7th Parliament · 2nd Session
The President (Senator the Hon. T. Givens) took the chair at 11 a.m., and read prayers.
– (By leave.) - I wish to make a statement to the Senate in relation to the war. The Honorable the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Watt) has received the following details of a telegram received through the Right Honorable the Secretary of State for the Colonies, dated London, 31st October, 1918, at 4.10 p.m.-
October 31st. - Following from Prime Minister for your Prime Minister begins : Some days ago General Townshend was liberated in order to inform the British Admiral in command in the Aegean that the Government of Turkey asking that negotiations should be opened immediately for an armistice. A reply was sent that if the Government of Turkey sent fully accredited plenipotentiaries Vice-AdmiralCalthorp was empowered to inform them of the conditions upon which the Allies would agree to a cessation of hostilities and to sign an armistice on this condition on theirbehalf. Turkish plenipotentiaries arrived at Mudros early this week and an armistice was signed by Admiral Calthorp on behalf of the Allied Governments last night and comes into operation at noon to-day. It is not possible as yet to publish the full terms of the armistice, but they include the free passage for the Allied Fleets through the Bosphorus to the Black Sea, the occupation of the forts on the Dardanelles and the Bosphorus necessary to secure their passage, and the immediate repatriation of all Allied prisoners of war. Announcement of these terms will be made in both Houses of Parliament this afternoon.
Honorable Senators. - Hear, hear!
– I may, perhaps, be allowed to say that, in no part of the British Empire, or, possibly, of any of the Allied countries, will this news be received with such gratification as in Australia, for the reason that, perhaps, the most deadly blows struck against the Turkish Empire have been struck by soldiers from Australia.
Honorable Senators. - Hear, hear!
– We have to remember that, although the Gallipoli campaign closed with the withdrawal of our Forces from that peninsula, it cannot be said to have been a failure, because, undoubtedly, our operations there .kept a large portion of the Turkish Army engaged, and we inflicted very considerable losses upon the Turks. When we remember the brilliant campaign which has since eventuated in Palestine, and the glorious and important part which the Australian Light Horse have played in breaking the Turkish Army there, we are entitled to a feeling of considerable gratification that their operations have at length yielded the success they deserved. I think we are entitled also to the satisfaction that we may regard the latest news as au indication of the beginning of the end, and that it means that the terms which have been imposed upon Turkey will eventually have to be accepted by the Germanic Powers as well.
Honorable Senators. - Hear, hear!
– Is there any news of the occupation of Constantinople?
– The Dews is that the British Fleet has passed through the Dardanelles, and that means that it commands Constantinople. There is another reason for gratification and satisfaction in the news which has been received which will be keenly appreciated by many hearts and in many homes in Australia. The treatment of Australian, British, and other Allied prisoners by the Turks has been of the most dreadful character. It has involved intense suffering, and tremendous casualties. To my mind, one of the most gratifying features of the terms of the armistice granted to Turkey is the demand for the immediate release of Australian and other Allied ‘prisoners. I am sure that we can extend to their relatives throughout Australia our sincere congratulations that at last those near and dear to them, who have been suffering horrible treatment at the hands of the Turks, will be relieved, and come once more under the care of their own people. I think the situation disclosed by the news received calls for the congratulations of us all, and I invite Honorable senators to stand in their places and give voice to those congratulations.
Honorable senators, standing in their places, sang the National Anthem, andgave three cheers.
– I ask the Minister for Defence whether the Senate will be given an opportunity to discuss the new Excise and Customs duties that were laid on the table in another place before we rise for the Christmas holidays?
– It is the intention of the Government to give the members o f both Houses that opportunity ; but, as the honorable senator will realize, the Government are not entirely masters of the position. Honorable members of both Houses have some say in the matter.
– Arising out of the answer to my question, may I ask the Minister for.Defence what he means when he says that the matter is in the hands of the Houses, seeing that yesterday I was ruled out of order when attempting to discuss this matter while the Excise Bill was under consideration?
– I mean simply that it depends on the length of time which honorable members in both Houses occupy in discussing the various measures brought forward, whether there will be sufficient time to dispose of the necessary business before Christmas.
– Is the honorable senator aware that alterations of the Customs and Excise duties brought before another place last August twelve months have not yet been discussed here?
– (By leave.)I wish to make but a few remarks with reference to a report appearing in the newspapers this morning of some observations which I made yesterday, and to the request of the Minister for Defence that I should supply the name of my informant. It does not appear from the press report of my remarks that I was willing to supply the name of my informant, and I wish now to say that, if a properly authorized inquiry is instituted into the matter by the Minister, I promise to furnish the evidence I have received.
asked the Minister representing the Acting Prime Minister, upon notice-
– The answers supplied by the Acting Prime Minister are : -
Imports : Duty
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The information will be obtained and furnished to the honorable senator.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
What is the yearly amount of Customs duty that has been collected on cinematograph films since the duty was first imposed?
– The information will be obtained and supplied.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Home and Territories, upon notice -
– The answers are: -
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The information will be obtained and supplied.
Statutory Rule No. 274
asked the Minister representing the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The following replies are furnished by the Treasurer : -
asked the Minister representing the Treasurer, upon notice -
Is the Government buying, war stock, bonds, . or certificates? If so -
What is the amount of purchases made monthly to 1st October?
What brokers are employed?
What commission is paid?
What priceis being given?
Where has the stock been bought?
– The following replies are furnished by the Treasurer: -
asked the Vice-Presi dent of the Executive Council, upon notice -
– The answers are : -
Motion (by Senator joe Largie) agreed to-
That leave of absence for one month be granted to Senator Lynch on account of urgent private business.
Bill read a third time.
Debate resumed from 31st October (vide page 7275), on motion by Senator Pearce-
That this. Bill be now read a second time.
– The glorious news received this morning rather takes the sting out of any criticism of the Government proposals for the taxation of the Australian public. Now that peace is within sight of the peoples of the world-
– “We are not out of the wood yet.
– I merely said that peace was within sight. I contemplate that there will be complications needing adjustment, possibly by the use of arms, but I hope not. I take this opportunity of adding my congratulations, and hope that we shall soon be able to join with one another in celebrating a victory over Prussian militarism.
I intend to oppose .this proposed tax, which is nothing more nor less than a tax on the poor people of Australia. I believe that on a previous occasion the Senate was instrumental in having the tax removed from 3d. tickets for admission to picture shows. I shall oppose it again with all my power, because I consider it to be unfair and unjust taxation. There are many other fields of taxation that might be explored before we start to tax the lowpriced tickets of . admission to picture shows. An impost of Id. on a 3d. ticket is an enormous tax, as it amounts to 33 per cent. No taxation of 33 per cent, has yet been imposed on receipts derived from any source in this country. In any case, I do not believe in beginning at the bottom of the ladder with taxation proposals. I believe in beginning them at the top, where their imposition will be less felt. If a child visits a picture show forty times during the year he pays 10s. in all, and will pay under ‘ this Bill no less than 3s. 4d. in taxation in addition. If a man goes to the races on a Saturday he spends likewise 10s., and, in addition, a tax of only lOd. That is unjust and unfair. The pictures are the only pleasure in life to many people, who attend them regularly. Since their introduction many of the pictures have had an educational effect on the young folk, and I hope that some day, in this country, we shall follow the example of certain other places, where picture shows are conducted by the municipalities .for -educational and entertainment purposes, without any charge to the people. The municipal authorities there put pictures on that will both entertain and instruct their patrons, and their example is well worth following.
This Bill is the same old story - always tax the poor fellow first. No matter what the taxation is, except direct taxation, it is always passed on to him, and he has to suffer. We know that wages increase in a certain ratio, and they always will increase, but they do not increase in the same ratio as the cost of feeding and clothing a family. According to the. Government, this Bill will bring in an additional revenue of £275,000, or an increased taxation of 130 per cent. Last year’s revenue from the entertainments tax amounted to £205,000. Altogether the Treasurer (Mr. Watt) expects to obtain £480,000 from the entertainments tax. There are other forms of amusement on which taxes could be levied, and where the Government have imposed restrictions, without those restrictions having the effect desired ; but I shall deal with that matter later. The Treasurer, in his Budget speech, said he would receive only £450,000 from the war-time profits tax. He is going to receive as much as that from the picture- shows, which proves that this taxation is unfair and unjust. As the Government desire to obtain from £5,000,000 to £6,000,000 extra revenue, there are plenty of avenues of taxation which some of my colleagues on this side of the chamber will, no doubt, point out to them. It is better for the Government to tax the wealthy than to come on the wives .and children of the soldiers at the Front. I would say to the representatives of the soldiers in this chamber, “ Do not forget that this is the only form of entertainment that many of the children of soldiers can get; and do not forget, also, that you wanted the other day to put an extra tax of 50 per cent, on their letters.” I am glad to see that the Government have had the good sense to take my advice in that matter by leaving the postage on letters to soldiers rat the old rate.
– Did you say just now that we are getting only £450,000 from the war-time profits tax?
– I understand that that is the estimate.
– That is in addition to the £1,000,000 we have already received.
– I stand corrected; but as this Bill provides also for additional taxation, I will make my comparison in that way.
The Government propose to raise nearly as much additional revenue from this source as from the war-time profits tax.
– Anyhow, £1,500,000 is not much from the war-time profits tax in view of the profits that are being made.
– There is no doubt that the unfortunate people of this country are having a hard time of it. The future of this country depends on the growth, stamina, and well-being of its young people. I have done a bit of hard work in my time, and know that a man who has to do a good day’s work needs a feed of beef twice a day. In this country now he cannot get it, but we cannot shut our eyes to the fact that if we want to raise a good type of manhood, we must feed our young people well. I used to get meat three times a day, but people cannot get it now, because they cannot afford it. I asked the other day if the Government intended to relax the regulation, under which I have to pay 3d. per lb. more for steak than I used to pay.
– Order! I must ask the honorable senator not to discuss that matter.
– I mention it merely to illustrate my argument that the poor man always has to pay. He is taxed every time, and, by the imposition of these restrictions, he has to pay a great deal more than he should.
I have here figures which have already keen published, showing that the rich people of this country are escaping their just meed of taxation. I know some, reputed millionaires who are making vast sums of money out of this war. They have a right to be paid, because they are serving the Government with things necessary to carry on the war; but they are making enormous profits, and one never sees their names in the lists of subscribers to War Loans, or to any fund to assist the men at the Front.
– We will get them with the Compulsory Loan Bill next time.
– It is nearly time we did so. The following list shows the reserves and undistributed profits of a few firms, the figures having nothing to do with the dividends they pay: -
These are firms which have been dealing with the Government, one and all, directly or indirectly, in the matter of war materials. The figures which I have quoted do not represent their enormous profits. God knows what their true profits ‘have been. I have merely quoted from their reserves. I have given those statistics to show that there is ground for the contention that the Government, by imposing the tax on entertainment tickets, are starting at the bottom of the ladder instead of working from the top downwards.
Among the companies and firms to which I have alluded are names which we never see figuring in lists of patriotic funds and the like. Take now the case of the coal mining industry. The increase in miners’ wages in 1916, as awarded- to them by Mr. Justice Edmunds, amounted to £390,000. But the increase in mine-owners’ profits, owing to their being permitted to raise the price of coal by 3s. a ton, amounted to £1,350,000. The excuse put forward by the owners
was that they were bound to procure additional money with which to pay the men’s extra wages. They got the money right enough. They gave the men £390,000, and increased the price of coal to the people, and added to their profits, to the tune of £1,350,000; thus making, for the owners, a clear profit out of the whole business amounting to £960,000. In the face of those figures, Parliament is asked to accede to the -proposal for a paltry tax upon children’s picture show tickets. The metals won from the earth by mining companies are properly the property of the people. I will not pursue that particular line of thought further than to add that they are a genuine source of taxation when money is required by the Government for war purposes.
