8th Parliament · 1st Session
The President (Senator the Hon. T. Givens) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
The following papers were presented: -
Defence Act. -Regulations amended. - Statutory Rules 1920, Nos. 161, 164, 165.
Public Service Act. - Regulations amended. -Statutory Rules 1920, Nos. 153, 169.
Railways Act. - (Report, with Appendices, on Commonwealth Railways 1919-20.
War Precautions Act. - ‘Regulations amended. -Statutory Rules 1920, No. 168.
Bill returned from the House of Representatives with amendments.
The PRESIDENT announced the receipt of a message intimating that the House of Representatives had agreed to some -of the amendments of the Senate in this Bill, and disagreed to others.
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The answers are -
Minotaur, Melbourne, Sydney. Ibuki, Pioneer.
In Committee (Consideration of House of Representatives’ amendments) :
House of Representatives’ Amendment: -
After clause 14 add the following new clause: -
Section 39 of the principal Act is amended by adding at the end of sub-section (2) thereof the following proviso: - “Provided that the Treasurer may at any time direct that the whole or part of any moneys which by paragraph (c) of thissubsection are directed to be credited to that Trust Account shall- be paid to the Treasurer for credit to the Loans Sinking Fund, and any moneys so paid to the Treasurer shall be credited to that fund.”
– The House of Representatives has returned this Bill with a couple of amendments, which are not intended to assert any new principle, but to make more clear the intention of Parliament in passing the Bill. I move -
That the amendment be agreed to.
It is intended that a lump sum shall be paid into a Trust Account, to be operated on by the War Service Homes Commissioner for the purchase of timber, bricks, cement, and so on. It is quite clear that all repayments of borrowed moneys expended under the Act should be utilized for the purpose ultimately of wiping out the debt, and it is proposed by the new clause inserted in the House of Representatives that all moneys directed to be credited to the Trust Account to which I have referred shall be paid to the Treasurer for credit to the Loan Sinking Fund. Honorable senators will agree that moneys collected in this way in connexion with the War Service Homes should be used for the purpose indicated by the proposed new clause.
Motion agreed to.
House of Representatives’ Amendment: - Add the following new clause : - 16. (1) The Commissioner shall, as soon as possible after the close of the financial year, submit to the Minister an annual report, showing for each State the number of applications received and dealt with, homes erected and average costs, a resumê of operations, and a balance-sheet showing cash ; and stocks on hand, and an- account of moneys received and expended during that year, also a balance-sheet showing trading operations in connexion with timber mills, and a profit and loss account of each timber mill.
– ‘This amendment is somewhat similar to the one which the Senate has already agreed to. An attempt was made to provide that the Commissioner should report annually concerning the number of applications for homes, the number of homes erected, and the average cost of each home, but through defective drafting the provision was not sufficiently clear. An amendment was moved in the House of Representatives by the honorable member for Dampier (Mr. Gregory), and what has now been decided upon will be mutually satisfactory. I therefore move -
That the House ofRepresentatives’ amendment be agreed to with the following amendments: -
Before the words “ (1.) The Commissioner “ in proposed new clause 16 insert “ After section 50a of the principal Act the following section is inserted: - 50b”.
Omit from sub-clause (1.) of proposed new clause 16 all the words from and including ‘the words “ the financial year “, and insert in their stead the words “ each financial year furnish to the Minister for presentation to the Parliament -
a report on the administration and operation of this Act showing particularly, in respect of each State -
the number of applications for homes and advances received and dealt with;
the number of homes erected; and
the average cost of each home erected;
a balance-sheet showing cash and stocks on hand and an account of moneys received and expended during that year; and
a balance-sheet showing trading operations in connexion with timber mills acquired by the Commissioner and a profit and loss account in respect of each timber mill “.
I think the object was to go a little further than the . Senate went in regard to the details required. In the amendment I have moved the position has been made perfectly clear, and I trust it will be satisfactory to both Houses.
– I think the Vice-President of the Executive Council (‘Senator Russell) is to be congratulated on moving that this amendment be embodied in the Bill, as I am sure there can be no objection to an embracing proposal such as that he has just submitted. It will, in effect, bring the operations of the War Service Homes Commissioner within a certain business ambit; but I am not quite sure whether the (Commissioner is still to acquire any other industrial undertaking apart from timber mills. He has the power to acquire these undertakings, so far as my reading of the measure goes, subject, of course, to the approval of the Minister, and I have been wondering whether we ought to stop at the words “ timber mill “ in this amendment. He is required to issue a balance-sheet showing the trade operations in connexion with timber mills, and I would like to know whether the Vice-President of the Executive Council would be prepared to amplify that a little so that it would cover practically all industrial undertakings that the Commissioner may develop.
– I think that is generally provided, but this undertaking has been specially mentioned because of its size.
– Yes, but the administration of this Department will continue for many years, and it may be that further industrial undertakings may be rightly acquired; but this amendment stops at timber mills. Would it not be better to insert . a word or two that would cover any other industrial undertaking?
– If the honorable senator reads the whole of my amendment he will see that, although it specially mentions timber mills, it is sufficiently wide to cover other undertakings.
– I do not know how it appears to other honorable senators, but it seems to me that the insertion of a word or two after timber mills “ would cover possible developments in the WarService Homes Department, and would compel the Commissioner to furnish particulars in connexion with other undertakings.
– The honorable senator is apparently referring to something that may be done apart from timber mills; but I desire to inform him that this provision covers the construction of buildings,’ whether made of timber, bricks, or concrete. If the honorable senator is referring to work performed apart from soldiers’ homes, it will require another Bill.
– The ‘Commissioner could establish brickworks.
– If brickworks were to be used in connexion with soldiers’ homes there would be no objection.
– Why not have a profit and loss account in that connexion?
– I again direct honorable senators’ attention to the wording of my amendment, which shows that the Commissioner must furnish to the Minister, for presentation to the Parliament, a report concerning the number of applications for homes, the number of homes - it does not say brick or wood - and the average cost of each home erected. He must also submit a balance-sheet showing the trading operations in connexion with timber mills acquired by him, and a profit and loss account in respect of each timber mill. That is fairly comprehensive, and specially emphasizes timber mills, so that the Government will be in a position to know what the Commissioner is paying. This amendment is a compromise, and is one that has been ac cepted by those who were opposed to the original clause. We can rest assured that the best accountants available will prepare the . balance-sheets in this connexion, and that the facts ascertained will be reliable. Should there be any weaknesses in the present measure, the Government will be prepared to remedy them by introducing an amending measure. The object of the Government is to get a clear statement of the expenditure incurred by . the Department. Every precaution will be taken, and I ask honorable senators not to oppose or amend the amendment, as it is one that is generally acceptable. The object of the amendment is to protect the soldiers, the Department, and the public. I therefore ask the Committee to agree to it as a fair compromise between all parties.
