7th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. W. Elliot Johnson) took the chair at 3 p.m.; and read prayers.
Motion . (by. Mr. Groom) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a Bill for an Act to apply the Imperial Act known as the Matrimonial Causes (Dominion Troops) Act 1910 to the Commonwealth of Australia.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
Motion (by Mr. Wise) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in’ a Bill for an Act to amend the Deceased Soldiers’ Estates Act 1918.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
– Is the Prime Minister yet in a position to inform the House and the country of the probable date of the forthcoming general election?
-I thought I gave that information to the press. last night when- I said that, so far asI could see, the probable date -would not be earlier , than 13th December next. The general election will probably take place on that date.
– Is the Prime Minister , correctly reported in the Argus this morning as havingstated,. in the course of a speech made by him at Bendigo yesterday, that it is intended to place the wool of Australia against other commodities? If so, have the wool-growers been consulted in the matter ?
– That is not a correct report of what I said.
-Will the Minister in charge of shipping inquire into the trading between Brisbane and Sydney and Brisbane and Melbourne, and ascertain whether there is any justification for the complaint made by Brisbane-Melbourne shippers that preference has been given, over and over again, to Brisbane-Sydney shippers as against Brisbane-Melbourne shippers.
– I will make inquiries, and supply the honorable member with the information.
Motion (by Mr. Hughes) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a Bill for an Act to carry into effect the treaty of peace with Germany.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
– About a fortnight ago the Prime Minister promised to make a statement as to the conditions and arrangements made with regard to the proposed aviation flight from England to Australia. Is the right honorable gentleman yet in a position to make a definite statement on the subject ?
– Speaking from memory, before I left London arrangements were made whereby the Australian Government, in collaboration with the Aero Club, which has charge of aviation in England, were to prescribe the conditions as to the flight and the type of machine that could compete. The conditions were made public at the time. I interviewed intending fliers, and, as far as I know, no objection was taken to the arrangements. The flight was, I think, postponed because there were no landing places at that time beyond India. I understand that since then landing places have been prepared, or are said to have been prepared, in Timor and Singapore, and that one Captain Matthews is starting on a Martynside. If there is any special point on which honorable members desire information that I can supply, I shall be glad to give it if they will put a question to me on the subject to-morrow.
Motion (by Mr. Greene) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a Bill for an Act to facilitate the proceedings of the Royal Commission appointed to holdan inquiry into the sugar industry in Australia.
– In reference to the provision in the Constitution Alteration Bills for the appointment of a Convention to make recommendations in regard to the Constitution, I would like to know from the Prime Minister whether the Convention will be appointed by the Commonwealth Government or by a vote of the people, and how many persons it will comprise?
– The questions raised by the honorable member were not discussed at the Premiers’ Conference. It will be competent for this House to discuss and decide upon them.
– For the last eighteen months I have been asking for the appointment of a professional and disinterested accountant to prepare a balance-sheet of the shipping assets and activities of the Commonwealth; and I was informed that such an appointment would be definitely outlined on the occasion of the last. Budget, but, apparently, nothing has been done in the matter. Can the Prime Minister tell me when we may expect such a balance-sheet for which I have been asking ?
– I have no objection to the appointment of a competent accountant to go into the whole of the accounts of the Commonwealth steamers, and ascertain if they are a correct representation of them. I will see that that is done.
– Can the Prime Minister supply any further information with respect to the bonus of £10,000 which is to be offered for the discovery of oil wells in Australia?
– The bonus speaks for itself. Find the oil and get the £10,000.
– About a fortnight ago I asked the Prime Minister whether he would look into the question of giving a ration allowance to out-door patients at the Randwick Hospital. Has he given consideration to the question? .
– I presume that the matter was passed on to the Defence Department for report. However, I shall look into it again.
– Yesterday, the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Jensen) asked for Admiral Viscount Jellicoe’s report on the Randwick Wireless Works. The following is an extract from the Admiral’s report -
This plant should be entrusted with the preparation of jigs, patterns,, and gauges necessary for the manufacture of war material, so that, on the outbreak of hostilities, these can be issued to firms, who would thereby be enabled to commence production in a very short time.
Further, manufacture of experimental apparatus of a confidential nature could be carried out here under proper control.
The advantage of having at Government . disposal a small but versatile factory, staffed by the highest grade of skilled labour, would be well worth the . expenditure of the comparatively small sum which would be saved if the work were put out to private contract.
– A fortnight yesterday, the Assistant Minister for Defence informed me that arrangements were being made for the repatriation of Australian nurses located in India or Afghanistan. Do those arrangements still stand, or are there any later developments ?
– I have not heard of any later developments.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Whether the Prime Minister has been able to make any arrangement with manufacturing firms overseas for supplying the necessary machinery required for the erection of woollen mills, so that a greater proportion of woollen goods necessa’ry for use in Australia may be manufactured here?
If there be no chance of securingsuch machinery in the near future, would it be possible for the Government to arrange with the patentees to manufacture such machinery as is covered by patent rights, in Australia, by Australian workmen?
– Every effort will be made to induce manufacturers in the Commonwealth, to arrange with patentees for making such machinery.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow:
In connexion with all census returns, the cards are destroyed after the information, has been extracted, as they occupy an immense amount of space, and the cost of storage would be prohibitive.
Attendance at Municipal Polling Booth.
asked the Assistant Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– I have received the following report from the Military Commandant, Melbourne, in regard to this matter : -
Military Police (two non-commissioned officers and one private) were sent out by the Assistant Provost Marshal, in response to a telephone message received from the Loch ward polling booth to the effect that men in uniform were there under the influence of drink and creating a disturbance, and it was thought they were illegally wearing uniform. On . arrival, the ‘ Military Police’ found everything in order, and returned immediately. Prior to their return, a further telephone message wasreceived to the effect thatthe disturbing element had gone from the booth.
– Inquiries will be made, and ‘the honorable member will be informed as soon as possible.
Payment of War Gratuity
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Whether, in view of the Budget speech having been delivered by the Acting Treasurer, he is in a position to announce what war gratuity is to be paid members of the Australian Imperial Force?
Mr.HUGHES.- The rexecutive of the Returned ‘Soldiers’ Association is discussing all their grievanceswith -me, and I hope to make a statement -in regard to them very soon.
Consideration resumed from 8th October (vide page 13113), on motion by Mr. J owett -
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.”
.- The question of who ought to pay taxation has never troubled the mind of this Parliament. The ‘honorable member for Dampier (Mr. Gregory) seems to hold the erroneous idea that only those who have wealth, pay the -taxation. If there is any science in -taxation we in this Parliament have never applied it. We ‘have not applied- even ordinary common sense to the subject. The object of the. present amendment is to . provide that those who are responsible for the rearing of families shall not be required to pay the same taxation as is paid by. those who have -no families. No new principle is involved. The system of affording some measure of relief from taxation; to parents of families is in operation in New South . Wales and in’ other countries.’ In America very little direct . taxation is paid on . incomes up to £500, but every person in ‘the community pays . a large proportion of the r indirect taxation. Customs.andExcise duties particularly bear heavily upon -men -with families. A man who derives his income from property does. not. pay taxation at all - he passes it . on to the tenant. The consequence is that a man with five or six children who requires more housing accommodation, than does a single man, and who therefore pays a higher -rental, has to bear a bigger share- of taxation on property than- has the single person’ or married person without children. In America incomes beyond £500 are heavily taxed and on incomes above £1,000 the taxation increases on a very steep incline. Every thinking person who is concerned about the well-being of the community admits that those who are responsible for the upbringing of families have . a hard row to hoe. I speak from personal knowledge. When I was a working man I experienced the difficulty of rearing children on an ordinary wage, and . I know the even -.greater strain that was imposed on my better half in her endeavour to place her children a little higher on the ladder of life than the rung upon which their parents stood. Therefore this amendment appeals to my sympathy. The struggle of the working’ man with a family is greater to-day than it was twenty .years ago. Are we still to do what we did a quarter of a century ago ? We ought to be establishing new precedents. We are told that the war has brought about a new world,, and that social and economic changes must follow. Yet the Acting Treasurer (Mr. Poynton) repeated the old objection which I have often heard in the Parliament of New South Wales : “ How are we to raise the revenue that would be lo.st if this change is made?” The same objection was raised to the old-age pension scheme and to the maternity allowance.
We must continue trying’- to improve the conditions of those who are the parents of the future citizens of Australia. In this country infant life is conserved as well as in any other country in the world, and our sons have proved in the recent war that children’ reared under proper conditions are the foundation of national greatness. A nation consists, not. merely of its wealth, but of the vigour of its people ; and we,’ as a Parliament, ought to see that the young life of the country is reared under the best of conditions, even at the expense of a few hundred thousand pounds. A nation with a healthy birth rate is bound to be great; and I hope that the appeal now being made to the Acting Treasurer (Mr. Poynton) will not be disregarded. A debate of this character ought to bring out the best of the intellect in the House; and I feel sure that many honorable members, at any rate, on my side of the House, will be found voting for the amendment, which represents a principle that’ ought to be recognised by every representative in a National- Parliament. Of course, the Acting * Treasurer asks where the money is to come from; but that is such an old story that, in my case, it falls on deaf ears. I firmly believe that, with the help of Providence, we shall get over all our financial troubles; and certainly we, as a country, will prosper more if those who are struggling with large families are living under conditions in accordance with Australian ideas. At the beginning of Federation we used to talk in thousands, but to-day we talk in millions; and under all the circumstances I think we could spare the few extra pounds necessary to carry the amendment into effect. .It is the man’ with money whom we have to squeeze ; and on th,e Financial Statement I shall have something to say, if not here, at any rate before the people during the elections.
In the case of people with families direct taxation .should be cut down to its .lowest. The exemption of £156 was made when we were at war, and we had no idea when hostilities , would terminate, or. what our responsibilities would eventually prove to be; in fact, at that time we were in a cloud, but. now .we have to start the “ new world,” of which the Prime Minister (Mr.” Hughes)1 has told us so much with so many emphatic .gesticulations. If we are to start a new world, let us start it by making it .easier for those who have families to rear. Of course, an income of £500 is a small thing in the eyes of many honorable members opposite, whoseconstituents talk in thousands, and Bubscribe thousands to war loans; but we. on this side, represent people earning, perhaps, £3 per week. Personally, .1. cannot realize how working people with ‘a family can’ exist ‘ on such a ‘ wage, although I have been through the ordeal of raising a family on wages. ‘To-day, rents are so high, and prices ‘ for boots and so forth so high, that it is wonderful how people manage to get along. It has been said that the wife of a -working man would make the greatest- -Chancellor of the Exchequer, and I ‘ believe that to be true. If we had a few women, in Parliament We should certainly get some . very illuminating information’ on the economic position of the working classes, and that information, and the arguments Which it would supply, would make the necessity for such an amendment as that before us quite evident. The amount of revenue the Government are asked to forego i’s not very great in view of the aggregate wealth of the country, and the future prosperity painted in such glowing colours by the Acting Treasurer yesterday. Many of us hope that that picture will be realized, and that the Government will make a better allowance to the parents of families.
We certainly ought not to allow the tax as now proposed by the Government to go through without a determined struggle to alter it. I appeal to honorable members opposite to be firm in their support of the amendment, and to take no notice of fancy pictures about the elections.’ I urge them to look at the question from the humane stand-point as one well worthy of the. consideration of the best brains on their side. I would not be fulfilling my obligations as a representative of the people if I did not point out the justice of the proposal of the honorable member for Grampians (Mr. Jowett). I know that I am voicing the feelings of those people in. Sydney among whom I have lived for over forty years. I am not endeavouring to raise myself in the estimation of anybody. I am simply, advocating the amendment from a sense of my plain duty, and a knowledge of the necessities of the people who returned me to this Parliament. I feel sure that this is a concession that we ought to give to all those who are rearing young Australians. I cannot understand how any one can really oppose it. It has been said during this debate that the working classes do not pay the taxation of Australia. That is a libel on the people, because it is an undisputed fact that the taxes which this Parliament imposes are passed on to the working classes. We have not paid sufficient attention to the question to obviate that.
As a rule, in both State and Federal Parliaments, the Estimates presented are prepared in one stereotyped way. The various Departments are called upon at certain periods by the Minister to state -their requirements for the following year. These are sent in to the Minister, who forwards them on to the Treasurer, and the Treasurer sends them back with- a notification that he cannot allow certain amounts. The Estimates are then amended by . the Departments, but no scientific principle is followed. The responsible officer simply puts his pen through certain sums, so as to bring the total down to the amount which the Treasurer will allow.’ That is the way the whole thing has been done ever since we have had responsible government- in Australia. There ought to be a proper method of ascertaining the true necessities of the country in the way of expenditure, and of expressing them in the Estimates. If that were done, I am sure this small deduction would be readily granted; I do not wish it to be thought that I am advocating this amendment with a view to the working classes avoiding the payment of taxation. The hon.orable ‘ member for Dampier (Mr. Gregory) claims that they do not pay the taxation of this country. I am here to say that they do pay it, to the extent of their full share. I base my appeal for the carrying of this amendment on my knowledge that the working classes pay taxation, and the absolute necessity of relieving those who have the largest families of, at least, some portion of the burden. We could not do nobler work than this. Every clergyman, and every member of the various benevolent and humanitarian societies in Australia, will bear out my assertion that the greatest struggle for a decent existence is in thos© cases where there are large families. We should encourage the rearing of families in this country. We have no right to allow the people to entertain any dread of having large families. We should not inculcate in them the belief that, if they take upon themselves the responsibilites of married life and the rearing of children, they .are likely to be penalized by the imposition of more onerous taxation than that imposed on those who have no family. Nothing is impossible in this world. 1
During my life I have heard people’ laugh at many things that I have proposed, but I have lived to se© them realized. I believe that we shall realize this reform before long. At least, we have the power now to lessen the burden of direct taxation on these people. Unfortunately, we cannot lessen the burden of indirect taxation until a better method is evolved, or until better men are put in charge of the Government than, we have had in the past. There is no mystery about finance, although the’ impression that there is has for years been carefully fostered. Finance is one of the simplest, things possible, if a man gives his mind to it. It is as simple as the running of an ordinary lolly shop. The public have been deluded by men who have dealt with finance into the belief that there is some mystery about it, in order’ that they should not demand, and obtain, the snare of- this world’s wealth to which they were entitled. That is the trouble. The greatest difficulty arises when the Treasurer is compelled to increase taxation. The heaven-born Treasurer is the one who can tell the public that he is going to take off a certain amount of taxation or reduce certain duties. I remember whe.n Mr. Gladstone, at the time I was a youngman, proposed to take 6d. off the duty on tea and something off the duty on sugar. When John Bright and the men with whom he was associated came into power, they were the worst Government that Britain ever had.
– Order! The honorable member has reached his time limit.
.- Although I am as anxious as is any honorable member to reduce taxation, and would like to abolish one-half of the . heavy and burdensome imposts to which our people are subjected, I am not insensible of the responsibility resting upon me in connexion with the amendment which has been moved by the honorable member for Grampians (Mr. Jowett). I am rather inclined to challenge the honorable member’s sincerity in submitting such a proposition on the eve of a general election. I cannot forget that the United Labour party, when governing, came to the conclusion that since tremendous debts must be incurred in connexion with the war, we, as working men and the representatives of the workers, should give some proof of our patriotism and the faith that was in us, and that we must ask the working classes to bear some portion of the burden in order to stifle the criticism of others upon whom it would fall with much greater severity. At that time we decided that an exemption of £13 should be allowed in respect of every child. I voted for that exemption, and later on I voted to increase the exemption to £26 per child. I recognise that, having regard to the high cost of living, such an exemption is comparatively small; but I have little sympathy with the picture drawn by the honorable member for Grampians last night, when he urged that this larger exemption was necessary in order that families might be reared to be the future defenders of this country. As a practical man- as one who has climbed from the bottom rung of the. ladder - I recognise that only a small section of the people would be affected by any exemption of this kind that we’ might choose to make. The great body of the people who are endeavouring to rear families are worried, not by any question as to how they should pay income tax, but rather as to how they are going to obtain food and clothing for theirchildren. These are the people upon whom the future welfare of Australia rests. What is the attitude of the honorable member for Grampians land others on this side who support this amendment when an effort is made to cheapen bread and meat for the children and reduce the cost of living to this class of people? They howl like stricken dingoes at the very thought of any reduction being made in the cost of their bread and meat. As a wheat-grower, I say unhesitatingly that there is no justification for the present price of bread. The few score thousand families who would be affected by the raising of the exemption as proposed by this amendment would be benefited to an infinitely greater degree if attention were paid by those who support it to an effort to reduce the cost of living.
The honorable member for Grampians said that it was necessary to increase the exemption in order to encourage the rearing of large families, who would prove the future defenders of Australia. What has this pettifogging proposition to do with that great question ? The real evil of the present day lies in land monopoly. What help would the honorable member for Grampians and those associated with himgive to an attempt to bring about a system under which every willing man and woman would be able to become employers, and make an independent living dn the good lands’ of the country? None whatever. But, on the eve of a general election they would cut a cudgel for our political skulls in the shape of a proposal of this kind. We have this year to meet a war expenditure of £40,000,000. There are other directions in which heavy expenditure must also be undertaken, and there is a desire on the part of many to retrench thousands of public servants who are only on the bread and butter line. I cannot support such a policy. Having regard to all these facts, and to the necessarily high rate of expenditure which must rule for some time, are we to support this amendment and to forget our responsibilities? The Government is’ endeavouring to do much that is worthy of commendation. Where, for instance, could we find a more deserving avenue for the employment of some little generosity than we have in increasing the old-age pension? The Government propose an increase of 2s. 6d., and that will mean an additional expenditure of £420,000 for the first half of the financial year.:
We are told by the Acting Treasurer (Mr. Poynton) that the raising of the exemption- as proposed by the honorable member for Grampians might involve a loss of revenue amounting to anything up to £750,000. The honorable member will not qualify his amendment in any way. He will not say that the increased exemption shall be granted only to taxpayers whose income amounts to less than £450 per’ annum, and that the revenue so lost shall be made good by increasing the rate of tax on all incomes exceeding £5,000. He is not prepared to make any suggestion that would assist the Government in overcoming their financial difficulties. He poses as a supporter of the right of the people to a reasonable subsistence, but up to date he has never supported any effort to reduce the cost of living.. I look forward to the time when principles of land settlement, which are really the keystone of the whole question, but the mere mention of -which would almost paralyze the honorable member, will .be within the realms of practical politics. This political window dressing on the eve of an election will fool only a few of the people. The great bulk of them realize the efforts that are being made by the Government to honestly meet their obligations, and at the same time to cause the least possible disturbance to the community. The honorable member for Grampians openly ad«vocates systems under which the consumers would be wholly unprovided for, while the people on the land would be given much unnecessary, and, for them, dangerous, help. I am more entitled to describe myself as a farmer than is the honorable member. For thirty years I have made a living by farming. Not one speculative shilling has gone into my pocket) I have made a living simply by producing wheat, wool, and meat, and selling these commodities at their market value. Systems which are said by the honorable member to be essential to the success of the farmers are disastrous to the best interests of the consumer and to those of the country. The Government, I presume, are to pledge the resources’ of the Commonwealth; they are to provide for our primary producers cheaper shipping than can be obtained in any part of the world ; they are to make advances to the farmers, and to hold their produce until famine prices obtain, and whatever the foreign parity may be, the great mass of the people here, who are to. fight for this country, according to the honorable member’s doctrine must pay that parity. The majority of farmers do not support such an unjust idea. I have in my time followed many humble callings. I have made a living by breaking stones on the roadside. Some of the wits will tell us -that that employment was almost exclusively followed by some of the founders of our first families. I have made my living in that way, and would go back to it to-morrow rather than swallow these monstrous principles, and help to oppress the. people pf my native country.
The producers of Australia have grievances and troubles, but they are not voiced by the host of commission mongers who. fasten upon them like lice. No man who has the welfare of this country at heart will listen to a .proposal of this kind made on the eve of an election. If my attitude- on this question can be used to bring about my political downfall, then I will go out of this Parliament as I came into it - an honest man. I .realize that sooner or later the principles in which I believe, and which I am prepared to show are capable of practical application, will have to be applied to destroy the festering monster of land monopoly which deprives the men and women of this country, who are willing to go forth and become employers, of the opportunity to earn their share of the wealth of the country, and to help to build it up. I regret that political dodgery of this sort fools a few of the people, and that men who were quite willing to admit that Labour should pay its just due, and bear its proper proportion of the obligations imposed upon us by the war, are now prepared to depart from these principles because the war is over and an election near. Every thinking man knows that, although the war is over, we have still the aftermath, and that our obligations can be met only by constant sacrifice on the part of the people. The aftermath of the war is still with us, and will be with us, I fear, for another generation. ‘ We have before us a t6sk;wh”ich it-is idle to try’to shirk. ‘The Government -cannot . allow propositions of this kind to be -carried if they are. to retain their backbone. -They have to meet their . ‘.ohligafcions, . and, motwibhataading the charges of - squandering money in : a wholesale way which axe levelled - against them, they cannot, and’ date not, ibegin to -enter . upon wholesale systems’ of retrenchment , without . bringing into bold -relief infinitely more destitution . and poverty than our country has ever . before suffered. We have to bring-about a state of things- by which the cost of living will be reduced. This proposal comes from men who support principles that are ten times more monstrous in their effect on the welfare of the people than is the exemption against which they protest.
