14th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. G. J. Bell) took the chair at 11 a.m., and read prayers.
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. G. J. Bell).I have received the following letter from His Excellency the Governor-General : -
Commonwealth of Australia.
Canberra, 5th December, 1935.
The Governor-General desires to inform the
Speaker of theHouse of Representatives that the message from the Speaker and members of the House of Representatives of the Commonwealth of Australia contained in his letter dated 4th December, 1935, was conveyed by telegram to the King, and in reply His Majesty commands the Governor-General to convey His Majesty’s sincere thanks for their kind condolences which are much appreciated. (Sgd. ) Isaac A. isaacs,
– In view of the magnitude of British Treasury operations on the London financial market, will the Treasurer inform the House whether the proposed Australian conversion loan will be arranged before Christmas, and, if not, whether there will be any lengthy delay in the matter ?
– I regret that at present I have no information that I can give to the House on the matter.
Mr. WHITE laid on the table report and recommendation of the Tariff Board on the following subject : -
Pneumatic rubber tyres and tubes for motor vehicles.
Ordered to be printed.
– Will the Prime Minister inform the House of the exact position in regard to the proposal to despatch the Antarctic exploration ship
Discovery II. in search of the missing American airmen, Lincoln Ellsworth and his companion?
– The Commonwealth has suggested to the British Government that Discovery II. should be made available to search in the Antarctic for the missing airmen. The British Government has asked for particulars of what Australia possesses in the way of suitable aeroplanes, &c., and as an indication that it desires to co-operate with Australia has without hesitation instructed that Discovery II. shall proceed with all speed to Melbourne so as to arrive there on the 9 th instant. Meanwhile, inquiries are being made and information collected, and I hope shortly to be able to announce a definite and final plan.
– Has the AttorneyGeneral considered the matter of the inclusion of the penal sections of the Crimes Act in a recently-made Commonwealth Arbitration Court award? Can he indicate the Government’s attitude in the matter? “Will he say whether such penalties will be arbitrarily imposed upon offenders, or the usual procedure will be followed in the Courts?
– The honorable member’s question suggests that some of the provisions of the Crimes Act have been included in the recent seamen’s award. That is not the case. It is quite true that the Arbitration Court has included in that award two clauses which provide for penalties for certain offences, one offence being that known in the past as “ job control “, and the other, “ incitement to strike “. Each is expressed in its own particular form, and has no relation to the Crimes Act. The inclusion of these provisions in the award is warranted by the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act, whichempowers the court to provide for penalties for offences. It is, however, quite erroneous to think that the penalties prescribed in those clauses are in some way capable of being imposed by the employer. They are not; they are stated as maximum penalties, and would have to be proceeded for in the courts in the ordinary way. A case would have to be established to the satisfaction of the court before any penalty could, in fact, be imposed.
– Will the Minister who is acting for the Minister without portfolio, directing negotiations for trade treaties, state whether he is aware that reports are being circulated among shippers of barley in the Commonwealth to the effect that, failing more favorable consideration of its claims, Belgium will shortly terminate the existing trade agreement? Does the Minister realize that the uncertainty caused by the circulation of such reports has a very depressing effect upon the price which shippers are prepared to offer and growers, in their nervousness, are prepared to take? Can he make a statement of a reassuring nature which will indicate the probability of the conclusion of a permanent agreement that will protect trade between the two countries?
– Such reports, which are current at about this time every year, have been renewed lately. There is nothing official in the threat of the adoption of reprisals by Belgium. Negotiations are proceeding at the moment for a trade treaty based on the temporary agreement of last year.
Polishes and Antiseptics Used
– Honorable members may have noticed that a rather strong stench arises from the floor polish used in the King’s Hall and in other parts of this building where the floors are of . wood; also, the strength of the antiseptics used in the lavatories. I entertain some doubts as to whether these are poisonous or non-poisonous. Will the Minister for Health ask his department to make inquiries to ascertain if these preparations are poisonous and, if they are, will a special system of ventilation be adopted to safeguard life?
– I shall see that the necessary inquiries are made.
Works Director and Engineer
– In view of the in creased expenditure on public buildings and arterial roads in the Northern Territory, will the Minister for the Interior consider the appointment of a works director and engineer in the Darwin area?
– At present no engineer is attached to the administration at Darwin, nor is such an officer employed by the municipality. As the Government has decided that civic affairs shall shortly be taken over by the administration. I believe there will be justification for the appointment of an engineer to attend to both sections of the work. That appointment will probably be made in the near future.
– Having regard to the temporary nature of the employment of telegraph messengers in the Postal Department, will the Minister representing the Postmaster-General endeavour to have provision made for the holding of examinations whereby these lads may be enabled to qualify for permanent appointment before reaching the age limit? Is the honorable gentleman aware that these examinations are held only periodically, and that frequently a lad is denied the privilege to sit at them because his age exceeds that prescribed by the narrow margin of a month or so?
– I shall be very glad to convey to the PostmasterGeneral the purport of the honorable member’s question, and obtain information upon it. I am not quite clear as to whether something of the sort is not already being done. ‘ I shall also obtain full information with respect to the second portion of the question.
– Will the Minister representing the Postmaster-General use his best endeavours with that gentleman to secure the reinstatement before Christmas of some of the men who have been dismissed from the Postal Department in Victoria during the last three or four months?
– I shall be very glad indeed to impress that view upon the Postmaster-General. I am quite sure, however, that I am merely stating a simple fact when I say that the Postmaster-General, in common with myself, will be only too pleased if something can be done in the direction suggested. No effort is being spared to achieve that object.
-I ask the Minister for Defence what representation, if any, the Commonwealth will have at the FivePower Naval Conference to be held in London ? If there is to be no representation, what steps have been taken by the Government to ensure that it will be kept in as close touch as possible with what transpires?
– The Commonwealth will be represented at the conference in question by the High Commissioner for Australia, who will have as technical adviser Vice- Admiral Sir Francis Hyde, who is at present in London. Adequate arrangements are being made to have all the available information conveyed to this Government.
– Can the AttorneyGeneral inform the House which State member of the League of Nations initiated the proposal for the imposition of an embargo upon oil supplies to Italy?
– I regret that I am not able to supply the information, but I shall have inquiries made.
– Has the attention of the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral been directed to the statement of the editor of the Sydney Morning Herald, denying the charges which that honorable gentleman has made in regard to the cable news published by the daily newspapers? If the honorable gentleman’s statements are not accurate, will he take steps to correct them in this House ?
– I have seen the statement referred to. Substantially, it does not deny the gravamen of the statement that I made. I am obtaining additional information, with which I shall be very glad to amplify that statement.
– I noticed that the Tariff Board is about to hold meetings in Melbourne- and Sydney to inquire into the duties on oils including medicinal oils. Tariff Item 230 is affected. I ask the Minister for Trade and Commerce whether the inquiry will also cover olive oil, and if so, whether the board will extend its inquiry to Adelaide to deal with that aspect of the subject in view of the fact that the olive oil industry is important to South Australia?
– Any representations made regarding an inquiry into olive oil would be considered; but a prima facie case would need to be made out to justify extending the inquiry to Adelaide. In the circumstances I cannot answer the honorable member’s question offhand.
– I ask you Mr. Speaker whether your attention has been drawn- to a news item in this morning’s press to the effect that the Speaker of the Rumanian Parliament had a revolver in his possession while occupying the Chair and threatened to shoot members guilty of disorder? Will you, sir, arrange for the .Sergeant at Arms of this Parliament to search the Chairman of Committees to see whether he is similarly armed when he takes the Chair?
Question not answered.
– In view of the over-capitalization of the Australian railways and the ever-increasing competition to which they are being subjected by various forms of modern transport, will the Treasurer consider the advisability of taking steps with the object of writing off a certain proportion of the capital debt on State railways in order to assist the State Governments to modernize the railway systems of their respective States?
– The honorable member’s question involves a major matter of policy and it is not usual to deal with such issues in answers to questions without, notice.
– I ask the Minister for the Interior whether, in view of the fact that the bold policy is being adopted in connexion with the Kalgoorlie gold mines of drilling to 6,000 feet to ascertain the nature of the gold-bearing ores at that depth, he will take steps to make the Government diamond drill available for deep drilling at Tennant’s Creek seeing that leading geologists have been puzzled by the unusual gold-bearing ore formation which exists over a wide area in that locality ?
– The Government diamond drill was in use comparatively recently at the Golden Dyke Mine. I do not know whether the operations there have been completed, but I shall ascertain whether it is possible to make the drill available for use at Tennant’s Creek.
– I ask the Treasurer whether further representations have been made to him by business people regarding the expense to which they are put to prepare the intricate returns required from them monthly in respect of sales tax, and also whether he will give further consideration to. the introduction of the system which obtains in New Zealand of making a small discount to traders as compensation for the expense to which they are put in preparing these returns?
– The Government has investigated this matter on several occasions, but has not been -able, up to date, to agree to such a proposal. I shall, however, make further inquiry into the subject.
The following papers were presented : -
Lands Acquisition Act - Land acquired at Woodside, South Australia - For defence purposes.
Public Service Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1935. No. 119.
Bill brought up by Mr. Casey and read a first time.
Declaration of URGENCY
Question put. The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. G. J. Bell.)
Majority . . . . 16
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Allotment of Time.
Motion (by Mr. Casey) proposed -
That the time allotted in connexion with the bill be as follows: -
For the remaining stages,¼ hour.
.- As the introduction of this important bill was entirely unexpected until the night before last, the procedure which the Government is adopting in connexion with its discussion is entirely inexcusable. Parliament had every reason to believe until a relatively few hours ago, that the problems associated with the wheat in dustry would be dealt with in an entirely different way from that proposed in this bill. As a matter of fact the bill has only just been circulated, and, while its contents may be somewhat familiar to honorable gentlemen opposite, who seem to have resolved their controversy on the subject of the flour tax, I protest that the time specified in the motion for the consideration of the bill is not only inadequate, but also grotesquely inadequate. The whole procedure of the Government in regard to this matter can be described as nothing but a contemptuous disregard of the deliberative capacity of this chamber.
– The moving of this motion shows the extent to which the Government is prepared to pursue this ridiculous form of parliamentary procedure. The guillotine has been applied in the last few days to several important bills, but under circumstances distinctly different from those now proposed. At least honorable members had some knowledge, before the application of the guillotine, of the measures which have been passed by its use hitherto this week. Having been given the opportunity to read the bills they were able to form an opinion as to which clauses required consideration in committee. But that is not the case on this occasion, for this bill has just been circulated and we on this side of the chamber have had no opportunity whatever to consider its provisions. The time proposed to be allowed for the consideration of the bill is totally inadequate. We are all aware of the importance of this measure, and the need that exists for honorable members on both sides of the House to be given ample time to discuss it. The records of the Parliament disclose that when previous measures of this kind were introduced into this House they were always very keenly debated, because of the injustice which they imposed upon the poorer sections of the community. Honorable members on this side, in order to bring the people generally to a realization of the methods employed by this Government, are inclined to restrict still further the time for the debate on this bill so that only the speech of the
Treasurer may be made. In this way the methods employed by this Government in transacting important business in this House will be brought more forcibly to the attention of the people, and they will be made aware of the necessity for taking definite action at the first opportunity to remove from office those who have refused Parliament the right to discuss this important measure.
– I protest against the time allotted for the consideration of this measure.
– The honorable member himself voted for the declaration of urgency.
– I have no objection to the bill being declared an urgent bill, but I think the time allotted is quite inadequate for honorable members properly to express their views. An illustration of this may be gained from our experience yesterday. When the Sugar Agreement Bill was under discussion, the Leader of the Opposition spoke for from threequarters of an hour to an hour, and other honorable members took their full time, with the result that many honorable members “were precluded from placing their views in regard to this important agreement before the House. As only one and a half hours have been allotted for the consideration of this measure, it seems likely that the whole of that time will be taken up by the speeches of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde) and the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley). The Government should be prepared to reconsider the allotment of time for this measure. It is not fair that two honorable members should bo permitted to occupy the whole of the time allotted for the consideration of a measure of such paramount importance. A re-allotment of time should be made, and an opportunity given to honorable members-
– Order! That matter cannot be discussed now.
– Surely in discussing themotion for the limitation of time I should lie permitted to suggest to the Government that a re-allotment of time is desirable. I do not always oppose the application of the guillotine, provided honorable members are afforded an opportunity to express their views. Yesterday, when the sugar bill was under discussion, by a rearrangement of the call from the Chair I was excluded.
– Order ! The honorable member is distinctly out of order.
– I am not out of order.
– Order ! Does the honorable member, who has resumed his seat, wish to proceed with his speech ?
– The honorable member for Barton knows that the matter he referred to has nothing to do with the question before the Chair, and moreover his remarks constitute a reflection upon the Chair. I wish to say at this stage that what he said regarding the call from the Chair is inaccurate, and not in accordance with what actually happened.
.- I move as an amendment -
That the times be omitted with a view to* insert in lieu thereof the following times: - “3” instead of “lj”; “2” instead of “1”; “J” instead of “i”.
That doubles the times allowed in the motion just moved by the Treasurer. If my amendment is agreed to, honorable members will be given ample time to consider this important measure. It is monstrous that the Government should- provide only two hours for the discussion of such an obnoxious measure as this and ask honorable members to address themselves to the motion for the second reading of the bill within the limited time of one and a half hours. This is an iniquitous bread tax-
– Order ! The honorable member cannot discuss that.
– I may not discuss the details of the measure, but all honorable members know how a similar measure was described by the honorable member for Henty (Sir Henry Gullett).
– Order !
– The 74 members of this Parliament will surely desire to say something on this measure before the food of the people is permitted to be taxed. How are they to express their views ia one and a half hours? If every honorable member addressed himself to the bill only a little more than one minute could be available for each. Although there are six clauses in this bill, only half-an-hour is allotted for the committee stage. A number of honorable members may desire to move amendments at that stage, but will be denied an opportunity to do so. Although I have not seen this bill before, I can see at a glance that quite a number of amendments could be moved in committee. The amendment which I submit is reasonable, and I appeal to fair-minded honorable members opposite to support it.
– I second the amendment. On previous occasions, when measures such as that now before the House have been introduced, they have been very seriously debated. When for the first time a bill imposing sales tax on flour was introduced, it was said that it was to be only of a temporary nature, and a number of months was fixed for its operation. Now it appears that the flour tax is to become permanent.
.- I oppose the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition. It has been suggested that the time allotted for the consideration of this bill, is totally inadequate. During the consideration of the Wheat and Wheat Products Bill yesterday, many honorable members spoke with a full knowledge that this bill would be introduced to-day, and discussed it at length in their remarks on that measure. I ask them not to consider this bill as a totally independent measure, but rather to take it in conjunction with the bill debated yesterday, and to have regard to the fact that no new principle is embodied in it. A similar bill was passed before.
– It is a very obnoxious measure.
– The Leader of . the Opposition knew last night the circumstances which make the introduction of this measure necessary.
-Order! The necessity for the introduction of this bill cannot, be discussed. The allotment of time to the different stages is the question.
– I am explaining why no more time should be necessary to debate it, and pointing out that actually the principles of this particular bill were thoroughly discussed yesterday. It i.* suggested that this is an iniquitous bread tax, yet at the same time we are forced to re-enact this legislation because of the inability or refusal of State governments with Labour Premiers to pass legislation to give effect to a homeconsumption price for wheat. I consider there is no consistency in the argument of the mover of this amendment. As I have said, no new principle is embodied in this bill, the subject-matter of which was foretold yesterday in the discussion of another bill on the same subject. The Government has provided reasonable time for its discussion.
– On a point of order, Mr. Speaker, I submit that the motion is out of order in that it does not provide an allocation of time for the contingent stages associated with the discussion of this measure. Yesterday I referred to the fact that a motion was moved between the passage of the second reading and the committee stage, the bill having previously been made subject to the guillotine. For the strict observance of the Standing Orders, and having regard to the ruling given yesterday, I submit that the motion is not in order in not providing an allotment of time for one of the stages of the consideration of this bill, which may take the form of a substantive motion.
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. G. J. Bell).I find nothing in the Standing Orders to provide that when a motion is moved to allot times for debate every stage of a bill must be dealt with in that motion. I must rule against the honorable member.
– But this bill is being guillotined from the start.
– On a point of order, this motion does not allocate the time up to a certain hour as on previous occasions, but allots specific periods of time for the various stages. An honorable member who desires to move that the bill be referred to a select committee will be debarred from doing so. The Standing Orders must be read ‘with common sense, and some time, even if it is only one minute, must be permitted to honorable members to move any motion which would be in order at any particular stage of the bill.
– The motion I have moved deals with the allotment of time of the orthodox stages of the passage of the measure. If some unexpected contin- gency arises during the discussion of the bill, the Government can deal with it when it arises.
– I take it that the Standing Orders contain a number of provisions which are mandatory in protecting the privileges of honorable members. These provisions give honorable members the privilege of taking certain action at certain times, and it is not within the power of the Government to abrogate the rights of honorable mem- bers as this time-table proposes to do. The Treasurer, in endeavouring to sustain his point, says that the Government at any stage of the hill may make provision to overcome any unexpected contingencies that may arise. It is not competent for the Government to have the power to deprive “honorable members of their rights and privileges which are particularly provided for in the Standing Orders. If the Treasurer’s contention be sustained, a majority of the members of this House could at any time deprive the minority of those privileges and rights irrespective of Standing Orders.
– The objection raised by the right honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin) and the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley), cannot be sustained. A glance at the motion submitted by the Treasurer allotting times for the consideration of the bill will show that a motion such as that moved yesterday to refer the bill to a select committee would not be excluded. In other words, there is no allocation of time for such a motion which, if moved, could be debated at any length.
– All right, we shall do so.
– That is not the question at the moment. As to the point raised by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin), I refer him to Standing Order No. 262a. the relevant part of which is in these words -
A member of the Government may forthwith, or at any time during any sitting of the House or committee, but not so as to interrupt a member who is addressing the House or committee, move a further motion or motions specifying the time which (exclusive of any adjournment or suspension of sitting) shall be allotted to all or any of the following: -
The initial stages of the bill (including any motion of resolution preliminary to the introduction of the bill ) up to, but not inclusive of, the second reading of the bill;
b ) The second reading of the bill ;
The committee stage of the bill;
The remaining stages of the bill.
It is made clear that the guillotine may be applied at any stage of a bill, and not necessarily to all stages.
Question - That the times proposed to be omitted (Mr. Forde’s amendment) stand part of the motion - put. The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. G. J. Bell.)
Majority . . . . 13
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Original question put. The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. G. J. Bell.)
Majority . . . . 14
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
– Honorable gentlemen, I think, are familiar with the circumstances that have led to the necessity for the re-imposition of the flour tax as a temporary measure. The Government’s plans for implementing a homeconsumption price for wheat, I think, have been adequately discussed in this chamber. Owing to circumstances over which the Commonwealth Government has no control, that is, the fact that the home-consumption plan legislation in some of the States has not yet been passed into law, it is impossible to bring about a home-consumption price for wheat for this season. This makes it necessary for some steps to be taken todeal with the position between the 6th. January, 1936, when the flour tax as at present operating will lapse, and thetime when it will, be possible fully toimplement the plans of the several, governments of Australia for the creation of a home-consumption price for wheat. Accordingly this bill provides for the continuance of the flour tax after the 6th January, 1936, its present terminating date, until a date to be proclaimed. By this flexible provision the; flour tax can be made to terminate upon the inauguration of the plan for a homeconsumption price for wheat, without further special legislation being introduced for that purpose. In order to bring about this situation the Government considered a number of alternative methods. The first considered was. whether the flour tax might well be re-introduced for a fixed period, say, until the 30th June, the 30th September,. October, or some other fixed date. But the weakness of that method is that it is impossible to forecast at this time the exact date on which it will be possible to implement the home-consumption price plan. As the legislation for the establishment of that plan has to be passed through all the Parliaments of Australia, it was realized that if a fixed, terminating date were decided upon now, the flour tax might have to be extended for a period of possibly only a few weeks or a month or two.
Another alternative proposal which has been closely examined, was for the continuance of the application of the flour tax to all flour produced! from wheat harvested during the 1935-36: season and past seasons, but not to flour gristed from wheat in the 1936-37 season. It was found on examination that it would be extremely difficult, if not impossible, to implement it. It is possible to distinguish between wheat harvested in any one season and wheat: harvested in any other season, but without an undesirable degree of policing; of the legislation it is impossible for the purposes of the flour tax to differentiate between flour gristed from wheat of one season and that of another season.
The Government was, therefore, thrown back on the proposal incorporated in this bill, which is one to re-enact the flour tax without specifying a closing date, but taking power to call it off on the proclamation, at the appropriate date, of the home-consumption price legislation. Under this procedure there will be no gap between the ending of the flour tax and the beginning of the home-consumption price plan.
Honorable members will also see that the provisions in respect of refunds of tax at the termination of the Flour Tax are repealed. The system of refunds is essentially applicable to a tax imposed for a definite period, and it would be applicable if the flour tax provided for in the present bill were to be terminated, and if nothing else were to take its place. It is hoped and believed that the Commonwealth plan for a home consumption price for wheat will follow immediately after the expiration of the flour tax and that there will be no break from the termination of the flour tax. Provision for refunds to be made at that time would be the cause of a series of difficulties and, the Government believes, serious dislocation of the flour market. It would certainly encourage the piling up of supplies of wheat and flour gristed from wheat towards the end of the period just preceding the time when the home price consumption plan would come into operation. The refunding of tax paid on flour accumulated at the termination of the flour tax would mean that such flour would be free not only of the flour tax, but also of any other impost which may become necessary by reason of the home consumption price plan. As far as it is possible to forecast, with the enactment of this bill and the associated taxing measures which will follow it, and with the home consumption price legislation in operation there will be a continuous plan for dealing with wheat and flour.
I want honorable members on either -side of the House not to misunderstand the intention of the Government in not stipulating a closing date for this legislation. It is the intention of the Government to continue the flour tax not indefinitely, but only until such time as the proposals for the creation of a home consumption price are given effect.
– Until such time as the Government succeeds in implementing the home-consumption system it will not be able to proclaim the repeal of th« lour tax.
– It would be mora, specific and more exact to say that unti. some better method of dealing with this problem than the flour tax is evolved, the flour tax will remain. It is anticipated that this tax will be necessary only for six months or a relatively few months more than six months in the next calendar year. There is no proposal to make this an indefinite tax. The Government’s proposals in respect of the re-imposition of the flour tax are solely to fill in the gap between the termination of the existing flour tax on the 6th January next and the time when a plan for instituting a homeconsumption price for wheat is ready for operation.
– What about the gap that will occur if the constitutional difficulties cannot be overcome ?
– If the difficulties to which the honorable member refers became actual, the Government would have to deal with the situation in the proper way.
– The Government would not have to do anything. It would allow the flour tax to continue.
– It is not the proposal of the Government to have an interminable flour tax. The honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) has mentioned the contingency in respect of section 92 of the Constitution. It is not necessary at the moment to assume that a certain decision will be made, but that is a matter over which no government has control. If constitutional difficulties arise out of the interpretation of section 02 of the Constitution, no doubt they will have to be dealt with by legislation. Without anticipating any further calamities, however, this bill adequately meets the situation, I think, until such time as a more acceptable plan can be implemented by all the Governments of Australia.
This bill provides for the same exemption from the tax on flour of goods produced in Australia from flour products for export as is contained in the measure now operating. Opportunity is also being taken in the bill to provide for two minor matters which are in line with the intention of Parliament.
– Are there no new principles in the bill?
– Only those which I have mentioned and the two minor matters which I now propose to mention. These are as follows : -
This amendment is necessitated by the Sales Tax Exemptions Bill which will shortly be before the House.
There is no authority in the existing law to refund tax paid on flour used in the manufacture of goods subsequently exported in those cases where there are intermediary transactions between the manufacturer of the goods and the exporter. Itwas the intention of Parliament that there should be, and opportunity is taken to remedy the omission.
– How much a month does the Government expect that this tax will yield? The tax has been suspended in recent months or else the figures for the last six months of this financial year and the previous six months are not comparable.
– I direct the attention of the honorable member to the fact that collections of revenue by the flour tax in the first six months of the calendar year and the anticipations for the last six months are not the same. That is brought about by reason of the fact that in the first six months stocks had to be taken into account and in the last six months the budget anticipations of resultant revenue from the flour tax were based on the assumption that refunds would have to be. given at the closing date on the 6th January next, which would have had the result of reducing the amount collected in the last six months in comparison with the first six months. The budget anticipation was that £900,000 would be collected in the six months up to the 6th January, 1936. If the flour tax were to continue for six months from that date about £750,000 would be collected for revenue purposes if refunds had to be given. If refunds did not have to be given, it would be possible that an additional amount of £200,000 would be the proceeds of this tax.
– Roughly £1,000,000 a year.
– No, about £1,750,000 a year in round figures will be realized from the tax at the present rate, and it is not proposed to alter that rate. For the information of honorable members I may say that this bill is the most important of the several measures that will be subsequently introduced, namely, the taxing resolutions and the bills that arise from those resolutions. They will be the Flour Tax Bill (No. 1) 1935 and the Flour Tax Bill (No. 3) 1935.
I hope the explanation of the Government’s plans regarding the present procedure will enable honorable members to approach the measure in a co-operative spirit.
.- Honorable members who sit on this side of the House intend to oppose this measure. We consider that the whole of the circumstances associated with the bill make suspect the policy of the Government in respect of the treatment. of wheat and, furthermore, that the powers which the Government contemplates taking with respect to the duration of the tax are powers against which the Parliament should safeguard the country, even admitting that the premises advanced by the Treasurer are valid, namely, that it will be repealed by proclamation upon the realization of the Government’s hopes in connexion with the establishment of a home-consumption price, and the passage of necessary legislation by the States. I presume that the Parliament will again be in session in March of next year at the latest - it ought to meet at an earlier date - and will also sit for a period in the spring. I see no earthly reason why the Government, in framing its provisions for the termination of this tax, should not have prescribed that “ the date shall be fixed by proclamation under section 32a of this act, or shall be the 31st March next, whichever be the earlier date.” If by the 31st March the States had not passed the necessary legislation to implement the other plan, this Parliament could be consulted as to whether the flour tax should be continued or repealed. If the Government really means this tax to be but a temporary provision, there is no occasion to legislate in a form which will enable it to retain the tax as a permanent measure. It is unquestioned that in the form in which the bill is drafted the Government can continue this as a permanent tax without further reference to the Parliament, by merely refraining from gazetting the proclamation of repeal. I submit that that is far too great a power for the Parliament to surrender to the Executive. Most certainly, this tax, in. whatever guise we view it, should not be more permanent than the operation of the Income Tax Act, which has to be re-enacted each year. I see no reason why this legislation should be exposed to the possibility of indefinite application.- Certainly its duration should not be left to the whim of the Government. We object to the principle of the measure, and say that there is no occasion for it. According to the Treasurer, the amount which this tax will yield is £1,750,000. For the first four months of the present financial year the excess of receipts over expenditure amounted to £1,990,000. It appears to me conclusive that there is no occasion to burden the consumers of Australia with this tax, seeing that .the financial results of this year’s operations disclose a surplus of practically £500,000 in each month. I point out to the representatives of primary producers, who profess to be opposed to duties, and therefore, I should say, to the revenue derived from them, that for the first five months of .the present financial year the receipts from ou.’toms and excise exceeded the estimate by over £1,500,000. It seems to me sheer effrontery for the Treasurer to ask the Parliament to continue a tax estimated to yield £1,750,000, which falls most heavily upon the poorer sections of the community, and is unfair in incidence, because it disregards the fundamental principle of ability to pay, for the pur pose of meeting the difficulties of the wheat-growers when, as a matter of fact, he has already received approximately £2,000,000 more than the amount with which, in his budget statement, he asked the country to provide him. I place that in the forefront of my attack upon this bill. Even assuming the bill to be reasonable in principle, I submit that it is financially unnecessary. But I contend that the principle of the bill is bad, because for the most part this is class taxation, which falls more heavily upon the poor than upon the rich. We know that in the homes of those whose incomes are low and whose families are large, bread is the staple diet, whereas in the palatial hotels of Australia, very little of it is eaten by the guests, the variety of food available to them being so extensive. Inquiry would show that the consumption of bread per capita in the Hotel Canberra is far less than the per capita consumption of bread in the average working-class home in Collingwood, Fremantle, or the environs of Sydney. We know that to be an undoubted fact.
Upon the economics of this tax I should like to be told, because I was not in Parliament at the time, what the Government really thinks of the considered criticism of the flour tax as a tax, prepared by Professor Giblin, Ritchie Professor of Economics at the Melbourne University. The Government esteems his judgment so highly that it not only appointed him Acting Commonwealth Statistician for a period, but has also called him in repeatedly as an economic consultant and has quite recently appointed him to the Commonwealth Bank Board so that his profound economic knowledge might be at the disposal of Australia’s national bank and might exercise some influence in the direction and management of that institution. I shall not deal with what I shall call the erudite criticism of the effects of the flour tax which Professor Giblin has made available to Australia for its guidance, in which he points out that largely, instead of being of benefit to the primary producers, it becomes an additional impost in export costs and has a distinctly detrimental effect upon the primary industries of Australia. He says that the financial incidence of the tax is something like this: that the primary producers will pay 50 per cent., the Government 20 per cent,, and others in the community 30 per cent.