I propose next to indicate some of the enormous figures being piled up in Australia by various firms interested in war productions, and from whom the Treasurer expects to receive only £450,000 by way of additional taxation. It is actually expected that more will be received from the proposed entertainments tax than from the war-time profits tax.
– No ; £1,000,000 more is expected from the war-lame profits tax than from the other proposition.
– I am going upon the Treasurer’s own figures. I am well aware that these are both extensions of the sources of taxation ; but, surely, we can expect those people who are doing so marvellously well out of war work to give more than they are being forced to do now. And if they do not give more, we’ should take it, rather than fall back upon the 3d. tickets of the children. The Government might as well take a cut out of the 3d. ticket for a merry-go-round, or participate in the 3d. spent on a joy ride to St. Kilda of a Sunday afternoon.
I have other figures before me, comparing British taxation with that in Australia. The British Government started properly, at the top of the ladder, and they are working downwards in seeking for fresh sources of taxation. It has been indicated that fresh avenues of taxation will probably ‘have to be sought in Australia next year. It is not too late for the Federal Government to begin at the right end of the ladder. In Australia, from personal exertion, the taxation upon £500 amounts to £22 15s. In England it is £56 5s. Up to £1,000, the taxation in Australia totals £64 9s. ; in Britain the amount is £150. Upon £1,500, the Australian taxpayer must hand over £118 16s. Sd. ; the British taxpayer is required to pay £281 5s.
– Is that Federal, or both Federal and State taxation, from which you are quoting in respect of Australia ?
– The figures include both Federal and State. Up to a sum of £2,500, the Australian taxpayer is required to give to the Government £269 17s. 8d. ; in Britain the amount is £656 5s. Upon £3,000, the Australian taxpayer must furnish £364 9s.; the British taxpayer, £962 10s. Up to £4,000, the Australian tax is £591 13s. 4d.; the British, £1,362 10s. U.p to £5,000, Australia, £869 13s. 2d.; British, £1,787 10s. Up to £10,000 the taxation in Australia from personal exertion equals £2,875 2s. Id.; in Britain the total required is £4,187 10s. Concerning Australia, there is at least one good thing to be said - that is, that the taxation is graduated upon a higher scale than in Great Britain on the greater income. After the amounts have reached £30,000, and up to £50,000, the Australian ratio increases, so that there is not much difference between the Australian and British taxation.
– Are your figures regarding Australian taxation based upon existing conditions, or do they include the 30 per cent, increase which the Government are adding this year?
– I could not supply those figures. The increase, I admit, will be fairly substantial; but I have contented myself with quoting existing taxation.
– With the added percentage the comparison between Australia and England will not be nearly so marked.
– As to that it is more than probable that British taxation will be still further increased. I have a table here, setting out a comparison of taxation with respect to income upon
This is an avenue of taxation from which the Government do not intend to draw further. Yet it is intended to secure 30 per cent, additional revenue from income tax.
The Minister (Senator Pearce) stated yesterday that the curtailment of racing had reduced revenue from that source, and that that must be made up in some way. The object of the Government in reducing racing was that there should nob be so much sport during war time. It was not a matter of revenue. But the Government have not curtailed sport. Rather, their actions have sent it along with the greatest boom that I have known in Australia. Formerly, two days’ racing . per week, as then allowed, would add to the revenue of the country double the sum secured now from one day’s racing. Previously, six races would be held on one day; but now there are as many as twenty-one races in the one day. There is more money spent; there are more bookmakers; there is more betting; there are more horse owners and more horses than ever before. Only last week, in Sydney, one race had to be divided into four sections. There were seventy-six starters in those four divisions. The Government have not stopped racing. Gambling still goes on. The money is there; but the revenue has been cut down. At one meeting there were twenty-two races. They began at 12 noon, and if the light had not failed, there would have b«en twenty-four races. Since racing is regarded as one of the legitimate avenues of taxation, the Government should see that they secure from this source double the amount of revenue now received
We are now allowing them to race on two days a week of four hours each, instead of one day of ten hours. I do not care if we do away with racing altogether, because it means nothing to me. I put up with it as well as any one else, and with the other luxuries of life. If we want revenue we should get it in a proper way. I have shown how this additional revenue may be obtained, and how we may obviate the miserable spectacle of an unfortunate Eight-hours Committee, desiring to include one or two trots in their programme being obliged to go to a District Commandant for permission, and being refused, though they had- had this item on their programme for many years. I was at an Eight Hours celebration in Orange, where the management had to cut out a few items of this description, although the prizes were only bags of chaff and saddles. On the other hand, in flourishing cities like Melbourne and Sydney racing has increased. Instead of having twelve meetings a week there are twenty-six, and the number of men interested in racing has correspondingly increased.
I am not opposing the measure because I do not wish the Government to get extra revenue. All I am saying is that this additional revenue should be obtained -from better sources. I want the picture shows to be made an influence for the educational advancement of the rising generation, and eventually to see this form of amusement controlled by the municipalities as is done in some parts of Scotland, where admission is free. The concession by the Government to exempt Saturday afternoon matinee entertainments is absolutely useless to most of the country towns, because, as a rule, pictureshow promoters travel from town to town and give entertainments on one or two nights a week. In the more remote part3 of the country the people, and especially the children, look forward to the coming of these pictureshow entertainments, and I remember that once when we were at Norfolk Island the people there were delighted when a picture show came to the island. This concession therefore is quite value- less to country .people, and though I “will accept it in the spirit in which it is given, I shall oppose the tax altogether, because I think there are other and better avenues of taxation.
– J am -sure it was no surprise to the majority of the Senate to hear the Minister for Defence (Senator Pearce), when introducing the Bill, admit it was very probable that, in the not distant future further taxation would have to be imposed. It has been asserted for some time that Australia has not been facing the financial obligations brought about by the war in the same ratio or manner as the people of the Mother Country. In the last pre-war year, the Commonwealth revenue from taxation amounted to about £22,500,000, ‘and now in this, the last, I hope, of the war years it is about £45,000,000. In other words, we have, during the war, doubled the amount of taxation raised by the Federal Government in Australia. In the United Kingdom, the Government, in the last pre-war year, raised £200,000,000 in taxation, and in this, which I hope is the last of the war years, a sum of no less than £843,000,000, or four times the amount obtained in the last pre-war year. Consequently, the Minister merely said what was obvious to everybody when he told us yesterday that Australia would have to face further taxation in the next Budget. I am one of those who regret that the position has not been faced already. I regret that the Treasurer (Mr. Watt) has not seen fit, while we are at war, to impose this further taxation, in view of Australia’s commitments as the result of war expenditure. There are further avenues of taxation to be exploited, and, in view of what other countries at war have done, it is to be regretted, from the public stand-point, that we shall have to impose additional taxation after, instead of during, the war. In other countries additional revenue has been raised by the taxation of luxuries, but Australia has not yet attempted to exploit this avenue to any extent. It is true that we have imposed an amusement tax of Id. in the 1s., and that it graduates upwards, but not in correct ratio to the price of tickets, and this proposed new tax graduates downwards, representing 33 per cent. on a 3d. ticket which the children will buy for admission to a picture show.
I do not think this is wise while other avenues of taxation remain yet to be exploited. During the first two years of war America imposed heavy duties upon the selling prices of such things as cameras, motor cars, jewellery, pianoplayers, gramaphones, and even chewing gum. In Great Britain the Government which, prior to the war, had not collected any revenue from purely revenue duties, thought fit after the war began to impose Customs duties principally upon luxuries. The tendency in Great Britain has been to impose taxation upon these things and leave the necessities of the ordinary people untouched. For instance, the duties on motor spirit in the Budget of 1915-16 were doubled, and the taxation on motor cars and musical instruments was increased by 33 per cent. In France, also, since an early stage of the war, taxation has been imposed upon articles of luxury, the average being about 15 per cent. upon the selling price. It seems to me that as this avenue has not so far been exploited in Australia, it would have been wiser if the Government had faced the question now, while the war was on. One may go down the streets in Melbourne and see in the shop windows, ladies’ dresses marked at anything from 15 guineas to 25 guineas, hats from 5 guineas to 10 guineas, and even men’s ties marked up at 10s. 6d. each. Then next weekone may go out to Flemington and see there tens of thousands of people who are probably, in the aggregate, spending a quarter of a million of money, and yet practically untouched by taxation on luxuries.
I am putting the position as I see it. The Minister said quite frankly, when introducing the Bill, that further taxationwould have to be imposed. This is perfectly obvious to any one who understands the position of our public finances. It is obvious that we shall have to pay a greatly increased pension bill, and also be called upon to provide more money for the repatriation of our men, who, we hope, will be back before the end of next year. It is clear also that we shall have further financial responsibilities even after the war is over, and, consequently. I regret that the Government have not seen fit to draw upon these additional avenues of taxation. I regret, on the other hand, that they have seen fit to bring in a Bill to impose a tax of1d. on a 3d. picture ticket. A great deal has been said regarding the effect of picture shows upon the rising generation. But whatever may be said on that subject we must not forget that as a Legislature, and through the censors we appoint, we have this matter entirely in our hands. Consequently it is useless and unfair to criticise picture shows from that point of view.
Bearing upon this question I should like to read a section of a report that has recently been issued by the British National Council of Public Morals, which organized a cinema campaign inquiry. The exhaustive investigations of this body have only recently been completed. The Commission was composed very largely of persons representing religious and social reformers - the cleanest living section of the community - and was presided over by that eminent man, the Lord Bishop of Birmingham. The report stated -
The Commission’s report is unanimous. It finds the picture palace to be, not an evil, but a good. The Commission is convinced, after due inquiry, of the value of the picture house as a cheap place of amusement for the masses, for parents as well as children, as an influence in decreasing hooliganism, and as a counter attraction to the public house. Many of our people, especially the young, have learned all they know about the war and about the world events of the past from the films. The Commission finds that the connexion between the cinema and imitated juvenile crime is very limited, and is not a necessary connexion. Many of the prominent educationalists who gave evidence before the Commission agreed that the pictures widened the children’s general knowledge, stimulated the imagination, and quickened observation and. the critical faculties.
In view of that report I do not think it can fairly be said that world-censored picture shows are anything but objects of amusement and factors making for the education of our children. Consequently I am not at all sympathetic with the proposal of the Government to tax children’s 3d. tickets of admission to picture shows to the extent of1d. for the purpose of raising £250,000 annually, in view of other avenues of taxation which, so far, have not been exploited.
– Did I understand the honorable senator to say that America has not imposed taxation on pictures?
– I do not think I mentioned anything relating to the imposition of taxation on pictures by America. I was referring to the amusement tax that had been levied in England. There, the tax originally imposed was one of $d. in ls.
– I understood the honorable senator to mention America.
