17th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. J. S.Rosevear) took the. chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– I desire to make a personal explanation. In fairness to myself, I feel that I must correct the wrong impression created by the introduction in Friday’s later edition of the Sydney Morning Herald. to a report entitled “ Opposition Protests in the House “. This reads-
Mr. Corser said that the Hansard report of the proceed ings was incorrect and hesug gested that the reporter who took the note he called to the bar of the House.
It was further stated that Hansard’s report was challenged. The opposite is the case. What was printed of my actual remarks was correct in every detail. It was as follows: -
Mr. Corser saidhe desired to bring under the notice of the Speaker an inaccuracy which appeared in the official printed Votes and Proceedings in the House last night. He personally knew them to he incorrect and contrary to a Standing Order.
These printed Votes and Proceedings are not the product of Hansard. I could not have challenged Hansard, as the Hansard advance proofs were not even available to me at the time. They had not been printed. I was so confident that Hansard would be. accurate, that I asked the Speaker to call the reporter to the bar of the Houseto read his notes, as I felt sure that in this matter his report would prove my claim that the published Votes and Proceedings were incorrect. This is important to me, because, when moving dissent from the Chairman’s ruling which was associated with these records, I was suspended. It is true that, in the body of a Sydney Morning Herald report of next day’s proceedings, it is stated that the accuracy of Hansard was not at any time questioned, but no correction of the erroneous introduction to the previous day’s proceedings appeared, stud I take this first opportunity to correct the inaccurate impression given.
– In reply to a question on the 16th Marchby the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) regarding an alleged inaccuracy in the official Votes and Proceedings of this House, I now inform the right honorable gentleman that I have inspected the official notes taken independently at the time, by the Clerk of the House and the Clerk Assistant and also the Hansard reporter. I have also consulted with the Principal Parliamentary Reporter and the Deputy Chairman of Committees (Mr. Martens), who was acting at the time. It would appear from these records, taken independently, that the Votes and Proceedings present a correct record of the proceedings.
The Hansard report contained in the unrevised proof does not purport, particularly where disorder or noise makes the work of reporting difficult, to record decisions. In cases of doubt, I am in formed by the Clerk of the House and the Principal Parliamentary Reporter that Hansard refers to, and accepts as authentic, the official record of the Votes and Proceedings. In this case, the unrevised Hansard does not record the postponement of the clause being negatived, but it does report shortly afterwards a statement by the Temporary Chairman of Committees that he had put the question about which some doubt has arisen.
It is not for me to question the proceedings in committee; but, as the right honorable gentleman asked me a question concerning the matter and I undertook to make the necessary inquiries, I think that I ought to affirm, on the evidence placed before me, that there is no doubt that the question referred to was put by the Temporary Chairman, and I do this in order to put the matter beyond doubt and to remove any reflection that has been made against the records issued abovethe signature of the Clerk of the House.
– Some months ago, I wrote to the Minister for Supply and Shipping asking him to make provision for the release of hot water bags for the benefit of sick people, particularly in the colder States. I now ask the Minister representing the Minister for Supply and Shipping whether this has been done.
– I have been informed by my colleague, the Minister for Supply and. Shipping, that arrangements have been made for the supply of 25,000 hot water bags from surplus stocks in the United Kingdom. A part of the consignment has already arrived and the balance is expected soon. Distribution will be made through the usual trade channels as equitably as possible in all parts of the Commonwealth.
Sir FREDERICK STEWART.Will the Prime Minister ask the Attorney-General to advise the House regarding the obligation which rests upon this House to give effect to the decision of the Unemployment Insurance Convention adopted by the Genoa Conference of the International Labour Organization in 1921 to which the representative of Australia committed this country?
– I do not know whether it comes within the province of the Attorney-General to give legal advice to the Parliament on general questions. I shall make inquiries in order to learn what previous governments have done in this regard, and then decide whether this Government will do the same.
– Will the Prime Minister consider making a payment of a lump sum free of income tax to the inventor of the Owen gun instead of paying him royalties as is now being done? I am informed that some thousands of pounds are due to the inventor by way of royalties, but that the Commonwealth proposes to take back two-thirds of the amount by way of income tax. Having regard to the great service which this man has rendered to the Commonwealth, I ask the Prime Minister to give favorable consideration to my request.
– I understand that the matter is under consideration, but if the honorable member would like a more precise answer, he may put his question on the notice-paper, or await a further statement.
Leave for the Australian Imperial Force -Geographical Limits on Use of Militia - Citizen Military Forces - Enlistment in Militia of Men Discharged from other Services - Case of Ex-Sergeant Martin.
– by leave - On the 9th March, the honorable member for Griffith (Mr. Conelan) referred to the conditions under which recreation leave was being granted to members of the Australian Military Forces, with particular reference to the 6th, 7th and 9th Divisions, and asked whether any discrimination was being made against the 9th Division in regard to the grant of such leave. This question was also raised by the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) and by other honorable members, and I am now in a position to state that further consideration has been given to the General Routine Orders in operation in Australia concerning recreation leave for the Army. At present, this order provides that two days’ leave is granted for every month’s service, with effect from the 1st July, 1942, or the date of arrival in Australia from service in the Middle East, whichever is the later. In the period from July, 1942, to the date of embarkation for Australia, the 9th Division and attached troops, however, received practically no leave owing to the incidence of operations and administrative preparation concerned with the return of the division to the South-West Pacific Area from the Middle East. Approval has, therefore, been given for all troops to have their recreation leave entitlement computed from the 1st July, 1942, and the Routine Orders in question are being amended accordingly. The effect of this decision will be that troops of the 9 th Division, who are now on leave for a period of 24 days, will have that leave extended to the full amount of their entitlement under the approval now announced. Troops who have completed their 24 days at home, and are now in transit to their concentration areas, will have the additional leave credited to them, and will be permitted to take it at the first available opportunity. The whole question of recreation leave entitlement is not free from difficulty in relation to troops who have served under various conditions. The decision to base the entitlement from the 1st July, 1942, will, however, place this matter on a stable and equitable basis, and ensure that justice shall be done to all.
– In view of the fact that when the Prime Minister is abroad negotiations will take place between him and the Government of the United Kingdom and, perhaps, representatives of other dominions, and in view of the fact that the success of operations north of Australia means that the war is receding from our shores, will the right honorable gentleman indicate,before he leaves for England, that the Defence (Citizen Military Forces) Act, which geographically limits the operations ofthe Australian Militia Forces will be amended to remove the limits so that awkward questions shall not be asked regarding this country’s global participation in the war?
– I do not anticipate that I shall be asked awkward questions by the Prime Minister of Great Britain or the Prime Minister of any other dominion. I am quite sure that the discussions in which we shall he engaged will be of such a character that the position of each government shall be thoroughly understood before discussions commence. I have no doubt whatever that our discussions will enableus to present to our joint enemies in all theatres of war the maximum force that the United Nations possess.
– When may I expect from the Minister for the Army a reply to my question on the 2nd March about the compulsory enlistment in the Militia of men discharged from other services?
– I shall immediately inquire why the information required has not been furnished to the honorable gentleman.
– Has the Minister for the Army taken any further action in connexion with the affairs of ex-Sergeant Martin, which I brought under his notice some time ago?
– I have written a letter setting out all the information that I have obtained in regard to this case, and it should reach the honorable member almost at once.
– Mr. Speaker, I direct your attention to the leading article in tho Sunday Telegraph, of the 19 th March, headed “ Government with a Bludgeon “, and containing the following passages: -
But the impartial observer saw the Chair, which, traditionally, is supposed to be impartial, employing political stand-over tactics to bludgeon a great constitutional bill through Parliament. . . . The Speaker and the Temporary Chairman of Committees had, persistently and arrogantly, exploited the book of rules in favour of a government with a massive majority . . . Recrimination from the Labour or from the Opposition side did not alter the fact that for six hours parliamentary procedure was travestied, and that, with the Chair’s connivance, the minority party was deliberately humiliated.
Do you consider this to he a deliberate misstatement of facts, and, if so, do you contemplate immediate action to stop this sort of thing.
– I seldom read the daily press. Perhaps that is why I am singularly well informed. At the week end, however, having little else to do, I read the article referred to. The honorable gentleman asks me whether I propose to take any immediate action. I do not. The article is based on a complete and unmitigated lie that was published in an earlier edition of the Daily Telegraph.
Opposition Members. - That is not parliamentary.
– Whether it is parliamentary or not, I do not intend to take any action at the moment;but I warn the press that, whilst I do not cavil at legitimate criticism of anything that takes place in this House, if newspapers offend again in a like manner or do anything that calls for stronger action than warning it will not be necessary for me to raise a matter of privilege, because I have certain powers that I will not hesitate to use.
– On the 9th March, 1944, the honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Corser) referred to the prosecution of fruit and vegetable retailers in Queensland. A royal commission is inquiring into certain aspects of the industry. No evidence has yet been presented on behalf of the Prices Branch. The report, when available, will be examined by the Prices Commissioner and, if necessary, by officers of the Attorney-General’s Department. The prices orders in operation in Queensland are in substance no different from those operating in other States, and in the matter of prosecutions, pending receipt of the report of the royal commission, it is not proposed to deal with offending traders in Queensland in any manner different from that in which offending traders in other States are dealt with.
– I ask the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture whether he can answer my question about the price to be paid for potatoes in the off season next spring?
– The price of potatoes grown out of season after October next will be £18 a ton. As the season becomes normal, it will recede to the contract price of £14 a ton.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs whether he will furnish the following information regarding the operation of rationing in respect of the checks imposed upon retailers and wholesalers - (1) Are retailers licensed, and do they have to furnish coupons to the wholesalers when replenishing supplies; (2) are wholesalers licensed and do they have to furnish coupons to the manufacturers when replenishing supplies? Is it a fact that millions of coupons received from retailers for goods supplied are at present in the possession of wholesalers and that wholesalers are obtaining supplies from manufacturers without having to furnish the equivalent coupons? If such is the case will the Minister take immediate steps to make more satisfactory arrangements, as under present conditions it would permit a wholesaler to secure, without coupons, whatever goods a manufacturer was able to supply, thus creating conditions conducive to black marketing operations? When making such inquiries will the Minister make particular inquiries into the activities of certain chain store organizations?
– The information required by the honorable gentleman will be furnished at the earliest possible moment.
– by leave - A number of honorable members during the present sittings of Parliament directed questions to me regarding the operation of the system of rail travel priorities, and replies were deferred pending a thorough examination of the position. I am now in a position to furnish the required information.
It will be remembered that strong criticism was levelled against the Government in the press regarding vacant seats and sleeping berths on interstate express trains, allegedly due to the operation of the priority regulations. In order to satisfy myself regarding the actual circumstances, I arranged with the railway administrations of New South Wales, Victoria, and South Australia to make a special check and to keep detailed records of interstate passenger traffic for the period, Sunday, the 6th February, to Saturday, the 19th February, inclusive. The returns supplied by the railway systems as the result of those checks reveal that the majority of the interstate express trains carried more passengers than the normal seating capacity of the train, at peak-load points on the journey. The exception is in the case of the service from Adelaide to Serviceton, which is due to a variation in the train composition.
All passengers who travel by interstate trains do not make inter-capital journeys, and it does not necessarily follow that because an interstate train leaves the point of departure, or arrives at its destination, with vacant seats, these seats were not in use for a substantial portion of the journey. New South Wales, Victoria, and South Australia all make provision for the travel of a certain proportion of intra-state travel by their interstate express trains, and accommodation is regularly reserved and exclusively held for this purpose. On the express trains from Sydney to Albury during the test period, the returns supplied by the New South Wales Railways indicate a few vacancies in one direction with full or over-loads in the reverse direction; but New South Wales further reports that on most days during the period of the test, all requests for travelby passengers holding priority permits could not be met. The position is similar between Melbourne and Albury and the figures submitted indicate that on many days more priority passengers offered than could he transported.
The figures for the “ Overland “ express from Melbourne to Adelaide disclose that the number of priority passengers offering daily who could not be carried runs into double figures. The position on the “ Overland “ express train from Adelaide to Melbourne is somewhat different, as the greater single engine capacity in South Australia enables more vehicles to be hauled than is the case in Victoria between Serviceton and Melbourne. Thus in South Australia the circumstances have not occasioned the same need for economy in restricting cars to full loads as has been necessary, in Victoria, and as a consequence the returns supplied show a number of vacancies on the South Australian section on some of the days during the period for which the test was taken, but the balancing train in Victoria consistently shows overloading. Efforts will be continued to see if some improvement in this regard can be effected.
To sum up, the position is that the priority regulations as they operate at present provide, on the whole, more than sufficient passengers to fill the available services, having regard to the intrastate passengers which the railway systems deem it necessary to transport on interstate trains. If all trains were filled to capacity at starting points with interstate passengers, it would undoubtedly create additional problems with serious hardship to persons residing in all intermediate country towns. As honorable members are aware, the number of interstate civilian trains has been limited under war conditions, and this limitation has made it necessary to confine the persons to whom travel priority permits are issued to those who have essential reasons for such travel. It is my intention at the earliest possible moment to have the priority regulations modified’ or totally abolished, but that time has not yet arrived.
Dealing with the position between Adelaide and Melbourne, the extensive demands from persons requiring to travel over this section on urgent government or other business, has disclosed the serious inconvenience occasioned by the lack of adequate sleeping accommodation. Whilst the present services are limited between capital cities, passengers holding priority Nos. 1 to 4 can almost regularly obtain sleeping accommodation between Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane. On the other hand, passengers holding Nos. 3 and 4 priority are invariably excluded on the
Melbourne-Adelaide section because of the limitation of the sleeping accommodation to one car.
I have felt for some time that there was justification for a change in this position and accordingly arranged for the whole matter to be made the subject of a conference between the representatives of the South Australian and Victorian Railways with my department in conjunction with the recent meeting of the War Railway Committee. This conference has reached a satisfactory understanding, whereby two sleeping cars will be provided on the Melbourne-Adelaide express trail), with an additional sleeping car, or two additional cars, if necessary, on .the collecting days of the service to and from Perth, Western Australia. This should satisfactorily meet the requirements of both South Australian and Western Australian interests, and will remove a longstanding grievance on the part of many persons in those States who are called upon to make fairly regular travel on essential business.
With regard to the position in New South Wales, it is my intention, in accordance with my previous arrangement, to discuss the general question with the New South Wales Minister for Transport, Mr. M. O’sullivan, M.L.A., and the Commissioner for Railways, Mr. T. J. Hartigan.
– On the 16th March, the honorable member for Lang (Mr. Mulcahy) asked me the following question: -
Some time ago, valuable exhibits were removed for safety from the basement of Parliament House. In view of the keen interest which the general public has evinced in them in the past, and in the light of the improvement oi the defence position, I ask you, Mr. Speaker, whether or not you will consider having them returned?
I am now able to reply that these exhibits are the property of the Commonwealth National Library under the control of the Library Committee. They were removed for safe storage when there was a threatened danger of air raids. They have not yet been replaced, pending consideration by the Library Committee at its next meeting. The
Librarian informs me that he proposed holding a meeting of the Library Committee before the end of this session, to consider the restoration of the exhibits.
– Last week, the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) initiated a debate on the issue of uncorrected proof’s to Ministers, leaders of parties and heads of departments. Some honorable members were erroneously of the impression that this distribution is an innovation. The fact is that this convenience to administration has operated from the early days of federation, but, whereas formerly the proofswere issued in galley form, since 1 938 they have been issued in the form now known as “ flats “. The history of the change is briefly this -
On the 18th May, 1938, the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) called attention in the House to the pale and anaemic paper on which the debates were printed and the difficulty of reading the print at night. Inquiries instituted by the Treasury revealed that proof issues were printed on ordinary newsprint, but the second edition was impressed on paper of much higher quality. The Government Printer advised Mr. Speaker that the necessity to make daily “ pulls” in galley form would be obviated by machining proofs in page form and stapling the issue.
The President and Speaker approved of the suggestion being given a trial, and theGovernment Printer notified the Principal Parliamentary Officer that -
Galley proofs now supplied, such as Ministers’ speeches, answers and questions and adjournment debates, will not be got out for private secretaries or departmental officers, but full copy supplied instead and departments will be supplied as at present.
In February, 1939, the Government Printer reported that the new style met with the approval of heads of departments.Subsequently the President and the Speaker endorsed the continuation of the innovation. At one stage the distribution rose to 110 daily and further applications were constantly being received. Appreciating the danger of a wide circulation of unrevised, confidential proofs, and in order to conserve paper,
President Cunningham and Mr. Speaker Nairn in 1942 reduced the issue to 78. It has since increased to about 90.
Applications for further copies, and also indications of some misuse of the proofs, caused the President and the Speaker to instruct the Principal Parliamentary Reporter to alter the superscription on the front page in order to emphasize that the issue was unrevised and confidential and was intended only for the convenience of the listed recipients. Except for this limited issue which has always been made, the rule that a member’s uncorrected speech may not, without his permission, be supplied to another member is still rigidly applied.
Case of E. W. Keating
– I ask the Minister for Information whether he is aware that the whole of my “ Grievance Day “ speech on the case of Edward William Keating, a civilian who was allegedly manhandled by Army provosts at Manly, and also the whole of the newspaper article which I read on that occasion, were censored? Will the honorable gentleman make inquiries into this matter and inform me what justification, if any, existed for such action and for the censoring of the original article?
– I am not aware of any action by officers of my department in relation to the honorable gentleman’s speech, but I shall interrogate them and ascertain the facts. If necessary, I shall discuss the matter with the honorable member later.
– Having regard to the great importance of civil aviation in this country, and to the facts that the machines of the operating companies are being worked to their utmost capacity, and that some of them have been used beyond the period of their estimated life, I ask the Minister for Civil Aviation whether efforts have been made to secure new aircraft for civil aviation purposes? If not, will steps to that end be taken?
– I assure the honorable member that all possible steps have been, taken to secure civil aircraft to maintain existing services, and to provide additional services. It is true that the machines now in use are being fully employed. I am assured and believe that they are well serviced. Valuable service is being rendered to the whole community by the civil aviation companies. Efforts are still being made overseas to obtain additional planes for service in Australia, but so far without success. The honorable member may rest assured that the Government will continue to do everything possible in this regard.
– I have received from the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) an intimation that he desires to move the adjournment of the House for the purpose of discussing a definite matter of urgent public importance, namely, The Government’s administration of the wolfram fields at Hatches Creek and Wauchope “.
.- I move-
That the House do now adjourn.
– Is the motion supported ?
