10th Parliament · 1st Session
The President (Senator the Hon. Sir John Newlands) took the chair at 11 a.m., and read prayers.
I have now received the following information from the Minister for Home and Territories: -
I have now been advised by the Minister for Home and Territories as follows: -
The following paper was presented: -
Science and Industry Research Act - First Annual Report of the Council for Scientific and industrial Research, for period 13th April, 1926, to 30th June, 1927.
Ordered to be printed.
Motion (by Senator Sir George Pearce) proposed -
That the report of the Industrial Delegation to the United States of America, laid on the table of the Senate on 8th December, 1927 (in substitution for the report tabled on the3rd November, 1927), be printed.
SenatorFINDLEY (Victoria) [11.4]. - I should like to know the reason for this action on the part of the Government. Already we have one report from the Industrial Delegation to the United States.
– A matter such as this should be referred to the Printing Committee.
– It is usual, when laying reports of this kind on the table, to move that they be printed.
– But it is possible that the whole of the report will have to be set up again and the country be put to unnecessary expense, because apparently sufficient carehas not been taken in the compilation of the report.
– No; I am informed that the report is still in type.
– If the alterations can be made without involving considerable expense it is a different matter. But whose fault is it that the report laid on the table on 3rd November is inaccurate in certain particulars? On whose shoulders should the blame rest?
– Perhaps the honorable senator would like the Government to appoint a royal commission to inquire.
– It is not at all unusual for this Government to do its work in a slipshod manner. It never seems to finish a job. It has declared again and again that it seeks to do things in a business-like way; but it would appear that members of the Ministry have not been trained in the business world. Certainly it is not business-like to send a report to the Government Printer, have it printed and shortly afterwards be compelled to substitute another because the first is full of mistakes.
– It will cost more to print the honorable senator’s speech than to make the alterations in the report.
– If that is so, then I take it that the Government will be more business-like in future.
Senatorfoll. - The report is a report, not of the Government, but of the industrial delegation.
– By whom was the mission appointed?
– By the trades hall partly.
– Did the trades hall authorities bear any of the expenses incurred by the mission ? We know they did not.
– Not on your life!
– The industrial mission was appointed by the Government, and therefore the Government was responsible for the whole of the expenditure, including the cost of printing the report which was laid on the table a few weeks ago. Apparently the Government will have to meet the additional expenditure incurred by the printing of the second report.
SenatorReid. - Why the stonewall?
– I know honorable senators opposite are very anxious about a certain garden party this afternoon.
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir John Newlands). - Order! I must ask the honorable senator to confine his remarks to the motion for the printing of the report.
– I always respect your ruling, Mr. President. On this occasion I digressed because of the unseemly remarks of honorable senators supporting the Government. I have no objection to the printing of this second report. It is not at all unusual for this Government to come to hasty conclusions and then find it necessary to correct its mistakes. I hope that the second printing of this report will mean finality. If the Leader of the Senate can give me an assurance on that point, I shall no longer occupy the time of the Senate.
– I did not hear the remarks of the Minister when he submitted the motion for theprinting of this report, but I understand, from what SenatorFindley has said, that the report laid on the table of the Senate on 3rd November contains certain inaccuracies.
– There is an error in the placing of certain names. The report is still in type so the alterations will not cost much.
– I do not desire to discussthe report now, but it might be as well to give the Senate an opportunity to deal with it. Perhaps the better way would have been for the Leader of the Senate to give notice of motion to have the report printed.
– The honorable senator may not discuss the report itself; he must confine his remarks to the motion for the printing of the report.
– I am not attempting to do that. I contend that the better plan would have been to give notice of this motion. Honorable senators would then have had an opportunity to discuss it.
– How can the report be discussed until it is before the Senate in correct form?
– I presume that the report is already printed and that the alterations will not cost much. I still think it would have been better to give notice instead of springing the motion on the Senate in this way.