.- I sympathize with Senator Pratten in his desire to make the proposed new clause a little more comprehensive. Had special reference not been made in it to timber mills, it would have been all-embracing in its application. ‘ In its present form, it is implied that if brick or cement works are established by the War Service Homes Commissioner, a special report upon each of these undertakings will not be required from him; but he will merely be asked to make a general report upon the working of his Department, and a special report in respect of the trading operations in connexion with timber- mills. I suggest that the Vice-President of the Executive Council (Senator Russell) should postpone the consideration of the proposed new clause, in order to afford his expert advisers an opportunity to consider whether it cannot be improved, either by striking out the special reference in it to timber mills, or by including in it any other undertaking upon which the Commissioner may embark. The Commissioner has been too slow in the establishment of the enterprises which are necessary to produce the materials that he requires for War Service Homes. A great deal would have been saved to the soldiers had he launched upon the acquisition of timber areas and the establishment of timber mills and cement and brick works some months ago. Had he adopted that course he would have obtained supplies of requisite materials a great deal -cheaper than he has done, and he would have been assured of more reliable supplies. The sooner he establishes these necessary undertakings for the production of the required materials the better it will be for his Department and for our returned soldiers.
– I sympathize with the object of Senator Pratten, and . I have no objection to the insertion of words which will make the meaning of the clause ‘clearer if he thinks that it is essential we should adopt that course. The fact is that, owing to what occurred recently in connexion with the acquisition of timber areas in Queensland, the establishment of timber mills has been unduly emphasized in this clause. ButI wouldpoint out to the Committee that nothing will “be gained by amending it. The “best advice which I can get is that in its . present form the clause covers the whole of the undertakings upon which the War Service Homes ‘Commissioner may embark.
– Every honorable senator will agree that the Vice-President of the Execuitive -Council (Senator Russell) and the Government desire to do the right thing in this connexion. But the proposed new clause has not the very wide application which the honorable gentleman wishes us to believe that it has. Paragraph c of it is confined to timber mills. It provides that there shall !be issued each financial year -
A balance-sheet showing trading operations in connexion with timber mills acquired by the Commissioner and a profit and loss account in respect of each timber mill.
Honorable senators know that a very large proportion of the material used in each cottage erected under the War Service Homes Act will be timber, whilst other materials will enter very largely into the construction of homes which are erected of brick. If it be necessary therefore to protect our soldiers from . the rapacity of the Timber Combine it is equally necessary to protect them from the machinations of the Brick Combine or any other ‘Combine which may be operating to their detriment. Should the Commissioner find it necessary to acquire a number of brickyards we shall naturally want to know whether they are -likely to pay. I suggest that paragraph c should be altered so as to read -
A balance-sheet showing trading operations in connexion with all industrial or manufacturing concerns acquired by the Commissioner and a profit and loss account in respect of each such concern.
– We have practically reached the same point, although the amendment which has been drafted for me refers to ‘‘industrial undertakings.”
– If the VicePresident of the Executive Council will make the . paragraph read in the way I have suggested, it will prove acceptable to the members of both branches of the Legislature.
– I will accept the suggestion of the honorable senator.
Amendment of the motion (by Senator Duncan) proposed -
That in paragraph (c) of the proposed amendments to the House of Representatives’ amendment, No. 2, all the words after “ with “ be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words “ all industrial or manufacturing concerns acquired by the Commissioner and a profit and loss account in respect of each such concern.”
SenatorDE LARGIE (Western Australia) [3.29]. - May I point out that Senator Duncan’s amendment may not give us all that we are . seeking. “ Indus- trial or manufacturing concerns” is a very indefinite term, which may apply to some undertakings in respect of which it would not be necessary to issue a balancesheet. I think the idea is to give us a balance-sheet of any big concern such as a timber mill, brick works, or cement works. To ask for a balance-sheet of everything the Commissioner does under the Act would give him no end of clerical work, involving a great deal of expense. I would suggest that the Minister postpone this matter to enable him to consult the Parliamentary Draftsman before he agrees to put in words which may involve a great deal more than we want. It would be enough to insert “ brick works, and cement works “ after timber mill.”
– What about joinery works ?
– I should have thought tihey were covered by the reference to a timber -mill. All we want is a definite financial statement at the end of the year showing how each of the big works in connexion with the War Service Homes scheme stands, and what it has cost.
– Senator Pratten’s suggested amendment contemplates the purchase or starting of other industrial enterprises by the Commissioner. The Government’ lately bought certain timber works without the consent of Parliament, and a crisis was very nearly caused in another place. We may fairly assume that the Government are not likely to buy or start any more big concerns without asking the consent of Parliament to the expenditure of the money. The amendment made by another place covers everything that has been done up to the present, and when the Government launch out into anything of the kind again, they will bring it before Parliament, whereupon Parliament can provide, in the Bill dealing with the question, that a proper balance-sheet in connexion with the undertaking shall be presented every year to Parliament. No consideration has been given in this Committee to the question of framing an amendment which will be all-embracing. We do not know what it may be necessary to do in the future to protect the soldiers from anybody who wants to profiteer on them, and it i6, therefore, impossible to frame at this stage a comprehensive amendment to meet every case. I agree with the Minister that it would be a waste of time to send the Bill down to” another place with an amendment which we were not certain that we approved of ourselves. There is an enormous list of business before another place already, and it would be a pity to add to it unnecessarily. Whenever the Commissioner desires to go in for the next big undertaking in the interests of the soldiers, that will be the proper time for us to stipulate for a balance-sheet in connexion with it. If we send down a crude amendment it will probably come back again, and the whole proceeding will simply waste time which is very valuable to both Houses.
– I find we are not as free in dealing with the Bill now as we were in its earlier stages. I was going to suggest that the Committee should let the matter go now, including the amendment outlined by Senator Duncan, and that, if necessary, I could have the matter re- / committed later. I find, however, that I cannot do that. We all have the one object in view,, and the only difficulty is that of exact drafting. I have consulted the draftsman, who says that Senator Duncan’s proposal adequately covers our idea. I will consult the Crown Law authorities on the question of technical details, and find some way of getting the amendment back to the Senate if it is not considered sufficient. All we want to do is to determine the clearest way of getting- a balance-sheet which will give us the fullest possible information. I am prepared now to accept the amendment put forward by Senator Duncan, and if I find that it does not adequately state the desires of the Committee I shall report back to the Committee.
– I remind Senator Fairbairn, who spoke about wasting time, that the matter we are dealing with had its genesis in this Chamber at the instance of the Minister (Senator Russell). We are, therefore, much freer to deal with it now than we will be after it goes back to another place. We are simply formulating an amendment to send to another. place. The War Service Homes Commissioner already runs, or will run shortly, an additional undertaking in the form of joinery works, a balance-sheet for which would not be covered by the terms of the amendment we are discussing. It would, however, be amply covered, as any further development would be, by ‘enlarging the scope of the amendment which we propose to send to another place, so as to include not only timber mills and joinery works, but all further industrial undertakings.