– No. _ But America has imposed a tax on picture films as well as an amusement tax. Speaking from memory, I. think that the amusement tax there amounts practically to 10 per cent., or 1 cent in 10 cents, on the value of . any ticket purchased for amusement purposes. Now, the Commonwealth had a tax on films, which was operative until August of last year, when, for some unaccountable reason, it was reduced. I think figures will show that the reduction of this tax upon imported cinematograph films has involved the sacrifice of a good deal of revenue, which it is now proposed to make up by levying taxation upon the 3d. tickets purchased by children for admission to picture shows. Personally, I think a grave mistake was made in reducing the impost upon imported cinematograph films. So far as I can gather, no reason has ever been assigned for that action. The proprietors of picture shows, and the film combines extant in this country to-day, are very much better able to pay this taxation than are the children who are obliged to scrape up their threepences in order to secure admission to picture shows.
I have very little more to say upon this Bill. After all, it is one which, perhaps, admits of some compromise. In view of the arguments which have been adduced against it, I understand that the Government are prepared to waive their right to tax children’s tickets for admission to picture shows up till 6 o’clock on Saturday afternoon. I am not one of those who believe that unmitigated good results to juveniles from attendance at this form of entertainment during the evening hours. But if the Government can see. their way to enlarge the scope of their suggested amendment so as to make it include public holidays- in other words, if they will forgo any taxation of 3d. tickets used by children up till 6 o’clock on Saturday afternoons and on public holidays - I think their proposal will prove acceptable to a large portion of the community, whilst it will not involve a large sacrifice of revenue. I believe there is yet room, in connexion with the incidence of the income tax, to impose an even greater rate than is at present being levied upon incomes which run up to £3,000 and £4,000 per year. I quite recognise that in respect of big incomes the graduation rises very rapidly after a certain point has been reached. But, as compared with the taxation that is levied in the United Kingdom in this connexion, there is still room for additional taxation on incomes ranging up to £2,000 and £3,000 a year.
This morning Senator McDougall quoted figures relating to the huge reserves -which are being built up by the companies that are operating throughout Australia. It is obvious to any student of business figures that this process is still going on. It is true that attempts have been made to tax these profits, particularly in connexion “with the Wartime Profits Act, but it has been repeatedly pointed out how inadequate that measure would prove as a «heck upon this accumulation of vast reserves. The time which has since elapsed has abundantly justified the predictions which were then made. In conclusion, I ask the Government whether they cannot accept an extension of the amendment which has been forecasted by the Minister, so as to make it apply to public holidays as well as Saturday afternoons. If that be done, I believe that the compromise will prove acceptable to the majority of honorable senators. .We have every sympathy with the attempts of the Government to raise revenue, but in respect of any further financial proposals, with, that end in view, I believe that we ought to start by taxing luxuries - by imposing a duty, for example, upon the petrol that is used for running motor cars for pleasure purposes, and upon the expensive dresses which are now being exhibited in the shops in Bourke-street, and which will be worn next Tuesday at the Melbourne Cup. The possession of those dresses will give no more pleasure to their wearers than the 3d. tickets of admission to picture shows -will afford to the children who attend them. In my judgment, taxation should be imposed and graduated in such a. way that its incidence will bear most heavily upon those who have the most money. In regard to any future taxation proposals, I shall heartily support a graduated luxury tax in order that some of the tens of thousands of pounds which will be expended next week in connexion with the racing carnival in Melbourne may find their way into the coffers of the Treasury.
.- One must admit that, on account of our obligations in connexion with the prosecution of the war, largely increased taxation is necessary. Indeed, one can extend a good deal of sympathy to a Government whose members find themselves in the position in which Ministers find themselves to-day. But we ought, nevertheless, to lay down a principle in regard to the levying of taxation. We ought not to cast to the winds all the canons of taxation and start to raise the required revenue by means of a Bill such as that which is now before us. I opposed the principal Act which it is now proposed to amend, and I shall just as heartily oppose this measure. The principal Act contains nothing of which any one of us may be proud. It levies a tax, in violation of every recognised canon of taxation. I was very much interested in the speech delivered by Senator Pratten, and I entirely agree with him that it would have been very much better if the Government had grappled with our financial problems earlier in the war, and had imposed taxation to meet the exigencies of the time. Ministers must have recognised that fresh taxation was imperative if we were to meet the obligations which had been incurred, and that the longer wo abstained from that taxation, the heavier would be the burden when it did fall upon the people. I am in absolute accord with the remarks of Senator Pratten, in that connexion. For some time I have been expecting that the Government would introduce taxation of a different character from that which they have introduced. Personally, I would have no objection; to a further increase in the rates of our income tax if that course were found necessary. I have no sympathy with the man who complains about the large income tax which he has to pay; indeed, I should like to change places with him.
– It would not be a good thing for the community, perhaps.
– I am not quite sure about that.
– If the honorable senator had to pay taxation to the extent of 4s. or 5s. per acre upon land, out of which he has to get a living for himself and his family, he would think differently. .
– If I had a large income tax to pay it would be because I was getting a very much larger income than I am receiving to-day.
There is no sound principle underlying this Bill. As Senator McDougall has pointed out, it starts by imposing taxation at the wrong end. The honorable senator affirmed very truly that, under this Bill, we shall be taxing children upon the lower-priced tickets of admission to picture shows to the extent of 33 per cent., while people who can afford to purchase the higherpriced tickets will be taxed to the extent of only 9 per cent. To me the proposal is a most miserable one. I well remember a remark made by ex-Senator Stewart when the principal Act, which it is now proposed to amend, was being considered in this Chamber. He called it a “ tiddly-winking measure,” and I heartily agree with his description of it. The poorer classes of the community will be hit by this taxation, whilst those who can afford to pay increased taxation will not be taxed to the extent of a fraction under this Bill. Its purpose is to impose taxation upon the children who can afford to purchase only a 3d. or a 6d. ticket to witness an entertainment. I heard a remark made that this taxation may be avoided by abstaining from going to entertainments. I was reminded by the remark that on one occasion people were told by an authority that if they could not get food they could eat grass. I remember, also, that the people hung that authority to a lamp-post. Every physician in the country will confirm the statement that amusement and relaxation are necessary to health.
– Not indoor amusement.
– The highest medical authorities in the world are agreed that entertainment and relaxation to divert the attention’ from the ordinary cares of life are necessary for the preservation of health. Our children must be afforded means of relaxation. As Senators Pratton and McDougall have already said, it should be borne in mind that picture shows are often educational. They afford the one opportunity which children, and adults also, in many parts of the world have of learning something about countries other than those in which they live. 1 have myself been delighted to witness travel pictures of scenes from various parts of the world. The picture shows have afforded me very often perhaps the only opportunity I shall ever have of seeing some, of the historic places of the Old World. These scenes are reproduced on the screen so beautifully that one looking at them can almost fancy that he is there. I have also seen pictures of the processes in various industries which are not in operation in Australia, and have learned a great deal from them.
– Has the honorable senator ever seen “ The woman who took the wrong turning “ t
– I do not know what that is. ‘If Senator de Largie chooses to. go to see pictures of that character I cannot help it.
– Those are the pictures to which children are taken.
– If that be so, the fault rests with the authorities who permit such pictures to be screened. Persons are appointed to censor picture films, and if they permit the screening of disreputable pictures, so much the worse for the authorities. Senator de Largie will admit tha’t I do not desire that any improper picture should be screened before either children or adults. I am prepared to support every measure proposed to keep entertainments clean. It is largely our fault if anything of an improper character is screened at picture shows.
In their anxiety to secure revenue the Government would appear to clutch at anything, regardless of every principle of just taxation. It seems to me that this Bill would be better styled “ A Bill for the taxation of children, and for the relief of those who are better able to pay taxation.” That is clearly the purpose of this measure. If the principal Act which this Bill is introduced to amend were censurable’ - and we know it was - this is a thousand times more censurable. If I stood alone I should vote against any such measure being placed upon our statute-book, because, from my point of view, it is a disgrace. I have known cases in which a mother, because of her affection for her children, has denied herself even some of the necessaries of life in order to spare a coin to enable them to get a little amusement at a picture show. Regardless of these tender feelings of affection in the interests of the little children, the Government propose such a tax as this. It is something they might very well be ashamed of.
I have said that the incidence of this tax will be grossly unfair. There are numerous sources of taxation which might very well be tapped before we descend to tax school children. I suppose that I am safe in saying that the wealthy people of Australia are better off to-day to the extent of £200,000,000 than they were before the war started. Let the Government tax some of that wealth. If we look u,p the banking returns we shall find that, notwithstanding the fact that about £150,000,000 has been invested in our war loans, the deposits at the banks show an increase of something like £40,000,000. People in this country have been enabled by the enormous profits they have made in trading to put about £150,000,000 into war loans, and, in addition, their credits at the banks are more than ever they were before. I noticed in a report of the Inter-State Commission some time ago that the pastoralists of Australia had received over £27,000,000 more for their products in two years than ever they did before, and this in spite of the fact that there was a reduction of one-third in the number of sheep in the country. I am not complaining that the pastoralists have made these profits, but T suggest that they are a legitimate source of taxation. Senator Mc’Dougall gave us a list of various financial institutions in Australia that have been in a position to place enormous sums of money to their reserves. If we look u,p the financial reports and balance-sheets of companies we shall find that, almost without exception, trading companies have been making profits which were never dreamed of before the war. I say that we should’ tax this wealth before we descend to the taxation of 3d. tickets for entrance to picture shows.
If we will continue to levy taxation upon the poor of the community regardless of every just canon of taxation, and at the same time permit extortionate prices to be charged for the necessaries of life, how can we expect families to be reared in Australia? Young people growing up to-day will not care to undertake the responsibility of rearing families, as their obligations will be considered too great.
– Is not the cost of living cheaper to-day in Australia than in any other part of the world ?
– No, it is not.
– Where is it cheaper?
– For the moment I cannot say, but I am sure that it is cheaper in some other parts of the world. However, there is not one honorable senator who is prepared to make such interjections but will admit that the prices of the necessaries of life in Australia to-day are not justified.
– That is quite another question.
– It concerns the point I was making - that we are having little or no regard for the masses of the people, and are permitting them to be taxed unjustly, whilst we permit the profiteers to charge what they like for the necessaries of life.
– No, we do not. We have established price fixing.
– Practically we do. If I were free to discuss that matter I could give proof of what I say.
– There has been profiteering by the meat companies.
– That is one thing that I had in mind, but I would not be in order in discussing it in connexion with this measure.
I hope that even now honorable senators will wipe out this proposal. To me it is an ugly and miserable thing, and I am ashamed of of it. There is reason to be ashamed of any national Parliament that will stoop so low as to impose taxation upon a child’s ticket of entrance to a picture show. That kind of thing ought to be beneath the dignity of a Legislature such as this. I make bold to say that even honorable senators opposite who are supporting the Bill believe in their hearts that it is something that they may be very well ashamed of.
– People will not be forced to pay this tax.
– People are not forced to eat.
– Yes,’ they are.
– That is a sentimentwhich one might expect from a slaveowner or from those who ruled France a* the time of the Revolution, but we do not expect the expression of such a sentiment to-day in a civilized community. .It is useless to say that no one will be forced to pay this taxation, because we know that amusement and relaxation are necessary to health. I scarcely know how to express my opinion of the man who would begrudge a little child the opportunity to see a picture show.
– He can go once a week.
– Yes, and the honorable senator would tax him. If I make no mistake, Senator Rowel] is going to meekly submit to the Government, and will support this Bill. I certainly will not do so. I hope that the Government will drop this measure, and will propose some better system of taxation and something which they need not be ashamed of. I intend to offer the measure my strongest opposition.
