17th Parliament · 3rd Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. J. S.Rosevear) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
House Tenancy of Soldier’s Wife
– Will the Ministerrepresenting the Minister for the Interior state whetheror not the report of the parliamentary committee which inquired into the threatened eviction from her home in Canberra of the wife of an Australian prisoner of war has been received? If not, what is the reason for the delay in its presentation?
– So far as I am aware, the report has not yet been received. I shall make inquiries, and advise the honorable member next week.
Black-marketing - Transport of Supplies - Price : Effect on Dairying Costs.
– As the Department of Agriculture in Victoria is in charge of the distribution of supplies of fodder in that State, in the country districts of which there is a shortage, will the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture ask the Minister for Agriculture of Victoria to investigate the frequent reports of black-marketing operations in hay, oats and chaff in the Melbourne metropolitan area?
– I have received quite recently advices from different sources, of the fear of extensive black-marketing operations in fodder in Victoria, and, incidentally, in some of the other States. If there are such operations, they are to be deplored, and I shall ask the Minister for Agriculture in Victoria to investigate the possibility ofpreventing them.
– Has the attention of the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture been directed to the announce ment in to-day’s Sydney Daily Telegraph, that the Minister for Agriculture of New South Wales, Mr. Graham, is to fly to Western Australia with a view to purchasing fodder? Is it not a fact that all available supplies of chaff and oats in that State were secured some months ago by the Commonwealth Government, and that large supplies are awaiting transport to the eastern States? Can the Minister state whether or not there is likely to he an improvement of the arrangements for the transport of this commodity? Will he also ensure an equitable distribution of suppliesin all the States which require fodder because of drought conditions, regardless of the sources from which they have been obtained ?
– I had noticed the press report that the Acting Premier of New South Wales had stated that the Minister for Agriculture of that State was to fly to other States, including Western Australia. The Commonwealth Government welcomes at all times the cooperation of the Departments of Agriculture and the governments of the States, in the distribution of fodder. All available supplies in Western Australia were acquired months ago by the Commonwealth from the Government of that State. As rapidly as is possible in the circumstances, we are making an equitable distribution of the supplies that we have obtained, in the States which require them - South Australia, Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland. The bigger States, of course, are making the major demands. In any circumstances the Government will ensure that transport facilities and supplies shall be equitably distributed among all of the States. It would be unfair if it were possible for any State or individual to purchase and corner fodder. I shall indicate what the Government is doing in connexion with the transport of fodder in Western Australia. Quite recently it had consultations with the Department of the Army and the Minister for Defence, and the Acting Minister for the Army has made available to the Commonwealth Government for transport purposes in Western Australia a huge fleet of motor lorries and military personnel to convey chaff from inland areas to the seaboard for transport to places where it is urgently required. It is anticipated that several hundreds of tons will thus be made available weekly, and the Government is trying to make arrangements for an additional 700 tons to be conveyed over the Western Australian railways to the seaboard. We hope thus to have a continuous flow of fodder to the eastern States of about 1,000 tons weekly. That is a small quantity compared with the demand, but it will be very helpful. The man-power position on’ the Western Australian railways is acute, and the Minister for Defence, in conjunction with the man-power authorities, has given instructions for the release of up to 90 skilled men to work the long shifts that will be necessary in the transport of wheat and fodder. The Government is supplying locomotives of the Garrett type as fast as they can be turned out in order to speed up transport in that State. I believe that an additional locomotive of this type is being made available every week. Therefore the Com.monwealth is doing all it possibly can to speed up the general fodder supply. I shall read a cablegram which the Government has received from overseas, in order to show it has not been lax in its efforts to secure supplies of fodder -
London Food Council have approved request for 25,000 tons hay or chaff suitable for horse feeding as outlined your 3772 24th April. Matter has been passed to British Food Mission for submission to Combined Food Board Feeds Committee.
Your 3773 24th April reference your 2916 repeated to Australian Legation 4C9. London Food Council advise that request for further 4,000,000 bushels sorghum being taken up next meeting Combined Food Board Feeds Committee.
That shows that the investigation being made by the Commonwealth authorities is world-wide.
– Before the House rose for the Easter recess, I asked the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture whether the Government would ensure that the increased cost of chaff and oaten hay would be recognized as an added cost borne by the dairy farmer, thus entitling him to an increased subsidy. The Minister said tha.t the increased cost of fodder would be allowed for, or would be off set by a subsidy on the fodder itself. Is the Minister taking any steps to ensure that the subsidy shall be paid? If not, will he do so?
– I shall take the matter up with the Prices Branch in order to learn whether the honorable member’s statement is a correct assessment of the position, and whether there is anything we can do about it.
Admission of Argentina
– Has the Acting Prime Minister read the report in today’s Sydney Morning Herald that the Darlinghurst branch of the Australian Labour party carried a motion protesting against the Australian delegates to the United Nations Conference on International Organization having voted for the admission of Argentina to the conference? Has the honorable gentleman received a telegram of protest from that branch of the Australian Labour parly, which is in the electorate of the Minister for Transport (Mr. Ward) ? Was the decision by the Australian delegates to support the admission of Argentina in conformity with a Cabinet decision? If so, was the Minister for Transport a party to it? In view of the questions, couched in terms similar to those of the protest by the Darlinghurst branch of the Australian Labour party, which the honorable member for New England asked yesterday, will the honorable gentleman instruct the Australian delegation that in future, it must first obtain the approval of Cabinet before lending its support to a fascist government?
– I have not read the press article mentioned, nor have I received a telegram on the subject. The honorable member for New England yesterday asked questions in relation to the matter.
– Order ! My attention has. been drawn to question No. 21 on the notice-paper for to-day. In my opinion, it covers completely the matter raised in the question asked by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition.
parliamentary proceedings and Newspaper Comment.
– I ask you, Mr. Speaker, whether your attention has been drawn to a statement by the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender), published by the Sydney Morning Herald to-day? If you have read that statement, have you any reply to make to it?
– My attention has been drawn to a statement by the honorable member for Warringah, published to-day by the Sydney Morning Herald. In it he says, inter alia -
Perhaps some action will be taken by these great defenders of free speech to throw me out of Parliament for presuming to comment, but I will take the chance.
The House and the country are becoming a little tired of would-be martyrs. I undertake that if the honorable member for Warringah offends against the Standing Orders - so far he has studiously refrained from doing so - appropriate action will be taken. The honorable member went on to say -
It is moreover permissible for Labour members to reflect on the judiciary and its competence. But it is not permissible to make similar reflections against those who occupy the exalted position of chairman of committees.
That is totally incorrect. There is a proper procedure by means of which honorable members may deal with any officer of the House. The honorable member further stated -
But it is not wrong for a member to engage in whatever scurrilous suggestions against private citizens he thinks fit under absolute cover of privilege. This is one-way justice, if it can be called justice at all.
I have already made to the House a statement on the matter therein referred to, and I consider that it clarified the position. I remind the honorable member for Warringah that not only the Parliament but also the courts at times are faced with the problem of the conflict between the right of the individual to protection against allegations, and the right of counsel, in the interests of justice, to make allegations against the individual in addressing the court. I have no doubt that the honorable member, who is an eminent King’s Counsel, has read in Lord Macmillan’s Law and Other Things, the chapter entitled “ The Ethics of Advocacy I also refer him to the address by counsel for the plaintiff in the case Davis v. Smith in the Supreme Court of New South Wales in October, 1943.
– In view of the importance of water conservation to Australia, will the Acting Prime Minister .undertake that the Government will consider the submission of Dr. Bradfield’s scheme to the Public Works Committee?
– The request ,is rather unusual. Schemes such as that propounded by the late Dr. Bradfield would probably have to be examined in the first place by the CoordinatorGeneral of Works, in collaboration with the State Co-ordinators of Works, in order to determine whether or not they are suitable for inclusion in the departmental works embodied in stages two and three of the national works programme.
– In any case, such works would need very close expert examination.
– I agree with the right honorable gentleman that the highest technical advice would have to be obtained in regard to them. I have read several references to such works in books that have been written on the subject, and from them I have concluded that large engineering undertakings would be involved - so large that some engineers have expressed doubts concerning their practicability. Probably, an investigation of Dr. Bradfield’s scheme would need to be on a wider scale, and embrace greater technical detail, than could be covered by the Public Works Committee.
Government Ownership op Interstate Airlines.
– The statement was published in the press yesterday that the Acting Prime Minister had said that legislation is being prepared, and shortly will be brought down, to give effect to the proposal of the Government, to nationalize interstate airlines.
– Hear, hear !
– Apparently, the press statement is correct. If that be the intention, will the honorable gentleman say whether or not the report of the inter-departmental committee that inquired into the matter, which the Minister for Air or the Cabinet has been holding for about eighteen months, will be tabled, so that honorable members may be informed of its contents? “Will the honorable gentleman say now whether or not the committee approved of the nationalization of interstate airlines?
– Because of the rate at which legislation is being dealt with by the House, I cannot promise that the bill referred to will be introduced shortly. Subject to the capacity of those entrusted with the drafting of it to complete that task, it will be brought down this session.
– The Government does not intend to try to pass it this session?
– That certainly is the intention. I shall consider the request of the honorable member for Balaclava in regard to the report of the inter-departmental committee, when the legislation is presented. The report is one that was made solely to the Government. Probably, there will not be very much reason for refusing to indicate in a general way the conclusions at which the committee arrived. Those reached by the Government will be embodied in the legislation.
Ex-Prisoners of War: Return to Operations - Borneo Operations
– Will the Minister representing the Acting Minister for the Army state whether it is a fact that certain former prisoners of war, after a period of leave, are being sent back to operational areas? If so, does not the Government consider that those men should be replaced by men who have not yet had to face the rigors of active service?
– I am not aware whether that is the position or not, but I shall refer the matter to the Acting Minister for the Army and ask him to furnish a reply.
. -by leave - I desire to inform the House that the following is the reference in to-day’s communique by General MacArthur to the operations of the Australian Forces in Borneo : -
Australian ground forces, expanding their beach-head at Tarakan with close air and naval support, have driven to within a few hundred yards of the airfield, and are on the outskirts of the main city. Tanks are assisting the infantry in smashing enemy pockets of resistance. Unloading is proceeding unhampered by any air opposition. Heavy and medium bombers struck aerodromes, bivouacs and defences at Jesselton, Kudat, Sandaken and Tawao. Air and naval patrols in coastal sectors sank ten freighters, four coastal vessels, five supply-laden barges and a number of smaller craft.
– Can the Acting
Attorney-General state when the report on the Dean case will be printed? I understand that it was presented last year.
– The SolicitorGeneral advises me that copies of the report are now available.
– Will the Minister representing the Acting Minister for the Army or the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs inform the House whether it is the policy of the Government to exclude members of the Australian Imperial Force discharged as medically unfit on a 100 per cent. pension from obtaining a personal tobacco ration ? If not, can the Minister explain why ex-QX27634 Mervyn Taylor, discharged in November, 1943, was advised that, as the tobacco ration scheme for discharged personnel did not come into operation until the 1st January, 1944, he was not entitled to a ration? Will the Minister have the case investigated, and, after consultation with the appropriate Minister, make a full statement to the House?
– I do not quite grasp the significance of the question. There is no rationing scheme as far as tobacco and cigarettes are concerned. Every individual may go to a tobacconist and obtain his supplies within the limits of the availability of those supplies. There is no question of the Acting Minister for the Army or the
Minister for Trade and Customs denying to any individual whatever supplies he can get through the normal trade channels. However, I shall take the matter up withthe Minister for Trade and Customs, and endeavour to obtain an answer to the question.
