7th Parliament · 2nd Session
The President (Senator the Hon. T. Givens) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– Has the Minister for Defence received any reply to the question I asked a few days ago concerning a statement by Mr. Justice Edmunds?
– The honorable senator asked a question about a statement by Mr. Justice Edmunds, as to transports being held up in Australia, and’ he handed to me a newspaper cutting in which it was stated that twenty-seven transports were tied up in different ports of Australia, and that it looked as if Australia was ignoring the fact that the Empire was at war. The matter was referred to the Navy Department, and. the reply it has supplied reads as follows: -
Mr. Justice Edmunds, in mentioning transports, evidently did not confine himself to troop transports. If the word “ transports “ is intended to includetroop transports. hospital ships, food and necessary commodities trans- ports, the numbers quoted by him are approximately correct.
The following papers were presented : -
Public Service Act 1902-1916- PromotionsH. H. Neaves, Attorney-General’s Department.
Bennett, Postmaster-General’s Department.
– I ask the Min ister representing the Postmaster-General whether definite arrangements have been made for the despatch from Australia of Christmas parcels for the soldiers in Europe?
– In the absence of my colleague, Senator Russell, I have to say that if the honorable senator will repeat the question on the motion for adjournment, no doubt the desired information will be made available.
Motion (by Senator Miillen, by leave) agreed to -
That, in accordance with the provisions of the Commonwealth Public Works Committee Act 1913-1914 and the CommonwealthPublic Works. Committee Act 1917, the following senators be appointed members of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works, viz., Senator Henderson, Senator Needham, and Senator Newland.
Motion (by Senator Milien, by. leave) agreed to -
That, in accordance with the provisions of the Committee of Public Accounts Act 1913 and the Committee of Public Accounts Act 1917, the following senators be appointed members of the Joint Committee of Public Accounts, viz., SenatorEarle, Senator Fairbairn, and SenatorMcDougall.
Assent to the following Bills reported-
War Loan (United Kingdom) Bill.
Public Works Committee Bill.
Committee of Public Accounts Bill.
Wood Pulp and Bock Phosphate Bounties Bill.
Shale Oil Bounty Bill.
Loan Bill 1917.
War-time Profits Tax Assessment Bill.
War-time Profits Tax Bill.
– Pursuant to the Commonwealth Bank Act 1911,I have to lay upon the table -
Commonwealth Bank Act 1911. - True Copy of Aggregate Balance-sheet of Commonwealth -Bank ofAustralia made up to 30th June, 1917; together with AuditorGeneral’s Report thereon.
The PRESIDENT announced the receipt of a message from the House of Representatives, intimating that the following members of that House had been appointed members of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works: - Mr. Gregory, Mr. Mahony, Mr. Mathews, Mr. Sampson, Mr. Sinclair, and Mr. Laird Smith.
The PRESIDENT announced the receipt of a message from the House of Representatives, intimating that the following members of that House had been appointed members of the Joint Committee on Public Accounts: - Mr. Atkinson, Mr. J. H. Catts, Mr. Charlton, Mr. Fenton, Mr. Poynton, and Mr. John Thomson.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
.- I move-
That so much of the Standing and Sessional
Orders be suspended as would prevent the Bill being passed through all its stages without delay.
I do not intend to go on with the Bill at this juncture, but if this motion is adopted now it will leave us free to approach the Bill should the Income Tax Bill be disposed of.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
That the first reading of the Bill be an order of the day for a later hour of the day.
Debate resumed from 21st September (vide page 2427), on motion by Senator Millen -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
.- I find that I am compelled to break away from one of the good resolutions I formed when this session commenced, and that was that the Government should have its financial measures passed without adverse criticism from me. The restraint I placed upon myself when the last financial Bill was going through the Senate showed me that it was a mistaketo make a promise which one would find it almost impossible to keep.
With regard to this measure, I can scarcely call it a financial proposal of the Government. They introduced to another place a measure which looked like a Bill to penalize eligibles who had not enlisted, but no sooner did this bring upon the heads of the Government that hostile criticism which it so justly deserved, than it was withdrawn and converted into what may be called a tax upon bachelors. I shall oppose this measure, not only in the House, but in the Committee, and seek to have it so amended that it will deal justly with all sections of the people. We have in existence already an income tax which provides ample exemptions for those persons not in receipt of sufficient income to be expected to pay, so why should not this Bill contain the same provisions? If, under the Income Tax Act, exemption is granted to single men in receipt of less than £100, and to married men with incomes less than £156, why should not single men be treated in the same manner under this proposal ? Very often a young man is a bachelor because of family responsibilities resting upon him. Perhaps his condition is due to the fact that his father having died, he is left as the sole support of his widowed mother and members of his family. What will be the position of such a young man under this Bill, who, in addition to self-imposed responsibility, which perhaps he is worthily discharging, will be penalized to the extent of £21 10s. a year should his income reach £250 ? An exemption should undoubtedly be inserted to provide for such cases.
Apart altogether from these hard cases - and I know hard cases make bad law - what reasonable excuse is there for the Government to launch a propositionof this nature in their effort to finance the war and their obligations with regard to repatriation? In my judgment, they are acting as the crowd acted in the streets of Melbourne the other night. They appear to have run amok; and are now indulging in political window smashing. Whenever they are turned away from one street, they go down another, and continue their wild career of taxation. A tax of this kind has the same mental result as the attitude of an unruly crowd im our streets at night. Why have not the Government kept “to the well-beaten track of taxation ? In a time like the present they would have been on safe lines if they had kept to taxation upon land values and income,- because they would then know whom they could reach ; the amount of taxation is easily ascertainable, and easy of collection. In this measure, however, and under the name of an Income Tax Bill, they are seeking to obtain taxation from persons irrespective of whether they have incomes or not. How will the Government collect this tax of £5 from those young men who have not got the money? The Government should seriously face the position?
I do not intend to debate the measure at length at this stage. I am stating my objections to it in as few words as possible. I declare emphatically that taxation of this kind is calculated to discredit, not only the Government, but Parliament itself, and, holding that belief strongly, I shall oppose this measure at every stage. This is a tax upon a man because he has not .married, though a man may be unmarried from the most worthy motives in the world. If the measure is intended to counteract the effect caused by the number of marriages of Australian soldiers in the Homeland, it only emphasizes the serious nature of the problem that has been added to Australia’s difficulties by this war. I noticed a newspaper statement last week to the effect that 6,000 Australian soldiers had been married in England, and, while I think that we shall get an excellent addition to our population, the position is also serious for the young unmarried women of this country. If, on the other hand, the Government have taken this roundabout way of displaying their spite against the eligibles because the Prime Minister’s proposal twelve months ago was defeated at the polls, they deserve the sternest censure of this Chamber for having adopted a measure the effect of which will be to cause so much irritation to a certain section of the community. How will certain young men be able to pay this tax ? Why, also, should ministers of religion come under the provisions of this measure?
– -Why should they not?
– They should nob be included for a very good reason, at least so far as one section is concerned. If by reason of their faith, ministers of religion remain single men, we should hesitate seriously before we seek to impose any penalty upon them. I hope honorable senators will realize that they have a personal and individual responsibility for legislation that passes through the Senate. I rose merely to state my contempt for and opposition to the Bill, which I hope will be considerably altered and improved before it passes the Committee stage in this chamber.
– I agree with the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Gardiner) in much that he has said with regard to the extraordinary change that took place in the nature of the Bill now before the Senate, but I do not agree with him in his opposition to this proposed taxation upon eligibles, because I think that eligibles who have not gone to the war will have no objection to some measure of taxation, especially if the amount raised is devoted to repatriation purposes. I hold the view very strongly that very great hardship will be caused by this alteration in the form of taxation, making the Bill a tax upon bachelors, especially in the case of the elder men in receipt of small incomes, and who are already feeling the pinch due to the increased cost of living.
– Do you include Sir Samuel McCaughey?
– I thought Senator Thomas had brains enough to know my remark would not apply to Sir Samuel McCaughey. Honorable senators, I am sure, do not desire to inflict- an injury upon the older men in our community, and I happen to know of several who have barely enough to live upon. When the Bill reaches the Committee stage I shall move an amendment exempting men over sixty years of age, otherwise they will have to seek relief by applying for an old-age pension and get exempted in that way. I think it) a mistake to expect that hard cases will be discoverable under every law, and I should like to see legislation which inflicts hardship upon no one, for while injustice ito the individual might not be a matter of great interest to the community, it is a very real trouble to the individual concerned. I desire, also, to exempt ministers of religion from the operation of this measure, because I think the poor curate is the most’ sweated man in this community.
– If you are right, it does not say much for religion.
– I agree with the honorable senator, and I must - say that my heart bleeds for many of these men, because of the wretched wage they have ito subsist upon: They ought to be exempt from this form of taxation. Because they profess religion people expect them to live on next to nothing.
– What the honorable senator is really asking is that the States should subsidize them.
– I think it would be better to exempt them from the operation of this tax.
– Then that would become a subsidy.
– I do not think so. They are a very long-suffering class of people.
– The honorable sena.tor’s remark does not apply to Methodist ministers. We give them a minimum wage.
– If Senator Thomas desires the clergy of the Methodist denomination to be excluded from the most desirable exemption which I have outlined, he may move in that direction. In my opinion, we should injure as few persons as possible under this Bill. The two classes to whom I have referred are specially deserving of exemption.
– The poor curate and Sir Samuel McCaughey.
– I am beginning to wonder who is making this speech - Senator Thomas or myself. I think we ought to get into recess as soon as possible in order that the Government mav be afforded an opportunity to collect their thoughts. The last two or three measures which they have brought before Parliament have bristled with debatable matters. I am one of their most loyal supporters, but in Committee I intend to move the two amendments which I have indicated.
– - We have heard a good deal from honorable members opposite about responsible government, and the Labour party have frequently been taunted that we do not believe in responsible government, but are merely the creatures of the Caucus. Responsible government, I take it, means that Ministers should be responsible to Parliament. We know, too, that tin are expected to be responsible to the party which keeps them in power, and especially in regard to their taxation measures. All Ministries with any self-respect have, in the past, regarded that as one of the first principles of responsible government. Whenever their financial proposals were seriously altered, either by the Opposition or by their own supporters, they did not hesitate to resign their offices. But in the present instance the Government have ‘merely flung their financial proposals on the table of Parliament, and have said, “There you are. Do what you like with them. If you do not approve of them, we will alter them1 to suit your views.” That is the attitude which they have adopted in regard to the two principal financial measures which were designed to assist us in winning the war.
The Bill at present before us is absolutely different from that which was introduced in another place only a . few days ago. I had the pleasure of listening to the Treasurer (Sir John Forrest) when moving the second reading of the measure. On that occasion he said -
I make no apologies for it. I am willing to take the whole responsibility for this tax,, if necessary. Honorable members who have been in public life for some time know that Ministers are not always in complete accord with proposals they advocate in the House. A Minister is only one member of a Cabinet, and expresses the corporate decision of the Government. But, however that may be in other cases, I have no reservation t’o make in regard to this tax. I am in absolute accord with it personally, as well as in my capacity as Treasurer.
Mr. J. H. Catts. Does that remark apply to all Ministers?
Sir John FORREST I believe it does. At any rate, I have no knowledge of dissent ou the part of Ministers.
But evidently Mr. Maxwell had not been consulted. Apparently he was not present at the Caucus- meeting which considered the proposals contained in the Bill, because after he had spoken on the following day the Treasurer appears to have exclaimed, “ Do not shoot, Maxwell ;
I will climb down.” Is that responsible government? It was Mr. Maxwell’s speech which smashed the Bill and changed its entire aspect.
– That shows that supporters of the Government are allowed to speak their minds.
– I - It shows the entire absence of Ministerial responsibility. It shows that the Caucus meetings are not too well attended by honorable senators opposite. If Ministers had hid the slightest inkling that the measure would receive such rude treatment at the hands of one of their own supporters I do not think it would have been submitted to Parliament in its original form. But even though the Government consented to alter the Bill at the behest of one of their newest supporters they did not secure his vote. It strikes me that Mr. Maxwell knows how to qualify for a Ministerial position. The Government did not get his vote, although they tried their hardest to please him.
The proposed tax is a punitive impost. It ought to be called a bachelors’ tax. From the Prime Minister downwards, every candidate who carried the Ministerial banner during the recent election campaign affirmed that he would honour the decision of the people given on the 28tH “October last, and would not attempt to bring in conscription; but this Bill, in the form in which it was originally introduced, was nothing but a mean effort to bring about conscription. It was economic conscription. That it was anattempt to fasten economic conscription on the country is proved conclusively by the remarks of the Treasurer himself. He said -
We say that those who are not physically unfit, and who have failed to volunteer, should pay a special tax.
Will any one dare say that that is not conscription ? The title of the Bill should be altered to read “ A Bill for an Act to levy a tax on old bachelors and invalid young men.” That is what the measure is. It contemplates a tax upon those who are” above the military age who will not be able to escape it by enlisting, and also upon invalided young men who are physically unfit to pass the medical examination. All the accepted canons of taxation have been violated in this Bill. Under it, there will be two classes of exemptions. It will exempt the physically fit men who have gone to the Front. These are chiefly young men, because save in very few instances men over forty-five years of age are unable to get to the Front. Here I wish to ask whether “ enlistment for foreign service “ will include, not only those who have gone to the Front and fought for the Empire, but those who have passed the medical examination, who have embarked from Australia, but who,, soon after, have been found to be- medically unfit and have therefore been returned to our shores? I take it that they will be exempt from the operation of this Bill, because it will be held that they have enlisted for foreign service. How unfair it will be to make a distinction between these men and men of eligible age who have volunteered for service, but who have been rejected on the ground of their physical unfitness ! Then there is another class to which I desire to direct attention. I refer to men who for very good reasons have not married, men who are possibly in delicate health, but who because of the possession of an independent spirit have refused to apply for the invalid pension. Because of their refusal to do so, they will” be obliged to pay the tax. Then the Bill seeks to tax the unfit while exempting a man who is fit because, perhaps, his brother has gone to the war. If there be, for example, a family of five brothers, and three of them have enlisted for foreign service, the two who remain behind will be exempt from the tax. They will be able to say to the man in delicate health, “ I am a patriot.” My three brothers have gone to the war, and therefore you must pay my share of the proposed tax as well as your own.” These two brothers may each be earning £300, £400, or £500 per year, and yet they will escape the impost while the delicate individual will have to pay it.
Will any one contend that this tax does not violate all the accepted canons of taxation ? One of the first of these is that a man should be taxed in accordance with his ability to pay. This Bill ignores that principle absolutely. The Government in this measure says to a single man under 45, “You should be at the war. Go to the war, or we shall fine you.” That is not conscription, of course. The man replies, “ You told us that you would accept and honour the decision of the people. This is economic, conscription.” To this the Government say, “ This is not con- scription. We intend to honour the verdict of the people, but we shall punish you all the same, because you are under 45, are physically fit, and have failed to enlist.” They say to the bachelor over 45, “ We are sorry to have to punish you, old fellow, also, but it must be done, in order that we may reach the eligibles, because Mr. Maxwell has said so. When we introduced this taxation measure we did not intend to tax you. We desired to tax only those under 45, to show our displeasure at their refusal to accept the views of the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes). But Mr. Maxwell has spoken, and we must hit you as well. You may be an invalid, earning only enough to keep body and soul together and cover your nakedness, but that is your misfortune, because we must tax you since that is necessary to enable us to get at those who are eligible for military service, but will not enlist.”
In the case of a family of only two brothers, one must pay the tax if he stays at home.’ If there are four brothers in a family, and two go to the Front, the two remaining must pay the tax. There is unfair discrimination under this proposal, affecting not only eligibles, but their parents. If there are five brothers in a family and three go to the Front, though two are still left to the parents, they are exempt from this taxation. If there is only one son in. a family, and he remains at home at the request of his parents, though he may have desired himself to go to the Front, he has to pay the tax. The wealthy married man is exempt, whilst the impoverished single man has to pay. Numbers of cases will readily occur to the minds of honorable senators of men who enjoy splendid incomes, who will be exempt from this taxation, whilst others, just as worthy citizens in every respect, but who are in poor circumstances be-‘ cause they have to keep a number of dependants, will be called upon to pay.
If this measure is to be regarded as a sample of the genius of the Treasurer (Sir John Forrest) for high finance, we must come to the conclusion that his reputation in that respect is imperilled by its introduction. The right honorable gentleman’s financial reputation was badly jarred by the- introduction of the first of the financial measures submitted by the Government in order to win the war, but- what little reputation was left to him after the introduction of that measure will have entirely disappeared before this Bill becomes law.
An historical personage mentioned in the Scriptures told his servant on one occasion to go out and bid certain people to come to his feast. The servant re-‘ turned, saying that a number of persons were asked and excused themselves, one saying that he had married a wife and therefore could not come. We can imagine the Treasurer’s servant returning to inform him that one person bidden to his taxation feast said, “I have married a wife, and therefore I do not have to come.”
– A very good reply.
– T - The honorable senator has overlooked the reply of the master to his servant in the Scriptures, that he should go into the highways and byways, and bring in the halt and the blind. They are all to be made to pay taxation under this measure. Invalids will not escape it. I know men of splendid principles, worthy citizens in every way, who, because they are earning, it may be, as much as £2 per week, or just enough to permit them to live decently in these times when the cost of living is so high, refuse to- apply for invalid pensions. I know others who might secure old-age pensions* mat who, because they are animated ‘by the sturdy spirit of independence which we are all supposed to so much admire, decline, as long as they can, to enter the Pensions Office. These people are to be penalized under this measure. If one of them earns £100 a year he will have to pay a tax of £5 a year under this Bill. He can only escape it by obtaining an invalid or an old-age pension. We have on many occasions listened to eloquent discourses, from some honorable’ senators opposite, and from those who support them, contending that the payment of these pensions undermines the independent spirit of the people, but this taxation is calculated to drive people into the Pensions Office. I believe in invalid and old-age pensions, but I can admire the independent spirit of the man who refuses to enter the Pensions Office so long as he is able to keep himself.
I shall not occupy time in discussing the second reading of the Bill further than to say that I believe that in the history of the State and Commonwealth Parliaments there was never a taxation measure introduced so inequitable in its incidence as this Bill will be.
– The Bill now before the Senate is a measure to impose, not only a tax upon bachelors and widowers without children, but also to impose a super-tax of 25 per cent, in addition to the income tax imposed by the Income Tax Act of 1915-16.
– It continues ‘ those taxes.
– That is so. In addition, it imposes a tax on- prizes won in lotteries, and it further imposes upon the whole community the ordeal of the calculation of curves to the second and third degree.
– That is a serious penalty.
– It is not a penalty, but it is something that is not required in connexion with the imposition of an income tax: The measure also is intended to validate the collection of taxes assessed in 1915-16 and in 1916-17.
I do not think that honorable senators can have any logical objection to the continuation’ of the super-income tax. The example of the Mother Country has shown us that there the income tax has been imposed- practically as a war tax, and has risen or fallen proportionately to the money required for expenditure on naval and military services. I hold the opinion that in this community the income taxation so far imposed will have to be very largely increased. I shall have a word or two to say in connexion with its administration.
It is clear that the Commonwealth needs money. The most debatable clause in the Bill, and the clause which was debated in another place, and will probably be debated here, is that imposing a tax upon all single men over twenty-one years of age. I have heard somewhere sometime that it is not good for man to live alone. I personally hold that the married “man who begets a family, and educates that family, is by far a better citizen of the Commonwealth than is the very often selfish man who will not take upon himself the obligation of marriage, and continues throughout his life to indulge his selfishness in this direction.
Personally I support this tax. I think it is not an imposition, but rightly payable by unmarried men without responsibilities. I believe that most, if not .the whole, of the women of the Commonwealth favour this tax. I point out that to-day there are more women than men in the continent of Australia, and I think it is up to the single men in these parlous times-
– W - What about men of fifty or sixty years of age?
– And it is also u,p to the rich bachelors to be made to realize the fact that a war is going on, and that they should pay something towards the cost of its prosecution. One goes throughout the length and breadth of Australia, and is often shocked to find what little realization there is of the tragic things that are going on in Europe, and what little realization there is of the fact that our liberty is being fought for on the plains of Flanders just as really and truly as if our armies were fighting in the Port Phillip district. It is tragic to find riots, strikes, indifference, and selfishness permeating the community when our boys over yonder, and boys from the different parts of the Empire, .are making the supreme sacrifice to maintain our liberty’ and the liberty of our children and our children’s children.
I am glad that during this short session the National Ministry have begun to make the people realize .that we are up against the great tragedy of all the centuries. I trust that in the recess they, in spite of their Atlas-like troubles of administration, will take stews to bring the community, when the session is resumed, still more closely up against this problem, and make us all, especially those indifferent, unthinking individuals to whom I have referred, realize that there is a war on, and that we must make sacrifices. I am glad they have imposed a tax on bachelors. I believe the Senate will pass thb tax into law, and hope and believe that, as the result, a few more thousand people in Australia will begin to realize that there is really a war in progress in which we are all involved. I agree entirely with the imposition of a tax upon prizes won in lotteries.
I shall deal- briefly with the schedule that imposes by Act of Parliament the taxation curves of the second and third degrees. As a business man, I do not think they are at all required, and should like honorable senators to follow me in the computations required now to be made by the taxpayer to
work out what he really has to pay under the Federal law. The calculation may be put concisely as follows, taking a supposititious case -
That was the system in force last year. It is the system that we are’ asked to validate again. During the last two years, the period in which income tax has been imposed by the Commonwealth, the systems have been changing, and, in the words of one of the officials, “ we are trying every method until we get the right one.” I only hope we have the right one in this Bill.
– This Bill does not amend the machinery sections to’ which the honorable senator has been referring. It merely validates the rates.
– It validates the rates that have been collected, irrespective of whether they are right or wrong. It is clear from the schedule that there is unnecessary complications. It may be that a good deal of this legislation has been lifted from an English Act; but I tell the Senate frankly that not one out of 100 business men can calculate his income tax on the system set up by the Department. There are 233,000 income tax payers in the Commonwealth, every one of them taxed upon this complicated system; and necessarily, in thousands of cases, the taxpayers have to interview officials in order to understand their assessment paper when they get it. This seems an unnecessary duplication of work, and multiplication of officials; and if all the Commonwealth business is being carried on like this no wonder our administrative expenditure is advancing by leaps and bounds. There have been many protests throughout the Commonwealth within the last year or two in connexion with the unnecessary work imposed on the business community in filling up a State income paper in January and a Commonwealth income tax paper in June, and the duplication of work and machinery involved in the collection of the taxes. I am bringing this matter before the Senate and the Minister in the hope that in the recess, when Ministers are free from the responsibility of parliamentary sittings, they will take into their serious consideration, not only the standardizing of the income tax returns as between State and Federal Administrations, but their simplification in every possible way, and the necessity for one collection for the whole of the income tax of Australia.
