbe free fromincometaxassessmentunder theFederal Income Tax Act. The Acting Treasurer has told usthatthe workers pay only 4.4 per cent. of this taxation, and, if that beso, it is somuch the easier to relieve them a little, for it would mean a loss of only £400,000. If we take the two extremes of the income tax paying sections of the community the wage-earners pay abigger proportion than those with the highestincomes; and if it is true thatthewage-earners pay only 4.4 per cent., the Government can well afford toraise the exemption. Those earning less than£250, which is the minimum exemption, would still be paying from 3per cent. to 3.5 per cent., and I think that that is too big a share of direct taxation.
Then there is the point in regard to the returned soldiers. I took the liberty two or three years ago of telling the returned soldiers that after they came back they would find that their service had not been ended, because they would have to work their finger-nails off to pay the interest on the money borrowed for the prosecution of the war. The soldiers are how finding out how true that is, and I am prepared to go the full length in regard to relieving the returned soldiers from the payment of income tax. I know that we did relieve them from such taxation while they were at the war.
– Does the honorable member mean to relieve them from taxation on incomes from property as well?
– No ; only from taxationon incomes from personal exertion; incomes from property may reasonablybe subject to taxation. In the matter of incomes from personal exertion, all returnedsoldiers, including nurses, doctors, and munition workers ought to be relieved from taxation for life.
– The munition workersearneddouble what theyearned previously.
– Not one has come back better offthanhe went away.
– I know better, and every one knows better than that.
– Then I must be very unfortunate in the cases that have been brought under my notice.
Mr.Burchell. - I think the honorable member only hears of the worstcases.
– Perhapsthose who aresatisfied do not sayanything.
– The most skilled of the munition workers gottheworst of it.
– I have only todayreceived a letter from a returned soldier inBrisbane, and it is not the first that I have received from him.He enclosed the letter,which he asked me to send on to the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) conveying a request for that honorable gentleman to redeem some of the promises he has made in regard to the treatment of returned soldiers. This man says that, in the height of patriotic enthusiasm, he gave up a position worth £6 a week, believingthat when he returned he would, at any rate, be sure of a comfortable living. But he and his wife, both in ill-health, are struggling along on30s. a week;and he is asking that he may have some consideration from the Pensions Department.
– Would you mind giving the name?
– The man’s name is Harold Henry Proudfoot, and I forwarded his letter to the Prime Minister to-day.
– Is he able to work at all?
Mr.FINLAYSON. - I do not think so - at any rate, not very well.
-Does he get any sustenance allowance?
– I understand he does not get any such allowance now. I appreciate highly, not only the sacrifice that such men made of their positions in Australia, but alsotherisks they ran at the Front, and I am willing to go to the extreme limit in providing that these men shall not have to bearthe ordinary burdensof the communitywhile they live. I go so far as to believe it is our business to provide a house rent free for the widow of every deceased soldier, and that every soldier who has had the good fortune to return should, at any rate, be assured that so long as he lives he ‘will always have. a. roof , and enough food and clothes. We shall be paying only a small proportion of our debt to these men and women, because I include the nurses., if we guarantee that their receipts from personal exertion shall be free from income tax so long as they live.
– Will you include the men from Horseferry-road as well?
– I refuse to make any discrimination. If some of them have had harder burdens imposed on them than others it is unfortunate. Serious things are to be said about the military control of affairs, which kept men in comfortable, soft, snug positions while others had to take all the risks. The fact that a man offers his services is to his credit. If the Department discriminated, and gave some men better positions than others, human nature is such that it would grasp at the opportunity, and perhaps the men are not so much to blame as the Department that did it, if there was anything wrong in the doing of it. I hope the Acting Treasurer will allow us later on to insert a new clause. I shall prepare it, and submit it later, hoping that by that time the honorable gentleman will be able to give it such favorable consideration that he will be prepared, to accept it.
.- I and other honorable members, including you, sir, and the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Boyd), have complained that ‘the £156 exemption to-day is not what it was three or four years ago, when the income tax was introduced. If wages have gone up, as they have in some cases, the cost of living has increased much more rapidly. If a man who received £3 per week then is receiving £4 per week now, he is worse off, on account of the increased cost of living, and has to pay income tax in addition. I know that this is not the machinery Bill, in which we can alter that condition; but we - can use this Bill to let the Acting Treasurer (Mr. Poynton) know the exact position. This is practically the only opportunity we shall have to place our views before him regarding alterations in the machinery measure. We are not likely to have the oppor tunity to amend the machinery Bill in this Parliament, because, apparently, we are hurrying on to an election. We on this side do not know anything definitely yet, and are not aware of the extent of the knowledge of honorable members on the other side on the subject; but if a lot of the statements in the papers are correct, and an election is pending, we are not likely to have the opportunity to- alter that Bill. It is quite possible that it will fall to the lot of other persons to deal with this matter.
– You will have a chance next year.
– It is hard to say. I am not tipping to-day. My point is, that the exemption now allowed is not nearly equal to the amount allowed when the Income Tax Bill was first introduced. It is not as good for the working man as it was then. The Acting Treasurer said, in his Budget speech, that only about 4 per cent, of the income tax is paid by people receiving £200 per year and under. I am surprised that they pay so much as that. At the outside only £44 of the income of a man receiving £200 a year is taxable, and the average will be a lot less. The Customs Department finds it does not pay to collect amounts under 2s. 6d., and, probably, the Income Tax Department has a similar rule. Taking all things into consideration, 4 per cent. i3 a good deal to be contributed by incomes of that class, particularly as the people with the smallest incomes have the largest families. In all probability, a large number of those who earn between £156 and £200 are granted deductions for children, and a deduction for two children would relieve them of the necessity of paying the tax. However, 4 per cent, of the total income tax receipts is not by any means all that those people pay. If any one thinks the workers earning £200 a year and under are paying only 4 per cent, of the taxation of this community, he is making a great mistake. They have to pay a larger amount of the indirect taxation than other persons do.
– Especially through the Customs, which you want to increase.
– The honorable member ‘ for Calare will find from the Budgetpapers that, speaking from memory, about 55 per cent, of the Customs and Excise revenue is derived from beer, spirits, and tobacco, which includes cigars and cigarettes. It is well known that the workers in the community, who, according to the Acting Treasurer, axe earning under £200 a year, are the largest taxpayers in that direction. They pay a larger proportion of that 55 per cent, than any other portion of the community does.
– Do you say the workers drink more than other members of the community ?
– <$To ; but there are more of them. To judge by the Budget-papers, it does not appear as if the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Greene) thinks that we are getting any nearer prohibition. At page 12, it is shown that out of the total estimated Customs and Excise revenue of £17,750,000, Customs duties on stimulants will bring in £1,595,500, and on narcotics £1,577,650, while the Excise duty on beer will produce £3,048,000, on spirits £1,089,850, and on tobacco and snuff £1,894,580, and Excise licences are expected to return £13,020. So that of the total revenue of £17,750,000 derived from Customs and Excise no less than £9,218,600 is paid on stimulants and narcotics.
– And yet some people would like us to go in for prohibition.
– I am not discussing that aspect of the question. When it is stated that only “4 per cent, of our revenue from taxation is derived from persons in receipt of £200 and under, perhaps it might be assumed that that is all that persons in receipt of small incomes have to pay in taxation, and I am therefore concerned to remind honorable members that such persons pay most of the taxation on stimulants and narcotics through the Customs and Excise Departments, and they have, in addition, to pay increased prices for almost every commodity they use. I heard one honorable member say that a boot manufacturer deducted the amount he paid in income tax from his estimate of his profits. The reports of the Inter-State Commissioners confirm this, and go to show that every charge upon industry is passed on, and eventually the workers in the community have to pay it. I believe that 80 per cent, of our population is composed of workers, and that they pay 80 per cent, of all indirect taxation, whilst a considerable amount of direct taxation is passed on to them in the prices which they are called upon to pay for the goods which they use. The point I desire to make is that those who get the benefit of the £156 exemption are to-day financially worse off than they were when that exemption was decided upon.
I understand that the honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. Page) intends to submit an amendment to increase the amount of deduction in respect of children. Under the law, .as it at present stands, a deduction of £26 is allowed for each child under sixteen years of age. The honorable member for Maranoa intends to propose that the deduction shall remain as at present in respect of the first three children of a family under the statutory age, but be increased in respect of all children over that number in a family.
– The exemption should be increased to £50 for each child.
– I moved in that direction twelve months ago, but I, did ‘not get much support.
– I will guarantee that I voted with the honorable member.
– I believe the honorable gentleman did.