Melbourne City Abattoirs
– I draw the attention of the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction to the fact that plans have been made for the extension of the Melbourne City Abattoirs at a cost of £35,000, in order to provide for the killing of an additional 5,000 sheep and lambs daily. Approval of the work has been given by the State authorities who regard it as urgently necessary. I have received a communication from the chairman of the Newmarket Producers Association pointing out the importance of this extension to the producers of fat stock, and stating that, as the provision of the additions would occupy four months, and thatas it is essential that the work should be completed by September, the peak month of the killings, authority for carrying out the undertaking should be given immediately. Will the Minister take the matter up at once, with a view to the necessary authority for the work to he proceeded with being given without delay?
– The gentleman from whom the honorable member has received the letter has not at any time been very helpful with regard to matters relating to meat supplies, and therefore I do not accept the statement made by him on this subject. However, I shall have the question examined and do what I can to have a decision expedited.
Report of Mr. Justice Clyne
– Does the Acting Attorney-General know when the report on the Australia First Movement is likely to be completed? If it is likely to be delayed, will the Minister consider appointing an acting judge in bankruptcy so that Mr. Justice Clyne may be able to finish his inquiry and complete his report?
– Some delay has occurred over the inquiry, and probably it has been due in the first instance to the judge having to act in bankruptcy as well as conduct the investigation. I am informed that the inquiry was adjourned for a month at the request of counsel for the ex-internees, apparently in order to give to counsel an opportunity to prepare their addresses. The stage is now reached for the addresses to be delivered, and when they have been made I hope that the presentation of the findings of Mr. Justice Clyne will not be any further delayed.
Parliamentary Debates - Mr. L. C. Haylen, M.P
– I understand that technical arrangements have been made to enable the Acting Prime Minister to broadcast from this chamber an important official announcement in the near future. That prompts me to ask the Minister for Information whether he has any information which would suggest that the practice in New Zealand of broadcasting parliamentary debates has met with appreciation from a wide circle of listeners in that dominion, and has had the effect of raising the standard of conduct in the New Zealand Parliament? Will the Minister suggest to the PostmasterGeneral that the Broadcasting Committee should make an investigation regarding the experience gained in New Zealand in the operation of that system?
– It is a fact that arrangements have been made for the Acting Prime Minister to broadcast a message to the people of Australia immediately an announcement is made that peace has been declared in Europe. It is also true that facilities will be afforded to the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) and the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) to make statements following that of the Acting Prime Minister. The points raised by the honorable gentleman regarding the experience in New Zealand are interesting, and my information coincides with his as to the popularity of the broadcasts and the raising of the tone of debates in the New Zealand Parliament. His further suggestion that the Postoaster-General should be asked to refer the question of broadcasting debates in both Houses of this Parliament to the Broadcasting Committee for consideration and report will be taken up with the Minister at the first available opportunity.
– Will the Minister for Information consult with the Postmaster-General with a view to ascertaining the terms of the agreement between the Australian Broadcasting Commission and Mr. Leslie Haylen, who, I. believe, is identical with the honorable member for Parkes, under which that gentleman broadcasts every Sunday night over the national stations ? If there is no such agreement, can the Minister say what special qualifications distinguish this gentleman from his fellows in the same party in Sydney that he should be chosen out of them all?
– I am certain that there is no agreement between the Australian Broadcasting Commission and the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen), or between the Australian Broadcasting Commission and any other honorable member under which facilities are granted to them which are denied to other people. If the honorable member for Parkes is selected by the Australian Broadcasting Commission to make broadcasts it is because, in the independent judgment of officials of the commission, he is a distinguished Australian whose views it is desirable that the Australian people should hear. If he speaks frequently over the national stations he must undoubtedly impress, not only the listening public, but also the officials of the Australian Broadcasting Commission.
Effect on Shipping Services.
– In view of the repeated statements by the Government that foodstuffs for Great Britain, which are high priority cargoes, and equipment for the Australian fighting forces have been held up owing to shipping shortages, will the Minister for Labour and National Service advise the House, with the aid of the daily report which he says he receives, whether any marked decrease has occurred in the last fortnight in the number of ships held up through strikes and labour shortages on the Sydney waterfront ?
– Both of the holdups that have occurred on the Sydney waterfront this week are the subject of investigations by the court, and it is hoped that the disputes will be satisfactorily adjusted by Monday morning, if not to-day. As to the number of small disputes in the lists from time to time, I should have to compare them to ascertain whether any falling off has occurred. I shall have a look at them.
– In view of the recent statement by the Minister for Trade and Customs that there appeared to be. no likelihood that 50,000 new homes wouldbe built in the first year after the war, will the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction say precisely what is. the Government’s housing programme? Is there a programme which sets out. the target at which the Government is aiming, as well as the estimated cost in detail?
– I hava not seen the statement alleged to have been made by the Minister f or Trade and Customs. I think it is extremely doubtful that he made such a statement. I point out to the honorable member that, under the Constitution, the major responsibility for housing the people rests with the States. The Commonwealth Government, acting in conjunction with the State governments, has drawn up a housing programme, and I assure the honorable member that, within the limits of the manpower and resources available, a big building programme will be put into effect after the war.
Preference to Returned Soldiers
– I am credibly informed that seven inspectors are being appointed to permanent positions in the Directorates of Social Services and Man Power. Having regard to the particular social problems that will be dealt with by these inspectors, will the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction see that returned soldiers are appointed to such posts? This will be in accordance with the principle embodied in the bill which is to be brought down in connexion with his department.
– The honorable member does not vouch for the accuracy of the statement.
– I do vouch for its accuracy.
– The honorable member regards the report as credible. I point out that no permanent appointments are being made at the present time.
– Seven permanent appointments have just been made.
-In the making of appointments the Government will comply with the law as it stands. Commonwealth law in this matter is that preference must be given to returned soldiers.
– Is the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction aware that seven permanent inspectors were recently attached to the Social Service Directorate of his Department of Social Services and Man Power, not one of whom is a returned soldier? Will he see that no more permanent appointments are made unless consideration is given to returned soldiers who are qualified for appointment?
– I am not aware that the appointments have been made. The honorable member referred to social services. The Department of Social Services is controlled by the Minister for Health and Social Services, and has nothing to do with the Department of Post-war Reconstruction. However, if the honorable member will supply me with particulars of the matter to which he has referred, I shall look into it.
– For a considerable time past there has been a hold-up in the completion of the tuberculosis sanatorium for returned soldiers at Kenmore, near Indooroopilly. Recently, the Minister for Repatriation said that, by hookor by crook, the sanatorium would be opened by the 30th April. I now ask the Minister whether it has yet been opened, and how many soldiers are occupying it?
– The honorable member has misrepresented me by asserting that I promised that the sanatorium would be opened by the 30th April. I said that I had been in touch with the Works Department, and had been assured that it was hoped to finish the work by the 30th April. I have now been informed by the Works Department that a delay of about ten days had occurred. Arrangements have been made for the transfer of patients as soon as possible, but I cannot say when the new building will be opened.
– Will the Minister advise me when he knows?
– I shall do so. I have given the matter close attention, and I assure the honorable member that the delay was unavoidable.
In committee: Consideration resumed from the 3rd May (vide page 1370) :
Clause 9 agreed to.
Clause 10 (Gifts and contributions).
– I move-
That clause 10 be postponed until after the consideration of clause 11.
Clause 10, in its present form, looks very innocent, but if it is read in conjunction with the principal act it will be seen that the clause may very well nullify any benefit that might accrue from the introduction of the zoning system.
– I do not object to the postponement of the clause, hut I shall certainly insist upon it when we consider it again.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Clause 11 -
After section seventy-nine of the Principal Act the following section is inserted: - “79a. - (1.) For the purpose of granting to residents of the prescribed area an income tax concession in recognition of the disadvantages (4.) In this section -
Zone A ‘ means the area described in Part I. of the Second Schedule to this Act;…”
– I addressed myself at some length in my secondreading speech to the proposal for the introduction of a zoning system, and would not want to say anything further on the matter were it not for the extremely interesting speech of the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. Johnson) last night. I listened to his speech with interest and respect. He presented a very powerful case in relation to those whose remuneration is controlled by wages tribunals, or who are given regional allowances to compensate for remoteness and other circumstances. His arguments, so strongly and clearly put to the committee, are worthy of an answer. The position established by the clause is that zone lines are drawn on the map; and if a taxpayer lives within zone A he gets the benefit of a deduction of £40 of income, whereas another taxpayer who resides within zone B gets the benefit of a deduction of £20 of income. The zone does not merely include those persons whose wages are controlled by Arbitration Courts or industrial tribunals; every person in the area is allowed the same deduction. In other words, in order to deal with the special case of wage-earners who are given special allowances the Government has made a rule which applies to everybody, whether a wage-earner or not, or whether or not his conditions are controlled by industrial tribunals. That is my first comment - that the provision in the bill goes far beyond the case put by the honorable member for Kalgoorlie. He rested his case - very clearly and interestingly I thought - on the point that industrial tribunals commonly give regional allowances to wage-earners to compensate them for remoteness and other circumstances. If the Government were proposing to deal with that class of case and had said “ It is not right that when a man is given a regional allowance to compensate for a variety of factors, including a higher cost of living, he should ^ nd himself subjected to extra taxation because he has entered a’ higher income group and is therefore subject to a higher rate of tax.” If that were the position, I would find great force in the proposal, but I am at a complete loss to understand why such a case cannot ‘be dealt with by providing for some special deduction in arriving at the taxable income in individual cases. After all, the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) has done that in this bill in respect of living away from home allowances by providing for a special means of calculating the taxable income in those circumstances. We on this side of the chamber have not advanced any objection to dealing with such disabilities in individual cases. Our objection is that by drawing lines on a map Australia is to be zoned for the purposes of taxation, and that taxation is to be imposed on a geographical basis. There is no breach of uniformity of taxation if provision is made that a certain allowance is not to be included in income for the purpose of taxation, or that a lower sum is to be used for the purposes of arriving at the taxable income. If the case raised by the honorable member for Kalgoorlie had been dealt with in that way, it would have enabled the committee to deal with the circumstances of a man who receives regional allowance, and not with other taxpayers, but as it is now, everybody in the area - whether an employer or an employee, or whether working under an arbitration award, or in receipt of a regional allowance, or a higher remuneration, because of his remoteness - is brought into the scheme, and granted a deduction because he lives in a certain zone. In order to deal with individual cases, a. broad rule of great danger to the tax structure has been brought into operation. The honorable member for Kalgoorlie referred to the Northern Territory - a part of Australia which is within lie sole jurisdiction of the Commonwealth of Australia. This Parliament can make any law it likes in relation to the Northern Territory, as if Australia had a unitary government. It can, if it likes, draw lines across the map of the Northern Territory and establish zones, and it can give preference and do whatever it chooses to residents of those zones because, as I have said, the Northern Territory is the domain solely of the Commonwealth. It is not to the point to say that some industries in the Northern Territory have been given special concessions for the purposes of taxation. The fact still remains that for Australia as- an aggregation of States, the principle of uniformity is one to which I attach very great importance, and to which, indeed, the Constitution attaches great importance, and therefore should not lightly be set aside by this Parliament. I rose partly to say that; but primarily to indicate that, it is no answer to the case put from this side of the chamber for uniformity of taxation and against the formulation of these zones, to say, that because- in respect of a great number of individuals in Australia, some concession might, well be made by reason of their regional or other allowances for certain disabilities associated with their remoteness from the centres of population, they should be subjected to a rate of tax which is not appropriate to their true earnings.
.-Like the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies), I listened with great interest to the excellent case presented last night by the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. Johnson). I regard as a specious argument the line taken by the Leader of the Opposition, this morning, and I can hardly believe that a man of his great capacity would so misinterpret the speech of the honorable member for Kalgoorlie, as the right honorable gentleman has done . this morning.
– The honorable member for Kalgoorlie does not say that I misinterpreted his remarks.