Five honorable members having risen in support of the motion,
– The wolfram fields at Hatches Creek and Wauchope are in the Northern Territory,
I which, as honorable members are aware, is not directly represented in this House at present owing to the fact that the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Blain) is a prisoner of war. Pursuant to arrangements made during the last election campaign I visited this area last January. The facts I collected in regard to the wolfram mines are rather astounding even for the times in which we are living. Wolfram is a mineral which is in great demand for the production of steel, and it was being mined by a number of miners, or “ gougers “, as they are called, at Hatches Creek and Wauchope. The deposit is not such as can be exploited easily by large companies using big machinery. Some time after the outbreak of war with Japan the Commonwealth Government decided, “ out of the blue”, to order off these wolframfields the men who had been working there. The mines were confiscated, and the places of the men who were ordered to leave were taken by about 500 Chinese labourers who had been brought to Australia from Nauru Island. I ask, first, that consideration be given to the manner in which these miners were ordered off their legitimate holdings. Quite a number of the men had seen service in the last war, and numbers of them offered their services in this war. I am informed that they were told that they could give better service to their country by remaining on the wolfram-fields. I do not challenge in any sense the action of the Government in bringing the Chinese from Nauru. I believe it was under an obligation to do1 so. But in view of our man-power difficulties at that time and of the urgent need for men to work under the Allied Works Council, suitable occupations could have been found for these Chinese elsewhere than on the wolfram fields. With the mining fields the Government also took the machinery that the miners were using, and the miners were told that their compensation would consist of 10 per cent, of the returns from the output by the 500 Chinese miners. The output from the fields fell by about 83 per cent, after the Chinese began working there. When the Government took control, it constructed living barracks, cookhouses, storehouses, and many other facilities which previously it did not seem to regard as necessary. I am informed, also, that thousands of pounds was spent in providing and transporting additional machinery for the fields. In spite of all this, and notwithstanding that wolfram has been in such heavy demand, only about one-sixth of the ore is being mined that was formerly being obtained. I understand that the chairman of the local miners association has been in correspondence with the Government and with several Ministers on this subject. I have before me a copy of a printed letter on the subject, sufficient copies of which were made available to supply one to every honorable member opposite. I am rather astonished that they have not done anything about it. I shall quote only a few paragraphs. These gentlemen say-
As Labour men of life standing, we further view with alarm any attempt to break down the standard of life so dearly won in Australia, and particularly the jettisoning of the White Australia Policy.
Having participated in the early fights for decent standards of life, weknow that the White Australia Policy was brought into existence to protect those standards, and we expect the Labour party and industrial leaders to insist on their continuance.
We know that war conditions are responsible for the importation of the Chinese, but even that is not sufficient justification for the breaking down of the standards of the Australian workers, and we quail to think what our political and industrial enemies would do if in power, after such methods being endorsed by the Labour party.
We understand that the Chinese will soon be leaving this field, to be replaced by Italian workers. Will they be slaves also?
The further facts are these: Having made this great change - and there is no doubt that the only purpose was to increase the output of wolfram - and having found that the venture had completely failed, there was a reversal of policy, and the Chinese workers were removed from the field. I am informed - and the correctness of the information is admitted in a ministerial letter - that all the buildings on the field, including the storehouse and the cookhouse, together with the utensils of the miners, unused galvanized iron and sawn timber, and everything else with the exception of groceries, were committed to the flames, in accordance with some instruction, the authority for which I have not so far learned. The only excuse offered is that, for health reasons, an army medical man at Alice Springs decided that the best course was to burn the camp down. Yet, according to my information, it was a particularly healthy camp, being free from disease of any kind. By no stretch of imagination can it be considered that iron and timber might be likely to infect people in such a sparsely settled area as Central Australia. The next act was the disposal of stores and groceries. I have always understood the policy to be, and when in office have always given effect to it, that government property when disposed of shall go to the highest bidder. According to the charges that have been made by these people, it would appear that that policy was not carried out by the Government; on the contrary, the stores were disposed of by private treaty to one dealer in Alice Springs, to the exclusion of all other persons. Administration of that type ought not to be condoned even in time of war.
The next important development - a rather amazing one - was this: Under the signature of another Minister, these miners were informed that the wolfram which was so urgently needed eighteen months ago was no longer needed, and that they were to do their best to ensure an output capable of being absorbed in Australian munitions production, with a surplus that should go to the United Kingdom. They believe that they have been the victims of a conspiracy by grasping middlemen of the octopus type, who sought to squeeze the utmost profit out of the field. According to the case for the Government, the Commonwealth is the sole purchaser of wolfram in Australia, and any buyers of it act merely as its agents. The important point to bear in mind is that the Government specifies that a concentrate must have a purity of 55 per cent. before it will be handled. There may be a satisfying explanation of that requirement. The United Kingdom specifies a purity of only 10 per cent. I realize the need for conserving shipping space; nevertheless, the gap between 10 per cent. and 55 per cent. is altogether too great. The decision was made that Italian workers should not be sent to this field, but to the mica fields not far distant, and that the original gougers should resume possession of their properties. According to statements . which these miners made to me, two of the three batteries on the field are utterly unserviceable, and the remaining one, because of damage that had been caused to it, cannot produce a concentrate with a purity of 55 per cent. The spotlight of parliamentary attention must be focused upon this matter. These people live in one of the more inaccessible parts of Australia. They are not residents of any State. There is no need for the passage of a powers bill or the taking of a referendum to empower the Commonwealth to deal with any problem that arises in the Northern Territory. The Commonwealth.
Government lias had, and has exercised unfettered power in the Northern Territory ever since it came under the control of the Commonwealth. Yet, here we ‘are brought face to face with administration which I believe to be without parallel in Australia during the present war. The matter needs to be cleared up. The Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin), in correspondence with me, has agreed to a certain inquiry being made. But Ministers must take responsibility for acts of administration by their departments, even though they have not personal knowledge of them. It is all very well for them to sin politically; it is not sufficient for them to say, when the sin has been discovered, that the penalty will be paid by the taxpayer. I believe that this Parliament is the only place in which such matters can be satisfactorily adjusted. The feeling of these men, disclosed in their correspondence, is that they have been singled out, and that they have been badly treated and let down. They consider that the Government embarked upon an experiment that is without parallel in the history of mining development in this country, and that the persons in authority ought to have known what the outcome of it would be. After all the inconveniences to which they have been subjected, they have now been told that they can return to their workings, which, in their opinion, will not be restored to effective production for a long time. The machinery which they have been asked to repossess has been damaged. They cannot obtain any of the facilities which the Government was prepared to provide for others. They claim that they have been given “ a raw deal “, and they have asked that the spotlight of this Parliament shall be brought to bear on their problem. I leave the matter with the House.
– We were promised to-day a sensational disclosure by the honorable gentleman, and were led to believe that the House would need to reflect very gravely upon certain matters that he intended to raise. The House must have experienced considerable relief when it learned that the honorable member had not fulfilled such a prophecy. The matter he has raised is almost two years old, and a full and satisfactory explanation can be given of the substance of his charges. Even in the honorable member’s own statement there are contradictions which destroy his case. He said that the persons who had been taken to the wolframfields had. been treated like slaves, and yet only a few moments earlier he said that large sums of money had been spent upon the erection of hutments for their accommodation. The honorable member also stated that the production of wolfram from this field declined by 83 per cent., which does not indicate that the Chinese were being driven like slaves. The honorable member also said that the Chinese were to be replaced by Italians, but I am in a position to assure honorable members that no Italians have been used on this work. This activity is1 administered by my colleague, the Minister for Supply and Shipping (Mr. Beasley), and the following statement, prepared by his department, furnishes a complete and satisfactory answer to the charges raised by the honorable member: -
In February, 1942, shortly after the Japanese entered the war, an urgent appeal was received from the Government of the United Kingdom that Australia, and presumably other nations, should arrange for the maximum production of wolfram - a valuable mineral used in the manufacture of munitions, particularly for armour-piercing shell aud bullet-proof steel and for tipping cutting tools for general munitions engineering work. Australian production had been modest and was only sufficient at the time to meet our more or less peace-time needs. What was required was an increase to provide not only our own. needs but also to assist the United Nations, generally, owing to the critical shortage of this material, which, in the past, in the main, had been produced in China and Burma.
The central Australian fields which had been operating on a modest scale appeared to offer good prospects of increased production, although detailed examination of the field as a whole had never been carried out, and there was, therefore, no accurate information on which to base considered action which would have been obtained had time permitted. Irrespective of any detailed information there would, of course, remain the unknown factor of what the fields would have produced under actual operating conditions, this factor being well known in connexion with the hazards of all mining.
The conditions existing in February, 1942, were most difficult. The Japanese were advancing rapidly and no one knew where they would be stopped. There was not available man-power or other facilities in central Australia, which was then under military occupation, to operate the wolfram mines or deposits, but a very brilliant exploit by the Australian Navy resulted in the evacuation from Nauru and Ocean Islands of some600 Chinese, who had been engaged in the obtaining of phosphate from those islands. These evacuees were landed in Brisbane in March, 1942, and it was decided to utilize their services in central Australia in the hope that they would increase production of wolfram appreciably. However, unfortunately, from the moment the persons landed nothing but difficulty was experienced with them. Before they reached the fields a number of incidents occurred which were disturbing, but, in view of the urgency of the supply of wolfram and the fact that it was considered necessary to employ these men in an area such as central Australia, the scheme was persevered with. Bates of pay and conditions of labour - much in advance of what they had been receiving in Nauru and Ocean Islands - were fixed by. an Industrial Commissioner and every effort was made to meet the reasonable requirements in regard to accommodation, food, clothing and other amenities. Owing, however, to the transport difficulties at the time there was delay in providing these, but this was ultimately overcome and everything necessary was provided, even to the extent of special Chinese foods, such as bamboo shoots and other particular Chinese edibles. However, from the time of their arrival in the field until their services were dispensed with in November, 1943, there was nothing but active and passive opposition from these men. Their production over the fifteen-sixteen months was far below what it should have been. However, Australia had evacuated them and had done its best to turn their services to good account. Mainly due to the attitude of the men, the Government’s efforts were (frustrated. There were strikes and even when there were no strikes there was passive resistance, and little work was done and generally there was a “go slow” and non-co-operative attitude the whole time.
There was another contributing factor that militated against increased production, i.e., the undeveloped state of the mines; that is, that these mines had been virtually worked out to the limit to which development had been carried and the Government was faced with the necessity for sinking existing shafts to greater depth or putting down new ones. Owing to the attitude of the Chinese, this work could not be effectively done.
Notwithstanding the whole of the difficulties, some hundreds of tons of this precious mineral were exported and it is problematical whether, under the conditions which existed from March, 1942, onwards, any better results would have been achieved by any other means.
A world survey of the position was obtained from London and Washington late last year and advice was furnished that the supply position was much easier and that the urgency which existed in 1942 no longer applied. This gave Australia an opportunity of reviewing the whole of its wolfram projects, not only at Hatches Creek and Wauchope, but also elsewhere, and as a result many projects that were entered into because of the urgency of the position in 1942 have been or are being liquidated as rapidly as possible.
Reverting to the central Australian fields, it was previously mentioned that development there had not been carried out to any great extent by the previous lessees, and when the field was vacated by the Commonwealth in November last it was made available to tributers, but these are now leaving the field because in certain areas the prospects are not sufficiently encouraging to warrant their remaining on the fields.
There was no maladministration by the Commonwealth. It was faced with a difficult problem, both in regard to the Chinese personnel and also a desire to obtain the maximum quantity of a mineral most urgently required for war purposes. The cabled advice from the British Government asked for supplies to be obtained irrespective of all economic factors, and this was the guiding principle which actuated the Commonwealth not only in this but in other ventures of this nature.
– How many white workers were there?
have no idea. The statement continues -
The British Government fully recognized these factors and has undertaken to bear its proportion of the loss involved in this and other uneconomic wolfram projects which were undertaken with the degree of hazard which would never have been accepted except under the stress of urgent war conditions such as existed in 1942.
Fortunately for Australia and the United Nations, should there be an increased demand for wolfram, we can supply an alternative mineral which has been developed under the aegis of the Department of Supply and Shipping in another part of Australia, and which can be most economically worked and is probably one of the richest deposits of its kind in the world. This subject is also the matter of discussion with the British Government.
Associated with the activities in Central Australia, there have been certain improvements, e.g., water wells and roads, which will be of permanent benefit to the pastoralists and others in this part of Australia. The wells, for example, in dry seasons may well be the means of saving large quantities of stock.
The honorable member has raised in correspondence with the Prime Minister the question of the destruction of all buildings and material left when the Chinese vacated the field. Certain tents and other supplies were destroyed by fire on instructions of the medical officer of the district on account of the general unhygienic and unhealthy conditions in which the places had been left by the Chinese.
That is the answer to the honorable gentleman.
– That is not convincing. It depends on who the medical officer is.
– That is a quibble. A person appointed medical officer to a district like that would possess sufficient qualification to express an opinion about the hygienic conditions in the camp. The statement continues -
Unfortunately, when the burning occurred, thefire got out of control, due to a sudden change in the wind, and a small amount of material which might have been salvaged was destroyed, but the value of this has been estimated at less than £170.
The total value of the stores destroyed was less than £500. The statement continues -
The honorable member has also raised the question regarding the commandeering of plant on the field, and which he was advised was confiscated.
I think “ confiscated “ was the word used by the honorable member. The statement continues -
This is not so. Any plant or equipment which was requisitioned from the gougers on the field was paid for at prices which were agreed upon. Reference was made also by the honorable member to the alleged disposal of groceries to one provision merchant in Alice Springs. The fact is that the groceries for sale after the Chinese had left were made known throughout the field, as it was desired to dispose of as much as possible locally to avoid transport. A large quantity was purchased by gougers and station owners, both on the field and en route to Alice Springs, and the residue was sold to all provision merchants in Alice Springs. The disposal prices represented the original cost, plus transportation costs, plus administrative expenses. In some cases the prices were slightly different owing to different costs. However, this was not material.
The question of compensation to the lessees whose claims were taken over has also been raised by the honorable member. Most of these have been adjusted by agreement with the Commonwealth, but in two or three cases - including that of Tantalite Limited (Dr. Buller Murphy) - agreement was not reached; and the case of Tantalite Limited is listed for hearing: before the High Court. However, since the company took this action they have been in touch with the department as to whether it would be preferable to have the matter dealt with by the chairman of the Compensation Board which was recently appointed to adjudicate on mining matters.
I consider that that is a full answer to the honorable member for Barker. The honorable member indicated that only about 10 per cent. of the output of the field was required locally.
– I did not say that.
– I understood the honorable gentleman to say that.
– The Minister misunderstood me.
– At any rate, it will be of information to the House that 63 per cent. of the output of the field was used in local manufacture. In 1942, invasion of Australia by the Japanese seemed imminent. The United Kingdom was asking for this most essential material for the manufacture of munitions of war. It was desirable that we should utilize all the resources at our disposal.We had brought to this country evacuees from islands formerly under our control. We were entitled to employ the evacuees. What I have said ought to be a satisfactory explanation to the honorable gentleman, who has failed to create a sensation about this or any other matter connected with the mining of wolfram in Central Australia.
– Before the Minister sits down, I should like to ask him a question.
– What is the question?
– The honorable member has sat down. He is dodging the question.
.- The statement made by the Minister for Munitions (Mr. Makin) disappointed me. He said, in defence of the Government, that the incident complained of by the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) occurred two years ago. That is no defence. Rather is it aggravation of the offence, because for two years the Government has been toying with this matter and has done nothing to give justice to the people whose complaint has been brought to the notice of honorable members by the honorable member for Barker. The Minister, in attacking the honorable member’s claim, said that it was weak. I shall recite the facts and ask the Minister to show me where they are weak. First, miners of wolfram at Hatches Creek and Wauchope have been operating for many years. Many are returned soldiers with distinguished records. They offered to serve in this war, but were rejected because of age and physical disabilities. Those men were ordered off their leases at a. moment’s notice. Is that a weak claim? Have they no rights?
– We have had no explanation from the Minister.
– No explanation from the Minister! The only compensation offered them was 10 per cent. of the production. The Minister tried to establish that the honorable member for Barker claims something entirely different. He does not know his own brief. The gougers pioneered this industry and developed their leases to such a degree that their product was in great demand. Yet the only consideration they received for all their work was that they were peremptorily ordered off their holdings in order that Chinese might carry on the production of raw material badly needed, on the admission of the Minister, for war production. Without inquiring whether the Chinese were competent to perform this scientific operation, the Government gave them the job. They could have been employed on a thousand and one other jobs where they would have done useful and profitable work. They failed, producing only one-sixth of the output of the original gougers. The holdings of the Australian miners were confiscated, and the gougers received no compensation. The Chinese were given every possible consideration, including a special payment of £7 a week, special foods including bamboo shoots, special clothes, special hospital accommodation, special messing huts, special housing, and special cooking apparatus. Their efforts to produce wolfram were a colossal failure.
To-day, the Minister for Munitions declared that the claim of the honorable member for Barker was weak. He ignored the fact that a gross injustice has been done to the Australian gougers, who for years did an excellent job, and who, without assistance from the Government, produced substantial quantities of wolfram for the war effort. The mining equipment which they require for their operations has been destroyed, and they have not received reasonable compensation for it. The men who replaced them failed hopelessly. To hide their mistakes and inglorious failure, a firestick was put through the whole “show”. The reports which I have read indicate that the huts, hospital, living quarters, large quantities of brand-new building materials and quantities of galvanized iron in cases were destroyed. Placing 500 Chinese in proper quarters and providing them with transport and the necessary equipment for mining would cost many thousands of pounds. This destruction occurred in Commonwealth territory and the Commonwealth Government alone is responsible. It let the Australian gougers down. They were never given a fair deal. The explanation of the Minister that these incidents occurred two years ago is a reflection, not upon the honorable member for Barker, but upon the Government itself.
As I stated, the Australians will now be permitted to return to this field which they pioneered twenty years ago. The Government is not providing them with any of the special facilities that it made available to the Chinese. The gougers are now relying on the honorable member for Barker, who, in the absence of the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Blain) - a prisoner of war in Malaya - is watching their interests. When the honorable member for the Northern Territory enlisted, I undertook, with the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Rankin), to co-operate with the honorable member for Barker in ensuring that the claims of the Northern Territory would be properly presented to the House. The Minister for Munitions read his statement in such a way as to demonstrate plainly that he knew little about the subject. He would not risk losing his place in his “ brief “ in order to reply to a pertinent interjection by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies). He “ dug his toes in “ and read on and on in the hope that no honorable member would evince much interest in the subject. Copies of the statement which the honorable member for Barker read to the House were sent to all honorable members of this chamber, and they were invited to co-operate with him for the purpose of ensuring that justice shall be done to these miners. What happened ? Honorable members opposite sat back and said nothing in defence of these men, who have been given a raw deal. As I stated earlier, many of them saw service in the war of 1914-18, and desired to serve again in the present war, but were prevented from doing so by age or physical disabilities. They should be given the same consideration as was extended to the Chinese evacuees from Nauru. Whilst I do not object to the best possible consideration being given to those Chinese, I emphasize that they could have been more profitably employed in many other ways. The Allied Works Council could have given them the heavier labouring jobs and unskilled work that they were well fitted to perform. Why the Government decided to order the Australians to leave the field after twenty years of special endeavour is incomprehensible to me. The honorable member for Barker pointed out that the Chinese failed from the beginning. They went on strike, demanding special food and machinery.
– They must have heard of the coal-miners.
– They had an extraordinarily bad record. They produced only one-sixth of the output of the Australian gougers. The Government owes a lot to those old fellows who worked on the field for twenty years. Their patriotism cannot be questioned. They are anxious to secure wolfram, which is urgently required for the war effort. When they were ordered to leave the field, they were producing wolfram faster than any one else has since been able to mine it. I appeal to the Prime Minister to see that justice is done to these men. The statement read by the Minister for Munitions - and read badly - indicates that their case has not been treated with sympathetic consideration.
– Order! The honorable member has exhausted his time.