– Some further deductions should be provided for. There are some married people who, in addition to having to support their own families, have relatives dependent upon them, but they get no allowance under the Income Tax Act for amounts which they pay to these dependants, whilst if a single person makes an allowance to such relatives he is allowed a deduction in respect to it. It is probably more difficult for married persons to contribute to dependants in this way than it is for single persons to do so. I am aware that it is the view of the Income Tax Commissioner that it is difficult to estimate the amount to be allowed where married persons contribute to the support of relatives, but it should not be more difficult in their case than in the case of similar contributions by single persons. I hope that the Acting Treasurer, in any review of the machinery measure for the imposition of income tax, will make provision for some deduction in respect of these contributions by married persons.
I have said that the honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. Page) intends to propose an increased deduction in respect of children under sixteen years of age where there are more than three in a family. Iundertake to say that no one willcontend that it is possible to keep a child in these times for 10s. per week.
Dr.Maloney. - The Defence Departmentconsidersthat thechildrenofsoldiers can live on2s.6d.per week.
– The honorable member overlooks the fact thatthe 2s. 6d. per week is an allowance in addition tothe pay which the soldier receives.
Mr.Poynton. - A soldier with a wife and four children receives £3 6s. per week.
– Why should thedeductionbe greaterinthe case of a fourth child of a family than in the case of the third ?
– Mr. Justice Powers recently, in the Arbitration Court, when a witness who had five children, who was giving evidence before him, pointed out that the Court, in fixing a standard wage, hadbased itupon af amily of five - a man, his wife, andthree children, and said it was difficult for him, in the circumstances, to make an allowance for extra children. Where a man has more than three children he is practically penalized at the present time. I do not say that it costs any more to keep the fourth child than to keep the third child of a family, but where there are four or five children there is no extra money coming in to support the increased family.
Sitting suspended from 6.30 to 7.45 p.m.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 4 to 6 agreed to.
Clause 7 -
There shall be payable in respect of a cash prize in a lottery won after the 30th day of June, 1010, income tax to the amount of thirteen per centum of the gross prize money.
.- The Postal Act prohibits newspapers containing advertisements of lotteries from passing through the post, yet the Government are quite willing to take a share of theill-gotten gains, if we may so call them, of those persons who win prizes in Tattersall’s consultations. Very frequently persons employed in workshops, offices, banks, and other places form syndicates, and contribute halfacrown a week,or some such sum, for the purpose of buying ticketsin Tattersall’s consultations, one member of the syndicate sending the money down to “ my brother George in Hobart.” If the syndicate happens to win a £10 prize, the chief sinner, that is to say, the man who sends the application for the ticket, is pursued by the Commissioner of Taxation forthe payment of 13 per cent. of the gross prizemoney,and is threatened with a fine if he does not meet the demand.
– Sometimes the Commissioner cannot find him to fine him.
– As a rule, he is easily discoverable, but very often the other members of the syndicate are not. It would save the Commissioner a great deal of clerical labour if prizes up to £10 were exempt from thepayment of the tax. I have received several letters from constituents - and to them isto be added the great number of people who would mot bother towrite about thematter - pointing out the irritation caused to them through beingcalled upon to paythe tax whentheother members of the syndicate, forwhich they wereacting, have departed possibly to other portions of the Commonwealth, andcannot be called uponto pay their share of thetax. I move -
That the following words be added to the clause : - “ Provided that cash prizes amounting to £ 10 and under shall be exempt from taxation.”
.- I have received communications from constituents who have invested a few “ bob “ in this gamble. In one instance a syndicate won a prize of £100, and about nine months afterwards police were at every shearing shed asking if the member of the syndicate who had sent for the ticket was working at that particular shed. This man had paid the other members of the syndicate their dividends,and, finally, when he had tomeet the demand of the Commissioner of Taxation, instead of getting a “ cut “ out of the prize, he found himself in debt.
Mr.Fenton. - Where werehismates?
Mr.PAGE. - He had mateswhen he had a “cut” to give, but he had none when he had no “ cut’’ togive.The exemption of £10 cash prizes would save the Department a lot of worry. I do not blame the Commissioner in this matter.
He is merely carryingout the law as passed by Parliament, and I know that he has reviewed many cases of hardship that have come under his notice with a great deal of sympathy. I hope that the Minister will accept the amendment.
– At the first, such cases as those referred to by the honorable member for Maranoa may have occurred, and caused inconvenience and a considerable amount of unpleasantness; but the Taxation Department has improved its methods very much since then, and instead of collecting the tax from the individual, it now collects it at the source. Under these circumstances I ask the honorable member not to press his amendment, because, after all, these prizes are income which should be taxed.
.- I am astonished that the Government should include such a provision in the Bill. It is illegal to obtain lottery tickets through the Postal Department, yet every honorable member knows that the Government receive a f airly sub- stantial revenue from this tax,and it would be manly, straightforward, and honest if the Government recognised that fact instead of trying to fool the people as they are doing.We require our Postal Department, with one eye closed, to prohibit the purchase of tickets, and we have the hypocrisy to obtain revenue from those who receive prizes. I do not know any country in the world that would descend to the disgrace of placing a law such as this on its statutebook. Let us be honest and above-board. Will any honorable member say that the institution known as “ Tattersalls “ is not carrying on business? Is there one who will dare to say that the Postal Depart ment is not being used every day in the week as a means of securing lottery tickets ? If this Government did what the Tasmanian Government did, they would receive a big revenue from this source.
Question - That the words proposed to be added be so added - put. The Committee divided.
Majority . . . . 22
Question so resolved in the negative.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 8 agreed to.
– I move -
That the following new clause be inserted : - “ 7a. Notwithstanding anything contained in any other Act, a taxpayer shall be entitled to a deduction from his income of the sum of Fifty pounds in respect of each child under the age of eighteen years wholly maintained by him.”
I regret very much indeed the necessity for occupying the time of the Committee on this subject, seeing that a little more than twelve months ago-
– On a point of order, Mr. Bamford, I desire to state that earlier in the debate I gave notice of my intention to move a similar amendment.
– I shall have much pleasure in withdrawing in favour of the honorable member for Maranoa. if his amendment is in terms similar to mine; but I gave due notice of the amendment I have moved.
– The honorable member for Maranoa, having given prior notice of his amendment, takes precedence. I understand; that the honorable member for Grampians has given way to the honorable member for Maranoa.
– In order to get over the difficulty, Mr. Bamford, I shall not move my amendment, and will content myself by supporting that of the honorable member for Grampians.
– I remind the Committee that the honorable member for Calare (Mr. Pigott) moved a similar amendment when the Income Tax Bill was under consideration in May of last year, and I gave it my cordial support. I regret that it is necessary to again move in this direction, but last year the amendment was supported by several honorable members, and I think they should have an opportunity of approaching this issue again on the measure now before the Committee. During the time that has elapsed since then the Government, I think, might have given this matter careful consideration, and been prepared to make some concession to those taxpayers who are carrying the burden of raising families as compared with those who are not so fortunate as to have children to rear. One of the most serious problems confronting this country is the disadvantage we are suffering from on account of our exceedingly small population and the low rate of increase. Menaced, as the Commonwealth is, by dangers which I need not particularize, it is evident that our safety necessarily depends upon the satisfactory settlement and growth of a large white population. Unfortunately, the natural rate of increase in Australia is so low that unless every encouragement is given there is very little prospect of there being anything like a sufficient population to withstand the onslaught of any enemy during the next twenty years. It may be that, by the creation of the League of Nations, the safety of Australia will be assured for the next decade or two j. but the history of the world teaches us that the time may come when Australia will be put to the test by being called upon to resist invasion, and in that hour of danger she must depend upon her manhood for safety. It is, I think, advisable to investigate more closely the forces that are operating to diminish the rate of natural increase, and it is incontestable that one cause is the excessively heavy cost of rearing families at the present time. The people on whom the increased cost of living has been chiefly thrust are those who are endeavouring to rear families. My proposal suggests merely one method of lightening their burden. I do not believe in the limitation of sixteen years. There are few children between the ages of sixteen and eighteen who are capable of fully earning their own- living.
– If children are earning anything at all their parents cannot claim exemption in respect of them.
– I am glad to have had the point brought under my notice. With the permission of the Committee, I shall eliminate the words, “ wholly maintained by him.”
Proposed new clause amended accordingly.
– The clause, if adopted, would not involve a serious loss of revenue. If there were any fear that it would do so, I take it that the Government would be prepared to furnish an estimate of the probable loss.
– I desire to raise a point of order. The honorable member is seeking, by way of a Bill which purports only to fix the rates of taxation, to amend the Income Tax Assessment Act. Section 55 ““of the Constitution reads -
Laws imposing taxation shall deal only with the imposition of taxation, and any provision therein dealing with any other matter shall be of no effect.