I support the Bill with the greatest of pleasure, because it is going to make a good many scores of thousands of indifferent young Australians realize that a war is going on. ‘
– Wha What about the old Australian bachelors ? Will you vote to exempt them ?
– In Committee, I shall have every sympathy with the amendment forecasted by Senator Fairbairn to exempt men over sixty who are not particularly well off ; but I ‘think the principles of the Bill are sound and good. I trust the Minister will note my remarks about the great and grave complications imposed upon the business community by the income tax administration. I do not wish to be unkind in any way in referring to the officials. We’ have some of the finest Government officials to be found in any Civil Service in the world, but I do beg of them not to impose unnecessary work upon the business’ community. I appeal to them to simplify this tax, which is here to stay,, and upon which we shall have chiefly to rely for the payment of our war interest. I believe that if that is done, it will give greater national efficiency, and save .a good deal of time which is now wasted, not only in Che taxation departments, but among business people.
.- There is nothing in this Bill which conforms to the true principles of taxation, and I am glad that some honorable senators who have addressed themselves to it have realized the fact. I hope the Bill will bring home to them the faults of the present system in such a forcible way that later they will bring to bear on the Government that pressure which they alone can exercise to induce them to introduce a measure conforming to true taxation principles. We are told by the
Treasurer that for the current financial year the revenue will be as follows : -
The question of raising the national revenue’ cannot be ignored. We are right up against the necessity every day. While it is generally admitted that the Customs and Excise duties fall very heavily upon poor people in proportion to the wealthier sections of the community, I think it will be acknowledged that at least some of the items of direct taxation I have just mentioned fall with a fair degree of accuracy upon those who are best able to bear .the burden, especially the first item of land taxation to the amount of £2,110,000.’
This additional income tax does not,.. as I said before, conform to any of the recognised principles of taxation. The correct principles were not those mentioned by Senator O’Keefe, who repeated the fallacious canons laid down by John Stuart Mill and Adam Smith. The correct principles are those laid down by Henry George in his Progress and Poverty.
– Order! I point out to the honorable senator that there can be no excuse for making a digression on the second reading of this Bill to discuss the general principles of taxation, because on the first reading, which was moved on the last day of sitting; he could have wandered from Dan to Beersheba, and covered the whole ground. If he then missed or ignored his opportunity - I do not know which - he is not entitled to go now into a dissertation of that kind.
– I thank you, sir, for the correction, and for the leniency extended up to date in. regard to this proposal. It was because I felt very keenly that the correct principles of taxation were not being adhered to in the Bill that I mentioned those facts.
This measure is, I think, aimed at the eligible young men who have refused to enlist. It is also aimed at the men who have omitted, or neglected, to marry or overlooked the fact that they might have got married. And it is also aimed at those who have had the misfortune to lose their life-partners. This system of taxation will not fall upon the shoulders of those , who are best able to pay. For instance, it will not touch the land shark or the speculator as such, so long as he does not sell, except in so far as he will have to pay a minimum of £5. It will not touch a man who owns an immense area of valuable land so long as he does not dispose of the land. The measure does not reflect credit on the Government, but it is part and parcel of their policy, and as they have a majority pledged to swallow whatever is proposed, I realize that it is not profitable to speak at length in opposition to the measure. Therefore, I do not ‘intend to make further remarks at this stage, but in Committee I shall not be prepared to support either of the amendments which have been foreshadowed.
I am just about tired of exemptions being allowed. If one set of men can afford to pay the tax, then everybody else ought to pay. We have had no request from any persons to exempt one section of the community from the tax more than any other section. I regret very much that the Government should have brought forward a measure of this kind. I regret exceedingly, too, that they have ignored the fact that we have in this country land values to the extent of £446,000,000, which could be taxed.
– I do not think that you have a right to say that we have ignored the fact, because you keep continually bringing it under our notice.
– It does not matter how often I bring this fact under the notice of the Minister, he ignores it. I should be only too glad to support the Government when they come forward, not with a contemptible measure to attempt to extract a “ fiver “ from any men who are unable to pay the amount, but with a measure to impose a straight-out flat rate of 2d. in the pound on land values which would yield a revenue of about £2,000,000, and not a paltry sum of £500,000, as they propose to collect under the present measure.
After all it must be remembered that it was for the land-owners of the Commonwealth that the soldiers went abroad to, if necessary, make the supreme sacrifice. Therefore it is the land-owners who ought to be called upon to pay a very much more substantial proportion of the taxation than they have hitherto been asked to find. I hope that after the Government have seen the foolishness of the War -time Profits Tax Bill and this Income Tax Bill they will, in the very near future, see the wisdom of adopting the suggestion which I have persistently endeavoured to keep before them. I trust that they will give us a chance to vote for the imposition of a straight-out flat rate on land values, with no exemptions whatever, just as the municipal revenue is raised in New South Wales. If they take that course, then they will do something towards repatriating our soldiers. At present they are doing nothing of a practical character except as regards a proposal to put up their own “screws,” which no doubt is a very desirable thing for them to do. I have seen no evidence in the direction of making land available or doing anything of that kind. I intend to oppose the amendments which have been foreshadowed . I regret again that the Government have not been able to see their way to do the right thing, and that is to bring in a proper system of taxation.
-Colonel O’LOGHLIN (South Australia) [4.23]. - I oppose this measure for several reasons, but principally because it does not apply the principle of taxation as I think it ought to be applied. The aim should be to tax persons according to their ability to bear taxation, and to the protection which they obtain under the laws of the country. The principle of this Bill, however, is not to tax a man according to his ability to bear the taxation, but according to whether he happens to be married or single.
When the Bill was first introduced it was essentially a measure of economic conscription. It has been extended to include all who have not the happiness of being married, and to that extent it will bring in a good deal more than at first it was expected to yield. It is a curious thing that, while under another measure the profiteers and profitmongers of Australia are to be mulcted in the small penalty of about £300,000 or £400,000 a year - or a good deal less, deducting the cost ofcollection - the single men of Australia, rich and poor, are to be called upon to pay a sum which is estimated to be over £500,000 a year, though some persons say it will be as much as £600,000 or £700,000. It is a peculiar anomaly that those who are making a profit out of the war by fleecing the people are to be let off with the payment of a trifling percentage of the amount which they are making out of the public, while young men who are earning practically no income are to pay a share of thisextra taxation.
The peculiar feature of clause 6 is that whether a man is in receipt of an income or not, he will have to pay the tax. I do not know how a tax collector can succeed in getting money out of a man who has no income. The clause reads -
There shall be payable by every male person (whether in receipt of a taxable income or not) who, on the first day of July, one thousand nine hundred and seventeen-
The point I wish to call attention to is that, whether a man has an income or not, he will still have to pay the tax. That brings me to another phase of the Bill, and that is that it will be an exceedingly difficult and expensive tax to collect. By the time the Government have searched out the bachelors in Australia, considered the various points in the curves and schedules put before us, debited them with the taxation liability, and collected a revenue of £500,000, they will find that a very considerable proportion of that sum will have been absorbed in the expenses of collection.
Reference has been made to the position of ministers of religion. I certainly think that these persons ought to be exempted from the tax, and for this reason : that in its essence this is a conscription measure. It provided that men eligible for military service who did not enlist should be made to pay an additional tax ; but under the Defence Act, if this Bill had been allowed to retain its original shape, ministers of religion would not have had to pay the proposed tax.Under that Act, they were not liable to be called upon for military service; and therefore they would not have been required to pay this tax. It is a class tax; it falls almost entirely upon ministers of religion under a vow of celibacy. I refer to the ministers of my own denomination, who gave up all hope of domestic joys and family felicities so that they could devote the whole of their time to a sacred calling. These men are especially penalized under this measure, for they are made to pay an extra tax. On this point. I shall have something more to say in Committee. I hope that the amendment foreshadowed to exempt clergymen will be carried.
.- My intention is to vote against the Bill. Senator O’Loghlin would have been right had he said that it is still a conscriptionmeasure. The Government are not only anxious to get all the money they can out of the poorer sections of the community, but they are endeavouring to “ get even “ with the young men who did not see eye to eye with what the Government considered to be their duty. Five pounds is a lot of money to take out of the pocket of a person who earns only £100 per year. A man with a wage of £2 per week has not more than just enough to enable him to live, and live pretty poorly, too. My view is that the men who have the biggest stake in the country ought to be called on to pay a lot more to the revenue than they do, but the men who earn only £100 a year ought not to be expected to pay any tax. I think that the tax of £1 a year imposed on such a man was too much.
– What taxation does the honorable senator refer to?
– Under the measure last year there was provision that a man earning only £100 a year had to pay £1 in. taxation.
– That was a tax your party brought in.
– Yes, but I thought the taxation was too much.
– You did not think so then.
– I point out that other Governments in Australia are also endeavouring to get money out of the poorer section of the community. In Western Australia recently the Government policy included a tax on bachelors to the extent of £10 a year, so if that impost is levied on top of the Commonwealth taxation of £5, the unfortunate single men in Western Australia will be called upon to pay £15 a year. This impost will affect very seriously the parents of those young men who have been apprenticed to trades. A couple of personal friends of mine have sons serving articles of apprenticeship.’ The lads wanted to go to the war, but their parents persuaded them to stay, by pointing out that if the war lasted three or four years and they were away from their trade for that length of time, they would be without effective training when they returned, and so be obliged to carry their swags looking for casual employment. These lads are not earning £ 1 per week, yet under this measure they will be called upon to pay special taxation. The penalty, however, will not fall upon them. It will have to be borne by their parents, who are already struggling in order to give their boys a decent training. This kind of taxation is not fair. I notice that it is expected to yield something like £750,000, which is more than the Government tried to extract from the people who are earning huge profits during this war. Senator Gardiner the other day pointed out that thirty employers in Victoria alone had during the last twelve months earned profits to the extent of £5,000,000 over and above the profits of the preceding term. These people, it seems, will not be called upon to make any extra contribution, though the Government, under this Bill, are now seeking to extract special taxation from single men who may be earning only £2 a week. How can they expect to get £5 from such people? I wish them luck, but I think the cost of collection will amount to about half the sum the Government expect to realize.
– The measure as recently introduced could have been fairly defended if it were not for the fact that it did not square with the expressed intention of the Administration not to introduce conscription by any kind of side wind. The argument that those who are eligible for service at. the Front, but who will not avail themselves of the opportunity to serve their country, should be penalized, is undoubtedly a sound one, but as this represented a contravention of the promise that conscription would not be introduced by any subterfuge, the measure was’ in some degree remodelled. It is. now, in effect, a bachelor tax, and in normal times a measure of this description would not be regarded as desirable, or as being within the bounds of possibility in Australia. If, apart from the question of conscrip tion, the marriage state is looked upon as particularly beneficial and in the national interest, I suppose a bachelor tax could be logically defended, although I do not know if there is any particular virtue in exalting the married, and condemning the bachelor, state when we seek to make divorce easy of accomplishment. It seems to me that such a situation, taken altogether, presents some ludicrous features.
– We are not dealing with bachelors in this Bill.
– Not straight out; but in this Bill the married state is being exalted.
– Do you believe in that?
– I believe it is in the best interests of the nation, and, therefore, desirable, that society should be modelled on the basis of the family as a unit.
There is, however, one feature of the Bill of which I disapprove, namely, that it aims at sectional taxation, which is not at all desirable. Of course, if we take the line that it is expedient in certain circumstances, and especially during war time, to get money, we need’ not be very particular about the method;but I have stipulated for the principle of justice in regard to all taxation, and certainly it would not have been just to impose taxation as designed under the original measure, because it could be construed as the breaking of a pledge, and undoubtedly those who argued that it was a form of economic conscription were not very far wrong. Under this measure, a bachelor will be taxed to the extent of £5, irrespective of his age, or whether he is earning anything in the way of a substantial income. If we can get £5 from him, well and good; but I have had some experience as a legislator in a State at a time when the finances were at a low ebb, and where we had recourse to something very drastic in the way of income tax legislation. I remember one measure, passed through the Tasmanian Parliament, which imposed an “ ability tax “ of 2s. 6d. upon every person, irrespective of amount of income, and even this minimum impost was found to be a considerable hardship in certain cases. Five pounds is a very substantial sum to take from any man earning even £100 a year. This amount, I presume, approximates closely to the Customs revenue per head of population. I do not know that the measure before us is one of which anybody can feel proud; and I think we will have to do something in. Committee to exempt bachelors of a certain age earning only a very small income, because £5 is too great a levy to make upon old bachelors who may not be in good circumstances. Some men are bachelors by desire, others because they cannot help it, because I suppose a desirable member of the female sex would not be seen dead in the same paddock with them. That is what we might, I think, call inherited misfortune. Many men have attempted many times to get married, but without success, the fair sex having been an accessory before and after the fact, or attempted fact, so to speak.
– They ought to- be exempt, then.
– Unfortunately, they could hardly get evidence in support of their case, especially if they are old bachelors, because all the witnesses might be dead.
Speaking seriously, I think we shall have to make some provision in Committee to lighten the incidence of taxation in regard to certain elderly bachelors. I am not prepared to give any great praise to the authors of this measure, because, undoubtedly, it selects a certain class of the community for an invidious form of class taxation; but the argument that those who are eligible to go to the war, but who will not go, should be made to contribute towards the cost overshadows everything else. My attitude on this matter is no contravention of my principles in regard to compulsory service, though I would rather see the Administration tackle a big question like that as it should be tackled, and not by the introduction of invidious taxation of this character, which practically involves a poll tax of £5 per head on a certain class of the community.
Question - That the Bill be now read a second time - put. The Senate divided.
Majority . . . . 13
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 to 3 agreed to.
Clause 4 -
– - I move -
That the House of Representatives be requested to amend the clause by inserting in paragraph b, after the word “ hundred “, the words “and fifty-six “.
– I would point out that this clause is not one to impose any new taxation. It merely seeks the re-imposition of a tax which was imposed by Senator O’Keefe and his. friends in a previous session. When the honorable senator submits a proposal to amend something which he himself then supported, I think he was under some obligation to assign reasons for his action. In the circumstances, I am entitled to suspect almost a want of sincerity in the proposal which he has submitted, in view of his attitude only a few months ago.
– The fact that a few months have elapsed since Senator O’Keefe supported the exemption of £100 is, I think, a reason why that exemption should now be increased to £156. During the interval the Government have permitted the prices of the necessaries of life to continually increase.
– According to Mr. Knibbs, they have gone down in price since the present Government took office.
– I am prepared to place . the accounts of householders against the figures of Mr. Knibbs. The cost of living in this country is too high at the present time to warrant, us in calling upon anybody receiving less than £156 a year to pay extra taxation.
– It is the only country at war in which the cost of living is so low.
– The day of reckoning is coming very rapidly. I am not at all disturbed by the statement of the Vice-President of the Executive Council that some reason should be given in support of Senator O’Keefe’s proposal. My reason is that it is unfair to call upon a man who is in receipt of less than £156 a year to contribute any more than he is already contributing to the taxation of the country. In my own State such an individual is already heavily taxed. Consequently I have no hesitation in supporting the exemption.
– - The Vice-President of the Executive Council has stated that I should have assigned some reason in support of my proposal. One very strong reason which actuates me is that at the time we made the exemption of £100 there was no mention of the imposition of another tax upon one section of the community, such as is embodied in this Bill. It was not then proposed to specially tax the lower-paid section of our people. I do. not think the public of Australia will require any better reason than that for the proposed exemption.
Question - That the request be agreed to - put. The Committee divided.
Majority . . . . 12
Question so resolved in the negative.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 5 agreed to.
Clause 6 -
There shall be payable by every male person (whether in receipt ofa taxable income or not) who, on the first clay of July, 1917 -
was unmarried or a widower without children; and
was not under the age of twenty-one years, income tax to the amount of five pounds or five per centum of his taxable income, whichever is the greater.
Sub-section (1) of this section shall notapply to a person who satisfies the Commissioner -
that he is permanently incapacitated for work; or
that he is in receipt of an invalid or old-age pension.
For the purposes of this section “ taxable income “ means the amount which is ascertained by deducting from the taxable income of the person within the meaning of the Income Tax Assessment Act 1915-16 the sum of twenty-six pounds in respect of each dependant wholly dependent upon him, and such less sum as the Commissioner allows in respect of each dependant partially dependent upon him.
– In accordance with the intention I expressed on the second reading of the Bill, I move -
That the House of Representatives be requested to amend the clause by inserting after the word “pension”, in paragraph d,of sub-clause 2, the words “ or that he is over the age of sixty years, and has a gross income less than One hundred pounds.”
– The Government are willing to accept that amendment.
Request agreed to.
– I indicated when speaking on the second reading of the Bill that I intended to move for the exemption of ministers of religion from this tax. I trust my request will meet with the same treatment as that just submitted by Senator Fairbairn.
– Let the honorable senator give us the reasons for it.
– I can give very good reasons why the Government should treat the request. I intend to submit exactly as they have treated that proposed by Senator Fairbairn. I have purposely decided to submit it in exactly the same terms as the amendment moved in another place by the honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Atkinson). I move -
That the House of Representatives be requested to amend the clause by inserting after paragraph d, of sub-clause 2, the following new paragraph: - “or (e) that he is a minister of religion, or a student of theology.”
I find that Mr. Glynn, who was the Minister in charge of the Bill in another place at the time Mr. Atkinson submitted his amendment, said -
If the honorable member for Wilmet will leave this matter over, it will be given further consideration. There are not very strong views against the exemption of ministers of religion. In fact, clergymen were exempted in the first proposal, but the spirit of that proposal was different from that which is now before honorable members; and, under it, ministers of religion, and others exempted under the Defence Act, could scarcely be regarded as eligible for military service. The present proposal is more of a bachelor tax than anything else, and therefore certain persons previously exempted are not exempted now. If the honorable member will allow the matter to go now, it will be considered in connexion with any possible amendments in another place. In any case, I do not think that the amendment is as wide as the honorable member would desire. There are many members of religious congregations who are not students of theology.
– Which Minister said that?
– Mr. Glynn, who was in charge of the Bill at the time Mr. Atkinson moved his amendment. I think that that statement of the Minister constitutes a very good reason why the Committee should agree to the request I have moved. It amounted practically to a statement that the Government would submit an amendment of the kind when the Bill reached the Senate, and I am surprised that that intention has not been referred to by Senator Millen.
– I am not only not going to move such a request, but I intend to oppose it.
– Honorable senators will agree with the statement of the Minister in another place that the view that this exemption should be made is reasonably widespread. I have no desire to prolong the debate on the matter, but I venture to say that, speaking generally, ministers of religion, no matter to what denomination they belong, are not overpaid in this country.
– An Anglican bishop has said that they are remarkably poorly paid.
– I agree with that statement. They are poorly paid in proportion to the amount of work they perform, and the calls of charity which they have to meet, and to which they respond as well as do the members of any other section of the community. The clergyman’s house is in. many cases the first house of call for the poor. Ministers of religion in many cases receive little more than does the ordinary labourer, and there are very heavy calls made upon them.
– Their congregations will pay this tax.
– I wish I could think so. I wish I could believe that their congregations will subscribe more liberally than they do. It must be remembered that these men will be taxed upon their incomes. A minister of religion in receipt of an income of £200 a year may. have so many calls made upon his purse that at the end of one year he finds himself in exactly the same position as he was in at the end of the previous year. These men have adopted a profession in; which they are not out to make money,but to benefit mankind. If they devoted themselves to money-making they might be in a position to pay the highest rate of income tax. They have sacrificed themselves to their profession, and owing to the war they are now in many cases without the support of the greater number of the wage-earning members of their congregation. Yet we have here a proposal to take 5 per cent, of their reduced incomes without any exemption. I venture to say that it is not the desire of honorable senators to inflict hardship upon this section of the community.
– -We do not desire to inflict hardship upon anybody, if we can help it.
– We can help it in this case very simply by exempting these people from the operation of this Bill.
– We might as well exempt everybody.
– I am not proposing the exemption of everybody, but the exemption of the members of a most deserving class of the community.
– They can escape the tax by getting married.
– - Why not be logical and exempt the rouseabout and the poor labourer ?
– I am as logical as my friend Senator Grant, and, so far as the rouseabout and the poor labourer are concerned, I intend to endeavour to secure their exemption by submitting a request for the exemption of any person in receipt of less than £156 per year.
– If that general exemption is accepted it will be all right.
– I shall submit a request for such a general exemption. What I ask for now is the exemption of ministers of religion and students of theology. It is proposed not only that they should be taxed under this clause to the minimum extent of 5 per cent., or £5, but also upon their incomes.
– Look at the presents of slippers they receive.
– I know one gentleman who holds a fairly high position in the Church of England, to which I belong, and in answer to Senator Guthrie’s interjection I may say that on one occasion when he met a man without boots he took the boots off his own feet and gave them to him.
– He was a minister of religion.
– He was, but his case was not exceptional. There are ministers of religion in the country districts who frequently perform acts of that kind, but would cover them up if they possibly could.
– Would the minister of religion referred to have to pay this tax?
– Of course he would. If his income were £150 per year he would have “to pay £7 10s. under this Bill, and if it were £200 he would have to pay £10. I wish that, on behalf of the poor he represents, Senator Pratten would display a little of the zeal and energy which he exhibited on behalf of the wealthy companies ne represents. The honorable senator held up the last taxation Bill for days. Quite ,properly, he was justified in doing so, because it was an iniquitous Bill, but it was the interests of the people who make profits that were affected by that Bill. We are now dealing with a measure affecting the interests of people who have never attempted to make profits, and I hope that Senator Pratten will be found trying to protect that section of the community against taxation of this kind.
– I do not see that X, or anybody else, having assented to the second reading of the Bill, can vote for the pro-, posed exemption.
– W - What about the Government promise?
– T - There has been no promise from the Government.
– T - There has been from a member of the Government.
– I know of none. The Government have given ho promise in this regard, and, on behalf of the Government, I am here to resist the amendment. The question was put to the Senate whether it believed in a tax which was obviously a tax on bachelors, and the Senate, by an overwhelming majority, said it did. We are asked now to cut out a section of bachelors ; but I have listened in vain for any reason why we should make an exemption in favour of one particular set of them. It is said that the clergy are underpaid. I have to admit that, in many cases, they are. It is a scandal that many congregations ask their ministers to serve them at a wage which would be scorned by an ordinary labourer.
– It proves that ministers are not actuated by sordid motives in following their calling.