– Senator Ogden has attempted on more than one occasion to discuss the report of the industrial delegation to America. The Leader of the Senate (Senator Pearce) has informed us that the report, laid on the table of the Senate on 3rd November last, contains certain errors. He tells us that it is now intended to reprint the document with the necessary alterations. I should like him to make a statement showing in what respect the report is defective and what alterations are proposed.
– I have stated three times that some of the names of the commissioners were inserted in the wrong place. That fact was not discovered until the first pull of the report was received. The matter is still in type, and only those slight alterations will be necessary.
– The corrections will not affect the findings of the commission ?
– In those circumstances I shall not oppose the motion.
.- The differences would appear to be so slight that it ought not to have been necessary to adopt this rather cumbersome process. One would think that the printer could have corrected clerical errors.
– The report having been presented, it could not be altered without the consent of the Senate.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
SenatorREID presented the report of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works, together with minutes of evidence, relating to the proposed erection of postal workshops at Sydenham, New South Wales.
Payments to Directors
asked the Minis ter representing the Treasurer, upon notice -
What was the total amount paid to the directors of the Commonwealth Bank by way of salary, fees, travelling expenses, &c.,for the year 1926-27?
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.This information is not available in the Treasury, but the honorable senator’s question will be brought under the notice of the bank.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Markets and Migration, upon notice -
What was the amount expended by the committee controlling trade publicity in the United Kingdom for the years 1924-25, 1925-26 and 1926-27?
– The information is being obtained, and will be supplied as soon as possible.
Motion (by Senator Sir George Pearce) proposed -
That the bill be now read a third time.
– Yesterday the Leader of the Senate (Senator Pearce), in closing the debate on the motion for the second reading of this bill, endeavoured to counteract arguments that I had adduced respecting certain portions of the measure. I said that there had been a considerable increase in indirect taxation and an appreciable decrease in direct taxation, and I pointed out that the workers, the men with comparatively small incomes, were suffering because of that increase, whilst those who were more generously endowed with this world’s goods had had their hurden lightened. The right honorable gentleman quoted from a bulletin issued by the Bureau of Censors and Statistics, and instanced the large importations of motor vehicles, the duties on which, he contended, had no effect upon the workers. He evidently sought to convey the impression that a motor vehicle is a luxury. He must know that it has progressed far beyond that stage and that in both the primary and secondary industries it is now essential for transport purposes. To enable these vehicles to be run, we must secure supplies of petrol, which is sold at a high figure. The high cost of motor vehicles, for which the customs duty is largely responsible, is a tax on industry and in the last analysis is borne by the workers. Wo honorable senator appreciates to a greater extent than the right honorable gentleman the soundness of my argument, because he is, at heart, just as keen a disciple of Henry George as is my honorable friend Senator Grant. The only difference between them is that we do not hear him expound those views so frequently. The argument that the worker does not suffer as a result of the collection of a large revenue from a duty on motor vehicles will not stand investigation. The right honorable gentlema.n also referred to the improvement in the basic wage, and said that whilst it had risen since 1922 to the extent of something like £18 in the case of a married man with three children, the increase in indirect taxation on a similar basis had been not greater than £7.
– I said that that was the total increase for a family of five.
– I also shall quote from the quarterly Bulletin a set of figures which will prove the truth of my contention. The Leader of the Senate wished us to believe that the improvement in the basic wage had eased the position. I remind him, and Senator Barwell also, that the basic wage has still a long way to go before it will reach the dizzy height to which the cost of living has soared. Indirect taxation increased from £5 17s. 7d. in 1921 to £6 10s. lOd. in 1926, a rise of 13s. 3d. The weighted average nominal weekly rate payable for a full week’s work was in 1921 £4 14s. 6d. for males and £2 8s. 4d. for females; whilst in 1926 it was £4 19s. 4d. for males and £2 lis. 8d. for females ; the increase being 4s. lOd. in the case of males and 3s. 4d. in the case of females. Those figures support the contention that whilst the Government on the one hand has reduced direct taxation, on the other hand it has increased indirect taxation, thus continuing a heavy burden on the major portion of the community and giving relief to the few.