I shall not vote- for the amendment, because I question the sincerity of it. . If we can Becure our. return to Parliament only by buying our way into it by . means of- wholesale (proposals for reducing- taxation on . the eve >of an election, then the sooner : this Parliament . goes- out’ of existence the . better.’ If . we are to -yield to such i olaxaour there -can be.no . chance foi honest, . responsible -government. I believe the’ people -will realize that -this Government have acted in their . interests. . They will realize that the Government are not prepared to remain supinely idle, drawing their “screw,” for some months longer when the Parliament has . not . the . power to remove the grievances ‘ under which the people labour to-day. They will recognise that we, as’ a party, have sufficient courage, and have- leaders: with sufficient - abilitv and honesty of purpose, to take the right path-, and I have very little doubt as to what’ will be the- -result of the forthcoming appeal to the electors. v ..
.- I shall support the amendment, . not because, as the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Lynch) suggests, it is -a piece of political window dressing, but because I approve of the principle involved. So far as I am . concerned, political window dressing is unnecessary. The remarks made by the honorable member in regard to the . mover of this amendment ‘ (Mr. Jowett) were well applied.’ Se has moved it, I believe,, merely, as a bit of- . political window dressing on the eve of a general election. When he was speaking last night I interjected that he was submitting this amendment . merely as a military measure, and he certainly is doing so, because he asks for this larger exemption in order to encourage the. breeding of soldiers. The honorable member said that ten, twenty, or twenty-five years hence the menace would be here, and we must , be prepared to face it. Without wishing to do him an injustice, I must, say that it would appear that he is pleading for an- exemption from income tax . in order to save his sheep and wool. The honorable member for Denison (Mr. Laird Smith) last night attacked this party, of which he was formerly a member, for supporting the amendment. As a matter of fact, a member of our party had given notice of a like amendment before the honorable member for Grampians took action. We believe in the principle embodied in it, and for ‘ that reason we support it. I should like the general exemption to be increased, since an exemption of £156 does not give a man on low wages the relief - that- Parliament intended in originally providing for it. Since then the cost of living has . enormously increased. In the early sessions of this Parliament the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) said that £156 was the: irreducible minimum - a man could not live on less than that - but if he earns anything , above that amount: he must pay income.- tax. It is beyond’ dispute that 10s. per week will mot keep a child which is dependent upon its parents. If the exemption is based on the cost incurred by a married man as against a ‘ single man, we should he honest in our endeavour to make the adjustment equitable, and should make the exemption as nearly as possible commensurate’ with the -cost of living. In fact; I very much doubt whether, with the present price of- commodities,– £1 per week would meet ‘the cost of keeping a growing and thriving child. Honorable members will see that this is not a question’ of . political window-dressing prior to an election. Here is an instance of how the Government, to use a colloquialism, “ puts the boot in.” A young spinster in the Hindmarsh district who was earning £1 2s. 6d. per week was called upon by the Taxation Department, to pay the minimum income tax of £1 on the ground that her board and lodging brought her earnings above the £100 exemption. She was called upon to may- a fine of £2 in addition to the payment of the £1 ‘tax, and it was only through the agency of ‘Mr. John Carr, M:L.A., who accompanied her to the Taxation Department, that she was allowed to escape the . payment of the fine. I dare say that there are many instances in which spinsters and single men are receiving just over the £100 exemption., In matters of taxation, it is the worker who pays the heaviest share.
It is said that we want to breed in Australia a virile, strong nation. Having been in France, where Australians have proved their virility, I maintain that this is a strong, virile nation; but all the credit is due to the advanced Democracy of Australia, as represented by the trade unions and. Labour party, that advanced element of the. community which has always demanded, that the people of this continent should live in some degree of comfort and be able to enjoy a little of the pleasures of life. I have heard the Acting Treasurer. (Mr. Poynton) say that he had to shear sheep at 10s. per 100 and seek work in roadmaking when no shearing work was available
– That is’ quite correct.
– The Australian Workers Union and the progressive Labourites pf. this country have little by little evolved a better state of affairs which has found its reflex in the deeds of our soldiers during the world’s great crisis. The honorable member for Grampians (Mr. Jowett) justifies the exemption be proposes on the ground that we need to breed a virile community owing to the menace that may face us in the future. I and others support the exemption on the . ground that we ought to give those who toil and work for the wealth revealed in the Budget Speech the opportunity to enjoy life, and not in order to play up to the ears of the electors, as has been insinuated by one honorable member, who, I hope, will not again occupy a seat in this Parliament. When that honorable member delivers his perfervid utterances he ought not to rely on the valour of relatives. I also had a nephew in France. His bones are now bleaching on Passchendaele Ridge ; hut I do not parade his valour as something which is to my credit, nor do I live in the reflected glory of his deeds. It would have been far better if the honorable member had worn one of the badges which I wear instead of referring to a youthful nephew as a justifi cation for abuse. His speech was. not based upon the merits of the proposal ofthe honorable member for Grampians’; it was simply an endeavour to insert something in Hansard that he could quote at the coming election. I hope that he will be just as perfervid in his advocacy of the extension of the land tax and the proposal to wipe out the . £5,000 exemption.
– Is the honorable member in favour of wiping out that exemption ?
– No. In justice to the small land-owners, it would not be fair to do so. Of course, if the land tax should apply in one instance it should apply all round; but the point is whether in the circumstances an all-round application would not do more harm than good. In my opinion, the timeis not ripe for the establishment of an all-round land tax to meet the circumstances which the income tax is aimed at meeting. ° The honorable member for. Grampians hopes that his proposal will.be the means of helping to increase the population. I sincerely hope that it will. The exemption will not apply to many of the supporters of the Labour party, but it will apply to what are termed the middle classes, and give them some chance of rearing families. As is well known, the larger families are borne by the poorer classes of the community, and it is- unnecessary to give them an exemption that does not touch them in order to induce them to bear large families.’ However, I hope that what is in the mind of the honorable member for Grampians will materialize in regard to the middle classes. It is up to them to bear a share of the responsibility of maintaining -the safety of the Empire instead of leaving it all to the workers. I do not support’ the amendment to tickle the ears of the electors whom I may have to face at the coining election, hut because I believe that it is right the exemption should be made in order to place the man who has a family on equal terms with the man who has none. My effort is always in the. direction of making. the world abetter place to live in.
– You. would not allow me to live if you could help it.
– Politically, I would strangle the honorable member - tomorrow. I would not have him on my doorstep. As a man, he may be all right. I have no reason to believe otherwise. As a son and husband, I believe that he has been everything that a man shouid be; but, politically, he has been a Judas Iscariot.
– Order! I ask the honorable member to withdraw that statement.
– I withdraw it. The honorable member knows that the only success he has, or can hope to have, is when he can stand up here and ridicule this party, saying, with a hypocritical laugh, “ What did these gentlemen do? Why did they not do this when they were on this side of the House?” Did not the honorable member subscribe to the tenets of the party so long as it suited him?
– Yes, and I did my bit, too.
– The honorable member would subscribe to them to-day but for the circumstances in which he moves ; he knows full well that he would do so; but I sincerely hope the day will never come when we shall harbor in our movement any person who is not prepared to obey the will of the party which has for its object and as its policy the regeneration of mankind.
– Did not the honorable member go to Adelaide as a conscriptionist, and then back down ?
– I ask the honorable member for Denison to cease interjecting, and the honorable member for. Adelaide to confine his remarks to the question before the Chair.
– I am sorry that I cannot reply to the honorable member’s interjection ; but, at any time, I am prepared to lay down my cards, either in regard to my reasons for supporting the extension of the exemption or in regard to the question of enforcing conscription on the general community. I had my own ideas on the matter, and I obeyed them.
When we fall in behind thehonorable member for Grampians (Mr. Jowett) today, we do not do so for political purposes. The honorable member for Hunter (Mr. Charlton), in discussing the Bill, suggested that the exemption should be made larger. He was quite right, especially in view of the statement in this morning’s press, ascribed to Mr. Holman, Premier of New South Wales, namely, that the Board of Trade have now fixed the mini mum wage at £3 17s. 6d. per week. If we do not allow the fathers of our future soldiers to enjoy their full wages, but take a share of them in the form of income tax, we are depriving them of income with which they could provide for the ordinary necessities of life. These are the men who are called upon to make sacrifices in the time of war. At some future time, this side may have the opportunity of demonstrating where the sacrifice was made during the recent war by the capitalists of Australia. If we believe in dealing out any sort of justice, man to man, we shall take off the load that is now borne by Ehe shearer who shears the sheep, or the rouseabout who keeps the run going, year in and year out.
– That is a remarkable statement ! Mr. YATES.- I may be a bit wide of the mark as to how runs are maintained. I was hopeful that the honorable member for Grampians would be present while I was speaking, so that if my statements were wrong, I could be corrected by a real “ dinkum “ up-to-date squatter, and not merely by a professed one. I do not think that the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Falkiner) will claim that his station manager is the man who operates his station year in and year out. He will admit that the work of the station is carried on by the men whom he employs.
We shall be doing only bare justice if we carry this amendment, and if we make good any loss of revenue by placing further taxation on the shoulders of those who are best able to bear it. I repudiate the suggestion that I am supporting this proposal because it will suit my constituents and advantage my party. The Labour party has a platform with which it hopes some day to govern this country, and honorable members have never heard me say other than that I am prepared to put that platform in its entirety into operation. If the Labour party is returned to power again, I hope we shall not listen to the promptings of expediency, but will proceed directly to give effect to our platform. By it I stand, and anything I can do to make it effective shall be done.
.- The honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Yates) professes an excessive virtue in regard to electioneering dodges. ‘Nearly every election at which the Labour party has been triumphant has been won by means of a cute class-cry raised by the gentleman who is now Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes). On one occasion, it was the old-age pension, and on another occasion it was the baby bonus. Other election cries that have been used with advantage by the Labour party are the Federal land tax . and the Commonwealth Bank, which the electors were told would give long-dated loans to farmers at a low rate of interest, instead of which, according to the Acting Treasurer (Mr. Poynton), it has locked away £60,000,000 from the general trading community. These narrow class diatribes against the rich are quite irrelevant. Not being a candidate for re-election, I have no need to : be a ‘ party to any electioneering dodges. The question before the Committee is whether or not motherhood should be recognised. I have always advocated that it should. We have heard a good many . suggestions about taxing this fellow and the other fellow, but a little economy would recoup the Treasury for any loss of revenue this amendment, might entail. In the income tax of last year this House decided to . give certain exemptions to mining enterprises, and I am sure . that if that concession were withdrawn, the Department ‘would recover any money that it might lose by giving increased consideration to the parents of families. All the other trading and producing ‘interests in the community pay’ taxation on their incomes regardless of whether or not they expend a portion of their income- in extending their business operations, but for some reason that I have never been able to understand money spent on mining developmental work is exempted from the payment of income tax.
– The least useful product of all is gold.
– There is more dishonesty in . mining than in any other branch of production. The man with a large family pays through the nose by reason’ of the cost of providing for his children, and the woman, too, pays, because, as the honorable member for Melbourne (Dr. Maloney) stated, she enters the jawsof death every time a child is born. Some recognition, ought to be given her for such sacrifices.
A simple solution of the profiteering problem is not by a referendum on constitutional alterations, or a discussion of what are and what are not monopolies - the profiteer will live on the fat of the land and die before a. remedy will com* from that source - but by an alteration of the incidence of taxation. The present income tax does more credit to brute strength than to judgment. A man with £300,000 invested in the lan’d, -and earning 5 per cent., is taxable on an annual income of £15,000. Another man has £30,000 invested in a business which handles some necessary commodity, such as food or wearing apparel. He turns over his capital several times during the year, earning a profit of 50 per cent, and he is taxed on the same income of £15,000. After both have paid 10s. . in the £1 in Federal and State taxation, the first man is’ left with a net return «of 2½ per cent, on his capital, and with that income he is expected to live and extend his ‘business. He cannot. do it. This system of taxation is one of the things that -is killing primary production. The dealer in necessary commodities is making 50 per. cent., gross, and, even after he has paid his taxation, still has a net return of 25 per cent, on the capital he has employed. The. present income tax bears no relation whatever to the rate of interest earned on capital. . The man earning 5. per cent, and the man earning 50 per cent, both pay the same amount of taxation. When the Labour party introduced the celebrated curve of the third degree into income-tax assessments, they thought that it indicated wisdom on. their part. I was hopeful- that this year the Government would bave abandoned that silly method of estimating taxation, and would have substituted a simple calculation.
– What does the ‘honorable member suggest?
– I would alter the incidence of the income tax so that it would bear some relation to the rate of interest. earned on. capital, instead of taxing all incomes at the same rate, although one man’s income might represent 5 per cent, on capital, and the other man’s income 50 per cent.
If we pay a woman a bonus for bearinga child, it is only logical to help her to rear it. We should give the men and women who are rearing families some advantage over the couples who on their marriage day decide that they will not be bothered with offspring. We have been told that the large families are found only amongst the poor; but it is indisputable that race suicide extends to all classes of the community. I am of opinion that parents of more than a certain number of children ought to pay -no taxation at all. The advantage of a large family is that there is more prospect in numbers of getting particularly good specimens of the race. If parents have only a couple of children, both are likely to be bad. Shakspeare was his mother’s seventh child; there will be very few Shakspeares in modern families. Much has been said about the virility ofour race. I hope that the Australian, when he marries, will be virile enough to insist on having a family and working for it, because the position of France to-day is due, in a large measure, to her lack of men. At the time of the Franco-Prussian war the populations of France and Germany were about equal ; but the German man worked, and the German woman bred, whilst the French woman restricted her family and engaged in pleasure. That development in French life is partly attributable to the Napoleonic law of splitting up estates until there was little left to divide. The butchery of men and the ravaging of women in France during the recent war were largely due to the fact that the French women had not produced any sons to defend them. The decrease in the birth rate could be further argued in its relation to the Tariff and our factory laws; but I shall not debate it further on this occasion. I hope the Australian women will be of the same mind as the ‘Spartan mothers, who bore sons, and told them, when war happened, “ Go and fight, and come home with your shield, or upon it.”
– Taunts have been hurled at honorable members on this side because the Government which we supported did not increase the income tax exemption. Little argument is required to prove that what was a fair exemption in 1916 is not fair in 1919. Owing to the increase in the cost of living, an exemption of £250 today would be only the equivalent of £156 in 1916. These changed conditions are noticeable elsewhere than in Australia. Would any French railway worker have dreamed three years ago of demanding a wage of £1 per day? Yet we know that the railway servants in France are asking for that wage, because they say they cannot live on less. Those who taunt us with not having increased the exemption when we were in power know very well that there is more necessity’ for the exemption now than existed at that time.
In regard to the allegation of votecatching, I ask honorable members whether, when they nominate for a seat, they seek to dissuade the people from voting for them? Do they not seek to place their party’s platform in. its best light before the electors whose suffrages they are soliciting? If I am of the same opinions as those I represent, and they desire me to advocate those opinions, I may be “ vote catching,” in one sense of the word, when I do so, but I am not guilty of any crime. It is the duty of every representative to advocate the views of those’ he represents, and not his own views; and when he comes to the conclusion that hecan no longer advocate the views of his constituents he ought to have the honesty toretire. I have,. I think, sketched the position of the honorable member for Grampians (Mr. Jowett). He, a crass Tory, begins to recognise’ that Grampians is not a Tory seat, and,he feels the ground slipping from-under him; he is looking round for means by which he can be returned to represent that constituency again, and is now advocating the opinions of the electors there. I do not blame the honorable member, but I do not think “ it will wash “ - Ido not believe that a Conservative like himself can come round to such a democratic view of things as he is now presenting. At the same time, he recognises that he represents a democratic community, instead of, as he thought, a Conservative community; and he is now trying to meet their wishes. Apparently, the honorable member is wondering whether he is a Nationalist or one of the Farmers’ party: at any rate, I know that the Nationalist party are very much incensed against him for going over to the Farmers party on a mission of vote catching.. It may be that it is “ vote catching,” but if the honorable member is of opinion that the farming community of the Grampians requires representation, and he desires to represent them, he is justified in becoming a
Farmers party man. I see no reason for those charges of “ vote catching “ simply because “some of us desire to have this amendment adopted.
I am rather surprised at some of the admissions that have been made by honorable members opposite. For instance, the honorable member for Kooyong (Sir Robert Best) said that a man with £300 a year was hard put to it to rear his family properly; and, of course, I agree with him. A man with £300 a year, and a family of five or six, must find it extremely difficult to do justice, mentally and physically, to his children; and it is because of this difficulty that we have race suicide. I wish to heaven that some honorable members would visit my constituency, where the bulk of the people do not earn- £125 a year, and, as a rule, have large families. No assistance for these people is to be got from honorable members opposite, who always assist the profiteers. I shall vote for the amendment because I desire to improve the conditions of life of all such men, women, and children as I have the honour to represent.
– Such people do not come under this Bill at all.
– I know; I am merely expressing my surprise and pleasure at hearing honorable members opposite admit that £300 a year is not too much on which to rear a family; and I desire their assistance in improving the conditions of others who do. not earn so much. The peculiarity is that the poorer the people the larger the families. In Melbourne Ports the community is largely composed of small wage-earners, and yet there we find the largest birth-rate in Australia. I am in hopes that this or some other Government will make provision, as in New South Wales, for assisting mothers with large families.
Times are changed when we have a man like the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Falkiner) expressing such views as we have heard from him on the present occasion; and I hope that the amendment will be carried for the assistance and encouragement of people with large families. It is admitted that £300 a year is the margin on which a man with a wife and family can live,- and some other direction ought to be sought in which to gather revenue. The honorable member for Hume put a case which has been put hundreds of times. ‘ He spoke of a man with £300,000, whose only return was 5 per cent., and of another man, who, on an investment of £30,000, earned £15,000, or 50 per cent. The community ought not to allow any man to make 50 per cent profit, but should see that, after his own managerial salary, depreciation, and other expenses are met, his maximum return is not more than, say, 10 per cent. It is in this way that profiteering should be attacked, because once these large profits are made impossible, there will, of course, be no desire to seek them. If, however, we take only 25 per cent, of the 50 per cent, profit, it will prove an incentive to making 60 per cent, the next year. The amendment ought to be carried in view of the high prices of all the necessaries of life.
.- I feel constrained to break the silence which I usually preserve, and which has been ‘so adversely commented on by the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Higgs). I do so because I feel that such an amendment as has. been proposed by the honorable member for Grampians (Mr. Jowett) is very apf to put those who oppose it in a false light in the opinion of the unthinking. Every ohe will admit the general principle on which taxation ought to be imposed - that is, the heaviest burdens ought to be imposed on the broadest shoulders. That is a principle which received universal acceptance ; and it is a pity, when a subject like this comes. up for discussion, that there is constant recrimination between the two sides, and the imputation of motives most unworthy, by one side against the other. I, for one, regret that in the discussion of this amendment the fact of the approaching election has been introduced. What on earth has the fact that we are about to have a general election to do with the merits of a case of this kind? An amendment has been proposed that certain burdens at present borne by a section of the community should be lightened or removed. That proposal is either a fair one or it is not, and the approaching election does not affect its fairness one way or the other. I hope the day will not come, if I continue to be a member of this House, when the fact that an election is approaching will affect the view I take of any . question that is under consideration. It is always easiest to take the line of least resistance. If every member of this House were to follow his inclination he would vote for the amendment without a moment’s hesitation, for we would all like to lighten the burdens of those already heavy laden. But the simple question, so far as I am concerned, is whether the proposal is fair and reasonable in the circumstances and in view of the staggering burden that we, as a Commonwealth, have to bear at the present time.
I suppose I represent as democratic a constituency as does any man in the House. Some people believe it is a Labour constituency, and ought to belong to the Labour party! Perhaps it ought; but I was invited to contest the constituency, and accepted the invitation. The majority of the electors indorsed my candidature, and I have endeavoured, to the best of my ability, to give effect to the views I enunciated on the platform. On the question of taxation, before my constituents I expressed the view that at a time like this, when the burden to be borne by the Commonwealth is so grievous, it was the duty of every man to accept his share of the responsibility, no matter how small that share might be. When I was asked my view of the income “tax exemp-tion, I said I would be no party ‘to wiping it out, but I would make the lowest rate very small, and in that way every man in the community would feel that he had some part in the liability, and was doing his share in ‘carrying the burden.
Last year, when out recruiting, my mission was to enlist the sympathy of the whole of the community, and get every man, woman, and child to admit the liability to serve the country in the circumstances. Some felt their responsibility, and were in a position to answer the call by risking their lives in the trenches; others were not in a position to do that. But the appeal was generally responded to, and the community felt that every individual should do his bit.