– I find myself in entire agreement with some of the statements made by Senator McDougall, whilst I entirely disagree from other statements made by the honorable senator. Every honorable senator wants to see everybody in the community get as much amusement out of life as is reasonably possible. No doubt, the picture show is an educational, advantage to the people, but the question is whether we are not having an absolute debauch of picture shows. I am told of children who fall asleep in class because they have been four nights running to the pictures. One Saturday afternoon, when passing a picture theatre that was disgorging hundreds of children, I was struck with the thought that they would have been far better playing in the parks or on the sea-shore. That would be much more likely to produce a healthy, robust race.. Remembering the tremendous education that the children have to attend to nowadays to fit them to take their places in the world, and the fact that they are mewed up in class-rooms all the week, if they are to attend picture shows every Saturday afternoon, the result will be to produce a race of which we shall not be proud. From that point of view, this is a reasonable measure. I am quite in favour of the moderate use of picture shows, because they are the only amusement that many people have. They are also the only means of knowing the world that a great many can possibly have. I advocated at one time that all our children, to complete their education, ought to have a trip round the world. If we could afford that, it would be a magnificent finish to their education.
– The country to pay?
– That is a good idea.
– If , as I suppose, we cannot afford that, the picture show fills a necessary gap; but I agree with Senator Pratten that, owing to the loose censorship in force, a great many picture theatres are giving anything but a good education to the young. The picture called “ Six-shooter Bill,” for instance, always gives me the horrors. I know of no picture more calculated to produce a crop of bushrangers in the future. We are sowing the wind, and we shall reap the whirlwind later on. The tax asked for is only Id., and the living wage is now £3 a week.
– The purchasing power is less than £2 used -to be.
– The basic wage is now £3 a week, and I do not think the working man would grudge a penny. He is too broad-minded.
– Do you not think the parasites would also grudge it?
– I do not think we have any parasites in Australia.
– Most working men have more than one child.
– That is so; and the tax might cost 6d. a week, but I do not think the working man will object to it. A small tax like this, if it helps ,to check the deleterious effect of the excess of picture shows on the health of the community, will not be at all unreasonable.
I have been looking a good deal lately into the question mentioned by Senator Pratten, of whether we in Australia are sufficiently taxed. Our lower grades of income are not taxed comparably with the British income tax. Adding the 30 per cent, now proposed, a man with £500 of taxable income will have to pay £19 18s. Id. If he lives in Queensland, he will have to pay, -in addition, £25, so that he will pay in one year a total of £44 odd. In England, the same man would have to pay £87 10s. On an income of £10,000, the Federal tax this year will be £3,816 15s. 8d. The Queensland tax on income from property will amount to £1,359, making a total tax of £5,175 15s. 8d., or over half the total income.
– Is Queensland the highest among the States?
– Yes. If that man lived in England, he would have to pay £5,250, so that there is very little difference in the taxation of higher incomes in the two countries. It is rather alarming to find that we have not met our legitimate outgoings, even with these increased taxes, by about £4,600,000. The. deficiency is being met with money we had at credit and in various other ways. We are paying £21,000,000 of our total war expenditure out of revenue. England is paying 28 per cent, of its war expenditure out of revenue. That is a splendid result; but I do not know exactly what the proportion is in Australia. It must be remembered that in the Old Country the War Profits Tax brought in no less than £221,000,000 in the first ten months.
– And the people are still being robbed by the profiteers.
– I cannot think that is possible, seeing that 80 per cent, of the war profits in the Old Country go into the Consolidated Revenue. Here, so far, we have charged only 50 per cent, and the return has not been more thai £1,000,000, which shows fairly conclusively that there is not much profiteering going on in Australia.
– Do you not think the shipping companies have profiteered a bit in Australia during the last few years ?
– We, in Australia, are suffering from the fact that we are in a sort of back-water, far from any part of the world that consumes our goods. Freight has been taken away from us; but naturally none of us object to this, because the British Government had to save the lives of their people by bringing them food, and had also to help the Americans across the sea. The Old Land has behaved magnificently to Australia, buying a great deal of our wool and wheat at reasonable prices. We are getting ls. 3Jd. a lb. for our wool, on the average; but in America the growers are getting 2s. 7½d. We are getting 4s. 9d. per bushel for our wheat; but in America and Canada they get 9s. ]0d. American cotton, which before the war was 4d. per lb., is now ls. 9Jd. Those countries have an immense advantage through being so near the great consuming markets of the world. They are consequently getting war prices, which wo cannot obtain. That is what is going to make the financial position here very acute. When the Government take half a man’s income, they become practically a partner in his busi ness, and ought to give every encouragement to every Australian industry to produce as much as it can, charging a fair, but not an exorbitant, price.
Senator McDougall instanced a great many companies as making large war profits.. I. am familiar with the affairs of Dalgety and Company, with which I am connected. The highest rate of interest paid by thom in dividends on shares is only 9 per cent. , and that is only paid on £1,000,000 of the capital. They pay only 4 per cent., on many other millions, so that the average represents only a reasonable rate of interest.
– Do they not put profits to reserve?
– Yes, and they will require every penny of their reserves. That policy is necessary in a company of that sort. There are over 2,000 shareholders in that company alone, and the same applies to all the others. There are very few large shareholders. When the figures are stated baldly, as Senator McDougall put them, it looks as if the company is doing magnificently; but when you remember that they paid last year over £250,000 in taxation, and put. enormous sums also into war loans, both here and in other parts of the world, the conduct of the company does not call for any special adverse comment.
I am inclined to think that Canada is absolutely making money out of the war. It is doing magnificently, and its income tax is trifling. It is getting enormous prices for its commodities. The more a country can receive for its commodities, the more the people are able to pay in taxation.
Although this seems a paltry measure, it may call attention to and stop the regular debauch of expenditure on the picture shows of Australia. I want to see our children brought up happily and contentedly, with the best surroundings possible, because every country will depend on its young manhood and womanhood to survive in the great struggle before us. We think our struggle is over, but in my opinion it is only beginning. The industrial war will be on us before long, and we want a virile race to make Australia what we all want to see it, a happy and contented country.
– The mountain has laboured, and brought forth a mouse. If ever a quotation was applicable to a public question, that is to this Bill. Here is a Government elected amidst great excitement, and with a great flourish of trumpets, to win the war.
– They have done more towards it than you have.
– I might have done more than the honorable senator had I been there.
– I was not referring to the honorable senator personally, but to his party. I did all that I could,, and I shall bear a scar on my body as long as I live.
– I am sorry if what I said hurt the honorable senator’s feelings. This proposed tax indicates an absolute lack of financial ability on the part of the Government. Senator Pearce has admitted that the amount to be raised will total only £275,000. That is to be got out of the pennies of the children. It is farcical. It is so trivial that scarcely one honorable member on the Government side, either in this or another Chamber, has. given the Bill genuine, earnest, and wholehearted support. The speeches made in both Houses, supporting the measure, have been of an apologetic character. Senator Pearce said, in effect, “ We must make a beginning. We must leave something else for further taxation when we meet again next financial year.” That was an admission that the Government had in mind the additional taxation of higher-priced tickets. Then, why not start now ? Many years ago a Tasmanian Premier, when the exigencies of the times made it necessary for him to introduce new taxation measures, and to inaugurate a scheme of retrenchment, used the words, “ The time has arrived when we must cut to the bone.” And how did he begin? It was by starting from the bottom.
– By establishing the tote
– That had nothing to do with the situation I am describing, or with the Premier concerned - namely, the late Sir Edward Braddon.
He began to cut to the bone by starting at the bottom. Retrenchment was inaugurated by cutting 6d. a day from the wages of the lowest paid men in the Civil Service. A system of taxation such as the Federal Government now propose is closely akin to what occurred a quarter of a century ago in Tasmania. It is following the bad old precedent of hitting the little fellow, and leaving the big man alone. Will any one say that a tax upon 3d. and 6d. tickets- is making a genuine attempt to reach those who can afford to pay the highest prices for their entertainments? If it is urged that it is very difficult to reach, the profiteers who have been grinding millions out of the Australian people during the war, then it is paying a poor compliment to the experts in the service of the Government. If an honest attempt were made to get at the wealthy profiteers there would be no difficulty in raising far more than the comparatively paltry sum so far secured by means of the war-time profits tax. If the Government are so barren of ideas in respect to raising increased revenue, let them, at any rate, draw upon that class of people who can best afford to pay for their amusements. People who, without thinking twice about it, can buy 3s. and 4s. tickets for the theatre will not be hard hit by a further imposition of 3d. It may mean that they would have to cut out one night’s entertainment per month; but what is that? It is only the poorer class in the community who will be hurt by the proposed tax. If the impost were to remain with the proprietors of picture shows, I would not so much object, because, on the whole, the moving picture business is a profitable form of enterprise to-day”. I do. not know whether the Government, through their price-fixing machinery, would care to prevent proprietors of picture shows from passing on this tax.
Although one supporter of the Government in the Senate, namely, Senator Pratten, intends to oppose this measure, he is the only honorable senator on that side who has voiced his objection. Consequently the Bill is sure to pass. The Government, with their subservient majority, will secure their ends. I shall not waste time, therefore, in expressing the hope that this farcical proposition may be defeated.
Senator Fairbairn inferred that it was a great pity - a national calamity, in fact - that so many children attended picture shows. He had been informed of the pitiful spectacle of children who were - unable to properly attend to their school lessons, because they had been out late the night before at the pictures. Senator Fairbairn might have said that he had heard of business men who had nob been able to attend to their business because of the effects of overnight entertainment. I need go into no further details there. But the honorable senator’s illustration” was idle and useless. Neither Senator Fairbairn nor any other man will say that it is the custom with the working people to permit their children regularly to attend picture shows at night so that they cannot properly do their school work next morning. In cases where the children of working families attend picture shows fairly regularly, it is generally on Saturday afternoons or evenings that they give their patronage.
Senator Fairbairn referred to the concession offered by the Government to exempt Saturday afternoon shows from the proposed imposition. That will only benefit city populations. There are few country towns favoured by Saturday matinee shows. Really, therefore, the’ concession partakes of the nature of a class tax. It will benefit city people only. I oppose the Bill, and I give notice that, in Committee, I shall propose to amend clause 1 by the insertion of the word “ Children’s,” so that the public shall know that it is a children’s entertainment tax which the Government seek to enforce.
Sitting suspended from 1 to 2.80 p.m.
Senator FOLL (Queensland) T2.30].- I intend to support the Bill, but I hope the Government will accept the amendment outlined by Senator Pratten to exempt from the operation of the tax admission tickets for children on public holidays as well as on Saturday afternoons. Senator Fairbairn, in the course of his remarks, said he had known of children who had fallen asleep on their way home from night picture shows, and, consequently, were not fit for their school lessons the following day. Times out of number I have seen children struggling home from picture shows at 11 o’clock, and I think that if anything can be done to keep them away from picture shows on week nights it ought to be done.
– Then, for the misdeeds of a few, you would punish the many ?
– I do not see that the many aTe going to be punished by the suggestion that has been made, because, after all, children will have plenty of opportunities to attend picture shows on Saturday afternoons and on public holidays. For that reason I intend to support the amendment. Any sensible man must recognise that if children are allowed to crowd into the picture shows on week nights and get home towards midnight they cannot be fit for school the next day; and in this respect I consider that picture shows have been doing a great deal of harm in our community. I would be one of the last to deprive any one of pleasure or recreation, but-
– Evidently you are going to teach the workingmen fathers what they ought to do.