– What, then, becomes of the honorable gentleman’s argument about the working man?
– As I said yesterday, the real friends of the primary producers sit on the benches behind me, and not on those opposite. I modify not one whit my contention, to which apparently the honorable gentleman invites me to make further reference. The “others” who pay 30 per cent. include the individuals of Australia. When it comes to the dissection of the extent to which the masses of the people pay more as individuals than do the wealthier classes, I reaffirm the declarations I have made in regard to the inequality of the incidence of this tax, and its unjust consequences in practice.
– I understand that it is the wish of the House that the sitting be now suspended to enable honorable members to attend a function at which His Excellency the GovernorGeneral is to be present.
Sitting suspended from 12.25 to 2 p.m.
– I wish now to make a few observations on the attitude that certain honorable gentlemen opposite adopted towards the principle of this tax at a time when they were looking at the subject more or less dispassionately. The present Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. White) said in this House in 1931 that-
The Country Party would take action which would result in the price of bread being raised to these unfortunates (referring to the unemployed) merely that the man on the land might reap an advantage.
– Those were words of wisdom.
– We know very well that these ghosts walk in subsequent years. The present Minister for Defence (Mr. Archdale Parkhill), who generally attracts my admiration, said at that period -
What will the increase in the price of flour mean to the people in the industrial areas?
I know what it is even in my own electorate where there are people who can hardly find the money to buy bread at the present price, and I shall not be a party to placing a further heavy burden upon them. . . What will this increase mean to the 300,000 men who have no income.
All that need be said regarding the price of bread and its relationship to the price of wheat is that the position to-day is approximately that of 1931, except that bread is dearer now than it was then.
– J. T. Lang was in power in New South Wales at that time.
– The honorable gentleman was considering the subject on that occasion in his capacity as a member of this Parliament, and in its application to all the States of the Commonwealth, and not to New South Wales alone. I do not desire to cite at any length the observations made at that time by the present Minister directing negotiations for trade treaties (Sir Henry Gullett), for extended references to his remarks on that occasion already appear in Hansard. I merely do now as he did then; I make a strong appeal to the Government to find the money required to assist the wheat industry from some other source. It will be seen from what I have said that at least three members of the present Government have placed on record their absolute opposition to the principle involved in this tax. Principles do not change with the alternation of the seats that one occupies in this House. I could understand, even if I could not justify, the continuation of this tax, if the financial position of the Government were any worse now than was the position of the Government at that time; but the reverse is the case. I could also, perhaps, justify the imposition of this tax if no other source were open to the Government from which to obtain the money required. But at least two other sources of revenue are open to the Government. I remind honorable gentlemen that in recent years taxes much less onerous than the flour tax have been remitted by the Government, and I urge now, as the present Minister negotiating trade treaties did in 1933, that certain of these be reimposed to avoid the reimposition of this entirely unjust tax on flour. The other source from which the money required for this tax could be obtained is the surplus revenue which the Government has already received this “financial year over and above its estimate. It has been indicated that this tax will yield £1,750,000 this year, so that we may assume that approximately that amount of money is required by the Government. The Treasurer (Mr. Casey) not so long ago, submitted to Parliament his estimates of revenue and expenditure for the current year, and it may be accepted without question that the estimates of revenue were sufficient to met all the obligations -which the Government expected to be called upon to shoulder. No additional unexpected expenditure has been authorized by this Parliament since the budget was introduced. Yet we find that, although less than half the financial year lias expired, the revenue is £2,000,000 in excess of the Government’s estimate. In these circumstances the Government could easily use this unexpected revenue for the purpose of paying the proposed bounty on wheat, for that, after all, is the purpose for which the money is intended. The wheat-growers and their representatives in this Parliament will <lo the country an injustice by supporting any measure that will have the effect of making flour, and therefore bread, more expensive to the Australian public.
– What about tea?
– And sugar ?
– The honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) voted less than 24 hours ago to reduce the price of sugar, but he now apparently calmly acquiesces in a policy which will have the effect of increasing the price of bread.
– Sugar is too dear and wheat too cheap.
– One of the fallacies underlying the imposition of this tax is that, in order to provide more money for the wheat-growers, it is necessary to impose a class tax which, because it will increase the price of bread, will fall most heavily upon the wage-earners of this country.
– The Leader of the Opposition tried to prove before lunch that it would not have that effect, and he cited the views of certain economists.
– What I proved before lunch was that the tax on bread would apply to the community as individuals, but that only 30 per cent, of the final cost of it would be borne by the citizens as individuals. The remainder of the incidence of this tax will re-act upon price levels to such a degree as to fall finally upon industries which cannot pass it on. Therefore, all the exporting industries will have to make a substantial contribution to this tax in order to provide money to assist the exporters of a single commodity. I commend Professor Giblin’s memorandum to the careful perusal of honorable members. Personally, I accept unreservedly the substance of the conclusions set out in it. The memorandum is entirely consistent with the analysis of the Australian tariff and its repercussions on Australian industry made in 1927 by the Committee of Economists. Substantially, Professor Giblin has prepared, not a political argument but an exposition of economic law. How the representatives of the primary producers in this Parliament can deny that the incidence of this tax will fall heavily upon, and be prejudicial not only to the consumers, but also to a large section of their own supporters, is something that I cannot understand. As a matter of fact, the Government is applying this tax in this way in order to avert the necessity to tax those in the community who are best able to contribute to the revenue. The imposition of this tax is being justified on the ground that the wheat-growers who render a national service should be assisted by. the nation; but, surely, any national obligation of this kind should be met by the imposition of taxation under conditions which conform to the fundamental principles of just taxation. A man with an income of £1,000 a year obviously should contribute more for the purpose of this bill than a man with an income of £200 a year. There can be no earthly reason why the difficulties of the wheat-growers should be met from the proceeds of a tax to which a workman with a family of five children will contribute a great deal more than a bachelor with no children dependent upon him. What reason can there be against providing the money for this bounty - for after all it is a bounty - from the ordinary sources of revenue available to the Government?
– The Leader of the Opposition argued yesterday in favour of a compulsory wheat pool.
– That is so. I am at the moment distinguishing the principle, underlying this tax from the general principles of the taxation methods which the Government normally uses for the purpose of meeting national requirements. I can see no reason why this tax should not be met from the Consolidated Revenue, just as a certain portion of the defence expenditure, as outlined in the budget speech, will be met from that source.
The Labour party intends to vote against this bill. It has always opposed this method of taxation. We submit that several other avenues of revenues should be exploited by the Government to find the money it needs for this purpose. When introducing a bill of this kind the Government should demonstrate to the Parliament that the money required cannot be obtained without imposing some kind of tax. That argument was not advanced by the Treasurer. All the honorable gentleman said was that, unless this bill was passed, the Treasury would have to find the money required from some other source. Our contention is that the money could easily be provided out of the £2,000,000 which the Government has already received in revenue beyond its estimate.
– The present surplus of revenue above the estimate is not necessarily a true index to the operations of the whole year.
– I think it can be safely accepted as such. I am quite sure that if the revenue yield were £2,000,000 below the estimate, the Treasurer would be rushing requests to Parliament to increase taxation in certain directions.
– That is merely an assumption.
– It is a reasonable assumption that the Treasurer would, out of considerations of prudence and reasonableness, make provision to meet the budgetary requirements. Common sense suggests that that should be done. The yield from this tax in 1933-34 was £1,250,000, and in 1934-35 it was £750,000. It is estimated that the yield this year will be £1,750,000.
I sincerely trust that the provision of the bill, which provides for its continuance until the Governor-General in Council issues a proclamation to cancel it will not be agreed to. I intend to advert to this matter again at the committee stage of the bill. There can be no reason why we should acquiesce in the operation of this law for an indefinite period, for the Treasurer told us that it was intended to meet the requirements of the situation only until such time as the State parliaments passed certain measures to implement the plan for assisting the wheat industry set out in the Wheat and Wheat Products Bill passed yesterday.
– Would the Leader of the Opposition apply a similar argument to the customs tariff?
– I would apply it to the income tax. The Treasurer told us that this measure was of a temporary character intended to meet the needs of a limited period. Therefore this bill is to provide for the interregnum. How long it will last, I do not know, nor does the Treasurer; but I do know that it will not last indefinitely, and not sufficiently long to carry us beyond the stage at which this Parliament may meet. If we put a terminal date on the application of this tax, and the States have not passed the necessary legislation to give effect to another plan, the Treasurer can come again to Parliament and . ask for authority to continue the collection of this tax, just as he is doing now.
– I have given reasons why that cannot be done.
– They are not reasons which would warrant this Parliament giving to the Government authority to make this tax permanent. Let us presume that the States will not pass the legislation we have in mind in respect of another scheme, and that in three or six months’ time the position is as it is now ; then, this Parliament, -which has agreed to the flour tax in the belief that it is a temporary provision, will be faced with the fact that it is becoming, in fact, a permanent’ provision. Last night and all day yesterday the Treasurer declared as urgent legislation which he now says cannot operate until the harvest of 1936-37. I am amazed that there should be such a contradictory attitude adopted towards various bills designed to deal with this problem. I conclude by saying that a chaotic state of mind on the part of the Government, and of the Country party particularly, is evidenced by the fundamental fact that they won election to the Parliament on one policy and are not game to carry it into operation, and are therefore thrown on to these miserable expedients that are of no service, either to the wheat-growers or to the rest of the people.
.- I desire to make brief comments on this bill, which I regret the Government has been forced to introduce. . Some months ago, when the States and the Commonwealth met in conference, it was unanimously decided that the Commonwealth and the States should introduce complementary legislation for the benefit of the wheat-growers for the forthcoming harvest. What happened? Outside of New South Wales and Queensland, the States have shown a remarkable inertia, and have simply “ passed the buck “ to the Commonwealth, and, as the result, the Commonwealth has been forced to bring down this legislation. This is further evidence that there is serious lack of cooperation between the Commonwealth and the States in regard to this important national question. Sooner or later, the position must arise when the people themselves must take forcible cognizance of the fact that the States are passing their responsibility in regard to this matter on to the Commonwealth. It is now proposed to continue the operation of the iniquitous flour tax. I have always opposed this tax, because it falls most heavily on those who are least able to bear it. I cannot depart from that attitude now. I believe that the majority of the people of Australia to-day are pre pared to assist the wheat-growers of Australia in the economic production of wheat, but they are totally opposed to the bolstering up of those who are endeavouring to produce wheat on land that is useless for the purpose, or to assisting those farmers who are producing wheat uneconomically. The position in that respect is not yet cleared, nor is it cleared in regard to the ramifications of wheal from the time the grain is sown until its product is delivered to the consumers in the form of bread. Still further investigations are needed, and, in the meantime, I cannot support the bill.
– In his second-reading speech, the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) put forward as his main reason for the introduction of this bill that circumstances, over which this Parliament had no control, necessitated the imposition of a bread tax. That aspect is worthy of some thought. We are entitled to ascertain whether this assertion can be borne out by the facts. We must consider the time which this Government has had at its disposal to do something of a definite nature for the assistance of the wheat industry. For quite a long while, legislation aimed at assisting the wheat industry has been introduced in this Parliament year after year. As a matter of fact, ever since I was first elected to this House the question of affording relief to the wheat industry has been under consideration, and the Country party particularly has claimed in the Parliament and on the public platforms of this country, notably during the last general election, that it had.devised a means of dealing adequately with the problems of the wheat-grower. The problem has been discussed by the various Country party organizations, and we have heard a good deal about a longrange policy. The claim was made -that as soon as the Country party got into power, it would bring down a scheme that would obviate the necessity for this question being thrashed out in Parliament year after yea*. At the last general election, I repeat, this was one of the main features of the programme of the Country party, and in the country districts, particularly the wheat-growing areas of New South Wales, this policy was extensively canvassed. I believe that, in many instances, as the direct result of these promises made to the electors, Country party members gained many more seats in this Parliament than would otherwise have been the case. Now, when the Country party is sharing the rewards of office, this question comes up for consideration, and we are entitled to examine the efforts which the Country party members have made to deal with this problem in a statesmanlike way. Twelve months have elapsed since this Government was elected, and the United Country parr.,, which claimed to have evolved a PO.1 4,T for overcoming the difficulties under which the wheat-fanners have laboured, has had ample time to apply that policy.
However, it was not even necessary for the Country party to “wait until it got into office to start the necessary investigations in regard to its plan for dealing with the wheat-growers’ problems. As the result of their complete failure to deal adequately with this problem, we can only come to the logical conclusion that the utterances of Country party supporters, made on the public platforms throughout the country, were not honest. Actually, they had no plan, or they were not prepared to undertake the task; otherwise, they would have done so immediately on coming into office. As I have said, twelve months have elapsed since the opportunity was presented to the Country party to apply its policy, yet all we have had up to date is the fact that the promise was made, and a considerable amount of talk indulged in. The Minister for Commerce (Dr. Earle Page) painted all kinds of alluring pictures as to what would happen if he could bring the various Ministers of Agriculture in the various States together to discuss a comprehensive scheme. This was done, and a conference took place a few months ago at which the State Ministers for Agriculture were asked to put forward schemes for the permanent settlement of the - wheat-growers’ difficulties. At the conference, a decision was arrived at, and in considering that decision it is necessary to review the political complexion of the various State governments that were called upon to implement the scheme adopted by the conference. In New South Wales, the Country party practically dominates the State Government, a fact which is continually being stressed by the United Australia party supporters in the Parliament of that State, and therefore the United Country party cannot be relieved of its responsibility in connexion with the failure of that State to implement the wheat legislation in time for this season’s crop, unless it be claimed that there are two separate departments of the United Country party with different policies on this question, one operating in the State sphere and the other operating in the Federal sphere. When it has been agreed upon that a certain plan should be applied, it is reasonable to assume that its supporters expect it to be applied in both Federal and State spheres. If the members of the United Country party were honest in their opinions, whatever scheme was agreed upon at the last meeting of the Agricultural Conference . should have been implemented in New South Wales in time to meet the coming harvest, and there should have been no necessity for this bill. What are the circumstances in Victoria? In that State, a Country party government is in power. What has caused the delay in that State in implementing the scheme? Why is the Country party in that State not getting on with, the job?
– The Victorian Government is now waiting for the Upper House to pass the bill.
– What about the Labour Government in Tasmania?
– No wheat is grown in Tasmania, nor are the people of that State concerned with this problem. If the Tasmanian position is to be put forward by the honorable member for Barker, it is a miserable excuse to say the least of it. There is a Labour Government in Queensland, but Queensland also is’ not particularly interested in the scheme, although it has led the way in giving effect to the decisions arrived at by the Agricultural Council. The honorable member for Darling Downs (Sir Littleton Groom) said that Queensland had-Ted the way in this scheme despite the fact that’ its adoption involved certain hardship to the growers in his electorate. It appears that the Government of Queensland is honestly, and without loss of time, giving effect to its undertaking to introduce legislation to afford relief to the wheat industry during the comingharvest. But why has not South Australia proceeded to give effect to the scheme? Perhaps my friend the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) who, for a period, was a member of the South Australian Parliament, can supply the answer to that question. The Government of that State has sufficient supporters to put the scheme into operation. There is no suggestion that the Labour members of the South Australian Parliament could interfere with anything the Government desired to do. It has a majority in both the upper and lower chambers, and can pass any legislation it cares to introduce. On a general survey of this question, the grounds upon which the Treasurer has based his claims in regard to this matter cannot be borne out of the light of the position which exists among the various State governments, the majority of which are of the same political complexion as the Commonwealth Government in office to-day. The honorable member cannot sustain the contentions which he made when introducing this legislation. I do not want to say that the honorable gentleman wished the House and the country to believe that the Government was not in earnest when he stated that it had no desire to maintain and keep this tax in operation longer than necessary. But my complaint is that it lias failed to provide a method of assisting the industry other than by this iniquitous bread tax. Those of us who listened to the debate which took place on this subject on a previous occasion will remember that exactly the same thing was said then. We were told that the measure was to be of a temporary character only; that the Government imposed the tax with the greatest reluctance, but that the public need not be alarmed because it would be of short duration, and would be abandoned when the Government was able to put into effect its long-range policy for dealing with the wheat industry. The Minister’ for Commerce has been talking about a long-range policy for the wheat industry for so long that even the wheatgrowers have become disgusted with him. I do not believe that the farmers them selves believe in the policy of taxing the people’s bread. At a conference of growers’ representatives held in .Sydney in August of this year, a prominent member of the Farmers and Settlers Association of New South Wales, Mr. E. T. Kendall indulged in some very plain speaking: - He is reported in the Sydney Morning Herald of the 9th August, 1935, in the following terms’ -
About two years ago, Dr. Earle Page, at our conference, attacked Mr. Parker Moloney. I asked him why he did not do something for the wheat-growers when he was in office, and he replied that the wheat-growers had never asked him to do anything. Dr. Earle Page cannot say that to-day; the growers have been asking him for a pool for the last six months. We have reason to believe that it was part of the pact between the Federal United Australia party and the United Country party that there should be no pool. If that .is so, for the sake of political expediency, and in order to satisfy his vanity, the Acting Prime Minister has sold the rights of the wheat-growers by not providing for a compulsory pool. An alternative scheme is now put forward by the Government, and it is an illegitimate proposal born of hypocrisy.
I ask the United Australia party representatives of city electorates whether they are going to allow themselves to be for ever dragged at the coat tails of the Country party. ‘Surely they know that eventually their supporters will revolt against these practices. During the last four years, £12,000,000 of Commonwealth money has been handed over to the wheat industry. This is a heavy drain on the resources of the country, and breaking point must be reached some time. 1 remind honorable members that the wheat-growers are not the only section of the community who find themselves in difficulties at the present time. Business men and workers in my electorate are asking me when they will be assisted by means of bounties or subsidies from the Government, and many of them have probably more right to such assistance than have some of the wheat farmers who are not in straitened circumstances, and who do not depend wholly upon wheat-growing for a livelihood. Many wheat-growers who will benefit by this sales tax are in receipt of substantial incomes from sources other than wheatgrowing, yet they are always ready to hold out their hands for a share of public bounty, despite the fact that the money must be found by the public at large, including the poorer sections of the community who can so ill afford to find it. If that is justice, then I want nothing of it.
At the conference to which I have referred, Mr. Field, the president of the Farmers and Settlers Association of New South “Wales, said -
The constant emphasis of the .constitutional difficulties involved was merely a political smoke-screen, and on behalf of the farmers, he challenged Dr. Earle Page to make a clear and frank statement of his attitude. “ How much longer do they expect us to endure’ the humiliation of doles, bounties and flour taxes?”
– The Minister for Commerce defined his attitude.
– Yes, but not to the satisfaction of the growers. The honorable member for Riverina (Mr. Nock), who was present at the conference, made a desperate attempt to stem the tide of indignation, and the growers dealt with him in a manner which he will not soon forget. Their comments make interesting reading, because they reveal quite clearly what the farmers themselves want, and what they think of the scheme put forward by the Commonwealth Government. I have every sympathy with those farmers, who are wholly dependent upon wheat-growing, and I do not deny that they are in need of assistance. I have no patience, however, with this talk of constitutional difficulties in the way of a compulsory pool. The difficulties in the way are the vested interests which for years past have been farming the farmers. The growers believe - and with justification - that those interests are sufficiently powerful to defeat any attempt to establish a compulsory pool as long as the present Government, or one of its political faith, is in power. I arn convinced that the growers will never obtain a compulsory pool until the Labour party has a majority in this House and in the Senate.
– The Labour party could not give the growers a compulsory pool even then.
– If that be so, then let us not be hypocrites; let us not pretend that we can introduce a system of organized marketing for the wheatgrowers on the same lines as that operating in the dried fruits industry; let us tell the growers and the public that this sales tax is here to stay. I am sure that the Treasurer does not relish the task of periodically obtaining parliamentary authority for its re-imposition. It is an unpopular duty, and his own supporters, in the interests of their own political safety, will eventually refuse to stand by him. Recently, the Minister for Commerce, speaking in his own electorate, warned the people that the present policy of assisting the wheat-farmers could not long be continued. Only last night we passed a bill appropriating about £400,000 for advances to farmers for the purchase of fertilizers. Mr. Field, at the “Wheat-growers Conference, had a great deal to say regarding the attitude of Dr. Earle Page. It was farcical, he said, that they should not know just where Dr. Earle Page stood in regard to the matter. Dr. Earle Page had been backing and filling for so long, talking about a longrange policy, and saying what he would do for the wheat-farmers if he had the power, that they had expected great things of him ; but when he was put to the test he had failed. Mr. Field went on -
I say emphatically that this organization, along “with all other farmers’ organizations that have officially or unofficially supported the Country party, is entitled to a clear and frank statement from Dr. Earle Page, whether he intends to fight uncompromisingly in Cabinet and in Parliament for a pool.
It is clear what these men are thinking. They naturally want to know where their leaders stand, and why those leaders say one thing outside Parliament and another thing inside. Mr. Field’s statement proceeds -
The present position under which we do not know whether our Federal Country party lender is committed to fight for a pool is farcical. Let the Government get on with the joh immediately, and make the necessary legislative facilities available for organized marketing. We will attend to the rest.
There is no doubt that the burden of the sales tax will be passed on to the consumers in the form of dearer bread. It will be very hard for the Government to justify its action in imposing this tax when we remember that it is proposed to spend £20,000,000 over a period for defence purposes, amounting to 21s. lOd. per head of the population. If the Government can find millions of pounds for arms and munitions, it surely should not be necessary to tax the bread of the people in order to obtain money for the wheatgrowers. The money to be raised by the flour tax will be used, not only to subsidize the wheat industry, but also to subsidize certain persons who arc not justly entitled to bounties, because their resources are such that they can meet their commitments within a wide margin from other sources. The Treasurer notably refrained from stating that the money to be raised, approximately £1,750,000, would be required for the maintenance of the bounty. It has been repeated several times that about £2,000,000 is already available from revenue which could be used for the purpose. Revenues are rising, but if they were falling the Government would vigorously advance such a. decrease as a reason for the tax.
The Minister directing negotiations for trade treaties (Sir Henry Gullett) I hope will be present when the division bells ring, so that we shall be able to see whether his attitude to-day is the same as what it was a few years ago, when he sat on the back benches. We on this side of the House listened with great interest to the speech he delivered when the first bill was introduced for the imposition of a sales tax on flour. On that occasion he said -
It, cannot be denied that what was true then is equally true to-day. The principle involved in the bill that was then introduced is involved in the bill which is now before the House. Sir Henry Gullett continued -
Fundamentally, the tax is completely bad in its immediate form and in its incidence. The money is being provided, however, by the substitution of one tax for other taxes which have been removed. The removal of that taxation is a real complaint which I have against the Government.
In the course of the life of the Government and the preceding one, which was of a similar political complexion, more than £9,000,000 in taxes has been remitted to people of a class which is in a better position to carry the burden of the bounty to the wheat industry than aTe the poorer sections who have to shoulder this bread tax. Whatever view is taken of the situation, if it be impartial, the principle upon which all governments should act is one of common justice; and those persons more fortunately situated in life should carry the greater burden in meeting the taxation requirements of the country. This Government should follow that principle, and it should place on the shoulders of those best able to bear it the burden of subsidizing the wheatfanners. The course pursued by the Government, however, lies in the opposite direction. It has remitted £9.000,000 of taxes, and as the result, so it claims, it has become necessary for it to impose on the poorer sections of the community this bread tax in order to provide portion of the subsidy for the wheat-farmers.
The honorable member for Henty (Sir Henry Gullett) went on to say - 1, therefore, submit that to a Targe extent our Consolidated Revenue is raised according to tlie golden principle of taxation - capacity to pay with progression against the wealthy. Lei us test the flour tax against that principle and see where our investigations will lead us. This tax is not progressive, but retrogressive in relation to capacity to pay. The poorer people consume more bread in relation to other articles of diet than do those in the richer households. A single man with an income of £5,000 or £10,000 a year eats less bread than a working man. He will, therefore, contribute less to this bounty for national service than the working man. Take the case of a single working man. He will contribute less than a working man bringing up a family of three, four, five or six children. Let honorable members think for a moment of the lunch which hundreds of thousands of our workmen carry to work with them each day. It consists of bread, meat, and perhaps some simple cake made chiefly of flour. Practically the whole of those lunches will be subject to taxation except the meat.
This aspect of the question cannot be stressed too much. To-day in the homes of those who have many children, the main source of diet is bread. It is eaten at every meal of the day. As the consumption of bread in the working man’s home is much higher than in any other home, it follows that the burden of this tax falls much more severely on the poorer classes than on the rich. Comparison of conditions in every walk of life will lead to the same conclusion.
It is extraordinary that the supporters of the United Australia party should wed themselves to a policy of this character. Think for a moment of what effects this flour tax has on institutions for the destitute in the great cities of the Commonwealth. The Commonwealth Government is ungrateful to these institutions which are taking from it great responsibilities. They provide housing, food and other assistance for the indigent. Institutions which come to my mind are the City of Sydney City Mission, the Saint Vincent de Paul Society, and the Salvation Army homes. In my own electorate, special appeals are being made with the approach of the Christmas period for financial aid to provide the destitute families there with better times over the festive season. I do not claim to have the monopoly of sympathetic feeling in this House - I believe that every other honorable member is imbued with the spirit of sympathy - and, accordingly, I cannot understand how any honorable member can support the proposals put forward to-day by the Government. Sympathy, however, is of no use unless it is accompanied by practical help. The slightest increase of the price of bread adds to the difficulties of the poorer classes in obtaining the necessaries of life. The arguments I have voiced in opposition to this bill should impress every supporter of the Government, whether in this Parliament or in the electorates.
We had reason to believe that we should see the last of the flour tax early next month, and that it would be superseded by a better system of assistance to the wheat-growers bearing less heavily upon the poor. From the Government side -of the House interjections have been made to-day claiming that the general conditions of the country have improved as the result of the actions of this Government. This bill is no evidence of the truth of those claims. By asking the Parliament to re-impose the flour tax for the 1935-36 wheat season, the Government has betrayed that it is bereft of policy aimed at the betterment of the conditions of the people generally. The only logical conclusion that can be reached is that the circumstances of the country are retrograding, and that, as the years pass, the working classes will have to carry greater and greater burdens, while wealthy individuals receive concessions. Not only am I, as a representative of the people in this Parliament, called upon to register an emphatic protest against this class of legislation, but also, I can truthfully claim that the farming community is totally opposed to it.
– The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin), and the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) have waxed very eloquently on the question of the flour tax. The heart-rending appeal put up by the honorable member for West Sydney in regard to the effects of this bill on charitable institutions in his electorate would have impressed honorable members had he attempted yesterday to secure a reduction of the price of sugar, and had he on occasions which I could cite, raised his voice and registered his vote to cut down the tariff taxes on the food, clothing and other necessaries of the poor, and so contributed towards reducing the cost of living in his electorate.
– The honorable member is talking nonsense! Would he recommend action for the withdrawal of the assistance which is given to the wine, maize, rice and tobacco industries? He wants it all one way.
– There is no such thing as any desire on the part of members on this side of the House to get things all their way. All that we seek is a fairer deal for the farmer by the creation of a fixed price for that portion of the wheat which is consumed in Australia. The Opposition is prepared to support the sugar industry and every secondary industry that we could name, but when it comes to the question of assisting the wheat-grower, who has lost an average of 2s. a bushel in producing wheat over the last five years, the honorable member for West Sydney talks very eloquently about the taxing of the poor. The price of sugar in Australia is too high. I should not support any measure introduced into this House to raise the price of flour to a level at which its cost would be comparable with that of sugar. Such action would foe unfair.
The Opposition, time and time again, has raised the question of a compulsory pool for the marketing of wheat. The question of a compulsory pool does not arise under this bill, but, if it did so, and it were to be worth anything, the price of bread would still further have to be increased to a figure beyond that which will be reached as the result of the re-imposition of the flour tax.
– The honorable member should justify that statement.
– The justification is in this : Unless the honorable members’ opposite are creating a deliberate sham to mislead the wheatgrowers of Australia, their policy is that there should be created a compulsory pool, which would fix the price of wheat for home consumption at a level in excess of the return to the farmer which the flour tax to-day guarantees. All that the Government is asking in this ‘bill is for power to increase the price of wheat sold for home consumption by1s. a bushel by the process of the imposition of a flour tax. I challenge honorable members of the Opposition to that they would not advocate a home-consumption price of less than 5s. a bushel, if they were able to give effect to their policy for the creation of a compulsory pool. The recent Australian Agricultural Conference agreed upon 4s. 9d. a bushel as being a sufficiently high, guaranteed price for home-consumed wheat. The Opposition wants a compulsory pool to secure to the farmers an even higher price. The very thing that they want would increase the price of bread by a greater margin than the flour tax does. The Opposition lacks the power and opportunity to give effect to its policy, but if it did have them, in the creation of a compulsory pool, it would have to provide for a substantial increase in the price of wheat, or the pool would be rejected in scorn and contempt by the very farmers about whom the honorable member for West Sydney said a great deal this afternoon. The honorable member said that Mr. Field and the Minister for Commerce (Dr. Earle Page) were in conflict at the recent Canberra conference. I sat at the wheat conference and heard no great explosion from Mr. Field, who was rather like a boy in a kindergarten. Because he could not get all his own way, he threatened to get up and walk out of the conference. As the result, he was well caned.
