13th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. G. E. Mackay) took the chair at 10 a.m., and read prayers.
– As the receipts from customs and excise for the month of November amounted to approximately £3,000,000 or £691,000 more than was received in the same month last year, thus disclosing an excess of revenue over expenditure of £2,500,000 for the first five months of the present financial year, what action does the Government intend to take to rectify the threatened adverse trade balance?
– As has been pointed out on previous occasions, the matter is being closely watched, and whatever action may be necessary will be taken, and honorable members will be advised.
– As it is reported that in Brazil there is a serious over-production of coffee, will the Minister in charge of the Mandated Territories consider whether further protection to the coffee industry in those territories is not needed?
– My attention has been drawn to the press accounts of the overproduction of coffee in Brazil; but while it may affect the markets of the world, it can have no effect upon the coffee production of Now Guinea and Papua, of which Australia consumes 2,000 tons per annum. Because of the availability of the Australian market, the Government considers that the coffee-growers of the territories are adequately protected in the Australian market.
– As the United Kingdom and Australia Trade Agreement Bill has been passed by both Houses, has the Government issued instructions to the Tariff Board to investigate the whole of the tariff schedule, with the object of having it amended in conformity with articles9 to 13 of the Ottawa agreement?
– No definite instructions have been issued for a review of the tariff schedule, but the Tariff Board is proceeding, so far as possible, with the investigation of the matters referred to. In due course, the complete schedule will have to be reviewed, to meet the requirements of the Ottawa trade agreement.
– When the Jury Exemption Bill was before the House, I undertook to bring before the Parliament a regulation specifying the exemptions from liability to jury service in the Federal Capital Territory. Owing to the severe pressure of business, it has not been possible to have the necessary regulation printed ; but, for the information o£ honorable members, I lay on the table a draft of the proposed regulation, which will be put into operation, possibly with some amendments, as soon as it has been possible to hold a meeting of the Executive Council.
– In view of the fact that European countries are making endeavours to check the disastrous fall in prices that has been common to the world, has the Attorney-General given any further thought to the desirability of consulting with the judges of our Arbitration Court with a view to preventing any further fall in wages.
– Apart from obtaining the views of judges of the Arbitration Court upon any proposed alteration in the procedure of the court, the Government has not consulted with those judges upon any matters. Even in relation to matters of procedure, .the comments of the judges are regarded as confidential, for the information of the Administration, and not for the purpose of discussion in Parliament. I do not propose to inaugurate any system of consulting the judges with a view to influencing their decisions on any matter.
– As the newspapers report that the Persian Government has annulled the leases of the Anglo-Persian Oil Company in that country, will the Attorney-General inform the House how that will affect the supplies of crude oil to the Commonwealth Oil Refineries, in which the Commonwealth Government holds the majority of the shares?
– I have seen the cabled news to which the honorable member refers, but the Government has received no other information on the subject. It is evident that if the action reported has been, taken, the position will require careful consideration.
– As the Assistant Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Perkins) promised that before Parliament went into recess he would make a report upon a recent conference between himself and the tobacco manufacturers, and as the honorable gentleman is absent from Canberra, will the Prime Minister make a statement on the subject for the information of honorable members?
– The Assistant Minister for Trade and Customs has prepared his statement on the subject referred to. It will be submitted to Cabinet, and I hope to make a statement upon the subject before the House rises for its Christmas vacation.
– In view of the complaint made by some tobacco-growers that they have been unable to sell the whole of this season’s crop, and their anxiety regarding the disposal of next season’s crop, will the Prime Minister obtain from the Trade and Customs Department a statement on the subject, and submit it to the House to-day?
– I have already promised that the statement prepared by the Assistant Minister (Mr. Guy) will be made available +<- Jay.
– I have received from tobacco-growers at Monavae, near Boggabri, the complaint that the BritishAustralian Tobacco Company has refused to negotiate with them for the purchase of their crop. The growers have sent me samples of their tobacco, and make comparisons with the output from other districts. Apparently, they have been left high and dry by the company, and are in a bad way. Would it be possible for the Customs Department to have an inspection made of the samples submitted, with a view to determining what procedure is to be adopted in this matter? Perhaps an officer could be sent to the district to ascertain if some relief can be given to these people.
– I shall bring the matter under the notice of the Minister for Trade and Customs. The Government will endeavour to ascertain the facts, and I shall let the honorable member know the result.
Visit to Western Australia
– In view of the necessity of Ministers keeping in touch with the more remote States, will the Minister for Commerce arrange, during the coming recess, to visitWestern Australia, in order to familiarize himself with local conditions ?
– It is my intention to make myself acquainted with conditions generally in the various States, and I shall endeavour, during the coming recess, to comply with the wishes of the honorable member.
– As his department is responsible for the registering of newspapers for transmission through the post, I ask the Postmaster-General whether it is a fact that the ex-Treasurer (Mr. Theodore), who recently sold The World newspaper, and incidentally, the Australian Workers Union, making £20,000 out of the transaction, has submitted an application for the registration of a new newspaper to be called the Star?
– I am not aware of any application having been made to the Postal Department for the registration of a new newspaper to be called the Star, but I understand that the other statements made by the honorable member are regarded in wellinformed circles as being correct.
Protective Incidence of Exchange
– A few weeks ago, the Prime Minister promised that an inquiry would be held by the Tariff Board concerning the protective incidence of exchange in combination with tariff duties. Will the right honorable gentleman inquire whether that inquiry has begun, whether it intends to call outside evidence, whether its proceedings will be open to the public, and give any other particulars on the subject which may be of interest to the House?
– As the honorable gentleman is aware, Ministers have not had much opportunity of late to deal with matters other than the immediate business before Parliament. There has been mo opportunity to confer with the Tariff Board on the subject referred to; but as soon as possible, I shall consult theboard as to the nature of its inquiries which,I am sure, will be as complete as possible, and conducted as quickly as possible.
– Will the Prime Minister afford honorable members an opportunity when the House reassembles in the new year to discuss fully the report of the committee which has investigated the wool industry?
– In conjunction with the State Governments, this Government is calling a conference of the parties interested, so that the recommendations of the Wool Committee may be considered. I hope that the result will be satisfactory. If there is any need for the Parliament to debate the report, the opportunity will be afforded to honorable members.
– Will the Prime Minister make a short statement to the House to-day regarding the present state of unemployment throughout the Commonwealth, so that honorable members, when approached on this subject during the Christmas adjournment, may be able to explain the net result of the policies adopted by Commonwealth and State Governments ?
– If it is possible to get a complete and up-to-date statement before the House adjourns to-day I shall make the information available to honorable members.
Engagement of English Band
– I ask the Postmaster-General whether it is true that the Broadcasting Commission has engaged Jack Hilton’s band of London? If so, will he take action to have the project abandoned and preference given to Australian musicians?
Mr. ARCHDALE PARKHILL.The arrangement of programmes is entirely under the control of the commission. I have no knowledge of what engagements the commission has made or contemplates, but in view of the circular which has been sent to honorable members, I shall make inquiries into the matter.
– Some weeks ago I requested the Minister for Trade and Customs to ask the Tariff Board to inquire in the Wimmera and Riverina districts, and in portions of Western Australia, regarding the effect of tariff duties on primary production. When the Prime Minister is consulting the board, in accordance with the promise he has made to the right honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page), will he bring that proposal before the board?
– Yes, but the board determines its own course.
– Some time ago the Postmaster-General stated that the Tariff Board had speeded up its inquiries and was producing one report each week. At that rate the board will take eight years to work its way through the 400 items which it will have to review as a result of the Ottawa agreement. Does the Prime Minister consider such progress sufficiently expeditious ?
– The board is functioning as fast as can be expected. No time is being lost.
– Why not appoint three or four boards ?
– Further appointments may have to be considered, if adequate progress cannot be made otherwise.
– Will the Prime Minister obtain from the British authorities the latest information available regarding the number of industries established in the United Kingdom since its adoption of a protective tariff policy?
– I shall endeavour to obtain the information.
– In connexion with the contemplated visit of an Australian trade ship to China and Japan, will the Minister for Commerce send with the vessel copies of the Australian tariff, printed in Chinese and Japanese, so that prospective traders may not be “ sold a pup”?
– In the absence of the Minister for Commerce, I assure the right honorable member that the Government has no desire to be other than frank with prospective customers.
The following papers were presented : -
Audit Act - Finance 1931-32 - Treasurer’s
Statement of Receipts and Expenditure for year ended 30th June, 1932, accompanied by the Report of the AuditorGeneral.
Imperial Economic Conference (Ottawa, 1932) - Report of the Conference, together with Annexes Nos. I. to V.
Public Service Act - Ninth Report on the , Commonwealth Public. Service by the Board of Commissioners, dated 25th November, 1932.
Ordered to be printed.
Arbitration (Public Service) Act - Determinations by the Arbitrator, &c. -
No. 27 of 1932 - Australian Postal Elec tricians’ Union.
No. 28 of 1932 - Fourth Division Officers’ Association of the Trade and Customs Department.
No. 29 of 1932 - Common Rule re Compensation for Overtime, Sunday Duty, &c.
Excise Act- Regulations Amended - Statutory Rules 1932, No. 129.
Jury Exemption in the Federal Capital Territory - Draft of proposed regulation.
New Guinea Act - Ordinances of 1932 -
No, 20 - Appropriation 1932-33.
No. 21 - Customs.
Northern Territory Acceptance Act and Northern Territory (Administration) Act - Ordinance of 1932 - No. 21 - Brands.
Seat of Government (Administration) Act - Notice of variation of plan of lay-out of City and its environs, dated 21st November, 1932.
War Precautions Act- Regulations Amended -Statutory Rules 1932, No. 127.
– I have received from the honorable member for Angas (Mr. Gabb.) an intimation that he desires to move the adjournment of the. House to discuss a definite matter of urgent public importance, namely, “ the reduction in the rate of wine export bounty, and its effect upon the fixation of the price of wine grapes”.
Five honorable members having risen in support of the motion,
.- This motion would not have been necessary had I been afforded an opportunity on the motion for the adjournment last night to place the matter before the House. Unfortunately, attention was called to the absence of a quorum, and the House was counted out. Honorable members had been assured by the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) that on the motion for the adjournment an opportunity would be afforded to them to deal with urgent matters. t
– Ministers were not responsible for the counting out of the House.
– I admit that; but in future, when the Prime Minister gives an undertaking to the House, he should take steps to ensure that it will be honoured by his supporters. I believe that most of them would honour a promise given by their leader.
Those engaged in the production of grapes are concerned, not only because of the actual reduction of the rate of the wine export bounty, but also because of a threatened further reduction, and I ask the Ministry to make a statement of the Government’s intention, in order to obviate any adverse effect on the price of grapes. I admit that this Parliament has been generous to the wine industry in some respects, and for that I am grateful ; but I suggest that the industry should be left alone for a time, and given a chance to become stable. As a result of a prolonged fight in 1924-25, the BrucePage Ministry gave to the wine industry its first bounty of 4s. a gallon. On the 1st September, 1927, the bounty was reduced to 3s. a gallon, including a drawback of the excise duty of ls. 3d. a gallon. In 1928, the bounty was further reduced from ls. 9d. to ls. In 1929-30, I and other honorable members sought to obtain an increase in the bounty, and the Scullin Ministry agreed to restore the old rate of ls. 9d. I am still grateful for that concession. Under the Financial Emergency Act of 1931, the bounty was reduced by 20 per cent., namely to ls. 4 4-5d. a gallon, and in the 1932 Financial Emergency Act provision was made that the amount payable from the Consolidated Revenue Fund to the credit of the trust account, from which the bounty is paid, should not ‘exceed this year and next year £96,000 annually. As the amount paid into the trust fund from
Consolidated Revenue last year was £130,752, the recent legislation means that the contribution from this source will be reduced by £34,752. I am aware that the trust account is reinforced by a percentage of the excise duty on fortifying spirit^ contained in wine. There are those who maintain that the withdrawals from bond will be much greater in future years than in the past, and that, in this way, the trust account will be compensated, to some extent, for the reduction of the contribution from Consolidated Revenue. Those who expect this difference of £34,752 to be made up in this way, are, in my opinion, unduly optimistic.
– How much will the grapegrowers get out of this bounty?
– I am fighting for the grape-grower. I very much question whether the extra amount of wine that will be withdrawn from bond will make up the difference I have mentioned. The Government itself has grave doubts on the subject, for it issued the following regulations on the 14th November : - (1.) If at any time during any financial year the Minister considers that the amount available under the act for payment of bounty for that year may be insufficient to pay in full all valid claims for bounty expected to be received during that year, the Minister may approve of progress payments being made on each claim at such proportion of the full rate of bounty in respect of that year as he determines. (2.) At the end of that financial year, additional payments shall be made to each applicant in respect of all short-paid claims for that year to the extent, if any, of the amount available for payment of bounty for that year. (3.) Notwithstanding anything contained in this regulation, the rate of bounty at which payments are made under this regulation in any financial year shall be .the same to each applicant for bounty.
Undoubtedly the issuing of this regulation will have an effect upon the price of grapes, for it will be said by the winemakers that there is uncertainty about the amount of bounty that they will receive. Honorable members should realize that the price of grapes will be fixed by a different method this year from that adopted formerly. Hitherto, Mr. Gollin, who was the senior excise officer, has made a recommendation to the Government on this subject, and the price has been fixed by the
Government; but this year the representatives of the wine-makers will sit on one side of a table, the representatives of the grape-growers on the other side of it, and a customs officer who, I presume, will be the chairman, at the head of it, and the price of grapes will there be recommended - and we can quite imagine how the battle will be fought.
– What does the honorable member know about wine? He does not drink it.
– I understand the subject on which I am speaking. The wine-makers may be relied upon to use with full force the argument that there is uncertainty about the amount of bounty that will be paid.
There is another aspect of the subject to which I desire to deal, and on which I rose to speak last night. A representative of the Viticultural Council has been in Canberra recently and, according to information furnished to me, he has requested the Government to reduce the rate pf excise duty and the rate of bounty. I have no specific knowledge of his proposals, but I have “been told in the letter and in other ways that he has requested a reduction of the export bounty to ls. a gallon. In considering any representations that these gentlemen may have made, the Government should bear in mind that the Viticultural Council does not represent the grape-growers of this country. It may represent some interests which grow some grapes and also make wine, but it does not represent the ordinary grapegrower. I should probably agree with the statement that the council represents the firm of Seppelt and Sons, which has 1,200 acres of land under vines, but is mainly interested in wine making, and some other interests which are in a similar position ; but it cannot be gainsaid that the Viticultural Council does not represent the small grape-growers. The honorable member for Indi (Mr. Hutchinson) recently asked a question of the Government about the wine bounty. I regret that I have not been able to find the reference to the answer made to him ; but I request the Government to leave this industry alone, and give it a chance. We may be sure that the conference for fixing the price of grapes will be held during the next six weeks, and that unless the Government makes a specific statement that the wine bounty will not be decreased, at least during the present vintage, the position of the growers will be made very difficult. If the winemakers are in a position to say that the Government is considering a reduction of the bounty, they will do so, and this will be like another stick with which to flog the grape-growers. If the Government will not say definitely that it will leave this industry alone for a few years, I earnestly appeal to it to say that it will not alter the bounty during the coming vintage, Unless some such statement is made, the grape-growers, in my district in particular, may meet disaster.
The Government should recognize that even the wine-makers are divided into two groups. The interests of one group are limited to the home market, while the interests of the other group are largely confined to the export market, although, to a degree, they extend to the home market. A certain movement for position is now going on among these two groups which may be designed to influence the Government. I appeal to the Ministry not to lean towards the group of winemakers which is entirely interested in the home market, because they are already in a position to fix practically their own price for the grapes they use. The bounty ‘ is, of course, payable only in respect to the export trade. Any wine-makers who export wine are obliged to pay the same price for all their grapes whether the wine to be manufactured is for export or for home consumption. I have received the following letter, dated the 28th November, from the Murray River Wholesale Cooperative Limited, a co-operative fruitgrowers association: -
Dear Sir, - I am directed by resolution of a meeting of co-operative wine interests to forward you a copy of a letter which is being sent to the Department of Trade and Customs.
The proposed alterations would be a staggering blow to the co-operative wine-makers and growers who ship practically the whole of their product overseas.
The reductions cannot be calculated to relieve the industry in any way. There can be no benefit from the reduced excise duty because the proposed reduction is not sufficient to alter the retail selling price of wine, but a diminished bounty would be a very Teal- hardship to those companies who are increasing national wealth by exporting their production.
Some of the growers’ wineries are feeling the drastic effect of the recent reduction, and any further deduction would amount to a calamity.