– The time is opportune to again enter an emphatic protest against the persistent, determination of the Government to impose the biggest portion of its taxation on those who are least able to bear it, and to continue to exempt the wealthy and the financially strong. It is quite true, as the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Needham) has just stated, that in the last analysis the tax which is imposed on foreign manufactured motor cars that are imported into Australia falls upon the workers. That is true also with respect to every other tax.
– Why does the honorable senator support it?
– Senator Payne favours the taxation of farmers in proportion to the value of their production and the extent to which their livestock increases. Any spare moment he has he spends in making attacks upon the industrial workers. The whole of the Federal income tax, as well as the customs and excise duties fall in the last analysis upon the workers. The only tax which they escape is the land value tax. At a later stage I shall offer a few comments upon the laxity of the Government in bringing forward such a tax. The taxation of this country is far too high, and the people would welcome a substantial reduction. No doubt at the end of the present financial year the Treasurer will again announce a substantial surplus, leading to further extravagance in various directions. It would seem that the Government is doing all that it can to penalize the enterprising and industrious members of the community by imposing high taxes on their industry. I look forward to the time when we shall have a government in office which will impose taxation which cannot be passed on to the workers.
– I probably should not have risen at this stage had it not been for an astonishing remark made by the Leader of the Government yesterday. No one knows better than does the right honorable gentleman the changes that have taken place in the work-a-day world during recent years. A quarter of a century ago the workers of Australia were not organized as they are to-day. At that time a person who desired to strengthen the forces of unionism had, in his travellings to and fro, to proceed by tram, train, or buggy, or perhaps on horseback. Later, bicycles, and then motor cycles, were employed for the purpose. To-day to a great extent, motor cars have superseded those means of conveyance. The right honorable the Leader of the Senate, when referring to the duty on motor cars yesterday, said that those vehicles were not used by the workers, but were a luxury enjoyed by the more wealthy sections of the community. The right honorable gentleman, since his return from Europe, must have noticed in this city a large number of motor cars, and he must know that they are not all owned by visitors to the Federal Capital Territory. Surely he is aware of the difficulties of transport in the Territory, and that workmen are practically forced to travel by motor car in order to get to and from their work. Consequently, many of them are the owners of motor cars. The same thing is true of other parts of the Commonwealth. Many workmen find it cheaper to purchase a motor car to take them to and from their employment than to pay train or tram or bus fares. One manufacturer of motor cars has produced a vehicle specially adapted to the needs of the workers. It is said - although I think the statement is somewhat exaggerated - that every working man in the United States of America possesses a motor car. That may, or may not, be so, but it is certainly true that in Australia thousands of working men possess their own motor cars. Among them I include our primary producers. They are workers who, in many instances, although not well-to-do, find it necessary to have motor cars to convey them from place to place. Years ago at a country show, one could see large numbers of buggies and other horsedrawn vehicles. To-day very few of them are to be seen ; their place has been taken by motor cars. At every big gathering such as an important football or cricket match, large numbers of motor cars may be seen. They are not the property of a privileged few, but belong to all sections of the community. I hope that the day is not far distant when every working man will be able to own his own motor car.
– They do not need them.
-Theworkers produce the wealth of the world, and make it possible for other sections of the community to enjoy the good things of life. Why should not those who make these things possible share them? I hope to hear no more of the narrow doctrine that the good things of life belong to a privileged few. The workers are entitled to a share of that which they produce. The right honorable gentleman must have known that the statement to which I have referred was not strictly correct. He advised honorable senators on this side to peruse the official statistics. I reply that it is he who should read them again in order to familiarize himself with the changes that have taken place during recent years. He will then probably hesitate before he repeats the statement that motor cars are aluxury enjoyed by a privileged few who can afford to pay the customs duties imposed on them.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a third time.
Debate adjourned from 8th December (vide page 2854), on motion by Senator Sir George Pearce -
That the bill be now read a second time.