– I am not attempting to preach a homily to the fathers in our working-class community. Probably I have worked just as hard as ever Senator O’Keefe has, and I know quite as much about the working classes. Certainly I have just as much sympathy for them. It is because of this sympathy, and because I desire to see the rising generation develop into worthy citizens that I intend to support the Bill with the amendment outlined. I consider that picture shows, increasing as they have of late, have proved rather a curse than a blessing to the community. Senator Guy referred to the value of this class of entertainment because of the scenic pictures screened; but it is only on rare occasions nowadays that one can see a picture of that character. Usually the films .are the kind mentioned by Senator de Largie - “ The woman who took the wrong turning,” or “Where are my children?”
– What about Gerard’s “Four Years in Germany” and the rest of the war pictures ?
– Generally speaking, war pictures occupy only a small part in the programme of the average picture show. Most -of the war pictures have been those screened by recruiting committees in the open spaces, with the object of stimulating recruiting.
– You have not been to picture shows, that is evident.
– At all events, I intend to support the Bill with the amendment which the Minister (Senator Pearce) intends to propose, because I think that if the Bill discourages children from attending picture entertainments on week nights it will render a great service to the community. Another phase of the question that might be considered is the suggestion that picture-show proprietors themselves should pay the tax.
– That is what I have advocated.
– The suggestion is rather a good one, though I realize that a great number of difficulties will be encountered, as this course would probably necessitate the fixing of prices for .admission. Picture-show promoters have been making exorbitant profits in the last few years, and I do not see any reason why they should not be made to pay the tax.
– We will give you a chance to support that proposal.
– Senator Pratten also made a good suggestion when he said that more revenue could be raised by the taxation of luxuries. In this time of stress no stone should be left unturned.’
I also have a suggestion to make, and I can assure the Minister that I do so without levity. A.t the end of this week and during next week one of the largest race meetings held in Australia will take place, and I suggest that every person who goes out to Flemington and backs his fancy should also pay something towards the revenue of the country, in addition to the tax on his entrance money.
– Why not tax the winners ?
– As a rule, the winners are so few in number, apart from the bookmakers, that not much revenue could be obtained from that source. But I suggest that for every 10s. bet recorded the backer be called upon to pay ls. ; for every £1, 2s. ; for every £5, 10s. ; for every £10, £1 ; and so on in proportion to the amount of the bet. This would secure for the Treasurer a certain amount of the money that will be floating about at Flemington during the next few days. I do not know whether it is too late to do this now, but I make the suggestion in all seriousness as one by means of which the Treasurermight gather in some extra revenue.
I listened carefully to the Tern arks madeby Senator O’Keefe, and while I commend him for putting his party’s side of the argument, I think it was hardly necessary for him to throw a slur at me across the chamber.
– But you started the personalities.
– The honorable senator, in an endeavour to have a fling at his political opponents, said that this “ socalled Win-the-war party” had not done much. When I interjected, “ We have done more than you,” the honorable senator, in his best sneering manner, apparently thinking that I was trying to make some capital out of what had been done, said, “If I had been Senator Foil’s age I would probably have done more than he did.” Never, since I have been a member of this Chamber, have I endeavoured to pat myself on the back for anything that I have done; but when war broke out I did all I could. I was sent back medically unfit. I might inform the honorable senator that I shall bear a scar so long as I live, and I can only hope that Senator O’Keefe will never suffer as I have because of the war. I repeat the interjection that I then made, that, as a party, we have done more to help win the war than Senator O’Keefe has. Was not Senator O’Keefe one of those who took part in the Perth Conference, which did everything possible to prevent recruits from going to the Front?
– I accepted your ex- planation, and withdrew my remark. I do not think you are taking a very manly course now.
– I did not hear the honorable senator withdraw.
– I accepted your explanation, and said I regretted if I had said anything to hurt your feelings.
– Then I regret that I did not hear the honorable’ senator’s withdrawal, and I am quite prepared to say nothing more about the matter, though I can assure him I did feel hurt at the time,
I do not propose to take up any further time in the discussion of this measure. I feel that it is absolutely necessary for the Government to get this extra revenue in order to meet our continually increasing expenditure. The Treasurer evidently sees in the amendment of the Entertainments Tax Act one avenue by means of which further money may be obtained without inflicting serious harm on the community as a whole.
.- There is nothing in the Bill to commend it to me. It is founded upon an entirely erroneous basis of taxation. The correct method is that outlined by the late Henry George in his Progress and Poverty,, which laid it down that the taxation of a country should be paid by the owners in proportion to the value of the land which they held. That sound principle of taxation is violated by this Bill.
– There were no picture shows in Henry George’s day.
– Henry George dealt with the question of taxation in a way which has never been successfully controverted. He affirmed that those who own the country should pay the taxation of the country. . In some respects, this Bill resembles our Income Tax, Act. But’ it even violates the principle which is laid down in that Statute. Under our Income Tax Act, the poorer section of the community has been specially exempted from taxation. Married men with incomes of only £156 per annum, and single men with incomes of only £100 per annum, are exempt from that tax. A similar principle is recognised in connexion with our Estate Duty Assessment Act. But this Bill cuts right across that principle.
One would imagine that the picture-show proprietors of Australia are fabulously wealthy, and that we only require to levy a tax upon tickets of admission to that class of entertainment for these individuals either to immediately pay it or pass it on to their patrons. Some time ago, the Government reduced the duty upon imported cinematograph films, and the tax proposed in this Bill is possibly intended to recoup the deficiency thus created by exacting it from those who are very much less able to bear it than the film importers. But we shall hear more of that matter hy-and-by. I ask honorable senators whether it is reasonable that people who own the land values of this country to the extent of £345,000,000 should not he called upon to contribute anything to the national revenue, whilst the poorer sections of the community should be heavily taxed even upon their cheap forms of amusement? Fortunately, this class of taxation is not operative in many of the States. Indeed, it is very much to be regretted that the Commonwealth should have invaded this domain of taxation. ‘ But, having once got off the right track, it is impossible to say where they will pull up. I shall not be surprised if in the near future they endeavour to impose taxation on the necessaries of life, such as tea, coffee, &c. That is a line of taxation which appears to appeal to them. Of course, I cannot very well object to them attempting to give effect to the ‘principles upon which they were elected. But certainly they will not give effect to those principles with my assistance. We have been assured by Senator Fairbairn that- a regular debauch obtains in connexion with juvenile attendances at picture shows, and that the children who patronize them would be very much better off at the seaside, or in our public parks. Doubtless there is a good deal of truth in his statements. But, while it may he quite an easy matter for the children of the Fairbairns and other landed proprietors to go just where they like, it is quite a different proposition so far as the children of the great. majority of the people are concerned. Where can the children of the inhabitants of Melbourne go for an outing to the seaside? As a matter of fact, only an infinitesimal number of them can visit the seaside. The honorable senator’s argument has not the remotest application to children in our inland towns.
The proposal in this Bill, I repeat, is one to interfere with the only forms of amusement within the reach of children of the poorer classes of the community. The amendment which has been foreshadowed by the Minister for Defence (Senator Pearce) is, I think, a step in the right direction. If Senator Fairbairn and four other honorable senators upon the opposite side of this chamber will only view the matter in a proper light, I venture to say that the Minister will be willing to amend the Bill in a way which will give satisfaction to a large section of the pictureshow proprietors of the Commonwealth. I understand that- the picture-show men do not seriously object to the payment of a tax upon the higherpriced tickets of admission to their shows. But I hold that any tax upon the amusements of the people is wrong in principle: and I think that the picture-show proprietors are in error in failing to fight this proposal from start to finish. I understand that if the Government will consent to enlarge the scope of the amendment which has been outlined by Senator Pearce, so as to make it include public holidays, our picture-show proprietors will regard it as one in the nature of a concession. But, while such a proposal may confer <a benefit upon our cities and suburbs, it certainly will not benefit the inland towns- of the Commonwealth. In these places, picture shows are given only once or twice a week. There are no matinees. This Bill, therefore, proposes to levy a substantial tax upon the patrons of picture shows in our country towns. We have, at the present time, ia very large number of our citizens fighting overseas to uphold our liberties, and the Government now propose to tax even the very cheap forms of amusement which «are patronized by their poor dependants, perhaps once a week or once a fortnight. The proposition is one which is unworthy of the Government, and I would suggest to Ministers that they should abandon’ any proposal to tax tickets for amusement purposes of a less value than ls., irrespective of whether those tickets be purchased either by children or by adults. If the Government must have revenue from this particular source, let them secure it by taxing tickets ranging in price from ls. upwards. If they desire to obtain additional revenue, why do they not go to the proper source for it? There is only one proper source, as I have remarked before in this chamber.
– The honorable senator has remarked it so often before that it will be necessary for him to connect his remarks with the Bill.
– On a future occasion I shall take an opportunity of stressing this point, in the hope that it may prevent Parliament from levying taxation upon cheap forms of public amusement.
May I remind the Minister for Defence that anybody who enters Launceston is obliged to pay a tax of 2s.? If people wish to go up the Tamar River, they are called upon to pay 2s. per head.
– I do not see any connexion between that subject and the Bill which is now under consideration.
– I was referring to the suggestion of Senator Foll that it would be wise to increase the tax upon betting tickets at Flemington. If Ministers will insist upon obtaining taxation from a wrong source, I was about to suggest that they might tax the people who move about the Commonwealth to the extent of 2s. per head. Any amendment of the Bill which has for its object the elimination from taxation of tickets of a less value than ls. will have my hearty support. Indeed, any attempt to exempt all patrons of picture shows from taxation will command my full approval. It has been said that some pictures which are screened are not of a desirable character. Whose fault is that? Is it not a fact that we have a well-trained and highly-paid staff of experts to see that no picture shall be screened to which the slightest exception can be taken ? If any of the pictures shown to the public are open to challenge, what, I ask, are the censors doing? It is certainly not the fault of the picture-show proprietors. I understandthat very frequently, after the censors have approved of films, the proprietors themselves refuse to screen them. In these circumstances, it is manifest that if there he anything wrong with the pictures which are exhibited, it is entirely the fault of the Commonwealth censors, and incidentally of the Government. Picture shows are essentially the amusement of the poorer sections of the community, and it is very mean on the part of the Government to attempt to reduce their meagre incomes by levying taxation upon them in the way that is ‘proposed in this Bill. I read in the press quite recently that seven beds had to be placed in one garret in Sydney because of the difficulty of securing house room. Do honorable senators opposite suggest that children reared in such places should not have the right to go to a place of amusement without being taxed? I know that such conditions are not general in Sydney, but I know also that the picture shows are practically the only means of amusement open to tens of thousands of the. children of the poorer people. With such magnificent sources of taxation open to the Government in other directions they should not descend to the imposition of such a tax as this. I am prepared to vote in favour of any amendment calculated to minimize the evil effects which must follow from the passing of this Bill.