– I am saying it; I am putting my view of the interpretation placed on that speech by the Leader of the Opposition. It is true, as the honorable member for Kalgoorlie said, that allowances are made to people in certain areas and that those allowances vary in different localities. He made that point clearly, but he also said that such variations, or the drawing of a line of demarcation between various allowances, is nothing, new in this country. The honorable member stressed, at some length and with great clarity, that these allowances provide some compensation not only to people who are employed in remote areas from time to time but also to permanent residents of those areas for the disabilities that they suffer because of higher costs of living, and the lack of amenities which are enjoyed by residents in more settled districts. That was the major point made by the honorable member for Kalgoorlie.
– I understood that to -be the case, and I said so.
– It is wrong, to say that the major reason advanced by the honorable member for Kalgoorlie- was that wages tribunals gave to workers in industries in various parts of the country higher rates of pay, and that this problem should be met on that basis. The honorable member for Kalgoorlie mentioned that, as one reason which justified the introduction of this measure,, but he also said that he regarded this legislation as necessary for the encouragement of decentralization and for the fair treatment of the residents of isolated areas. When the Leader of the. Opposition deals with the constitutional aspects . of this legislation he is on firmer ground than when claiming that the honorable member for Kalgoorlie suggested an alternative to the scheme proposed in this measure. We must give consideration, not only to the additional allowances to those persons who are. covered by awards, but also to the higher cost of living incurred by people who are now, or in the future may be, residents of remote districts.
– If any one had doubts as to the justiceof giving special consideration to people who dwell in the remote districts of Australia, those doubts would have been resolved had they heard the excellent case presented on their behalf by the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. Johnson) last night. No honorable member on this side of the House finds fault with the honorable- gentleman’s contention that special consideration should be given to these, people, and that anomalies which operate to their detriment should be removed; but, in my opinion compensation for their disabilities should not be by means of legislation relating to income tax. The rectification of anomalies should not upset the fundamental principle underlying the levying of taxes, thereby making an already complex taxation system even more complex.
Should the fundamental principle underlying our taxation system be upset administrative difficulties and confusion will follow. If we desire to compensate people living in outback areas for their isolation and the higher cost of living, we should do so by means of social legislation providing for more amenities. By introducing a zoning system and providing for differential allowances according to the zone in which a taxpayer lives, the Government will create all sorts of difficulties. I am sure that the Government will not earn the thanks of the Commissioner of Taxation who has to administer this legislation and interpret its complex and difficult provisions. Approximately £1,000,000 is involved in these special allowances. Such a sum could be better expended in providing direct community amenities for the people living in these areas, and that is much to be preferred to the very difficult method proposed under this measure. I emphasize that the proposed deduction is in respect of the quantum of tax. Nobody should be deceived by repeating that the sums of £40 and £20 are deductions from tax payable. The actual relief to be given is in respect of the tax on those amounts, having regard to the quantum of tax on which the taxpayer is to be assessed. Consequently, the greatest concession which will be given to the average taxpayer will be between £7 and £10 a year. The maximum relief under this head will not exceed £10 a year. Does any one seriously contend that such a concession will substantially relieve the disabilities suffered by people by reason of their residence in isolated areas or in uncongenial climates ? Will a relief of £10 in tax really induce people to continue residing in such areas, or attract others to settle there? The answers to those questions are selfevident. Therefore, a more practical form of relief would be to expend the sum involved in this concession in the provision of direct community amenities in these areas, such as wireless telephonic communication, pedal wireless sets, and local electricity, water, health and community services.
I turn now to some of the most glaring anomalies apparent in this provision. The zones are defined on the basis of the three factors mentioned - uncongenial climatic conditions, isolation and high cost of living. A classic anomaly is evident in the electorate of Kennedy which you, Mr. Chairman, represent. Charters Towers, for instance, will come within zone B, to which the £20 deduction will apply. You, Mr. Chairman, will not deny that Charters Towers has the best climate of any town in Queensland. Secondly, it has the lowest cost of living of any town in that State; and thirdly, no one could possibly suggest that living conditions in Charters Towers are uncongenial. Indeed, because of its ideal climate, Charters Towers has been established as the educational centre of north and north-west Queensland. Many secondary schools have been established there, and these cater for students drawn from the far north and far west. The cost of living index speaks for itself. Let us compare the disabilities suffered in this respect by a taxpayer resident in Charters Towers, who will receive a deduction of £20, with those of a taxpayer resident in Windorah which is situated on the South Australian border in the electorate of Maranoa, and in respect of which a similar deduction will apply. Rockhampton, which is situated in the electorate of Capricornia, is excluded from the concessional zones. Does a resident of Rockhampton really suffer less disability than a resident of Clermont, which is situated in the electorate represented by you, Mr. Chairman, and which is included in zone B? We have been told that the zones have been determined in the light . -of factors observed by the Arbitration Court and Industrial tribunals in their determinations. If that be so, why is Rockhampton excluded from either zone, when the Arbitration Court prescribes a central parity which applies in Rockhampton? That is a special basic wage parity for Central Queensland, based on the excess cost of living in that area, compared with the cost of living in Brisbane. In view of that fact, how can it be said that the zones have been defined on the basis of industrial court decisions with regard to wage fixation ? Those are glaring anomalies. The facts I have given are indisputable. The Government proceeds on the principle of determining tax deductions and the quantum of tax on the basis of differing costs of living in different parts of Australia, but it ignores the fact that the cost of living is different in each capital city. It is ‘well known that the cost of living in Canberra is the highest for any city in Australia, yet Canberra is excluded from the zones with Sydney, Brisbane and Melbourne. The whole proposal is impracticable. It is too slovenly a method for the adjustment of social and economic disabilities. Quite apart from the constitutional aspect, this committee should not accept so slovenly and impracticable a method of endeavouring to compensate people for the fact that they are residing in areas in which they suffer disabilities in respect of uncongenial climate, isolation and high cost of living. One could give many more anomalies. For instance, the deduction of £20 is to apply in the case of a taxpayer living at Elderslie, whereas a taxpayer living in Cooktown will be entitled to a deduction of £40. I have no doubt as to which of those towns you would prefer to live in, Mr. Chairman. The whole scheme is like a jigsaw puzzle. The Government and the administrators of this measure will soon regret the introduction of this principle in our taxation law.
– The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) said that this concession should apply only to people working under regional awards, and should exclude people living in the same areas who were not covered by awards. The fact is that in some of these areas there are many rural workers, for instance, who are not governed by industrial awards. In respect of them the court cannot make a common rule. The only people covered by a Commonwealth award are the members of the applicant unions and the people named as respondents. Consequently, there may be many people not employed in the same classes of occupation but suffering the same disabilities as persons covered by court awards which include a regional allowance; Generally, the zones have been drawn on the basis of the regional allowances made by the Arbitration Court. I can easily imagine the clamour that would follow the introduction of a proposal such as that which the Leader of the Opposition suggests would be justified.
The Leader of the Australian ‘Country party (Mr. Fadden) based most of his argument on the differing cost of living in various1 areas. This proposal is not entirely based on cost of living. Many of the allowances given by the industrial courts are prescribed in respect of climatic conditions and other factors. In some cases the court has not clearly defined the specific reason for certain allowances. However, in such cases, many factors are taken into consideration. Cost of living, for instance, does not cover some of the items I mentioned last evening. The C Series Index is compiled on the cost of approximately 160 items, but a person living in these special areas is forced to bear additional costs which are not covered by that index. I refer, for instance, to the cost of education. Many parents living in such areas are obliged to send their children out of the area for health reasons and for holidays. Such costs, in principle, are a part of the cost of living of those people, but are not covered in basic wage adjustments. I realize that many anomalies are likely to arise under this measure. I do not assume that the scheme is perfect. Possibly the most that can be- said for it is that it gives a measure of rough justice to the people whom it is designed to help. I do not imagine that the commissioner is highly elated over the proposal from an administrative, point of view. However, the boundaries of the zones were decided upon, following consultation with various State authorities and industrial tribunals generally. The boundaries are somewhat crooked, but if they were delineated by straight lines much more serious anomalies would arise. I ask the Leader of the Australian Country party not to imagine that I and the Commissioner of Taxation merely sat down one night and made a stab in the dark at these boundaries. I assure the right honorable gentleman that I did not draw them. Indeed, I had not previously heard of some of the places he mentioned.
– The Treasurer soon will hear of them.
– These boundaries have been decided upon the best advice of state industrial authorities.
– This discussion has taken an extraordinary turn. The Government, which submitted proposals for the introduction of a zoning system, has now been forced onto the defensive.
– I do not want the honorable member to believe that.
– It appears to be so, because the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) protests too much. When replying to the contentions of the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden), the Treasurer took to task the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies), whilst the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Burke) endeavoured to fasten on the right honorable gentleman a recommendation that living allowances and regional allowances should be the basis of the whole scheme. The Leader of the Opposition made no such recommendation. The honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. Johnson), having emphasized that the industrial tribunals granted living and regional allowances, the Leader of the Opposition remarked that he could understand that there might be some logic in exempting those special payments from taxation. The Treasurer has based the bill partly on that argument, but now he has shifted his ground completely. He declared that some persons did not receive regional allowances or living allowances.
– Some are not covered by any award.
– The honorable gentleman said that there may be many people in the same area, not employed in the same occupation, but suffering the same disabilities as are those who are covered by court awards which include a regional allowance. He cannot have it both ways. If he claims that these zones have been determined on the basis of decisions of industrial tribunals regarding the payment of regional allowances and living allowances, he must accept an argument along that line without shifting his ground. The honorable member for Perth (Mr. Burke) assailed the Leader of the Opposition for having had the temerity to criticize the speeches of the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. Johnson) and himself. I£ the basis of the contention of the honorable member for Kalgoorlie was the necessity for encouraging decentralization, and the Government intends to introduce this zoning system for the sole purpose of forcing decentralization, I suggest to the honorable member for Perth that the fact already adduced by the Leader of. the Australian Country party, that the zoning arrangement will mean a reduction of an assessment by only £7 to £10, indicates that the whole proposal is really not worth while. Honorable members who have visited the Northern Territory and other regions included in the proposed zones will agree with me that many facilities other than a small measure of taxation relief will he required to encourage settlement there. For example, I mention improved stock routes, the .provision of additional water supplies along those routes, water conservation schemes, railways, and the provision of amenities for the comfort of residents’ in those areas. Those factors are necessary in order to encourage people to settle in remote parts of the Commonwealth, but this bill does not deal with them. Do honorable members suggest that an allowance of £40 or £20 will encourage people to make their homes in the outback? The argument is farcical.
The Leader of the Australian Country party referred to anomalies, and proved conclusively that certain towns within a zone have advantages which towns outside it do not possess. I warn the Treasurer that many awkward problems will arise. In the Northern Territory, pastoral leases .will straddle the line drawn across the centre of Australia. One part of a holding will be in zone A, and the remainder in zone B. But income will be derived from the entire holding. Will it be possible for the settler to claim £40 in respect of the income earned from the portion of the holding that is in zone A, and £20 from the income derived from the remainder of the holding in zone B? If so, how will the Taxation Department discriminate if the taxpayer claims that his income has been derived wholly from zone A? Will it allow him the full deduction of £40? Again, two brothers, who own a holding divided by the zoning line, may decide to split their property. Will the Commissioner of Taxation allow one brother a deduction of £40 because his property is on one side of the line, and the other brother a deduction of only £20 because his property happens to be on the other side of the line?
– That is an isolated case.
– That is immaterial. This matter involves the element of fairness, because these anomalies will he presented to the Commissioner of Taxation for determination, and I desire to know how they will be treated. This proposal will destroy a basic principle of our taxation law and lead to untold trouble not only for this Government but also for the non-Labour Government, which will be elected eighteen months hence to clean up the mess that has, been made in the meantime. I do not look forward with any great pleasure to’ tackling this particular problem.