Senator NEEDHAM (Western Aus
Senate long in dealing with this measure. It is merely a machinery bill - a necessary corollary of the Income Tax Assessment Bill, with which we have just dealt. Anything that I might say in dealing with this measure would, to a great extent, be a repetition of what I said in connexion with the bill we have just disposed of, and therefore I shall not oppose the second reading.
– I desire to refer to the collection of income tax. My views on this subject may not be popular in certain quarters; they may not even meet with the approval of the majority of honorable senators. There are some who believe that the Commonwealth should abandon the field of direct taxation. I do not hold that view. On the contrary, I believe that the Commonwealth should be the sole collector of income tax. My reason for that view is that, with one collecting authority, taxation would be more equitably distributed over the whole of the Commonwealth. At present, the heavier taxes necessarily imposed by some States place a handicap upon those States. For the year 1924-25 direct taxation - chiefly income and land taxation - was levied by the States at greatly differing rates per head of the population. According to the Commonwealth Year-Book the direct taxation per head in the several States for that year was as follows : - Tasmania, £5 19s.11d.; Queensland, £4 13s. 9d.; South Australia, £4 5s.1d.; New South Wales, £3 12s.;Western Australia, £3 7s. 3d.; and Victoria, £2 18s. 2d. Victoria with a per capita taxation of £2 18s. 2d. has an enormous advantage over Tasmania, where the rate is £5 19s.11d. People in Tasmania, instead of investing their money in their own State, invest it in Victoria, in order to gain the advantage of the lower taxation. That operates to the detriment of Tasmania. The same thing is true to some extent of Queensland. By investing their money in Victoria, these people obtain greater returns, but they benefit Victoria at the expense of their own State. That is the position to-day. It is one we should endeavour to overcome under the Federal system. We believe that all the States should be placed on an absolute equality. The way to accomplish that objective is for the Commonwealth to collect, as far as possible, all direct taxation. Some may think that such a system would tend towards greater centralization of the Federal powers and that the States would be left without any means of collecting additional revenue. Under a system such as I suggest the Commonwealth Government would have to take into consideration the amount of taxation surrendered by the States and give them an equivalent by taking over a larger proportion of the State debts. I cannot recall anyone ever seriously opposing the scheme I am now submitting which, in my opinion, the Commonwealth and State Ministers should consider at their next conference. The crude rates do not accurately convey the burden being; borne by individual taxpayers becausein the more prosperous States the assessments are higher, thus indicating a higher tax paying capacity. According to the figures of the Tasmanian Statistician, who is a Federal officer, the severity of taxation works out as follows: - New South Wales, 77s. ; Victoria, 67s. ; Queensland, 122s.; South Australia, 94s.; Western Australia, 92s.; Tasmania, 129s. per capita. The burden upon individual taxpayers is even greater than the direct taxation rates disclose. Is is much heavier in States such as Western Australia and Tasmania where the average income is much lower. If we could dispense with these inequalities we would be aproaching the ideal embodied in the Federal Constitution. I am looking at this matter from the viewpoint of the Commonwealth and the States rather than that of the taxpayers, because, after all, the Commonwealth and the States have to raise revenue in order to carry out their respective functions. I do not see why there can be any valid objection to my proposal, except from State Governments and State Treasurers, who would be anxious to reserve the right to impose additional income taxation should they desire additional revenue. We are not reaping all the benefits of federation, while taxpayers in Victoria pay, by way of direct taxation, £218s. 2d. per head of the population, and those in Western Australia £3 7s. 3d., whilst Tasmanians have to bear, or had to bear in 1925-26, the burden of £5 19s. lid. per head. Those were the figures, that have since been reduced. Each State should be given an equal opportunity under the Federal union. I submit the proposition as one worthy of the consideration of the Government.
– I do not think that Senator Ogden put the position quite fairly. Of course it is not unusual for a representative of Tasmania to refer to the injustice suffered by that State, which they say is usually caused by the Federal Government, the shipping combine or something else.