– But, because certain people desiring the services of a minister are not prepared to pay him a reasonable minimum wage, we are asked, as a National Government, to subsidize bis income on behalf of a congregation that refuses to do its duty. If Ave exempt clergymen on the ground that they are underpaid - as I admit that many of them are - can we ignore the claims of an equally deserving class, the school teachers? I know instances where school teachers can put their emoluments against those of many of the clergy, and the comparison would certainly show that they a;re not in any better position.
– The secretaries of Labour Leagues are pretty badly paid.
– If those bodies will sweat their servants, I cannot help it. .No case has been made out for the amendment, unless it is intended that, in this indirect way, we shall grant State aid to the churches, or their representatives. I am not disposed to do that. The amendment also covers theological students. I am a theological student myself. I have every reason to believe that even the devil, if there is anything in the old proverb, studies the scriptures. I should like to know how my honorable friends opposite would define students of theology. Something more than a mere statement . that a man is a theological student is necessary.
– Why should not a medical student be exempt as well as a theological student ? The medical student does A great deal for his country.
– Because he follows his profession with the intention of making a profit out of it.
– Theological students who became bishops made a good deal more than doctors.
– There is a great deal of truth in Senator Bakhap’s contention that a large number of these gentlemen, to their eternal honour, are serving the cause for the faith that is in them, and not for the sake of the emoluments; but, before we can accept that as a sufficient argument, there should be not only a minimum, but “a maximum salary for them, because there are still some rich prizes in the church. By agreeing to a general exemption of this kind, we should be exempting, not only the clergyman who is underpaid, and working because he be lieves in his work from his heart, but also clergymen! earning incomes which, with reasonable moderation, should suffice for the habits of a simple life.
– - We are not asked by the amendment to subsidize religion. All we are asked to do is to avoid discrimination. The Bill certainly does discriminate unfairly, because the ministers of religion of a fairly large section of the people of Australia are prevented by the doctrines of their church from marrying. The doctrines of other sects do not place this restriction on their ministers; and, therefore, those of their ministers who have married will escape this part of the Bill, whereas not one of the ministers of the other church to which I refer can escape it. Fortunately, there has always been in this country the broadest spirit of tolerance. Sometimes we see intolerance displayed, and instances of sectarianism, but no question of sectarianism is involved in an amendment of this kind, because everybody knows that the ministers of one particular church are not allowed to marry. That church probably represents from, one-fourth to one-fifth of the people of Australia, and to .the extent to which- its ministers are taxed that particular religion is discriminated against, although I do not say it was done wittingly or thinkingly by those who framed the Bill. The -very Constitution under which it was possible for this Bill to be brought forward lays it down as a principle, which we have all admitted is a good one, that there shall be no discrimination between denominations in this country. Section 116 of the Constitution reads -
The Commonwealth shall not make any law for establishing any religion, or for imposing any religious observance, or for prohibiting thefree exercise of any religion, and no religious test shall be required as a qualification for any office or public trust under the Commonwealth. *
There is the implication that, so far as possible, in all our legislation we must avoid anything which might savour of unfairly striking at one denomination. I contend, with all due deference, knowing that I am addressing an assembly fourfifths of whose members probably* hold different religious views from my own, but who are, and always have” been, tolerant in these matters, that the Bill unfairly discriminates against one particular religion whose ministers must remain celibate. At least one Minister in another place, who for the time being was m charge of the Bill, promised that the amendment moved by Mr. Atkinson, who is a member of the Church of England, would be considered before the Bill reached the Senate. Apparently the other Ministers have decided not to consider it, or, if they have considered it, they have decided to refuse the exemption. AH the same, the exemption is fair, and I shall vote for it.
– None of those who know me would say that I have any set against the church in general or any church in particular. I am a member of a church, and consequently would be very eager to deal fairly and legitimately with churches generally, but we may reasonably ask why any minister of religion should be exempt. A minister of religion belongs to the loftiest and noblest of all callings. At the same time, he is a citizen of Australia, and, having full citizen rights, be ought not to be exempt in any way from citizen obligations. There are no people who more often tell the population of Australia that those who have privileges have also duties. Senator Millen, in answering the argument that the exemption should be granted because ministers of religion were not properly paid, replied, quite naturally, that to grant them an exemption on that ground would be to give a State subsidy to religion ; but now Senator 0’ Keefe has raised a new argument, that the tax is a discrimination against a particular church because the priests of. that church are not allowed to marry. In the Methodist Church, to which I belong, a student cannot be married until he becomes a minister. For some years he is a probationer, and if he marries during that period he is not admitted into full connexion with the church.. On the same lines, it might, therefore, be argued that the Bill discriminates against him. While a probationer he is paid a minimum wage, and if he passes his examinations at the end of three years he is admitted into full connexion with the church, and can marry then if he chooses. When young fellows leave this country to fight, they fight for Protestants and Catholics alike. There is no discrimination there. They fight equally for the Protestant minister and the Roman Catholic priest.
– M - Ministers of religion are exempt from fighting altogether.
– But the young fellows at the Front do not say, “ We are fighting only for some.” They are fighting for the rights and the privileges of the people of Australia. The honorable senator, I take it, believes that it is a just war in which we are engaged. He recognises, too, I assume, that if we do not win the war, our liberty and freedom will be taken away from us. If that be so, the men who go to the Front from Australia go to fight for the liberty and freedom of all ministers of religion in this country, without discrimination.
.- But But under the Defence Act ministers of religion are exempted from military service.
– That is not the point.
– I - It is.
– It is quite another point. The honorable senator now says that, because under the Defence Act ministers of religion are exempted from going to the Front, therefore, under this Bill, we have no right to tax them. If that argument is sound, then decidedly ministers of religion should be exempted from liability to pay, not only the income tax, but also Customs duties. Senator Grant, I am sure, will agree with me that ministers of religion do now pay taxation through the Customs House. Consequently, although they are exempted from military service under the Defence Act, still they have to pay their taxation in every other way at present.
Senator O’Keefe has stated that this is a kind of sectional or class tax, because a large number of the ministers can marry if they please, whereas others cannot. Why should ministers of religion who marry, and who, because they have families, have to pay taxation heavily at the Customs House be called upon to pay this special tax if certain other ministers of religion are exempted ? Money has to be raised to prosecute the war, and if ministers of religion have money, I do not see why they should not pay their share of taxation the same as anybody else in the community.
I made an interjection in regard to the case of medical students. The doctor, I submit, does a great deal of good in this country. In” many instances lie is very philanthropic. Doctors compel some patients to pay, but, on the other hand, they attend a large number without making any charge. If we are to exempt theological students from this tax, I see no reason why we should not exempt medical students also.
– If you are favorable to that, move for an amendment.
– But I am not favorable to the exemption of theological students. I wondered at the honorable senator stopping at theological students.
– Because I had not a monopoly of all the good’ ideas.
– Of course not; and I must confess that I was surprised at the honorable senator being so anxious just now about the taxation of ministers of religion. I am against the exemption of men simply because they are ministers of religion. They are all citizens of this country, possessing privileges and- rights and enjoying the protection of the law and the Army, and, if they have the money, I do not see why they should not be called upon to pay this tax the same as anybody else.
– I can quite understand that Senator Thomas should be a little surprised at my taking an interest iD ministers of religion and students of theology. As regards the students, it was not my intention to submit the request as it is now worded. I departed from my original intention, in order to exactly fit it in with the amendment which the Minister then in charge of the Bill elsewhere (Mr. Glynn) promised would , be considered here. I venture- to suggest that his statement to the other House was considered by its members as tantamount to saying, “ Let the Bill go through here, and the amendment will be put in in another place.” That was my only reason for submitting the request in its present form. My original intention was to move that teachers preparing students to follow the profession of religion, and the students themselves, should be exempted. We have exempted these persons from the provisions of the Defence Act. Surely the duty of fighting is a duty which belongs to all!
– Hear, hear!
– But the State very wisely, when it comes to a question of fighting, says-
– It is a duty which ought to belong to all.
– It does rightly belong to all, but in the Defence Act those exemptions were made which are in accordance with common sense.
When the Vice-President of the Executive Council (Senator Millen) says that to exempt these men is to subsidize religion, he is straining at an . argument. It is nothing of the kind. No subsidy is offered. All the Parliaments in Australia have encouraged the teaching of religion because of the advantages which the State must necessarily derive from such instruction. I am not opposing the tax on account of the pay which the ministers receive. They are not working for pay; their reward, I understand, is to come in another place. No man can say that a person who spends the whole of his life in religious teaching is not devoting his time to benefit the community as a whole. “ I care not what religion he teaches. For Senator Millen to argue that because we ask for an exemption on behalf of a clergyman on account of the sacrifice he has made, is making, and will make, we seek a subsidy to religion is merely to strain after effect. It is nothing of the kind. It is a very proper recognition, and one which is made by many Parliaments, of what we owe to those who have given up their lives to improve the conditions of the community.
I shall press my request, though I shall be quite prepared if Senator Millen objects to the words “ theological students,” to substitute other words. I recognise that it is loose drafting, but, as I said, I worded the amendment in that way to fit in with the promise which the Minister in charge of the Bill made in another place. I am quite prepared, however, for the amendment to be altered and applied to those who are being prepared by ministers of religion as well as to ministers generally. I ask the Government to consider this request, coming from the Opposition side, in the same way as they treated the request of Senator Fairbairn. Simply because they happen to possess a majority, I do not think that all reasonable proposals from this side should be rejected. I welcomed the way in which the Minister accepted the other request, which, in my opinion, was a desirable and fair one, and it would be quite becoming on his part to extend like consideration, not only to this side, but to many of the Government’s followers in the other House, because to them his colleague conveyed the idea that this exemption would be made in the Senate.
Senator Lt.-Colonel O’LOGHLIN (South Australia) [5.41]. - In my second-reading speech I made the particular point I desired to make. In connexion with this measure there are two objects which may be put forward as laudatory. One is that as a conscription measure it was intended to induce by penal exaction men to go to the Front, and the other is that it was intended to induce bachelors to marry by putting a tax upon them. In regard to ministers of religion the first point will not apply, because under the Defence Act they are exempt from military service. The imposition of a penalty upon them as bachelors, therefore, will have no effect in inducing them to go to the Front. The second object of inducing single men to marry will not be achieved in the case of a large number of ministers who are under a vow of celibacy. The two particular grounds on which the tax may be justified in the case of ministers of religion will not apply there. I am very much surprised at the Government opposing the requested amendment, because I take it that the virtual promise given in another place by the Minister then in charge of the Bill (Mr. Glynn) was not given without consulting his colleagues there. The only inference we can draw is that the Minister in charge of the Bill in the Senate (Senator Millen) is the one responsible for blocking the amendment.
– I hope that the Ministry will not be led away by the flimsy statements made by those who desire to see this request carried. It is quite true that ministers of religion are exempted by the Defence Act from taking up arms. It is also quite true that, not very long ago, the Senate spent almost the whole of a night sitting to prevent the war census cards from being worded in such a way as to disclose the values of the lands held by the churches throughout Australia. The churches feared that, as the war proceeded, they might be called upon to pay taxation in proportion to the enormous land values which they are alleged to hold.
– Why did you exempt them?
– Because there was a majority here in that direction. I was not one of the majority.
I have seen no petition from ministers of religion asking to be exempted from this tax. I am at a loss to Understand why any one should seek to exempt anybody. I am opposed to exemptions all along the line. But if the exemption of £156 had been carried it would have operated on all classes alike. . It would have operated on the rouseabouts, and also on the clergy for whom some honorable senators are extremely solicitous. I am about tired of this continuous solicitation on behalf of those who can verywell afford to look after themselves. I am not here to look after those persons at all. The men who mainly sent me here receive very much less wages, and suffer very much greater hardship than do the majority of the clergy. The rouseabouts, the casual labourers, the men who milk cows, the men who dig potatoes, the men who are mining, and doing the hard work of the country, should be considered rather than men, like the Archbishop of Canterbury, say, who is a follower of the Lowly Nazarene, at £10,000 a year. I have no sympathy for that type of gentleman.
– This tax will not affect him.
– But there are some clergymen here who would be affected by it.
– Why should not the secretary of the Single Tax League be also exempt? He is doing a tremendous amount of good work for this community by endeavouring to educate people to impose taxation on the right shoulders. Why should the hundreds of secretaries of Labour leagues throughout Australia, those men who are giving their time for the benefit of their fellows, be included in this measure, if ministers of religion are to be exempted ?
– They are looking for the next election, though.
– But it would be impossible for all those men to be returned to Parliament.
– What about the Australian Workers Union being exempted?
– Yes. These are the men about whom I am concerned, and not the various clergymen, who are, no doubt> doing good work in their own way. The position occupied by school teachers was also raised during this debate. Why should not they be exempt, too ? They get a number of privileges which the ordinary “ rouseabout “ does not enjoy, because they never fail to bring their requests before Parliament in the many ways at their disposal. The clergymen of this country are subject to the income tax, but if they have no income they do not pay.
– Under this Bill, some will pay whether they have incomes or not.
– I think it was Senator Gardiner who remarked that clergymen had many calls upon them, and that they gave away pretty well the whole of their salary. If they do” that, how do they manage to live and pay their ordinary expenses 1 This is one of the conundrums which I have not/ seen solved yet. Ministers of religion are obliged to pay Customs duties, and other forms of taxation; but it appears now- that a very limited number of senators desire to exempt them from this special impost.
I do not look upon this as a bachelor tax at all, nor do I regard it as a conscriptionist move on the part of the Government. I look upon it as a determined effort by the Government to raise money, so as to avoid the necessity of taxing the land-owners of this country. The request moved by Senator Fairbairn is one which applies to every-
– Order ! Senator Fairbairn’ s request is not before the Committee.
– I merely wished to point out the difference between this request and that submitted by Senator Fairbairn. The latter applied to every person in the Commonwealth, but this request will only apply to one section of the community, and that kind of legislation is no good. I should like to see honorable senators on this side concern themselves more inti.mately with the workers of this country - those men whose employment is intermittent, and whose remuneration is so inadequate - rather than that they should consider the people who are well able to look after themselves. So far as I know, no request has been made by clergymen of any denomination to be exempted from this form of taxation.
This is war time, and we have to find an enormous amount of money, because if the war lasts until the end of this year we shall have to provide interest to the amount of £10,000,000 a year. That being so, and if the Government are not prepared to go to the right source for taxation, there is no justification for the exemption now proposed by Senator Gardiner. I, for one, will .not support it.
.. - I am not surprised at Senator Grant’s attitude in this matter,, because I believe if he could get hold of the Holy Sepulchre’ itself he would impose taxation on it.
– On the unimproved value of it.
– Yes; we will put it that way. I am loath to make any deliverance at any time on matters concerning religion, and, generally, I preserve a discreet silence in relation to that subject, because I hold, with Tennyson, that a man should be sensible of his own imperfections, and make very substantial efforts to remedy them, before he talks about religion. But I cannot hide from myself the salient fact that this is nominally,, and in some measure practically, a Christian country. The Legislature of Australia opens its proceedings with prayer, by the Presiding Officer repeating the petition which the Saviour of Mankind enjoined upon human frailty to the Great Ruler of the Universe. I have a very strong conviction that every honorable senator regards that petition with every respect, but I am sorry to say that in our treatment of this question of exempting ministers of religion from this special taxation we seem to have introduced a very sordid element. There is no doubt that the profession of ministers of religion - if profession it can be called - is substantially differentiated from every other human calling. Our Defence Act makes discrimination by exempting ministers of religion from military service. In regard to this war, I have read many articles, as no doubt have other senators, dealing with phases of human thought in connexion with the war : It is said rightly or wrongly - I do not know, because I am a poor theologian, and natu- rally I am rather like Gallio, careless in matters of religion - that the attitude .of the human race towards religion will be very much conditioned by this war, that men who have been materialistic “now regard human life as something very unsubstantial indeed. After the war men will . fix their thoughts for some generations on what I might call the higher plane of life, on the problems of time, chance, destiny, and so on.
It is inconsistent and wrong, as was shown in a recent article in the- Spectator, to consider the profession of a minister of religion -as something by which an individual gains a livelihood, or as a profession adopted for that purpose, and I venture to say that not one senator is so devoid of the instincts of a gentleman as to suggest to any minister of religion that he follows his sacred calling simply because he expects to make a living out of it.
– A - As a matter of fact, are not most of them very poor men t
– Most of them are indeed very poor men, and those who have become rich have usually reached that state because of the piety of individuals who have bequeathed to them legacies for the purpose of instituting religious foundations, and so forth.
– And many of them have left substantial legacies.
– Very many of them have not left enough to pay their burial expenses, and they make it a point of honour not to do so.
It is said that the revenue to be raised by this measure will be ear-marked for the purpose of-
– The honorable senator will not be in order in discussing the merits of the whole Bill.
– I will say, then, that we have been told that the revenue to be derived from the operation of this clause is to be earmarked for the purpose of repatriation, and that there is a direct connexion between this Bill and the service which our soldiers are rendering to this country. If we believe what has been written regarding the esteem in which ministers of religion are held bv our soldiers at the Front, I will go so far as to say that if the men knew this question of exempting ministers from the operation of this measure was under discussion, they would vote overwhelmingly in favour of this course.
– I think you are wrong.
– Then we have been misled concerning the affection which we have been led to assume is entertained by our soldiers for the ministers representing the different denominations at the Front. Ministers of religion stand on a higher plane than frail and suffering humanity. We have been told - and the honorable senator may read of this in the works of Macaulay - that, during the great plague in London, when even members of the profession of medicine abandoned their patients, and when husbands deserted their wives, there were still to be found alongside the wretched pallets of the sick, ministers of religion, offering to the plague-stricken people that . consolation which the Divine Founder of our religion had enjoined them and ‘their successors to administer. I very rarely have anything to do with ministers of religion, but I respect all of them. I have enjoyed their hospitality, and whenever opportunity afforded I have’ reciprocated. I find excellent ministers of religion in every denomination from the newest sect, the Salvation Army, -right on’ to the oldest Christian denomination. I have even foregathered with Mohammedan priests, and, despite the intolerance which they are supposed to exhibit towards Christians-
– And which many of them do not.
– And which many of them do not exhibit, I have derived profit from their discourse with me, and have been constrained to recognise that the adherents of a faith other than our own can show us that we as Christians have not a monopoly of the virtues which are esteemed Christian.
I do not think we shall do any dishonour to ourselves if we afford further recognition of the already acknowledged fact that this is a Christian country, by exempting ministers from the operation of this Bill. Some sects have no ministry, whilst others have. But it is a distinguishing characteristic of every Christian sect, with the exception possibly of the Quakers and one or two obscure denominations which are principally represented in the United States of America, that it has a Christian ministry. Seeing that the Federal Convention, representing the best minds in
Australia, set forth; in the preamble of our Constitution that we, as a Christian community, humbly rely on the blessing of Almighty God for the future of our nation, it is only consonant with that petition which is daily uttered by our President that in these times of exhibition of material might, of hatred, of chicane, and of passions that disgrace human nature, we should recognise the gentle tenets of the Prince of Peace and Saviour of mankind, by exempting His representatives, irrespective of denomination, from the operation of this tax.
.- Personally, I fail to see any reason why ministers of religion should be exempted from the payment of this tax if they are in receipt of £200 a year. There is one duty that we all owe to our country, the duty of defending it upon every possible occasion. In the land from which I hail, ministers of religion themselves recognise that they have but one duty to perform, namely, to protect the liberties of their people and their religion. The individuals whom honorable senators opposite wish to relieve of this tax would not be prepared to go and “ do their bit “ even if the country demanded that they should actively assist in its protection. But they are quite satisfied to see others go and bleed, whilst they remain behind exempt from this taxation. I am not referring to the ministers of any particular denomination, but to the shirkers. Surely if ministers of religion are not prepared to fight for the Empire they ought at least to be willing to contribute their share of taxation to enable our wounded warriors to be comforted when they return to us.
– W - Would the honorable senator levy this tax upon married clergymen ?
– I. am referring to young men - to bachelors. Stand outside any church in the community and watch the men who enter it. It will be found that they are men with large families, many of whom are not earning £2 per week. What are their incomes as compared with that of the individual who preaches to them, and who is, perhaps, a bachelor? Why should he be exempt from this taxation? I cannot understand why my honorable friends opposite are putting up a fight of this description. The proposal of Senator Gardiner is an unreasonable one, and the clergy themselves, regardless of their denomination, will not thank him for it. They all realize that they have a responsibility cast upon them at the present juncture.
– The Defence Act exempts them from fighting.
– That is so. The Defence Act says that they need not fight in defence of their liberties and’ their country if they do not choose to do so. But if they will not fight it is only right that the single men amongst them should contribute to the taxation of the country.
.- It was evident, from the manner in which Senator Bakhap replied to an interjection by me, that he understood me to be speaking in a disparaging manner of’ our chaplains at the Front.
– I did not for a moment entertain any idea of the kind.
– 1 am very glad of that, because I can assure the honorable senator that our soldiers at the Front appreciate their chaplains, just as they appreciate any brave man. But the reason for the esteem in which these chaplains are held is not that they happen to be ministers of religion. It is because many of them have exhibited as much bravery as have ordinary military officers. Under this Bill, chaplains at the Front will not be called upon to pay the proposed tax. In the ‘course of his remarks, Senator O’Loghlin stated that ministers of religion are exempted from fighting under our Defence Act. It is true that they are exempt from compulsory service, but, personally, I am strongly opposed to that provision in the Statute. There is nothing to prevent ministers of religion from enlisting. A recruiting sergeant is waiting at the Town Hall, who will enroll ministers of religion with as much alacrity as he will enroll other members of the community. In the unit in which I served abroad there was one man who was formerly in charge of a church. He joined the battery as a private, and worked himself up to a lieutenant. I refer to Lieutenant Hare, of Queensland, Who .was afterwards killed at the Front. It is quite’ competent for other ministers of religion to enlist as he did. I hope that the request will not be carried, and that ministers of religion will be called upon to do their duty. I have never supported the Government with more pleasure than I do on this occasion.
– Possibly owing to some affinity of character, Senator O’Loghlin fashioned his latest speech on the model of the serpent, by putting its sting in its tail. He concluded his remarks by a reference to a speech alleged to have been made elsewhere by a colleague of mine, and assumed from that deliverance that the Government were favorable to the acceptance of his amendment, and that I alone was opposing it. He directed public attention to the fact that, whilst other Ministers were favorable to it, I alone was in opposition to it. Let me say that the views which I have expressed to-day are those of the Ministry. They are the views at which the Government arrived in the ordinary way before this Bill was presented , to the other branch of the Legislature. In speaking here to-day, not only did I express my own individual views, but I spoke as one who voiced the opinions of his colleagues.