I told my constituents, in view of our. present position, that I could not see my way to relieving some of them from taking their share of the burden, and I take up the same position now. I do not think so meanly of the section of the community involved in the amendment as to believe that there are any considerable numbers who seek relief in this way. I do not believe that any man with £300 a year, and with several children, would ask this House to relieve him altogether of any contribution, ‘ however small, to wards meeting the liabilities of this country. Just as we found men ready to risk their lives in the trenches, so I believe that every section of the community to-day is willing to do its “ bit.” We have proved our mettle on the field of battle, and now we are called on as a community to prove our mettle in /the more prosaic sphere in which we move to-day. We are saddled with a most staggering burden, and the principle that should 1 be recognised by us and by the community is that it ought to be equitably distributed.
– That is all we are asking for.
– Then we are all agreed on that point. Let the burden be equitably distributed, but do not say, “ We are going to exempt one section of the community from all liability.” The tax is graduated. The Government have recognised the principle of the equitable distribution of the - burden, and have thought out their scheme of taxationThey have come down to the House with it, and I am asked now by the mover of the amendment to deprive them of from £500,000 to £750,000’ in revenue.
– Men on less than £300 a year are paying their share already on the high prices prevailing.
– We ought to do everything in our power to reduce the cost of living and to raise wages.
– You know the Government have the power, and are not doing it.
– I do not know anything of the kind. >
– Is not the War Precautions Act still in existence?
– That does not. affect my argument. I am not going to discuss the question of whether the Government have done everything in their power to reduce the cost of living. All I say is that we ought to do everything in our power to reduce it, and to raise wages. At the same time, when we find our country saddled with a huge burden of debt, we ought to recognise that it is the duty of every man and woman in the community to shoulder his or .her share. I was profoundly disappointed by the attitude of the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. Charlton), who generally takes such a fair and chivalrous view of any question that comes up for discussion. I understood him to say that he was prepared to exempt entirely from this burden of liability a man without wife or child, earning not more than £250 a year. Imagine such a proposition in the predicament in which the country finds itself to-day ! In order to get through our difficulties, the utmost exertion on the part of every individual member of the community will be required. Yet the honorable member would not ask bachelors, earning £5 a week, to contribute a single penny towards the enormous burden under which we are staggering.
– You permit the rich people to pass all the taxation on tothose earning lower wages, because you support a Government that does so. You -cannot’ get- awayfrom your responsibilities in that way, as you will find on the hustings.
– That also is a remark unworthy of my honorable friend. I am taking what I believe is a reasonable view. I shall have to discuss, the matter on the hustings. Does the honorable member suggest . that, . because I think it will be an. unpopular view to put, I should change my opinion ?
– I should hope not. If the honorable, member does, I have no intention of doing so.
– All I charge you with is doing nothing to bring down . the cost of living, and supporting a Government which has. the power and will not use it.
– I have accorded the Government, as I undertook to do when elected, a discriminating support. I have seen reason to disagree with some of their actions, and to vote against them when my reason and conscience dictated that course. We have to meet our obligations, and the Government have brought down this scheme to provide the necessary funds. The amendment would deprive the Government of from £500,000 to £750,000 of the amount they require, and those who advocate it have not suggested how the shortage is to be made up. When the honorable member for Brisbane (Mr. Finlayson) was asked what he would, do, he said, “ The physician does not prescribe until he is called in.” That was as much as to say: “ I know all about it, and can put the whole thing right, but I intend to keep the secret to myself until I am over on the other . side.” That is not a fair position to take up.
– It is not a fair interpretation of my argument.
– The honorable member was called in, and asked for his suggestion. He replied, in effect, “ I shall keep it in my pocket until 1 am in a position to give effect to it myself. I shall not give you the advantage of my information or knowledge.”
– TheGovernment does not approach us in that way.
– We are here to exercise our combined wisdom in the solution of our difficulties, and if the Government make a proposal which does not appear to honorable members to be all that it should be. the members of the Opposition should take a higher view of their functions than simply to criticise without offering any solution of the problem.
– We have moved amendment after amendment; and the fact that we move one is a sure way to get it thrown out.
– I have supported amendments from that side when they appealed to me.
– If you voted with us, I guarantee that you were in the minority.
– Much as I should like, if I could reasonably see. my way to do so, to vote for the amendment, which would have the effect of. lightening the burden on some people, I feel it my duty to vote against it, inasmuch as it does not commend itself to me, in the circumstances, as being reasonable.
.- I fail to see how. a division on this proposal at this or any other time would put honorable members on the Government side in a false position. It is either right or wrong.
– To vote against it would make it. appear as if we were opposed to the principle of lightening the burden of those who are heavily laden.
– The honorable member taunted those on this side with not suggesting a means of raising the shortage. He knows that nobody can propose any increase in taxation in this Parliament except the Minister in charge of the Bill imposing such taxation.
– You know that, under the existing law, no married man with two children pays income tax unless he has an income of over £208, and then he pays only 6d. in the £1.
– I am concerned more with the ease of the man who has six. or seven children. I regret that honorable members have ‘ such short memories. The honorable member who made the charge of window-dressing ought to recall the fact that an effort was made in this Chamber, in May, 1918, to increase this allowance. I want to show what the Government have done with regard to income taxation, and to comment on the suggestion of certain honorable members opposite that in given circumstances they would be in favour of lightening the burden. While a clear exemption of £156 appears on the statute-book, an amending Bill brought down by the Government was passed, providing that, in every case where the income was over £156, the exemption should be reduced by £1 for every £3 by which the income was in excess of £156. That applies to all married men, so that the sympathy of Government supporters in that direction is worth nothing.
– A man. has to get nearly £800 a year before the exemption disappears altogether.
– But it begins to disappear directly his income goes above £156, and, after all, what relief does it give to a man with eight children ? Taking taxation generally in thi3 community, including income taxation, who is it that pays, in proportion to his income,, the biggest share? The man with a family pays every day of his life on the clothes and boots the children wear, and on the food they eat.’ He pays oh everything that comes through’ the Customs.
– A man with six children would be entitled to earn £364 a year before he was called on to pay a fraction of the tax.
– Even so, would the Acting Treasurer say that a man with six children does not need all of £364 a year in order to keep them?
– He gets £364 without any taxation at all.
-Only if the whole of his children are under sixteen years. If one or two, or even three, of his boys are ata trade at 5s. a week, having passed the age of sixteen, he gets no exemption for them, although he has to keep them’’ until they have learned their trade. There is plenty of room yet in the field of: taxation where this shortage can be made up without efforts being directed, as they have been by the Government during the last year or two, to make the lower-paid . people of the community find more than their proportionate share. Take the amusements tax, for instance. I believe the Government propose to make a slight amendment by removing the tax on the 3d. ticket if the child goes by himself, but if the parent takes him, the tax has still to be paid. The Government propose a½d. tax upon the 6d. ticket. The1d. tax on the 3d. ticket amounts to 33 per cent., but the man who can. pay 6s. for his seat at a theatre has to contribute only about 8 per cent. So it is throughout the whole of the Government scheme of taxation. It has been so arranged that, in proportion to- their incomes, the lower-paid people shall contribute the greater amount, and efforts are being made still further to extend the scheme in that direction. Whether the taxation is direct or indirect, it is passed on in one way or another to those who have to toil and moil to keep the country going.’ There is nothing , to prevent taxation being passed on in that way. It is all very fine for honorable members to quibble about whether this or some other exemption, should be granted. Heads of families who, having regard to the high cost of living, find it difficult to maintain them, are entitled to relief. They are bearing the heat and burden of the day. In the main - I. do not say in all cases - our soldiers came from the working classes. They went overseas to fight for this country, and their parents who remained at home were robbed by the profiteers. I hope that this small modicum of relief will be granted.
.- Again and again . during the course of this debate the amendment has been described as a piece of political window dressing for electioneering purposes. If weare to discuss it from that point of view, then the same statement might very well be made of nearly every measure on the statute-book. It might well be aoplied to the Budget statement submitted yesterday, and to the attempt on the part of the Government to exploit the soldiers.
– But that, of course, is only a question of tactics !
– When we were dealing with the Constitution Alteration (Legislative Powers) Bill a member of the Ministry in thisHouse said that the
Government had ‘ not considered the justice of bringing State railway servants within the jurisdiction of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Court; it was simply a question of tactics. A similar statement was made by a Minister in another place, so that, according to this confession, the Government, in submitting their proposal for an alteration of the Constitution, are merely indulging in the game of political window dressing.
Some eight years ago I said in this House that those who possessed one-fifth of the wealth of the . community paid four-fifths of the taxation of Australia, and that ‘those who owned four-fifths of the wealth of the country paid only one-fifth of its taxation. I was so astounded when I heard’ those figures mentioned for the first time by an’ exmember of this House that I sought for confirmation of, them. I accordingly interviewed an officer in the Victorian Government Statist’s Office, who for years had been working out such problems, and submitted the matter to him. He went into it, and three weeks later supplied me with his conclusions, which emphatically corroborated the statement. If that was so eight years ago the position must be still more acute to-day. I challenge the Acting Treasurer (Mr. Poynton) to dispute the figures. Is it any wonder that throughout Australia there is a general protest against practically every method of taxation resorted to, since they involve the imposition of further burdens upon those least able to bear them?
– The logical conclusion to be drawn from the honorable member’s argument is that we should abolish all taxation.
– No. I contend that the whole system of taxation calls for serious examination and analysis, in order that we may arrive at an equitable basis. Does not the Acting Treasurer (Mr. Poynton) admit that the bulk of our taxation is passed on?
– I do not know about that.
– The present Treasurer (Mr. Watt), speaking as a member of the Opposition when the Fisher Government brought in the first Income Tax Bill, said, in effect, “ I know that the people will pay this tax. In connexion with every form of taxation a process of filtration goes .on, until, the tax ultimately reaches bed-rock, or, in other words, is borne by the working people.” Mr. McPherson, the Victorian State Treasurer, made practically the same statement before leaving for Great Britain a few months ago.
– The Minister for the Navy (Sir Joseph Cook) has made the same admission.
– Yes ; and it was also made by the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Richard Foster) when I was . speaking in this House a few weeks ago. I am, therefore, surprised at the evasive reply just made by the Acting Treasurer to my inquiry. If he studies the question, I am satisfied that he will come to the same conclusion as the Treasurer has done.
– If we carried this amendment and, to make good the loss of revenue so sustained, increased the rate of taxation on the higher grades of income, would not that increase be passed on again?
– I believe it would. This may be a partially futile attempt to relieve the already overburdened heads of families, but it is, at least, a recognition of the fact that our taxation is on a wrong basis, and presses most heavily on taxpayers -with large f amilies.
– A boot manufacturer giving evidence before the Royal Commission a few days ago said that he allowed for income ‘ tax in his cost of production plus 10 per cent.
– That is so. According to returns prepared by the Commonwealth Statistician, Mr. Knibbs, a wage of £4 16s. per week in 1919 is worth to the family man only as much as £3 per week was worth to him in 1912. The purchasing power of the sovereign has been reduced to that extent. Mr. Knibbs shows further that a man who was living on £4 per week in 1912 should be receiving to-day £6 8s. per week in order to make good the increases in rentals and the cost of clothing and groceries.
– Such a .man would not pay any tax under our present system.
– Having r regard tto the fact that a general exemption of only £156 is allowed, the honorable gentleman is in error. A man in receipt of £3 per week would earn, provided he was in regular employment - and, unhappily, too many are not - £156 per annum. If he received £4 16s. per week, his income would amount to £249 12s. per annum, but his position with that larger income to-day would be worse than it was in 1912, when he was earning only £156 per annum. Is.it not time that we revised our antiquated methods of taxation?
I shall always protest against the taxation of married men in this way. A country’s best assets are its children. When we have found employment for our own people it is well to think of immigration - to bring to Australia people of our own kith and kin - but we could have no better asset than Australian-born babies. There is, unfortunately, a decline in our birth rate. We have come into a heritage the like of which has not fallen to the lot of any other people. Australia is the brightest and best piece of God’s earth, and if we are not the best people in the world we ought to be. Unfortunately, however, in the matter of our birth rate we are nineteenth on the list. Russia is at the head with an average birth rate of 44 per 1,000, and Japan has a birth rate of 33 per 1,000, but, unhappily, Australia’s birth rate is only 26.5 per 1,000. I agree with the honorable member for Grampians (Mr. Jowett) that anything calculated to encourage large families in Australia is well worth doing. It has come within my own observation that many comparatively young couples capable of increasing the population of this country think that it would not be just or humane to bring more children into the world when they have not sufficient means to properly maintain them. There are in Australia many people who are honestly anxious to discharge the highest function of life, but feel that their income is insufficient tollable them to provide for a family. There are’ others who are committing race suicide, and these, if possible, should be penalized.
I shall vote for this amendment, which means that every householder coming within the taxation area will be allowed an exemption of £50 in” respect of every child under eighteen years of age. I shall vote for this or any other proposal calculated to relieve the people of some of the burdens under which they labour at the present time.
Question - That proposed new clause (Mr. Jowett’s amendment) be added - put. The Committee divided.
Majority . . . . 8
Question so resolved in the negative.
Proposed new clause negatived.
.- I move -
That the following new clause be added: - “a. Notwithstanding anything in any Act te the contrary, returned soldiers, sailors, nurses, doctors, war workers, and others who were accepted for war service abroad shall be exempt from taxation on incomes derived from personal exertion.”
I trust that this proposal will not be considered on party lines, and that it will not be said that it is brought . forward for political . purposes on the eve of an election. When the war commenced, I pointed out the great debt we would have to carry in consequence of the war, and said that the finances of the country would need re-adjustment. I said that men who had gone abroad to defend the liberties of those who remained behind should not be asked to pay for the debt incurred in meeting the cost of the war.
– Does the honorable member propose to include also in this exemption the dependants of those who have died, and fathers whose sons have been killed ?
– The Acting Treasurer ridicules my suggestion, but let me put the position before him. The income tax was imposed for the purpose of providing interest and sinking fund on our war debt, which was incurred by paying for the services of the gallant men who went abroad for the purpose of defending this country. I am asking that those men, on their return, should not be called on to pay back the very money which we borrowed for the purpose of paying them for their services. Otherwise, for the remainder of their lives a portion of their earnings will have to be devoted to that purpose. There was a lot of talk during the war about what we were going to do for our men. We said that justice would be done to them, and that those who remained at home, and whose property they had protected, would be called upon to pay the cost of the war. It is the least that we could expect. Is it fair to say that, because we have borrowed so many millions of money, we should evade our responsibilities ?
-The honorable member dodged his responsibility in regard to the last question before the Chair.
– I have never dodged my responsibility.
– The honorable member dodged it when help was needed to save our soldiers’ lives.
– No man in this House followed a more straight-forward course during. the war than I did. If the honorable member doubts that statement, let him come to my constituency at the forthcoming election, and he will soon realize where he stands. His trouble is that he intends to vote against my proposal, and is seeking to make it. a party question. Four years ago I gave a pledge which I shall keep to my dying day. When addressing, public, meetings asking men to volunteer for service abroad in the great, war, in which I believed we were justified in participating, I said that, as far as I was concerned, I would see that those who remained at home, and had the wealth of the country behindthem would be called upon to pay the cost of the services of those who went abroad.
– It was a cheap pledge.
– It is a pledge I trust I shall keep.’ I shall stand by the boys as I stood by them right through the war.
– The honorable member did not stand by the boys.
– The honorable member is referring to - the- conscription’ referendums. . Australia did more in connexion with the war than was done by countries with bigger populations where conscription was enforced. Our soldiers did not want conscription. If the election is held on the 13th December the great majority of the returned men will be found supporting Labour members who were opposed to conscription.
I commenced by saying that I hoped my proposal would not be considered in a party spirit, but immediately I endeavour to do something beneficial to the great body of men who did such great service for us, I am met with a chorus of opposition and the accusation that I am actuated by some ulterior motive. My reply is that right through the war. I have steered the course I thought was right, and, short of advocating conscription, have rendered every assistance to the men who went abroad. Having made the promise that, so far as I was concerned, they should not be asked to pay the cost of the war, surely I would be recreant to my duty if I permitted an opportunity to pass without taking steps to protect them from taxation whose special, purpose is to repay money borrowed for carrying on the war. I am carrying out a sacred promise. It is not something which sprung upon me yesterday. Honorable members know that I have put forward this suggestion on several occasions,’ even before mention was’ made of holding an election. One of the first questions I asked when the House reassembled this year was whether the Government were prepared to amend the Act for the purpose of exempting those brave men who had served abroad from the payment of income tax upon personal exertion. I have held a straightforward view right through the war. If honorable members had adopted my suggestion to take from everybody all salaries and incomes beyond a certain amount for the purpose of paying. for the war instead of borrowing money we should not have been in our present plight. No. one can say that I have not been consistent. .. No. one can accuse me of making party capital out of it. Time after time I have pointed out that we would have a big- debt to carry, and. that I would put forward every effort to safe- guard the interests of the men who. went away to fight for us. It does not appeal to me that a man who went abroad and took all the risks should be called upon to . pay income tax on his return to. meet the money which was borrowed for the purpose of remunerating him for his services.
– In his proposed exemption the honorable member is includr ing doctors and men who took charge of the transports?
– Yes, I am including all war workers. If the honorable member is prepared to accept the proposal in a reduced form, perhaps I can meet him.
– The honorable member proposes to exempt squatters.
– They do not derive their income from personal exertion.
– Yes ; they would be included in the exemption.
– Interjections from honorable members apposite show that my amendment is not acceptable to them. When the war was in progress no one talked about what they would do for the soldiers on their return more than did those honorable members, yet when I attempt to do something which will be just to those men honorable members would willingly strangle me politically. What have I said to irritate them? I have endeavoured to make it clear that it is not a party question. I have held these views right through’ the war, and on previous occasions when I mentioned them no one raised any objection. In fact, quite recently, the Government said that they were considering whether they could give effect to my proposal; yet now when I attempt to put it into operation I am twitted on all sides with being actuated by political motives. If there were no election in sight we should not hear such talk.
– We would not have heard of this amendment.
– The amendment would have been moved in any case. I have advocated this policy throughout the war.
– Men with’ incomes of thousands of pounds . per annum would be covered by the amendment. . It is absurd.
– The Acting Treasurer may regard the proposal as absurd, but as a representative of the people I intend to use whatever talents I possess for the benefit of those who are entitled to our consideration. Men who have given war service to the country should not be asked to pay the additional tax. During the period of war they have not been paying income taxation, so that it cannot be urged that the amendment would mean a reduction of revenue; it will not have that effect. After the lapse of twelve months, if the law remains in its present form, the soldiers will be required to pay this tax. I wish to relieve them of that burden. The man who has rendered service abroad should not be called upon to repay the money that has been expended on account of the war. I am sorry that so much heat should have been engendered by this proposal. This is a very proper proposal for honorable members to consider, and it should’ be regarded as devoid of party significance. If the’ Government desire to oppose the amendment they are perfectly entitled to do so, but no honorable memberwho reg.ards it ns his duty to submit a proposal of this kind should be subjected to such taunts as have been hurled at me this afternoon.
– It is with pleasure that I give practical expression to the views I enunciated yesterday by supporting the amendment. Throughout . the war I have tried to be a friend of the soldier, believing that if he was willing to give his all, and risk even life, itself, there was demanded . of us something in the nature of a corresponding sacrifice and risk. Nothing we can do for the returned soldiers will be too much; nothing we -can do for the dependants of those who lost their lives during the struggle will be too great. The Acting Treasurer (Mr. Poynton) asked the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. Charlton) by interjection, whether he is willing to makethe amendment apply also to dependants of deceased soldiers. I say frankly that if the Government are willing to make this exemption apply to dependants they will receive my most cordial support-. There is nothing that the Government may be willing to do for returned soldiers or the dependants of deceased soldiers that will not have my hearty approval. The Acting Treasurer sought to show the absurdity of the amendment by stating that a number of returned soldiers have incomes from personal exertion amounting to several thousand pounds per annum each. That may be true in respect of a few isolated cases, but the objection is not applicable to any reasonably high proportion of the 400,000 soldiers, nurses, and war workers whom Australia sent to the Front. I am sure that the proportion of those whose yearly income from personal exertion is over £500 is very small indeed, and the present income taxation does not apply to more than a small percentage of the soldiers. Indeed, I believe it will be found that a great number of the returned soldiers do not come within the taxable area at ‘the present time. The amendment is merely a guarantee of our appreciation of the services of our soldiers to the extent of providing that, in addition to the risks they have already taken, they shall not be called upon to pay for the expenses in connexion with the war. That, indeed, would be placing upon them a double burden, and loading up the willing men to an extraordinary extent. If we agree with the statement of the Acting Treasurer in his Budget speech regarding the virility of the Australian people, and the potentialities of this country, we should be more willing than any other people in the world to show in a practical manner our appreciation of what the soldiers have done. Our admiration of the achievements of our men in the fighting zone is common knowledge. It is mere redundance to repeat the eulogies and compliments which have been passed upon them. It is trying to paint the lily to talk of the valour of our soldiers as the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) and his supporters do. That valour is a fact that’ is accepted and acknowledged world wide, and, no matter what happens in the’ future, it can never be gainsaid. Let us, then, show our appreciation in a practical form.
