17th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. J. S.Rosevear) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– by have - I have to announce that at Ottawa on the Oth March an agreement was signed between the Governments of Canada and the Commonwealth o.f Australia relating to the provision by Canada of supplies to Australia as aid in the present war. An announcement of the signing of such agreement is also being made to-day on behalf of the Government of Canada.
On the 3rd September, 1942, Australia accepted the principles of the United States of America-United Kingdom Mutual Aid Agreement, and concluded its own Reciprocal Aid Agreement with the United States of America. The relevant documents were tabled in the House on the 8th October, 1942, as a White Paper. J.’lie agreement with Canada has similar purposes, and is designed to achieve the mme objectives of mutual aid between the United Nations.
Under the terms of the Canadian agreement it is anticipated that Australia will receive from Canada goods and services to the approximate value of 85,000,000 dollars Canadian per annum. These goods will include automotive equipment, trucks and spare parts, ammunition and ordnance, aircraft parts, metal and woodworking machinery, communications equipment, chemicals, and raw materials, including ferrous alloys and non-ferrous metals, electrical equipment, lumber and many other goods that are essential to Australia’s war effort.
One of the recitals in tho preamble of the Canadian agreement is a reminder that in this war the United Nations have adopted the far-sighted principle of mutual aid rather than the practice of sale and loan between allies which was followed during the last war. The recital r«ads -
Whereas, it is expedient that the conditions upon which such war supplies are made available by one United Nation to another should not bc audi as to burden post-war commerce, or lead to the imposition of trade restrictions ur otherwise prejudice a just and enduring peace.
This recital mates clear that Canada’s policy of supply without payment is adopted in order to avoid the creation of war debts which would dislocate and reduce the flow of trade after the war. Canada’s policy in this respect rans parallel to that of the United States of America and other United Nations, including Australia.
The operative clauses of tho agreement proceed to set out the conditions upon which goods, services and information necessary for the prosecution of tho war will be exchanged between tho Governments of Canada and Australia, the conditions upon which, goods so exchanged can be sold and transferred, and the conditions upon which some particular goods which have been supplied, e.g., ships, will bc returned.
There is one article - Article X. - which is of particular interest. This roads -
The Governments of Canada and the Com monwealth of Australia re-affirm their desire to promote mutually advantageous economic relations between their countries and throughout the world. They declare that their guiding purposes include the adoption of measures designed to promote employment, the production nml consumption of goods, and’ the expansion of commerce through appropriate international agreements on commercial policy, witu tin; object of contributing’ to the attainment of r11 the economic objectives set forth in the declaration of the 14th August, 1041, known as the Atlantic Charter.
The reference to the Atlantic Charter is clearly to Article V., which provides -
They, i.e. the President of the United States of America and Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, desire to bring about the fullest collaboration between all nations in the economic field with the object of securing, for all, improved labour standards, . economic advancement and social security.
The United Kingdom-United States of America Agreement contained a*» article - Article VII. - not dissimilar to this Article X.
The wording of Article X. of the AustralianCanadian Agreement is in strict accordance with the Australian Government’s views as to future international economic collaboration. The Australian Government stresses the importance of domestic policies of full employment as the basic policy which should be followed in promoting post-war international economic collaboration. Our view is, that it is by maintaining high levels of employment and consumption throughout the world, and especially in the major conn- tries, that prosperity, increased consumption of goods, and expansion of trade can be effected, and the economic objectives of the Atlantic Charter fulfilled. The Australian Government, accepting these objectives, regarded Article VII. of the United Kingdom-United States of America Agreement as a further expression of them. The Australian Government’s view’ is that the objectives can best be attained by attaching primary and indeed supreme importance to the adoption of measures designed to promote full employment, and increased production and consumption of goods. In our view, this Australian approach is particularly important as in the post-war period so many nations, including Australia, will be dependent on the reestablishment and expansion of overseas markets. In 1938, New Zealand’s export trade was 35 per cent, of its total national income, and that of Australia nearly 20 per cent. It will be realized that a fall in the level of employment in countries such as the United Kingdom and the United States of America is likely to have a detrimental effect on such economies as those of New Zealand and Australia. Such reductions of employment are not unusual. For instance, in the United States of America, between 1937 and 193S. there was an increase from about 5,100,000 to 7,400,000 in the number of registered unemployed workers. The adverse effect of this on the exports of other countries to the United Nations may be observed from the trade figures. The maintenance of a high level of employment throughout the world would undoubtedly have a beneficial effect in increasing trade, production and consumption, and so in preventing recourse to the methods associated with extreme economic nationalism.
Australia’s general policy in relation to international economic collaboration may be stated as follows: -
In the making and future implementation of this agreement, the Dominion of Canada will be making a very significant contribution to the common war effort. Canadian aid, under this M’utual Aid Agreement, will constitute aid in very specific directions for the purpose of carrying the war against Japan to a successful conclusion. It is a further step in the pooling of the common resources of the United Nations. In the phrase of Mr. Stettinius, who was for so long in charge of the American lend-lease arrangements, it is another “weapon for victory “.
The text of the agreement, as received by telegram, is attached to this statement. The text as signed will be tabled as soon as it is received in the coming airmail.
T lay on the table the following paper : -
Canadian Mutual Aid Agreement. - Ministerial statement, 17th March, 1944, together with telegraphic text of the agreement. and move -
That the paperbe printed.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Menzies) adjourned.
Agreement between the Governments of Canada and the Commonwealth of Australia on the principles applying to the provision by Canada of Canadian War Supplies to the Commonwealth of Australia under the War Appropriation (United Nations Mutual Aid) Act of Canada, 1943.
Signed at Ottawa
Whereas, Canada and the Commonwealth of Australia are associated in the present war, and
Whereas, it is desirable that war supplies should be distributed among the United Nations in accordance with the strategic needs of the war and in such a manner as to contribute most effectively to the winning of the war and the establishment of peace, and
Whereas, it is expedient that the conditions upon which such war supplies are made available by one United Natjon to another should not be such as to burden post-war commerce, or lead to the imposition of trade restrictions or otherwise prejudice a just and, enduring peace, and
Whereas, the Governments of Canada and the Commonwealth of Australia are mutually desirous of concluding an agreement in regard to the conditions upon which the Canadian war supplies will be made available to the Commonwealth of Australia.
The undersigned, being duly authorized by their respective Governments for the purpose, have agreed as follows: -
The Government of Canada will make available under the War Appropriation (United Nations Mutual Aid) Act of Canada, 1943, to the Government of the Commonwealth of Australia such war supplies as the Government of Canada shall authorize from time to time to be provided.
The Government of the Commonwealth of Australia will continue to contribute to the defence of Canada and the strengthening thereof and will provide such articles, services, facilities or information as it may bc in a position to supply and as may from time to time be determined by common agreement in the light of the development of the war.
The Government of the Commonwealth of Australia will, in support of any applications to the Government of Canada for the provision of war supplies under this agreement, furnish the Government of Canada with such relevant information as the Government of Canada may require for the purpose of deciding upon the applications and for executing the purposes of this agreement.
The Government of the Commonwealth ot Australia agrees to use any war supplies delivered to it under this agreement in the joint and effective prosecution of the war.
The Government of the Commonwealth of Australia will not without the consent of the Government of Canada sell to any other government or to persons in other countries war supplies delivered to it under this agreement.
The Government of Canada will not require the Government of the Commonwealth of Australia to redeliver to.the Government of Canada any war supplies delivered under this agreement except as specifically provided in Articles 7 and 8 and subject to any special agreement which may be concluded iu the circumstances contemplated in Article 9.
The title to any cargo ships delivered under this agreement will remain with the Government of Canada and the ships shall be chartered to the Government of the Commonwealth of Australia on terms providing for their redelivery.
Upon the cessation of hostilities in any major theatre of war, any war supplies which have been transferred to the Government of the Commonwealth of Australia under this agreement and are still in Canada or in ocean transit shall revert to Canadian ownership, except those supplies destined for a theatre of war in which hostilities have not ceased or supplies made available for relief purposes or such other supplies as the Government of Canada may specify.
The Government of Canada reserves the right to -
The Government of the Commonwealth of Australia agrees to use its best endeavours to meet any such requests on such reasonable terms and conditions as shall be settled in consultation with the Government of Canada.
The Governments of Canada and the Commonwealth of Australia reaffirm their desire to promote mutually advantageous economic relations between their countries and throughout the world. They declare that their guiding purposes include the adoption of measures designed to promote employment, the production and consumption of goods, and the expansion of commerce through appropriate international agreement on commercial policy, with the object of contributing to the attainment of all the economic objectives set forth in the Declaration of 14th August,1941, known as the Atlantic Charter.
This agreement will take effect as from this day’s date. It shall apply to war supplies furnished to the Government of the Commonwealth of Australia by the Government of Canada under the authority of the War Appropriation (United Nations Mutual Aid) Act of Canada, 1943, or substituted act, including supplies furnished under the said act before the conclusion of this agreement. It shall continue in force until a date to be agreed upon by the two Governments.
Dated at Ottawa, this
– Will the Minister for Home Security discuss with the States the desirability of removing airraid shelters which have been erected in the different cities, particularly in the narrow streets of Sydney and Brisbane. as there is no longer need for them and they constitute a very great danger to traffic ?
– Some time ago, the Defence Committee made an appreciation of the security position and, as honorable members know, decided that protective screens might be removed from windows, hut that it was still necessary to retain air-raid shelters, with the exception of trenches which had become dangerous. I shall request the committee to give further consideration to the removal of these shelters, in the light of the representations of the right honorable gentleman.
– Has the Minister for
External Affairs seen a letter in this morning’s Sydney Morning Herald from Oscar Trebitsch, in which it is stated that the Department of the Interior has demanded that Austrian citizens applying for nationalization “ must amend their applications to show their nationality as German, not Austrian “, and that their application must be accompanied by a statutory declaration to this effect? As the Moscow Conference declared that the annexation of Austria was null and void, and as the Minister for External Affairs stated that the conference spoke “ essentially for Australia “, will the Minister for External Affairs take immediate steps to ensure that the Minister for the Interior shall abide by the decisions of the Moscow Conference regarding Austrian nationality, and not hy the edict of Adolf Hitler?
– I think the substance of the honorable member’s statement is correct. I shall have the matter looked into immediately, and see whether the position needs to be corrected. If so. it will be corrected at once.
– Earlier this week, I asked the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture whether he would instruct the Apple and Pear Board to issue a balance-sheet covering each year’s operations. I have now received a reply to the effect that a statement of receipts and payments by the board is included in the annual report of the Auditor-General. By no stretch of imagination can those bald figures be regarded as a balancesheet, and as I cannot conceive that the Government desires to conceal anything, I ask the Minister whether he will cause a proper balance-sheet to be issued by the board ?
– The accounts of the board have been submitted to the closest scrutiny of the Auditor-General, who has expressed his satisfaction with them. That ought to be sufficient guarantee that everything is as it should be. However, I shall make further investigations to see whether it is possible to have a certified balance-sheet issued as the honorable member suggests.
– Will the Minister for the Army have a review made of the supplies of fencing wire held by his department in Tasmania with a view to releasing some of it for use by farmers?
– I have been greatly impressed by the strong representations made by the honorable member to rae personally on this subject. I shall obtain information regarding the position, and supply it to him as soon as possible.
Case of J. V. Roberts
– Will the Minister bring before the Minister for the Interior the case of J. V. Roberts who, it is reported, was called up by the Allied Works Council on the 28th July, 1942, and, after having been in hospitals in Queensland and New South Wales, died on the 8th November, 1943 ?. Will the Minister also inquire whether, sixteen months after his death, a letter was addressed by the Chief Accountant of the Allied Works Council to Roberts, informing him that his allottees had been paid allotments in excess of deductions from his earnings, and asking for a refund, and whether subsequently a letter was forwarded to his widow intimating that the letter to Roberts had been sent in error ?
– I shall bring the honorable member’s question to the notice of the Minister for the Interior to-day, and a reply will be prepared as soon as possible.
– Has the Minister for Labour and National Service seen the published statement of the Minister for Labour in New South Wales in which he said that, although he and his department had offered maximum co-operation to the Commonwealth, “ he is not getting the same co-operation from the Commonwealth officers, whose main purpose seems to be to build up duplicate staffs “ ? Will he communicate with the New South Wales Minister, asking him to specify the duplication that is occurring so that it may in future be avoided, and this wasteful expenditure of public money cease?
