8th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. Sir Elliot Johnson) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
Reported Sale - Alleged Dismissal of Workmen
– There is a report in the Sydney press that the Cockatoo Island Dockyard is being disposed of to an American syndicate. Is there any truth in that report?
– There is no truth whatever in the statement that the Dockyard has been disposed of.
On the 13th September, the honorable member for-Dalley (Mr. Mahony) read the following telegram, which he had received from Sydney: -
Notwithstanding shipbuilding agreement Ship-yard Department of Cockatoo paid off all boilermakers and ten assistants. Please ask if Government is aware of this.
I promised to make inquiries into the matter. I have since received a report from the Commonwealth Ship Construction Branch, and now place before honorable members this statement of the position: -
There have been some dismissals of men from Cockatoo Island recently; the circumstances are as follow: -
The Boilermakers Society in Sydney some little time ago instructed its members that they must not use on “ repair “ work such tools as pneumatic ri vetting hammers, pneumatic drills, pneumatic chipping and caulking tools, and acetylene cutting and burning lamps. This meant a reversion to. the old “hand” methods, which ate practically obsolete, take longer, and are much more costly. It may be observed that the tools referred to have been in use on all classes of work in Sydney for years.
At the time this decision wasgiven, the construction of ship No. 47 (one of the 12,800 ton vessels) was proceeding without interruption, as the embargo on pneumatic tools, &e., did not apply to new construction work.
H.M.A.S. Platypus was drydocked at Cockatoo Island, on 8th September, for the purpose of having repairs effected to a damaged bottom. The boilermakers who were put on the job were proceeding to work in the customary way with pneumatic tools, but were prevented by the union delegates. The manager of the Dockyard pointed out to the delegates that the Platypus was a war vessel, but this made no difference, and the boilermakers did not make a start on the work.
Boilermakers were then transferred from ship No 47 to the Platypus and instructed to proceed with the repair work on this vessel, and on their refusing to use the pneumatic tools, &c., were paid off from the Dockyard. The Platypus has since left the dock without the repairs being effected.
The Platypus is the third vessel requiring repairs that has been laid up at Cockatoo Dockyard owing to the action of the Boilermakers Union in preventing its members from using pneumatic tools, and as it is important that the Dockyard should at all times be free to carry out any repairs required by Naval and Commonwealth Line vessels, the Shipbuilding Board of Control, after very careful consideration, decided, in the interests of the Dockyard, and also, it is considered, in the interests of the majority of the workmen, that this unreasonable and harassing restriction should be restricted. The trouble had been continuing for some weeks, and the Board of Control thought it time it was brought to a head.
The construction of the 12,800-ton vessels has not been stopped. It has been interfered with, as stated above, but the situation has been exaggerated. As a matter of fact, the assertion that all boilermakers have been paid off is incorrect, as the following statement will demonstrate: -
The Board of Control is quite as anxious as any member of the executive of the Boilermakers Union that the work on the two 12,800- ton vessels should proceed in full swing, and as soon as the union rescinds its resolution, that portion of the work which has been affected will be proceeded with. Consideration has to be given, not only to the construction of these vessels, but also to the other work of the Dockyard, and to the effect that the restriction regarding the use of tools has on the discipline and proper carrying on of the business generally.
– On 7th September, the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Mahony) asked the following question: - Wh at was the cost of building steel ships during 1920-21 and 1921-22 respectively in - (a) Great Britain, (b) New South Wales, (c) Victoria, (d) South Australia, and (e) Queensland?
I promised to make inquiries into the matter. I now lay before honorable mem bers copies of reports received from the Commonwealth Government Line of Steamers and the Commonwealth Ship Construction Branch setting out all the particulars available on this matter: -
Report by the Commonwealth Government Line of Steamers.
With reference to the inquiry as to the cost ofbuilding steel ships in Great Britain, the following information is taken from the supplement to Fairplay, of 6th January, 1921, which shows the fluctuation in the price of a new ready 7,500-ton dead-weight steamer: -
Figures from the above source are not available later than January, 1921, but information received through correspondence from the London Office of the Commonwealth Government Line of Steamers indicates that in June of this year ordinary new cargo tonnage was being constructed in Great Britain at about £10 per ton dead weight.
Report by the Commonwealth Ship Construction Branch.
It is hardly practicable to furnish the cost of building steel vessels in any of the Commonwealth States referred to during any particular year, as none of the vessels built were actually commenced and completed within the actual periods mentioned, although, of course, some of the vessels may have been actually constructed within twelve months.
The cost of the vessels built St Queensland, South Australia, and Walsh Island, Newcastle, cannot be furnished for the reason that the contractors have not yet advised the Commonwealth Ship Construction Office of the actual completed cost of any of the vessels they have built.
The cost of vessels completed at Williamstown, Victoria, and at Cockatoo Island, New South Wales, during the periods referred to (irrespective of when they were commenced) is set out on the attached statement.
Cost of Steel Steamers Completed at williamstown. 1920- 21.-Emita- £192,4371s. 7d. 1921- 22.-Erriba-£194,755 7s.11d.
Cost of Steel Steamers of which Hulls were Built at Cockatoo Island and Engines Made and Fitted in Victoria. 1920- 21- Nil. 1921- 22.- Eudunda- £222,341 3s. 9d.
– On the 14th September the honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Bamford) asked whether I had made myself acquainted with the details of a report by the Director of Navigation (Captain Davis) upon the recently established radio station in the Willis Island group, and, if so, was I prepared to say whether the Government intended to give effect to the recommendations regarding the future maintenance of the station. In reply I would state that, as already intimated, the question whether the station should be esablished upon a permanent basiswill be determined in the light of the experience gained during the coining cyclone season, when observations are again to be taken at the islands. In the meantime finality cannot be reached in regard to the whole of Captain Davis’ recommendations. The Treasurer has, however, been asked to provide the funds necessary to enable an immediate commencement to be made with certain works, including the erection of a concrete building to surround the present wooden structure, which have been recommended by Captain Davis for the protection of the lives of the observing and operating staff.
– On the 19th Septem ber the honorable member for Boothby (Mr. Story) asked whether I was in a position to state when the regulations governing the control of wireless in Australia would be issued. I promised to make inquiries and let him know to-day. I now desire to inform him that the regulationswill be issued about the 1st October next.
– On 31st August the honorable member for Yarra. (Mr. Scullin) made the following statements: -
I promised to make inquiries into this matter. I now present a statement received from the. Commonwealth Immigration Branch, which completely disproves the honorable member’s allegations -
The Commonwealth Immigration Office states it has at no time requested any exservice men an India to give up their employ ment in that Dominion in order to come to Australia. Where, however, residents of India have asked to be supplied with information regarding the opportunities for settlers in Australia, they have ‘been informed that the immigration activities of the Commonwealth are for the present being confined mainly to the introduction of farmers, farm workers, and domestics. In the absence of any definite information as to the name of the ex-service man from India referred to by the honorable member for Yarra, the Commonwealth Immigration Branch is not in a position to identify the particular case concerned.
With regard, however, to the statement that the man was offered employment in Gippsland at 15s. _ per week, a recent report from the officer in charge of the State Immigration and Labour Bureau, Melbourne (dated 31st August, 1922), advises that immigrants being sent out to Victoria for agricultural work, but who have not had previous agricultural experience, are being placed in farming employment at a commencing wage of from 20s. to _25s. per week and keep. In this connexion it is pointed out that newcomers who have not had previous experience in farm work require to gain their experience with Australian farmers, who have willingly agreed to teach them rural practices, and thus fit them to qualify “as farmers on their own account. The State Immigration Bureau inform me that the wages in Victoria at present for experienced and efficient farm workers are as follow:
Mixed farm work -
For capable . horsedrivers and ploughmen, 30s. to 40s. per week and keep.
At harvest period, for ordinary hands, 48s. to 60s. per week and keep.
For men capable of driving harvesting and other machinery, 70s. and over.
For dairy farming, 25s. to 35s. or 40s. per week and keep.
With regard to the allegation that Mr. T. Ryan, M.L.A., stated at a meeting of the New Settlers’ League, at the Melbourne Town Hall, that immigrants were working for 15s. per week and keep, it has not been possible to trace the press report of such . statement. However, on the 31st Maj’ last, Mr. Ryan is reported to have stated at the first annual meeting of the New Settlers’ League (metropolitan branch) -
He (the speaker) knew of several men from Cambridge and Oxford Universities who were at present working in the bush for 30s. per week, and had told him they had never been more happy.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Repatriation if the dispute between the Government of South Australia and the Repatriation Department as to the build- ing of soldiers’ homes in that State has been definitely settled and an arrangement come to, and whether the money agreed to be advanced to the State has been advanced, so that the work can be carried on?
– The press reports of Mr. Laffer’s speech contain inaccurate statements which I feel sure he did not make. The whole of the moneys covered by the memorandum signed by the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Rodgers), the then Assistant Minister for Repatriation, have long ago been made available to the South Australian Government.We are now attempting to negotiate an agreement which will cover further advances, and have used every effort to get a satisfactory arrangement. The matter has been held up only because of the attitude of the : South Australian Government towards our request that we should be satisfied that the moneys advanced are being used exclusively for the purposes for which they are provided.
– I have been informed that at a large gathering of farming delegates they instructed their representatives in. this House, in spite of the protests of those representatives, to object to the sale of the Commonwealth Government Line of Steamers. I ask the Prime Minister whether the gathering had any inside knowledge that the Government intend to dispose of those ships ?
– I cannot say whether or not they bad any inside information. I am not a thought reader; I am only the honorable member for Bendigo. I do not know what the Farmers’ representatives know, but if they do know what the honorable member has said, they know more than I do. If the honorable member asks me whether it is a fact that we are negotiating for the sale of the Commonwealth Government Line of Steamers I can answer him.
– That will do.
– That is quite a. different, thing. We are not negotiating for such a sale.
– I understand that the control of ex-enemy property during the last five or six years has been with the Prime Minister’s Department, and I ask the Prime Minister to lay upon the table of the House for the information of honorable members and the country information showing the receipts from sales of such property, the state of the fund on the. 30th June last, and. the ultimate destination of the money?
– I will make inquiries, and supply whatever information is available.
– Can the Prime Minister confirm the announcement in this morning’s press that the elections will take place on the 9th December?
– I neither affirm nor deny it. That the elections will take place is, unhappily, only too certain. But when they will take place has not yet been disclosed. Speaking as one member of Parliament to others, I say that if any honorable gentleman can suggest a date that would be suitable to him I should be very glad to try to make an arrangement that would be mutually satisfactory. The Greek Kalends would, perhaps, be a date satisfactory to some members.
– Has the Prime Minister received any application from the Government of New South Wales for financial assistance to enable it to purchase wire netting, and supply it on extended and easy terms of repayment to land-owners in rabbit-infested areas? If so, what decision, if any, has been arrived at?
– I have not received any application from the Government of New South Wales for financial assistance for the purpose mentioned. I did, however, discuss with the Minister for Lands the position of land-holders in rabbitinfested areas, but the conversation related more to the creation of a rabbit skin pool than to wire netting. A suggestion was made that a price should be guaranteed for twelve months that would keep the trappersat work, all the year round.
The view of Mr. Wearne was, and I think there is a good deal in it, that when only a low price is offering for skins the trappers discontinue operations, and the rabbits by their appalling fecundity increase during this period of inaction, so that during the cool season they are as bad as ever. It was suggested that if a uniform price were guaranteed trapping operations would continue all the year round. Wire netting was mentioned, but the decision of the Government to place that item on the Tariff free list satisfied Mr. Wearne.
– In view of the somewhat severe reduction in the retail grocers’ profits on sugar, I ask the Minister for Trade and Customs if there is any chance of their position being eased in the near future ?
– The promised reduction of the price of sugar to 5d. per lb. id rendered possible only by the reduction in freight, refining costs, and wholesale and retail charges. I am aware that the retail grocers have made strong representations against the reduction; but I am aware, also, that there is a much greater demand from the whole nation for a reduction in the retail price of sugar.
– In order to remove the uncertainty on the part of merchants in all States, will the Minister for Trade and Customs announce definitely when the price of sugar will be reduced to 5d. per lb.?
– I have already announced definitely -that tho reduction will take place on the 1st November,
Pre-selection of Parliamentary Candidates.
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. Sir Elliot Johnson) announced that he had received an intimation from the honorable member for Barrier (Mr. Considine), that he desired to move the adjournment of the House to discuss a definite matter of urgent public importance, namely, “ The urgent necessity of some form of public investigation into the widespread charges of bribery, corruption, forgery, impersonation, and other criminal practices now being made in various States in connexion with the selection and election of candidates by political organizations for State and Commonwealth Parliaments.”
Five members hewing risen in tiwi? places,
.- I was desirous of ascertaining how sincere was the demand for a public investigation
– Why do not honorable members of the Opposition support the demand for an inquiry?
Other honorable members interjecting,
– I ask honorable members to observe the rules of the House by not interjecting across the chamber, and allowing the honorable member for Barrier to proceed, without interruption.
– Now that the applause has subsided, I may be permitted to say that it is my intention to ascertain how sincere honorable members opposite were yesterday evening, when they were listening with rapt attention to the honorable member for Cook (Mr. J. H. Catts) making certain charges against one particular organization that runs candiates for Federal and State Parliaments. When I endeavoured to contribute a little to the debate I received the attention of the Minister for Defence (Mr. Greene) in the shape of the closure. Therefore, I take this method of ascertaining whether it is the wish of. this House that some form of public investigation should be held, not only into the allegations made by the honorable1 member for Cook wilh regard to the Labour party, but also into charges of bribery and corruption which are made against nearly every political party in the various States and the Commonwealth.
– Would the honorable member include the Ready-Earle scandal?
– I would include everything that needs investigation by honest men, because the charges that are so frequently made in connexion with the selection and election of candidates for State and Commonwealth parliamentary honours, as it used to be called, are such as (to tempt the average citizen to hold his nose with disgust whenever politics or politicians are mentioned. The remarkable feature of the charges made by the honorable member for Cook is the fact that, although the honorable member has informed the House on several occasions that this corrupt gang of Tammany politicians, as he describes them, has been operating, and these cases of corruption and bribery and everything that is vile, with which the honorable member himself was associated for so many years, have been going on, according to his own utterances and published statements, from at least 1915, year after year from that date, which the honorable member mentions as being the time when this corruptness became organized in the State of New South Wales, he has been the campaign director forthe Labour party for every election campaign initiated by the so-called “ Tammany Hall gang.”
– It started in 1910, when the honorable member for Cook and the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr.Higgs) formed a cave against Mr. Andrew Fisher.
– The honorable member may know all about that incident; but I was not in politics then. When I was selected in 1917 by the Australian Labour party in the Barrier constituency, and was haled before the executive of the Australian Labour party in Sydney to have my indorsement questioned, whom had I to satisfy as to my bona fides? It was Mr. J. H. Catts, the honorable member for Cook. And when the late respected and loved member for Sturt in the New South Wales Legislative Assembly (Mr. Percy Brookfield) attempted to expose the corruption in the Labour party in his State, who attempted to hound him out of political existence ? Mr. J. H. Catts ! Did not the girls and typists in Macdonell House, Sydney, go on strike before they would publish the lying statements made by the honorable member for Cook?
– The honorable member must withdraw that accusation.
– But I say they were lying statements.
– The honorable member is not entitled to use that expression, and must withdraw it.
– I withdraw it so far as the honorable member is concerned, but I will say that lying statements were issued by one J. H. Catts. I do not know whether he is identical with the honorable member for Cook or not.
– The honorable member must make an unqualified withdrawal.
– I do so far as the honorable member for Cook is concerned, but I want to let other honorable members know that the individual who was in charge of the State election campaign at Macdonell House, in Sydney, at that time issued such reprehensible and maliciously false statements that they caused a strike amongst the girls in Macdonell House. They refused to issue the stuff that was sought to be issued by this individual against Mr. Brookfield, who was attempting to point out the rottenness and corruption existing at that particular period. I do not think there is any one with the slightest knowledge of the conditions prevailing in any of the States where these transactions have been dragged into the light of day but will admit that there were corrupt and criminal ‘ practices in connexion with the selection and election of candidates for Parliament. But during the last State election campaign, the Campaign Director in New South Wales was this gentleman, who says that he has had this evidence piled up for years, and has made it quite clear that it is unsafe for any other honorable member to have a private conversation with him without expecting that sooner or later what may have been said in the course of that private conversation would be made use of in Hansard to suit the political interests of the honorable member for Cook. During that campaign, which was directed by Mr. J. H. Catts. the honorable member for Cook, an incident occurred which made me the victim of the corrupt crowd or clique in Sydney. My name was forged to a telegram in Macdonell House, and when I brought the matter up here and attempted to move that the papers in connexion with the investigation conducted bv the oostal authorities be tabled, Mr. Catts, who is now the personification of everything that is pure in connexion with politics-
– I rise to a point of order. The honorable member for Barrier (Mr. Considine), in moving this motion in order to draw attention to the necessity for a public investigation, is using it, not for the purpose of securing a public inquiry into the serious charges made, but as a cover for making an attack on the honorable member for Cpok (Mr. J. H. Catts). I move -
That the question be now put.
– May an honorable member make a speech when he moves that the question be now put?
– No; an honorable member is not in order in making a speech when submitting such a motion. It is quite competent for an honorable member to rise in his place and move that the question be now put, but it is not competent for him to preface such a motion with a speech. As to the point of order raised, I have looked carefully into the notice which I received of the intention to move the adjournment of the House, and I was inclined to believe that it revived a question that was “decided by the House last night. However, on looking into the matter more closely, I see that the present motion covers a different point from that raised by the honorable member for Cook last night. The present motion has to do with a public investigation, whereas the amendment of the honorable member for Cook dealt with the failure of the Government to make provision in the Bill for governmental control. These are two different matters, and the honorable member for the Harrier (Mr. Considine) is, therefore, in order.