– The other day, the honorable gentleman walked out of the House.
– I have done it many a time. The honorable gentleman does not know nearly as much about me as I know about myself. Matters of this sort should be considered without the heat that has been engendered in this debate,which gets us nowhere. In the circumstances with which it is faced, the Government has no alternative but to re-impose the flour tax for a certain period. The length of that period cannot be foreknown by even the most able Minister in any Government. If honorable members opposite were in office to-day, they would find themselves forced to adopt exactly the same attitude as is now being adopted by this Government. If the Opposition were united in the stand that they take towards the flour tax, I could understand some of the eloquence to which I have listened.
Only recently, the honorable member for West Sydney referred to South Australia’s reception of the Government’s proposals for the assistance of the wheat industry. I admit, quite candidly, that South Australia has been very remiss in regard to the agreement arrived at. The Premier of that State, Mr. Butler, agreed to give effect to it. But, in any action he has taken to retard the enactment of it, he has had the active support of the Leader of the Labour party in South Australia, the honorable F. J. Condon. In the Legislative Council of South Australia, that gentleman asked the Minister for Agriculture, on the 15th October, whether the Government would not reconsider its attitude, reject the federal agreement, and give consideration to the suggestion for an excise duty instead of a home-consumption price for wheat. The excise duty is exactly what the Commonwealth Treasurer has introduced to-day. Two years ago, shortly before I entered this Parliament, I moved, in the Parliament of South Australia, a motion for the imposition of a flour tax, and was supported by the Labour party.
Honorable members opposite must recognize that the flour tax has been definitely supported by governments of their own political complexion. Who imposed the first flour tax in Australia? Was it not a Labour government in Tasmania? Did not the Lang Government in. New South Wales tax the bread of the poor in that State?
– Honorable members know that it did so in order to raise money to lend at 5 per cent. to the poor farmers of the State. They must admit that the price of bread was increased in consequence of the measures taken by that Government. Therefore, they are treading on very thin ice when they oppose the Commonwealth’s proposal for a flour tax. The honorable member for West Sydney has said that the wheat farmers do not want it.
– Mr. Field took the benefit given by past legislation.
– I have no doubt that he did. The honorable member for West Sydney duly declares that Mr. Field is opposed to the present proposals of the Government, but with very great respect, I point out that his operations are not entirely confined to the farming side of wheat-growing, but that he has other interests in connexion with the wheat industry. Honorable members have also argued that certain wheat-growers should not accept any measure of benefit from such a tax.
– (Hon. G. J. Bell). - Order! The time allotted for the second reading has expired.
Question - That the bill be now read a second time - put. The House divided. (Me. Speaker - Hon. G. J. Bell.)
Total .. .. . 12
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
.- I move -
That the bill be referred to a select committee.
I do this because of the circumstances associated with the measure. A complete investigation should be made by a select committee with a view to satisfying Parliament that the provisions of the bill are of’ the kind that wisdom would enact.
Let me consider some of the points that a select committee might properly investigate. First, it ought to inquire as to whether or not there is absolute financial necessity for the bill; that is to say, whether or not the present state of the finances of the Government, having regard to the excess of revenue over the estimate, and the fact that expenditure has been in no way increased, is none the less such that honorable members have no other resource open to them. The bill contemplates a sales tax of a distinct character over and above the general sales tax legislation. A select committee might ascertain why it is necessary to have practically a 30 per cent. sales tax on flour, when all other commodities subject to sales tax are not leviable beyond 5 per cent. A select committee should be fully satisfied that there is no other way in which the Treasury could finance this undertaking. Furthermore, it ought also to be satisfied that the proportion of tax to ultimate price is fair and reasonable. I would point out at this juncture that when the sales tax, as a form of taxation, was first introduced into this Parliament, Australia was passing through a period of acute and grave financial difficulty; but even so, flour was exempted from the incidence of the tax. As a matter of fact, basic foods were exempted as a principle by the Parliament, notwithstanding the gravity of the financial situation. A select committee ought to be completely satisfied that the present position of the wheat-growers is so grave that only by this method of relief can there be assured to them the assistance that they need. This Parliament has not had placed before it any evidence in respect of the present position of the wheat-growers. The report of the royal commission on the wheat industry does not entirely relate to the present position of the industry, but deals more with its history. Furthermore, as a committee of public accounts is not functioning at the moment, there ought to be given to this House by a select committee, after inquiry and examination, the absolute assurance that it is impossible for the Treasury to make provision for the payment of the bounty except in this manner. A precedent has been established for the expectation that the sales tax on flour will yield only a portion of the total amount of bounty payable to the wheatgrowers. The excise yield in the past has not always been equal to the amount of bounty disbursed, and a select committee might ascertain what proportion of the total sum required should be raised by means of a sales tax. At the present time, the Treasurer contemplates that the whole of the amount should be so secured, but he has furnished no proof that it is not possible, by economies in his department, to save sufficient to make a part if not the whole, of this tax unnecessary. The select committee might “be able to assure us, not only that the imposition of this tax cannot be avoided, but also that the departmental expenditure does not cause unnecessary taxation.
– It could inquire as to whether the amount to be raised by the tax will reach those whom the Parliament desires to benefit.
– Yes. It has always been doubtful whether the bounty paid in the past has gone into the pockets of those entitled to receive it. It is urged that the tax will fall with varying degrees of severity on different sections of the community.. The committee could also ascertain whether Professor Giblin’s memorandum was justified, and whether it is true that a large proportion of the burden of the tax will ultimately fall on those who are expected to benefit from it. In view of all the circumstances associated with this measure, and the other bill to which direct reference cannot now be made, but which is ever present in our minds in considering this proposal, the Parliament would be wise in having an inquiry conducted by a select committee, which could provide more reliable data than that now in our possession. Members of Parliament approach this matter from a political point of view, fortified by such knowledge of economics as they have; but I am not satisfied that the whole of the facts have been adduced. Much confusion exists as to whether the tax will operate for three, six or twelve months. The Treasurer has not told us how long the period will be. In effect, the Parliament is asked to give the Government authority to repeal the tax. That appears to be an extraordinary procedure, and I desire to be assured by a select committee that the granting of such an authority is essential to the equitable operation of the measure.
– The committee could also examine the constitutional aspect of the two bills.
– If it desired to make a recommendation in that regard, I should have no objection. The three questions which I suggest should be inquired into are -
.- I second the motion submitted by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin). The last thing which any government should do is to impose a bread tax on the people. It means that a man having an income of £1,000 a year pays on the average only 15s. a year, whilst the burden imposed on a married man with a wife and three children amounts to 5d. a week. Obviously, those with large incomes will escape the burden, and the poor will have to bear it. I am surprised that the representatives of the farmers should be prepared to make the poorer sections of the community provide this bounty. I believe in assisting in every way the farmers who are in need, but members of the Country party, apparently, believe in taxing the poor in order that greedy farmers may put more money into their own pockets. No organization of farmers in the Commonwealth approves of the flour tax.
– In August last a conference in Western Australia carried a motion in favour of a scheme exactly on the lines of the present measure.
– Does that indicate preparation for secession? The Treasurer (Mr. Casey) has suggested that this bill will operate only for a limited period, until the Wheat and Wheat Products Bill is put into operation, but I remind the House that every farmers’ organization regards that bill as an illegitimate child. The Country party in Victoria is totally opposed to it, and honorable mem bers of the Country party who represent that State cannot deny it.
– It is remarkable that it was agreed to at the conference.
– One delegate agreed to it, but the party turned it down. Powerful financial interests put a pistol to the heads of the Country party, and said, in effect, “ Unless you do this, we shall penalize the farmers of Victoria, and you will be responsible for the trouble that it will bring upon them.” As there was no escape, the party had to accept the proposal. The Premier of South Australia (Mr. Butler) has opposed the flour tax, but he has agreed to put it into operation for the same reasons as those which have forced the Country party in Victoria to accept it. The only government that has agreed to it without compulsion is the Labour Government of Queensland. The governments of Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria favour a compulsory pool, and the wheat-growers of South Australia also want one. Despite what the honorable member for Riverina (Mr. Nock) has said, the wheat-growers in New South Wales also favour a compulsory pool. That honorable member is, no doubt, sorry for the action he took at a certain conference, where he could get only ten delegates- to support his proposal that a vote of censure be not passed on the Minister for Commerce (Dr. Earle Page). That conference was almost unanimous for a compulsory wheat pool.
This bill will place business men and farmers alike in a false position, and honorable members who sit behind the Government are not happy about it. Are they willing to see the price of bread raised through the imposition of a flour tax? Do they believe that the workers should pay this tax in order to give assistance to greedy farmers? This impost will operate so unfairly that every honorable member, and every other member of the community who recognizes his responsibility to society, should put up a determined fight against it. Should the poor workers, many of whom are on the dole, be called upon to pay an extra 5d. a week by way of tax on their bread, to benefit the greedy farmers who are always squealing? The workers are always left to find their own way out of their financial troubles. When the farmers squeal they invariably get what they want from this Government, but the workers always get it in the neck. We know very well that some honorable gentlemen opposite, when on the platform during the last election campaign, said to the workers, in effect, “ Let us represent you. We will look after your interests. We will see that you are well fed, well clothed, well housed.” But, when the time comes for them to vote in this House, they forget all about the poor people in the electorate. I feel strongly on this issue. The taxing of the people’s bread is a most infamous thing, and I submit that this bill should be referred to a select committee for inquiry. Previously, when bounties have been provided for farmers, wealthy persons in the community have enjoyed financial advantages to an altogether unjustifiable extent. During the period that the honorable member for Parramatta (Sir Frederick Stewart) was Minister for Commerce, one wealthy farmer received no less a sum than £4,000 in bounty. It is entirely unreasonable that wealthy farmers should be allowed to dip their hands into the Treasury in that way. I can well understand that some honorable gentlemen now supporting the Government, realizing what was likely to be done in this House, said to the people in certain constituencies, “Put us into Parliament, and we will obtain advantages for you. You will be better off than you are now if we are in Parliament to vote for you.” But the measures which benefit the rich farmers also benefit those honorable gentlemen personally to a very considerable extent. I contend that honorable members who have a financial interest in measures that come before the Parliament should not be permitted to vote on them. Their place when the vote is being taken is outside the barrier. They should not be permitted to support measures which will be financially beneficial to themselves. If this bill is referred to a select committee, the interests of the poorer sections of the community will, at least, receive some consideration. I therefore intend to support the motion of the Leader of the Opposition.
Motion (by Mr. Casey) proposed-
That the questionbe now put.
– I rise to a point of order. I ask whether it is competent for an honorable member to move that the question be put before it has been stated from the Chair.
– The motion had been moved and seconded, after which the debate proceeded. I had not stated the question before the Treasurer moved the closure.
– May I ask, Mr. Speaker, whether the Standing Orders do not require that, before the closure can be applied, the question must be stated by the Chair?
– The point can easily be met. I shall state the question. The Treasurer has moved, “ That the bill be now read a second time,” upon which the Leader of the Opposition has moved, “ That the bill be referred to a select committee.”
Motion (by Mr. Casey) put -
That the question be now put.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. G. J. Bell.)
Majority . . . . 15
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Question - That the motion (Mr. Curtin’s) be agreed to - put. The House divided. (Mb. Speaker - Hon. G. J. Bell.)
Question so resolved in the negative.
Clause 1 agreed to.
Clause 2 -
Section ten of the principalact is amended by omitting the words “ seventh day or January, One thousand nine hundred and thirty-six” (wherever occurring) and insert ing in their stead the words “date fixed by proclamation under section thirty-two a of this act “.
.- I move -
That at the end of the clause the following words be added: - “or the thirtieth day of September, One thousand nine hundred and thirty-six, whichever be first occurring “.
Under this clause as it stands, the collection of sales tax on flour instead of terminating on the 7th January next will terminate on a date to be fixed by proclamation under section 32a of the principal act. This means that the Government by proclamation may end the imposition of the tax whenever it thinks the time has arrived to do so. I contemplate that this tax will not be required to be imposed after the 30th September, 1936, and the purpose of my amendment is to fix a date on which the tax will cease to be collected. It appears to me that the harvest about to be gathered will have been almost completely marketed by that date, and my amendment will enable this Parliament to exercise control over the taxation which it imposes. As a matter of fact, unless some such provision as I suggest is included in the bill, it will be competent for the Government, during the life of this Parliament, to do nothing more for the wheat industry than continue the collection of sales tax on flour without further reference to the legislature. When sales tax on flour was first imposed, the Government claimed that its imposition was merely a temporary expedient. I ask it to live up to its own declaration. If the flour tax is a temporary expedient. I see no reason why the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) should not accept an amendment which limits the period during which the sales tax may continue to be collected, regardless of whether the homeconsumption price machinery provided in the Wheat and Wheat Products Bill is functioning or not. If the Treasurer accepts my amendment, and the homeconsumption price fails, it will still be competent for him to ask Parliament for a renewal or variation of this tax. I ask kim not to take upon himself the authority which properly devolves upon the legislature. We should not agree to a tax of this kind - which the Treasurer himself says he does not want - being placed permanently upon the statute-book. As the Treasurer himself has said that he docs not desire the sales tax on flour to be regarded as a permanent tax, the bill should not be passed in a form which would permit the Government to continue its imposition permanently. That is the logic of the situation. I believe I have selected a date which will amply cover the temporary requirements of the Government. Although a majority of honorable members in this Parliament is in favour of the continuance of this form of taxation, despite the protests of the Opposition, I ask the committee to take a logical view of the whole of the circumstances in relation to this bill. The Treasurer is not entitled to have this tax passed in a form which would permit its collection on a permanent basis without further reference to the Parliament.
– The tax could continue to exist only during the pleasure of the Parliament, and if the Government were kicked out of office–
– This Government will not be kicked out of office, because the majority of honorable members sitting behind the Government know full well, if they had to face the electors now, they would lose their seats. Therefore, it seems to be quite clear that, if we pass this bill in its present form, we leave it open to the Treasurer to retain the tax for the life of this Parliament. The honorable gentleman must recognize that that is a fair statement of the case, and because it is a fair statement of the case, I submit he should accept my amendment.
what I ventured to say on my second-reading speech on this bill. I informed the honorable member that of the three alternatives facing the Government, the first two were rejected, and the third was accepted only because it offered the most flexible, and, if I may say so, the neatest method, of securing the desired result. Nobody is able to say exactly on what date the various governments of Australia will be in a position to implement the new plan. Therefore, if a date is fixed for the repeal of the sales tax on Hour, it must be so far ahead as to be practically useless for the purpose aimed at. In any event, I give the committee the assurance that it is not proposed by the Government that this tax shall be collected permanently. On the contrary, it will bo collected only for what we hope will be the short intervening period between the 6th of January, 1936, and some later time next year, when a better and more acceptable arrangement can be made.
– And if the Parliament should register a decision against the operation of. this tax, some other method of providing the necessary fund would be explored?
– Yes ; if some unexpected position arises, the Government will bo quite prepared to reconsider its decision.
– Does the Treasurer recognize that, under my amendment he could exercise his power to end the collection of this tax at any time before the 30th September, 1936?
– Yes, but the difficulty that presents itself is in fixing a precise date. It might be desirable for instance to repeal the Flour Tax Assessment Act a day or two before or after the date fixed by the amendment, or at some other time during the intervening period. The Government’s proposal is fair and reasonable, and certainly offers the least clumsy method of dealing with this legislation.
– If the Government had a reputation for standing by its word, the assurance of the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) would carry some weight with tie committee. But on other occasions wo have been told that the flour tax was introduced as a temporary expedient, and only for the purpose of tiding the Government over the period which must elapse before it could implement its socalled long-range policy for the benefit of the wheat industry. Therefore, is it not unreasonable for the Treasurer to ask honorable members to accept his assurance? Several honorable members supporting the Government have described this legislation as obnoxious. We believe that those honorable members are sincere in their convictions, and therefore, we feel it necessary that Parliament should be permitted to exercise control over the Executive in regard to this matter. The honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) has suggested that Parliament could at any time take such steps as it thought desirable to end the collection of this tax. But we all know that Parliamentary . procedure does not permit a private member to originate such steps, and that a private member could not introduce a bill to repeal or vary this tax unless the Executive were willing to allow him to proceed along those lines. If, however, the Executive is forced to ask the Parliament for leave to continue the collection of the sales tax on flour, honorable members will then be afforded an opportunity to express their views on this important question. That is the sole object behind the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin). I agree that the date fixed is too far ahead, but it is the only course open to us in endeavouring to place reasonable restrictions upon the period during which the tax shall be collected. The assurance of the Treasurer cannot be accepted because of the absence of that background of reliability so noticeable in the present Government.
– I hope the committee will not pass this clause. In my judgment it is unnecessary that the sales tax on flour should be imposed at all. Honorable members know that this taxation is imposed to provide the funds necessary to grant a bounty to wheat-growers. When the proclamation is made the home consumption price will be 4s. 9d. a bushel. Honorable members know, however, that there is no fixed price for world parity, and if world parity goes up to 4s. a bushel, the home consumption price for wheat in Australia will be 4s. 9d. a bushel. Apparently the farmers regard this as a case of “heads I win, tails you lose”. If the Government were sincere it would fix an equitable home-consumption price for wheat.
– What has all this to do with the amendment?
– I object to the tax in any shape or form. A trust fund should be created, and if the world parity goes up to 4s. a bushel, and the home-consumption price of wheat in Australia is 4s. 9d. a bushel, the difference should be placed to the credit of the trust fund to provide money for distribution when the homeconsumption price of wheat falls below world parity. In fixing a homeconsumption price for wheat in Australia, the Government or the party which represents the farmers in the Government, should be prepared to” deal fairly with the public funds of this country. We have given away, out of the taxation collected from the people of Australia, no less a sum than £12,000,000 in bounties alone. The Government has made remissions of sales tax on agricultural machinery. This has amounted to a gift of £6,000,000 or £7,000,000 to the farmers. In addition, they have had the benefit of the exchange rate of 25 per cent, on all produce exported overseas, and that has meant millions of pounds to them. The general taxpayers must find interest on the exchange fund accumulated in London During the last four years, a tremendous amount of public assistance has been granted to the farmers of Australia, and now, when prices are improving, it is proposed to allow the farmer to obtain the full benefit of them, and also of the assistance which this measure is designed to give. The proposal cannot be justified on the ground of sound finance. The price of wheat is higher now than at any time during the last four years. Mr. ARCHIE Cameron. - It is still below the cost of production.
– The honorable member for Barker knows that, even when the price of wheat was at its lowest, many farmers were able to produce at a profit.
– Where are they?
– In South Australia mostly, where production costs are very low. During the period of the depression, the workers willingly made sacrifices in order to help the country out of its difficulties, and now, when trade and commerce are reviving, when wealthy companies are paying increased dividends and building up reserves, the workers are to be asked to submit to yet another sacrifice in the form of a tax on their bread. I know one man in my electorate with six children, three of them over the age of sixteen, and three of them under that age. Because those over the age of sixteen earn, and bring into the home, £2 5s. a week between them, the man is not able to obtain unemployment relief. This man, and thousands of others like him, have borne the burdens of the depression like true Australians, and they will not lightly submit to the taxing of their children’s bread for the benefit of the farmers. I do not agree with honorable members opposite who say that this Government has helped only the rich. The Government has, as a matter of fact, helped all sections of the community, and by its policy has put thousands of men back into employment. I appeal to the Government not to undo its good work by imposing a tax which must bear with particular severity upon the poorest sections of the community. The country has made a wonderful recovery, and there is no need for this measure to be introduced.
A few years ago, the president of the Wheat-growers Association, Mr. Field, addressed members of all parties in this Parliament on the subject of wheat, and asked for a home-consumption price of 6s. 6d. a bushel. That gives an idea of just how much the farmers are prepared to ask. Recently, the Minister for Commerce (Dr. Earle Page) met the representatives of the wheat-growers in conference, and submitted to them a scheme which is substantially the same as that now before Parliament. They were not satisfied with it, however, and it is safe to say that the farmers, and particularly the wheat-farmers, will never be satisfied no matter what is done for them. If the Government is able to assist the farmers to organize their industry I am prepared to agree to the principle of a homeconsumption price within reason, r but it is not right that when the world parity price for wheat is 4s., the farmers should still receive a home-consumption price of 4s. 9d. In any case, it is doubtful whether a majority of the State Parliaments will pass the necessary complementary legislation. It seems to be fairly generally agreed that the Parliament of South Australia will have nothing to do with it, and though a bill has been introduced in the Parliament of Victoria, the indications are that it will not be passed. For my part, I think that the farmers should stand on their own feet, and accept the price which their commodity can bring in the open market. If the State Parliaments do not pass the necessary legislation the farmers should bring pressure to bear upon them, particularly those in which the Country party has the controlling power. The simplest way of re-organizing the wheat industry is for the Government to refuse to be a party to the flour tax and to see if the farmers are really prepared to accept a homeconsumption price.
– As I am opposed to the principle of the sales tax on flour, which amounts to a tax on bread, I am opposed to this clause, and, indeed, to the bill as a whole. Last year, I opposed the granting of a dole of some millions of .pounds to the wheat-growers, and I opposed the imposition of a sales tax on flour. I claim that the wheat-growers should not be treated more favorably than other sections of the community because they refuse to re-organize or accept assistance from this Parliament towards that end. Those engaged in some of the smaller primary industries, notably, the fruit-growers, are much worse off than the wheat-farmers. So long as this Parliament helps the wheat-farmers by means of doles, and easy money obtained by taxing the poorer sections of the community, they will npt assert themselves and organize their own industry. For many years past, the wheat-growers have loafed on their job of re-organizing their industry, and introducing a proper system of marketing. In this they have been encouraged by the governments of Western Australia and South Australia, which, it would appear, are influenced by proprietary interests. The disorganization of this section of the wheat industry is holding up the movement for organization in New South Wales and Victoria. I believe that every primary industry should be properly organized so as to secure an Australian price for its product. By continuing to pay doles to the wheat-farmers we relieve them of the obligation to come into line with other primary producers in the general organization of rural industry. The sugar industry and the dairying industry have already been organized, and are enjoying the benefits of their efforts. If all rural industries were organized on a proper basis it would be possible to have a really representative council of agriculture that would be a power in the land. Such an authority would have proper legislative backing, and would be able to seek markets overseas, make suggestions in regard to the tariff, and assist in the financing of industry. “Who could better be entrusted with the betterment and advancement of industries than disinterested persons? The combination of all the agricultural industries in an Australian agricultural council would give the primary producers opportunty to organize practically and scientifically. Unfortunately, we cannot arrive at that position, because of the attitude of the wheat-growers, who will not come into line ot create any impression on their State governments. The Commonwealth Government is passing legislation which will make it possible to attain co-operation among the various primary industries by organizing the wheat industry on a national basis. Nevertheless,, the wheat-farmers are scorning the assistance which Commonwealth legislation is providing to enable them to become an organized selling unit under the home-consumption price pi an. They seem to be quite content annually to come to the Federal Treasury with requests for direct financial aid. This Government, and especially members of the Country party who represent wheatgrowing areas, have done everything possible on behalf of the wheat-growers, but no primary industry has set more obstacles to all efforts to organize it than has the wheat industry itself. The Government’s efforts should be rewarded by the wheat-growers gratefully accepting the legislation designed to give them a homeconsumption price - a scheme which has just received the approval of the producer authorities from the various States.
.- I fail to understand the reason for the amendment by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin), because the Opposition concurred last night in the passage of a measure which will have exactly the same effect as is now had by the sales tax on flour. ‘It is the intention of the Commonwealth Government to bring into operation -a home-consumption price for wheat as soon as the requisite number of State governments pass complementary legislation - and we have an assurance that they will pass it.
While accepting this bill, however, 1 must reiterate my opposition to the payment of a bounty to farmers in receipt of large incomes. Only once in the last five years have those individuals been excluded from benefit. In granting assistance to the wheat- industry, the Commonwealth Government should limit it to the needy sections of the wheat community. I recently heard one wheatfarmer boast that the bounty paid, last year had increased his income from £7,000 to £7,800. I am opposed to the basic wage workers and those in receipt of small incomes subscribing huge sums to well-to-do men on the land. There are many ways in which such persons can be excluded from participation in the wheat bounty. Over the last five years, the Commonwealth Parliament has added approximately 5d. a bushel to the returns from wheat. Railway freight rates on wheat amount to approximately 5d. a bushel. The State railways departments should be approached and asked to charge the freight-
– Order ! The honorable member must connect his remarks with the clause under discussion.
– For the reason that the . sales tax is unpopular and unfair, I have always opposed its being imposed on flour. Year after year, ministerialists have had their time wasted in consideration of various schemes for the assistance of the wheatgrowers. It would have been avoided if the home-consumption price plan which is now contemplated had been brought into operation years ago. But, as it is now intended to introduce this system at the earliest opportunity, the Opposition should accept this makeshift, as I do.
.- Because the poorer classes will be burdened, I am entirely opposed to a sales tax on flour. The report furnished on the 13th March, 1935, by the Royal Commission on Wheat and Flour, contains some very interesting figures. Assuming that they have now to meet the same costs of interest charges as they had to meet in June, 1934, the report shows that 297 wheat-farmers are producing at 3s. 8d. a bushel, 105 are producing at 2s. 9d. a bushel, 210 at 3s. 3d., 314 at 3s. 10d., and 419 at 4s. 8d. The commission’s report shows that three out of every five wheat-farmers in the Commonwealth at present are producing at a profit. Yet these people come to the Commonwealth Parliament, and ask for additional sustenance. Since I have been a member of this Parliament, no other legislation of any importance has been introduced than that designed to help the farming industries. It appears to me that the honorable member for Barton (Mr. Lane) was correct in saying that the time was approaching when the people of Australia would have to be saved from the wheat-farmers. The honorable member for Parramatta (Sir Frederick Stewart) has declared that 20 per cent. of the farmers - the rich farmers - receive 80 per cent. of the bounty paid by the Commonwealth. They are the supporters of the Government. The honorable member forBarton was correct, also, when he said that the Country party pointed a gun-
– Order ! The honorable member must confine his remarks to the clause.
– Last night, we were told that the bill designed to establish the home-consumption price scheme was an urgent bill. To-day, we find that only one State Parliament has approved of complementary legislation. It is time that the people of this country knew the full facts. If they did so, they would revolt against the imposition of a tax on bread, as the peoples of other countries have done. For the last four or five years, the poorer sections of the people have had an awful struggle to obtain the necessaries of life. Yet, despite the approach of the festive season, this Government is proceeding to re-impose a food tax. I endorse the statement made by the honorable member for “West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) that hardly one honorable member has not been approached by some benevolent institution or another for assistance to tide the poor over the “Christmas festivities. This is un doubtedly a tax on the bread of the workers, to pay a bounty, not to the needy, but to the greedy wheatgrowers,who are to-day producing at a profit. We who sit on this side are prepared to assist in every way those who are struggling in this primary industry. We say, however, that those who are producing and can produce at. a profit, those who hold the rich lands of this country, are not entitled to any consideration from this Parliament. If the suggestion of the Labour party were adopted, and no bounty were paid to those farmers who had a taxable income last year, I believe that every person in Australia would approve of that action. When men who are waxing rich on bounties hold a gun to the Government and say “ You must pass such and such legislation “, Parliament is becoming a farce. The unemployed of this country - honorable members will admit that they are a large section of the community - practically exist on bread. For that reason, the amendment of the Leader of the Opposition should be supported. I am entirely opposed to a sales tax on flour, because the poorer section of the community has to foot the bill. [ Quorum formed.]
.- A flour tax is distasteful to all of us, and is politically unpopular. Very little reflection is needed to convince one that, whether the necessary money is raised by means of a sales tax, an excise duty, or a homeconsumption price, the same people find it, and the same people reap the benefit. It is unfortunate for the wheat-growers that the subject of compulsory pooling is persistently intruded into these debates. Year after year, it has been raised, and apparently it is impossible to arrive at unanimity of opinion. Indeed, even among the wheat-growers themselves, there is much difference of opinion. Votes that have been taken at various times have revealed sharp differences among the growers, opposition to the pooling system slightly preponderating. What is here proposed is that something shall be done for the benefit of the wheat industry, and it seems a pity that the issue should be confused by raising a controversy as to the method by which assistance shall be given. Whether it be by means of a compulsory pool, a sales tax on flour, or the scheme which the Government put forward and had accepted at the recent conference in Canberra, is not of very great importance. The real point at issue is, what assistance is required by the industry during this year ? The most important consideration is that the position shall be stabilized. For four years, assistance has been given on a temporary basis. The re-imposition of the sales tax on flour will not give to the industry any security. What is desired is the fixing of a homeconsumption price for wheat. A large majority of honorable members would fix such a price if a suitable method by which that might be done could be determined. Had the governments of the States which were represented at the recent conference at Canberra loyally carried out their undertaking by promptly introducing the complementary legislation which their representatives promised would be introduced, the whole scheme would have been in operation this year, and the industry would have been placed on something like a stable basis. I Venture to affirm that those who, in their enthusiasm, place considerations of method before the allimportant matter of assistance to the farmers, are not helping the industry. If this legislation is not passed, no assistance will be given to the industry this year.