Senator Lt.-Colonel O’Loghlin.Mr. Glynn spoke for the Ministry.
– Mr. Glynn was not in charge of the Bill. I repeat that the views which I have expressed in this chamber are the views of the Government.
– The words just used by the Vice-President of the Executive Council are practically the words which the Treasurer (Sir JohnForrest) used in introducing this measure in its original form in another place. That Bill he afterwards withdrew. I propose to glance at the arguments which have been advanced by Senator Plain, Senator Thomas, and Senator Grant. They are all prepared to vote against exempting ministers ofreligion from the proposed tax. Senators Plain and Thomas voted to exempt doctors and lawyers from the operation of the War-time Profits Tax Assessment Bill, and yet they now revolt against exempting ministers of religion from this tax. Senator Reid was also prepared to exempt these professional’ classes. Within the present session we have passed a Bill which will exempt professional men, such as lawyers and doctors, from taxation upon excess profits made during war time.
– Ministers of religion were exempted.
– Yes ; but what chance have ministers of religion of making a profit? I am sorry that the debate did not conclude with Senator Bakhap’s speech. He lifted the discussion to a very high level. I venture to say that this is the first branch of the Legislature which seems unable to appreciate the good work that is being done by ministers of religion.
Question - That the request be agreed to - put. The Committee divided.
Majority . . . . 11
Question so resolved in the negative.
– I have another request to move in connexion with which I hope I may have the support of Senator Grant, and of other honorable senators, who are interested in the general labourer, and people who are not in receipt of large incomes. I move -
That the House of Representatives be requested to amend the clause by inserting after paragraph d of sub-clause 2 the following new paragraph: - “ or (e) that his income does not exceed One hundred and fifty-six pounds.”
This would not have the same effect as the request moved earlier by Senator O’Keefe, because this exemption would apply only to this Bill, whilst that submitted by Senator O’Keefe would affect the provisions of the Income Tax Act, which this Bill continues. In view of the present high cost of living, it will be agreed that an income of £156 a year is not too high to be exempt from this taxation. Many of the men liable to taxation under the Bill; as it stands, could not have gone to the war under any conditions. Many are physically unfit for active service, and those between the ages of forty-five and sixty are over the age at which men would be accepted for active service. Many of these men have persons dependent upon them. A man in receipt of an income of £156 a year may have to maintain a widowed mother and three or four children. He must struggle if those children are to be educated in such a way as to fit them for the battle of life. Surely honorable senators do not desire that such a man should be required to pay an additional sum of £7 10s. per year to the revenue of the country.
– The honorable senator will see that the proviso in clause 6 meets such a case. In a case of hardship such as that, the tax need not be levied.
– Senator Millen reminds me that provision is made for exemption from taxation in cases of hardship, at the discretion of the Commissioner. If it is the intention of the Government that these exemptions should be made, why not fix a limit below which incomes shall not be subject to this taxation, as a guide to the Commissioner ?
– Because the honorable senator would leave out rich people, who ought not to be exempt.
– Not at all. I am asking for the exemption only of those whose incomes do not exceed £156 a year. Do not let us have any misunderstanding about this matter. If the Government desire that relief should be given in hard cases, there is no reason why my request should not be agreed to.
I take the case of a young man, the son of poor parents. The father bringing up a large family believes that his son has the making of a capable professional man. He may be at considerable expense to educate him for the profession, and the young man may expect within a year or two to pass his final examinations. Under this Bill. he will have to pay a tax of £5, which will be a very serious matter for him. The
Minister may tell me that, under the expansive clause, the remission of the tax in such a case is left to the discretion of the Commissioner, but if the Commissioner exercises his discretion in the way in which Senator Millen has acted, it will be a one-sided discretion.
On more than one occasion, Senator Fairbairnhas submitted amendments to Government measures, and Senator Millen has said, “ Yes, Senator Fairbairn,” whilst equally deserving amendments submitted by honorable senators on this side receive very different treatment from the honorable senator.
– That only reveals the character of the amendments which honorable senators opposite propose.
– That is an excellent illustration of what may be expected from the judgment of a partisan.
If the Commissioner were to act as Senator Millen has done, exemptions could be easily secured by his political friends, whilst it would be very difficult for those holding different political viewsto obtain any exemption. At the present time, the Commonwealth and States Governments are deliberately weedingout of the Public Services every one who is known to hold Labour views. We know that the recent strike has given rise to a great deal of partisan feeling.
– The men the honorable senator led astray.
– I do not mind accepting the responsibility which Senator Millen so undeservedly puts upon me. I would rather be astray with those men than on the right track with the honorable senator.
– Then Senator Gardiner does not believe in doing the right thing.
– I do; and I believe the men referred to are doing the right thing, though Senator Reid may be quite willing to give his vote to the present Commonwealth Government to make things unbearable for them. I repeat that, at the present time, the Commonwealth and the States Governments are deliberately weeding outof the Public Services of the country men whose only fault is that they play a leading Bart in their unions. We might have a partisan Commissioner of Taxes appointed by the Government, and I am not prepared to entrusthim with such powers as are given to the Commissioner under this Bill.
– Does the honorable senator suggest that a partisan Commissioner may be appointed by the Government?
– Since the last elections, the Government have forced a strike for the purposes of cleaning out of the Public Service all men -who hold labour views. There is no mistake about that, though honorable senators opposite may shut their eyes to the fact.
– We should need coloured glasses to see it.
– The fact is there, and if Senator Earle doubts my word for it, he has only to get into touch with the men who have been victimized already.
– Does the Commissioner of Taxation hold labour views?
– I am pointing out that a Commissioner may be removed from his office, and a partisan Commissioner appointed to do the work of a partisan Government. I am not making any accusation against any particular individual. I submit a request for the exemption from this taxation of men in receipt of incomes not exceeding £156 a year. Surely we could agree upon such a request as that. The levy of taxation upon such an amount of income should not. be left to the discretion of anybody. If the Committee do not approve of such an exemption, their very disapproval may be regarded by the Commissioner of Taxes as expressing a desire on the part of honorable senators that men receiving any salary should be taxed, whether their income reaches the living wage or not. I do not think that any honorable senators will say that an income of £156 a year is more than barely sufficient for a man to live on, in view of the present high cost of living.
– A single man?
– Whether he is a single man or not. Honorable senators know that the proposition on which people get married is : If two can live more cheaply than one, what could half-a-dozen live on ? (Single men cannot live very cheaply at the present time.
– lt depends on where and how they live.
– They cannot live cheaply in Australia at the present time. The board, alone, of a single man costs him from £1 to 25s. per week.
– Go on.
– There is not much left to enable him to meet the other calls upon his income.
– Hot socks have gone up in price just now.
– I do not know of anything that has not gone up in price.
– -There are fewer race meetings. We have brought down the cost of living there.
– If, for board and lodging alone, we take 25s. a week from the single man earning £3 per week, and many men are not getting anything like that wage, week in and week out, there is very little left for him with which to secure the other things he needs. Surely honorable senators do not desire to tax people whose incomes are as low as that.
Sitting suspended from 6.30 to 8 p.m.
– If the Government are not inclined to accept my proposal to exempt incomes below £156, I am prepared, in order to expedite the passage of the Bill - and no one can complain about the speed with which we have been dealing with it - to propose, as a compromise, that all incomes below £100 shall be exempted. If I thought the Government would accept that, I would be prepared not to go any further. If the Government are not willing to show a spirit of reasonableness, and do the right thing by a section of the community which can very ill afford to pay a tax of £5, I shall press my first proposal. It may be argued that these people can obtain relief under another clause, but the time of the officers who have to deal with appeals ‘of that sort will he saved if my proposal is adopted, and there will be a ‘great saving to the States by the Act prescribing definitely an exemption of £156.
– Senator Gardiner is quite right in saying that no one can reasonably complain of the time occupied so far in discussing the measure. I quite appreciate that honorable senators have not spoken with any desire to consume time, but I have not heard sufficient to induce me to recognise the soundness of Senator “Gardiner’s proposal in view of the purpose and scope of the Bill.
I shall have to move later to re-commi’t the Bill to move a request for an amendment that. I should have proposed before.
Paragraph, c exempts any man who is permanently incapacitated for work. The amendment I wish to have made is to add “ and is in receipt of a gross income not exceeding £150.” That shows that the Government are desirous of preventing any cases of undue hardship without providing avenues of escape for others. It has a bearing on Senator Gardiner’s proposal. As paragraph c stands now, a man permanently incapacitated for work will be exempt, although he might be a millionaire.
There may be, as Senator Gardiner points out, certain people who think they can ill afford to pay this tax, but his proposal would also exempt the sons of quite rich people. There are a considerable number of men whose sons are working for them, but are not in receipt of any fixed salary. Senator Gardiner pictured a father of. this class saying to his boy, “ You know that all I have will come to you afterwards, and you need not bother, therefore, about a salary.” Young men of that kind are well off, although not getting a fixed income, and I do not think any one wants to exempt them. Personally, I do not, but Senator Gardiner’s’ proposal would do it. There are in Australia a considerable number of well-to-do farmers whose boys never receive anything in the nature of a fixed income, but what they make, or save their father in wages, is really going into the family stocking. They are quite entitled to full wages.’ and could not be employed by any one else at less than £3 per week, but the father only gives them a little pocket money. At the same time, they are really well off, arid are not entitled to any exemption, and could pay the tax without any inconvenience to themselves. The request, therefore, goes beyond what Senator Gardiner indicated as having in his mind - the exemption of those who can ill afford to pay.
There is also a proviso in the Bill that where any one can show the Commissioner that the tax represents an undue, unnecessary, or unfair hardship, the Commissioner can relieve him of his obligation. Senator Gardiner did not dispute that that could be done, but conjured up a whole series of bogies. Speaking no doubt from his experience of past Governments, he imagined a Government being wicked enough to use corrupt influence with the Commissioner in order to have favoritism shown, so that a poli- tical friend would get exemption where a political opponent would not. It is rather late in the day to raise an objection of that kind, because the, same Commissioner as we have now has been exercising the same power under the main Income Tax Act. Senator Gardiner found no fault with that Bill when it was passing through this Chamber, but assented to the expedient, recognising that Parliament cannot lay down any provision which may not in certain cases inflict a hardship which no one desires to see imposed. In order to meet these special cases we have given the Commissioner, in quite a number of cases, power to intervene where the taxpayer shows that the tax would fall with crushing effect upon himself or his dependants. The same safety valve is in this’ Bill, and as Senator Gardiner’s proposal would let out, not only the men he wants to save, but also the sons of wealthy people whom I do not think he wishes to see escape, and as those he pleads for are provided for in the proviso I have quoted, I ask the Committee not to agree to his request.
– - I am satisfied that Senator Gardiner has no. desire to exempt the sons of wealthy people who are not receiving a salary, but who know that eventually they will come into a fortune, nor do I, nor any other honorable senator, wish to exempt them, because they certainly ought to pay. They have the. ability to pay through their father. I do not think the request would let themout, because in the” aggregate the same amount of taxation would be paid by the father on his enhanced income. If he paid each of his sons a salary his taxable income would be so much less, and he would pay less tax, but each of his sons would pay the tax, so in the long run it would amount to the same thing.
– No; this is the higher rate of tax.
– T - There would be very little difference, so that there is not much in Senator Millen’s argument that that , particular class of taxpayers would be exempted by Senator Gardiner’s proposal. The exemption is a fair one, and if I thought there was the slightest hope of getting support, I would propose two further exemptions, which I think equally fair. It does not seem to be much use, however, because the Minister appears to be determined to stick to every line of his Bill, except that he has accepted Senator Fairbairn’s proposal.
This is a Bill to tax bachelors and widowers without children if they are over the age of twenty-one. It exempts invalids and old-age pensioners, and soldiers who have gone to the Front. It should exempt, although it does not, those who tried to go to the Front. We should be doing only the fair thing if we removed that discrimination and exempted also those who have been anxious to go and have been rejected for medical reasons.
– Most of them would be willing to pav their fivers.
– I - In the last half hour I have been in conversation with a worthy young citizen, who is a clerk in the employ of the Commonwealth. He is convinced that he is fit, and that he should not have been rejected by the medical authorities, as lie has been ?n two or three occasions. He has a brother at the Front, and is just as anxious to get there as any one could be. He said to me, “Either they let me get to the Front, or they put me in gaol ; they are not going to get a fiver out of me. Why should I be put on a different footing from the men who have gone to the Front, while I want to go? Why should I not be exempt the same as the man who has enlisted for foreign service and been sent back as medically unfit after a voyage lasting a week or two, and the same as the man who has gone to some little part outside Australia on service and then come back, declared medically unfit, although he has never seen active service?”
It would also be fair to grant an exemption to men who have made an honorable proposal of marriage, and been refused. Have they not a fair case for exemption?
– I think that those men ought to have a double tax to pay.
– P - Perhaps it was more by good luck than by good management that many honorable senators did not meet with a refusal when they proposed marriage to a lady. I have no doubt that before some of. them were fortunate enough to get married they did make an honorable offer, and were refused. It would be only fair to exempt from this tax a man who has tried to get married, and who, through no fault of his own, has been rejected. I do not suppose that it would be of any use to move for amendment to that effect, because it is unlikely that it would be accepted by the Minister (Senator Millen).
– How could he give proof that he had tried ?
– T - The man, of course, would have to satisfy the Commissioner that he had proposed to a young lady, and that his offer had been rejected. No doubt she would have sufficient sympathy with the man to go to the Commissioner and supply the necessary evidence. The Minister might, I think, accept the suggestion pf Senator Gardiner to exempt at least £100 of a bachelor’s income from the tax.
– I wish to know from Senator Millen whether it can be read into a provision which has been passed that it is proposed to exempt men whose services have been refused for military work or other work at the Front on account of their being skilled workmen, and’ their services being regarded as more valuable here than elsewhere. Is it intended to exempt such persons from the provisions of the Bill?
.- -I almost, hoped that the Vice-President of the Executive Council (Senator Millen) would have accepted my last proposition. I ask honorable senators generally to look at the provision under which he says the Commissioner has the power to exercise a discretion. I think that it only confers upon the Commissioner a discretionary power as to matters set out before we come to this part of the clause. It reads -
Provided further that, where the Commissioner is satisfied that, by reason of the support given by a person to his dependants, the payment of the full amount of tax payable under the preceding provisions of this section would impose hardship on the person-1-
This is not .a “preceding” part of the clause. I ask honorable senators who feel inclined to vote for the provision in the belief that the Commissioner has power thereunder to make certain exemptions to reconsider the matter.
– The following part does not deal with the tax at all.
– The Minister has based an argument against the proposed exemption on the ground that in any hard case the Commissioner will have power to grant an exemption. I do not feel too certain about the reading of the provision, because at the pace at which we have been travelling it is very difficult to follow the wording of the measure. Perhaps if the clause is passed as it stands the Commissioner may find himself up against something which was not intended.
The Minister indicated a further amendment which he proposes on recommittal of the Bill to move in the clause. I call his attention to the possibility that in” our hurry we may do something which we did not intend to do. Sub-clause 1 is not to apply to a person who satisfies the Commissioner -
I invite the Minister when he is drafting the proposed amendment to consider the case of a blind man who is only partially incapacitated for work.
– He is permanently incapacitated, although he may not be totally incapacitated.
– I see the difference there. No one can say that a blind man, who each day goes to his work, has been permanently incapacitated for work. Bui I ask the Minister to seriously consider whether the Bill will not tax the blind who are earning a little. I want to be quite sure on that point.
In my opinion the exemptions which the Commissioner is given power to deal with are those which precede this subclause, and not those which follow it. At any rate, it will be wise to make an exemption up to £156, and it will not do an injury to anybody. A man who is getting only £156 a year is not a proper subject of taxation for the purpose of repatriation. In 1915, the incomes over £156 amounted to £124,000,000. Why should we tax to the extent of £5 or £7 10s. a year a man. who has only £156 to live on, when there is available a huge sum which could be taxed to provide ample money, not only for the purpose of repatriation, but almost for the conduct of the war?
– The succeeding provision does not impose any tax.
– A single man can scarcely live on £156 a year under reasonable conditions at the present time. Surely we can get the money we require from the legitimate -source of taxation I have mentioned, and leave men in receipt of only £156 free from additional taxation.
– I wish to say a few words on Senator Gardiner’s statement that the proviso to sub-clause 1 does not give the Commissioner power to exempt hard cases from the tax. The words used in the proviso are, “ tax payable under the preceding provisions of this section.” It is the preceding provisions in sub-clause 1 which impose the tax. That is where the Commissioner gets a discretion to say whether the tax shall be remitted wholly or in part. There is no need for the Commissioner to have a discretionary power in regard to the provisions following subclause 1, because Parliament itself will have stated what is to .be exempted there. The proviso to sub-clause 1 gives the Commissioner absolute authority, under certain conditions, to remit the tax referred to in the preceding portion of the subclause.
Senator Gardiner has suggested that, in these times, a single man can hardly live on £156 a year.
– It is difficult.
– That may be; bub if it is difficult for a single man to live on that income, what about the thousands of married men, many of them with four or five children, who are asked to live on a little over £156 a year?
– The good management of two makes it much cheaper.
– Speaking from a limited range of experience, I dispute that statement. If, however, it is impossible for a single man to live on £3 a week, as Senator Gardiner declares, there must be thousands of married men with an income a little over that sum, and with a family of from two to five children, who have a much stronger claim for exemption from taxation. We have to maintain a sense of proportion in this matter. While the heart of Senator Gardiner evidently bleeds for a single man with an income of £3 a week, I ask the Committee to take into account the fact that, unless such a man is called upon to pay some share of the taxation to-day, there must be an added impost on the man who is getting that or a little more, and who also has to maintain a wife and a growing family.
Some honorable senators on the other side seem to think that .this is a Bill to penalize bachelors. It is nob a Bill to penalize them at all. What it says in effect is, “ Being bachelors, you are in a better position to contribute to the revenue of the country, and being bachelors you pay less to the revenue through the Customs and other directions than do others.”
– I - It does not promise to let them off if they get married right away.
– If any man thinks that it is going to be cheaper to take a lady to the altar than to pay the tax, we will welcome his action, and willingly give up the £5.
– B - But you do not say so in the Bill.
– I ask honorable senators to consider that the Bill in no sense imposes a penalty on a bachelor. No, matter what tax is proposed, it will always be received with a howl of indignation from the particular class on whom it is to fall. A bachelor in this country, hard as his lot may be, is under lighter disabilities, and makes lees contribution to the Treasury than does a married man. Every time the wife of a man goes to buy something, he is a contributor to the revenuethrough the Customs, and is making a contribution from which a bachelor is exempted. We say to the bachelor, “ Owing to the stress of war, we ask you to level up that difference a little.”
Question - That the request be agreed to - put. The Committee divided.
Majority . . . . 11
Question so resolved in the negative.
– I move -
That the House of Representatives be requested to further amend the clause by inserting after paragraphd, sub-clause 2, the following new paragraph : - “ or (e) that his income does not exceed One hundred and four pounds.”
We have had a’ very good debate on the request moved by Senator Gardiner for an exemption of £156. Senator Millen contended that that was too high, but I hope that he will see the reasonableness of an exemption in the case of a single man whose income does not exceed £2 per week. Many single men in Australia have to support other members of their family, and I point out, also, that blind persons, unmarried, are, in some cases, able to earn about £100 a year. I remember that Senator Earle, on a former occasion, was a strong advocate of consideration being shown to blind persons. I submit the request in all sincerity, and hope the Minister will accept it.
– But a single man with dependants is allowed to make deductions for those dependent upon him.
– That may be so; but in a Christian country like this, a modest request of this nature should receive serious consideration at the hands of the Government. The acceptance of the amendment will not affect the revenue to any considerable extent, but it will be a great relief to single men who may be in receipt of only £104 a year.
– I feel it necessary to support the request, because in all our legislation we should be concerned with the practical, and I do not think it is possible satisfactorily to make a levy of £5 on any individual earning only £104 a year. Earlier in the debate, I informed the Senate that I had had some experience in Tasmania of the operation of a minimum tax of 2s. 6d. on all individuals earning £80 a year. In that case, it was found practically impossible to levy the. tax satisfactorily, small though the minimum amount was. It is all very well to start out with the abstract statement that every bachelor should pay; but a man whose earning capacity is not more than £104 a year in the present state of affairs in Australia, is, I think, of very little military value; and we know, of course, that originally the military situation was kept in view when this Bill was drafted.
– But will that be the man’s earning power?
– We have to deal with facts. Given other opportunities, such a man might be able to earn £1,000 a year; but we have to consider what his actual earnings are at the present time. That being so, I regard the attempt to levy £5 on a man whose income is only £104 a year as removed from the realm of practical administration, and I will have no hesitation in voting for the request.
– I should like to know from the mover of this request if he had in mind’ the question of whether this £104 a year was income from property or income from personal exertion?
– I had no thought about property in my mind at all, and was speaking only of income from personal exertion.
.- I hope the Senate will accept the request. It might be said that, under sub-clause 3, the Commissioner will have power to deal with particularly hard cases; but let me read that sub-clause for the information of the Committee -
For the purposes of this section, “ taxable income “ means the amount which is ascertained by deducting from the taxable income of the person, within, the meaning of the Income Tax Assessment Act 1915-16, the sum of twenty-six pounds in respect of each dependant wholly dependent on him, and such less sum as the Commissioner allows in respect of each dependant partially dependent upon him.
Under this clause, a bachelor earning from £75 to £100 a year, and supporting his aged parents, will be allowed to deduct the magnificent sum of £52 a year from his taxable income.
– I would like the honorable senator to tell me if he thinks that a man earning only £100 a year can support two parents, in the face of his statement a little while ago that’ a single man could not live upon £3 a week.
– I can only say that in these cases the standard of living is not such as is desirable, and that, as a matter of fact, they are only eking out an existence. . It must not be forgotten that this impost of £5 is not the only taxation that a single man will be called upon to pay, because, under the present income tax, the minimum levy is £1, so the total minimum will be £6. I ask the Vice-
President of the Executive Council not’ to stick to any hard-and-fast principle, or regard this as a matter of life and death, but to agree to a reasonable proposal.
– I see both the fairness and the unfairness of the proposal. It is quite fair to say that a man struggling for an existence should not have that struggle intensified by the imposition of taxation; but I point out that provision is already made for such cases in the power given to the Commissioner. Those men are already relieved under the provisions of this Bill. But I can see the injustice of relieving from taxation all those who ought to pay; and the same argument applies in the case of a man earning £104 a year as in the case of a man earning £156, that is, the large number of sons of wealthy persons who are not in receipt of any fixed income.
– I thought that they were all at the Front. The VicePresident of the Executive Council has always claimed that they were.