– I can quite understand the objections raised by the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Higgs). I have no wish to be drawn from my subject in order to pay attention to that gentleman. I can afford to leave the honorable member in the hands of his present Leader and old friend. The sentiments expressed in regard to him by the Prime Minister are equally applicable at the present moment.
Motion (by Mr. Higgs) put -
That the question .be now put.
The House divided.
In division :
Question so resolved in the negative.
.- I desire to say a few words, not so much upon the direct subject of the debate as respecting that which arises from it. A week or so ago the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton) intimated to the Government that he would do all he could, speaking on behalf of his party, to facilitate the business of the House. Yesterday, when my Leader became indisposed, he remarked to me that there were a number of Bills to come before the attention of members, but that they embraced nothing of very great importance; and he reminded me that, in pursuance of his undertaking, it would be the business of the Opposition to facilitate the passage of those measures. Yesterday the Government displayed anxiety to get on with business. And the way in which they did so was by applying the “gag” repeatedly while honorable members were discussing the Electoral Bill.
– The honorable member will not be in order, in debating that matter.
– I am leading, up to the question. Am I not permitted to illustrate my argument?
– The honorable member has not yet put his argument; but if he connects his remarks with the question, he may proceed.
– I prefer to lead up to my argument by means of illustrations. This debate has arisen in consequence of the proceedings of last evening, when Ministers professed themselves extremely anxious to get on with business, and, on that ground, continually applied the “ gag “ for the immediate decision of questions of importance. When the Leader of the Country party (Dr. Earle Page) wished to make an important statement regarding the Electoral Bill, the Minister in charge of the measure replied with what was practically a personal attack on the honorable member. But when the third reading of the Bill was moved, and the honorable member for Cook (Mr. J. H. Catts) rose to open up questions wholly unconnected with the Bill and, whether his statements were true or not, of no concern to the House, there was a change of attitude on the part of the Government. The Minister in charge of the business of the House showed himself no longer anxious to make progress; he sat quietly, with a sanctimonious smirk on his features, listening for two hours to dirty and filthy utterances upon every subject under the sun except the Electoral Bill. I have nothing to say about the matters dealt with by the honorable member for Cook. He has the right to choose his own party, and to take his own course. If he thought that he did himself good by the ‘speech he made last night, that does not concern me. But what he had to say had nothing to do with this House. I can understand a man separating himself from his party if he has been associated with a body of criminals, and feels it imperative for his future safety that he shall henceforth be as virtuous as in the past he has been vicious. A man may be impelled to sever old associations in order to avoid punishment or in the hope of reward. Such a man may turn round and abuse those in whose crimes and offences he was a partner. He may be prompted by remorse, or his exposure of his former associates may be due to a hope of escaping punishment for his own misdeeds. The honorable member for Cook, however, went beyond the denunciation of the criminals with whom he said he had been associated, and endeavoured to besmirch an entire section of the community. He was not content with singling out those whom he said had committed certain offences ; he directed his attacks on a body of men who have had no connexion with the misdoing that he spoke of, if, indeed, it existed. None “of the members of this party have been associated with those undesirable persons with whom he showed his own connexion to have been so intimate. There I leave the honorable member. I have not another word to say about any statement he may choose to make. If his remarks were true, they “ concern only the public of one State; they have no concern for nine-tenths of the population of Australia, or for fivesixths of the States of the Union. His charges did not reflect upon the Labour party, and the matter of his speech was not a thing upon which this Chamber should have been allowed to spend its time last night. I can understand that the Ministers and their supporters were pleased ‘to hear the honorable member’s utterances, hoping to build their fortunes on our misfortunes. They were satisfied to allow the honorable member to endeavour to besmirch us as he did. Although the Government had professed such anxiety to transact public business of vital importance, Ministers allowed the House to listen for two hours to utterances which, even if true, were so disgusting in their obscenities ‘that no’ Chamber should have been permitted to listen to them. It may be said that a member of the Labour party could have moved for the application of the “ gag “ to the speech of the honorable member for Cook; but had any of us done that, we should have been accused of trying to cover up charges that were being levelled at us. No such objection, however, could have been taken to the Government’s interference in the interests of decency. When, the members of this House of all parties are regardless of their obligations to themselves, and of what is due to the dignity of this assembly; when some of them, because of the circumstances in which they are placed, must remain silent, and others refrain from interfering because of the hope that their opponents may be besmirched with filth which should not be thrown on them, it is still the duty of one man to preserve the honour of the Chamber.. You, Mr. Speaker, are the custodian of the dignity and decorum of this assembly, and the Standing Orders give you powers to its preservation. I remind you that the honorable member for Cook (Mr. J. H. Catts) did not make a speech; he gave a recitation.
– He read out everything he had to say. No one else would be allowed to read a speech.
– Everything he had to say had been carefully written out.
– The honorable member for Darling (Mr. Blakeley) read what he had to say yesterday.
– He did not read his speech.
– Even if he had done so, that would not have made the conduct of the honorable member for Cook orderly. It is a breach of the Standing Orders for an honorable member to read his speech.
– It has been done in other quarters.
– I am speaking of what occurred yesterday; there may or may not have been other offenders. Certainly the bulk of honorable members are not permitted to violate Standing Orders as they were violated by the honorable member for Cook, who was permitted to read practically every line of his speech. Still, honorable members are not allowed to criticise the occupant of the cb air. If you, sir, were satisfied that the dignity and decorum of this Chamber, were safe in your hands last night, I have no further comment to make.
– The honorable member is not in order in covertly reflecting on the Speaker in this manner.
– I am not making an attack upon you, sir, and shall leave things where they stand. If it be the desire of Parliament to authorize an investigation on which no one can place a limit, well and good. We, on this side, have nothing to hide. An inquiry, if properly conducted, and if those in charge of it were armed with the necessary powers, would not stop with an investigation of the accusations of the honorable member for Cook. It would not deal with the affairs of one party only ; it would inquire how all parties get their funds, and manage their organizations ; what are the powers behind them, and whether wealth pulls their strings. It should be made known by what means Senator Shannon was deprived of his seat in South Australia, and how it is that men who were known by their poverty for long years showed a sudden change of fortune, and became wealthy, on changing their party. We should know the source of this wealth. We should be told, also, what power it is that can suddenly remove a man from the place in which he has been appointed to carry the banner of his party, and take him to another State. The investigation that is required would shed a light on the corruption inspired by ambition and greed. It would have no regard to the brand of a man’s politics or to his creed ; its concern would be wholly .the interests of the country. I would welcome such an investigation. If in the Labour movement there is anything discreditable, exposure would do us no harm ; on the contrary, it would purify the party, and make it stronger and better. But were au investigation to bring to light facts besmirching the so-called Nationalists, that party would be swept out of existence, because the power behind it is that of a few rich magnates; it is a corroding power. Those are my comments on the proceedings of last night. If. a division is called for, I shall vote for. the inquiry that is desired.
Question put. The House divided.
Majority . . . . 21
Question so resolved in the negative.
– I have to inform the House that the Address-in-Reply will be presented to His Excellency the Governor-General at Government House, at 11.45 a.m. to-morrow.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are -
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The answer to the honorable member’s questions is -
The question of the utilization of the Stockinbingal-Forbes line of railway for the carriage of mails has been held in abeyance pending the provision of funds. Funds will not be available until the current Estimates are passed by Parliament.
Seriously Disabled Soldiers
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Repatriation, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are -
The following paper was presented: -
New Guinea Act - Ordinance of 1922 -No. 28- Public Service (No. 2)
WAYS AND MEANS (Formal).
Question - That Mr. Speaker do now leave the chair - negatived.
LAND tax BILL (No. 2).
Debate resumed from 20th September (vide page 2497), on motion by Mr. Bruce -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
.- This short measure deals with . only one matter, and that is the removal of the surcharge on the land tax. That surcharge was imposed ‘ with several other taxes to defray expenditure arising out of the recent war, and I believe that its remission will involve a loss of approximately £400,000 of revenue.
– That would be sufficient to liberalize the old-age and invalid pensions considerably.
– It would. It appears strange that when we are still feeling the financial burdens imposed upon us by the Great War the Government should be proposing remission of taxation in several directions on the very eve of an election. This reduction of the burden of taxation waa not considered necessary until an election became imminent. Now, of course, these sops must be handed out for the very obvious purpose of catching votes.
– Certainly not.
– If that be not the purpose, how is it that in order to make these remissions the Treasurer has to take £3,200,000 from the accumulated surplus Trust Funds? One would expect that a Treasurer proposing such remissions would be able to show that they were warranted by the present financial position of the Commonwealth, but I submit that the financial statement shows the position to be just the reverse. We are not in a position to remit as much taxation as the Treasurer proposes without having to impose additional burdens in some other direction. The Trust Fund on which he is operating this year can only meet the withdrawals for another year, after which additional taxation will need to be imposed. Furthermore, the Treasurer is remitting land taxation at a time when it is needed. Although the actual cost of the war itself may be a diminishing feature in our expenditure, the interest bill on the money borrowed during the war appears to be an ever-increasing item. Many loans will be falling due shortly, and if the money market remains as it is to-day, it is quite probable that some of the 4^ per cent, stock will have to be converted into 5 per cent, stock.
– But it must be remembered that the 4^ per cent, stock is free from the payment of income tax.
– That is so, but if the loan has to be renewed we may not get the money at 4£ per cent.
– We may if we still give the same privilege in regard to freedom from the payment of income tax.
– No; we cannot get it at A per cent.
– I could understand the Treasurer remitting this taxation if sufficient revenue were coming in from other directions to balance accounts; but, as a ‘matter of fact, just when our income is less than our expenditure the Treasurer chooses to remit taxation. It is urged that the tax now sought to be remitted was only imposed for the purpose of meeting war costs. As a matter of fact, the costs to meet which the tax was imposed are not decreasing. It would be quite a different matter if this had been the only additional burden imposed for the purpose. It was not. We also imposed an entertainments tax, portion of which is being remitted, and we increased the postage, telephonic, and telegraphic rates, which are still to stand. In other fields, also, taxation was increased.
– Those other taxes apply to the whole of the people, and not to a. special class, which the land tax solely affects.
– The income tax was imposed for war purposes, and, although the Treasurer proposes to remit portion of that particular budden, he does not intend to go to the full extent we would like in that direction. I could understand some concession being made in the land tax if it were intended to benefit poorer settlers in distress owing to unforeseen circumstances overtaking them,, but it is a very wrong principle to make the remission apply to all the big land-holders of Australia, who probably reaped the greatest benefit out of the recent war, and should be asked to pay something to help in discharging the. war debt incurred by the Commonwealth. The fact that too much land is held by too few people prevents closer settlement. The only means by which we can bring about closer settlement is to impose an effective land tax, and make the large land-holders work their land or dispose of it. But instead of doing that the Treasurer proposes to relieve them of taxation. There are many other directions where one could understand relief from taxation being given before any thought is given to relieving the big land monopolists of the country of the land tax they have been justly called upon to pay.
– They are not to be relieved of the land tax. The proposal is merely to relieve them of the super tax.
– I know that very well. The super tax was imposed during the war. In fact, all of the taxes the Treasurer seeks to remit were imposed primarily for the purpose of getting in sufficient revenue to meet the cost of the war. But is it fair to remit the whole of the additional taxation paid by the wealthy portion of the community when the burden which the taxes were imposed to meet is still with us? I want to retain the super tax on the big landholders. I would not mind giving some concession to the small men; but I maintain that the large landholder should be called upon to contribute something substantial towards the cost of the recent war.
– Does the honorable member say that the land-owner should pay more than the person holding an equivalent amount of property of another character ?
– The question of whether property should pay for the war is another matter. It has not yet been taxed by the Commonwealth to meet the cost of the war, but if we were rushing into another conflict we would probably be compelled to impose a stiff property tax.
– The land tax is a property tax.
– It is a tax on one particular class of property; but what the Treasurer is urging is a general property tax, and that I say is another matter.-
– Believe me, I did not urge it.
– If there is to be any remission of the land tax it should be to those who are in a small way, and not to those who hold vast tracts of country, and who, in many cases, made considerable sums of money during the war.
– And in many cases have big mortgages on their properties.
– We always hear about the land-holders’ big mortgages; but the working man who has a dwelling is generally mortgaged up to the hilt, and has to meet his interest payments or reduce his indebtedness out of very scanty earnings. . He does not get the same consideration as ‘ is being shown to the wealthy land-holder.
– He gets an exemption under the income tax.
– A small; exemption, which still leaves him below the declared living wage.
– Yes, below the declared living wage. The big landholder should not be exempted from the payment of the super tax. Remission of taxation in this direction will not assist in the settlement of the country or aid the Government in their immigration policy. It is useless to talk of bringing people to settle in Australia if the land is not available for them. And when we are talking about a policy of ‘ immigration, our. first proposal should not be to repeal a tax that certainly does have the effect of breaking up large estates. In order to modify the Treasurer’s proposals, I move -
That all the words after “ That “ be left out with a” view to inserting in lieu thereof the following nords : - “ there shall be no remission of taxation upon estates valued at £20,000 and over ‘or upon estates owned by absentees.”
People who derive considerable revenue from their large land holdings in Australia, and live in luxury abroad, should certainly pay something considerable towards the debt Australia has incurred in keeping their land for them.
– A super land tax was only imposed after due consideration, because such taxation is only levied when there is urgent necessity for it. I cannot see* any reason why ‘it should be wiped out now. We cannot say that at the present time our financial position is better than it was when this tax was imposed. As a matter of fact, there is more necessity to-day for the collection of revenue than there was at that time. My honorable friends in the Country party can support this amendment. He would be a rather big “ poor “ farmer who held freehold land worth £20,000. The members of the Country party know that it is most essential to break up large estates in the interests of the farming community; it is one of the economic points they are urging in season and out of season; but as there are among them several who represent very large interests, they may not care about fixing the limit at £20,000. I am now addressing myself to real farmers, and not to merely those who “farm farmers”; and I admit that there are some honorable members in the Corner who do farm land. In Victoria the sons and daughters and daughters’ husbands of farmers have not much hope of acquiring land at moderate prices ; and if our efforts were really in the interests of farmers we should so provide that in the future land would be available to such people. However, amongst those who claim to represent country interests there are men who really do not do so, and, Indeed, do not further country interests. In justification of that statement, may I point to the castigation which yesterday was administered to certain members of this House by a representative body because of the stand they had taken in regard to the disposition of the Commonwealth Line of Steamers ? At last, those who return such membersare realizing that they are not properly represented here.
– You must have . got . some inside information !
– I have received information, which I regard as reliable.
– The honorable member must not discuss that matter at the present time.
– I had intended to merelyreferto it by way of illustration, but the honorable member ‘for Grampians (Mr. Jowett) drew meoff the track. I agree with my Leader (Mr. Charlton) thatthe absentee has no . right to any consideration at . all.That, to somewhere, may soundan astounding statement, but it is one in the truthof which I thoroughly believe. When I speak of ‘absentees, I do not mean those ‘who, like the honorable member for Grampians, pay a visit to the OldCountry; I mean people who draw their money from Australia, and spend it elsewhere, and who, I repeat, deserve no consideration at all, and certainly not to the extent of being relieved from the super tax. If the Government are overloaded with revenue, and have money to give away, may I suggest that the large land-holders should not be the objects of their liberality. If the desire be to spend any surplus money to the best advantage, we ought to liberalize the old-age and invalid pensions. I do not charge the Government with having no feeling or sympathy for these old and stricken people, but there is about £6,500,000 . at the disposal of the Treasury, and this ought not to be used either to placate those who returned the Government to power, or to induce others to vote for them in the future. This £400,000 might well bo spent in liberalizing the old-age and invalid pensions. Let me give some striking illustrations. In my constituency there are several elderly women, whose husbands have taken a “ moonlight flit “ to other States, and though those women, by age, are eligible for old-age pensions, they are refused any relief, because they are not legally separated from their husbands, and are unable to pursue the latter. The Treasurer himself will admit that that is a very wrong position for women to be placed an, and that it was never intended when the Invalid andOld-age Pensions Act was passed that people so circumstanced should be denied relief. And this Teli’ef is denied purely sea an act of administration under the ‘regulations; no blame attaches in this connexion to the officials of the Department. I may not be successful in obtaining proper recognition ofthe rights of tjhese women, but Ishall keep their cases before Parliament untilsomething is done on their behalf.Then I have another case, typical of hundreds in thecommunity. It is a caseof an old couple, thehusband over sixty-five and the wife over sixty. The husband, in consequence of ‘his age, is unfit to work, and is given a pension, but because his wife is anle to do a certain amount of work, the amount of money she earns is deducted from the pension of her husband. Surely if there is money to give away, or largesse to be scattered abroad, some of it might be allocated to such old people as those? But, perhaps, the worst case of all is one which comes under that part of the Act which provides for invalid pensions. I know . a man whose two sons suffer from tuberculosis, and though they never have worked, and never will be able to earn any money, they are refused the invalid pension. The father earns £4 a week, . and he . and the . mother are ‘impoverishing themselves in order to provide the commodities necessary for their invalid sons.
– Iknow of a similar case, and I think that the position arises from a bad interpretation of the Act on the part of the Commissioner.
– That may be. The departmentalofficers have to administer the regulations, which the . Minister could alter, though the Minister, in turn, is governed by the Ministry . I feel con
Ment that if ai vote were taken here,, in view of the> cases. I. ha.ve cited, there would be a. unanimous: vote in favour of a liberalizing of the pensions; indeed, I am convinced: that the Treasurer himself., if he were untrammelled, would vote for a. proposal of the kind.