– I have the deepest sympathy for the men who work in Central Australia and elsewhere in the outback parts of this continent. I also feel particularly Sympathetic towards the constituents of the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Blain). Anything that the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) has done in their interests warrants my serious consideration.
The reply which has been furnished by the Department of Supply and Shipping is, I think, adequate in the circumstances. At the same time, some injustice to some men may have arisen from what was done as the result of the use of the labourers who were brought here. But honorable members must have the whole of the circumstances well in mind before they judge the matter. Wolfram has not a profitable market except in war-time. But it is very valuable to those industries that are accelerated as the result of war conditions. My information is that prior to 1938, the field was entirely unprofitable. The price of wolfram was so low that those workers could hardly get a living. Many of them were of the nomadic type, men who mix this kind of work in that part of Australia with such other kinds of work as are usually offering in places far distant from centres of population. Two questions arise. First, 50 men of the nomadic type were engaged in gouging on this particular field. It was decided that the quantity of wolfram which was being secured could perhaps be increased if a batch of labour which was made available in Australia by what occurred in the Pacific were used. Difficulty arose over the refusal of the white workers to work with the Chinese labourers who had come to this country. There was hostility by all the white workers. We had tried to find work elsewhere for the Chinese on the transAustralian railway, and also on the North-South railway, and had met with many problems. Finally the Government considered that if the Chinese were reasonably treated, they could be put to work on the wolfram fields. When the Chinese were sent to the wolfram fields, the 50 white workers were transferred to mica fields not far away, and they went there voluntarily.
– After they were “ turfed “ out.
– Both statements are true.
– But in point of time they were “ turfed “ out first.
– Discussions had taken place with the miners, and they went voluntarily to work on the mica fields. These Chinese had come to us from
Nauru; they were human beings; and they were nationals of a friendly nation which was vigorously fighting with the Allies. The Government desired to do what it could for them. But wherever it tried to find work for them, difficulties arose. It was considered, ultimately, that they could be satisfactorily engaged in this area. This would probably involve some loss to the miners, and that is a matter in regard to which there should be an assessment of compensation. When the honorable member for Barker asked me to arrange for an investigation, I agreed to appoint some one at once, and asked the honorable member to name a person suitable for the job.
– I did not ask the Prime Minister to make an appointment.
– The honorable member and I discussed the subject, and 1 said that I would be agreeable to some independent assessment being made of the compensation that might be due to the miners. Before the inquiry could be instituted news reached me that legal action had been instituted.
– Not by the “ gougers “ ; I knew nothing about it until this afternoon.
– That is another difficulty. The Government was, and is, willing to cause an investigation to be made into the claims of the wolfram miners; but it should be remembered that the men voluntarily went to work on the mica fields. I make it clear to honorable members that I am ready at all times to provide some reasonable means of assessing compensation that should be paid to Australian citizens when the Crown arbitrarily interferes with their employment, or their property, in consequence of war conditions. This applies particularly to persons whose activities are in some remote place, which may be detrimental to their approach to the Government, or to their use of facilities ordinarily available for investigating such matters. The Government was under an obligation to do the best that it could do for the Chinese labourers who had come to this country, and I do not wish to labour that phase of the subject. The Chinese were unaccustomed to this kind of work and they were unaccustomed, also, to Australian supervision and Australian conditions. This made it difficult for the Government to provide suitable employment for them. I believe, however, that they were treated justly. An obligation rests upon the Government, also, to treat the 50 wolfram-miners justly. The work in which they were engaged was unprofitable before the war, but it became profitable after war broke out.
– The matter has been hanging fire for two years.
– The honorable member for Barker brought it to my notice only about five or six weeks ago, and I at once undertook to cause an investigation to be made, but before an assessment of the position was possible, the legal action that I have mentioned had been instituted.
-The Prime Minister’s time has expired.
– Some points require clarification. I do not think that the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) need apologize for seeking to find work for the Chinese labourers; but their employment has disabused the minds of the people of this country that such labour is cheap, for the 500 Chinese miners did not produce as much wolfram as had been produced previously by the 50 white miners. I am amazed to learn that these people, whose reputation for cheap and efficient labour has become a tradition in Australian life, have turned out to be as unprofitable and unruly as any workers of whom we have had any experience. I do not know whether this is due to the conditions that prevailed on the wolfram fields. Wolfram, molybdenum and scheelite are in the same category, and all are vital to certain steel-hardening processes.
– These wolfram fields were not profitable before the war, perhaps because the deposit was not rich enough.
– That may be so, but the output of the 500 Chinese fell lamentably below that of the 50 white miners.
– It must be remembered that, after the war occurred, two things happened in relation to wolfram. One was that the demand for it increased, and the other that the price of it advanced.
– That is so, but there certainly seems to have been a muddle.
– There was no muddle; there may have been an injustice to the 50 miners, and the Government is willing to have that position investigated.
-Were these people lessees or were they working their own shows ?
– Some of them were working their own shows.
– The statement made by the Minister for Munitions (Mr. Makin) does not answer the case of the honorable member for Barker, though I do not blame the Minister for Munitions on that account, for he was dealing with a matter outside his own department. Nevertheless, the explanation of the Government is not satisfactory, as I think the Prime Minister must admit. The white miners should be compensated.
– I have said that the Government is willing to investigate the position, but I point out that the men were transferred to the production of mica which also was in great demand.
– I wish briefly to support the motion. When an assessment is being made of the compensation due to these wolfram-miners, I hope that consideration will be given to the fact that they had been struggling on these fields for twenty years and that they lost their leases just when wolframmining became profitable. The best explanation was that this labour from Nauru was to be used where its use would give rise to very little industrial trouble. We knowthat originally it was used in the laying of a pipe-line in connexion with the Sydney water supply, but owing to an outcry by the present Minister for Transport (Mr. Ward) and others it was diverted to this locality, to the detriment of those who had been working there for a long period. It is all very well to say that these miners went to the mica fields of their own free will. They made a virtue of necessity; they had no means of making a living except at such work as was offered by the Government. I am sure that the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) will give consideration to the facts, and will see that these men receive justice.
.- The Prime Minister (Mr. Cur.tin) has thrown some additional light on this matter, for which the House is grateful. But there are still certain questions which are shrouded in complete vagueness. The Minister for Munitions (Mr. Makin) apparently did not have the necessary information from the Department of Supply and Shipping; consequently, he was not able to give it to the House. I agree with the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) that the question is not one of using Chinese labour; that question does not arise at all. The Government had an immediate problem, a difficult problem, the nature of which I can well understand, and I, for one, will certainly not quarrel with its decision to make whatever use it could of these Chinese who had come here from Nauru. But why 50 men, who by long experience had become experts in that particular part of the country, were summarily ejected from the wolfram field, is still not clear to me. It does not appear that any particular survey was made, either by or on behalf of the Government, as to the possibilities of extending that field; indeed, the statement of the Minister for Munitions was rather to the contrary, because it indicated that time did not permit the making of a survey, and when operations were begun with the Chinese labourers it appeared that a great deal of developmental work would have to be done. There we have a sign of hasty movement by the Administration. That the movement was a failure is abundantly clear; because, with all these additional men, there was a very marked reduction of the product. It may be that the quantity of wolfram produced from time to time is affected by the price. I can well understand that; and I shall be very glad if somebody, speaking on behalf of the Government, can tell us, for example, what the price of wolfram was at some comparable place in 1940, 1941 and 1942. Such information may throw some light on this matter. I am asking for light because, like others who have listened to this discussion, I believe that some light ought to be cast on the matter. The honorable member for Barker (Mr.
Archie Cameron) is unquestionably correct in bringing this matter before the House; because there can be no doubt that our absent colleague, the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Blain), would himself have brought it before the House long ago hadhe been free to do so. As his voluntary representative, my colleague from Barker is justly entitled to raise the matter.
But there is another matter about which I should personally like some information. We were told by the honorable member for Barker that this camp - to use a compendious term - and with it some other commodities, were destroyed by fire. The Minister for Munitions, I thought - and I tried to follow his statement - began by saying that the Government had laid out substantial sums in providing accommodation for these Chinese.
– I did not say that.
– I understood the honorable gentleman to say so.
– It was equal to £1 a man.
– As the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) says, the accommodation provided for these men cost £1 a man; because we are now told that the destruction of the camp - and I suppose that that means the entire camp; one can hardly conceive of a health officer ordering the burning down of only half a camp - involved a loss of not more than £500. That is a little difficult to swallow. I say that without offence to the Minister, who has no personal knowledge of the matter; doubtless, no more than I have. It seems very curious that a camp providing for 500 men messing equipment, hospital accommodation, and all that sort of thing, should, when destroyed, represent a loss of only £500. If my recollection of central Australian problems stands for anything, it indicates that the cost of transporting materials to that place is approximately five times as much as the prime cost of the materials. Are we, then, to understand that the quantity of material involved was of the order of £100? I should very much like the Prime Minister himself to satisfy his mind upon that matter; and if, at some future date, he can give to us further information which will satisfy our minds, I, for one, shall be very much relieved.
– The Minister for Munitions (Mr. Makin) assured us that he was going to give the House a full and satisfactory explanation of the whole affair, but he failedto do so. I was pleased to observe that the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) himself was not able to accept his Minister’s explanation as satisfactory, because he indicated that it is proposed to give some measure of justice to men who have undoubtedly been the victims of a grave injustice. It has been said that, before the war, wolfram was not a very valuable article.
– No, I said that it was not profitable to work it on that field.
– Then I misunderstood the right honorable gentleman. I was going to point out that I have figures here showing that 239.2 tons of wolfram produced in Tasmania was sold for £67,436. The honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) made three charges. He said that Australians had been dispossessed of their mines; that the production of wolfram, a commodity in urgent demand at the time, had decreased by83 per cent. on this field ; and that two out of three batteries used by the white miners at the time they were dispossessed were not fit for service when the mines were returned to them. Strangely enough, the statement read by the Minister for Munitions carefully evaded those three points. He did admit that the output from the field was unsatisfactory - he said, I think, that it was disappointing. The result must also have been disappointing to the dispossessed miners who had been doing a very satisfactory job under extremely difficult conditions. It is also unsatisfactory that a number of persons, brought to Australia as evacuees, should have been sent to that lonely outpost under such conditions. No one on this side of the House will quibble about those people having been brought here. As a matter of fact, we applaud the Government for having done so, but it ought to have been possible to find employment that would have been remunerative to them and useful to Australia’s war effort. Instead of that being done, they were committed to this sorry enterprise, so that, at a time when wolfram was badly needed, the production from this field declined by 83 per cent., although ten times as much labour was employed as before the Government assumed control from private enterprise.
The very least the Government can do is to compensate the dispossessed miners fully for the loss they have sustained, including the damage to their plant. No one can object to work having been provided for the Chinese evacuees, but, surely, in a country as large as Australia, it should have been possible to find employment for them in a place which, while being more or less isolated, would have made it .possible to obtain some return from their labour as compensation for their maintenance. I believe that the honorable member for Barker has rendered a service in bringing this matter to the attention of the House. Such a state of affairs should not have persisted for one month, let alone twelve months. The statement that the buildings on the field were burned for health reasons-
– They were not buildings; they were tents.
– The honorable member for Barker received a letter some months ago saying that the fire got out of control, and burned some buildings which it had not been intended to destroy.
– The total value of the buildings so destroyed was about £170.
– I am afraid that the Minister’s estimate is no more reliable than his statement that he proposed to give a full and satisfactory explanation of the affair. If he has such an explanation, I ask him to give it. He has not done so yet.
.- I draw the attention of the House to the treatment of an unrepresented minority in this country. If those miners had belonged to a trade union in the electorate of almost any member of this House, but particularly an electorate represented by a supporter of the Government, and had been dispossessed without compensation, and driven off the field where they had been working, the shriek raised in this House would have been heard all over Australia.
– The honorable member may be assured of this : Those 50 workers in central Australia are as much my concern as they are his.
– I do not dispute that. I can see that, since the matter has been brought under the notice of the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin)-
– It was brought under my notice five weeks ago by the honorable member for Barker.
– I wish to draw attention to the treatment of unprotected individuals by a bureaucratic officialdom. The Minister for Munitions (Mr. Makin) told us that the Government of the United Kingdom had issued an urgent appeal for more wolfram. In spite of this urgency, however, 500 Chinese, during the period February, 1942, “to November, 1943, produced only 17 per cent, of the wolfram produced by 50 Australians during the corresponding period immediately preceding. Apparently, no action was taken by the authorities to improve the production rate, something which, in itself, calls for explanation. We come now to the burning of the buildings. There are wolfram gougers in my electorate, and they live under the meanest conditions. I suppose that the conditions of those similarly employed in central Australia are no better. Therefore, the opportunity to get into decent hutments must have been welcomed. It has been suggested by the Minister that the huts were burned down for hygienic reasons by order of the medical authorities.
– They were not buildings; they were tents.
– We are getting some explanation at last. I gathered from the Minister’s statement that buildings had been erected to provide fairly good accommodation. If they were merely tents I shall not pursue that matter, but it would be another story if they had been galvanized-iron buildings. What I point out to the Prime Minister is that the incident happened in a part of Australia which is unrepresented in this House because the honorable member for the Northern Territory is a prisoner of war. There is another part of Australia in which there is much dissatisfaction with the administration of the Minister in control of it. The inhabitants of the Australian Capital Territory have no means of expressing in this House the difficulties which they experience. I particularly direct the attention of the Prime Minister to that disability.
– The disturbing matter raised by the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) parallels a case in my own electorate, and shows that there is a disposition in Australia to curtail the production of raw materials essential for the development of this young country. The Government closed down the molybdenum mine at Wombah, notwithstanding that it had been proved that at the lower levels it contained valuable deposits of the metal, and transferred the miners to other districts. It justified its action by declaring that we could obtain supplies of molybdenum from the United States of America, but that excuse does not hold water, because whatever shipping space is available should be used for the carriage to Australia of things that we need and cannot produce, not things that we have at hand. My suspicion that the Wombah mine was closed down because of pressure of certain interests overseas is strengthened by the revelation of the honorable member. Not only now but also in the postwar years we ought to do all we can to develop Australian resources. I should like the Prime Minister, when he makes inquiries into the matter raised by the honorable member for Barker, similarly to inquire into the closing down of the mine at Wombah.
Question resolved in the negative.
Motion (by Mr. Curtin) proposed -
That Standing Order 70 - eleven o’clock rule - be suspended for the remainder of this week.
– Before this matter is voted upon I hope that the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) will be able to give some information about the proposed business of the House. There has been some discussion outside the
House about the possibility of our finishing our work this week, but I notice that the next four motions of which notice has been given relate to new bills. We have already before us bills which represent orders of the day Nos. 1 to 8 inclusive. Also on the notice-paper are the Australian-New Zealand Agreement and the Canadian Mutual Aid Agreement. Both are of far-reaching importance, and it is proper that the House should discuss them. I do not know what the Prime Minister has in mind. It may be that some of the bills included in the first eight orders of the day will not be proceeded with to finality in these sittings. If that is the intention, I can understand the newspaper prediction that this sessional period may end this week. I invite the Prime Minister to tell the House what bills he. proposes to dispose of during these sittings and also what days and hours he proposes that we should sit. There are very disagreeable rumours - and I hope that rumour is a lying jade on this occasion - that we must prepare for a perfect orgy of all-night sittings; but I point out to the Prime Minister that several of these bills relate to new principles that merit the best discussion that this House can give them and that it is not my experience that the House gives of its best at 3 or 4 o’clock in the morning. In addition, there are the two treaties or agreements to which I have referred which also merit the best discussion. I do not raise this matter contentiously ; but, if the Prime Minister can, before the question is put, give us some information about what he has in mind, we shall be able to prepare accordingly.
.- I support the request of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies). Proper consideration of measures would be helped if the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) could give at least 24 hours’ notice of the measures which he proposes that the House shall deal with on any given day. It would also be of some help if we were told what measures are to stand over.
.- I agree with the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) and the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page). Will the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) tell us for how long we shall sit? There is a rumour of long sittings this week. I consider that, regardless of “the Prime Minister’s going abroad, the Parliament should continue to sit. That is the only way in which a check can be kept on the actions of Ministers and the bureaucracy which has so much to do with churning out the fiats and regulations which control Australia. I remind the Prime Minister that the House of Commons sat throughout the “ blitz “, not always in the same place. There is no reason why this Parliament should not sit more than it does, in order that honorable members might be able to guard against the rights of the people being swept aside. For example, since this war began, the War Service Homes Commission has built only two homes for men discharged from the present forces, and thirteen for men who fought in the last war. The commission has not announced any policy for the future. When asked the reason for this dilatoriness, the Prime Minister said very emphatically that materials were not available. But when we returned to our constituencies at the week-end, we heard on the radio an announcement by the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holloway) of a grandiose scheme of house construction. This is all to the good; but announcements of that kind should be made in the Parliament. I heard that 1,000 homes were to be built in various States; that announcement conflicts with the statement of the Prime Minister that no building materials are available.
– The honorable gentleman asked me the reason for the housing shortage, and I explained that the war required the materials that in normal times would be used for the construction of homes. That is different from what will happen in the next few years.
– That is not exactly so. I asked questions for the purpose of ascertaining what the War Service Homes Commission is doing. I learnt that the staff numbers about 123 persons, including a commissioner, six deputy commissioners, six architects, and 100 clerks and typists. What is the commission’s building programme? That is one of the matters about which we shall be left in doubt when the House rises. Therefore, I suggest that the session should continue. A reasonable recess may be granted to allow honorable members to visit their constituencies, but the Parliament should be summoned during the winter even though the Prime Minister be absent, so that honorable members may learn what the Commonwealth Government is doing.
.- It may shorten this discussion if the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) will reply to the questions that the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) has put to him, because the rumours which have been circulating are such as to give members of the Opposition a good deal of concern. I have no desire, any more than the Prime Minister and the Government, have, to remain at work in Canberra any longer than is reasonable and necessary to deal with the important business on the notice-paper, because we have other duties to perform in our electorates. But I endorse what the Leader of the Opposition has said regarding the importance of matters now on the noticepaper. For example, there is the Unemployment and Sickness Benefits Bill. In normal times honorable members would deliberate upon this measure for two or three months. I recall the long debates in which honorable members engaged when the national insurance proposals were under consideration some years ago.
– What is the honorable member’s schedule? If we devote two or three months to the consideration of the Unemployment and Sickness Benefits Bill, how long shall we set aside for a discussion of the Australian-New Zealand Agreement and for each of the other items on the notice-paper?
– The Prime Minister is being heavily humorous. I said that in another period of the Parliament, a measure of that description would engage the attention of honorable members for two or three months, just as a tariff schedule in the past has occupied us for six, eight or twelve weeks. We are not asking for that. What we do ask is that measures of importance shall not be jammed through this House during an all-night sitting this week. Honorable members on this side of the chamber require from tlie Government a reasonable undertaking that they will be given an opportunity to debate these measures properly.
Another point which the Government should not overlook is that the Opposition is a small band. In fact, we are smaller than would appear from a glance around the chamber, because we are divided, for purposes of considering this legislation, into two groups.
– Three groups.