I was impressed by the second-reading speech of the Leader of the Opposition, who declared that the zoning system would tend to encourage “pressure groups “. This proposal has been incorporated in the bill as the result of pressure by caucus; I understand that the proposal was resisted by the more intelligent members of Cabinet. Perhaps the arrangement has been suggested in order to provide caucus with an excuse for yielding to the pressure which the coal-miners are exerting on the Government to grant them tax concessions. I hope that the Treasurer will answer that question, because I understand that he did not regard the scheme with enthusiasm when it was raised in caucus. Does it mean that subsequently caucus will decide that, having established the principle of zones for differential taxation purposes, it will declare the northern coal-fields a special zone?
– Order! That subject is not related to the clause.
– Surely I am permitted to anticipate the creation of additional zones?
– The honorable member must confine his remarks to the clause.
– The clause under consideration relates to the zoning arrangement. I may suggest that additional zones should be provided, and submit an amendment to that effect. Therefore, my remarks are relevant to the clause. This may be the prelude to further directions from caucus for the creation of new zones. I should like the Treasurer to inform me whether that is the intention of the Labour party?
I was impressed by the speech of the Leader of the Australian Country party regarding the proposed zones in Queensland. I have not had an opportunity, but I should like to compare it with Commonwealth electoral boundaries, because I expect that the delineation is more political than anything else. Charters Towers, which is in zone B, is regarded as the educational centre of northern Queensland, and enjoys a wonderful climate. Strangely enough, it is in the electorate of Kennedy, represented by the Chairman of Committees. When we make a discovery like that, we are justified in drawing certain inferences.
As I stated, the zoning proposal will destroy the whole principle of fairness in our taxation law. The proposed concession will mean nothing to the individual, and will not induce people to settle in remote areas of the Commonwealth. The contention that it will encourage decentralization is absolute poppycock. Looking further afield, I conclude that these is something sinister in this proposal, because the line which has been drawn through Queensland, at any rate, follows closely the boundaries of electorates represented by members of the Labour party.
.- I regret that the Government was not able to include the electorate of Wentworth in zone A in order to satisfy the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Harrison). Having heard’ the remarks of honorable gentlemen opposite, I am led to wonder whether they have at last recognized the virtue of the policy of preference to unionists. The tenor of their speeches was that, on the argument adduced by the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. Johnson) that persons who work under industrial award’s and receive a higher basic wage or a substantial living allowance in isolated areas, should receive special consideration from the Commissioner of Taxation, other persons who reside in the same districts but are not subject to awards, should not share in the benefits of this taxation concession.
The purpose of the zoning arrangement is to deal justly, as far as possible, with all taxpayers. If people are prepared to make their homes in remote areas for the benefit of the Commonwealth as a whole, and suffer extremes of climate, a very high cost of living and many inconveniences compared with other persons who reside in more favoured localities, some concessions should be granted to them. The Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) suggested that the concession should be made through the medium of social services, and that point may be considered at the appropriate time. Meanwhile, this Parliament is entitled to give a measure of justice to large numbers of people who have suffered an injustice under Commonwealth taxation law. The zoning system will do that.
The lines (which have been drawn across the map, may suggest that the residents of certain towns will be treated a little better than they are entitled to be, whilst others will not be treated so well as they should be. But those lines have been determined on the advice of Commonwealth and State industrial tribunals. For many years, special allowances have been paid to people living in isolated localities, or where the cost of living is considerably higher than the average. There are, I believe, as many as eight scales of Commonwealth allowances, embracing different portions of the continent, which for more than 30 years have been paid to Commonwealth public servants. It is not reasonable or just that the Parliament should provide in its taxation laws for the taxing of an allowance of, say, £1 a week received by persons who are living in certain localities, and, in addition, the imposition of a higher rate on the re mainder of their income. That would be a contradiction. The Parliament, having acknowledged the justice of these allowances, and the need for them, it must also recognize the justice of a tax concession to the recipients of them and to other taxpayers who live in the same locality.
– I do not intend to recapitulate the arguments that have been used from this side of the chamber. I agree with all of them. Of the taxation proposals that have been brought down over a very long time, this seems to be one of the most difficult to defend. To add point to the remarks of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Harrison), I- have to appear to-day in a somewhat unfortunate and, I beg the committee to believe, perfectly new role - as the forerunner of the first of the pressure groups. I am not sure that I can claim, even that honour, because I believe that the honorable member for Denison (Dr. Gaha) forestalled me last night during the second-reading debate. The explanatory notes circulated by the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) contain this statement -
It has long been recognized that people living in the remote areas of Australia suffer the disabilities of isolation, high costs of living and uncongenial climatic conditions.
Every one knows that in many respects the greater part of Tasmania is very favoured indeed. But there are sections of that .State, to live in which I, at least, would require a bonus. There is a part of my electorate which is commonly known as the west coast. When I began to consider this measure, this thought immediately struck me: “If there is any place in Australia with uncongenial climatic conditions, it is the west coast of Tasmania “. In order to give point to the contention that it is almost impossible to determine where a line should be drawn, even under this proposed system, I have had a map produced. I endeavoured to discover lines which would exactly confine the west coast. The best that I can do is to give the names of certain sub-divisions of my electorate. This area, I know, excludes certain parts which have crations just as uncongenial as those of the area included; but were I to include another subdivision I should bring in areas which I know perfectly well are among the most favoured in the whole of the Commonwealth. If there is any argument at all for a tax concession on the ground of uncongenial climatic conditions, then this area must be embraced by it. On the periodical visits that I make to various parts of my electorate, I find myself compelled to have a complete outfit specially prepared for this portion. I have very stout shoes and coat; and I carry a huge golf umbrella in the McGregor tartan so that, should I sink below the snows or into the density of, the horizontal scrub which marks that area, at least I shall be discoverable by that means. During the last election campaign, I waded through snow up to my knees, and one pair of shoes was entirely destroyed within three days by the walking that I did. Time after time, I have urged that a special rationing concession be given to the people of this district, on account of the wear and tear on their shoes, but so far I have not been able to achieve anything. I give notice that later I shall move an. amendment to include within the scope of this tax concession the areas covered by the subdivisions of Waratah, Zeehan, Gormanston, Queenstown and Strahan. That would at least do justice to some of my electors. I do not quite know what explanation I shall make to the others for the differentiation between one part and another of my electorate. I am forgiven when I urge that the residents of the west coast should be enabled to purchase more shoes, because it is perfectly obvious that they are needed; but when it comes to an alteration of the tax laws of the country to cover a similar situation, I am afraid that I shall have very little with which to justify myself to the rest ofl my electorate. If it is of any interest to honorable members, I point out that in the area which I have denned the percentage which I receive of the total number of votes is so small as to be almost unrecognizable. Nevertheless, if this principle is to be accepted, then these people have as great a right as have any others in the Commonwealth +o consideration under its operation. 1 should consider that I was living under intolerable climatic con- ditions if I were anywhere north of the Brisbane line. But these people, whether or not they like the life, live there, and put up a very stout performance in bringing wealth to the whole of the Commonwealth.. In passing, I inform the committee that the west coast is completely a mining area, and there has not been one strike in it throughout the war years, and only two strikes in 50 years. These people deserve consideration on many grounds. I cannot for the life of me understand why a Labour Government, with representatives from Tasmania in its ranks, could have overlooked such an area when considering this proposal. I shall move to have it included, and shall bear with what courage I can the accusation that I am among the first of the pressure groups.
.- The honorable member for Darwin (Dame Enid Lyons), in stressing the difficulties of administering this provision, has presented an unanswerable case. The provision will prove unworkable. It is unfair, and will bring considerable trouble to the Treasurer and his officers. The whole of Victoria is excluded from the two zones. Yet no one will deny that those who live in the Mallee district suffer in a pre-eminent degree all the disabilities and hardships that are caused to men on the land by drought conditions, soil erosion and other handicaps. Complaints have been voiced in this chamber of pictures of such districts having been published abroad, so giving an unfavorable impression of Australia. Despite the multitudinous difficulties and disabilities which they suffer, they are completely excluded from the scheme. I refer, not to their representation but purely to the disabilities for which Nature is responsible. We have learned from the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) of a certain town in one of the zones which, because of its cultural, climatic, and other amenities is almost another Eden. It is in the electorate of the honorable member for Kennedy (Mr. Riordan). Townsville, Charters Towers and the surrounding districts are included in B zone, yet the Mallee district in Victoria, which is so fertile when Nature is beneficent, and so ruthless when drought exists, is completely excluded. I move -
That, in sub-clause (4), after the word “ Act “, first occurring, the following words bo inserted: - “together with the Electoral District of Wimmera “.
The Mallee is worthy of this consideration.
– It should be returned to the aborigines, from whom it was taken.
– The honorable member would not say that in the Mallee. Reference to aborigines reminds me of the statement of the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden), that the proposed boundaries would provide (permanent work for blacktrackers. They appear to have been drawn in the dark by the author of this ill-advised and ill-founded proposal. There are other means for benefiting those whom the Government desires to assist by this tax concession. If the Treasurer will not agree to negative the clause, I shall press my amendment.
– Before the speech of the honorable member for Darwin (Dame Enid Lyons), I had thought that Tasmania was the most happily endowed State of the Commonwealth. On a couple of visits to it, I was taken to the west coast, which was represented to me as an ideal place for a holiday. But representations in favour of a tax concession in this area have been made to me by Government supporters as well as by the honorable member for Darwin. I do not entirely reject the suggestion, although I have been greatly surprised to hear of the existence of the highly uncongenial conditions mentioned. The most that I can promise to the honorable member for Darwin - I have already made the promise to certain honorable senators and to other members - is to have the representations examined by a conference, presided over by the right honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin) and attended by the Commissioner of Taxation, before the bill goes to the Senate, probably not later than next Monday. Those who are interested may place their arguments before that conference if they so desire.
– I have made a very careful study of the map on which the zones have been drawn. It appears to me that zone B has a most peculiar shape - one similar to that of a “seahorse” which one finds on some of our beaches, but minus the logs, the head being formed by the electorate of the honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Martens). The boundaries between zone B and the electorate of Capricornia are the boundaries of the electorate of Herbert; there is no doubt about that. The anomalies which one discovers are amazing. Broken Hill is ir zone B, and the residents of that town will be entitled to the proposed deduction of £20. But Iron Knob is just outside zone B, and the residents of it will not be entitled to the deduction. Yet the residents of Iron Baron, about 20 miles from Iron Knob, will enjoy the concession. Some of the best housing conditions I have ever seen are at the Zinc Corporation’s works at Broken Hill. They set an example to any industrial organization in Australia, yet they are situated within zone B.
I now turn to South Australia. I do not know why the Treasurer thinks he can justify leaving the portion of Wakefield which lies north of the Murray River out of zone B. An arbitrary line has been drawn across the map of South Australia in a manner which shows a lack of common sense. Men living south of a certain line, drawn apparently at random, would get no concession under the scheme, but people living north of that line will benefit. Take the electorate of Grey. Ceduna people will receive no concession, but if we go on farther to Penong we find that the residents there will be entitled to a £20 concession. The proposal is utterly ridiculous and unjust.
– People a t Penong are at a great disadvantage compared with those at Ceduna.
– Penong is only a little farther along the line. Kimba people would get no concession at all, but north of that residents would receive a £20 concession. Of all the settlers in the west coast portion of South Australia, the people living in the Kimba district have had the roughest spin. The Treasurer cannot justify the exclusion of Kimba and the inclusion of the country immediately north of it.