– This, however, has nothing to- do with the question before us.
– I am merely, saying that if we. have ?400,000 to give away to the large land-owners, surely, something might be done for these old-age and invalid pensioners. Until something is done in the direction I indicate, I shall vote against any proposal such as that before us.
– Did you vote for the remission of entertainment taxation in order to get money for old-age and invalid pensions?
– I object to taxing the youngsters of this community. However; I cannot on this occasion dilate on the advantage of picture shows to civilization. In spite of laughter or sneers, 1 maintain pictures have supplied a great need in the community, and could be made of great; educational value. The poorer section’ of. the community is taxed enough already,, and even’ a tax? on a ls. ticket is foolish, and unfair.. I shall always vote- against, any tax on a, 6d. amusement ticket.
– Order !
-.- r As a. matter, of fact, I do not even feel inclined to- vote for the amendment of my Leader (Mr. Charlton), hut I shall do so. Parliament will,, in all likelihood, be dissolved within a month or six weeks, and I may not have another opportunity to refer to these, matters;, indeed, there may be no more money to give away - or there may. I appeal to the Treasurer to liberalize the invalid and old-age pension so as to remove from our’ midst such heartrending cases as I have cited.
– I had thought it advisable myself to submit an amendment, but I think I can discuss the question equally well on the proposal before us. I take up a very different attitude indeed from that of honorable members of the Opposition who have already spoken. Lest there be any chance of my being misrepresented later on in what I say now, I wish to. make it quite clear that I am opposed to* all land taxation whatever,, except for local autho rity purposes.. I have: made that fact plaint whenever- 1 have spoken on the platforms to my constituents during State andFederal elections’.
– You must have been bora 150 years) ago I
Mr. WEINHOLTMy constituents have, had opportunities to* consider’ my attitude in this regard. But that is> a principle to which. I hold. Andi I say again that land taxation should be left to be imposed by local: authorities. As to. big estates^ it is my opinion that owners who continue to retain them after they have placed themselves; with respect to their neighbours-, in> the- position - so to to speak - of a potato in a gooseberry pieare- acting, very foolishly. The Government have a perfect right to- resume- any land they- may require, whether for railway purposes, for’ defence interests-, or for agricultural1 settlement, provided, that is, that they pay fair and honest value for- the land.
Another point which the Leader of the Opposition probably overlooked in connexion with fixing an arbitrary sum,, such as ?20.000, as a maximum up to which relief should be given, in land taxation, relates to stud breeding. My people,, if I may be permitted to make a personal allusion, were interested, from, the middle of last century, in a property upon which Clydesdale stallions were bred. Horses were imparted from England and Scotland for many years, and’, eventually young- Clydesdales werebeing sent in- considerable numbers- to various parts of- Queensland as well as to other- States. With- the advance of closer settlement, the property was subdivided;, and the ordinary progress of civilization has now- turned that area- into wheat farms’ and the like; and quite rightly so. The other day, however, I was amused to note.- that a deputation of farmers had asked the Queensland Government that Clydesdale stallions should be provided by the State for use among farmers’ stock. My point is that estates devoted to stud breeding, and of sheep particularly, are very necessary, and that we should be careful not to overlook that fact. I have consistently stressed the need for reduction of taxation. I am bound to bear in mind, however, that when the last Budget was introduced the Country party fought very hard for a. reduction in the Estimates sufficient to square the ledger. The honorable member for Darwin (Mr. Bell) supported our efforts. We said we would not countenance a Budget which revealed a deficit of £2,800,000. But we are faced with very much the same situation to-day, and I must point out that I am not inconsistent in my present attitude. I said last year that, rather than that there should be a deficit, I would vote for the imposition of extra taxation, provided, of course, that I was assured - which I have not been - that the Government were exercising care over every peony of expenditure. There is cause for alarm in the prospect of having to support any proposition which may contribute to a loss on the operations of the financial year amounting to nearly three millions sterling. During the present Parliament the Commonwealth has increased its total debt by something like £96,000,000. That is a very serious position. I do not believe in criticising the Parliament of one’s own State from a Beat in this House; but my anxiety is particularly acute because Queensland also shows a tremendous increase in her debt and in the volume of her deficits.
As the Leader of the Opposition pointed out, considerable renewals of loans must shortly be met, both by the States and the Commonwealth. I do not think the Treasurer quite grasped my meaning when I interjected, while the Leader of the Opposition was speaking, that the 4£ per cent, loans were immune from taxation. I meant, not that I would expect the Government to continue the policy of granting immunity from income taxation, but that even if certain 4£ per cent, loans had to be renewed at higher rates, the Commonwealth might still be the gainer, owing to the fact that those renewed loans not in future being immune. I do not see how the Commonwealth can afford to carry on what may be described as a deliberate policy of maintaining a deficit’ of nearly £3,000,000. For that would be a policy of “ sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof,” and of “ after me, the deluge.” It is not fair, of course, to accuse the Treasurer of having introduced the measure before the Chair for votecatching purposes, though the people concerned would naturally very generally support the policy of the Government. For the Government to draw upon the accumulated surplus - which, after all, was in existence last year also, when the Country party endeavoured to square the ledger - is equivalent to eating one’s emergency ration; a ration, too, which will stand only two bites. The Treasurer, no doubt, is counting - I will not say gambling - on a factor which he indicated plainly at the close of his Budget speech. That is to say, he is of opinion that a policy of ‘remission of taxation will cause such a renewal and expansion of confidence among the people generally, that the resultant growth of prosperity will return to the Treasury considerably more than the total of loss involved in remissions. But when the Treasurer proposes to use up practically half his surplus - and despite the fact that he ie a sound mid excellent business man - there is one factor which he must surely overlook. I refer to the possibility of severe droughts. In Queensland, I have seen two-thirds of the whole of the sheep wiped out by a series of bad years, and half the cattle in the State also.
– Such circumstances should afford good reason for the proposed remissions.
– Very good reason ; but the possibilities of recurrence of drought also provide good reason why the Government should make every possible reduction in expenditure.
It had been my intention to move an amendment, but the Leader of the Opposition has already done so. I trust that the Treasurer will deal with the points which I have raised, and that, in the event of Parliament agreeing to this measure of taxation relief - which I emphasize is badly needed - he will reassure honorable members respecting the other side of the question, on which I have endeavoured to obtain light.
.- At this juncture, I welcome all measures for the remission of taxation, of whatever character. I hold that it is the duty of every Government to do with as little money as may be possible, and to take as little as possible from the pockets of the taxpayers in order, to a corresponding extent, to liberate money for -the development of the country. Private enterprise can do very much better with its money in the direction of a country’s development, and along the lines of creating employment, than can any Government. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton) has moved an amendment. The incidence of that amendment is to suggest that there should be no remission of taxation of the richer members of the community. Many loose statements are made with reference, to public and private wealth. I regard profits as being very necessary. After all, profits are the storehouses for taxation; and, without profits, a country cannot raise revenue. Honorable members, upon reflection and examination of Commonwealth and State taxation, will see that income taxes, both Federal and State, amount to as much as lis. and 12s. in the pound. That is to say, more than half of one’s income is taken away in taxation. And then, when a person dies, nearly another half is taken away, in probate duties. If that is not confiscation of wealth, I ask, what is? I am heartily in favour of the proposal of the Government, because I think that the incidence of the land tax is most unjust in many cases. I came across ‘an illustration of this injustice only the other week. I have not got the actual figures with me now, but they could be produced. A large estate is asking for the remission of taxation because of its losses owing to bad seasons, and that remission has been refused, notwithstanding that section 66 of the Act provides for these circumstances being taken into consideration.
– The estate’ may have made good profits for years.
– It has made no profits. Because of the unfair incidence of taxation on accretions of stock and there being no allowance for losses by drought, the land taxation, plus income taxation, Federal and State, plus local government taxation, and other taxes,’ amounts in the case of this estate to more than the value of the wool shorn from the sheep which it carries. The land taxation of the .company owning the estate was nearly £7,000 for the year 1919-20 and about £6,500 for the year 1920-21, but the losses on the working of the estate for those two years amounted to £20,000. This company is staggering under a bank overdraft of £40,000, which will have to be increased to £50,000 if the Commissioner insists on the land tax being paid. It seems to be an illusion to think that the big companies and the so-called rich people who are interested in land can be hit” up much further. They are being hit up now almost to the verge of bankruptcy.
– Where is the property of which the honorable member speaks?
– In New South Wales. It may be thought that the Government can settle people on the land to better advantage than private individuals, but I have it on the authority of the auditor of the Peel River Estate that that company cut up some of its land in New South Wales and settled men on it, and that every one of those settlers has paid off the instalments due on the land, because of the perfection of the company’s organization and its sympathetic treatment of the settlers. Yet when the Government resumed part of the company’s estate, and subdivided it for closer settlement, the majority of the settlers who were put on the land by the Government asked for extended payments, and are in a chronic state of impecuniosity. The panacea for our troubles is not Government interference, but rather abstention of Governments from interfering. The proposed remission of taxation will cost the Treasury £400,000, and next year the Treasurer will have to cut his coat more in accordance with his cloth.
– No one is better able to do that.
– I am inclined to agree with the interjection. But theprinciples of Government finance are theopposite of those of commercial financePersons in business have- to keep their expenditure within their income, while a Government makes its income tally with its expenditure. ,
.- I shall support the amendment, and if -it is not carried I shall vote against the Bill. In my opinion, as during a given period we have accumulated a surplus of over £6,000,000, and during the same period have -increased our national debt by over £400,000,000, it is wrong for the Govern” ment to use the ‘accumulated surplus to try to. influence electors on the eve of an election. The proper business procedurewould be to use the spare money we have in reducing our debts. The last speaker said that Government and private finance was conducted on opposite principles. I do not think that the Treasurer, in the conduct of his private affairs, if he had a bank overdraft and had also in hand accumulated profits, would give these back to his customers; he would be more likely to use his profits to reduce his overdraft. What the honorable gentleman now proposes; to Parliament,, however,, is that instead of reducing: our national debt we shall remit taxation . While- listening to the honorable gentleman’ s Budget speech, I was reminded of the story in the Old Book of Jacob and Esau. When Isaac’s sight had become: dim. by reason of age, andi his. life could not. last much longer; he, according, to custom, determined to give his blessing to his eldest son. He, therefore, called Esau to him, and sent him out hunting to obtain venison to make savoury meat, which was to. be brought to him,, when he would bestow his blessing on the hunter. But the old man evidently had two wives, and the younger wife, overhearing. the instruction to Esau,, told her son Jacob to take a kid of the flock and bring, it to her to be dressed. This he did. He was then told by his mother- to take the savoury meat to his father., his mother adding,, “ I. will put the skin of the animal round your wrists so that you may be taken for your brother, who is a hairy, man.” Jacob, thus disguised, went to his father, who being suspicious, asked, “ Art thou my very son Esau? Jacob replied, “I am.” But the old man’s doubts had not been entirely removed,, because, he added, “ The voice is the voice of : Jacob, but . the hand’ is the hand of Esau.” When I heard the Budget proposals I could not help- applying that saying of Isaac. It seemed- to me that the voice, was “ Stanley’s” voice, but that the hand was the hand of ‘‘Billy.” The Treasurer is one of the smartest business men in this House,, and his Budget statement was presented with a systematic clearness- that was creditable, toi him ; but I do not believe: the. honorable member to be so steeped; in political cunning, and so forgetful of his business training that: he has of his. own initiative proposed to use the surplus that has been accumulated during a period, of years, by spending it to catch votes in this direction, andin that.
– The honorable member should not harbor such evil thoughts.
– I do not harbor evil thoughts; but I have been in this Parliament for two and a half years, and I have watched the political game for- much longer. If honorable members will not accept my opinion, let me give them those of a gentleman who has had much, more to do with politics than I have. This is what has been said of the Budget by the right honorable, member for Balaclava (Mr. Watt), who certainly is not a Labour man -
He;(Mr. Watt) agreed- broadly with the Leader, of the. Opposition, (Mr. Charlton). It was. a Budget designed to influence voters in favour of the Ministry. H’e did not think that was sinful. It was usual1 in every Government, to flirt, more1, or less- openly withi the electors. It was mistaken, tactics- to do- it; so openly - to be. so transparent about it.. The Budget might not prove a vote-catcher; but it was clearly intended to be one. Unfortunately the snare had been, set in sight, of the Bird’, and- although the bird’ would probably eat the crumb,, he would be. wary about entering the snare itself.
The right honorable gentleman understands, politics from. A to Z; he has occupied the position of Federal Treasurer, and his deliberate opinion, is that the Budget was prepared, for the purpose of catching votes.
Mr.jowett. - Surely the honorable member is too charitable toi indorse such a charge?
– I have been in politics long enough not to be so charitable as to believe- that the Governmentwill not do everything they can to secure their return- to power. If I said- otherwise merefy to gratify the honorable member I would be contradicting my experience and common sense.
– What could the Treasurer have done with that surplus, other than, use it to: reduce taxation?
– I think that, a. businesslike policy would have, been to apply the surplus or part of it, to the reduction of the- national debt, this being the real way to ultimately reduce taxation. Some honorable members say that because a man holds Labour views he does not believe in reducing the national debt. I dissociate myself from that view. The honorable member for Parramatta (Mr. P ratten) spoke the other day in regard to the national debt.
– He knows what he is talking about.
– I am glad to have the honorable member’s indorsement, and I wish I could say the same of him. Any honorable member who says that it would be wise on our part to reduce the national debt rather than to try to purchase votes at election time by reducing taxation is talking common sense. There are some persons who do not care how great the national debt is. I am not one of those. I heard the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Wienholt) say that if he held the same views as the honorable member for Barrier (Mr. Considine) he would appreciate the Treasurer doing as he now proposes, but that if we did not do something to limit the national debt Ave would gradually approacha condition in which chaos would reign and Bolshevism would be possible. I have heard some men amongst the rank and file of my own party say, “ Why should the working class worry about the national debt? Itdoes not affect us.” But, as a representative of the workers, I say that any man who thinks that the increase of the uational debt does not have its effect upon the lower-paid producers is blind to facts and the lessons of experience. I have given my first reason for opposition to this Bill. To my mind it is . unbusinesslike to use the accumulated surplus for vote-catching when we have a large national debt hanging over us. I have looked through the different proposals for the remission of taxation, and I say, without hesitation, that there are only two that I would countenance in any way or vote for. I would have been prepared to vote to increase the income tax exemption to £200, because I regard that concession as proper, in view of the decreased purchasing power of the sovereign. I would have voted also for the reduction of the duty on wire, wire-netting, and other articles required by the primary producers, but I would not have, voted for anyof the other proposals indicated by the Treasurer, not even the reduction of the entertainment tax. I look upon entertainments as a luxury, and in. our present financial position I am . not prepared to support any reduction of the tax upon them. These attempts at vote catching
– The honorable member should not say that.
– We. should call a -spade a spade. Even the sparrows on the housetops are chirping about the Treasurer’s viote-catching expedients. In conversation with some of the Liberal members ofthe Victorian Parliament at breakfast ‘this morning they admitted the vote-catching purpose of the Budget. Looking through the proposedremissions in detail, I find that the increase of the income tax exemption to £200 is estimated to mean a loss of £600,000 in revenue. That loss can be put down as a benefit to the . needy. In regard to the 10 per cent, reduction in income taxation, I allot £150,000 of that as a grant to the needy, but £1,150,000 will go to those who are comparatively wealthy. The reduction of 3d . in the £1 on the flat rate of income tax on companies is decidedly a gift of £200,000 to the wealthy. The abolition of the . surcharge on the land tax on estates of over £5,000 unimproved value is certainly another grant of £400,000 tojthe wealthy. The entertainments tax is a grant of £100,000 to the needy. The reduction of Customs duties on galvanized iron, wire, and wire netting means a gift of £250,000 to those who are needy and £100,000 to those who are. wealthy. The greater advantage of that concession will go to the struggling farmers, but some percentage will certainly go to the wealthy squatters. The bounty to local manufacturers of thoss goods, estimated to amount to £250,000, is a grant to the wealthy.
-When the honorable member voted for the Tariff he voted for a lot of grants to the wealthy.
– That is not so. In anticipation of some such charge being made against me during election time, I have looked through my votes on the Tariff, and I find that on thirty-one different occasions I voted with the Country party against heavy duties, being practically the only Labour member to do so. In fact, I have been accused by some honorable members of my own party of trying to “ crayfish “ away from the Labour party, with the object of joining the Country party, because I voted with the Country party so often on the Tariff. Summarizing the vote-buying grants, a total of £1,100,000 will go to the needy, and £2,100,000 . will go to the wealthy people of the community. Even if the whole tof the remissions were to go to . the needy, I wouldstill question the wisdom of this policywhen we have , such alarge national debt, but when two- thirdsof the surrendered srevenue is to . revert tothe wealthy people, a bad example ofclass legislation is . beingset by those who axe always turging thatthe Labour (party exists to legislate for oneclass only.
I come now to my second reason for opposing the Bill. In his second-reading -speech last night the Treasurer said that the surcharge on the land tax had not ;been imposed for the purpose of breaking up large estates, but for war purposes. I believe in large estates being taxed for that very purpose. The party to which I belong has on its platform a plank for land taxation on unimproved values, with a £5,000 exemption. That is not a bad lump, because I can safely say that £5,000 unimproved value is at least equal to £8,000 actual value.
– It is not a good lump if a man has a £4,000 mortgage on his property.
– If a mam has a £4,000 mortgage on his property, he does not possess property to the value of £5,000, and in those circumstances he is not liable to pay land taxation on it.
– Oh, yes, he does pay.
– If that is so, it is distinctly unjust.
– When .the honorable member for Gwydir (Mr. Cunningham) moved that the taxation should not be -imposed on such estates, nearly all the honorable members opposite voted against him.