– If they were all at the Front, probably I and others would not have been so anxious to introduce conscription. But my honorable friend erected a fence behind which they could shield themselves. We wanted to send them to the Front, but Senator Barnes would not allow us to do so. The amendment would undoubtedly exempt a number of men who ought to be relieved from taxation. But I say that they will be relieved by another provision of this Bill. The amendment, going beyond that, would relieve a number of men who are well able to pay the tax. If some of them growl at it, as they will, may I remind them that those who have enlisted have given up much more than £5 per year in wages alone. It is fair to assume that the men who have volunteered for service abroad were earning, on an average, 10s. per day, and that they have .gone to the Front, perhaps to lose their lives, for 6s. per day.
– Thousands of these men would have gone to the Front if they could have done so.
– Seeing that they are here, it is not unfair to ask them to make some contribution to the cause of those who have gone.
Senator NEEDHAM (Western Aus
Executive Council has described the request before the Committee as being both fair and unfair. I venture to say that his comparison between the sons of wealthy farmers who might escape this taxation and the class for whom I am pleading was an unfair one. There is a far larger number of poor men in Australia who would benefit by the proposed exemption than there are sons of wealthy farmers who would escape the tax. If the request were agreed to, I venture to say that it would exempt about 75 per cent, of the poorer section of the community as against, perhaps, 25 per cent, of the wealthy farmers’ sons. I quite agree that the latter should not escape taxation. I am not pleading for them, but for the poorer sections of the community who are eking out a, miserable subsistence on £2 per week, and many of whom are supporting, perhaps, an aged father or mother. I am also pleading for the blind men to whom. I referred a few minutes ago, and who are not getting £104 a year.
– The Commissioner will exempt the blind.
– I do not doubt that he will. But we are here as legislators, and if my claim be a just one, by all means let us insert it in the Bill. The amount of which the Commonwealth would be deprived by exempting these individuals would be infinitesimal.
.- The Government should abandon the idea of extracting taxation from a man who cannot earn more than £104 per year.
– He may earn more than that sum, and yet not get it.
– The VicePresident of the Executive Council (Senator Millen) has stated that honorable senators upon this side of the chamber desire to help the sons of wealthy persons to escape their obligations under this Bill. If that be the case, there is an easy remedy to apply. The honorable gentleman declared that these individuals have no fixed incomes. I presume that he had in mind the sons of men who are given money in order that they may enjoy themselves either at the races or elsewhere, but who do not come forward each Saturday night to collect wages. If the Government are sincere in their desire to reach these men they cannot do it by means of the taxation proposed. In any case, their fathers will pay the tax. But there is another way of getting at these gentlemen through their fathers. Why have not the Government the courage to tax the estates of these persons up to their proper limit instead of proposing to tax poor fellows who are only able to earn £104 annually? No man in this country can live decently on that income. I hope that honorable senators opposite will recall the days when they were working for wages. They must recognise that an impost of this character is not a reasonable one. It partakes of a vindictiveness which I did not expect to emanate from any Government.
.- The Committee will be well advised to agree to the request. Quite a large number of single men are physically incapacitated from earning a decent wage. I know of many such men who cannot earn more than 30s. or 35s. per week.
– What is the Trades Hall doing?
– These men are so constituted that they are unable to render services commensurate with the wages fixed by the Wages Board in any industry in which they may be engaged. Every Wages Board has made provision for persons who cannot earn the ordinary wage, and permits have been granted to them, under which they are entitled to work for a lesser wage.
– Are there 2 per cent, of such workers?
– It does not matter whether there are 2 per cent, or 20 per cent. I am dealing with the facts as I know them to exist. Where is the justice of the proposal that is embodied in the Bill? Taxation should be founded upon justice, and there is no justification for taxing men whose earnings are inadequate to support them under reasonable conditions. I know many men who are physically unfitted to do any but the lightest work, such as taking tickets at the entrance to the Show Ground or at football matches or theatres. These men are employed, perhaps, for only a few hours per day. Then there are quite a number whose physical infirmities prevent them working more than two or three days per week. Under this Bill, the blind, the deaf and the dumb will be taxed. Surely we should allow them to escape, and place the burden on the shoulders of those who are well able to bear it. I trust the Committee will agree to what I regard as a reasonable amendment.
– I desire to know how the Vice-President of the Executive Council (Senator Millen) is going to collect this tax. Is he going to adopt the time-payment system? There are plenty of men in the community who, if they wish to purchase a suit of clothes, are obliged to go to the cheapjack and pay for it at the rate of 2s. per week. When they need a pair of boots they have to pay for them at the rate of1s. per week. Do the Government propose to accept thepayment of this tax by weekly instalments? I know of many men who do not earn anything like £104 per year, but who, under this Bill, will be obliged to pay a tax of £5 annually. Dr. Arthur has told us that a man can support a wife and four children on 27s. per week, and he has enumerated all their articles of diet in support of his contention. But Dr. Arthur has not tried the experiment himself. I would like it to be shown by honorable senators opposite how men who are earning only £104 per year are going to pay £5 a year in taxation. There are £35,000.000 lying in the banks this year, and we ought to be able to get £20,000,000 of it.
– Does the honorable senator mean that we ought to take £20,000,000 by way of taxation?
– I want the Government to get it to win the war. Only last week the Minister of Education in New South Wales told the school teachers of that great State, with its “ National “ Government, that it was impossible to increase their salaries from £132 to £156 per year on account of shortage of money. Our teachers are an intelligent section of the community, and are doing good work in the education of young Australians. A teacher receiving £132 a year for going out into the bush to educate Australian boys and girls will be called upon to pay this£5.
– They will have to pay over £6 under this measure.
– I think that this great National Government are playing it very low down when they permit some of the large land-owners of the Commonwealth to escape taxation, and ask the poor bachelors, some of whom are halt and blind, to pay a tax of £5 per year.
– Following the course of this debate, one’s thoughts inevitably flow across the ocean towards Europe, and he considers what is going on in the Mother Country just now in connexion with the war. There they have universal military service. There we find a mother and her children leaving their house to go into two furnished rooms, because the husband and father is at the war. There we find women going into thecoal -yards with perambulators in the winter to get a little coal to keep their children warm. There we have a Government finding 25 per cent. of an annual expenditure of £2,000,000,000. There we find millions of soldiers fighting for their country for 1s. 6d. per day. There we find necessary commodities much higher in price than they are in Australia. Then our thoughts come back to this much favoured land, a land which has never seen the foot of any invader, and has never seen a drop of blood spilt in bloody warfare, and yet we have honorable senators opposite hesitating about putting a tax upon single men to the extent of1s. l1d. per week in order to bring home to them the fact that there is a war on.
Honorable senators, in arguing in the way they have done, show that they lack a proper sense of proportion. I would bid them go to the Mother Country and realize the sacrifices she is making, not only for herself, but for her children across the seas. I bid them for the sake of the morale of Australia to bring it home to everybody, single men included, that it is up to them to “ do their bit” to enable us to carry on.
This Bill provides that a man shall pay1s.11d. per week towards the cost of carrying on the war, if he is not married, and has not taken upon himself the duties of citizenship, and has no one dependent on him. It seems to me that we have heard too much of this sort of thing, when we have honorable senators opposite talking of the poor single men who cannot live on £2 per week. Let us look at what is being done on the other side of the world. I unhesitatingly assert that a single man earning £2 per week is as well, or better off, than is a married man with a family in receipt of £3 per week. I ask honorable senators opposite what has become of the Wages
Boards and Arbitration Courts when they tell us that single men in Australia can earn only £2 per week. I thought that 8s. per day was the minimum rate throughout Australia for single men over twenty-one years of age.
It is a pity that honorable senators opposite have nob a proper sense of proportion, and that they do not realize what is going on in connexion with the war. I bid them look across the ocean and see what France and the Mother Country are doing for US If they do so they can no longer object to single men being taxed to the extent of ls. lid. per week to help us forward in the successful prosecution of the war.
– Senator Pratten’s use of the phrase “ a proper sense of proportion “ has brought me to my feet. He persisted in suggesting that honorable senators on this side lack a proper sense of proportion. Why, only a few hours ago practically, this chamber rang with the eloquence of the honorable senator in his efforts to save from proper taxation his rich friends throughout the length and breadth of the Commonwealth. When we were dealing with the War-time Profits Tax Assessment Bill, the honorable senator had a sheaf of amendments submitted to the Committee, and if they had been carried, Senator Millen would not have known the Bill which he had introduced. Now we are chided by this advocate of the millionaires and wealthy classes of Australia, whom he tried to save from legitimate taxation on excess war profits, with lacking a proper sense of proportion because we are endeavouring to- exempt from this taxation poor unfortunate single men in Australia who are getting only £2 per week.
The honorable senator has drawn a pathetic picture of what is taking place in France. We are all aware of the sad facts. We know the tragedy that is taking place over there, and we know some of the tragic circumstances to be found in the homes of the poor people of Great Britain. But if Senator Pratten will look nearer home, he will find that there are tragic circumstances here in this city of Melbourne as a result of the war. The honorable senator talks about a wife and her children having to go from her home in London into two furnished rooms because her husband is at the Front fighting in this war. I notice that a question was asked in another place, in connexion with which a statement appears in to-day’s newspapers, about a poor woman who, having three or four children to keep, was unable to pay her rent, because her husband was fighting in France. She had a notice to quit placed on her door, and was ordered out of her home. That happened in Melbourne, not in London. Senator Pratten has no word of pity for that case. Where is his sense of proportion? I did think that he was a man of different calibre. He would tax the poor ; he would make the working classes of this country do all the fighting, and would allow the rich friends whom he represents in this Chamber to escape all taxation, and then he asks honorable senators on this side why they have no sense of proportion.
.- I have listened with a great deal of interest to the dramatic outburst of our honorable friends on the other side. I never thought, when I was elected to the Senate, that I should come into contact with men who would endeavour to make party political capital out of the blind, the deaf and dumb, and the lame, as honorable senators opposite have done this evening. I must express my disgust at having had to listen to such outbursts. I will not believe that any Government, or any Commissioner of Taxes, would be so base as to insist that this taxation should be imposed upon unfortunate blind, lame, or deaf and dumb persons. I again express my disgust that any members of the Senate should endeavour to make party political capital out of those in our midst who are afflicted in the way described by honorable senators opposite.
– The last speaker surprises me beyond imagination. He suggests that it is a dramatic outburst to ask that the blind should he exempt from this taxation.
– They are exempt”.
– I challenge Senator Pearce to point to the clause under which they are exempt. ‘
– The permanently incapacitated are exempt.
– Will the honorable senator contend that a blind man earning £2 per week is permanently incapacitated?
– Certainly. The Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act says so.
- Senator Pearce has an opportunity of speaking in this debate, and I invite him to take part in it and prove that the term “ permanently incapacitated “ applies to those who are earning money. It does not.
Now, as to Senator Pratten’s outburst. He hurried us away to the war and to a consideration of the awful happenings there. I venture to say that Australia has done its part in the war. If the nations that commenced this war had put as many men in the field in proportion to their population as Australia has done the war would be over now. Great Britain herself has not spent in proportion to her wealth as much as Australia has spent in connexion with the war.
– The honorable senator is absolutely wrong.
– I am quite sure that I am right, because I have made it my business to look into the figures. The honorable senator talks to Australians in an Australian Parliament, and tries to make out that Australia has not realized her full measure of responsibility in connexion with the war.
– There are many people in Australia who have not done so.
– The honorable senator is an Englishman. He would sacrifice every Australian, if he had his way, for the simple reason that he is not an Australian in sentiment, or in anything else.
We are proposing now the exemption of men in receipt of a very moderate income from this exorbitant taxation. What would be said if we applied the same rate of taxation to men whose incomes are very much greater, or if we applied it to our own salaries. Why should we not do so? What if the taxation were applied to married as well as to single men in this country? If the war is the cause of this taxation, let us meet the situation as honorable men, and see that the taxation necessary shall rest upon the shoulders best able to bear it. The man to whom only a few pounds are left to pay for the necessaries of life is to be called upon to pay at least £6 a year under this Bill, whilst the rich, who live in comfort and luxury, are let off with the lightest of taxes. For the year ending 1915 Australian incomes over and above £156 a year amounted to no less than £124,000,000. The amount increased in 1916, and I venture to say that it will be greater still in 1917. Senator Pratten, who comes here to represent wealth-
– No; he comes here to represent New South Wales.
– To represent the wealthy section in New South Wales.
– I represent a greater number of electors than does the honorable senator
– When the electors had the opportunity of deciding between Senator Pratten and myself he did not represent any. We may yet meet again. When I listened to the enthusiasm with which he attacked honorable senators on this side because we wished to exempt men whose incomes are not sufficiently large to justify this exorbitant taxation, I compared his attitude with the efforts which he made last week when he won the approval of all honorable senators by the way in which he bent himself to the task of understanding the Bill which proposed the taxation of his own particular class. His efforts on that occasion were worthy of him. We know what is behind this Bill. If the Government get the money, no matter from whom, it will be a very good excuse for not taxing that section of the community to which they look for support.
– I sometimes, like other honorable senators, see some attractiveness in a little political rough-up, but now that we have had a rather free and frank exchange of views, we might settle down to work in the only practical way we can, by taking a division on the motion.
Question - That the request be agreed to - put. The Committee divided.
Majority . . ..8
Question so resolved in the negative. Request negatived.
.- I move-
That the House of Representatives be requested to amend the clause by inserting after paragraph d, sub-clause 2, th’e following new paragraph : - “or (e) that he is blind.”
I am not satisfied that the clause makes provision for the exemption of blind people. I believe all members of the Committee are in favour of the blind being exempted, and I, therefore, hope the Minister will agree to my proposal in order to put the matter beyond doubt.
– I hope no one will attempt to misconstrue what 1 am about to say.. I have, in common with every one else, the fullest sympathy for the blind, but there are other forms of incapacity which must be equally taken into account. The words “ permanently incapacitated “ cover the blind, just ‘as they cover one who has lost a limb. If we specify the blind we ought also to specify every other form of physical incapacity. It is not a question of total incapacity, as Senator Gardiner seems to think. So long as the incapacity is permanent it is provided for here. I ask Senator Grant to accept my assurance that those words are intended to mean, and do mean, what I say.
– The mistake is in using the words “ for work “ after “ permanently incapacitated “. A man with one arm or one eye, or with a wooden leg, may be able to do certain kinds of work.
– Under the amendment of which I have given notice he will be exempt if he does not earn £156 per annum.
– That will do dic.
.- I move -
That the House of Representatives be requested to amend the clause by inserting after paragraph d, sub-clause 2, the following new paragraph: - “(e) that his income does not exceed fifty pounds.”
Apparently, it does not matter to the Government whether a man earns £100 or £5, they will tax him. If he earns only £5 during the year, and the Commissioner of Taxes is fortunate enough to find him, the laws of the country will empower him to gather that £5 into the Treasury. Seeing that the Government have descended to the depth of wanting to collect taxation from a man who does not earn a living wage - and I claim that £104 is not a living wage - I want to see how far they are really prepared to go. That is why I move this exemption. Anybody can tell a very telling story that would cause quite a lot of feeling in any audience with regard to the conduct of the war, and we have heard stories of that kind during this discussion. I have always regarded myself as a man of a practical nature, without very much sentiment about me; but I could not imagine a Government wanting to tax a man who earned less than a living wage. Senator Pratten said the tax would be only ls. lid. a week. In the case of men earning £50. it will only be half that. Senator Pratten, as a business man, and the rest of those on the Government side, will understand that taxation vanishes altogether when the amount collected is not as much as it costs to eather. It will cost the Government a great deal more to collect- this tax than they are likely to get from it under the Bill as it now stands. They will not be able to collect it at all on incomes of £50 and under if my request is agreed to, and my purpose in moving it is only to get the Government! down to where I think they ought to be- to the lowest depths of degradation in regard to the legislation of this country. I want it to go out to the country that the Government are prepared to tax the lame, the halt, and the blind, and, in fact, to tax everything but the proposition which ought to be taxed. Almost every man on the other side, and Senator Pratten in particular, comes into this Chamber representing the moneyed interests of Australia. I will pay Senator Pratten thecompliment of saying they did a very good job when they sent him here, because he puts up a very fine fight. After all, he is only doing what that class of people always do.
– You voted with me last week.
– Yes, on the general principle that I vote against a hostile Government every time; and if the honorable senator will help me to ‘ ‘ out ‘ ‘ them, I shall vote with him again. I should like to see those gentlemen put as much energy into protecting the weaker section of the community as they are putting into protecting the people who really do not need protection. There is quite enough wealth in this country to pay the whole of its indebtedness, even that which is likely to be incurred in the present tremendous struggle, and it is nearly time that wealth was called upon to pay it.
– Why did not you have a “ go “ at it while you were in power?
– We did have a “go “ at it. We were coming along with a measure just at the time that something happened here which prevented us making the people best ableto pay taxation pay for running this country, and for the war also.
The working people, the men who have earned the smallest wages, are doing the fighting in this war. They are doing all that it is possible for mento do to save all those things which we prize, and it ill becomes the Government to get down below those who are able to earn £2 per week. Fancy a man who cannot earn £100 a year being asked to go to the Front. My opinion is that men who cannot earn that amount would be no good at the Front. When the Government expect to collect the tax from men who can only earn £100 a year in this country, they are getting down to the state of having to scrape up money from those whom they ought not to expect to pay, from sources from -which they should never expect revenue to meet circumstances such as we are now going through. There are heaps of wealth in Australia from which Senator Millen and the Government can collect all the taxation they need. That is the source from which they should raise it, instead of proposing paltry things such as the collection of a tax of ll1/2d. a week from a man earning £50, or1s. l1d. a week from a man earning £100, which is not a living wage for a white man in this country. Any Government that descends to paying for the war or necessary administration by means of taxation from sources of that kind ought to be kicked out by the people at the first opportunity; and I believe the people will be very sorry they ever put them where they are now.
– One would almost think that Senator Barnes really meant what he said. I accept one of his statements as being absolutely true - that what he is putting forward is a trick motion. I believe he was sincere in that statement.
– This is no trick motion ; it is simply getting you down to bed-rock.
– Those were the honorable senator’s own words. He is not submitting the motion with the idea of improving the Bill. His purpose is simply to put the Government and their supporters in a false position.
Let us examine this trick. I am glad that the honorable senator has admitted publicly that he is a trickster in dealing with the affairs of this country.
– I have not admitted that.
– It is my imperfect knowledge of the English language which causes me to make that statement. A man who indulges in tricks is surely a trickster.
– I rise to order. 1 never used the word “ trickster,” and Senator Millen is absolutely misrepresenting the whole position which I took up.
– I am not going to argue the point with the honorable senator, but I do submit that the burden of his whole speech was that he was submitting the proposal, not as a bond fide one, but to put the Government where he said it ought to be. Why was the Government to be dragged down ? Because he said it was a monstrous thing to tax any person with an income of £100 or less. He became quite purple in his indignation. It is only a few months since he was supporting a proposition of this sort. The very first Government which submitted a proposal to tax an income of £100 and under was one which he himself supported, and that measure is on the statute-book to-day because he gave a vote to put it there.
He did not find then this flood of sympathetic indignation on behalf of the blind and the halt. He helped to put that measure on the statute-book. It is only now, because the electors have recorded their opinion of Senator Barnes and his friends that he suddenly discovers, what a sympathetic friend they have in the man on the Opposition side of this Chamber. The position on this motion is exactly the same as on the other two. The fixing of the amount does nob affect the thing one iota. No matter whether the limit. i3 placed at £100 or £156, the position is the same. Honorable senators on the other side are trying, consciously or otherwise, to open the door through which there may escape the young men of this country, to whom I have referred, and who, nob being in receipt of an income, but earning one which goes into the pockets of their parents, are undoubtedly entitled to be called upon for this contribution, but who, if our opponents had their way, would escape without paying a single penny. 1 think that the position is abundantly clear . The Bill makes ample provision for those upon whom the tax may fall with harshness. It says to these persons that a way is provided by which they may avoid the tax. Having done that, I am not prepared to go farther, and say, “ “We will now open the door to those who ought- to pay, who are well able to pay, and who would only avoid the tax because of the fact that they are not in receipt of fixed incomes.” If my honorable friends wish to exempt these persons, as they evidently would do, if they could have their way, let them say so straight out. The Bill, I submit, deals fairly with the’ two classes.
– - Senator Millen is trying to make out that the object of every proposal from this side is to let off from this taxation young men who are not getting any wages from their wealthy fathers. But he himself has admitted that the money which they would receive if their fathers did pay wages.to them would still be taxed.
– I have not admitted that; I denied it, because the rate of this tax is higher than the rate of the tax which their fathers would pav.
– I a I admit that the irate of tax will be a little more. Senator Millen, and Senator Pratten - iri his very melodramatic speech - threw bouquets at this side because we were attempting to get an exemption for a man who does not earn £104 a year. Senator Barnes is now seeking to get an exemption for a man who does not earn £50 a year.
Take the very class of men whom it is always claimed we ought to encourage to go on the land. Take the case of men who go into the back-blocks to break up new ground. Are there not in different parts of Australia thousands of men who do’ not earn more than £50 a year ? I venture to say that there is a large number of genuine pioneers who will be asked to pay a tax of £5, despite the fact that perhaps their produce for the first few years, if they happen to be single men, does not realize £50. They get only about enough to buy tucker for themselves and secure a bit of clothing while they are trying to bring the land into a state of cultivation. Thousands of these men will wish that they had never gone on the land if they are called upon to pay a tax cf £5 when they do not earn more than enough to keep them in food and clothing in the first few years of their pioneering.
Will the Minister say that his party would have been returned at the general election if they had told the people that they proposed to. make every single man pay a tax of 5 per cent, if he was earning more than £100 and a tax of £5 if he was earning less than that sum 1 Senator Millen knows that the Government would not have been in power today had they dared to tell the electors then that they proposed to bring in this sort of win-the-war financial measure. They had not the pluck to declare their intention to the electors. They are trying to impose the tax because they ha?e a servile majority in both Houses. “Unfortunately they have the support of a few of our old friends whose voices I would have liked to hear denouncing the proposal a year or two ago. The volume of sound we would have heard from a number of those who will probably vote against this motion would have been tremendous. All the dictionaries ever printed would not have provided enough adjectives for their denunciation of such a proposal only a few months ago. lt only shows that they are a servile majority when they are prepared to back up the Government in the passing of legislation which was never submitted to the country. If the Government dared to go to the country to-morrow with this measure they would soon realize their unpopularity. They would not dream of taking such a proposal to the electors; but, safe in a haven of refuge for the next two and a half years, they are prepared to perpetrate an injustice on thousands of men who do not earn more than £50 a year.