– I have read the statement referred to, and have sent an answer to it. I do not undertake to ask the question which the honorable member suggests, but I give an undertaking that there will be no overlapping.
Badges fob Returned Soldiers - Leave fob 9th Division - Leave fob Soldiers in Western Australia - Burial of Soldiers - Use of Military Initials.
– Is it a fact that all men who have served overseas or in a prescribed operational area, the Mandated Territory of New Guinea, the Torres Straits Islands, or the Northern Territory north of Katherine, are entitled to be issued with “ returnedfromactiveservice” chevrons or badges? Is it a fact that no portion of the mainland of Queeusland has been prescribed as an operational area for the issue of badges, and that disembarkation at Thursday Island is not considered as service in Torres Straits? Will the Minister for the Army state definitely just who eligible to receive a badge, and the qualifications necessary to obtain a badge, so as to put an end to the dissatisfaction now existing?
– The matters raised by the honorable member will receive consideration, and a reply will be made within the next two or three days.
– Is the Minister for the Army yet able to make a statement regarding the cancellation of leave to men of the 9th Division of the Australian Imperial Force?
– This matter has been the subject of communications between i he Commander-in-Chief and myself. I hope to be able to make a statement on it quite soon.
– I have been receiving letters from soldiers and the wives of soldiers who have been in Western Australia for a year and nine months or more without leave. They are most anxious to know when leave may be expected. Can the Minister for the Army tei 1 me whether arrangements are being made that soldiers in Western Australia whose homes are in the eastern States shall have leave on the same terms as apply to soldiers in other operational areas?
– That. is a matter on which I have been in frequent consultation with the Commander-in-Chief who assures me that everything possible is being done to expedite leave for soldiers in Western Australia and other outposts. I shall take the matter up again with the Commander-in-Chief for the purpose of ensuring that there shall be no avoidable delay in giving leave to men who have been absent from their homes for periods as long as that stated by the honorable member.
– For three weeks or a month, I have been asking why the letters “ A.I.F.” were replaced by the letters “A.M.F.” on the crosses over the graves of dead soldiers at the Lutwyche Cemetery, Brisbane, and the Minister for the Army has not yet replied. Surely he does not need three weeks in which to obtain a report from Brisbane?
– I shall make inquiries us to why the honorable member has not yet received a reply. I gave no instructions that the letters “ A.I.F.” be replaced by the letters “ A.M.F.”. My instructions were that the old system be reverted to. T shall get the information required by the honorable member and give it to him as soon as possible.
– Having regard to the inconvenience caused to large sections of the community by the non-publication of official weather forecasts, does not the Minister for Home Security believe that security considerations would allow of such reports being published for some parts of Australia, at any rate?
– This matter does not come under the control of the Department of Home Security. It is the concern of the Attorney-General, who is responsible for security, as distinct from home security.
– I now ask the AttorneyGeneral whether, in his view, it would be practical, in view of the great inconvenience that lack of weather information causes, to make it available at least in those parts of Australia which are not perhaps so liable to attack as other parts of the continent may be?
– It is the first time that I knew that that subject came under the direction of the Attorney-General.
– In view of the uncertainty as to who exercises jurisdiction in this matter, I ask the Minister for Information whether he can tell me which Minister is in control of matters relating to weather information?
– As Minister for Defence, I am responsible for issuing directions to the appropriate instrumentalities as to what information shall be broadcast or otherwise made available to the community, which, if picked up by the enemy, would be of advantage to him. Therefore, dissemination of reports in respect of weather conditions originates with me as Minister for Defence. If there is any particular aspect of the matter which the honorable gentleman would like to bring to my notice–
– I have asked three different Ministers.
– I am responsible for it. Information in respect of weather in any particular part conveys information to those who know something about it as to the probable state of the weather in some other part, and, as flying conditions are affected by information about weather, it is obvious that the broadcasting of meteorological information loosely could be of immense service to the enemy.
– On the Oth March the honorable member for New England (Mr. Abbott) asked me the following questions : -
Has the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture seen a statement by Mr. A. W. Thompson, secretary of the Milk and Ice Carters Union, in to-day’s Sydney Morning Herald that the dairying industry is in a chaotic condition, and that the man-power authorities were to blame for the decision of about 200 dairymen on thu South Coast of New South Wales to close down their dairies in the past eighteen months? If so, will he consult with his colleague, the Minister for Labour and National Service, so that greater endeavours may be made to supply the manpower necessary to meet the needs of the dairying industry?
The Director-General of Man Power has drafted the following statement: -
Insofar as the dairying industry is con- cerned, the South Coast of New South Wales oan bo divided into two sections, namely, (a) the near South Coast, from which milk supplies for the Metropolitan Milk Board are drawn, and (6) the far South Coast, where the milk produced is manufactured into butter at local factories.
In the near South Coast section the number of suppliers of milk in June, 1942, was 790 and this figure has risen to 800 over the period of eighteen months ending 31st December, 1943. During the same period the average monthly gallonage of milk supplied from that area to the Metropolitan Milk Board was 827,672. For the twelve months prior to that period, i.e., ending June, 1942, the average monthly gallonage supplied from the same area for the same purpose was 820,842. So far as the far South Coast areas are concerned, the number of suppliers of milk to butter factories rose from 619 in June, 1942, to 667 in December, 1943. Since the end of October last, approximately 50 skilled dairy workers have been released from the Army for return to the industry on the South Coast of New South Wales.
Shipments to United Kingdom - Price of Mutton in Tasmania - Homebush Abattoirs.
– In reply to a question by the honorable member for New England (Mr. Abbott) on Tuesday, I said, inter alia, that, “Since the introduction of meat rationing Australia has had more meat for export than could be carried by the ships available”. I have received further information since the statement was made which shows that adequate provision has been made by the British Government to lift [he quantities of meat available from Australia, and that the position is well under control. Forecasts of quantities which will be available within the next few months have been furnished to the British Government, which has hypothecated sufficient and suitable shipping to lift these quantities.
Recently the honorable member for Darwin (Dame Enid Lyons) asked me a question about mutton prices in the Latrobe district in Tasmania. I desire to inform the honorable member that the retail price of mutton in Tasmania is the highest in the Commonwealth. Investigations of this matter disclose that producers in the Latrobe district have paid very high prices for store sheep - in spite of the warning that was issued by the Prices Commissioner in September ‘of last year - and out of all relation to proper fat stock values. The Prices Commissioner; however, has undertaken to review the price for mutton in Tasmania during the winter months by reason of the increased cost of production. I, however, wish to express my appreciation of the action taken in Tasmania, whereby the sale of lambs to the local trade was prohibited during the export season, and in consequence it is anticipated that a record will be established for the export of lambs to Great Britain. The lamb season is now coming to a close, and arrangements have already been made to release lamb to civilians as from Monday next, the 20th instant. Furthermore, it is proposed to create reserves of both beef and mutton at prices related to the Victorian ceiling values so as to safeguard prices during the winter months.
– I wish to make a personal explanation. I asked the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture a question about a statement, reported in the press as having been made by the spokesman for the Metropolitan Meat Commission in Sydney, that supplies of meat sent to the United Kingdom from the Homebush abattoirs were less since the introduction of meat rationing than before because of absenteeism and stop-work meetings. I then asked the Minister to supply figures as to the quantity of meat sent to the United Kingdom before and after meat rationing, the two periods to be of the same length. What the Minister has said to-day is not an answer to my question.
– What I said is perfectly in accord with the statement that I had made. I only wished to correct, not in answer to the honorable gentleman’s question, the impression which might have been created that sufficient ships were not coming forward to lift the meat cargoes.
– Will the Minister answer the question now?
– Is the AttorneyGeneral able to make a statement on action proposed to preserve the liberties of tenants of certain residentials in Sydney about which I have asked him questions from time to time?
– The honorable gentleman has asked me questions about this matter. It is in the hands of the Minister for Trade and Customs and it has nothing to do with me directly. Realizing, however, that it is of importance, I have discussed it with the Minister for Trade and Customs and a. decision has been taken to amend certain regulations. If there are any cases of breaches of existing regulations- and some newspapers suggest that there are - and they are brought to the notice of the property authority, I shall see that proceedings arc instituted.
– I bring to the notice of the Minister for War Organization of Industry the extraordinary position which has developed in the boot, and shoe repairing trade, as indicated by the following newspaper paragraph: -
Boot repairers now have signs in their window - “We don’t do repairs while you wait.” They mean it, too.
Head of a large Brisbane boot repairing establishment said yesterday that he had more than 100 pairs of shoes awaiting repairs. “ Before the war we used to sole and heel ‘ footwear while the customer waited,” he said. “Now the customers have to wait a month or more.”
Investigations show that most suburban hoot repairers close their doors at least two days a week in an attempt to catch up with trade.
In view of the approach of winter with its cold weather and wet conditions I want to know whether the Minister for War Organization of Industry and the Controller of Leather can co-operate to ensure the repair of women’s and children’sboots and shoes?
– The matter raised by the honorable member comes within the jurisdiction of my colleague, the Minister for Supply and Shipping under whom the Controller of Leather functions. I shall ask the Minister for Supply and Shipping to examine the position and advise the honorable member as to what steps have been taken to ensure that adequate supplies of leather shall be available for boot and shoe repairs.
– In view of sworn testimony in a Sydney police court that the Minister for Information had incited a breach of the traffic laws of Sydney, will the Minister for Information ensure that Melbourne tactics of this kind are not imported into the law-abiding city of Sydney?
– I have never incited the breaking of any law in Sydney or Melbourne. The report, to the contrary, is, as are most newspaper reports, generally misleading.
– Has the attention of the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction been . drawn to the plan evolved by the late Dr. Bradfield for conserving the flood waters of certain coastal rivers which now run to waste in central and western Queensland? If not, in view of the need for water conservation for irrigation purposes in South Australia anddevelopmental purposes in Central Australia, ‘will he have this plan examined with a view to its inclusion, wholly or in part, in the programme for reconstruction in our early post-war years ?
– I cannot say that I have seen all the details of the plan. I have read certain proposals for the diversion of rivers into Central Australia. I have also read an article written by the late Dr. Bradfield making certain suggestions of that nature. I understand that there are grave engineering difficulties in the way of carrying out the proposal, but I am not familiar with all the details. I shall have the matter examined through the Department of Post-war Reconstruction and by the Co-ordinator-General of Works, Sir Harry Brown.
– Is it a fact, as stated in a report of the proceedings of the Graziers’ Association Conference yesterday, published in to-day’s press, that notifications have been received that holders of No. 4 priority, which includes primary producers, will obtain no more new tyres unless they give good reasons?
– What is wrong with requiring that they give good reasons?
– They are getting no new tyres whether they have good reason or no reason. If the report is correct, will the Minister for Supply and Shipping review the subject with a view to granting primary producers a higher priority in order that they they may obtain adequate supplies of tyres for essential needs?
– On behalf of the Minister for Supply and Shipping, I shall look into the question and give the honorable gentleman an answer later in the day.
– -Last Friday I asked the Minister for the Army a question regarding the provision of uniforms for cadets and he said that he would furnish a reply on Tuesday of this week. As I have not received a reply, I should like to know whether the honorable gentleman is yet in a position to supply the information?
– I asked for the information to be supplied to me, but I have not yet received it. I shall make inquiries, and furnish an answer to the honorable member as soon as possible.
– T have received from the Leader of the Australian Country party a written intimation that under Standing Order 38 he proposes to move the adjournment of the House for the purpose of discussing a definite matter of urgent public importance, namely, “ The conduct of the business of this Parliament “. I remind honorable members that there are two Houses in this Parliament. The standing order under which the Leader of the Australian Country party proposes to take this action requires that the matter of urgent public importance must be a definite matter. I point out that the subject of the proposed discussion is most indefinite. Moreover, his proposal to discuss the conduct of the business of “ this Parliament “ would include the conduct of the business of the Senate, which cannot be discussed in this chamber. Therefore, I rule that the motion proposed will not be in order, for the reason that it is not a definite matter. If, however, the Leader of the Australian Country party will reduce his subject to definite terms, I shall allow it, provided that it otherwise is in conformity with the Standing Orders and parliamentary practice.
– In view of your ruling, Mr. Speaker, I move -
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would enable a debate upon the accuracy of the records of Votes and Proceedings of this House.
.- I second the motion.
– What issue of Votes and Proceedings is involved?
– Votes and Proceedings No. 28 purporting to be the proceedings of the sitting of the House on Wednesday, the 15th March.