– If a man had land worth -even £100,000, but it was mortgaged to the extent of, say, £40,000, he should not pay taxation on £100,000 but on £60,000. The Labour party’3 exemption of £5,000 unimproved value, which is equal to, at least, £8,000 actual value, allows a man to hold free of taxation sufficient land on which to make a Hiving, and as much as he can reasonably -work. We desire that those men who want land on which to settle shall be -able to obtain it. As far as is practicable, no man should hold more land than he can profitably utilize, and if a man has larger areas than he can profitably work, it is quite right to try, by means of a graduated land tax, to break up his estate so that others may use it, and obtain the fulness thereof. I remind the Country party that, after all, the break- ing up of big estates is in the best interests of country people. I know of what has occurred in country towns in my own electorate. Not long ago I was in the very pretty town of Nairn, and heard a complaint that the land was gradually getting back into the hands of a few big holders. That is regrettable retrogression. Behind the town of Angaston is the magnificent tract of land owned by Mr. Angas, some of the finest land in South Australia.
– A good man, too.
– I say nothing against him; it is not my habit to run down a man because he owns plenty of land. But the estate has held up the development of the town of Angaston. The railway, which comes to a dead-end there, has recently had its services limited; but if the land behind the town were cut up it would serve to make the line profitable, so that the service could be more frequent, and thus, as well as by population increase, the interests of the business people in the town would be considerably benefited. Recently when I was cycling past that very fine mansion occupied by Mr. Angas, I saw a beautiful flock of deer in front of the edifice. But I would rather have seen the land in the hands of many families, and dear little children, instead of deer, playing about. I am certain that the breaking up of big estates would benefit the country people themselves, and I sometimes wonder why the Country party seem to be opposed to that process.
– We are not opposed to it; but we say that the stupid land taxes have not had that effect, and the honorable member, on his own evidence, has shown it.
– The honorable member has pointed out that the land is passing back into the hands of large land-holders.
– Yes, in many instances; because a few wealthy men from Adelaide seem to have the craving, that so many seem to have, to ever increase the area of the land they hold by buying out some of the smaller holders surrounding them. One man I have in my mind has taken it into his head that he will go on the land, and that is the course he has pursued.
– It shows that the stupid land tax has not prevented it.
– It does not show anything of the kind. But if this man holds his land a little longer, and increases his area a little more, when the Labour party is returned to power, and imposes a stiffer graduated tax on estates of over £5,000 unimproved value, unless he chooses’ to work his property it will be unprofitable, and will revert to the hands of the smaller man, who will make full use of it.
– Experience shows that the tax has had the opposite effect. It has so reduced the value of land that it has enabled it to pass into the hands of the larger holders.
– I can quite understand the honorable member for Grampians putting up a fight against this land tax. He is reputed to be a millionaire, and his sympathies are with those who hold large estates.
– My sympathies are with those who hold small areas.
– I suppose that the honorable member is one of the largest land holders in Australia, owning ais many square miles as m’ost farmers own acres, and I do not blame him for fighting the battle of the big men.
– No; I am fighting the battle of the small man.
– I am fighting the battle of the small men. I have ridden across the Murray flats towards Blanchetown for nearly 20 miles, and mile after mile have passed deserted farm houses where people have lived and been starved out. There are times in the dry periods when the settlers on the eastern side of the Lofty Ranges have hard times, and have been starved off. It was not that they were not game. I remember one man telling me that for two months he had to live on rabbits and pollard in order to hold on to land where many others would not have gone.
– That is a mighty bad advertisement for your own State. There are very few people ‘living on rabbits and pollard in South Australia.
– To-day I know there are not any so doing ; but if the honorable member thinks that what I have said is a bad advertisement for the State of South Australia, I will tell him what is a worse advertisement. In the range country, not 30 miles to the west of the area to which I have just been referring, the Melroses the Keynes and the Angases hold fine tracts of country on to which the men who were struggling even to the point of being starved out further east could not get. I will tell the honorable member for Barker something else which is not a credit to his State - something that happened in the Upper House. The
Lower House, as the honorable member may recollect, passed a Bill for the compulsory repurchase of land on which soldiers might be settled, but a certain limited area was reserved for the original owner; when the measure was sent to the Legislative Council, where the landlords are, the flag-flappers, and the ultrapatriots, the area of land which a landlord could hold before it could be taken away from him for the settlement of soldiers was considerably increased, and the efficacy of the Bill frustrated. The honorable member knows that this was done.
– Our soldiers were treated better than they were in any other State.
– The honorable member must not try to get his words down my throat. He is talking rubbish.
– When it is said-
– Why do you not shut upf
– I must ask the honorable member for Barker to restrain himself.
– Is the honorable member entitled to shout across the chamber and tell the honorable member for Angas to shut up?
– No. I ask honorable members to assist the Chair. They can do so by ceasing their interjections.
– I am sorry that the honorable member for Barker has become a little excited. He is one of the kindesthearted representatives we have in our State, but I am obliged to put my case. He is in one political flock; I am in another.
– Be careful in what you say about a well-governed State like South Australia.
– I do not propose to be fearful in what I say about the “ dead “ House in South Australia. The Legislative Council of that State is elected on a franchise for the purpose of protecting the big land-holders.
– I must ask the honorable member to discuss the Bill.
– I have wondered why the Treasurer has brought forward this, proposal, as he denies vote-buying. Some considerable time ago I noticed in the daily press that the honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. Gibson) had waited upon him and asked for a reduction of this- taxation because it was oppressive to some’ of the big landholders of Victoria. But from yesterday’s Argus I learn that in the State of Victoria there are fifteen estates of more than 20, 000 acres.
– The- honorable- member for Bourke (Mr. Anstey) told us about them last night.
– The information is worth repeating. In this well- watered State of Victoria, whose boast is that it has never had a Labour Government, and that its conditions are ideal, we find fifteen men owning half-a-million acres. It is most essential that the land should not be in the hands of so few.
– Victoria is the most closely populated State in the Commonwealth.
– Yes, and as the Labour party’s proposal for breaking- up big estates comes more fully into operation it will be more closely populated still. I could give the names- of the holders of these fifteen estates of over 20,000 acres. One estate contains 52.879 acres. Why should the Labour party dare to ask a- man owning 52.879 acres of fertile Victorian land to pay a heavy land tax ? When men were asked to go to Europe to fight we were repeatedly told, that they were going abroad to protect Australia. What objection can this man, who owns 52,879 acres: raise when he is asked to help to> bear some- of the burden of the war which lies behind us? Because no one can- saythat the main burden of the war is past. Financially it is not past. As a matter of fact -we are now carrying a heavier buriden of national debt than when the war was actually in progress, and- if it was found necessary during the days of the war’ to- call upon the propertyoHnera by this sur-tam to pay some thing for the protection of their property, it is equally justifiable to do so to-day. The Treasurer in an inters iection. when the Leader- of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton) was speaking, said that the incidence of the tax on land was unfair, inasmuch as land was the only property carrying this impost, the inference being that- if it was fair that the owner of land property should pay for its pro tection, the owner’ of property of all- kinds should, also pay for their protection. If the Treasurer is game enough to bring down any proposal to call upon all property in Australia, whether my bit be included or not, to pay for- its, protection, I shall help him, as I think others should be prepared to do. This- isi not electioneering tactics on my part; it is not vote-buying stuff, that I am talking now. It does not gain votes to say that taxation is. necessary; but it is a sound and business-like proposal. Property protected during the war should pay for its protection, whether in the shape of land or anything else. If the Treasurer is prepared to bring down any proposal to make property in every form pay for its protection I am ready to help him.
– The trouble is that I have not said anything- of the nature of that upon which the honorable member is basing his argument.
– The Minister’s interjection when the Leader of the Opposition: was speaking was that it was unfair, that property in the shape of land should have to pay this direct taxation while other property wasi not expected to do so. The Leader of the Opposition, formed the impression, that the Treasurer believed that all property- should pay its share, but as the Treasurer immediately contradicted him, I am not trying to say that he has declared that all property should pay for its share of protection. In fact, I would not expect such a statement from the Minister or from any member of his party, but still j.t would be a business-like and proper proposal. I remember the Minister for Defence (Mr. Greene) saying only recently that, for everyblock of land there are hundreds of applicants. Quite so; and if we make it easier for people to hold big, areas of land,, we shall still have hundreds of applicants. This Bill is a. step- in- the wrong direction, in that it; lightens the burdens on those who hold property over the £5,000 unimproved vaJue mark. I notice- that the amendment of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton) raises the figure to £20,000 so far as relief from the sur-tax isi concerned. Evidently that honorable gentleman thinks that the tax is,, perhaps, a. burden on some of those whom- I shall not call small landlords; but, rather, the middle landlords. I shall support the amendment, but, personally, I would pre fer to see the Bill nejected. As ito the attitude of some members of ‘the Country party-
– I do not mind what name £hat party takes to itself, because, after all, while a name may count a little in politics, it does not count for much otherwise. I do not wish to be thought hostile tothe Country party, for such has neverbeen my attitude towards it. I do not share the feelings of some of my fellow members in this regard, because mine, I admit, are . friendly. At the same time, I do not think there is any need for a Country party, becausetheLabour party has looked after, and will still lookafter, the interest of,at any rate, thesmaller men -on the land.Our difficulty at the present time, owing to the camouflage and “ poison gas “ of “the capitalistic press, is to persuade the smaller man that it does not matter whether he works in the factory or in the field, he is exploited, and that it is to his interest, in either case, to combine against thosewho exploit him. ifsome of the rural population think they ought to have a Country party, I do not quarrel with them on that account. Personally, I should like to see the Labour party and the Country party representing . those sectionsof the people that are exploited, togetherendeavouring to overcome the “intereststhatexploit them.
Looking at this measure, I wonder why honorable members opposite are so “ keen on it.” I am afraid that the honorable member if orGrampians (Mr. Jowett) will regard what Iamgoing tosay as uncharitable. All the members of the Country party are not ‘farmers in the ordinary sense of the word ; they do not all ibelong towhat may ‘be called the farming class. The ‘honorable member forGrampians himself is one . -of the largestlandholders in Australia; and 1 can quite understand that his natural sympathy withthe largeland-holding class makeshimwilling to support this proposedreduction of taxation. Then there isthe honorable anemiber ‘for 2few Englamd (Mr. Hay). In the MelbourneHerald of yesterday I moticed the photograph of the honoraible gentleman,whowas described as one of the “Beef Barons,” which means that he is the holder of a good deal of land. Hie -sympathies, too, are with the big land-holders, and;therefore, he is naturally in favour of the Government’s measure. I listened . attentively to the speech of the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Wienholt), iaud what I gathered is . that 3ie is not altogether in favour of the proposal as ‘introduced. If that be so, I am pleased ito -know that he can . rise above Ms Burrouoiddngs. . and, perhaps, above his personal . interests. But he, ttoo, is a large land-holder. As to the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Prowse), I do not know how true it maybe, but I have heard that his returns from wheat alone last year Tan into several thousands of pounds. I am glad the honorable member makes such good use of his land, and if all land-holders did the same, we ‘should have a much more kindly feeling towards them. Now I come to the Deputy Leader of the Country party (Mr. Fleming), whom I have heard speak with a good deal of knowledge regarding cattle and so forth, conveying the impression that he also ow.ns a fair lump of land, and is not a farmer in the ordinary sense of the word. “Some members of theCountry party have interestswhich naturally make them ‘regard with favour this proposal of the ‘Government. I Temind honoraible members again ‘that a farmer who has a number of sons, and a farm only big enough to keep himself, -desires !laud for those sons. The Old Book has said that . no man can serve two masters; and -we cannot serveboth the squatter and the : small farmer -at any : rate, in the settled areas.If honorablemembersTiave to choose in the future between serving -fhe squattier and serving the farmer, I hope they will turntheir attention ‘to the small -farmer, ‘because the one in need is the one -who needs the friend. If the farmers do -not vote ‘for the party on this side, then ‘they look to the members of the ‘Country party, and it is for the Country party to do its duty by them. If incomes to a -.clash between the interests of . thesquatter and the interests of tthe farmer - if it means an increased tax on estates over £5,000 unimproved value, . for the purpose of smashing fcho big estates wp in order to provide land for farmers’ sons - we should, look after the interests . of the small man, forthe big man can well look afterhimself.
T5.30]. - The Government cannot accept :the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton). I am surprised at the form that the amendment has taken, for I believe that the “Leader of the Opposition, at all events, has a real sense of justice. Holding that view, I cannot understand how the party which he leads can be iu favour of retaining this tax in its present form. I can ^understand and sympathize, even if I do not agree, with the views of honorable members opposite in connexion with heavy land taxation designed to break up estates and promote the establishment of small holdings throughout Australia. But the tax in its present form is not designed, and was never intended, to do that ; it was designed, so far as the surcharge is concerned, as a revenue measure pure and simple. That being the position, it seems very unjust to use the tax for a purpose for which it was never intended, and without giving to what is probably the most difficult question we can be faced with, the consideration to which it is entitled. If we are going to tax land progressively in order to break up estates, the matter is one to which we must give the greatest consideration, and, in order to get results, what we do must be done scientifically. Whatever may be said for such taxation, the taxation with which we are now dealing was intended, as I have said, purely and simply to be a revenue measure. For that reason, at the earliest possible moment, the Government have taken steps to remove it, and place the land tax in the position it occupied before this extra revenue charge was imposed.
With the question of the land tax as it is, I do not propose to deal at the present moment. I may say that, personally, I have always believed that this tax is one more suitable for the activities of the States; and it will undoubtedly have to be considered in the future, whether it cannot be left for the States to handle and control. At this moment, however, the financial position is such that the Commonwealth cannot contemplate any action being taken other than to adjust this one inequity, which is thrown on one particular class of property, as against property of every other sort.
The point has been raised as to whether this is the time, and whether we are yet in a position to remit this tax. I listened very carefully to what the hon.orable member for Moreton (Mr. Wienholt) said, and I see clearly his point of view. The facts on their face are as he stated - that when the Government remits this taxation the revenue we shall collect during the current year will not equal the expenditure. That is the way in which the honorable member presented the matter, and I quite agree that is the position. The idea, almost the principle - in fact, it is a principle^ - that the revenue has to balance the expenditure is one of the soundest, and one which it is necessary we should follow in regard to the whole of the finances of the Commonwealth. We have followed that principle. The revenue for the present year, which we would have been entitled to collect if a measure of taxation relief had not been decided upon, would have been sufficient to cover all the expenditure contemplated, and to leave us with a margin of some £500,000. That was the basis on which the Budget was framed. ‘ Now we are faced with the possession of an accumulated surplus. In the Budget statement I made clear that there were three things which we could do with that surplus. First, we could retain it as a sort of safety fund against future possibilities. Such a procedure must be ruled out, however. It appears to have become somewhat of a current practice in Australian finances to hold surpluses indefinitely, to protect the Governments concerned against emergencies. I emphasize the fact that that is an unsound principle. Governments are enentitled to take only so much money as they require, and to retain only so much money as they need to carry on public services. The second method of employing the surplus would have been to redeem public debt. It would be sound finance to do so. It would prove, probably, the best way in which we could direct the amount of surplus at this stage. But there are other considerations which must be weighed. Provided that something else can be done with the surplus, which is also sound and proper, I hold that the Government are entitled to consider which course may confer the greatest benefit upon the country as a whole. To have employed the surplus in the reduction of loans would have benefited the Commonwealth only very slightly. The surplus is so small that it could have afforded but little ease in respect of our interest bill and sinking fund. I repeat, therefore, that while it would have been a sound and useful policy to place the £6,000,000 of surplus in reduction of our debt, such a policy would have been quixotic. I say that, in the light of the fact that the Government are taking steps to place our whole policy of debt redemption on a proper basis, and to bring about the redemption within a -reasonable period; and that, in considering the sinking fund, every care has been taken concerning the extent of the burden which should be borne by the present generation of taxpayers, and by those to follow. The first alternative - of holding the surplus indefinitely as a species of security fund - could, and would, have been very properly challenged; and the second, while it would have been proper, would, I repeat, have been only slightly beneficial. There is nothing so calculated to retard progress, particularly in a young country which does not possess great accumulated wealth, as is burdensome taxation. The Government are wide awake to the fact that, if we can only reduce the burden, we shall be doing something to benefit every class in the community. We shall be stimulating trade development ; we shall be giving inspiration to every class of venture likely to advance our ‘ country. After the fullest consideration, therefore, the Government have come to the conclusion that the very best results would flow to the Commonwealth, as a whole, if a beginning were made in the reduction of taxation. Such a course, I emphasize, would have the immediate effect of promoting and stimulating industry. It would have a still greater influence in the direction of restoring confidence, and in encouraging the view throughout the world that Australian finances are tending - towards lighter taxation. I mention that factor because it would be bound to attract the best type of settlement to our shores. We would certainly invest some of the money of the world which, to-day, is crying out for investment.
We have heard a lot about the Budget being merely an electioneering announcement. Such criticism is inevitable, and, one might almost say, necessary. The political opponents of the Government of the day have always a duty to perform. Their task is to demonstrate that anything and everything which a Government may do is wrong. I make no complaint, therefore. I do assert, however, that the remissions which the Government are proposing are all based on sound economic principles. When the House is dealing with the Budget I shall take every such proposal and state the reasons which have influenced the Government and the principles underlying our policy. Whatever may be in the minds of those who say that the Budget is a purely electioneering business, honorable members may accept the assurance that no such consideration was in my mind. The Treasurer of a country must always recognise that whatever is proposed or undertaken by the Government is bound to materially affect the outlook and welfare of the people, and he must frame his Budget proposals without any consideration other than that of national advantage. A Minister of the Crown would need to possess courage, indeed, if he sought to do things which he believed to be wrong merely in order to gain political advantages.