When I consider the implications of this scheme, I begin to entertain a certain degree of suspicion. As soon as the map was made available, I called the attention of the honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. McDonald) to it. That honorable member speaks very seldom in this chamber, but he is an astute and deep thinker. The discovery I made was that the people in eight federal electorates would be benefited by the zone scheme, and the only honorable member on this side of the House who is interested in it from that aspect is the honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. Adermann). All of the other divisions that would be favorably affected happen to be represented by members of the Labour party. The map shows that the electorate of Kennedy is almost entirely in zone A or zone B, but for some strange reason Capricornia has been cut out. A little patch of Maranoa is included. Then we cross the border into New South Wales, and for some reason or other there is a sudden strike eastwards to take in a portion of the electorate of Gwydir. We arrive at the most amazing anomaly that a place called Angledool, and also Collarenabri and Walgett are included in zone B, whilst just across the river, where the living conditions are similar, the people would have to pay the full amount of tax. A huge area of the electorate of Darling is included as well as the division of Grey and practically the whole of the division of Kalgoorlie.
Apart from those electorates only the Northern Territory is included in the zones. I can see no logical reason for dividing the Northern Territory into two areas for the purpose of the proposed allowances. In the portion of the territory lying south of Alice Springs, which is in zone B, the people experience some of the hardest living conditions. I refer to settlers along the Todd, Finke and Palmer Rivers, in the Peterman Ranges and out towards the Queensland border. The railway employees quartered south of Alice Springs have worse living conditions than those who reside between Darwin and Birdum, yet people living between Darwin and Alice Springs will be entitled under this proposal to the £40 exemption, whilst those living south of Alice Springs will receive only £20. If the Parliament decided to implement the scheme, at least a measure of justice should be done to the people in the southern portion of the Northern Territory by including the whole of that area within zone A. No constitutional barrier would prevent this action. This Parliament can do what it likes in respect of its own territory.
I regard the zoning system as bad, awkward and inexplicable. Every encouragement should be given to men and women, and particularly women, who live in the outback country, but it could be done by a better method than that chosen, which bears the imprint of haste, amateurism and inexperience. The proposal ought to be withdrawn and reconsidered by those who have had experience in these matters, and would not be guided by the lights which appear to have been the guiding stars of those who produced this extraordinary scheme.
.- It would be hard to imagine more cockeyed taxation proposals than those now before the House. I support the criticism offered by members of the Opposition. The Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) must have been influenced and impressed by the wide range of anomalies that have already been referred to in the short life of this measure. The remarks of the Treasurer last night indicate that he personally is far from convinced of the wisdom of the zoning proposal.
– No, I accept responsibility for it.
– He said last night that the Labour caucus had been very generous with regard to all of his proposals, and the inference which the Opposition drew was that he himself was prepared to take something from the caucus occasionally, even if he were not convinced of the wisdom of the proposal. I think the Government realizes that it has introduced a dangerous provision. I shall not repeat everything I said on this matter on the second reading of the bill, but I again impress upon the Treasurer that, from my point of view, this scheme constitutes a far more serious departure from past practice than has been indicated by some of the reasons already advanced against it. This is the first departure since the passage of the legislation by which the uniform system of taxation was inaugurated. In 1941 this Parliament passed the Income Tax (War-time Arrangements) Act, which introduced the present system of uniform taxation. Nobody at that time tried to suggest that that legislation was based on justice. It was soaked in expediency and it reeked of injustice, but the expedient was one which under the circumstances of war might be regarded as justifiable. It was an attempt to marshal the revenue available in the Commonwealth for war purposes, but the name of the measure indicated its wartime character. Those States which felt the impact of it most harshly had reason to hope that at the earliest opportunity it might be redressed.
I gave some statistics last night to illustrate how unfairly the legislation, is operating at present. I understand that the figures are the latest available. They do not include the central office calculations, but I believe that they produce a true picture of what is happening, and should indicate to the Treasurer the disabilities which some States are now experiencing. I have taken, the position in Queensland and Victoria - Queensland because it features prominently in the zoning allowance system, and Victoria because it suffers the worst effects of the war-time legislation. In 1942-43 Queensland paid income tax to the amount of £12,000,000 and received back £5,000,000. Victoria paid £34,000,000 .and got in return £5,000,000. In 1943-44, Queensland paid £21,000,000 and collected £6,000,000, whilst Victoria contributed £44,000,000 and received back £6,000,000. It is interesting in passing to note the great increase of the collections from Queensland, indicating the benefit which that State received from war expenditure in the years which I have reviewed. I think that the Government, under pressure of caucus, has adopted a dangerous proposal, because it opens up again the subject of uniform taxation legislation. Victorians are not going to accept this proposal quietly, if they find that the disability which was forced upon them is to continue, and also that those who have already received disproportionate benefits are now to be given .even moise. Therefore, on that ground, if on no other., the Government should withdraw this proposal, and leave the provision as it stands until a comprehensive review is possible.
– I oppose this clause because the Government’s proposal will not afford anything like adequate relief to those who are entitled to it. For instance, under the Government’s zoning plan, an isolated place like Ivanhoe, in New South Wales, is to be placed in the same zone as Sydney, and Broken Hill is in the same zone as Alice Springs and Carnarvon. Another anomaly is that Clermont and Jericho, in Queensland, are in the same category as Melbourne. When we consider anomalies of this kind it is evident that the Government’8 proposals must fail of their purpose. If we are to depart from the principle of uniform taxation, we should revert to the system of tax remissions. In some places, the boundary line between one zone and another resembles the teeth of a saw. A person living near the boundary line would probably have to spend more than his £20 concession is worth in order to discover what zone he was in. Even then, in spite of his best efforts, he might finish up by rendering himself liable to a fine of £100. I am sure that the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) would object to being dragged out to some saddlebacked ridge in a remote area in order to decide whether a settler’s home was in zone A or B. As a matter of fact, only a surveyor will, in many instances, be able to decide the point. The Government’s zoning proposal may have been well meant, but in its present form it is impracticable.
– Since my electorate seems to be the only favoured one represented by a member of the Opposition, I feel it necessary to say that, in my opinion, the Government’s zoning proposal is not the proper way in which to assist outback settlers. More good would be achieved by providing the amenities necessary, such as telephone and mail services where they are now lacking. In some areas, the settlers cannot even get an effective broadcasting service. Moreover, because of the shortage of tyres and petrol, settlers in remote areas are prisoners on their own properties. There may be a weekly mail service, but if the settler avails himself of the mail car to travel to town, he has to wait there a week before he can return home. It would be better to spend one or two million pounds on providing amenities for those in the outback than to grant minor tax concessions of the kind here proposed. The honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) described the figure outlined by the zoning lines on this map asthat of a horse. I wonder why the swelling, which appears on the shoulder of the horse, should extend northward to Mungindi until it comes to the boundary of the Maranoa electorate, when it goes straight west for 100 miles. No one can seriously suggest that there is any difference in living conditions as between one part and another of the whole of that drought-stricken country. I cannot see why the line did not go straight north from Mungindi, or why, indeed, the swelling was not left out altogether. The map looks as if the person who drew the lines has been on the spree, and could not keep his hand steady. As for the value of the concession which it is proposed to give, the people living in the remote parts of Maranoa suffer disabilities much greater in extent than can be compensated for by what the Government is offering. They deserve better of Australia than this, and improved amenities should be provided for them.
Question put -
That the clause be agreed to.
The committee divided. (The Chairman - Mr. Riordan.)
Majority . . 18
Postponed clause 10 (Gifts and contributions).
– At an earlier stage I asked that the consideration of this clause should be postponed until after clause 11 had been dealt with. Having regard to the decision of the committee in respect of clause 11 and the reasons for the innovation for which it provides, I consider that clause 10 should be left out. If there is any equity in the allowances to be made under the zoning system, taxpayers should be allowed to carry forward any losses which they sustain. If, for the reason explained by proposed new section 79a, the taxable capacity of a taxpayer in the backblocks is less than that of a taxpayer more fortunately situated by either £40 or £20, according to the zone in which he lives, why should not the concessions be cumulative? The reason for the deduction is that it is desired to remove hardship and give special consideration to people who are subjected to adverse conditions. On the one hand!, consideration is given to the, taxpayer because of that hardship; on the other hand, the benefit that the taxpayer derives is diminished by the disallowance of deductions in respect of losses. Common justice demand’s that the losses should be cumulative, and should be carried forward. The clause should be disallowed.
– It is important to remember that this is only a concessional allowance, and that it is not usual to carry such allowances forward into another year.
– I know that; but this is a peculiar allowance.
– The practice of not carrying concessional allowances forward was adopted in 1936. I appreciate the point raised by the right honorable gentleman, but I cannot agree that losses shall be carried forward.
Clause agreed to
Clauses 12 and 13 agreed to.
Clause 14 -
Section one hundred and sixty of the Principal Act is amended -
by omitting from paragraph (<i) of subsection (2.) all the words commencing with the words “any legally qualified medical practitioner “ and ending with the word “ resident “ and inserting in their stead the following subparagraphs : -
.- This clause deals with concessions, which usually give rise to considerable discussion, and therefore I desire to say something of the general principles underlying concessions. During the secondreading debate, and also when the last budget was being discussed, additional concessions in respect of dependent children were advocated by many honorable members. There is no doubt that any suggestion of concessions for dependent children will always meet with a ready response because there is a strong desire on the part of many members of the community to encourage’ large families, in the ‘ belief that a natural increase of the population is the best basis for its development. I point out, however, that there are good ways of giving that encouragement, and also ways that are not so good. I shall give a few facts which may help the committee, but before doing so, I point out that a concession was granted at an earlier stage of this bill which, in my opinion, could have been done in no other way. I refer to the concession granted by clause 4, which sets out to remove an anomaly, namely, that with a general exemption of £.104 many people who had a dependant we re forced to pay some taxes out of an income as low as £3 a week. For example, a widow with a dependent child could be taxed, even though her income was only £3 a week. A retired man with a wife was in the same position, whereas a couple in receipt of the old-age pension could have their pension plus other income, which would bring the total to £3 19s. a week, without having to make any payment by way of tax. Honorable members may wonder that this concession represents only about £150,000. The explanation is that only about 6 per cent, of taxpayers have dependants in respect of whom the concession applies.
On the general question of increased concessions for children, I point out that any increase of such concessions would afford no relief whatever to persons who at present have nontaxable incomes, because there can be no reduction of taxes in respect of people who are not taxable. Therefore, persons with large families and small incomes would gain no benefit at all from an increase of the concession in respect of children. For example, a taxpayer with one child would receive no benefit at all from an increased concession in respect of children if his income did not exceed £175 a year. Similarly, a taxpayer with two children would receive no benefit if his income was less than £211 a year. For three, four, five and six children, there would be no relief unless the respective incomes exceeded £257, £277, £297 and. £325 per annum. It will thus be seen that a taxpayer with six children would obtain no relief at all -from any tax concession in respect of children unless he had an income exceeding £6 a week. Obviously, therefore, if we seek to reward those with large families, we cannot do so effectively or equitably by granting tax concessions. The larger the family and the smaller the income, the less chance there is of any relief. As we have seen, a man with £6 a week or less who has six children would get no relief from increased tax concessions, whereas a man with £40 a week would benefit by about £2 a week for his five endowed children. A concession of a rebate on £75 is already granted in respect of the first child. It has been suggested that the concession in respect of the first child should also be given in respect of all other children. Honorable members know that the concession in respect of other children is not so great as it is in respect of the first child because when child endowment was first brought in, all children except the first child were cut out of any tax concession, and were only brought in when State taxation was added to the federal tax under the uniform system of taxation. If the suggestion which has been made again and again, namely, that concessions in respect of all children should be raised from £30 to £75, were agreed to, about £5,000,000 would be involved. The question therefore arises whether we can do something better with that £5,000,000.
– We could increase child endowment.