I do not think anybody; is satisfied that the Repatriation Department has yet begun to accomplish the things we hoped of it. The Minister for Repatriation (Senator Millen) has applied to the work of his Department an enthusiasm and energy which are entirely to his . credit; but nobody can argue that the Department has been a success in repatriating our soldiers. However enthusiastic the Minister may have been, the machinery has not proved efficient for its purpose, otherwise there would not appear in the daily newspapers each day those grievous lists of returned soldiers who are advertising in vain for employment. The Government take- credit to themselves for saving Commonwealth expenditure by restricting public works. For some years they have held up the public works pf the country, and yesterday’s - Budget indicates a continuance of that form of economy. This is all the more objectionable in view of the fact that the expenditure for the next year is estimated to be £4,434j327 higher than that of last year. There is to be this additional expenditure, but public works have to be starved, and economy is to be practised in those directions in which employment might be found for returned soldiers and for other workless sections of the community. When we ask that some relief be given to our soldiers, not as a concession, but as a right earned by their services, the Government object. If it be argued of this proposal, as was argued of the previous amendment, that it is brought forward for electioneering purposes, I am willing to accept that allegation, and during the coming election campaign I shall express frankly and freely my opinion that the Government have not yet begun to do their duty to the returned soldiers.
– And the people will understand the honorable member perfectly well.
– Talk in that strain comes with ill-grace from honorable members on the Government side, in view of the fact that the Budget includes two proposals that are obviously nothing else but electioneering proposals. I refer to the reduction of the entertainments tax and the increase in the old-age pensions. If the Government were honest in regard to the old-age pensions, for instance, they would have increased them to £1 per week. v
– Why not say £2 per week?
– I ask honorable members to confine themselves to the amendment.
– If there is any electioneering in the financial proposals, the Government has set the example. I give the Government every credit for such modicum of relief as they have extended in connexion with the entertainments tax and the old-age pensions; but here is a proposal for which the country has asked, and is expecting, and something which the soldiers have a right to demand.
It took the Government a long while to make up their minds to extend to the soldiers on active service, or returned men, the ordinary citizenship right of voting. On the three Electoral Bills I proposed amendments in this direction, but it was not until last year that the Government accepted the principle, and agreed that each soldier, or nurse, or any others who had been on active service, should be recognised as entitled to citizen rights.
– Was that an electioneering dodge?
– It could not be an electioneering dodge on my part, because I proposed the amendment in the very earliest stages of the war, when the firstbill was introduced to enable soldiers to vote. Under that Bill only soldiers of twenty-one years of age were allowed to vote, and my proposal that every soldier should vote,irrespective of age, simply because he was a soldier, was refused by the Government.
– It is not fair for the honorable member to get in ah electioneering speech now!
– I consistently advocated that proposal right through, but it was only last year, as I say, that the Government accepted it.
The Government are very tardy in recognising their duties and responsibilities towards the returned soldiers, and the amendment of the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. Charl ton) is by no means extravagant. If it does not go far enough, I am prepared to support any honorable member who proposes to extend its operation. I look on the amendment as a reasonable instalment, but nothing more. As to soldiers’ dependants, we are in duty and honour bound to provide the widow of every deceased soldier with a home rent free for her life-time. There is nothing we can do for the dependants that will adequately remunerate them, or make up to them the loss of their breadwinner, governor, and guide.
I have always at the back of my mind the argument that if we oan afford to build up a debt of £300,000,000 odd for carrying on the war, the people of this country, who reaped the rewards and f ruits of victory, and enjoy the protection guaranteed by that victory - who will realize in years to come, more and more, the blessings of victory - should be ready to accept their responsibility for marking the appreciation of the work of our soldiers. For myself, if it is necessary in order to relieve the returned soldiers from their share of income taxation, whatever it may be, and exempt them for life, I am prepared to have my . proportion of the tax increased to make up the deficiency. I do not think the community as a whole would refuse a little addition to their income tax payments in order to allow the returned soldier to go free.
What would this exemption mean after all? I question whether it would mean more than an extra. 10s. or £1 - certainly not more than £1 - which the income tax paying section of. the community would be called upon to contribute.
– The soldiers are paying nothing now.
– If they are paying nothing now, the amendment would only mean a continuation of the privilege they at present enjoy. The amendment is a very reasonable, timid, and almost feeble suggestion when we think of the services, these soldiers have rendered. If we begin to try and balance, on the one hand, the value of the services of those men, and, on the other, what those. services are worth to us, this amendment is nothing more, as I say, than a very small instalment of what we owe them.
.- I shall support the amendment. These soldiers left their work in this country, and served at the Front for some years for 6s. per day. They have made great sacrifices, and now that they have returned they find themselves out of employment. At present they are not taxed, and if they are brought within the operation of the Bill we are creating a new class of taxpayer. The exemption will be only a fair and just return for the services these men have rendered. What should we gain by taxing them ? The tax is only on incomes from personal exertion, and the amendment would merely carry out the expressed intention of the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) to do everything possible for the returned men. The proposal provides a very simple way of doing something for them. The public debt was incurred to carry on the war, and while we at home have been paying taxation, these men have risked their lives and health. Yet when an amendment of this kind is proposed, those who support it were told they are pandering to the returned men for their votes. The Prime Minister, in his triumphal march, much in the way of a circus, putting on a “digger’s” hat here and a sailor’s hat there, was pandering for their votes.
– Last night, at Newcastle, without a “ circus,” the returned soldiers said they were going to stick to the Prime Minister.
– If the honorable member knew the constituency of Newcastle he would realize that a Nationalist has not the slightest “ show “ there. And what class of soldier is it that supports the Prime Minister? The officer class.
– That is absolutely incorrect.
– Whenever a soldier is selected as a Nationalist candidate he is an officer. That cannot be denied.
– I do deny it.
– I ask honorable members to cease these continuous interjections.
– I ask honorable members to give one -instance in which an officer has not been selected.
– Senator Foll.
– That is not a case in point. Irrespective of parties altogether, Parliament ought to take the view that our returned men deserve some recognition. But” what has the Government done for them since their return? The Government have propounded a scheme of repatriation, arranged for war-service homes, and so forth; and it may be the best is being done in the circumstances; but up to the present very few men are living in such homes, or have been assisted by the Government to obtain them.
– We have spent £2,000,000 already.
– I have no doubt a lot of money has been spent, but the soldiers are notgetting the advantage of it.
– We are doing more in Australia for our returned men than has been done in any other country in the world.
– That may be. I believe we are doing fairly well, but we can do better. The Prime Minister has said that he could forgive the “ digger “ anything but murder and bigamy; and I hope the honorable gentleman will be here when the vote is taken, so that he may be put to the test.
– Is that why this amendment is moved?
– The honorable member seems to be very suspicious, but our only object is right and justice for the men who have secured justice for us. Nothing can be too good for those who fought for the Empire at the Front; and if it were necessary to reduce the interest on war loans in order to meet our obligations, I would be prepared to support the idea. The Acting Treasurer (Mr. Poynton) takes a very gloomy view of the finances, but he regards them from a revenue stand-point and, of course, I cannot blame him for that. I think, however, that if the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Watt) had been in his place, he would not have opposed this amendment. Surely we have not reached the limit ‘ of our taxation resources ? There are many sources- of revenue open to the Treasurer.
– We have not reached the limit of our financial responsibilities.
– I know that finance is a difficult problem all over the world, and I am somewhat afraid of a collapse. I do not think, however, that we need fear a collapse of the kind in Australia, though we might feel the effects of any financial disturbance elsewhere. With al) our natural resources, and our export trade in raw products, I think that Australia can easily alford to look after the men who have made the country secure for us. It is easy to say that we must face a crushing burden pf taxation, but we must not forget that had it not been for our soldiers we should not have been safe at the present moment.
– You admit that now.
– I never denied it.
– You did not take that view when the men were in Europe.
– Nonsense! I had sons at the Front, and did not content myself with merely waving flags. We could not hope to defend this country without the men who went to the Front. The wealth producers and wealth maker? here owe- all they have to the success of our soldiers and our, Allies. We have won. the’ war; and the . country is free toproduce more wealth . and employ more, labour. It is, therefore,up to the Parliament to. see . that the men who have done. so much . for us are treated fairly. We ought to look at this matter from a humane stand-point. I know men who have come back from the Front and are. not able to get employment. They have sacrificed much, and if the Acting. Treasurer, would put. his considering cap on. I think he could find some means of doing what we want.
– We are paying all those men sustenance.
– I. think that that payment is a waste.- of money. It would, be. a more masterly . policy if. the Government would go in for a programme- of public works and. give ‘the men employment/ instead of paying them sp much a week to keep them alive. We want a policy to develop the country and. employ the men in- it. They ask for work, not charity;, but the Government are providing no’ work for them, because- the Government have no . policy. If. the amendment is too sweeping, the Acting Treasurer might suggest to the mover that it should apply only to the rank and file.
– You leave out probably the. principal sufferers - the parentsof deceased soldiers..
-I am glad the honorable member mentioned that matter.. I. expect him, when he-has the opportunity, to move an amendment, to include all those people, and’ I shall vote with hiin. I am sure it only needs to be put before the Acting Treasurer for him to adopt it, as we are all agreeableto it. I support the amendment of the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. Charlton), whose sincerity in- this- matter- no one can question, because two years or more ago I heard him advocate the same thing. He was prepared then to give up £200 a year from his salary towards . paying the expenses of’ the war, if other members of the community would do the same thing. He was ready to do the right thing by the men at the Front,, but he could, not get support for hia proposal. If we are not prepared to make sacrifices for the men who went to the war; we cannot, in. the future, expect our men to make sacrifices to defend the country.
. -One is very loath,, on a proposition of. this kind, to- interfere with the Acting Treasurer’s estimates of -income in any way. At the same time, I know - and other returnedi men in the House have probably had the same experience - that most of thereturned soldiers feel a great deal of bitterness of spirit, because after going overseas and taking the risks, they come back to find themselves called on to bear the added burden caused by the war. That, to them, is a real grievance, and their feeling is markedly bitter. It is because I know this that I propose to ask the Acting Treasurer (Mr. Poynton) to reconsider’ the whole- matter, in order- to see whether, if he cannot agree to the whole of the new clause, he can at least go half way; by exempting from taxation the returned soldier who is. not receiving more “than £500 a year from personal exertion. I do not want returned doctors, professional men, and others, who are able to earn considerably- larger incomes, to have the benefit, of any differentiation ; but,, in order to meet the growing demands of the returned soldiers who are in, less fortunate walks in life, we should give them a continuance of the.- concession which ; was extended to them during the war period. I find, at page 7 of the Budget-papers, that the income, tax in the year 1918-19 produced £10,376,000. Most of the men being, out of the country, I take it,, did not pay any income tax in that year. For thi3 financial’ year it is estimated’ that the ‘ tax will produce £10,500,000, although practically all the men have returned-,, or an increase- of only £124,000. If those figures- are- anywhere near the mark, there cannot be such, a great amount involved by this amendment, particularly when one bears’ in mind the buoyancy of the country, referred- to by the Acting Treasurer in his Budget speech yesterday. The honorable member for Hunter (Mr. Charlton)’ might -be- prepared to accept the half-way suggestion that I have made.
– Would the honorable member be prepared to relieve the soldiers, and keep the tax on the picture tickets ?
– I was never in favour, of the tax on the threepenny tickets, but, in any case, I do riot think that is the only alternative. Evidently,. as shown by the Budget-papers, the Acting Treasurer doesnot expect a very big increase in the income tax receipts as the result of the return of, the whole of our men. If he agrees to exempt the personal exertion incomes of returned soldiers up to £500 per year, he will- still secure a certain amount of revenue “from the others who can- afford to pay it. I agree with the honorable member for Dampier (Mr. Gregory) with regard to the widows and orphans.
– They are of more importance.
– I believe they are; but the amount of income which they earn from personal exertion is not likely in the majority of cases to be within the taxable range. If they are drawing a limited income from property, they should be considered also. It is a little difficult for the Acting Treasurer, when new clauses are proposed in this way, to deal with them off-hand or to re-adjust his financial proposals in order to meet demands as they are made.
– Has the Returned Soldiers Association made any request to the Government for a provision of this sort?
-I understand that they have, and that they are at this moment in consultation with the Prime Minister on the matter. Apart from that aspect altogether, as a matter of justice our men, particularly those who were in fighting units, who bore the ibrunt of- the trouble, and took all* the personal risks, ought not to be asked now to contribute towards meeting the added war expendi-. ture. I should like tho.se who can afford to pay to have to pay, and during the dinner adjournment the Acting Treasurer might well consult the honorable member for Hunter, to see whether it is possible to draft a new clause on the lines I have indicated. Thus, by a process of mediation and conciliation, which I have always advocated, they may reach a workable understanding to which we could agree, without doing irreparable injury to the Estimates as prepared, and which the Government could reasonably accept. Above all, it would do justice to the men who have suffered, and remove what they regard as a very real grievance.
.- In the first place, I wish to object to this method of dealing with the taxation of the country. “Whatever our duty is to the returned soldiers, it ought not to be done in this form. I placed before the Committee yesterday the actual financial position, which shows a deficit of over £3,000,000 on the year’s transactions. I have already provided £800,000 for old-age pensions, and would point out that quite a number of war pensioners are also entitled to old-age pensions. The old-age pension is not deducted from the war pension. That applies to many dependants of various kinds. The proposal of the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. Charlton), to be logical, should certainly include the whole of the relatives of those who lost their lives in the war. There were 60,000 deaths. His proposal means the exemption of . a large number of people who are earning, or will earn, big incomes, not for one year, but for all time, including some who were in very rosy billets in connexion with the war. The result will be that the relatives of those who were killed will have to pay a lot more to make up for it. This proposition has not come before me from the returned soldiers, nor am I sure that it has come before the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes). He is dealing with the whole of their suggestions, and at an early date is going to tell them how far he can go to meet them. The honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Burchell) wants me to introduce an altogether new system into our taxation. I am to differentiate between certain people.
– The principle is bad.
– You make exemptions now.
– That is a general exemption.
An honorable member has said that we are doing nothing for our returned soldiers. That is a cruel and lying statement, which ‘ought not to have been made.
– It is mere electioneering hypocrisy.
– That is so.
– I did not make it.
– No; it was made by the honorable member for South Sydnew (Mr. Riley).
– He did not say that.
– He said that we were doing nothing for the soldiers,- whereas the truth is that Australia is doing more for her soldiers than is any other country.
– What about New Zealand?
– -New Zealand has no repatriation scheme. In the matter of pensions, allowances, and general consideration, Australia is doing more for her soldiers than is any other country.
This is a most serious amendment to spring on the Committee. If it were carried I should have immediately to re-‘ port progress. Acting as I am for the Treasurer (Mr. Watt), I dare not allow the finances of the Commonwealth to be hacked about in this way.
– Then for .what does Parliament exist? What is our business?
– The business of the Opposition is, apparently, to try to put the Government into as many holes as possible. They have no responsibility
– I regret that I was not present to hear the remarks of which the Acting Treasurer complains.
– A member of the honorable member’s party has asserted that we are doing nothing for our soldiers. My reply is that, in that regard, we are doing more than is any other country.
– There is no doubt- about it.
– I have said that -the Government have made mountains of promises, and that we have a mere dustheap of fulfilment.
– Under this amendment wealthy squatters who have, been tothe Front would be exempt for all time. In many cases the income of pastoralists is treated as income from personal exertion, and the incomes of doctors and lawyers are also derived from personal exertion. Many lawyers and doctors who have been at the Front are making big incomes as the result of personal exertion, and, under this amendment, they would be exempt. The incomes of some of the well paid men in the Military and Naval Forces would also come within the scope of the amendment, which is really an absurd one. It is difficult to estimate the loss of revenue that it would involve. We would not be justified in’ introducing a new system of this kind, under which tee people would be exempt while others were not. In connexion with the proposals submitted by the Returned Sailors and Soldiers League to the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes), further consideration will, no doubt, be extended to those who fought for us. I am not prepared to accept any amendment of this Bill. The amendment places me in a very unfair position, since. I am merely Acting Treasurer; but if th? Treasurer (Mr. Watt) were here,. I am satisfied that he would not agree to it. I have only to say, in conclusion, that while I have been assisting in administering the Repatriation Department, returned soldiers have received every consideration at my hands.
– I am surprised at the attitude taken up by the Acting Treasurer (Mr. Poynton). From time to time complaints are made that the Government of the day - and I am not alluding to the present Government alone - fail to take the House into their confidence in respect of matters of finance. Surely we have as much right to determine what consideration shall, be given to our returned soldiers in connexion either with income tax or any other form of taxation as the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) has to discuss such matters with them at a private conference, and then to submit a proposition to the House. The Acting Treasurer would have us believe that the Treasurer alone is the custodian of the public purse. I would remind him that this House is the custodian of the public purse of the Commonwealth, and has the right, to determine how revenue shall be raised and distributed.
The honorable member for Hunter (Mr. Charlton) has made a reasonable proposition ; but, while agreeing with the general principle, I dissent from that portion of it under which the exemption would be general. I quite agree with the Acting Treasurer, that among those who have fought for this country are some very wealthy men. I honour such men for their service, and am prepared to help them in -every possible way; but I am convinced that they would be amongst the first to object .to their excision from the taxpaying list.
– There are cases wh’ere the incomes of large land-holders . come under the heading of “ personal’ exertion.”
– Such men, if returned soldiers, would be among the “first to object to being exempt from taxation.
– In any event, it is for the- Government to. submit a better proposition.
– This will conflict with the speech which the, honorable member made in 1915.
– Not at all. The. opinions that I am expressing this evenr ing are practically in agreement with those I uttered in the speech to which the honorable member refers.
Sitting suspended from 6.30 to 7.45 p.m.
– It would hardly be right; to free from taxation a man who is ‘ deriving: a considerable income from property, although he has served his country faithfully and. well;, but at the same time it is- well to protect those who have returned to us and are enjoying very limited, incomes: A mechanic who was earning. 12s. or 14s. per day prior to enlisting may have been, four and a half, years away from Australia fighting his: country’s battles, receiving, half of. what he would have- received had- he remained behind ; yet on his return, probably shattered in ‘health, if not disabled, we propose’ to pounce down on. him, and. call upon him topay the- same tax as that which is paid by other persons in the community. I claim that it is fair to give hiin some sort of exemption. The fact that the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Burchell) is: favorable to the granting- . of a- concession to- those who have done so. nobly indicates that the proposal of thehonorable member for Hunter (Mr. Charlton) is not a party question. No one- can accuse the honorable member for Hunter of window-dressing for electioneering purposes. When he moves an amendment it is a guarantee that’ it is an eminently fair proposal.
– But the amendment will cover other than those whom the honorable member seeks to exempt.
– That is true, and to that extent I am not fully in accord with it. The man who, through his industry prior to the war, was in a good position, or was possessed of. considerable property, would probably be one of the first to object to his exemption from such taxation. But I think honorable members on both sides are quite in agreement that some concession should be made. We are the custodians of the public purse, and it is our duty to make the concession;, hutbefore this Parliament expires I hope that, we shall hear a statement from the. Prime Minister that justice will be done to returned soldiers.
– Perhaps the whole subject could be dealt with comprehensively.
Mr.FENTON. - Honorable membersopposite may have’ some knowledge of what the Prime Minister intends to do, but, being in absolute ignorance of his proposals, I claim that this measure affords us an opportunity of meting put some justice to returned soldiers. I may have held different views two years ago, but the changes brought about by the increased cost of living and profiteering lead one nowadays to regard matters in: a new light. The cost of living has so increased since 1916 that what might be considered an equitable financial arrangement at that time cannot now be so regarded, and it is our duty to- make thisconcession; but I would, like the- Acting Treasurer (Mr. Poynton) to submit a proposal which, while bringing within the scope of the tax those who are in a. position to pay it, would grant- certain exemptions to returned soldiers:
– I regretthat this matter has been brought forward in its present form, because anything which is done in a piecemeal way will undoubtedly prove unsatisfactory. Even if. all that is asked by the honorable member for Hunter (Mr.. Charlton) were conceded, it wouldi be tff’ little advantage to the great majority of our soldiers. It. would be. infinitely Better for. the Leader of. the. Government. (Mr.. Hughes) to make an official statement cf, the Ministry’s intention in regard to any contemplated further, contribution to. soldiers in the form.of. a gratuity.
– How much does the honorable member know?
– I only know what I have seen in the public prints. These discussions are unfortunate, and may. not be the best method, of according ample justice to those splendid men who have come back to us with clean records. Nothing is too good for them. I deplore references, unwittingly, made I think, reflecting on the Government andthe people of Australia. No country has treated its soldiers as handsomely as Australia has- done.
– The soldiers do not say so.