It is all very well for honorable senators on the other side to say, “ Where are your Wages Boards and Arbitration Courts?” Senator Pratten belongs to a class of men who would do all in their power to smash those institutions. What about the thousands of men whose occupation does not allow them an opportunity to get before Wages Boards or Arbitration Courts? Because in different parts of this country there are thousands of individuals who do not earn more than £2 a week. I have not forgotten the existence of these men, although Senator Reid appears to have done so. This proposal will hit very hard indeed, nob thousands of young men employed by pastoralists or wealthy farmers, but thousands of sons of the poorer farmers who are receiving, perhaps, 10s. a week and their keep, although they are over twenty-one years of age. Living with their parents and having the comforts of home life, these young men are content with a little pocket money because they know the exigencies of the situation will not allow their fathers to give them more. There are hundreds of cases within our personal knowledge where one or two sons are trying to bring into cultivation a farm in the back-blocks. It is five or six years before an orchard will give anything like a return to a man, and to-day there are thousands of single men over twenty-one years of age who are working in the family circle, and who, though they are not earning even £50, will be called upon, under this measure, to pay a tax of £5 each. Can Senator Millen say that their fathers are wealthy enough to pay the tax for them? He would not dare to make that statement, because he knows that it would not be correct. That is an illustration of the injustice which will be done by the imposition of this tax. On the Government and their supporters rests the responsibility. We made two genuine attempts to get an exemption, and we were defeated. We are making still another attempt, although I do not know whether it is worth while.
Question - That the request be agreed to - put. The Committee divided.
Majority … … 9
Question so resolved in the negative.
.- I move-
That the House of Representatives be requested to amend the clause by leaving out “Twenty-six” in sub-clause 3 and inserting “ Fifty-two “ in lieu thereof.
Wemay claim that we are making a considerable concession by granting an exemption of £26 in respect of each dependant of a man whose income is £156 per year, but as in this case it represents a tax of 5 per cent., the concession is only 26s. per year.
– That applies to the general income tax.
– My argument will still hold good. If the Minister will read sub-clause 4 he will see that it does not apply to the general tax.
– Yes, it does; subclause 4 governs the whole clause.
– Sub-clause 4 reads as follows: -
Nothing in this section shall relieve any person of the liability to pay income tax under any other provision of this Act.
That bears out my contention that the concession only amounts to 26s. per year, which I say is not enough, and even if my request is agreed to, and the deduction be fixed at £52 per year, the taxpayer will be relieved to the extent of only 52s. per year, which is altogether too small a concession. As a matter of fact, the proposal in the Bill is only a pretended concession, and it would be almost as well to leave it out altogether.
– I should like to point out that £26 is the amount of deduction allowable under the main Income Tax Act in respect* of each child, and that it appeared to give satisfaction to the Leader of the Opposition when he waa a member of a previous Government.
– I can assure the Minister that it never did satisfy me.
– Yet the honorable senator introduced the Bill, and supported it in this Chamber.
– Well, the Minister will find that he will be obliged to support many measures he does not agree with absolutely.
– I am somewhat in a difficulty now to find out just what it is the honorable senator considers fair in this matter.
– I was an Ishmaelite in the other Government.
– And the honorable senator now finds himself out of touch with everything which he supported when in occupation of the Treasury benches. This deduction in respect of each child was then recognised as ji fair deduction, not only for the purpose of the income tax levy, but under the Pensions Act as well. I would point out also that as this is an additional tax the deduction may, in certain cases, be really £52 for each dependant. Under the circumstances, we are dealing fairly with the taxpayer in respect of each dependant which he has to maintain.
– The Minister always comes back at me with a little gibe about what I did when a member of the Hughes Government. Members of that Ministry know quite well that I strenuously fought for the taking of all income over £200 a year.
– Did you feel very strongly about that matter?
– I stood up for the principle that every penny of income over £200 should be taken for war purposes.
– And when you could not get your way you left the Government ?
– No, I did not, and I think no one can reproach me for my attitude as a member of that Government. Although Senator Millen is gibing at me now, he is really at the same time tilting at his present colleagues.
– Oh no; I am syn*‘pathizing with them for having had such a colleague as the honorable senator.
– Well, they are welcome to the Minister’s sympathy. In this matter I would again point out that the concession of £26 by way of deduction for each dependant really amounts1 to only 26s. a year. The same would apply to the original Income Tax Act, although in that case the deduction, I understand, would amount to 13s. or 15s. ; I have not worked out the figures definitely. Now, as Senator Millen has twitted me with my action as a member of the Hughes Government, I remind him that measures rarely secure the united support of a Cabinet, and that the Treasurer (Sir John Forrest), when he introduced this Bill in another place, remarked on this fact, saying that it sometimes falls to the lot of a Minister to introduce a Bill of which he did not approve, but that as far as this Bill was concerned, the Cabinet were united upon it. In the face of that statement, less than twelve hours afterwards, the Bill was withdrawn and an entirely different measure submitted. There was no time for full Cabinet consideration to be given to the amended measure, and, therefore, Senator Millen’s gibe at me has little bearing in the light of what has happened in connexion with this Bill. If, as a member of the Hughes Ministry, which came into office under conditions more serious than have confronted any other Government, I was inconsistent in some matters, I had at least the satisfaction of knowing that for two years I participated in the deliberations of a Cabinet which guided the ship of State on an even keel.
– But the honorable senator appears- to have always been in a minority.
– Though I may have been in a minority, every member of that Cabinet will admit that I was capable of giving an honest and forcible expression of my views. Referring again to the amendment before the Committee, I repeat that the Government proposal is a miserable concession to those who have dependants, and it might just as well be left out of the Bill altogether.
Clause, as requested to be amended, agreed to.
Clauses 7 and 8 agreed to.
Clause 9 (Rates of tax calculated under previous Acts).
– I do not desire to see this clause passed if it is going to validate some of the injustices which have occurred, and which may still be under review or the subject of appeal. But, of course, there may be some slight discrepancies and inconsistencies in connexion with the administration of the Act, and if it is merely intended to validate them, there will be no objection on the part of honorable senators. If the Vice-President of the Executive Council will give us some assurance in this connexion I shall be perfectly satisfied:
.- I can assure the honorable senator that there is nothing in the clause other than what appears upon its surface. Its object is to render legal those calculations which have been made in entire conformity with the schedules to this Bill. Under it, no taxpayer will be deprived of any opportunity of presenting for consideration anything which he may regard as a grievance.
Clause agreed to.
Rate of Tax upon Income derived from Personal Exertion.
For so much of the wholes taxable income as does not exceed £7,600, the average rate of tax per pound sterling shall he threepence and three eight-hundredths of one penny where the taxable income is one pound sterling, and shall increase uniformly with each increase of one pound sterling of the taxable income by three eighthundrcdths of one penny.
The average rate of tax per pound sterling for so much of the taxable income as does not exceed £7,600, may be calculated from the following formula: -
For every pound sterling of taxable income in excess of £7,600, the rate of tax shall be sixty pence.
– I wish to enter my protest against the method set out in this schedule for the assessment of income tax. There is scarcely a member of this Parliament, who is capable of correctly calculating the tax which a citizen has to pay. As a matter of fact, one of our expert mathematicians in New South Wales has challenged the correctness of the formula supplied for the assessment of this tax. It would be a ‘ great relief to the average citizen, and to members of Parliament, if the rate of ‘the tax were stated in pence without any decimals. It is only persons who have had the advantage of a long scholastic education who are capable of calculating the tax payable by any citizen in accordance with the present formula. It w.ould be very much better if there were no graduations, and if the rate were fixed at so much in the £1. At present it is incumbent upon all taxpayers either to employ a professional accountant or to place themselves unreservedly at the mercy of the Commissioner of Taxation. That ought not to be the case. I know that it is quite hopeless to expect the Government to agree to my suggestion, but, nevertheless, I enter my protest against the schedule in its present form.
– I would like to pour a little balm into the mind of Senator Grant, if it is possible to do so. I wish to tell him that there is now being prepared a ready reckoner-
– It is ready, and, what is much more important, is that by reference to this book every taxpayer, knowing his income, will be able to see at once the amount which he has to pay. The most important part of my announcement is that one of these ready reckoners will be available free on application to any member of this Parliament.
– I indorse the protest of Senator Grant. When an income tax was enacted some two years ago, a formula was adopted to give effect to a graduated tax. Out of that simple system has grown up a series of arithmetical, if not mathematical, calculations which have been laid down, I presume,- by some expert in the Taxation Pepartment. I defy the Government to find one taxpayer out of 100 who really understands the present method of assessment. I would impress upon Ministers the importance of making taxation matters simple to understand.
The farmer in the country, the way-back denizen, the shopkeeper, the trader, the member of Parliament, and hosts of other people, are all concerned in this matter; and it is only right that we should lay down a basis of taxation which all can understand. Honorable senators do not pay many bills without first checking them ; and I do not think it is a fair thing to fire into a taxpayer an assessment which he cannot possibly understand. In such circumstances, he has either to pay up and look happy, or make two or three visits to the Taxation Department. This sort of thing does not make for national efficiency. It adds to the number of officers required to carry out the administration of the Act; and I therefore ask that, in any further scheme for income taxation, the Treasurer will seriously consider the present much-discussed and very obnoxious method of raising money. Personally, I think that the simpler the taxation, the more agreeable it is to the taxpayer. I do not wish to go into details regarding the second and third schedules of the Bill; but, obviously, every taxpayer cannot be provided with a ready reckoner, even if a member of Parliament can. Every time that income tax assessments are sent out, there is a certain amount of wasted effort in endeavouring to understand them. I join with Senator Grant in protesting against the curves in the second and third degree. They are not necessary, and are not in operation in any other part of the world. I trust’ that theGovernment will recognise that simplicity is most desirable in this connexion.
.- As showing the correctness of the statements which have just been made, I may mention the experience which a taxpayer had at the Income Tax Department some time ago. When his assessment was forwarded to him, he challenged its accuracy, and immediately waited’ upon one officer of the Department, who arrived at a certain result by means of the formula. Then his assessment was submitted to another officer, who obtained a different result. The Commissioner himself then tackled the task, and the taxpayer expressed his willingness to pay the tax on the basis of the lowest result arrived at. Such a condition of affairs ought not to be tolerated. The time is an opportune one for the Vice-President of the Executive Council to say that this
Parliament ought not to waste valuable time in discussing details of this sort.
– I agree with the honorable senator.
Schedule agreed to.
Schedules 2, 3, and 4 agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported, with a request.
Motion (by Senator Millen) proposed -
That the report be adapted.
Motion (by Senator Pearce) agreed to -
That the Bill be recommitted for the reconsideration of clause 6, sub-clause 2, paragraph c.”
In Committee (Recommittal) :
Clause 6 -
– I propose now the addition to paragraph c of the words which I previously read to the Committee. I move -
That the House of Representatives be requested to amend the clause by inserting after the word “ work “ in sub-clause 2, paragraph c, the words “ and is in receipt of a gross income not exceeding one hundred and fifty pounds.”
It is obvious that, as paragraph c reads at present, it would exempt from taxation any person permanently incapacitated, though he might be very wealthy. If the request be agreed to, persons permanently incapacitated, in receipt of a gross income not exceeding £150, will be exempt from this taxation, whilst it will be possible to levy it upon those who, although they may be permanently incapacitated, are in receipt of an income of a larger amount.
Request agreed to.
Bill reported with a further request; report adopted.
Per Capita Payments to States: Absent Soldiers - Treatment of Returned Soldiers : Employment - Recruiting : Economic Conscription - Censorship : Industrial Crisis : “ The Fiddlers.”
.- I move-
That this Bill be now read a first time.
The Bill authorizes the appropriation for the public services of the country of three months’ Supply on the scale already approved of by the Senate in passing a previous Supply Bill a few weeks ago. There are no special features connected with the measure, the votes in the schedule being calculated, as I have said, on the rates previously approved by the Senate.
Motion (by Senator Gardiner) proposed -
That the debate be now adjourned.
– I think the course taken by Senator Gardiner is somewhat unusual.
– I do not want to take it if it is unusual.
– When we adjourned last week, it was upon the understanding that an effort would be made to complete certain business by to-morrow. I submit that there is very grave risk that we shall not be able to do that unless we make some progress with this Bill tonight.
– Order! A motion for the adjournment of a debate is one that must be put without debate.’
.- I thought that Senator Gardiner desired to speak.
– I wish to make an important statement, but as the VicePresident of the Executive Council (Senator Millen) will not give me the opportunity, I do not intend ‘to make it at this time of the night.
– There are one or two matters to which I wish to refer, and as I may not have another opportunity in this part of the session to do so, I take advantage of the motion for the first reading of this Bill.
A few days ago I asked a series of questions in connexion with the capitation grant of 25s. per head payable to Western Australia in respect of the population of that State. The questions were as follows: -
The replies given to those questions were “Yes” to the first three, and to the fourth -
Yes. Payment to the States under the Surplus Revenue Act 1910 is limited to 25s. per head of the number of the people of the State, and the number of the - people is ascertained according to the laws of the Commonwealth by the Commonwealth Statistician as on the 31st December in each year. The law is being complied with.
I venture to say that is a curious interpretation of the law governing the capitation grant. Thirty-five thousand citizens of Western Australia are absent fighting the Empire’s battles. If this interpretation of the law is correct, those absent soldiers are regarded as no longer citizens pf Western Australia.
– They are aliens.
– They have been alienated. I do not wish to confine my remarks to the position in this matter of the State I have the honour to represent, since the replies’ to my questions inform me that the same interpretation applies to all the States. In my opinion, an injustice is being done to the six States of the Commonwealth in this connexion. The view of the matter taken by the Commonwealth Government involves that for every soldier absent from Australia the State of which he is a citizen is to be deprived of 25s. capitation grant. I am not a constitutional lawyer, and I trust that Senator Millen in replying to the debate on this Bill will explain how the legal advisers of the Government arrive at this interpretation.
– Western Australia is treated in the same way as the other States.
– I have said so. I asked my questions in respect of all the States. I am not .basing my remarks upon the position in this respect of Western Australia alone. I question the justice of denying to any State a capitation grant in respect of a soldier citizen absent at the Front.
– He is in the pay of the Commonwealth at the present time.
– There are men in the pay of the Commonwealth for whom the capitation grant is given. When I put my question first, Senator
Millen told me that as a legal opinion was involved he was not in a position to give me an immediate reply. After consultation with their legal advisers the Government inform us that the refusal of the capitation grant in respect of absent soldiers is in accordance with the law. This matter is of vast importance rt,n the State Governments. Senator de Largie has said that these men are in the pay of the Commonwealth Government. It is true that the Commonwealth Government are paying for the training, equipment, clothing, and feeding of the soldiers whilst they are in Australia, on their way to the Front, and at the Front. But I ask : From whom do the Commonwealth Government .derive their revenue ? Are they not the same taxpayers who are paying all the time?
– Are the men in France contributing anything to taxation in Australia ?
– I shall not bandy interjections with Senator de Largie on this matter. It is from the surplus revenue of the Commonwealth that the capitation grant to the States is paid, and that revenue is derived from taxpayers who are citizens alike of the Commonwealth and of the States. I hope that the answers given to my questions will be reconsidered, because I believe that an injustice is being done to the State Governments. I trust that Senator Millen will take notice of my objection, and will tell us how the law came to be interpreted in this way.
– The honorable senator cannot expect answers to his questions if he will not answer the questions that are put to him.
– I can get an answer to nothing in this chamber while Senator de Largie is there with his parrotlike interjections.
With regard to the question of economic conscription, I have received the following letter from the secretary of the Trades Hall, Perth: -
Perth, 9th August, 1917.
It has come under the notice of my council that the Prime Minister has openly stated that he is unaware of instances where economic conscription has been enforced in Australia.
In the opinion of my council, either Mr. Hughes has deliberately shut his eyes to facts, or this State is singularly unfortunate in regard to economic conscription.
We have ample evidence here to prove that economic conscription is in full swing. In the
Works Department, according to the Australian Workers Union secretary, before any man can get a job he is to state whether he has been to the Drill Hall, and is asked whether he can produce an exemption certificate or not. If he cannot produce an exemption certificate, his chances of employment are very remote.
Also in the Military Department here, a number of pay clerks are living in a state of suspense because they have been asked by their superior officer whether they have presented themselves for enlistment and been rejected. Several’ have replied “ No,” and given as their reasons the fact that either they were married men with families, or were keeping widowed mothers. Notwithstanding their replies, their names - together with reports thereon - have been forwarded to head office, Melbourne, for consideration, and the men concerned are expecting immediate dismissal.
The Perth City Council about two weeks ago passed a resolution that all its employees would be required to do one of two things - either produce an exemption certificate or hand in their resignation. (Attached is a copy of notice which the council has placed in the hands of every employee. Also appended is copy of a notice (placed in a conspicuous place on the premises of the electricity and gas department.) In addition, we learn from the West Australian newspaper the following (also attached).
At the last meeting of my council consideration was given to a recommendation from our executive as follows: - “That the metropolitan council approach the State Recruiting Committee on this matter, and ask them ,to give a straight-out declaration in opposition to economic conscription; also, that we request every district council and the State executive to cooperate with us on the deputation.” . . .
There is information for the Prime Minister, who is reported to have said that he was not aware of any system of economic conscription being applied. The letter goes on to say that a certain firm in Perth went so far as to attempt to corner knitting wool. Whether iti was successful or nob, I am informed that the price went up by 200 per cent., thus penalizing those people who have been busy knitting socks, mufflers, and mittens for the soldiers. The letter also tells of the case o’f a returned soldier who went to a Perth firm and applied for employment. He was asked what pension he got, and replied £1 2s. 6d..- He was then promised employment at a wage sufficient to supplement his pension to the arbitration rate.
– Whose statement is that?
– I told the honorable senator where the letter came from .
– Why so much secrecy about iti?
– There is no secrecy. If the honorable senator would keep his tongue quiet and his ears open he might be able to follow me better. This fi rm told the returned soldier that they could employ him and supplement his pens ion to the arbitration wage.
– The arbitration wage handed irrespective of any other income aman has.
– The firm was trying to take advantage of the pension the man was getting.
– They could only do that by breaking the arbitration award.
– If the firm succeeded in doing that the result would be that it would not be the Commonwealth Government that was paying the pension
– If the honorable senator will give me the facts of that case I will undertake to see thatthe employer who is seeking to do that is prosecuted without any expense to the soldier.
– I shall hand the honorable senator the letter after I have finished with it.
– And if the statement is not true will you advise the prosecution of the writer?
– I am not saying that it is true. I said that I had been informed. I shall ignore any further interjections from the honorable senator. I am also informed that in another case a returned soldier was refused work because he was not getting a pension, and the firm feared that they would have to pay him the full wage. I refer to these things to prove that economic conscription is in existence.
– One swallow does nob make a summer.
– There are very many swallows of that kind in Australia. I opposed the conscription of human life, and will continue to oppose it; but economic conscription is the worst form. The following are the matters referred to in the above letter : - [Copy.]
Perth City Council, 19th July, 1917.
Pursuant to a resolution passed at the ordinary meeting of the council held on the 16th inst., I hereby give you notice that on or prior to the expiration of twenty-eight days from the date hereof, it will be necessary for you to-
Yours faithfully, (Sgd.) Wm. E. Bold,
Town Clerk. [Copy.]
City of Perth, Electricity and Gas Department, 272 Wellington-street, Perth.
Copy of resolution passed by City Council,
July 16th, 1917. “ That 28 days’ notice from date hereof be given to all single menover 21 and under 45 years of age in the council’s employment, to submit themselves to medical examination, procure a rejection badge, or leave the service, and that their places be filled by returned soldiers if possible.” [Copy extract West Australian, newspaper, Friday, July 6th, 1917.] “The Perth Recruiting Committee has been exercised over the unsatisfactory results of the voluntary system of recruiting. Married men, men over 45 years of age, and lads of 18 and 19 have come forward, but the eligibles between the ages of 21 and 45 hang back. As an instance of what is taking place, the Rev. T. Allan, chairman of the Committee, yesterday referred to the most recent street appeal. Of the 19 fit men it produced, 16 were married, and 3 of these (had between them 20 children. The resolution passed at a recent public meeting, aiming at the weeding out of the men who should go, were on Wednesday afternoon placed before representative city retail houses. As a consequence, the Economic Stores, Foy &, Gibson’s, Brennan Bros.,Chas. Moore & Co., the Bon Marche, and Boan Bros. have agreed actively to . assist in carrying them out. This means, in effect, that single eligible men will not be allowed employment by the firms mentioned, if they are not prepared to fight for their country.” … As a next step in the campaign the Recruiting Committee will approach all business people in Perth, and will seek to induce them to follow the lead.
I have the following letter from the Australian Workers Union, dated Perth, 15th September, 1917: -
Further to my lettergram re Defence. Department putting off married men to put on returned soldiers, I beg to acknowledge the receipt of yours, stating you were going to ask the questions in the Senate.
I got this chap who made the complaint to write a statement re the matter, a copy of which I am enclosing herewith for your information. You will see what tricks they are up to to get recruits and keep their good Nationalists and anti-Labour pals in a job. The man Hay referred to is no less an identity than J. G. Hay, once a frequenter of the Trades Hall, and from what I can ascertain is a
Bingie man, while Huggins and Ward are married, with young children. “ Great big Australian is G. F. Pearce.”
Since Ward gave me that statement he has found out that the men who have been returned and put on are- single.
I do hope that you will be able to ventilate the matter. I have not seen the answer to the questions yet.
With best wishes, yours fraternally,
Branch Secretary, A.W.U., Perth.
In justice to the Minister for Defence (Senator Pearce), I must say that he replied to the questions I put in regard to this matter, and I informed Mr. Watts by telegram, afterwards forwarding to him by letter the questions and answers. I thought the replies would appear in the West Australian, but evidently they did not. This is a copy of a letter dated Perth, 12th September, 1917 :-
I called to acquaint you with a few facts re the dismissal of temporary labourers from tha Ordnance Stores. Pour men had notice to go. On the 11th September we were told to go to Karrakatta Detail Camp to be examined medically for enrolment there by the’ Senior Ordnance Officer’s request. We went down, with the result that Mr.. Murphy (temporary labourer), at Karrakatta, was accepted ; Mr. Hay rejected - too old. Mr. Huggins and I- were rejected - medically unfit.
On returning to duty we were told to carry on as usual till further’ notice (that was about 4 p.m.). Before 5 o’clock the Senior Ordnance Officer telephoned to Corporal Scott, in charge of Hay-street Stores, to say that J. G. Hay was to be kept on, and Hughes and I were to be dismissed.
They have filled Murphy’s place at Karrakatta with a returned soldier, and one was started at Hay-street this morning. I cannot
Bay if they are single or married men at present.