– That interjection serves to strengthen my contention. The Minister for Home Security may try to derive some amusement from that circumstance ; I do not propose to discuss the merits or otherwise of the situation. But it is relevant to point out to” the Prime Minister that the fact that these measures must be considered by a relevantly small number of honorable members in the opposition party groups, means that it is almost impossible for us to give to them proper consideration unless a reasonable amount of time is granted to us. I, for one, shall certainly protest in the most vigorous manner if I consider that these measures are to he jockeyed through this House during one or two all-night sittings this week. Honorable members should he allowed a proper opportunity to debate them.
– Personally, I am not greatly worried about the 11 o’clock rule, provided honorable members are given prior notice of measures that the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) desires to introduce. But I am concerned about all-night sittings. The one point which the Prime Minister and I have in common is our absolute passion for all-night sittings. As the right honorable gentleman has led an austerity campaign for a good while, he and I should conspire to deny ourselves all-night sittings for the next couple of weeks. But if we insist upon having all-night sittings, we should reduce our enjoyment of those excellent things to one night a week.
– Every section of the Opposition desires to assist the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin).
– Honorable members opposite are protesting too much.
– We want to assist the right honorable gentleman to prepare himself for the big job that lies ahead of him, and to fit himself efficiently to carry out the important duty of representing the Commonwealth when he goes abroad. It cannot be said that the all-night sitting of this eh amber last week was due to obstruction by the Opposition. The Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) had to give of his best and, I believe, he carried out a very big job. I did not happen to be here. During the whole of the night he gave to the people, through Hansard, excellent explanations, from his point of view, of the Government’s proposals for constitutional reform. But those explanations, not the Opposition, were responsible for detaining the House until breakfast-time. In fact, the Opposition for a period showed its readiness to assist the Attorney-General to complete the sitting. In view of our assurances that we shall not harass the Prime Minister, I am sure that the right honorable gentleman will agree to extend the present sittings of the House for several days in order to avoid all-night sittings. Matters of great importance have yet to be considered.
– During the first five weeks of this parliamentary period, we dealt with only two bills.
– As the honorable member spoke on two occasions, he must bear his share of the responsibility for any delay. The Opposition desires to submit amendments to a number of bills. It also intends to press for the release of additional men from the Army to engage in primary production, and for a more liberal distribution of motor tyres and spare parts, urgently required by primary producers. But we shall not delay the proceedings if the Government acts reasonably. The Opposition will co-operate with the Prime Minister to dispose of important legislation, and we hope that the Government will not subject us to the ordeal of repeated all-night sittings until all business is completed.
– in reply - I could understand this criticism if the orders of the day had appeared to-day or yesterday for the first time.
– Some of them have.
– That is not so. There are, of course, four notices of motion for the introduction of bills, but some of those measures will not be contentious and will not require long explanations or extensive deliberation. But the orders of the day relate to legislation which honorable members have already fully considered, I am quite sure, and each of them is eager to make the speeches that he has already prepared in reference to them.
– Every one of the orders of the day has been before the House for a considerable period. The bills have been circulated and the ministerial explanations have been given, with only one exception, namely, the Widows’ Pensions Bill, upon which the AttorneyGeneral (Dr. Evatt) has yet to make his second-reading speech. The House, I am sure, is quite ready not only to debate these matters, but also to determine them. If I had come to this House for the first time this afternoon, I should have been most impressed by the representations of honorable members opposite; but I have been here for so many years that I am quite unimpressed by them.
– What legislation does the Prime Minister desire the House to deal with?
– The orders of the day and the bills, of which notice has been given. I do not wish honorable members to work night after night. The 11 o’clock rule will be suspended only for this week. I do not propose to ask the House to sit’ without reasonable intermission for rest and reflection until all this business has been completed. I do not think that the House has ever been required to sit through two consecutive nights since I became Prime Minister. But as a member of the Opposition, I was called upon to do so.
– Does the Government propose that this period of the session shall end this week?
– It is impossible for me to answer that question. In view of the experience I have had, I cannot, at this stage, fix a time for terminating the work of the period. The Government desires the Parliament to pass the bills that are on the notice-paper, and, looking at the list, it does not appear likely to me that that can be done this week, especially if on each sitting day two or three hours are to be occupied in reaching the orders of the day. All I have to say now is that the time occupied in reaching government business will have to be made up at night.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Motion (by Mr. Chifley) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act to amend the Entertainments Tax Assessment Act 1942.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
– by leave - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
Experience in the administration of the Entertainments Tax Assessment Act. since its inception in October, 1942, has revealed certain weaknesses both in the liability provisions and in the machinery provisions relating to the collection of tax and the enforcement of the law. In order to give adequate protection to the revenue it has been found necessary to seek amendments of the law to remove those defects.
The principal weakness discovered relates to the liability for tax in respect of charges paid by patrons of dances. Where a patron of a dance pays one fixed amount which entitles him to both entertainment and refreshment, and the refreshment is subordinate to the entertainment, the law gives clear authority for collection of tax upon the total payment made by the patron, even though a substantial part of the payment might be attributable to refreshments. This being so, it was intended that the tax should also fall upon separate charges for refreshment supplied at such entertainments, otherwise the tax would be clearly inequitable in its incidence. A recent decision in the Supreme Court of
Queensland, however, indicates that this intention was not effectuated by the law. It was decided by that court, in the case before it, that tax is not payable in respect of separate charges for refreshments served at certain dances. Patrons of these dances pay a fixed price for admission and, as and when they so desire, they may obtain refreshments on the premises upon payment of separate charges therefor.
The serving of refreshments at dances is regarded as a normal part of the entertainment. It is customary, in regard to balls and certain other dances, to charge a fixed price which entitles the patron not only to be admitted to the entertainment but also to be served with supper or other refreshment free of extra charge. Traditionally, supper has become an integral part of such entertainments. .It is true that the conditions under which refreshments are served at dances vary in particular cases. In some instances a separate charge is made for all refreshments; in other cases the initial payment covers admission and certain refreshments, whilst additional refreshment may be obtained upon payment of separate charges. There are also great differences in the amounts charged for entertainment and refreshment at various establishments. There are luxurious cabarets and night clubs in. which the charges are very substantial. In other cases the price of admission and the supply of refreshments are on a modest scale.
It is impossible to justify the taxing of composite charges which carry a right of refreshments without further charge, unless the tax is levied also upon separate charges for refreshment. If the tax is not so levied, it is obvious that promoters of entertainments, who have hitherto charged composite amounts for entertainment and refreshment, will consider the division of their charges between entertainment and refreshment so as to secure freedom from tax on payments attributable to the latter. This would involve substantial loss of revenue.
It is proposed, therefore, to amend the law to give clear authority, as originally intended, for the taxing of charges for refreshment, served at dances, whether or not such charges are separate from the charge for admission. The Government, however, has borne in mind the fact that there are certain dances conducted regularly by small associations or clubs, the price of admission for which is very modest, and refreshments are supplied on a small scale for very moderate charges. The Government has no desire to cause the tax to fall on the charges for refreshment in cases of this type. It is, therefore, proposed that the tax shall not apply to charges for refreshment supplied at any entertainment where the Commissioner of Taxation is satisfied that the average total amount which will be paid by each patron for entertainment and refreshment will not exceed 3s.
It is proposed that the tax shall apply to charges for refreshment served at all classes of entertainments where the Commissioner is of opinion that the refreshments are subordinate^ related to the entertainment. This will include refreshments served at dances, card parties and skating rinks. As hitherto, the tax will, however, not apply to charges for refreshments served at other forms of entertainment such as picture theatres, race meetings, football matches, and carnivals, as the obtaining of refreshments at such entertainments is regarded as separate from and not an integral part of the entertainments.
In order to obviate misunderstanding by the proprietors of entertainments at which refreshments are served, it is proposed that liability for tax on the charges for refreshments will arise only after service of notice to that effect upon the proprietor by the Commissioner, except in cases where the proprietor fails to register the entertainment for entertainments tax purposes, or fails to advise the Commissioner of his intention to serve refreshments, and of the conditions under which those refreshments will be served. A proprietor who so fails to meet his obligations under the law will not thereby obtain relief from tax.
In the absence of any special provision to the contrary, it would be necessary for the proprietor of a dance to have a record of all amounts expended by each patron on refreshments in order to determine the amount of tax payable. This arises from the fact that, under the existing law, the tax is not imposed at a flat rate; the rate increases as the charges increase. It is impracticable for proprietors to keep a record of payments by individual patrons, and for this reason it is proposed that the following special rates of tax shall apply to separate payments for refreshments: -
Where the charge is not less than 3d.but does not exceed 4d. - Tax1d.
Where the charge exceeds 4d. but does not exceed 54d.- Tax11/2d.
Where the charge exceeds 51/2d. but does not exceed 71/2d. - Tax 2d.
Where the charge exceeds 71/2d. but does not exceed 1 11/2d. - Tax 3d.
Where the charge is1s. or over - Tax at ordinary rates now in force.
This special scale will greatly facilitate the calculation of the tax by the proprietor, and will enable him readily to pass on the tax in respect of each individual charge. He will know, for example, that for each charge of 6d. for refreshments the tax is 2d., regardless of what other payments have been or will be made by the particular patron.
In order to prevent evasion of tax on charges for refreshments by the transfer of catering rights by the proprietor of an entertainment to some other person who would act on his behalf, it is proposed that, wherethe catering rights are so transferred, the actual supplier of the meals and other refreshments shall be responsible for tax on payments for all refreshments served by him on the premises to persons taking part in the entertainment.
Another purpose of the bill is to give clear authority for the levying of tax upon payments for amusement at parks where a number of amusement facilities of different kinds are conducted. In 1925, when the former Commonwealth Entertainments Tax was in operation, the High Court decided, by a majority, that Luna Park Limited was obliged to furnish returns and pay tax in respect of payments for admission to the amusements conducted by it, even though individual payments for particular amusements were less than the minimum taxable amount of1s. It was clear that many persons patronized more than one amusement, and paid amounts totalling more than1s. In effect the court decided that, where the total amount paid by any person for amusement exceeded 1s., tax was payable. Following upon this judgment, the company agreed to lodge returns and pay tax on an arbitrary basis designed to arrive at the equivalent of the tax payable in respect of patrons whose payments for admission exceeded 1s. Notwithstanding the authority given by this judgment, there are practical difficulties in the way of collecting tax upon charges for amusement at amusement parks. So as to enable the collection of the tax to proceed smoothly in such cases, it is proposed that all charges of not less than 3d. for amusement at amusement parks shall be subject to tax at the special rates which I have announced in regard to charges for refreshments. Although this proposal involves the taxing of individual charges below1s. in the case of amusement parks, it should be borne in mind that the average patron of these places of amusement pays a total amount of more than1s. for what is, after all, only one entertainment, because either he patronizes more than one of the amusement facilities, or he patronizes one of those facilities more than once. For the purposes of entertainments tax, therefore, he should be no better off than a person who pays1s. or more in one payment for entertainment. The rates proposed are so fixed as to enable proprietors readily to pass on the tax to patrons. It is not proposed that the tax shall fall upon payments made by way of inserting coins in automatic slot machines designed to provide entertainment. Entertainments tax is intended to be passed on to patrons of entertainments, and it is apparent that proprietors of such slot machines would find it impracticable to pass on tax to persons making use of the machines.
In addition to the proposals I have mentioned, the bill includes a number of machinery provisions which have been found to be necessary in the light of experience in the administration of the law. Briefly, these provisions are modelled on existing provisions of other taxation laws ; they relate to the making of assessments where tax is not paid, also to procedure in regard to prosecutions and penalties, the obtaining of information for the purposes of the law, and the making of refunds of tax overpaid. As in the case of sales tax, it is proposed that refunds of tax overpaid shall be made only where the Commissioner is satisfied that the tax has not been passed on to patrons of the entertainments in question. To give refunds in other circumstances would be to give an unwarranted bonus to the proprietor of the entertainment. In committee, I shall be pleased to give any explanation which honorable members may desire in respect of the individual machinery provisions. I commend the bill to honorable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr. White) adjourned.
Motion (by Mr. Scully through Mr. Chifley) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act to repeal the Wheat Tax (War-time) Act 1940 and the Wheat Tax (War-time) Assessment Act 1940.
Motion (by Mr. Scully through Mr. Chifley) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act to provide for” the granting of assistance to wheat-growers.
Motion (by Mr. Scully through Mr. Chifley) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act to amend the Wheat Industry (Wartime Control) Act 1939-1940.
In Committee of Ways and Means:
– I move -
That, on and after the date fixed by Proclamation under the Act to be passed to give effect to this resolution, in lieu of the rates imposed by the Entertainments Tax Act 1942, the rates of the entertainments tax be -
That, for the purposes of the foregoing resolution, the expression “ Entertainments Tax Assessment Act 1942-1944” means the Entertainments Tax Assessment Act 1942 as proposed to be amended by the Entertainments Tax Assessment Bill 1944.
This motion is complementary to the Entertainments Tax Assessment Bill which has already been introduced and explained. Under that bill, liability for entertainments tax is placed upon certain payments by the patrons of amusement parks, and payments for refreshments which form part of the entertainment provided at dances, cabarets, night clubs, and certain other forms of entertainment.
It is necessary that .Parliament shall declare the rates of tax which shall be payable upon the payments referred to. These rates are specified in the third column of the schedule to the resolution. This is the only alteration which it is proposed to make to the schedule. The rates of tax payable in respect of all other entertainments remain unaltered and are specified in the second and th»«i columns of the schedule. As these rates are precisely the same as those specified in the existing schedule to the rates act, they do not call for further comment. The altered schedule will come into operation on a date to be proclaimed. This procedure is designed to give to taxpayers concerned time to familiarize themselves with the provisions of the law, and to make the necessary arrangements to meet their liability.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Standing Orders suspended; resolution adopted.
That Mr. Chifley and Mr. Frost do prepare and bring in a hill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill presented by Mr.Chifley, and read a first time.
Motion (by Mr. Chifley) proposed -
That the bill be now read a second time.
Debate (on motion by Mr. White) adjourned.
Debate resumed from the 17th March (vide page 1586), on motion by Mr. Chifley -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- This is an amending bill, which deals with various aspects of the Income Tax Assessment Act. As the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) pointed out, it is essentially one for detailed discussion in committee; consequently, it is not my purpose now to canvass, at any length, the various provisions of it. I shall, however, discuss fully those provisions which come within the category of “ pay-as-you earn “, concerning which there has been so much controversy throughout the Commonwealth. In that respect, the bill introduces novel tax treatment of incomes in this country. Because of that fact, and of its farreaching consequences upon the Australian economy, full deliberation of the matter by this House is necessary. The principle of income tax being based on current earnings is endorsed by all honorable members on this side of the chamber. Need I remind the House that it was a cardinal feature of the programme which we Opposition members submitted to the people of Australia at the recent elections. We had been impressed with the necessity for such a system. That necessity had been borne in upon us by certain war-time developments. Similar developments had affected other English-speaking countries, in which systems of taxation based on current earnings had been introduced. I cast no reflection upon the intelligence of the Australian electorate when I say that this particular item of policy was neither understood nor appreciated by the people as a whole. That is not to be wondered at. Other issues which seemed of greater interest and more immediate moment were engaging their attention. However, it is significant that, in recent months, the strongest public pressure in favour of the introduction of a scheme of this kind has come from the representatives of the wage-earners, and the Government, impressed ‘by that fact, and also, perhaps, by the arguments of the Opposition, has adopted the principle which is embodied in this bill.
I call the attention of honorable members to some war-time developments which made the introduction of this scheme desirable. Since the outbreak of war there have been steep increases of taxation rates. Commonwealth taxation, except on the highest incomes, was not a very important item, for most taxpayers before the war. It was usually very much less than the State income tax, and did not represent any considerable proportion of the taxpayer’s total income. The demands of war-time finance, however, have resulted in progressively steeper increases of taxation rates on both high and low incomes, with the result that Australians are now taxed more highly than the people of any other English-speaking country, not excepting Great Britain. The sharp increases of taxation rates since the outbreak of the war are illustrated in the following table, showing the amount of tax payable in New South Wales and to the Commonwealth on various incomes : -
For the purposes of the table, I chose New South Wales, because, whilst taxation was higher in New South Wales than in Victoria it was lower than in Queensland, and might be taken as a fair average for Australia. Those figures indicate how necessary it was to review our tax collection methods.
Another important factor is the effect of the steep increases which have taken place in probate duties on deceased estates. When the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) was Treasurer, the rates were increased considerably, and at that time we took the view that it was an emergency measure, and that the rates would be reduced after the war. Then, when the present Government came into power, the rates were still further increased, so that now they are just about double what they were before the war. These heavy estate duties can have harmful social consequences in a young and growing country like Australia. I believe that many honorable members favour fairly heavy estate duties, not recognizing the harm that they can do. During the 150 years of its history Australia has been a developing country. We have in Australia no large leisured class living upon income derived from stocks, bonds or shares. When we read that an industrial magnate or a grazier has died and left a considerable estate, our first thought might be that no great harm would be done if the Commonwealth did get a large share of it. The fact is that most people do not leave a large estate in cash. Their estate consists either of landed property or a business which is a going concern.
– Does the honorable member oppose heavy estate duties?
– For the reasons I have mentioned I believe that heavy estate duties can produce undesirable social results. I am not at the moment considering the social justice of the issue. Arguments can be advanced that no one should be allowed to leave to his beneficiaries any considerable estate, but in a young country like this the most harmful effects can be produced if high estate duties are collected on estates which consist not of cash, or easily negotiable securities, but of land or of a business which is a going concern. That is another factor - I do not need to dwell on it now, because there will be other opportunities - but it was an important influence on the Government’s decision to submit this bill to Parliament. The third factor, which, perhaps, is of greater significance for the wage-earning section of the community than any of the others I have mentioned, is the common experience of fluctuations of income, particularly under war conditions. We all have in mind what has been taking, place in the munitions industry. Tradesmen who would normally work a 44-hour week for an award wage have during the war been working long hours of overtime at appropriate penalty rates which double and, in some instances, more than double, their pre-war incomes. They know .that, as their working hours return to normal, their incomes will necessarily fall and they fear that, unless the income tax system be altered, they will have to pay from their reduced earnings tax on the higher amounts they earned in the previous year. That fear is real and is one of the important factors which has influenced the mind of the Government. Another aspect, which, perhaps, is not so well recognized, is that of one-man businesses or partnerships which have either come into existence or developed during the war. I do not refer to companies, because I know that they are outside the ambit of the payasyouearn scheme. Some of those enterprises came into existence to meet a special war-time demand. The opportunity has occurred for people to manufacture many substitute articles which were previously imported or which replace other articles for which materials are no longer available. People have invested capital to purchase equipment and have given their labour knowing that their enterprises would have only a limited life. That healthy development should not be unduly penalized through unfair taxation arrangements. Organizations of that kind will be affected advantageously or disadvantageous^, according, to the scheme of taxation ultimately adopted. I shall have an opportunity to deal with that in more detail later. The final factor which, I believe, influenced the committee responsible for the recommendation adopted by the Government, is incentive. It cannot be denied that what has been happening in the economic field in the last few years has had a deadening effect on incentive. We see evidence of that wherever we turn. Employers in the very high brackets of income are without incentive to risk more capital or devote more energy when they know that their return will be almost wiped out by taxation. Similarly, we have observed a serious decline of output from employees, owing to the absence of incentive. There has developed a challenge to the Government which, unless it be met successfully, will have a damaging effect on the war effort. The Government perhaps had that in mind. I hope it did. I hope that it has recognized the need to restore incentive or give some fillip to it. That is a factor which makes the adoption of a scheme of taxation based on current earnings, highly desirable.