.- I have no great objection to offer to the’ passing of this Bill. I agree that it is not a very satisfactory way of obtaining revenue, but under existing conditions the Government are, in my opinion justified in obtaining revenue from every possible source. In my view, their taxation measures have already been too long delayed. We have received glorious news in connexion with the war to-day : and I should like to indorse the words of the Minister for Defence (Senator Pearce) in acknowledgment of the magnificent work which Australian troops have done’ to bring about the result which has been announced. The end of the war now seems to be nearer than ever, and I am on this account the more disposed to emphasize my view that the Government have been too slow in imposing taxation to meet the expenditure which the war has involved. It is always distasteful to a Government to have to impose taxation, as well as to the people who are called upon to bear it, and if the war came suddenly to an end, I think the Government would find themselves in a difficult corner. The imposition of fresh taxation will give rise to greater dissatisfaction amongst the community generally after the excitement of the war is over. As has been pointed out by Senator Pratten and others, it would be possible, by imposing taxation upon luxuries, to collect many thousands of pounds of revenue without the imposition of an entertainments tax.
I should like here to say that in my view the moneyed classes of Australia are to be congratulated upon the way in which they have responded to the call of the nation. The attitude which the banks have assumed to our loans, and the way in which banks and other financial institutions have advanced money, speaks well for the moneyed interests of the Commonwealth. There are some sections of the community who have not answered the call of the country in the same way, and have neglected their responsibilities to the nation. No doubt, the fear of compulsion
– I do not think the honorable senator’s remarks are strictly relevant to the subject-matter of this Bill,
-I have no wish to transgress the Standing Orders; I desired merely to suggest ways in which the Government might derive revenue which would be more satisfactory than that proposed by this Bill.
Senator McDougall has stated that enormous profits have been made by shipping companies in Australia. I hold no brief for Australian shipping companies. I have never had any relation with them but that of a passenger; but I went out of my way some time ago to obtain from one of the shipping companies a return showing the increased wages they had been called upon to pay to all grades of their employees as the result of Arbitration Court awards. We know that the Federal Government prevented them from raising freights, yet it is suggested that these companies have made enormous profits which might be taxed if the Government desired to take that course. I want to say that it is to the credit of Australian shipping companies, and I think the people of the Commonwealth should know it, that they have not raised freights within Australian waters, and have not made increased profits on their trade within those waters during the war, although they have had to bear the burden of increases in the wages they have had to pay to their employees.
– Have the fares not been increased ?
– No, not by a penny. The Government stepped in and prohibited that.
– Now the honorable senator has explained it.
– Senator McDougall did not explain it.
– I showed what their reserve funds amount to.
– I asked the honorable senator whether the Australian companies had made increased profits on their Australian trade, and he did not answer.
– Prior to the intervention of the Government, were not freights and fares in Australian waters increased ?
– No; I went to a shipping company particularly with the object of finding that out.
– There was only one incident of the kind when the shipping companies abolished return tickets.
– That certainly meant an increase in the fares.
– It made the cost to travellers more.
– But for the action of the Government the shipping companies might be in a very different position today.
– They charge as much freight per ton from Sydney to Fremantle as from Sydney to London.
– That is not a war profit.
– I am not defending the shipping companies, but explaining that during the war Australian shipping companies have not increased freights and fares within Australian waters. I say that we should give the local shipping companies credit for that, and we should give the Government credit for their intervention on behalf of the people of Australia.
In connexion with the proposed tax on entertainment tickets, we have heard a great deal to-day of the poor dear little children. I am fond of children, and have, from an educational point of view, been much associated with them nearly all my life. I am very pleased that the Government propose to exempt Saturday afternoon entertainments from the proposed taxation, because I think that the picture shows have, on the whole, a good effect upon children. There is, of course, another side to the question, but that can be dealt with by the censor rather than by taxation. We hear a lot of cheap sentiment talked about the injury likely to be done to children by the imposition of this taxation, but I should like to say there is not a city in Australia in which one may not see thousands of little children being dragged home atnight by their parents when they ought to be in bed. We hear talk of raising a generation that will be worthy of Australia, but it should not be forgotten that any education we may give to our children will be of no use to them if we do not at the same time secure that they will have healthy, vigorous bodies to enable them bo face the world in after life.I consider that enormous harm is done to children by their parents dragging them . out to picture shows at night. The taste for these entertainments grows with its indulgence, and children are sometimes out three and four nights a week at these pic- ture shows. School teachers complain of the trouble they have in imparting education to children, who, because they have been out at night, are sleepy during the day. So long as Saturday afternoon en- tertainments are exempt from the proposed taxation, there will be little cause for sympathy with the children because of its imposition.
I trust that the Government will before long take into consideration the heavy financial burdens we are now carrying, and will have to carry when the war comes to an end. Senator Pratten has mentioned the indulgence of the people in luxuries to an extent which has become almost a social disease in the community, and the sooner those sources of taxation are exploited the better. I again remind the Government of the immense difficulty there will be in imposing fresh taxation after the excitement of the war is at an end. In the meantime I am willing to support the tax to be imposed under this Bill as one means of assisting us to carry our financial burdens.
– Senator Reid’s concluding remarks have brought me to my feet. His justification for supporting . this Bill is that we should levy taxation while the war fever is on, as it will not be so easy to do so when the war is at an end.’ I think it would be wrong to impose taxation with that particular idea in our minds. It is suggestive of panic taxation.
– There is no panic about it; we have been too slow as it is.
– I admit that it is imperative on the part of the Government of this and of every one of the allied countries to exploit all the fields of taxation with a view to meeting the cost of the dreadful carnage in which they have been involved. I admit that that is necessary, and I have time and again supported what I considered to he legitimate taxation; but when we start to exploit a field such as this Bill purports to exploit, we are going along wrong lines. Other fields of taxation should be exploited, and if they had been exhausted, perhaps I would have given my support to this measure. Senator Reid claims that the Australian shipping companies have not, during the war, increased fares or freights on vessels plying in Australian waters. ‘They may not have directly increased fares, but indirectly they did so by abolishing return tickets. Senator de Largie in this chamber, on one occasion, strenuously objected to that departure from the old system, pointing out that it must mean an increased charge to the travelling public. That was prior to the intervention of the Government as regards freights and fares.
– The railways did the same.
SenatorNEEDHAM. - I admit that the railways abolished return tickets even prior to that. It is wrong for Senator Reid to get up here and hold a brief for the Australian shipping companies, and put them on a pedestal.
I would have no objection, to making any man or woman who can afford to go to a theatre or picture show pay1d. or 2d. on the price of admission over1s.; but I strenuously object to placing this tax on the shoulders of the mothers and fathers of little children. It has been said that . picture shows may be dangerous. I . admit that objectionable films have been shown; but that is the fault of the censor, or it may be the fault of the parents in allowing their children to go to theatres ‘where that class of film is. shown. After all, that matter is not within the province of this Bill. The Government desire to get money, and propose to raise from the increased entertainments tax a little more than they are getting from the increased war-time profits tax. That is quite wrong. From the time war was declared I have advocated a war tax commensurate with the income of each individual citizen. That would have been a better and juster way to obtain money to carry thewar to a successful issue; but it is not right to ask us to put a tax of1d. on a 3d. ticket bought -by a child who goes to a picture show. A National Parliament such as this ought not to stoop so low to lift so little. The very fact of a child going to a picture show has been characterized by Senator Fairbairn as a luxury. The honorable senator knowsthat there are men in this Commonwealth who go to other places that are not picture shows, and are not taxed at all.
There are many children in Australia whose fathers are fighting at the Front, and whose mothers are suffering the real agony of the war. After all, it is the women of the Empire who, in one sense, have fought this war more even than the men who have actually been in arms. They have suffered extreme suspense and anxiety. They are afraid to see the postman coming to the door, or a boy approaching with a telegram. They fear to open the morning paper lest they learn from its columns that their loved one has been killed or wounded. If one of those women can take her children to a little picture show, the cost of which is 3d. for each child, is it fair to call upon her in each case to pay ian extra Id. to the revenue towards the conduct of the war?
– Have you any idea of the proportion of people who take their children to picture shows?
– No ; hut it is natural for every individual to desire some recreation and enjoyment. Surely to God, we could put the heavier tax on the man or woman who can afford to go in evening dress to the dress circle of a theatre. The Government are putting a tax of 33 per cent, on the mother of the soldier’s child, and much less on the man who can afford to sit in the dress circle.
– That is what the Government are there for.
– They .are there to favour the wealthy man all the time. Senator Reid, who, at one time, was an advocate for the under-dog, is now assisting to crush him.
– You know that is not true.
– The honorable senator has indicated his intention to support the Bill in its entirety, and, to the extent that he helps to put a tax of Id. on a child’s 3d. ticket, he is helping to crush the under-dog.
– So far as the picture show is concerned, he will not be crushed much.
– I share my honorable friend’s objection to many of the films shown ; but, on the whole, the picture show is a cheap and easy means of recreation to the mother and father of >a large family. A man can take his wife and two or three children out on a Saturday afternoon, and have a very pleasant time for about 2s. 6d. Why tax these people? Indirectly they are already contributing to the revenue in other ways. If the objectionable tax on the lowerpriced tickets was not in it, I would have no objection to the Bill. I have not the slightest objection to asking the man or woman who can pay ls. or more for a picture show or theatre to contribute something to meet the cost of the war; but we should leave everything under ls. alone. From ls. upwards the tax could be increased proportionately. As I did when a similar measure was before us previously, I shall oppose the second reading, and in Committee will assist any amendment which is moved with the object of ridding the measure of its most obnoxious feature - the tax on the kiddies’ picture show tickets.
.- I am opposed to the Bill. Although I admit that the Government have to find an extraordinary amount of revenue to meet the liabilities caused by the war, the Bill indicates the very last way in which they should set about collecting the money necessary. A great deal has been said about the’ desirableness of keeping children away from certain kinds of picture shows. There may be something to say for that. There may also be some people who take their children so often to the pictures, and walk them home so late at night, that they aTe fit for nothing the next day. There may be people who are continually going to the pictures; but I am sure that all these are a very small percentage of the community. Those who do take their children to that form of recreation do it, I am sure, only because they can afford no other form. Those who can afford it would much rather take their families to the sea-side for a month or two during the hot weather; but, unfortunately, the great proportion of the people cannot do that. Many of them cannot get to the sea-side themselves, or send even one of their children there. What, then, is the use of talking about reforming this country by a measure of this kind? Why should we try to keep at home with their children those people who have no other recreation but the pictures?
The Government, earning the money that won the election for them last year, go to every corner of the earth to increase taxation except to the right place. There is a field for taxation in this country that would easily meet all the responsibilities the Government have to face; but they will not go to it. When the Price-Fixing Commission was inquiring into the cost of meat, it reported that those Tunning the pastoral industry received £27,000,000 more in the two years after the drought than in the two years preceding it. Those people have that money, and are making still more. It is admitted that the wealthy classes are contributing largely to the taxation of the country; but they are paying nothing like the amount they ought to pay. Workers find it more and more difficult to live. All commodities have soared in price. Entertainments, which have already been taxed, are to cost still more. The Government will be able to congratulate themselves upon gathering an additional £275,000 by means of the entertainment tax; but, in doing so, let them not forget that they will be robbing the poorer section of the community of practically the only kind of amusement “for which they can afford to pay. There is a wide field of taxation apart from this which the Government could further exploit. We are told that by the end of this financial year war expenditure will have run us into £335,000,000. In the collection of taxation for war purposes the workers are evidently to be made to pay hugely more than their fair share.