I do not wish to labour the matter, but rather reckless accusations have been made, and they have come from quarters which have surprised me. I have indicated why the Government decided to grant certain remissions of taxation, and would now point out that, having come to such a decision, they had to decide upon some definite amount of remission. It would be futile to remit taxation to-day if it must be reimposed during the next financial year. The Government have had no such thought in mind as to grant merely temporary relief. A definite amount was decided upon only after the closest investigation concerning .what we believed we could do in the future, and only because we felt sure that such remissions as we might make to-day would not have to be reimposed later. There is nothing in the suggestion, therefore, of “ one more encore, :and what will happen?” The honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Wienholt) said he believed that what I had in mind as the main factor in making it unnecessary >to reimpose these taxes next year was that the remissions would so stimulate trade and enterprise that there would be an increase of revenue. I agree that such may and should ‘be the outcome. I am mot relying upon that, however, finch a -consideration is not the only one which has presented itself >to me. The principal factor is that I believe the Government will be able to reduce ‘expenditure. There are limits to the pruning capabilities of a Treasurer. It is absurd to argue that things may be ‘done which cannot be done. Nothing has yet been advanced to seriously challenge my assertion that I have done all I could. No one has indicated a direction in which I might have done -more. Inevitably, my opportunities for seeing what may be done to bring about savings are greater than ‘those of any other member of this House. I have taken good care to examine every suggestion for economy without causing complete disorganization and dislocation of the public services. I believe that very substantial reductions can be made in expenditure during the present year; and, in the Budget, the Government have made a notable beginning. The expenditure out of revenue foi: the current year is estimated at £62,000,000, as against £65,000,000 ‘last year. Certain persons quarrelled with that announceinent when I first made it. I admit that the whole of the reductions which have been effected were not due to action solely on the part of the Government. I have never made any sudh pretence. Certain savings ‘have been made because our war obligations ‘have been rendered lighter. Our pensions bill has been decreased, for example. But in the Departments .themselves, and in respect of new works, very material reductions have been effected-fdr a ‘beginning. There is Opportunity, however, for ‘Considerable -further economies. These ‘can be brought about gradually, steadily, <and systematically. Honorable members ^ho persist in -saying tfhat I should get to ‘work ‘and *chop things about with an axe, wifhouit <jonsideration for results, are merely talking loosely. I do not propose to be driven into ‘any stupid action. I shall ‘try ito ‘bring ‘a!boTit ‘reductions -which I ibelieve may be practicable. That is the main consideration underlying nhc conclusion -of the Government ‘that the remission of taxation under review can be ‘safely brought about, and may be regarded as permanent. We believe that we shall be able to balance our accounts for the coming financial year, mainly because of definite reductions which can be secured. I repeat that, to some extent, we will be able to rely upon increased revenue.
Another very natural criticism which iiii-ay ‘be levelled against the Government is that we have an .amount >of nearly £7,000,000 in hand by way of surplus, and are dealing -with it in -two ways. It might be said, “ You .are holding some of it, and are spending the balance on the remission of taxation. You should follow some definite principle.” I frankly admit .that the Government is not following the principle that I have enunciated ; it is retaining part of the surplus. We think that until there is more certainty as to the future, that until we are convinced that our expenditure cannot be brought lower, and know that we shall have a fixed revenue, we must retain some of the surplus. The honorable member , for Moreton (Mr. Wieriholt) said that we were -tsating our ‘emergency -ra- , bian. That- is not so. We -time holding some of the surplus until -we have more certainty regarding the -futusne.. We (do not propose “to use the whole of it for “the reduction of taxation, ibecause we toannot yet know that if we spend >the’ whole of the surplus in that way we may not have to reimpose some of ‘the taxation > remitted. We have proposed to -remit .as much taxation -as we think it safe -to remit, and intend to hold the balance of our -surplus. That, however, is not .the practice we wish to follow- in the future. For the moment we can .justify it, but so soon as we can foresee the ^future more clearly we should balance our Budget each year, and take from the people only the amount necessary for the services of the country. I have .gone a little into matters properly pertaining to a Budget debate, but I have done so because of the anxiety in the minds of some honorable ‘members, particularly the honorable member for Moreton. It is -only fair, when we are ‘bringing in ‘one of the measures to give effect to Mie Budget proposals, that I should indicate ‘the ‘ point of view of the Government. I must not be taken to have deailt in any sense with Budget ‘criticisms; ‘the stage -a’t which I propose to do that is when the Budget debate is resumed. I have merely given honorable members this- afternoon information, which may assist them, in dealing, with this measure. We. cannot: accept, the amendment, and I urge the House not. to entertain the proposal of the Leader of the Opposition, which would partly remit the surcharge on land and leave it a burden, on other land-holders. This surcharge is either a. revenue charge, running through the whole scale of landholding, or it is something entirely different. We know that when it was proposed in 1918 it was made as clear as it is possible to make anything that it was neither more nor less than a revenue charge.
.- I have listened with interest to the speech of the Treasurer (Mr. Bruce), and I received pleasure from his clear explanations and his apparent frankness1. He has told us that the surcharge which he proposes. to> remit was imposed to get revenue, for war expenditure, and that it is not fair to continue to levy it.. I should, like to know why. Has the scene changed in a manner justifying the remission of land taxation.* to the amount of £400,0.0.0? If it has, the honorable gentleman would, have made out. his case. This surcharge was imposed in 19.18, towards, the; end of the war, because, our finances required the money that it would, bring in. Do our finances not require that money now t Was there ever, a time in our history when we were more urgently in need of money? The public debt of Australia has increased, by millions since this surcharge was imposed, and is getting higher every year. The Treasurer laid it down as a principle that revenue should balance expenditure. With that I entirely agree. He said that the Government had provided for such a balancing; but that is not so.. In the Budget the honorable gentleman estimated for 1922-23 an expenditure of £62,000,000 and a revenue of £59,000,000, allowing- for the remission of the taxes that it is proposed to remit. These taxes produce about £3,200,000, and’ if that sum is deducted from his estimate of revenue for the current year it is brought down to £59,318,000.
– How do you- know that the Treasurer will not agree, to the reduction of the expenditure- by a couple of million pounds?
– I am not now concerned with what Parliament may do with the honorable gentleman’s proposals; I am dealing with his Budget, iiotwithstanding that, on his figures, the expenditure for this year will exceed the revenue by £2,705,443, the Treasurer tells, us that he is balancing the ledger. That is the. most extraordinary, , statement which I have ever heard from a responsible Minister. He proceeded to say that we have to deal with an accumulated surplus, and he examined three methods of dealing with it. The first, he said, was to hold it, but that that would be an entirely wrong thing to do. Yet there is not a sound business house in the community that does not- each year put surpluses to reserve. Apparently what is sound business practice for- private persons is unsound business practice for a Government.
– Quite right.
– It is extraordinary bhat business men when they have entered public life should repudiate their own methods. Business men who holdi themselves up- as models to the politicians repudiate, as soon as they corne to handle- the people.’s money, the business’ principles which they say are sound in private finance.’ The Treasurer said that the second manner in which the surplus could be dealt, with was to use it to redeem part of our loans,, and he rightly remarked that that would be the soundest business proposition. The people, therefore, will naturally ask. why he has not proposed that course, and why,, in. the circumstances, we are chided because we think that the action the Government -are taking is influenced by the, near approach of the elections. The Treasurer says it would be quixotic to use a ‘surplus of £6,000,000 in reducing, our indebtedness, because the reduction would be so small. Within the. next three years, something over £200,000,000 of loans fall due in Australia, taking together the Federal and State indebtedness. Next year about £70,000,000 of Federal loans fall due. The Treasurer, could go into the market and buy war bonds, which would return over 6 per cent. on the investment. Yet it has been given, as a reason why the Government should not hold a surplus that the money would be lying idle.
– I did not say. that the surplus wouldhe idle.
– That is the effect of what the honorable member said in his Budget speech. He spoke of it as a large unemployed surplus. If the £6,000,000 surplus were used to buy back 4½ per cent, stock, which, quite wrongly, was issued free of income tax, there would be a return of 6 to 6¼ per cent., say, £400,000 per annum, on the investment, and the Government would be able to tax the income which it had replaced.
– If the Government commenced buying up stock, the price of that stock would increase. That, of course, would be good in its effect upon renewals of loans.
– Yes, in reducing the rate of interest for future loans, and in steadying the money market. From a business point of view, it would be better if the Government, instead of remitting taxation here and there in order to placate various sections of the community, used its surplus to reduce its indebtedness. It has been said that, by lifting the burdens from the shoulders of commerce, we shall stimulate industry. Every one knows that that is the effect of remitting taxation; but this surcharge on land taxation which it is proposed to remit on the ground that it was a war charge, is not the only war charge. There is a war charge on postage, and that it is not proposed to remit, though if you cheapen postage you do more to stimulate commerce than you do by remitting land taxation. This Government has done something that I did not think any Government would do. When the Fisher Government introduced the Australian Notes Act in 1910 it provided that the profits from the investment of the moneys received from the issue of notes should never be used for revenue purposes, but that a Trust Fund should be created for the redemption of the notes when necessary, and for the reduction of the national debt. The issue of paper money for the purpose of making profits for revenue has always been held, to be one of the . most unsound propositions that any Government could undertake, and the Fisher Government, when establishing the Australian Notes Fund, rightly and deliberately laid down a provision that none of the profits from the note issue should be utilized to relieve a needy Treasurer, or to enable him to build up a surplus. And never until the present Government put their hand on it was that Trust Fund touched. From 1910 the fund was regarded as sacred, until 1920, when the Government laid hands upon it, taking in that year, £394,016; and during the last financial year, £1,261,482 ; during the current financial year they estimate to take another £1,150,000. The accumulated profits of the Notes Fund up till December, 1920, were £7,780,524, and that money had been used solely for the redemption of Government Inscribed Stock, but in December, 1920, without warning, the principle underlying the Australian Notes Fund was tampered with. No financial authority in the world will say that it is sound finance to take money from Trust Funds into revenue, and claim by that means to balance the ledger.
– If the Labour party had done that, we would have been condemned.
– And rightly so. The Treasurer says that he is balancing the ledger during the current financial year. Is he balancing the ledger when he budgets for an estimated expenditure from revenue of £62,000,000, and a revenue of only £59,000,000, making a fictitious balance, by taking money from the accumulated surplus and the pensions Trust Fund. No business man would say that he was balancing his yearly account if he was drawing upon his bank balance in order to make the revenue equal expenditure. What will happen when this accumulated surplus is exhausted? What form of taxation will be re-imposed ? The Treasurer sought to anticipate that question, because he said that if the remission of taxation were not to be permanent, it would be foolish and wrong to undertake it. Before the Government proposed to remit taxation, they should have indicated to the people how they propose to reduce expenditure in order to allow the remission to be permanent. They have not done that, but the Treasurer said that the remitted tax will certainly not be re-imposed. Where is the certainty? Where in the Budget is there any indication that the taxation will not be re-imposed ? He quoted the honorable member for Balaclava, who said, “One encore of this, and what then?” I repeat the question - one encore of this remission of taxation, and what will hap pen afterwards? Half of the £6,000,000 surplus has been taken this year in order to build up a balance. What will the Government do next year? Probably, they will take the remainder; and then? Of course, by that time the elections will be over. Is there any indication that this remission will be permanent? The Treasurer says that he relies upon a reduction of expenditure, but he has not given us any inkling as to where expenditure isto be reduced. One would be somewhat hopeful that there was some project in the mind of this very careful Treasurer if he had said no more, but he continued, “As proof that there will be a reduction of expenditure in the future, we have already effected substantial reductions in the expenditure for the current year.” He said that the expenditure out of revenue had been decreased. That is perfectly true, but the reduction has been made up by increasing the expenditure out of loan funds on items that ought not to ‘be paid for out of loan money. Quite a number of items appear in the Loan Bill which this House passed recently that no sound financier would say should be paid for out of loan funds. Amongst them are amounts for relief works for the unemployed, and for rabbit destruction, and £200,000 for assisted passages to immigrants. These items are surely not expenditure that should be paid out of loan.- Although the Government have decreased expenditure out of revenue, they have increased the expenditure from loan so much above the figures for the previous year that the combine/! expenditure from revenue and loan shows a net increase of £1,344,188 over the expenditure for last year.
– Tho honorable member will not get on so well if, instead of comparing actual expenditure with estimated expenditure, he compares the two estimates.
– Why should I compare the estimates when I know that the Government actually spent more than (hey estimated to spend and £1,000,000 more than Parliament authorized them to spend.
– Not with the present Treasurer in office.
– The expenditure was incurred by the present Government, and the Treasurer must share the responsibility. Although I was not- in Parliament last year, I followed the proceedings very closely, and I never heard of a more determined attempt by Parliament to take control of the Treasury than that which was witnessed in this House during last session. The Budget debate bristled with crises, and this House, by deliberate and determined votes, instructed the Government to cut down the proposed expenditure by £500,000. In spite of that, the Government spent £1,000,000 more than they were authorized to spend.
In the Bill now before us, it is proposed to remit £400.,000 from estates of over £5,000 unimproved value. There is this to be said for the proposal submitted by the Leader of the Opposition : The 20 per cent, tax was a fiat rate imposed alike upon the comparatively small land-holder and: the large land-holder, quite inconsistently with the system of graduated taxation which has been the policy of this Parliament for twelve years. And so we shall get nearer to some form of graduation if we provide, as the Leader of the Opposition suggests, that estates of over, £20,000 in value shall not get the benefit of the proposed remission. The honorable member for Angas made a very fine speech this afternoon in regard to the breaking up of large estates.
– There axe no large estates left in South Australia.
– In any case, South Australia is not the Commonwealth. I am not very familiar with that State, but if there is one State of the Commonwealth in which there should be no large estates and no land monopoly, but where there should be close settlement and intense cultivation, it is Victoria, the smallest State of the mainland. Yet in that State, which is well served with railways, we have instances of land monopoly. According to the latest statistics, there were in Victoria fifteen estates of over 20,000 acres each, . some of them extending to 50,000 and 60,000 acres. Honorable members talk about an immigration policy and the settlement of people upon the land, but nobody can justify estates of 20,000 to 60,000 acres in a* State like Victoria. They may be justified for many years to come in the north-west of Western Australia or in the Northern Territory, but not in a compact State like Victoria with a good system of roads and railways. The honorable member for
Grampians (Mr. Jowett) said this afternoon that the land tax is a foolish proposition for the breaking up of large estates. Either the honorable member speaks without knowledge of the effects of the land’ tax, or he desires to divertpeople’s attention from the real facts.
– I do not.
– I direct the attention of the honorable member to the report made by the . Land Tax Commissioner after the first year’s operation of the Commonwealth laud tax in 1910. The Commissioner showed in that report that £22,000,000 worth of large . estates had been broken up.
– How much of the subdivided land has since reverted to large estates ?
– I do not think much of it has clone so. But I will tell the House what has been happening. I know the State of Victoria well, and I visited the Wi’mioera. during the last three months. I made inquiries at Warracknabeal, Murtoa, and Horsham regarding a number of friends I had met there fourteen years ago. They were all gone. I asked what had. become of their properties. They are not lying idle. Those men who had 600-acre holdings sold out to neighbours, who also had 600 acres, and to-day the latter are cultivating 1,200 acres of wheat country, and doing very well. They have improved the methods of cultivation, working the big ger areas, with bigger teams, and we havethis paradoxical result that the richer the farmers! become the fewer they become. There is no such person as a poor mail’ in the’ wheat belt; scarcely one- farmer is without a motor car, and I was assured by a keen- financier in Warraokna-beal that there was no longer any need for farmers to go to Melbourne to get loans from the banks and financial institutions. Thereis so- much money now available in the Wimmerai that any person who wishestoborrow for the purpose of commencing’ or extending operations need not go outside of the district to get it.
– That is a good thing.
– Itis, and I am not complaining. I am pointing . out that while prosperity has grown in the wheat belts because of the new methods of cultivation employed, the tendency has been for one man to buy cut another, and for the latter to go elsewhere to seek land.
I have already pointed out that the effect of the operation of the land tax in its first years was to cut up large estates to the value of £22000,000. The Commissioner’s report shows that even in anticipation of the imposition of the tax many large estates were cut up, and I know that this was true as regards, the electorate I was representing at that time. In the. meantime, however, the price, of wool has mounted, up, and. the increased, prosperity which has come to the wool, people and meat producers has. enabled them to pay the land tax as we did not anticipate they would be able to do.j andthe fact that there is an aggregation of large estates despite the existence of the tax is only proof that the rate of the tax is not sufficiently high. As a matter of fact, the rate is high, but its incidence must be applied in a stiffer direction. Instead of the gradual curve upwards, the high rate should be levied on the whole of the higher valued estates, and . not only on a small portion of the value with a gradually reducing rate for the major portion of the value. If that were done, more large estates would be broken up. Unless land where there is a good rainfall’ and railway communication is available is pub into cultivation this countiy of ours will never be what it ought to be. The proposal put forward by the Government to-day is to1 remit a tax on- wealthy landholders, not only in the country, but also in the city ; but whenever we ask- the Government to- increase the old-age- pensions to- £1 they meet us with the- argument that there is no money available, and that it would cost £1,500,000’ to do what we suggest. They, could increase the rate of the pension by 2s. 6d. per week by utilizing for the purpose the taxation they now propose to remit to the large land-holders. Whenever we go to the Department of Repatriation to get something like generous or sympathetic treatment, for returned soldiers-, we find technicalities raised, probably as a result of instructions fromthe Government that the Department must economize. Cases have been cited here to-day, and I could multiply therm. I mention the case of a man who was taken into one of the camps of Victoria, and has developed acute rheumatism to such an extent that a surgeon has- advised the amputation of. his toes. Every joint is swollen as a. result of the night duty he performed in the camp, but,because two years before he had entered the camp he had suffered for a fortnight from rheumatism, the Department hold that his troubleis not dueto war-like operations, but hasbeen causedby a preexisting ailment.