With those factors in mind, I ask the Souse to examine for a moment the scheme which the Government has proposed. How does the scheme measure up to the requirements I have mentioned? Does it represent a complete answer to what we want? Giving due weight to all the factors in the Australian economy I have mentioned, I suggest in all earnestness to the Government that it has made a major economic blunder in its manner of dealing with this matter. I know all the arguments that have been advanced in support of the Government’s proposal. I carefully listened to what the right honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin) had to say. With the opportunity ahead of it to restore incentive or give a fillip to incentive and to give effect to those other factors that I have mentioned, the Government, I submit, has not brought in a scheme which will bring the desired results. It talks about forgiveness of 75 per cent. of the tax for one taxation year. “Forgiveness” is hardly the word to use. The people whose earnings have been confiscated almost entirely in recent years do not like it. In other periods the tax-gatherers were inclined to talk with deference, almost with humility, to those who were subject to their depredations, but the Government has now said it is doing the community a great favour by forgiving 75 per cent. of the tax. Just analyse that! What does it mean? Does it mean that you, and I, or any one else, will be called upon, from now until death, to pay any less tax? I say that it does not.
– The answer is simple. Governments come and go, but every government has a programme for which finance must be raised, by means of taxes, loans, or, perhaps, bank credit in varying degrees. Between now and the death of any one of us the Government will have to finance its annual programme. It will determine annually what part of that programme shall be financed by means of taxation. We shall be called upon to pay our fair share of the tax. I am prepared to accept the proposition that if we pay more to-day under this scheme, we may be called upon to pay less three, four, or five years hence, because the finances the Government has to-day may lessen the amount that it will then require. I do not quarrel with that contention, but as a general proposition we shall not be required to pay one penny more or less over a period under the proposed scheme than we should have been required to pay if it had not been introduced.
– Is the honorable member speaking about existing taxpayers, or the people as a whole?
– Existing taxpayers.
– Well, I think the honorable gentleman is wrong.
-I do not think so. The honorable member is entitled to his opinion. This proposal will not reduce the tax that I shall pay between now and the time I cease to be a taxpayer.
– It will if the honorable gentleman’s income declines. That is the principle of this measure.
– I am speaking in general terms of the taxpaying community as a whole. This proposal will not reduce the amount which the taxpaying community will have to pay. It may mean that next year we shall pay less than this year.
– I agree with the honorable member there.
– I am not misled by any story about “ forgiveness “ of tax or any tale of the “ great benefit “ that the Treasurer is conferring on taxpayers. We shall still be required to pay tax until we cease to have a taxable income.
– People who newly come into the income tax field will begin to pay immediately, and that will be some saving to existing taxpayers.
– Am I expected to shed tears over that?
– The honorable member does not shed tears.
– The present generation of taxpayers, during their effective working life, have had to carry a disproportionate amount of tax. The fact that a lad aged sixteen or seventeen years will begin to pay tax of £4 or £5 a year, twelve months sooner than he would under the existing scheme, does not wring my heart. I am concerned with this matter, not so much as to whether a benefit is being conferred on one group of taxpayers, as with the economic effect upon the development of the country. “What the Government is doing is to increase this year the taxation burden by 25 per cent.
– That is the point!
– The Government is asking taxpayers to carry this burden, although they are shouldering the heaviest taxation in the history of the Commonwealth. I have heard the suggestion that people on the lower ranges of income will not feel this, because they will continue to pay the same deductions. There is a good argument, in terms of social justice, for taxpayers on higher ranges of income being asked to pay an additional 25 per cent, of tax; but this matter cannot be looked at solely in terms of social justice. The Government must have some regard to its effect upon the economic structure of the Commonwealth. If people who are now paying at the rate of 18s. 6d. in the £1 are made to pay at a rate exceeding 20s. in the £1 for the next three years, the Government will not lay a good foundation for its reconstruction programme. Those people will not have an opportunity to invest capital. They will not have any incentive to risk their capital or to apply their energies and enterprise in future. Quite apart from incentive, what will happen to the businesses which these people control? In recent years the Taxation De,partment has acted on our industrial system like a leech. It is sucking the lifeblood of our industrial economy.
– It is sucking that lifeblood more quickly than would a leech.
– Some of our industries are becoming very anaemic, and I do not see any prospect of their speedy convalescence.
– Last year some of the honorable member’s colleagues referred to dangers of inflation, because they considered that taxation was not sufficiently high.
– Members of the Opposition have never suggested that the higher ranges of income were not being sufficiently taxed. The honorable gentleman himself has admitted that taxation on the higher ranges of income has reached saturation point. We regard taxation in Great Britain as being heavy. But whereas a citizen of Great Britain, with an income of £10,000 a year, retains, under the present scale, more than £3,000, an Australian citizen with a similar income retains less than £2,000. In addition, the citizen of Great Britain will receive a post-war war credit, which will amount to a considerable sum.
– Does the honorable member consider that any benefit will be conferred by this bill upon taxpayers? If so, does that benefit have any present value ?
– If I had to elect between5 accepting the existing scheme and the Government’s proposals, I should prefer to select the present system. I know that the honorable gentleman will say that the benefit arises from the effect on deceased estates. But whereas in the past, one would have hope of a reduction of the heavy rates applying to deceased estates, I believe that they will not be reduced if this scheme comes into operation. The fear expressed by the Leader of the Opposition that the taxation of deceased estates may be increased is very real. The present Treasurer may not intend to increase those rates. He may genuinely believe that he is conferring a real benefit upon taxpayers. But this bill will not bind a Commonwealth Treasurer fifteen or twenty years hence. To-day, when taxation is at a record level the imposition of an additional burden in order to secure some dubious benefit 30, 40 or 50 years hence, does not read like good business to me.
– When a citizen ceases to earn, he will benefit.
– I do not deny the great benefit of .the principle of payasyouearn. The Opposition is in favour of the principle, and has in the past advocated its adoption. I am not challenging the Government on the principle of the scheme, hut I contend that the Government has spoilt an otherwise excellent plan by the harsh and unnecessary imposition of the 25 per cent, surcharge. Admittedly, the United States of America, Great Britain and Canada did not grant a complete rebate of tax in the year that they adopted payasyouearn; but systems operating in those countries do not provide an exact parallel with the position in Australia. Although a rebate of 75 per cent, was granted in the United States of America, President Roosevelt has tried unsuccessfully for a considerable time to increase the rates of tax to a level that he regards as a proper war-time contribution. The American taxpayer is in a much stronger position to meet thb 2o per cent, impost than is the Australian taxpayer. Canadian taxpayers were forgiven 50 per cent, of a year’s tax, but one-third of the total taxes collected under the present arrangement is returnable to taxpayers as post-war credits.
– The rebates do not apply to post-war credits.
– No, but the Canadian taxpayer is in a much better position to meet the additional impost when he knows that after the war he will receive an amount that will restore his capital position.
– He will not receive any more in his pay envelope at the present time.
– The rates of tax in Canada are not so high as they are in Australia, particularly on the higher ranges of income. In Great Britain, manual workers were forgiven ten months’ tax and other employees were forgiven seven months’ tax. There again, we must remember that the British taxpayers will receive a post-war credit.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
– A further provision of the bill to which I shall devote some attention, although perhaps it could be dealt with more effectively in committee, is that which relates to rebates in regard to unscrupulous taxpayers, who might be seeking to take unwarranted advantage of the general scheme, and .to persons, who may have had “windfall” income in the period in question. The committee which reported on this subject made certain recommendations to the Government in order to guard against improper advantage being taken of the rebate provision. The suggestion, as I understand it, is that where there has been a windfall income which has inflated the normal income, a taxpayer should not be entitled to enjoy the benefit of a full 75 per cent, rebate based on that windfall, but only a reasonable proportion of it should be brought into account. I make it clear that the Opposition accepts the force o’f the argument in the report of the committee that where there has been an improper manipulation of accounts by a taxpayer, or where there has been an abnormal accretion of income due to an unexpected windfall, appropriate provision should be made to ensure that inequity does not result. But in striving to avoid inequity in respect of these two classes of taxpayers, care must be taken that injustice shall not be done to other classes of taxpayers. I have indicated privately to the Treasurer the views I hold on this subject, and I now submit them to honorable members for consideration in the time available before the bill reaches the committee stage.
The Government is proposing to give a rebate of 75 per cent, of the tax that such taxpayers would normally be called upon to pay in the year 1943-44, but it says, “ We will limit the rebate in the case of incomes which represent an increase of 20 per cent, or more over the income for 1942-43. We shall do this in order to safeguard the public revenue against manipulations or windfall income.” That has a certain specious appearance of fairness about it, but it may cause considerable embarrassment to taxpayers who cannot by any sound judgment be deemed to fall within the two classes I have mentioned. Let me take the case of a one-man business, or a partnership established just before the war, or just after the war, which may suffer serious damage by the Government’s proposal. I refer to such a business as might have been started in Australia, to meet war demands. Shortages of materials may have been disclosed in certain lines of business, due to the cessation of imports, or for other reasons, and a business may have been established under considerable stress to meet this circumstance. Obviously such a business would have only a limited time in which to exploit the unusual market, for, with the return of normal conditions, raw materials and overseas imports would again become available. The people interested in these businesses - and I am speaking of unincorporated bodies - have been willing to take the risk, and in doing so they have rendered a service to the general community by making available commodities which are in great demand. In the first year such a business would be passing through its development stage and might make no profit whatever; in the second year, 1942-43, it might earn a profit of £2,000; in the third year, 1943-44, it might earn a profit of £5,000. This, of course, is the crucial year in respect of this legislation. On its £5,000 income the organization would be taxed at the rate for £5,000. It would be given a rebate of 75 per cent, of the taxation on only £2,400, because its profit in. 194’2-43 was only £2,000; it would have to meet tax on the remaining £2,600 of its 1943-44 income. It would also have to budget for taxation on £5,000 for 1944-45. I submit that it would be entirely unfair to treat such an organization in that way. The income of £5,000 in 1943-44, as against £2,000 in 1942-43, was not unreasonable in view of the circumstances of the company. In such a case the organization would be using its capital to develop and expand in the first year or two of its operations, and it would have no liquid resources. It would be unfair, therefore, to compute its income tax on the basis of an income of £5,000 for 1944-4’5, and yet call upon it to pay as heavily as I have indicated in respect of the year 1943-44. Such a procedure would have a crippling effect upon many small organizations and would greatly restrict their post-war activities. I suggest to the Treasurer that, just as he has provided that the Commissioner of Taxation shall have a discretion in the case of abnormally low incomes in the year preceding the income year for the purposes of this bill, so a discretion should be given in respect of abnormally high income. If that policy be good administration in one case, it should be good in the other. In both eases a right of appeal should be permitted. Such a provision would be infinitely preferable to the automatic provision of the bill which imposes ‘the tax ostensibly only in cases of improper manipulation of accounts or “ windfall “ income, but which, as I have pointed out, will also adversely affect other abnormal, but legitimately earned income. I hope that the Treasurer will be able to give sympathetic consideration to this suggested amendment. [Extension of time granted.]
I revert, in conclusion, to a consideration of certain points with respect to the alleged forgiveness of 75 per cent, of tax. Surely the Government cannot fail to be impressed by the weight of the opposition to its proposal. It should apply the rebate to the whole of the tax. It has been stated that when pay-as-you-earn taxation was adopted in certain other countries, such as Great Britain, Canada and the United States of America, a full rebate of 100 per cent, was not allowed, but the circumstances of those countries differ from those of Australia. In the United States of America, for example, the same high rates of taxation do not apply as those which apply in Australia. Therefore, the burden did not fall so heavily upon taxpayers. In Canada, according to information supplied to me, one-third of the taxation collected, is returnable by way of post-war credits. In Great Britain a considerable proportion of the tax collected is also returnable under a system of post-war credits. In addition the rates of tax in Great Britain, although heavy, do not compare with the rates on incomes in the higher ranges in the Commonwealth. I urge that a 100 per cent, rebate be allowed not only on the grounds of social justice to the taxpayers, but also on a coldblooded analysis of economic factors. If the Government persists with its present proposal it will deprive Australian industry of resources which would otherwise be available to it in the post-war period. If the present scheme be insisted upon businesses will not be able to pro vide proper reserves. Although the Government may collect an additional amount in taxation at present, it will do so at the cost of future development in this country, and that, I submit, would be a short-sighted policy. The Treasurer has been too ready to seize upon the attractiveness of conserving £15,000,000 in taxes which will be collected under the instalment system from salary and wage earners during the last three months of this financial year, and has given too little consideration to the results of the imposition of this additional 25 per cent, of taxation over the whole of the remaining tax-field. There are many other ways in which the revenue position could be safeguarded. The taxpayer could be given either a credit over a period of years, or a post-war credit which would return to him the amount he had paid in advance. There are other methods which will suggest themselves to honorable members. I assure the Treasurer in all earnestness that he is doing a disservice to the industrial community, and through it to the community generally, by imposing this additional burden. The country feels strongly on the matter
– Because it has been entirely misled by false statements.
– I cannot accept that assertion. Surely the Treasurer will concede that a taxpayer who is not a wage or salary earner -will be required to pay an additional 25 per cent, in one year! That cannot be disputed.
– I dispute it.
– The bill employs the language “ additional assessment “. Any taxpayer knows that if it becomes law he will be required to pay in one twelvemonthly period 25 per cent, more than he would otherwise have to meet.
– That is not the case.
– He will be required to find in the first year and each of the two succeeding years 8^ per cent, more than if the bill were not passed.
– Presumably, because he could not bear the full burden in the one year.
– I have already pointed out that with that increase of 8^ per cent, some taxpayers will be required to pay during the next three years more than 20s. in the £1 on their earnings. The
Melbourne Herald published on the 8th March a table showing the startling effects of this proposition upon the incomes of executives. It pointed out that a man earning a salary of £5,000 a year will, before June, 1945) pay income tax amounting to £4,412, and will have left only £588. A man receiving £1,250 will pay £598, and will have left £652. That is only one of the consequences of this measure.
– Payment out of one year’s income will not be expected; the income for two years may be utilized.
– Surely the honorable member does not overlook the realities! Such a man will find himself in the predicament of having to provide that amount of tax out of his income for one year. It is suggested that he could provide it out of his income for two years. Some honorable members may consider that a man who is left with £1,000 out of an income of £5,000 is well able to take care of himself. But he will have to involve himself in a process of adjustment in order to make his expenditure conform to what will be left to him under the existing rates of tax, and will have to restrict his expenditure in a number of directions; for example, the class of school to which he sends his children, and the style in which they are dressed.
– The point is, what his widow would be required to pay if he died. If it is difficult for him, it would be more difficult for her.
– Obviously the honorable member has allowed himself to be influenced by the plausibility of the right honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin). If the husband has to pay more than 20s. in the £1 for three years in order that the widow may escape payment of tax upon the income he had earned in the year prior to his death, the prospect for her is a melancholy one. Surely the honorable gentleman is not so gullible as to assume that n« future government will increase estate duties! Has the Treasurer undertaken that estate duties will not be increased ?
– Is the honorable member aware that many men pay heavy insurance rates in order that their widows may’ have something at their deaths?
– I am; I know also that the Treasurer recently provided that if insurance premiums were paid by the husband the amount of the policy was to be regarded as a portion of their estate, not that of the widow, as was previously the practice. Consequently, a good deal of that advantage was lost. If this great benefit which allegedly is received be analysed, it will be found to contain two or three “catches”. As I have already pointed out, over a period of years the quantum of tax collected will not be reduced by1s.; whatever government may be in power will levy as much tax as it considers necessary for the purposes of government in any one year. In addition, one of two things can happen: Either estate duties may be increased - and I have already pointed out that they have been doubled for Commonwealth purposes since the beginning of the war - thus offsetting the benefit which it would seem will be enjoyed under the proposition which the honorable member for Richmond has put, or the estate will be of so much greater value because tax has not been levied on the income for the last year. If the estate is liable to probate duty, the amount will.be proportionately heavier, because tax has not been paid. Therefore, in either case the full 75 per cent. will not be gained. If the honorable member believes that within the next 20 or 30 years estate duties will not be increased, then he is very much more gullible and optimistic than I am. A good scheme has been marred by the introduction of this impost. Pay-as-you- earn has been converted to “bleedasyouearn “. I wish it to be clearly understood that I, and I believe every colleague of mine, favour the principle of taxation being based on current earnings. “We have already stated the factors which make that desirable, particularly under war conditions. But we consider that the 25 per cent. surcharge is an unnecessary blemish on a good scheme, and that it does not add to the capacity of the Treasurer to finance the conduct of the war, but will cause great hardship in many Australian homes. I, therefore, move -
That all words after “That” be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the following words: -“this House, while favouring the principle of basing income taxation on current earnings, is of opinion that the bill should be withdrawn and redrafted to eliminate’ those provisions which impose an additional burden of 25 per cent. of taxation by requiring taxpayers to pay, in addition to a current year’s tax, a further levy of 25 per cent. based on incomes earned in the year 1943-44 “.
– This measure establishes a new principle in relation to the basis upon which income tax shall be assessed in order to provide revenue for the Commonwealth. The matter is rather complex, and it has been further confused by a good deal of misunderstanding and lack of consideration of the fundamental factors governing the basis upon which taxation was first levied. I aim to approach its consideration in such a way as to prove helpful to those who will be patient enough to follow my submission of a case which has been prepared after a good deal of study and research. I hope that the House will weigh advantages against disadvantages and arrive at a sound conclusion on balance. I have always believed in the principle of pay-as-you-earn taxation. Indeed, it will be recollected that, with not much success, I embodied this principle in the policy which I enunciated on behalf of the parties that I then had the honour to lead, at the elections that were held on the 21st August last. The system of pay-as-you-earn taxation which I had intended to have implemented was in some respects different from that which is now before the House. I say at the outset that the scheme which we are now considering has advantages which outweigh the disadvantages that must naturally be associated with such an innovation.
It is necessary to clear up what I regard as a grave misunderstanding as to the principles which govern the imposition of taxation in this country. That income tax is a tax upon income, is a truism which was recognized by Act No. 11 of 1943, entitled “ An act to impose a tax upon income “. Section 4 of that act enacted -
Income tax is imposed at the rates declared in this act.
Section 7 enacted -
The tax imposed by this act shall be levied and paid for the financial year beginning the first day of July, One thousand nine hundred and forty-three.
I emphasize the words “levied and paid “. The Oxford Dictionary dennes levy “ as “ collection or imposition “. Therefore, the Income Tax Act 1943 imposed a tax upon incomes at the rates declared in the act, which were to be levied - that is, imposed or collected - and paid for the financial year 1943-44. Section 17 of the Income Tax Assessment Act 1936-1943 provided-
Income tax at the rates declared by the Parliament shall be levied and paid for the financial year commencing on the first day of July, 1030, and for each financial year thereafter upon the taxable income derived during the financial year next preceding the financial year for which it is levied.
That section must be read in conjunction with the definitions given in section 6. I submit that these acts make it clear beyond any doubt that tax is levied in and for each financial year, computed on income derived during the preceding financial year. The tax is assessed on the basis of the previous year’s income, but is paid in and for the current year. This interpretation is borne out by an examination of section 10 (1) of the first federal income tax assessment act, assented to on t’he 13th September, 1915. That section reads -
Income tax shall be levied and paid in and for each financial year upon the taxable income derived by every taxpayer during the period of twelve months ending on the thirtieth day of June preceding the financial year for which the tax is payable.