– Some soldiers may not say so, but the overwhelming majority of those who have returned come back proud of their country, and grateful for what it is endeavouring to do for them. I have the utmost sympathy for those who have to handle the great question of repatriation, from the Minister down to the lowest official in the Department. It is a great scheme, which has ‘to be worked out without any precedent for guidance, for we are breaking entirely new ground, and the applications for assistance are so overwhelming that it. is utterly impossible to give satisfaction allround at once. There ought to be a spirit of forbearance, particularly in this Parliament. One -honorable member has interjected that the soldiers do not think that things are being done as they ought to be. When we hear complaints it is out duty to go to the fountain head and learn the truth.
– I hear that there are in the Prime Minister’s Department 20,000 unopened letters from soldiers.
– I do not listento such tales. I always go to the fountain head ‘to learn . what is wanted, and I say that, with very : few exceptions
– There are exceptions ?
– Ofcourse, there are. It would be impossible to run such a big scheme without unwittingly doing some injustice here or there. I have taken an earnest . interest in -this matter, . and I know that ‘the sum total of the effort that has been made is more than praiseworthy. From the commencement our soldiers have been treated better than those -of any other country. They have been paid better. We have involved this country in liabilities for their repatriation on a scale more generous than that of any other belligerent country, with the one qualification that New Zealand and Canada have paid their soldiers a war ‘ gratuity. Those countries, however, paid their soldiers much less per day than did the Commonwealth.
– New . Zealand paid only 4s. per . day.
Mr.RICHARD FOSTER. - If the talk to which we have listenedto-day continues, particularly amongst members of Parliament, we shall be dishonouring our soldiers, because we shall be creating an impression that will be misleading.
– We quite understand these heroics.
– I would not be so contemptible as to try to exploit those magnificent men, and I am ashamed of any honorable member who would, suggest such a thing. We have involved this country in liabilities which are overwhelming.
– We need not have doneso.
– I shall take no further notice of the honorable member’s remarks.
– I know they ‘hurt.
– They hurt me because they hurt the soldiers. Aman who wouldtalk as the honorable member has done is not a friend of those magnificent men. I shudder at the thought that a man in. a public position would conduct himself in such a way, and that that is his contribution -to -the soldiers. I hope that the doing of our duty to those men will not be made a political question, and will not be exploited. God forbid that it sho.uld be ; and I am sure that by 99 per cent, of the people it will not be. ‘But I appeal to the Acting Treasurer to consult the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes).
– The Prime Minister has a number of these matters under his consideration, and he will announce in a few days what the Government are prepared to do.
– I am glad to hear that, and I hope we shall hear such a statement. We have not done with”’ our liabilities ; they are still growing, and this country, in order to discharge its obligations, . needs the cooperation of all. true Australians, and all men who appreciate the great work that the soldiers have done for us. We- ought to do for them all that the resources of this country can reasonably enableusto do.
.- It is strange that when we appeal for anything for the soldiers, we are accused of pandering to them, and of playing a political game. We are not asking for one whit more than what these soldiers areentitled to. “ We are only asking the Government to honour their promises. Nothing is too good for the soldiers. Honorable members have referred to the Repatriation
Department and the war service homes. What have they to say of the soldiers who are paying £700 for a home which before the war they could have got for £450, which would have been advanced in South Australia by the State Bank, at 4½ per cent.? To-day the interest is. 7 per cent. Who is getting the additional £250? I recollect all that has been said by honorable members opposite regarding the sacrifices that should be made. Where are those sacrifices? The Government cannot even raise £25,000,000, at 5¼ per cent., without a threat of compulsion; and yet, according to the Budget statement, and every statistical publication in the Commonwealth, Australia was never better off in monetary wealth or in kind. Nearly every line of the Budget statement reveals the wealth of the Commonwealth.
– Does the honorable member say that we have borrowed only £25,000,000 locally?
– The Government Have turned over the credit of the country to the capitalists to a greater extent than that, and now they will not relieve the soldier from the liability of paying for the expenditure that has beenincurred. Will the Acting Treasurer (Mr. ‘ Poynton) inform the Committee what extra burden will be placed on other taxpayers if the amendment is agreed to?
– There will be no extra burden, because this taxation is not being contributed by the soldiers at the present time.
– Even before we started to plunge into debt the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. Charlton), a. man as little able to bear the strain of financial sacrifice as any man in the House, offered to forgo all his income in excess of £400 in order to help the country to meet its obligations in. connexion with the war.
– Mr. Abbott, of Wingen, in New South Wales, made that proposal earlier.
– Even if the honorable member for Hunter merely repeated a previous suggestion, he, at any rate, cannot be charged with proposing this amendment as a political placard. All the talk towhich we have listened about “ these magnificent men “ will not feed or relieve one of them. They do not desire that sort of talk; all they want is what was promised to them. They do not desire the sustenance money that is being paid out by the Repatriation Department, and which represents all outgoing and no income. Yet the Prime Minister says, “ Produce, produce, produce, produce,” in order to meet the exigencies of our position. The amendment ‘ proposed by the honorable member for Hunter is a test of whether the Government and their supporters are prepared to ‘ honour their promises, which meant, if they meant anything at all, that nothing is too good for the soldier, and that sacrifice should be equal. Let them make the sacrifice, and the lifting of the burden off the dependants of deceased soldiers should be the first consideration. Those soldiers who are fit and well can fight for themselves, but the soldiers’ widows, who have to maintain and rear soldiers’ children, are already carrying a heavy burden.
– This amendment would not protect them.
– The mover is prepared to listen to any suggested alteration of his proposal, and I believe that, if thisamendment is defeated, another will be moved by a returned soldier, which will further test the sincerity of honorable members opposite. We are told that the . Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) is consulting with the returned soldiers, and that in ail probability he will meet some of their requirements. Cannot this House do anything for them?” The increase of the separation allowance was granted while I was in France, and the soldiers were led to believe that Senator Pearce was responsible. The Prime Minister came to France, and promised to do this and that for . the soldier - for the sake of the kudos that might accrue to him. I remember getting a copy of a South Australian newspaper which recorded a speech by the Honorable James Jelley, who mentioned that he had waited on the Acting Minister for Defence in regard to an increase of the separation allowance, and had received a favorable reply. Mr. Jelley did as much to get that increase as did the Minister who finally gave it. The opportunity belonged to the Minister, but not all the credit.. If honorable members do not take the opportunity of seeing that the soldiers get their just dues, they will be asked at election time what they did when this proposal was before the House. “When the War Pensions Bill was “before this House I had not then enlisted - I was still one of the cold-footers - but I said that lip service was not required by the soldier, that he wanted Parliament to produce the goods, and that Parliament should not only be just, but” generous. I desired that every blind and permanently maimed soldier should be paid a living wage for the rest of his life. Parliament fixed a pension of £1 per week for soldiers, and that was subsequently raised to 30s. per week. Even now that is a starvation wage, for those who have suffered such a penalty for their heroism. We have not been just to them, much less generous. We have borrowed in Australia £260,000,000, and I claim that that money could have been raised free of interest had the Government of the day been plucky enough to take the proper action.
– The firstloan was raised by a Government of which the honorable member was a supporter.
– I grant that; but Labour Governments are not at all times wise in their judgment. . Mine was only one small voice crying in the wilderness. But the honorable gentleman will recollect that when the first loan was proposed I said that I would neither invest money in it, nor urge any one else to do so.
– The honorable member’s remarks are beyond the scope of the amendment.
– There will be a better opportunity of discussing what is being done for the returned soldier, because the Government will have to do a deuced lot more before they will have honoured, the promises they made. The amendment represents only a modicum of what should
De done for our fighting men, irrespective of what their private means may be. Overseas a man was not protected from shell-fire even if he was a doctor. Possibly outside the casualty stations and the hospitals which happened to be bombed there was, perhaps, no risk to the doctors, but what risk there was they took. The number of doctors and lawyers and other men of affluence who went overseas would, if exempted, not represent any great amount of revenue. The Acting Treasurer (Mr. Poynton) must admit that the finances would not be very much affected by the proposed exemption, which would at least give effect to the promise made that on every occasion when there was an opportunity to be just and generous to the returned soldiers, that opportunity would be taken.
.- I should like to make a few brief remarks in reply to the honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Yates), who bases his ideas of the prosperity of Australia on thestatements of the Acting Treasurer (Mr. Poynton). I think, however, that the Acting Treasurer is wrong in a few of those statements. Before dealing with those, I should like to point out what is preventing our doing what otherwise we should do for our returned soldiers. In the days of peace and prosperity, the Labour party were in power, and exploited this country for all it was worth, both in connexion with the note issue and in the duplication of Taxation Departments, which doubled the number of our civil servants. With all due deference to the honorable member for Adelaide as a financial authority, it is clear that this country must reduce its civil expenditure, no matter whether there be a National Government or a Labour Government in power.There are only twenty shillings in the pound, and if honorable members opposite are given the reins of government, they must reduce the civil expenditure if they desire to do all they say for the returned soldiers.
As to the Budget, according to the Acting Treasurer, there has been something like £44,000,000-
– The honorable member may not discuss the Budget, though he may allude to it.
– Then I shall simply say that £44,000,000 has been collected from the taxpayers towards the war funds.This revenue has been made possible up to date by our unexampled ‘ prosperity. Whenothe war started, the Labour Government in New South Wales was spending borrowed money wholesale. We had good seasons and good prices for our products; but those prices may not be maintained in the future.
According to the chairman of the Overseas Shipping Board; who. ought to be an authority, it will take fully two years for us to clear away the surplus - the carryover - of our primary products. That is the official statement of the chairman of the Overseas Shipping Board to me as a member of this House. It means that all our free wool, free meat, canned fruits, hides, and everything else cannot go on to the market until we get rid of the carryover, which has been paid for, and is lying here with priority of shipment. In the matter of wool alone, we are faced at the present Tate of shipment, with 1,900,000 bales next June; and what the position will be with that quantity of wool sold with priority of shipment, and what the price of the free clip will, be, I do not know. It is all very well for the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes), in a whirlwind of words, to talk about’ what he would have done with the wool, and say, “ all right;” but those of us who have to pay 10s. in the£1 income tax regard the position as far from all right.
The. result of another action of the Labour party when in power is seen in the Commonwealth Bank. I do not say one word against that Bank,, or against its institution ; nor do I say one word against the Governor, who happens to be a personal friend of mine. The way. in which that gentleman, has organized the Bank reflects the greatest credit on him, and on whoever advised the Government to select him. But the Commonwealth Bank is becoming a financial sore in this community. I have objected, every time a loan has been raised, but still we go on in the same old stupid, ignorant way, paying all our direct and indirect taxation, revenue, and all our war loan money, into that Bank, where it is lying idle at the credit of the Government, to the detriment of trading and producing interests. In the time of our prosperity it did not matter much; but if honorable members take the statistics of any quarter, they will find from £27,000,000 to £33,000,000 lying idle, and it would not be safe to lend a proportion of the amount out by one institution even if the bank had the clients. The other banks are short to that amount in giving temporary accommodation to their customers.
– Cannot private banks get money from the Commonwealth Bank?
– I .suppose they can if they pay for it; But that money is lying there idle,, to the Government’s credit, because it will be wanted.
– How is it lying idle if it is wanted?
– It is lying idle until it. is wanted by the Federal Government. In New Zealand, Canada,, the United States of America, and, I believe, in England, the custom was- to let such moneys lie with the banks, which found it for the taxpayers, until, it is: wanted.
– And those banks, made a profit out of it.
– Why should the private banks make a profit out of loan moneys?
– It is better- to let private banks make a- profit out of such moneys; and tax them on the . profits, than have the money lying idle. As– 1’ say, in the countries I have mentioned, the money was left in. the banks, who -had’ to find it, until it was wanted. The- Governments there did not do- the silly thing the exTreasurer did in the case of the last war loan. Although a drought was in sight, which has proved one of. the worst we ever had; and will yet affect our finances in a very awkward manner, he asked foT £40,000,000, and £43,000,000 was’ subscribed.Some millions were obtained under threat of compulsion, which frightened “old ladies” and other men with the mental characteristics of old ladies, into over-subscribing. This meant that subscribers had to sell, and the stock has depreciated to an unnecessary extent.
– Does the honorable member propose to connect his remarks with, the question before the Chair?
– Yes ; because the state of our finances depends on whether we can or cannot give the exemption which has been proposed. Mr. McAdoo, the American Treasurer, when his loan was over-subscribed, told the financial institutions,’ which financed trade and commerce, that he did not want the money over-subscribed, and, on his suggestion, the banks cut down the amount.
We are told in the Budget that the present banking position is sound, and that is true ; the men in charge- of our banks are shrewd enough to see that it is sound. But when the Acting Treasurer (Mr. Poynton) says that the outlook- for the future is ‘distinctly good, -he shows himself to be a man who is not practical, and who does not know what is going on in Australia.
– I am satisfied -that the outlook is good sofar as the Bank is concerned,’ and I think I know as much about the matter as the honorable member. The banking position was never strongerin the whole history of the country.
-As a matter of fact, the finances of the banks have been strained in order to finance the war loans and the wheat scheme; and if the Acting Treasurer does not know this . he ought to. The banks, consequently, in extending their advances in this way, have, I admit, made a great deal of revenue; but as a matter of banking, I do not think that there is one manager but would tell us that they would ratherlose that incomeand haveless advances.
We all desireto do as much as possible for our returned soldiers, and the only way to do it is for the Government to practise rigid economy. As I have already ‘said, the cost ofthe civil government was so excessively increased in the days of peace and prosperity, that if honorable members . return to power, as they hope, they will be unable to do all they have promised for the soldiers unless they adopt apolicy of firm retrenchment.
.It is very refreshing to hear such a speech from the honorable member ‘ for Hume (Mr. Falkiner) at this period of the history of theCommonwealth Bank. I thoughtthat every honorable member of the House, and every member of the community, was of opinion that had it not been for the establishment of the Com monwealth Bank just . prior to the commencement of the war,. our finances would not have been in the position they are today.
– What has the Bank done?
– It has arranged all our war loans at less cost than they could have been arranged by the private banks, and has thus saved the taxpayer a considerable amount of money.
– It has charged exchanges, whereas the private banks used to do the work for nothing.
– That is not so. The honorable member seems to think it horrible that the Labour party, when in power, should establish a national note issue.
– No; I said they “exploited “ the note issue.-
– We all remember when the establishment of the national note issue was opposed by the private banks and their representatives.
-Money is cheaper today in New . Zealand where there is no national ‘note issue.
-NewZealandaff airs are hardlycomparable with the affairs of Australia. I have heard men who manage private banks.. in Australia express thanks during the war period . to the . Governmentfortheir action . in nationalizing the note issue, because : it prevented the’ rush on . the : banks for . gold which otherwise might have taken place. The notes stood the test right through . the war period, and relieved the strain on our internal . arrangements. Those interested in private finance, and whosebusiness -it is to earn money through that channel, might be expected to complain on account of the great success of the Commonwealth Bank.’
-Do not attribute unworthy motives.
Mr.WATKINS.- I am not suggesting that they are unworthy.
– On the other hand,theGovernmenthave veryproperly thanked them for their support rightthroughthe war.
-I was merelypointing out that it was natural ‘for men who earned moneyby privatefinance to object to the ground . being cut fromunder their feet by a Government competitor.
-The Commonwealth Bankhas nothing todowith the note issue.
– I did not suggest that it had. I dealt with the position of the CommonwealthBank, andthen said that we were blamed becausewehad nationalized tie note issue.
Mr.Falkiner. - I never said anything ofthesort. The Acting Treasurerhas said that the Australian banks were of the greatest assistance to the Treasury during the war.
– I am not denying it. I should be sorry to misrepresent the honorable member, but I certainly made a note at the time of his remark that he blamed the Labour party for instituting a national note issue.
– For exploiting the credit of the country.
– We were living through strenuous times. The Act provided for a gold deposit behind the notes.
– Which does not belong to you.
– We all know sufficient of finance to be sure that within our own country a piece of paper that has the credit of the country behind it is just as good as a sovereign.
I agree that the issue raised by the amendment of the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. Charlton) ought to be regarded as non-party. Anything we do or want to do for the returned soldiers should be treated in that way. The amendment introduces no new principle. We are not asking the Government to do something new for the soldiers. We ask them to continue what they have been doing throughout the war period. They did it while the boys were fighting in France. Is it to be said now that, when we wanted them to go to France to fight, we offered them an inducement in the shape of relief from income taxation, but that now the war is over, and they have come home, they must help to pay the bill ?
– Very few of them would have had to pay it during the war, because they were not earning the’ income.
-Then there can be no objection to continuing the practice now. In the great majority of cases I suppose they are earning just a little over the exemption. Are they to be dragged into the net after risking their lives fighting for the people of this country? Are they to be put on the same level as all those who did not go? .
The returned men have not got the benefit of all that we can do for them. I admit the difficulties in the way of repatriation, and the greatness of the scheme, but very much more can be done immediately by the Government to relieve the situation. Notwithstanding all that has been done, I am getting brought under my notice case upon case where the men cannot obtain their deferred pay and their final settlement. I am sure that other honorable members have the same experience.
-Very few deferred pay cases are now outstanding.
-I still get a few, and I think a considerable number are reaching other honorable members. An inquiry might well be made regarding the fines and forfeitures on the final paysheets of the boys who have been serving at the Front. The whole trouble is centred there, and, evidently, all has not been well in this regard on the other side. ‘I have been told that the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Foster) earlier this evening claimed that the returned soldiers were forming associations to show their satisfaction with the Government.
– I did not say anything of the kind. I said I saw an account in the press of an association being formed in Newcastle and deciding to support the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes).
– I have seen the very full report of that matter in the local paper. I have no’t a word to say against one of the men who were at that meeting; but they were Nationalists. They were officers, and not the rank and file. Even at that meeting there was a note of protest against the attempt to form a Returned Soldiers Association and make it a political concern.
– Order! The honorable member is departing from the question.
– From all the talk that has gone on since the amendment was moved, one would think that it was an attempt to do something fresh for the soldiers. As a matter of fact, it only preserves a small concession which they had while they were fighting. The least we can do is to continue it until a general scheme is arranged, as projected by the Prime Minister, in order to provide further relief for the returned men.
.- As this question will undoubtedly be exploited in the near future, I have no desire to give a silent vote upon it. The Government and the people have made a great number of promises to the returned soldiers. I claim, without egotism, to stand second to no one in this chamber in the keen desire to see all those promises carried out to the full. I want the Public Service Act amended so that -the soldiers shall get preference in the Service. Will my honorable friends opposite stand with me in giving them absolute preference?
– That is in the Act now.
– It is nothing of the sort, and they are not getting it. I do not want suggestions made that the returned soldiers can go to . the Northern . Territory and start development work there, or do pick and shovel work on the Transcontinental Railway. The returned soldier ought to get the pick of the jobs. I know the difficulties Ministers have to face, no matter what instructions they give, in regard to the Public Service; and we should provide clearly and distinctly in the Act that these, men, when they return, if they can show they are qualified, shall be able to get the very best positions we can give them.
– Would you dismiss other men in the Service and put these men in their places ?
– In the case of eligibles, yes.
– If they were- there before the war started?
– Yes, I would give these men preference. Men went away from the Public Service, spent three or four years at the Front,’ and came back to find that eligibles, who were not prepared to make any sacrifices for their country, had built themselves right up in their positions, and these men had to take subordinate posts.
– That is wrong. It ought not to be.
– We know what is happening to-day, even in the PostmasterGeneral’s Department.
– Order! The honorable member is going right outside the question.
– I am dealing with the treatment we ought to give to returned soldiers. I shall have to vote against the amendment as proposed, and wish to point out the promises that nave been made and should be carried out. In the Postmaster-General’s Department, under the regulations”, a returned soldier coming back to his work, if he does not join a union, although he is doing exactly the same work as the man alongside him, receives less pay. That is a disgraceful arrangement. We should give these men the fullest preference possible. It is admitted on all sides that the repatriation proposals of the Government are the best of any country in the world. I have read a good deal about the question, and do not believe that so much has been attempted in -any other country. Everything has not been done, however, because we are starting on new lines. The Department has to be built up, and blunders will take place ‘in appointments; In making that statement, Iam not reflecting on the Minister, because the Department is not one that has been developing for half a century, in which men have grown up and become used to the work. In those cases it is easy to deal with any sudden inrush of business, whereas in a new Department like this there must be delays and undue difficulties. The Government should make a special effort to push on with the work, particularly in regard to soldiers’ homes and soldiers’ settlement, so that many of the delays and difficulties now occurring may cease.
There seems to be a good deal of what we might term “ death-bed repentance “ on the part of honorable members of the Labour party. I draw attention to a debate which took place in this House on 1st September, 1916, when the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Wise), while the Income Tax Bill introduced by the then Labour Government was under consideration, submitted an amendment providing for a wider exemption to soldiers serving at the Front than that for which the Bill allowed. I find that the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Fenton) said, as reported in Hansard, page 6574 -
I think that the only incomes that should be exempted are those up to £156, and any earned in the execution of duty as an officer or a soldier. Any income that a soldier leaves behind, whether it be earned by a locum tenons in a profession or by a representative in a business, ought to be taxed if it is beyond the exemption.