Trusting you will give this matter due consideration.
Yours in union,
Here is a man, J. G. Hay, who, I think, the Minister for Defence knows is a reputable citizen in every way, but, I think, a single man. Whilst he, with the writer of this letter, receives a notice of dismissal, the married man is put off and Hay is asked to come back again.
I have finished with the question of economic conscription, and wish now to deal with a matter in connexion with the recent industrial struggle to show what sort of fair play has been meted out to those of us who differ from the present
Government. Here is a letter which I received recently : -
Trades Hall, Perth, 12th September, 1917.
Senator E. Needham,
Federal Parliament House, Melbourne.
Attached herewith is a copy of a letter which t have this” day posted to tlie Hon. the Prime Minister …. for your information.
– Hear, hear! “ Dear Comrade.”
– I suppose that the honorable senator is ashamed of such a term of address now from men who helped to put him where he is to-day. Here is another letter. This is a copy of a letter dated Trades Hall, Perth, 12th September, 1917: -
The Hon. the Prime Minister, Melbourne.
In connexion with the present industrial strife taking place all over Australia, we desire to register with you an emphatic protest against the censorship of telegrams which has been put into operation in the Post and Telegraph Department.
During the critical stages ‘ of the dispute it has been almost impossible for the Labour movement in this State to obtain authentic news from Trades Halls in the east. The only news we have been getting has been that which appears from day to day in the capitalistic press. Based on long experience of that press, we consider it to be tainted, and place no credence whatever upon its reports of unions’ decisions and unions’ business.
Being unable to get information through in the regular way, we have had to adopt subterfuges, and, while the results have been fairly satisfactory, there has always been, more likelihood of wrong information reaching us than would have been the case had the usual channels of communication been left open. Naturally enough, when the workers over here found that telegrams were being tampered with and suppressed, they became more suspicious than they would have been had they been receiving the truth.
It is said that the prime object of the Government during such a crisis was to allay men’s fears, and endeavour to prevent their minds becoming inflamed. If such a course of action is considered correct, then I must respectfully submit that the suppressing of telegrams from one Trades Hall to another has the very opposite effect.
My Council hopes that when future disputes occur the Federal Government will bear this observation in mind when endeavouring to effect a settlement.
Yours faithfully Andrew Clementson,
I have no apology to make for occupying the time of the Senate in reading these letters.
– Are you sure?
– Personally, I do not like reading quotations, but in order that the full facts might be put before the Senate, I deemed it advisable to read this correspondence, to prove two. things, first, that economic conscription does exist in Australia-
– A great phrase that is.
– And that it is being carried out by the Government of this country and by private employers.
– Judging by the results it is not very successful, then.
– The last letter I read deals with the partisan censorship which has been carried on during the industrial struggle. Here were attempts being made by men, who I believe were desirous of assisting in the settlement of the struggle. I know for a fact that leading members of trade unions in Western Australia were desirous of doing that, but they could not get a telegram despatched, nor were any messages despatched to them received. I have been informed that Mr. Rowe, secretary of the Lumpers’ Union in Fremantle, received only one telegram during the critical period of the struggle from Mr. Morris in Melbourne. Such censorship is wrong.
– It is deliberate.
– It is deliberate and continuous. When men in leading positions in connexion with trade unions in Australia were desirous, not of protracting the struggle, but of endeavouring to bring about a meeting, with a view to ending the struggle, their telegrams were tampered with with the sanction of the Government. That is not the way to bring about industrial peace, but as this letter states, it is the way to aggravate men engaged or participating in industrial struggles.
I rose just to make these few observations on the letters I have read. Perhaps they may not be considered worthy of notice by the Ministry. They should be. because they are of vast importance to the Commonwealth, not only in time of war, but in time of peace. The censorship has been used deliberately, in a partisan sense, right from the inception of this Fusion Government.
– What will they say in Russia when they hear that sort of thing? Another revolution?
– It would be a good job if Senator de Largie were in hell or in Russia.
– Order ! I ask Senator Needham not to make use of language of that kind.
– I wish that you, sir, would ask the honorable senator not to provoke a man when he is on his feet.
– If the honorable senator objects to interjections I will protect him against them.
– You, sir, have been in the chair while I have been subjected to a continuous flow of insulting interjections and sneering remarks by Senator de Largie, and I will not stand here and brook them.
– The honorable senator will obey the Chair.
– I have no intention of disobeying the Chair. For the peace of the Senate, if Senator de Largie has no respect for his membership, such . sneering remarks and continuous attempts to provoke a man to commit disorder should have been stopped long before they were.
I repeat, sir, that the withholding of the capitation grant from six States in consequence of the absence of soldiers fighting at the Front is a matter worthy of the consideration of the Government.
– I regret exceedingly that the Leader of the Senate would not consent to the adjournment of this debate until to-morrow.
– You came and spoke to me on the subject two minutes before the adjournment was moved, and I gave you an answer. You could hardly expect me to consent to an adjournment under the conditions upon which you submitted the motion.
– That is quite true, but I think that my conversation with the honorable senator was interrupted by some business which had to be attended to. I only asked that I might have the privilege of addressing myself in a fair way to the last Supply Bill we shall have before us for two months. I was quite prepared, and still am quite prepared, to keep the agreement entered into with the Minister that the business shall be terminated by tomorrow afternoon. I do not know whether there has been any change in the arrangements made in another place. When I offered the suggestion that this debate should be adjourned, the Committee stage of the Repatriation Bill had not been reached in another place. If it has not yet been reached, what good purpose will be served by the Senate sitting all night, and then, perhaps, having to wait until the other House has finally dealt with that measure? With that idea in view I asked for an adjournment of this debate, believing that it was unreasonable to ask a member of the Senate to address himself to a Supply Bill of this importance after we had put through at practically one sitting a most important taxation measure.
– The honorable senator will see that if he wishes to discuss this Bill he can talk on the second reading, which I propose to take to-morrow.
– I think that honorable senators will agree with me that we should avail ourselves of this opportunity to ventilate any grievances.
A little while ago the representatives of the temperance organizations wished me to move the adjournment of the Senate to bring forward a matter very important to them, and that was the action of the Defence Department in preventing them from publishing a little book entitled, The Fiddlers; Drink in the Witness Box. In my opinion its publication would have no evil effect on the conduct of the war. It was my intention to bring before the Senate their complaint, which I think is a just one, in a proper way by reading a few quotations to show the nature of the book, and then asking the Minister for Defe nce (Senator Pearce) why it was censored. I have read the book from cover to cover, and failed to find anything in it which should have been censored. I am debarred an opportunity of doing what I proposed to do, but I am not debarred from reading the book from cover to cover to-night.
– Could you not do it tomorrow on the second reading?
– No ; because grievances can only be ventilated on the first, reading of a Supply Bill. Having travelled all last night to enable me to attend here to-day, I feel scarcely up to the task of putting this grievance on record in Hansard in such a way that honorable senators will understand that I have no wish to misrepresent the case.
However, I shall attempt to explain the grievance briefly. The cartoon on the inside cover of the book depicts a man evidently under the influence of liquor, bringing in Starvation and another figure representing Starvation, and at the foot is printed the following statement: -
Drink Leading Famine In.
The Drink Trade gave Germany her greatest weapon in the war by helping to make the bread famine.
It was the wilful destruction of 4,800,000 tons of food, depriving the nation of her reserves, that led to the appalling gravity of the submarine menace.
The book deals chiefly, though there is a reference in it to Australia, with the British Government. The complaints are levelled mainly against that Government for not preserving the food supply for the uses of the people, instead of allowing that supply to be destroyed by the drink traffic. There is another striking cartoon showing a pair of scales weighed down in one balance by the amount of grain and sugar used in the manufacture of intoxicants, with the result that foodstuffs, represented on the other balance of the scales, is right out of reach of the starving people.
– Food which the people want.
– And which the people are entitled to know about. The most striking cartoon in the book is the representation of three pyramids, headed “Food pyramids destroyed for drink.” There is a picture of the Pyramids in Egypt, containing 80,000,000 cubic feet of masonry, and below it are two pyramids, representing together 180,000,000 cubic feet of foodstuffs destroyed for the sake of drink during this war. These are very striking facts, but I fail to see why the censor or the Minister for Defence should have prevented the circulation of this volume. Surely these facts about the waste of foodstuffs for drink in Great Britain should be known to the people.
– Do you say you have read the book ?
– Yes, from beginning to end.
– Then you know quite well that that was not the reason for its prohibition.
– I can assure the Minister I know of no other reason.
– Then you should know.
– I am perfectly innocent in this matter, and, in order to demonstrate that I have not been misled, I shall read the book right through for the informationof the Senate.
– Do you think that is a fair thing to do?
– I want to put on record my protest against the action of the Department in prohibiting the circulation of this book.
– Do you think it is fair, as a lawmaker, to try and defeat the censorship regulations in this way ?
– If those regulations are being used, not in the interests of the prosecution of this war, but in the interests of the liquor trade, it is about time they were broken down.
– Then you intend to try and defeat the censorship by putting this book on record in Hansard?
– I appealed to the Vice-President of the Executive Council to adjourn this debate, and had he done so, I intended to make extracts to suit my purpose. The Minister for Defence, however, has challenged my statement that I did not know of any other reason for the censorship, so I shall feel obliged to put the book on record. I shall now read the opening chapter : -
The Wages of Sin.
The time has come when it should be said that those responsible for our country now stand on the very threshold of eternal glory or eternal shame. “ They play and palter with the greatest enemy force outside Berlin. The news from Vimy Ridge comes to a land whose rulers quail before an enemy within its gate. Not for one hour has the full strength of Britain been turned against her enemies. From the first day of the war, while our mighty Allies have been striking down this foe within their gates, Britain has let this trade stalk through her streets, serving the Kaiser’s purposes, and paying the Government £1,000,000 a week for the right to do it.
– What purpose will this serve ?
– The honorable senator must realize that I have been driven to this course. I intended, had I been permitted to do so, to make a few quotations from the book, but the Minister for Defence has challenged me, and I feel that I must put on record what is contained in this little volume, so that honorable senators will be able to judge for themselves if the censorship was justified. There is another way out of the difficulty, 2nd it is in the hands of the Government. If they refuse to accept it I shall continue -
She has let this trade destroy our food and bring us to the verge of famine; she has let it keep back guns and shells and hold up ships; she has let it waste our people’s wealth in hundreds of millions of pounds; she has let it put its callous brake on the merciful Red Cross; she has let it jeopardize the unity and safety of the Empire - for it may yet be found, as Dr. Stuart Holden has so finely said, that the links that bind thePax Britannica are solvable in that great chemist’s solvent, alcohol.
– Why not make a strong protest, and let the matter rest?
– When the honorable senator has been here a little longer, he will know me better. I put a fair proposition to the Government, and the Minister responsible for the censorship has practically challenged me to show that the book should not be censored. Therefore, a duty now rests upon me to place its contents before the Senate.
– In other words,you intend to put the book on record, and thus try to defeat the censorship regulations.
– I have no desire to do anything of the kind.
– You are doing it in afit of pique and temper.
– As far as the censorship regulations are concerned, thank God they do not yet apply to this Parliament. if they did, and if they were exercised as they are towards the press of this country, I venture to say that even members behind the Government would rise in revolt against them.
– I do not think they would.
– Well, on second thoughts, perhaps the honorable senator is right. Probably the senators behind the Government would not have enough spirit to revolt. Let me proceed -
The witnesses are too great to number; we can only call a few. There is no room for all thosewitnesses whose evidence is in the House of Commons Return 220 (1915), showing the part drink played in the great shell famine, in delaying ships and guns, and imperilling the Army and the Fleet.
But the indictment is heavy. I chargethis trade with the crime the King laid at its door two years ago, the crime of prolonging the war; and the witnesses are here at the bar of the people. The verdict is with them, and the judgment is with those who rule.
The wages of sin is death: What are the wages of those who fail in an hour like this?
– Do you not think there is a lot of bunkum about that?
– Perhaps so, but in a free country like Australia the people have a right to expect that even bunkum may be published and circulated if they so desire.
– Does the honorable senator think that the British Navy has been hampered ?
– By the drink traffic, yes. Any one who has read the history of the earlier stages of this war in the press and magazines must have come to that conclusion.
– But the Navy has always been ready.
– The Navy may be ready always, but if continuity of supplies is not insured the Navy cannot kie effective in the true sense of the word.
– Why, when the harvest workers were refused their drink supplies they went on strike.
– Well, I am not taking any responsibility for the statements contained in this book, nor do I necessarily indorse them.
– Why are you reading them, then ?
– For the simple reason that I want to show that the book contained nothing that should be censored. The Minister for Defence says it does, so I feel in duty bound to read the volume page by page. Let me continue - “ We have to face this grim menace,” says Lord Devonport. “ We are taking no chances,” says the Prime Minister, and the nation will hope there is some meaning in the words. It is the tragic irony of this solemn time that so many men in high places have talked like kings and ruled like jesters. . The nation looks to Mr. Lloyd George to be equal to his words.
The Prime Minister blames the late Government, the Government that let slip the greatest opportunity in British history, for helping famine on; but it will not do. The new Government has been bringing famine nearer every day; it has allowed the destruction of enormous quantities of food, and those who are guilty of this crime have no stones to. throw at others. The Prime Minister came into office with the food shortage in sight; it was his first duty to build up the great reserve of food we might have had now in our granaries if the drink trade had not destroyed it. We could have laughed at submarines, for our barns would have been filled to overflowing, and we could have lived in comfort for a year if no ship reached us.
Is there one word in the passages I have read which could not have been published at a time like this? Let me read further -
Let us see how much food drink has destroyed since the war began. We will take it from 4th August, 1914, to 30th April, 1917. It is 999 days of the war. The quantity of grain and sugar destroyed for drink has been -
Grain for bread, 4,400,000 tons.
Sugar for beer, 340,000 tons.
It is not easy to realize what this means, .but it will help us if we think of one or two examples.
The biggest thing ever set up on earth is the Great Pyramid. It is 80,000,000 cubic feet. The food destroyed by drink during the war would make two great pyramids, both bigger than the pyramid of Egypt.
The longest British railway is the Great Western; it is over 3,000 miles, but it would not hold the food destroyed by drink since war began. If every inch of it were crammed with waggons, the Great Western railway would need hundreds of miles more line to hold the train-loads of food destroyed.
There are about 750,000 railway waggons in the United Kingdom, but if the drink trade had them all they would not hold the food it has destroyed; it would need hundreds of thousands more.
There are about 30,000 engines on our British railways, and if the food destroyed were. made up in trains of 125 tons apiece, all our engines would not pull them; we should still want 10,000 more.
That is what has been censored by the Government.
– That part and some other part.
– Then why not have struck out those parts?
– You could not strike out half of the book.
– That is what is done in the case of newspaper articles.
– ‘Before those articles go to press. But the book was already printed.
– I am very anxious to get back to the part to which Senator Pearce objects; -
So vast is this incredible quantity of food destroyed by an enemy trade while famine has been coming on. We should have saved it all if Parliament had followed the King, and it would have given the whole United Kingdom its flour rations for nearly a year. Take it at its minimum scientific human food value, and on the basis ‘of our rations in April, 1917, it would have given us -
Flour for the whole United Kingdom, 43 weeks. Sugar for the whole United Kingdom, 33 weeks.
Our three war Governments, confronted with the increasing centainty of at least a threeyears’ war, have allowed the drink trade to destroy this vast reserve of food. It will not do for Mr. Lloyd George to blame his predecessors;, he has carried on their policy of food destruction. In the first four months of 1917 he has allowed the destruction of 400,000 tons of grain to bolster up this trade in drink. It would give the United Kingdom its bread rations for thirty days; it would make all the difference till the harvest is over.
The Government is bringing under wheat a million new acres, promising about two million new tons of home-grown food this year. That is the hope of its stop-the-famine-policy. But what is the certainty of its neverstopthedrinkpolicy? Against the hope of two million new tons of food this year, we have the certainty of the destruction of 800,000 tons. Of this enormous quantity of food, certainto be destroyed this year if the Government does not cry Halt! to our food destroyers, 400,000 tons has already been destroyed; the rest can be saved now if the Government wants to save it.
There is not a single reason for withholding prohibition a day longer. It is coming; itwill come before this year is ended, but if it does not come till then it will come to the eternal shame of Downing-street, for it will be written that when famine came knocking at the door of Britain it found the Government more willing that children should hunger for bread than that men should thirst for beer.
The full toll of this trade upon our scanty food supply, growing shorter and shorter while the queues outside our food shops grow longer and longer, is staggering indeed, even now with drink about three-quarters stopped. There is the actual grain and sugar destroyed in” making beer; the loss of food directly due to Mr. Prothero’s encouragement of hops (probably 100,000 tons of grain and potatoes this year) ; and the waste of food in making alcohol for munitions - the most criminal waste now going on in the world, because it is utterly unnecessary. The actual facts of the present food destruction are given on page 11. We must remember that it makes no difference that the barley has been malted; it is still good human food, andevery ounce of it should be mixed with grain for making bread. Let us remember, also, that brewer’s sugar is a good pure sugar, the objection to it being largely the objection most of us have to standard bread - its colour. Malt and sugar too, every ounce a brewer destroys is food stolen from the people.
Look for a moment or two into the actual truth behind the table on page 11. Nobody will object to any sacrifice to make munitions; the Government can take the bread out of our mouths for that. But there is in stock 156,000,000 gallons of spirits, every drop of which could be used for munitions. It is almost certainly enough to make all the munitions weshall want to win the war.
What should we say if Vickers were storing up guns, if Cammell Laird’s were storing up ships, if Armstrongs were storing up shells? But the drink trade is hoarding up munitions. Every ounce of this alcohol in bond for 1920 could be used for winning the war, but it is being kept for losing the peace, and instead of using it the Government is making new alcohol by destroying 740 tons of food a day. It is the most sinister example the war has given us of the power of this trade.
That is the unparalleled scandal of the food destroyed to make a drink trade dividend in years to come. What of the food destroyed to bolster up this drinking now? It is a crime against the Navy and against the nation. Think of all the hazard at which our food comes to us in these days - through mines and submarines, guarded and protected on long journeys at the risk of brave men’s lives, and brought at last to a famine-threatened land to be handed over to a brewer’s destructor. Take a cargo of sugar from the Philippines, ordered for a restaurant proprietor who provides 40,000 meals a day for working people in London. The sugar arrived at the London docks, and the caterer sent for it; but, instead of his sugar, he received from the Port of London authority a note saying, “ Delivery of this sugar stopped by Food Controller, unless for brewers.”
In another case a caterer in the provinces, who had actually paid for his sugar, and received a similar note from the docks, wrote to the Food Controller, whose Department replied that the sugar could only be released if it were sold to a brewer. The caterer, whose conscience would not allow him to sell food for destruction, asked if the Food Controller in such cases arranged for the sale, but was informed that the transaction must be left to the owner. It has not been sold, and the sugar is still at the docks - though since the exposure of this outrage steps have been taken to release this sugar under certain conditions.
So we see the British Government holding back sugar from a people waiting for it in queues outside our shops; holding it back from its legal owners in order to hand it to the food destroyers. If the sugar brought at such a hazard must go straight to a brewer’s destructor, we might surely have saved our sailors and our shipping all this bitter peril.
Scenes during the Great Food Destruction.
An enormous crowd besieged a farm at Farnborough, in Kent, where potatoes were being sold in shilling lots, and the sale had to be suspended while the police restored order. Hundreds of people came by ‘bus from London, others arrived in motor cars, and the queue of four deep was nearly a mile long. - Facts in the “ Times,” April 23, 1917.
A queue of women and children four deep stood in a cold wind, many of them from seven in the morning till four in the afternoon, waiting for potatoes outside a shop at Cardiff, on March 21, 1917. The procession crowded the pavements for nearly 600 yards, so that it would have been a mile long in single file. - Facts in “ South Wales Daily News,” March 22, 1917.
The Value of Brewer’s Sugar.
We do not, of course, use this dark sugar when white sugar is cheap and easily procurable, but during the war we have used it for coffee, cocoa, and tea, and for puddings where colour did not matter. We have used it a good deal in our bakeries for chocolate goods, where colour again does not matter. It is a good, pure sugar, and the colour is the principal drawback. - Letter from a well-known London caterer.
The Drink Trade and Our War Services.
It is not possible to measure the strain the drink traffic has imposed on our war services.
The Pood Controller’s organization, with its great offices and staffs, would not have been needed had we saved the food destroyed by drink.
Rationing already involves 1,200 committees, and may mean 50”000 officials and 50,000,000 tickets weekly. It could all be avoided. Prohibition would save more bread without food controlling than all the food controlling can save without prohibition.
The national service, with its network of officials, its costly advertising, its absorption of paper and printing, could all have been avoided under prohibition. About 200,000 men have enrolled, but prohibition would give us twice that man-power any day.
The strain on a host of men and women looking after soldiers’ children neglected through drink, soldiers’ wives spending allowances on drink, is incalculable.
The strain on war charities and the strain on the police arising from drink are both very great.
The strain of drink on doctors, nurses, and hospitals is beyond belief. Prohibition would set free for the Red Cross thousands who waste their time on the great drink trail.
The strain on transport is seen in the long lines of waggons drawn by strong horses carting beer to public-houses. This year alone the handling of drink must equal the lifting of at least 9,000,000 tons, and the barrels of beer would fill nearly all the railway waggons in the kingdom. As to ships, drink materials during the war have used up 60 ships of 5,000 tons working all the time.
On Lord Milner’s estimate of 19 barrels to the truck -
– There are strange measurements in that book. I never before heard of nineteen barrels to a truck.
– I do not pretend to be an authority as to the accuracy or otherwise of (the statements appearing in this book. When I have finished reading it, I shall endeavour to find out from the Minister for Defence why its publication has been censored in Australia.
– What is the area of the ocean of beer mentioned ?
– I shall give that to the honorable senator later. I ask him to say whether one word that I have read should have been censored?
– Yes, those figures - nineteen barrels to the truck.
– I do not think there is anything very amusing about that.
– Personally, I would censor anything that would keep us out of our beds at .this hour of the night.
– -If Senator Millen will give me the opportunity to resume to-morrow, I promise to give the
Committee what I am now quoting, in tabloid form.
– As the honorable senator has kept us so long, we may as well have it all in .one dose.
– I am perfectly willing to go on with the reading of the book.
On Lord Milner’s estimate of nineteen “ barrels to the truck, it would require 4,500,000 railway trucks to carry the 17,000,000 tons of beer manufactured in the United Kingdom during the war.
It can be proved from official figures that the weight of drink stuff carried about since the war began has been equal to the weight of solid material carried by the Navy to all our fighting fronts.