– That would be an infinitely better way ; and that method will be embodied in proposals which will come before us at a later stage this session. For approximately £5,000,000 a year, child endowment could be increased from 5s. to 7s. 6d. a week. That increase of 2s. 6d. a week would apply to every dependent child without any discrimination or means test, and regardless of whether the parents were rich or poor, taxable or non-taxable. It has also been suggested that we should increase the concessions and also the child endowment. If that were done, it would mean the expenditure of another £5,000,000, and again that money could be better expended by further increasing child endowment. I rose to stress that child endowment is the most equitable way to grant concessions in respect of children. I know that persons with big incomes prefer tax concessions. For instance, a man with an income of £3,000 would enjoy both direct child endowment of 5s. a week and indirect child endowment under taxation concessions, amounting to about 17s. a week for each child, whereas a man on a low income would get a much smaller benefit, and many would get no benefit at all. In the case of a man with an income of £1,000 a year, the increase would mean a benefit of about 8s. a week in respect of each child. Already we have gone a long way in the matter of granting concessions, but it is not the most equitable way to grant relief. The direct way is a better way. There are two ways to assist those with children ; we can assist them directly by child endowment or we can assist them indirectly by means of taxation concessions. Honorable members may be interested to know the effect of the various concessions on Consolidated Revenue. For instance, tax concessions for a spouse or female relative costs £20,000,000 a year, and concessions for the first child under sixteen years of age represent £10,000,000 a year.
– What is the rate of concession ?
– It is the rate applicable to the income of the individual concerned. As the rebate in respect of a spouse is on the basis of £100, it will be seen that the bigger the income and therefore the higher the rate of tax, the greater the concession. It may be argued that the person with the biggest income pays the greatest amount in taxes. That is true, but - -
– Evidently the right honorable gentleman believes that adjustments should not be made by means of tax concessions.
– That is so. I prefer the direct method of endowment.
– That was my argument in respect of zoning.
– The right honorable gentleman’s arguments contradicted some of his earlier arguments in favour of concessions in respect of dependants. I oppose the granting of tax concessions for such purposes unless there is no other way out ; but we have a very clear and definite way of helping parents to rear their children and we should adopt that course, namely, by liberalizing the rate of child endowment. Reverting to the figures I was about to give, the present cost to the Commonwealth in respect of the various tax concessions now allowed is as follows : - Spouse or female relative, £20,000,000, the first child under sixteen £10,000,000, other children under sixteen years £3,000,000, other dependants, including mother, invalid children over sixteen, and children between the ages of sixteen and eighteen years receiving full-time education £1,000,000. Those concessions total £34,000,000 a year. We hear a lot about the cost of social services, whilst very little is said about this social service because most of these tax concessions benefit those who are pretty well off and are of little or no benefit to those on lower incomes. Concessions in respect of medical expenses, including such items as funeral expenses, dental expenses, and artificial limbs and eyes, &c., total £2,000,000, annually. Other concessions are: Life assurance £4,000,000, rates and taxes £750,000, and gifts £500,000. Thus, the Treasury makes a gift of £500,000 a year to charities without receiving any advertisement at all. All of these concessions total £41,250,000 annually, and they show how far we have gone in granting tax concessions. I wish to place these figures on record, because I believe that in future discussions on taxation we should hear no more about increasing concessions. Such relief benefits the well to do, but is of very little benefit to people on lower incomes, and affords no encouragement to those in greatest need and most deserving of it. In the outback where the incomes of most people are not large, we find that the larger families get mighty little out of tax concessions, whereas all, whether they be rich or poor, receive a direct benefit from child endowment. Therefore, I commend to the committee the method of child endowment for the assistance of those with children, and I hope that legislation for that purpose will be brought before us very soon.
.- I move -
That, after paragraph (d), the following paragraph be inserted: - ” (da) by omitting from paragraph (bb) the word ‘ eighteen ‘ ( wherever occurring) and inserting in its stead the word ‘twenty-one’;”.
The object of this amendment is to extend the concession in respect of university education to students up to 21 years of age. This concession was introduced last year, but I doubt whether it has proved of very much worth in actual practice because in the main students enter upon their university studies at the age of eighteen years.
– The concession is of some benefit, surely, in respect of scholars up to the age of eighteen years, so far as secondary school education is concerned.
– That is so, but I am dealing specifically with university education. No one will contend that education in the Commonwealth to-day is all that can be desired. In fact, all of us agree that it should be extended. There is a general desire that the Commonwealth should’ assist the States in this field. The States have starved education for many years. The Commonwealth can help by assisting in the provision of scholarships of all kinds, and by endowing educational institutions. If this concession originally was a gesture in that direction on the part of the Commonwealth, I submit that it will be made really effective if extended to students up to the age of 21 years. The Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) replied on this matter last night to the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison), but I believe that he has not realized that the concession is ineffective so long as it is restricted to students up to the age of eighteen years.
– What I said was that special assistance was given in respect of students whose parents could not afford to pay for their university education.
– That is so. At present, special assistance is given to students whose parents are in indigent circumstances. Surely, however, the Treasurer will admit that the greater the number of our young people who are given a university education, the better it will be for the nation. Here is an opportunity for the Government to give effective assistance in this direction. I should like to know what this concession has cost up to date. I doubt whether the expenditure has been substantial.
– As the concession has been in operation for only a few months I cannot say how much has been expended in this direction.
– Additional assistance, even to the extent of a few pounds, may prove of great help to parents in the circumstances I have mentioned, and enable them to further the studies of boys and girls worthy of higher education. I have no doubt that we shall be amply recompensed for the expenditure involved in extending the concession as I suggest.
. -I move -
That, in paragraph (e), the words “and ending with the word ‘resident’” be left out with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words “ to the end of the paragraph “.
The object of my amendment is to remove the proposed limitation of £100 in respect of medical and. other kindred expenses.First, however, I should like to reply to what has been saidby the right honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin), who is always listened to very carefully in this chamber. I have yet to be convinced that he has painted a very realistic picture to-day of what is happening to the higher income groups. I have had occasion to refer to this matter before, and it was borne in upon me very much this afternoon when I heard the right honorable gentleman talking about the generous concessions which the Government was making to higher income earners. He enumerated concessions which he said cost over £41,000,000 annually. Let me remind the right honorable gentleman of his statement on the Income Tax Assessment Bill last year when he said that everybody was being bled by excessive taxation. Now, however, we are told that whatever blood is left, it is left to the taxpayer as a concession, although it is barely sufficient to keep him alive. The right honorable gentleman cited taxes paid in respect of higher incomes, and spoke about substantial benefits which people on higher incomes gained from tax concessions as a result of child endowment legislation when such concessions are compared with those received by taxpayers in the lower income groups. I put this to the right honorable gentleman, and also the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley), because I have not yet seen any recognition on the part of the Government, that not one out of ten taxpayers, who return an income of £3,000, actually has at his disposal any such income; If we look at the taxpayers in that bracket, we will find that, in the main, they are either running businesses, or are interested in some property or a commercial enterprise. It is true that when they put in their annual return, they show on paper that a profit of some thousands of pounds has been made, but when we ask these people what income they actually drew, we find, in many instances, that they drew barely enough to keep themselves going, and left the surplus in the business or property for essential maintenance expenditure.
– And by so doing they are building up their assets. That is how people become millionaires.
– Certainly, they build up their assets, but when they die, the Government takes a very substantial slice of those assets in probate and estate duties. In respect of some brackets of incomes, the Australian taxpayer is paying the highest probate and estate duties in the world. It is true that they build up their assets, but what the Treasurer should consider is what these taxpayers can actually afford to pay without damaging income-producing assets which help to provide employment, and help the country generally to progress. I revert briefly to what I said last night, that we cannot hope to maintain the present high rates of tax on higher incomes, and, at the same time, retain for the development of the country, the business, enterprises and landed properties from which the Commonwealth now derives so much of its revenue. Therefore when the right honorable member for Yarra conveys the impression that higher income earners are living in the lap of luxury, while those on lower incomes are having a terrible struggle, his argument is unconvincing. There are many homes in Australia to-day where there is a taxpayer and his wife and several children who have reached the age of eighteen years, or upwards in which the latter themselves earn from £3 up to £7 a week, and it is not infrequent to find that the income of all of the members of the family is very high in the aggregate, and gives to the members of the family far more actual spending money than is available to a taxpayer who has an income of £1,000 or more, but has no other income earners in his home. I mention that fact because we must take a more realistic view of what is actually happening to-day. We are told that arrears of tax now amount to £20,000,000. It will not be suggested that that tax has been imposed on taxpayers on the lower ranges of income because they now pay their tax by weekly instalments. To-day, those arrears are owed by people who are conducting businesses or country properties; and the Government knows that to apply the pressure which would be necessary to collect those arrears might very well destroy for all time assets which are bringing in regular revenue to the Treasury, producing goods and providing employment.
I turn from that matter to the amendment which I have moved.
Mr.Chifley. - The Government has extended that benefit to each particular family.
– I regard what has been done as a move in the right direction. I do not expect the Treasurer to accept the amendment on this occasion, because he might desire to obtain an estimate of the charge on Consolidated Revenue. Before legislation amending the Income Tax Assessment Act again comes before the Parliament, the honorable gentleman should endeavour to obtain that estimate, and see whether the revenue can bear the cost. The amount would not be very large. This is one case in which a limit is not warranted. In fact, the limit creates hardship for the people who are least in a position to bear it. The only limit which should he placed on claims for medical expenses, dental expenses and for an attendant for a blind or disabled person should be the obligation to furnish adequate proof that the money had been expended for the prescribed purpose. This limitation is hitting the middleclass taxpayer more heavily than any other group. A person in the lower income bracket is able to obtain through our hospital system public assistance of a very useful kind, and the rare illness involving a major operation and long hospital treatment, which hits wealthy members of the community, can be borne by them by realizing some of their assets. But those in the middle income groups in this community are people who derive their incomes from personal exertion, and who are not able, over the years, to build up any substantial savings to enable them to meet the catastrophe that strikes a family from time to time when one of its members must undergo a serious operation and long hospital treatment. In this case, the sufferer has the difficulty of meeting heavy doctors’ and hospital bills, and the more costly the illness the longer is the period that the invalid is away from income-producing work. Therefore, I see no good reason for any objection to the removal of this limitation. Ifthe taxpayer can definitely establish that the expenditure has been incurred., he should get the full benefit of tax remissions. A person with a lesser illness - one in which the costs do not amount to £100 - is able to get the full benefit of the concession. A person with a more severe illness, involving an operation and hospital attention, may incur expenses totalling £200 or £300. This matter is not like the limit placed on claims for concessions in respect of the payment of life assurance premiums, because such claims are limited to £100 per annum, and the premiums provide a benefit for the taxpayer’s future. Medical and hospital expenses are unavoidably incurred, for which no reasonable redress is provided at present. I ask the Treasurer to obtain an estimate of the charge on Consolidated Revenue, so that when amending legislation is introduced, he may feel disposed to accept an amendment on the lines I have indicated.