The quotation is interesting as showing the attitude of honorable members opposite when they have a sense of responsibility. Sitting in Opposition to-day, they have no responsibility resting upon them. The proposed exemption against which -the honorable member spoke was in favour of men who were then actually fighting at the Front, but the mover of it could not get any one to join with him in calling for a division. There was a representative attendance. The honorable member for Brisbane (Mr. Finlayson) and the honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Yates) voted in the previous division, but neither they nor any other honorable memberwould come to the assistance of the mover of the amendment.
As was pointed out in connexion with the. last amendment, it is difficult to estimate the loss’of revenue that the adoption of a new proposal of this kind would involve. In my view, very few ordinary soldiers would benefit in the slightest de- gree by the acceptance of it. It has not b een carefully ‘thought out. It , is the fathers and mothers of deceased soldiers who will feel the pinch more than any other section of the ‘community, yet this amendment does not apply to them..
– There are 2,000 returned soldiers in my electorate who would secure relief if this amendment were carried.
Mr.GREGORY. - But a proposal of this kind should be well thought out, so that we -might know exactly the effect it is likely to have.
– It is open for the honorable member to propose the addition of a new clause exempting from income tax the . fathers and mothers of deceased soldiers.
-It was only when this amendment was brought forward that the position of such people occurred to us.
In all the States we have branches of the Returned Sailors and Soldiers Association, . and at the present time they are making special representations to the JPrime Minister (Mr. Hughes). I am not in the confidence of the Government. I do not know whether they intend to grant returned soldiers a special gratuity based on their years of service, nor do I know what the representatives of the soldiers are seeking at the hands of the Government. But it is our duty to await the recommendations of the Returned Sailors and Soldiers Association of Australia, and to try, as far as. possible, to give effect to them.
– I had a resolution sent to me months ago from the returned soldiers in my district asking for this exemption.
– But I am speaking of the recommendations of the association as a whole.
– The Western Australian branch has Tepeatedly asked for this exemption.
Mr.GREGORY. - I am npt aware that it has done so. We may not be able to give our soldiers all that they are asking, but I would give them absolute preference ofemployment. The best jobs within our control should be given to them.
– That would be worth far morethanthis proposed exemption.
– Undoubtedly I have no regard for the political aspect of this question. We, ‘have to ask ourselves how we can best serve those who ‘have done so-much for us. I believe’we should leave the matter to the Conference now taking place between the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) and representatives of the Returned Sailors and Soldiers League. Let us find out what they want, and see how we can best carry out the desires of the association.
On these grounds I shall vote against the amendment. I shall regret doing so, because no one appreciates more than I do the -wonderful work and the marvellous sacrifice made by our -men. It is. only my earnest desire to ascertain exactly what they want, and then to see how far we can give effect to their wishes, tha’t induces me to take up this stand.
.- We havelistened to an interesting speech by the honorable member for Dampier (Mr. Gregory), who tells us that’ lie would like to give effect to the amendment, but ‘that this is not the time or the right place to make it. He thinks that all sorts of other considerations should be extended to our returned soldiers, but when he is brought face to face withan opportunity to do something for them he side-steps it.
This is a proposal to exemptour soldiers from having to pay “the cost of the war. By refusing to accept the amendment, ithe Government are deliberately placing upon the shoulders of those who have been fighting the financial burden of the war. Not one member of the Ministerial party has sought to attack that proposition. They know that it is indisputably true. They dare not deny it.
The honorable member for Dampier asserted that the Assistant Minister for Defence (Mr. Wise), when the Income Tax Bill of 1915 was before us, moved a similar amendment, and that he could not get a second man to call for a vote. In referring to that fact he convicted himself of not having supported the mover of it, although he. sat on the same side of the House. The honorable member would not even join with the mover of that amendment in calling for a division. A division cannot take place unless at least two members call for it, and the Assistant Minister for Defence on that occasion had no one to support him. Thus the honorable member convicts himself of not havinghelped his own colleague oh that occasion to obtain a division.
When the honorable member for Dampier (Mr. Gregory) is asked to vote for this amendment, and so to exempt returned soldiers from the payment’ of income- . tax, he says, I am in favour of amending the Public Service Act so as to give preference to returned soldiers.” But an amendment of the Public Service Act is not before us. He is in favour of doing something that he cannot do now,, and- of doing something else at some other time. But he is not in favour of this amendment,, which would benefit returned soldiers.
The honorable member says that the returned soldiers- should have- the pick of the jobs. If that is his view, why has he been supporting the Government so long? If he thinks the Government should have done these things, which they have- not done, then he is responsible for their- failure., because he has assisted to keep them in office.
The honorable gentleman also says that the Postmaster-General (Mr. Webster) has failed to do this, ‘ that, and the other thing- for returned soldiers. But he is helping to keep the Postmaster-General in office, and therefore, must be held responsible for any remissness on his part. It is open to him to move that the PostmasterGeneral be removed from office for not doing justice to the returned soldiers.
– The honorable member is going beyond the scope of the amendment now before the Chair.
– The honorable, member for Dampier discussed very fully the failure of the Postmaster-General’s Department to do certain things for returned soldiers.
– Side-step that question for a time, and come back to it.
-I have no desire to do that. I wish only to meet the honorable member for Dampier on . his own ground. He has made a speech for the benefit of the electors. Let the electors test it, and see where he stands. He declared that the administration of the Postmaster-General’s Department, ‘ so far as returned soldiers were concerned, was disgraceful.
– Order !
– I am sorry if I am out ‘ of order in following the honorable member’s remarks in uh’at direction.
The honorable member for Dampier proceeded to deal very fully with repatriation excuses. He told us what the Government ought to. do with regard to soldier, settlement and war service homes, but those matters are not before us. He may have the best soldier-settlement policy that the wisest man could produce, but that will not excuse him for voting against this proposal to benefit returned soldiers. It is no excuse to . say that he will do something for them on some other occasion, when he knows that he will not have another opportunity.
When the honorable member goes to the country he will say to the returned soldiers, “ I did not vote to exempt you from the payment of income tax, and so to save you paying the cost of the- war. But when that matter was before Parliament I urged that you should be liberally . treated in regard to the provision of soldiers’ homes. I said that the Government had failed to do what it ought to have done in regard, to soldier settlement, and that the administration of the PostmasterGeneral’s Department, so far as it affected returned soldiers, was a disgrace.. Surely,, having said all these things, you will not blame me for having voted against your exemption from the payment of income tax. Surely I am entitled to’ put this burden on your shoulders, and claim your votes.”
The honorable member’s excuse for voting against the amendment will not “ go down.”He must think that the Australian soldiers have “ got off their balance” if he imagines that they cannot see through his transparent devices.
The honorable member for Dampier says that he does not know what the Government are going to do about some of these soldier . questions. He does hot know where his Government are leading him. All heknowsis that he is going where they are going. Like a certain historicpersonality, he says, “ There goes the crowd. I must follow them,’ for I am their leader.” Whether the Government concede a big war bonus, or a small bonus, or no bonus at all, or whether more burdens are to be placed on the shoulders of these returned soldiers, whatsoever the Government are doing, he intendsto follow their lead.
– The honorable member is not touching the question before the Chair.
– The honorable member for Dampier says that we -cannot make an unknown alteration in the financial proposals. He cannot deal with the principle of the matter, the expediency of the thing alone troubles him ; but from an interjection from the Minister (Mr. Poynton) it would appear that the exemption will not mean a very big loss to the Treasury, because there are not so many men who would be affected by it..
– Who said that? I have not spoken to the amendment.
– Then I have misunderstood the Minister. Apparently this tax upon our soldiers . is awidespread burden. Probably the interjection came from some other quarter.
– . Whatever is done for the soldiers should apply equally to all of them, and this proposal will not do that.
– Soldiers are not paying the income tax at the present moment, but from now on they will be obliged to pay it.
– Therefore it is a new impost. It is increased taxation. Surely if it is necessary to increase the burden of taxation there are other avenues for raising it. ‘ What about the profiteers who are doubling the price of goods, and making an enormous profit? Why cannot the Government have a “ go “ at them, and make them pay the cost of the war ?
Protestations from the other side of the chamber about returned soldiers remind me of some others. When the returned soldiers were being refused the jobs they held prior to enlisting, which it was promised should be held for them as a sacred trust, the Prime Minister (Mr . Hughes) said, “ I will , put those employers in -the public pillory from one end. of the country to the other.” That was 1st August 1917.That was twelve months ago, but not one of them has been put in the public pillory.
On 24th September, 1919, when there were complaints that certain landlords were demanding increased rents from returned soldiers, the Prime Minister said again, “ I will put these men in the public pillory”; but it has not been done. These statements are so much hot air.
– The. honorable member is not touching the question before theChair.
– I am putting up a plea for returned soldiers.
– The question be fore the Chair at present is the proposal to exempt certain soldiers and others from payment of income tax. The honorable member is dealing with the whole question of the attitude of the Government towards the returned, soldiers, a matter that would be quite a fitting subject for discussion on another occasion, but which it is quite out of order to discuss at the present moment. I ask honorable members on both sides to confine their remarks to the question before the Chair.
– I had not intended to follow these lines, but for the speech delivered by the honorable member for Dampier (Mr. Gregory). All that I could say, apart from that, has. been said by other honorable members. Having made, in reply to the honorable member, a few references which I am not allowed to extend on the same lines that he followed, I am. content to resume my seat.
– The honorable member is now reflecting on the Chair.
– My remark was not intended as a reflection on the Chair. Apparently I have not the. dexterity of the honorable member for Dampier in connecting with the precise matter before the Chair, what appeared to some of us to be irrelevancies.
.- While I absolve the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. Charlton), who has moved this amendment, from having anything but the best of objects, I must say that I decline to support his proposal, because it introduces a very wrong and pernicious principle into the matter of doing justice to the men who have fought for us overseas. The Government should be allowed to redeem their promises in their own way, not by giving piecemeal’ concessions bo a small percentage of men, but by a method in which all who have fought will participate.
– The amendment would give a big concession to some people and nothing to others.
– The amendment is the most unwise proposal ever put forward in connexion with, repatriation. Our soldiery is a citizen soldiery, and anything which tends to perpetuate a distinct cleavage between our soldiers and the bulk of the citizens is to be condemned. No one can accuse me of being other than a friend of the soldiers.
It was Mr. Abbott, of Wingen, who was regarded as one of the greatest Conservatives in New South Wales, who made the earliest suggestion in regard to the conscription of all salaries over a certain figure for war purposes. The amount he mentioned was £200. I understand that the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. Charlton) mentioned the same amount when he put forward a similar proposal.
– I said £400. I made my suggestion on the platform before I was returned to the House on the last occasion.
– When the repatriation question first cropped up in this House, I put forward the suggestion’ that 10 per cent, of all wealth in every form, land or otherwise, should be ear-marked as war wealth, not for immediate liquidation, but for the purpose of gradual absorption and liquidation in order to meet our obligations to returned soldiers, and to provide a war wealth fund. I believe that some such scheme will have to be given effect to sooner or later. It would provide for settling at least 50,000 soldiers on the land in Australia. No one can accuse me of being other than desirous of this country meeting in the fullest degree its obligations to returned soldiers, and I compliment the honorable member for Cook (Mr. Catts) on his new-born zeal in their cause, apart from the fact that, although he was of fighting age and condition, he refused to give them assistance when it would have been most beneficial to them.
– You could have done so.
– I gave all the service that I was capable of giving. The honorable member may not know that I have been crippled for thirty-one years, having had both knees broken. However, we must always give absolution when repentance is sincere, and the honorable member is now willing to give the returned soldiers every assistance which he, as a supporter of the Perth Conference resolution, was willing to withhold when they needed help far more than this exempting of 5 per cent, of them from the payment of income tax would give.
– I want to make the capitalists of the country carry out their promises.
– The honorable member wants to do more than the- law will allow him to do. The amendment seeks to introduce a pernicious principle. The responsibility of carrying out their obligations to the soldiers rests with the Government.
– Is the honorable member satisfied with the promise made by Ministers ?
– I am satisfied that the Government are anxious to do all that it is humanly possible for them to do. I remind the honorable member, who is in the same category as the honorable member for Cook, that before we acquired these tremendous obligations and debts in connexion with repatriation this country never paid its way. We were engaged in improving a huge continent and were even compelled to borrow for the ordinary purpose of finding employment for our people. Now we have lost 60,000 of our best men, and we have numbers returned to. us who are crippled; we have huge responsibilities ; we have a disrupted world surrounding us; trade is difficult: and freight, the lifeblood of our trade, is higher than any one ever dreamt it was possible for it to be. It is only by these soldiers doing what I am certain they will do - that is, taking up their responsibilities of citizenship and assisting us in attempting to face this herculean task- that we can meet our obligations. The men who have put -up such a fight for Australia recognise the duty of citizenship in its highest form. Will they fail us now ?
– Those are the men you propose to tax.
– They are not the men we propose to tax; but, even assuming that large numbers of sailors, doctors, nurses, and war workers are exempted, how can we exempt the relatives of the deceased heroes?
– That can be done very easily.
– Then the majority of the soldier-workers will be called on to bear additional burdens of taxation in order to meet our obligations to a section of their number. The claim is put forward that this tax must ultimately fall back on the workers. The majority of those who fought for us were workers. The principle embodied in this amendment is one that would be a disgrace to a committee of kanakas, and for an enlightened Parliament such as this claims to be to adopt it would be to cover itself with ridicule.
– Did we not impose that tax in order to get money to pay the soldiers for their services? And is it fair to ask them to pay it back?
– We did not impose a tax for any such purpose. We have never insulted the soldier by attempting, to dissociate him from the rights, privileges, and responsibilities of citizenship. I do not challenge the object of the honorable member for Hunter in proposing the amendment. The honorable member who has just resumed his seat said that there was no attack on the principle embodied in the amendment. I say that the principle is false, and, to give effect to it would be to insult Australia’s citizen soldiers.
– I do not rise to explain my attitude in regard to this amendment. I would willingly give a silent vote, because I realize that soldiers, who demonstrated at the Front that they were possessed of brains sufficient to enable them to win the war, are capable of seeing through the tactics of the Opposition. I exempt from any accusation of ‘electioneering the mover of the amendment (Mr. Charlton), who throughout the war has been consistent in his attitude, and who sent to the Front his only son, a keen, intellectual young man, who was making good in his law studies, and who, I am glad to say, has returned, and will make his name known in Australia. The honorable member for Cook (Mr. Catts), however, has suggested to me a very useful line of argument. He has referred to the powers of honorable members. I have supported in this House two parties, and my power as a supporter of a Labour Government was’i much greater than that. I enjoy to-day, because, if I were in a. majority at a Labour party meeting, I knew that my attitude would receive the unanimous support of all its members in the-House.
– Order! The honorable member must confine, his remarks to the’ clause.
– This is. the section that was- placed by a Labour. Government in the Income Tax Assessment Act of 1915 -
This Act shall not apply to any person who is. on, active service during the present war with the Military or Naval Forces of the Commonwealth or any part of the King’s Dominions as far as regards income derived from personal exertion and earned prior to the- commencement of this Act or during- the present state of war.
I ask honorable members to note that no attempt, was made at that time to extend that exemption beyond the duration of the war ; it was clearly limited; to “ during the present state of war.” That was emphasized by honorable members who. are now sitting opposite. Why? Because that Careful Treasurer (Mr. Higgs) was anxious to safeguard the finances of Australia. What a change came over him when he assumed the responsibilities of . office! How careful was he of- the finances! If he were in office torday, would he agree to this amendment? No. We have observed the clever tactics employed in bringing forward this amendment to-night in order to place the Government in an awkward position, on a future occasion. “ When there is such evidence of brains amongst honorable members opposite, I cannot understand why they should be seeking to get Mr. Ryan into the House in order to supply the party with intelligence. The logical deduction to be drawn from the section I havequoted from the 1915 Act was that the then Government realized that when, the soldiers returned and resumed their citizenship, they should no longer be exempt from taxation. This is the explanation given by the then AttorneyGeneral (Mr. Hughes), in reply to the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Wise)-
This surgeon, in the taxable year; earned an income of, I think, £16,000, and this he gave up for a yearly salary less than one week’s fees.
That surgeon, who, I presume, has resumed practice in Australia, will’ probably earn even more now, be- willee,” m’ tbe’-lasfc few/ yara,,.he . has *«iiade : good “: at the Front . U’otwitiistKndiag ;:tne financial position of the Qommonwealth al the ^sent time, honorable members’ Opposite are anxious to exempt ftat man/ who, in 1915, was earniim.M,(K)()”p6T annttm. This amendment wm exempt such a retained soldier as the’ honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Spruce) ? who is reputed to have an immense income. But of the rank and file how many will be required to pay any income tax at all 1 1 wish that Australia were in a . position to pay them . such salaries or wages as would qualify them tq be taxpayers under this Act.
I offer no excuse ior the vote I shall give to-night, because I believe that the returned soldiers . resent being used for party poxpeses, as is being done by htm.waJUe members opposite. The- soldiers are willing to accept all the obligations of citizenship. I have mot Teeeived ‘ from the Heturoed Soldiers Association in Tasmania any request for this exemption, although I have . received many letters thanking me for what I have done for the soldiers, and . also a letter from the Repatriation Department acknowledging that I was sjespoasible for the regulation granting the eemceasi’m to which the honorable memker for Adelaide (Mr. Yates) . referred. Honorable members on , both sides -of the House are doing their utmost for the returned soldiers-, and I am prowl to . say, after, a careful examination of the equipment,, payment, transport, and treatment of the’ soldiers of -all the belligerent countries, that the Australians fared better than ainy others. The honorable member for Adelaide is the only -man whom I have heard say that the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) did not do anything for the soldiers while he was in Great Britain. Is that the deduction to Ibe drawn from the public . reception to him on the day of his return . from “Europe? Grateful men, regardless of political divisions, including many -who may not vote for the Prime Minister, because they are members of the labour party, assembled ‘iri Melbourne streets to welcome him home. Why? Because in France he did for the soldiers things which are known to other honorable members as well as to myself. Perhaps . not during the coming election, but when the history of the war is written, all that the
Prime “Minister did fox the . soldiers will be . told.. ‘That is why, -apart from polities, the . soldiers welcomed ‘and thanked him; they knew he. had their interests at heart. If thai; were not so, would he. have made the sacrifices that he has made? How easy could have been his political life-
– Order ! The htmorable member is wandering outside the amendment.
– I have quoted to honorable members a section from the 1915 income Tax Assessment Act introduced by the Fisher Government, and I remind them . that the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Fenton) said -
I disagree’ with the clause, and I think it (night to be struck out; though 1 do not -care about the proposed substitution of the honorable member tor Gippsland:
Yet -we hear honorable members to-night saying that we on this side of the House ought to do something in the interests df the soldiers. iWhat troubles them is that we are doing too much. Let them wait and see what we shall do. I shall vote for the clause as it’ stands, because I believe that the soldiers are just, and they will not penalize us for doing what we regard as our duty at this period. I presume that, at the proper time, if the state of the finances will permit, whoever is Treasurer will see that the soldiers get something mere than mere relief from the payment of income tax - a paltry sum that will not be collected from more than 10 per cent, of the men. I paid about £50 . in income tax, Federal and State, last year, and I shall be willing to double that payment if by so doing I shall relieve tha burden of the men who are ob the lower rungs. But I am not prepared to make a sacrifice- to relieve men who are earning £16,000 per annum.
– I rise to make a perBonal explanation. The honorable member for Denison (Mr. Laird Smith) said that I was the only man whom he had heard deelare that the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) had done nothing for the soldiers. Either the honorable member misheard me or he is knowingly making a misstatement. I stated that the Prime Minister was making concessions to the soldiers that could have been made by this Parliament. To say that the Prime Minister did nothing for the soldiers would be absolutely incorrect. The greatest’ feature pf ils activity, in Eng- land was the cutting; through of red-tape, and doing foT the “Australian soldiers what their officers would not do. The Prime Minister did a great deal for the soldiers.
.- I shall oppose the amendment. It suggests the continuance of a concession given to the soldier while he was engaged on active service. To grant the exemption after he has resumed’ his citizenship would he a grave mistake, and, from my knowledge of the soldier, it is something he does not desire. This amendment would place the soldier in a special privileged class, by exempting him’ from’ a liability which is plaeed upon every- citizen in the com- munity who is in’ receipt of’ a certain ini come. ‘ The reason suggested for this amendment is that the soldier’s services have been so great that we should ask no more from him than what he has done during the ‘period of the war. The soldier, however, does not regard his services in quite the same light as some other- people apparently do; his only feeling is that he has done his duty in the sphere in which he was placed during the war, just in the same . way as the great majority of people in Australia - men, women, and children - have done their duty here at home. The soldier certainly does not ask for any special provision in this Bill, and I do not think he welcomes the championing he has received from certain people on the question.
It has been suggested that possibly this amendment is a strategic move for electioneering purposes; but any one who uses the . amendment for that purpose is making the biggest blunder he ever made in his life. The soldier is extraordinarily astute, and is not taken in- by anything of that sort.
– The Prime Minister will not take him in.