It is a crying shame that the strength of Britain should be destroyed like this in such an hour as this.
– I know now why the Germans want to get to England.
– I can quite understand Senator Millen recognising that the Germans may want to get to England when all this beer is there; but I venture to say that before I have finished this book, honorable senators will realize that the British would make a much more hasty trip to Berlin if they viewed the drink traffic through the spectacles of the author of this book. I should like to ask the Minister for Defence whether it was upon an understanding with the Commonwealth Government that the first thing that the Government of New South Wales did when they got the volunteer workers on to the Sydney Cricket Ground was to see that a huge supply of beer was sent to them.
– If it is any comfort to the honorable senator, I may tell him that any matter that he has so far quoted might have been released for publication, but those concerned did not want that.
– I have read the book from beginning to end, and I know of nothing in it that should have been censored. What the honorable senator has said makes it impossible for me now to give this in tabloid form. I must read it all.
The statements, horrible in their realness were personally collected by Police Court Missioner, Creagh, at the Sydney Central Police Court, during the month of June, 1917. Mr. James Marion, General Secretary of the New South Wales Alliance, vouched for their accuracy, at a great public meeting held in the Melbourne Town Hall on 13th August, 1917.
June 5th. - The husband was fighting in France, the . son was in camp at’ Liverpool preparing to join his father. The mother and wife was before the court charged with being drunk.
– That is nice stuff.
– Surely we have not reached the stage, in Australia when stuff like that cannot be published.
– It is true, or not true; and if it is true it is terrible.
– Is it not as true of others as well as of soldiers’ wives ? Why pick out soldiers’ wives ?
– I was twelve weeks in London, and did not see a single soldier the worse for liquor.
– People reading the book would think that the soldiers were continually drunk, and their wives continually on the spree.
– To continue-
June 6th.- Two returned soldiers were arrested, being helplessly drunk. One of them was shattered in health and strength, bearing honorable wounds, gained whilst fighting for Australia.
June 7th. - Two well-dressed women, who were in a deplorable condition when arrested. Both of their husbands are fighting at the Front.
These are the statements -
– ‘That help recruiting!
– I can quite understand the attitude of the Minister for Defence if he believes that these statements have no right to be made. I agree with Senator Thomas that if they are false those who published them should be prosecuted. But if they are true, I say that there is no reason why, unpalatable as they are, the public should not be permitted to know them. If the moral tone of the community is such that it is necessary to slur over these things, and that they must be smothered up in order that the drink traffic may be allowed to continue-
– Does the honorable senator think that things are as bad as the book makes out?
– I express no opinion on that point. What I want to know is why the publication of a book of this character is censored. Surely as a free people we have not yet reached the stage when one man should have the power to say what we shall print or what we shall write. The test for the censor is whether the publication of an article is calculated to interfere with the prosecution of the war. If the publication of an article in a newspaper, or in the form of a book, can not be shown to in any way interfere with the prosecution of the war, then no Minister is sufficiently powerful in this country to- censor the publication of matter merely because he thinks it is not fit for the ,people to read, when other people think that they should read it. I am not identifying myself with any of the statements that appear in this book.
– No. that is just what the honorable senator will not do.
– While I do not identify myself with the statements which any one writes on the subject, my lifelong attitude on the temperance question is well known.
– Does, the honorable senator think that the publication of those statements will do any good to any one?
– I do not think that their publication will in any way prevent’ the prosecution of the war. Can the honorable senator show me how it would ?
– If the statements quoted are true, their publication might” rouse the people of this country to carry prohibition, and that would do good. If the statements are not true, the man who made them should be shot.
– The book proceeds -
June 11th. - The returned soldier mentioned above who was before the Court on the 6th again appeared. . He had with him another returned man, who was also drunk:
June 13th. - Two women, whose husbands when they went away to fight left happy, contented wives behind them, were both charged with being drunk. Before their husbands went away these women were respected citizens. Drink has been their ruin.
– That should inspire the men at the Front with confidence in their wives and bring’ them much happiness!
– If Senator Earle takes up the attitude that the Minister for Defence can censor the publication of any matter, because it might disturb the men at the Front, well and good. The moral to be drawn from this is-
– Do not enlist if you are a married man, because if you do your wife will go on the spree.
– The moral to be drawn is that if the organized temperance bodies of the country can give sufficient publicity to the awful ravages of the drink traffic they may arouse the people to put an end to it.
– I strongly object to the particular references to the wives oi soldiers.
– Cannot the honorable senator make a little allowance for a man who has suffered the horrors of trench warfare taking a drop of spirits when he comes home ?
-,-1 can assure Senator Foll than no man is more generously disposed than I am to the unfortunate people who become the victims of drink.
– These men are not necessarily the victims of drink.
– If the pamphlet were directed merely against the evils of drink, and was not intended to restrict recruiting, why does the author hammer at soldiers and soldiers’ wives all the time?
– I see tha* aspect of the matter; but I say that the Minister for Defence is not to be the judge of these things.
– The honorable senator said that the Minister for Defence was to be the judge.
– I say that he should not be the judge of what people interested in dealing with the liquor traffic should not publish.
– The vendetta against soldiers and soldiers’ wives has been carried on since war was declared.
– I can assure Senator Foll that if he thinks that will affect the temperance people in New South Wales, he never made a bigger mistake in his life. It is all very well to take shelter behind the soldiers. The temperance organizations have never supported me because they do not like the methods which I would adopt to deal with the drink traffic. I have the record of being beaten by a man who put drink down in a way different from the way in which I would put it down. I would not be selected by temperance organizations, although I am a life-long teetotaler. I have no reason to take up the cause of the temperance people.
A censor brings to the Minister for Defence a book published by a temperance organization, and, apparently, the Minister is to say whether people shall be allowed to read the book or not. The objection to the references to soldiers is on a par with what the Government did at the last election, when they appealed for the help of the soldiers on the ground that they were the Win-the-war party.
– The Minister for Defence has a perfect right to defend the good name of his soldiers.
– I never attempted to take from him that right.
– The honorable senator is publishing stuff now that does that.
– I am not doing anything of the kind.- The stuff I am reading has been used at public meetings. If a defence of the soldiers is needed, let the Minister make iti. The prevention of the publication of this book is nob a defence of the soldiers. The Minister has no right to prevent the publication of any matter merely because, in his judgment, it may affect the reputation of the soldiers. The powers over censorship were never given to him for that purpose.
– The Minister can prevent the publication of anything that might prejudice recruiting.
– Does the hon- ‘orable senator say that the publication of this book would prejudice recruiting ?
– I certainly do.
– The honorable senator should remember the outburst from his own party when Captain Bean sent certain matter from Egypt for publication in Aus.tralia.
– What was that matter ?
– The honorable senator knows very well.
– I wish Senator Foll would understand that I am prepared bo give him a candid answer. Captain Bean has written a great deal, and I do not recall the particular matter to which ho refers.
– The only information I can give the honorable senator is that statements by Captain Bean concerning Australian troops in Egypt were published in the Australian newspapers, and, on their publication, there was a great outburst from the party to which Senator Gardiner belongs.
– It was alleged to reflect on the Australian soldiers.
– If there is one man who should be careful about publishing anything, reflecting on the Australian soldiers it is the official correspondent. J would strongly resent the publication, by a gentleman employed and paid by the Government to report upon them, of any statements reflecting on them.
– But your statement just now was that, if true, it ought to be published.
– I am not saying whether it is true or not, but a man in Captain Bean’s position should be the last to say anything to injure the reputation of the Australian soldiers. To get back to the book -
July 18. - One returned man, wearing his regimental colours. There was also a sailor from’ a Pacific and Orient transport. He stated in Court that half of the crew were drinking heavily, and that at every port of call men were left behind, incapacitated through drink.
Is it not fair that the public should know these things? The greatest loss the Empire is suffering is that caused through the stoppage of shipping.
– We have an example of the holding up of shipping’ in Australia at the present time.
– Something more than drink has been holding them up.
– Of course it has. If we had the control we should have over shipping, delay in loading and unloading at a time like this would not be allowed to continue, because it is too serious. We hear a good deal about the “ go-slow “ policy on the wharfs, but I have travelled on boats even during this war where, for the sake of saving coal, only an easy pace was kept. The explanation given to me was that it would cost too much for coal if they went at full speed. This is another cause - that the men were incapacitated through drink. I quite understand that the writer and publishers of this book are simply endeavouring to put before the public the evils caused by drink. But the Minister’s censor says, “ At a time like this, you are not allowed to get a sympathetic hearing for your arguments. You must defer publication until the opportunity has passed away.” The Minister, or his officials, have misused their power. The Minister has made one of the blunders of his lifetime in preventing the publication of this book, which continues -
The War-work of the Food Destroyers.
There are hundreds of great Food Destructors in the United Kingdom. The man-power at their service, spread over our breweries and distilleries, numbers hundreds of thousands of men ; their capital is hundreds of millions. This is a summary of the work they did in the. first 1,000 days of the war : -
They sacrificed 4,400,000 tons of grain and 340,000 tons of sugar, enough to ration the whole United Kingdom with bread for 43 weeks and sugar for 33 weeks.
They took from every kitchen cupboard in the land 600 lbs. of breadand 76 lbs. of sugar.
They destroyed bread and sugar to last every child under 15 for every day of the war.
They took from the pockets of our people £500,000,000.
They used up labour and transport for lifting over 50,000,000 tons. By sea they used up 60 ships of 5,000 tons; by rail their raw material would fill 950,000 waggons, and make a train 3,500 miles long; and their barrels of beer alone would fill 4,500,000 waggons.
The Food being Destroyed now.
The food shortage came in sight at the be ginning of 1917, and in the first four months of the year 400,000 tons of grain were destroyed for alcohol.
There are in bond 156,000,000 gallons of spirits, all of which could be used for munitions, but the Government allows it to be hoarded up for 1921, and makes new alcohol by destroying food.
The Government has therefore been destroying food to save distillers’ stocks, which it should commandeer, and even now the -
Total destruction of food in brewing and distilling is at least 1,800 tons of grain and over 100 tons of sugar a day.
The total destruction of bread equals 6,000,000 quartern loaves a week.
Brewers’ sugar is good pure sugar wherever colour does not matter, but we do not count distillers’ sugar in this book, as it is very inferior. We count barley at 60 per cent. of value, and maize at 80 per cent. At that rate -
This year’s food destruction for alcohol will equal 7 weeks’ bread rations and 4 weeks’ sugar rations for the whole United Kingdom.
It would feed all London for over 40 weeks.
– On a point of order, would it not be possible for the honorable senator in Committee, on an item in the Defence Department, to read the whole of the book, if he so desires ?
– That is not a point of order. The only point I have to decide is whether Senator Gardiner is in order now or not, and I rule that he is in order.
– I travelled all last night, and this is no pleasure to me ; nor is there much wisdom in taking the risk of the strain, but it is forced on me by the Minister.
– He will never forget it.
– And I venture to say I shall never forget it. In view of the fact that the other House has risen without going into Committee on the Bill that they are considering, I think the Vice-President of the Executive Council might consent to adjourn now. If so, I am quite prepared to hand this pamphlet over to Senator Pearce, and if he can find anything in it that bears out his statement, I shall to-morrow read nothing but the parts he indicates. If he will not consent to that, I shall continue. The writer of the pamphlet goes on to say -
We have seven critical weeks in this summer, and this year’s destruction of food would carry us through.
Beer alone is taking 10 lb. of sugar a year from every kitchen cupboard, and an ounce of sugar a day from every soldier.
That is what drink is doing at this moment with the shadow of famine creeping on. “He that withholdeth the corn the people shall curse him.” - Proverbs.
Strange tunes we hear the fiddlers play, but their music does not charm away the troubles of a famine-threatened land. Prom morning till night the prayer of the people rises, “ Give us this day our daily bread,” but the heart of Downing-street is hardened, .and the nation’s bread goes day by day to the destroyer.
But all the time we see the measure of the courage of our rulers on the .hoardings in the streets. We know their posters by heart.
Defeat the enemy’s attempt to -starve you, by - not by stopping the destruction of food, but by joining the National Service, and probably helping to pick hops. There was a man in a co-operative store who volunteered for National Service, and last month he received instructions to leave the grocery store and take up duty in a brewery.
I do not know whether that is true or not, but will any one say that, if it is true, it ought not to be published?-
Sow your window-boxes and plant your back gardens - and Mr. Prothero will see that the soil of a million back gardens is wasted on hops.
We have not enough food to last till the harvest - why not go out and catch rabbits, asks Lord Devonport - and sit and wait for sparrows?
We must save a pound of bread a week for everybody to get over nine critical weeks - not by saving the nine weeks’ bread for everybody that drink destroys this year, but by going hungry, so that drinkers may not thirst.
We must not eat more than our share, on our honour - but the man across the table can eat his share of bread and drink somebody else’s too.
We must eat less and eat slowly - so that brewers may waste more and waste quickly.
We must keep back famine - but not by using malt, says Captain Bathurst: that would cost three times as much as letting famine come. But why not keep the malt till bread is as dear as gold?
We must not waste a little bit, says Mx. Kennedy Jones - and so we have 1,200 Economy Committees to pick up crumbs from brewers’ tables.
God speed the plough and the woman who drives it - yes, and God help the woman who drives the plough to feed the brewer while her little ones cry for bread.
I again appeal to the Vice-President of the Executive Council to be reasonable, and consent to an adjournment. The Minister for Defence has made the statement that this pamphlet contains something that ought to be censored; and if the present attitude is maintained, I shall be compelled, notwithstanding the circumstances, to place the whole of it on record, in order to show that there is not a sentence to which the censor ought to take exception.
– Is the position not that the temperance people do not object to this book being censored, but do not wish it to be destroyed, so that it may be circulated afterwards?
– That has been agreed.
– I wonder if I could get from the Minister an admission that anything I have already read ought to be censored?
– Yes; the statements you read about the Australian soldiers.
– Is there anything else in the book of which he is aware deserving of the censorship?
– Yes, further on.
– Then I shall proceed-
We must kill our cattle, says the Board of Trade; we must not keep hens. But the Government holds up. for brewers enough cattle food to feed hundreds of thousands of cattle through our critical time, and every hen in the United Kingdom for a year. “ Hops arc no use to anybody,” says the Board of Trade Scientific Committee. “Then let us grow only half as many,” said Mr. Prothero.
Mr. Lloyd George says Mr. Prothero is working “ in a continuous rattle of mocking laughter and gibes.” Yes, it is the mocking laughter of a nation that is not really amused by sights like this. The nation does not like to see the bread rations of 70,000 men in France cut down while the Drink Trade is destroying every week bread enough to last these men a year. It does not like to see the Government sending letters ‘ out to managers of factory canteens, begging them to be careful of bread, while food flows through our beer canteens like a river running to waste. It does not like to see Y.M.C.A. canteens denied supplies of sugar while barrels of beer are stacked in great piles outside. It does not like the calling up of discharged soldier’s while thousands of strong men are working hard all day destroying food or carting beer about the streets; ana it does not like the tragic comedies of Captain Bathurst, who warns us that it really may become necessary in the national interest-and then, perhaps, he drops his voice to break it very gently - it really may become necessary, if these cake” shops are not very careful, to whitewash the lower part of their windows.
Ob, these fiddlers ! And now we have a new idea from the Food Control Department; it is a coloured poster of a Union Jack and a big loaf. on it, and “Waste not, Want not,” printed in big type. It was being printed on the day the Prime Minister told the nation that America had found it is no use waving it neutral flag in the teeth of a shark. It is an eloquent and true saying, but it is also true that it is no use waving platitudes from copybooks in the teeth of a wolf at the door. The Prime Minister says he is taking no’ chances. Let us be quite sure. We once had a Government of which men said its motto was “ Wait and See.” Are we better off, or are we worse, with a Government that Sees and Waits?
But there is no end to the fiddling. With Food Controllers who hold up food for Food Destroyers ; with Food Economy Handbooks that cry out loud to save the crumbs but have no word to say about the tons we fling away; with a Prime Minister praying for window-boxes and a Board of Agriculture consecrating hopfields, we need not be surprised if the nation is not mightily impressed.
Thb Hide-the-Drink Press.
The Drink Fleet during the war, bringing in the raw material of this trade without cessation, would have brought enough pulp to maintain our newspape’r supplies for years. But these ships brought food for this trade to destroy, and the means of publicity are rapidly disappearing. The Hide-the-Drink Press has control of our communications.
All over the United Kingdom you oan cram great halls for “Prohibition. This page is written on the way from the Free Trade Hall in Manchester, packed with angry people. The other day it was Usher Hall in Edinburgh,, the day before St. Andrew’s Hall in Glasgow, and then the Central Hall in Liverpool, Queen’s Hall in Loudon, in which we called on the Government to save our food.
But what have the papers to tell us of these things? Nothing. They live in another world. Take up the Times for “the day this is written; almost any day would do. Captain Bathurst has found a tremendous supporter for his policy of saving food by white- washing windows. If the Food Controller is to make a startling impression, says the Times, “ he can take drastic action in regard to the display of food.” We live in brave days : who shall measure the courage of our greatest newspaper when it writes like that? If we dp not see our food we shall not want it !
But we do not like the Hide-the-Food Press any more than the Hide:the-Drink Press. The Times tells us the most noticeable waste of food now going on is by children. I beg the Timet’ pardon. If we have come in this country, as we have come, to a tug-of-war be- tween brewers’ dividends and bread for children, decent people are on the side of the children. Once before the Times has called the attention of the Food Controller to the great exasperation of men and women all over the country that shops are still selling sweets. Was any hypocrisy ever so great since Uriah Heep was born ?
Let us take the Daily Mail. We may raise our hat to the journalist who keeps drink out of it, who spends day after day talking of the waste of food and is blind and deaf and dumb to drink. He can see a gnat and miss an elephant; ho must be the cleverest journalist who ever held a pen.
Bread is ammunition, and we cannot afford to waste a single loaf, says the Mail, but it has not a word to say about the outrage of destroying 6,000,000 quartern loaves a week for drink.
Every cargo of grain sunk by submarines has to be made up by economy in our homes, says the Mail. So have the 26 cargoes of 8,000 tons of grain which the brewers are to destroy in the next 26 weeks.
Reminding its readers that the fate of the Empire may turn on economy of food, the Mail asks : “ Will the public ever realize how serious the food .position is? We ask because investigation in public places shows that there are many who disregard the food regulations.” There are, for instance, the Daily Mail might have added, the hundred thousand other places where nien, who’ think themselves jolly good fellows drink away the bread and sugar for which women’ and children ask in vain. But the Daily Mail is not thinking of these men or of these things. It is only the millens of people who are not in high places who think of things like this, and they have no voice i« the papers now. But their day will come.
As there are sixty-four pages in the book, I will announce, for the enlightenment of honorable senators, that I have reached page 18- r
How the Allies Did It.
All the world knows, except, apparently, the world that goes round at Westminster, how Prohibition has helped the Allies.
With, the Shell Famine at its height- largely made by Drink - the Prohibition Army on the East held up the enemy while Britain fought the Drink Trade for her shells.
With the Bread Famine looming in sightlargely made by Drink - the Prohibition Navy from the West flings in her power against the submarines.
Oh, for the spirit of our Allies in this land ! If France wants to rouse the spirit of Verdun she strikes down her foe at home and puts absinthe away. If Russia wants to be great and free she stops this drink and orders out the Romanoffs. If Canada wants to give her utmost help to Britain she stops this drink from sea to sea. If Australia wants to make her soldiers fit she trains them in her Prohibition camps. If America wants to beat the whole world at making shells she drives drink from her workshops. If San Francisco has an earthquake she stops drink while she pulls herself together. If Liverpool has a dangerous strike she shuts up publichouses and keeps the city quiet. Oh, for a Government of Britain that will see what all the world can see !
History will do justice to the part the Prohibition policy of the Allies has played in saving Europe, but a pamphlet has no room for these things. We can take only one or two groat witnesses to the mighty achievements of our Prohibition Allies. Let us begin with France, and call our own Prime Minister to tell us what they did. Mr. Lloyd George :
One afternoonwe had to postpone our conference in Paris,and the French Minister of Finance said, “ 1 neve to go to the Chamber of Deputies, because I am proposing a Bill to abolish absinthe.” Absinthe plays the same part in France that whiskyplays in this country,and they abolished itby a majority of something like ten to one that afternoon.
And how did Paris take this, prohibition that men said would cause a revolution ? Let us ask Mr. Philip Gibbs, whose splendid letters home have made his name a household word. Mr. Philip Gibbs:
Absinthe was banned by a thunderstroke, and Parisians who had acquired the absinthe habit trembled in every limb at this judgment which would reduce them to physical and moral wrecks. But the edict was given and Paris obeyed, loyally and with resignation.
SenatorFoll. - On a point of order, sir, I ask whether Senator Gardiner is in order in reading his speech ?
– Instead of reading his speech, the honorable senatoris reading extracts to illustrate his speech.
– I can assure you, sir, and Senator Foll that the book does not contain my opinions, nor am I trying to put them before the Senate. My purpose is to read to the Minister for Defence, who, I believe, has been too busy to read the book, all that it contains, so that he may know that he made a mistake in censoring it.
– I have read every line of the book.
SenatorGARDIN ER. - To resume the reading -
And now we come to Russia, to these mighty Russian people who in the last year of vodka saved £6,000,000 or £7,000,000, and in the last full year of Prohibition saved £177,000,000. We will call our own Prime Minister again :
Russia, knowing her deficiency, knowing how unprepared she was, said, “ I must pull myself together. I am not going to be trampled upon, unready as I am. I will use all my resources.” What is the first thing she does? She stops drink.
I was talking to M. Bark, the Russian Minister of Finance, and I asked, “ What has been the result?” He said, “The productivity of labour, the amount of workwhich is put out by the workmen, has gone up between 30 and 50 per cent.”
I said, “ How do they stand it without their liquor ?”’ and he. replied, “Stand it? Ihave lost revenue over it up to £65,000,000 a year and we certainly cannot afford it, but if I proposed to put it back there would be a revolution in Russia.”
Sitting suspended from 12.17 to 1 a.m. (Wednesday).
– I have had the opportunity of glancing through this little book. I find there are not more than a few further quotations that I need make from it; but I ask the Vice-President of the Executive Council to allow me to continue my remarks at the next sitting. I promise him that the arrangement come to last week to conclude business at that sitting will not be broken by any remarks that I wish to make. I have only to deal with a few general subjects, and I shall not occupy more than half-an-hour at the most. I ask for leave to resume my speech at the next sitting.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Senate adjourned at 1.2 a.m. (Wednesday).
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 25 September 1917, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1917/19170925_SENATE_7_83/>.