– I am afraid the inclusion of the word “ acquired “ will be fatal, because it will then not be necessary to present a balance-sheet in connexion with trading operations of any concern, such as a joinery mill, which may be “ established “t by the Commissioner. All such concerns must have been actually established before they can be acquired by the Commissioner.
– A joinery shop is part of a timber mill.
– I disagree with the Minister. A joinery shop and a timber mill are nearly as wide apart in the nature of their operations as a sugar mill and a retail confectionery shop. I do not want Senator Duncan’s amendment to be weakened in any way, and so I suggest the inclusion of the words “ or initiated.”
– The Commissioner has power, under the original Act, to initiate works to give effect to the purpose of the Act.
– In such cases, then, he would be under no obligation to present a balance-sheet. The generallyaccepted definition of the word “ acquired “ suggests that, in this case, the concerns “acquired” had been previously established. For Instance, if I build a house, I do not “ acquire “ it in the- ordinary acceptation of the term. I build it.
– The Commissioner has authority to initiate or acquire any undertaking essential for the successful building of homes for soldiers. This power is contained in the general Act, and, therefore, the question raised by Senator Senior does not affect the issue at all. The Government have no desire, under the authority of the War Service Homes Act, to acquire timber mills and brickworks, and manage them as permanent concerns, if we can get a fair deal in other directions. In the absence of this fair dealing, however, we are more than justified in taking action.
– I am not challenging that phase of the question. I am urging that the word “ acquired “ governs the amendment.
– I think the honorable senator is under a misconception as to the real point at issue. If the Commissioner establishes or purchases a joinery shop, it comes under his control, and he immediately becomes responsible for the presentation of a balance-sheet.
Amendment of the motion agreed to.
Motion, as amended, agreed to.
Resolution reported; report adopted.
That this Bill be now read a third time.
I promised honorable senators that I would consult the Crown Law authorities on the subject of clause 24 dealing with the so-called penalty rate of 10 per cent. I am assured that they are very strongly of the opinion that it is quite legitimate.Honorable senators may be aware of decisions of the Courts against unconscionable claims in connexion with penalties under a mortgage, but what is dealt with in clause 24 of this Bill differs from an ordinary mortgage. Should the clause be brought into operation, through failure of the company to pay instalments due, the higher rate of interest will apply to the whole mortgage, but if, for instance, the company is three days behind with a payment they will be charged the penalty rate for the three days only, on the daily balance, which is a quite different position from that previously mentioned. I regret that Senator Keating is not present, as I should like to have been in a position to consult him in regard to the matter. The best advice I can get is that the clause is quite legal, and is not likely to give rise to the abuse which some honorable senators seemed to fear it might lead to. As Senator Keating raised his objection to the clause on legal grounds I think he would be prepared to accept the explanation I have made on the advice of the Crown Law authorities. It is not my intention, in the circumstances, to propose any alteration of the clause.
– As I am not trained or learned in the law, and in view of the Minister’s statement that after consultation with the Crown Law authorities he is advised that clause 24 is quite in “order, I am in some doubt as to whether it would be advisable for me, a layman, to move for the recommittal of the Bill. I should like, however, to have had clause 5 reconsidered, under which it should be made obligatory on the part of the promoter and company to obtain from the Western Australian Government legislative and executive authority to carry out its objects.
– That would be an end of the Bill, because the company could not commit the Western Australian Government. This is a contract with the Western Australian farmers, and they can give no undertaking as to what the Western Australian Government will do.
Two men cannot make a contract with which a third is bound to comply.
– I take it that I should be in order in making some remarks on the third reading of the Bill. I shall not move for the recommittal of the measure in view of the evident feeling of honorable senators against that course. I say emphatically that under clause 5, upon which we had a division in Committee, and an amendment I moved was negatived by quite an accident
– It is a well-known parliamentary rule that proceedings in Committee must not be referred to in the Senate. If the honorable senator wishes to discuss the matter he has mentioned he must first secure the recommittal of the Bill.
– I do not wish, to discuss clause 5, but the Bill as it has come to us from the Committee unamended. There is no obligation in the Bill, as it stands, upon the promoter or company to obtain from the Western Australian Government many things which the Government must do in order to make the scheme dealt with in the Bill as big a success as is possible. I do not wish to refer to this matter further, but to the accepted general principle, that we agree to help the Western Australian farmers to develop in their State the bulk wheathandling system. That is the essence of the Bill. Since objections were raised in this chamber generally as to the suitability of the bulk wheat-handling system for Western Australia in present circumstances, the Premier of Victoria, in his policy speech last week, confirmed up to the hilt the figures that have been given in this chamber in connexion with the saving under the bag-handling system, as against the cost of bulk wheat handling in present Australian circum- stances. Since the subject was previously discussed I have been informed that few vessels in the Australian trade to-day will be able to carry more than from onethird to one-half of their cargo in bulk.
– The honorable senator is reducing it to one-third now.- He made another guess the other day, and was two-thirds out in connexion with the wheat sent Home in bulk as an experiment.
– I do not follow my honorable friend, nor do. I think that he has followed me. What I did say was this-
– The honorable senator is referring to the boats that take general cargo, but we are not entirely dependent upon them for the export of wheat.
– I think that what I said in connexion with the point raised was that only one shipment of wheat in bulk had, so far, been sent to England, and that that was sent in the Persic, and represented a total approximately of 600 tons for a 10,000 ton steamer.
– I say that that is wrong.
– The honorable senator now tells me that -I am wrong.
– The facts are, that four cargoes were sent Home, and we were going to send a. fifth, and the New South Wales Chamber of Commerce said that there was no need to do that as the principle had been established.
– When were the other cargoes sent? I cannot very well cross-examine the Minister, but I should like to emphasize the fact that “ in my speech on the second reading of this Bill I said that even if it were found that wheat could be successfully exported in bulk through a long voyage iri the tropics it would be found that from 15 to 20 per cent, of wheat in bags would have to be shipped with the bulk for stiffening purposes. Now I am further informed that most of the steamers, so far, trading to Australia will be unable to take more than half of their cargo in .bulk, unless they are altered.
– They would not do> so from choice, because wheat is not a payable cargo as against other cargoes which might be obtained.
– That is not the point I wish to stress. I am making these remarks primarily for the information of the Western Australian farmers, but it must be remembered that I, and my colleagues from New South Wales, seeing that that State pays nearly one-half of the taxation of the Commonwealth, have just as much at stake, so far as the money involved in this scheme is concerned, as have the Western Australian farmers.
– I think that we have heard that before.