– I have received the following motion from the Leader of the
Australian Country party, seconded by the Deputy Leader of the Australian Country party: -
That so rauch of the Standing Orders be suspended as would enable a debate upon the accuracy of the records of Votes and Proceedings No. 28 of Wednesday, the 15th March, 1944.
– That subject is not listed on the notice-paper.
– No notice of it is required.
– I rise to order. I can understand a motion to suspend the Standing Orders in order to permit the discussion of something that is before the Parliament, even a notice of motion; but the right honorable gentleman desires to suspend the Standing Orders of the House in order to discuss something about which he has not given even notice. It is not upon the notice-paper in any shape or form. That strikes me as being most extraordinary. I could understand the position if the right honorable gentleman gave notice that to-morrow he would move for the suspension of the Standing Orders.
– What is the difference?
– The right honorable gentleman desires to suspend the Standing Orders in order to discuss something that is not before the Parliament.
– I rise to order. Standing Order 407 is quite specific. It reads -
In cases of urgent necessity, any Standing or Sessional Order or Orders of the House may be suspended for the day’s sitting, on motion, duly made and seconded, without notice:
– Provided that there is an absolute majority.
– Yes. The Standing Order continues -
Provided that such motion is carried by an absolute majority of the whole number of the members of the House.
A majority may be the answer to the whole argument, but the Prime Minister did not answer the point. The Standing Orders provide that no notice is required for such a motion, and that such a motion is competent. Of course, the House may vote on- the motion.
– We will, too!
– I have no doubt of that, because, as we are rapidly learning, a majority can do anything.
– It is quite unnecessary further to discuss the point of order. I have ruled that the motion is in order, and I concur in the view that it is amply covered by Standing Order 407.
– I rise to order. Agreeing with the Leader of the Opposition that the House may suspend Standing Orders without notice, I contend that it must be done not merely to discuss a subject, but for some purpose in order that the House may reach some decision.
– That is what we are hoping for.
– All that the Leader of the Australian Country party did was to move for the suspension of Standing Orders to discuss a subject. I submit that it is not in order.
-I have ruled that it is in order, and there is a proper remedy if the House disagrees with my ruling.
– I desire to make a motion, consistent with the notice I have given.
– I have accepted that. The question is -
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would enable a debate upon theaccuracy of the records of Votes and Proceedings No. 28 of Wednesday, the 15th March, 1944.
– Have I an opportunity to speak to the motion?
– The right honorable gentleman made a motion and sat down. Then the motion was seconded.
-The Leader of the Australian Country party made his motion and resumed his seat.
– I rose twice and asked leave to state it.
– A point of order was also taken.
– The right honorable gentleman made his motion and resumed his seat. I then called the honorable member for Indi, who seconded tha motion. Therefore, the right honorable gentleman has clearly forfeited his right to speak, except in reply to any debate that has taken place. Since no debate has taken place on the question of the suspension of the Standing Orders, other than on points of order, the right honorable member has nothing to reply to. But if he does desire to reply to nothing, I am prepared to call him.
– in reply - Mr. Speaker has called me and given me an opportunity, as he stated, to reply to nothing.
– I desire to ask you a question, Mr. Speaker, on a point of procedure.
– Order !
– Does the reply of the mover close the debate?
– Order !
– The reason 1 have-
– I rise to order. Does the reply of the Leader of the Australian Country party close the debate?
– That is elementary.
– I wish to take the point of order that I was about to take before you called the Leader of the Australian Country party. You ruled, Mr. Speaker, that the right honorable gentleman had risen in his place and had resumed his seat. As I recall the incident, you called on the Leader of the Australian Country party to give to you in writing the terms of his motion, and when that motion was given to you, you read it to the House. I submit that at that point he was entitled to rise and speak to the motion. He had resumed his seat for the purpose of writing, at your request, the terms of the motion, and thereafter he had no proper opportunity to speak to the motion.
– If the honorable member for Fawkner were recording the e vents exactly as they took place, hi? argument would be impeccable. The only difference is that the Chair saw the incident from a. totally different angle. I am satisfied in my mind that the right honorable gentleman made his motion and resumed his seat. I then called the honorable member for Indi, who rose and seconded the motion. It was after the 7notion was seconded that the Chair asked for the matter to be committed to writing. I have ruled that the right honorable gentleman has spoken or has forfeited his right to speak; hut he has the right to reply to any debate that took place on his motion.
Mir. Anthony. - I rise to order. Accepting your ruling that the Leader of the Australian Country party has forfeited his right to speak to the motion, and also that the honorable member for Indi seconded the motion, is it not competent now for any other honorable member to speak to the motion?
– No. The honorable member was a little late. No other honorable member rose and I called the Leader of the Australian Country party in reply, and his reply closes the debate.
– You can not run Parliament like this.
– If the right honorable member for Cowper casts any further reflection on the Chair, I shall deal with him.
– I regret the incidents that have occurred, and the present atmosphere of the House, because I desire to deal with a very important matter. I regret ako that there should have been any misunderstanding, because I used every possible effort to get to my feet for the purpose of debating this matter, consistently with the Standing Orders and Mr. Speaker’s interpretation of them. I understand that Mr. Speaker has now given me an opportunity to bring this matter before the House.
– No; not by any means. The right honorable gentleman is exercising his right to reply to the debate. I remindhim that there wasno debate. It is a pretty narrow channel.
– In those circumstances I move -
That theHoussedonot ad journ to discuss a matter-
– The right honorable gentleman cannot do that.
– A motion is already before the Chair.
– My reason for bringing this matter before the House is evident, if one peruses the official documents of the House.
– Order ! The right honorable gentleman may not debate the merits of the question he proposed to put before the House.
– The right honorable gentleman has nothing to reply to. Therefore, he cannot say anything.
– As there is nothing for me to debate, and as I am not permitted to speak-
– That is not correct. The right honorable gentleman has the floor and is exercising his right to reply.
Mr.Archie Cameron. - I rise to order. I believe that the misunderstanding arises from this fact: The Leader of the Australian Country party submitted a motion that the Standing Orders be suspended in order to enable him to launch a debate on a certain matter. I contend that common sense lays it down that until the House has agreed to the suspension of the Standing Orders, the right honorable gentleman cannot introduce that subject.
– That is exactly so.
– He trapped himself.
– He has not trapped himself.
– Order ! I shall put the motion which the Leader of the Australian Country party has moved, namely -
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would enable a debate upon the accuracy of the records of Votes and Proveedings No. 28, of Wednesday, the 15th March, 1944.
Motion put. The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. J. S. Rosevear.)
Majority . . 20
Question so resolved in the negative.
The Clerk calling on Order of the Day No. 1, “Income Tax Assessment Bill 1944 “-
– The Clerk has called on government business.
– The Leader of the Australian Country party had risen before that was done.
– It was not noted by the Chair.
– That is pretty hot. It is the hottest thing I have ever heard.
– This to a man who has co-operated with the Government as I have done!
Mr.Curtin. - The calling on of business by the Chair has nothing to do with the Government.
Debate resumed from the 3rd March (vide page 935), on motion by Mr. Chifley -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– I regret to say - and I must apologize for saying it - that this bill requires a little criticism.
I realize that criticism of anything the Government says or does is regarded as rather improper these days. Nevertheless, I must, within the limits of the Standing Orders, address myself to the measure.
– And within some other limits.
– It would he impossible in the limited time available to me to discuss all the provisions of the bill, because several of them are extremely technical, and it is not my desire, at this stage, to. engage in an examination of technical provisions. I shall discuss, fairly broadly, four or five matters which emerge on the face of the bill.
In the first place the measure deals with the pay of the members of the armed forces. I have noticed with pleasure, as no doubt other honorable members have done, that clause 5 seeks to rectify a serious anomaly which has existed regarding the members of the Royal Australian Air Force. The law at present provides that service for a period of six months outside of Australia is a condition of exemption from income tax. This provision has always been unjust to members of the Royal Australian Air Force, many of whose members, though operating from bases within Australia, have undergone the maximum rigours and dangers of active service. We all shall be glad when this anomaly is removed from the law.
The next subject to which I shall devote attention relates to contributions to pension funds. Broadly speaking, the bill limits the permissible deduction by a taxpayer to £100 in respect of each beneficiary employee, or 5 per cent, of the employee’s annual remuneration, whichever deduction would be the greater. It is, of course, not difficult to understand what the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) had in mind. His view is that, having regard to the high rates of taxation now ruling, some people are tempted to establish funds on, perhaps, an extravagant scale, in order to obtain an abnormal deduction. I am not for a moment concerned to defend improper methods in relation to what we call superannuation funds or employees’ pension schemes. When an improper and therefore, in a sense, a fraudulent method of establishing such funds is apparent, it must be corrected. But it is easy, in hitting at a bad practice, to destroy half a, dozen good ones. I invite the Treasurer to consider very closely whether the provisions of this bill are not much too broad and inflexible for the purpose he has in mind. It is true that the bill provides that when the commissioner is of opinion that the special circumstances of the case warrant the allowance of a higher amount as a deduction, he - shall allow as a deduction such higher amount as he considers to be reasonable.
But even if a discretion be given it may not be exercised in favour of a taxpayer. The question, in reality, is not one which should be left to discretion unless that procedure is completely unavoidable.’ If any such discretion is given, a most flexible means should be provided for making an approach to the Board of Review. Whether there should be any such discretion depends, ‘,1 believe, on one’s approach to the general problem. My approach to the general problem of superannuation schemes for employees is that all companies, and especially companies with large numbers of employees, should be encouraged to make proper provision for their employees, which is the minimum that the States do for their employees. A great and successful company should be encouraged to make a great provision for the men who work for it. Does this bill encourage companies to make provision for their employees? I am afraid that it does not. An illustration has been brought to my notice which I submit to the House. I shall call this company the “A.B.” company, because there is no occasion to mention its name, although its identity may be known to the Treasurer. The provident fund of this company has operated for many years; it started quite a long time before the war. In addition, the company at the end of 1938 began a pensions scheme. It contributes to the provident fund an amount equal to 10 per cent, of the salary of its employees, treated as sterling; in actual terms, it contributes a sum equal to 12-J per cent, of the salary of its employees. Thus, in respect of an employee who earns £A.1,000 a year, the company contributes to the provident fund £A.125. The employee also contributes on a calculated basis, and upon his retirement from the company receives the accumulated amounts of the contributions of himself and the company, plus compound interest; or, if he dies, that sum is paid to his beneficiaries; but in each case it is a lump sum provision. In addition to these regular contributions, this company from time to time pays into the credit of its employees a bonus, and that also accumulates at compound interest. The pensions scheme is supplementary to the provident fund, and it provides a pension during the lifetime of the employee after his retirement. The company contributes to the pensions fund on an actuarial basis. All this - the provident fund with a lump sum provision on a most handsome scale, the accumulation of bonuses, and the payment of pension - will, I am quite sure, appeal to honorable members as a really first-class example by that company to other people in this field of security. I am not talking about a small company, which perhaps can do something of this kind out of a highly lucrative business employing only a few persons. This company has its scheme applicable to every employee - executive, office staff, and manual worker - and its employees number 5,250. I have described the case at some length, because I venture to say that, if that kind of treatment of employees were universal, many of our problems of social security would disappear. Yet, under this bill> that company will be compelled to cut its scheme down because its provision exceeds 5 per cent, of the salary, unless it can persuade the Commissioner that it ought to have special discretionary treatment. I have the greatest personal regard for the present commissioner; but he or any other commissioner will be in a most embarrassing position if asked to give special treatment to some large company when he may feel compelled to refuse such special treatment to a small company or a small employer. Yet it would be a gross injustice, not to this company, but to its employees, who have so much to gain from what the company has done, if its case is outside the law and it has to prune its provision in order to bring it within the law.
– Is it not a fact that one has to be employed for a long period before one can come on that fund?