– I referred to all the States.
– In placing certain figures before us, Senator Ogden referred only to income ‘taxation, but there are
Other forms of taxation which ought to be taken into account. The direct taxation per head of the population in the different States i3, as Senator Ogden said, as follows:- New South Wales, £3 12s.; Victoria, £2 18s. 2d.; Queensland, £4 13s. 9d.; South Australia, £4 5s. Id.; Western Australia, £3 7s. 3d.; Tasmania, £5 19s. lid., or an average for all the States of £3 13s. 9d. There are, however, other items which should be considered. According to the Common- wealth Year-Booh of 1926, page 367, under the heading of “ Public works and services, land, Commonwealth subsidies and miscellaneous “, Tasmania receives the highest subsidy per head of any of the States.
– We are dealing with income taxation, not subsidies.
– Nevertheless, Tasmania receives more in subsidies from the Commonwealth than any other State. It is about time that the Tasmanian people realized that there is a limit to the patience of the Commonwealth. I should like to convene a meeting of representatives of both branches of this legislature to consider the actual financial position of Tasmania.
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir John Newlands) . - The honorable senator must confine his remarks to the subjectmatter of the bill.
– The total taxation per head in the various States is -
The average is £16 16s. 9d. It will be seen that the total taxation per head in Tasmania is lower than in any of the other States. Tasmanians are receiving more than a fair deal, and I am tired of hearing Senator Payne, Senator J. B. Hayes, Senator Herbert Hays and Senator Ogden continually referring to the poverty of the Island State.
I should like to protest against the almost incomprehensible tax-collecting machinery which the Government is now foisting upon the people. As the New South Wales income taxation is based on an even number of pence per pound, any taxpayer can easily check his assessment. The land tax can also be calculated without much difficulty. Of course the ideal system of taxation is that in operation in the municipalities where taxation is based, not upon incomes; but upon land values. The Commonwealth Government, however, is not satisfied with one formula, but has submitted five. A person receiving a straight-out income in the form of salary or wages is taxed at the rate of 3 3-800d. on the first taxable £1 which increases on each subsequent £1. I do not think one honorable senator takes the trouble to ascertain the accuracy of his assessment. The second schedule provides a basis for assessing the taxpayer who owns property and who is regarded by the Government as an enemy of the country. The first formula provides for a gradual increase. Here it takes a substantial bend backwards for a start, and accelerates the curve as it proceeds. That is the second schedule, but the third schedule is even more disastrous for the man who does useful work. The fourth and fifth give trustees and companies another twist. One would think that it was a serious offence to form companies to engage in production, but it does not appear to me that trustees or others who form companies to engage in legitimate work should be taxed more than other people. They are merely a combination of individuals, and unless they secure a monopoly are liable to competition. Of course, if they secure a monopoly it does not matter very much whether we tax them or not, because, as pointed out by the Leader of the Opposition a few minutes ago, a monopoly would certainly pass on its taxation to its customers. A tobacco or a whisky company has no trouble in passing on its costs to its customers. But I am at a loss to understand why these people should be singled out for invidious treatment, especially when, so far as I can see, they can pass on their taxation to their customers. If we are to continue our income tax, every taxpayer ought to be able to calculate the amount of his tax so long as he knows what his income is.I shall welcome the introduction of a schedule that can be understood by all taxpayers. In the meantime, however, I do not suppose there is the slightest possible chance of altering the bill, and we shall again be faced with these five schedules, which are almost incomprehensible to 99 per cent. of the taxpayers.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
In committee :
Clauses 1 to 3 agreed to.
Clause 4 - (Rates of Income Tax).