– But not in that form. I assure honorable, senators that I make these .remarks in no spirit of antagonism to the Western Australian farmers or to their very fine scheme of co-operation, but in order, so far as I possibly can, to prevent a mistake being made. I was assured only last week, on the very highest authority in connexion with the development of bulk handling of wheat in New South Wales, that the authorities there are very dubious as to whether the scheme there, when in operation will prove to be as successful as the bag system of handling wheat. The Kew South Wales Government are raising, locally, £1,000,000 for the completion of the bulk-handling scheme. They intend to complete the scheme, and yet the authorities concerned are very dubious as to whether any economy will be achieved, not only by the expenditure already made of £1,250,000 of Commonwealth money, but by the additional expenditure of £1,000,000 which has been borrowed locally by the State Government of New South Wales for the completion of the system.
I do not wish to repeat what I have said, but merely to put the fact before the Senate for the information of honorable senators, and, I hope, for the information also of the farmers of Western Australia. I should like to say that all the latest information on the subject confirms the views that have been expressed in this Chamber with regard to the unsatisfactory character of the wheat silo bins that have been erected in New South Wales under the supervision of experts. A considerable amount of money will have to be spent upon them, and it is very doubtful, indeed, whether any bulk wheat will be placed in those silo bins during the coming season, because to some extent of the faultiness of their construction, and because of dampness due to cracks which have appeared in them.
I believe that we should do the best we possibly .can for the primary producers, and I do not desire that .the Western Australian farmers should fall in because of wrong advice. .
– Surely the honorable senator will give them credit far being wise enough to know their own business
– I do not know. There are so many log rollers concerned with the expenditure of money in this community that I am not quite sure that they cannot hoodwink even, the Western Australian farmers. I think that the principle of the Bill is good. I hope that those in control of this Western Australian Farmers’ Co-operative Company will see what developments are going to take place in Kew South Wales, their success and their cost, before they put any of their hard earned and much wanted money into this scheme.
– That is just the attitude of the Victorian Government as expressed in Premier Lawson’s policy speech.
– In answer to the remarks of Senator Pratten, I shall endeavour to be brief. For the information of the Senate, however, I desire to say that some have claimed that it has not yet been demonstrated that wheat can be successfully shipped in bulk from south of the Equator, and that there would be entailed great risk of deterioration in transit. In this connexion it is interesting to note that in 1910 60 per cent, of the Argentine crop was shipped in bulk. It is averred that the class of shipping which carries the Argentine wheat could take the Australian export with the same certainty and security. Two important instances of the shipment of wheat in bulk frog: Australia about nineteen years ago are on record, the vessels concerned being the White Star liners Persic and Suevic. The first shipment was made in the Suevic. by Messrs McArthur and Comply, grain merchants, Sydney, who shipped about 600 tons in bulk and 600 tons in bags for the purpose of comparison. The report on the wheat on arrival indicated that the condition of the parcel shipped in bulk was excellent, the” same being sound, cool, and generally in excellent condition. It is interesting to note also that the bulk wheat was shipped at a cheaper rate than the bagged wheat. The shipment by the Persic was one of 1,023 tons in bulk and 1,549 tons in bags. Freight and insurance rates on both parcels were the same. The Harbor authorities at Liverpool reported oh the shipment as follows : -
The bulk grain ex the Persic is now all on the quay, and I am glad to report is in splendid condition. It is cool, dry, and clean, and it is quite equal in every respect to that carried in bags. In the opinion of several connected with the grain trade, this experiment must be considered a complete success, as the condition could not be improved upon.
It is also reported that the price received for bulk wheat was easily on a par with that obtained for the bagged wheat. In 1908 a New South Wales miller offered - according to evidence given before the South Australian Commission, 1908 - to supply wheat for a further experimental bulk shipment, but the Corn Trade Sectional Trade Committee of the New South Wales Chamber of Commerce reported to the Government that the experiment was unnecessary, as the satisfactory carriage of wheat in bulk had been demonstrated. I admit that the experiments were conducted some time ago, but I have said sufficient to prove that wheat can be carried satisfactorily in bulk. I do not wish to blame Senator Pratten, but I am merely directing his attention to the facts, and showing that a mistake has been made.
– I did not go back twenty years.
– Perhaps not, but it is necesary to do so in order to arrive at the true position. The official records give full information, and I desire to exonerate the honorable senator from endeavouring to misrepresent the position. I must, however, persist in adhering to the stand whichI previously took. I am glad to know that it is not the intention of honorable senators to take further action in this matter, and that they are prepared to allow the Bill to pass the third-reading stage.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a third time.
– I move -
That the Bill “be now rend a second time.
The basic principle of this measure is that certain remissions shall be made in connexion with the imposition of taxation on certain tickets issued in connexion with entertainments. For a considerable time there has been a good deal of opposition to taxation on the lower-priced tickets, and, I believe, both political parties, including the members of the Government, have agreed that the Act should be amended. In general terms we have decided that there shall be taxa-. tion only on tickets exceeding 3s. in value issued in- connexion with cinematograph and theatrical entertainments, and concerts or entertainments for the purpose of raising funds for musical societies, associations, or bodies not carried on for the profit of the individual members thereof. On all other entertainments the rate of tax on 6d. tickets will be½d., on tickets exceeding 6d., but not exceeding ls., the tax will be1d., and on tickets exceeding ls. the tax will be1d. for the first ls. of the payment and½d. for every 6d. or part of 6d. by which the payment exceeds ls. Prior to the war we regarded an entertainments tax as one bhat was really outside the scope of a National Parliament, although it was one that might be considered by the State authorities.
– Why should picture shows be exempt and not sports, such as football ?
– That is for the Senate to decide. I am sure that the Government would be only too glad to remit all entertainments taxes ; . but under the present financial conditions it is impracticable. I hope, however, that the day is not far distant when it will be possible for the Government to dispense with this form of taxation, as it does not appear to be one with which a National Parliament should deal. During the war period there was considerable agitation in favour of reducing or dispensing altogether with the tax on the lower-priced tickets, as it was claimed that it affected particularly the poor in our community. It must be remembered in considering the proposals embodied in the Bill that a charge will not be made on the lower-priced ticketsand that only those who purchase tickets for the circle or stalls will be compelled to contribute to the revenue in this way.
– At one time the Minister for Defence (Senator Pearce) ridiculed taxation of this nature.
– But it must be remembered that conditions have altered considerably during recent years. Personally, I am not in favour of imposing taxation of this character, ‘because I believe that many of our entertainments not only amuse, but enlighten, our people, and have been the means of making Australia what it is to-day.
– You are remitting a portion of the entertainments’ tax and increasing the income tax.
– Why should we not? 1 thank God that I am compelled to pay an income tax, because I can remember the time when owing to my clr.cumstances I did not have to do so. When we realize that our liabilities and responsibilities are becoming greater, it is only right that those who are in a position should contribute to the revenue in the form of income tax.