– I believe not ; I am informed that every employee in that company is, in fact, on that fund. I think the honorable member may take it that the case to which I have referred is really an excellent example of what can be done, and, as I consider, ought to be done, wherever it is practicable, for the people whose work builds up a business. There are two possible ways of dealing with the matter. The Treasurer might accept an amendment to exclude from the operation of this bill schemes which were, in fact, established before the war. That would be one practical way of dealing with it because, before the war, having regard to the rates of taxation, there was no particular inducement to a man or a company to pay out a vast sum of money merely in order to reduce the income tax for which he or it was liable; that temptation has arisen since income tax became astronomical in its size. Therefore, the Treasurer would be perfectly safe in excluding from the operation of this bill schemes which had, in fact, been established before the war. But during the war schemes which are bona fide may have been established; no doubt there have been very many of them. An employer whose scheme was established in 1939 or 1940 may well have said, “ I will make this’ scheme solvent as soon as possible, by making very heavy initial contributions to it “ ; and his initial contributions in the first few years may, in fact, be designed - as they were in several instances of which I know personally - to give to the fund an early solvency. Yet, under this bill, the deduction will be limited to 5 per cent., or £100 per employee, unless the person setting up the scheme can satisfy the commissioner that his is a special case. I put it to the Treasurer that the real protection which he seeks - and I consider that he is right in seeking it - is against the scheme which is essentially bogus, and that, when it is found that a scheme is ‘bona fide, effectuated where it is a contributory scheme by a sound and satisfactory trust instrument which may be inspected and approved by the commissioner, there ought to be no artificial limit upon its generosity.
The next point that I want to mention - very briefly, because I want to say more about a later matter in this bill - is that, in clause 10, there is the provision that a private company shall not be allowed a deduction for losses in previous years unless, on the last day of the year of income, 75 per cent, of its shareholding voting power was beneficially held by persons who beneficially held 75 per cent, of the shareholding voting power on the last day of the year in which the loss was incurred. One notices many extraordinary things about the taxation laws. Hone of us is blameless in this matter; all have been associated with some strange anomalies, and I plead guilty at once. It is extraordinary to notice how the taxation laws flit about, sometimes treating a company as a legal entity quite distinct from its shareholders, and then, as in the present instance, suddenly saying : “ We shall cease to look at the company, but shall look at the shareholding, and if we find that there has been a change of a certain percentage in the shareholding, then we shall deprive the company, and, therefore, the other shareholders, of the benefit of deduction for losses in previous years.” So long as a company Ls a company, that is difficult to understand. It is quite true that, in the explanatory paper which the Treasurer has circulated, he has said that some people are acquiring, the shares of companies which had sustained losses in previous years and had ceased to carry on business, but had not formally gone into liquidation. I can understand such a case. The company is stagnant; it has had losses ; it is just about to liquidate ; somebody says: “You have not liquidated; I will come in and buy your shareholdings and, therefore, your asset’s, for a song.” He then says: “Whatever little I make will be all right, because I had losse’s in the previous year.” But “ hard cases make bad law “. Most of the proverbs of the language are false. That is one of the few true proverbs that I know. One has only to read the Income Tax Assessment Act of modern times to realize how studded with curious provisions it has become, because of the desire to deal with some individual case. The Treasurer could .put this to himself : Suppose he is a perfectly honest minority shareholder in a company. That company is carrying on trading operations in the ordinary way. It is not about to go into liquidation. There is no “ funny business “ round the corner. But some of the shareholders, the people holding 26 per cent, of the shareholding voting power - it might even be one man - decide to sell the shares to other people, and do so. Under this provision, the moment they did that the company in which my friend was a minority shareholder would lose the benefit of ‘its deduction for the loss it had sustained in the previous year. In other words, he, the minority shareholder, will submit himself to a penalty, not because of something which he has done, but because a certain percentage of the shareholding has changed hands.
– i believe that 26 per cent, will achieve that result.
– Yes ; because 26 per cent, of the shares has changed hands. Unless it can be shown that 75 per cent, of the shareholding voting power is in the same hands in the two years, then the benefit of the loss is to be withdrawn. That, I say with no hesitation, represents a gross injustice to shareholders who, exhypothesi, are the smaller shareholders in the company. To answer that by saying, “But in some cases curious things happen “, is not to the point. We shall come to a pretty pass if honest men, honest shareholders, and honest taxpayers in this country, constantly have to be penalized because of what is done by a dishonest minority. Yet I am very much afraid that our taxation laws tend to become filled with provisions which have been designed for no other purpose.
– That is true of all laws.
– Not all laws, except to a minor degree. But that it is true of the taxation laws, I regret to say, I have little doubt. The last thing that I say on that point is this: Clause 28 (3) of the bill gives retrospective effect to that provision to which I have referred, because it makes it operate in respect of all assessments for the financial year beginning on the 1st July, 1943, and therefore bears on the income year beginning on the 1st July, 1942; so that - and I use the expression without offence to my friend the Treasurer - it adds insult to injury; because it not only produces fin injustice to a majority of the share holders of the company, but also makes that injustice retrospective for twelve months.
– And also makes it permanent.
– Yea. Then there is a. provision for deductions for members of the defence forces or accredited persons. On that, I merely want to do once more in this House what I have done once or twice by correspondence with the Treasurer; that is; refer to the case of such institutions as the Bed Cross Society. It is quite true that, as a result of this bill - I believe by clause 11 - Red Cross officers, for example, are to be allowed a limited deduction of £250, diminishing as the income increases and disappearing at an income figure of £5S7. But the truth is that that will give very little, if any, relief to the majority of Red Cross officials; because, by the very nature of the work that they do, the society must equate their position to that of officers; and having regard to the field allowances and other provisions which the society makes, the pay of these men will be in the £500 range, or near enough to it. Therefore, the deduction provided for in the bill will be very largely illusory. I do not want to discuss the matter in detail; it is essentially one for consideration in committee. However, I remind the Treasurer that Red Cross officials accept the same conditions as those with whom they are serving. They have done remarkable work in this war in all campaigns, and I urge that they should receive more consideration regarding taxation than the Government has so far felt itself able to give them. I know that the matter has the sympathetic interest of the Treasurer, and I am now asking that he look into it again.
Having dealt with these preliminary and, from the point of view of public interest, relatively minor matters, though important in themselves, I now turn to what is the most publicly discussed feature of the bill, that described as “paya.syouearn “. I note that in one Western Australian newspaper it is described as “ pay-as-you-owe “, and the description is not without merit. Another commentator has described it as “ pay-before-you-go “.
However it may be labelled, it is a proposal of far-reaching importance, and it has attracted a great deal of attention in Australia. I do not desire to challenge or discuss the principle of payasyouearn taxation. That is a matter which will be discussed during the course of this debate by those with special and expert knowledge. I desire to challenge the provision by which a taxpayer, who is transferred from one system to another, is being generously allowed a rebate of not more than 75 per cent, of the current year’s tax, which, to state the position positively, means that he is being compelled to pay over a period a penalty of 25 per cent, over and above the tax which he would otherwise be required to find. Argument on this matter has been widespread. It has been discussed in the vicinity of this House, by the newspapers, and by a growing army of citizens, whose consciousness of taxation is stimulated year by year as the result of the billets doux received from the Taxation Commissioner. But a great deal of the discussion has been about mere words. There has been much talk about what is called “ the tax lag “. Although I am a lawyer of sorts, and have had experience in the reading of taxation laws, amongst others, I have never been able to understand how any person thinks he can solve this matter one way or the other by talking about a tax lag. The facts regarding income tax are not difficult. Income tax was introduced in 1915. In September of that year, Parliament passed the first of a long series of income tax acts. Section 10 of that act stated -
Income tax shall be levied and paid in and for each financial year upon the taxable income derived by each taxpayer during the period of twelve months ended the 30th .June preceding the financial year in and for which the tax is payable.
I draw special attention to the words “ in and for which the tax is payable “. The Income Tax Act, which is what we call the rates act, provided, in section 5, that “ income tax shall be levied in and for the financial’ year beginning on the first day of July, one thousand nine hundred and fifteen ‘’. What did that mean ? It meant this: Parliament could have selected any criterion it liked for the imposition of income tax. Taxation is a word of general significance. If Parliament wishes to impose taxation on people with reference to something which has nothing to do with income it may do so; but, in regard to income tax, it decided that, although it was going to impose a tax in and for the year 1915-16, it was to be calculated in relation to income derived in 1914-15, for reasons which were thought obvious at the time, and which even I can still understand. Therefore, the distinction arose between the tax year and the income year; but the tax year continued to be the year in and for which the tax was levied. That continued to be the position for many years.
– There has always been a year’s lag in the collection of tax.
– I am avoiding the use of such words as “lag”. They are of such vague import that they do not really matter. It is far better simply to state the facts, and then people may use whatever phraseology they like to describe them. The fact is that the year in and for which the tax is paid has been the year after the year in which the income was earned. I do not mind whether that is called a lag or not. From 1915 till 1941 there could be no question, having regard to the wording of the Income Tax Act, that the tax for this financial year was not only paid in this financial year, but also for this financial year, because that is what the law said. Because that was so, there was a provision in section 221 of the Income Tax Assessment Act, as it ultimately found its form, which read -
The income derived by a person during the period commencing on the day of the year of income in which he dies and ending on the date of his death is exempt if his estate is liable to estate duty under the Estate Duty Assessment Act.
In other words, if a man died, as he would, in the currency of a year, and he left an estate which was liable to estate duty, then the income derived by him for tie broken period dating from the beginning of the financial year and ending on the date of his death was not leviable for tax. Of course, it passed into the estate, and, to the extent that duty was assessable, it would be added to the corpus of the estate for duty. That provision was altered, and the alteration was made during my own term as Prime Minister. In 1941, the provision was repealed by the Income Tax Assessment Act of that year. I am bound to say that I am much disposed - though perhaps wrongly - to kneel at the penitent’s stool, because it seems to me that the principle of section 221 was a sound one, I cannot profess to be sure of the reason which led to its abandonment. However, I am not discussing this matter with any regard to parties. I can say quite frankly that I think the decision to repeal that section is open to criticism; but, at any rate, there was no attempt in 194.1 to alter, in a fundamental sense, the system, of income tax assessment. The bill which the Treasurer now brings before the House is the first attempt to do that.
It is said that, from now on, because a person’s income tax is in and for the current financial year, and will be assessed in relation to income for the current financial year, such a benefit is secured by the taxpayer that he ought to be willing to pay a further impost of 25 per cent. - spread over three years if he is not an employee, and concentrated into a period of three months if he is an employee - for the privilege of going on to the new basis. This is put forward as if it were a real concession to the taxpayer. It seems to me that there is a certain grave-digger’s humour about that, though I had not imputed this sadistic humour to the Treasurer. Let us have a look at its implication. In the first place, the Government says: “Although you are going to pay 25 per cent, more on top of the biggest income tax in the history of Australia, you will have the benefit of it when you die, because, when you die, my friend, your trustee will receive an estate which is unencumbered by income tax obligations. If you are wise enough to die late in the financial year, the benefit to your estate will be even greater than if you are hot-headed enough to die early in July.” That seems to me to be a rather curious position to take up. It adds, if not a new horror to death, at any rate a new element of timing in relation to death which so far has not vexed mankind. But is that the end of the matter? Is this benefit to the estate, apart from its rather melancholy quality, a real one?
What guarantee will be .given that this postulated, loss of income tax revenue will not, in due course, be compensated for by an increase of death duties? My friend, the Treasurer, is too astute and cautious to give any undertaking that the estate duty will not be raised, and I venture to make a small prophecy - a gloomy prophecy perhaps, though it will probably not trouble my executors very much - that the estate duty will be raised in due course, and that the taxpayer will find that what he purchased for his 25 per cent, impost has turned out to be exactly nothing.
– A gold brick.
– Well, a paper one.
– My next observation is this: Income tax in Australia is already at its highest level. It is at what has been aptly described as “ saturation “ point. Indeed, it was so described by the Prime Minister just before the last general election. If there was one thing that was made clear to Australia it was that there would be no increase of income tax. Is the tax going to stand at its present level? Is there no hope to be given to mankind ? Of course there must be. Of course, when this war is over, people must be allowed to look forward to some fall of the income tax rate, to some encouragement to believe that development and progress will be possible for them. So, while I shall never be an advocate of a low rate of income tax, because I believe in income tax, I should be indeed gloomy, if I did not think that, in due course, these rates will fall and the burden of tax be lightened. But the taxpayer will still be able to recall that the penalty paid for going on to the new basis was not paid at the rate of tax five years ago or five years hence, but at the highest rate of tax in the history of the country. His burden is calculated at the peak and his benefit when the peak has been passed.
– Is the right honorable gentleman not mistaking rate for time?
– No, I do not think so.
– I think so. He will find that his tax is in respect of that portion of his income in the present year which he will get between the 1st
April and the 30th June instead of from the 1st July to the 30th June.