Not one of the co-operative wineries is represented by the Viticultural Council, although the extent of their interests in the trade is large.
A copy of the letter sent to the Department of Trade and Customs was enclosed ; but it is not necessary for me to read that, as it is before the Government. The letter which I have read shows clearly that the Viticultural Council does not represent even the co-operative wineries. I, therefore, hope that the Government will not be unduly interested in any representations that that council may make, because it is a wealthy body. It is quite evident that the grapegrowers cannot afford to send a representative to Canberra to watch their interests, and it is for this reason, among others, that I have brought this subject under the notice of the Government in this way. My request is that the Government will not interfere with this industry, but will give it a chance of continuity of operations under existing conditions. The industry has its own peculiar troubles. It may face a crisis this season because of an overwhelming crop. If the Government interferes at this point, and such a crisis develops, it may rightly or wrongly- probably wrongly - be charged with having helped to cause the crisis. I ask the Government to make a definite statement now that the rate of bounty will not be interfered with, at least, in so far as it will affect the coming season’s vintage. [Quorum formed.]
.- In answer to the charge made against the Prime Minister that he prevented the honorable member for Angas (Mr. Gabb) from ventilating his grievance last night, I wish to say that I was responsible for what happened then, and I take the blame for it. It astounds me that the honorable member for Angas should show such a great interest in the wine industry of South Australia. In 1922 when I visited the Mildura irrigation area I found that the growers of doradillo grapes were being threatened with disaster because thewine manufacturers were offering them a ruinous price for the grapes. The honorable member said he favours the abolition of the refreshmentbar in Parliament House.
– I said the dining-room.
– I desire to show how inconsistent is the honorable member. I know that he does not favour winedrinking. I know that, in his opinion, “wine is a mocker, strong drink is raging “. If he spoke from his heart, he would repudiate the wine-manufacturing industry altogether; but, from his place in this House, he defends the interests of the industry, which does more than anything” else to injure the people of Australia. The honorable member comes from a secluded district in South Australia, and is, perhaps, familiar only with Adelaide, the city of churches. I invite him to come down to Sydney, and accompany me through some of the wine bars - not that I would invite him to drink wine. Honorable members who are disposed to make a jest of this matter do not realize what the wine business is doing in the congested areas of Sydney. The honorable member for Calare (Mr. Thorby) admitted the other day that he had made an inspection of the wine bars of Sydney, and that some of them were a disgrace to the community.
– He said that two of themhad been a disgrace,but, that they were now closed.
– They ought all to be closed. The police force cannot effectively control these places, which are frequented by denizens of the underworld. At certain hours they are packed with men and women of dissolute character. Their effect is to destroy the morality of the youths and maidens of the city by encouraging them to drink the wine, the production of which the honorable member for Angas defends.
– I remind the honorable member that the motion relates to the reduction of the wine bounty.
– If the wine bounty is reduced, wine will probably be cheaper, and the people will be encouraged to drink more of it. The honorable member for Angas is prepared to abandon every principle of morality and ethics in order to further the interests of the grape- growers. Those engaged in this industry have always been in trouble. When the returned soldiers came back from the war, they were encouraged to go on certain areas which had been set aside for the growing of grapes.
– The Government made the soldiers go on the land.
– The Government provided certain facilities, and the honorable member for Angas and others encouraged the soldiers to grow grapes for wine, and they are still doing it. Surely the honorable member cannot justify his action in defending the payment of a bounty on. the production of wine when he knows that Australia is not a winedrinking country, and that wine can be produced more cheaply in France and Portugal than in Australia. Why should we pay a bounty so that this stuff may be sent overseas, when we know the injurious effect it has on those who drink it?
– Surely the honorable member will agree that it is better that the injury should be done to people overseas than to our own people.
– The Prime Minister accepts the principle of the brotherhood of man, and he should not encourage the export from Australia of a commodity which must injure the health and morals of people abroad. If the Prime Minister admits that the effect of winedrinking on the minds and bodies and morals of the young men and women of this country is injurious, he should join with me in my attempt to abolish the wine bounty. There can be no greater hypocrite than the man who advocates the payment of a bounty on wine, when he knows that wine-drinking destroys the moral and physical fibre of the race. Some honorable members may think that I am not serious in what I am saying; but I have spent my life in trying to abolish from the streets of Sydney the wine bars, which do more to create prostitution than anything else of which I know. Yet the honorable member for Angas, knowing these things, claims that he has the right to support the payment of a bounty on wine in order to assist the growers.
-The honorable member’s time has expired.
– The mover of this motion was apparently inspired by a twofold fear. He feared that the bounty on wine would be decreased under the provisions of the financial emergency legislation, which limits the amount of money available from Consolidated Revenue for the purpose. It is obvious that, unless this contribution is supple- ‘mented by an increased amount from the excise fund, a reduction of the bounty must result. That was provided for by legislation passed through this Parliament, and the position cannot be altered now. The honorable member also fears what he referred to as a further threat against the bounty, arising out of representations to the Government by one section of the industry, which has suggested the reduction of the excise rate on the spirit used in fortifying wine, and a corresponding reduction of the bounty to ls. a gallon. At the present time, the bounty is ls. 9d. a gallon, less 20 per cent., which is just under ls. 5d. a gallon net. This proposal was made to the Government by one section of the industry only, and the Government will take no action without ascertaining the opinion of the other sections. These have already been informed of the proposal,” and have been invited to make representations.
The honorable member suggested that the- growers are likely to suffer as a result of lower prices, and the Government has not been unmindful of this possibility. A little while ago, in order to stabilize prices, and to protect the interests of the growers, the Government convened a fully representative conference, which appointed a committee to go into the matter of prices for grapes this season, and to make a recommendation to the Government. Upon the receipt of that recommendation, the Government will determine what action shall be taken.
– Will the Government receive a deputation from the citizens opposing the payment of a wine bounty?
– The Government is prepared to receive representations from every section of the community which believes that it has an interest in this matter. I can assure the honorable member for Angas (Mr. Gabb) that nothing will be done by the Government which could be described as unfair to the industry.
Question resolved in the negative.
Bill received from the Senate, and (on motion by Mr. Lyons) read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this bill is to meet changing conditions in administrative arrangements when new departments are established, and departments disappear or are merged into other departments. The second schedule to the act contains what purports to be a list of departments, and the third schedule a list of offices which are filled by permanent heads of departments. The schedules have not been amended since the act was passed in 1922, and the lists of departments and permanent heads is not correct as they exist to-day. It is intended to amend the schedules, to bring them up to date, and, at the same time, to provide that the schedules may be amended, without recourse to an amending bill, whenever administrative changes may make that necessary in future. Clause 2 amends the definition of the word “ department “. In section 1 of the act, “department “ is defined to mean “ any department of the Public Service specified in the second schedule to the act, and any department at any time established by the Governor-General “. It is proposed to add certain words to this definition, in order to make it clear that the term “ department “ does not include any department specified in the second schedule if that department has been abolished by the Governor-General, or another department has been established in its stead. Clause 3 inserts a new section 7a, which enacts that when any of the departments specified in the second schedule is abolished, or another department is established in lieu of a department so specified, or an additional department is established, or an alteration is made in the name of any department so specified, the second schedule shall be deemed to be amended accordingly. This will obviate the necessity of amending the second schedule by the passage of an amending bill whenever it may be necessary to make administrative changes affecting the departments specified in the schedule. Clause 4 amends section 25 of the principal act to make a provision with regard to the offices filled by permanent heads similar to that made in clause 3 in regard to departments, that is, when any changes are made in those offices, the third schedule is to be deemed to be amended accordingly, thus avoiding the necessity for bringing the matter before Parliament for the passage of an amending bill. Clause 5 amends the second schedule to the act so that it will correctly specify the names of existing departments. The amendments are - the omission of the references to the Department of Home and Territories, and the Department of Works and Railways, names which have long since disappeared, and the insertion of the words “ the Department of the Interior “, “ the Department of Commerce “, “ the Department of Industry and “ the Department of External Affairs”; departments which have been established by the Governor-General since the orginal act was passed and are now in existence. Clause 6 amends the third schedule, which contains a list of the offices the holders of which are permanent heads. The amendment will bring the schedule into line with the amended second schedule and with present-day conditions.
Question resolved in the afiirmative.
Bill read a second time, and reported from committee without amendment; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
Debate resumed from the 29th November (vide page 2998), on motion by Mr. Lyons -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- This is a bill of many clauses covering different aspects of taxation. It can be better dealt with in committee, and therefor I shall reserve my remarks upon it until then.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 and 2 agreed to.
Clause 3 -
Section five A of the principal act is amended -
by omitting from sub-section (1.) the words “ Territory of North Australia or of Central Australia by a resident of either of those Territories “ and inserting in their stead the words “ Northern Territory of Australia by a resident of that territory”; and
by omitting from sub-seotion (1.) the words “ thirty-two “ and inserting in their stead the word “ forty “.
Section proposed to be amended- 5a (1.) This act shall not apply to any income derived from primary production in the Territory of North Australia or of Central Australia by a resident of either of those territories prior to the first day of July, One thousand nine hundred and thirty-two.
.- Paragraphb of clause 3 extends the exemption for eight years. I should like to know the special reason for extending the period for that time, because, previously, it was extended for five years. I agree that there ‘is need for a certain permanency of exemption, and that was the object before of making the period five years. A period of eight years seems to be rather lengthy. The explanation of this clause is that it extends for eight years - until the 30th June, 1940- all exemptions for income from primary production in the Northern Territory. The exemption was first granted in 1923 for five years from the 1st July, 1922, and was extended in 1927 for a further period of five years. “We should be well advised to retain the period of five years, and, if necessary, the matter could, be again reviewed when that period is concluded. There is no need to debate the general exemption, because that has already been amply discussed. I quite agree that there should be an exemption in respect of incomes from primary production in the Northern Territory. I suggest to the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) that the word “ forty “, appearing in paragraph b, be omitted with a view to inserting in its place the word “ thirty-seven “.
– I accept the suggestion of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin), which appears to be reasonable. I therefore move -
That the word “ forty “ in paragraphb be omitted with a view to insert in lieu thereof the word “ thirty-seven “.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 4 -
Section fourteen of the principal act is amended -
by adding at the end thereof the following sub-section : - (3.) Where a company has derived income from interest to which section twenty of the Commonwealth Debt Conversion Act 1931 applies or from discount allowed under section seventeen of that act, or from interest to which sub-section (2.) of section fifty-two b of the Commonwealth Inscribed Stock Act 1911-1932 applies, and has credited, paid or distributed in any year any portion of that income in dividends to its shareholders, the proportion of each dividend for that year which has been so credited, paid or distributed out of such income shall be free from income tax to the same extent as interest to which section twenty of the Commonwealth Debt Conversion Act 1931 applies.”
– I move -
That the word “ sub-section “ in paragraph e be left out with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words “ sub-sections - (3.) A wife living apart from her husband pursuant to a decree, judgment, order or deed of separation which provides that the husband shall periodically pay specified moneys to the wife shall not be liable to be assessed in respect of those moneys.”
The object of this amendment is to provide that where husband and wife are living apart, pursuant to a decree, judgment, order, or deed of separation, and the husband pays moneys periodically to the wife, the income of the wife shall not be assessed on those moneys.
– It will be assessed in the income of the husband?
– Yes. This matter arises out of a case which recently occurred in South Australia, and came before the court. The husband, who was judicially separated from his wife, made an agreement to pay her £2,500 a year free of income tax. Hisincome has been reduced, and is now something like £2,600. The result is that he pays income tax on his income, Federal and State, and, because he has agreed to pay to his wife money free of taxation, he also pays both Federal and State tax on her income. He, therefore, is required to pay a tax of over £2,700 on an income of £2,600, because his income is taxed twice. The State has already amended its law to deal with this anomaly, and we are now proceeding to amend the federal law. In respect of the normal husband and wife who live together, the husband earns the income, and pays, probably, most of it as housekeeping money to his wife, and she spends it. No one would think of taxing that money as the income of the wife. But in the case of people who are separated, the law, at present, provides that both the husband and the wife pay income tax. It is thought that that is not fair, and the object of the amendment is to bring about an alteration of that position. The federal tax will be obtained from the husband, but the wife, who is separated - living apart from her husband pursuant to a decree, judgment, order or deed of separation - will not have to pay tax on-the money paid to her by her husband, as if it were her own income. That appears to be a fair provision. There is no doubt that the law is operating harshly at the present time.
– Is there any provision that grants an exemption to the husband because of that liability?
Amendment agreed, to.
Amendment (by Mr. Latham) agreed to-
That the figure “ (3) “ in paragraph e be omitted with a view to inserting in lieu thereof the figure “(4).”
– I should like to know whether this clause, as amended, will sufficiently strengthen the act to prevent such evasion of taxation as has been reported in connexion with certain petrol companies. For example, we are told that certain petrol companies are being taxed on 20 per cent, of their returns on the assumption that that represents their profits, Exact figures as to the cost of petrol have been put before the Goxernment. It is alleged that the refining cost of petroleum is .051d. a gallon, the overhead charge 0.15d. a gallon, freight .4d. a gallon, landing charges, port dues and exchange 578d. a gallon, import duties 7d. a gallon, and the average cost of distribution 5.25d. a gallon, totalling ls. 1.249d. a gallon. The retail price of 2s. a gallon, therefore, shows a net profit of 10.706d. a gallon. That is, roughly speaking, about 40 per cent, of the return to these companies. Yet, the department taxed them on 20 per cent, of their returns, assuming that to be the profit made.
– Does that take excise into account?
– These costs include the import duty of 7d. a gallon.
– This clause deals with exemptions.
– Surely it may be said that if the income on which petrol companies ought to pay is something like 40 per cent, and they are paying only on 20 per cent., they are enjoying a substantial exemption which needs some explanation. On the basis of the Shell Company’s transactions, for 1930, that organization is alleged to be escaping income taxation to the extent of approximately £360,000 per annum, and it is said that the accounts of smaller oil importing companies call for similar investigation. “Will the Government agree to the request of the British Empire Union, and appoint a royal commission to inquire into the matter ?
– A considerable amount of information and many allegations have been received by the Government in relation to this matter. For many years there has been much controversy between the Commonwealth and State Governments and the oil companies as to the taxation of those businesses. Section 28 was specially inserted in the act to deal with such cases. Undoubtedly, there are corporations which are sufficiently well advised to be able to conduct their operations in such a manner that in a given territory they disclose no profits, because subsidiary companies charge them so much for their services. Sometimes the result is that the profits vary inversely with the income tax of the parent company. It is a difficult matter, which the Government has been waiting an opportunity of investigating. Inquiries have already been made by Treasury officers, but owing to the pressure of public business, it has not been possible for Cabinet to consider the information already gathered. I understand that a report on the subject is nearly ready for presentation to the Government. After that has been considered, together with the various other reports to which the honorable member for Gippsland . (Mr. Paterson) referred, some of which are animated with enthusiasms of various descriptions and do not measure up accurately with the facts, the Government will consider whether it is necessary and desirable to have a special inquiry. They are all being sifted.
.- As a result of my experience as Prime Minister and Treasurer, my information on this subject is extensive. Because of lengthy litigation which went as far as the Privy Council, there has been considerable delay in arriving even at the present stage. I am glad to say that the Commonwealth Government won on all occasions. From my own knowledge,I can say that the Commissioner of Taxation and his department have done everything reasonably possible to protect the revenue of the country, and whenever their decisions have been challenged they have defended the position. We have now reached a stage when the facts are being sifted. No doubt an inquiry is desirable, but I am not sure that a royal commission would be the right means.
– There are a number of companies in Australia, well known to us, which, because of the adverse exchange position, are retaining in the Commonwealth considerable sums of money, representing the profits of their activities. I should like to know from the Attorney-General (Mr. Latham) whether, as a result of an oil company investing some of its accumulated profits in buildings in city areas, it receives exemption from taxation?
– No. That is capital expenditure, which was not incurred in deriving income.
Amendment agreed to. .
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 5 -
Section twenty of the principal act is amended -
by inserting after sub-section (4a.) the following sub-section : - “ (4b.) Further income taxof a specified percentage of the amount of taxable income derived -
by way of interest, dividends, rents or royalties, whether derived from personal exertion or from property; and
in the courseof carrying on a business, where the income is of such a class that, if derived otherwise than in the course of carrying on a business, it would be income from property; shall not be taken into account for the purpose of determining the amount of the rebate to which a member or shareholder is entitled -
under sub-section (4.) of this section, or
under sub-section (4a.) of this section where such further income tax has not been taken into account in the assessment under sub-section (2.) of section twenty-one of this act of the tax and additional tax in respect of the sum or furthersum referred to in sub-section (4a.) of this section.”