With reference to taxpayers generally, as distinct from companies, the tax is met out of the income of the year for which the tax is payable. The amount of tax to be levied and paid in 1943-44 by each individual taxpayer out of his 1943-44 income is at present measured by reference to what he earned in 1942-43 - the preceding year. In other words, liability for tax for a given year, say, 1943-44, is calculated on the income of the previous year. Therefore, if the rate of tax is the same, and if the tax is collected over a full twelve months, there should be no present loss of revenue to the Treasury, unless the national taxable income of 1944-45 is less than the national taxable income of 1942-43.
In view of increased government spending, high wages and full employment, national income in 19441-45 will almost certainly show an increase over 1942-43 and preceding years. Consequently, the adoption of a full payasyouearn system would result in a present increase of taxation revenue to the Treasury, provided there were no gap in the collection of instalments. If the yardstick of assessment be increased, and the rates of tax be unaltered, the quantum of tax levied and paid must also show an increase.
The only loss of revenue to the Treasury which would be incurred by the adoption of pay-as-you-earn would occur, first, in the future when it would be spread over many post-war : years, and, secondly, through the non-collection of instalments over the April-June period of 1944. In the first case, the Treasury would show a loss only when the national taxable income declined. The taxpayer would show a corresponding gain only: (a) if his income declined ; (Z>) if he retired; (c) if he died.
Other countries have adopted the pay-as-you-earn scheme, because they found themselves faced with a set of factors similar to those which face the Commonwealth Treasurer. We are told that 1,500,000 out of 2,000,000 taxpayers are employees. After the war, the present huge Commonwealth expenditure will decline, and with it the national wages fund, so that individual earnings must also fall. It is to meet that situation that the payasyouearn system has been introduced in this and other countries. The principle embodied in the scheme is that the taxpayer shall pay his current tax out of his current earnings. If a man’s income declines because of sickness or reduced wages, he will not have to face the hardship of paying out of his smaller income a tax based upon the high income of the previous year. The loss, if any, to the Treasury will be spread over practically a whole generation. Every one will not suffer a simultaneous reduction of income, nor will every one retire at the same time or die at the same time.
Is it to be supposed that the present high rates of income tax will continue in the dim and distant future? If not, the revenue required from taxation will be less, and any loss suffered by the
Treasury in the future can be recouped by an adjustment of rates of tax, which in any case will be less than those imposed at present, because large war expenditure will not have to be met.
In the future, and probably the distant future, the Treasurer will be faced with a decline of the national taxable income. This will, in some measure be due to the adoption of the pay-as-you-earn system. The Treasurer will have to strike certain rates of tax to meet the revenue requirements for that particular year. They will be less than the present rates, because war expenditure will not have to be met, but they will be slightly in excess of those which would have been required had the pay-as-you-earn system not been adopted. Thus, taxpayers in future years will be called upon to meet the revenue loss consequent upon the “forgiveness” by the present Treasurer of 75 per cent. of the 1943-44 income tax. Many of these will be the very same taxpayers who are now led to believe that they are being “forgiven” 75 per cent. of a year’s tax.
However, I propose to show that these future losses will, in many cases, be more apparent than real. Take a person with an income of £400 a year derived from the employment of assets. If he lives for the next twenty years, and if his income remains constant, Treasury revenue will not be affected one penny by the adoption of a full pay-as-you-earn system, until he dies twenty years hence. In each year, without exception, including the year in which full payasyouearn was adopted, he would have paid tax on £400. Immediately on death, however, under the full pay-as-you-earn system, liability for tax would cease, whereas, under the law at present, a full year’s tax on £400 would be payable on his behalf. At a cursory glance, it might be inferred that the Treasury would lose one year’s tax on the £400. This is not so, because where the income derived flowed from the employment of assets as distinct from personal exertion without assets, the Crown obtains the following benefits which outweigh the apparent advantage to the taxpayer: -
The truth of these propositions can be readily demonstrated. Take the case of a person dying on the 30th June, 1945. Under the law existing up to the present, the first tax, for which his estate would be liable, would be that for the financial year 1946-47, but pay-as-you-earn taxation will require the estate to pay tax for the financial year 1945-46, or one year earlier, because the estate earned income in that year.
Again, on the death of a taxpayer on, say, the 30th June, 1945, under the pay-as-you-earn plan, no deduction from the value of his estate for death duty purposes will be allowed, because he will have discharged his income tax liabilities’ in his life-time. Under the law now existing, he would be liable for one year’s tax, and that liability would be deducted when determining the net value of his estate for death duty purposes.
In this particular case, the benefit to a taxpayer whose sole income is from property is illusory; in fact, the scheme operates against the taxpayer. On the one hand, the Crown “ forgives “ 75 per cent. of one year’s income; on the other hand, it brings into being a 100 per cent. tax one year earlier, thereby leaving the taxpayer and his estate worse off by 25 per cent., while on top of that disability, much more will be payable as death duty.
In the case of income from personal exertion, this bill provides that, with regard to wage-earners, a present payment of a premium of 25 per cent. of a year’s tax will ensure the “ forgiveness “ of 75 per cent. of a year’s tax based on the 1943-44 income to become effective at some future time, maybe, next year, maybe, ten, twenty or thirty years hence. The time at which the alleged benefit will be received is ascertainable in respect of a salaried man who is due to retire on a certain date, but in most cases it will be difficult to ascertain when the benefit will accrue, whether on death, in the case of income from personal exertion, or during the years of declining income. Nevertheless, it is certain that any loss to the Crown will be spread fairly evenly over a long period, practically a generation. Over this period, revenue requirements from income tax will have to he met by the taxpayers, including the recoupment to the Treasury of any loss due to the prior introduction of the pay-as-you-earn system. As I have already stated, it is logical to assume that the rates of tax will be less than those payable at present.
However, for every taxpayer who gains a tax advantage on retirement, or because of a declining income, there will be other taxpayers who will have to recoup that loss to the Treasury, by the payment of a slightly higher rate of tax than would otherwise have been the case. ‘ Therefore, it is in the nature of a subterfuge to lead the people to believe that they are being forgiven an amount of tax which can be accurately calculated in pounds, shillings and pence as 75 per cent, of their 1943-44 income. There certainly will be some benefit, but the amount, measured in money, is problematical.
Let us analyse the position in order that we may make an assessment of what the benefit will be. The report of the committee set out that revenue requirements would not permit of the refunding of about £15,000,000 represented in tax deductions made from salaries and wages in the three months which will end on the 30 th June next. I emphasize that the Treasurer, all who have spoken on the Government side, and the committee, have stated, as the only reason for the infliction of a premium for future benefit under pay-as-you-earn taxation, that the revenue requirements of the Commonwealth are such that the Treasury could not afford to forgo that £15,000,000 which will be prepaid in respect of the financial year 19414-45 if pay-as-you-earn taxation be not introduced.
That leads me to touch on the fact that no argument has been advanced as to what is known as the lag period. My own view is that there is no lag, and that the word gives a very loose definition of what the Government has in mind. It all depends on what one calls a lag, but, in my opinion, there has been no year ever since the Commonwealth Government first levied income tax in which taxpayers have not paid income tax, and there has been no year since the introduction of the tax in which the Government has not received, revenue from it. The report said -
The committee, therefore, considers that . . the remaining 75 per cent, of the tax should be cancelled.
It is not a matter of forgiveness or cancellation. It can be best defined as a change of basis. Instead of basing the tax on income earned in the previous year, as it was based when the tax was introduced, the Government will still obtain its revenue in the year in which it is earned as at present, but it’ will be based on the income earned in that year. So, what the Government proposes to do by this measure is to change the yard-stick. Proof of that, if proof be needed, can be found in the truism of accountancy that for every debit there must be a credit. If the Government is to forgo 75 per cent, of its revenue from income tax, the revenue of the Commonwealth must decline by an equivalent amount in the year in which pay-as-you-earn taxation is introduced. I submit that the position will be quite the contrary. How could the Government forgo 75 per cent, of its revenue from the income tax?
– The right honorable gentleman himself proposed the introduction of the pay-as-you-earn principle.
– I am still in agreement with pay-as-you-earn taxation. What I object to is the premium that the people are to be asked to pay. It is out of proportion to the requirements for stabilization of the revenues of the Commonwealth.
– What does the right honorable gentleman say should be paid ?
– The honorable member was a member of the committee which should have arrived at a scientific assessment of what should be paid. It is obvious that the assessment of 25 per cent, of the income tax that would otherwise have been payable was arrived at for no other reason than that the Treasury could not afford to forgo £15,000,000. This is what the committee says -
The Committee had regard to the fact that, of the 2.000,000 persons now liable to pay tax, approximately 1,500,000 are employees. At present the deduction 3’ear in respect of these employees ends on the 31st March, as explained in paragraphs 38 to 40. By the 30th June, 1944, they will have had deductions made from salary and wages of approximately 25 per cent. of thetax payable under the present system for the financial year 1944-45 on the income of the year ended 30th June, 1944. The amount of the deductions made in this period will be about £15,000,000. Revenue requirements would notpermit either of the refunding of this amount or of the cessation of deductions for one quarter of the year.
That was the basis of the assessment of a 25 per cent. premium to be paid now for future benefit. There will be benefits, I concede, but my point of disagreement with the Treasurer and the other members of the committee and honorable members who support this measure is the amount of the premium. I consider that the House should carefully analyse the position to ascertain what is a fair premium for benefit which will be spread over many generations of Australian taxpayers.
– What about the lag?
– The benefit will accrue in the future, but the premium mustbe paid now. Having regard to all. the circumstances, including the financial requirements of the Commonwealth Government, I submit that a premium of 25 per cent. of the tax that would otherwise be levied is too great. Because the Treasurer will get this windfall of £15,000,000 and because employees will have paid 27 monthly instalments in two years, the Government wants to hang on to that £15,000,000 when it gets it between the 1st April and the 30th June. The Government says, “ We must tax all non-employees to a similar extent “. This is what the committee recommended -
How can the Government justify differential treatment of non-employees by spreading their premium over three years ? How can the caucus, much less the Government, justify that? It is poor justice. Persons who have not hitherto been the victims of the unjust collections of taxation–
– The right honorable gentleman introduced the instalment plan. He has now let the cat out of the bag.
– I have let no cat out of any bag. Excess payments of tax were refunded byour Government to the taxpayers. The Labour Government, in its first year of office, also made refunds, but now it retains the money. It finds itself in difficulties because it has not paid the excess payments into a special fund.
The most compelling feature of payasyouearn is that each individual taxpayer is given a security in the nature of an insurance policy. I admit that wholeheartedly. There is no doubt about it. He is assured that, if it so happened that next year, or the year after, or in succeeding years, disaster should befall him and he loses his capacity to earn by personal exertion or dies, he or his family will then be released from the burden of debt now hanging round his neck - namely, liability to pay one year’s tax.
Labour Members. - There is the lag.
– That is the benefit that the taxpayers will receive in the future as it were. The premium which the Government has fixed for this future insurance policy is 25 per cent. of the tax which would have been assessed on the 1943-44 income, payable during April, May and June this year by wage-earners, and payable over a three-year period by others, excluding companies. Justification for this levy of 25 per cent. extra tax is sought by the allegation that the treasury could not afford to adopt a full pay-as-you-earn plan, as the amount of the instalments to be collected from April to June, 1944, will be in the vicinity of £15,000,000. Why cannot the Treasurer afford to treat this £15,000,000 as other than an extra tax infliction? The reason is plain. The collection of tax by instalments does not synchronize with the taxation year extending from the 1st July to the 30th June, but commences three months earlier, i.e., the 1st April and ends on the 31st March, in the next year.
For instance, the tax collected by instalments over the three-months period prior to the beginning of the financial year 1943-44 was immediately paid into Consolidated Revenue, without reference to the financial year for which- it was paid. Instead of putting the three months’ prepaid tax instalment collections into a suspense account, and crediting it to the subsequent year 1943-44, the Treasurer paid the whole amount into Consolidated Revenue as it was collected, and spent it, in 1942-43. The truth of this is naively admitted in paragraph 87 of the joint committee’s report, which states -
Non-employees cannot be placed in any better position than employees, and the Committee, therefore considers that they should also be made liable for the 25 per cent, assessment on the income of the year ended 30th June, 1944, and that the remaining 75 per cent, of the tax should be cancelled.
I have proved conclusively that there is no cancellation. The report continued : -
Since non-employees will not have had this tax deducted, it is proposed that in order to avoid undue hardship in making payment it should be spread over the three years ending the 30th June, 1945, 1940, 1947, 8-1/3 per cent. being payable in each year.
In other words, the 25 per cent, surcharge will be “ sweated “ out of employees ,by the 30th June, 1944, but the amount payable by non-employees will be spread over three years. I admit that it has been the usual practice to pay tax collections into Consolidated Revenue on receipt irrespective of the financial year for which they are levied and paid. In 1942-43 income tax receipts from individuals amounting to £93,031,183 were paid into Consolidated Revenue and were used, with other governmental receipts, for the war and other purposes. This amount of over £93,000,000 exceeded by more than £8,000,000 the Treasurer’s estimate of his receipts from this source, and the bulk of the extra revenue is undoubtedly due to the use by the Treasurer in the financial year 1942-43 of the three months tax prepaid in the period April-June, 1943, for the financial year 1943-44. Consequently, the Treasurer, having expended the “windfall” received in 1942- 43, which should have been carried forward into the 1943-44 financial year, is now obliged to replace it. He intends to do so by grafting on to the payasyouearn plan a liability for 25 per cent, of a year’s tax. This is quite a change from the Treasurer’s views before the election in 1943. Speaking in this House on the 24th June, 1943 he said -
As to whether more money can be obtained from the public in various ways, my personal opinion is that, except perhaps for some adjustment -in certain cases, taxation has reached its limit at the present time. If Mr. Spooner and the Leader of the Opposition are prepared to go out and tell the people that they will increase it or create post-war credits on the present heavy scale of taxation they are welcome to make the attempt.
This was at the time when, as the Treasurer well knew, he was avoiding a dangerously inflationary situation by collecting from wage-earners and using in advance an extra three months tax receipts. Tax instalment deductions from the 1st April annually were ostensibly a benefit to employees, because they allowed a greater period over which instalments could be paid. For instance, if instalment deductions had commenced on the 1st July, the employee would normally have had only from that date to the date on which his assessment was payable, to meet his tax. The assessment would generally he payable by the 31st March, and the employees’ willingness to submit to deductions earlier than the 1st July has led, first, to the “ windfall “ received in 1942-43, and secondly, through lack of proper Government appropriation, to a shortage of £15,000,000 in 1943-44. The position has arisen solely through the Government’s refusal for political reasons, to introduce adequate income taxation, in the orthodox straightforward manner, in the 1942-43 budget. Although the rates of tax remained the same, the Treasurer effectively increased the quantum of tax collected, by beginning the collection of 1943- 44 tax instalments three months before the beginning of the financial year.
If, because of the exigencies of war, or because of the adverse economic repercussions which would follow the release of more spending power, the Treasurer finds it necessary to replace the shortage of £15,000,000, it behoves him to be frank and admit that the dilemma in which he finds himself is of his own making, and that he is now faced with the necessity to replace taxes used by him in advance of the year for which they were paid. A straightout admission that it is in the interests of the financial policy of the country, in order to prevent inflation or to put a brake on inflation by reducing the already dangerous quantum of spending power in the community, would have my support. The Treasurer should retain that money but should regard it, not as receipts from taxation, but as a post-war credit. I make no apology for bringing out this old war horse.
– That nag has had a good few runs.
– And he will keep on running. The time will come when the Treasurer will be bound to adopt my suggestion. Obviously, many persons are in arrears with their payments of tax. The arrears of Commonwealth income tax at the 31st December, 1943, were £33,S63,021. Never mind the reasons for it! Rut arrears of tax at the 30th June, 1943, amounted to £17,000,000. Therefore, arrears practically doubled in the intervening six months. I point out a grave position in the Commonwealth’s financial policy. The Treasurer estimated that income tax from all sources would amount to £192,500,000 for the year. To the 28th February last, only £77,725,000 had been collected, leaving £114,775,000 outstanding. That sum will have, to be collected in the unexpired four months of this financial year. In other words, the Treasury will have to collect an average of £28,000,000 for each of the remaining four months. Put in still another way, if the average receipts for last month of £11,000,000 can be maintained for the remaining four months of this financial year, the Treasury will collect £44,000,000. Added to £77,725,000 received in the first eight months of the financial year, the £44,000,000 will bring the total receipts to approximately £122,000,000, which is £70,000,000 below the estimated collections of £192,500,000.
That shows conclusively that the people are not paying their taxes.
– Not necessarily.
– What else can it mean? The Taxation Department has arranged with the president of the Australian Railways Union to grant extensions until the 30th June to railwaymen in difficulties with tax payments. It is obvious that similar difficulties will be experienced by many other workers. The secretary of the Australasian Council of Trades Unions, Mr. A. E. Monk, is reported on the 8th March to have stated -
The imposition of the 25 per cent, so-called * tax lag “ concurrently with so many thousands of people endeavouring to make up the difference between their deductions and the amount due in their assessments placed them in an intolerable position, and would mean, in effect, that many of the workers would have to live on the smell of an oil rag for months to come. [Extension of time granted.]
I suggest that the concession to railwaymen should be extended to all taxpayers in arrears, and that the deductions from April to June, 19441, shall be applied in respect of tax due by those employees who are unable to meet their liabilities by the 31st March, 1944. The balance remaining could be applied as a post-war credit, or could be applied as an advance’ payment of tax for 1944-45.
Under the British plan, outstanding balances for 1943-44 were completely discharged. These amounted to £250,000,000, of which one-half would ultimately be repayable as post-war credits. Commenting on this, the Times Trade and Engineering, of December, 1943, states -
It is clear that, although this large sum is not to be collected, there is no gap or reduction in the flow of money into the exchequer, because payments under the new system come into operation without any time lag. Indeed, if there were an immediate increase of wages, the Government might have at least a temporary increase of revenue.
It was necessary to discharge the outstanding balances, or the taxpayer would be paying on the old assessments and suffering the new deductions.
It is obvious that, had the tax deduction year coincided with the financial, year, the Treasurer could have adopted full pay-as-you-earn without any present revenue loss to the Treasury, because there would have been no gap or time lag in the collection of instalments week by week.
Whilst I have not the facilities for getting accurate information, I am informed that the estimated receipts of income tax from individuals for this financial year are £140,000,000. By deduction, one can arrive at the amount to be contributed by non-employees. The Treasurer stated that three months receipts of tax from employees will total £15,000,000, so that the amount for the full year would be £60,000,000. Subtracting £60,000,000 from £140,000,000 which will be collected from: all individuals, we get £80,000,000 as the amount to be contributed by non-employees. As the liability of non-employees will be spread over three years, the Treasurer will collect from this source, approximately, £7,000,000 annually. Thus he will obtain as an aggregate consolidated premium fund for future benefits under pay-as-you-earn a sum of £15,000,000 from employees, and, say, £20,000,000 from non-employees,- a total of £35,000,000 to provide for possible future revenue losses which will be spread over a generation of taxpayers.