– Why not use some of this money to deflate the note issue’?
– I am not prepared to submit that there is any necessity to do that. If the honorable senator will only realize that our trade has expanded considerably during recent years, and that the number of notes in circulation is less to-day than it was in 1914, he must admit that there is no necessity to do as he suggests. The number of notes in circulation to-day is no greater than it was in 1914, so there is no need to deflate the note issue as suggested. Some time ago it was intended to issue 5s. notes, not because we wanted to raise additional money, but because there was not sufficient silver in circulation, and silver coins were beingmelted down to enable the metal to be placed on the markets of the world.
The Government are bound by the promise they made during the general election to amend the Entertainments Tax Act in this direction, and I am prepared to say quite candidly that is is our desire to dispense with this form of taxation at the earliest opportunity. We cannot, however, afford to do so at present, so we are dispensing with the tax on the lower-priced tickets and hope that we shall be able to remove the tax on the other tickets, perhaps next year.
.- If the Vice-President of the Executive Council (Senator Russell) could demonstrate to the Senate that the nation had now reached that position of financial equilibrium that no further taxation was necessary I would assist him in dispensing with this method of raising revenue. But while the Minister, as the representative of the Government, is asking the Senate to agree to place a further impost upon tobacco, which is certainly a necessity to a very large number of persons in the community, and also to increase the income tax, I cannot support him. It is also proposed that single persons, which,
I remind honorable senators, includes a large number of women receiving £100 per year, shall pay £1 per annum in direct taxation. While the exigencies of the situation may demand this, I should like to know why we should take the first opportunity to lay aside £700,000 which is collected from persons indulging in amusement.
– It was £500,000, and it is now estimated that it will be £300,000, so that there is only a difference of £200,000. .
– I have not the Budget speech before me, but I think the Minister will find that the Treasurer (Sir Joseph Cook) expects to lose by these remissions of taxation revenue to the extent of £700,000.
– That cannot be so, as the total taxation received from this source last year was £55S,000.
– If it is only £300,000, 1 think it is a source from which revenue, under present circumstances, might fairly be obtained. According to a paragraph which appeared in the Argus, the attendances at places of amusement in the city of Melbourne during Show week were enormous. The figures are - Theatres, 50,000; pictures, 200,000; concerts, 5,000; dances, 10,000; and miscellaneous entertainments, 23,000, making a total attendance at all entertainments during the period mentioned of 288,000. The Minister, pf course, will argue that this remission of taxation will benefit only the poorer section of the community. If we impose upon many of these picture shows such a tax as will prevent children from attending them, we shall be bestowing a benefit upon the rising generation. Let honorable senators observe the position upon any fine afternoon on which matinee performances are given at our picture shows. Let them go into the beautiful Fitzroy Gardens, or the Botanic Gardens, or any other open-air places of recreation, and note how many children are to be seen playing in the sunshine. They will find that there are very few indeed. But let them visit the picture shows, and there they will see hundreds of children crowded together in the most unhealthy surroundings. And when the children go there, what do they learn?
– They learn how America won the war.
– The majority of the picture shows which I have attended have screened either a silly love affair or. a cowboy escapade.
– That is. not the fault of the picture-show proprietors.
– I suppose that they cater for the tastes of their patrons.
– The more doubtful a picture, the bigger is the crowd.
– Unfortunately, that is one of the traits of human nature. If there is something to be seen at a picture show which people ought not to see, they will certainly see it.’ If parents studied the welfare of their offspring, instead of allowing them to visit picture shows upon Saturday afternoons, they would give them the wherewithal to purchase a bat and ball, and send them with- a hamper of sandwiches into the open air. I desire to see all the maudlin sentiment which has been expressed in connexion with children eliminated from the consideration of this subject. If there is one way in which it is fair to obtain extraordinary revenue, it is from those who patronize entertainments. Of course, if an entertainment is of an educational character the position is entirely different..
– But we are now dealing with the class of entertainment that we get.
– Exactly! We are asked to exempt from the small, impost which has hitherto been levied upon them tickets of admission to picture shows which cost from ls. 6’d. to 2s. 6d. each. I shall vote against the Bill. At a time like the present we ought not to be too anxious to relieve anybody from taxation, seeing that, we are compelled by the exigencies of the situation to levy additional taxation upon some persons who are less able to bear it than axe the patrons of picture shows.
– Like Senator Earle,, I intend to vote against the Bill. I cannot understand the attitude which has been adopted by the Government during the past three or four years in respect of the entertainments tax. I have a very vivid recollection of opposing, some two years ago, a Governmnent proposal to levy a tax of ½d. upon children’s 3d. tickets of admission to picture shows- and of supporting the Government in their desire to tax the 6d. and ls. tickets of adults. . I considered that the tax then, proposed was a very fair one, and I remember that a large, quantity of eloquence was expended by the Government, both here and elsewhere, in support of it. We are now faced with, perhaps, the most acute financial time that has been experienced in the history of the Commonwealth, because we are now endeavouring, in a small and modest way, to solve the problem of how to pay our debts. Yet at this time the Government come down not merely with proposals involving additional taxation, but with a proposal to remit taxation by practically abolishing the . tax which has hitherto been imposed upon the patrons of picture shows. With the latter I do not agree.- In my own State there is a very strong current of opinion amongst many organizations that picture shows are not unmitigated blessings i-n the development of character amongst young Australians. A good deal of criticism, is also passed upon the Commonwealth censorship, especially in regard to American films. There is’ a censorship, in Melbourne which, I understand., is headed by Dr. Strong, and there are two censors in Sydney who are paid by piecework. In other words, the more pictures they pass the more money they get.
I am very sorry to learn that the modern development of cinematograph pictures is practically in the grip here of an American Combine. I regret that the importations into Australia of better picture films are not larger. Prom time to time I read in various publications that the development of educational pictures in England and France is proceeding apace. But here, we see none of that class of pictures. Nearly the whole of the film importations into Australia come- from America) and, as Senator Earle has remarked, they consist either of cowboy thrills or sickly love stories. As a matter of principle the whole thing is wrong. I do not think that we ought to remit taxes of this character. During the last Parliament we reduced the, duty which was previously levied upon imported cinematograph films, thereby making it more difficult to build up the industry in Australia. I cannot understand why picture-show proprietors - seeing that they have doubled their prices for admission during the past four or five years - should be granted special favours by the Commonwealth. In another place something was said of the educational character of the modern picture show. It was urged that the tax upon picture show tickets should be abolished, because these entertainments were educating the young people of Australia. I hold quite the contrary view. I believe that they are having a very bad moral effect upon the character of the community.