Mr. LATHAM (Kooyong- Attorney-
General) [11.25]. - I move -
That all the words after “entitled”, proposed sub-section 4b, be omitted, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words “ under sub-section (4.) of this section.”
By clause 5, paragraph b, of the Income Tax Assessment Bill, it is proposed to provide that the special tax on property income shall not be taken into account in calculating rebates of tax on dividends paid out of profits on which companies have paid tax under section 21 of the act, unless the special tax on property incomes has been taken into account in calculating the section 21 tax. The special tax is actually imposed on all such dividends, provided that they are paid after the commencement of the operation of the special tax; but the tax so imposed is wholly lost, because shareholders are entitled to a rebate of the amount by which their income tax is increased by the inclusion of the dividends in their assessable incomes.
The amendment in clause 5 b was proposed because it was considered that the special tax should not be lost on any dividends paid during the operation of that tax. It is now being claimed by interested taxpayers that the proposed amendment should not be proceeded with. These claims are based on the ground that the companies concerned have already made distributions of profits on the assumption that, by virtue of the existing rebate provisions, shareholders will not have to bear any income tax on those distributions.
In the course of examining the merits of these claims, the question has arisen whether, apart from the point of view of obtaining additional revenue, there is any real justification for the proposed amendment. Tax assessed under section 21 is paid by companies on undistributed income, usually ordinary business profits. The Commissioner determines in a particular case that the company concerned could reasonably have distributed a certain amount of its undistributed income, and the company is required to pay the additional tax that would have been payable by the shareholders if the company had distributed that amount. In other words, tax is collected on the basis that the undistributed business profits of the company have been converted into property income in the form of dividends in the hands of shareholders. At this stage, such profits have theoretically been fully taxed, that is, once at ordinary company rate as income of the company, and again as income assumed to be distributed as dividends to the shareholders. In theory, therefore, those profits should not again be taxed when actually distributed to the shareholders.
The existing law accords with that theory, and the question for consideration is whether a departure from the theory is justified where (a) the fictional distribution of profits for the purposes of section 21 is assumed to take place prior to the commencement of the special tax on property income; and (b) the actual distribution of those profits as dividends takes place after the commencement of the special tax. When the amendment proposed by clause (b) was first mooted, it was considered that the emergency character of the special tax justified its application to dividends actually paid during its operation, notwithstanding that companies may have paid tax under section 21 on the assumption that those dividends had been paid prior to the operation of the special tax. It appears, however, that this point of view neglects to take account of the fact that where the fictional distributions for the purposes of section 21 are assumed to take place during the operation of the special tax, companies are required to pay the special tax the shareholders would have paid if the distributions had actually taken place. When the profits fictionally distributed are, in later years, actually distributed as dividends, the special tax may no longer be in operation, and if the Government now introduces an amendment which it purports to support on the grounds that a special tax is intended to be applied to actual dividends, it will, no doubt, be faced with the inconsistency that it is collecting a special tax under section 21 on fictional dividends. To justify the proposed amendment it will be necessary to reconcile the co-existence of the following bases of taxation: (1.) The taxation of a company on fictional dividends assumed to have been paid prior to the operation of the special tax. (2.) The application of a special tax to dividends actually paid out of the same profits during the operation of the special tax. (3.) The application of the special tax in assessments under section 21 to fictional dividends assumed to have been paid during the operation of the special tax, even though the profits so taxed under section 21 may, in later years, be distributed at a time when the special tax is no longer in force. In the circumstances, it appears to be impossible in principle to justify the proposed amendment except on the bare plea of the need for additional revenue.
.- I agree that it would be difficult to sustain the principle of this amendment, although I am certain that it was not included without due consideration. Should this special tax be remitted, I foresee future claims for exemption from the tax on distributed dividends after the tax has been either reduced or remitted entirely. We cannot have two different sets of principles. The principle we are now laying down must be maintained in future after this tax has been lifted. The effect of this amendment would be that the Commissioner would be claiming 10 per cent. super tax in respect of dividends that were deemed to have been distributed before the tax was imposed. Assume that profits were made in 1927 before the special tax was imposed and are now included in dividends. The departmental claim was that as the special tax had not been paid on the profits it should be paid in respect of the dividends. The department cannot have it both ways. If it deemed those profits to have been distributed in 1927 they were, for taxation purposes, so distributed. A company may pay two-thirds of its profits into reserve, hut the department deems two-thirds of the profits to have been distributed. Section 21 protects the revenue against a company which might put profits into reserves to avoid taxation, and then distribute them as bonus shares; but if profits were deemed to have been distributed when they were put into reserve before this special tax was imposed, they cannot be regarded now as taxable in the form of dividends.
– That would be convenient from a revenue point of view now, but it might be very inconvenient in the future.
– Yes; if the tax had been reduced, the revenue would suffer. The principle accepted by the committee now must stand, whether taxation has increased or decreased.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clauses 6 to 8 agreed to.
Clause 9 -
Section sixty-seven of the Principal Act is amended by omitting the words “ and the tax assessed upon the basis of the return lodged “ and substituting the words “ and the amount of tax previously assessed to be paid by the taxpayer, or, if no amount of tax has previously been assessed, the amount of tax that would be payable by him if he were assessed for tax upon the basis of the return furnished by him “.
Section proposed to be amended -
– (1.) Notwithstanding anything contained in the last preceding section, any person who -
fails or neglects to duly furnish any return or information as and when required by this act or the regulations or by the Commissioner ; or
fails to include any assessable income in any return; or
includes in any return as a deduction an amount which is in excess of that actually expended or incurred by him, shall, if a taxpayer to whom paragraph (a) of this sub-section applies, be liable to pay additional tax at the rate of ten per centum par annum upon the amount of tax assessable to him … or the sum of One pound, whichever is the greater, or, if a. taxpayer to whom paragraph (b) or (c) of this subsection applies, shall be liable to pay by way of additional tax the amount of One pound or double the amount of the difference between the tax properly payable and the tax assessed upon the basis of the return lodged, whichever is the greater, in addition to any additional tax which may become payable by him in accordance with section fifty-six of this act;
Provided that the Commissioner may, in any particular case, for reasons which he thinks sufficient, remit the additional tax or any part thereof.
.- This clause merely gives effect to the original intention of the section upon which the departmental practice has been based since its introduction in the Act. This practice passed unquestioned until the judgment of the High Court in the case of Penrose v. Commissioner of Taxation. This established a curious anomaly in that the result was that if a taxpayer furnished a return showing sufficient income to render him liable to tax, and was assessed upon that return, and subsequently omissions of income were discovered, he was exposed to the full effect of section 67, with its double tax penalties. But if the taxpayer committed a graver offence by either failing altogether to furnish a return or by furnishing a return showing an income so small as not to be liable to tax, section 67 was, by reason of the High Court judgment referred to, not applicable, and the taxpayer escaped the additional tax imposed by that section. It is considered that this anomaly could not be permitted to continue, and that such a person should be liable to the same extent as persons whose offence was, in degree at least, less.
.- I agree with the principle of rectifying defects in the law provided that no injustice is done to persons who have already established their legal right under the existing provisions. In the Penrose case the legal position of the taxpayer was established before the High Court.
– This provision is not retrospective.
– I believe that other persons have taken steps to establish their legal rights.
– If they succeed, they will be exempt from this provision.
– That is the assurance I want.
.- I intend to propose an amendment to give the taxpayer the right of appeal against penalties imposed by the Commissioner. Part V. provides for appeal to a board of review and to the High Court on matters of fact and law, but when the appeal has been decided and the taxpayer has been declared at fault, the task of determining the appropriate penalty rests with the Commissioner, who must be regarded as having been in active litigation with the taxpayer. The effect of section 67 recently came under the notice of the High Court in the case of Richardson v. The Federal Commissioner of Taxation, and Mr. Justice Stark then stated -
Here the additional tax, according to the taxpayer’s contention, should be assessed on this sum. Justice would thus be done to the taxpayer, though his punishment would still bo heavy, for additional taxation by way of penalty would, in the aggregate, amount to £9,078 instead of £22,089 as now imposed. The provisions of section 07 are, I think, too strong.
I am not aware of any system of justice which at the close of protracted and, perhaps, embittered, litigation leaves to the successful party the decision of the rights of the unsuccessful party. By the appeal provisions of Part V., the Commissioner is made a litigant. He succeeds, and fixes the penalty, and there is no appeal from his decision. I recognize, as one honorable gentleman remarked in this chamber the other day, that hard cases sometimes made bad laws, and that a hard case is not a sufficient reason in itself for an alteration of the law; but I ask for an alteration of the law on the general principle of equity, that no man should be a judge in his own cause. The Commissioner fighting a taxpayer should not be left to give judgment against the taxpayer, and then punish him. Surely that proposition will not be controverted. A. recent case of this nature has been brought under my notice by the Taxpayers Association of New South Wales since this bill was introduced.
The Taxpayers Association assures me that its members have long felt the need for the amendment I am about to suggest.
– What is the honorable member’s amendment?
– So that the amendment may come under the consideration of the committee immediately, I move -
Thatthe following paragraph be added: - “ (&) by inserting the following proviso: - Provided further that if the taxpayer is dissatisfied with the decision of the Commissioner on an application for a remission of additional tax under this section, the taxpayer may within thirty days after the service by post of notice of that decision in writing, or such further time as may be allowed by the court on the hearing of the appeal herein provided for, request the Commissioner to treat the matter as an appeal and forward it either to the High Court or to the Supreme Court of a State, and thereupon the Commissioner shall forward it accordingly. Upon the hearing of the appeal the court may remit the additional tax, or any part thereof. The provisions of sub-sections (2.), (6.), (7.), (8.), (9.) and (10.) of section fifty-one a. shall apply to the hearing of any appeal under this section ‘.”
The circumstances of the case brought under my notice are that a man in Sydney was in business as a hotelkeeper.. A part of his receipts over a certain period consisted of profits made from the purchase and sale of hotel leases. Thequestion arose whether these profits wereprofits of his business. He contended that they were not, and the Commissioner opposed his contention. The matter was settled in favour of the taxpayer - under a decision of the House of Lordsgiven about that time. The case on which the decision was given came before the English courts, but the English law and the case in question were similar to this one. It was held by the House of “ Lords in the case of Leeming versus Jones, 415, A.C. 1930, that if a man in the business of buying and selling hotel leases made a profit in another business which was not his ordinary business, such profits need not bedisclosed as income.
-Were they held to be merely accretions of capital?
– They were held not to be profits or gains from his business.
– Following upon the determination of the Australian case, a measure was introduced into and passed by this Parliament, which amended our act to provide that such profits were to be regarded as profits of a man’s business. That is now the law, and the man to whom I have referred is prepared to obey it. But the new law was given a sufficiently retrospective effect to cover the period in dispute between the taxpayer and the Commissioner. The Commissioner subsequently decided that this taxpayer should have declared the profits on the sale of these leases as income right through the years when, in fact, by the decision of the House of Lords, it was not income. The Commissioner next decided that the taxpayer had made a false return by his failure to disclose this income through the years when it was not income and he was not under obligation to disclose it as such. I repeat that it was held not to be income by the judgment of the highest court of England. On the ground thatthe man had made afalse return, the Commissioner directed that he should pay not only the taxation due on the amount that had been in dispute, but twice that amount as penalty for not disclosing it as income. This case is said to be one of many of the same kind which have come under the notice of the Taxpayers Association. For the benefit of honorable members, who are not from New SouthWales, I give my assurance that the Taxpayers Association is indisputably a body of first class standing, including in its membership leading professional men, as the right honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page) and certain other honorable members of this committee could testify. It has done excellent work, and is actuated by a commendable public spirit. For example, it made available to its members and the general public valuable information in regard to our sales taxation.
In the case to which I have referred, the taxpayer had no appeal whatever, and he has been called upon to pay an amount far beyond any sum that he has ever possessed. He cannot do so, and is faced with immediate bankruptcy. No one can interfere with the Commissioner, or request him to reduce this penalty, although the offence for which it was imposed was failure to disclose income which, under the definition of income given by the highest court of England, was not income. Unless some redress is given to this man, his commercial career will be ended. This surely is bureaucracy in its highest development ! I therefore ask the Government to give sympathetic consideration to the amendment, which I have moved. The granting of such an appeal could not do any harm. I think it is not the desire of the Treasury or of the heads of any of the departments wrongfully to take money from taxpayers. All they desire is surely to oblige a man to pay what he owes. I am seeking to substitute an appeal to the High Court for an arbitrary decision of the Taxation Commissioner whose interest it is, naturally, to protect the revenue. No possible harm can be done by providing the right of such an appeal. Considerable feeling has been aroused in Sydney on this subject, and since the introduction of this bill numerous articles have appeared in various sections of the press in support of the amendment which I am now moving.
– I take it that the honorable member is seeking to substitute the discretion of the court for the discretion of the Commissioner of Taxation.
– That is so.
– The case to which the honorable member for Martin (Mr. Holman) has referred is well known. I regard it as unfortunate that a particular case should have been mentioned. I could put forward quite another and entirely different statement of this case, but I do not intend to use this arena for that purpose. I shall therefore speak only on general principles. Honorable members, after hearing the speech of the mover of the amendment, may not appreciate what the law is. The law fixes all penalties, but the Commissioner is given a power of remission. It is now proposed by the honorable memberthat thepower to remit shall be reposed in judges who shall say whether a person shall be let off something more than the Commissioner is prepared to remit. If judges are to be asked to discharge such a function it will be something entirely new and unprecedented. In the case of certain defaults certain penalties are by law imposed, subject to a power of remission in the Commissioner. It is quite novel to suggest that judges should say whether a man ought to be let off something more than the Commissioner is prepared to remit. As the Attorney-General, I am acquainted with the discharge of functions of this nature. When applications are made for the remission of ordinary penalties, it is the duty of the Attorney-General, independent of political considerations altogether, to advise the GovernorGeneral. Many factors are considered in the exercise of the discretionary power to remit. Even considerations which have no strict legal significance are taken < into account. From time to time remission of penalties have been made in cases, for example, of a man with a sick wife. Is it intended that such matters shall be submitted to judges? I suppose if Parliament says that the judges shall do this work they will have to do it, but how will it be done? Is it suggested that there should be a trial for the remission of penalty? Surely not. Is evidence to be called to show whether a man has been treated with sufficient leniency by the Commissioner? What standard is to be applied? I remind honorable members that we are not considering the imposition of a penalty. The penalty is imposed automatically under the act. Parliament has said that, in certain cases, there shall be a liability to pay additional tax at the rate of 10 per cent, per annum, and in other cases the additional tax may be double the difference between the tax properly payable, and the tax as originally assessed.
I can assure honorable members that it is important that these penalties should be automatic. If there were to be a general, all-round squabble as to whether a penalty should be imposed or not, it would interfere with the effectiveness of the taxation system. When a taxpayer brings himself within this provision, by failing or neglecting to furnish returns or information, &c, Parliament has said that certain penalties shall be automatically imposed, but power is granted to the Commissioner to remit those penalties. I suggest that this is properly an administrative provision. If it is turned into a matter for adjudication, I am sure that we shall have very many more evasions of taxation in the future than at present.
– But should the person who administers the provision be one of the parties to the dispute?
– He is not. Parliament has laid it down that the rate of penalty shall be 10 per cent., but that the Commissioner may remit the penalty, whether there is a dispute between him and the taxpayer or not. Ordinarily, when it is found that a fault has been committed, a notice i? sent out charging the extra tax. If the taxpayer objects to the charge, he may make a plea for leniency, and the Commissioner may determine the plea. In some cases the penalty is imposed because of information received by the Commissioner, with which he is able to challenge the taxpayer, and the taxpayer accepts the decision. The Commissioner receives information from many sources, some of them anonymous. The taxpayer may challenge any such information, but if there is to be a legal trial in every such case, honorable members may reconcile themselves to the fact that the income tax rate will have to be increased. I have often said to my good friends of the taxpayers’ associations that some of their activities are likely to have the direct effect of increasing the income tax. If the revenue safeguards are taken away, the effect will be - since the revenue must be maintained - that a higher rate of tax must be imposed, or, at any rate, that it will be impossible to make the remissions in other directions in which they have been asked for. This is one of the last directions in which remissions should be made. I have been acquainted with the act for a good many years, and have received many complaints about its provisions. There will always be complaints about every taxation act. We cannot blame people for trying to bring about a reduction of taxes, or for trying to avoid the payment of them in an honest way. It is a remarkable thing, however, that, despite the hundreds of complaints which I have received about this act, I have never had a complaint about this particular section of it. This section protects honest people, though it may be a little hard on dishonest ones. I do not propose to discuss the case upon which this appeal is largely based. I can understand that the creditors of the well-known, and, I might say, notorious gentleman concerned in that case are interested in the amount of the fine imposed by the Commissioner; but if we are to discuss that case it will be necessary to go into other phases of the matter, which I do not think is desirable at the present time. I ask Parliament to retain this provision, which is a sound one, and is necessary to protect the revenue. There is no evidence whatever that it has not been fairly administered.