– But the point 1 am making - I am afraid I have not made it adequately - is that the 25 per cent, is calculated in relation to the year of income in which the rate of tax is the highest in the history of Australia - the rate which is obviously not going to be reduced within the next twelve months, or, for all I know, within the twelve months after that. So, this enormous addition to the taxation is something which is put on, as I say, at the peak of the incidence of taxation, and the fact that one can lightly refer to this matter occasionally need not cloud the fact that for very many people in this country this additional impost is going to be a matter of the cruellest hardship. Eight and one-third per cent, is to be added to the existing tax burden each year for three years, in order to go on to what we now learn is a new system of taxation.
– Eight and one-third per cent, of what?
– A quarter of his liability.
– Yes, exactly.
– The 25 per cent, of tax that is to be collected by the Government under this bill will be, in very many instances, at least equal to the tax for an entire year before the war began, and, in the case of most employees, immeasurably more than the tax paid in any pre-war year of income. I have just referred in passing to the position of the employee. Let me add a sentence in relation to him. If it is a fair thing that in order to go on to the new scheme of taxation, the new scheme of calculation, everybody should be asked to pay this 25 per cent, extra, why is 25 per cent, collected over three years in the case of one man and three months in the case of another?
– How does the right honorable gentleman explain the attitude of Senator Spicer?
– He dissented.
– How does the right honorable member explain the attitude of other members of his party?
– My honorable friend is a positive red-herring merchant, but I am a very poor buyer. Senator Spicer dissented from the report, and, as for the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender), all I can say is, in the words of Holy Writ. “ He is of age, he shall speak for himself “. I am speaking at the moment for some other people. To sum up, pay-as-you-earn taxation is either just or unjust. If it is unjust, we should reject it. If it is just, we should not be told by any government that the price of justice is an imposition of the kind that is proposed in this bill.
There are other provisions in this measure that require discussion. In fact, there are other details of the pay-as-you-earn proposals which, of course, are, in themselves, of great importance, but I am disinclined to clutter up my remarks on the second-reading stage by going into matters of that sort. The bill is in many ways essentially a committee bill. It is a bill which should, of course, plainly pass the second reading and be discussed in committee, but I do say to the Treasurer that it is a bill which lends itself to amendment. As far as the major matter, which I have discussed, is concerned, the Opposition is opposed to it. As far as the other provisions are concerned, I have endeavoured to discuss them in a way which would help proper amendment, and I hope that the Treasurer will give due consideration to the matters I have raised.
.- I confess to profound disappointment at the speech of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies). If he were briefed to put up a case in favour of this bill, he would put up a very much more logical and convincing case than he has to-day. I am disappointed that he should be so influenced, by the wretched propaganda that has been indulged in during the last few weeks as to repeat the misrepresentations and cloud them with what appears to be logic and legal argument but is neither. There is one aspect of this measure to which I probably would not have referred in ordinary circumstances, but because of the propaganda, which has been supported by the right honorable gentle man to-day, I have to apologize to the House for stressing the obvious. Before I take up the cudgels with the right honorable gentleman, I should like to be permitted to outline what this bill does stand for. I leave out those other measures which the right honorable gentleman referred to, because I wish to have something to say on them in committee, but I deal with the major portion of this bill giving effect to the report of the parliamentary committee, which was representative of all parties in this House, and was set up at the suggestion of the Leader of the Opposition. That committee was asked to deal with the problem because very great hardship was developing under the high taxation. The problem was created by the Income Tax Act, not as recently amended, but as it has been in operation for 29 years. The Income Tax Act provides that taxation shall be levied and paid each financial year upon the taxable income derived during the preceding year. That in itself created a deferred liability, which has been commonly referred to as the lag. Like the right honorable gentleman, I am not concerned about phrases; but I am concerned about facts. This deferred liability or lag has a very detrimental effect upon taxpayers with falling incomes. It also imposes great hardship on them on their retirement and on the beneficiaries of deceased persons. It is now proposed to alter that act for the first time since it was passed, and to bring the income year forward twelve months. Honorable members know that the income year is the year preceding the tax year, and “that the tax year is the current financial year. Now it is proposed to bring that income year forward twelve months, and to cancel nine months of that tax liability for the preceding year’s income. The effect will be that 1,500,000 salary and wage earners will be brought on to payasyouearn without any increase whatever of the present deductions from their salaries and wages.
– They will pay three months longer than they would otherwise.
– That is not true, as I shall show in a moment. Let me make my speech in the sequence in which I have planned it, and then, if the honorable member is not satisfied, he can interject. One million, five hundred thousand employees will be brought on to pay-as-you-earn without increasing present deductions from wages or without extending the period for those deductions. In other words, if this bill be not passed, the deductions that will go on from now under the present rates will, be exactly the same as they will be under payasyouearn. That is definite. Nonemployees have a full year’s debt of tax on a full year’s income, and that debt will be discharged by the payment of one month’s extra taxation for each year over three years. That, to business men, farmers and others, may prove to be of very great benefit before their death. For instance, at present if a farmer has a drought year, whilst he has an averaging system for his rates, he has not got it for income, and, be has to pay at the average rate from that very small income which he. gets in the drought year, tax on the income he earned in the previous year, which may have been a bumper year. The report which has been tabled and circulated widely separates employees from non-employees for two reasons. One is that employees are much more easily dealt with under payasyouearn. As a matter of fact, it is only a. matter of bringing the year forward and cancelling whatever lag exists, but, with non-employees, who have been paying once a year, it is not such a. simple proposition. Therefore, you cannot bring in strict, pay-as-you-earn for nonemployees. You have to deal with it largely on the notional income basis, upon income derived from the previous year and then have adjustments at the end of each year. Another reason why employees and non-employees are separated is this: Employees are summed up as wage and salary earners and nonemployees are those who do not receive wages or salaries. Employees are at present nine months in arrears with their taxes and non-employees are a full year - Hmm is the distinction to begin with - so that, when you bring in payasyou.carn and forgive 75’ per cent, or nine months, you wipe out employees’ total lag or liability and bring them on to pay-as-you-earn without one penny extra being collected from them, and, I add, in reply to the honorable member for Parramatta (Sir Frederick Stewart), without prolonging the period of tax one day.
– That definitely affects any refund which they may be likely to get.
– The honorable member is absolutely wrong again.
– I shall have something to say about that later.
– If the honorable member repeats his contention he will merely emphasize how wrong he is. Prior to March, 1943, deductions from wages and salaries to meet the year’s tax were spread over a period of 40 weeks. In March, 1943, the rate of taxation was increased and the period over which the tax should be paid was extended by starting the deductions three months earlier. From April, 1943, onwards, the deductions were spread over 52 weeks. Now, it is obvious that as the deductions for the year ending the 30th June, 1943, began on the 1st July, 1942, the liability was met in 40 weeks. When the collections commenced in April of that year, three months’ tax was paid upon current income. That brought employees three months forward in their taxation payments, and explains why they are now not a year, but nine months in arrears. The cancellation of the nine months’ liability will bring them up to date, and place them on the pay-as-you-earn basis without an extra contribution. Yet the Leader of the Opposition, who, as Commonwealth Treasurer, dealt with taxation for a year, who, as a lawyer, has read taxation law and who knows the meaning of English, has the audacity to tell members of the committee who studied this matter for weeks, and who can bowl him out, that 25 per cent, will be added to the contributions of employees, and will fie concentrated into a period of three months. There is not a word of truth in that statement.
– I am sorry, but J adhere to my statement.
– The Leader of the Opposition does so because it. suits him politically.
– That remark is not up to the standard of the right honorable gentleman.
– -I cannot believe that the Leader of the Opposition is so unintelligent. He is -wrong. He does not believe that if this bill is defeated in the Senate, the same deductions will not go on from wages and salaries. He knows that what I have said is true.
– The right honorable gentleman is falling into a passion about this matter, because I have the misfortune to disagree with him.
– The Leader of the Opposition is an intelligent man who knows the law and the facte; but he is misrepresenting them.
– No ; I disagree with the right honorable gentleman.
– The Leader of the Opposition is misrepresenting the facts. He is repeating the misrepresentations that have been made throughout the country during the last two months.
– The public have the right conception of this proposal.
– I shall make a statement of fact. A man with two dependants, earning a regular wage of £400 a year, will pay about £53 a year in tax. Therefore, his deductions will be at the rate of £1 a week. These deductions began on the 1st April, 1943, and if this bill never becomes law, his deductions will continue at the rate’ of £1 a week for the remainder of this year and the whole of next year. That is what will happen if this bill does not become law. That is exactly what will happen after this bill is passed. In the light of that simple statement of fact, which can be verified from deductions made during the last three, twelve, or fifteen months, is it not futile for the right honorable gentleman to insist on that misleading statement that he made a few minutes ago?
– Nevertheless, I still insist upon it.
– The right honorable gentleman would. Does he insist that wage and salary earners will pay more?
– The right honorable gentleman makes a very clever confusion between deductions and liabilities.
– And he forgets altogether about adjustments.
– I do not. Adjustments will be made in the ordinary way. If this bill is defeated, the taxpayer to whom I referred will continue to pay tax at the rate of £1 a week. If he has overpaid or underpaid his tax, adjustments will be made under this bill as they are to-day.
– That is not so, because he will pay an additional 25 per cent. tax.
– That is where the honorable member is wrong. He repeats that all the time, although that is the contention which, on the facts, I am denying. The experience of the taxpayers will prove that he is wrong. “Whether or not this bill be passed, the taxpayer to whom I referred will continue to pay £1 a week and adjustments will he made. I cannot emphasize that any more. Honorable members will give me the credit for having studied this matter closely. I stake my personal reputation that I am telling the truth.
– The only difference will be that the taxpayer will be brought right up to date instead of being nine months in arrears with his payments.
– Exactly. The man who has just received his assessment notice has had deductions made as from the 1st April, 1943. If his deductions met his liabilities, as in the majority of cases they have, he will be paid not up to date, but up to the 30th June last. He will owe nine months’ taxation as from the 30th June, 1943, until the 31st March, 1944. That is his lag, or deferred liability. When we cancel that nine months’ liability, he will be up to date, and not a penny more, let alone 25 per cent., will be added to his liability.
– He will be clear of the liability three months ahead for the year when he is on the pay-as-you-earn basis.
– He will be kept on pay-as-you-earn, neither ahead nor in arrears. The advantage of payasyouearn to the wage-earner on a falling income is easily seen. Already overtime is ceasing and incomes are falling. I shall cite an instance of what can happen to a wage-earner with two dependants who last year was receiving £12 a week - £9 in wages and £3 in overtime. The deductions from his earnings would be £2 7s. a week. This year his overtime has disappeared, and he is receiving £9 a week. Tax deductions on a wage of £9 a week are £1 6s.. a week, so that his deductions are £1 ls. a week less than his liability. Let us bear in mind that he is not paying as he earns on his current income, but on the income of last year. He will be left with a deficit of £54 for the year. We are feeling the impact of that already, and it will so increase that, I venture to say, it will apply to 1,000,000 people by the end of the war. Every week they will be in arrears. With the introduction of pay-as-you-earn, they will be brought up to date. They will have paid up to date just so long as the scale of deductions meets the liabilities. In the majority of cases,- the scale does meet the liabilities. This year a man may be absent from his employment for three months because of sickness. During that period no deductions will be made. Because he has been sick his arrears of tax will exceed £30 at the end of the year. Under pay-as-you-earn, he will only pay tax on what he had earned in any given year. So that the liability of paying for the previous year constitutes something more than the mere word “ lag “. It constitutes a genuine liability.
Much has been said about arrears. The secretary of the Taxpayers Association, in a statement published in the last issue of the Sydney Sunday Sun, declared that there were queues of worried people outside the Taxation Department waiting to apply for extensions of time in order to enable them to meet their arrears. The Treasurer gave a complete explanation of those queues. The people were waiting, it is true, but of every 100 persons, only thirteen were waiting for extension of time to pay and 50 were getting refunds. The remainder were about “ square “. Clause 20 of the bill provides that those who are in arrears may have their liability spread over the next twelve months, and will be brought on to the pay-as-you-earn basis without any difficulty. The Leader of the Opposition declared that there is no lag. I remind the House that when the bills to introduce uniform income tax were being debated, the right honorable gentleman stated that they were not constitutional. We confronted him with the opinions of eminent counsel, including Professor Bailey, whom the right honorable gentleman knows.
– To be accurate, I said that the constitutional validity of the proposal was, in my opinion, very doubtful.
– Eminent counsel declared that the proposal was constitutional. The Government accepted their advice and proceeded to pass the legislation. The High Court upheld the Government.