– If the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) is not honest he will not take the -soldier in.’ Experience of the soldier Bhows- that he does not at all love the person who fawns upon him and tries to get, as he would say, on his “ right side.” The only, person the soldier has the slightest respect for in the world is the strong man who does his work well, the man who makes the soldier do a soldier’s duty, and who does his own. A provision, such as this, which is to’ give something to the soldier over’ and- above what la given to all the other people who have also done their- duty during th’e war, will not be welcomed by - him, and certainly will not create any enthusiasm on his part. I suggest that it is a great blunder to attempt to do anything of the sort, from whichever side of the House the proposal comes. All the soldier deBires is a fair and square deal, and he believes only in people who honestly try to- see’ that he gets it. For a fair and square deal I do not think any proposal of the sort before us is necessary.
Our returned soldiers are being treated on a better basis than are the soldiers of any other nation which fought in the war. During my recent trip I had peculiar facilities for seeing what is being done in America,- Canada, and England.
– What was the American soldier insured for by the Government ? Double the amount, that the Australian Was insured for, and at one-tenth of . the cost.
– In all the countries 1 have mentioned the provision that is being made for’ the . soldier is not in any’ way comparable to what we are proposing in Australia. The United States have been mentioned, and the suggestion made that in the matter of insurance the American soldiers are better treated than are our returned men. I ask the honorable “member who interjected to take the trouble to ascertain exactly what the American soldier is getting from his paternal Government on his return. Consider the facilities that are being given to the American soldier to re-establish himself in civil life, and it will be found that they practically amount to nothing at all; certainly to nothing comparable to what is being done in Australia. In England, too, very little, indeed, is being done for the returned soldier. In Canada, where more is being done than in England and America, the provision made is by no means so generous as that made in -the case of Australia.
There is no question that the provision made in this country is extraordinarily generous, and the soldiers themselves recognise the fact. But I utter a word of warning when I say that what the soldiers are complaining about is the repatriation administration; and every one of us, on both sides of this House, should endeavour to help in the Herculean task of putting the administration right. Prom personal experience, I am certain we have laid down the scheme on Tight lines; and if we can administer it properly it will prove of great benefit to the soldiers.
As to the amendment I shall unhesitatingly vote against it, because I do not think it is one that the soldiers themselves would desire to see carried.
– I do not desire the question to go without saying a further word, for otherwise there might be some misconception.
– You wish to make a personal explanation ?
– Not at all; what needs explaining is what has been said on the other side in regard to the attitude of the Labour Governmentin 1915. One would think that a proposal of this kind was then put before the House and that the members of the Labour party voted against it. Such an idea is absolutely without any foundation.
– Nobody suggested such a thing.
– That is the inference. “What is the effect of the statement of the honorable member for Dampier (Mr. Gregory) ?
– It was a quotation.
– The honorable member quoted a proposal moved by his colleague, the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Wise), and said that that honorable member could not get a vote. I shall give the text and context of that proposal, instead of quoting only a part, as the honorable member did. He placed it in an absolutely false light. The Labour Government deliberately included in their Income Tax Bill a provision that the soldiers we on this side now seek to exempt should then be exempted, and we did exempt them.
– During the war.
– Quite so, and now that the war has . come to an end, we seek to further exempt them. The action of the Labour party is absolutely consistent. The clause in their Bill of 1915, as shown in Hansard, page 6572, read as follows:’ -
This Act shall not apply to any person who is on active service during the present war with the Military or Naval Forces of the Commonwealth, or any part of the King’s Dominions, so far as regards income derived from, personal exertion and earned prioT to the commencement of this Act or during the present state of war.
The honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Wise) moved to exclude the words “ from personal exertion,” thus making the exemption cover men with large incomes from property. If a man had an income of £50,000 from property, the amendment of the honorable member, if adopted, would have exempted him from the payment of income tax on that part of his income produced from property, whereas the Labour party sought to do what they are seeking to do now, namely, exempt the personal exertion of returned soldiers from taxation. We are quite consistent.
– The proposal was for the period of the war.
– The honorable member desired to go further than incomes from personal exertion, ‘and to exempt incomes from property.
– During the war.
– The honorable member is not now prepared to do the lesser thing, and exempt incomes’ from personal exertion. He now desires the soldiers to pay . for the war from personal exertion.
The honorable member for Denison (Mr. Laird Smith) referred to a rich man who went to the war; but that has no relation to what is now before the Chair. That gentleman does not earn his many thousands a year from personal exertion, because he is a man of large property.
– No, the income is from personal exertion.
– The honorable member told us that he himself was quite prepared to give a silent vote on this matter, because it does not concern him a bit; but his antics, his tremulous voice, and his excitement show that he realizes he is in a very difficult position.
What do all these explanations and apologies mean on the other side, if it is not that honorable members realize that they are now making their excuses to the returned soldiers?
The honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Lynch) was veryeloquent on the advantage it is to the returned soldiers to have taxes heaped upon them. He’ can convince them with his flowing words that the penalty is placed’ on them for their own good. I have no doubt that when he gets on to the platform he will say to them, “ Gentlemen, it is very true -I have put a very heavy pack on your back, in order to extract from you the necessary moneyforthewar, but I am sure you will send me back to Parliament, for you cannot fail to realize that the taxation is all for your own good; at any rate, if you cannot see that, you have no more sense than a committee of kanakas.”
-I spoke ofthis Parliament.
– The honorable gentleman, of course, was, and is, very excited; though he is leaning forward quite red in the face, he would have it go forth’ ‘that he is as cool as a cucumber.
On this question, the Labour party is where it was in 1915, inasmuch as it. exempted these men from taxation then, and proposes to exempt them now. All the apologies of Labour men who supported that Bill of ‘1915, butwho have left the Labour party, and aresupporting Tory proposals, will not shield them from just retribution when they face the returned soldiers at the polls.
– I think it ought to be possible to -now come to a vote, and I certainly do not desire to speak if a division can be taken at once. I am sure ‘the matter has been debated sufficiently, and every one has made up his mind. I had intended to make a few observations, butI shall refrain if honorable members will come to a decision. I submit that it is not fair to take advantage of a Bill of this -character, which, after all, is formal, ito re-openthe whole question of thetaxation ofthe country.
– What is the idea of bringing the Income Tax ‘Bill up every- year?
– There are no new ‘taxation proposals in the Budget; and these Bills are intended to -give effect to proposals in the Budget; other wise we’ can get no money.
– This tax was not imposed on -these men before, and it is now sought to impose it.
– No such thing. There is no impost of any kind proposed that was not previously in operation. I appeal to honorable members to reserve their remarks on the general question for a more convenient season.
– The debate has developed in “the most extraordinary way, and I have certainly heard expressions of opinion from honorable members opposite which do not tally with my own experience. We are making a decided effort to relieve the returned soldiers from certain taxation, but we are assured by honorable members on the other side that the returned soldier wants nothing of the sort. The speech of the honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Bruce), ‘himself a returned soldier, wasthe most remarkableI have ever heard.It onlyshows that a gentlemanin ‘his position knows nothing about the condition of the returned Australian private. He says that the soldier is satisfied with “what is being done. I have numbers of visits from returned soldiers, not ‘the bumming section, not the man who is after a “‘bob “ for a drink, or does not ‘want ‘work, but the man who, is desirous of working, and to whom the receipt of a sustenance dole every week is repugnant. Be says, “I do not want a sustenance allowance.I want to produce for myself!” The sustenance allowance is to most men a degradation. Hardly a day passes but the Returned Soldiers Association endeavours to ; get the . Government to do “this, that, or the other, for the returned soldier, butwithout avail.
– No one said- he was satisfied.
Mr.MATHEWS. - The . honorable member for Flinders . and several’ other honorable ‘members were most emphatic that he was, but that has not been my experience. The ‘returned soldier does not consider that . he . has been treated fairly. I brought up in this House, on the adjournment last Friday fortnight, the case ofamanwhowould lose his business if he was ‘not given some assistance. He was four and a half years atthe war, returned, obtained his deferred pay, and put it into a business, buthe did not get a cent from the Repatriation Department. When he applied to the Department for. assistance to save his business from going away from him,he could get nothing, because he was not a married man, and not in business before he went. He could not even put in an application for assistance, because he could not fulfil those conditions. To-day his business is gone, and he is receiving about two guineas per week from the Department - a sheer waste of money, and degrading to the man, as he says himself. I know another man who has been back for two years.
An X-ray photograph, shows a piece of shrapnel in . ‘his lung. . Above -his right, breast there is a-.hole big enough to put ah. egg;: in-. It. eacBdss matter, and lowender that septie poisoning dees not set in. He is -20 miles, away- front, a’ doctor, and is getting ; 30s. per week from- tie. Department;. Nothing oan make me believe that that soldier is satisfied. -General Brand, the Victorian Commandant, saw him, and I have been waiting to see if anything is done for him, but apparently nothing is to be done.
– That man. is net a taxpayer. Why quote him in connexion with this proposal! .
– If the Minister for the Navy had been present he would know that an attempt has been made during the debate to show that the returned soldier wants no consideration. I know differently, and so does the right honorable gentleman. I have always admitted that Senator Millen, the Minister for Repatriation, has done marvellous work, and I am not condemning him. I am not even attacking his Department in the way that I might. I- am simply showing that the returned soldier does wantconsideration. - Any one who says he does not is not speaking the- truth, or is very fortunate, and does not get the visits- that other honorable members do. I see at least twenty returned soldiers every week. They are not -the crowd that want two guineas -per week sustenance allowance. They want work, although many of them are not able to do all they could do before they went away. The Government have not yet made arrangements: to meet their cases, and they are not satisfied. -The returned soldiers have been meeting the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) to-day on a number of questions, including the one now before the Chair. When we on this side move to give the soldiers relief, those on the other side, who try to make it appoar that the men are quite satisfied, are not stating the case fairly. If I were allowed,. -I could express it much more strongly. What is tho use of trying to make us believe that the returned soldier is satisfied? He -was promised the very consideration thai we now- ask the Government to give him. If those on the other side who claim to have his- interests at heart cannot see the justice of our proposal, they are wilfully blind, and net desirous of doing what they profess.
Question - That the proposed new clause (Mr. Cham/ton’s amendment) be added - put. The Committee divided.
Majority . . . . 14
Question so resolved in the negative.
Proposed new clause negatived.
– I more: -
That, the following sew clause he added:-“ Notwithstanding anything in any Act to the contrary, the exemptions made In’ calculating the income tax from all
BouroeB of returned soldiers, sailors, mines, doctor’s, war workers, and others who were accepted- for and proceeded abroad on active or war service, and any person dependent on any one who lost his or her life whilst on or . because of such service, shall be twice as great as the exemptions provided in the- Income Tax Assessment Act.!”
My object is to doublo the amount of the exemption to returned soldiers, sailors, and the others I have enumerated, and the dependants of those who were killed or died abroad. ‘That would make the. exemption of income £312 for married men, and £209’ for single persons.
Question put. The Committee divided.
Question so resolved in the negative.
Proposed new clause negatived.
– The question is-
That the schedules be agreed to.
.-. On the question “ That the schedules be agreed to,” I desire to move -
That ail the words after “ be “ bo left out with a view to insert, in lieu thereof, the words, referred back to the Government with a request that the schedules be amended to provide’ a just and adequate penal super tax upon incomes derived from profiteering.”
– The honorable member gave me notice of his intention . to move this amendment, and I have,- therefore, had ah opportunity to consider it. I have- to rule it out of order. This.- is a Committee of the Whole.. The House submitted to the pommittee of Ways- and Means a resolution embodying the whole of these ‘schedules. The Committee of Ways and Means- agreed . to that resolution, and the Committee was instructed to report to - the House to that, effect. The Teport was made, and the House confirmed the resolution which is. covered by these schedules. That being so, the schedules cannot now be amended. On a prior occasion I gave a similar ruling, and then set out in detail my -reasons for it. I would point out that,, if honorable members desire to amend . schedules of this kind, they must -take action in the Committee of Ways and Means. They cannot amend the schedules to the - Bill since they have been- previously agreed to in Committee of Ways and Means, reported to the’ House, and adopted.
.- I desire to ask the Government when a Bill of this character- will be introduced with ‘ a schedule that honorable members can understand? I have put this question on every occasion that an Income Tax Bill has been submitted to this House since I have been a member of it There are not three members who understand that part . of the first schedule which provides that-
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.
Mr. Fisher was the first. Commonwealth Treasurer to introduce an Income Tax Bill with a schedule of this kind attached to it. When I asked him what the schedule meant, he replied, “ Do not ask me, I do nbt know.” He was candid. ‘ When the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes), on a subsequent occasion brought forward a similar schedule, I said to him, “ Would you mind explaining it?” A broad grin overspread his face, and he said, “Gape sinner, ands wallow.” This formula may be all right according to the higher mathematics. ‘ The honorable member- for Wen’tworth (Mr: Kelly)’ may be able to explain it, ‘but how many other honorable members can do so?
– Is the honorable member aware that the Professor of Mathematics in. the Sydney University says that Mr. Knibbs has been making a very
– Why have I been paying income tax that I should not be called upon to pay? It does not concern me very much, but when constituents come to me and say, “ The Income Tax people are defrauding me,” the position is awkward.
– May I relieve the honorable member’s Scotch conscience by saying that the Professor of Mathematics in the Sydney University says that there is only one-eighth of a farthing wrong in the schedule that he attacks.
– But when you multiply that one-eighth of a farthing by millions, where are you ?
– When the honorable member is sick, he does not refuse the medicine prescribed for. him merely because he cannot analyze it.
– I do, because I once heard a doctor say that he could not afford to take a holiday, since, if he did, his patients would recover. I am not referring . to the honorable member for Melbourne (Dr. Maloney).
In all seriousness, I would urge that we, as a Parliament that is supposed to represent the people, ought to know what We are doing. We should not be compelled to rely upon the Government Statist, a Treasury official, or any other Government servant, in this regard. Every Treasurer who has been responsible for the introduction of a ‘Bill of this kind, when asked to explain the schedule, has either tried to laugh it off or has gazed with a look of blank stupidity at the questioner. Under the Victorian Income Tax Act, a man can calculate without difficulty exactly what he has to pay by way of income tax.
– That is so in New South Wales.
– And also in South Australia.
– So that in three States, at least, there is no difficulty; the taxpayer knows at once what he has to- pay by way of income tax. Is it not one of the essentials of taxation that the taxpayer ought to be able to calculate for himself what he has to pay? No one in this House can explain what this formula means.
– The honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. West) is quite clear on the point.
– It is quite clear in one respect, but not in others.
– Two great minds following in the one groove ! We have to accept without question the assessments made by the Income Tax officials, whether they be right or wrong. The honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Kelly) says that
Mr. Knibbs, according to the Professor of Mathematics in the Sydney University, is wrong in one of his calculations. In levying taxation on the people, are we to be subservient toMr. Knibbs? I shall always protest against this schedule until we are given a sensible method of calculating the . income tax payable by taxpayers. Thiscurve may be all right. Mr. Fisher was, I think, the first to introduce a Bill providing for it. When I asked what was meant by a curve of the third degree, he said that it was the curve that came after the second. Had I put the same question to the present Minister for the Navy (Sir Joseph Cook), he would have said, “ Ask me something easy.”
– A ready-reckoner had to be prepared to enable a person to follow the schedule easily. No accountant in Melbourne could make out an assessment straightway.
– The honorable member for Melbourne has handed me a copy of the very simple schedule upon which the income tax is collected in Victoria. It enables the taxpayer to multiply the amount of his income by . the rate of the tax, and thus easily ascertain the income tax he has to pay. The only argument in favour of the Federal conundrum is that it seeks to give to each pound its theoretically correct proportion of the tax ; but even some University professors doubt its accuracy in this regard. With the object of having the schedules referred back to the Government, with a view to having a simpler schedule substituted, I move -
That the schedules be left out.
– I have already ruled that the honorable member cannot alter or amend the schedules or refer them back. The Committee of Ways and Means has adopted the schedules, and the House has adopted the resolution of the Committee of Ways and Means embodying the whole of the schedules, and has submitted them to a Committee of the whole, which cannot alter or amend them. The honorable member may vote against the schedules if he so’ chooses, but he cannot alter or amend them.
– Any man of ordinary understanding can tell what income tax he has to pay under -the Victorian, New South “Wales, and Western Australian income tax schedules, but I have failed to get several accountants to work out the figures of varying incomes on the Federal schedule, with its many curves, and running into five decimals. The result of the Federal method is to place honorable members more and more in the hands of the heads of Departments, who are really the governing class in this community. Many of them do their work splendidly; but I do not know of any Minister who can calculate the rate of any one’s income tax upon these curves.
– Who invented this abomination ?
– I do not know. I have always found the officials in the Taxation Department most courteous, and. ready to alter and amend an assessment -when a wrong has been done, but this schedule is an absolutely absurd one. Its object is to make every pound pay its minute fraction of tax ; but I maintain it is time we should follow the splendid example of Napoleon the ‘Great, -who in his Code employed the simplest language, that any one could understand.
.- It is hardly fair to the Government to ask them to bring down a fresh schedule, as the time is so very short; but I certainly think that this method of raising revenue should he revised, and that the Government should seek some extra departmental advice as to the best way ‘of imposing a schedule that would be understood by the people, and at the’ same time yield the revenue Ministers require.
– I frankly admit that I do not like this schedule.
– When the income tax was first introduced in this Parliament, we had a Treasurer (Mr. Fisher) who really could understand these minute mathematical problems. When the Treasurer looks into the question cif raising revenue, he might best meet the requirements of the future by basing his tax reasonably upon the field that will yield the best return. The biggest field of income tax revenue is provided by incomes between £500 and £1,500 a year; but under the curves as they now exist, it is a field that practically escapes serious war taxation.
One splendid feature of this scientific method of raising taxation, introduced with such understanding by Mr. Fisher, is the fact that the tax really begins to be operative only when it has left Ministers’ salaries practically untouched. I suggest that the Government might have this point considered by the Committee of Public Accounts, or by some other competent legislative body, so that in the next Parliament we may have a more reasonable method of taxation introduced, satisfactory not only to honorable members, but also to the country as a whole. My prayers for the future are that Ministers will find, that under a new system they will have to pay two or three times the amount they are paying to-day, and that the public will no longer be kept in fhe dark as to how far the curves in the first degree are exempting Ministerial salaries.
– It is very inconvenient to the Government to press this matter to-night.
– Will the Minister mind explaining the system of curves?
– I refer the honorable member to the pages of Hansard, where he will find my comments and observations on this very matter at length. I think that the whole theory of having a curve of this complicated character is absurd. ‘Whatever it may be in an accountancy examination, or as a problem in mathematics in the University, I do not think it finds an appropriate place in a schedule placed before a House such as this. If honorable members will allow the matter to go through now, they can have my assurance that it will be looked into, and that an endeavour will be made to see if a simpler schedule cannot be adopted.
– I propose to vote against these schedules, as an indication to the Government that we protest against their failure to avail themselves of the opportunity to attack profiteering, which they have publicly denounced. On two or three occasions we have endeavoured to moveamendments increasing the income ‘ tax, but they have been ruled out of order, on the ground that no private member can increase taxation. However, it is not out of order for a member of the Government to move to increase the tax upon profiteers. There is no dictionary definition of what a profiteer, is, but the public know what profiteering; mean’s. There can be no better method of , getting at the profiteer than through the income tax. Notwithstanding all the difficulties’ there may be about mathematical curves, for which I believe Mr. Knibbs, the Commonwealth. Statistician, is responsible-
– For the guidance of the Department, surely it would1 be necessary for thehonorable member to define the word “profiteer.”
– The Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) has stated that there is a great deal of profiteering’ going on. He is so angry with, the profiteers- that he has spoken of them as- having got their feet in the trough. He has referred to them in. opprobrious terms. He has said that he would use direct action against- them if- he had’ a. chance of doing so. There is no . better means_ of dealing with the profiteer than through! the income tax-. I can well believe that when the’ Government get the additional . constitutional-‘ powers for’ which they are asking- they will’ find . a great deal of’ difficulty in deciding who is the profiteer. One wholesale merchant may huy from another and’ goods may pass through half-a-dozen wholesale houses before they reach the Tetailer. The latter may find it. necessary to charge the public a high price, and’ he may prove that’ he is not getting more than a reasonable return on his capital. But by. the. income tax returns, the Government, have a means of discovering whether a manhas been profiteering,, and it would be within the power of the Government to impose a. penal, super tax: on the profiteer.
– As the honorablemember. has! shown how impossible it would be to trace the profiteer, how could’ he be traced for the collection of the penal super tax?
– The profiteer, like every other person in the community, has to submit a return, in which he declares his income and the sources . from which he derived it. At present, if a man receives an income of £6,500 a year from property, he must pay as income tax 5s. in the £1. There are men who are earning from £20,000 to £50,000 per annum.We doubt some of them, are profiteering ; and the Government might amend the schedules, in order to collect from such persons, a further amount. I will not. say what the amount should be; but the Government might easily insist upon the profiteer paying a further 5s., or even 10s., in the £1, or even the whole amount. The Government, with the assistance of . the Income Tax Commissioner,, are in a better position to judge what amount the profiteer ought to pay than a private member is. But as the ‘Government have refused,- through the Attorney-General (Mr. Groom), the Acting Treasurer (Mr. Poynton), and other Ministers, . to move for any increase in. the income tax, we on. this side of the House- propose to vote with, the “Noes” on the schedules as a protest against the Government’s action.