– Three out of every five wheat-growers are now producing at a profit. Does the honorable member want to give them more?
– I do not think that that statement has been confirmed by any investigation. If honorable members vote against the principle of giving anr assistance to the industry, they will act logically. In the existing circumstances, the Government is proposing the only method by which assistance may be given this year. Should the bill be defeated, or even postponed as the amendment suggests, when the wheat is shortly harvested no assistance will be Available. If my friends opposite who claim to be true friends of the farmers are sincere in their professed desire to assist the wheat-growers, let them realize what will be ‘the effect of the acceptance of the amendment. The postponement of. the application of this .legislation will m.-an that no revenue will be raised, and, therefore, that no money will be available for disbursement by way of assistance. Let us not concern ourselves with lbc consideration of who is responsible for the complete scheme not being ready to operate this year. Assistance may be rendered only by the re-imposition of ibo flour tax. Let us consider the interests of the wheat-growers alone. There is no alternative to the passage of thi3 legislation.
.- I enter a protest against this measure, because under it will be imposed what we may term a class tax. In the first place, it is very doubtful, judging by tha findings of the royal commission which investigated the affairs of this industry,, as to whether many of the wheat-growers are in need of assistance. Any person, who has had experience of different activities in country centres, knows that there is every evidence of greater prosperity in those centres than among some other sections of the community. The majority of the farmers attend country agricultural shows or race meetings in motor cars of the latest models.
– Order ! That matter is not involved in either the clauseor the amendment.
– This clause provides for a proclamation imposing a tax which will! have to be paid by the workers, and I am. suggesting that any tax imposed should be upon luxury items which many of the wheat-growers are to-day in a position to enjoy, and not upon foodstuffs. Bread is a staple article of diet in the homes of the workers, and they will feel directly t heeffect of a bread tax. The honorable member who has just resumed his seal (Mr. Nairn) has said that if this measure is not passed .no financial assistance will be given to the wheat industry. May I ask him why he has not exercised, his rights in this’ Parliament to demand that some financial assistance be given to the unemployed, whose position isinfinitely worse than that of any. section, of the wheat-growers? I have never yet heard of a wheat-grower going hungry He is in possession of his property, has a. shelter over his head, has some food for’ his family, and can provide out of his income the necessaries of life. On the other hand, the unemployed members of the community, who will be directly affected by the passage of this legislation, will find that they and those who are dependent upon them have to be content with less food. Naturally, therefore, they are beginning to wonder whether this Parliament is not a class parliament which exercises its functions merely for the protection of private property, without regard for the well-being of the community generally, and particularly thai large section which is property less, having no farms and no capital invested in different industries. Those who produce all the wealth, and who make it possible for the farmers to remain in production and for some members of this Parliament to draw dividends annually from their investments - are they to receive no consideration? The persons who live upon unearned increment, upon the wealth produced by the labour of others - what reciprocity are they showing towards other sections of the community? They are not rendering them any assistance in their struggles to obtain a higher standard of living. Whenever there is an industrial dispute in the capital cities, the Government immediately looks for “ scabs “ to take the places of the men who are fighting for better conditions for themselves and their families. Where have these forces been recruited?
– Order !
– They have been recruited in the ranks of the sons of the men who to-day are looking for assistance from the revenues of the Commonwealth.
– Order! The time allotted for the consideration of the committee stage of the bill has expired.
Question - that the words proposed to be added be so added (Mr. Curtin’s amendment) - put. The committee divided. ( Chairman - Mr. Prowse.)
Majority . . . . 12
Question so resolved in the negative.
Question - That clause 2 and the remainder of the bill be agreed to and that the bill be reported without amendment - put. The committee divided. (Chairman - Mr. Prowse.)
Majority . . . . 12
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Clause 2 and remainder of bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment.
Motion (by Mr. Casey) proposed -
That the report be adopted.
– I protest against the passage of this bill because of its unprecedented nature, and also because it is a class measure providing for a tax, the incidence of which will unjustly affect the poor. Although the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) probably acted in all good faith, it was unfair to honorable members generally to rush the bill through the House. I tried on several occasions to obtain a call, and probably three-fourths of the members have endeavoured’ to speak on the bill, but they have had no opportunity to do, so. I opposed the imposition of this tax when’ it was first introduced, on the ground of its unjust nature. The arguments then advanced in support of it were much stronger than they are to-day, but honorable members were not in a position to contest them. It was alleged that this extraordinary tax was unavoidable, and it was pointed out that the measure would not operate for more than seven or nine months. Under the bill the period fixed was one year, but before that period had expired the tax was repealed because of its extraordinary character. On the second occasion, the tax was levied under entirely different circumstances, the revenue having increased. On the first occasion it was said that the bill was required to meet a shortage of revenue, and the promise was given that the legislation was merely temporary; but, like all other emergency measures, it has come to bo regarded as more or less permanent. In the second bill it was stated that the tax would operate for only a few months. On this occasion, however, no time limit whatever has been fixed, and an attempt has been made to give the tax a permanent character. The Opposition desired to make certain that the tax would not be permanent, but the Treasurer objected to its proposal.
I protest against the passing of this bill, because it is class legislation of the most objectionable character. Even some honorable members opposite who are strong supporters of the Government did not approve of the flour tax when it was first introduced. The extraordinary financial circumstances which faced the country at that time led the government of the day to conclude that the measure was necessary at that time. A similar measure introduced by the succeeding government was supported by those honorable members opposite who had originally opposed theflour tax. They recanted in a half-hearted fashion, notwithstanding that whatever excuse existed for the introduction of the original flour tax bill had long since lost its force. The circumstances which surrounded the introduction of the second flour tax bill were such that the Government deserved the severest condemnation for its action. A temporary boom in revenue caused the Government to remit a considerable amount of taxation, principally in the interests of the wealthier sections of the people. When it found that it had over stepped the bounds and had not sufficient revenue to meet its commitments it re-introduced the flour tax and assured us that it was a purely temporary measure. Unfortunately our experience of assurances given to us by this Government makes us chary of accepting them. Although we have been told that this measure will be operative for only a limited period, We cannot accept that view. It was for that reason that an amendment was moved to ensure that its operation would cease on a given date. The Government, however, declined to accept the amendment and has insisted upon the passage of the bill in such a form as will permit it to remain indefinitely on the statute-book. The Treasurer has told us that £1,750,000 may be collected under the provisions of this bill and also that the measure may need to operate for only six or seven months. In that circumstance we strongly object to the inclusion in it of any provision that suggests permanence.
This form of the taxation is unfair in every respect. It bears harshly upon the poorest section of the people, and its principles are antagonistic to every canon of taxation law laid down by taxation authorities the world over. At least some honorable members opposite, who have supported the bill, have done so with tongue in cheek. It is obvious to everybody that the largest proportion of the tax will be paid by 540,000 of our people who draw pensions. These pensions support at least 1,000,000 people and probably 1,500,000 people. I have included in the number of pensioners the invalid and old-age pensioners, and also war pensioners of every kind. It is estimated that the average income of all these pensioners is between 25s. and 26s. a week. People with such small incomes will undoubtedly have to pay a larger percentage of this tax than people with larger incomes, for they must rely on bread as their staple article of diet. They must eat bread if they are to maintain physical fitness. They cannot enjoy a wider regimen as can other persons who have larger incomes. The average working man and his family - in fact the 80 per cent, of our people whose income consists of wages and salaries - must give bread a large place in their diet.
– There is no article of foodstuffs on which a duty is not imposed.
– The honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) cannot deny that the flour tax falls most heavily on the people least able to pay taxes. I do not think that a single honorable member of this Parliament or for that matter a single intelligent person in the community would admit that he favoured class taxation, for it is rightly regarded as anti-Australian, anti-democratic, and against all the characteristics of free citizenship. The honorable member for Swan has frequently criticized the tariff.
– If we surrender the flour tax, will the honorable member surrender the tariff generally?
– I do not deny the right of the honorable member for Barton (Mr. Archie Cameron) and the honorable member, for Swan to criticize our tariff policy, but I ask them whether they can deny that the tariff affords protection to every section of the community?
– The wheatgrowers get no protection.
– The wheatgrowers, on the contrary, have benefited considerably .by our policy of protection.
– The honorable member is speaking humorously.
– That is not so. The legislation passed by this Parliament during the last five or six years has been particularly beneficial to the primary producers. Practically every article used by them has been exempt from sales tax, primage duty and the like. If I could submit to honorable members a list of the measures passed by this Lyons Government - I cannot do so, of course, in the time available to me - I am sure that they would concede that they were almost uniformly lo the direct advantage of the primary producers. I invite the honorable member for Barker, in particular, to refer to a single occasion on which honorable members on this side of the chamber have failed to vote for measures intended to assist the primary producers.
– I shall accept that invitation on an appropriate occasion.
– I ask the honorable member whether he has ever objected to our wine bounty legislation? Of course he has not. Has the honorable member for Swan ever objected to the duty imposed on maize grown by black labour in South Africa? Of course he has not done so, for he realizes that the duty has made it possible for maize-growers in Gippsland and elsewhere to win a reasonable livelihood from their industry.
– Our whole tariff policy makes the imposition of duties on such commodities necessary.
– Some honorable members opposite are willing to support duties in respect of all commodities in which, they are interested, but they oppose duties in respect of all commodities in which they are not interested. They cannot pretend, with any degree of reasonableness, that the tariff does not cut both ways. I ask the honorable member for Riverina (Mr. Nock) and the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. McClelland) whether they have ever protested against the imposition of a duty on rice? Of course they have not done so. They realize clearly that the duty on rice has made it possible for the rice-growers of Australia to compete successfully, in the last ten years, against the rice-growers of Ceylon and other countries where rice has been grown for a million years.
– Not quite a million years !
– I urge honorable members opposite to abandon their narrow-minded outlook on the tariff. They should try to look at the subjects that come up for consideration in this Parliament from the view-point of the community generally. Honorable gentlemen opposite have never protested against the granting of bounties and subsidies in respect of our canned fruits, dried fruits or fresh fruits industries. Honorable members on this side of the chamber invariably support the measures intended to assist these industries, because they realize that our protective policy should apply equitably to all sections of the community. It is only the hardened, crust-bound freetraders who will not assent to the proposition that our protective policy has been beneficial to the industries of this country.
I oppose this bill, because there is no logic behind it. We endeavoured yesterday to assist the wheat-growing industry by moving for the establishment of a compulsory wheat pool. We believe that the farmers ought to organize for their own benefit, as other sections of the community have had to do. The economic laws that apply to other industries of Australia apply also to wheat-growing, and the farmers should organize for their own advantage.
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. G. J. Bell).Order ! The time allowed for the consideration of the remaining stages of this bill has expired.
Question - That the report be adopted - put. The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. G. J. Bell.)
Majority . . . . 13
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
– The Whips drew my attention to the fact that the honorable member for Melbourne (Dr. Maloney) was sitting in the precincts in the seat usually reserved for the secretary to the Leader of the Opposition. I have no doubt that the honorable member’s action in taking his seat there was quite inadvertent. The honorable member’s name, I understand, may be included in the division only if all the Whips agree.
– I object.
– Am I to understand, Mr. Speaker, that that portion of the House in which the honorable member for Melbourne was seated, is out of bounds ?
– It is set apart from the House by a rope, which, I understand, was placed there in order to provide accommodation for the secretary to the Leader of the Opposition. An honorable member occupying a seat in that enclosure is not regarded as being present in the House. The Chair has no alternative but to rule that the honorable member for Melbourne was not present in the House during the division which was just taken.
– I am afraid I am responsible for the position in which the honorable member for Melbourne now finds himself. When I was speaking on the report stage of the bill, the honorable member for Melbourne was good enough to allow me to sit in his place. No other seat being available for the honorable member for Melbourne, he was obliged to take the seat which he occupied during the division.
– As honorable members know, the seat occupied by the honorable member for Melbourne was reserved some time ago for the use of the secretary to the Leader of the Opposition. If I were now to rule that the honorable member for Melbourne was present in the House during the division, I may on some other occasion be asked to give a similar ruling in respect of a member occupying a seat in another part of the chamber reserved for the use of officials. The Clerk has directed my attention to a difficulty of a similar nature which occurred in the past in which the matter was adjusted with the full concurrence of the House. As I have already indicated, one of the Whips has objected to the inclusion of the name of the honorable member for Melbourne in the division list, and I have no option but to rule that his name cannot be included.
Motion (by Mr. Casey) proposed -
That the bill be now read a third time.
.- I desire to move, sir-
– Order ! The time allotted for the consideration of all stages of the bill has expired.
– On a point of order, Mr. Speaker, this is the only opportunity afforded me of submitting an appropriate motion, and I move, sir -
That the question he not now put.
– Order ! The time allotted for the consideration of all stages of the bill has expired. If the honorable member for Batman desires to refer to any stage of the bill, he will not be in order.
– How can the Treasurer be in order in moving a motion for the third reading of the bill if the time allotted for the consideration of all stages has expired? I submit, sir, that the Treasurer’s motion is not in order.
– The Treasurer’s motion is quite in order, because the bill cannot be passed unless the third reading is agreed to.
– I submit, sir, that the motion moved by the honorable member for Batman is quite in order, because, this is the only opportunity he has to move such a motion. You, sir, have ruled that it is not competent for the honorable member to move his motion, because the time allotted to the consideration of the remaining stages of the bill has already expired. If that be so, sir, how can you accept the motion which has just been moved by the Treasurer when, at the moment the honorable gentleman rose, the time for the consideration of the remaining stages of the bill had already expired ? I submit that if it is not competent for the honorable member for Batman to move his motion at this stage, it is also not competent for the Treasurer to move a motion for the third reading of the bill. But I submit that the honorable member for Batman hasa right to move a motion which has a direct bearing upon the third reading of the bill at this stage.
– When the time has expired for the consideration of the remaining stages of the bill, the necessary motions must be moved to bring all stages to a conclusion. This is provided for in section (vi) of the Limitation of Debate Standing Order.
– May I submit, sir, that the motion for the third reading is a distinct motion.
– It has been moved.
– But only after the expiration of the time allowed to complete the bill.
– Yes, and only motions necessary to bring to a conclusion all stages of the bill are in order. The honorable member for Batman would not be in order in moving his motion at this stage.
Question - That the bill be now read a third time - put. The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. G. J. Bell.)
Majority . . . . 12
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a third time.
.- I move-
1 ) That flour tax be imposed at the rate of Two pounds twelve shillings and sixpence per ton upon each pound of flour (not being flour upon which tax is imposed by the Flour Tax Act (No. 2) 1934) manufactured in Australia by any person and -
That flour tax be imposed upon flour, and upon the goods specified in the Schedule to the Flour Tax Act (No. 3) 1934, imported into Australia and on or after the seventh day of January, One thousand nine hundred and thirty-six and, prior to a date fixed by proclamation under the act incorporated with the Flour Tax Act (No. 3) 1934 as amended by the act passed to give effect to this Resolution, entered for home consumption under the law relating to the customs, at the rate of Two pounds twelve shillings and sixpence per ton in respect of each pound of that flour and in respect of each pound of flour used in the manufacture of those goods.
The first motion refers to flour sold by millers, while the second has to do with imported flour.
.- I oppose this motion, and take this opportunity to say a word in opposition to the principle of the tax. This at least is a matter which does not affect only the primary producers. It affects very intimately the nearly 60,000 electors who
Lave sent me to this Parliament to hold opinions, and to express them, in regard to this matter which is of the utmost importance to them. To me it is very distasteful, as it is to those I represent, that we should have remitted millions of pounds of taxation to those well able to pay it, while it is proposed to re-impose a tax on the poorest members of the community. The honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway) truly stated that this tax falls upon such persons as pensioners and the unemployed with exceptional and discriminating harshness. I have always been led to believe that one of the first canons of taxation was that taxes should be imposed in proportion to the ability of the taxpayer to bear the burden. So deeply felt is the opposition in my electorate to this tax, that even those electors of Batman who have been habitually opposed to my party on general principles, are equally opposed with me to this class taxation. It is significant that the councillors of the municipality of Northcote, in the very centre of my electorate, although they are men usually opposed to Labour policy, have carried a resolution opposing the tax, and they have asked to voice their opposition in this chamber. The opportunity to do so has not hitherto presented itself, but, by the gracious permission of the Government, which allows me to be heard, even for a moment, I now make that opposition known.
It is necessary that we should ask ourselves certain questions in regard to this proposal. The first is whether this tax is justifiable on the ground of necessity. I think it has been sufficiently pointed out in argument, supported by illustration, that the state of the national finances, upon which the Government prides itself, no longer makes the imposition of the tax justifiable on that ground. Remissions of taxes, and the improved state of the finances, together make it clear that no such necessity exists. It is a very curious thing that the bread used by. the poorest people in the community should be taxed at the rate of approximately 30 per cent., while the sales tax on other commodities is only 5 per cent. No less an authority than Professor Giblin may be quoted in support of the proposition that it is very doubtful whether this tax will ultimately benefit those whom it is intended to benefit. At any rate, the tax is, in my opinion, utterly vicious in principle, and indefensible on any just grounds. It is a new theory in my experience of public life that we should tax the commodity which of all commodities from necessity must be used most by those who are in most difficult circumstances. The theory is new, but it is repugnant, and I do not know why the Government persists in it. Ministers must have had the experience that I have had and must know how unpopular, from the political point of view, a food tax is among all classes. I am certain that the Treasurer (Mr. Casey), in his electorate, must have heard from his habitual supporters a number of expressions of profound disgust at the Commonwealth’s adoption of a policy of this kind. It applies not only to persons below the basic wage level, but also to those who are on sustenance and to those who are ekeing out a miserable existence on pensions and, in some cases, are actually maintaining relatives out of their pensions. They must all have bread ; when a person cannot afford to buy bread, he can no longer exist. Inability to buy bread is regarded as the last straw which breaks the camel’s back. Unhappily, many in my electorate are actually on the breadline and I assert that the Government is striking a deadly blow at the people in those unfortunate circumstances. I, therefore, welcome this opportunity to record my opposition to the tax. I do not do so for the mere purpose of continuing the debate. I am just as anxious as other honorable members to conclude the business of Parliament, as we are all looking forward to spending a more or less happy Christmas, according to circumstances. Accordingly, the action of the Government in asking Parliament, in one of its last acts before the adjournment, to deliver a kind of final parting shot in the form of this heavy blow against those whose happiness at Christmas will be meagre indeed, is beyond my comprehension. I, therefore, record my opposition to the bill in the slender hope that some infiltration of unexpected goodness into the Treasurer will cause himto cease the prosecution of his politically evil ways.
.- I am astonished at the action of the Government in moving for the reimposition of the flour tax, especially in view of the fact that when the sales tax legislation was introduced, flour was specifically exempted. The rate of the sales tax is 5 per cent., but I have computed the rate of this tax. Taking flour at £9 5s. a ton, a tax of £2 12s. 6d. a ton amounts to 28.4 per cent., which is more than 500 per cent, greater than the rate of the sales tax. 1 do not think that the Treasurer could possibly have considered this matter fully. No honorable member would willingly say that he would tax the bread of the poor.
I have endeavoured for a long time to obtain from this Government an assurance which it has promised to me that a housewife, when purchasing bread over the counter, will know that the price of the bread is based on the average price of flour which operated during the previous month. Three thousand pounds of flour wheat yields 2,000 lb. of white flour, or 3,000 lb. of wholemeal flour. In Melbourne, the price charged for wholemeal bread was once one half-penny greater than the price of bread baked from white flour. The gristing of flour for the production of white bread leaves what is described as offal - bran and pollard. The Melbourne bakers, by making the overcharge of $d. accordingly, have taken an unfair advantage of the people. “When seeking information regarding the counter-sales of bread, I was referred to Sir Herbert Gepp, the highly-paid official who presided over the Wheat Commission. He sent me numerous courteous letters, but has never given me an answer to my simple question: If wheat is priced at 2s. 6d. or 3s. a bushel, what should be the price of a 4-lb. loaf of bread sold over the counter? The Government, ultimately, I have no doubt, will give me the answer required. Tlie people are always being fleeced in many different ways, but never have they been so fleeced as they are now being fleeced in the processes of gristing the wheat, and baking and selling the bread.
.- On behalf of the Government parties, it has been declared that, if there is objection to the flour tax, there should also be objection to any proposal to stabilize the wheat industry by giving a home-consumption price to the wheatgrowers. Our protest rests here: The people whom we represent as a Labour party are mainly the wage-earners of this country and the wage-earners in my electorate and elsewhere are willing to pay reasonable prices, if necessary increased prices, on what they were before the sales tax on flour was imposed, if they are satisfied that they are assisting to stabilize the wheat industry by organizing it, not from year to year, but for a number of years. The view we take is that the man who produces wheat has as much right to a living wage and conditions as the man who produces boots or anything else. We stand, therefore, for an Australian consumption price for wheat, recognizing frankly that, imposed at a time when wheat was cheap, it would, have the effect of raising the price of flour and of bread. We have, however, this guarantee, that, if it were done under a compulsory pool, the people who are getting a rake-off now- the wheat and flour speculators - would be deprived of that rake-off. We are fortified in that by the experience of the compulsory pool, which formerly existed. Under that pool the price of wheat was fixed at 4s. 9da bushel, and the price of bread was 8d. per 4-lb. loaf. Moreover, the price of flour was lower than it is to-day. If you have a pool you can control the price of bread. If the price of wheat is fixed for home consumption, there should be some fixation of the price of flour to protect the consumers of bread. But to use as an expediency a tax to give assistance to the wheat-growers, and to impose it on bread, is a despicable form of raising revenue. That is why we object to it.
.- I desire to register my protest against this, iniquitous re-imposition of the flour taxWhen I speak on behalf of the poorersections of the community, I do so with, authority, and I declare that the poorwill be the hardest hit by this measure. So long as the Country party can raise revenue to pay to the people whom it claims to represent, it does not care who. foots the bill. The Country party, however, will never support aid to various other industries which are languishing in this country. The languishing coal industry time and time again has sought assistance from this Parliament in order to help it to rehabilitate itself; but the Country party has refused its support. The Country party has no hesitation in helping itself, or the interests it represents; but it is too selfish to assist other Australian industries. Some of the honorable members of this chamber who will actually benefit by the re-imposition of the flour tax are not in necessitous circumstances when they continue to draw the parliamentary allowances. Before they became associated with the Government Country party members in this House looked with disfavour on a resolution adopted by the House, which stipulated that farmers possessing taxable incomes should be excluded from benefits under a wheat bounty bill which was then before the House. The Country party’s influence was so strong, and the desire of the Government to retain its position on the treasury bench was so great, that it surrendered its principle that the bounty should be paid only to farmers in needy circumstances, in order to retain the assistance of the Country party. Representatives of the wheatgrowers are totally opposed to the reimposition of the flour tax. Mr. E. E. Field, president of the New South Wales Farmers and Settlers Association, who was last week appointed to the Farmers Relief Board, recently handed to the press the following statement: -
I cannot endorse the actions of Dr. Page, and the Government he has joined, in regard to assistance to the wheat industry.
For some reason or other they seem continually to baulk when it comes to wheat, and they are not prepared to place it in the same category as butter, fruit, sugar and other primary industries.
Ye gods! Is this the Dr. Page and his followers who for years past have addressed farmers’ conferences on the formation of a 100 per cent. pool as the first step toward a permanent home-consumption price for wheat, or have they become just cogs in the ordinary governmental routine, preferring the easy way out, by borrowing millions of money that they will never get back until there is a stabilized price for wheat for a period of years?
They prefer the inequitable flour tax, which is going to fall heaviest on the poorer sections of the community, as well as the wheatgrowers themselves.
That is perfectly true; they are not favorable to the imposition of this flour tax. As the poorer sections of the community cannot purchase the higher classes of food, they naturally consume a larger quantity of bread, and thus will be the most heavily burdened. Mr. Field went on to say -
Reading between the lines of the Wheat Commissions’ report, it seems to be aiming at a permanent tax while wheat remains below a certain figure. I use the word “ inequitable “ advisedly in relation to the flour tax. How much bread do the wealthy people eat? They are looking for something better than bread and butter and jam - and they get it. I take this opportunity of apologizing on behalf of the wheat-growers to all those who depend almost entirely, or a great deal, on bread for their menu. The flour tax is no fault of the wheat-growers. We have asked for a home price for our wheat, which entails some form of controlled marketing, and we do not admit that, with a home price of 5s. a bushel, there would be any justification for increased prices for bread. [Quorum formed.]
Mr. Field continued
I say this because of past experience, and in view of the tremendous savings that would result if millers were able to obtain all their wheat supplies at the one fixed price, and the savings that could be effected in agents, travellers, inspections, roofing losses, &c.
No member of the Country party will deny that Mr. Field comes more closely into contact with the wheat-farmers than they do. It can be said that he speaks on behalf of all the primary producers. He said further -
I personally see no hope in any of the Government’s expedients for the relief of wheatgrowers, in the absence of a stabilized price for wheat. Dr. Page, Mr. Lyons or Mr. Stevens should not ask the nation to do what they are not prepared to do themselves as individuals, put money behind a losing proposition. Knowing the wheat-growers’ capabilities as I do, I offer no apology for this statement, for I am convinced that the time will arrive, sooner than expected, when the Government will be forced to accede to the wishes and aspirations of the wheat-growers throughout Australia - wishes that are in the best interests of all sections of the community, not solely of those few who wax fat on the industry.
Probably he was referring to those who claim to be representatives of the wheatgrowers in this Parliament. Someof these gentlemen, who, as wheat-growers themselves, will benefit by the imposition of a flour tax on the poor sections of the community, should hang their heads in shame, and never consider thmeselves as representative of the people of this great country. In my own township of Kurri Kurri, 80 per cent. of the population is unemployed. If the price of bread is increased by1d. a loaf - the master bakers have indicated that that will be the extent of the increase - a less quantity will be purchased by those who are on the dole. Very little bread is consumed by persons who enjoy a high standard of living, including members of this Parliament; consequently, those who are on the basic wage or less will bear most of the burden of the tax.
I regret that, byreason of the application of the guillotine, measures of such importance as this cannot be properly considered. Some honorable members who have gone to a good deal of trouble to prepare matter for speeches have been prevented from delivering them.
Honorable members who sit on this side of the chamber have advanced the contention that very little of the money made available for this relief will go into the pockets of the wheat-growers, who arc at the mercy of the big banking institutions. This view is endorsed by Mr. Trethowan, M.L.C. Writing in the Sydney Sun, of the 1st September last, Mr. Trethowan declared -
Of all the money given by the Government to the wheat-farmers, very little has actually found its way into the farmers’ pockets. No other industry in New South Wales gives so many people employment as the wheat industry. Thousands of men are required to grow and handle the normal crop of 60,000,000 bushels.
That is perfectly true. But these employees, in the State of New South Wales at any rate, have been removed from the operation of rural awards. A letter that I received from a friend informed me that he had obtained a position at a wage of 30s. a week and his keep. In other cases, only 25s. a week is paid.
– The honorable member’s time has expired.
Motion (by Mr. Thorby) put -
That the question be now put.
The committee divided. (Temporary Chairman - Mr. Nairn.)
Majority . . 18
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Sitting suspended from 6.17 to 6.45 p.m.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Objection having been taken the motions will be submitted separately.
Question - That motion No. 1 be agreed to - put. The committee divided. (Temporary Chairman - Mr. Nairn.)
Majority .. ..10
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Motion agreed to.
Mr.Ward. - As several of the Government supporters who are voting in favour of this measure will be directly benefited by it, are they entitled to vote in the division ?
– There is nothing before the committee to show that any honorable member will benefit directly or otherwise as the result of the tax.
.- I protest against motion No. 2-
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.The discussion on that motion has been closed as the result of the voting in a previous division.
– I rise to a point of order. I contend that the last division was taken with respect to motion No. 1. You, sir, put the question “That motion No. 1 be agreed to “. If there had been half a dozen motions, I take it that the committee would have dealt with them one by one.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.I understand that both motions were submitted together by consent, and that by consent the discussion proceeded on both of them. Subsequently the point was taken that the motions could not be put together, and for that reason I put them separately. When the committee voted in favour of the motion “ That the question be now put”, I took it to be a direction to the committee that the discussion on the question or questions then before it had terminated. The decision related to the two motions, and I, therefore, rule that the committee has directed that the discussion on the questions then before it was to be concluded.
Question - That motion No. 2 be agreed to - put. The committee divided. (Temporary Chairman - Mr. Nairn.)
Majority . . . . 11
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Motion agreed to.
Question - That the resolutions be reported - put. The committee divided. (Temporary Chairman - Mr. Nairn.)
Majority . . 10
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Motion (by Mr. Casey) - That the Standing Orders be suspended to enable the remaining stages to be passed without delay - put. The House divided. (Mn. Speaker - ‘Hon. G. J. Bell.)
. 28 . 21
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Standing Orders suspended.