Knowing that this Bill would shortly come .before the Senate, I took the trouble, last week, to walk down Bourkestreet, and to jot down the various attractions in the form of picture shows which were advertised there upon one day. The first show to which I came starred a picture entitled “ The Young Mrs. Winthrope”; at the next, the piece de resistance was entitled “ The Woman in Room 13.”
– Did the honorable senator see these shows ?
– No, I merely looked at the placards relating to them. The next show advertised was “ Twilight,” the next was “ The Tong Man,” and the next “ The Eyes of Julia Deep.” Then I came to a show which has been very prominently advertised, and which stars Georges Carpentier, in “ The Wonder Man,”’ which is practically a pugilistic show. Another picture which was placarded in large letters, and which exhibited a man and woman in bathing costumes, was entitled “ Leave it to Me.” The next show was specialized as “ What Every Woman Wants,” and the last one that I saw when’ coming up from the train to-day was Constance Talmadge in “ The Virtuous Vamp- The Exploits of Cleopatra and Delilah outdone.’’ These are the so-called educational shows in respect of which we are asked to abolish taxation, thereby sacrificing a revenue of £250,000 annually. I think that the Treasurer can make a better use of that money than is proposed in this Bill. He may, for example, give it away through the Income Tax Department by granting a higher exemption in the case of children under sixteen years of age, thereby encouraging the family man,. who is to-day faced with so much trouble to make ends meet. The Government propose to increase the income tax by 5 per cent., and simultaneously they ask us to pass legislation of this character.
I shall vote against the Bill because* I conceive it to be entirely unnecessary. The picture-show proprietors have doubled their rates of admission during the past four or five years. Some of them have increased those -rates from 3d. to 6d., from 6d. to 9d., from 9d. to ls., and even from ls. to ls. 6d.
– They are still building theatres, too.
– Yes, and the industry is in a very flourishing condition. Of course, I remember the time when there might have been some justification for remitting taxation of this kind. I can recollect a period when the picture shows in Sydney had a great struggle to live, and when children could gain admission to them by bringing along an empty bottle. But that time has long since passed. To-day the industry is in a flourishing condition, and it is not common sense to ask us to abolish a tax which is yielding so much revenue. In voting against the Bill I quite recognise that we shall be providing the Treasurer with an additional sum of £250,000 annually, and I believe that if we could constitutionally do it, a proposal to allocate this money to the relief of the harassed income taxpayer with a family under sixteen dependent upon him would meet with a good deal of sympathy in this Chamber.
There are other points in connexion with the Bill that the Minister did not make quite clear. I am not quite sure whether cricket matches will be taxed.
– Yes, and football matches.
– Cricket and football matches, and all sorts of other outside entertainments will be taxed, as will a 6d. or ls. lecture, irrespective of whether it is educational or not. We are asked to differentiate in favour of a class of entertainment that is doing no good to the community. I am going to voice here the views expressed by some of the political and all the social organizations of New South Wales regarding the cinematograph position to-day. I have read out a list of things from one theatre and another, not one of which could be called educational in any shape or form. ‘ I think they are deteriorating to the character of the community. I hope that in the not-distant future the Government will see that a much more stringent and severe censorship is established in connexion with the importation of picture films. They are creating a desire for thrill at all costs among our young community. They are lowering the character, if not the morals, of the children, and many pictures are exhibited, 60 I have heard, that are not suitable for young children to see. I shall vote against the Bill for the reasons I have stated, and because it is quite unfair to differentiate here in favour of the picture shows and against’ the open-air entertainments, which we should do everything to encourage.
Question - that the Bill be now read a second time - put.
Honorable senators having taken sides for a division.
– Seeing that the numbers are so much against the Bill, I beg leave to withdraw the call for a division.
– Is it the pleasure of the Senate that the Minister have leave to withdraw the call for a division?
Honorable Senators. - Hear, hear !
– There being no dissent, the call for a division is withdrawn.
Question so resolved in the negative.
– I move -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
Do as we would, with the programme as submitted and generally approved by honorable senators, we still found ourselves a good deal short of the necessary revenue, and decided to increase the income tax by 5 per cent, for the purpose of meeting the shortage.
– Then all that it really means is an increase of 5 per cent. ?
– That is all. No other principle is involved in the Bill. The income tax is about the fairest and most reasonable form of taxation, because a man earns the money before he has to pay it, and there is not the same likelihood of creating difficulties as in the case of many other taxes. In 1915 the system of calculation, based on the curve, was introduced. Nobody seems, to have a clear grip of this; but a book ou the subject has been issued which seems to read very well. Owing to the difficulty of altering the curve, we have adopted the method of making a little plus or addition each time and leaving the basis untouched, although we hope some day to be able to alter it.
– What is wrong with applying a little minus?
– I tried it once, when introducing the Income Tax Bill in 1915, and I shall not readily forget the difficulty I found myself in with the curve when attempting to explain it at this table. In 1916, the rates were increased by 25 per cent., and in 1918 by 30 per cent. ; but as that 30 per cent, operated on the whole of the previously increased rates, it made a total increase of 62£ per cent. The present proposal to increase the rates by 5 per cent, operates also on the whole of the previous increases, bringing the total increase on the 1915 rates up to 70§ per cent. All those who heard or read the Budget know that the extra money is absolutely necessary, and, judging by recent debates in this Chamber, honorable senators seem to be determined that the Government shall not have less money than they originally said they required. The Senate gave us a little more money by amending the Post and Telegraph Rates Bill, and have just given us an additional sum by refusing to remit any of the’ entertainments taxation. If honorable senators will now pass this Bill we shall have a complete and happy year from the financial point of view. The present tax on prizes in lotteries is 13 per cent. It was found that an addition of 5 per cent, of 13 per cent, would bring it out at an awkward fraction, and it is therefore proposed, for the sake of simplicity - as no great principle is involved - to make the tax on lotteries 14 per cent. No increase has been made in the minimum amount of XI payable by single persons without dependants. No increase was made in that amount in 1918, when the general tax rates were increased by 30 per cent.
– Does the tax on single persons apply to women as well as men?
– Yes. It applies to persons, irrespective of sex, according to the wages they receive.
– I do not rise to oppose the increase of the income tax, because it is, unfortunately, necessary for the Government to have the money; but it is well to point but that the addition of 5 per cent, makes the top rate for Commonwealth income taxation 8s. 6d. in the £1. If one has investments in Queensland, where the top rate is 3s. in the £1, actually lis. 6d. out of every £1 is taken. That has to be found in cash. If one is a pastoralist and some of his property is in the shape of lambs and calves, one finds it very hard in many cases to accumulate the cash without going to his banker for assistance. We are now getting absolutely to the limit of taxation, because there is not much left when lis. 6d. goes in direct taxation, apart altogether from the! land tax, out of every £1 that one makes in profit, much of which is only assumed profit, and not real. It, therefore, behoves us to take a very serious view of our financial situation. The idea always is to pass on the extra expenditure to those best able to bear it - who are, of course, those with’ the higher incomes - but these people are becoming rapidly exhausted. I know of one man who last year submitted a statement of his accounts to the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Watt), the then Treasurer, showing that 72 per cent, of his supposed income - because it was not all really income - went in taxation, State and Federal. I want to impress on honorable senators the fact that we are actually getting to the limit of these people’s capacity. Therefore, every step we’ can possibly take to reduce expenditure ought to be taken. I must say that the Government are moving in that direction. They have been wise in appointing a Royal Commission to look into the question of how these matters can be more economically dealt with. I hope the Commission will get to work soon.