– That has nothing whatever to do with the Bill.
– It . has -a very close relation to -the Bill. The -measure proposes to remit taxation to ‘the extent of £400,000, hut when wa ask . the Government to increase the old-age pensions, or give . a more . generous interpretation . of the provisions of the War Pensions . Act, we are met with the . cry of economy.
– That is not so.
– I can -give the Honorary Minister the cases.
– I should : be pleased to have ‘the cases; ‘“but when the one to which he : has just referred was turned* down, the ‘Treasurer Was receiving the taxation which he nowproposes to remit.
– Jt onlv emphasizes the . point I am making. If with this revemie the Government could not treat such cases generously, or even justly, how much less generously will they act when they have given £400,000 to the landholders of this country?. I will not trespass much further on the patience of the House.
– The honorable member seldom trespasses on the patience -of the House. It is a pleasure to . hear him. iMr. . SCULLLN.-I thank the honor able member;but I . have ho i desire ito prolong the -debate, tin thefaceofthe financial position ..of thiscountry, as disclosedby theBudget - ‘that . -there ‘will be a, deficit of nearly . £3,000,000 on this . year is operations, taking revenue against -expenditure.; . that the loan indebtedness of the Commonwealth is being piled . up -by issue after issue; that the loan issues -for the coming year . will -be £3, -000., 0.00 more than was ‘raised last year, and that the interest bill ‘on our indebtediness is becoming a ‘burden to the ipeople - surely this is “not ‘a “time for “remitting tatx-ation “unless it ‘is “to “be squared by areduction : in expenditure. And this the . Treasurer has not shown. He hastold us that -substantial ‘reductions in expenditure ha.ve ‘been made for the “coming year, ‘but - -the figures . -are against him, because there is an actualincrease of £1,344,000. Furthermore, this Government and its Treasurer have done something which no other Federal Government has attempted, something which violates every principle of sound . finance - they . have laid hands 07i the fund accumulated from the interest ‘earned on the notes issue. I was in this Parliament when the Australian Notes Act was passed, and I listened to the able criticism of the ‘present Minister for Defence (Mr. Greene), when -he predicted the calamity that would follow if a needy Treasurer should get ‘his hands on to the accumulated fund. But “Mr. Andrew Fisher . laid it down that the Australian Notes Fund would be carefully guarded from the onslaught of any needy Treasurer. Not one penny received -from the issue of the notes was to be put into revenue; mor were any of the fjrofits derived from the investment of the fund to be available for ordinary revenue purposes. In fact, this policy was almost accepted as an article of faith by every honorable member. No one insisted -on it more than did ‘the present Minister for Defence . But, lo! we find’ that sums have been. ‘taken from this fund. I have been nine years out of public life, but I have followed Budgets closely. I confess, however, that I did ‘not discover that these funds were being clipped into for general revenue purposes “until I heard the honorable member for Balaclava criticising the last Budget. I had been busy attending to ‘other matters, but when I heard the ‘honorable member, I examined the Financial Statement, and found that from December, 1920, the Goveraiment had started to dip into the Australian Notes Fund, which I consider should be regarded as sacred so far as expenditure from, revenue . is concerned. It has . always been regarded as a fund which would be available for the redemption of the Australian jiotes, . and for the- -redemption ‘of our loane, . and the accunrulatedprofits on the . -Australian notes . whichcould ibe -utilized in this direction for the1 redemption of ‘Government inscribed stock is £7,-780,524. When the honorable member for Balaclava was Treasurer ; he did not approve of making any -of these profits available for revenue purposes, -.but from 1920 onwards the following (amoun ts have been taken from the Australian Notes Account and so utilized-
It is estimated that this year £1,150,000 will be taken from the same source for revenue purposes.
– Of course the new appropriation was started before the present Treasurer (Mr. Bruce) took office.
– I am not accusing the present Treasurer. I accuse the Government of having done it. It is not Bound finance. It is not squaring the ledger of this country.
Sitting suspended from 6.30 to 8 p.m.
.- First, I wish to congratulate the Treasurer (Mr. Bruce) on the effective manner in which he is carrying out his work on behalf of the wealthy classes of the country, whom his Government represent. In this respect the honorable gentleman is proving himself the most efficient Treasurer the wealthy classes have seen up to the present.
– Why does the honorable member congratulate the Treasurer on that?
– I congratulate anybody who does his work well on behalf of the people he represents, for I believe in recognising merit wherever I see it.
– The millionaires will be able to buy 9d. tickets for picture shows now!
– The remission of entertainments taxation was a very small matter, amounting to about only £100,000, and it affects only the small-priced tickets, such as those the children buy for the weekly matinees. However, the Treasurer is doing his work so well for the wealthy classes that those people who made huge profits out of the war, and the great land monopolists, are being relieved of taxation to the extent of £2,500,000. On the other hand, therelief afforded to the workers and the poorer classes amounts to only £700,000. This relief of £2,500,000 given to the . wealthy classes is at the expense of the surplus Trust Fund, which was set aside for the purpose of paying invalid and old-age pensions; and this fund is being robbed by the measure before us to the extent of £400,000 in order to relieve the large land-holders of their share of the cost of the Great War.
The Treasurer has told us that this taxation, which it is now proposed to remove, was imposed merely for the. purpose of meeting war costs - as a war measure. But I ask honorable members whether the great burden of the war expenditure has yet been taken off the shoulders of the people of this country. Why is it that people who own vast, estates are relieved from paying their share of the cost of the war? The war was fought just as much to protect the land monopolists as to protect anybody else. We have no right to relieve such people of their just debts.
I should like to give a few figures to show how the revenue derived from land taxation has been a diminishing quantity since the war years. These figures are from the Treasurer’s own figures as published in the Budget-papers. In the year 1910-11 the revenue received from the Federal land tax was £1,525,129. I shall not go through the whole of the years, but “take 1910-11 only as the starting point. Going now to 1914-15, we find that the revenue in that year was £2,238,647; in 1915-16 it was £2,128,910; in 1916-17 it was £2,052,832- note the decrease; in 1917-18 it was £1,971,437. Now we come to the year when this particular impost which it is now sought to remit was sanctioned for the purpose of making the wealthy land-holders bear their fair share of the burden of the war. In 1918-19 the revenue received from the land tax was £2,229,595; in 1919-20 it was £2,241,061; in 1920-21 it was £1,867,005; and for the last financial year, 1921-22, it was £1,658,910. It will be seen that the amount collected in the last financial year was only a little over £100,000 more than the revenue received in 1910-11.
– In order to put the case exactly, the House ought to be told that the amount for 1910-11 was the total collected’ in respect of that year then and at any time subsequently, whereas for the year 1921-22 there are arrears outstanding.
– I think my quotation of figures is very fair, seeing that I got the information from the Budget-papers issued by the Treasurer. The figures show the amount of tax paid in each of the years, though I admit that in each financial year there is for a time a certain amount of taxation revenue not collected.
That fact, however, does not affect the point. It would be easy for me to get the Budget-papers, and show the amounts outstanding for each year; but, after all, this outstanding revenue is. I believe, under £100,000 altogether.
– The cutting . up of large, estates makes a difference.
– Does the honorable member say that this taxation is having the effect of cutting up large estates?
– No. I say that the cutting up of large estates has a great effect on the land tax.
– Has there been any cutting up of large estates, say, from the year 1920 to the present year? The revenue derived from the land tax in round figures has fallen £500,000 in those two years. What is really happening is that the holders of huge estates are dividing them amongst the members of their families. The holders of these large estates are simply “ farming “ the land out, and thus avoiding their just dues to the country. Instead of relieving the. large holders we ought to increase the taxation, because if there is one thing from which Australia suffers more than another it is the locking up of the lands. I am surprised at members of the Country partv supporting the Treasurer in this measure, seeing that they are supposed to represent the small man on the land. As a matter of fact the members of the Country party ought to be steadfastly opposing this measure.
– We represent all men on the land !
– It is a wonder that the honorable member does not claim to represent the men under the land. Australia is suffering because of the fact that the lands of the country are held in too few hands. Neither Australia nor any other country can be great when the lands are held by monopolists.
– Then it is State monopoly !
– There are thousands of applicants where only one block of land is available.
– People desire land near the cities: there is plenty of land elsewhere.
– Honorable members will agree that the great problem in Australia is the land problem, and if it is not solved we can never progress. All this talk by the Treasurer and the Government of settling immigrants on the land is so much useless twaddle. The first thing to be done is to break up the large estates. Right throughout New South Wales, where there is some of the finest land that God ever created, we find beautiful country towns land-locked and stagnant because the octopus of land monopoly prevails. All this must be changed if. we are to make Australia a nation worthy of the name. I hope that those gentlemen in the corner who pose as the representatives of the small man on the land, and as the champions of the farmer, will do something practical to make land available for farmers and for the sons of farmers. On the one hand, there is the offer of the Treasurer to relieve the great landed monopolists of the burden of taxation, and on the other there is the insinuation - in fact, a threat - behind the announcement of the Treasurer that it will not be necessary for the Government to reimpose similar taxation next year. The Government, he says, will go in for a policy of judicious reductions, in regard to which, however, the time is not now ripe for their introduction. Of course not! The present moment is on the wrong side of a general election. Nevertheless, the warning has been issued. Public servants and the workers generally have been given a hint concerning the method by which the Government propose to make up the £400,000 of which the wealthy landowners aire to be relieved. The Treasurer, in his Budget speech, said that owing to the necessity for a reduction, both inside and. outside the Public Service, he proposed to do so-and-so. I stress those ominous words. They contain the threat of which I speak : ‘ ‘ Owing to the necessity for a reduction, both inside and outside the Public Service. . . . “ There is the source from which the Government are going to draw this lost money. The people who should bear the burden of taxation are those who can best afford to pay taxes- the wealthy classes, the landed monopolists, the company promoters - all those people who exploited the wives and children of our soldiers while they were away fighting for us. They are the people who should be called upon to bear more of the burden of taxation, than ever. They alone can afford to do so. Instead of being given relief, more and more should be heaped upon them. Their huge estates should be forcibly broken up by the weight of taxation, and from the additional revenue so derived old-age and soldiers’ pensions should be increased. But tthereis nomoney,we are told, to enable the Government to increase pensions. Here, however, isa doleof £400,000 forthe land monopolists. The Treasurer isdoing the ‘work of his masters thoroughly well. Hie is the best and most worthy servant whom the wealthy monopolists ibasve ever had in this . Barliament. il congratulate fhimupon ithe thoroughness of hisperformances in their interests. I can . only express ifihehope that when Labour has again come into powerwe shall rfind la Treasurer as well abledothework of thepoor anddowntrodden as thepresent Treasurer is doing that. of ; his rich masters.
.- I shall be unable to follow the footsteps of the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Mahony). I desire to congratulate the ‘Treasurer(Mr. Bruce). 1 wish to give the Treasurer a little encouragement.. My congratulations are in respect of this small measure of taxation relief.We must ‘have taxation. The people paid it cheerfully throughout the Titanic struggle from which the nations haveonly recently emerged. But an adjustment of our taxation burden has now becomenecessary, and this particular adjustment is based upon principles of sound common sense. I shall give some particulars concerning an estate with which I am familiar, and i’f the honorable member for DaUley will say that the circumstances are not such that the owner should receive sympathetic consideration, he must indeed be hard-hearted. In 1919- 20 the taxes paid on the estate in question amounted to £5,000, and in 1920- 21 , to £4,300. The loss during the two years aggregated £1,300. The overdraft on the estate is £25,000. Is not some measure of relief deserved? ‘There are millions of acres available for settlement in the various . ‘States. I . have travelled over great areas which may . be taken up at . moderate cost. I [know of . a particular area which is being sold to exImperial . service men at £20 per acre. I claim to be somewhat of a judge of land values, and I say . that, in my Jionest opinion, this land is worth upwards of £40 per acre. There are many hundreds of thousands of acres available in the various States to . those who are hungering for land; and they . can get . good . country practically at a gift.
– Where is it ?
– The honorable member . rarely travels outside of the shortest route between this House . and his home town. He should get out of the beaten track. There are millions ofacres, I repeat, on which smiling homesteads can be established. Whatare honorable members oppositedoing in the direction ofexpandingthe Tural population t All theiir efforts tend towards building up the cities. Their actions in . connexion with the Tariff were calculated solely to benefit secondary industries. . Not the slightest consideration was givento the primary producer. I am pleased that the Treasurer has ‘introduced . this small,but welcome, concession. TheCommon wealth hasborrowed locally more than £250,000.000 for war and other purposes. While it is probably a wise principle that we should finance ourselves, the fact remains that, along lines of private enterprise, we could be spending this . monev which we have borrowed from ourselves to the great advantage of the . country at large. While we are pouring money into Government ventures’ we are bound to be saddled with a heavy weight of taxation. I trust that the Government will follow . up their concessions. The Government are doing far more to develop the Commonwealth by introducing measures for the reduction of duties upon fencing wire, galvanized iron, and traction engines, . and for the remission of taxation imposts than by fostering artificial city industries.
Motion (by Mr. Bruce) put -
That the question be now put.
The House divided.
Majority … … 21
Questionso resolved in the affirmative.
Question - That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the question (Mr. Charlton’s amendment) - put. The House divided.
Majority . . . . 24
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Mr.Considine. - I thought that the “ gag “ applied only- to the amendment of the Leader of the Opposition.
Question - That the Bill be now read a second time - put. The House divided.
Majority . . . . 24
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Eill read a second time.
– Is it the pleasure of the Committee that the Bill be taken as a whole?
Opposition Members. - No.
Clause 1 (Short title).
Question - That the clause be agreed to - put. The Committee divided.
Majority . . 23
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 2 (Abolition of additional tax).
Question - That the clause be agreed to - put. The Committee divided.
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 3 (Repeal of Land Tax Acts 1918, 1919 and 1920)
– I am deeply grieved by the action of my present political representative, the Treasurer, in bringing forward this most extraordinary proposal. I am quite sure that my fellow electors of Flinders will resent it. The Treasurer has also seen fit to exercise the high office of executioner to one of his own constituents. I shall have to take the only remedy left to ‘ me by expressing my disapproval at the ballot-box.
– Order! I must ask the honorable member to confine his remarks to the clause.
– The clause now before the Committee provides that taxa-tion to the amount of approximately £400,000 is to be lifted from the shoulders of wealthy land-holders. We are being assured by the mouth-pieces of the Ministry that there is pressing need for economy, for tightening up the purse strings, and for practising economy in re”gard to all avenues of governmental activities, and that there is no money to burn, but, as has been pointed out by honorable members on this side who have preceded me, although there are no funds available to increase the pensions to the aged and the invalid - =-
– Order !
– Are old-age pensions out of order?
– I accept your rul-‘ ing, sir, and I hope that the people will note the fact that old-age pensions are out of order.
– I decline to allow the honorable member to misrepresent the Chair. The honorable member clearly understood that the discussion of old-age pensions at this stage is out of order.
– I have not the slightest wish to misrepresent you, sir. I took the precaution of asking you a question, and I merely draw the attention of my constituents and the public to my question and your answer. It is well for the people outside to know that whatever else may be out of order it is quite in order to present.£400,000 to wealthy landholders. Although a considerable number of citizens, whose services were required during the last war- and probably will be asked for again in the near future, are unable to obtain employment, and there is no money for developmental works which would provide them with useful occupations, an amount of £400,000 per annum which formerly was obtained from the land-holders, who became wealthy during the war, is to be allowed to remain in their pockets, whilst those who made it possible for the land-holders to make their wealth may enjoy the benefit of sleeping in the open air, and using a pick and shovel on the Ocean -road.
– You are doing very well.
– Much better, perhaps, than the Honorary Minister imagines. Judging by his restlessness, he has, no doubt;,’ been intrusted with the disagreeable task of insuring that my remarks shall be as brief as they usually are ; but if he will ‘persist in interrupting me, they will not be as connected as they usually are.
– I ask the honorable member not to take notice of interjections.
– It is almost as difficult to pass unnoticed observations made from the Government bench as it is to ignore arguments sometimes used at election meetings; but I shall endeavour to follow your advice, Mr. Chairman. At the same time, I trust that Ministers will take notice of your objection to their continued interruptions. We find that the .title of the Land Tax Act is as follows : -
An Act to amend the Land Tax Act 1918 as amended by the Land Tax Act of 1919.
Motion (by Mr. Bruce) - put -
That the question be now put.
The Committee divided.
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Question - That the clause be agreed to - put. The Committee divided.
Majority . . . . 22
Question so; resolved in theaffirmative.
Question - That the title be agreed to - put. The Committee divided.
Majority . . . . 22
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Title agreed to.
Motion(by Mr. Bruce) put -
That the Chairman report the Bill without amendment.
The Committee divided.
Majority . . . . 22
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill reported without amendment.
Motion (by Mr. Bruce) put -
The Committee divided.
Majority . . . . 24
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Standing Orders suspended.
Motion (by Mr. Bruce) proposed. -
That this Bill be now read a third time.
.-If the Government desire that legislation shall be undertaken without the making of speeches, honorable members on; this side will agree to that course. So far, however, the “gag” has been, applied solely and distinctly to one party only. If that is to be- the settled policy of the Government,, we shall be quite agreeable. But, if honorable members on this side may not speak withoutit being subjected to indiscriminate suppression by the “ gag,” the Government will gain nothing. Any honorable member who endeavours to speak, either from the Treasury bench or behind it, will be subjected to the “ gag “ from this side. Now, following the excellent example which I set last night, I presume that it will be competent for me, upon the motion for the third reading of the Bill-
Motion (byMr. Greene) put -
That the question be now put.