– Does not .the AttorneyGeneral believe that there would be fewer complaints if the income tax laws were consolidated and simplified?
– I agree ; but that matter is not under discussion at the moment. It is hoped that, as the result of the inquiries of the royal commission which has just begun its sittings in Sydney, a simplification will be brought about.
– I do not think that any honorable members are in favour of deleting this provision. If a man has wilfully evaded the payment of his taxes, he deserves to be punished to the limit. There are always dishonest people about, and they are particularly active in connexion with income tax payments. There are others, however, who are not exactly dishonest, but who have to suffer under this provision. In country towns many persons, running a family business, do not keep proper books. Perhaps one of the children has charge of the books, and no true record of the business is made. There comes a time when an investigation is made by the taxation authorities, who decide that the full amount of tax has not been paid. They usually take note of the amount of property owned by the taxpayer, and say that, if he had spent every penny of his income as he went along, he would never have been able to accumulate so much property. Seeing that he was able to obtain the property, it must be evident, they say, that he has been robbing the Treasury. They arrive at his true income by dividing the value of the property by the number of years taken to accumulate it. In many cases the taxation authorities arrive at a fairly correct result, because there are men who have gone out of their way to conceal their incomes from the authorities. It is only when an investigation has been instituted that they admit that they have been misleading the Commissioner. There are others, however, who have failed, through ignorance, to furnish proper returns. Many men are unable to say what property or money they possessed ten or fifteen years ago, and it is necessary to have that information in order to determine how much property they have accumulated since. It follows that, in some instances, their incomes have been improperly assessed. I know of one case in which the assessment is absolutely wrong, but I cannot prove it, because I cannot obtain details of the property held by the taxpayer at the beginning of the period under review. Many taxpayers do not make all the deductions allowed by the law. As one who has had experience of making up income tax returns for various people, I can say that I have never yet known a man to furnish a complete set of deductions. When I have asked a taxpayer whether he did not spend a certain sum of money for such and such a purpose, he has said that he did, but had forgotten all about it. Even by going through his cheque book butts I could not always trace the payment, because he might have drawn a cheque for £20, and paid the amount in cash.
I sympathize with the Commissioner who* is called upon to administer this provision. A big business man, of course, keeps proper records, and if the matter is taken to court, can support his case by reference to those records. The small country business men, however, usually does not possess full records. The Commissioner in the absence of proper information, is compelled to administer the law as he finds it. If he grants relief in one case, the fact may become known, and then some one else who has been refused relief will make a charge of political favoritism, or say that special influence has been used. I think that it should be stated in the act in what circumstances a man may obtain relief, either wholly or in part. In most legislation maximum penalties are provided, but they are rarely imposed. In this case, however, the maximum penalty is always imposed, and once it has been inflicted it is difficult to obtain relief. We know that when it comes to selling a horse, or paying taxes, many men not otherwise dishonest, waver slightly from the strict moral code, but some of those who have been fined for tax evasion have, I am quite certain, been entirely innocent of any intention to defraud. In the States, when a taxpayer goes before the court he can usually, without any trouble, obtain some remission of the penalty imposed upon him. But, personally, I do not know of a case in which the Federal Commissioner of Taxation has waived any part of a fine.
– There are hundreds of such cases set out in the report of the Commissioner, which was recently presented to Parliament.
– I have no personal knowledge of such cases, because none of my clients, nor those of my friends, have applied for remissions of penalties. I admit that there are thousands of cases that do not come under my notice. I suggest that the act should lay down certain rules which would enable a taxpayer to understand the basis of remissions of taxation. The Attorney-General has told us how these remissions are arrived at, and what he has said is news to me. I was glad to hear his explanation, because it will let taxpayers who are penalized under this provision know that there is some opportunity to obtain a remission. Many taxpayers pay their fines without protest, believing that they cannot appeal against the decision of the Commissioner. I do not suggest that this provision should be loosened, but at the same time, I think that, in the light of certain aspects of business, other than that mentioned by the honorable member for Martin (Mr. Holman), some rules should be laid down in the act for the guidance of the Commissioner. It is too much to lay the Commissioner open to the suspicion of favoritism. In making his decisions he must keep within the four corners of the act, * and because of that, and because he has been placed in a position of trust, he may be inclined to exercise his powers too strictly rather than too liberally.
– One aspect of the case mentioned by the honorable member for Martin (Mr. Holman) I should like the Attorney-General to explain or to enlarge upon, because it seems to me to be an injustice to penalize a taxpayer because he has not furnished a return of income when there was no occasion previously for him to furnish one.
– If that were really the case there would be no authority for imposing a penalty at all.
– -I understand that retrospective legislation was introduced to meet a case of that kind, and I should like the Attorney-General to make plain the justice of the provision. The honorable member for Martin mentioned a judgment of the House of Lords. It was because of that decision that a return of income was not furnished by the individual concerned. Legislation was introduced into this Parliament by the Government of the day which brought this person within the taxable field, and it seems to me to have been an injustice to fine him merely because he had not made a return of his income at a time when it was not taxable. I should like the Attorney-General to explain the position.
– I have a- certain amount of information on this matter, but if I were to deal with one aspect of it I should have to deal with other aspects as well, and, in the circumstances, it would not be proper for me to do that.
.- The power which this Parliament has placed in the hands of the Commissioner of Taxation is too great to be exercised by any official.
– Has the Commissioner abused that power?
– I am not alleging that he has. It is often to the benefit of the taxpayer that the Commissioner is able to deal with the smaller cases, but there are cases in which the penalties amount to thousands »f pounds - I refer to automatic penalties - and yet the taxpayer, if he considers that the decision of the Commissioner is unduly harsh, has no redress at all. I do not wish to suggest anything against the Commissioner, but I know of cases in respect of which I consider that the decision of the Commissioner has been harsh. His business is really that of tax collecting. It is an unpleasant job, and the Commissioner relieves the government of the day of the disagreeable duty of refusing concessions. Still, I doubt whether an officer of the taxation office is the proper authority to exercise the discretion which has been placed in the hands of the Commissioner by this Parliament. It is true that the act provides for a penalty of double the amount of taxation, but it was not intended that that penalty should be inflicted in all cases. Circumstances vary, .and in some instances there should be remissions of fines, even where guilt has been proved. The degree of guilt varies, and, therefore, the penalty should not be fixed by act of Parliament. In most of our legislation the penalty prescribed is a maximum penalty, which it is not intended should be inflicted in all cases. Some discretion must he exercised as to the extent of the penalty to be imposed, but I do not think that the Commissioner of Taxation is the proper .person ito make the final decision. In many instances the taxpayers are brought to book after a hunt, and a hunter naturally takes a delight in the kill. Very often there is a contest of wits between the taxation officer and the taxpayer, and when the officer, who, after all, is only human, runs the taxpayer to earth, it is only to be expected that the taxpayer will receive rather severe treatment at the hands of his pursuer. There should, therefore, be an opportunity given to the taxpayer to appeal to a judge. That opportunity would not frequently be availed of, because the taxpayer who has been fined, unless he has a strong grievance, will object to having his affairs made public. But there are cases in which the penalty does not fit the crime, and where fair remissions have not been granted. In certain instances, the decision of the Commissioner has resulted in the bankruptcy of the taxpayer. I dp not think that the Commissioner should he the final arbitrator. In our criminal and other courts opportunities are given for the revision of penalties. There can be no fairer tribunal than a court presided over by a judge, and it would not be weakening the general value of this position if the right were given to the taxpayer, who feels aggrieved because of the decision of the Commissioner, to appeal Ito a High Court judge.
.- The amendment proposed by the honorable member for Martin (Mr. Holman) would, if accepted, unquestionably weaken our taxation laws. The .power to collect the tax would ‘be diminished’, and that would have the boomerang effect of increasing the rate needed to enable the Government to obtain the revenue required. I agree with what the Attorney-General (Mr. Latham) has said. Whenever we create a loophole in the law and thus give some people an opportunity to evade taxation, we reduce the amount of our revenue, and that, if not checked, would inevitably bring about an increase in rates. I was astonished at the remarks of the honorable ‘member for Perth (Mr. Nairn), and I am sure that if he reflects he will regret what he has said of the taxation officials. The honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. Hunter) thought that the power to remit any portion of a penalty should not be placed in the hands of the Commissioner. My opinion is that it is in the interests of the great body of taxpayers that the Commissioner should have that power. The smaller taxpayers, if they were not permitted to ask the Commissioner for remission of penalties, would have no option but to appeal to the court, and if they did that, the cost of litigation would probably amount to more than the remission of penalty asked for. The honorable member for Perth said that the Commissioner is really the hunter; that he pursues the taxpayer and takes a delight in the kill. I suggest that that is not the language to apply to an officer who has been placed by this Parliament in a position involving the duty of making impartial decisions. If I thought that the Commissioner of Taxation took “ delight in the kill “, I should move immediately in this House for the appointment of a new Commissioner of Taxation. This officer is invested with power greater, probably, than that possessed by any other individual in the community. He has discretion to remit penalties for the evasion of income tax. If we have not implicit faith in him, our whole system fails, for there is no other satisfactory way of carrying out the intricacies of income and land taxation than by the methods we employ.
I ask the honorable member for Martin (Mr. Holman) to put the whole of the cards on the table, and submit full particulars of the case to which he has referred before asking us to start to weaken our system of taxation. I have before me the last report of the Commissioner of Taxation, in which is given a list of over 100 cases showing how the Commissioner has dealt with attempts to evade taxation. The fact that we have not heard one of these cases mentioned in the House surely indicates that there cannot be very much wrong with the administration. The first case concerns an omission of £10,201 from an income tax return. The penalty imposed was only £89. No doubt there were mitigating circumstances. The next case concerns an omission of £11,478, the penalty inflicted being £381. Nobody will claim that those are harsh penalties. It must be remembered that the law imposes a penalty amounting to double the rate of tax that would have been assessed had a correct return been rendered. In the first case that I have mentioned, the assessment might have been £2,000. Therefore, the penalty was a very light one, indeed. In fact, some might declare that there was undue leniency, though I do not think so. Here is a case in which an amount of £30,000 was omitted from a return, resulting in the imposition of a penalty of £1,000. Another case concerns the omission of £755, for which the penalty was £72. Of course, circumstances vary, and that influences the decision of the Commissioner. There is an instance of a man having omitted the amount of £237,790 from his return. He was no back-country storekeeper. That person would certainly have a bookkeeping arrangement. The penalty imposed was £96,733. Probably it was the maximum penalty, but I have no doubt that it was well deserved. The list covers seven pages of the report, and, if I read it aright, the treatment of both big men and little men is equitable.
There has been an endeavour by certain honorable members to convey the impression to the committee that the Commissioner of Taxation fixes the penalty. He does not. This Parliament fixes the penalty, and with good reason. But the Commissioner has power to remit a penalty. The honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. Hunter) said that he does not know of any case in which that has been done. Has he examined this list?
– I have seen the list. I meant that no such case had come within my personal knowledge.
– I do not personally know of cases either of remission or of the imposition of a penalty, but that is merely because I have not come into contact with people who evade taxation. I suggest that where a heavy penalty has been imposed the Commissioner was absolutely convinced that there was a deliberate attempt to evade the payment of tax.
I gathered from the remarks of the honorable member for Martin (Mr. Holman) that the taxpayer to whom he referred has for a number of years failed to include in his returns profits on the sales of leaseholds. The honorable member also referred to the decision of the House of Lords that profits from such transactions are not to be regarded as profits from ordinary trading activities, and are, therefore, free from income tax. That decision was given in 1930, I understand.
– I have not looked it up, but I understand that it was in 1928.
– From my experience I believe that the honorable member is wrong. This Parliament would not allow a decision of the House of Lords to stand for two years before it amended its legislation. The decision of the House of Lords afforded no excuse to the taxpayer to omit the amount from his returns. When legislation is introduced in this Parliament to meet a situation, created by a decision of the Privy Council or the High Court, its effect is deliberately made retrospective, except in regard to those persons who have established their claims in a court in respect of the issue concerned.
– I am sending for particulars of the case, so that my remarks may be more precise.
– We cannot make our legislation to suit an individual , case. If it is proved that there has been an injustice, the circumstances should be investigated, and, possibly, the law should be reviewed. But I am not prepared to ask the court to assume the responsibility of remitting a penalty which this Parliament has deliberately imposed.. That is a function which the court should not exercise.
Referring to another case, the honorable member for Martin said that the judge hearing it had declared that section 67 of the act is too strong. What right has a judge to say that a section is too strong? If he were in this Parliament as a representative of the people - and many eminent judges have been members of this Parliament before being transferred to the Bench - his opinion would carry the weight of only one member of Parliament. Those matters are purely matters of policy.
– Judges are always permitted to make comments during a trial.
– I say, advisedly, that the less comment they make the better.
– When judges comment in that way upon the laws passed by this legislature they exceed their function. It is their task to interpret the law, and give judicial decisions, not to give opinions on political decisions. It is not for judges to say whether these penalties are too strong. This Parliament has been operating taxation legislation since 1914, and it is guided by the experience of other parliaments going back for many years. Taxpayers have their advocates in Parliament, which, in its wisdom, has tightened up this section against taxdodgers. One could imagine what would be the result if we were to hand over the power that is sought to judges who incidentally express views about legislation being strong. I venture to say that that judge would not have imposed that fine of £96,733 for evasion of taxation. This Parliament deliberately made possible the imposition of such a penalty, because’ taxation is such an easy thing to evade. I venture the opinion that income tax is being evaded by a large section which should be paying it.
The honorable member for Maranoa said that many do not regard one who evades taxation as a criminal or a dishonest man; that such action is not an offence against the moral law. A man who deliberately falsifies his return knowing that he is going to evade his legal obligation is breaking the law just as much as another man who goes into a shop and steals a pound of butter or anything else. I can imagine that the judge who regarded this legislation as too strong would not hesitate to sentence a man to gaol for stealing. Discretion has to be used by the Commissioner, for occasionally false returns are sent in merely as the result of an oversight. But I see no reason why we should become tender over the man who deliberately falsifies his return and can afford to pay tax. Too many people are sympathetic towards evasions by taxpayers, because it is considered that the incidence of taxation is extremely heavy. It is felt by them that anybody who can relieve himself of that burden, or beat the Government in any way, deserves the best of fortune. Parliament, in its wisdom, has imposed a penalty amounting to double the amount of tax that is due, in cases of deliberate evasions. It has also given the Commissioner power to investigate the circumstances, and remit. Honorable members would do well to examine the report to which I have referred, and determine for themselves whether the Commissioner is the tyrant which some would have us believe. [Quorum formed.’]
.- The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin) admits that this is exceptional legislation, introduced deliberately with the object of making the penalties so high as to strike terror into the hearts of any persons who might contemplate evading the act. The idea, of course, is to make an example of a person who is caught, for the purpose of preventing others’ from doing the same thing. That is inconsistent with the idea of doing justice in particular cases - and even a person who has committed a breach of the Income Tax Act is entitled to justice. The Leader of the Opposition declared that the courts have been inclined to show sympathy towards taxpayers who have attempted to evade taxation. The implication is that the Commissioner of Taxation shows less sympathy towards those people, and is not disposed to let cases go to the court.
The Leader of the Opposition prefers that the Commissioner of Taxation should have the right to exact the full penalty, rather than that the taxpayer should have the right of appeal to a court. He suggested that the judges had been rather inclined to sympathize with the taxpayer. We should have no hesitation in declaring that a court is likely to be a fairer tribunal than the Commissioner of Taxation.
– I was referring to the penalties imposed by the legislature, and the case quoted by the honorable member for Martin (Mr. Holman) proves that the Parliament takes a view different from that of some judges.
– I have not cast any imputation of partiality on the present Commissioner or his officers, but I assert that their occupation makes them pursuers, and unfits them to give an impartial decision.
– The honorable member said that the Commissioner was a hunter, “ taking delight in the kill “.
– I have purposely refrained from making any personal criticism of the present Commissioner; my remarks apply to his office. Although a Crown prosecutor is as capable of being impartial as is the Commissioner, he is not permitted to judge a case. But, in dealingwith a defaulting taxpayer, the Commissioner, who is, in practice, the prosecutor, has the power to determine the penalty. The hunting down of defaulting taxpayers is the special concern of the Commissioner and his officers, and he should not have the final determination of penalties, which often amount to many thousands of pounds.