In the Income Tax Assessment Act 1915, a deduction of £13 wa3 allowed in respect of each child under the age of sixteen who, at the beginning of the financial year in which the income was received, was wholly maintained by any taxpayer who was not an absentee. Parliament desired to liberalize that provision, and the exemption was raised to £26. Endeavours are now being made to harmonize Federal and State taxation. I am informed that only last night the Victorian Legislature passed a Bill providing for the same amount of exemption as is conceded under the Commonwealth Statute. We are all anxious to be generous. It is easy to propose to give away revenue, but we should not overlook the necessity for providing taxation to meet the country’s purposes. In the annual report of the Commissioner for Taxation for the year 1915- 16, it is shown that the deductions from taxable income by reason of the existing provision making a concession as to children amounted to £5,756,584. That is the amount of taxable income deducted in respect of the allowance of £26 for every child under sixteen years of age wholly maintained by the taxpayer. It is now proposed by this amendment to increase the deduction in respect of each child from £26 to £50, and to raise the age from sixteen years to eighteen years. I am informed that the result of the amendment would be to increase these deductions from taxable income to the extent of about £12,000,000, and, taking the average rate of taxation at ls. 6d., this would mean a loss of revenue amounting to £500,000. But there is also the proposal to eliminate the words “wholly maintained by him,” so that the deduction would apply to all children of eighteen instead of to those “wholly maintained “ by the taxpayer. That would mean a still further loss of revenue. The Committee is asked to agree to remit taxation to the extent of £500,000.
– In addition to the amount now remitted in respect of the allowance of £26 per child ?
– I am so informed by the Treasury officials. I would remind honorable members that the deduction is not limited to any one section of the community It applies to the rich as well as to the poor.
– And the loss of revenue would have to be made good by an increased land tax- That is what the supporters of this amendment want.
– Yes. This loss of revenue would have to be made good by other forms of taxation, since the Treasurer must make ends meet. Honorable members are asking for an increase of the old-age pension, increased grants for repatriation, and additional assistance to soldiers, and the money for all these purposes must be found. The Acting Treasurer (Mr. Poynton) in his Budget statement this afternoon showed how lightly our taxation is falling relatively upon the industrial classes of Australia.
– Except in the case of those with families.
– Liberal deductions are allowed in respect of such .taxpayers. The honorable member is asking for this concession for the rich as well as the poor.
– For all who have children.
– Quite so. In the circumstances the Acting Treasurer cannot see his way to accept this amendment.
We are all anxious that our taxation should be as light as possible, but money must be found for the various purposes set forth in the Budget statement. I therefore ask the honorable member not to press his amendment. Finally, on the point of order, I submit that this is really an attempt to amend a section in the Income Tax Assessment Act, and that the amendment is not relevant to the Bill.
– Having examined the Bill I have come to the conclusion that the amendment is quite in order. The Bill seeks to impose taxation upon incomes, and it necessarily follows that exemptions may be moved in it. The honorable member for Grampians (Mr. Jowett) has moved the insertion of an exemption, and I think that his amendment is quite in order.
.- I have no desire to steal the thunder of the honorable member for Grampians, but I had intimated my intention to move an amendment upon somewhat similar lines to those on which he has moved. My proposal, however, was not as liberal as is his, and that is one reason why I gave way to him. Another reason was that I desired, if possible, to get another vote from the other side of the chamber to assist in securing a larger exemption in the case of fathers with big families. The Minister for Works and Railways (Mr. Groom) has pointed out that, if the amendment be carried, the loss of revenue that will ‘ be involved will have to be made up in some other way. The present Government) I would remind him, are noted for raising revenue from children. Only last year they imposed a tax of 334 per cent, upon children’s tickets for entertainments throughout the Commonwealth.
– A land tax would be much higher.
– I do not mind. Put. the extra taxation on the land. In his closing remarks this afternoon, the Acting Treasurer stated -
We faced four years of terrible war with courage, and the virility of our population was made perfectly clear by hundreds of thousands of Australians upon the battle fronts.
The truth expressed in that sentence was also a factor in inducing me to bring this matter forward. What better asset could we have than 200,000 young. Australians ? “Would, it not be better to have an additional 200,000 young Australians than 200,000 imported men in this country? We cannot do enough for the men and women in our midst who are rearing large families. The tendency to-day is for people to have small families, and very small ones at that. But nobody can accuse you, sir, of practising that doctrine. Every working man and woman in Australia to-day knows the trouble which is involved, not merely in feeding and clothing, but also in maintaining and educating a large family. There are many persons in my constituency with families of thirteen, fourteen, and even fifteen children. When one has to buy only two pairs of boots, he knows what the expense means, but when one has to buy fifteen pairs he cannot fail to recognise that some exemption from taxation should be granted, and that something should be done to relieve the pains and penalties to which parents with families numbering more than three are subjected. In the Arbitration Court only the other day, Mr. Justice Powers laid it down that there should be a living wage of over £3 per week in the case of a family of three. Fancy having thirteen’ mouths to feed with oatmeal at lid. per lb. ! I appeal to honorable members opposite, who are flag-waggers and. professed patriots, to show their patriotism by lightening the load upon these men and women, who are bearing the heat and burden of the day. It is a most peculiar thing, but it is an economic fact, that the poorer the people the larger are the families that they have.
– That used to be the case.
– Thank God, it is so still in Western Queensland. There they have not learned the tricks of Melbourne and Sydney, though perhaps in time, if something be not done to help them, they may emulate- the example of the inhabitants of our cities, and’ say, “Let the boss beget his own wage-earners. We are not going to beget them for him.” The Government should do everything possible to encourage the birth Tate. It is no use beating about the bush. We must call a spade a spade, not a scientific implement for moving the soil. These are the facts that we are up against. Even if the amendment would involve taxation in another direction; it behoves every one to assist the men and women of this country who are rearing large families. It is idle for the Minister for Works and Railways to say that, if we adopt the proposal of the honorable member for Grampians, we shall have to make up the revenue which we shall lose by some other means. According to the Budget presented by the Acting Treasurer this afternoon, the Government propose to remit the entertainments tax in the case of children, although we were told last year that any such action would mean a loss of revenue amounting to £200,000 or £300,000. Notwithstanding this dismal prophesy, however, the revenue during the past twelve months has been most buoyant. A general election is looming in the near future and the Government are consequently about to introduce a Bill to modify the entertainments tax. and to increase the old-age pension.
-; - Does the honorabl’e member oppose that, increase?-
– If the Postmaster General will put. that question upon- the notice-paper, I will answer him as he answers- me. He must’ think that I am a young bird to be caught with chaff. I. will tell him- all about it when I. go into his electorate. Very nearly every honorable member opposite is a family man, and knows what- it is to maintain a family. I am not in a similar position, because I have reared my family, and there is no possible hope of me starting again. I am too old. I am like the Chairman - I am not looking for marriage now-, but for a comfortable place in which to sit. But, if honorable members opposite believe what the Treasurer has said about the virility of the Australian nation, they will most certainly vote for the amendment. I do not believe there is a nobler race on the face of God’s earth than are the Australians; H honorable members opposite think with me, they have the -numbers, and I can promise them that every honorable member on this side of the chamber will vote with them.
– Of course. Because there is an election coming.
– I am glad of that interjection from the poet PostmasterGeneral. Does he think that this proposal has been brought forward because of the imminence of an election?
– I do.
– Then Iwill read what took place twelve months ago.
– Why did not the honorable member alter the law when he had the power?
– Never mind what I did. The question is what the honorable member did. He did nothing, andhe is not going to do anythingnow.
– Last year the following amendment was moved by the honorable member for Calare (Mr. Pigott)-
– The honorable member will not be in order in quoting from the debatesof the current session.
– The amendment moved by the honorable member forCalare on that occasion received the support of only threemembers on the Government side, namely, the mover, the honorable member f or Henty (Mr. Boyd), and the honorablemember for Grampians (Mr. Jowett). Every man and woman in Australiato-dayknowsthat we arepractically living onthe edge of a volcano. This amendment should be carried, even if itinvolved a loss of £400,000per annum.
– I said the estimated loss was £500,000.
– Even if we lose halfamillion pounds, if we gain 500,000 young Australians, will notthe monetary loss be worth while?
– That is only £1 per head.
– I can get that for cull sheep now. Is £1 per head too much to offer for young Australians? The carrying of the amendment will be a credit to this Parliament, and of lasting advantage to Australia. This is not a monetary proposal; it hasto do with the life and soul of this young nation. I conclude by quoting theperoration of the Acting Treasurer (Mr. Poynton) in his Budget speechto-day -
Australian character is such that our people can be depended upon to overcome the difficulties of reconstruction, and to facethe problems of peace with stout hearts, and determinations to build a proud and prosperous nation in these southern seas.
If honorable members desire that that peroration shall be realized,they will vote for the amendment moved by the honorable member for Grampians (Mr. Jowett).
– I hopehonorable members will realize what they are about to do. Under theexisting law a married man with twochildren, and having a taxable income of £208 per annum, pays no tax. If he has four children,he must earn £260 before he comes within the taxable area, and if he has six children, £312.
– He would need it all.
– That amount would not keep a woman in town in clothes, let alone children.