We should have from the Government a statement, which would be most valuable to the community, showing what further expenditure is required. We were all glad to see the last Peace loan go off so well, but we have already promised the Western Australian Farmers Co-operative Society £500,000, and a Bill for a loan of £4,000,000 for public works also went through the other day. I asked the Minister at the time whether that money was to come out of the last Peace loan, and he said it was not. That means that there will have to be a fresh loan to that extent for public works, including the Federal Capital at Canberra. On present appearances ,the Government will not get that money at 6 per cent, voluntarily. Unfortunately, the last loan is now at a discount, and any one who put money into it is losing at least £3 10s: in every £100. I should like a statement from the Government as to their further commitments. We hope that the £500,000 for Western Australia will be reproductive, and, personally, I have great confidence that it will pay for itself.
– All the facts you ask for are in the Budget-papers.
– All contemplated expenditure? I did not see any such statement.
– Yes, all expenditure that we are committed to in the future for repatriation and other matters.
– Does it include the £500,000 to the co-operative society of farmers in Western Australia?
– I am glad we can obtain that information. I must look it up in the Budget-papers. We certainly ought to know what our extreme commitments are. I am glad the Minister agrees that that is absolutely necessary, so that we may know what our interest bill will be. It is over £20,000,000 a year now, and is always increasing. We ought to put a limit to it, even for reproductive works. We know that money is getting dearer in England. The Imperial Government, with a large number of Treasury-bills maturing, contemplate putting up the discount rate, which means that the overdraft rate with the Bank of England will be 9 per cent. The financial position of Australia is one that certainly requires the greatest possible thought, and we must face the position earnestly.
Another matter for grave concern is the position of the wool market. It is doubtful whether a great many of our growers will be able to sell their wool at all. I think we shall have to follow in the steps of the Argentine Republic and South Africa by giving credit, and thus bringing in more buying power. A
French wool-buyer operating in the London market prior to the war paid 25 francs for one pound’s worth! of wool, whereas now he has to pay 52 francs, so that the cost of wool to him has been actually doubled. As a result of this curtailment of buying power there are now no Continental buyers of wool except for the very top lots. If our wool brings in only £20,000,000 instead of £40,000,000, there will he an enormous shrinkage in income tax revenue. There is also the demand by the wheat-farmers for the full guaranteed amount of 5s. per bushel, delivered at railway stations; and I say that there is not the money in the country to pay thi3 guarantee. It cannot be done. To attempt to do so would wreck the community. Of course, we all want to help the farmers, but I am perfectly certain that, at the present time, there is not the money in the country to pay the full amount of the guarantee. The .banks are being heavily drawn upon by importers, who have purchased enormous stocks at high prices, and the banks also still have a great deal of old loan money on their hands.
– But we shall not have to pay that money until late this year, or early next year; and it is possible, in the meantime, that we shall have effected big sales1 and have enormous assets.
– That, of course, would be a great help. We expect to have a very heavy wheat crop, representing probably £40,000,000 or £50,000,000 ; and if the Government were expected to find one-half of that amount, for wheat delivered at railway stations, they would not be able to do it. I do not want to oppose this Bill, because I realize that the Government must have the money, but I urge again that we should face our financial position squarely.
– I do not want to embarrass the Government by curtailing their income, but I agree with Senator Fairbairn that, in the matter of levying upon incomes, the limit has been about reached. If I saw some indication of the Government giving effect to their policy of economy, I should have less hesitation in voting for a measure of this sort, but I have looked in vain, through the Budget, for evidence of economy. Indeed, when one finds items representing £150,000 or £170,000 for carrying out certain works at Canberra, one is almost inclined to despair. If we are to have an extension of our manufacturing industries, we must provide the funds, and we can only get this money by savings from income. This income tax, I put it, is a penalty on thrift and hard work. I agree with Senator Fairbairn that the Government should take stock of the financial situation, and endeavour to cut down expenditure to the utmost limit. I suggest,- now ‘that the Government can look to the entertainments tax for additional revenue^ that, as a set-off, they should be able to provide a higher exemption under the Income Tax Act. The Minister might adjourn the debate on this measure with a view to framing an amendment in that direction.
– I would like the honorable senator to show how we are going to get the money. There is nothing else for us to do if we are going to meet our liabilities.
– And I am pointing out to the Minister that a sum, roughly estimated at £300,000, will now be available to the Government from the entertainments tax. With this additional income, could they not provide for a higher exemption under the Income Tax Act?
– What about increasing the allowance for children under the age of sixteen years? That is the way to do it.
– Senator Duncan has made a valuable suggestion, that there should be a higher exemption in the case of children.
– Of course, we are all agreed on that point, but if we do this, where are we going to get the money we need?
– The honorable senator wants some of that £270,000 which we have given you by rejecting the proposed remission in the Entertainments Tax Bill.
– Yes, and I understand’ that there is another £12,000 which we have given the Government by raising the telegraph rates Id. for the first sixteen words.
– In that case there is £300,000 additional revenue for the Government.
– I think the Minister should have no difficulty in finding the amount necessary to provide for a further exemption in the Income Tax Act. I hope he will give heed to the suggestion.