The House divided.
Majority . . . . 21
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Question - That the Bill he now read a third time - put. The House divided.
Majority . . . . 22
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a third time.
– I ask leave to make a brief statement respecting the Superannuation Bill.
Honorable Members. - No.
– You would not let us speak. We will not let you speak.
– Then I shall have copies of the amendment which I had proposed to outline circulated. Honorable members will be able to ‘see for themselves what I had intended to make known to them.
Debate resumed from 19th September (vide page 2375), on motion by Mr. Groom -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
.- I shall not speak at length on the measure, because I agree generally with its provisions, and think that, on the whole, it will be acceptable to the public servants. They, unlike us, must be pleased that an election is at hand, ‘because otherwise this long-promised measure would probably have remained in the background. I would point out, however, that 66 per cent, of the employees of the Commonwealth receive only about £4 a week, and that it will be difficult for many of them to pay the premiums required by the Bill, because their income is now barely sufficient to provide necessaries for their homes. For each unit of pension of £26 a contribution of so much a fortnight must be paid, and this contribution must be continued until the contributor retires on reaching the age of sixty-five years. A man who is receiving a salary of £200 a year will not be permitted to contribute for more than three units of pension, and on retirement will get only £78 per annum.
– I have circulated notice of an . amendment allowing such persons to contribute for four units, which will entitle them to a pension of £104 a year.
– It will be difficult for many of them to pay for the extra unit. I understand that the Government will subsidize the Pensions Fund by paying into it £1 for every £1 contributed by the Public Service. Will those who become pensioners, and draw only three units of pension, be eligible for the oldage pension as well?
– In that case they will be worse off in some respects than they are now.
– It must be remembered that the Bill provides for more than a pension on retirement at the age of sixtyfive years. A pension becomes payable when a man . has to retire at any age through invalidity, and if a contributor dies his wife and children receive pensions.
– That is so; but most of our public servants will live their full life, and those of them who are now at the age of twenty years or thereabouts will have contributed a large sum to the Pensions Fund by the time they have reached the age of sixty-five years. It is not to be assumed that those who are not receiving more than £200 , a year are getting this small salary because of any incapacity; thousands of men, chiefly in the Postmaster-General’s Department, cannot rise to higher positions than they now occupy. At present a man on reaching the age of sixty-five years is entitled to an old-age pension of £39 a year, and his wife on reaching the age of sixty years is also entitled to a pension of £39 per year. Therefore a married couple may draw a pension of £78 a year without having contributed anything to a fund, whereas the public servant who is entitled to three units of pension will get only £78 a year, and in many cases will have made a very large contribution to the Pensions Fund before becoming eligible for that pension. From this point of view a man in the Service will be worse off than one outside. Generally speaking, our public servants are not getting remuneration commensurate with the work they do. Those in the Postmaster-General’s Department did excellently during the war, and got practically nothing for the extra work they had then to perform. To get an efficient Public Service you must provide pay and conditions under which the public servants will be contented, and evidence that our public servants are not contented is shown by the fact that many resign each year to take up better positions outside the Service. In 1918-19, there were 936 voluntary retirements; in 1919-20, 1,367; and in 1920-21, 1,062. Those figures show that persons having special knowledge and capacity can do better for themselves outside the Service.
-What percentage resigns annually?
– I have not -that information. We have been told by the Government that it is intended to take away from public servants receiving a Balary of £310 per annum or over the right to go to the Arbitration Court, and this may put such men in a worse position than they occupy now, because, after the election, they may find, as the public servants of New South Wales found, despite the promise to the contrary which was made to them, that their salaries have been decreased, and they will have no right to appeal to a Court for justice. The Bill is to be administered by a Board of three members, the chairman, a* qualified actuary, and a person nominated by the public servants. It is pleasing to note that the public servants are to have representation on this Board. That ‘is an arrangement in keeping with the Whitley scheme. The Labour party has been condemned because it has urged the representation of workers on Boards of this kind, but now the Government has adopted our policy in this matter, and I hope that they will do the same in the Public ‘Service Bill which is to come before us. Those who, since the 31st December, 1920, retired from the Service on reaching the age of sixty-five years, are to be given a pension of £104 per year. I do not complain of that, but I think that some consideration should be shown also to those who retired at the age of sixty years, after giving, perhaps, forty or forty-five of the best years of their life to the Public Service. The Minister could afford to be more generous. The public servants have been promised this measure for a long time, and a similar measure is in force in most of the States. Although I deem one or two amendments necessary, I take no exception to the Bill in the main, and I shall support the motion for its second reading.
.- The provisions of this Bill are very farreaching, and the Attorney-General, when moving the second reading, said -
At some period in their history, all the States have had superannuation schemes in force, but later abandoned them.
That remark makes one feel that a proposal such as this demands very close and. earnest consideration, but although it is, complicated, we seem slightly inclined to push the matter through too hastily.Reports have been made on various kinds of schemes that have been suggested, and I shall quote from one made by Mr. DC. McLachlan, who was an excellent; man at this kind of work,, and one of the most trusted men in the Service. In his findings he said -
That the funds necessary apart from any expense of management, should be obtained by contributions on a basis of one-fifth to be provided by the Government and four-fifths by the officers by deduction from salary.
It is noteworthy that in this Bill the contributions by the Government are to be on a £l-for-£l basis. That arrangement may be quite justifiable, but when a public servant of high standing, like Mr. McLachlan, suggests that the Government should contribute one-fifth and the employees four-fifths, one becomes doubtful of the soundness of this proposal. Has the Attorney-General considered that report, and, if so, why has he found it desirable to depart from the finding of Mr. McLachlan, which was arrived at after a very searching inquiry? I ask that question particularly becauseI have been furnished with figures by certain actuaries, who state that this proposal is much more serious than it may appear to be on the surface. I do not wish to say or do anything that will interfere with the proper and due rights of the public servants, because I recognise as fully as anybody that in the past the Government Service has not been too attractive-. Most men. with initiative and more than average ability wish they had never entered the Service, because the opportunities for promotion, and the salaries attainable, are not such as to be worth while to the best men. Men get into the Service and find it difficult to get out, and there are many who would have done better if. they had never entered the Service. “While the salaries are so limited, and inducements in the way of pensions are lacking, a number of able young men think it desirable to keep out of the Service. But whilst that is so we should pause before we saddle the community with what may prove to be a very burdensome scheme.
Certain actuaries in New. South Wales have said in reporting upon this Bill -
One thousand pounds per annum, will, accumulate to the following sums at 3½ per cent. : -Five years, £5,362; ten years, £11,732; fifteen years, £19,296; twenty years, £28,280; twenty-five years,. £38,950; thirty years, £51,623; thirty-five years, £66,674;, forty years, £84,550; forty-five years, £105,782; fifty years, £130,998.
If a fund of £500,000 were established by the Government for this scheme.it would, with compound interest, increase to £55,000,000 in fifty years.
– We do not propose that the Commonwealth shall contribute £500,000 straight away.
– No; but if the Government put by now a sum to, meet the future liability it would increase to a tremendous aggregate; if they do not do that they will place future Governmentsin a very awkward position. Clause 20. of the Bill reads -
On the face of it that appears to bet a proposal to avoid liability by the present Government. It is simply transferring the financial responsibility to their successors, and if that is agreed, to, this scheme will ultimately arrive at the same position as. that, of the New South. Wales Railway Superannuation Scheme. There the Government made no, provision to meet the payments when they fell due, and the result was that the Railway Superannuation Scheme, contribution, to which by the Government was limited to 1½ per cent. of the salaries or wages of the employees’, after running for forty years was estimated by a well-known actuary in New South Wales, on the 30th June, 1921, to have an accumulated liability of over £30,000,000, which the State Government should face if they were to do their duty, because they had neglected to make proper provision for the liability in the first place.
– We do not propose to constitute a fund and to pay money out of Commonwealth resources into it.
– No, but if the Government were to do that, many millions of pounds would accumulate by compound interest as a credit against the future liability. If they do not follow that policy, but pay in amounts as they are required to meet claims upon the scheme, they will find themselves in the same difficulty as exists in connexion with the New South Wales Railway Superannuation Scheme.
– We are proposing to make progressively increasing payments as the benefits fall due.
– What will the Government contribution amount to fifteen years hence if the Service continues increasing as it has done during the past five years’
– I refer the honorable member to the figures prepared for ‘the Government by actuaries, who based their calculations upon the present proportions of the Service. ‘The honorable member may easily work out what the liability will fee, according to’ ‘any estimated increase of the Service.
– W - When the New South Wales general superannuation scheme was established it was considered » very simple proposal, but this has been the result -
Disclosures of ‘large overpayments and the intolerable burdens imposed on -the administration of the .State .Superannuation Fund, are made in a report submitted to the Cabinet by the Minister for Justice (Mr. Ley). He says that -since July, 1.93:9, the Ministry has overpaid £430,877, and. that the contribution of the State is out of proportion to the contributions of employees. In one case the State contribution towards a .pension is £1,052 a year, and the contribution of the employee .£13 2s. The State was induced ‘to enter into .the ( contract on a grossly mistaken estimate that it would cost, between £190/000 and £200;000 a year, while the actual cost is now £439,000, exclusive of £75.000 paid by corporate bodies.
That indicates the position which has arisen “under a scheme which was supposed to be -duly ‘safeguarded. What has the Attorney-General provided in this Bill beyond what was provided in the New South Wales Superannuation Act to protect 1/he community ?
– This Bill makes an entirely different provision, and the difficulty, mentioned in the extract which the honorable member has read could not arise. *^
– Could the difficulty arise under this Bill that arose in connexion with the Railway Superannuation Fund in New South Wales?
– The actuaries have certified that this scheme is actuarially sound.
– The ‘speech of the Minister, in moving the second reading, did not seem to me to cover the questions I have raised in connexion with both the General Superannuation Fund and the Railway Superannuation Fund in New South Wales.
In general, the Country party believes in a superannuation fund liberal enough to attract good men to the Public Service and hold them there, and give them at their retirement some reasonable reward for the service they have rendered to the community. What we fear more than anything else is that, at the rate at which the Service has been growing during the past few years, the Commonwealth will be overloaded by this scheme. We do not wish to injure in any way the prospects of .those who are in the Service ; in fact, we wish to make them better, so that the best men may be attracted to the Service - as happens in the Mother Country.; but we do not desire a scheme drafted, as this seems -to be, in a hurried manner., and which may land the community in considerably greater cost than can be foreseen at the present .time. We believe that this Bill .should be merely a first instalment of a general scheme of national insurance for all classes of the community. During the very early stages of this Parliament, .speaking from the back Ministerial bench, I outlined what, I conceived to be a more or less satisfactory scheme for dealing with the whole subject of national -insurance. I hope that the Government, in introducing this measure, are actuated by a desire to so safeguard its provisions that it will not involve the -community in a ‘burden too great for it to carry, and that, at a ‘later date, it may be extended ;so that it -will not only make safe the positions and prospects of the public servants, but also will be capable of embodying the old-age tensions ‘scheme, and all those other schemes which the Commonwealth has now to support, in one great scheme of national insurance.
.. - The clause dealing with the personnel of the proposed Board does not clearly indicate whether the appointment of the employees’ representative shall .be permanent or -temporary.
– The appointment is for a period of seven years.
– That is satisfactory. I would like to see some provision made to guarantee a minimum pension to the lower paid servants, gradually increasing after certain amounts have been paid into the fund. I agree with the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton) that the lower paid workers will be getting but a slight advantage under this scheme, and I trust that their interests will receive more consideration. There are hundreds of public servants on lower salaries who, after paying into the fund for fifteen or twenty years, must retire on very small pensions. I think that the Government should have brought down .the Bill years ago. It is long overdue. It does not go so far as I would like, but still it is better than nothing, and later on opportunity may be offered to improve it
– I congratulate the AttorneyGeneral, not only on the fact that he has introduced this Bill, but also upon the clear way in which he’ explained its provisions. Those who listened attentively to him must have realized the great amount of work that he and the experts who were assisting him must have done in drafting the measure. I can speak feelingly in this regard because when I was in the Tasmanian Public Service I was a member of a committee which helped to frame a superannuation scheme. We got no financial assistance from the Tasmanian Government and had to find the money ourselves. We found it an exceedingly difficult task, and, therefore, I can thoroughly appreciate the action of the Commonwealth Government in having come, as they have done, to the assistance of those who are willing to help themselves. This Bill, as the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Lambert) has remarked, is long overdue. I take honorable . members’ minds back, to the early days of Australia, when big inducements had to be held out to gentlemen to enter the Public Service. At that time, it was easy for any person to secure work outside, and one of the inducements that had to be offered to keep men in the Service was the fact that .big pensions would be made available to them upon their retirement at the statutory age. I welcome this Bill because I consider that it will induce good men not only to enter the Service of the Commonwealth, but also to remain in it. When I visited Great
Britain in 1911, I made it my business to inquire into the work done by members of the British Government, and I found that Ministers there had comparatively easy tasks as compared with those undertaken by Commonwealth Ministers. This was due to the fact that much of the work done by Commonwealth Ministers was deputed to permanent heads of Departments and capable members of the Civil Service. I was told that it waa almost impossible for the ordinary citizen of Great Britain to see a Minister of the Crown, because the Minister dealt only with the most important matters, and could be seen only by plenipotentiaries of other Powers. When I told the person from whom I made my inquiries of the nature of the work undertaken by Commonwealth Ministers, he was astounded. Bie could not understand how’ the work could be done by a Minister who was compelled to attend to so much detail. It was that statement which caused me to inquire who undertook the responsibility in Great Britain for the work done by Ministers in Australia. My informant replied, “ We have our trained men. We make it worth while for capable men to enter our Service, and consequently all the details which you say Commonwealth Ministers undertake are largely done by them, with the result that our system is second to none in the world.” There is a big risk to the people of any country if an ambitious politician without very much parliamentary experience is hurriedly rushed into a Ministerial position, and attempts to carry out the promises that he has made outside to do this or that thing, and has not available to him the advice of an experienced head of a Public Department. I have been informed that in one State the consequence would have been disastrous if a certain Minister had remained in office long enough to do what he had stated his intention of doing; but, fortunately for the country, the Ministry of which he was a member went out of office. We all know the services rendered by the officials in the Treasury and in the Customs Departments. They are most valuable, and should be adequately rewarded; the greatest .reward we can give any officer is to make provision for his old age, when he cannot hope to earn a living in competition with men who have been all their lives engaged in employment outside the
Public Service. Under the present system a young man has to undergo a severe examination before he can enter our Public Service; but I am not too much impressed with the system, because it may sap the initiative of a man, and prevents us from having in the employment of the Government men who have had practical experience in all walks of life. This Bill does not propose to give a pension. Its purpose is to provide superannuation benefits for persons employed by the Commonwealth, and to make provision for their families. For the money it will cost, the Commonwealth will derive considerable benefit.
– Why is the honorable member “stone-walling” the measure? We are prepared to pass it.
– I am not “ stone-walling “ it. It interests me more than any other measure so far introduced has done. I speak very seldom, and I always listen most attentively to honorable members opposite. At any rate, I propose to have my say upon the Bill, because I realize that opportunity should be taken to reply to some of the criticism that has been raised, ‘ The country will get a good return for the money it is spending, and the scheme will not be a burden on the taxpayers. We all know that when a man who has plenty of political influence is retired from the Public Service he can get a retiring allowance, but the man without such influence, as a rule, does not get on so well. This Bill will abolish that sort of thing. As men advance in the Public service great calls are made on their earnings. They have to keep up a certain social position, which proves more costly to them than it does to men outside the Service. When this measure is passed the public servant will not have the horror of being thrown upon the world at ‘his retiring age in competition with men who have been trained all their lives in outside occupations. It is not lack of ability that may cause him to fail in competition with outside men. His trouble is that he has received a particular class of training which does not fit him for competition with outsiders. Private firms have found it to their advantage to make provision for their employees in their old age. It was my privilege in 1911 to visit Lever Brothers’ works, where I found that men with great length of faithful service in the employment of the firm had retired on pensions. If private firms can carry out such schemes, why should not the Commonwealth Government, be in the position to do so? I am pleased that the Attorney-General proposes to amend the Bill ,to give lower-paid officers in the Service an opportunity of contributing for more units, and I hope that he will be able to advise me as to the position of transferred Tasmanian officers, who, if they had. remained in the State Service, were to draw upon retiring one month’s pay for the first year of service, and one week’s pay for every year of service thereafter.
– Was that embodied in an Act.?
– Unfortunately ii was not. Clause 57 of this Bill provides for the case of transferred officers whose rights in this respect were covered by State Statutes, but unfortunately there was no such Act in force in Tasmania, and the officers taken over from the Tasmanian Service are likely to suffer in comparison with officers taken over from other State Services. I hope that the Minister will give consideration to the matter, and see that justice is done to these men.
There is another matter on which I should like some information. Suppose a nian dies after he has contributed to the fund for years, and his children under” the age of sixteen are subsequently left motherless, those children, so far as I can see, get no assistance under this Bill.
– The pension will be continued to the children if they are under sixteen years of age.
– Then I am quite satisfied, and as I do not wish to delay the passing of the measure, I shall say no more at present.