– A majority of the High Court did.
– The majority of the High Court declared that the right honorable gentleman was wrong.
– And the minority thought that I was right.
– The Government has obtained the opinion of Professor Bailey. It is not a political view expressed for the purpose of winning a political debate, and it is entirely opposed to the submissions of the Leader of the Opposition.
Sitting suspended from 12.45 to 2.15 p.m.
– In his criticism of this measure the Leader of the Opposition fell back on what happened in 1915 and on what is regarded as the sheet anchor of opponents of the measure, namely, that there is no lag or deferred liability. I point out that our first Income Tax Assessment Act, which was passed in September, 1915, applied to income for the year 1914-15. Retrospectivity, therefore, was imposed by the Parliament. Professor K. H. Bailey has given a legal opinion on this subject which will be published in a few days. I quote the following paragraph from it : -
Thereis a fairly general impression that the tax is really on the current year’s income as well as for the current year’s Commonwealth revenue. The language of the acts makes any such view untenable. It has always been so. Commonwealth income tax, for instance, was first imposed for the financial year 1915-16. A taxpayer who had earned income in 1914-15 but earned none in 1915-10 would be liable for a full year’s tax. Indeed he would have been similarly liable if he had died on the 1st July, 1915.
That opinion makes it clear that if a taxpayer died in July, 1915, before the act was passed, his estate was liable for tax for the year 1914-15. There is positive proof of the lag.
One does not need to rely on legal opinions on this subject; he may draw on his own experience, and that of other people, to discover whether, in fact, a deferred liability exists. I shall give honorable members particulars of a case that has come under my notice. A young professional man earned his first taxable income amounting to £400 in 1941-42. He paid no tax during that year on that amount, but, in the following year, during which he earned £550, he paid tax on the £400 earned in the preceding year. At the end of the second year he had actually earned two years’ income but had paid tax on only one ‘ year’s income. He was really made responsible for the tax in his first year of income earning because of the legislation passed by this Parliament in September, 1915. The taxpayers of the year 1915 represent 5 per cent, of the present-day taxpayers. We had only 200,000 taxpayers in 1915 ; half of them have since died ; the 100,000 left constitute 5 per cent, of the present 2.000,000 taxpayers. It is of no use, at this stage, to try to determine what Parliament intended to do in 1915, for it actually passed a retrospective law; and that retrospectivity has continued for 29 years. Since 1915 many Treasurers have held office in the Commonwealth. If any one of them considered that the income tax law was not intended to be retrospective why did he not take action tn clarify the position? The Leader of the Opposition has given the impression, in quite a loose way, that taxpayers have already met their liability in and for the current year. If that were true, why did he while he was Treasurer, allow the Commissioner of Taxation to pursue deceased taxpayers into their graves in order to collect tax for the year preceding their death?
Let mc now bring to notice the experience of a young married man who married a girl out of one of the public offices over a. year ago. He was astonished this year to receive an assessment of £40 in respect of his wife’s earnings. His wife had not been working for twelve months; the assessment was in respect of her earnings for the year prior to her retirement. We are well aware that in the first year in which we earned a taxable income we did not pay any tax at all, but that in the following year we were required to pay tax on the income earned in the previous year. In effect, we have always been one year in arrears. When a man retires he is liable, in the first year of his retirement, to pay tax on his previous year’s income. That frequently causes great hardship because the tax has to be paid out of a much diminished income. Take the case of a public servant who retired on a salary of £1,500 a year and, after retirement, had a pension income of only £8 a week. He is required, in the first year of his retirement, to pay tax on an income of £1,500 a year. Such a disability as that will be removed by the passage of this bill.
– Only 75 per cent, of the liability is removed.
– Well, to that extent there is no myth about this proposal; but, in fact, the whole lag will disappear. Under the system that has been operating people have paid from April of last year to the end of March this year the tax for the year’s income earned in the preceding year, and the deductions for the three months after the 1st April this year will be accepted as meeting the full tax for the current twelve months. From the beginning of July next they will be meeting their taxes on current income on. the pay-as-you-earn basis. Nine months of their liability is being surrendered to them by the Government.
– The right honorable member said the same kind of thing this morning.
– I can only give the argument; I cannot give the understanding. Here is a simple illustration in regard to a farmer and a storekeeper. The farmer, let us say, has been in the habit of allowing his account to run on for a year. We shall assume that the amount at the end of the year is £100. He pays his account at_the beginning of the next year, but he has already begun to run up another account, so that when he pays the £100 he still owes something. Suppose the storekeeper said to him, “ I desire to get my business on a cash basis and to get rid of bank overdrafts. If you will pay £25 of your account of £100, Iwill forgive the other £75 on the undertaking that hereafter our business shall be on a strictly cash basis “. Would any farmer be so silly as to refuse such an offer?
– If this can be done, is not the Government juggling with public money in surrendering 75 per cent. of the tax which is clue?
– The simple answer to the honorable gentleman is that to deal with the matter in strict equity, and to ensure that all the income tax due from people is collected, and yet adopt the pay-as-you-earn system, it would be necessary to double the tax collections in one year, or, in other words, to collect two years’ tax in one year. Owing to the present high rates of tax that would be impracticable. Therefore, a compromise is proposed such as has been adopted in every country which has applied the pay-as-you-earn system.
I shall give honorable members another proof that a lag actually exists. In these days, employers make deductions from the wages of their employees for taxation purposes. As soon as a person accepts employment tax deductions begin, but if the employee concerned did not have a taxable income in the previous year he applies to the Taxation Department for a certificate of exemption. The deductions may continue for a week, or a month, or two months, but as soon as the certificate of exemption is produced the deductions cease. About 80,000 employees in Australia have received refunds this year in respect of deductions made from their wages for tax purposes, because they have produced certificates that, they did not have a taxable income in the previous year. The total amount of the refunds has been only £300,000, which is not large when considered in relation to the aggregate number of taxpayers, but it supports my point. Employees who present such certificates of exemption do not have a single penny deducted from their wages for tax. purposes for the remainder of the twelve months, but they pay tax on those earnings in the following twelve months, and so on. The result is that many people find themselves obliged to pay substantial sums in taxation long after their earning power of the previous year has been greatly reduced. Those examples prove that the lag exists.
Why are certain people so persistent in their attempts to prove that there is no lag, when the lag is apparent to everybody? As a matter of fact, we heard of nothing else last year when the adoption of pay-as-you-earn was being urged. That was the one purpose of pay-as-you-earn - to get rid of the lag, of the liability which pursues men after they cease to earn, or pursues them into the grave, through their dependants. If, as is now alleged, the tax payment is up to date when the income is received, there is no need for all this agitation or for this legislation.
– Not if the Government could be convinced that that is the case.
Mr.SCULLIN.- The fact is, that the tax is owing. The Government could not be convinced that there is no lag, when the lag stares one in the face. The Ministry of which the honorable gentleman was a member pursued men after they were dead. If there was no lag, why did it do that? Why, for 29 years, have people been asked to pay tax after they have retired? Why have the executors of an estate of a deceased person had to pay on. the income that he earned before his death? The proposition is such a simple one, that I cannot conceive of a person of ordinary intelligence denying it except for the sake of argument. The 500,000 persons who are non-employees, and who have a lag of one year, want 100 per cent. forgiveness, and therefore endeavour to make it appear that there is no lag. But few of them have suggested that there should be 100 per cent. forgiveness in respect of employees.
– That is nonsense.
– I shall prove ray case up to the hilt.
-i am one who willdo so.
– The honorable. gentleman will do so for the reason that he has not that sense of responsibility which is required of a government.
For six years, the fight for the introduction of pay-as-you-earn was waged in the United States of America. Honorable members know how often America was cited as the example that we ought to follow. There were three groups in that country. One group said that there should be no forgiveness. The members of that group took the view of the honorable member for Wentworth - if this money is owing, why not collect it instead of forgiving 75 per cent.? It was a strong group. Even the President of the United States of America said: “ This is a great gift to wealthy men “. I agree; but my main concern is, that it will also benefit nearly 1,000,000 workers whose incomes are falling.
– Is that a proper thing to say about people who have been paying 18s, 6d. in the £1 f
– It is too good, considering what they have been saying during the last two months. Another group in the United States of America said that there should be complete forgiveness, whilst a third group said that there should be partial forgiveness. The compromise proposal was accepted, because it was recognized that a double payment of tax would be too much to expect a taxpayer to make in order to bring him up to date. Contributions for three months for the benefits which taxpayers have received, represent a measure of justice. In the United .States of America, it was decided that there should be a forgiveness of 75 per cent., and in Canada a forgiveness of only 50 per cent. In Great Britain there is a differential arrangement.
– In Canada, 40 per cent, of the tax is returnable under a post-war credits scheme.
– That has nothing to do with this matter. Canada forgave only 50 per cent, of the year’s lag in taxation. In Britain, the percentage was larger in respect of the manual worker than in respect of the other taxpayers, but the average is approximately 75 per cent., and all taxpayers do not benefit, only employees being affected. Why was there such a clamour that Australia should follow these examples ? We were told of the great success that had been achieved by the introduction of pay-as-you-earn in the United States of America, and were exhorted to follow the .example of that country. [Extension of time granted.] When the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) suggested the appointment of a committee to investigate the system, the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) said : “ There is no need for a committee; the matter is well understood. The Attorney-General has been to America, and it is working there “. How was it working in America? There was a forgiveness of 75 per cent., not of 100 per cent. Not a word was said about that. Those who were clamouring for the introduction of pay-as-you-earn last year were not unaware of it, because L bad. pointed out that the taxpayers of the United States of America had had to provide 25 per cent, over a period of two years. We are providing that non-employees shall have the 25 per cent, spread over three years. It is not to be added to the tax of employees, because it was paid a year ago. The honorable member for Parramatta (Sir Frederick Stewart) intends to argue that there should be a forgiveness of 100 per cent, in respect of employees as well as non-employees.
– I have never heard any other view urged.
– If the honorable gentleman has read with intelligence all the statements that have been made on behalf of the taxpayers’ associations in the press of this country, he will know that a method of camouflage is being suggested that employees shall not have restored to them the collections that were made over a period of three months a year ago, the argument being that these taxpayers should be given a credit in the future in respect of the amount contributed. That would be to discriminate against them. A forgiveness of 100 per cent, could be applied without discrimination only by forgoing collections for three months from employees, and that would result in a reduction of the revenue, for this year by £15,000,000. Because members of the parliamentary committee were responsible men, they were not prepared to advocate the adoption of such a proposal. I well remember that when there was an agitation in favour of following America, nothing was said about the forgiveness of only 75 per cent, of the tax in that country. Sneers were levelled at the Treasurer, because lie was not rushing into this matter haphazardly, without inquiry. The newspapers attempted to belittle the officers of the Taxation Department, and said that they were placing difficulties in the way. Yet those officers were already investigating the question. The Treasurer had two committees working on it; later, there were three. Those committees placed reports before the parliamentary committee, without which it could not have completed its task. I have never known a body of nien to work with greater diligence, patience and ability, than did the officers of the Taxation Department, while scorn was being heaped upon them. I pay tribute to them. Not a member of the parliamentary committee will deny that that committee could not have completed the task entrusted to it without the splendid reports and other information that were placed before it. It was given the pros and cons, the advantages and the disadvantages, in as impartial a manner as any judge would sum up in a court of law. For the information, and perhaps the entertainment, of honorable members, I shall make a few quotations from the press, in order to show how the scheme is working in the United States of America. As a matter of fact, we have departed slightly from the details of that scheme in regard to non-employees, because of the experience that has been gained. The Sydney Sunday Telegraph, of the 12th March, under the heading “ Einstein Baffled by Income Tax Form “, stated that Einstein had been forced to call in a tax expert to help him to fill in the complex form which was puzzling millions of Americans, because of their quarterly returns, their estimates of income, and their self-assessment. From Britain comes the story, published in the Sunday Sun, of the 7th November -
A fortune awaits a bright accountant who produces an easy “ ready-reckoner “ code to Britain’s pay-as-you-earn taxation scheme. In Manchester, 03 business chiefs, representing 250,000 workers have held a six-hour conference to find a simplified translation of the various codes in the Government’s White Paper on the plan.
I have here advertisements that were recently published by the Taxpayers Association. This one is from Victoria -
Wage-earners will be asked to pay one and a quarter years’ tax during the next financial year. In addition, the tax on income from savings will be increased by 84 per cent, per annum for the next three years.