Tt is for the House to decide whether those premiums will inflict on taxpayers too great a present burden, compared with the benefits that will accrue to them from pay-as-you-earn in the future. I should be most reluctant to deprive the Treasurer of this revenue. If he requires the additional £15,000,000, the Parliament should authorize its collection, but he should obtain it not as taxation, but as a post-war credit. For the year ended the 30th June 1939, the total income tax collections of the Commonwealth and the States - including company taxation for I have been unable to ascertain the separate amounts attributable to individuals on a comparable basis with the £35,000,000 previously mentioned - was £29,000,000, or £6,000,000 less than the Treasurer is seeking to place in this insurance premium fund. I emphasize therefore, in all sincerity, that the present proposal is not equitable. The risks do not justify the benefits.
I shall deal with certain other provisions of the bill at the committee stage, when I intend to move amendments in accordance with the criticisms that I have offered.
I desire now to draw attention to one other serious weakness in the bill. Whilst employees are to be deprived of 25 per cent, of their 1943-44 income by a subterfuge, non-employees are also being subjected to an injustice. The imposition of an injustice on one class of the community surely cannot be justified by applying it, for the first time, to another class. The pay-as-you-earn plan applies to individuals but not to companies. I have in mind the case of a large manufacturer not at present trading as a company. He may decide, in 1946, to merge his business into a company. What then? As an individual he may now receive a 75 per cent. “ forgiveness “ of income tax in respect of the income year 1943-44, but if he converts his business into a company on, say, the 30th June, 1-946, neither he nor his company will pay any tax in that year, apart from his salary. His personal tax will be up to date on the 30th June, 1946, and the company which he has formed will not be liable to pay tax in 1946-47 provided, of course, no interim dividend is paid and the salary aspect is ignored. Again, what a temptation is offered by clause 14 to inflate stock valuations at the 30th J une, 1944, to make sure that profits for 1943-44 are made up. to 120 per, cent, of the 1942-43 figures ! The pay-as-you-earn principle was advocated by me some years ago, and in my election speeches last year I again urged the adoption of a full and complete payasyouearn plan. This system has been proved to be sound in principle, and has been widely adopted in other countries of the world. It has immediate advantage from the revenue point of view, and it confers prospective benefits on a vast majority of taxpayers. Possibly the Government will benefit from it less now than later on. However, since the gain is immediate, and the prospective loss is in the dim future I wholeheartedly advocate it. But this bill is an attempt to graft other financial innovations on to the pay-as-you-earn principle and to use it as a means of bargaining to bide increases in the quantum of tax received. Consequently, whilst I fully endorse the principle, I must criticize the method of implementing it embodied in the bill. In common justice to the wage-earners of this country, I urge the Treasurer to examine the alternatives which I have proposed.
.-All honorable members welcome the application of the pay-as-you-earn principle of income tax, particularly in view of the present high rates of tax. In many cases these high rates are accumulating liabilities which are an embarrassment to many citizens, and also a hindrance to efficiency. Yet I am obliged to criticize the proposed method of changing over from the present system to the payasyouearn system, for I believe it could have been greatly improved upon. I am in agreement with the statement of the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) that the Government is spoiling the ship for the sake of a ha’p’orth of tar. I appreciate the fact that the committee which reported on this subject consisted of members of all parties. No doubt it sincerely desired to facilitate the introduction of this reform in a way that would place the least possible burden upon the community; but I consider that it was guided to too great a “degree by Treasury officials, who in turn were concerned chiefly to protect and, if possible, to increase the revenue, and were not sufficiently mindful of the effects of their proposals on the taxpayers in general. I wish that the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) had given us some clearly tabulated figures to indicate the real effects of the change over on the revenue, because I do not think that that aspect of the subject has been adequately stated. The Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) is the first honorable member on either side of the House to attempt an estimate of the financial effect of the change-over, and his calculation that a premium fund of approximately £36,000,000 will be created is worthy of close consideration. The right honorable gentleman contended that £15,000,000 would be collected from wageearners by the 30th June, and that another £21,000,000 would ultimately be obtained from non-wage-earners. Whether this £36,000,000 be described as a surcharge or a premium, or anything else, the fact is clear that the Treasury will benefit by it. I submit, however, that, apart altogether from this surcharge, the Treasury would not be likely to suffer by changing over from the present system to the payasyouearn system, because only a relatively small number of taxpayers are likely to be on a lower income next year than they have had this year, whereas many thousands of former taxpayers will be returning from war service to normal activities and will be on a higher income than they had last year. They will be paying taxation twelve months earlier under the new system.
Notwithstanding what I have already said, I consider that much of the criticism of the Government in relation to this measure has been unfair and unfounded, and many of the epithets hurled at the Treasury in regard to it have been unjustified. The Government undoubtedly has a sincere desire to effect the changeover in the best possible way. It must be remembered that the problem is being faced in a year in which taxation has reached record heights. I daresay that this will turn out to be the record income taxation year, as to rates, in the history of the Commonwealth. Bearing this fact in mind, I do not consider “that the socalled “ forgiveness “ is as liberal as has been suggested. The imposition of an extra 25 per cent, of taxation during this financial year, at a time when the rates in respect of some incomes are as high as 18s. 6d. in the £1, will undoubtedly cause great hardship. There will also be an increased tax at the rate of 8% per cent, on certain taxpayers during the next three years. In respect of some taxpayers the so-called “ forgiveness “ may not apply for perhaps ten or twenty years, and certainly not until they reach the age of retirement or die. Many taxpayers will receive no personal benefit, because only their estates will be affected after their death.
We all appreciate that in the post-war. years a reduction of the rate of taxation will be made. No government could expect to survive in the post-war years if it insisted on retaining the present extremely high rates. In order to visualize how the proposed scheme will work, let us consider the case of a taxpayer with a net income of £2,000. His tax would be in the vicinity of 10s. in the £1. Assuming that he is “ forgiven “ three-quarters of that amount, he will still have to pay £250, and for that amount he is expected to be satisfied with an ultimate “ forgiveness “ of 75 per cent, of the tax. But under normal circumstances, the time of “ forgiveness “ may not arrive for a good many years and when it does arrive, the rate of tax may be down to 5s. in the £1, so that he would be liable to pay only £500. Of that amount he will already have paid £250; the Government will have had the use of his money in all the intervening years, and the taxpayer himself will have lost the advantage of it for the corresponding period. On the other hand, the Government will have had the use of £15,000,000 which it will have collected from wage-earners, and many of them on the lower incomes should be exempt from taxation later on, so that there will be no forgiveness at all to them in return for the premium charged. The advantages of this scheme are not by any means one-sided. The position of nonwageearners also deserves careful consideration, for they will have paid 8-J per cent, extra taxation for each of the next three years for a “ forgiveness “ which may not amount, ultimately, to very much more .than they have already paid. Moreover, such taxpayers with an income of £2,000 a year, will be required, under this scheme, to pay £1,000 in tax in the normal way, and, when their assessments are received about Christmas time they will be required to pay an additional £1,000 in respect of the next year’s assessment, so that, in effect, they will have paid £2,000 within one calendar year. He will pay that in advance on future income. Between July and December next, he will .have to find the full amount of tax payable for the year ending the 30th June, 1945. Many taxpayers have to obtain from the Commissioner an extension of time in which to pay their taxes. Assuming that a man is not in that category, but is able to pay by the end of May the amount due in respect of the present financial year, he will still have to pay next year’s tax, amounting to £1,000, plus per cent, by the end of the present calendar year, although by that time he will have earned only £1,000 of the income for the financial year. Obviously, it will be impossible for him to carry on under those conditions. I should like the provision that operates in the United States of America to be enacted here, whereby wage-earners would be empowered to pay by monthly or quarterly instalments. That would afford some relief. Even if the instalments were payable quarterly, taxpayers would never be more than three months in advance.
– All such matters were considered by the parliamentary committee. Why does not the honorable member study the reasons which the committee advanced?
– If the honorable gentleman considers that there is justification for the method that is here proposed, he may elucidate that point. I am explaining why, in my opinion, the proposed procedure will impose a hardship on non-wage-earners. The adoption of complete pay-as-you-earn would return to the Government at least the same amount of revenue, if not more. The Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) pointed out that there has not been an actual loss of revenue in Great Britain. Without pay-as-you-earn, wage-earners would continue to pay by instalments after April of this year, and by the end of June would leave a credit of three months. It is now proposed that the amount shall go into revenue. The Government will gain considerably as the result of new wage-earners coming into the tax field. The same amount of revenue would be derived from nonwageearners; therefore, I cannot see the necessity for the imposition of an additional 25 per cent. I am in disagreement with the proposed method for changing over from the old to the new system, and am unable to accept the view that without the additional 25 per cent, there would be a loss to revenue of £15,000,000.
– Does the honorable member say that this legislation ; Wl j confer benefits upon existing taxpayers?
– I have already said that.
– Does the honorable member contend that there should not be any payment for those benefits?
– I have already said that the benefits are not so liberal as they are claimed to be. Some taxpayers will derive a real benefit. For example, wage and salary earners whose income will be lower in the ensuing year will derive a definite advantage under payasyouearn, as will also the estates of deceased persons. At the same time, a premium will be paid in order to obtain a benefit in the future. The question to be examined is, what will be the extent of the benefit? Who can properly estimate it? One may say that one will pay a premium of 25 per cent, in order that, at some time in the future, one’s estate may be relieved from the obligation to pay tax in respect of the last year of income. Can the Treasurer or the Government say that at any time in the future the benefit will be real? Could any government promise that there will be no increase of estate duty in tho future? The Treasurer was asked that question, and could not give an assurance. No government could make such a promise. I am not one who considers that estate duty should be reduced. I should like it to be raised, because I believe in a high inheritance tax. The accumulation of large estates is not good for the inheritors of property or for the State. At the present time, the rate of estate duty rises from 3 per cent, in respect of small estates to 27 per cent, on wealthy estates. That could be considerably increased, with benefit not only to the country, but also to those affected. This matter could be satisfactorily adjusted in the post-war period, and thus avoid the necessity to appropriate the £15,000,000 which will be paid by non-wage-earners between the 1st April and the 30th June of this year. Why should not that amount be credited to them? Why double the injustice, by making a further impost on nonwageearners, with no reduction in their case for the first year after the war, when, perhaps, taxation will begin to come down? If wage-earners had a credit of three months, they could be allowed to pay for nine months, without causing hardship to any section. A balance would be struck between wage-earners and nonwageearners, and there would be no reduction of the tax of the latter until the matter had been adjusted. It would appear that the Government could rectify the position even at the present time. A press statement published last week read -
Canberra, Monday. - A steady fall in Commonwealth war expenditure is revealed by a Treasury statement issued to-day.
Total war expenditure in February was £39,G8S,000, the statement shows.
This is at the rate of less than £480,000,000 a year.
Budget estimate for the current year was £570,000,000.
In January war expenditure from loan and revenue funds showed a decline of about £14,000,000 on the average for the previous six months.
If expenditure in the remaining four months of this financial year remains at the level of tho past two months, total Australian expenditure on the war in 1043-44 will fall short of the Treasury estimate by about £50,000,000.
The decrease is probably due to reduction in the Government’s pay-roll because of releases from the Army and munition works, and because of slackening of the Allied Works Council’s programme.
Loss of production as a result of. coal shortages is probably a contributing factor.
The Government’s pay-as-you-go proposal to collect a quarter of an alleged year’s tax lag is stated to amount to a 25 per cent, increase in taxation.
This extra taxation, plus the fall in war expenditure, will probably mean that the Government will benefit by nearly £75,000,000 in the current financial year.
That statement needs explaining. If the Government is likely to have a surplus of £75,000,000 in the current financial year, the £15,000,000 could easily be adjusted without the imposition of an additional tax on any section. The view is held in many quarters that a good case has been spoiled by the method by which the change-over is to be made.
– That is beside the point. The honorable member is arguing the case for the Parliamentary Committee, whereas my argument is in favour of an improvement of its recommendations. I realize that the committee did good work up to a point. If it made a mistake, there is no reason why its recommendations should not be improved.
The time has arrived when consideration should be given to the matter of war expenditure generally. We know that there is waste and inefficiency in many war activities. So far, the case has been one of everybody’s business being nobody’s business. Time and again, I have urged the setting up of a body such as the Public Accounts Committee, or even the clothing of the War Expenditure Committee with powers that would enable it to operate more expeditiously than is possible at present. The members of that committee can discharge its functions only in their spare time and during recesses, whilst matters requiring attention are going on all the time. If the committee had expert assistance, those experts would be on the job the whole of the time. When [ was a member of the committee, it had the assistance of experts, but unfortunately their services were dispensed with. That definitely retarded the activities of the committee, which had done much valuable work, and saved the country hundreds of thousands of pounds.
Superannuated civil servants are, under the present law, required to pay tax upon their pensions. In my opinion this is unfair, because their pensions really represent their accumulated savings. Instead of paying the money into a savings bank, and then drawing it out bit by bit for their sustenance after they retire, they pay it into a superannuation fund and draw it out in the form of a pension. It is virtually capital, and should not be taxed as income. I took this matter up with the Treasurer some time ago, and he stated that, as civil servants were allowed a deduction for taxation purposes in respect of their contributions to the superannuation fund, there wasno reason why they should not pay tax upon their pensions.
– That is true. If the civil servant had put the money into the hank he would not have been allowed any deduction in respect of it.
– I recognize that ; but
I also point out that, at the time the payments were made to the superannuation fund, very few of these persons paid any
Commonwealth income tax at all because their incomes were not large enough. Now, the rates of tax have increased so steeply that they practically all become taxpayers. I appreciate the view of the Treasurer, but I think some adjustment should be made for the benefit of superannuated persons.
I regard the other features of the bill as good, particularly that which permits deductions in respect of contributions by companies to employees’ provident funds. This will assist in promoting economic security for workers engaged in private industry, because it will encourage business concerns to establish provident funds, thus bringing their employees into line with civil servants. I also commend the Treasurer for allowing’ exemptions to members of the fighting forces. It is only right that those who make such sacrifices for the welfare of their country should be granted this concession. I should like the Treasurer to go further, and make some allowance in respect of income earned by industrial employees for working overtime. Many of them are undermining their health by working long hours, and the fact that they are taxed heavily on what they earn at such cost to themselves has a good deal to do with the prevalence of absenteeism and industrial disturbances. Workers should be encouraged to save something now so that they may take a holiday after the war in order to restore their health.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Spender) adjourned.
Gold-mining Industry - Base Metals - Railway Passenger Traffic : Adelaide - Alice Springs - Peanut Industry.
Motion (by Mr.Forde) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- I take this opportunity to bring to the notice of the Government the position of the gold-mining industry in Western Australia. It will be remembered that, when we were facing the greatest crisis of our history, all sections of the gold-fields community unhesitatingly offered their full and unstinted co-operation, and over 11,000 men were drafted from the mining industry into the various forces and defence undertakings. As a result many of the outback mines closed down, and the townships supported by them have disappeared. At that time, however, there was no alternative. Urgent defence works had to be undertaken and we were racing against time when the enemy was within striking distance of our shores. In fact, he had already struck, and many of our northern ports had felt his blows.
It was, however, generally recognized that every effort should be made to preserve the industry, having regard to its value to the State of Western Australia, which depends so much on the goldmining industry, particularly on the outback gold-mining centres. An agreement was arrived at ‘ between the State and Federal Governments to retain what was considered an absolute minimum number of 4,500 men to keep the industry alive. This agreement, I remind the Government, was reached at a time when our defence position was desperate, and when the safety of our country was the first consideration. I do not say that this is not the position still, but I suggest that our defence programme is so far advanced, and so many Allied construction works are nearing completion, that as many men as possible should be returned to the mining industry at the earliest practicable date.
The value of the gold-mining industry to Western Australia is not generally recognized outside of that State. In addition to its worth as a revenueproducing factor, both to the State and Federal Governments, it contributes to the maintenance of such State instrumentalities as railways, water supplies, roads, &c, and will play an important part in post-war reconstruction undertakings. If it is to play its full part, the Government should provide for the early return of not fewer than 300 miners at the earliest possible moment.
Within the last month, an additional mine, Grants Patch, has closed for lack of man-power. The closed mines will suffer considerable damage, and reopening will be costly. Therefore, I suggest that an immediate review of the position should be undertaken to avoid any further deterioration. I am satisfied that Ministers and man-power authorities are sympathetic, and recently I had a discussion on these matters with the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holloway) and the DirectorGeneral of Man Power, Mr. Wurth. Already, some results have been achieved. I very early realized that results for my electorate were not obtained by making speeches in this House, and I have adopted the policy of direct representation to the appropriate Minister. I find it of more benefit to my constituents. I am, however, greatly concerned over this matter, because the miners, mine-owners, and business community responded magnificently to the nation’s call, and as a consequence are justifiably entitled to every consideration. I see, too, a great future for this industry. With anything like sympathetic consideration, it will prove an important factor in establishing outback towns, and will contribute to the support of a larger population.
Federal administration has not been very helpful towards the development of the gold-mining industry, and but for the assistance of the State Government, many existing centres would never have succeeded. Apart from the gold bonus, there is little else to the credit of Commonwealth governments, and it can be stated as a fact that the gold-mining industry was developed almost solely by the assistance rendered by the State Government. It is satisfactory, however, to note that there are signs that, greater sympathy may be expected in the future. Machinery and engines which will be required for the rehabilitation of the industry after the war are now being produced by the Kalgoorlie foundry. This, coupled with the war development of the base metal industries in the production of strategic minerals, gives promise of a bright future.
It would be false economy to allow a developed industry “to deteriorate any further, if our defence position will permit of the required number of men being brought back. That is why 1 am appealing for an immediate review of the position by the Federal and State authorities.
There is available to the Government a fund of information covering a wide range of proved base metal deposits that should be included for development in the post-war programme, foremost among them being the iron ore at Yampi Sound on the north-west coast and Koolyanobbing near Southern Cross. We now have proof that this high-class ore can be successfully treated by what is known as the charcoal process. This method of treatment, it is claimed, would yield very pure iron suitable for the production of tin-plate and special alloy steels. Therefore, in view of the fact that Western Australia has an abundance of hardwood forests, the development of our iron ore deposits will eventually prove economically sound. Much, of course, will depend on markets both inside and outside Australia. This possibility is, however, reported very favorably upon by the committee appointed by the Fadden Government in 1941 to inquire into the economic position of Western Australia in relation to Australia’s war problems. I quote paragraph 152 of that report -
What the conditions for the markets for iron and steel both inside and outside Australia will be after the war, it is impossible to predict. But, assuming that -
there will be a large market for steel for reconstruction in Great Britain and other European countries in which Australian products should have a reasonable chance of competing successfully,’ and
the demand for high-grade charcoal iron in Great Britain and other countries could be met by low-cost Western Australian production more than holding its own in competition with the production of similar material by other countries, there appears to be justifiable hope that the making of high-grade iron in Western Australia could become firmly established as a specialized section of Australia’s basic industries.
That statement is made after a complete investigation by expert witnesses qualified to give an opinion, and I trust that full recognition will be given to such expressions and that every assistance will be rendered to the State Government towards the establishment of this important industry. If this policy is adopted as a part of our post-war plan, secondary industries will follow and with them a most vital and much-needed increase of the population of the State.