.- Taxation and wages are interwoven. A few moments ago Senator Needham said that the effective wage in Australia had been reduced, and as such a statement is likely to lead the workers to believe that they are not so well treated to-day as they were a few years ago, I have taken the trouble to look up the matter in the Commonwealth Year-Book. I find that the workers are very much better off to-day than they were a few years ago. According to the Year-Book the weighted average nominal weekly rate of wage payable to males for a full week’s work has been -
Those figures show a steady and considerable increase over the whole period. But it is the effective wage that counts. The following figures show what has been the effective wage index numbers from 1915 to 1925 :-
Thus we see that the effective wage has steadily risen until to-day it is very much greater than it was in 1915. If we go back so far as 1901 we find that it has increased from 964 in that year to 1,081 in 1925.
– How far is the increased wage behind increases in the cost of living?
– The effective wage takes into consideration the cost of living, and has risen over these years in the manner I have indicated.
– It has still a long way to go.
– Yes, but the figures show that the workers are better off to-day than they were a few years ago in respect of the purchasing power of the wages they receive.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 5 and 6 agreed to.
– Ifail to find in any schedule an indication of where the 10 per cent. reduction in the tax announced by the Government is to be found. Comparing the schedule in the bill with the schedule of the Income Tax Act, 1925, I find no difference between the two.
[12.12].- I admit that it is not very clear, but the alteration is effected in clause 5. In the corresponding provision last year there was an additional tax of 20 per cent. over the rates imposedby the schedule. This year that has been reduced, and it is now an additional tax of only 8 per cent., representing a reduction of 10 per cent. on the total rate imposed last year. That is to say the tax imposed last year represented 120 per cent. on the schedule rate, and, as 10 per cent. on 120 amounts to 12,the imposition for the current year is 108 per cent. of the schedule rate.
Schedules agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported without requests; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
Debate resumed from8th December (vide page 2855), on motion by Senator McLachlan -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.-This bill, taken into consideration with the Land Tax Assessment Bill, represents another attempt of the Government to oppose as a public benefactor or political Santa Claus, by distributing a few more toys in theway of concessions to rich taxpayers. Already we have passed legislation making a gift of something like £1,326,000 to the wealthier sections of the community, and this legislation proposes to relieve rich land-owners of taxation to the extent of approximately £446,000. And this, too, at a time when the financial position of Australia is not at all satisfactory. Even the Government, which has so recklessly squandered public money for many years has, according to statements in the public press, determined to cry a halt in its extravagant methods of finance, This proposal to relieve rich land-owners of taxation to the amount of nearly £450,000 cannot be justified. I have emphasized on many occasions that the net debt of the Commonwealth is increasing, and that, for the last four years, the trade balance has been against Australia to the extent of nearly £64,000,000. Heavy importations which are due directly to reckless borrowing abroad, have been an important factor in the unemployment problem throughout Australia. In most of the States the seasonal prospects are far from bright; and yet the Government, with a full knowledge of all that lies before us, proposes by remission in land taxation, to make a present to people who can well afford to continue their contributions to the revenue. The Government’s proposal will not benefit the smaller land-owners, because the tax does not operate in respect of land the unimproved value of which does not amount to £5,000. In 1910 the Labour Government introduced a land taxation measure which resulted in the breaking up of many large estates. Hundreds of thousands of acres of fertile country which for many years had been in the hands of land monopolists were brought under cultivation and contributed materially to the wealth of this country. I do not suggest that the land tax for which the Labour party was responsible did all that was required of it. There is still need for legislation to compel the owners of large estates to putthem to fuller use.
– The honorable senator’s remarks would be more properly directed to the discussion of the Land Tax Assessment Bill, which measures will be before the Senate shortly, I hope. This bill has to do only with the proposal to reduce the land tax by 10 per cent.
– That is so; but in the remarks that I have made I have been taking into account this and its complementary measure. I shall, however, defer any remarks which I desire to make concerning the land legislation of this Government until the Land Tax Assessment Bill is before the Senate.
Question resolved in the affirmative
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without requests or debate.
Motion (by Senator Sir George Pearce) agreed to -
That the Senate, at its rising, adjourn till Tuesday next at 3 p.m.
Senate adjourned at 12.33 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 9 December 1927, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1927/19271209_senate_10_117/>.