– I agree with the Attorney-General (Mr. Latham) that the principle contained in section 67 should not be altered. The penalty for any act or omission under the section is fixed by statute, and is applied only after the offence has been established. The taxpayer may apply to the Commissioner for a remission of the penalty, and the onus is upon the applicant to establish his claim. The Commissioner may not remit a penalty unless he has very good reasons ; but he has very wide discretionary power. Very rarely is an appeal provided in cases in which there is this discretion. Even in the courts one judge will be loath to override the exercise of discretion by another judge. The exercise of. discretion involves a matter of opinion, rather than of law ; therefore, the substitution of a judge’s discretion for the Commissioner’s discretion would be, in effect merely the substitution of one man’s opinion for that of another man. Whether one man is better trained than another to exercise discretionary power depends on the nature of the business to which the discretion is to apply. I dispute the suggestion that the Commissioner is a hunter. The remarkable manner in which the first Commissioner of Taxation, Mr. Mackay, exercised the discretionary power conferred upon him by statute was noted with approval throughout Australia, and the high tradition he established has been maintained by the present Commissioner. The discovery of an offence is not his personal concern. He has a body of trained officers, who inquire into books, incomes, and business dealings of taxpayers, and any case of evasion or omission may ultimately come before the Commissioner to be deal with.
– He is no more a hunter than the Attorney-General is a prosecutor.
– He is no more a hunter than is a judge who deals with evidence Brought before him by the Crown. I have had a good deal of experience of the work of the Commissioner of Taxation, and I have been impressed with the judicial and impartial manner in which he approaches every case. If the exercise of discretion were left to a judge on appeal, what evidence would he have before him? The Commissioner has a sound knowledge of business methods and commercial practice, and is able to apply it to the advantage, as well as to the detriment, of the taxpayer. If a matter of penalties were dealt with by a judge, he would not sift the facts better than the Commissioner does. The adoption of the amendment would introduce a cumbersome method of appeal which would not be more satisfactory than the present system. The Commissioner realizes his responsibility and exercises his discretion wisely and impartially.
– The following paragraph from the report of the Commissioner of Taxation for 1929-30 may be of interest to the committee as evidence of the methods adopted by the department: -
The department, by investigation of taxpayers’ books and accounts, has discovered a number of cases in which questionable returns have been lodged by taxpayers. In many eases there has been little room for doubt to the lay mind that fraud has been present; but the difficulty of proving fraud in accordance with legal rules has been so great that, in the majority of cases, the department has imposed the maximum penalty provided by section 59 of that act, namely, double the amount of the tax that had been evaded.
The Commissioner and his officers do not exercise their discretionary powers perfunctorily; they go fully into the facts. Some of the best-known firms in Australia have been found guilty of evasion of taxation. One firm omitted from its return £10,369 of income, and was fined £2,592. The offence of another taxpayer must have been more grave, for he was penalized to the amount of £4,895 for having omitted from his return £6,059 of income. The Commissioner’s accountants thoroughly investigate the transactions of the taxpayers, and only r.hey have established fraud does the Commissioner have to exercise his discretion in regard to the fixation of penalties.
Sitting suspended from 12.58 to 2.15 p.m.
.- I regret that this argument has not been confined to broad principles. The statement of the Attorney-General (Mr. Latham) has put quite a new complexion on the subject I do not think any honorable member will take the side of the deliberate tax evaders. The provision before the Chair deals with persons who have been found guilty. As the AttorneyGeneral has said, the Commissioner’ can only go upon the evidence in particular cases. A man in a small way of business who has not kept proper books is almost obliged to plead guilty; but some cases of tax evasion are accidental and not deliberate. In such cases it seems to me that it would be a good thing if the taxpayer concerned could have the question of penalty referred to some authority other than the Commissioner; but I can quite see that if the proposals of the honorable member for Martin (Mr. Holman) were agreed to, it would be almost impossible to avoid a complete rehearing of the case. One or two remarks by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin) were capable of an interpretation which he did not intend. I do not think the honorable gentleman will need me to assure him that I have never had anything to do with taxation evaders.
– I am sure of that. I realize, too, that it would be possible for a man to have some legitimate dealings with a tax evader.
– I have no personal knowledge whatever of tax evaders. No clients of mine have, ever been summoned or penalized. I do not deal with “ crooks “ and never will do so. The only cases of a questionable character of which I have any real knowledge were brought under my notice by a fellow accountant, who told me that the persons concerned had informed him that the State permitted them certain reductions which the Commonwealth did not permit.
I regret that certain remarks have been made with regard to the Commissioner of Taxation. I have had a number of dealings with this gentleman and with his officers, and also with the State taxation officials, and my experience has been similar to that of the Leader of the Opposition. These men are true public servants, who do their duty in accordance with the law. I have always had the utmost courtesy and help from them. Whenever a difficulty is brought under their notice my experience is that if they are not definitely bound by the law they are quite glad to give whatever consideration they can to the taxpayer. Where they are able to act upon equity they do so. That statement is equally applicable to other highly paid civil servants, of whom we hear a good deal at times. It is said occasionally that some of our principal public servants are paid too much money, but in my opinion some of them are fools for remaining in the Public Service. At any rate they are not considering their highest financial interests by doing so. A number of public servants of ability and probity receiving a salary in the neighbourhood of £500 could go out into private business and earn £1,000 a year.
– No man is 8 fool who serves his country.
– But a man may serve his country just as effectively in a private as in a government job. I can see, in the light of what the AttorneyGeneral has said, that it would be impracticable to provide the kind of appeal asked for by the honorable member for Martin. If the remarks made by the Attorney-General to-day were widely published, many taxpayers who are inclined to think that the officials of the taxation department deal harshly with the taxpayers would alter their minds. If the methods adopted in remitting penalties were generally known, a good deal pf ill feeling would be dissipated. It is quite easy to understand that when a matter has been settled by a court it is rather difficult for any one to interfere.
– It is like asking the court to exercise its prerogative of mercy.
– In my opinion, imprisonment is not too severe for tax evaders, but I repeat that not every one who has been found guilty of tax evasion te- actually guilty, for the offence has in some cases been committed through ignorance. T have been, moreover, quite certain in a number of cases submitted to me, that the taxpayers have been overtaxed, but through the absence of proper accounts I have not been able to prove it.
It is unfortunate that some people have the idea that tax evasion is not an infringement of the moral code, though that is undoubtedly the position.’ There seems to have been a loosening of the mora I tension in many respects in recent years, in stock exchange dealings, market rigging, the preparation of false returns and the like. In my opinion, those who deliberately evade taxation deserve to suffer the full penalty, but, where possible, consideration should be given to those who evade the law through ignorance.
.- Several honorable members have made reference to the unsympathetic treatment of taxpayers by the officers of the Taxation Department; but I gladly testify that all the dealing that I have had with these gentlemen have been helpful. They have shown me the utmost courtesy, and have given me great assistance on every occasion. Taxpayers who have innocently made mistakes in the preparation of their return need not hesitate to submit their cases to the officers of the department, who are only too willing to rectify such mistakes. I do not know of a single instance of harsh treatment in such circumstances. Some people seem to think that the officers of the Taxation Department endeavour to extract as much money as possible from the taxpayers; but that is not so. Persons who deliberately attempt to take undue advantage of the officers of the department must not complain if they are subsequently met with unsympathetic treatment. I regret that some honorable members of the committee have even suggested that the departmental officers deal harshly with taxpayers who have made legitimate mistakes owing to their inability properly to prepare their taxation returns.
.- Certain statements expressed during this debate make it desirable for me to clarify one or two points. First of all, I owe an apology to the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin). His recollection that the Leeming v. Jones case was heard in 1930 was correct. I thought it had been heard a couple of years earlier, but I propose to read a short passage from the report of this case to show that my view that the judges were merely applying well established principles of law was correct. At page 421 of the volume reporting this case
Lord Dunedin is quoted as follows: -
My Lords, this case is a striking example of the class of appeal in income tax cases, which on a recent occasion I. felt bound to deprecate. There is no new question of law involved in it, merely the application of old principles to the particular facts.
The other judges made similar remarks. Although that case was not heard until 1930, the law had apparently been fairly well settled years before that.
I must confess astonishment at the antagonism that has been aroused to the idea of an appeal. Did I propose to interfere with rude hand with the settled rights of the taxpayer or the powers of the tax collector, I should be prepared to stand rebuked for experimenting with a system the merits of which I did not understand. I have, however, merely proposed to introduce the right of appeal, and that is so bound up with the ordinary legal rights of citizens, that I cannot understand the objection taken by the Attorney-General (Mr. Latham) and the Leader of the Opposition. An appeal can only have one purpose - the remedying of injustice. The Attorney-General and the Leader of the Opposition seemed to contend, however, that, if the right of appeal were granted in this instance, it would lead to a diminution of revenue, and that the rate of taxation which would have to be paid by the undoubtedly honest taxpayers would, therefore, have to be increased. Do they assert that the revenue from taxation cannot be obtained at its maximum without the right to do an occasional injustice ?
– I do not think that either of us made any such suggestion.
– Nevertheless, it is the logical inference from the statements to which I am replying. It was said, in effect, that if we remedy injustice by establishing the right to appeal, we shall diminish the quantum of tax collected. What does that mean but that the maximum taxation can be collected only by retaining the right to perpetrate injustice? I am sure that neither the Attorney-General nor the Leader of the Opposition really take that position; but I cannot understand their antagonism to my proposal. It is laid down in the act that the Commissioner must initiate a prosecution for certain offences, the penalty for which is actually inflicted by the tribunal before which the prosecution is conducted. For those offences the penalty is comparatively small. In cases in which a penalty of less than £100 is concerned, the taxpayer has the protection of an independent and judicial mind, which can intervene between him and the tax officials ; yet when the penalty may involve an enormous sum, the officials are made the judges in their own cause. Should I be sued, and judgment be obtained against me, for the sum of £300, I can appeal, not on the facts, of course, but on the law. But in the cases which we are now discussing the penalty may run into five figures, and there is no appeal of any kind. We are told that an appeal cannot be allowed, because it would interfere with the efficiency of the machinery by which the tax is collected.
– Surely the honorable member is not suggesting that there are not ample provisions for appeal on both the law and the facts in the act as it stands ?
– There is a definite lack of the right of appeal on the quantum of the penalty. This morning the Attorney-General, in the course of his reply, questioned the character of the man whose case I cited when speaking to my amendment.
– I carefully refrained from discussing that case, on the ground that to do so would necessitate going into other matters, which was not desirable.
– If the information placed at my disposal is correct, the man failed to disclose income earned during a time when the money, in respect of which the penalty was inflicted, was not, within the meaning of the act, regarded as income, and there was no legal requirement to disclose the facts to the Commissioner. The penalty was imposed for failure to disclose the facts subsequently. The character of the man is not at issue. What may happen to the bad man to-day may happen to the good man to-morrow; the wording of the law should not . depend on the individual character of those who come under it. It is not necessary to produce a certificate of character before entering a court as plaintiff.
– If we are asked to pass judgment on legislation on the strength of a single case, should we not be furnished with all the papers relating to it?
– Undoubtedly. I am informed that a deputation from the Sydney Chamber of Commerce waited on the Prime Minister six or eight months ago, pressing this very amendment to the law, and at . that time the particular case which’ I cited this morning had not come under notice. The Chamber of Commerce moved- in the matter on general principles, ‘and on the strength of various other cases relating to other people. I cited that particular case because it was known to me, it having been brought before the royal commission three or four days ago. That the man is not an ideal citizen does not affect the issue. The system is condemned if any man may suffer under it, be he good or bad. The function of justice is to do right to all manner of people, and that is what we should aim at here.
I realize that the majority of honorable members are not in the mood to support this amendment at the present time. This is a matter, however, which has been under the consideration of public bodies, such as the Taxpayers Association and the Chamber of Commerce, for months. The reform is said to be urgently needed, and I was asked to urge the right of appeal against the penalty.
– The taxpayer to whom the honorable member has referred had the right of appeal on the facts and on the law, but did not exercise it.
– I have no doubt that there is a story behind that, too, but I do not propose to go further into the matter now. The reform asked for by the various bodies of which I have spoken is the right of appeal against the penalty imposed. I beg the committee to remember that those representative bodies think that, the powers under section 67 of the act are too strong. Mr. Justice Starke, within the last week, has said that he thinks they are too strong. The press of Sydney has taken the matter up, and there is considerable feeling in favour of a change in the law. I do not propose o press the matter on. the AttorneyGeneral now, realizing that he has passed through a strenuous time, but I ask him to give careful consideration to the representations of the associations which asked me to move in the matter, when he has the leisure to do so.
.- We ought not, I think, to leave the matter v-7here the honorable member for Martin (Mr. Holman) has left it. The honorable member asked that the section should be amended on the ground that the powers are too strong. I do not know just what he mea-nf by that.
– The :power conferred by the section is unqualified; there is n’6 right of appeal.
– That is wrong; there is an appeal from the legislature to the Commissioner. If anything needs amendment, it is the section itself. If Parliament considers the section too severe, the penalties should be reviewed, but there is no need to grant the right of appeal to a court. The honorable member for Martin said that the Attorney-General (Mr. Latham) and I refused to admit the, right of appeal to secure justice. Surely he was not serious. The appeal, if permitted, would be, not an appeal for justice, but for mercy; an appeal for the remission of a penalty imposed by Parliament, on the assumption that the facts and the law were correct. If the taxpayer desires to challenge either the facts or the law, he has the right of appeal now. But, the facts and the law being established, Parliament has inflicted a penalty which takes effect automatically, after which there is the right of appeal to the ‘Commissioner for the remission or reduction of the legally imposed penalty. We must assume that, in this case, the facts and the law have been established ; otherwise, the taxpayer would have appealed against them. If he does not, he admits them both. If he admits the facts and the law, any appeal he makes must be for mercy, and whoever heard of approaching a court to appeal for mercy. The honorable member for Perth (Mr. Nairn) likened the Commissioner for Taxation to a crown prosecutor. He does not stand in the same position at all. The Commissioner is in control of a department. His officers pursue inquiries, as do members of the police force in criminal cases. In ordinary criminal cases the AttorneyGeneral authorizes the prosecution, and, upon a conviction being entered by a court, the convicted person may appeal to the Attorney-General for mercy. The Commissioner for Taxes stands in the same relation to offenders against tax legislation as the Attorney-General to persons convicted under the criminal law.’
It might he said that the AttorneyGeneral had ordered the prosecution, and, therefore, should not be entitled to hear the appeal for mercy, but that view is not generally accepted.
– What about the functions of the Court of Criminal Appeal ?
– That appeal is based not upon mercy, but upon the facts of the case too. The assumption is that because the Commissioner of Taxation is interested in collecting the tax, he is liable to be biased in exercising his powers. It is not fair to endeavour to amend the law, and to cite a particular case, and so raise in the minds of honorable members queries such as that raised by the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. E. J. Harrison), who asked the AttorneyGeneral (Mr. Latham) to explain what was really a charge against the administration. If the case is as stated by the honorable member for Martin (Mr. Holman), it is a strong and telling indictment of the Commissioner, and all the facts should be placed on the table. It is unfair to make an ex parte statement. The Commissioner is now charged with having failed to remit a portion of a penalty which, it is stated, amounts to a considerable sum, to a man whose only offence was that he did not send in a return when he was not required by law to do so.
– That is the case.
– I do not believe that the honorable member has the whole of the facts in his possession. I am convinced that if the Commissioner of Taxation were approached by a taxpayer, whose position was similar to that of the person referred to by the honorable member for Martin, and if the facts were placed before him, he would not impose a double penalty. If the facts are as stated by the honorable member, and the Commissioner, although having a full knowledge of them, has imposed this fine, then I, for one, shall be in favour of amending the legislation to prevent such a thing from happening in the future, and I would suggest the appointment of another Commissioner with some sense of proportion .and justice. But I absolutely refuse to believe that the facts are as stated by the honorable member. This is a charge against the administration, and in fairness to it, the Government should ask the taxpayer in question to allow all the papers relating to his case to be placed on the table, so that the whole matter can be thrashed out by honorable members. The public are entitled to know the facts, because there can be nothing worse than the instilling in their minds of a doubt. as to the fairness of the administration of the Taxation Department. I have had some experience of that administration, and I have implicit faith in the integrity and judgment of the present Commissioner.
– I ask leave to withdraw my amendment.