– The Minister for Works and Railways (Mr.Groom) told the Committee that the increase of the deductionsfrom £26 to £50 for each child would represent a lossof £500,000 per annum in revenue. A further addition must be made to that amount on account of increasing theage limit from sixteen to eighteenyears. Therefore I estimatethat the amendment involves arevenue loss of £750,000 per annum, which is equivalent to a 30 per cent. increase in the land tax. The revenue thus lost would require to be madeup from some source. Iask honorable members to compare the income taxation in Australiawith that in Great Britain. In the Commonwealth a man in receipt of a taxable income of £100 pays 5.5d. in the £1; the rate for £200 per annum being 6.1d., and for £300 per annum,6.7d. In Great Britain, the rate is 2s. 3d. in the £1 in each case. There is no country that I know of in the world to-day where taxation is easier than in the Commonwealth. If the suggested alteration were made it ought to be in another Bill, and, in any case, it means a loss of £750,000 in revenue. Of this fact I am assured by the departmental officers, who have gone into the matter. Moreover, the exemption applies now only to children to the age of sixteen years, and it is proposed to extend it to those of eighteen. This means practically doubling theexemption from £26 to £50, and on thatthe estimated loss is what I have said.
– That estimate is based on every child in the country, but this exemption applies only to the children of taxpayers.
– It is worked out on the taxablebasis.
– That is so. The estimated loss was given to me with the greatest assurance by the officers of the Department.
.- I am pleased that this amendment has been submitted, for we ought to do something to meet the position of parents who have more than two children. 1 think that the figures given by the AttorneyGeneral are wrong and misleading. The honorable gentleman was very emphatic in saying that the loss in revenue would be £5,000,000.
– What I said was that, on the 1916-17 assessment, the reduction of taxable income is £5,756,000, and that if the amendment were carried that would be increased to something like £12,000,000.
– But the honorable gentleman went further, and said it would mean a, loss of revenue of £5,000.000.
– No, I said it would mean a loss of £500,000; but the Acting Treasurer now tells us that it will mean a loss of £750,000.
– I thought that the Attorney-General insisted’ that the amendment would mean a loss of £5,000,000 in revenue. However, my figures agree with those which have just been given by the Acting Treasurer (Mr. Poynton). I worked the figures out, and made the. difference £750,000; but, even if that be so, it is revenue that we should be prepared to give up without hesitation, because it is derived from people who, generally speaking, are unable to pay it. Those who have large families in this country are, on the whole,’ working people.
– How would you make the revenue up ? .
– By imposing a higher tax on those who are possessed of wealth over a certain sum; I would increase the incidence of taxation on them. The amendment, if adopted, would encourage people to have families; and if Australia is to be the country that it should be, we must have population. It is undoubted that we cannot have population if the people are on the brink of starvation all the time; and that is what we are finding to-day. The Acting Treasurer said that it was on the average rate of ls. 6d. in the £1 that he arrived at £750,000 ; but that, to my mind, is a wrong conclusion. The working people, who have the large families, have incomes of less than £500, and the rate on such incomes is 4d., and not ls- 6d. To arrive at a proper conclusion we must know what percentage of the people who will gain by the exemption earn less than £500 per annum, and then a higher rate could be charged on higher incomes. If that were done the loss would be not £750,000, but, I venture, to say, not half that amount, and this could be made up by increasing the incidence of taxation on salaries over £500. Just contrast what this Bill seeks to do with what is being attempted in New South Wales. There an inquiry into the cost of living was held, and it was found that a man and wife with two children, in order to live in decent comfort, must spend £3 17s. 6d. per week. The Acting Treasurer said just now that under the Act as it is to-day, with an exemption of £26, a man and wife and two children are exempted up to £208 ; but on the New South Wales figures we see that it requires £201 10s. to keep a family of that size. The New South Wales Government have already announced their intention to pay the mother of every child over the number of two so much per week; but here we are proposing to tax such parents. The policy of < New South Wales has been adopted after full inquiry into the cost of living - indeed, the State Government allows £50 for each child to-day, and there is a £250 exemption.
– What about the single man? Would you increase his taxation?
– I would not. A working man should not be taxed unless he makes over £250 per annum. With an exemption of that kind people are encouraged to marry, because they feel that the wolf will not be continually at the door. We ought not to extort the last farthing, as it were, from the workers in this country, but should realize the necessity, of placing the load on the shoulders best able to bear it. If people can add to their banking accounts in spite of the cost of living, they can bear more taxation; and the amendment is one which should commend itself to honorable members and to the Government- It is a paltry view that, because there may be a loss of £200,000 or £300,000, parents with large families should be taxed. ‘ That, I am sure, was never contemplated when this special taxation was imposed for war purposes. We intended that the people who were making the wealth should pay the taxation, but now it appears that it is to come from the poorer people, who have to toil week in and week out in order to keep the wolf from the door, thus making their case much harder.
– The returned soldier and his family will have to pay it.
– I shall move an amendment later to deal with the returned soldiers, who will not be compelled to pay if my voice and vote can stop it. The honorable member for Grampians is doing good service in moving this amendment, and I hope the Committee will see the wisdom of accepting it, in justice to all those people who have families in this country.
.- I have always held that some consideration should be given, so f ar as taxation is concerned, to married people and their families. On l5th May, 1918, I moved a similar amendment, and pointed out that, owing to the great increase in the cost of living, something should be done to relieve parents of families from the heavy burden of income tax. I have much greater reason now to support this amendment, seeing that since then the cost of living has increased by at least another 10 per cent. We are not asking, as some honorable members seem to imagine, that parents of families shall be exempted from income tax to the extent of £50. We are dealing only with the taxable amount of income. At present, an exemption of £26 is allowed for each child, and we ask merely that that exemption shall be increased to £50, or an increase of £24. Assuming for a moment that the average tax isas the Minister stated it to be, that is,1s. 6d. in the £1, we, are simply asking for a decrease in taxation of 36s. per year. It is not much to ask the Government to give a man with a family of seven or eight children that small concession. I. have gone into the Minister’s figures. He was perfectly right in giving the total exemption of income as about £5,500,000. Assuming an average tax of1s. 6d. in the £1, this means a total remission of taxation of about £412,500. The exemption we are asking for will not amount to so much.
– You are basing your figures on the age of sixteen years. The Acting Treasurer based his estimate on the increase of the age to eighteen years, and the striking out of the words “ wholly maintained.”
– The Acting Treasurer (Mr. Poynton) made out that the loss of revenue by this amendment would be £750,000. In May, 1918, I gave notice of my amendment, and the Treasurer (Mr. Watt) knew of it for fully two days before it was moved. He had all the facts and figures before him, and they were not “hurriedly brought up,” as the Acting Treasurer says they have been on this occasion. The Treasurer said then that he had worked the figures out carefully, and that my amendment meant a loss of revenue to the extent of £400,000.
– On what age was that based?
– On the age of eighteen, and an increase of £24 in the exemption, just as is now proposed. The honorable member for Balaclava was then Treasurer. The honorable member for Grey is now Acting Treasurer. The Treasurer then said, after working the figures out carefully, that the amendment would make a difference of £400,000 to the revenue, while the Acting Treasurer now says it will make a difference of £750,000, but that he has had to get his figures together hurriedly. I would rather accept the Treasurer’s figures as correct.
– The estimate is based on an average of1s. 6d. in the £1, which does not obtain at all.
– The Treasurer’s words on that occasion were -
If that allowance be increased by 100 per cent., as is proposed by this amendment, I am assured by the Commissioner for Taxation that it will probably mean a minimum loss of £400,000.
The Treasurer, therefore, had consulted the Commissioner for Taxation, and his estimate is more likely to be correct than the one now before us.
– The Acting Treasurer has worked the figures out carefully, and his advisers are satisfied that the amendment will make a difference of £750,000 to the revenue if the allowance is increased to £50, the age raised from sixteen to eighteen, and the words “ wholly maintained “ left out.
– My . amendment was practically the same last year, because I proposed that the age should.be increased to eighteen. We have. all the more reason to ask the Government to agree to increase this exemption, because, when my proposal was before the House, the Customs duties returned about £12,000,000. To-day they are returning £17,500,000.The . Government . have there an increased revenue of £5,600,000.
– Does, your exemption apply to everybody, or only to . people with incomes of under £500 a year?
– I consider it is the sacred duty of the Government to look after all the children, and encourage them in every way they can. The married people of this country. are those we have to consider. They ; are doing good work. We have . paid . hundreds of thousands of pounds in the past to bring immigrants here, but what better immigrant could we wish for than the little Australian child in the Australian cradle? Those are the immigrants we want, and it is the people with children that I desire to assist. Many . peoplewith incomes of £400 or £500 have the -very laudable desire to put their children through the secondary schools andho university. As those young people grow up, they cost as much to clothe and feed as an adult, and, perhaps, a little more. All the time they are at their studies, their parents have to maintain them, because they are earning nothing: Every consideration, therefore, should be given to parents in those circumstances. The Acting Treasurer has quoted the case of Great Britain. The cost of living there has gone up by 110 per cent., according to cables which I read in the Sydney press the other day relating to the recent railway strike.