I record these facts, knowing that, with the recess following the adjournment of this sessional period, plans for post-war development will be further scrutinized, and I hope the matters to which I have referred will not be overlooked. I have endeavoured to state simply and concisely the requirements of the State. I realize the gravity and difficulty of the problems that confront the man-power authorities in carrying out their responsibility to keep the balance of the scales. Every one of us knows that the strength of the Army must be kept to the highest point.
– Hear, hear !
– We also realize that industries must be given as far as is humanly possible whatever assistance can be given from the limited man-power available. Consequently, I sympathize with the administration of man-power. Day after day, I receive in my mail requests that this, that or the other person be released from the Army. The Minister for the Army does not see all the requests of that description that are submitted to me. I accept the responsibility that is thrown on to me to make decisions on some of the requests, without reference to the Minister, if I consider that the circumstances do not justify compliance with the request. I am always prepared to tell an applicant, whose application I consider should not be granted, that, in my opinion, it would be a waste of time to approach the Minister. In the crisis that confronts Australia, it is an obligation on all of us to take our share of the responsibility for the conduct of the country’s affairs. Seven million people are not nearly sufficient to do all we want to do. The gold-mining industry responded nobly to the call to arms. Miners left their wives and children unprotected in their homes in the back country in order to play their part in the battle. If Allied Works Council projects are being completed, so enabling the release of suitable labour, some of it should be diverted to the goldmining industry. I suggest, therefore, that the Government should give deep consideration to the requests that I have made.
– Recently, I had occasion to ask the Minister for the Interior (Senator Collings) to examine the arrangements for passenger traffic between Adelaide and Alice Springs. I was supplied with a statement purporting to show that no civilians wanting to travel by train in and out of Alice Springs had been without accommodation. I sent the statement to a reputable man in Alice Springs and received this reply -
First regarding the trains. The situation has worsened recently. I believe that large movements of Australian Women’s Army Service are on the programme and, as a result, civilians are wiped. Within the last three weeks, the following has occurred. A woman of 60 who has lived in the Territory for fifteen years had to travel to her home sleeping with half-castes and no sleeper. Her name, Mrs. . Mrs. , who has had six children born in the Territory, had to return to her home sleeping on the floor. Mrs. had to return with a nine-months’ -old baby sleeping on the floor, and a’ Mrs. had to return also sleeping on the floor. At least, civilians should be allowed the right to use these privileges once a week on the civilian train as the Australian Women’s Army Service are all Al. And motherhood should be given its right place in the community.
Then he refers to a certain mother who is going to Alice Springs and says that if she does not go in a sleeper I shall hear from him. I am not satisfied about the arrangements for civilians to travel on trains to and from Alice Springs. I think that one train a week allotted to civilians out of twenty-odd trains - I understand that that is the schedule - is insufficient. Surely to heavens civilians could, however, be given priority on the train because, in addition to the trains, members of the services have the right to use aircraft, regardless of rank.. It is only a matter of the local people saying that the ‘plane must be filled and service personnel can be put on board. The civilians pay fares. I do protest on behalf of the civilians in that territory and ask that on one train a week sleeping berths should be reserved for civilians; when civilian requirements were met, the spare berths could then be made available to service personnel. It is a crying shame that women and children should be compelled to sleep on the floor of the rattle-trap called the Northern Express from Quorn to Alice Springs, for, I think, two nights and two days. This is the sort of thing that gets a little under my very thin skin. I ask honorable members to try to place themselves in the position of the women of Alice Springs.
I say, with this correspondent of mine, that the servicewomen to whom he refers are Al in health, and that women who are’ travelling with children, or are expectant mothers, or are ill, should have a prior claim to sleeping berths, and that until their claims are satisfied no service personnel, whether male or female, should have the right to board that train.
– A week ago I made reference to the labour problem in the peanut industry. To-night I intend to deal with the control of that industry. Before doing so, however, I wish to refer briefly to the matter of labour. The shortage of labour in the early part of the harvesting season has caused a serious crop loss, but I do commend the Ministers concerned for their untiring and consistent work ever since I raised this matter in the House. I believe in giving credit where credit is due. The attitude of the department prior to my taking up that matter with Ministers has resulted in a serious crop loss. Instead of 13,000 tons, as was estimated, the manager of the Peanut Board, in a letter to me to-day, intimated that the crop will be as low as 9,000 tons, or even lower if the labour that was promised last week does not arrive more speedily than it appears to be arriving.
I must take the House back to the beginning of control in order that Ministers may get the right perspective and realize the industry’s relation to food control generally. In March last year, we were informed by the Director-General of Agriculture, Mr. Bulcock, that the peanut industry was to be controlled and that the crop was wanted for the manufacture of oil. The board immediately set out the case in full from its point of view, and submitted it to the man in charge of Defence Service Foodstuffs, Mr. Davis. By May, two months later, we had got nowhere. It was apparent from the replies of Mr. Davis that neither he nor any one else had any knowledge of the peanut crop or any idea why we have been told that the crop was to be controlled and processed for oil. The matter had reached the stage at which the growers’ payments had been held up for two months. The man in charge of the department in Brisbane arranged a travel priority for the manager and me to go to Melbourne to interview Mr. Davis. That was in May of last year. After a conference with Mr. Davis, we were put in the charge of five young fellows of military age, four of them aged between 18 and 25 years, and one about 35 years of age. They were all obviously sincere in their task, but not one of them knew what kind of tree peanuts grew on! That is not the only feature. We were told by Mr. Bulcock that the crop was to be used in the manufacture of oil. The department had no knowledge of the quantities of oil in stock in Australia. It had not bothered to inquire. Neither had it bothered to inquire what stocks of peanuts were available in Australia for crushing. It did not know whether peanuts could be imported from India, as they had been previously. The department did not know whether shipping was available. I challenged its decision that the peanut crop should be converted into oil and I asked whether it knew what that meant. I pointed out that if it intended to bring the price of peanut kernels up to the usual price, a subsidy of £130,000 would have to be paid out of the Commonwealth revenues. That made the officials look up. I asked that a conference of oil manufacturers be held before we left Melbourne. The conference was arranged and evidence was forthcoming that there were sufficient peanut kernels in Australia to produce twelve month’s supply of oil, and it was found that the manufacturers had minded their own business and had not been caught. In addition, shipping was still available and peanut kernels could still be imported from India at a much lower price than they could be bought from the Queensland industry. What was the result? We had saved the Commonwealth Government £130,000. What was more valuable still, we had saved the good food that is contained in a peanut and made it available to the public and the service men.
Because of departmental ignorance regarding the peanut industry, sincere though the officials were, Mr. Davis asked the manager and myself to devise a plan for the control of the industry. In the matter of an hour or so, we drew up a plan and he accepted it in toto. The industry had been in the control of inexperi enced men who did not know that peanuts grew under the ground. The position would not have been so bad if the department had co-operated with the board. Although accepting our proposals, the department, to our astonishment, quickly departed from the plan. We could not get any instructions for the sale and distribution of this commodity. Then, in July, the department called for tenders. This matter is most important. I pause for a moment to point out that the fact that the Commonwealth Government had taken control of the industry meant a loss of 40 per cent, of trade, because nutinshell peanuts that were used for roasting “ went by the board “ and all the buyers engaged in that section of the trade had to find other employment. When the department decided to distribute the crop after an interval of two months and had kept the growers waiting for more than three months for their first advance on the crop, imagine our surprise to discover that the largest quantity allotted was to a firm that we did not know as a manufacturer. I describe it as a “ cheapjack “ firm. Whilst our relations with it have been quite amicable, I must be frank in these matters. It was a “ cheapjack “ firm which had bobbed up from nowhere, and I doubt whether it had any right to begin manufacturing, because the National Security Regulations prohibit new companies from operating. But this “ cheapjack “ firm was given a bigger contract than another firm that for years had been buying 40 per cent, of our crop. The industry was placed in the hands of a couple of firms, and other manufacturers had the greatest difficulty in obtaining supplies. We protested. Tenders had not been called in Brisbane where the second largest buyer in the industry was located. As the result of our protest, this firm was allotted a quantity. Other firms were not so successful.
After our repeated protests, the second distribution of peanuts was made on the recommendation of -the board, and the quantities allotted were in proportion to the quantities that the firms had bought in the previous year. That distribution proceeded satisfactorily. Before the third distribution, tenders were again called and we witnessed a repetition of the first incidents. Again the “ cheapjack “ firm got a big quantity of the parcel distributed. I asked the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture to discard the tender system and to allow a distribution on the recommendation of the board in proportion to the quantities purchased by manufacturers before the Commonwealth control began. The department in Melbourne replied that it would not consider any policy not consistent with established procedure. I do not care a hang what the department thinks. If its policy is wrong, it must be changed. We have to fight for what is right. The peanut industry has the right to retain those buyers who maintained it in previous years. All buyers pay the same price, namely, 7-)d. per lb. of kernels. That is fixed by the Prices Commissioner. As every manufacturer purchases peanuts at the same price, I fail to see the necessity to call tenders and to confine the industry to two buyers. This matter requires investigation.
Although tenders were called and although this “ cheapjack” firm got the biggest allotment in the first instance, the department did not abide by the price that this firm submitted in its tender. A list supplied to me by the department shows that although the price accepted by this particular firm was 14s. lOd. a dozen tins, the department of its own accord later increased that price. The Minister cannot refuse to investigate that charge. Why was the price increased? Why was this firm allowed to tender at all? Why was it granted the contract to enter the field, to the detriment of long-established buyers? If the department replies that prices had been altered in the meantime, let me assure the House that the prices have not been varied since March, 1943. The successful tender, which this firm submitted, was called in July, four months after the price was fixed. It has not since been altered. Why did the department, of its own accord, call tenders and then increase the price, for the benefit of the successful tenderer? The department, of its own accord, at one period adopted the policy which the board wants to pursue. As the price is fixed by a Commonwealth authority, the department should accept the advice of experienced men and allow a proportionate distri- bution of the crop in order to enable the industry to retain those manufacturers who are now in the business. After the war the buyers who have been displaced as the result of Commonwealth control will have to be re-employed. Let us maintain the business which the board has built up over a period of years !
The Minister, in replying to my representations, stated that he had appointed a director of manufacture to take charge, and he expressed the belief that that would solve the problem. I have already indicated how the industry has been upset because inexperienced men have been appointed to control it. The only official who gave any satisfaction was Colonel Crowther. The department sent him to Kingaroy to gain a first-hand knowledge of the industry, but he has since been transferred to another section and a new man has replaced him. We may have a repetition of the trouble that is caused when a new man handles this business. The Minister claimed that the department co-operated with the board in May, 1943. I deny that. In that month, we protested to the department in Melbourne because we could get neither satisfaction nor information. I suggest that someone blundered in stating that the nuts were to be taken and crushed for oil. The department in Melbourne knew nothing about it. Until we went to Melbourne the matter was not rectified. We want the department to co-operate with the board, and we are prepared to advise it. [Extension of time granted.] The departmental methods of calling for tenders and accepting the lowest could easily lead to abuse. Knowing .that the department has increased prices in the past, a firm could submit a very low tender in order to get the contract. Manufacturers also complain that because their allotments of peanuts have been reduced, their overhead costs will increase. Costs can only be spread over the quantity of products that are handled. Because of the low quantity that one Brisbane manufacturer received, his costs per pound increased. If he receives a quantity in proportion to his purchases during the previous year and if it is spread over twelve months, his costs will automatically decrease. That is only business. So manufacturers as well as the board would like to know where they stand in this matter.
We believe that the right method is a proportionate distribution on a costing basis by the department. This cost would have to take into account the overhead, the allowance for distribution, and the quantities that the manufacturer receives, f ask the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture to accept the co-operation that the board offers and is willing to give to his department. We are prepared to make available to the department the services of our experienced men for the purpose of ensuring that the Commonwealth control of the industry shall be successful. But if we are asked to accept the kind of treatment that we have received from the food control section during the past twelve months, we shall not be very happy about it. In his letter to me, the Minister stated that he understood that there was now full co-operation between the board and his department. That cannot be so when the board is not consulted. Having made a mess of one distribution of salted peanuts, the authorities looked to the board to rectify the position. I have put it to the Controller-General of Food, Mr. Murphy, that the advice and co-operation of the board should be obtained before damage is done, and not afterwards. If that policy had been applied, this trouble would not have been inflicted on the industry. We cannot be happy until the procedure that I have suggested has been adopted. I appeal to the Government to give sympathetic consideration to these representations, particularly in relation to consultation and tendering.
– I listened with great interest to the speech of the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. Johnson) on the goldmining industry. As I was concerned personally in the negotiations between the Commonwealth Government and the Government of Western Australia, which resulted in the agreement regarding the man-power to be withdrawn from the gold-mining industry for the purposes of the war effort, I can appreciate the arguments advanced by the honorable gentle man. As usual, he submitted his case logically and temperately. I recognize, as does my colleague the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holloway), that the circumstances of the gold-mining industry require review. We know that this industry is of great importance not only to Western Australia, but also to the economy of the whole Commonwealth. We note, too, that the industry may have good prospects in the post-war period. Because of the withdrawal of man-power, many small goldmining companies have been severely handicapped, and I shall consult the Minister for Labour and National Service to ascertain whether the little extra man-power that they require in order to> conduct their operations reasonably can be released, and so relieve them of a part of the heavy burden they at present carry.
– Will the Minister also consider the position of gold-dredging concerns at places like Bright and Harrietville ?
– I shall, but the goldmining industry of Western Australia calls for special consideration. As the honorable member for Kalgoorlie has said, all concerned in the gold-mining industry co-operated fully, and with a great degree of efficiency, with the Government in the dark days of ‘ 1942, in order that man-power might be released expeditiously for work in war industries. For that reason alone, the gold-mining industry deserves every consideration. I assure the honorable member that I shall consult the Minister for Labour and National Service on the subject at once.
– in reply - I endorse the statement of the Minister for War Organization of Industry (Mr. Dedman) that the fullest consideration will be given to the representations of the honorable member for Kalgoorlie in regard to the gold-mining industry.
The honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) called attention to the difficulties experienced by civilians resident at Alice Springs in securing accommodation on trains running between that town and Adelaide. We all must have the greatest sympathy for civilians who live such great distances from capital cities. The honorable member stated that it took two clays and two nights of train travel to get from Quorn to Alice Springs, and that women and children were often called upon to sleep on floors during the journey. That is most regrettable, but it is a part of the price that must be paid for train travel when transport arrangements provided for small civilian populations are suddenly required to meet urgent defence needs. Every consideration should be given to women applicants for priorities for sleeping berths when travelling from such isolated places, especially when their travel is for urgent reasons. Although I cannot make any definite promise to the honorable member, I assure him that his representations will be considered by the appropriate authorities in order to ascertain whether relief can be granted.
The honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. Adermann) referred to various matters in connexion with the peanutgrowing industry. As a Queenslander, I am familiar with the importance of this industry to Queensland. The honorable member has made his representations in a very reasonable way during the last few weeks, particularly in relation to the dire need of additional man-power in this industry to harvest the crop ; and he has expressed appreciation of what has been done to meet the position. The problem has not been entirely solved, but substantial relief has been given. The remarks of the honorable member concerning the marketing of peanuts and their use for oil production will be brought to the notice of the Minister acting for the Minister for Supply and Shipping (Mr. Beasley), and will, I am sure, receive full consideration.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The following papers were pre sented : -
Arbitration (Public Service) Act - Determinations by the Arbitrator,&c. - 1944 -
No. 9 - Professional Officers’ Association, Commonwealth Public Service.
No. 10 - Public Service Association of New South Wales.
Lands Acquisition Act and National Security (Supplementary) Regulations - Orders - Land acquired for Commonwealth purposes -
Gladstone, South Australia.
Spring Hill, Brisbane, Queensland.
National Security Act - National Security (Man Power) Regulations - Orders -
Ex - dairy - farmers and dairy - farm workers.
Registration of shearing contractors (Victoria) 1944.
House adjourned at 10.38 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Security (Food Control) Regulations, gazetted on the 28th June, 1943.
Other appointments -
Director of Food Manufacture - Honorary.
Deputy Director of Food Manufacture - £1,200 per annum.
No personal staff has been appointed for the Deputy Controller of Food, Queensland.
Of the above staff the following were transferred from the Department of Commerce and Agriculture or Department of Supply and Shipping to Commonwealth Food Control : -
n asked the Minister for the Army, upon notice -
– I welcome the honorable member’s question and the opportunity to clarify this matter. The fact is that there has been no substitution of the letters “A.M.F. “ for “A.I.F.” on soldiers’ graves. Except in the case of converted Militia units the letters “ A.I.F.” were never included in the particulars inscribed on crosses on soldiers’ graves for the following reasons: -
n asked the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, upon notice -
During this period, (a) how many cases of this fruit have been sold to the public, and (b) how many cases of this fruit have been put in cool storage in Melbourne?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Commonwealth Railways Commissioner.
i. - On the 10th March, the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Bryson) asked the following questions, without notice: -
The Minister for the Interior has supplied the following answers: -
COOL-stores in tasmania.
asked the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, upon notice -
y. - The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : - 1. (a) The total cold storage space available in Tasmania with capacities and temperatures is set out in the attached statements. The space occupied by meat in the four main stores according to latest weekly returns is -
The above is exclusive of bacon and hams.
Primary Industries: Release ok Army Personnel.
asked, the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, upon notice -
If the facts are as stated to have been indicated by Mr. Murphy, will the Minister take action to ensure that applications from primary producers in Queensland for the release of man-power are treated in the same manner as those from other States?
y. - The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
The statement was based on experience of the result of applications for releases of service personnel for the dairying industry.
y. - On the 15th March the honorable member for Parramatta (Sir Frederick Stewart) asked the following question, without notice: -
Will the Minister for Munitions inform me whether it is a fact that the housing required for the employees at the explosives factory at St, Mary’s was over-estimated to such a degree that 150 dwellings had never been occupied? If so, who is responsible for that over-estimate, and what does the Government propose to do with the buildings which are not required at St. Mary’s, but which are so urgently required elsewhere?
It is obvious that the honorable member has been misinformed, as there are 200 war-time cottages at St. Mary’s, none of which is unoccupied at the present time. There is also a hostel at St. Mary’s which is occupied practically to capacity. Other hostel accommodation available, however, is not at the moment fully occupied. My department is fully seised with the position and has it under constant review. The fact is, however, as honorable members can well appreciate, that the changing war situation greatly affects the munitions production programme and consequently the accommodation required for staff.’ The future development of the munitions work in the St. Mary’s area is still uncertain because of changing war needs, but I understand that the munitions authorities are of the opinion that the remaining hostel accommodation at St. Mary’s may be required. However, as soon as the Munitions Department is in a position to indicate that any accommodation is not required for their purposes, the honorable member may be sure that prompt arrangements will be made by my department to see that any accommodation available is put to good use.
asked the Minister for Repatriation, upon notice -
– It is presumed that the questions relate solely to the 1939 war, and the following answers have been prepared accordingly: -
t. - On the 17th March, the honorable member for Richmond asked the following question, upon notice: -
In my interim reply, I stated that the information was being obtained. The Minister for Trade and Customs has now furnished the following answers to the honorable member’s questions:- -
n asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– I have asked my col league, the Attorney-General, to supply the honorable member with an answer.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 21 March 1944, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1944/19440321_reps_17_178/>.