During the war period enormous profits have been made in Australia. Nearly every class of business has flourished more notably than at any other time in the hiss tory of this land. We are informed that the Government are already taking a considerable portion of business people’s profits. But there should be no form of taxation upon the wage-earning section of the community, while the business section is permitted to make profits which are actually higher than before the war. In that aspect, a field is opened to the Government to meet all taxation necessary. I do not expect any attempt will be made to impose further taxation upon that class, however. Hundreds of thousands of pounds were spent during the last elections by just such people to enable the present Government to secure power ; and those same supporters are now willing to stand behind the Government in their bushranging projects, while the profiteers continue without check or hindrance. They talk about the Trades Hall flying the red flag. I am not strong on flags, and the flag of Australia will do me all the time. The Government raised a great noise about the red flag ; and their henchmen of the press outside made still more ado.
The ACTING PRESIDENT (Senator “Shannon). - Order! The honorable senator cannot connect that matter, I think,, with the Bill before the Senate.
– Very good, sir; but I am sorry that you will not permit me to follow that line of argument, asI have a little grievance to get off my mind.
I regret that there is no hope of the Government withdrawing this -Bill. For all the revenue to be raised out of it, they must realize that it will mean a very small quota towards Australia’s liabilities; but that, at the same time, it will perpetrate a robbery upon hundreds of thousands of the poor people. The next thing, I presume, wil] be for the Government to bring down a tax upon the children’s marbles and tops, and skipping ropes and scooters. The price of our children’s boots has soared about 75 per cent during the past three or four years. That is to say, boot manufacturers are making greater profits than ever before. The Government must be 6tone-blind to legitimate avenues of taxation. They are betraying this country in an unmistakable manner by the measure now sought to be passed. From a political stand-point, this Bill represents all I could desire, as one who is opposed to the Government. . It is bound to have a powerful reactive effect. The people will not forget. From the view -point’ of party politics, this is a very fine thing. Opponents of the Government are pleased to find them forcing such a measure. At the same time, however, and irrespective of party, there is the aspect of justice. If I were anxious to conserve the best interests of the Government I would strongly advise them to withdraw this Bill - to abandon the prospect of gathering in £275;000 from it - and to proceed along other wide-open avenues of taxation which are so easily available to them.
.- Every member of the Senate realizes the difficulties which beset the Government in endeavouring to raise revenue to meet current war expenditure. If a legitimate attempt were made to raise money the Government would naturally receive unanimous support. When we recall the colossal task which for several years has confronted the Imperial Government in connexion with its huge war expenditure, “ and when we remember the channels of taxation which have been exploited in that regard, we cannot help feeling that the Federal Government should have made a decent attempt to follow in the same footsteps. Time and again we have read in the English newspapers . of wealthy and patriotic men who have insisted upon the Imperial Government adopting methods of taxation which would insure that those best able to do so should make a mighty contribution to the war Treasury. Not only does the Imperial Government pay the entire interest on its war expenditure out of revenue, but it pays almost 20 per cent., in addition, of current war expenditure. In Australia, we have not in any one year paid out of taxation the interest on money borrowed. Not only are we behind in the payment of our interest bill, but we are indebted to the Old Country for the maintenance of our soldiers abroad to an extent approaching £65,000,000. The Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Watt) has expressed the pious hope that the Imperial Government will not press for that money, but that it will be funded. When we remember the mighty financial task confronting the small population of Australia, it is a matter for regret that the Government should seriously occupy the time of Parliament with the consideration of a taxation measure so paltry in its incidence.
There is another phase of the discussion to-day which, to me, is even more painful than the fact that the Government should have descended to this method of taxation. That is, to hear honorable senators, who once stood for that class which is to be exploited by this proposal, now giving their support to the Government simply because the Government desires them to do so.
– Which of those honorable senators has said that?
– I heard Senator Reid expressing that view, clearly and definitely.
– He said nothing of the kind, and if Senator Reid were present, he would insist that he had made no such promise.
– It would not matter, of course, if Senator Reid were present, Senator de Largie would still exercise his right of contradiction. The honorable senator must have heard Senator Reid say that he intended to vote for the measure.
– But not because the Government had asked him to do so.
– And so will Senator de Largie vote for it.
– Because I believe in it, and not simply because the Government wish me to do so.
– The honorable senator must permit me to retain my doubts upon that. . If he does believe in the measure, his idea of taxation must have undergone radical change within ‘ twelve months.
– My views are just the same as they have always been.
– The honorable senator is entitled to his opinion, of course] but I know that he, like other good followers of the Government, will be found just where they are expected to be when the division is taken foi the imposition of this tax upon the little kiddies of Australia.
As has been pointed out by almost every other speaker, there are notable avenues of taxation still open to the Government. Senator Barnes pointed out that there is hardly ‘ anything to-day which the people have either to eat or to wear which has not been taxed to the greatest extent. It is a matter of concern how the workers of Australia can maintain families in anything like decency, and at the same time pay their way. Several honorable senators have sought to take refuge behind the fact that something should be done to prevent women and children from being out at night, visiting picture shows. Is it a crime for a Woman who has been cooped up at her household duties all the week to take recreation now and again ? The women of poorer families are seen in the streets going to and from picture shows merely because they have no motor cars in which to travel. Some honorable senators have said that picture shows are demoralizing the children of Australia. If they seriously take the view that picture shows have that effect upon children, their duty is to take the necessary steps to put an end to them. If it is considered that a further tax should be imposed upon entertainments, I submit that a fairer way would be to take a percentage of the gross takings at any theatre, picture show, race-course, or any other kind of amusement, instead of imposing a high rate of tax upon the low-priced tickets and a low rate upon the high-priced tickets. If any honorable senator books theatre seats for Cup night, he will be called upon to pay 10s. lOd. It appears that while they are prepared to increase considerably the burden upon the poorer section in the community, the people who buy the lower -priced tickets, they do not feel inclined to increase taxation upon that class of the community which is able to pay 10s. lOd. for a theatre ticket.
– Where do you go - up with the gods?
– I am not a frequenter of theatres or picture shows. They do not appeal to me, but I am not anxious to penalize unnecessarily or unfairly those who do resort to such places of entertainment. While I do not go to theatres, I sometimes go to a football match or a race-course, and therefore in that way I would be called upon to contribute my quota. The fairer way would be to impose a straight-out percentage tax- upon the takings of all entertainments- throughout Australia, because then the burden would be evenly distributed . I give notice of my intention to move an amendment to this effect. I have no desire to carry the debate any further. I know the result is already determined, and that, while many senators on the other side will support the Bill from honest conviction, others again will support it because they feel bound to do so.
– Caucus had a good fight over it.
– I know this matter has been decided already in. the temple where the members of the Win-the-war party forgather now and again, and the result, of course, as is customary in political parties, is that the minority have bowed to the will of the majority, and have come down here to give a unanimous vote for this mighty taxation proposal of the mighty Win-the-war Government.
– I desire to refer briefly to one or ‘two things that have been said in the course of the debate. First of all, I think Senator McDougall was somewhat unfair, but perhaps not intentionally so, in his reference to the steam-ship companies of Australia. His figures would lead one to believe that the companies are making fabulous profits out of the war.
– I was not speaking of profits.
– The honorable senator certainly quoted figures which could only lead to the conclusion that the steam-ship companies in Australia were making huge sums of money out of the war, and that they ought to be taxed. Now, amongst all the enterprises in Australia I suppose that steam-ship companies have made less out of the war than any other, for the simple reason that restrictions have been laid upon them to prevent them from raising their fares, with only one exception, which, I. believe, was mentioned by Senator Needham, namely, the abolition of return fares. And that, . I may tell the Senate, was absolutely justified by the increased price of coal since the beginning of the war. Senator McDougall must know, also, that there has been a general increase in wages and salaries as the result of an Arbitration Court award.
– Poor old public 1
– Necessarily, the companies had to meet the increased expenses by a revision of certain charges. But another restriction was also laid upon them which has not been imposed upon shipping companies in other parts of the world. They have not been free to send their ships on other trade routes where freights have been high. In cases where steamers have gone off our coastal trade they have been commandeered by the British Admiralty.
– Did the Minister say that fares and freight* had not been raised since’ the war began. .
– Yes, with one exception. Return fares have been abolished, and there has been a slight increase in freights on cargoes commensurate with the increased award given by the Arbitration Court. With these exceptions there have been no increases.
– You are quite mistaken. .
- Senator McDougall also mentioned that the Union Steam- “ ship Company had increased their reserve fund. But I point out that the Union Steam-ship Company is not an Australian company at all. It is true that its vessels trade between Australia and New Zealand, but they also trade in other oceans of the world, and by amalgamation with other ventures, its steamers are now to be found in every part of the British Empire.
Senator McDougall also made the ; extraordinary statement that the Treasurer (Mr. Watt) expected to receive more from ‘ the entertainments tax than from the war-time profits tax; but when I interjected a denial, be certainly qualified his statement. In order to effectively contradict the honorable senator’s assertion, I propose to give some figures in order that they may appear alongside his statement. The estimate I gave of the amount expected to be received from this tax was ?475,000, and this year the war-time profits tax is expected to realize from the taxable amount ?1,415,511, and, with the arrears added, ?1,800,000.
– You ought to be getting ?5,000,000 a year from it.
– The honorable senator is now shifting his ground; but I do not want to follow him. I have followed him in the figures which he gave to the Senate, and have shown them to be absolutely inaccurate.
– But why that increase?
– Because the rate has been increased from 50 per cent, to 75 per cent, on the excess profits.
The Acting Leader of the Opposition (Senator McDougall) made a comparison of revenue from income tax in Australia and revenue from a similar source in the United Kingdom, but I point out that there is no tax in the United Kingdom to compare with our tax on the unimproved value of land. The land tax in .the United Kingdom is a tax only on accruing value. It does not tax existing values of land.
– I spoke of a property tax.
– It is not a property tax; it is a tax on the accruing unearned increment. This provision was contained in Mr. Lloyd George’s Budget of 1909.
– It is not worth talking about.
– No ; but- in order to get a fair comparison between the rate paid between the wealthy classes in Australia and the wealthy classes in Great Britain, we ought to add to the amount of income tax paid in Australia the amount paid under the Federal and State land taxes. If this is done it will be found that our rates are not far short of what is being obtained in Great Britain.
Another statement made by Senator McDougall was that there was more racing in Australia to-day than formerly.
– So there is.
– The honorable senator said some racing authorities were now racing for ten -hours a day. I give that statement an absolute and flat contradiction, because no racing is permitted except in the afternoons.
– As a matter of fact, some races start at 11.30 a.m.
– But the honorable senator said that they were racing for hen hours a- day, and I would like him to demonstrate how this is possible when racing does not start before noon.
– I said that they would be racing ten hours a. day if the light had not failed.
– The fact that there has been a diminution of racing is shown in the falling off of the amount received in taxation from this source last year.
Senator Pratten and several honorable senators, in their criticism of the Bill, spoke of this as a tax upon children. It is nothing of the kind. It is tax upon the adults primarily. We are not all unsophisticated. Some of us do occasionally go to picture shows, and I invite any honorable senator to visit a Bourke-street picture show any day of the week. If lie pays 3d. for admission, I guarantee he will not find thirty children amongst, say, 300 or 400 people present. “ They are principally adults, who, like the lilies of the field, apparently toil not, neither do they spin”. They are to be found in Bourke-street spending some of their spare time at picture shows any day of the week except a Sunday, and at any hour of the day. Picture shows are open all day long. These, then, are the innocent children whose 3d. tickets are to be taxed, and about whom our friends on the other side are wasting their crocodile tears !
– The idle rich !
– Yes. These are the idle rich who are to be the victims of this cruel measure !