– The increase is much more than that. There is a provision in the settlement that certain things are to be done when the increase in the cost of living comes down to 110 per cent.
– At any rate, the Chancellor of the Exchequer has given married people in the United Kingdom an increase in the exemption from taxation to the extent of 150 per cent. The cost of living in Australia has gone up by about 50 per cent., and we ought to increase the allowance for children, at least, to cover that rise, so that parents of families may not be in a worseposition than -they were before the war. New South Wales allows an exemption of £50 per child under the age of eighteen years, and grants also to married people an exemption of £250be- fore they are taxed at all. We have an exemption of £156, . andan allowance of only £26 per child under the age of: sixteen years. Our Government should, at all events, come into . line with that of New South Wales.
– How are you going to make the ‘£400,000 or £500,000 good?
-The Customs receipts have increased sinceI first moved this amendment by £5,5.00,000. That is solid cash.
– It is all taken into my income in my Estimates.
– The Acting Treasurer will receive that increased amount, and, judging by the returns that are coming to:hand, for the next quarter the receipts are likely to be even greater. A large proportion of theCustoms revenue is paid by people with families. It averages £3 10s. ‘per ‘head for the population of the Commonwealth. Therefore, a man with a wife -and family of six children, or eight in all, has to contribute £28 per year through the Customs, whereas a’ single man has to pay only £3 10s. The difference in his favour as against the married man is £24 10s. I think that, in all the circumstances, more consideration should be given to married, people under this form of taxation, and’ every encouragement afforded those who are willing to rear large families.
.- I welcome this opportunity to support the honorable member for Grampians (Mr. Jowett) by voting for the amendment he has moved. By proposing to increase the rate of the old-age pension by 20 per cent. the Government have themselves recognised that there has been an increasein the cost of living, which should be taken into consideration. I claim, therefore, that we are justified in asking for an increase in the exemption from income tax in respect of children.
– Does thehonorable member ‘not realize that the increase in the cost of living means increased expenditure also?
– Does the honorable member not realize that he is comparing a pension of 12s. 6d. per week with an income averaging between £3 and £4 per week ?
– I quite realize that; but, despite the arguments of Ministers, I consider it necessary to increase the exemption in respect of children. We have been told by the Minister for Works and Railways (Mr. Groom) that it is necessary to secure money from some source for the payment of old-age pensions, and to meet the requirements of the repatriation of our soldiers. The honorable gentleman practically says that the Government intend to get this money at the expense of the people in Australia who are trying to rear large families. I am satisfied that our soldiers would be the last to desire to receive money at the expense of such people. The present exemption of £26 for each child under the age of sixteen years is an exemption of 10s. per week, but honorable members will agree that that amount is not nearly sufficient to cover the cost of the maintenance of a1 child to-day.
– The authorities of the Repatriation Department appear to think that where there are more- than. five children in a. family, the extra children can live upon nothing
– That is only another indication of the fact that the- Govern-, ment are unwilling to recognise large families,- as I think they should. TheMinister has pointed out - that to carry the amendment would involve the exemption of £6,000,000 of taxable income. I put the reverse of that statement, and it clearly is that the parents of large families in Australia are at the present time being taxed upon £6,000,000, which properly should carry no taxation at all. It is unjust to impose taxation upon that money, which should be. left free of taxation to be expended for the benefit of the children. We are assured that money required by the Government will have to be raised, but honorable members will agree that there should be some better way of raising it than at the expense of the coming manhood and womanhood of Australia.
– This is not one of the “ has beens.” This is a chap with hopes.
– I should like to remind my- honorable friend, who is one of the “ has beens,” that I am trying to do what’, perhaps, - with the same opportunity, he would have done in hie youth, and that is to pave the way before I start, and have good prospects. We heard a good deal recently, and during the period of the war, of the- wonderful physical vigour, the bravery, and astonishing strength in battle of the Australians, the glorious Anzacs. We were told what a fine race physically the Australians proved themselves to be on the field of battle. I say that we should do everything possible to maintain the splendid physical standard which our soldiers have set the world, and one of the best ways in which to do that is to leave people rearing large families as much, money as possible to properly clothe and feed them.
.- I have been somewhat surprised at this debate, because it discloses an apparent irresponsibility on the part of honorable members in dealing with the finances of the country. I was surprised that such an amendment was received. Had I thought it was permissible to amend this Bill in such a manner, I should1 have asked’ for some review of the anomalies which are possible under the present Income Tax Assessment Act. I know of cases- of persons -who- have been compelled by heavy taxation on book profits to borrow money to pay that taxation. It would be wise if the Government, when dealing with the Income Tax Assessment. Act, introduced some provision permittingpeople to pay income tax on their average income. It is monstrous to think that men may be compelled to go heavily into debt to enable them to pay income tax or war-time profits tax when probably in the next year they may lose, through drought, fire, or flood, every bit of the assets on which their taxation was based. As the amendment has been accepted by the Chair, we must discuss if. In the last three or four years there has been a demand made by members of this House to discuss the financial position of Australia. We cannot do that in dealing with a Bill of this- kind, but honorable members cannot help realizing the enormous financial obligations which are imposed upon this country, and the demand made upon the public puree. Undoubtedly, there has been a good deal of extravagance, but I am satisfied that many honorable members will do their best to- prevent such extravagance in the future. At the present time, we are making special demands on the Treasury in connexion with our returned soldiers, and even in the Budget statement, we find that the Government have contracted for nearly £500,000 extra for old-age pensions. In connexion with housing returned soldiers and repatriation work generally, nothing less than £100,000,000 will be required. It will be a very heavy impost upon the people. Again, there are incessant demands for more consideration for the requirements of people in country districts. Day after day we are told by the Postmaster-General that the Government call upon him to economize, and, although a letter can be sent to any person in the city for 1½d., it cannot be sent to many people in the outlying parts of Australia unless they specially contribute to the cost of getting their mails. We know that the Treasurer cannot afford to lose a revenue of £500,000, let alone the £750,000 which it is estimated will be lost if the amendment be agreed to. The proposition is not a fair one. Every person who is entitled to vote for a member of this House should be compelled to pay income tax in some proportion. It would make him exercise more care in the election of his parliamentary representatives, and pay more regard to the manner in which public funds are expended. The honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. Page) has had a good deal to say about this amendment; but when his party were in power they did not bring forward a proposal of this description. Evidently there was in those days more responsibility on their part in regard to public expenditure. We cannot evade the distinct promises we have made in connexion with the repatriation of our soldiers and the housing scheme propounded by Senator Millen. No such scheme has been put forward in any other part of the world. It is a magnificent project, but we must pay for it; and surely those who stayed behind should be called upon to pay a small contribution towards the cost. A man with two children and an income of £208 is not called upon to pay income tax; a man with .four children and an income of £260 is likewise exempt; and a man with six children and an income of £312 is exempt.
– That is an income of less than £1 per week per head. ‘
– But surely the man who is earning £312 per annum should pay something?
– Does not the honorable member think that he is paying- more than his proportion in feeding and clothing his children?
– But he is only doing so because of the stupidity of this Parliament in continually increasing Customs duties.
– Get Free Trade, and out go the people of this country for want of employment.
– The honorable member will admit that the system which concentrates 4S per- cent, of the population of Victoria in and around Melbourne cannot be too satisfactory.
– We need the people in the country districts to help the primary producers.
– That is true. There is too much pandering to the cities. At any rate, we are pledged to this big expenditure, and all persons in the community should contribute to it. This amendment is to be followed by another to exempt those who fought at the Front. I have a great deal of sympathy with those who fought at the Front, but I have no sympathy for the men who stayed behind. Although I know I am doing an unpopular thing, I must oppose the amendment of the honorable member for Grampians (Mr. Jowett), and -express the hope that the Committee will not agree to it. I am always making demands on the Treasury to improve the conditions of people who settle in the bush, to enable them to get their produce to market, and to provide them with mail services and telephones, so that they may have some of the advantages of civilization; but I have not been able to get my requests acceded to. The Government say that they have not the necessary funds. This being the case, and in view of the fact that enormous demands must be made on the. Treasury to keep the promises to our returned soldiers, I hope honorable members will give the matter very serious consideration before agreeing to any proposal which has for its purpose the reduction of the funds which will be at the disposal of the Treasurer.