Question - That the resolutions be now adopted - put. The House divided. (Mb. Speaker - Hon. G. j. Bell.)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Motion (by Mr. Casey) put -
That Dr. Earle Page and the mover do prepare and bring in bills to carry out the foregoing resolutions.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. G. J. Bell.)
Majority . . 7
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill brought up by Mr. Casey.
Motion (by Mr. Casey) put -
That the bill be now read a first time.
Question put. The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. G. J. Bell.)
Majority . . . . 9
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a first time.
Declaration of Urgency.
– I declare the bill an urgent bill.
Question put. The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. G. J. Bell.)
Majority . . . . 8
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Allotment of Time.
Motion (by Mr. Casey) put -
That the time allotted in connexion with the bill be as follows: -
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. G. J. Bell.)
Majority . . . . 9
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
.- I move-
That the bill be now read a second time.
This is a formal measure that follows from the resolutions to which the House has already agreed. The main purpose of the bill is to amend the Flour Tax Act (No. 1) in order to provide for the reimposition of the flour tax until a date to be fixed by proclamation. The rate of tax is to be £2 12s. 6d. a ton, which is the same as that fixed in the original act. This is one of two bills, the purpose of which is to impose a sales tax upon flour manufactured in Australia by any person, or sold by him, or used by him in the manufacture of goods. At an earlier stage, I explained that the intention of the Government was to re-impose the flour tax as a temporary measure for an indefinite period, the termination of the tax to be notified by proclamation. I commend the bill to the House.
.-I should not have risen at all but for the fact that had I not done so, the impression might be created that the Labour party was prepared to let this bill go through without opposition. That is not the case. We are opposed to it lock, stock and barrel, for the reasons which, at great length, and on several occasions, I have stated during the day.
.- I protest against the tax for which this bill provides the machinery for assessment. When the flour tax was first introduced at the end of 1933, the Government had arranged tentatively to reduce the property tax from 10 per cent. to 5 per cent., but, in view of the imposition of the flour tax, the property tax was reduced to 6 per cent. only. Now, although it is intended to re-impose the flour-tax, payers of property tax are still to enjoy the further remission recently granted to them. If that remission had not been made, the extra revenue collected from this source would probably have rendered the re-imposition of the flour tax unnecessary. The Government ‘ has remitted millions of pounds of taxation, and has boasted that direct taxation has been reduced during its regime by approximately £12,000,000 a year. It is evident, therefore, that there is not the slightest justification for the bill now before us. I particularly object to the provision in the bill that the tax shall remain in force until a date to be fixed by proclamation. We cannot forget that, when the financial emergency legislation was before Parliament, the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) moved an amendment fixing a date upon which the legislation should cease to operate. He withdrew the amendment upon receiving a promise from the Government that the act would be repealed at the earliest possible opportunity. However, up to the present, that legislation is still sub- stantially in force. I have no doubt that the history of the flour tax will be much the same. When it was last imposed, the period fixed for its operation was seven months, although members of the Country party wanted to make it eight’ months. This time no period has been fixed in the bill. The date of the termination of the tax is to be fixed by proclamation, which means that power in this respect is taken out of the hands of the legislature, and given to the Executive. Frequent complaints have been made recently regarding this tendency to give power in the Executive rather than keep it in the hands of the elected representatives of the people. One result of this is that Parliament is now called together for only a short period each year, while, during the rest of the year, the country is governed by regulations issued through the Executive. Some months ago, the present Minister in charge of negotiations for trade treaties (Sir Henry Gullett) expressed his opposition to the flour tax in these words - lt is a benighted, mean and cruel tax on the people of humble means in this country.
No more bitter condemnation, or more scathing indictment, against the particular tax now being imposed by this Government has ever been ‘ launched than that which was launched not so many months ago by an honorable member in whose ideas and sincerity the Government evidently has sufficient confidence that it sent him overseas to deal with the most important matter of trade treaties. I refer to the honorable member for Henty (Sir Henry Gullett), who also was brought back into the Cabinet after having resigned on account of ill health. ‘ He dealt at great length with the tax, and said, as has been said by many other honorable members of this Parliament, “ This tax falls most heavily on the poorest section of the community.” Before proceeding to repeat what the honorable gentleman said regarding the principle of the sales tax on flour when it was first introduced, however, it is well for the House to review what was revealed at the taking of the last census.
The census figures show that 3,648.000 persons in this country receive no income at all. One million odd receive less than £1 a week, 617,000 from £1 to £2 a week, 393,000 from £2 to £3, 559,360 from £3 to £4, and, of the 7,000,000 population of this nation, only 340,000 persons receive £5 or more a week. The 700,000 persons who receive less than £5 a week will be bitterly hit by this tax, but the severity of the blow will increase according to the downward scale of income received. The 393,000 persons earning between £2 and £3 a week will suffer more severely than those who earn from £3 to £4 a week, but the 1,000,000 odd persons who are paid £1 a week or less will not suffer to the same extent as the persons who are receiving no income at all. The Government, however, can take no satisfaction from that. When we consider these figures, we must realize, also, that the tax falls more heavily upon the married men than on the single men. The married man with no children is better off than the man with children, and the man with a large family is proportionately worse off than the man with only one or two children. The man who is in. such fortunate circumstances as to be able to stay at the most expensive hotels will not be called upon to pay Id. towards this tax. There will be no rise in the charge for his accommodation as the result of the bread tax, because the amounts with which the great hotels deal are so vast that the tax will not make sufficient difference to cause an increase of their rates. The tax, however, will be felt in the homes of the poor. Bread has been described as the staple food, the food most essential to people of the class this Parliament should be most ready to assist. On the last occasion on which this Government imposed this particular tax, the amount of revenue received from it was tens of thousands of pounds less than the amount which it had been estimated would be received. The estimates prepared by departmental officials are prepared very carefully after the consideration of the figures of previous years. Therefore, the fact that, at a time when most revenue sources were providing larger amounts than were estimated, very much less revenue was received from the flour tax than was expected to be received, shows that much less bread must have been sold and much less flour milled. That is the strongest possible proof that the people in the poorest homes were unable to buy the food so essential to their existence.
We ask the people to be prepared to defend their country if ever the occasion should arise. Yet the country is not prepared to give the people fair opportunity, especially in their younger years, when it is most necessary to develop them, to live in a reasonable scale of comfort, so that they may be fit to defend the country if called upon to do so. Certain figures were given in this House a few weeks ago regarding applicants for admission to various arms of the defence forces, and it was disclosed that a high percentage of the applicants were rejected because their standard of physical fitness was not sufficiently high. The same thing happened in Australia during the war years, but it was more pronounced in Great Britain. It was found in Great Britain that a tremendously high proportion of the man power was of C3 standard. This was revealed when the men were conscripted. Men came from all sections of the community, but among them men on the bread-line, being in a high proportion to the rest of the community, predominated, and gave a fair indication of the physical standard of the people. That a large proportion of the men were C3 standard was due to the fact that the people had not been given a chance to develop as they would have developed had they received proper nourishment. That being so, even if we are so destitute of compassion as to disregard the moral attitude, we should look on the economic side and realize that it is very poor finance for a nation to starve its own people. Yet. that is exactly what we are doing in this legislation. Instead of profiting by the lessons of the past, we are accentuating a position which existed prior to the war, when conditions were not nearly so bad as they have been during the recent depression. This should bo the last occasion on which such legislation as a flour tax should be brought into effect.
The Government evidently wishes to pass over the fact that no date for the termination of this tax is provided for in the bill. It is evidently intended that the tax shall become a permanent method of raising revenue in this country. I have little doubt that after this bill passes through Parliament, there will be no move to repeal it; there will be no effort to remit the flour tax, or the bread tax, as it should more properly be called, until another election looms.
The events which occurred before the last election will be repeated. The flour tax was placed on the statute-book for a period of seven months, but the Government repealed it a month before the due date. Honorable members on this side of the House said that the Government was not repealing the legislation from humane motives, but because an election was not far distant. As a matter of fact, that charge was made before there was any definite indication of an early election. The Government, however, was paving the way for it, and just three months after the tax was repealed, an election duly took place. Some of us told our electors that if this Government were returned to office, the flour tax would be reimposed. Supporters of the Government denied our statements, and said that there was no possibility of the flour tax again being imposed, as it had been merely .a temporary measure brought into force, because there had been no time adequately to consider organization of the wheat industry on a national basis. Such a scheme, they claimed, would be brought into operation to cover the 1934 wheat crop, and they laughed to scorn efforts made by us to reveal on the political platform the falsity of their denials. No sooner had they been returned to power than they instantly dis- covered necessity for reimposition of the tax.
It has been in force now for twelve months, despite protests, not only from this party, both inside and outside Parliament, but also from supporters of the Government. To-day, we have heard honorable members who generally support the Government speaking against the flour tax. The sincerity of their protestations may be doubted, because most of them represent electorates which are industrial in character. Nevertheless, I am satisfied that a great many of the Government supporters are disturbed at the proposed reimposition of the flour tax. The Minister in charge of negotia- tions for trade treaties, speaking on the first till providing for a flour tax, said : “If a secret ballot were taken of members of thi3 side a large majority would be found against the legislation.” I believe that was a very true prophesy. I have very little doubt that if such a ballot of honorable members were taken, even at this late stage, a large majority of honorable members of this Parliament would be opposed to the legislation. The same honorable gentlemen made a savage attack on the then Government, pointing out the large remissions of taxes which had been made during its term of office. This party believes in reductions of taxes when and where they can be brought about, but it believes also that the first reduction of taxes should be given to those least able to bear the burden of taxation. The Labour party believes that the first tax to be remitted should have been this flour tax. The Government could have remitted the tax by deciding not .to reimpose it. If this bill had not been brought down the flour tax would have ceased to operate in a few days’ time, and considerably more than £1,000,000 per annum would have been remitted to a section of the community to whom tax remissions would be most welcome. Tt accordingly is a matter for very great regret that once again the people are to be subjected to a bread tax. All that those who oppose it can do is to voice a protest and vote consistently against the measure before the House.
At the elections, rightly or wrongly, - we have pronounced opinions that the word should be wrongly - the people decided to give this Government a majority of members in this Parliament, and the Government has shown its gratitude by reimposing the flour tax. The Government should recall, however, that at the last election, the majority of the United Australia party was reduced by one-half.
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. G. j. Bell).Order ! I do not see the relevancy of the honorable member’s remarks.
– Upon the occasion of the next election, the bill that we are now discussing will be a matter of considerable importance.
– That is irrelevant to the question before the Chair.
– I accept the ruling of the Chair. Honorable members on this side believe that, while it is again too late to make preparation for the present wheat crop because the Government has left the matter until the last moment, a definite move should, nevertheless, be made early in the new year to formulate a concrete scheme which will not be dependent upon this particular tax. We again stress the fact that the majority of those who are directly representative of the farmers are in favour of a wheat pool. They recognize that a large proportion of the people of Australia are becoming opposed to further assistance being given to the wheat-growers, not only because a very large amount has already been distributed among them, but also on account of the circumstances surrounding the matter. Those wheat-growers who realize the dangerous position into which they are drifting, and the strength of the feeling throughout the country in connexion with this tax, recognize that, apart from moral, humane and decency considerations, the tax should be removed in their own interests. The Opposition takes this, the very last opportunity to protest against the introduction of this legislation.
.-Having listened with considerable interest to what has been a most palpable attempt at political propaganda, I feel it incumbent upon me to make one or two observations.
– Does the honorable member believe in the bread tax?
– That interjection is typical of a party which has advocated the principle of a home-consumption price for wheat but rejects the present measure. This measure will not impose upon that section of the community on whose behalf the Opposition claims to speak, any heavier burden than was imposed by the flour tax which preceded it, or would be imposed by a homeconsumption price for wheat. The present price of bread will not be increased by this legislation. Therefore, the Opposition is not conferring any benefit on the working class section of the community by opposing this measure and supporting one for the establishment of a home-consumption price. It is suggested that this is not a palatable measure to honorable members of the ministerial party. I agree with that submission. No direct tax upon any commodity is palatable to any political party at any time. [Quorum formed.] This Government has, for the first time in the history of this Parliament, endeavoured to place the wheat industry upon a rational and scientific basis of economic control. “We all know the circumstances which have made the re-enactment of this legislation necessary. In practically every State, legislation to bring into operation the scheme agreed upon at the recent wheat conference has been either introduced or passed, and we have the assurance of the Government that, when all States have fallen into line, this tax will be no longer necessary and a home-consumption price will be fixed and become operative. Despite all the rhetoric of members of the Opposition, there is no justification for their contention that the Government, by the enactment of this legislation, is placing a greater burden upon the working class in the community. The Government cannot be accused of having failed to attempt to place the industry on a scientific basis. Had the required legislation been passed by the States, the reimposition of this tax would be unnecessary. This bill is as distasteful to us as it is to the Opposition; therefore, weshall welcome the introduction of the scheme agreed to by all the States in conference with the Commonwealth.
.- The honorable member who has just resumed his seat (Mr. Holt) must find science distasteful to him, because, in his earlier remarks, he congratulated the Government upon having taken steps to put the wheat industry on a scientific basis, and later said that the measure to do that is distasteful to him.
– I did not say that.
– Attempts by honorable members opposite to make it appear that the policy of the Labour party in relation to a compulsory wheat pool is identical with this piece of iniquitous legislation which imposes a tax on the bread of the people, are an example either of specious pleading or of crass ignorance.
– Order ! The time allotted for the second reading has expired.
Question - That the bill be now read a second time - put. The House divided. (Me. Speaker - Hon. G. J. Bell.)
Majority . . . . 20
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clause 1 agreed to.
Clause 2 (Imposition of tax).
.- This clause provides for the imposition of a most iniquitous tax, which will take the pennies and halfpennies of the poorer sections of the community in order to put large sums into the pockets of those who are in far less need of assistance. The principle of this bill would not be so objectionable if the money to be raised under it were to be given only to those who need help, but the Government is prepared to rake together the pennies of the poor to pay large bounties to a section whose circumstances are not so necessitous as those from whom the tax will be mainly collected. Honorable members opposite have suggested that members of the Opposition are inconsistent in opposing the tax, because they favour a compulsory pool, which involves putting a similar principle into operation. The policy of the Labour party, however, contemplates the rehabilitation of the industry generally.
The CHAIRMAN (Mr. Prowse).The time allotted for the discussion of the committee stage has expired.
Question: - That clause 2 and the remainder of the bill be agreed to, and that the bill he reported without amendment - put. The committee divided. (Chairman - Mr. Prowse.)
Majority . . . . 15
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill reported without amendment.
Motion (by Mr. Casey) proposed -
That the report be adopted.
.- This is my third attempt to place on record my opinion of this bill. The Labour movement advocates the establishment of a compulsory pool to exercise complete control of the marketing of wheat, from the time when the wheat is delivered at the railway sidings. We favour a rational marketing scheme which would not play into the hands of those who “ farm the farmers “ and get the first cut out of the industry. My party would provide for a restoration of the purchasing power of the people, and control of the credit of the nation in the interests of both the primary and secondary industries. This measure, however, would take money from those who have practically nothing, and give it to those who have too much. Parliament should not be degraded by having its legislative machinery used to oppress the poor in order to pay bounty to a section that is not so much in need as are those from whom the tax is to be collected.
– The time allotted for the discussion of the remaining stages of the bill has expired.
Question - That the report be adopted - put. The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. G. J. Bell.)
Majority . . 21
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a third time.
Bill brought up by Mr. Casey, and passed through all stages without amendment or debate.
Bill brought up by Mr. Casey and read a first time.
– by leave - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The introduction of this bill was forshadowed when the Sales Tax (Financial Relief) Bill 1935 was introduced. Its purpose is to provide one self-contained, classified and numerically itemized schedule covering the whole of the sales tax exemptions, and to consolidate the many unclassified provisions relating to exemptions which are contained in various acts, regulations and proclamations under the existing law. The enactment of this bill will effect a statutory reform of great importance and value. The existing law relating to exemptions has no semblance of order or classification. Provisions for exemptions are to be found in the various exemption sections of the nine Sales Tax Assessment Acts, and the amendments of them that have been made from time to time; the schedules to eight Sales Tax Assessment Acts as they have been amended from time to time by many acts numbering more than a score in all and including, the various financial relief act’s; the second, third and fourth schedules to the sales tax regulations as they have been amended from time to time, and the proclamations issued from time to time under the Sales Tax Assessment Act (No. 9). The many advantages of replacing all these provisions by a single classified schedule should be self-evident. It is obvious that one consolidated and classified schedule of all exemptions, in place of the multifarious proclamations. enactments and regulations now in force will be a most useful compendium and have an informative value of its own. It will also save much public and departmental time, expense and inconvenience in ascertaining what goods are covered by the exemptions. Furthermore, it will greatly facilitate the issue of departmental rulings and the presentation and handling of claims for exemption generally. Even experienced departmental officers have hitherto been seriously inconvenienced by the form of the existing exemption provisions. Numerous other advantages of a consolidated bill of this character could be specified, but probably the most important of all will be found in the simplification of future amendments of the law relating to exemptions.With a consolidated schedule in existence, about 90 per cent. of the work and cost incurred by the Taxation Department, the AttorneyGeneral’s Department and the Government Printer in the preparation of legislation referring to exemptions will be saved, and it will be possible for the first time to present such legislation to Parliament and to the general public in a relatively easily understood form. For the convenience of the public the Government proposes, after the bill has been passed, to print copies of the schedule which will contain an index to the items of the schedule and also a short table of contents setting out the various divisions of the schedule. No new exemptions are provided in this bill, but whilst it is not intended to extend the existing exemptions, many of the most irritating and anomalous features of the existing law will be removed by the re-expression of a number of items, including parts, accessories, fittings, attachments, &c, of goods already exempt. An endeavour has also been made to arrive at a re-designation or more specific expression of goods which may be classed as border-line items. This bill will be supplemented by another bill for the purpose, of repealing the various exemptions which are at present in force, and which will be entirely replaced by the provision of this bill. The measure now before the House h the result of months of careful and patient work on the part of the officers of the department. I hope it will receive the commendation of honorable members.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Bill brought up by Mr. Casey, and read a first time.
– by leave - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
This bill is introduced for two purposes only: firstly, to discontinue the requirement of sales tax securities, and, secondly, to make those amendments of the Sales Tax Assessment Acts which are consequential upon the provisions of the Sales Tax Exemptions Bill, which has already been passed by this House.
As announced in the last budget speech, the Government has been giving full consideration to the possibility of dispensing with securities for sales tax purposes. After examination of the position, it proposes to abolish the existing requirements imposed upon taxpayers generally of giving further securities. Those securities which have already been given, and are still current, will remain in force only for the purposes of outstanding liabilities arising from transactions prior to the commencement of the proposed amendments. There will be no liability under those securities in respect of transactions effected on and after this bill becomes law. Whilst the general requirement of securities from all taxpayers is to be discontinued, it is proposed that power shall be vested in the commissioner to require the lodgment of securities by individual taxpayers, where, in his opinion, such action is necessary for the protection of the revenue. This power will be exercised by the commissioner only in those rare cases in which there is evidence of default on the part of the taxpayer or of the probability, of default. In the vast majority of cases, it has not been found necessary to enforce securities in the past, as taxpayers concerned have regularly and faithfully complied with their obligations under the law. Such persons will not be required to lodge further securities.
The remaining clauses of the bill are designed merely to omit from the Sales Tax Assessment Acts all the provisions relating to exemptions, in view of the consolidation of all of those provisions in the Sales Tax Exemptions Bill.
In view of the benefits which will accrue to taxpayers generally under these proposals, I confidently recommend the bill to the House.
– This bill is designed to remove the obligation resting upon taxpayers of providing unnecessary guarantees. I am a little concerned at the power which is vested in the Commissioner or Deputy Commissioners to call for the lodgment of securities in special cases. Circumstances may arise in which a Deputy Commissioner may ask for guarantees by taxpayers, and I should like to know whether, in such cases, there is any appeal against his decision. Occasional cases arise in -which the human element may be entirely lacking in the strict departmental viewpoint, and, consequently, a taxpayer who, unfortunately, may happen to be at the moment financially embarrassed, may be asked to lodge a guarantee which would further embarrass him in the conduct of his business. That would apply particularly in the case of a small trader. Would such a taxpayer have any means of redress?
.- I support the bill in principle, but I do not think that the House should accept a measure such as this, without in some way issuing a warning to the people generally against the practice of the Government in introducing technical bills of this description in the dying hours of the session, and placing them on the statutebook without giving those sections of the community who are affected by such legislation an opportunity thoroughly to examine the proposals contained in it.
– That is a most amazing attitude for the honorable member to take up, in view of the votes which he has cast during the last few days.
– That such a practice should be allowed to go unnoticed is indeed an earnest of the confidence which all sections of this House have in the Treasurer’s genuineness and straightforwardness, and that he would not attempt to mislead them or endeavour to put anything over them. It is also a great tribute to the skill and efficiency of the departmental officers who have drafted and prepared these bills.
– We think, however, that move time should be allowed for their discussion.
– At any rate, sufficient time should be given to permit these bills to be circulated to the various sections of the people who are acquainted with the working of the taxation laws, in order that the proposals may be scrutinized before being put into effect. The bills referred to by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) have been circulated to the public for some time, and there has been plenty of opportunity to scrutinize them, and, apparently, make the most voluminous and conflicting representations in respect of them. I share with other honorable members the confidence reposed in the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) personally, and in the officials of the department, realizing that in these bills an attempt has been made to bring about desirable and necessary reforms, which, if and when put into operation, will lighten not only the burden of taxation, but also many of its vexations. I join with a long-suffering section of the public in supporting the speedy passage of this bill, and I congratulate the Treasurer upon having consummated its drafting, and having established such confidence in the minds of honorable members that he is able to have it accepted without opposition,
– in reply - The honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) is quite correct in saying that there is no appeal against the decision of the’ Deputy
Commissioner in requiring a taxpayer to lodge guarantees, but I think he need have no fear in this regard. It is the intention of the Government to dispense, as far as possible, with the necessity for lodging securities. The number of cases in which securities will be demanded will be rare. I have discussed this matter with the Commissioner and the Deputy Commissioner dealing with sales tax, at great length, and, although there is no appeal against the decision of the Commissioner, honorable members will admit that taxpayers in the past have not been backward in submitting hard cases, not only to the Commissioner and the Deputy Commissioners, but also to honorable members of this House. Taxpayers labouring under any grievance in respect of the application of the sales tax law have never experienced difficulty in having their cases ventilated.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Bill brought up by Mr. Casey, and read a first time.
– by leave - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
A completely new Income Tax Assessment Bill is something of a landmark, and in introducing this measure I should like to remind honorable members of the genesis of the movement for securing uniformity in the taxation laws of the Commonwealth and States. For many years, in fact ever since the Commonwealth Parliament found it necessary to collect revenue by direct taxation, there has been an insistent and growing demand for uniformity in the Commonwealth and State laws. The differences in substance and in detail in the various laws have undoubtedly been a source of annoyance to taxpayers, who are, of course, practically the same individuals from the point of view of Commonwealth and State taxation. The need for bringing such a state of affairs to an end was clear, and in October, 1932, the Commonwealth Government appointed a royal commission to enquire into, and to recommend, ways and means of achieving both simplification and uniformity.
The Government was fortunate in securing the services of His Honour, Sir David Ferguson, and Mr. E. V. Nixon, O.M.G., and the general acceptance by the various sections of the community of the many recommendations that these two gentlemen have submitted in their reports is a high tribute to them in tha arduous and protracted task that they undertook. In addition to their work as a royal commission, they have, at the Government’s request, and at a good deal of personal inconvenience, attended many subsequent conferences of Ministers and Taxation Commissioners, in their earnest desire to aid the governments in achieving the objective for which the commission was appointed.
Perhaps, I might explain that the consummation of the task of the royal commission was the drafting of a bill which was designed to provide the basis of an Income Tax Assessment Bill for the consideration of all the governments, that would be, so far as possible, uniform and identical.
I shall, at this stage, quote verbatim the memorandum addressed to the Government by members of the royal commission at the time of completing their revision of the draft bill in the light of the various decisions made at the conferences of Ministers and Commissioners -
The original draft of these provisions was prepared by the Royal Commission on Taxation with a view to its adoption as a model in the framing of Commonwealth and State Income Tax Assessment Acts. It has since been the subject of exhaustive consideration by several conferences of Commonwealth and State Ministers and Taxation Commissioners and officials, in which the members of the commission had the privilege of taking part. As a result of the decisions arrived at in those conferences, the draft has been considerably added to and amended.
With practically all the alterations the members of the commission are in entire agreement. They do not affect in principle the recommendations contained in its reports, but relate almost entirely to matters of detail. In many cases they were made to bring the provisions of the draft into closer agreement with the acts of some of the States, and thus achieve a larger measure of uniformity.
It is impossible to over-estimate the importance of this uniformity in the conditions under which the taxation laws of Australia have to be applied. Of course, where questions of policy or varying revenue requirements are concerned, it cannot be expected that the acts of the Commonwealth and the States will be identical in their provisions. But most of the differences to bc found on a comparison of the present acts do not arise in that way. They are due to the fact that the acts have been independently prepared, so that provisions directed to substantially the same ends arc not expressed in the same language, or vary in matters nf minor- detail. Tor that reason it may require expensive litigation to determine whether some decision of a court interpreting a section of one act can be applied to the interpretation of a section in another act of similar intention but expressed in somewhat different terms. But even if no question of litigation arises, the taxpayer who has complied with one set of requirements . in respect of his State return may find himself called upon to comply with another set for Commonwealth purposes. If the nature of his business brings him within the scope of the taxation laws of several States, the inconvenience is aggravated. The complicated nature of the accounts which it may be necessary for him to keep, and the preparation of returns presenting the particulars of his income and deductions in one form to one authority and in a different form to another may involve, and in many cases does involve, expenditure constituting a very material addition to the taxes that represent his contributions to the revenue.
During the conferences on the draft bill these considerations were kept continuously in mind. The varying provisions of the existing acts were examined and compared, and every effort was made in each case to arrive at ‘ agreement upon a uniform provision designed to hold the scales evenly between the taxing authorities and the taxpayer. The members of the royal commission have no hesitation in recommending the draft bill in its amended form for the consideration of the several legislatures. While fully recognizing that upon questions of policy each legislature must give effect to its own views, they desire respectfully to urge that wherever any clause of the draft is adopted, no change should be made in its wording except such as may be necessary to carry into effect a definite and deliberate departure from’ its provisions in some matter of real substance.
Ever since the publication of the first report of the royal commission the Government has been giving close and continuous examination to its recommendations. The bill now before Parliament represents the result of the .Government’s decisions after critical examination, and not only bears the stamp of approval of the members of the royal commission, but has also been exhaustively examined by the taxation commissioners in the interests of their respective governments:
By thi3 lengthy but necessary process, differences both of substance and of detail have been smoothed out in the final revision which, it is hoped, will find substantial acceptance by all the parliaments of Australia. In the various conferences that have been held, not only have the taxation commissioners, and the members of the royal commission, taken part, but two governments, those of New South “Wales and South Australia, also appointed special committees to assist and advise them.
In New South “Wales, the chairman of the committee was Mr. John Spence, Auditor-General of New South Wales, and his non-official associate was Mr. J. V. Ratcliffe, public accountant. The latter is also a member of the Taxation Advisory Committee of the New South Wales Chamber of Commerce. In South Australia, the chairman of the committee was Mr. E. L. Bean, Parliamentary Draftsman, and with him were associated, in addition to the taxation officials, Mr. S. McGregor Reid, public accountant and president of the Adelaide Chamber of Commerce, and Mr. S. Powell, public accountant. The presence of these gentlemen, and the work that they performed in helping to produce a uniform draft bill, indicate not only that official and departmental views were taken into account, but that the views and experience of professional and commercial men of standing have also been heard and availed of.
I need not emphasize to honorable members the vast amount of work that has been put into the task of producing this bill, and the similar bills that have been, or will shortly be, introduced in the State parliaments. I gladly pay high tribute to the many public servants and others who have co-operated in the task. Were it not for the fact that I believe that public servants should not personally and publicly receive either censure or praise at the hands of the Parliament or the Government, I would refer by nam: to several senior federal officers for whose work I am particularly grateful.
In referring to the work of the royal commission, however, I have one regret. It is a matter which affects the States only, and not the Commonwealth, but it is none the less important. I refer to the vexed question of apportionment between the States of the profits of the business community arising from transactionscarried on in more than one State. It has been a serious complaint for many years by the commercial and trading sections of the community that the various State governments have been exacting between them taxation on what is in effect more than the full sum of the business profits. It was hoped by the Commonwealth Government, when appointing the royal commission, that the impartial view of such eminently competent men on this vexed question would be accepted by all States as the proper and fair solution to overcome the impasse that had been reached, as it was one of the special questions referred to the royal commission by a premiers conference. It is to be regretted that one State has not seen its way clear to accept the verdict of the royal commission.
It will be noted that in the bill presented to the House, there are 267 clauses as compared with only 100 in the present act. The number of pages of printing, however, in both cases, is 82. The royal commission has seen fit to propose separate clauses in the draft bill for the many provisos and sub-clauses in the present act in the interests of simplicity and clarity of interpretation. In the present act, for example, most of the deductions are set out in section 23, a section which extends over nine pages of the act, without any marginal notes as to the items covered, other than the single marginal note of “ Deductions “. In the bill now before the House each deduction has been set out in a separate clause.