– I desire to combat some of the arguments put forward by the right honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin). Presenting his facts in his customary excellent way, the right honorable gentleman pointed out that the higher ranges of income derived a definite advantage regarding social services at the expense of Consolidated Revenue. He declared that the allowances in respect of gifts alone were worth approximately £500,000, and that was the unadvertised and. unspectacular contribution made by the Treasury. The right honorable gentleman said also that a man in receipt of an income of £300 a year, with six children, derived no advantage, whereas a man in receipt of £3,000 a year received a concession equivalent to 17s. weekly for each child. I remind the committee that the taxpayers constitute the reservoir from which the Treasury obtains funds to dispense by way of gifts and concessions in respect of children and for social services. The taxpaying community consists of those who contribute to Commonwealth revenues, and the amount of £500,000 to which the right honorable member for Yarra referred was provided by the taxpayers. Indeed, a considerable portion of it would be contributed by persons in the higher ranges of income. For example, a man with a wife and child, who derives an income of £500 a year from personal exertion, pays tax amounting to £81 16s., but a man with income of £3,000 a year and a wife and child pays tax of £1,658. “Whilst the ratio of income is 1:6, the ratio of tax is 1 : 20. The point which I desire to make is that the allowances which are granted, whether they be concessions or rebates, are provided for in the method and grade of tax. The example which I cited demonstrates that fact. Indeed, a taxpayer who is granted concessions well and truly contributes to the cost of them. Again, a person with an income of £250 a year, and no dependants, pays tax amounting to £36 14s., and a man with an income of £1,000 a year, and no dependants, pays tax of £355 a year. Although I he ratio of income is 1:4, the ratio of tax is 1:9. The contention that the Treasury is making a contribution of £500.000 by way of gifts or any other means is specious advocacy. It would be just a.” logical to argue that the Treasury con tri hi , tea so much by way of depreciation allowance, repairs and allowable deductions. The fact that these deductions are allowed, is obviously taken into consideration when the scale of taxation is being arranged.
– I support the amendment submitted by the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt). Many taxpayers are unable to understand the logic of this matter. When a taxpayer incurs medical expenses of less than £100, he is able to claim the full amount as a concession. The period during which he is ill is short, and he is soon able to return to income-producing work. But the taxpayer who has a major illness and whose medical expenses total £400, is not allowed to claim the full amount as a concession, and he may not be able to return to his employment for a long period. Consequently, he is prejudiced because his illness debars him from earning income, and because he is not able to claim the full amount of his medical and hospital expenses as a deduction for taxation purposes. The whole basis is wrong. A person should not be prejudiced because he has a major illness and is unable to earn income for a considerable period. It appears to me that this concession has been so devised as to give the smallest possible benefit to taxpayers. It is only a gesture on the part of the Government to indicate that it is making a small attempt to relieve the taxpayer of some of the hardships resulting from his illness. In my opinion no maximum should be fixed.
– When did the honorable member make that discovery?
– If the Minister assisting the Treasurer (Mr. Lazzarini) will study my speeches in Hansard instead of writing treatises on banking, he will discover that I have consistently advocated that policy.
These proposed new provisions also enable the taxpayer to claim a concession in respect of his children attending a university.
– Does not the honorable member agree with that?
– I agree with the principle, but I contend that the concession is not adequate. The concession ceases when the dependant attains the age of eighteen years, and the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) knows that medical students, for example, .still attend a university at the age of 23 or 24 years. Again, this is the smallest possible concession. A young man who does not seek a university education, usually finds employment before he attains the age of eighteen years, and earns £4 or £6 a week before he is 21. He relieves his parents of the responsibility of his welfare. Some parents desire to send their children to a university, and their spirit ultimately benefits the Commonwealth, because our standard of education is raised. Often, parents have to economize heavily in order to give their children a university education. Therefore, the Government should not penalize them, but should give them every possible encouragement.
.- I cannot allow the remarks of the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) to pass without some comment. The honorable gentleman almost had tears in his eyes and he certainly had a tremor in his voice, when he spoke about concessions in relation to medical expenses. Governments supported by the honorable gentleman occupied the treasury bench for a long period prior to the war but they did very little on this particular matter.
– Taxes are much higher now than they were then.
– That is true, but there is a war on. In any case, the principle remains unchanged whether taxes be high or reasonably low. The honorable member said that he had always been favorable to an enlargement of these concessions. He could not have been very vocal, or he must have lacked persuasive powers, when he was a member of a previous government for very little was done by it to give expression to his views. I realize that taxes are higher now than they were then, but I realize, too, that this Government must raise revenue for war purposes. This country has been passing through the greatest crisis in its history since the Curtin Government has been in office, and the Government has had to act accordingly. The alternative to providing as much money as possible from taxation for war purposes was to leave a heavier burden to posterity. It may be, and often is, said that posterity has done nothing for us, but that is a poor, argument. I place on record the fact that this Government even in wartime, has granted taxpayers concessions in regard to medical expenses whereas previous Australian Governments, in peace-time, did very little to give effect to the proposal in the amendment now before the committee.
.- It has come to my notice from various quarters that considerable injustice occurs on account of the limitation of concessional rebates in connexion with medical expenses. Taxpayers in the middle class income ranges very often have to pay large amounts in medical expenses because of periods of sickness which overtake themselves and the members of their families.
– A concessional rebate is allowable now for each dependent member of a family.
– That may be true, but there is no consideration given to amounts that may have to be paid by the head of the family for medical expenses in respect of young members of families who may be earning only a small wage. People earning small salaries nowadays are within the range of taxation, and if illness overtakes them the financial burden of it frequently falls on the head of the family. Although the conditions have been liberalized to some degree, I hope that more will be done in that connexion.
– Since this Government has been in office a concessional rebate not exceeding £50. has been provided in respect of the medical expenses of each dependent member of a family. That is a more liberal provision than has ever appeared in a taxation measure. I appreciate the point made by the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) that taxes are higher in these days, but I reply that concessions have been extended by this Government. In my recollection some of the points raised in the course of this discussion have never been raised before.
– The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) made a feature of this matter in his second-reading speech.
– The Leader of the Opposition was once the leader of a government, and it would have been more to the point had he made a feature of the matter at that time.
– Commonwealth taxes in those days were only a fraction of what they are to-day.
– I readily concede that point, but this Government has enlarged the concessions as much as it can do at present ; I therefore cannot accept the amendment.
.- I ask the Treasurer whether he will obtain from the taxation authorities an estimate of the amount that would be involved in giving effect to my proposal?
– And will the honorable gentleman do the same in connexion with the amendment that I moved?
– I shall do so.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 15 to18 agreed to.
Clause 19 (The SecondSchedule).
– I ask the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) whether he will accept an amendment, or move one himself, to provide that the whole of the Northern Territory shall be included in zone A? I consider that this is a reasonable request.
– I shall give the proposal consideration, but I cannot promise immediate action.
– Will the honorable gentleman consider the matter before this bill is finally dealt with by the Senate?
– I would not like to mislead the honorable member into believing that I shall he able to do that. In fact, I must tell him that I am not hopeful of being able to agree to an amendment of that kind until an investigation shows that the request is reasonable.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 20 agreed to.
New clause 11a.
.- I move -
That, after clause 11, the following new clause be inserted: - “ 11a. After section eighty-one of the Principal Act the following section is inserted: - 81a. Where the income of any taxpayer who has served outside Australia during the present war as a member of the Defence Force and has been discharged from, or ceased to hold an appointment in that Force, includes rent derived by him from a dwelling house occupied by him immediately prior to his becoming a member of the Defence Force and leased by him while he was serving as such a member to another person, and he has been -
unable to obtain possession of the dwelling house for hie own occupation ; and
in occupation of another dwelling house or other living accommodation for which he has paid rent, so much of the rent derived by him as in the circumstances of the case the Commissioner thinks reasonable shall be an allowable deduction.’ “.
I hope that all honorable members will support this proposal, for we all desire to do whatever we can to help ex-service personnel in their return to civil life. Men who have been overseas with the forces and have had tenants in their homes during their absence are finding, on their discharge, that they cannot regainpossession. The honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) brought this subject prominently to notice yesterday.
– The matter can be submitted to a magistrate.
– But even then long delays occur and sometimes there are other difficulties. I am proposing that if, for any reason, an ex-serviceman with overseas service cannot regain possession of his home on his discharge from the forces he should be permitted to regard as a deduction for income tax purposes the rent derived by him from such dwelling house, to an amount which the Commissioner of Taxation considers reasonable. A discharged serviceman may receive £100 or even £150 in rent for his property, but he may have to expend that amount or more in order to provide accommodation for himself and family during the period in which he cannot regain possession of his house. This proposal cannot be brushed aside by the statement that other Governments have failed to grant this relief, for the situation whichI am describing is a new development. The amount involved would not be large, but the granting of the concession would mean a great deal, in equity and justice, and men who have been overseas fighting for their freedom and ours would value the gesture.
– The bill presumably makes concessions to taxpayers. Members of the Opposition have submitted quite a number of amendments with a view to helping the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) to make worthwhile concessions, but he has not been prepared to concede anything. Even his hard heart must have been stirred by the plea of the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White), who has submitted genuine cases of hardship. Every honorable member has similar cases in his electorate. Many servicemen who vacated and let their homes when they left Australia for active service overseas, found upon their return that they could not regain possession of them.
– For many reasons, with all of which I am not acquainted, but not because of any fault on their part. From day to day, the courts weigh the disabilities that may he suffered by the occupant of the house and the owner, and, unfortunately, the serviceman does not receive any consideration if his difficulties are not substantially the greater. In ordinary circumstances, a man would occupy his own home. As he would not then derive rent from it, he would not be liable to pay income tax in respect of it; but because he has to let it, he is subjected to the highest rate of tax on the income he derives from it - the property rate. In addition, the rent which he pays for another house may be greater than that which he receives for his own. The amendment is eminently fair. The difference between the income that he receives by way of rent, and the rent that he has to pay, should be an allowable deduction, at the option of the Commissioner for Taxation. If the Commissioner were given the right to determine the matter, every case could be judged on its merits.
– That is not the purport of the amendment. I propose that the income tax on the rent of the home of which he cannot regain possession shall be waived,.
– Approximately, that is the same thing. If the Treasurer considers the proposal, he will recognize the disabilities from which the serviceman is suffering in civil life, because he has discharged to the maximum his duty to his country.
– The Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) should consider this matter, because a definite anomaly exists, and. it is not confined to servicemen, but applies also to many public servants in different parts of the Commonwealth, particularly in Canberra. I know men who have been transferred to Canberra. They have had to become residents of and maintain a home in this city, and have had to let their homes in other parts of the Commonwealth. What is their position from an income tax point of view? A man in this category receives income from the house he has reluctantly been compelled to let, and on it he is obliged to pay income tax at the property rate. The rent that he pays in Canberra is greatly in excess of that which he receives. One does not need to be a mathematician to work out the result. The matter should be thoroughly examined. It is a matter not of loss of revenue to the Treasury, but of giving consideration to revenue which should not be received by it. A set-off should be made possible, particularly having regard to the circumstances in which the men are made compulsory victims. The injustice is glaring, and it should be remedied expeditiously.
– I support the amendment. Some time ago, I communicated with the Treasurer in regard to a school-teacher who, over the years, had saved money and purchased a house at St. Kilda so that he would have a home to occupy upon his retirement. He was sent to different country places by the Department of Education, and during his absence from Melbourne leased his home to a very good) tenant. Eventually, he was transferred to St. Kilda, and that will he his last school before his retirement. Naturally, he wished to occupy his own house. The tenant of it had always paid the rent, and had maintained the premises in splendid condition. He said to the owner: “If you find me a place equal to this, for the same rent, I shall he only too happy to relinquish your house “. That was impossible, and the matter has remained unsettled for three years. On a salary of £450, that man pays £116 per annum in income tax. The rent that he receives for his house amounts to £91 a year, and he is paying £110 a year for half a house. His income from rent is treated as income from property, and the Taxation Department deducts from- it annually £47. Thus, he is actually £113 a year worse off as the result of his having a tenant in his own house and being compelled to rent another house.
– He always had to rent a house when he was living out of Melbourne.