Amendment - by leave - withdrawn.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 10 (Covenant by mortgagor to pay tax).
.- I am glad that the Government has inserted this clause in the bill. In legislation passed in Victoria, and probably in the other States, provision was made that a reduction of interest on mortgages was to take place to the extent of 20 per cent, or 22£ per cent. In most instances, the mortgagees in Victoria have given effect to that law, and that action in itself has given certain relief to the mortgagors. But many mortgages contain a special provision to the effect that if the Government at any time imposes additional taxation on certain financial institutions that taxation may be passed on to the mortgagor. A mortgage is a most complicated document, which few laymen read. They simply act on the advice of their solicitors, and sign it. The purpose of clause 10 is to enable this difficulty to be overcome, and to void those mortgages under which taxation can be passed on to the mortgagors. So far as I can gather, only one financial institution has given effect to this clause in the mortgage, and has passed on to the mortgagor the 10 per cent, super tax imposed by the Federal Parliament. I know of no other institution that has done that. Quite a number of persons have told me that the institution in question, when the reduction of interest took place under the State statute, immediately imposed the 10 per cent, super tax upon them. The mortgagors have as a result received. practically no relief under the State legislation. This case was put to me by a solicitor who has a number of’ these mortgagors as clients. I endeavoured to obtain some information from the Treasury on this matter, and I was informed that this institution could not legally make this charge. I made further inquiries from the Attorney-General’s Department - at the time the AttorneyGeneral was in England - and received advice that the matter would have to be dealt with by the High Court. I have ascertained from the solicitor referred to that a number of mortgagors have refused point blank to. pay the super fax of 10 per cent., and that the institution has taken no action against them. But the poor, unfortunate persons who cannot borrow elsewhere are compelled to pay this tax. This clause makes provision for the future projection of such men. Subclause 4 states “ that any provision in a mortgage by or under which it is provided that any income tax payable by the mortgagee . . .”. I suggest that after the word “ payable “ the words “ or had been paid “ be inserted, and that the clause should be retrospective to the 1st October, 1931, the date of the passing of the Victorian law. If that were done, no hardship would be inflicted except on the financial institution concerned.
– This clause represents a further attempt to deal with a situation which has arisen because of the inclusion in mortgages of a clause which is designed to ensure to the mortgagee a certain rate of interest, regardless* of variations of income taxation. So long as income tax was not heavy, the clause operated fairly enough, probably because the parties did not expect that it would have effect, to any great extent, in determining the rate of interest. Bat the tremendous increase in the rate of interest and the imposition of a special tax on property have, in respect of this clause in the mortgage, produced results which were beyond the contemplation of the parties at the time they entered into the mortgage, because neither of them had any idea that taxation would become so heavy as it is to-day. It is proposed to allow the present law to stand, and to add clause 10 of the bill. It is not proposed to repeal the existing law. If this clause stands, then, in future, all parties concerned will have not only their rights, whatever they may be under tha law as it exists at present, but also any benefits that are conferred upon them under this clause. If its effect were made retrospective, as was suggested by the honorable member - for Corangamito (Mr. Gibson), it would be necessary to provide machinery for the recovery of the amounts paid, and I feel that if that were done, we should be acting in* the dark.
-^ When this provision becomes law, what will be the position of mortgagors who have refused to pay super tax to the financial institution to which I have referred?
– Their rights will depend on the existing law, and I suggest it is only fair that that should be so. Clause 10 states “ Section 94 of the Principal Act is amended by adding at the end thereof the following sub-section “. Therefore, the position under the existing law will remain. The honorable member has stated that the clause to which he has referred appears only in the mortgages of one institution.
– -I said that the claus* was put into force only by one institution.
– I have in my own practice seen many mortgages in which this clause appears, and it may very well appear in mortgages between private individuals. It has, for many years, been a common clause in mortgage agreements in New South Wales. It is the unexpected application of this clause thai has caused difficulty. If clause 10 were made retrospective, it would impose a great hardship on small mortgagees and the like, and we should soon be in a position of uncertainty.
– What is the extension of the protection given in this provision as against the present law?
– Sub-section 2 of section 94 of the principal act deals with a stipulation in a mortgage which has or purports to have the purpose or effect of including in or adding to the interest payable, a certain amount. Where there is not a sum of interest to which something is added or included, but where a sort of measuring standard is arranged in a mortgage, and the amount of interest is fixed only after the measuring standard is applied, there it is not a case of adding to interest or including interest otherwise fixed. The amendment is for the purpose of preventing an evasion of the existing provisions.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 11 agreed to.
– I move -
That the following new clause be inserted: - 3a. Section twelve of the principal act is amended by inserting in sub-section (4.), after the words “ relating to pensions “, the words “, or to the Director-General of Health for the purpose of the administration of any law of the Territory for the Seat of Government which is administered by the Minister of State for Health”.
Section 12 of the principal act provides that the information obtained by the Commissioner and other officers is secret. There are, however, certain exceptions. Sub-section 4 provides that the Commissioner and other officers are entitled to communicate what comes to their knowledge officially to a board of review appointed under the act, or to the Commissioner of income tax in any State, or the officer or authority administering any act of a State relating to stamp duties or succession duties, or to the Commissioner of Pensions or the Repatriation Commission, for the purpose of the administration of any law of the Commonwealth relating to pensions. Then there is a proviso. The proposed amendment will make it possible for taxation, officers to communicate information to the Director-General of Health for the purpose of the administration of any law for the Federal Capital Territory. The committee is asked to include this provision in order to make it possible for the Government to consider a scheme relating to the maintenance of hospitals in the Federal Capital Territory. Although not yet completed, there is such a scheme under the consideration ofthe Minister for Health which will involve the imposition of a hospital tax. In order to impose that tax and avoid the necessity of citizens of the Territory sending in further returns, it is proposed to authorize the Commissioner of Taxation to give information to the Director-General of Health.
I do not wish to speak about hospitals in Canberra beyond saying that, as honorable members know, public hospitals in the various States are maintained in part by public money, which is State money, and in part by donations and subscriptions. A difficulty arises in Canberra in relation to the almost complete maintenance of public hospitals out of public money, which is Australian money. The inhabitants of Canberra are free from the equivalent of State taxation. An endeavour is being made to deal with this somewhat difficult problem, and it is desired that the Director-General of Health, and not any Minister, for political purposes, shall have the right of access to this information.
New clause agreed to. [Quorum formed.]
Section proposed to be amended -
– I move -
That the following new clause be inserted - 7a. Section 50 of the principal act is amended by adding at the end thereof the following sub-section: - (5.) The Commissioner may in any case in his discretion and upon reasonable cause being shown by the taxpayer, extend for a further period not exceeding thirty days (a) the period of forty -two days mentioned in sub-section (1.) of this section and (b) the period of thirty days mentioned in sub-section (4.) of this section.”.
Section 50 of the principal act provides that a taxpayer who is dissatisfied with the assessment made by the Commissioner may lodge notice of objection within 42 days after service by post of assessment. The Commissioner then deals with the objection. If it is disallowed, the taxpayer has a period of 30 days within which to request the Commissioner to treat the objection as a notice of appeal, or refer it to a Board of Review.
– Does that mean that he has 72 days in all?
-Yes ; added to the period during which the Commissioner is considering the objection. So, it may be assumed that in practically every case, a taxpayer has a minimum of three months in which to. determine whether he wants to goto court. But he must make up his mind and lodge an objection within 42 days after the assessment is served. There are cases in which a slip is made, where it is not so much a matter of sufficiency of time, but that somebody has forgotten. I know of instances in which serious results have happened because a clerk has not posted a letter. At present there is no power to extend the time for objection. The object of this amendment isto give the Commissioner power to extend the period, at his discretion, for a further 30 days. I recommend the suggestion to the committee. It can hardly be abused, and it might lead to a saving in litigation. The Commissioner can be relied upon to use the power wisely. There must be finality sometime. The amendment does not mean that when a man has let six months go by he can come along and ask for a further extension of 30 days. It is imposed with a limit in one case of 72 days, and in another of 60 days, provided extensions were obtained in each case. It is an alleviation of the hard and fast precision of the present law, for the benefit of taxpayers.
.- I am sure that this concession will be much appreciated by taxpayers. I should like the Attorney-General (Mr. Latham) to consider an alteration of the present method, to give the Commissioner, where good cause is shown, the right to reopen a case for a limited period, say, of 21 or 30 days. I shall illustrate what I mean. Recently, when this matter was beginning to attract attention, I was told of a man in a fairly large way of business who had a private accountant or secretary. That person received his employer’s income tax assessment, considered that it was all right, and took no steps to appeal. The time within which to lodge an objection expired. Shortly afterwards, for definite reasons, the business man employed, for the first time, the services of a public accountant. That person examined the books and found that there were serious grounds of complaint against the assessment which the private secretary or accountant had accepted. I urge that some machinery should be provided to enable the facts, in such instances, to be stated. That could be done if the Commissioner were given the right to reopen the case in the light of the disclosure of facts previously unknown to the taxpayer.
– This amendment gives the Commissioner the right to extend the terms by 30 days.
– But in the circumstances which I have related, even the additional 30 days would have expired before the discovery of the facts upon which the appeal would have been based.
– The new clause I have proposed is based on a suggestion of the honorable member for Martin (Mr. Holman), although he did not propose a limitation of 30 days. I shall investigate the point he has raised, and, if satisfactory, an amendment can be drafted which will provide a safeguard against the re-opening of cases an indefinite time after the usual period has elapsed, I shall arrange for it to be proposed in the Senate.
New clause agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported with amendments; by leave - report adopted, and bill read a third time.
In Committee of Ways and Means:
Motion (by Mr. Lyons) agreed to -
That a tax be imposed on income at the following rates: -
Division A. - Rate of Tax upon Income Derived from Personal Exertion. (For the purposes of this Division - T = taxable income in pounds.)
If the taxable income does not exceed £6,900, the rate of tax for every pound of taxable income shall be -
If the taxable income exceeds £6,900, the rate of tax for every pound of taxable income up to and including £6,900 shall be -
and the rate of tax for every pound of taxable income in excess of £6,900 shallbe90d.
Division B. - Rate of Tax upon Income Derived from Property. (For the purposes of this Division - X = taxable income in pounds.)
If the taxable income does not exceed £500, the rate of tax for every pound of taxable income shall be -
If the taxable income exceeds £500, but does not exceed £1,500, the rate of tax for every pound of taxable income shall be -
If the taxable income exceeds £1,500, but does not exceed £3,700, the rate of tax for every pound of taxable income shall be -
If the taxable income exceeds £3,700, the rate of tax for every pound of taxable income up to and including £3,700 shall be -
and the rate of tax for every pound of taxable income in excess of £3,700 shall be 90d.
Division C. - Rates of Tax in Respect of Taxable Income Derived Partly from Personal Exertion and Partly from Property.
Division D. - Tax Payable where Amount would Otherwise be less than Ten Shillings.
Notwithstanding anything contained in the preceding divisions, where the amount of income tax which a person would, apart from this division, be liable to pay is less than Ten shillings, the income tax payable by that person shall be Ten shilings.
Division E. - Rate of Tax Payable by a Trustee.
For every pound of the taxable income in respect of which a trustee is liable to be separately assessed and to pay tax, the rate of tax shall be the rate which would be payable under Division A, B, or C, as the case requires, if one individual were liable to be separately assessed and to pay tax on that taxable income.
Division F. - Rates of Tax Payable by a Company.
Division G. - Rate of Tax Payable by an Individuallyowned Private Company.
For every pound of the taxable income of an individually-owned private company, the rate of tax shall be determined as follows: -
Division H. - Rate of Tax Payable by a Severally-owned Private Company.
For every pound of the taxable income of a severally-owned private company, the rate of tax shall be determined as follows: -
Division I. - Rate of Tax Payable by an Individually-owned Partnership.
Individually-owned Partnerships other than Trusts which are Partnerships.
For every pound of the taxable income of an individually-owned partnership, the rate of tax shall be determined as follows: -
Tax Assessment Act 1922-1931 if the taxable income of the partnership were added to his own taxable income, subtract the amount of tax actually payable by him in respect of his own taxable income; and
Trusts which are Individually-owned Partnerships.
For every pound of the taxable income of a trust which is an individually-owned partnership, the rate of tax shall be determined as follows : -
Division J. - Rate of Tax Payable by a Severally-owned Partnership.
For every pound of the taxable income of a severally-owned partnership, the rate of tax shall be determined as follows: -
Resolution reported; Standing Orders suspended and resolution adopted.
That Mr. Lyons and Mr. Latham do prepare and bring in a bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill brought up by Mr. Lyons, and passed through all stages without amendment or debate.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
This measure has a twofold purpose, first, to prevent the fishing grounds from being fouled by the sinking of obsolete vessels, and, secondly, to protect the sea shores, particularly the bathing beaches, from being polluted by garbage deposited at sea.
Within comparatively recent years deep-sea trawl fishing has been established in Australia, principally off the coast of New South Wales. South of the 30th parallel of latitude - that is to say, along the coastline extending southerly from, roughly, the Clarence River, in New South Wales, around the southern part of the continent and up to, roughly, Geraldton, in Western Australia - there are, it is estimated, trawl fishing grounds aggregating no less than 80,000 square miles. Of this area, however, only about 10,000 square miles has been explored. Complaints have been made by trawling companies and others interested in deepsea fishing of the practice of dismantling a vessel, when it is no longer fit for use, removing the machinery, &c, and sinking the hull a few miles out at sea. Frequently a vessel is sunk right in a fishing area, and, as no indication is given of its presence, serious loss and damage is occasioned to the trawlers by their trawl nets catching on the submerged wreck, and breaking or carrying away. Experience has shown that wreckage on the sea bottom lasts for very long periods before finally breaking up. The jurisdiction of a State extends only to the 3-mile limit, that is, to 3 marine miles from low-water mark along the coast. The fishing grounds extend, however, for many miles beyond this, and apparently the only authority having power to protect them is the Commonwealth. This Parliament has power to pass legislation in regard to fisheries, prohibiting the deliberate sinking of vessels in Australian waters, outside territorial limits, which are used for fishing purposes. Further, under the power in regard to navigation and shipping, the Commonwealth can pass legislation controlling generally the disposition, by sinking in waters frequented by oversea or interstate ships, of hulks and other vessel’s. It is not considered a practicable proposition to require shipowners to tow vessels out to. sea beyond the limits of present and potential fishing grounds, as some of these extend a distance of over 40 mile3 from the coast. As an alternative, areas have been found in which, on account of the roughness of the sea bottom, trawling operations are impracticable. All requirements for the protection of the trawling industry will be met if ship-owners are prohibited from sinking vessels elsewhere than within prescribed limits in these areas. The bill is designed to give effect to this proposal. No expense will be incurred in administering this law, the present staff of the marine branch of the Department of Commerce being sufficient for the purpose.
The secondary purpose of the bill is to protect the bathing beaches, in the vicinity of our principal ports, from pollution by garbage and other offensive matter thrown overboard by ships or discharged from barges and thrown up on the sands by the action of wind and current. In recent years there have been bitter complaints on this score from the people of Sydney in regard to the garbage that comes ashore at the ocean beaches at “Manly, Coogee, Bondi, and Cronulla. Beaches at Melbourne and Adelaide also have been affected. The power of the State parliaments in this regard is very limited. State jurisdiction extends only 3 miles from the shore, and there is consequently no power to make it a punishable offence, under a State act, to discharge garbage outside that limit. It has been found in practice that in some localities rubbish is carried in to the beach from as far as 10 miles out. The honorable member for South Sydney (Mr. Jennings) and others recently made strong representations that the Federal Parliament should support and supplement the action taken by the States, by making it an offence to discharge garbage at sea, even outside the 3-mile limit, in any place from which it will be carried on to a public bathing beach. It is learned, on expert advice, that health can be detrimentally affected by bathing in waters containing in suspension floating garbage, decayed fruit and vegetables, and other organic substances, whether from ships or cities. Therefore, the powers of the Commonwealth to make laws with respect to quarantine are being invoked to protect the health of the bathers on our beaches. The bill consequently provides, in clause 3, that, unless special permission has been obtained from the Director of Quarantine, or from a chief quarantine officer, no garbage, rubbish, ashes, or organic refuse shall be discharged into the sea, within any prohibited area, from any vessel in Australian waters. The penalty for a breach of this provision is £100. Power is taken, in clause 5, to prescribe by regulation the prohibited areas in which garbage shall not be discharged. The distances to which these areas will extend from any principal beach will be determined by local conditions, including the set of currents and prevailing winds. It is admitted that the effective policing of this provision will be difficult. Cases will doubtless occur in which breaches of the law will be committed, perhaps, under cover of darkness, without detection and punishment. The co-operation of shipowners and masters will, however, be sought to secure observance of the law, and. every effort will be made by the department to make it effective for the purpose intended, namely, the preservation of the health of the bathers on the city beaches around our coast. To this end the earnest co-operation of the general public will also be invoked.