The second part of .that is correct, but the first part is absolutely untrue. No wage-earner will have one and a quarter years’ tax to pay next year; no wageearner will pay more than he is paying to-day, unless his wages rise; and if his wages should drop, he will immediately pay less. A forgiveness of 100 per cent, would involve the Treasury in the certain loss of £15,000,000 on this year’s budget. The parliamentary committee and the Treasurer were not prepared to take the responsibility of making such a recommendation. There could not be 100 per cent, forgiveness without reducing the budget by £15,000,000 of taxation provided for last year, or by discriminating in favour of non-employees against employees. The purpose of the collections that were made three months earlier last year was not to institute the system of pay-as-you-earn, because it was not then contemplated, but to spread the increased tax over 52 weeks. It so happens that those employees are now in arrears for a period of nine months instead of twelve months. They are to be “ forgiven “ for that period. It was not intended under the present law that collection of tax should cease at the 31st March, 1944, whether or not payasyouearn was introduced. Let me direct the attention of honorable members to what is, after all, the principle which should be studied. There are three groups of taxpayers to be considered. Existing taxpayers can be divided into employees and non-employees, and the balance must be held fairly between them; but we must also be fair to the 90,000 new employees, who are coming for the first time into the tax field every year. They will be called upon to provide against a twelve .months’ lag when they retire. How will they contribute? By paying tax _ on their first year’s income, which existing taxpayers have not done. They will pay twelve months’ tax in their first year, whereas existing taxpayers paid nothing on their first year’s income during that year. I know people who worked for the first time last year, and who will pay this year 100 per cent, tax, whereas the person who went to work this year has so far paid no tax in respect of this year’s income, and will pay only 25 per cent, of it under this scheme. When we bring the years close together in that way, we can see the significance of the provision. Ninety thousand newtaxpayers will come into the field next year. Under this provision they will have to pay the full tax from the word “ go “, in order to provide themselves with a clean sheet on their retirement, or in order to ensure that their widows will not have to pay the tax when they die. Those who have a year’s deferred liability will have their obligation reduced by 75 per cent. Surely there is some benefit given in that - not by the Treasurer, but by the new taxpayers. We must endeavour to hold the balance fairly. This is what it will cost to confer this benefit on present taxpayers. If. 100 per cent, of the tax were remitted, the cost would be £S,000,000 a year. The cost of remitting 75 per cent. will be £6,000,000. On an average 50,000 taxpayers retire each year, and 20,000 die. The cost of remitting 75 per cent, of the tax lag would he £6.000,000. That position will obtain for many years. The amount will diminish by small percentages, but it will not diminish by as much as £1,000,000 in ten years.
– Will not the right honorable member agree that the Treasurer will collect part of that by increased probate payments?
– Yes, the honorable member is correct. I thought, for a moment, that he was descending to the puerile argument of his leader, by suggesting that, to offset the income tax benefit, the Government would increase estate duties. That suggestion was an appeal to fear. I agree that the Treasury will benefit in some measure by the collection of increased probate revenue, and the entry of 90,000 new taxpayers into the field each year will tend to balancewhat is lost in forgiving 75 per cent, of the tax to the 70,000 taxpayers retiring or dying each year. Surely, however, the new taxpayer is entitled to say that the concession should not be given entirely at his expense. It must be remembered, also, that these are not normal times. Since the outbreak of war, 200,000 persons have come into employment who usually did not seek employment at all. I refer, particularly, to retired men and married women. After the war the men will go into retirement again, and the married women, I hope, will return to their homes. The resulting loss to Ohe revenue will be about £10,000,000, but this will be offset by the fact that returned soldiers will’ pay tax on their first year’s earnings instead of after one year. There will be n loss for the first years, but no one can estimate what it will bc. I have estimated that 1,000,000 persons will suffer a decline of income after the war, and, but for the introduction of this measure, they would be required, out of their reduced income to pay tax on the higher income earned the year before. In normal times, the incoming taxpayers, who will pay on their first year’s earnings, should just about make up for the benefits extended to other taxpayers.
We now come to the non-employees. We heard a pitiful story from the Leader of the Opposition about how it was proposed to “ slug “ this class. [Further extension of lime granted. ] Let. us take the business man with an income of, say, £1,000 a year - one of the small, struggling men about whom we have heard. His tax, normally, is about £300, of which 25 per cent, is £75, which he will be called upon to pay over a period of three years, amounting to £25 a year, or 10s. a week in addition to his current tax. What will he receive in return for it? He will get a discharge for a full year’s obligation to pay tax amounting to £300. It is the best insurance I know of. There are men paying heavy premiums on life assurance policies in order to meet estate duties after their deaths. But for this legislation, the liability on their estate would be increased by arrears of tax. It is proposed to wipe out those arrears, and it will not now be necessary for them to take out so much assurance. Now, let us take the small business man, or a farmer, earning £400 a year. His tax is £50. Under these proposals, he will be required to pay an additional £4 a year for three years, or ls. 8d. a week, to rid himself of a liability of £50. The agitation against the Government’s proposal has taken the form of one of the most scurrilous attacks I have ever known. People who are holding out both hands for benefits for themselves have taken part in the attack, although privately they are ready to admit the benefit which they will derive. Deputations have waited upon the Treasurer, and I have been there. When I have said to them, “ What about dropping the scheme ? “ they say, “ No, there is too much benefit in it”. But they want to obtain the benefit at the expense of somebody else - including the new taxpayers. Those who oppose the scheme threaten us with the Senate. I say to them, let senators throw the bill out. Then we may exclude the investments of their bosses from the benefits of the scheme, and restrict it to employees. I am not speaking for the Treasurer now, but for myself. If such a suggestion were made, there would be letters from chambers of manufactures and from chambers of commerce, and particularly from taxpayers’ associations, pleading for the retention of the benefit which it is now proposed to give them. Those who object to the proposals are looking a gift horse in the mouth, and examining every tooth. They desire to benefit themselves, and their method is to tell untruths to employees. There are even honorable members of this House who believe that employees and wage-earners will have to pay 25 per cent, extra tax next year. I repeat for the “ umpteenth “ time that they will not pay one penny more. However, if any one is to be forgiven anything more than is provided for in this bill, I want to see the greatest benefits conferred upon the lower-paid men with large families.
– I had not intended to apeak on the motion for the second reading of this hill, because I believed that, after the principles had been discussed by leaders of parties, the measure would be essentially one for consideration in committee. However, I have been provoked .to speak by some of the observa tions of the right honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin). Because of the very high respect . which he rightly commands in this House, I regret that he has seen fit to import so much passion into the discussion. He made some reflections which I am sure he will regret upon second thoughts. He said that he had never heard any antagonist of the proposals of the Government suggest that 100 per cent, cancellation or forgiveness should be applied equally to employees and non-employees. Surely the right honorable member has been a legislator long enough to know that, even with the help of the fourteen extra powers which the Government is seeking, no Treasurer could discriminate between taxpayers. He could not exact a 25 per cent, surcharge of tax from one section of the community and let the other section escape, unless of course that was the deliberate will of this House. The right honorable gentleman commenced his speech by apologizing for having to demonstrate the obvious. I am glad he did so, because it was obviously necessary. Practically the whole of his speech was an endeavour to prove that we were suffering the disability of having our present year’s tax based on last year’s income. That is so. No one disputes it. The rectification of that system is what practically every member of this House is now considering. After all, however exaggerated it may be by passion, our difference of opinion is only one of degree. Apparently every honorable member is in favour of changing the method. In 1916, when the income tax was first imposed, obviously the tax was based on the earnings of 1915 in order to save the tremendous amount of book-keeping that would otherwise have been necessary through assessment adjustments. Unfortunately, that book-keeping will be one of the penalties which will accrue from the changed method. The contention that: the fact that the income tax paid in 19l6 was based on the earnings of 1915 proves that the Parliament of that clay thought that there should be retrospective operation of that tax just leaves one cold. But I am principally concerned to combat that part of the right honorable gentleman’s speech in which he claimed definitely that there would be no adverse effect in respect of taxation for this year collected from the employee section of the community. He was more emphatic before lunch than after, and I am afraid that interjections made earlier put him or Treasury officials “fly” to what was coming after lunch. . 1 took down his exact phrase. He said that there were 1,250,000 wageearners from whom no extra deduction would be taken and that there would be no extension of the period of payment. After lunch, ‘ he did admit that three months of this year’s obligation had already been collected from wage-ear ners through the pay envelopes. That is perfectly true. I am glad that he drew attention to that because it was my intention so to do and to quote the secondreading speech of the Treasurer. This is the relevant paragraph: -
The Governmenthas decided to give effect to the parliamentary committee’s recommendation that tax on the income of the year ended the 30th June., 1944, shall be payable to the extent only of one-quarter of the amount of tax assessable at current rates. Three-quarters of the tax assessable will be cancelled.
I ask the right honorable gentleman - Oh ! he has gone - well, I ask the House, as he has not had the courtesy to remain to hear the answer to his contribution, and I ask the Treasurer how the Government can continue to impose 25 per cent. of last year’s tax and 100 per cent. of this year’s tax within the limit of twelve months without increasing the impost on those people who pay tax by means of deductions from their wages or salaries.
– The taxpayers will know all about it when they get their pay.
Sir FREDERICK STEWART.They know all about it now. The insinuation of the right honorable member for Yarra that we on this side are unintelligent and that whilst he could give the arguments he could not give understanding applies to a lot of people and not all of them are on this side. Realization of that will come to our friends opposite as time goes. The Treasurer went on to say -
Deductions made from the salary and wages of employees up to the 31st March, 1944, will have been applied to pay the tax payable on income of the year ended the 30th June, 1943. The liability of employees to tax on income of the year ended the . “30th . June, 1944, will he. as a general rule, discharged by the tax deductions which will be made in the months from April to June, 1944.
That is true. Largely the contributions deducted from pay envelopes through these three months will represent a tax of 25 per cent. on last year’s income, and those contributions are to be applied to the liquidation of the remaining part of that year’s debt. But what will happen if this bill be not passed? The contributions collected in these three months will go to meet this year’s obligations and, to that extent, the non-employee taxpayers will be relieved. The right honorable gentleman went to great lengths to explain the effect of this new principle upon the taxpayer, and he cited the homely illustration of a man on £400 a year with two children. He indicated that such a man under the present system would be paying £1 a week, or £52 a year. That may or may not be an exact mathematical calculation of the tax that that man would pay.
– It may be18s or 19s. out.
Sir FREDERICK STEWART.That does not matter. The simple fact is that, if that man continues to pay only £1 a week for 52 weeks in one year, he can discharge only one year’s tax obligation. He cannot pick up that three months which is applied to meet the “ unf orgiven “ 25 per cent. of last year and will have to supplement his pay deductions by a cash supplement when his assessment is issued after the 75 per cent. rebate of the obligation of last year is made. But if the £1 a week is more than sufficient to meet his obligation because through sickness or some other circumstances last year he did not earn a full year’s income, he is entitled under the present law to a rebate, or refund, at the end of the year ; but not under the new legislation. So I, hotfoot on the heels of the right honorable gentleman, who rightly commands very great respect in this House and elsewhere, want to point out to the workers, to whom this measure is reputed to be of tremendous benefit, what will be at least its immediate effect as far as this year’s tax is concerned.
Having said that, I want to make, before- I close, one or two observations regarding one other aspect of this measure. I refer to the clause which alters the situation so far as recognition of losses by private companies is concerned. We know that very few companies starting operations are able to show profits right from the jump. People invest in companies knowing full well that they may have to wait until developments have so improved the affairs of the companies as to enable a return on the investments. This legislature has recognized that and made provision for it in its taxation laws. It has provided that, foi- a limited period of years, losses accruing to a trading corporation or company shall be allowed as deductions when the profits begin to trickle in. I have never heard anybody question the rectitude of that process, but it is now proposed, maybe not without some justification, that some people on very high rates of tax see in the acquisition of interests in companies which have a history of loss an opportunity to set off the losses against their high income ‘ derived from other sources. So, in order to get at one or two people of that character - and they can only be people on very high rates of income with high income tax to pay - it is proposed to inflict a great injustice on a very large section of this community, the section which honorable gentlemen opposite claim to represent specifically in this House. The proposal is that the right of private companies to set off previous losses against presentday profits shall be reviewed and withheld, unless at. least 75 per cent, of the present shareholders were shareholders when the losses were made. That means that 74 per cent, of the shareholders in any company can have a great injustice inflicted upon them, not because of something that they have done, or could have prevented, but because some 25 per cent, of the shareholding has changed hands. This is a matter the Treasurer should be prepared to review when we are in the more deliberative atmosphere of the committee.