.- I should like to echo the congratulations of the last speaker (Mr. Laird Smith) to the Minister (Mr. Groom) on the way in which he presented the Bill to the House. It is certainly a most intricate measure, but the honorable gentleman made it perfectly clear to honorable members, showing that he must have devoted a large amount of hard work to its consideration and completion. The amendment which has been circulated on the part of the Government has really made unnecessary much that I had intended to say. I am glad that the number of units available for the lower-paid men are to be increased, although even the four units provide only a bare existence as superannuation. With three units these men would have received just as much as would an old-age pensioner and his wife, and that would certainly be no encouragement to contribute to the fund. After all, there is a good deal of “ whoop “ in what is said about the “generous treatment” of the public servants, but not much can be said from that point of view in regard to the lower-paid men. This Bill, of course, is a very fine thing for the public servants with high salaries, who may draw something like £400 a year as pension, half the cost of which is contributed by the Government. In the case of the lower-paid men, however, even four units does not represent much in advance of what they would get as oldage pensioners. It is true that the provision made in cases where the public servant dies is very fair, but similar provision is made in most of the States for children, and in Victoria this is done, I believe, under what is called the Maintenance of Children Act. A greater advantage, no doubt, is presented in cases of invalidity of a public servant. I was sorry to hear the honorable member for Robertson (Mr. Fleming) damn the measure with faint praise, and refer to the expenditure that the country must bear in connexion with this scheme; but, after all, the public servants are largely paying for the benefits they receive. Surely we cannot object to people being paid sufficient to keep body and soul together after they have served the country faithfully and well to the age of sixty-five years.
– I never suggested such an objection.
– But the honorable member sounded a note of complaint about the cost of the scheme, although today he voted for making a present of £400,000 to the big landlords.
– My remarks were not a complaint, but a warning.
– Warnings are generally framed in derogatory terms when a proposal is made to spend money on the poorer portion of the community. I have figured out what will be contributed by a man who will draw four units as a pen sion. If a man contributes from the age of twenty to the age of sixty-five, a period of forty-five years, he will pay £450. Such a sum, if invested at compound interest at 4 per cent., would represent a total in that period of £1,208. These figures show that a contributor to this fund will not live on charity, but that he will contribute largely to what he receives.
The honorable member for Robertson made some remarks in regard to which I find myself in ‘complete agreement with him. He expressed the hope that this measure might be the forerunner of a. general policy of national insurance; and it certainly is time for this National Parliament to take up that question seriously, for I am satisfied that there is no greater field of social reform. Such a policy ought to provide against every form of calamity - death, accident, fire, unemployment, and old-age and invalidity. With a national scheme we should be able to give much greater benefits to all concerned than we can to-day, and at considerably less cost to the people.
– There is too much piecemeal legislation.
– We are not dealing with the question on sound lines. Any proposal to make national insurance compulsory under existing circumstances would notbe sound without insurance against unemployment. If we make insurance compulsory, and make no provision to keep men employed, and thus enable them to keep up their contributions, the scheme cannot succeed. If, however, unemployment is covered I am satisfied that we could, with very much reduced contributions, afford greater benefits than the private insurance companies do now.
There is just one other suggestion I should like to make for consideration in Committee. With regard to the proposed payment of contributions of arrears due in consequence of their absence through illness, the present provision in ‘ this regard is somewhat harsh. When on sick leave some public servants get part payment, and some none at all. A man may be away six months, and if his salary is small, he finds, with the medical expenses and so forth, that it is the most expensive time of his life. When he returns to work the whole of the arrears are to be deducted from his first pay; and the suggestion is made that the payment might be spread over a period by adding one-third! to each usual contribution. That could be done by regulation or, perhaps, by amendment in Committee, and it is an amendment that would prove a boon to the men with small wages. There are many interesting phases of the measure with which I should like to deal, but the hour is late, and I am anxious to see it become law. It is long overdue, notwithstanding the talk about the cost of it. After all, it provides mere bread and butter to the men and women, who have served their country faithfully to the age of sixty-five years. I commend the Government for introducing the measure.
.- As an old public servant, °I desire to express my gratification at the fact that the Government have introduced this measure, and are proceeding with it so promptly. It is a measure that is long overdue, and those who have .been connected, with, the Service know that it has been looked forward to for many years. At the inception of Federation the first classification scheme of the Commissioner put the public servants of the Commonwealth on the best footing of any in Australia. The Commonwealth. Service was superior both in regard to pay and conditions; but that position has not been maintained. The Service drifted for many years until the point waa reached when the officers were receiving less pay than those in similar positions in municipal and State services. Recently an opportunity was taken by Parliament to increase the minimum pay in the Public Service, a measure which was long overdue; but today the Commonwealth public servants are not, in my opinion, receiving remuneration commensurate with their duties. I always sympathize with the men on the bottom rung of the ladder, and we ought to do all we can to enable such men’ to rise. The inducement by the way of pay to men in the higher positions is very small, when compared with the pay given to officers in similar positions in other parts of the world. Owing to this fact, the Commonwealth Public Service is constantly losing men, though there is no service that possesses a better class than our own. Of course, the Service has its wasters, like any commercial house or public institution, but the calibre of our men will compare favorably with that of the employees in any part of the world. In
Great Britain, for many years past, the Government have made the Public Service so attractive that it has become the aspiration of many young men. The entrance examinations are very hard, with the result that the Public Service is obtaining capable recruits from the universities and colleges. Some years ago in Australia applicants for positions to the Public Service were greatly in excess of the number required, and the Departments could pick and choose; but to-day the circumstances are just the reverse. In many of our Departments - the Postal Department particularly - a short supply of boys has been experienced for many years. I know that at the Sydney Post Office, there is an average of forty boys short, and when they are obtained they are snapped up by the commercial men of the city at wages 5s. and 10s. a week over those paid by the Government. An honorable member to-day has given us a list of the men who have retired from the Public Service, and we are continuing to lose men every year. If we wish, to retain the services of capable men, the positions must be made attractive.
– The loss is only about 4 per cent., after all.
– But that 4 per cent. includes men whose services we wish to retain.
Mr. MARR. Unfortunately, we are losing the services of capable young men, who find that they can do better outside. I am sure very few members of this House would willingly place their sons in the Public Service, and from what we hear in trams, trains, and other public places, that sentiment is widespread. How can the services be made attractive to newcomers if we cannot keep the officers employed in the various Departments to-day ? I agree with the honorable member for Robertson (Mr. Fleming) and the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin), and with others who have advocated national insurance. After all, this proposal for the superannuation of the Public Service is only a small matter compared with the question of providing for the welfare of the general body of citizens throughout the Commonwealth. The time is coming when the public health of this country must be the first consideration of government. It would pay the Commonwealth to keep its people well and employed, and to insure them against sickness and unemployment. I trust that this measure will be the means of rendering the Public Service more attractive, so that we may at least retain the officers Who are at present engaged in carrying on the affairs of this country. We must stop the drift which has been so long in operation.
– I am glad that the Government are about to fulfil one of their election pledges by ‘bringing down a reasonably fair and equitable measure for the superannuation of Commonwealth public servants. There are two or three points, however, upon which I desire to be enlightened. Recently there appeared in the press certain particulars regarding the growth of the Public Services of the Commonwealth and States during the past twenty years. It was stated that on the eve of Federation the numbers of those in State Government employment all over Australia totalled about 90,000, and that in 1921 those numbers had increased to almost 200,000. Further, there are now superimposed upon those 200,000 more than 50,000 permanent and temporary employees: of the Commonwealth, serving in some way or another.
– The enormous expansion of railways would account for a great deal of the growth in the numbers of State and Federal servants.
– The Minister’s interjection furnishes a partial explanation. I do not wish to say anything further regarding the expansion of the State Services; but the growth of the Commonwealth Public Service has also been very rapid. Putting the two totals together, it would appear that, in 1901, there was one Government employee for every twenty-one of the adult population of Australia; and that in 1921 there was one Government employee for every twelve adults in the country.
Honorable members have been furnished with a carefully tabulated statement by actuaries employed by the Government to inform Parliament of what this scheme really means in terms of pounds sterling. I agree with the honorable member for Robertson (Mr. Fleming) to some extent, that the recent Superannuation Act in New South Wales failed because it did not provide for obligation’s as well as commitments. However, the Attorney-General (Mr. Groom) has made a complete statement which shows our total obligations under this scheme year by year, and as the years go on. Positions in the Public Service should carry both prestige and security. We can only obtain security by providing some kind of pension for an officer who has served his country faithfully and well. For that reason, I favour this measure. I believe that undue inflation has occurred in the Commonwealth Services. Inflation of any Public Service reduces its prestige. That brings mie to a point on which I am not clear. I have already quoted from a press article to the effect that there are more than 50,000 Commonwealth public servants to-day. This Bill, according to the actuarial report, provides for 20,666 males, 2,766 females, 877 persons connected with . the Naval Department, 2,784 from the Defence Department, 483 from the Commonwealth Railway Department, and 47 in connexion with parliamentary duties. I cannot reconcile these actuarial figures with the information furnished to me last week in response to a question which I had asked concerning the number of Government employees outside the ambit of the Public Service Commissioner. In the first place, the total number of public servants to be provided for is, according to the actuarial report, approximately, 25,000. The reply furnished to my question indicated that there were about 9,000 further persons employed in the Commonwealth Government Service.
– The first figures which the honorable member quoted - from the actuarial report - are as on 30th June, 1920.. I asked the Commonwealth Statistician for a further table based upon the numbers in the Public Service as on 30th June, 1922. There are, within the scope of the Public Service Act, 24,759 individuals. But, of course, there are other Commonwealth officers also to be considered.
– All these figures are based upon 30th June, 1920.
– I furnished a special table showing. the figures as at 30th June, 1922.
– Approximately, then, 30,000 public servants are provided for under the Bill.
Mr. Groom.From 27>000 to 30,000.
– The amounts to which the Commonwealth will be committed arc set out in the actuarial tables before us, but last week, replying to a question which I put to him, the Prime Minister made a statement of the number of public servants outside the ambit of the Public Service ‘Commissioner, which shows that there are about 9,000 in that position, and no reasonable proportion of these is included among the 30,000 I have mentioned.
– Many of them are not permanent public servants within the definition of the Bill.
– Any substantial variation from the figures given to us as to the number of public servants to be provided for will mean a considerable variation in the obligations of the Commonwealth. In the Bill provision is made for less than ‘30,000 public servants, and unless these are all for whom it is intended to provide, the tables set before us are of no particular value. I assume that it is not intended to increase the number to be provided for.
– The figures placed before honorable members assume that the constitution and strength of the Service will remain much as it is.
– Under the Bill our obligations will be sufficiently heavy to make it necessary to take care how we inflate the Public ‘Service. When the Bill has become law every unnecessary public servant will mean, not only an unnecessary salary, but a pension to follow. I support the Bill because I think it fair that the Commonwealth Public Service should have a superannuation fund, since most of the State public servants are so provided for; and I support it, too, because I am not altogether satisfied that our Public Service is overpaid. There are fine officers holding very responsible positions who are not getting as much from the Government as they would get by the exercise of their abilities outside.
– The Divisional Returning Officers, to take a case in point.
– There .are numerous able officers in the Public Service who could get bigger pay outside. I should like to know whether the Bill provides not only for retirements on reaching the age of sixty-five, but also for retirements with full pension benefits on completion of forty years of satisfactory service. I shall raise that question in Committee, and perhaps the Minister will give the matter consideration then. Among my election pledges was a promise to support a Superannuation Bill. I, therefore, shall support this measure. I hope that, in Committee, the Minister will pay special regard to the position of the young men now in the Service. I am glad that he has circulated a notice of amendment which will enable a man on a small salary to subscribe for more units of pension than he would be entitled to in the Bill as it stands. The Bill should not be moulded and shaped in the interests of the present heads who are on the eve of retirement. It should consider, rather, the position of the young men who hope to give many years of faithful service to the Commonwealth.
.- I shall not go into the matter of superannuation very deeply. While I believe in superannuation, I do not believe in class superannuation, and I should like to see a scheme for national insurance. It is hardly fair that my servants and other servants outside the Public Service - for we are all servants .one of another - should have to contribute to a superannuation fund for the benefit of the Commonwealth public servants and have no provision made for themselves. Some of those in the .Commonwealth Public Service may be regarded as comfortablyoff compared with many outside the Ser.vice who will have to contribute to the proposed pensions fund, and will get none of its benefits. The Government, as taxgatherer, will take from the public at large revenue with which it will subsidize the proposed Public Service Pension Fund. The man whom I employ in producing food for the people is a servant of this country, ‘but he, and others like him, have no guarantee that after forty years of service they will be in a comfortable position.
On every ground of justice and equity the Government should satisfy themselves conclusively that this scheme will fit in with a national scheme of superannuation or insurance. I do not mind the proposal being precipitate in setting an example so far as pensions for Commonwealth public servants are concerned, but if the Government intend to- stop there I should regard their action as grossly unfair. If the principle of this measure is sound for one section of the community it is equally sound for every other section. That is why I earnestly desire that the Government will frame this measure in such a way that it may be fitted into a national scheme of insurance. The Attorney-General (Mr. Groom) has said that he has copied much of this Bill from the New South Wales Superannuation Act, but I remind him. that that Act has not been working very satisfactorily. The State Government very much underestimated the cost of their scheme, and it may turn out that the estimate of over £11,000,000, which the Government will contribute to the scheme proposed under this Bill, may be greatly exceeded before the scheme is complete. Such a scheme, if it could be made to apply to Australia as a whole, would have some soundness in it. I could show greater necessity for a pension for some people who will not benefit but will have to be contributors to this fund through the Government than can be shown for those who will be beneficiaries under it. The people to whom I refer have less . opportunity of saving than have men in the higher grades of the Commonwealth Public Service. I would have preferred that the Commission, which the Government propose to appoint, should have put the Public Service on a business footing before the introduction of this measure.
– The honorable member can deal with that matter when we consider the Public Service Bill next week.
– We are beginning at the wrong end. As soon as this Bill becomes law all Commonwealth public servants can begin to contribute to the fund, and will be entitled to be considered beneficiaries under it, whether, upon investigation by the Commission to which I have referred it is considered that they should continue in the Public Service or not.
The introduction of the Bill is precipitate, and we shall have a long time to repent. The State civil servants, and the servants of the country generally, whether in a Civil Service or not, are quite as much servants of the Commonwealth as are the members of the Commonwealth Public Service. I should have greatly preferred the introduction of a compre hensive scheme of insurance for Australia. We recognise certain people as old-age pensioners; but pensioners under this Bill may probably be considered more aristocratic. After they have served the countiy for a considerable time they will be entitled by their contributions, and the contributions of other people, to retire on a reasonable allowance. That is right, and I have no objection whatever to such a scheme if it could be applied all round. I cannot regard the members of the Commonwealth Public Service with any greater preference than the members of the State Services or my own servants.
– There is no reason why the honorable member should not pension his own servants.
– I do as much for my servants as the next man; but I point out that the Commonwealth public servants have assured employment, whilst other workers in this country have not. I do not speak against the principle of superannuation. It is an excellent principle, and a proper system when its incidence is national covering the whole people, and would do away with the unpleasantness that arises under the oldage pension scheme. I repeat my impression that the Government have introduced the measure hastily, and again remind them that we will have any amount of time for repentance.
Debate (on motion by Mr.Considine) adjourned.
Bill returned from the Senate without amendment.
Bill returned from the Senate without amendment.
Reflection on Parliament.
Motion (by Mr. Greene) proposed: -
That the Houso do now adjourn.
.- I am glad that the honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page) is present, because I desire to raise what I consider a matter of the greatest importance, in which he is concerned. I noticed from this evening’s Herald that the honorable member is reported to have said at Ballarat : -
The Country parties are now a powerful factor in politics, and have their uses if only to switch on the light when the burglar is about. The light was turned on certain burglars in the Federal Bouse lately, causing them to drop their loot.
Mr.gabb. - I call attention to the state of the House. [Quorum formed.]
– The honorable member for Cowper may have been misreported. I sincerely trust that he did not make the remarks that have been attributed to him.
Mr.mcwilliams. - What has it to do with the honorable member ?
– It has to do with the honour of every member of the House.
– It has to do with every member of this Parliament who has any self-respect, if the honorable member for Cowper has been correctly reported.
– If the honorable member will Bit down, I will deal with the statement he has quoted.
Mr.HIGGS. - Perhaps nothing more need be said until the honorable member for Cowper informs the House whether he has been correctly reported or not.
– I see by the Herald, which has just been handed to me, that I am reported as having made certain remarks at Ballarat. That is not a verbatim report of what I said, but I should like to put on record in Hansard the purport of my remarks. I was dealing with the position of the Country party in various Australian Parliaments. I pointed out that in some Parliaments they were controlling the Government, in others they were holding the balance of power, and that in this House and in the South Australian Parliament they were not able to do either of those things, but were acting as guardians of country interests. Although they had not been able to do exactly what they wished in regard to the preservation of those interests which it was their special purpose to guard, yet they were able to act as a policeman does on beat, or as a householder does when a burglar is about - switch on the lights to prevent raids upon those interests in the way that certain Governments had done in the past. Whether or not I said it at Ballarat, I would like to say here that the surcharge on the land tax, which was- repealed to-night, is an instance of the inequitable taxation imposed on the primary industries of this country - a burden that would not have been imposed if there had been in the last Parliament a Country party able to make an effective protest on the floor of this Chamber.
– I do not regard the explanation of the honorable. member for Cowper as satisfactory. I was informed that the statement published in the Herald was handed to the representative of that journal in typewritten form.
– I give that statement an emphatic denial.
– I suggest to the honorable gentleman that he has not explained the inference contained in the reported passage as to certain people having dropped loot. Only one possible interpretation can be put upon those words. The honorable member has not attempted to deny them, but until we have had an opportunity of seeing the reports in tomorrow morning’s newspapers, I do not propose to say anything more on that subject, except to remind the honorable member that I think I am right in Baying that only one member of the present Country party voted against the imposition of the surcharge on the land tax when first imposed.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 11.20 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 21 September 1922, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1922/19220921_reps_8_100/>.