The advantage to the commercial and professional community of uniformity of arrangement, of substance and of verbiage between Commonwealth and State legislation as regards income taxation, will, I am sure, be greatly and generally appreciated. A consistency has been observed in bringing all matters of the same nature, such as exemptions, deductions, items of assessable income, &c, under their respective headings in separate divisions of the bill, so that ever the uniform arrangement of the Commonwealth and State acts will be an index in itself.
While I believe that honorable members generally will be satisfied and pleased with the large degree of uniformity that is in sight as between Commonwealth and State laws it has to be admitted that complete uniformity has not been achieved. It must be recognized that complete uniformity is impossible of achievement having regard to the constitutional and practical limitations of <the Commonwealth and the States. The royal commission has recommended, for example, different provisions for the Commonwealth and States as regards the taxation of companies and dividends. Moreover, some of the smaller States, because of their revenue requirements, clearly cannot afford to allow the same statutory exemptions and concessional deductions as the Commonwealth and the larger States. I may say that the recommendations of the royal commission do not touch matters of rates of taxation or the amounts of allowable deductions or concessions, as these matters are entirely within the province of the respective governments as directly affecting their revenues.
Members may be interested to learn that the committee appointed in the United Kingdom about nine years ago to revise and redraft the provisions of the British income tax are, it is understood, still wrestling with their task. It is to be remembered, too, that the United Kingdom does not suffer in its single act from the inevitable difficulties in this regard that arise from the existence in Australia of seven different Parliaments. I mention this to anticipate any possible criticism that the work of the royal ‘ commission and the subsequent conferences has been unduly protracted. I firmly believe that the heavy task has been carried through with efficiency and expedition, considering the enormity of the task. [Quorum formed.’]
One of the recommendations of the royal commission favoured the creation of an administration board to be appointed jointly by the Commonwealthand States, for the control and administration of the taxation machinery. Neither the Commonwealth nor the States, however, have been able to agree with this proposal. The cost involved, the further removal of administration from parliamentary control, the difficulties that would be involved in one board giving personal expert and immediate advice to the Commonwealth and several States at the one co-incident budgetary time of the year at the different capital centres, the differences of opinion that would arise in making joint appointments and filling consequential vacancies on the board, and the separate staff organization and control by such a board were the chief factors in the decision arrived at. The alternative suggestion of the commission was for a consultative body for continuous review of the taxation lawsand for considering and reporting upon all proposed ‘amendments. If the measure of uniformity which it is hoped will be achieved is to remain, the need for such a body is obvious, since both the Commonwealth and the States will presumably not wish to disturb the uniformity provisions without prior consultation. But to meet this requirement it is considered that the best consultative body is the conference of commissioners themselves. It is, therefore, proposed to arrange at regular intervals conferences of these officials who can most expeditiously and efficiently collate any necessary data and advise the governments concerned on any proposed amendments.
Though the provisions of the present act are being re-enacted for the continuance of the Board of Review, the Government is still giving serious consider a tion in conjunction with the States, to the establishment of a single appellate tribunal for Commonwealth and State taxation appeal cases. There is a consensus of opinion that its establishment would be in the interests both of taxpayers and of the governments concerned. If and when the negotiations with the States are concluded, and the necessary uniform legislations drafted, it is proposed- to introduce a separate measure into this House for the establishment of the proposed court.
The amendments of the present act which are embodied in the bill before the House are practically all to be found in the third report of the royal commission. The recommendations contained in the first report were made the subject of the Income Tax Assessment Act 1934, and these amendments are being embodied afresh in this bill. Those amendments related to the taxation of companies and dividends, and the apportionment between personal exertion and property income of the statutory exemption and concessional deductions. The matters dealt with in the second report chiefly relate to matters affecting the States only, and there are only one or two matters in that report that call for action in the present bill. For the convenience of ref erence by members to those reports, I propose to deal with the subjects upon which amendment of the law is being effected in the order dealt with by the royal commission.
The provisions of the bill will operate for the first time in respect “of the income year ending the 30th June, 1936.
A non-resident trader’s liability for income tax has been decided in the past upon two of the following three factors occurring in Australia: -
In view of the facility with which nonresidents have been able to escape liability by arranging for two of the three factors to take place out of Australia, the States have generally imposed the more satisfactory test of “ instrumentality “ of the agent in effecting the sale. The Government has decided to embody this test in the Commonwealth law. The special provisions of the present Commonwealth act in regard to businesses showing little or no profit because of the control exercised abroad are not in any way affected by the general amendment referred to. Apart from being a more desirable test, the adoption of one test for Commonwealth and State purposes will provide more certainty in determining the liability to tax of the non-resident trader.
The ‘present act limits business deductions generally to expenses incurred in gaining or producing the assessable income. This provision has been broadened in the bill to cover all expenses necessarily incurred in carrying on a business, and is on the lines of the British act. Expenditure of a capital nature will, of course, still be disallowed.
Action is being taken by the Commissioners concerned to agree upon a uniform schedule of rates for depreciation. In order to reconcile any differences existing between plant values for Commonwealth and State purposes, a special provision has been made to adopt the lower of the two values, and to amortize the difference over a period of ten years or less in the case of that return which previously had the higher value. Such a provision has already been in operation in South Australia over the last ten years, and the result aimed at has already been achieved in that State. The adoption of uniform allowances for depreciation for Commonwealth and State purposes will considerably simplify the preparation by taxpayers of the depreciation schedules furnished with their returns, and will also facilitate the preparation and checking of assessments.
The recommendation of the royal commission in respect of rates and taxes was that, in conformity with the majority of the State laws, they should only be deductible in the Commonwealth law if incurred in producing assessable income. This would deny the deduction to taxpayers in respect of rates and taxes on private residences. Even though the rejection of this recommendation is a departure from uniformity, tha Government considered that the Commonwealth was properly bound to allow the deduction for all rates and taxes of a State, seeing that the States were first in the income taxation field. It is held that taxpayers should not be regarded as liable for Commonwealth income tax upon money that has already been paid out in rates and taxes in a State.
Provision has been made for the allowance up to ten guineas of all subscriptions to trade unions and associations and professional associations. Payments in excess of that amount, unless the exercise of the taxpayer’s vocation is contingent upon the membership, are te be made subject to apportionment as under the present act, so that the taxpayer will only be allowed to claim such proportion as would be deductible as an outgoing in his own assessment. The allowance of small subscriptions without requiring examination of the activities of the associations will remove a source of irritation to taxpayers, without involving any appreciable loss of revenue.
Although it has not been possible for all States to agree upon the amounts to be allowed for various concessional deductions, one of the recommendations of tlie royal commission was that the various governments should at least agree upon the conditions and qualifications for the various allowances. In respect ot allowances for domestic responsibilities, it is maintained that all sections of the population are entitled to consideration, and that the graduation of the rate in proportion to the capacity to pay should be allowed to hold the scales evenly between those with small and those with larger incomes. For this reason the limits of income imposed under the present act for such concessional deductions as superannuation payments, medical and funeral expenses have been removed,’ but a fixed maximum amount that can be claimed under the respective headings has been prescribed. This, in itself, will achieve a commendable degree of simplicity and will remove some irritation. There has been inconsistency hitherto in the Commonwealth act in this regard which the acceptance of the provisions of the bill will overcome.
The present bill introduces into the Commonwealth law, for the first time, an allowance of £50 for a wife. This allowance is conditional upon the wife’s personal income not exceeding £50. It is estimated that the concession will result in reduced revenue by about £300,000. Every State makes such an allowance, though not always in the same form or for the same amount. A similar allowance is to be made in respect of any female relative wholly maintained by a widower for the purpose of caring for his children under 16 years of age. The present allowances for children are not being altered.
The present law allows a deduction of up to £50 for life assurance premiums and £100 for superannuation payments and payments to friendly societies. All these deductions are being grouped under one heading with the fixation of a maximum allowance of £100, as against a possible maximum allowance at the present time of £150. While, therefore, this alteration is in some cases a restriction, the general effect will be a concession to the majority of taxpayers, 3ince a larger number of persons pays life assurance premiums than contributes to superannuation funds. The loss of revenue will not be serious, however, and is not likely to exceed £20,000. As mentioned previously, the income limitation of £800 in the case . of superannuation payments is being removed.
The present act prescribes no fixed maximum allowance for medical expenses but imposes an income limitation of £900. The income limitation is being removed, but the maximum allowance is fixed at £50. The present maximum allowance of £20 for funeral expenses is not being altered, though the deduction in future is being made to cover cremation expenses. The income limitation of £900 is also being removed in this case, but any recoupment of funeral expenses by a society or association is to be set off against the deduction. The alterations effected in respect of the last two mentioned items will not affect revenue to any material extent.
Gifts to charitable institutions are subject to the provision at present that they are paid from assessable income. The only alteration made by the bill is that, so long as the amount of the gift does not exceed the net income, the source of the gift, whether from capital or income, is immaterial. The present test to ascertain £that the gift is from, assessable income has proved difficult and caused irritation.
Though the Commonwealth law now permits of the losses of the four previous years being carried forward, the State acts generally make no such provision. The cost to revenue by the States in making such an allowance would be, it has been argued, a prohibitive one, but after much, discussion the States have agreed to carry forward three years’ losses, but the allowance is to be brought in progressively, i.e., one year’s loss to be allowed in the first year of the operation of the uniform act, two years’ losses in the second year of operation, and three years in the third. In the interests of uniformity, the Commonwealth Government has agreed to reduce its present four years to three years, but this reduction will only take effect by proclamation when the full three years’ losses are in operation in the States. The deduction for losses is not to be limited in future to persons carrying on a business. [Quorum formed.]
The, recommendation of the royal commissionis that averaging be abolished for all taxpayers other than primary producers* .The averaging of income for rating purposes is a doubtful benefit to most taxpayers, and adds considerably to title complications of the assessment. None of the States is willing to adopt the averaging provisions generally, and New South Wales is the only State that concedes averaging even to primary producers. Since taxpayers, however, have suffered during the recent depression from the disadvantage of the averaging provisions, and -as some advantage is to bo reaped from the provisions during the recovery period, the Government has decided to defer the withdrawal of these provisions from the Commonwealth act until 1938.
The existing Commonwealth law allows a rebate of tax to persons carrying on a business of the excess over the company rate of tax of the taxpayer’s rate of tax to the extent of 15 per cent, of the taxpayer’s taxable income. This provision is intended to give some encouragement to private businesses to create reserves and expand their operations, and corresponds to some extent to the provisions which enable private companies to reserve one-third of their taxable income without any obligation to distribute it as dividends or to pay tax at a higher rate. The Government has not seen fit to withdraw this concession, notwithstanding the recommendation of the royal commission that it should be deleted. The rebate is limited to those businesses which from their nature and character require for their efficient working the retention of some part of the income of each year.
The provisions of the present Commonwealth ‘ act render nugatory for assessment purposes any partnership arrangement between husband and wife or relatives, which is formed for the purpose of avoiding or reducing taxation. The test, in the opinion of the royal commission, should not be the purpose for which a partnership is formed, but whether in fact the arrangement is a bona fide one. This latter test has, therefore, been substituted in the bill, though the difference in practice is not likely to prove a very material one.
Where beneficiaries are not presently entitled to their share of the income of a trust estate, the Commonwealth law provides for the trustees to be taxed in one assessment on the aggregate income of such shares. In many cases the beneficiaries are children, and the whole or part of the income is applied or advanced for their maintenance or education. In such cases the trustee in future will be separately assessed in respect of moneys so applied.
In cases where a person settles property upon beneficiaries, but retains power of revocation, so that in any year in which he chooses he can divert the income to his own needs, provision has been made in the bill to treat such dispositions as null and void.
In respect of leases, a recommendation made by the royal commission in the interests of uniformity is a provision to tax a lessor for the value of improvements effected under covenant. The present act provides for a deduction to be given to the lessee for such expenditure spread over the period of the lease, and, correspondingly, it is considered the lessor should be assessed on the benefit received by him. Apart, from reasons of equity that justify this alteration, there has been more than one scheme arranged by lessors to avoid tax by diverting what would otherwise be rental income into capital improvements- effected under a lease.
With the abolition of the averaging of five years’ income for rating purposes generally, provisions have been inserted in the act of another averaging nature to achieve much the same result in the taxation of premiums received for leases by calculating what is called a “notional income “. Although the States have not adopted the Commonwealth averaging provisions in the past, they have nevertheless been willing to admit that when several years’ rent is commuted into one large single premium, it imposes hardship upon the recipient to pay at the higher graduated rate of tax upon that amount as though it were the normal year’s income. The royal commission’s draft provisions for uniform application in taxing premiums at an average rate having regard to the term of the lease, have therefore been adopted. The effect of this is that the taxpayer pays tax on the premium income in respect of the year in -which it is received, but at an average rate which yields substantially the same amount of tax as if the premium were spread equally over the term of the lease, and the appropriate rate to such equal annual amounts were applied. The principle is that the premium is dealt with once and for all. It goes into the assessable income of the year of receipt only, and subsequent assessments are not affected.
Other minor adjustments in respect of leases have also been made in the draft bill in the interests of equity, but the alterations are not of material moment, and will be brought more particularly under the notice of honorable members during the committee stages of the bill.
Representations have been made from time to time on behalf of primary producers, that the profit on the sale of a Crown lease should be exempt from tax, on the ground that such profit is in the nature of capital, or alternatively, thatthe exemption should be granted as a concession to the industry. No justification, however, can be found for distinguishing between these profits and those which arise on the sale of any other lease. It has to be remembered that the lessee always gets a deduction, spread over the period of the lease, for the amount paid as a premium for the lease, and it follows that the recipient of the premium should correspondingly be subjected to tax on the amount received. Any amendment of the law which exempted the vendor from tax at the expense of the purchaser would create a great deal of dissatisfaction on the part of those who would lose a deduction which is at present allowed to them. It therefore appeared more equitable that, the. recipient of the commission should be taxed, than that the lessee should be deprived of a deduction to which he is properly entitled.
Various amendments have been made in connexion with the taxation of live stock in the interests of achieving uniformity with the States. These alterations are not designed to increase the revenue, but, on the contrary, have been specifically designed to harmonize and simplify the methods of accqunting for live stock without appreciably affecting the taxpayer’s income or the revenue. One of the most unsatisfactory features of income tax returns is the confusion and inconsistency that arise under Commonwealth and State requirements in respect of live stock provisions, and it is gratifying to find that provisions have been evolved for the uniform treatment of such a troublesome question and for effecting the reconciliation of the different values for Commonwealth and State purposes, which will be attended by no hardship or inequity so far as the taxpayers are concerned.
Under the present act, at the option of the taxpayer, natural increase can be omitted from the returns until sold, or can be brought to account in the year of birth at the market value, or at a selected cost price from a prescribed range of values. The bill provides that all natural increase must be brought to account in future, and in order that the taxpayer who has previously omitted natural increase may not be penalized by the absence of an opening value, he is to be given the same right of selection so far as the natural increase is concerned as other taxpayers have under the present prescribed range of values. In the normal case, where presumably the same number of live stock is on hand at the end of the year as at the beginning, the insertion of a debit at the beginning of the year and a credit at the end of the year will not affect the net taxable income.
Working beasts and beasts of burden are not included in the value of live stock at the beginning and end of the income year. In view of the fact’ that in ths case of primary producers many of such beasts are also used as breeding stock, it is proposed in future that they shall always be brought to account then, in order to obviate the difficulty of identifying these animals in the live stock schedules of the taxpayers concerned. In the case of taxpayers other than primary producers, who own animals merely for working purposes, they will be treated solely as plant, subject to the prescribed rates of depreciation.
A new range of values is to be prescribed to meet the requirements of a number of taxpayers by increasing the ;maximum values. This will permit of trustees retaining the same value for income tax purposes as the probate value which they are required to retain for trust purposes, thus bringing taxation returns and the trustees’ books of account into line. Where a taxpayer has selected a cost price for natural increase from the present range of values under the regulations, he is to be given the right of a further selection from the new range of values. Such a selection will apply only to the natural increase of the future.
Under the present act the election exercised by a taxpayer for market or cost values or for the selected cost price of his natural increase, once made, is irrevocable. Under the bill greater elasticity has been provided by giving the taxpayer the right to alter his elections, subject, however, to the Commissioner’s consent. Providing revenue is not prejudiced by any change, the Commissioner will not withhold his consent. But it is obvious that in providing this elasticity, the taxpayer cannot be allowed to change his values at will without some check, as he might do so as an act of mere caprice or for the purpose of reducing his taxable income to the minimum from year to year. With the concession of this elasticity, however, one definite requirement of the bill is that the closing value in the one return must always be the opening value in the subsequent return. This is essential to prevent the evasion of taxation.
In order to permit of taxpayers adopting one set of values for Commonwealth and State purposes, and thus overcoming much of ,the present confusion and annoyance, provision has been made for a” taxpayer himself to decide which qf the two values he will carry forward. If the value carried forward is the higher one, obviously the taxpayer will thereby reduce his taxable income by the increased amount carried forward. As a set-off to this, the bill provides that over a period of five years there shall be added to his taxable income such equal amounts as will in the total equal the deduction obtained by carrying forward the higher value mentioned. Similarly, if the taxpayer chooses to adopt the lower of the Commonwealth and State values, for the purpose of his opening live stock figures, and thereby suffers an increase of the taxable income for the first year, he is to be given corresponding deductions of equal amounts spread over the same five-year period as will equal the excess taxable income brought to account in the first income year under the bill.
– Does that vary much from the original act? Mr. CASEY.- Yes, but in very few cases to the detriment of the taxpayer. It is a definite and whole-hearted attempt to get together with the States in the matter.
There is, however, to be no compulsion upon the taxpayer to take either of these courses, so that if he prefers to continue with two sets of live stock figures for Commonwealth and State purposes, he is to be free to do so until such time as he determines that in his interests as well as the department’s, the adoption of one set of figures is advisable.
The effect of the proposals is that the taxpayer has three options, viz. : to select Commonwealth values, to select State values, or to continue with separate values for Commonwealth and State.
The present exemption in the Com- monwealth act of the profit on the sale of breeding stock for the purpose of putting an end to a taxpayer’s business has been very thoroughly discussed. The Royal Commission does not favour the continuation of this exemption, and points out that the only justification is that the breeding stock is the equivalent of the ordinary taxpayer’s plant, and that, consequently, when the live stock is sold, the proceeds represent the realization of a capital asset. But live stock possesses the characteristics, both of a fixed asset and of a * trading asset, and although an animal may be acquired primarily for breeding or wool-growing purposes, its ultimate sale is by no means a minor consideration. Moreover, when the breeding stock is purchased, the purchase price is allowed as a deduction. Similarly, in the case of breeding stock bred by the taxpayer, he receives a deduction of the working expenses of the station property, which is equivalent to the cost of rearing such live-stock. The profit on the trading stock realized by a merchant in similar circumstances is not exempted from taxation.
The bill, however, contains one modification in regard to the withdrawal of this concession. In order that no hardship shall be suffered by a taxpayer who, in the light of the exemption previously granted in respect of the breeding stock so sold, has chosen the minimum cost price for natural increase, or who has elected to omit natural increase altogether from his accounts, the bill provides that all breeding stock on hand at the beginning of the first income year, which are natural increase bred by the taxpayer himself, shall continue to be exempted as under the present act upon the realization or discontinuance of a business. This exemption, however, will not apply to any future natural increase which are retained as portion of the taxpayer’s breeding stock, and this concession will naturally come to a termination within the life of such natural increase as were on hand on the 1st July last.
Under the present Commonwealth act, the purchaser of sheep in the wool may elect to treat the cost of the sheep partly as a purchase of the animal and partly as a purchase of the wool growing on the animal. None of the State acts contains a similar provision. In practice, advantage is very rarely taken of the provisions, and for practical purposes the section is inoperative. This provision has, therefore, been deleted from the act.
When a’ taxpayer has a right to make elections under the act, and does not exercise his right within the time prescribed, the bill provides -
These elections, which are to be deemed to have been made by the taxpayer, are those most commonly adopted. They will overcome trouble or annoyance in compelling compliance with the requirements of the act, without doing violence to a taxpayer’s position, and at the same time they obviate delays of time and correspondence.
As I have mentioned before, a great deal of consideration has been given to the provisions relating to the valuation of live stock. The alterations effected by the bill now before the House are designed to achieve the two-fold objects of uniformity and simplicity. Their adoption will provide elasticity in the basis of valuation, so that live-stock owners may adjust live-stock values to changed economic conditions, and may standardize values for Commonwealth and State taxation purposes with their own books of account. The flexibility provided is subject to the condition that all live-stock are to be included in the live-stock schedule, and that the profit on the sale is ultimately to be brought to account on the sale of the stock.
In the interests of primary producers, the Government decided against the withdrawal of certain concessions at present allowed in the Commonwealth law in respect of expenditure on wire and wirenetting, and on the eradication of animal and vegetable pests, notwithstanding that the royal commission recommended the deletion of these provisions. For the same reason the Government decided not to accept the recommendations of the commission to withdraw the allowance for depreciation in respect of such items as dams, fences, and structural improvements on land used by a person carrying on agricultural or pastoral pursuits. Similarly, the Government, mainly in the interests of primary producers, has retained the rebate provisions under section 30 of the present Commonwealth act, entitling taxpayers in a business which, from its nature, requires the retention of some part of the income of each year, to a rebate on 15 per cent. of that income.
No variations have been made in the bill, so far as the provisions of the present act are concerned, for shipping, life assurance and banking. The provisions relating to the taxation of life assurance companies were altered in 1933, and the royal commission sees no reason to recommend any departure from them at this time. The position of the banks kas been under discussion at the various taxation conferences,, but mainly with a view to arriving at a satisfactory formula for the apportionment of interstate profits. So far as the Commonwealth is concerned, no variation in the present principles of taxation in these respects has been found necessary.
The present Commonwealth act gives certain concessions to mining companies, other than coal-mining companies. These provisions are not being disturbed by the bill. Nor is the present concessional deduction being altered, so far as the allowance is concerned, for calls paid to gold-mining companies. The bill, however, makes one minor amplification in respect of the exemption granted to a bona fide prospector in respect of the sale of his rights in a mining property. This exemption has been extended to cover also the case of companies which are engaged in prospecting for mining properties, other than for coal-mining properties.
The States have not been able to come to an agreement on the recommendations of the royal commission as applied to cooperative companies. Until such time as the States adopt uniform legislation, it is not proposed to alter the present eoncessions to such companies under the Commonwealth law. Two minor modifications have, however, been incorporated in the bill. The definition of a cooperative company has been extended to include one which provides “ services “ for its members, as, for example, shearing, or any similar activity. A co-operative company, without share capital, is also to be included within the definition. This latter amendment is designed to meet the requirements of a certain kind of cooperative company under the Primary Producers Co-operative Association Act of Queensland.
There is another class of co-operative company, consisting of groups of firms or persons who combine to carry their own insurance risks. Instead of paying insurance premiums to an ordinary insurance company, such firms or persons each pay a certain sum into a common fund from which the losses as they occur are made good. The exemption of such subscriptions under the co-operative provisions of the act is regarded as promoting un-
Alr. Case//. fair competition with ordinary companies carrying on insurance business. Such co-operative companies will in future be subjected to liability to tax in the same manner as the ordinary insurance company.
There is a lack of consistency at the present time with regard to the taxation of the value of quarters and board received by persons in respect of their employment. The matter is one which affects the States to a much greater extent than the Commonwealth, in view of the fact that the States, generally, speaking, tax on much lower ranges of income than does the Commonwealth, especially in their unemployment taxes or special income tax acts. It has been pointed out that it is anomalous under the present act that employee “ A “, who is liable to income tax on a salary which constitutes his sole remuneration, is taxed to the same extent and for the same amount as his fellow employee “ B who receives the use of a residence or quarters in addition to the same salary. Provision has, therefore, been made in the bill to tax to the recipient the value of all quarters or board allowed to an employee by virtue of his service. For the reason mentioned before, this extension of the assessable income clauses in the bill will not be of any material effect so far as the Commonwealth revenue is concerned, as a very limited number of employees, for Commonwealth purposes) will be affected.
Payments to a wife for maintenance or as separation allowances under the present act are exempted from taxation,, but the husband paying such allowances, is not granted any deduction for them. The conference of Commonwealth and1. State Ministers came to a decision that the same principle should be applied in. respect of maintenance or allowances paid to a woman after being divorced, and the bill, therefore, provides that alimony will in future be exempt in the hands of therecipient, but subject to tax in the handsof the payer.
– Is there a limit to theamount?
– No. Therefore, infuture, there will be no case for complaint that double taxation is being suffered in respect of these payments.
In connexion with objections and appeals, minor amendments have been made in the bill to bring the various time limits and provisions in harmony with the States. Sixty days are to be allowed for an objection or an appeal in lieu of the varying time limits now in operation. The decisions and determinations by the commissioner are subject to appeal to the Income Tax Board of Review, or to the proposed Appellate Tribunal if and when it comes into existence.
There has been much discussion in the past in this House with regard to the propriety or impropriety of the departments making retrospective assessments. The matter is one which really depends upon the nature of the amendments made retrospectively, and the purpose to be served by the amendments. As a working basis, and for the proper protection of the revenue, a reasonable amount of time must be given the Taxation Departments to collate information which is often inadequately given in a return, if not omitted altogether. In many cases, the clarification of the issue results in correspondence extending over a considerable period. Generally speaking, a period of three years for amendment of assessments has been regarded as reasonable, and if revision during this period for the general type of case were not to be permitted, the result would be an increase of the number of the staff to deal with the cases in the more limited time, or else the fact would have to be realized that the classes of taxpayer so concerned would not be meeting their full revenue payments to the same extent as other taxpayers. Certain restrictions, however, which are not at present in operation, have been included in the bill, and these, I think, will find common acceptance by honorable members. The first is that an assessment is not to be :re-opened or amended by reason of any new interpretation of the law by the commissioner arising out of a decision of a court of law or otherwise. Whatever interpretations of the law may, therefore, be decided upon from time to time by the court, will not be applied retrospectively by the department.
An error in calculation or a mistake of fact is a matter in respect of- which corrections can be made under this bill, as at present, within three years. Beyond three years, the present provisions are retained for re-opening an assessment at any time if fraud or evasion are present. One other class of amendment which is provided for under the present act relates to that class of business in respect of which proper books of account have not been kept. This test for amendment within six years has been varied by a provision which makes the amendment possible within that period only if the taxpayer has failed to make a full and true disclosure of all of the material facts necessary for his correct assessment. It is considered that the onus is thus placed upon the taxpayer to make a full and correct return in the first instance, as he, and he only, is the person who is in full knowledge of all the facts necessary to compile his proper return. If he fails to do so, either through ignorance or inadvertence, it is considered that he should, within the six years specified, be called upon to make the same contributions to revenue as any other person with the same income.
In effect, the position in the future will bo that, except on a question of law, an assessment may be re-opened by the taxpayer or the department within three years. After three years, and up to six years, an assessment can only be re-opened if there has not been a full disclosure of material, facts by the taxpayer. The only ground upon which an assessment can be re-opened after six years is fraud or evasion.
Another matter which received the Government’s consideration was the provision for the registration of tax agents; but since such States as do not already require taxation agents to be registered are proposing to make such a provision, there will be no need for the Commonwealth to duplicate the laws of the States in this regard. In order that some supervision may be exercised over lax agents in compiling returns, however, it is provided that all such agents shall disclose in the return form the source or sources of information from which the data have been derived. Similarly all persons engaged in business activities are to be requested to state briefly the sources of information or the records from which the figures in the returns are collected.
With the reforms that this bill is designed to effect the income tax return for Commonwealth and State purposes should have, for the vast majority of taxpayers, but few items of variation. The consummation of the ideal of one return and one assessment to each taxpayer will, in theory and in practice for the majority of taxpayers, be as near achievement as is reasonably attainable.
In the framing of the new Income Tax Assessment Bill, the main object of the Government has been to arrive at uniformity with the State legislation wherever this could be achieved. Simplicity, uniformity and fairness have been the main objectives. There has been no conscious attempt to alter the incidence of taxation, nor to increase or decrease the revenue from income taxation by means of the provisions of the bill. In general, the small gains and small losses of revenue are expected to cancel each other, with the exception of the Government’s proposal to allow a deduction of £50 to a married man whose wife has a personal income in her own right of less than £50 per annum.
I venture again to refer to the vast amount of work entailed in this endeavour to co-ordinate and simplify taxation legislation throughout Australia. The Government is most grateful to Sir David Ferguson and Mr. Nixon, the members of the royal commission, the senior taxation officers of the Commonwealth and State governments, and all those others who have given freely of their time and experience in this connexion in the public interest.
The Government has given a great deal of thought and attention to this measure, and is anxious that it should pass into law in sufficient time for both taxpayers and the departmental officers to become familiar with its provisions before the next income tax assessing period, about twelve months hence. I commend the bill to the earnest and favorable consideration of all honorable members of all parties in the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Forde) adjourned.