.- -I congratulate the Government upon having introduced this bill, which is long overdue, and trust that it will have the desired effect of keeping the beaches of our cities free from pollution. The vileness of some of the garbage which at times is washed back on the beaches is beyond description. I also approve of the provision regarding the sinking of obsolete and worn-out ships at sea. One of the worst offenders in this regard has been the Naval Department. I do not know whether this department has always carried out its operations of this nature in approved areas, but I hope that it will be policed in this regard in the future. I should like the Government to take up with the State authorities the question of transferring the control of intra-state shipping to the Commonwealth. If the crews and ships engaged in this business were under the administration of the Commonwealth it would be to the advantage of all concerned. I should also like the Government to see what can be done by negotiation with the State authorities to ensure that all vessels engaged in intra- and inter-state trade are installed with wireless equipment. I understand that there are certain constitutional difficulties in this regard, but if the State Governments would co-operate with the Commonwealth Government in this matter these could, no doubt, be overcome. The John Burke line of steamers and the vessels of the Hunter River Company, as well as certain vessels used by the Colonial Sugar Refining Company during the sugar season should be equipped with wireless.’ I believe that the Hunter River Company successfully resisted in the High Court an effort by the Commonwealth Government to cause their vessels to be equipped with wireless. We have heard the story revived recently that some of the white women who were on the Douglas Mawson when she was wrecked are being kept in imprisonment by the Caledon Bay blacks; but if people who make these statements knew the meteorological condi-tions of that part of Australia they would realize that the storm which that vessel encountered could not have met her if she had been off the west coast of the Gulf of Carpentaria. My point is, however, that if the vessel had been equipped with wireless we should have had a good idea where she was wrecked, and this would definitely have set the minds of many people at rest about the fate of the white women on board her.
I shall support the bill because I think that the effort of the Government to prevent the pollution of our beaches by the disposal of garbage at sea is commendable. I hope that something will also be done that will prevent the people who have recently been dumping fruit in Sydney Harbour, in order to keep prices up, from continuing the practice. It would be a good thing if all local governing bodies installed modern incinerators for the destruction of their garbage. This is a hygienic means of coping with garbage which obviates much of the distasteful work that is sometimes associated with the business.
– I believe that all honorable members will support the bill, Although it is true that the garbage from the Glebe district in which I reside has been punted out to sea, and has in some cases drifted back to the foreshores north and south of Sydney, I assure honorable members and the public generally that the Glebe Council, with which I have had some association, has not been responsible for this. As a matter of fact the council some time ago took steps to construct a modern incinerator; but for some time it was prevented from proceeding with the project owing to the obstinacy of Alderman Jackson,’ acting in his capacity as Minister for Local Government in New South Wales. As the’ Glebe Council had done its best to make other provision for dealing with its garbage, but was hindered from doing what it wished to do, I think it” only proper to state these facts. Even after the council had reached the. point of selecting a site for its incinerator and preparing plans for the work, it was not allowed to proceed with the enterprise. I do not think that the attitude of Alderman Jackson was approved by many of his colleagues, but probably it would have been rather embarrassing for them openly to express their disapproval. However, that gentleman’s obstinacy has now been overcome, and the council is proceeding with the construction of the incinerator. I trust that the day is not far distant when all garbage will be destroyed in incinerators. The present Minister for Local Government in New South Wales has now changed his attitude towards the Glebe Council in this respect, but unfortunately he does not seem so well disposed towards certain other local governing bodies in the northern suburbs of Sydney which desire to build incinerators. To the extent that this bill will make ineffective any opposition to the building of incinerators I heartily support it. When the measure is in operation it should have a definitely beneficial effect in cleansing the beaches of Sydney, which are, without question, favorite resorts for hundreds of thousands of people in the summer months. Parents will now be more favorably disposed than they have been towards their children bathing on our beaches. Without doubt, Bondi and Coogee beaches have often been in an unsatisfactory condition through the presence of garbage which has floated in from the sea. The construction, of modern incinerators for the destruction of garbage will also have a good effect, in that it will make the work of those associated with this unattractive calling much less objectionable than in the past. In conclusion, I assure the honorable gentlemen of this House who represent constituencies which include bathing beaches, that, the Glebe Council is very happy to think that it will no longer be necessary for it to punt its garbage out to sea, with the consequent risk of beach pollution.
– I also commend the Government for having introduced this bill. I was pleased to hear the honorable member for West Sydney say that the Glebe Council is proceeding with the construction of an incinerator to deal with garbage. What the honorable member has said about the punting of Glebe garbage to sea recalls to my mind the procedure adopted by a certain contractor who was responsible for the punting of this garbage to sea. He would regularly tie his punts up in Rose Bay with the object of proceeding to sea early in the morning; but whenever a likelihood of rough weather suggested that a trip outside the heads would be uncomfortable, or considerations of convenience made it desirable, this person had no hesitation in slipping his moorings and dumping the garbage inside the bay. As a result of protests, the practice was stopped, but it shows the length to which contractors will go to relieve themselves of their responsibility for taking refuse outside the harbour in rough weather. Legislation of this kind will probably have the effect of causing people to refuse to take such contracts, and municipalities will be compelled to adopt up-to-date methods for the disposal of garbage.
The honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) referred to the pollution of beaches at Coogee and Bondi. Fortunately, not very much trouble is experienced at Bondi, because there is usually a current flowing quite near the beach which carries refuse out to sea. Only in easterly weather is any refuse deposited on the beach and that is mainly surface refuse. Municipalities^ in many instances, are erecting incinerators to destroy garbage, and it is time that action was taken to compel sewerage hoards to adopt up-to-date methods. When sewage is disposed of on sewage farms, instead of being dumped at sea, our coastal waters will be less liable to pollution. It is a crying shame that the beautiful ocean beaches around Sydney, where so many honorable members- go to bathe during their
Christmas vacation, should be polluted by garbage and sewage. This measure will, I hope, help to relieve the situation in regard to garbage, and if the State governments would exert pressure .upon the sewerage authorities to treat sewage by modern hygienic methods the nuisance might be completely overcome.
.- I agree with what other honorable members have said regarding the proper disposal of garbage. In regard to the sinking of obsolete vessels, however, I desire to know why it should be necessary for them to be sunk at all. The people living along our large rivers would be very pleased to get possession of old ships such as H.M.A.S. Australia.
– Any legislation that has for its object the maintenance of the health of the people, and the protection of their recreation, should receive the support of this House. The pollution of beaches in Sydney has become a public scandal. I speak mainly of Sydney’s ocean beaches, because I am familiar with the affairs of a municipality which controls 15 miles of coast line. Sydney has a population of 1,300,000 people, the majority of whom indulge in surfing. It might be regarded as the national pastime in summer, and is enjoyed by countless visitors from other States. Owing to the action of certain municipal councils, ocean beaches, from time to time, are fouled with refuse which has been dumped at sea. The garbage is dumped near the foreshores where hundreds of thousands of people habitually bathe. At present the garbage is supposed to be punted 3 miles out to sea. In some instances, the regulation requires that it be taken out 10 miles, but on occasions it is dumped just outside the heads, and the winds and the tide carry it back among the surfers. I have seen dead animals and filthy clothes, washed up on the beaches, so that surfers have had to leave the water. Probably surfing is the most healthy and economical of recreations, but the health of surfers, and, indeed, of the people of Sydney, is menaced by the practice of dumping gar.bage at sea. I have before me a letter from an eminent medical practitioner in the eastern suburbs of Sydney, whose practice extends to the Bondi and Coogee areas. He states that cases of illness have occurred which were reasonably attributed to materials - fruit, vegetables, &c. - comprising garbage from passing shipping. I have. upon occasions, seen material dumped from passing vessels. One vessel dumped overboard a cargo of foodstuffs which was washed up on the beach.
A similar condition of affairs has obtained for years on the coasts adjacent to New York, and the Supreme Court of the United States of America has prohibited the practice of dumping garbage at sea. I quote from a paper dealing with the developments relating to the disposal of garbage -
For years, most of New York’s garbage and a great deal of its ashes and rubbish has been loaded on to scows, towed 10 to 22 miles out to sea, and dumped. A few years ago, hundreds of sealed bottles, each containing a bright-coloured, addressed return postal card, were, dropped into the sea at the regular dumping grounds under different conditions of wind and tide, in an attempt to find out what became of the garbage so deposited. A few bottles apparently floated into the Gulf Stream and crossed the Atlantic to Portugal, France, England and Ireland, but many were stranded on Long Island and Jersey beaches. . . .
New Jersey contended that a nuisance prevailed over . many miles of her coast line, that substantial expense was required to remove the. debris from her beaches, and that her property was reduced in value by this practice.
An engineer, reporting on this problem, stated -
Much of the floatable mass will return and be scattered along the beaches, through the action of currents and winds. … It became such a nuisance that the United States of America Government took the matter out of the hands of the municipalities and have now prohibited the dumping of garbage within 50 miles of the coast.
Apart from other considerations, the dumping of refuse at sea has an important bearing upon the fish supply along the coast. The covering up and destruction of great areas of the sea bed by this putrid mass means that the natural feeding grounds of the fish are destroyed, and they move to other places, as has been proved by investigations conducted abroad.
Because of the ever-growing popularity of sea bathing, seaside municipalities have erected bathing facilities on the foreshores such as, those at Coogee, Bondi, and Manly, in Sydney, at Henley and Glenelg, in Adelaide, and at St. Kilda, in Melbourne. The. value of those assets will be reduced if the beaches are damaged by the deposit of refuse.
The disposal of sewage is a matter which concerns the Sewerage Board of Sydney. That authority has decided to introduce a scheme costing £125,000 to divert sewage from the eastern suburbs to the southern point of Long Bay, which will overcome the present difficulty. The menace created by the disposal of garbage and sewage at sea interferes with the peaceful recreation of the people, drives them from the beaches, interferes with the business of shopkeepers, reduces property values, and depreciates the revenue of municipal councils. This has been recognized by many local authorities, and incinerators for the destruction of garbage have been, or are being, erected. Recently, an incinerator was erected by the Randwick municipality. It is of Australian design and manufacture, and a similar one has been erected at Essendon, in Victoria. We have found in Randwick that it is cheaper to dispose of garbage by burning it than by dumping it at sea. It costs 2s. 9d. a ton to burn, whereas the cost of dumping was twice as much. Even after allowing for interest on the cost of constructing the incinerator, it is cheaper to burn the garbage. Therefore, in the interest of the health of the people, and for the other reasons I have stated, I support the bill.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time and reported from committee without amendment; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
Sitting suspended from 4 to 5.5 p.m.
Bill returned from the Senate with amendments.
In committee (Consideration of Senate’s amendments).
Section fifty-two E of the Principal Act is amended by inserting in sub-section (1.) after the words “ real property of the pensioner “ the words “ and except encumbrances thereon in respect of which the Commissioner has consented in writing”.
Senate’s amendment -
After “ writing “ insert “ and except encumbrances created bona fide for value before the grant of a pension to a pensioner”.
– I move-
That the Senate’s amendment be agreed to. The object of this amendment, which was accepted by the Government in the Senate, is to give effect to the proposals made by the honor able, member for Perth (Mr. Nairn) when the bill was at the committee stage in this chamber. If the amendment is agreed to, the clause will provide that, in the case of an encumbrance or mortgage on a property made by a person not a pensioner, who subsequently becomes a pensioner, the Commonwealth will not take priority. In speaking on the proposal of the honorable member at the time he made it, I admitted that there were real difficulties in the provision in the original bill, particularly in relation to building societies, solicitors and trustees. The acceptance of this amendment will make the measure a little less effective from the revenue point of view, but much less difficult from some other points of view. It will remove a serious complaint respecting the infringement of the rights of persons who advance money on property to persons not pensioners, but may subsequently become pensioners. The amendment will also meet objections made by the Law Institutes of Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide, The Southern Law Institute of Tasmania and the Law Institute of Queensland, and will greatly facilitate dealing with land.
Motion agreed to.
Section fifty-two H of the Principal Act is amended by omitting all words from and including the words “ to a relative “ to and including the word “transferee” (first occurring) and inserting in their stead the words “to a person who is -
) the father or mother or a child, sister or brother of the pensioner and who -
Senate’s amendment -
Leave out “ who -
” insert “ is a pensioner ; or
– I move -
That the amendment be agreed to.
This is a drafting amendment to the new clause, inserted at the suggestion of the Leader of the Opposition, in order to give it greater clarity. Paragraph b, as now drafted, will definitely cover the father or mother, or a child, sister or brother of the pensioner who is a pensioner. Paragraph c is a new provision, and will give the Commissioner an optional power in the case of the father or mother, or child, sister or brother of a pensioner who is not a pensioner. In their case the charge on the property may be postponed.
Motion agreed to.
Verbal amendments’ to clause 24 also agreed to.
Subject to this Part, there shall be payable out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund, which is hereby appropriated accordingly, the sum of Two hundred and fifty thousand pounds for the purposes of financial assistance to the States in the provision of relief to primary producers (other than wheat-growers) and for the purposes of providing relief to such primary producers in any Territory.
Senate’s amendment -
Leaveout “ (other than wheat-growers)”, insert “ in respect of the production of primary produce other than wheat.”.
– The object of this amendment is to ensure that the bounty payable in respect of the use of superphosphates will be available to all primary producers who use superphosphates for purposes other than the production of wheat, whether they also grow wheat or not. The Government undertook, at the request of the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson), to reconsider the drafting of this clause, and also the other clauses of the bill which relate to this subject, with the object of making it clear that the help should be available under these conditions.
Motion agreed to.
Consequential amendments to the clause, and consequential amendments to clauses 31 and 33 also agreed to
Resolution reported; report adopted.
Bill brought up by Mr. Latham, and read a first time.
Motion (by Mr. Lyons) agreed to -
That leave of absence be given to every member of the House of Representatives from the determination of this sitting of the House to the date of its next sitting.
Sitting suspended from 5.20 to 7.25 p.m.
The following bills were returned from the Senate without amendment or request : -
Colonial Light Dues Appropriation Bill.
Colonial Light Dues Collection Bill.
Colonial Light Dues Rates Bill.
War Service Homes Bill (No. 2) 1932.
Invalid and Old-age Pensions Appropriation Bill (No. 2) 1932.
Patents, Trade Marks and Designs Bill.
Wheat Bounty ( Claims) Bill.
Public Service Bill (No. 2)
Income Tax Bill, 1932.
Beaches, Fishing Grounds and Sea Routes Protection Bill. Income Tax Assessment Bill.
Bill returned from the Senate with amendments.
That consideration of the message be made an order of the day for the next day of sitting.
Sitting suspended from 7.53 to 7.38 p.m.
Motion (by Mr. Lyons) agreed to -
That the House, at its rising, adjourn until a date and hour to be fixed by Mr. Speaker; which time of meeting shallbe notified by Mr. Speaker toeachmember by telegram or letter.
– by leave - Before referring to the discussions recently held between the Government and the tobacco manufacturers, I desire very briefly to narrate some of the essential facts. Honorable members are aware of the extraordinary and sudden increase which has taken place in the tobacco-growing industry within the last year or so. The area under crop has increased from 2,133 acres in 1928-29 to approximately 15,000 acres in 1931-32. Production, which was less than 2,000,000 lb. in 1930-31, amounted to between 11,000,000 lb. and 12,000,000 lb. in 1931-32. Because of the high import duty of 5s. 2d. per lb. imposed in November, 1930, many persons, tempted by the profitable returns, decided to grow tobacco. Some of them were quite unfitted for this industry.
When the present Government assumed office, it was faced with the problem of finding a market for a crop estimated variously at from 8,000,000 to 10,000,000 lb. Happily for the tobacco-growers, it succeeded. As a result of an arrangement, manufacturers undertook to purchase 7,250,000 lb. of leaf at an average price of 2s. 3d. per lb. This quantity has, in fact, been substantially exceeded. To date, 7,800,000 lb. have been purchased by manufacturers at tha average price mentioned, while almost 500,000 lb. of leaf of lower quality has also been purchased. A promise to purchase another 1,000,000 lb., at an average price of 2s. 3d., has been given by the largest manufacturer, and it can be safely anticipated that the total purchases at this figure will not be less than 9,000,000 lb.
At the recent meeting, the situation was frankly discussed with the manufacturers, and, although they have shown their practical sympathy with the growers of Australian leaf, they stated the difficulties of the present position with equal frankness.