Some honorable senators have said that we have not as yet taxed luxuries. I should like to know what they have to say about the tax on beer, wine, spirits, and tobacco?
Several Honorable- Senators. - Are these luxuries ?
– I plead guilty. It may be said, and, perhaps, rightly so, that beer is a necessity for some people.
– It all depends, of course, upon the point of view. I regard ali these things as luxuries, including tobacco, which I use myself. There has been an enormous increase in the rate of duty on these lines, as honorable senators who have given any study to the question must know.
Another argument raised was that the exemption of Saturday afternoon matinee tickets issued to children was not fair, because it would not extend to the country, where Saturday afternoon is not a general holiday. The point, however, is that universally throughout Australia Saturday is the day upon which attendance at school is not required of children. Therefore, it is the children’s holiday. Now if the picture show proprietors desire to afford children an opportunity to take advantage of this amendment, all they will have to do will be to give their matinee performances on Saturday afternoons. I know that in most instances that is already done, in order to attract children to these shows. If the matinee performance were given on any other day of the week it would not be granted the proposed exemption on the ground that it would encourage pupils to stay away from school. Consequently, those who advocate that the amendment should apply to all matinees are in error. On the other hand, ‘if by the imposition of this tax we shall prevent children from absenting themselves from school in order to attend matinee performances, I say that it is absolutely justified, and I am prepared to vote for it upon that ground alone.
Senator Foll has asked whether the Government cannot see their way to extend the scope of the amendment I have outlined so as to make it include public holidays. I ask the honorable senator not to press that point. By exempting from taxation children’s tickets on Saturday afternoons we are, according to an estimate supplied by the Treasury, sacrificing a revenue of ?30,000 per annum. It will be seen, therefore, that the Government have gone a long way towards meeting the honorable senator. There are fifty-two Saturdays in the year, and consequently, children will be afforded an opportunity of visiting a picture show once a week without their tickets for admission being taxed. In these circumstances. I think we have met very fairly the argument of those who have pressed for consideration on behalf of the children. Senator Barnes stated during the course of his remarks that we are not taxing the wealthy classes. But if anybody will take the trouble to look through the Treasurer’s Budget speech and the Budget papers, he will find that out of the revenue derived from income tax, land tax, and the war-time profits tax, we are practically paying the whole of the interest upon our war debt, our war pensions, and also contributing £1,000,000 to lfpatriation purposes. Nobody pays a penny of that taxation unless he has an income of £156 a year if he is a single man. and of £200 a year if he is a married man with children. Even then, the tax is comparatively small. The taxes I have enumerated pay the whole of these charges, which are our tru1; war charges. Therefore, the whole Of the burden of the war has been placed upon the shoulders of the wealthy classes.*
– The Government; do not pay interest on our war loans out of taxation.
– We do. The honorable senator stated that we owe the British Government £60,000,000 upon which we have not paid interest. Let me analyze that statement.
– I said nothing of the kind. I said that the Government owed the Imperial authorities £65,000,000 for the maintenance of our soldiers overseas, and that we had not paid interest upon that sum.
– Then what did the honorable senator mean by interjecting just now that we have not paid interest upon our war loans ?
– I say that Out of revenue we are not paying interest upon our war expenditure.
– That is no more correct than was the other statement made by the honorable senator. We are paying interest upon our war expenditure out of revenue. Upon page 24 of the Treasurer’s Budget speech the honorable senator will find the following: -
I have already shown the total under this head up to 30th June, 1918, and the estimated total up to the end of 1918-19 may now be summarized as follows : -
So that, not only have we paid the interest, but we have actually paid some of the capital out of revenue. Then the Treasurer gives some figures relating to the money that has been paid out of loan funds - figures which are not pertinent to this question.
– Will the Minister explain where we are paying interest on our war debt out of taxation, instead of out of revenue?
– How do we get revenue except by taxation? I say that we are paying the interest on our war debt out of revenue which is derived from taxation. Then on page 4 of the Budget I find the following: -
That is to say, Senator Long added to our indebtedness, the estimate of what the British Government will spend for us during the. forthcoming year, and then said that we owe the Imperial authorities so much. We do not. The Treasurer continues -
It is a matter for regret that the Commonwealth has relied upon the British Government to help in financing Australia’s share in the war.
The estimates of expenditure out of revenue include a sum of £3,430,000 for payment to the British Government of interest for two years, from 1st July, 1917, to 30th June, 1919, upon the outstanding amount duc. Hitherto no interest has been paid to the British Government upon such balance.
So that Senator Long’s statement, as I have shown, is quite incorrect. In the first, place, we do not owe the British Government £65,000,000, and secondlywe have paid amounts for interest, and this year are proposing to pay the balance that is owing. I trust that honorable senators will agree to pass the Bill’ through Committee.
Question - That the Bill be now read a second time - put. The Senate divided.
Majority . . . . 6
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clause 1 -
This Act may be cited as the Entertainments Tax Act 1918.
The Entertainments Tax Act 1916, as amended by this Act, may be cited as the Entertainments Tax Act 1916-18.
Motion (by Senator O’Keefe) proposed -
That the House of Representatives be requested to amend sub-clause 2 by inserting after the word “the” second occurring, the word “ Children’s.”
Clause agreed to.
Clause 2 agreed to.
Clause 3 -
Section 4 of the Entertainments Tax Act 1910 is repealed and the following section inserted in its stead: - “4. The rates of the Entertainments Tax shall be as follows, namely : -
Senator McDOUGAIL (New South Wales [4.15]. - I desire to relieve the lower-priced tickets of this taxation against which we have entered our protest. I intend to divide the Committee upon the amendment of which I have given notice. When the original Bill was before us we fought’ successfully against the imposition of taxation on the lower-priced tickets, and though I do not suppose we shall be successful on this occasion, I intend to test the feeling of the Committee on the matter. I move -
That the House of Representatives be requested to amend clause 3 by leaving out the words “ not exceeding one shilling.”
Question put. The Committee divided.
Majority . . . . 5
Question so resolved in the negative.
Motion (by Senator Pearce) proposed -
That the House of Representatives be requested to amend clause 3 by inserting after the word “ shilling “ first occurring in the first column, the words “ excepting payments not exceeding threepence for the admission on Saturdays between the hours of 12 o’clock noon and 6 o’clock in the afternoon, of children apparently under the age of twelve years.”
– The amendment requested by the motion submitted by the Minister for
Defence does not meet with my approval, and! I therefore move -
That the motion be amended by inserting” after the word “ Saturdays “’ the words “ and public- holidays.”
It is true that the Saturday afternoon.’ is the children’s holiday, but they are equally free from attendance at school on all public holidays:
– It is rather an unusual procedure for the Government, without any reason being given,, to continue the Friday afternoon sitting, beyond the usual hour for adjournment.
– Order ! The honorable senator’s remarks have nothing to do with the Bill.
– They have something to do with the Bill, because a number of us were given to understand that the usual procedure would be followed this afternoon, and that progress would be reported1 on the measure in order that honorable senators might have time to give some consideration to the requests to be moved in connexion with it. Without any explanation on the part, of the Government, we are apparently to be asked to put the Bill through Committee this afternoon. It is of no use for Senator Russell to shake his head, because he deliberately gave me to understand that., as it would be necessary for the Senate to meet on Wednesday next, the Government did not intend to carry out their original intent-ion to put the- Bill through at this sitting.
– The question submitted to me by Senator O’Keefe was whether it was my intention to go on this1 afternoon with the Institute of Science and Industry Bill. I- said that it was not, but that we intended to put the Entertainments: Tax Bill through. I informed the honorable senator that it was our intention, if possible, to adjourn over next week, but that has been found impossible, because it is proposed to submit a request in connexion with this Bill which will necessitate its return to the House of Representatives. I apologize for having made that, mistake; but the only other statement I made to Senator Or’ Keefe was. that I had no intention of bringing on the Institute of Science and Industry Bill this afternoon.
– The vital matter is not whether “any particular arrangement was come to by the Government, but whether they will accept the amendment submitted by Senator Grant. I think it is an entirely reasonable amendment. The Minister for Defence (Senator Pearce) has intimated that the concession proposed in the request he has moved has been submitted because Saturday afternoon is. the children’s holiday. It has been said that any further concession might interfere with the attendance of children at school. As on all public; holidays, children are not required to attend school, Senator Grant’s amendment should be readily accepted by the Government. If the Government are prepared to allow children- to go to picture shows on Saturday afternoons without, having- to pay this- obnoxious tax on 3d. tickets, they might extend their clemency to the children when attending these entertainments an public holidays.
.- The Minister for Defence (Senator Pearce), in replying to the debate on the second reading of the Bill, said, that while we were pleading for a concession to children, they represented only a small percentage of those attending these places of entertainment. However, in the request he has moved, as the honorable senator makes provision for children, it is evident that he himself admits that this will be a tax upon them.. I pointed out in my second-reading speech, and repeat now, that the concession proposed by the Government will affect only children residing in cities. In the country districts, where people are afforded very few opportunities for amusement, the children will not enjoy the benefit of this concession at all, because there are no matinee entertainments in the country towns. There are very few country towns in. which picture; shows are open every night. In many they are open only twice a week, and in some only once a month, or once in three months. I am sorry that the Government did not agree to adjourn earlier. There’ was a time when honorable senators on thisside,under these circumstances , would have put up a stone-wall, and have kept honorable senators opposite here until 12 o’clock at night. That is what they deserve, but I do not propose to take that course. I do intend to protest at all stages of this Bill against the taxation of the poorer classes and the children. Every poor man and woman must bear the taxation imposed by the Government. I can remember when about half-a-century ago, persons older than I were fighting against the taxation of the poor, and they imported a huge poster from London. It showed on one side a starving family, and as the artist was clever, they certainly did look starved ; and on the opposite side a man with a broad expanse of he-diamonded waistcoat, with the words -
Tax the bread and tax the tea.Tax the whole damn family,
But don’t tax me.
The present Government have introduced taxation which bears most upon those least able to bear it. . I dispute what Senator Fairbairn ‘ and other honorable senators have said about the reserve funds of certain companies. If honorable senators will look at the books of these companies, they will find that they have made huge profits, and they cannot deny the fact. The statements we have heard on the subject from honorable senators opposite are merely camouflage.
– Thehonorable senator cannot discuss that matter on the amendment now before the Committee.
– My comrade, Senator Grant, has just whispered to me that he is going . home tonight, and wants to catch the train. But for that, I should have spoken at greater length. It is very unreasonable that honorable senators, who have travelled from other States to Melbourne to do the business of the country, should be inconvenienced in the way they are being: inconvenienced to-day. We could not have believed that the Government would have, endeavoured to pass the Bill through at this sitting when they knew that honorable senators were compelled to catch the Inter-State trains in order to reach their homes.
Question - That the request be amended - put. The Committee divided.
Majority . . 4
Question so resolved in the negative:
Amendment negatived. -
Request agreed to.
Clause, as requested to be amended, agreed to.
– I move -
That the House of Representatives be requested to add the following; new clause: - “4. Where the charge for admission to entertainments prior to 1st September, 1918, did not exceed 6d it shall be illegal for the proprietors of such entertainments to add any increased tax levied under this Act to the price of admission to such entertainments.”
The effect -will be to prevent the proprietors of entertainments of the class mentioned from passing the increased tax on to their patrons.
Title agreed to. .
Bill reported with a request; report adopted.
Senate adjourned at 4.35 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 1 November 1918, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1918/19181101_senate_7_86/>.