– by. leave - I am informed that at a conference held to-day of the unions likely to be affected by the seamen’s strike, and presided over by the executive officers of the Australian Council of Trade Unions, the following resolution was carried: -
That this conference recommends to the members of the Seamen’s Union that they return to work, and that an immediate application be made to the Commonwealth Arbitration Court for a variation of the present award in an effort to rectify anomalies and remove the objections raised by the members of the Seamen’s Union to the award.
Further, the emergency committee of the Australian Council of Trade Unions endeavour to obtain the consent of the shipowners to facilitate an application to the court and/or approach the court for an early hearing of an application for a variation of the award.
I have been urged to give the officials concerned an opportunity to induce the seamen to return to work and ventilate their grievances by constitutional means. The Government appreciates the efforts being made by the Australian Council of Trade Unions in this matter, and welcomes its assistance. It is therefore willing to postpone its own intended action until after the week-end, during which the Attorney-General (Mr. Menzies) will, at the request of union leaders, confer with representatives of the Australian Council of Trade Unions in Melbourne. At the same time it must be made clear beyond any misunderstanding that this postponement does not arise from any uncertainty in the Government’s mind as to its policy or intentions. It is conceded only in order that a reasonable opportunity may be given to the responsible leaders of unionism to co-operate effectively for the averting of what would be a complete disaster to the seamen concerned in the strike. The Government has agreed to postpone action along the lines indicated last night largely in consequence of representations made to it by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) and the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) who, since the carrying of the motion to which I have referred, have again conferred with the Attorney-General and myself.
In Committee of Ways and Means:
Motion (by Dr. Earle Page) proposed
On eggs (in shell) -
Percase containing not more than fifteen dozen eggs- One penny.
Per case containing more than fifteen dozen eggs - Twopence.
On fresh apples exported to the United Kingdom’ or to the Continent of Europe - Per case, two half-cases, or three trays - Three-eighths of one penny.
On fresh pears exported to the United Kingdom or to the Continent ofEurope - Per case, two half-cases, or three trays - Three-eighths of one penny.
.- As the object of this motion is to raise revenue to provide for the better marketing of the exportable surplus of certain products overseas, to the advantage of the industry concerned, I offer no objection to it.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Standing Orders suspended ; resolution adopted.
That Dr. Earle Page and Mr. Casey do prepare and bring in a bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill brought up by Dr. Earls Page, and read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
This is one of two bills which are being introduced in relation to the imposition of levies on primary produce exported from the Commonwealth.
The Primary Produce Export Charges Bill and the Primary Produce Export. Organization Bill are being brought down to enable certain primary industries, which are properly organized on an Australiawide basis, to obtain funds for use in connexion with oversea trade publicity, scientific research, and any other object which the Minister is satisfied is likely to be of material benefit to the industries concerned.
Prior to September, 1927, fees were imposed by regulations made under the Customs Act 1901-1930 and the Commerce (Trade Descriptions) Act 1905- 1933 on meat, dairy produce, fresh, canned and dried fruit, and other primary products, to meet the cost of the Commonwealth inspection service. The moneys so collected, which amounted to approximately £36,000 per annum, were paid into revenue. In September, 1927, it was decided by the Government then in power to abolish these inspection fees, in order to afford some measure of relief to the primary producers concerned.
In 1922 an organization known as the Australian Dairy Council was established by the then Minister for Trade and Customs. This body has functioned continuously since that time, but under the proposed re-organization of the Dairy Produce Export Control Board it is intended to transfer the council’s functions to the newly-constituted Dairy Produce Board. In view of this fact, it will no longer be necessary to provide funds for the Australian Dairy Council, and it is not proposed, therefore, to impose under this bill the levies which were previously collected for financing it. The levies at present in operation amount to½d. a box of butter or crate of cheese exported.
In 1931 an inspection fee equivalent to 2d. a case of eggs submitted for export was imposed by regulations under the customs and commerce acts, at the request of the Australian egg industry. The money derived from this source, which amounted ‘to £6,035 for the year ended 30th June, 1935, has been used by the Egg Producers Council for advertising Australian eggs in Great Britain under the Commonwealth’s trade publicity scheme, and also for administrative expenses and research purposes. During 1931 the Australian Apple and Pear Export Council, which is a representative Australia-wide organization of apple and pear growers and exporters, made a similar request for the imposition of a fee of iN. a case of apples and pears submitted for export. This was agreed to, and it operated on and from the 1st January, 1932. The funds so provided, which amounted to £7,4-09 for the 1935 season, are being used for overseas trade publicity and the general administrative expenses of the council.
With the cancellation of the contributions to the Australian Dairy Council, it is proposed to repeal all the regulations under which these various charges have been made, and to reimpose the charges on eggs, apples and pears by means of the present bill. The regulations will be repealed as from the date when the new act comes into operation. Clause 3 of the bill provides for the imposition of a charge on eggs, apples and pears exported. The levies on butter and cheese are not included. The maximum rates of levy set out in clause 3 coincide with the rates at present imposed as inspection fees under the Commerce Export Regulations. The maximum rates of levy may be reduced by regulation, but cannot be increased except by an amendment of the aci. Power is given in clause 4 of the bill to discontinue by proclamation the collection of any levy, on report to the Minister by the prescribed organization concerned. This provision is necessary, otherwise the levy would have to be collected until such time as the act could bo amended.
If any organizations, other than those which may be prescribed in accordance with the provisions of this bill, desires to create a fund for similar purposes, and provides satisfactory evidence to the effect that a substantial majority of the producers concerned is in favour of the establishment of the fund, Parliament will be asked to authorize the imposition of further levies in respect of the commodities which come within the control of such organizations.
Honorable members will appreciate that the moneys derived by means of these levies are being expended entirely in the interests of the primary producers. Advertising on the overseas’ markets, particularly that of the United Kingdom, is essential in order to find an outlet for the increased surplus production of many of our primary products. Scientific research, has already done much to control insect pests and other diseases to which some of our products are subject, and organizations of primary producers in Australia are generally prepared to contribute towards the cost of further research work in this direction.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Message recommending appropriation reported.
In committee (Consideration of GovernorGeneral’s message) :
Motion (by Dr. Earle Page) agreed to-
That it is expedient that an appropriation of revenue be made for the purposes of a bill for an act relating to the export of primary produce and for other purposes.
Standing Orders suspended; resolution adopted.
That Dr. Earle Page and Mr. Hunter do prepare and bring in a bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill brought up by Dr. Earle Page, and read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The object of the bill is to enable the Government to pay, out of Consolidated Revenue, to industry organizations the moneys collected under the Primary Produce Export Charges Act. For some years certain of our export industries have been paying a levy on goods exported, and this levy has been used by industry councils, established on a voluntary basis, for the benefit of the industry concerned. Thus, the levy on- eggs exported has been used by the Egg Export Council, and the levy on apples and pears by the Apple and Pear Export Council, for oversea trade publicity, research work, and such other purposes as are approved and are for the benefit of the respective industries. Provision for the continuance of the export levies on eggs, apples and pears is made in the Primary Produce Export Charges Bill, which has just been agreed to. The Government desires that these levies shall still be handed over to the voluntary organizations established by those industries and be used by those organizations for the benefit of producers.
The bill provides also that separate accounts relating to these moneys shall be kept by the organizations, and that such accounts shall be subject to audit by the Commonwealth Auditor-General. It is considered that the expenditure of any moneys collected by the Commonwealth, even when collected from and on behalf of a particular industry, should be subject to this review by the AuditorGeneral.
.- The Opposition is always pleased to support any measure that has for its object the improvement of the lot of the primary producers. For that reason I offer no objection to the speedy passage of the bill.
– This bill is complementary to that which has just been passed by theHouse.In the past, these levies have been collected by voluntary organizations under an arrangement of their own, and the funds have been applied for certain specific purposes. The real purpose behind this bill is apparently to put these organizations on a better basis so that they will be subject to the direction of the prescribed authority and their funds will be audited by the Auditor-General. The principle behind the bill seems to be sound, for, after all, the Minister for Commerce will be given direct control over the activities of these organizations and will be able to determine how the money raised by levies is to be expended. If he believes that the industry is not properly catered for at home or abroad, it will be within his power to make certain directions and to utilise the levies for the furtherance of those directions. Are these levies to be collected in future by the Commonwealth, and will they be placed under the control of the prescribed authorities ?
Dr. EARLE PAGE ( Co wper- Minister levies will be collected by the Commonwealth and handed over to the prescribed authorities. The Egg Export Council and the Apple and Pear Council have no statutory standing. They are purely voluntary organizations, and the object of this bill is to put them on a proper basis.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Declaration of Urgency.
– I declare that the Dairy Produce Export Control Bill is an urgent bill.
Question put. The House divided. (Me. Speaker - Hon. G. J. Bell.)
Majority . . . . 24
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Allotment of Time.
Motion (by Dr. Earle Page) put -
That the time allotted in connexion with the bill be as follows: -
For the second reading until 11.20 p.m.
For the committee stage -
Clauses 1 to 3, until 11.30 p.m.
For the remainder of committee stage until 1 a.m. Friday, 6th December.
For the remaining stages until 1.10 a.m. Friday,6th December.
The House divided. (Mb. Speaker - Hon. G.’J. Bell.)
Majority . . 26
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Debate resumed from the 27th November(vide page 1950) on motion by Dr. Earle Page -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- The Opposition will support this bill, but will make one important suggestion as to how it may be improved. The bill is really a slice of the Labour party’s policy, and is in accordance with the country platform of the Federal Labour party, the relevant planks of which are: -
I regret that the bill has been brought on at this particular time, when honorable members will not have an opportunity to discuss it fully. If Government supporters are prevented from discussing the bill they must blame themselves, because they voted for the motion limiting the debate on the second reading to 50 minutes. The bill affects an industry in which 150,000 farmers are directly engaged, and which is worth many millions of pounds to the Commonwealth.
In 1924 a deputation representing the dairy farmers waited on the then Prime Minister, Mr. Bruce, and urged that legislation be introduced to provide for the establishment of a dairy produce export control board and a compulsory Commonwealth butter pool. The Government of the day granted the first request but refused the second. Although at that time half the members of the Country party were in the composite Ministry, they found that such powerful influences were opposed to the establishment of a pool that they were unable to achieve anything in that direction. I am pleased to be able to say that the Labour party whole-heartedly supported the request of the dairymen, because it believed then, as it believes now, that the dairy farmers deserve the same consideration as is given to factory workers, or to employees in the sugar-cane fields, in the shearing sheds or in any other industrial enterprise. A perusal of the returns of the 150,000 dairy farmers in Australia reveals that they receive on an average less than £100 a year for their labour, without taking into account any return on the capital invested. Co-operative marketing means the elimination of middlemen, speculative dealers, market riggers, and others who have prospered at the expense of the farmers and the public. This cutting away of dead wood will enable the consumers to get their butter at the lowest reasonable price, and will ensure the best possible return to the producers.
We were told that, immediately the Ottawa Agreement came into force, the price of butter on the London market would rise, and that the Australian dairy farmers would benefit to the extent of millions of pounds each year. The following table shows the prices realized by Australian butter on the London market over the last seven years : -
The Ottawa agreement came into operation in August, 1932, when the London price of Australian butter was 114s. per cwt., but from that time the price gradually drifted to 70s. per cwt. in March, 1935, thus falsifying all the Government’s predictions. With various European countries, and Great Britain also, endeavouring to develop their primary industries, and adopting a policy of economic nationalism, the primary producers of Australia will have to look more and more to the local market for a remunerative price for their products. The dairying - industry, first by means of the Paterson scheme, and later by . the present higher price due to the work of the equalization committee, has benefited to the extent of between £4,000,000 and £5,000,000 a year from the local market over a>nd above what it could have obtained in the absence of such arrangements. To those members of the Country party who decry the importance of the local market, and who would tear down the tariff barriers so as to let in a flood of imports to wipe out our secondary industries, I point out that of the whole of the dairy products of Australia, 79 per cent, is consumed locally, and only 21 per cent, exported, whereas in the pastoral industry, only 44 per cent, of production is consumed locally and 56 per cent, exported. In the agricultural industry 65 per cent, is consumed locally, and 35 per cent, exported. These facts are frequently overlooked by those honorable members who are prepared to jeopardize the existence of our great secondary industries that are providing direct employment for 500,000 people.
I can understand that the Minister in charge of this bill has had some difficulty in obtaining anything like unanimity among the producers regarding the constitution of the proposed control board. Up to the present, there has been a multiplicity of boards of various kinds, but the effect of this legislation will be to merge the Australian Dairy Council and the Export Control Board into one authority. That is a step in the right direction. Hitherto there have been in existence an Australian Dairy Council, an Export Control Board, a State Advisory Board in each State, a Dairy Products Board in each State, a Commonwealth Dairy Products Equalization Committee, and various State and local producers’ associations. Despite the existence of all these bodies, a greater effort is necessary for concentration on the improvement of dairy products. It is only necessary to read the tenth annual report of the Dairy Produce Control Board, and the statements of experts and public men who have travelled abroad, to realize that there is much room for improvement in the quality of dairy products exported from Australia. The Australian Dairy Produce Board, as the new body is to be called, will, I presume, discharge the duties previously performed by the Dairy Council and the Dairy Produce Export Control Board. The former was a voluntary body, and the latter a statutory body. The Australian Dairy Produce Board will, in future, in addition to other functions, advise the Minister a3 to what action should be taken for the improvement of the quality of dairy products, and the improvement of dairy herds and pastures, and will make recommendations in regard to transport, the finding of new markets and the extension of existing ones. The hoard will be clothed with extensive powers which will enable it to do a great deal of good for the dairy farmers and their dependants, and it will also benefit the factory workers of the Commonwealth whose products are consumed by the primary producers.
The dairying industry conference, which met in Sydney in April last, recommended the elimination of f.o.b. sellers, and the addition of three producers’ representatives to the existing board. Apart from that, they were satisfied that the Dairy Produce Export Control Board should remain as it was. That recommendation was placed before the Council of Agriculture, on which every State Minister of Agriculture has a seat, and that body remodelled the entire constitution of the board. It suggested one Government representative of the proprietaries, four representatives of the co-operative butter factories, one representative of the cheese factories, and six producer representatives, one from each of the six States, making a total representation of thirteen.. If that suggestion had been accepted the new board would have consisted of the same number of representatives as the old board, .but it would have worked under a better constitution. The proposal was considered by the Government and I quite understand that the Government was waited upon by representatives of the various interests concerned in the dairying industry, and that the Minister for Commerce had an extremely difficult time in arriving at some proposal that would meet with the approval of all sections of the industry. Judging by the representations made to honorable members since this bill has been introduced, however, although the Minister has conscientiously tried to meet the requirements of every section of the interests concerned, he has failed dismally.
The proposal made by the Government is that there should be on the new board representatives of the co-operative factories as follows : - Queensland, two ; New South “Wales, two; Victoria, two; Tasmania, one; Western Australia, one; and South Australia, one, making a total of nine. It is also proposed that there should be one representative of the f.o.b. sellers, two representatives of the proprietary factories, and four producers’ representatives, three representatives of the producers in New South Wales, Queensland and Victoria, and one of the. producers in Tasmania, South Australia, and Western Australia. ‘ The addition of the Commonwealth representative who will be chairman brings the total membership of the board up to seventeen. The chairman is intended to be a Mr. MacPherson, who is chairman of the Closer Settlement Commission in Victoria, and who, I have no doubt, is a very able gentleman.
It is interesting to note the quantity of butter exported to the United Kingdom in the four seasons ended the 30th June, 1935. In those seasons Queensland has exported 150,041 tons of butter ; New South Wales, 81,545 tons; and Victoria, 132,442 tons ; making a total of 364,028 tons. In the same four seasons Tasmania exported 8,193 tons; South Australia, 14,065 tons; and Western Australia, 3,590 tons; or a total of 25,848 tons, exported by the three minor States. Comparison of the3e figures shows that the three major butter producing States are each to have three co-operative factory-producer representatives, while the three minor butter producing States are to have each one cooperative factory representative, and between the three of them one producers’ representative. While I originally thought that this representation should be amended, it now seems to me to be fair. I am not satisfied, however, that the other sections of the industry are properly represented, and I note that the honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. Street) intends to move an amendment in committee designed to have a representative of the Council of the Dairy Factory Managers and Secretaries Association appointed to the board. I think that is equitable and the Opposition intends to support the amendment. It is a matter of regret that no provision has been made in the bill for the appointment of such a representative to the new board. As the council had representation on the Australian Dairying Council, the Government will probably reconsider its decision not to carry out the same principle under this measure aud the Minister will probably agree to accept the amendment.
At the same time I consider that great injustice has been done to the employees in industry. More than ‘5,700 hands are employed in butter factories throughout Australia, and the dairy farms give employment to a great many more Australian workers. I think that the Government should have provided for their representation on the proposed new board. I intend to move in committee an amendment, the purpose of which is to add to the hoard : -
One representative of the employees in the industry to be appointed by the GovernorGeneral in Council after consultation with the unions concerned.
– What section of the employees does the honorable member suggest should provide that representative ?
– That could be left to the Governor-General in Council after ;tho Government of the day has conferred with the unions concerned. I am satisfied that after consultation with the unions, the Government could have appointed to the board a very intelligent employee who would be of great service to it. I have in mind a number of young men working in the butter factories as testers, graders, accountants, and all manner of men who are aspiring to positions as factory managers. Such an appointee would be ambitious to learn everything possible about the marketing of butter and other dairy products. With due respect to the producer representative who will come straight from the farms to the board, I am satisfied that the employees would be able to provide a bright and intelligent man seized with the importance of the work confronting him, who would prove a real acquisition to the board.
– Factory employers represent a small minority of the total number of the employees engaged in the Industry.
– I do not desire to exclude the workers on the dairy farms. It would be a matter entirely for the “Government to use its discretion after consultation with the unions concerned to select a man of the best possible type.
– The honorable member wants to have two representatives of the employees on the board, a dairy factory manager and another representative of the workers?
– I should be satisfied if the Government agreed to the principle of appointing one representative. I do not desire to overload the board. The Labour party feels very, keenly on this question. It wants to establish the principle that the employees should bo recognized as integral parts of industry, and it intends to move at the appropriate times that the employees have representation on every board appointed by the Commonwealth Government. The principle is sound and I feel sure that the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) and the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. White) must agree that it is a reasonable request to make.
The 5,700 employees in the butter factories in Australia are entitled, I say, to representation and if there is some one who can be found from among the employees on the farms it would be right to appoint him to the board. But whoever was appointed would represent the workers’ interests. In the very important dairying districts which are situated in my electorate in Central Queensland, the condition of the farmers is such that most of them are not able to employ hired hands. The majority of the farms are run as family concerns.
In the Australian railways, in the post office, . and in private employment throughout Australia employees again and again have suggested most beneficial improvements, and the suggestions which have been made by employees in the butter factories have resulted in those factories achieving the high efficiency which characterizes their activities to-day. The ingenuity of employees in industry is marked and it entitles them to greater consideration in the creation of boards to control industries. An employees’ representative on the board which it is proposed to appoint to control the dairying industry would result in an important line of opinion being brought to bear directly upon the consideration of the problems of marketing.
It is encouraging that there has been a tremendous increase of the production of butter in recent years. In 1926-27 the Australian butter production totalled 112,728 tons, of which 34,272 tons or 30.4 per cent, were exported, but in 1934-35 the Australian butter production had increased to 209,174 tons, of which 117,196 tons or 56 per cent, were exported. An. amazing expansion has taken place in the different States. For example, in Queensland, one of the younger States, where the principle of closer settlement operates to a marked degree, 22,948 tons of butter were produced in 1926-27, compared with 59,461 tons produced in 1934-35. The export figures for the respective years were 1Q,190 tons and 45,515 tons. The fact that 76.6 per cent, of the total production of butter in Queensland in 1934-35 was exported shows the importance of the industry in that State.
– Does the honorable member intend to take up the whole of the time set down for the second-reading debate ?
– The honorable member should not blame me. He supported the motion to limit the debate to 50 minutes. This is a bill which should have been introduced in sufficient time to enable all honorable members to express opinions. It is unfair to blame the Opposition if certain honorable members are denied opportunity on the second reading to debate this bill. Certainly they will have an opportunity to discuss the committee stages, although I must concede that there .will not be sufficient time to discuss all the proposed amendments between 11.30 p.m. and 1 a.m. The capital invested in the dairy industry in Australia amounts to £200,000,000. In view of that the Government is acting not only unwisely but also unjustly in deciding that a measure of the importance of this one should be disposed of in little more than a couple of hours, especially when it is realized that more than 600,000 persons are dependent upon it.
In 1913 the number of dairy cows in Australia was 2,000,000, but the dairy herds now total 3,500,000 head. In 1913 Australia produced less than 9.000 tons of cheese. To-day we are producing 17,000 tons per annum. Looking back over a period of even five years, the figures in regard to the value of the exports of butter are very illuminating. They are as follow: -
An industry which engages the attention of 150,000 farmers, has 600,000 persons dependent upon it, and has an export value of £9,500,000, is of vital importance to Australia, and any measure having for its object the improvement of the conditions of the dairy farmers or tha quality of the goods exported should have devoted to its consideration at least two or three days. While our production is increasing, so also is the production of other countries. As it is with meat, so it is with butter and cheese. It is to Great Britain that we must look for our overseas markets. In that respect I fear that we are likely to experience some difficulty in the near future. In 1930 Germany, France, Switzerland and Belgium imported 155,225 tons’ of butter. Each year subsequently their imports became less and less, until in 1934 they amounted to only 74,595 tons. The United Kingdom, on the other hand, has considerably increased its imports from year to year. In 1929 its total imports amounted to 320,000 tons, while in 1934 they had increased to 485,000 tons, an advance of 165,000 tons. Australia aspires to an expanding share of that market. In view of the diminishing European trade it is essential that Australia should do everything possible to secure a greater proportion of the British trade. It is well that we should bear in mind that Australia is Great Britain’s second best customer. For the ten years from 1924 to 1933 inclusive the value of its imports from Great Britain amounted to £457,166,404, whereas those of Canada amounted to £276,878,285, those of India to £664,433,787, those of the Irish Free State to £391,035,986, those of New Zealand to £177,719,802, and those of South Africa to £285,292,261. There is thus every reason why Australia should be given preferential treatment over foreigners such as Denmark in regard to butter and Argentina in regard to meat.
For the year 1934 New Zealand supplied to Great Britain 28,000 tons of butter more than did Australia, while during the same period the supplies from Denmark totalled 124,000 tons. It is interesting to study the trade figures between Denmark and the United Kingdom, because to-day Denmark is our most formidable competitor in the supply of dairy produce. For the years 1922, 1933 ‘and 1934, the value of the exports from the United Kingdom to Denmark amounted to £36,000,000 and the value of the purchases by the United Kingdom from Denmark totalled £108,000,000, showing an adverse trade balance against Denmark for those three years of £72,000,000.
The Minister admitted in his secondreading speech that there is room for improvement in the dairying industry. One has only to read the tenth annual report of the Dairy Produce Control Board to realize that there is room for considerable improvement. I find in that very illuminating report, which reflects great credit upon the gentlemen who occupy positions on the board, the following observation : -
Owing to Great Britain’s commercial treaties with the principal foreign agricultural produce exporting countries, she is for the present prevented from imposing limitations on supplies of butter from those countries unless a general scheme of restriction applicable to all suppliers (Empire and foreign) is agreed to. Dominion countries’ right to free entry for their produce into Great Britain for a period of three years under the Ottawa agreements expires towards the end of this year, and the presence in London of many dominion Ministers from all parts of the Empire to celebrate the Royal Silver Jubilee affords the United Kingdom Government the opportunity to survey the whole field of Empire trade and to consider possible modifications and extensions of the Ottawa agreements. Just how far these modifications may affect the unrestricted entry of dominion butter and cheese into Great Britain remains to be seen. Meanwhile we must make the best of conditions as we find them. We must maintain existing outlets, and break new ground for our heavier exports with the aid of -
1 ) More uniformity in the monthly shipments to Great Britain as a whole;
Increasing and regular shipments to the outports of Great Britain ;
Supported by adequate sales propaganda work.
It would, however, be wrong to assume that even the foregoing essentials will, by themselves,secure for us the goal at which we are aiming unless they are accompanied by the very highest quality product. Although the quality of our butter this season has been favorably commented on by traders generally, we must still urge all sections of the Australian dairying industry to continue their efforts to improve, wherever possible, the quality of dairy produce intended for export to the point of securing a consistently reliable uniformity in our top grades and the elimination of secondary qualities.
This is a matter in which the new board will be able to take an interest. I believe that it will be possible to secure for the personnel of that board gentlemen who will be seized of the importance of the matter. One has only to read the tenth annual report to learn that the board is not satisfied concerning the branding of Australian butter. In regard to that matter the report states -
A matter that has exercised the board for some considerable time is the great disadvantage in marketing and resultant pecuniary loss to the farmers in Australia on account of the multiplicity of factory brands of Australian butter exported to the United Kingdom.
In Australia 364 butter factories have registered882 brands for export with the Department of Commerce. Cheese factories have also registered numerous brands. Compare that with what has been done by other countries. The imperative necessity for prompt action to remove the disabilities suffered by Australia has been realized by the board. Denmark has only one brand for export - L.U.R. - and New Zealand only three brands - the national brand Fern Leaf for highest quality, firstgrade, with the name of the factory, and a brand for lower grades. To overcome this very serious handicap the Australian Dairy Council, the National Dairy Conference in Sydney, and numerous other producers’ organizations have recommended -
That a regulation be passed for the adoption of three brands only of Australian butter and cheese exported to Great Britain; that is, a uniform design of the outline of Australia for butter and cheese grading 90 points and upwards; the national brand, “Kangaroo”, to be applied only to choice (02 points and over), and “ first grade “ to be stamped on 00 and 91 grade; the name of the factory to be included; a distinctive brand for second grade and pastry, with a numeral only to indicate the factory.
I have made that quotation from this very fine report. I sincerely hope that the different governments, and the newlyconstituted board, will take that recommendation into consideration, and that something practical will be achieved, because, if matters are allowed to drift as they have been drifting, the price that Australian dairy farmers obtain for their product on the overseas market will be very seriously affected.
Mr. Plunkett, a member of the Queensland Parliament and chairman of the Dairy Produce Control Board, in a splendid report on his overseas investigations, referring to the reason for the difference in the prices obtained for New Zealand and Australian butter, has pointed out that the quality of the manufactured article sent from both dominions was : Australia 48 per cent. choice, New Zealand 79 per cent. choice. What reason exists for that condition of affairs? ‘ These figures definitely show that the grades of our exports are not equal to those of New Zealand, and as butter is sold according to grade it is easy to understand why New Zealand obtains better prices than are obtained by Australia. There is no doubt that Australia can produce butter which, in quality, is equal to that of any other country in the world. It would appear, however, that we are not producing sufficient of the highest grade. It is in this connexion that I desire the Governments of the Commonwealth and the States, and the newly-constituted board, to work in co-operation, with a view to bringing about the desired objective. Mr. Dunningham, M.P., Minister for Labour and Industry in New South Wales, who recently toured England, made the following statement in regard to our products upon his return to Australia -
The Now Zealand campaign succeeded in placing that country ahead of Denmark as Great Britain’s chief supplier of butter last year. The returns for a couple of months this year give the impression that Australia has gone ahead of New Zealand, but that was a temporary spurt due to the operations of speculators.
Australia should be able to advance beyond either Denmark or New Zealand so far as butter supplies to Great Britain are concerned. The failure to do so is attributable to our own actions. Some of the Australian butter is not of a high quality, but I think one of the worst features is the appearance on the
English market of Australian butter under about 500 different brands. Danish butter is. of a high standard, and is sold under one brand. To market our goods to advantage, the advertising campaign should be more extensive and more attractive. I am aware that a moderate sumis spent each year, but apparently it is not effectively spent. I was told, on inquiry in London, that there were* many displays of Australian goods in Great Britain, but was not informed what constituted a display. I think we are far behind other parts of the Empire in advertising and marketing goods in the United Kingdom. Australia House may be all right as an administrative centre, but for publicity and display purposesit is useless. It is on an island block, surrounded by fast-moving one-way traffic, and nobody, other than those having business to transact, would attempt to go there. For display purposes it is very badly situated.
I hope that the Government will take into consideration the strictures passed by Mr. Dunningham and others who have been abroad recently, and will realize the disabilities of Australian producers when placing their products on the overseas markets in competition with other dominions and with foreign countries. Mr. Plunkett pointed out in his report that the method adopted by Denmark, of supplying uniform quality and high-class fresh butter over the whole of the year for many years, had created a demand for its butter that enabled that country to supply 2,000 tons a week, irrespective of the price of other butter. There is a. universal demand for Danish butter, and our objective should be to create a universal demand in London for Australian butter. I believe that this can be done, and will be done if the board receives the encouragement to which it is entitled. I apologize to honorable members if some of them are deprived of an opportunity to speak on the second reading of this measure; but I remind them that they voted for the application of the guillotine, which results in the stifling of discussion. I am the only speaker from the Opposition side.
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. G. J. Bell).The honorable member may not reflect on a vote of the House.