It was said by the right honorable member for Yarra that very great generosity has been shown to the taxpayers of Australia by what he alls forgiveness of 75 per cent, of last year’s taxation, but unfortunately, before he finished his speech, he gave away the real reason -why full requitement was not made. He pointed out that to forgive 100 per cent, of last year’s tax would involve the Treasury in the loss of from £10,000,000 to £15,000,000. I am very strongly of the belief, and I know that that belief is shared very widely, that the assessment of 75 per cent, of forgiveness and 25 per cent, retention is not a deliberate weighing of the scales of justice, but is the result of compromise. Were it not for the fact that the Treasury might be incommoded at this time by the loss of income represented by 100 per cent, abatement - that, is a better word than “ forgiveness “ - we might not be debating this particular phase of the bill. The Treasurer was never more in need of funds than he is to-day, and the nation’s financial responsibilities were never greater, and no one will believe that at such a. time the Treasurer would gratuitously and spontaneously make an offer of this kind to the taxpayers. We know that this is a concession to real pressure of public opinion. I regret that the Government has not seen fit to do the job generously and abate the whole 100 per cent. The principle of pay-as-you-earn taxation is one to which we all can enthusiastically subscribe. I suggest that the reason for the Government’s somewhat grudging concession of the abatement of 75 per cent, is that most of the wage-earning people of Australia are to-day earning wages much higher than they would normally earn. It is equally obvious that present high wages cannot continue. With the cessation of hostilities and. a diminution of war activities, many people will return to pre-war rates of pay and that will reveal in air its stark nakedness the disability of continuing the system of basing this year’s tax on last year’s income. Those are the reasons which, I suggest, have influenced the Government and the Treasurer; and I regret that those reasons have not influenced them to go the whole way.
.- This bill covers a wide range and deals with a number of entirely unrelated matters such as pay-as-you-earn taxation, discriminatory taxation of companies, and additional concessions to servicemen. I shall examine only the pay-as-you-earn proposal. Some time ago the Government, acting under the pressure of public opinion, prodded quite .successfully by the Opposition, and possibly influenced to some degree by the adoption of this method by Canada, the United Kingdom and the United States of America, referred the pay-as-you-earn proposal to an all-party committee for examination and report. In due course, the majority findings of that committee were adopted by the Government. I disagree with only one of those findings, namely, the surcharge of 25 per cent. On all matters, with the exception of the surcharge, the recommendations of the committee were unanimous. The subject of the twelve months’ lag, so-called, was never referred to the committee.
In. my opinion, the Government has decided to impose a surcharge of 25 per cent, for the purpose of collecting an additional £15,000,000. Revenue requirements seem to be not only a material but also a decisive factor in this matter, and on that ground alone this proposal should be subjected to very close scrutiny. The Government’s assurance that taxation would not be increased is contradicted by its insistence upon the retention of this surcharge. Any one who has studied the machinery to effect the transition from the present system to pay-as-you-earn is not deceived. Taxpayers who will be materially affected know that they are being called upon to pay increased taxation. Wage and salary earners, employers and employees, believe that they will be subjected this year to doublebarrelled taxation. That is causing great dissatisfaction throughout the country.
The Government seeks to conceal this extra taxation behind a “ smoke-screen “, declaring that it will relieve the taxpayer of 75 per cent, of his liability. This year, rates of tax have reached record high levels. One certainly looks forward to the time when the rates, because of the reduced commitments of the country, will be progressively lowered. But although taxation is now at its peak, large sections of the community will be called upon to bear a heavy increase of tax. The socalled concession by the Government will not be received by the public with any degree of satisfaction. The people will not believe that the Government is being generous in this respect. They will say that the Government is trying to conceal the fact that by a pretended measure of generosity it will collect increased revenue.
The right honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin), when referring to the Government’s generosity, said that if the principles of equity were followed, tax.payers, instead of benefiting by a 75 per cent, rebate, would get no reduction at all. I believe that taxation is a matter not of equity but of law. Between law and equity there are sometimes great differences. In the matter of taxation, there is no contractual obligation between the taxpayer and the Government. Ordinarily, a citizen can enter into a contract with the Government for the purchase of Crown lands or materials, and undertake to repay the debt over a certain period. When the time comes, he must fulfil the terms of the contract. But in matters of taxation, no contract exists between the Government and the taxpayer. The Government does not levy this impost in return for goods and materials which the citizen receives from it. The tax is plainly a charge that the citizen is called upon to bear in order to enable the ordinary business of the country to be conducted. Year to year, that impost varies in incidence and amount. Having been imposed by law, it is capable of alteration by law.
Regarding the legal liability of a citizen to pay tax in the present year on his income of the previous year, authorities are by no means unanimous Section 17 of the Income Tax Assessment Act 1936 provides -
Subject to this Act, income tax at the rates declared by Parliament shall be levied a.nd paid for the financial year commencing on .the first day of Jul)7. 193G, and for- each financial year thereafter upon the taxable income derived during the year of income by any person … “Year of income “ is defined in section 6 of the act as “ the financial year next preceding the year of tax “. “ Year of tax “ means the financial year for which income tax is levied. Therefore, taxation is levied” and paid in respect of that, year. The only reference to “ previous years “ is the assessment of the amount- for which the taxpayer is liable in any one year; and that is based upon his income, not for that year, but for the previous year. Unless the Treasurer of the day had adopted the present system of pay-as-you-earn when the act was introduced in 1915, a proper assessment could not have been made before the end of the year. As a matter of common sense, that form was followed because it was necessary to have some basis for assessing the amount to be paid by the taxpayer in the first year the Commonwealth levied income tax. It is true that the High Court has given decisions regarding the taxing of the estates of deceased persons, but all those are subject to other sections of the act dealing specifically with such estates. I do not believe that those decisions in any way derogate from my own impression that the act places the liability -on each taxpayer in respect of the year for which the tax is levied.
I do not desire to labour this point, because it has been extensively argued. Ultimately it will not matter a great deal. In -considering taxation, we must bear in mind not the law, but the justice of the case. In this instance, justice demands that no surcharge shall be levied. Practical ways and means can be found to give effect to that. Despite the previous assurance by the Government that taxation will not be increased, it is evident from the terms of the bill that it will be. Proposed new section 68ag reads -
In relation to any income tax levied in pursuance of section 17 of this Act, income tax at the rates declared by the Parliament shall be levied and paid for the financial year beginning the first day of July, 1944.
Undoubtedly, certain sections of taxpayers will be called upon to bear an additional burden. I cannot see how any other interpretation of the bill is possible. The Government’s “forgiveness “ of nine months’ tax is pure pretence. “We well know the attitude of taxation officials. Like the elephant, the Taxation Department neither forgives nor forgets. That applies definitely to the present case. I hope that the Government will take these considerations into account. Its present proposal, as set out in this bill, is most unpopular with all sections of the community, as is evidenced by newspaper reports which, to a degree, reflect public opinion, and by letters received from constituents by all honorable members. The Government should forgo any surcharge, and ways and means by which this could be done could doubtless be discovered without involving the Treasury in any loss. It is already provided in our taxation law that accounting periods in respect of certain primary industries and of individuals in particular callings may be varied from time to time. They may be altered, for instance, from the twelve months’ period ended the 31st December, 1943, to the twelve months ending the 30th June, 1944, and no extra demands would be made in respect of the six months involved in any such variation. Apparently any agreement may be made by the taxation authorities with the taxpayers concerned. If this can be done, surely it would be practicable to provide a new accounting period in respect of wage-earners. This might involve advancing the collecting period by, say, three months, but I do not believe that there would be the same objection to such a proposal as there is to this provision for a surcharge. Under my proposal some loss might be suffered in respect of deceased estates, . but that could be adjusted by a variation of the estate duties.
– These are already heavy.
– I realize, of course, that the Treasury must have money, but there are ways and means to obtain it without placing this heavy impost on wageearners. The matter might also be dealt with by a system of bond issues or post-war credits.
– That suggestion falls on a very unresponsive ear.
– The situation could be met, I am sure, without imposing a surcharge on the taxpayers or involving the Treasury in loss.
I appeal to the Treasurer, again, to make some provision, such as has been made in the United States of America and, to some degree, in Great Britain, to allow, as deductible amounts for income tax purposes, sums equivalent to the amount normally spent and deductible by taxpayers, particularly primary producers, in the maintenance of their properties. Owing to the fact that neither man-power nor materials are available at present to carry out repairs to sheds and other buildings, and to maintain fences in proper repair, many country properties are falling into a serious state of disrepair. I suggest that provision be made for the amounts usually expended by taxpayers in this way to be set aside so that they will be available for such use after the war. At any rate, the amounts usually so expended should be regarded as deductible for income tax purposes, whereas, at present, they must be included as income, and thus unjustly’ make many country people liable to a higher rate of tax. It is obvious to everybody that sooner or later large sums of money, in the aggregate, will have to be expended by country people in restoring their properties to their normal condition, and it is unfair that the lack of man-power and materials to do this at present should be allowed to weigh as a double burden upon the people concerned.
– I have received a deputation from the Graziers Association on this subject, and representations have also been made to me in regard to it, in the interests of manufacturers, by the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt). I have undertaken to have the whole matter thoroughly examined in respect of both interests.
– I trust that a satisfactory decision will result, and that the investigation will not be as barren as some recent investigations by the Government. I deeply regret that a provision has not been included in the bill to cover this aspect of our taxation procedure. I fear that it may be a considerable time before action in this regard can be taken if it be not taken on this occasion.
– It is not without its difficulties.
– Nothing in life is without difficulties; but I trust that the Treasurer will give sympathetic consideration to my submissions.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Fadden) adjourned.
The following paper was presented : -
House adjourned at 3.40 p.m.
The followinganswers to questions were circulated: -
Commonwealth Railways : Reclassification of Position.
r asked the Minis ter representing the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The information is being obtained.
y asked the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The information is being obtained.
s asked the Minister repre senting the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
What was the total quantity of the following crops: - Wheat, rye, oats, maize and barley produced in Australia, Great Britain, Canada, United States of America, Russia, Germany, Francis and Italy in the year1939, and what was the average production per acre for each crop?
– The information is being obtained.
War Service Homes Commission.
Mr.Frost. - On the 16th March, the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) asked the following questions, upon notice: -
What is the present personnel and strength of the WarService Homes Commission?
In what way has this commission been employed during the period of the present war seeing that only two houses have been built for soldiers of thepresent war, and thirteen for soldiers of the last war, in the period 1940-44?
The answers to the honorable member’s questions are -
The present staff of the War Service Homes Commission comprises (12 officers and 37 temporary employees. The permanent establishment is165 officers us follows: - 1 commissioner,6 deputy commissioners,6 architects, 2 works inspectors, 123 clerks, 27 typists. Of these officers 46 are on war service and six others are on loan to war departments.
General administrative duties in con- nexion with loans and assistance granted in pursuance of the provisions of the War Service Homes Act 1918-41, including the keeping of personal and other accounts in respect of some 23,000 homes, collection of moneys which for the last financial year equalled£ 1,301,000, sinking fund transactions, war service homes insurance and war damage insurance of homes, relief for widows and others, discharge of liabilities, transfers of homes, inspection and maintenance of properties, advances for utility services and additional accommodation, discharge of onerous mortgages and other encumbrances and general legal work in connexion with transactions on behalf of applicants,&c. In addition, work is proceeding in relation to examination of proposals and establishment of eligibility of ex-service personnel, including those of the present war, in anticipation of resources later becoming available which will permit the commencement of active building on behalf of persons eligible within the meaning of the act.
Clothing Coupons: Issue to dischargedservicemen.
t. - Speaking to the motion for the adjournment of the House on the 25th February, the honorable member forMoreton (Mr. Francis) referred to an alleged unsatisfactory position which existed in relation to the issue of coupons to discharged soldiers in order that they may purchase civilian clothing. A similar question was also asked of the Minister for the Army (Mr. Forde) by the honorable member for Griffith (Mr. Conelan), on the8th March.
The Commonwealth Rationing Commission has now decided that where male members ofthe services upon discharge receive monetary allowance in lieu of civilian suit and hat, an equivalent number of coupons will be made available by the commission. The procedure which will be observed concerning the issue of coupons in such cases will be instituted immediately in collaboration with the fighting services.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 17 March 1944, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1944/19440317_reps_17_178/>.