When the Government approached manufacturers early in the year to purchase the Australian crop, it was found, fortunately, that stocks of Australian leaf
were low, and that very little leaf had been placed in maturation. This enabled the companies to purchase more than would otherwise have been possible, and to put the leaf aside to mature. Manufacturers state that, in order to meet the difficult marketing problem occasioned by the phenomenal production of leaf, they have this year very definitely over-bought, and it is almost certain that they will not be able to purchase the same quantities of Australian leaf next year. Although it is the definite policy of the Australian manufacturers to use Australian leaf, there are limits to its use. In the final analysis, the smoker decides the proportion of Australian leaf which shall be used, and the ultimate success of .the tobacco-growing industry rests on the ability of the grower to produce leaf of a quality acceptable to smokers. It was claimed that any agreement must operate unfairly in its incidence upon individual manufacturers, and cause difficulties in buying operations. Another aspect to which manufacturers have drawn attention is that the arrangement made for the purchase of Australian leaf was limited to the 1932 production, and that manufacturers definitely understood that this was only an emergency measure.
A fairly representative deputation of growers recently requested that the arrangement should be extended to the next season’s crop on an even extended basis as to quantity, but opposition to this proposal has been expressed to the Minister by a deputation of representatives of northern Queensland tobaccogrowers. It i3 clear that there is no unanimity among the growers themselves on the subject. The Government is most desirous that tobacco culture should be placed on a firm and economic basis, and, to this end, the Minister in control of development, Senator McLachlan, recently issued a press statement warning the growers that the ultimate welfare of the industry depended upon tobacco culture being undertaken in areas with suitable climate and soil conditions. The Government considers this of such importance that it has arranged for the printing and circulation of a guide to growers. This will indicate the basic requirements essential to the successful production of leaf, and also deal with such subjects as cultural practices, treatment of seed beds, curing, &c.
The reports that are to hand for this season indicate that in Victoria and southern New South Wales blue mould has, unfortunately, destroyed .a large percentage of the seed beds, and it is quite probable that the production of leaf next year will be much less than last. It is regrettable that this development should have occurred after such a successful growing season had been experienced.
In all these circumstances the obtaining of a satisfactory arrangement for a definite agreement to purchase. leaf next season appears to be a most difficult proposition. The industry is divided, the future is uncertain, and the manufacturers are opposed to the idea. The Government stepped in last year to tide over a distinct period of transition, when not only had the import duty been reduced, but a phenomenal crop was in sight. It is not, however, the normal function of the Government to sell the tobacco crop.
The matter cannot yet be considered quite settled. Apart from other considerations, the manufacturers point out that it is at present impossible to forecast the extent of the crop, or to consider what quality of tobacco will be available. They state, therefore, that it is superfluous to discuss such matters at present, but, while strongly adhering to the view that the fixing of quotas and prices is against the best interests of the tobacco-growers, as well as ‘being impracticable as between the interests of the different manufacturers, they have consented to discuss the matter further about February or March next, when it should be possible to form definite opinions regarding the coming crop. In all the circumstances the Government has decided to defer further consideration of the matter until about the end of February next.
– I move -
That the House do now adjourn.
This is the last occasion on which the House will meet during the present year, and, therefore, on behalf of the Govern”ment, I wish all honorable members a most happy Christmas season, and a prosperous and happy New Year.
The session has been a strenuous one. Much important work has had to be done, and honorable members have been compelled to apply themselves closely to the consideration of the legislative problems that were set them. There have been differences of opinion, and at times the conflict in debate has been keen; yet throughout, good personal feeling has persisted. It is, I think, typical of the parliaments of Australia, that, despite political differences, their members become good friends again immediately they leave the chamber. That is as it should be, for were we to carry our political prejudices into our private conversation, life would not be worth the living. Each of us fights zealously in the interests of those whom he represents, and for what he believes to be best for his country, because, before all, we are Australians.
I thank honorable members generally for the assistance and consideration which they have extended to the Government during the past arduous months. It is gratifying to the Government that a substantial and satisfactory programme of legislation has ‘been accomplished.
It is, I am sure, the sincere hope of all of us that, during the coming twelve months, the people of Australia may know happier times than have been their lot during recent years. I trust that in the coming year we shall see a change for the better throughout the whole world ; and that not only Australia, but every other country, may experience a happy and prosperous year.
To you, Mr. Speaker, and the Chairman of Committees, I express thanks for the help you have given us, and the able manner ‘in which you have discharged your duties. We are grateful for the forbearance and consideration that you have at all times extended to us. Much of the credit for the success of the session is due to you, Sir, and to the Chairman of Committees.
Through you, Mr. Speaker, I also extend our thanks to all the officers of the Parliament: the Clerk and the Clerk Assistants; the Sergeant, the Hansard staff; the Librarian and his officers, and all the other parliamentary officials. We are all much indebted to the Hansard staff. Were it not for them, the speeches of some of us would not read quite as well as they do. I also express our hearty thanks to the heads of the various administrative departments and their officers, who, though not directly associated with the Parliament, do a great deal indirectly to assist us in our work.
I acknowledge, too, our debt to the representatives of the press, for the important part they take in making known to the people of Australia the deliberations of this Parliament. They do much to educate our people on the matters discussed within the walls of this chamber. They are able men, with very high standards, and on behalf of the Government and of the House, I thank them for the services they have rendered.
To all whom I have mentioned, and to the people of Australia generally, I wish a very happy Christmas and the best possible New Year.
– I am glad to associate my party and myself with the remarks of the Prime Minister, and to thank him for his good wishes for a happy Christmas.
I join him in expressing our thanks to you, Mi. Speaker, and to the Chairman of Committees, for the patience you have shown to us. Although, from time to time, incidents may occur that we wish forgotten, I have the greatest personal re.: Dept and regard for you both,’ and compete faith in your impartiality and fairness.
I thank the Clerks of the House for their unvarying helpfulness.
To the Hansard staff Ave are always indebted. They are ratable and efficient reporters. It is seldom that we catch them with a word with which they are unfamiliar.
I have appreciated, too, the efficiency and courtesy of the officers of the Library, and I am grateful to the attendants of the House for their services to us.
Like the Prime Minister, I take pleasure in acknowledging the help that we receive from the officers of the various administrative departments, whose duty often compels them to sit for long and weary hours in this chamber. They are always courteous and helpful, not only to the Ministers on whom they attend, but also to private members. The Parliamentary Draughtsman and the other officers of the Attorney-General’s Department give us invaluable help in putting our ideas into parliamentary language.
I add my appreciation of the work of the representatives of the press in the parliamentary galleries. I do not express approval of everything that is published in the newspapers. Like the curate’s egg, the matter that is published in the press is good in parts. But the representatives of the newspapers do their duty to the organizations they represent, and are always agreeable to meet.
Sessions come and go, and Parliament will continue to meet in Canberra amid the pleasant surroundings and the growing beauty of this lovely city until long after all of us now here have passed away. Yet I hope that when new faces fill this chamber we who have gone may be remembered for some little bit of good that we have tried to accomplish. We differ widely as to the means to be adopted; but we all strive for the one end - the welfare of our people, and the ‘betterment of our country.
I reciprocate the Christmas wishes of the Prime Minister, and trust that when the New Year dawns, brigher days may come for the many thousands of those who are to-day in poverty and want. I wish every member of the Parliament a very happy Christmas.
.- On behalf of the Country party, I join in the felicitations that have been expressed to all those associated with the Parliament on the occasion of our dispersal before. Christmas. This time last, year, we were setting out upon an election campaign, and we have before us now the prospect of considerably more enjoyment in the immediate future.
The Country party, Mr. Speaker, expresses its appreciation of the way in which you and the Chairman of Committees have performed your important duties. We thank you for your absolute impartiality, which we recognize, even though on occasions one may rise for the tenth time before catching your eye. When, in the discharge of your duties, you may have to suspend a member from the service of this House, you, Mr. Speaker, do it with such an air of benevolence that I am sure the gentleman dismissed almost feels that a favour has been conferred upon him.
I join with the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) and the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin) in expressing appreciation of the work of all those who are associated with the House - the Clerks, the members of the Hansard staff, the officers of the Library, the attendants, and, indeed, all who help us with the work of this Parliament. Probably we do not sufficiently appreciate the extent to which we are indebted to the gentlemen of the Hansard staff. During an all-night sitting, while we who occupy these -benches can sit back for a few moments, at times, in a more or less restful attitude, the reporters must keep their quills working incessantly, and should we happen to receive some word of appreciation from admirers who may read our polished sentences, we should hardly like to inform them of the extent to which we are indebted to the gentlemen who report our remarks for the perfect English in which they are recorded. I hope that, in the new year, Australia may begin to rise out of the depression in which she has been labouring for the past two years.
– I am sorry to interrupt the expression of seasonal sentiment - and I echo all that has been said in that connexion - but I must seize this, the only opportunity that has presented itself, to ask the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) to give serious consideration to the setting up of a committee of a non-party character, representative of both Houses of the Parliament, which will keep under continuous review the operation of the Ottawa trade agreement between Great Britain and the overseas dominions. The Parliament of India has concluded a treaty for the term of three years, and, during that time, the operation of its provisions will be kept under review by a committee appointed for that purpose. In making the suggestion that we shall do likewise, I am not influenced by party considerations; but I think that it is wise, in view of the importance of the matter, that this step should be taken. I hope that the Prime Minister and the Government will, during the recess, give serious consideration to my request.
– I shall certainly bring the suggestion of the honorable member under the notice of Cabinet during the recess.
– Before putting the question to the House, I desire to acknowledge, on behalf of the Chairman of Committees (Mr. Bell) and myself, the generous sentiments expressed by the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons), the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin), and the Deputy Leader of the Country party (Mr. Paterson), in our regard. We greatly appreciate what has been said of us, and thank honorable members for their good wishes.
The complimentary references to the officers of the House are thoroughly deserved. Personally, I am under a great obligation to the Clerk of the House and his assistants at the table for the help I have received from them during my term of office. The Parliament should be proud of its Hansard staff, and of its Librarian and his officers. We are under a debt of gratitude to the other officials in the various branches of the parliamentary service. The Parliament is fortunate in having as heads of its departments gentlemen of ripe experi ence, loyalty, and unfailing courtesy.
I hope that the recess may be ahappy one for every honorable member, and that each will return refreshed, and prepared to carry on their important duties in a manner worthy of the National Parliament.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The House adjourned at 8.5 p.m. until a date and hour to be fixed by Mr. Speaker.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
r asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : - 1 and 2. In addition to the information given to the honorable member in reply to his question of the 25th November on the same subject, I would point out that the matter was discussed by the previous Commonwealth Government with the States at the Premiers Conference of September, 1931, and as a result of that discussion it was announced at the conference that the Commonwealth Government would pass on to the States the reduction of the interest charge on State indebtedness from 5 per cent. to 4 per cent., “leaving it to the State Governments to make their own adjustments with the soldier settlers.” At that conference it was stated that the administration costs of the States were approximately 10s. per cent.
y asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
With a view to helping the bondholders who nobly helped Australia, will the Government, during the forthcoming recess, consider legislation that would permit any holder of Commonwealth bonds and stock to convert the whole or portions of his holdings into fiduciary notes ?
– The attention of the honorable member is invited to the Commonwealth Debt Conversion Act (No. 2) 1931, in which the National Debt Commission was given power to purchase new securities at a price in excess of the market price, but not above par, with a view to preventing undue hardship arising out of the conversion. At the time that act was passed Commonwealth stocks were at a discount on the market. At the present time holders can sell their securities on the market at prices ranging about par.
Invalid and Old-age Pensions.
y asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
Of the total number prosecuted, what was - (a.) the number of convictions;
s. - The information is being obtained, and will be furnished as soon as possible.
On the 29th November, the honorable member for Angas (Mr. Gabb) asked the following question,without notice : -
Is the Prime Minister aware that the forms which invalid and old-age pensioners are required to fill in, are issued without an envelope and returned to the post office unenclosed, and there assembled in bundles to be sent to the head office of the Pensions Branch? Will the right honorable gentleman issue instructions that an envelope be issued to the pensioner, as is done to an applicant for a pension, so that personal and confidential information may not be disclosed to unauthorized persons?
The honorable member is presumably referring to the Forms 41 which pensioners are required to furnish in connexion with the recent amendment of the act. These forms are issued to the pensioners through the postmasters who pay pensions. The pensioner is required to complete the form and return it to the postmaster for transmission to the Deputy Commissioner. This procedure was decided upon as the most expeditious and economical “ method of obtaining the forms, and has been the practice for some time in connexion with an annual review. To supply envelopes to all pensioners would have cost approximately £200. Moreover, many of the pensioners would have returned the forms through the post, thus involving themselves in the cost of postage. It is not considered that the present method involves any disclosure of confidential information. The forms are handled only by departmental officers, who, in many cases, have already assisted the pensioners to complete the forms and have witnessed their declarations. In the circumstances above outlined, it is not proposed that any alteration be made.
on asked the Attorney-General, upon notice -
Owing to the fact that other thanofficial poppies are being sold on Armistice Day, will he indicate whether -
any federal action can be taken to prevent the sale of these spurious poppies, and
any action can he taken to prevent the infringement of the tab on the official poppy, which is covered by copyright ? “
– The answers tothe honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
Birth Control: Mexican Law.
y; asked the Minister for
Health, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
Use of Formalin as Preservative.
y asked the Minister for Health, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
son asked the Assistant Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
y asked the Minister for Health, upon notice -
With a view tomaking available to the people of Australia valuable information known in his department, will he inform the House regarding the pasteurization of foods by a simple domestic utensil which will sufficiently pasteurize liquidssuch as milk, water, &c.
– A variety of domestic utensils is on sale at the commercial houses dealing with this class of goods, suitable for the pasteurization of milk. The information is widely circulated by the Health Departments and Infant Welfare Centres of the various States, and is rather too extensive to be given in answer to a question.
y asked the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
Will the Government give consideration to the advisability of putting as much as possible ofthe maintenance work (including parks and gardens) in the Federal Capital Territory, upon a contract basis, in view of the substantial savings which would thereby be effected?
s asked the Minister for Health, upon notice -
What are the names of the dentists removed from the dentalregister of the Federal Capital Territory since the 20th June, 1932, and what were the reasons for their removal?
– The following are the names of the dentists removed from the Dental Register of the Territory for the Seat of Government since the 20th June, 1932 : -
The reason for the removal in each case was the failure of the dentist to pay the annual fee of £11s. before the 1st July, as prescribed by section 23a of the Dentists Registration Ordinances 1931- 1932.
Royal Commission on Constitution.
y asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
What fees and remuneration were received from the Commonwealth Government by Professor Peden while acting as a royal commissioner on the Commonwealth Constitution, under letters patent dated the 14th August, 1927?
– The information is being obtained, and will be furnished to the honorable member as soon as possible.
t. - On the 25th November, the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Fenton) asked the following questions, upon notice: -
I am now in a position to furnish the honorable member with the following replies : -
The reduction in the quantity and value of the exports from Australia during November and December, owing to the restrictions referred to, will be approximately -
This reduction will, however, be offset by the increase in price which may be expected for the products mentioned since the restriction of exports was announced. Mutton and lamb have increased in price from3/4d. to1d. per lb., and butter by 5s. per cwt. Owing to the increase in the price for mutton and lamb, the Victorian meat-works are now as busy as they have ever been, with the result that a considerable increase has occurred in the demand for labour.
Distribution of Military Clothing.
s. - On the. 30th November, the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) asked whether the Government would make _ available before the Christmas season any naval or military stores for the relief of distress.
As has previously been pointed out no naval or military clothing surplus to requirements is now held by the Defence Department. Quantities of part-worn and unserviceable clothing become available from time to time, and, in accordance with approved procedure, these are handed over to the State Governments in the several States for distribution to persons in necessitous circumstances. The last general distribution of unserviceable naval clothing for the relief of the distressed was made from the Royal Edward Victualling Yard, Sydney, in July last, when a fairly large quantity of such clothing was issued. Since that date a further small quantity of unserviceable naval clothing, including such articles as boots, shirts, blankets, collars, &c, has accumulated at the victualling yard, and endeavours are being made to have these articles issued to the State Government before the Christmas season. Part-worn and unserviceable military clothing is issued for the relief of distress from time to time, and, for the honorable member’s information, I may say that the following articles of military clothing have been approved for issue to the Premier’s Department, New South Wales, during the six months ended the 30th November: -
s. - On the 11th November, the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. R. Green) asked the following questions, upon notice: -
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 2 December 1932, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1932/19321202_reps_13_137/>.