– I am not in sympathy with the proposal of the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr.. Higgs) that the Government should become a partner- in the profiteering that is said, to be taking place. I do not think that the profiteering evil will be diminished by the Government taking 10 per cent., or 50 per cent., or even 98 per cent., of. incomes thus made. The only proposition I can. support is one that aims at putting the pr.ofi.teer out of business entirely. The remarks of the honorable member were marked by that- uncertainty which characterizes most of the speeches- upon profiteering. The subject is so difficult that, up to the present time, none of the proposals made here or elsewhere for coping with it have any definiteness..
– The honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Higgs) proposes to kill the profiteer by substituting, for the 75 per cent, tax on his profits which the Government collect now, a super, tax of 5s. or 10s. in the £1.
– And that suggestion follows upon the argument that, no matter what taxation the Government impose,’ it will be passed on.. The profiteer cannot be killed in that way. This proposal comes very inappropriately from honorable members who are criticising the curve of the third degree.. I can understand criticism of the curve by gentlemen enjoying big incomes, because its virtue, however cryptic it may be to some of us, is that it places a higher charge on the bigger incomes than on the smaller ones. So far that is the only method yet devised for making a progressive increase in the tax in accordance with the increase of the income. The Victorian scale of charges is one of the most elementary I have ever seen.
– It is clear and understandable.
– But it does not do what we desire to do.
– The grades are too steep.
– Yes; whilst the curve, on the other hand, makes a regularly increasing advance to correspond with the increase of the income. I protest against the idea that we can deal with profiteering by making this Parliament a partner in it.
– I have listened to honorable members opposite objecting, as usual, to any suggestion which emanates from this side of the House. I have no desire that Parliament shall become partners in the profiteering; but I am anxious to stop profiteering altogether.
– We shall do that after the elections.
– A lot of the present honorable members will not be here after the elections.
– Ryan is to be campaign director. What has the honorable member for Cook(Mr. Catts) to say?
– Do not worry about me. I am worrying probably less than any man in this Parliament.
– It is for the honorable member for Cook to worry.
– I shall co-operate with Mr. Ryan in fighting the National party.
– I, too, will have much pleasure in joining anybody who will help to down the crowd on the Government side. I am desirous of adopting some method of dealing with the profiteer. It is useless for honorable members to say that they will do something after the elections. They have the opportunity now of saying whether or not they intend to grapple with the problem. They will not become partners of the profiteer by merely seizing some of his ill-gotten gains. It is not proposed that he shall disgorge only 5s. in the £1. There is an income tax of 5s. in the £1 on incomes above a certain amount. There is to be an additional tax of 25 per cent., and then a super tax of 30 per cent.; so that the maximum tax to-day is not 5s., but 8s. 3d. in the £1. There is no reason why we should not make the maximum higher. We on this side of the House cannot do that; but there is nothing to prevent the Government proposing a higher impost. Do the Government say that they will allow the profiteer to escape and oontinue to rob the community ?
Mr.Hector Lamond. - We shall say something very different to that!
– After the election?
– When we get the power.
– We have complete power over taxation at the present time.
– What did you do when you were in power ?
– I have not been in power for years, but I did something that honorable members have apparently forgotten. For long I have been anxious that this Parliament should* have additional powers, equal, at least, to those exercised by the Legislative Councils of the States. If the Government do not exercise their taxation powers they cannot blame the State Parliaments.
– How could we distinguish between a profiteering income and an income which is not profiteering?
– Honorable members opposite ask for definitions, and are apparently anxious to find excuses for permitting profiteering to continue. Time after time the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) has told us that the cause of industrial unrest is profiteering.
– The honorable member might as well propose to put an extra income tax on the proceeds of robbery.
– Profiteering is absolute robbery.
– It is.
– I do not condemn a burglar who breaks into a house and takes a risk any more than I Warne those people who every dav are robbing people of their food. Some commodities have increased in price by 400 per cent, in the last twelve months, and the Government are not lifting a hand.
– I can hardly realize that the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Higgs)1 is genuine in his proposal, and I am surprised that the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Tudor) thinks we can deal with the profiteer by means of taxation. There is one method by which the profiteer could be dealt with provided we had the power; that is not by taking part of the profits, but confiscating the whole, leaving a Board or some authority to decide what the legitimate profit should be, probably 10 per cent. It is nice electioneering tactics to say that we on this side are not anxious to deal with profiteering. If we were stupid enough to adopt a proposal such as that before us, somebody would bring an action, and the High Court would declare the legislation illegal because some of the profiteering would be within a State, and we cannot interfere with the commerce of the State. I do not say that my method is the only one, but I think it would prove effective. It is canting hypocrisy on the part of honorable members opposite to support the proposal, seeing that we have no power to act in the way suggested. It is infamous and cruel for public men to parade their opinions, and mislead the thousands of people outside who require relief.
.- It is astonishing how quickly members change their opinions when they change their associates. The attitude taken up by the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Archibald) is surprising, and so are guffaws and expressions of wonderment on the part of the majority of honorable members opoosite when we mention profiteering. Do honorable members opposite really wish the public to believe that there is no profiteering? If a definition of “profiteering” is required I should say that it is taking advantage of ‘ war cir- cumstances torob the general public. If the Government desire to know what sort of man a profiteer is, let them apply the taxation curve to him. When wages are in question, a workingman’s wife has to appear in Court and swear to every penny her husband earns. The word “hypocrisy” does not come well from a man like the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Archibald)’, who was, perhaps, as militant and wild a person as was to be found amongst those who in 1890 desired to form a Labour party in South Australia.
– Is it a fact that you put up the rents of those cottages of yours ?
– I must take notice of that contemptible suggestion from a man who got married to dodge going to the war, while urging others to enlist.
– I demand an opportunity to make a personal explanation, and I mean to have it.
– I have asked honorable members not to indulge in personalities, which only lead to disorder, and I repeat the request.
– The sinister suggestion has been made-
– I made no suggestion, but asked a plain question.
– The sinister suggestion has been made that I am a profiteer, inasmuch as I have raised the rents of cottages that I own. I do not know whether the mean, distorted, gnarled mind of the honorable member prompted him to make that suggestion, or some one has given him erroneous information; in any case, he will be sorry for making it.. The only property I own, or partly own, in South Australia, is represented by a £50 deposit on a house, on which there is a £236 mortgage, and which is let for 10s. per week, and taking in rates and taxes and upkeep, it can be easily seen if there is any profiteering in that.
– I must go further in this matter. I did have a property before I left for the war. It was a house gained through a Star-Bowkett Society.
The CHAIRMAN (Hon. J. M. Chanter).The honorable member must confine himself to a personal explanation.
– I have more than that to make.
– I shall satisfy the honorable member.
– I shall let the community see what the honorable member for Denison is like.
– I again appeal to honorable members not to indulge in personalities. As a matter of fact, owing to the interjections and conversation I am unable to hear what honorable members on either side say. I must ask the honorable member for Adelaide not, to continue the personal matter, and if I hear any personalities raised, in. regard, to him I shall check them.
– I suggest that I be permitted very shortly to finish my explanation, which will clear me in the eyes of the public.
– The honorable member for Denison (Mr. Laird Smith) knew that his statement was not true when he made it.
– I must ask the honorable member to withdraw that remark.
– In accordance with the Standing Orders I do so; but I ask whether the honorable member for Denison, is in order in- making a statement which he knows to be untrue.
– Thehonorable member knows that to impute ‘ untruths to a member is a distinct breach of the Standing Orders, which I ask. him to obey.
– Can you not order, a statement made by the honorable member for Denison; to be withdrawn?
– The honorable member must withdraw his imputation onthe honorable member for Denison.
– I do so.
– I am. informed: that the honorable, member for Denison, imputed something to the honorable mem: ber for Adelaide. If so, I ask him to withdraw it.
– As a matter of personal explanation, I desire to say I made no charge against the honorable member for Adelaide.
– Is it competent, while an honorable member is making a personal explanation, for a second- honorable member- to rise and make- a personal) explanation ?
Mr.Laird Smith. - I wish to put this matter right. I know the honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Yates) owns property, in that city, and was informed that he had raised the rents. I asked the honorable member- if that was a fact. I. made no charge,, but merely asked a question by way of, interjection-. If the nonora<ble member had replied in the negative, I should have accented his statement.
– The honorable member for Denison assures me, and. the
Committee, that he made no such charge against the honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Yates) as that honorable member thought.
– I hardly think the suggestion of the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Higgs) would meet the case of a “ profiteer “ such as myself. There . may be others in the community whb “ profiteer “ to the extent that I do. I wish to show how little revenue would be gained by taxing men who have “ profiteered “ in the way I have, and’ to expose the futility of applying the honorable member’s motion to- individuals like myself. I- do not own any property other than what I have made known to the Committee ; but before I went to the war I had a property which I acquired through the Starr-Bowkett Society. I knew that on the other, side I might have no more luck than the other fellow. I have a wife and daughter, and thanks to my being here, I have been a’ble to buy a place for my wife, and she can do what she likes with it. . I live in it, and that is sufficient for me; but before I left for the Front, I made the other house over to my girl, so that the lawyers should not be able to cut into it if I was knocked over. That is the extent of. my “ profiteering.” I was worth a few pounds, and my sisterhad about £50, which, she put into, a war loan bond. She had reared- my daughter, and I knew if the- money was not tied up> she would- spend it on that girl. That is why I advised her. to put it . into the war loan; but I bought that bond from, her before I went away, because if I was knocked over, all I subscribed to my sister and my dad would: be gone; and she would’ have to work for my father. Rather than see her stuck with a war loanbond, and have to sell it or sacrifice the interest, I said to her, “ I will buy yourwar loan bond’ and pub your money in- the bank.” I did so. At the same time, a gentleman whom we all know wanted’ to negotiate a £30 war loan bond.’ He came to me and asked me if I would buy it. I did so, so that I had £80 in war loan bonds, and that is one- third of the wealth that I possessed. That bond lies in the Commonwealth Bank in Adelaide. They asked me where they should pay the interest. I said, “ Pay it back to the Commonwealth. Ido not want any interest on my money from my country.” That is the extent of my “ profiteering.” I own’ no property, and I gave one-third of my wealth back to the Commonwealth, with ‘the interest on it, while at the same time I offered my services to my country. Now I dare any contemptible individual to ask me how I “ profiteered “ during the war. I did not want to tell honorable members about these private matters, but I have been forced to do so. 1 4 have always held that money should be lent to the Commonwealth free of interest for war purposes.
The honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Archibald) says we are parading this matter merely for political purposes. One of his confreres, the late Gregor McGregor, was working for 6s. per day on the St. Kilda-road embankment, on relief works, when he first entered the Labour movement. Those men knew what it was to be “ down and out “ ; they knew what low wages were. We have no need to parade these -things for election purposes. The Government are doing it for us. The very guffaws that come from the Ministerial side when profiteering is mentioned will be sufficient to show the electors the true state of things when the Government go to them with the Constitution Alteration Bills, saying “ These are the .same as the Labour party offered you.” The people know they are not the same. They know the Government do not intend to use them, and that they dare not squelch the force that keeps them in power to-day. The Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) may glibly talk about it, saying that he will “ damn the profiteer,” horse, foot, and artillery, and get his claws into them. No, he will not; he will do that to the electors after he’ lias their votes. I say this advisedly, because the Government passed a wartime profits tax, and the honorable member for Hindmarsh still advocates it. In the first year, £600,000 was derived from that tax. Do the Government mean to say that those are all the war profits that were made in that year ? In the next year,- £1,200,000 odd was received. Are those all the profits that were made? It is anticipated that in 1920 the receipts from that tax will be £2,200,000. Is that the best the. Government can do to stop profiteering? They are not sincere on it. This motion, bald as it is, will test them. The hon orable member for Henty (Mr. Boyd), at the time the war-time profits tax was introduced, said the best way to do it was by means of the income tax, as the machinery was all there, and it would be cheaper. I believe the honorable member was right; but it will not catch the profiteers. I agree with the honorable member for Illawarra (Mr. Lamond) that you cannot suppress the profiteer by becoming his partner, because you are in the swim with him. You have to swear that he is as good as you are, because he is paying you to say so. The only way is to be honest and honorable. Instead of paying men Mood-money for carrying on the war, the only way will be to try to get a few patriots, when they have money they do not want, to let the Commonwealth have it and use it. In other words, you will have to start at the fountain-head in this sort of business, and it will have to be the banks. Whatever the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Falkiner) may say about it, there is one thing on record to the credit of the Labour party - that the Commonwealth Bank was started on nothing, and is now a good ‘profit-earning concern, insuring the stability of the Commonwealth. The Commonwealth note issue, although the honorable member may call it borrowing on the credit of the community without paying for it, is, nevertheless, a community utility, and as such should be used and extended to succour the Commonwealth at this time. I should not have spoken if honorable members had not tried to create the impression that every action we take is prompted by the desire to win the next election. ‘ If the Labour party stand by ‘their ideals^ notwithstanding their sins of omission in the past, they will have no need to do any window-dressing or cajoling to gain votes, because next time the electors will return us to power.
.- I wish to call attention to an anomaly in the Bill. A single man with dependants is allowed to make’ a deduction for them. When he marries, he is not allowed to do so. It seems to me that a man who marries and has dependants in the shape of a mother, brothers, sisters, or other relatives, should still be allowed to make a deduction for them from his taxable income.
Question - That the schedules he agreed to - put. The Committee divided.
Majority . . . . 18
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Schedules agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Motion (by Mr. Poynton) proposed -
That this Bill be now read a third time.
.- I want to impress on the Government the absolute necessityof taking immediate action, in order that every effort may be made to get into line with the States in the matter of income tax returns, so as to save the enormouswaste of energy, time andmoney now incurred through two separate returns having to be filled in.
– I can assure the honorable member that we are trying to do all we can in that respect now.
– I want the Commonwealth to make a small concession. When the last Conference of the Commissioners or Deputy Commissioners from the various States was called, a certain line of action was agreed upon, but the Commonwealth afterwards departed entirely from the agreement. The Government may have to give a little away, but the existing arrangement means such a serious impost on the taxpayers generally that I hope every effort will be made to enable the Commonwealth and the States to fall into line.
.-I should be glad to obtain from the Acting Treasurer (Mr. Poynton) some information in regard to the fourth schedule, which provides -
Rates of Tax upon the Income op a Company. (a)For every pound sterling of the taxable income of a company which has not been distributed to the members or shareholders of the company the rate of tan shall be 2s. 6d.
I wish to know whether absentees pay a lower rate than that imposed on taxpayers resident in Australia. On the face of it this schedule appears to’ be capable of that construction, and, if so, it is a most inequitable provision. An absentee might be drawing an income of £5,000 a year out of Broken Hill interests. If he were in Australia he would pay income tax at the rate of 8s. 3d. in the £1.
– The absentee would pay that rate plus the flat rate.
– According to paragraph b it would appear that he would pay a rate of only 8d. I can hardly believe that to be. correct, since the taxaton officers are careful that every taxpayer pays his due. We have in the Commissioner of Taxation, Mr. Ewing, an excellent officer, and he takes care that no one escapes.
– The tax of 8d. is collected from the company, and the balance is collected from each individual.
– I am glad to have that assurance. I have only, in conclusion, to express my regret that we were not successful in carrying some of the, amendments moved by members of our party, since I believe they would have materially improved the Bill.
.- At an earlier stage a promise was made on behalf of the Government that before the next Income Tax Bill was brought down the schedules would be looked into. I hope that that promise means that the schedules will not. only be looked into, but so amended that in passing them we shall know what we are doing.
– I hope so.
– I have taken exception to the schedules, not only on this occasion, but every time that an Income Tax Bill has been before the House. We now have the promise of the Minister for the Navy (Sir Joseph Cook) that the matter will be looked into, and since he has expressed his hostility to the present means of ascertaining the tax payable by any taxpayer, we may hope that we shall have next year an Income Tax Bill that we can understand.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read’ a third time.
Bill presented, and, by leave (on motion by Mr. Greene) read a first time.
The following papers were presented : -
Taxation of leasehold estates in Crown lands - Report of the Royal Commission.
Ordered to be printed - .
Defence Act. - Regulations amended. - Statutory Rules 1919, Nos. 236, 237, 240, 242.
War Precautions Aet. - Regulations amended. -Statutory Bulee 1919, No. 241.
Motion (by Mr. Poynton) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- I wish to direct the attention, of tha Assistant Minister for Defence (Mr. Wise) to a matter of considerable urgency, and to ask him, if he can,, to make a statement on the subject to-morrow. Some time ago the Red Cross of New South Wales sought to establish ‘in the municipality of Randwick a hospital for consumptive soldiers. After some discussion that proposal was turned down. Recently I heard in Sydney that the Defence Department had granted one of its buildings at Randwick for this purpose, and that a hospital for the treatment of. consumptive soldiers was to be established there. I am not at al] concerned with the interests of Randwick in this matter, but I am vitally concerned with the wel- fare of returned soldiers. On hearing of the action, that had been taken, it occurred to. me that it was certainly foreign to the practice, as I understood it, to place consumptives close to the sea coast if you wished for their recovery. I immediately rang up the Department’s principal, Medical Officer in New South Wales, and he eventually gave me information on two points.. He said, in the first place, that modern experience in medical practice was that consumption in . its. final stages was best treated on the sea-coast; and he told me, secondly, that the soldiers in question who were supposed to be in the final stages of tha disease were deeply appreciative of the Department’s kindness in giving them this chance of. passing their concluding hours near the sea-coast, where they could best be treated, and whera they could best be seen by their friends.. I asked the Principal Medical Officer how he could possibly say when a case of consumption was in its final stages-. I had a brother who, many years ago, was given exactly throe weeks to live by the highest consultant authority at that time in England: He lived, however, for- ten years, and would have been living to-day but that he took risks: He set out on a tour in the East, and went to pieces.
I was not satisfied with this statement of the Principal Medical Officer, and the first step I took was to ring up the secretary of the- Returned Soldiers Association in Sydney. I asked him to make discreet inquiries- amongst tho soldiers themselves, in order to test the accuracy of the statement that they were deeply appreciative of the action of the Department in arranging for their treatment on the sea-coast. He intimated to me two days later that 75 per cent, of these men deeply resented this action. They wanted to go to the mountains, where they thought they had a better chance of regaining their health, and they ‘believed that they were prevented from going to the mountains because certain places there had been occupied for a long time by men who had not been to the war. I then went further, and asked a. medical man, whose practice places him in a position to know, how the. consumptive patients were faring at North Head, another place near Sydney, close to the sea.. I was told by that doctor that they were not faring well.
Owing to the pressure brought in opposition to this proposition, the matter has been referred to the Sydney Health Board. I took steps some weeks ago to bring before that Board the result of my investigations*. I showed the Board, through the Minister of Health, that the statement as to the men desiring the present arrangement was false, and that, therefore, they should not be predisposed to allow this arrangement to be carried but on the ground that the soldiers wanted it. The only excuse that could be offered for having this hospital in Sydney is that the men in the final stages of the disease would thus be near their relatives. But they do not all come from Randwick or Sydney. I suggest to the Defence Department that, where a man who is thought to be in the final stages of consumption wants to be near his relatives, and they reside on the seaboard, he should be treated there; but where they are in the country, let the Department take for that man a private ward in the local hospital, and treat him as well as he can be treated in that hospital near to his friends and relatives. I do not take a pessimistic view, nor would I accept, any more than a doctor would accept, any final verdict as to a person suffering from consumption.
– There are many cases which go to prove the wisdom of not doing so.
– There are. I would urge the Department to make every possible provision for the accommodation of these men on the. Blue Mountains. There we have the finest climate in the world for the treatment of the disease, and these men deserve every possible consideration. I hope the Minister will not think I am speaking on behalf of the municipality of Randwick. If I thought it would be to the welfare of these men to be there, I should not utter one word of protest, . because the welfare of the men wbo have served us is more to me than the interests pf any municipality. I ask the Minister to look into the matter urgently, so that, even if be cannot make a statement in regard to it to-morrow morning, he will, at least, be able to give the House an assurance before it rises that the interests of these men will be safeguarded.
– I desire to support all that has been said by the honorable member forWentworth (Mr. Kelly), and I hope that the Minister will do what he suggests in regard to consumptive soldiers, not only in New South Wales, but in Western Australia. The State Government of Western Australia has removed all tubercular patients from the coast to the hillside, and has established at Wooroloo a sanatorium for the treatment of tubercular diseases of every kind. I ask the Assistant Minister for Defence to have inquiries made, and to see that no returned soldier in Western Australia who is suffering from lung trouble is. allowed to remain on the sea-coast.
– I thoroughly agree with, all that has been said by the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Kelly) and the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Burchell), and will have urgent inquiries made to-morrow morning.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 11.30 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 9 October 1919, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1919/19191009_reps_7_90/>.