.- Whenever the question of children is raised, there flashes across my mind the statement of the great Napoleon, when in his Code he prevented any child from being disinherited by its parents. Briefly it was this - “No child asks to come into the world. No child can come into the world unless the parents meet. Every child is a future unit of the State, with a right that neither parent nor State should deprive it of; and that is the primal right and chance of growing up to be a healthy adult.” No one will gainsay the fact that the Australian babe is our best immigrant, or deny to it the right to grow up to be a healthy adult; but, under our unfortunate laws, when men and women follow the call of nature and obey their God-implanted passions, they find that the more children they have, the harder is their fight.
In the constituency of Melbourne Ports there was a woman who was the mother of thirty-three children. The father earned £2 15s. a week, and I endeavoured to get the Premier to give him employment at £3 10s. a week, but I was not successful. Is it any wonder that more than half of such children die from lack of proper food, shelter, and clothing ? Out of those thirty-three children only thirteen survived. If we go through the annals of vital statistics, we find that wherever the people are living near to the poverty line the death rate proportionately increases. I value the figures given by the Acting Treasurer, especially when I realize that they have been prepared by expert officers; but I remind honorable members that no one can arrive at his income tax without the aid of a ready reckoner. My experience in connexion with the Department is that the officials are always ready to amend any wrong that may have been done. The first calculation of the loss of revenue that would be caused by the amendment was £500,000; that was altered to £750,000. I questioned the Acting Treasurer, and he courteously informed me that the calculation was based upon a rate of1s. 6d. in the £1. I want honorable members to realize that 18. 2d. is charged only on incomes of £899 10s. and £900 10s. The average income is far below that. Abraham Lincoln said, “ God must love the common people because he made so many of them.” How many of them receive £900 a year? The rate of1s. 6d. in the £1 does not apply to incomes of £5 or £6 a week; the calculations should have been made on a far lower average because our tax commences at about three pence, and goes up to 60 pence in the £1. The Acting Treasurer (Mr. Poynton) courteously allowed me to peruse his figures. An income of £100 a year is taxed at 5.5 per cent in Australia, whereas in England the tax is 2s. 3d. in the £1. I would like the Minister to have continued quoting his figures. They are -
The honorable member for Grampians (Mr. Jowett) is one of the wealthiest men in this House, and I take it he would not object to the increase of the tax. in similar proportions to that imposed in England. Any one who goes into the matter must recognise that a taxpayer in England has a greater number of calls upon him than one in Australia.
– You have not added the particulars of State taxation in addition to that imposed by the Federal authorities.
– I know; but I may be excused in that regard because I did not have sufficient time to copy the figures. It was not through any desire to hide those details, and I hope the Ministed will see his way clear to have the figures published in Hansard. The municipal taxation in England is 100 per cent. higher than in Australia. The municipal taxation in the City of Melbourne is1s. 3d. in the £1. But in a house in which I lived in London, my landlady had to pay more in taxes than in rent. Her rent was £50 a year, but her taxes amounted to £52 a year. When acting as a locum tenens in Hertfordshire the rent of the property in which I lived was, approximately, £25 a year, while the municipal rates totalled £75 a year. Municipal taxation in London and its suburbs ranges from 7s. 6d. to 14s. or 15s. Compared with those rates, Melbourne is the lowesttaxed municipality in the world. Mr. Fisher promised, and repeated it after the declaration of war, that there would be a child pension; we must be prepared to face that. The deluge of murder that men call war has changed the system of finance. Every man and woman in England now has a vote. When I was in England, and even up to the period of the war, men in England, Ireland, and Scotland had not the right to vote by reason of their manhood, but only if they rented or owned property. Nations have recognised that kings and rich people cannot win wars. Wars are won by human beings. Many of the rich people of England and of Australia are grateful to those who gave their lives in their country’s cause. Sixty thousand Australians gave all they had to offer. Have 60,000 men of wealth in our community offered all their money, or even half of their wealth, to the Government, free of interest? I believe a present of £50,000 has been made to the Government, and I would like to see the donors honoured by having their names placed on an honour roll in this Parliament. If we go back to the Napoleonic wars and remember what Pitt took, in the way of taxation, from those who possessed wealth, we must realize that what is being taken now is a mere bagatelle. When .the honorable member for Dampier (Mr. Gregory) was speaking I interjected that we had not yet touched, in the way of taxation, the first penny: of the last shilling, and I do not think it likely .that we shall. .But one of the keenest .intellects that . England ever produced -suggested a way. We have only to go-back to the time of William the Conqueror and the Domesday Booh, in which was shown the name of every owner of property, together Avith its valuation. The institution- of this system would help to -solve our problems, for if a propertyowner felt that the valuation of his land for taxation purposes was unfair, he could have it re-valued, providing it could be purchased at such valuation by the State upon payment, of course, of a certain percentage for disturbance. The value of the property having been fixed in a Domesday Bool,:, any further increase in value should accrue to the State. In this way we would be able to get rid of our terrible debt of £400,000,000. Before the war the wealth of Australia was estimated at £1,200,000,000, and during the war it increased by £400,000,000, making the total £1,600,000,000. In view of this increase, is it a wild dream to imagine that,- within the next ten years, having in mind the remarkable productive capacity of the Commonwealth, there will . be a further increase of over £400,000,000, sufficient to cover every penny of our war debt, which has been forced upon us by German brutality? This debt will have to be paid. I shall never favour repudiation. But we must find a way to meet it. If the Government do not accept the amendment they must face the responsibility when they go before the electors. The Repatriation Department has also set a bad example in respect of its disregard of the claims of children. I honour Senator Guthrie for pointing out to Senator Millen that the Repatriation Department was not making any . allowance for a soldier’s fifth, sixth, or seventh, or eighth child. How often have I asked honorable members opposite how they would like to have any child of theirs brought up on 3s. 6d. a week, the amount allowed by the Repatriation ‘Department in respect of soldiers’ dependants. I honour the women of this country who are endeavouring to rear families, for every time a woman bears a child she risks her life. I am not questioning the figures quoted by the Acting Treasurer (Mr. Poynton). based upon ls. 6d. in the £1, but honorable members must know that the majority of the people receive less than £500 a , year, and it is for these people. that I am pleading. Some of them are not getting even £2 a week. I know that as soon as the whip cracks. Government supporters will rally and » vote -for the Bill. In the same way they voted to increase the amusement tax, which was an infamy. The Government have a perfect right to tax the incomes of amusement companies, but have no right to call upon those who enter a place of amusement .to pay what amounts to a fine.
– The honorable member supported the principle when tho Labour party introduced it.
– The honorable member is in error. I was always against it. I could never vote to place a tax of 33-J per cent, upon lower-priced tickets as against 8£ per cent, on seats in the “dress circle of a theatre. I suggest that the Treasurer might look for more income tax from the wine producers of Australia, for although it cost the vignerons no more to produce their wine during the war they took full advantage of war conditions, and compelled the middlemen to charge more for their products. It was recognised that they could afford to pay close on half-a-million sterling without much trouble. I believe in wine-drinking rather than spiritdrinking; but vignerons have unjustifiably raised their prices. Let them pay increased Excise. I intend to vote for the new clause.
– No honorable member is’ more desirous than I am of protecting the poor from taxation. But will this proposal for the increase of the exemption afford relief to the poor ? Is it meant to do so ? Let us take an example of a married man with five young children. His primary exemption is £156. Added to that, he may claim further exemption at the rate of £26 for each child. Thus, before being called upon to pay any amount of taxation at all, he must have an income of £286. How many working men are earning incomes of £286 ? I wish that very many more were doing so. What is the good of trying to fool the working man? The honorable member for Grampians (Mr. Jowett) now proposes that the exemption for each child shall be £50. A man having five children would be able to claim in respect of them, an exemption amounting to £250, and would enjoy, in addition, the original exemption of £156; so thathe would require to earn an income of £406 per annum before being called upon to pay anything by way of taxation. What poor working man is earning £406 per annum? Who will say that a child ofseventeen years is necessarily dependent upon his parents ? I had a nephew who was killed at the war at the age of sixteen.
– Who gave consent to a ‘ kid ‘ ‘ of sixteen to go to the war ?
– No one consented. He desired to go, and he went; and had the honorable member and others opposite stood by Mr. Hughes in his efforts to impose conscription, there would have been no need for that boy to sacrifice his young life. We could have got men ; there would have been no need to send boys. The total debt of the Com- monwealth is £375,000,000. The total debt of the States and the Commonwealth is £707,000,000. The amount of taxation required per annum to pay interest on our debt is £29,000,000. How are we to meet our enormous liabilities if we exempt from taxation salaries of £406 ? I desire to see the working man relieved to the greatest possible extent from the burden of taxation. That can only be done, however, by taxing the man with an income of £406 per annum. It is right that he should pay. I. hope that the honorable member for Grampians realizes the logical outcome of his proposition. The man on the land will have to pay a little more taxation. Does the honorable member for Grampians intend to make up the difference from the farmers of his electorate?
– They all come under the £5,000 exemption.