Mr.R. GREEN (Richmond) [11.18]. - Although I voted for the application of the guillotine on this bill, there is such a thing as playing the game between one member and another. The honorable member who has just resumed his seat (Mr. Forde) might have made a more valuable contribution if he had not read extensive quotations containing matter with which members are already familiar. As far back as 1929, at an annual conference of Ministers of Agriculture, it was resolved -
That this conference considers that the Australian Dairy Council, while serving a useful purpose during its earlier years, is no longer necessary, and that the newer forms of organization of the dairying industry, statutory and voluntary, together with the more complete organization of the State Departments of Agriculture, adequately provide for the needs of the industry, and render the Australian Dairy Council superfluous.
Again in April last a similar suggestion emanated from the Australian Agricultural Council. The matter was fully discussed at a meeting in Sydney, at which the members of both boards were present, and put forward a strong plea against their execution.
– The time allotted for the discussion on the second reading of the bill has expired.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 to 3 agreed to.
Clause 4 - (1.) Section four of the principal act is repealed, and the following section inserted in its stead: - “4. -(1.) For the purposes of this act there shall be an Australian Dairy Produce Board. (2.) The board shall consist of -
– I move -
That all the words in paragraph’ (b) after the word “ one “, be omitted with a view to insert in lieu thereof the following words: - “ representative to be elected by the Federal Council of the Australian Dairy Factory Managers and Secretaries’ Association.”.
The result of this amendment would be to remove from the board the f.o.b. representative, and to substitute for him a representative from the manufacturing aide of the industry. One of the functions of the board will be to advise the Minister on matters relating to the quality and manufacture of butter and cheese.
– I point out that I have circulated an amendment providing for the omission of paragraph b of subsection 2 of proposed new section 4.
– I submit that an amendment designed to amend a portion of a clause takes precedence over an amendment for its deletion.
- (Mr. E. F. Harrison). - The amendment submitted by the honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. Street) takes precedence over that of the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. R. Green).
– Obviously it will be better to have on the board a representative who has a technical knowledge of the manufacturing side of the industry, rather than one who is not primarily interested in quality. I have submitted my amendment in its present form because I think it will be more acceptable to the Government than in the form in which I originally circulated it. It will not make the board more unwieldly than it is at the present time. The Australian Dairy Council has always been represented by a man from the manufacturing side of the industry, and I think that the members of that body would all bear witness to the value of such representation. I am pleased to know that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde) agrees that the amendment is worthy of support. The Victorian Co-operative Butter and Cheese Factories Association supports the retention of the Dairy Produce Export Control Board, with the addition of three producers, and with the elimination of the f.o.b. representative. The Victorian Dairymen’s Association also favours the elimination of that representative.
.- I am in a quandary as the result of the ruling that the amendment submitted by the honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. Street) takes precedence over mine. My amendment, which has been circulated for a few days, provides for the elimination of the f.o.b. representative, and the proposed new paragraph now under consideration could have been inserted in another part of the clause if my amendment had been carried. ‘ The honorable member and I are in absolute agreement as to the necessity for removing the f.o.b. representative from the board. I am in favour of part of the amendment of the honorable member for Corangamite, but am opposed to another part of it. I therefore ask whether it could be put to the committee in two parts?
– On a point of order, I wish to know how the question will be put to the committee.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.I shall put to the committee the question, “ That the words proposed to be omitted stand part of the clause so that the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. R. Green) will have an opportunity to move his amendments whatever the decision of the committee may be in regard to the amendment of the honorable member for Corangamite.
– I rise to order. 1 wish to know whether I shall be permitted to move, in one motion, the four amendments of which I have given notice. In view of the fact that the guillotine has been applied to this bill it may otherwise be impossible for me, within the time at the disposal of the committee, to move the four amendments that I have circulated.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.The amendments must be taken in the order in which they affect the provisions of the bill.
– As the amendment of which I have given notice may add to the difficulty that may be encountered by the honorable member for Richmond in moving his amendments, I intimate that I am prepared to withdraw it, for I consider that his amendments are of considerably more importance.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.The honorable member for Wakefield may effectively clear the way for the honorable member for Richmond by refraining from moving his amendment. It will not be necessary for him to withdraw it.
– As I am sure it” is the wish of the committee that a vote shall be taken on all the amendments circulated, I wish to know whether it would d be possible for the honorable member for Richmond to move his amendments forthwith ?
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.The amendment of the honorable member for Corangamite, now before the Chair, must first be disposed of.
.- I wish to discuss the proposed constitution of the new board and compare it with that of the present board, which has done such wonderful work for the dairying industry. The problem of marketing our surplus produce has been one of the most difficult that we have had to face. In recent years it has been more acute than ever previously. Five years ago we produced 130,000 tons of butter a year and exported 48,000 tons. To-day our production is over 200,000 tons and our export 110,000 tons. Thus in five years our exports have more than doubled. This large increase is no doubt due to the fact that a few years ago considerably higher prices were received for dairy products than for many other primary products. Primary producers whose natural industries were at that time not profitable, turned to the dairying industry. Many men whose land was really adapted to wheat went in for dairying. Men raising fat lambs, finding that thi3 class of production was not payable, sold their sheep and bought dairy cows. The beef cattle men who could not obtain an adequate return for beef also became producers of butter fat. This all added to the unusual increase of butter and also to the difficulties of the marketing board. Moreover, settlers in parts of Queensland were compelled, owing to the high State land tax, to obtain some better returns from their properties, and they also turned to the production of dairy stock on share farming to a much greater extent than previously. These are some of the factors which have given rise to the enormous increased production of butter, and to them one must, of course, add natural expansion. Production of butter fat has also increased in New Zealand. ‘Under the Ottawa Agreement all of the butter production from the dominions is admitted into Great Britain duty free, and a duty of 15s. per cwt. is payable on butter from foreign countries; But for the Ottawa Agreement disaster must have overtaken the dairying industry in the dominions.
If the ratio of increase in Australia and New Zealand continues we shall ultimately be exporting more butter than Great Britain can reasonably buy, and an inevitable consequence would be a substantial fall of prices. In addition to the greatly increased exports of Australian and New Zealand butter, the British market has been affected from other sources. For some time past the governments of Great Britain and certain continental countries have been endeavouring to improve and to expand their agricultural industries. They have been influenced to this end by a laudable desire to raise the standard of living of their people, including their agriculturists, and also to ensure that a definite percentage of their primary products is produced within their own borders. Thus, in the event of war, they may be safeguarded to some extent against starvation. The failure of food supplies was a very real menace to several continental countries during the Great War owing to the operations of submarines.
In furtherance of its own policy to improve agricultural industries, Germany has restricted the importation of butter from Denmark and elsewhere, with the result that the butter so excluded from Germany has been diverted to the British market. It is remarkable that Britain consumes about 85 per cent. of the butter exported by all countries in the world. A policy of economic nationalism has caused France and other European countries substantially to reduce their imports of dairy products.
The perfecting of the chilling process for the carriage of beef to Europe, the improved price of wool, and the legislation just passed by this Parliament to provide a home-consumption price for wheat should restore to the legitimate dairy-farmer the scope for expansion that he formerly enjoyed. Those factors have all contributed to the fluctuations of prices experienced in the dairying industry since the war. In 1920 the price of butter was at times as high as 2s. 6d. per lb., but in the intervening period it has dropped as low as 9d. per lb. The average weekly price ruling for Australian choicest salted butter on the London market during the present season has been 75s. 6d. per cwt. Average prices for the last seven seasons have been : -
Throughout Australia dairying occupies the attention of some 150,000 farmers. They are amongst the hardest-worked and most worthy of our primary producers. Their limited success is made possible only by the unpaid labour of their wives and families. They have not a 40-hour job ; it goes on for 365 days a year. The return they obtain hardly pays the cost of production. The interests of the primary and secondary industries are closely allied. Our secondary industries are absolutely dependent for their prosperity upon the success of our primary industries, and it is to our primary industries we must look to provide the greater part of our national wealth. Australia is a debtor country; and unless we are able to dispose of our large exportable surplus of goods in the markets of the world at a profitable figure, we cannot meet our obligations overseas.
The Dairy Produce Control Board has done much to ensure the orderly marketing of our dairy produce overseas and to reduce the cost of marketing. It has been responsible for arranging the following reductions in transport charges : -
It is imperative that in spite of the generally high standard of our butter and cheese, with the keen competition overseas the standard must be improved, and we must also have an assurance of continuity of supplies. These points apparently have not been overlooked by the present board, as it recently sent the chairman, Mr. T. Flood Plunkett, M.L.A., overseas to examine the problems of marketing in the United Kingdom. He has presented a very valuable report for the guidance of the new board. Briefly, his observations are as follows : -
Extension of Sales - Publicity.
It would be impossible to set out in this report the benefits Australian producers receive from the publicity organization under the management of Mr. A. E. Hyland. I can definitely say that I was surprised at the good work accomplished and the splendid feeling created amongst distributors.
The number of shops now stocking and selling our products as Australian is growing from year to year, and the reports received when making inspections justify the credit given to Mr. Hyland and his staff for the splendid work done in widening the distribution of our various products. I have seen cinema displays, attended and addressed meetings of shop managers who compete for prizes given for best window displays of Australian goods, and have noted with pleasure the enthusiasm and interest of retailers, many of whom have only recently started to sell Australian goods. I have read criticism by Australian visitors to London in connexion with our advertising in England and have been personally informed by some of them that they will not buy Australian butter in England. On. inquiry I found that generally these people asked for their own particular State’s butter, which, of course, could not be found, as the butter would be sold as Empire or Australian. On this point - why butter was labelled Empire - I was informed that retailers stocked both Australian and New Zealand, and the “ Empire “ placard was the safer in case they ran short of either country’s product.
The new board will have an opportunity to consider Mr. Plunkett’s report, which contains nineteen valuable recommendations.
I have endeavoured to ascertain the views of the dairymen of Queensland in regard to this important clause. No representations have been made to me by any section of the industry in Queensland definitely to support the amendment moved by the honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. Street). The chairman of the Dairy Produce Control Board, who is also one of the representatives of Queensland on the Commonwealth Board, sent me the following telegram : -
General opinion here present interests on hoard should be retained plus four producers.
To-day, there has been present in this chamber, a gentleman who has had a long association with the dairying industry in Queensland, Mr. W. Harris, who confirms the statements contained in that telegram. As I have said, I have no mandate to support the amendment moved by the honorable member for Corangamite. I can find nothing in the observations of the honorable member to convince me of the necessity for displacing the gentleman to whom he takes exception. When an honorable member claims to speak on behalf of an industry in this chamber, he should first ascertain the views of all those engaged in it.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Order! The honorable member has exhausted his time.
.- At a later stage, I propose to move the whole of my remaining three amendments in order that the Minister may ascertain the opinion of the committee in regard to them. Honorable members have had several days to consider the amendment moved by the honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. Street) and there has been very active lobbying in connexion with it. The honorable gentleman proposes to omit from the board the representative of the f.o.b: sellers. When the Dairy Produce Control Board was first constituted in 1924, considerable discussion took place as to the advisability of including a representative of the f.o.b. sellers on the board. As a matter of fact, the f.o.b. sellers form a section of the industry of no real value to the primary producers; they are the real parasites on this industry. However, it was subsequently decided to include on the board a representative of that section. At that time, the annual production of butter was much greater than it is at present. But as the result of subsequent action taken to curtail the activities of the c.i.f.e. sellers the amount of butter at present produced in Australia is not nearly so great as it was four or five years ago. An opportunity is presented in the amendments before the committee to remove the representative of the f.o.b. sellers from the board. All honorable members have received a circular signed by Mr. Proud, the federal president of the Factory Managers and Secretaries Association, a representative of which the honorable member for Corangamite desires to have included on the board. The main argument advanced by Mr. Proud in furthering the claims of his association for representation is in connexion with the quality of butter produced in the various States. The following figures show the percentage of choicest butter in relation to total exports: -
They are the three main exporting States -
Thus it will be seen that Tasmania exported a greater percentage of choicest butter than Victoria or Queensland. ‘ If it is thought that this association can advise regarding the export of butter, I suggest to the Minister that its advice would be of greater value to the industry in the States concerned than to the Commonwealth Dairy Produce Control Board. The figures I have given disclose that Victoria badly needs advice in order that the standard of the product in that State may be raised.
.- The clause now before the committee, under which a board is to be set up, permits a considerable amount of latitude in the discussion of this primary industry. In fact, it is one .of the most important clauses in the bill and, therefore, I feel free to say a few words generally in regard to it. My remarks will be definitely to the point in this respect, that they will deal with certain lines of action which should be explored by the new board when ft .is constituted. I intend to support the amendment moved by the honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. Street), and in the short time at my disposal to state my reasons for doing so. The honorable member proposes to substitute one representative on the board by another, who, in my opinion, will be better equipped to advise on matters of policy in connexion with the important subjects of butter export and control. As honorable members know, whilst I was in England I took advantage of the opportunity to look into some aspects of the Australian butter industry, coming, as I did, from an electorate which must be ranked among the most important butterproducing areas of Australia. The following five points in connexion with this industry might be worthy of consideration : First, the necessity for the estab lishment of standards of grading in respect of butter shipped to the London market ; secondly, an improvement of the quality of Australian butter; thirdly, the lack of continuity in the supplies to the London market; fourthly, the lack of scientific effort in the way of research into the troubles of the industry generally in order to improve the quality of the product; and fifthly, the necessity for undertaking a large advertising programme in England. When inquiring into the circumstances surrounding the export market in London, in company with a man fully qualified in all respects to advise on the operation of the industry in Australia, I found that each of the 600 butter factories in Australia was marketing in Great Britain, under its own name, about three different grades or different brands of butter.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.I ask the honorable member to link up his remarks with the clause under discussion.
– I propose to connect my remarks with the board to be constituted under this clause. There is on the English market an enormous number of Australian brands, and the confusion resulting therefrom is necessarily detrimental to the Australian butter industry. New Zealand butter is marketed almost entirely under the Fern Leaf brand, and two other grades, one of them for pastry butter. The position in regard to Danish butter is much the same. The board to be appointed must give its early attention to the standardisation of grades on the London market. I have before me a summary of the quality of butter exported from Australia during the last few years.
Friday, 6 December 1935
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.I should like the honorable member to indicate what his remarks have to do with the constitution of the board.
– I shall endeavour to connect my remarks with the clause before the committee. Quorum formed.] One of the first duties of the board that is to be appointed will be to take, steps to improve the quality of Australian butter. About 50 per cent, of the Australian butter exported, during the period under review was of choice quality.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN The honorable member must confine hi3 remark’s to the ‘constitution of the board.
Mr- HUTCHINSON.- There is an amendment before the committee, the object of which is to secure the appointment to the board of a person possessing technical ability, who will be an authority on the quality of butter. As I have said, 50 per cent, of the butter exported is of choice quality; of the balance 30 per cent, was first grade, and the rest was pastry butter. Of the New Zealand butter exported during ‘the same period, 70 per cent, was of choice quality, and people are wondering why New Zealand–
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.I must definitely request the honorable member to confine his remarks to the clause
– If the chairman rules that my remarks are out of order, I fear that I must resume my seat.
– I support the amendment, as I consider that the whole success of the bill depends upon the constitution of the board. I have been rather afraid, in connexion with this legislation, of the disturbing effect it may have on the already excellent organization of the dairying industry. During the last few years the industry has been an example to the other primary industries of Australia for the excellence of its organization, and for that organization we have largely to thank the men on the Dairy Produce Export Board, and on the Dairy Council. Therefore, we must be, careful to guard against substituting one indifferent board for the two very good boards we have at present. The dairying industry has been able to organize itself so efficiently through the medium of the butter factories, and the lack of organization in other primary industries is, I believe, largely due to the absence from them of any similar unit. Therefore, I view with favour that part of the amendment moved by the honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. Street), which makes provision for the appointment to the board of a member of the Factory Managers Association. That part of the amendment which provides for the elimination of f.o.b. sellers is also justified, not because the f.o.b. sellers are parasites on the industry, but because it is not desirable that the board should be too large. Some years ago there was a prejudice in the industry against f.o.b. sellers. In fact, many of my friends in the industry advocated the abolition, if possible, of f.o.b. selling. That feeling, I believe, has now died down, and dairymen realize that the dealer plays an important and useful part. However, though the f.o.b. seller is of assistance to the industry, he is not a part of it, and if some one has to go in order to make room for a representative of the Factory Managers Association, it should be the representative of the f.o.b. sellers.
One often hears a good deal of illinformed criticism regarding the marketing of Australian butter in Great Britain. I looked into that aspect of the matter when I was. there, and I took the precaution of having with me a man much better versed in the dairying industry than I am. We were both very pleasantly surprised at the efficiency of the selling organization overseas. The improvement must come from this end, and the greatest improvement -would be the elimination of the present multiplicity of brands, and the removal from the market of the present large proportion of second-grade and pastry butter. Many theories have been advanced as to how a general improvement of the standard of butter can be effected. Some people place their faith in inspectors who would visit the farmers, but I do not think that any chivvying of individual farmers would be of much avail. The improvement must come through the factories. It is possible that, from a spotless dairyfarm, cream of a low grade may come. It is necessary to eliminate a most undesirable form of competition among the factories which most people suspect, though it cannot be proved. Those who have their cream classified as secondgrade at one factory, often take it to another factory where it may be classed as first-grade. That is why there must be co-operation between the factories, and why we should have a factory manager on the board as an indication of their great importance to the industry. Ali members have testified to the splendid work done by the representative of the factory managers on the existing board. In the “Western District of Victoria, there is room for improvement by th« elimination of wasteful competition for cream among the factories. On some of the highways motor lorries travel 50 or 60 miles, in many cases past three or four butter factories, to pick up a few cans of cream, a practice which is damaging to the roads and wasteful from every point of view. [Quorum formed. ] I think that the constitution of this board is the essentially important part of this bill. It does not matter particularly who elects the hoard so long as the best brains in the dairying industry are put upon it. There is no doubt that on the board, which will be supplanted by the board to be created under this bill, splendid brains have been available for the development of the dairying industry. The board has done excellent work.
– I am strongly of the opinion that the factory managers should be represented on this board which will replace the Australian Dairy Council on one hand, the Dairy Produce Export Board on the other. The functions of the Australian Dairy Council included improvement of the pastures, improvement of the quality of butter, the production of cream and butter on the best possible lines and, in short, every possible phase of the industry where improvements are necessary. The highest possible standard has to be achieved by the industry and no one is better fitted to advise the board on such matters as I have mentioned than factory managers. The amalgamation of the two existing boards, however, if the Government’s plan is agreed to as it stands, will mean the elimination of the factory managers’ representative. I am not enthusiastic about the provision in this bill for the inclusion of a representative of the f.o.b. sellers, but in the past it has been shown that it is better to have this section of the industry represented in the council than making a nuisance of itself outside. If the f.o.b. man is admitted to the councils of the industry, in time he develops a friendly and co-operative spirit which makes for harmonious relations and consequential benefit to the whole of the industry. I cannot understand, however, how, in framing this measure, the Government included a f.o.b. representative to the exclusion of the factory managers’ representative. Clause 9 of this bill indicates that one of the principal functions of the board will be to advise the Minister as to the quality of dairy products, herds, pastures, and all other phases of the industry, and I emphasize that the factory management knows all the problems associated with the industry. If a consignment of inferior cream reaches a factory the manager sends out a representative to the dairy farm concerned to advise the producer how to improve his standards. A true national organization of the industry must include representation of the factory managements, because no section of the industry of dairying is better acquainted with its problems than the managerial staffs. A precedent for including a factory representative was provided when the Australian Dairy Council was established. If Australia is to maintain its market in Great Britain it must improve the standard of butter, although Australian butter at present is of an exceedingly high quality. The competition in the United Kingdom market at present is keener than it ever has been. The man best fitted to lay down conditions upon which the butter standard can be raised, -is the man who has the best knowledge of the industry and I contend that that man is the manager of a butter factory. “While I am not enthusiastic about the inclusion of the f.o.b. representative on the board, I do not desire his removal ; but I maintain that the Government should have no hesitation in increasing the membership of the board to eighteen by the inclusion of the nominee of the butter factories. The cost of an additional member would be infinitesimal.
.I fail to see any reason for the inclusion of a representative of the f.o.b. sellers on this board. The f.o.b. sellers are not particularly interested in production, or in the returns the growers get. They work on margins and it makes no difference to them whether the price of butter is 18s or 180s. per cwt. The personnel of the board should be confined to the interests most concerned in the dairying industry. In my opinion, also, the representation which Victoria will gain on the new board is a little lop-sided. It should be remembered that the members of the board will die eventually, but the act will live. While I should prefer to support the amendment proposed by the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. R. Green), I am opposed to the inclusion of the f.o.b. sellers’ representative, and I hope that South Australia and Western Australia will be given direct producers’ representatives.
– I desire to support the amendment, because one of the most important aspects of the export of dairy products is quality. I do not see how we can raise quality standards, unless we have on the board the interests chiefly concerned with the quality of our butter and cheese. I think, therefore, the appointment of a representative of the Australian Dairy Factory Managers and Secretaries Association to the board is necessary. Over the last five years we have developed a remarkably good export trade, but as competition in the oversea markets is becoming keener, we shall have to’ apply ourselves more and more to the matter of improving quality standards if we are to retain our position. The boards and the councils which are to be replaced under this bill have done remarkably, good work, and I think that it would be a mistake to replace them unless we put the right representatives on the proposed new board. Without them we shall not get the best results. The representative of the managers, who has been a member of the Australian Dairy Council for a number of years, has done a notable job in helping that council to secure the good results which have marked its efforts, and it would be a retrograde step to appoint a new board lacking his services.
In addition to the matter of quality, an important work which will confront the new board will be the matter of brands. Several other minor defects in the organization of the export of dairy products will also have to be remedied. Denmark has only one brand for its export butter. New Zealand exports choice butter under two brands. In Australia 886 different brands appear on consignments of butter sent overseas. The remedying of this position could well be left in the hands of the Managers and Secretaries Association if it were given a representative on the new board. With the exception of the inclusion of the f.o.b. sellers’ representative, and the exclusion of the representative of the managers, the composition of the board as proposed by the Ministry is acceptable.
If a managers’ representative could be substituted for the f.o.b. sellers’ representative, the board would be so constituted as to attain the best results for the industry.
– The importance of this clause which, with its various sub-clauses, outlines the proposed personnel of the new Dairy Produce Export Control Board, is demonstrated by the fact that upon the successful working of the board probably depends the future of the Australian dairying industry. The importance of that industry to Australia needs little emphasis. It has developed into a great avenue for employment. Homes have been ‘built in close contiguity in areas which, if it were not for the existence of the industry, would probably be very sparsely settled, and fine Australian families find means of livelihood in dairying. The progress that has been made not only in quality, but also in quantity, by the dairying industry in the last few years, makes us realize the part played by Australian control of dairying. We must be most careful in regard to what we do with clause 4, because upon it depends the future success of the industry in every respect. Recently adverse criticism has been voiced against certain States- because of the proportion of our butter exports that is not- considered to be of first-grade quality.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.I hope that the honorable member will be able to link up bis remarks in regard to quality with the composition of the board.
– On a point of order I submit that as the committee is considering the remaining clauses of the bill it is competent for the honorable member to deal with their provisions.
– At the moment the committee is considering only clause 4.
– The members of the board will be advisers of the Minister. Its functions will be so broad that any suggested alteration of its personnel ought to be given the closest scrutiny. I understand that the chairman of the board, Mr. Plunkett, M.L.A., has suggested by telegraphic message that no alteration be made of this clause, as in his opinion it will operate to the greatest advantage of the industry. I urge honorable members to heed the advice of a gentleman who has had such wide experience. The lessons that we have learned should cause us to reflect before making any alteration that might nullify the advantage gained from experience over many years by gentlemen who have been prepared to devote time, trouble and money to the advancement of the interests of the industry. The amendment proposes that one proposed member shall be replaced by a representative to be elected by the Federal Council of the Australian Council of Dairy Factory Managers and Secretaries Associations. Those persons are closely associated with the manufacturing and technical sides of the industry, and possibly their opinion possesses considerable scientific and practical value. The proposed constitution of the board has in the main followed along the lines of the existing board, which in the past has been responsible for the development of the industry to a value of £40,000,000 per annum, taking into consideration the consumption of milk and dairy products within Australia, and the export of the surplus production to other countries. Realizing the great monetary value of the industry, as well as its national and economic importance, we must not flippantly deal with an amendment of such a farreaching character as that which we are now considering. The scientific side of the industry can be promoted only by the factory managers, who- have had the necessary experience. That can be appreciated fully by those who know exactly what the application of science to industry means to the producer as well as to the country. It is to the value to the producer that we should pay attention. After all, he is the man whom the bill has been drawn to assist. At Gympie is to be found the largest unit butter factory in Australia, and it is claimed to be the largest in the world.
– The honorable member’s time has expired.
. -The success of the board depends upon its personnel, and the primary producers are entitled to the major representation. I am in accord with the proposals in this clause, but I shall also support the amendments forecast by the honorable member for Richmond.
– It would appear that the Government is determined not to have representation on the board by a person who has submitted himself for, and has failed to secure, election to the board by one. or other of the representative bodies. Under paragraph c, two representatives are to be elected by the owners of proprietary and privately-owned butter and cheese factories. There may be three men offering for these positions, and they may all have equal qualifications, but if the third man has the misfortune to be defeated in the ballot he will be disqualified from obtaining appointment as the Government representative. Owing to this disqualification, the Government may appoint to the board a person with no knowledge of the trade. I suggest that continuity of representation is highly desirable. The member appointed as the representative of persons engaged as sellers of dairy produce out of the Commonwealth, whether as agents or on their own account, is to hold office for three years, but may be removed from office by the Governor-General on the recommendation of the board. The committee should be informed of the reason why this particu- lar representative is singled out for special treatment.
– I propose to submit a consequential amendment to deal with that matter.
– In my opinion the board would be improved if the Government had full power to select whom it chose as its representative.
– I support the amendment submitted by the honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. Street). I do not anticipate that I shall have an opportunity to move the amendment which I have circulated, but I desire to place on record my reason for drafting it. The two representatives on the export board chosen by the proprietary and privatelyowned factories are, under the present voting system, elected by the Victorian factories, and are both Victorian gentlemen. That, I think, indicates one of the weaknesses of. the constitution of the board, because Victoria is one of the States where the quality of the butter is not so good as it should be. Proprietary factories in that State have produced, in the last twelve months, 24,500 tons of butter and cheese, as compared with 15,000 tons in New South Wales factories, and 11,000 tons in the smaller States. Therefore the producers responsible for more than half the production, were without representation on the board. I hope that on some future occasion provision will be made to prevent the two members representing the proprietary factories from coming from one State.
.- I do not think that any amendment of clause 4 is necessary. Moreover, the restriction which sub-clause 3 seeks to place on the power of the Governor-General in Council to select the Government representative should be removed.
– Order ! The time for consideration of the committee stage of the bill has expired.
Question - That the words proposed to be omitted (Mr. Street’s amendment) stand part of the clause - negatived.
Question - That the words proposed to be inserted be so inserted (Mr. Street’s amendment) - put. The committee divided. (Temporary Chairman - Mr. Nairn.)
Majority . . . . 6
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause 4, as amended, and the remainder of the bill, agreed to.
Bill reported with amendment; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
Bill returned from the Senate without amendment.
Motion (by Mr. Lyons) agreed to -
That the House, at its rising, adjourn until this day (Friday) at 11 a.m.
House adjourned at 1.14 a.m. (Friday).
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
n asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Invalid and Old-age Pensions.
n asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
s asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The information is being obtained.
e. - On the 21st November the honorable member for Boothby (Mr. Price) asked the following questions, upon notice -
I am now in a position to furnish the honorable member with the following information : - 1 and 2. The fixed price of wheat, and the price of bread, is set out in the following table.
The prices shown arc all in Australian currency: -
Currency in New Guinea.
– On the 2nd December the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. R. Green) inquired whether a new type of currency is being issued by the Territory of New Guinea, and if so, what is the reason for differentiating against Australian currency. I am now in a position to advise the honorable member as follows : -
Since the Territory of New Guinea has been under the control of the Commonwealth, Australian coinage has been in use there. Such coins have had, in practice, a limited circulation amongst the natives and with the object of educating the natives in the use of money, it was decided that coins of a special design should be minted for use within the boundaries of the territory. For the present, it is proposed that the coins to be issued should consist of a silver shilling, a cupro-nickel sixpence and threepence, and a bronze penny.
All the coins will be perforated so as to facilitate their carriage by the natives. Authority for the issue of the coins is contained in the Currency Coinage and Tokens Ordinance 1935. The Ordinance provides that from a date to he fixed, a bank shall not, without the written consent of the Administrator, knowingly tender or pay in the territory to any person, British coins or Australian coins other than gold coins.
l. - On 4th December the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) asked the following questions, upon notice: -
I am now in a position to inform the honorable member as follows : -
Australian Staff CORPS
– On the 4th December the honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. Street) asked the following questions, upon notice -
I am now in a position to inform the honorable member as follows: -
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 5 December 1935, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1935/19351205_reps_14_148/>.