– I agree with the Government as to the necessity for providing sufficient revenue to carry on all Government activities, and I realize, as I am sure every other honorable senator does, that the Government are faced with huge commitments thrust upon them by the circumstances of our time and over which they have had practically no control. The facts are there, and they have to face them. That being so, it is necessary that the revenue should be augmented in some way or other so that they may be able to meet their outgoings. They propose now to increase the income tax. I agree with Senator Fairbairn that an income tax is probably one of the fairest forms of taxation it i$ possible for any Parliament to impose. This truism is recognised by political economists from one end of the world to the other. It is generally conceded that an income tax, as a tax, answers all the requirements that any form of taxation should answer, and that being so I agree that, as the Government must get more revenue, an additional rate on the income tax is a fair way out of their difficulty. But in connexion with this matter there are one or two other considerations that are worthy of mention. One, the urgent necessity for increasing the allowance made in respect of children, has already been referred to. The present exemption was made in 1915, when the cost of living was a very small affair compared with the cost of living to-day. If at that time it was thought to be fair to allow 10s. per week for each child under the age of sixteen years in a family, it is fair now to largely increase the exemption rate. The Minister (Senator Russell) has urged that the Government must have additional money, and that if the suggestion be adopted the Treasury will lose a large amount of revenue. That may be’’ so, but it has been pointed out already that we have given the Treasurer a sum, approximating £300,000, which he did not expect, and I cannot conceive of any better way to assist the community than by increasing the allowance for children under the Income Tax Act. We propose in the near future to expend a fairly large amount upon immigration. We recognise that what this country wants more than anything else is additional population, and, therefore, it is the duty of this Government, as it should be the duty of any Government in Australia, to do everything possible to assist in peopling the uninhabited areas of this great country. Here, then, is a means of helping in that direction. The arguments advanced in 1915 ‘in favour of making an allowance of £26 per year under the Income Tax Act hold good to-day, and in proportion as the cost of living has. increased, so also should the allowance be increased. The exemption, in my opinion^ should be at least £52 per year. After all, this is not very much to ask. It is fair that every parent should have an adequate exemption .according to the number of children dependent upon him. To-day, under circumstances as we know them, the rearing of a large family is a serious obligation for any man to undertake, and especially is it serious in the case of working men and others on comparatively small incomes. I know from personal experience what it costs to rear small children. I have three little chaps at home, and I know that the exemption of £26 per year is not an adequate recompense for the amount which I have to pay, so that each child may be fed and clothed properly and have a fair chance in life. I feel certain that it is not the desire of the Government to penalize parents, because of the fact that they are parents. Nevertheless, the failure of the Government to realize the position of parents does, in effect, penalize them, because the allowance of £26 a year is not sufficient. I hope that when this Bill is going through Committee some steps will be taken to increase the allowance in accordance with the greatly increased cost of living. I have said that I am not opposed to the Bill generally. I realize the obligations which the Government have to meet, and that this is perhaps the fairest farm of taxation. Honorable senators have already shown on two ether occasions that they are willing te give the Government money to carry on the affairs of the country, and I am sure that they will be prepared to pass this measure. I hope that it will be carried, but I trust also that iu Committee we shall be able to induce the Government to accept an amendment in the direction I have indicated. The present high cost of living presses very heavily, not only upon working people, but perhaps particularly upon the middle class, who will be subject to considerable taxation under this Bill. These are the people whom we wish to assist, if possible; and I hope that honorable senators, by agreeing to the amendment I intend to propose in Committee, will be able to give them some encouragement to go on with the good work foT Australia that they are doing in rearing the next generation without being penalized by the Government for so doing.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 to 3 agreed to.
Clause 4 -
Notwithstanding anything contained in the last three sub-sections the tax payable by any person who -
.- I wish to ask the Vice-President of the Executive Council (Senator Russell) whether he will agree to a request for the insertion of the words “ and fifty “ after the word “ hundred “ in paragraphb of sub-clause 4 of this clause. My intention is to increase the minimum amount upon which the flat rate of £1 income tax is charged from £100 as at present, and as provided in this Bill, to £150. I remind honorable senators that this provision includes unmarried women, many of whom are receiving a couple of pounds per week, and who, because of the present high cost of living, must find it very hard to make both ends meet. I feel safe in saying that women who have to board away from home will find considerable difficulty in securing suitable accommodation for anything less than 30s. per week. That is a very moderate charge at the present time for the accommodation provided by a second-class boardinghouse. Young women so placed are left with only 10s. per week to clothe themselves, and they are called upon at the end of the financial year to pay the tax collector £1.
– To what class of women does the honorable senator refer ?
– To clerical workers and workers in factories.
– There can not be many earning £2 per week.
– While the Clothing Factory was in operation I had it at first hand from the manager of the factory that out of six hundred women employed there, very few were receiving less than £2 per week. These women were all on piece-work, and the ringer of the factory earned over £4 per week. I think that 28s. was the minimum amount that a woman was expected to earn, but none of these women applied for merely the minimum amount of work. There are some young men receiving £100 per year, and I should not object to calling Upon them to contribute £1 per year towards the upkeep of the State. The clause, however, calls upon all unmarried persons without dependants to contribute £1 in income tax, if their income is not less than £100 per year. Perhaps the Minister will say whether he is prepared, on behalf of the Government, to increase the minimum amount upon which this flat rate may be demanded to £150.
– I mentioned, in moving the second reading of the Bill, that it must not be assumed for a moment that members of the Government take a personal delight in imposing taxation.
– We know that.
– It is imposed because we must meet our financial liabilities. I have several times emphasized the fact that money is absolutely necessary to enable the Government to carry on, and whilst there are many things which, individually, members of the Go- vernment would like to do, they are unable to consider them this year because of the financial situation. If such a request as Senator Earle has indicated were made at a more opportune time, perhaps next year, it would possibly receive favorable consideration. I am not prepared to say that, in the Budget, provision has not been made for generous expenditure on public works, because they have been neglected for a number of years, but it is still a fact that we have endeavoured to reduce expenditure to the minimum. In the circumstances, I do not see how such requests as have been suggested can be agreed to, unless honorable senators are prepared to suggest some other means by which we can make up the revenue which must be lost if those requests are adopted.
– What would be the loss of revenue involved in the adoption of my request?
– I do not know. I am having it worked out, and probably before the Bill is finally dealt with I shall be in a position to give the honorable senator exact information on the point. I did not anticipate that honorable senators would . be anxious to reduce this taxation. I hope, in the circumstances, that the Committee will permit the clause to pass in its present form.
.- I thought that the Minister was going to say that he would report progress.
– I was only waiting to be asked.
– Then I now ask the honorable senator to report progress in order that we may be in a position tomorrow to decide whether the request I have suggested is practicable. I have no desire to propose anything impracticable, and if the Government can show that, in view of the present financial situation, it is impracticable to adopt my suggestion, or that made by Senator Duncan, to increase the exemption for children, I feel sure that Senator Duncan and I will abstain from pressing our requests.
– We should know the loss of revenue involved in their adoption,
– Quite so. I do not think that the loss of revenue involved in the adoption of my request would be appreciable. The loss of £1 per year from each person receiving between £100 and £150 per year should not greatly affect the total revenue from income taxation. The loss of revenue should be more than made good by the taxation to which the Senate has agreed under the Post and Telegraph Rates Bill and the entertainments tax.
– The estimated loss of revenue upon the adoption of the honorable senator’s request is £65,000.
– If the Minister is prepared to have this question decided at once I move -
That the House of Representatives be requested to amend the clause by inserting after the word “ hundred,” first occurring in paragraph (I) of sub-clause 4, the words “and fifty.”
Senate adjourned at 5.20 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 6 October 1920, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1920/19201006_senate_8_93/>.