– Yes; they are poor men with £5,000 worth of unimproved value ! If revenue cannot be raised from the taxation of incomes, it must be secured from other sources. It cannot be raised by taxing tea, which is free of taxation to-day; or by taxing cotton goods, which also are free. We cannot expect to make up the difference through the Customs. The only way to secure the additional revenue would be by imposing further taxation upon the man on the land. The Grampians farmer will have to pay.
– Quite wrong !
– The honorable member will be simply shifting taxation from the city man to the land-owner. I. am quite willing to relieve the city taxpayer; I represent a city constituency. If the Acting Treasurer (Mr. Poynton) cared to indicate that he would seek to make up the difference by adding to the taxation of land-owners, I would vote for this new clause, and would subsequently support the Government’s proposition to impose additional land taxation. I do not think that people earning £406 per year desire this extended exemption in respect of children. The honorable member for Calare (Mr. Pigott) put the show away when he spoke of people who were desirous of sending their children to college. I believe in young men going to college if they are capable of learning something; but how many youths attend college up to the age of eighteen and make good ? How many honorable members have been to college? How many of them have had more than a third-class or fourth-class education ? The men who have made good here certainly did not attend college up to the age of eighteen. It would have been a good thing for many young fellows if they had never been sent to college. The average young man who will make good at college will get there by his own effort.
The “numbers are up” on this side. Knowing that the amendment will be defeated, I could easily play a political game and say to the Government Whip, “ I propose to vote for the amendment, because I represent a city constituency.” I have never done that, and I do not intend to do it on this occasion.
– I doubt if any honorable member has ever done so.
– I did not suggest that the honorable member had. When the Constitution Alteration (Legislative Powers) Bill was under consideration I could have played the same political game by voting for the amendment tb bring State railway servants within the jurisdiction of the Federal Conciliation and Arbitration Court, but I would not do so. Honorable members of the Opposition recognise that this amendment offers them a splendid opportunity to put us in a false light. Why did they not bring in such a proposal when the Fisher Government were in power and we had overflowing coffers ? At that time the Treasurer had Snore revenue than he knew what to do with, but no such exemption was proposed. Complaint has been made of the entertainments tax, under which it is said that the poor man who takes his family to a picture show is penalized. I would remind the Committee that a Labour Government was responsible for the introduction Qf that tax. On 28th September, 1916, it brought in a Bill providing for a tax of ½d. on 3d. tickets and Id. on 6d. tickets. Honorable members opposite supported the Government that brought down that Bill. Why should they now attempt to fool the people ? Let us be just-
– Under the Income Tax Bill passed by the Labour Government an exemption of only £13 per child was allowed. We have increased that exemption by 100 per cent.
– That is so. I am informed by the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Burchell) that in Western Australia a Labour Government introduced an Income Tax Bill in. which an exemption of only £10 per child was allowed.
I do not b.lame honorable members opposite; this is a splendid party move on their part. They will be able to- make much capital out of the action of those who vote against the amendment. They will probably go on the public platform and say of us, “ Look at these men who voted to tax the poor working man with his starving -children in his fireless home.” And there they will stop. They will not go on to say that, under this amendment, ‘‘the poor working man” with a family of five children would have to be in receipt of an income of £406 per annum before he would be liable to pay income tax. I have made this explanation in order that my constituents may appreciate my attitude. If the mover of this amendment can secure sufficient support to a proposal to shift taxation of this kind to the land I shall be with him; but I am not going to join in any effort to reduce the revenue of the Commonwealth in our present financial circumstances. It is our duty to maintain the credit of the country and to provide for payment of interest on our enormous public debt.
. ; - The arguments submitted by honorable members opposite who oppose this amendment seem to follow two lines. They suggest, first of all, that the ability of the Government to re-adjust “systems of taxation is so limited, and their : capacity to finance the affairs of the Commonwealth so feeble, that if this particular source of revenue is lost to us we shall be undone. I refuse to believe that the financial affairs of Australia are going to be thrown into chaos merely because we choose to allow an increased exemption from income tax to the fathers and mothers of families. It is, after all, merely a matter of re-adjusting the system of taxation. According to all the laws of life, a Government, like an individual, deserves to live only to the extent that it can adjust itself to its changing environment. If this Parliament chooses to say that the system of collecting revenue and the expenditure of public money shall follow lines different from those proposed by the Government, it is the business of the Government either to accept that decision, and give effect to it, or to make way for some other party that will do so. I, therefore, think that the argument that the Treasurer will be placed in a hopeless position if we deprive him of this small source of revenue is futile. It is particularly weak in view of the fact that the Treasurer himself feels so confident regarding the financial position that he proposes to« remit part of the entertainments tax and to increase the old-age pensions. On the one hand he proposes a decrease of revenue and on the other an increase of expenditure, so that the financial position cannot be so very hopeless. Is it to be said that these two proposals are made because they will be very useful during the election campaign?
– What an awful suggestion.
– The question is quite a propos, because those who have spoken from the Government side in opposition to the amendment have declared it to bc an electioneering proposal.
– Is that not said of every measure introduced shortly before a general election?
– No doubt it is. Honorable members opposite who urge that this is merely an electioneering proposal forget that they are open to a similar charge if we choose to discuss the question on that basis..
– We brought forward a similar amendment in May, 1918.
– Exactly. In May, 1918, before there was any thought of a general election, this very proposal received my support, and was advocated in this House by those who are supporting it to-night. It is no new thing. The Labour party have been- for years asking for an increase in the old-age pensions. It has come at last. I am sorry it is only 2s. 6d. ; I wish it were 5s. We have been asking also for a reduction of the entertainments tax. It lias come now. I regret that 6d. tickets are. still to be liable to the tax.
– The people will be desiring an election every few months if in anticipation of one they are to secure concessions of this kind.
– Yes ; if they are to bring about such reforms, then the more frequently we have them the better. 1 approach this question, however, from a more solid stand-point. We have to ask ourselves is it right to make this increased exemption? Will it enable the people to combat the position they are in to-day? If it is right, then we should take action at once, regardless of whether or not there is an impending general election. If it is not right, then it should not be made now or at any other time. Let us discuss it from that point of view.
The honorable member for Denison (Mr. Laird Smith) sought to establish the argument that because a Labour Government some six years ago had ‘ an overflowing Treasury and did not pro-_ vide for such an exemption, those of us’ who belonged to the Labour party are inconsistent in supporting this amendment to-day. He overlooks the salient fact that the cost of living and other circumstances are entirely different from what they were six years ago. The honorable member for Denison (Mr. Laird Smith), who was then a member of the Official Labour party, would have enthusiastically supported such a proposal had it been then made. If he thinks that the Labour party should have presented the proposal then, there is a very strong reason why he should support it now, because of the very much more difficult circumstances of the people who will be affected by it.
– Let the honorable member show me how he would make up the loss of revenue.
– There is a very old adage that a doctor should not prescribe for his -patient until he has been called to see him. If the Government cannot adapt themselves to a change such as is suggested by the amendment, it is their business to mako way for others who can.
– Will the honorable member make up the loss of revenue which would be sustained by placing atax upon unimproved land values of less than £5.000?
– I am not here to say what the Treasurer should do.
– What would the honorable member do?
– If I were in the Treasurer’s place, I would announce my policy straightway. When the honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. Page) quoted with such approval the closing remarks of the Acting Treasurer’s Budget this afternoon I thought that he might very properly have cited the final sentences of the honorable gentleman’s speech. The Treasurer said - looking into the future, I see countless flocks and herds, ripening grain covering many landscapes, mines and factories without number, and fleets of great ships carrying produce to the nations. I sec, too, multitudes of people, happy, rejoicing in liberty, and accomplished in all the arts which mark a highly civilized nation.
The closing sentence of the Budget is the necessary concomitant of the previous one> because all the beautiful vistas which open before the Acting Treasurer- can be realized only through the efforts of multitudes of people. All our possibilities of development’ are quite impossible in the absence of population. I approach this question, therefore, from the standpoint of whether the proposed exemption will assist us to develop a larger population,’, or even to attract population from overseas. There is no doubt that if we could proclaim to other countries that in Australia there is a recognition of the services rendered by the parents of large families, who receive an exemption of £50 in respect of each child, it would be a big factor in encouraging immigration. While this debate has been in progress I have taken the trouble to extract a few figures from the papers presented by the Treasurer to-day, and also from the latest Tear-Booh of Australia, No. 11, compiled by the Commonwealth Statistician. From these official sources I have obtained the following table: -
The foregoing figures show that, whilst population has increased very slowly, there has been a sad and’ serious decrease in the marriages and birth’s. I anticipate the objection that, during the war, it was inevitable that marriages and births would be affected to a very considerable extent. But I find that, during the past ten years, there has been a gradual declension in the marriages in proportion to population, and what is still worse, in the birth rate of this country. The decline of the birth rate is not peculiar to Australia-* - unfortunately it is world-wide.
– It is most prevalent in- the most prosperous communities, mr fortunately.
– I believe that that is so. But whatever may be the cause of it, it is a matter of the gravest possible concern.
Mrt Boyd. - -Does, the- honorable member think that the adoption of the amendment would lead to an increase in the birth rate?
– I support the amendment, because I honestly believe that every assistance we can give, in the way of relief from taxation, to large families, will mark the removal of one barrier to an increase in the birth rate.
– Does the honorable member think that a man who is going to be married takes into consideration whether he will receive an exemption- from taxation on account of his children?
– I believe that the question does not enter into his mind when he is first married. But after a few years of married life, it becomes a matter of immediate concern to him. To-day, the question is freely and frankly discussed whether, under the conditions of life which obtain, with the continual worry and care to which people are subjected, it is not a right thing to deliberately commit race suicide. There is no man who can view the position here without some alarm as to its ultimate consequences. Not only is there a decrease in the actual number of marriages and births, but there is a steady and persistent decline in the fertility of marriages, showing that there is a lack of recognition by people of their duty to each other and to the State. Because I believe that we should adopt any and every pretext, specific, and inducement that can be offered to the people to increase population, I am prepared to support the amendment.
– The honorable member must admit that the fact of a large number of young men being at the war has contributed to the decrease of the birth rate.
– It is inevitable that the ordinary domestic affairs of a country shall be seriously and sadly disturbed while a war is in progress. But, apart from the war period, what I have stated is too obvious and too common to pass unnoticed. If the vista conjured up by the Acting Treasurer (Mr. Poynton) in regard to the future development of this country - its fleets of ships, its great areas of wheat waving in the sunshine, and so forth - is to be realized, it is our duty to utilize whatever ways and means are at our disposal to encourage an increase in the population. And if the exemption proposed under this Bill will assist in any degree to that end, we shall do well to support it. The honorable member for Denison (Mr. Laird Smith) has referred to our huge load of debt-£707,000,000 to be repaid by 5,000,000 people. The burden is altogether too great. May I quote again what the Acting Treasurer said in the concluding paragraph of his Budget speech -
The greatest war the world ever saw has left the nations with staggering debts, disturbed finances, and labour -unrest.
That, it seems to me, is all that Australia or any other country has got -out of the >war.
Mr.Richard Foster. - I do not agree with the honorable member. There is no person -with British blood in him that ought not to be ashamed tomake that statement.
– I wonder what possibility there is forus, with our limited population, to develop the great production that is necessary in order to help us to pay our way and meet our financial obligations. If we had not unbounded faith in the virility of the Australian people, and the potentialities of our country, we might well be appalled by the problem before us. The question we have to consider, in the distribution of the burdens we have to carry, is how we can adjust our systems of taxation and the work of the country as to make the burden easier for those who are weak, and harder “for those who are strong. There is an old saying that “the rich will have to be a bit poorer, that the poor may be a bit richer.” The sooner that change comes in this and every other country, the better it will be for all. Certainly we can never hope to meet our great interest bill, and carry on the development of this country as we desire, unless we can bring to our aid some statesmanlike proposals which will encourage the natural increase of population and attract others to our shores in such numbers as will give us a people who will put their heart and soul and muscle into the work of development, and who will help Australia to bear its burdens manfully and courageously. I have no fear as to the future of Australia. I believe that the Commonwealth will emerge from its troubles more easily than will most countries of the world. But in the internal industrial relations of our country we should seek to put the burdens on the backs of those who are most able to bear them, and ease them off to the fullest possible extent from the shoulders of the weak. There are people who can bear more taxation than they are carrying now. Let us lift the burdens from the people who are having a struggle every day to make ends meet, and place them upon those people whose life is a perpetual round of pleasure, and whose main trouble is to fill in time. When the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Higgs) was referring to the prices of footwear, the honorable member . for Wakefield (Mr. Richard Foster) interjected that we neednot worry . about, people who can afford to pay ten guineas for shoes. I agree with him that those people do not deserve consideration and sympathy. Let us, then, put the burdens of taxation on those who can afford all the luxuries and enjoyments of life, in such measure as will enable us to relieve of taxation those less fortunate folk whose load is already so heavy to bear.
– I have listened carefully to the debate, at times with a great deal of pain. There have been two phases of the argument - the first expediency and popularity, and the second, principle. There has been little of the latter. By interjection, I disapproved of a statement by the honorable member for Brisbane (Mr. Finlayson) that the only thing Australia got out of this war was a staggering debt. We got out of the war something more precious than the cost - and the cost has been great in blood and treasure. These staggering burdens we have to shoulder; we must be true to the men who won for this country freedom. We should aim to uphold the standard they raised, and be as true and devoted in sacrifice and service as they were, in order to shoulder our burdens and discharge our obligations. We cannot better honour them than by following in their footsteps. As members of Parliament we receive £600 per annum from the taxpayers, not to do the popular thing, but to do the right thing; not to play to the gallery, but to conserve the best interests of the country and be honest in the discharge of our responsibilities. The first principle of honesty is to face our obligations, and try to pay our debts. I know very well that it would be a popular thing to exempt every child, particularly of the poor, even to the limit that has been mentioned to-day; but we have to be just before we talk about being generous. The honorable member for Denison (Mr. Laird Smith) has done nobly, like a brave man, in following the dictates of his conscience and in giving utterance to what are unpopular sentiments in crowded city areas such as he represents. It has been stated and admitted that the generosity of this Parliament in the concession made twelve months ago is equal to, if not greater than, any suggested or submitted by any Labour Government in the Commonwealth of Australia. I have no doubt that many honorable members would like to double that generosity if we were in the position to do so ; but the honorable member for Brisbane, while saying that our burdens are almost beyond our resources, at the same time suggests making further concessions, and leaving the finances of this country still more on the wrong side of the ledger.
I remind honorable members, and particularly those on this side, of their proper duty in regard to the Government’s financial proposals. In the Budget which has just been delivered, there are. many things with which I disagree, and at the proper time I shall give utterance to my disagreement; but, so far as this particular question is concerned, I say to the honorable member for Gram pians (Mr. Jowett) that he, sitting behind and a follower of the Government, ought to recognise his duty in this regard. It is a well recognised and very old principle that if you attack a Government on its financial proposals, and you upset the conclusions of a Budget, you take upon yourself a mighty big responsibility. During the quarter of a century I have been in Parliament, I have -ever known a Government supporter who did not recognise the position in which he is placed in interfering with financial proposals, particularly at a most critical time like this, right at the close of the session. The honorable member for Grampians, with all his experience-
– He has not had much experience.
– The honorable member has had a lot of business experience, and in business matters is by no means a fool.
– He is looking for votes.
– Then I despise any man who would assume such a position from that motive.
– You have no right to say that.
– I say it as a matter of duty. I am paid to say it, and I say it without hesitation, though I am sorry to have to do so.
– Every man in this House is here because he did look for votes; otherwise he would not be here.
– I do not agree with the honorable member, though I generally do so. It would be a good thing, for the country if there were a little less of that kind of business. I do say, however, that any honorable member, sitting behind a Government, who deliberately disputes the financial arrangements of that Government, as this proposal would, ought to be in a position to make a suggestipn that would adjust the finances. I have not heard from any honorable member on either side any such proposal or suggestion. If there is one thing we ought to do in this country, it is to pay our way, and not to drift into further difficulties. This Government told the country that it was not going to impose any fresh taxation. Every honorable memiber must realize that there has had to be a sever straining, and a critical tightening up here and there, in order to avoid fresh taxation. I say deliberately that I am going to resist this amendment, not that I would not like to be generous if we were in a position to be so. Even if we were in that position, I would not give the proposed concession to rich people who do not need it. In regard to the poor struggling man, it has been pointed out tonight over and over again that the concession provided last year put the wageearner quite out of consideration.
– Not altogether.
– I say that it did, and I challenge my honorable friend to dispute it.
– I shall dispute it.
– The honorable member will not prove his statement. I appeal to honorable members to “ play the. game.” Can any honorable member name a single Parliament in the British Empire which, in its proposals to meet war responsibilities, has relieved the worker from taxation burdens in the way this Parliament has? I do not believe there is such a Parliament to be found anywhere. I hope that the proposal before us will be defeated. If we desire to be generous there is another way, which is more appealing to me, and which ought to be more appealing to every honorable member, and that is, the giving of greater concessions to the maimed and wounded from the war. This country is doing splendidly up to the limit of our resources; better, I believe, than any other country; but, if we wish to do more, I would rather do it in the direction I have indicated than in the direction suggested by the honorable member for Grampians (Mr. Jowett).
Message recommending appropriation reported, and referred to Committee of the Whole.
Motion (by Mr. Groom) agreed to -
That the House, at its rising, adjourn until to-morrow at 3 o’clock.
House Adjourned at 10.48 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 8 October 1919, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1919/19191008_reps_7_90/>.