– That is so. But the fact remains that he is now back in Melbourne. The savings of a lifetime were devoted to the purpose of providing himself with a home when he had reached the retiring age, yet he is compelled to rent half a house at £2 2s. 6d. a week while receiving £1 15s. a week for the house that he owns. That he is not allowed to deduct anything on account of the £2 2s. 6d. that he pays as rent, whilst -the department regards as income from property the £91 a year that he receives as rent for his own house, and subtracts from it £47 a year, is iniquitous. When I made representations to the Treasurer, he suggested that this man should approach the court. He has been loath to do that, because the tenant is paying the rent. I believe that he would have a case if the tenant were not paying the rent. The existing position should not be allowed to continue.
– Those honorable members who have spoken have given some idea of the complications that exist in connexion with this matter. The amendment, as I understand it, is confined to servicemen. I am not saying that the matter should not be- examined, but I certainly do not propose to accept the amendment with all its implications, because railwaymen, munitions workers, and probably twenty other classes of persons, are similarly affected.
– ‘Do not reject it on that account.
– If the concession were extended to servicemen, how could it be withheld from a munitions worker who had been moved from Wagga to Sydney and had to let his home?
– It should not be withheld in any case.
– I know of men who have let their houses at high rents and are living in flats in order to effect a saving. How is the case of hardship to be distinguished from a case such as that? The matter could be determined by the court. It would be unreasonable to accept the amendment without an investigation of the position in other fields of taxation. Members of the Opposition have admitted that complicated issues arise in considering the proposal. I do not contend that the matter is not worthy of examination over the whole field, but I shall not accept a limited proposal of this kind.
– For a long time I have studied the attitude of the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) to suggested amendments of government measures, and I have unreserved admiration for his technique. He is always the soul of courtesy, good humour and receptiveness. Any idea is regarded by him as well worth consideration, but his motto always is, “ The bill, the whole bill and nothing . but the bill “. He has just concluded a speech in which he has dealt very briefly with the amendment. This refers at the outset to the income of a taxpayer who has served outside Australia during the present war as a member of the defence forces. Then, assuming he has been unable to obtain possession of his own house, and is in occupation of some other dwelling for which he pays rent, the amendment provides that so much of the rent derived by him as the Commissioner thinks reasonable shall be an allowable deduction. The essence of this amendment was clearly expressed by the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) when he said that this is not a matter of making a general concession, but refraining from the imposition of a tax which ought not to be collected.
Suppose a member of the forces owned a house, was living in it up to the time he went to the war, and was in fact deriving from his tenant £100 a year in rent. It is of no use for the Treasurer to imply that it would be his own fault if he could not get back into his own house. Everybody knows that he would be fortunate if he could get back. The house would, no doubt, be occupied by good tenants who could not secure other accommodation, and in plenty of cases people like that would be unable to recapture possession of their own houses. Let u3 assume that the man is very fortunate and gets other accommodation which costs him £100 a year. It looks all square to the man in the street, but it is not to the Commissioner of Taxation under the existing law, for the Commissioner then proceeds to collect tax from the owner at the property rate on his income from rent of £100 a year, and that tax might easily be £30 or £40. The result is that this man is mulct for £30 or £40 on an income which is in no sense a net income, but one which he has been forced to earn because he is unable to go back into his own house. Because of his service abroad, and for no other reason, he is penalized by the Crown to the amount of £30 or £40. The Treasurer should look at that case, because it cannot be laughed off. I have made every assumption in favour of the Crown; I have assumed that this man is the most fortunate of returned soldiers with the one exception that he is not able to walk straight back into his own home. The ret position of the like of this man is that he is paying £40 a year, or whatever the sum may be, to the revenue, because he went out of Australia to serve this country in the war. No National Parliament can stand up to that state of the law. I strongly urge upon the
Treasurer that instead of saying that this matter presents technical difficulties, or has to be considered in the light of something else, he should be able to tell us that that sort of thing shall not continue, and that the law will be altered accordingly.
– I support the amendment. Most of us have had instances brought to our notice of the kind referred to by both members of the Opposition and the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley). There is another feature of income taxation which involves a principle similar to that to which the amendment applies. Several persons have complained to me that because they owe money on mortgage, and conform with the wishes of the Government by subscribing to war loans, when they get their interest they find it is taxed at property rates. “Whilst they are allowed a certain deduction on account of the interest they pay on their mortgage, the income they receive from their couple of hundreds of pounds of war bonds carries tax at a specially high rate. The point raised by the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) is unanswerable, and his proposal is one which the Government should not hesitate to incorporate in the bill.
.- It would certainly appear, on the face of it, that an injustice has been suffered in the case cited, but I say to the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) that he has not done justice to the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley). During the last three years, I have heard many cases put up to the Treasurer in support of amendments, but he has refused to accept them because he wished to examine the points more carefully. It must be remembered that he occupies a responsible position. Last year, the Leader of the Opposition moved an amendment which was not accepted by the Treasurer at the time because the matter was very complicated and called for examination. I know that the Treasurer spent many hours examining it with the assistance of experts, and this week an amendment was brought down giving effect to the original proposal.
– I fully appreciate that.
– Yes, and the right honorable gentleman was given full credit for having initiated the proposal. The Treasurer cannot be blamed for hesitating to accept amendments until their full implication is understood. According to the arguments submitted, it would appear that hardship may be inflicted upon certain discharged soldiers, but this may apply also to persons other than returned soldiers. If this amendment be hurriedly agreed to, no one can say what claims it may give rise to.
– The granting of the concession is at the discretion of the Commissioner.
– That would place the Commissioner in an. impossible position. If this amendment becomes the law, what discretion will be left to the Commissioner? The soldier might not have been living in his house when he enlisted. He might have got married after he enlisted, and have given money to his wife with which to buy a house, in the belief that he would ‘be ‘able to obtain possession of it when he wanted to. In those circumstances, he might say, “ Why should I pay rent for another house when I already own one? “ In considering this amendment, we are reminded of the zoning provision about which there has been so much discussion. That provision was really necessary to give effect to a proposal which had been urged in this House by the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) and others. The proposal itself was just, but the attempt to give effect to it has. brought all sorts of other things in its wake. I know how much work the Treasurer devotes to matters of this kind, and the time he spends in consultation with departmental experts. He is not bard-hearted nor unsympathetic, but he holds a responsible position. I urge honorable members opposite not to press this matter now, but to give the Treasurer time to consider it. After all, the new law will not take effect until the 1st July next.
– Some part of it will take effect as from the 1st July last.
– But none of the amendments which alter the incidence of the tax will apply until the next financial year. The bill has been brought down now, instead of after the budget has been introduced, so that the legislation may be ready in time. The Taxation Department is so overworked that it was decided to give officials these extra, two months in which to get ready. Therefore, I ask honorable m embers to give the Treasurer a chance. I do not believe that he is unsympathetic, but he cannot agree to a proposal of this kind on five minutes’ consideration.
.- The right honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin) counsels us to wait, saying that he believes the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) is sympathetic. The trouble is that the position will become more acute the longer we wait. We want action, not sympathy. The right honorable member said that the Treasurer was sympathetic. We know that he has a disarming manner, and a very good technique. For instance, when some one mentioned the case of civil servants, he immediately sidetracked the discussion, and brought in references to public servants and soldiers employed at such places as Victoria Barracks. There is nothing in this amendment which would affect their position. It concerns men who have served overseas, and whether the period of their service has been short or long, it is only right that they should receive justice. Reference has been made to the case of the soldier who returns from overseas service, expecting to be repatriated. Instead, he is presented with a bill for tax, assessed at full penal property rates, in respect of income derived from the letting of his house which he cannot repossess. The general position of civil servants and others can be dealt with later, but they should not be made an excuse for refusing to do justice to soldiers. I do not enjoy receiving letters from returned men seeking my intervention on their behalf because they cannot pay income tax in respect of their homes. I suggest that this matter be put to the vote.
– I cannot see why the Treasurer will not accept the amendment, which is clear and specific. There is no ambiguity aboutit, there is no formula to be worked out, and no research is necessary. The amendment reads - 11a. After section eighty -one of the Principal Act the following section is inserted: - “81 a. Where the income of any taxpayer who has served outside Australia during the present war as a member of the Defence Force and has been discharged from, or ceased to hold an appointment in that Force, includes rent derived by him from a dwelling house occupied by him immediately prior to his becoming a member of the Defence Force and leased by him while he was serving as such a member to another person, and he has been -
There is no doubt that the present position is anomalous. Let us assume that a man has been receiving £100 in rent for a house that he was reluctantly compelledto let because of his absence on service, and that he has been unable to get possession of it after his return. His income from personal exertion is, say, £600, in addition to which he has to return £100 as property income. This will affect the rate of tax, not only on his property income, but also on his income from personal exertion. On his personal exertion income of £600 he would ordinarily pay tax amounting to £178; but, having regard to his property income of £100, he will now be required to pay income tax amounting to £228 on his income from personal exertion. His increased tax because of this forced state of affairs is £44, and, in addition, he has to pay insurance, rent and rates and allow for depreciation, so that there is not much of the £100 left. This is an anomaly which should not be permitted to continue. It is not a matter of reducing the revenue, because the Treasury never had any right to this tax. If we were to carry the practice further, we could help to balance the budget by transferring public servants from one part of the Commonwealth to another, thereby forcing them to obtain other accommodation and to let their homes, and then to pay taxes on the rents received, while ignoring the rents that they would have to pay. No research is necessary to ascertain the facts. I hope that the new clause will be agreed to.
Question put -
That the new clause proposed to be inserted (Mr. White’s amendment) be so inserted.
The committee divided. (The Chairman - Mr.riordan.)
Majority . . . . 13
Question so resolved in the negative.
New clause 11a.
.- I move-
That, after clause 11, the following new clause be inserted: - “11a. After section eighty -one of the Principal Act the following section is inserted : - “ 81a, Money spent in the finding, conservation or reticulation of water for pastoral, agricultural or mining purposes shall be an allowable deduction.’ “.
In the post-war period we must proceed with a more vigorous developmental policy in outback districts, and in the more settled areas we must increase water storage facilities and the availability of water to settlers. Now is the appropriate time for the Parliament and the Government to consider these matters. As honorable members know, many people in the pastoral areas of the Commonwealth have had to spend considerable sums of money in providing water because of the drought conditions which have prevailed for so long; others have been obliged to expend large sums in the reticulation of water for the use of their flocks and herds. “We should also consider the practice of the taxation authorities in levying taxes on men who construct reservoirs for the storage of water. Any revenue which the Government may lose as the result of the passing of the amendment would be repaid fivefold by the increased production which would result. I again mention the case to which I referred last night. A farmer in the Wakefield district has increased his capacity to produce potato crops and engaged in dairying, because some years ago he constructed two dams which enabled him to undertake systematic irrigation. This Parliament should encourage activity along those lines. I may be asked why I did not bring up this matter before. The reason is that only a few years ago income tax rates, particularly those levied by the Commonwealth, were extremely low, and matters of this description did not weigh on the individual with the incidence which is the case to-day. This measure replaces not only the old Commonwealth taxation law but also the States taxation laws, so to-day, in regard to taxation, we are dealing with activities which were formerly covered by two different systems of legislation. To-day, under the new rates, a man engaged in the pastoral, agricultural or mining industries pays tax at a rate of at least 8s. in the £1, whereas a few years ago the Commonwealth tax paid by the same man rarely exceeded ls. in the £1, and in most cases was only a matter of so many pence in the £3. Conditions ,to-day are entirely different from those existing a few years ago. when under low rates of tax a man could afford to pay the small amount of tax in respect of expenditure incurred on activities in this direction. To-day, however, with the rates of tax so high, he may not be able to afford the cost of such necessary works as the sinking of dams and bores, the provision of reservoirs, and the reticulation of water. When I mention reticulation, I do not refer to underground reticulation by galvanized iron or cement piping. That is out of the question to-day. However, much of the reticulation which has been undertaken particularly in Victoria in recent years has been done by uneconomic methods. I refer to the open-channel system. Nevertheless, that is a method of reticulation, and one to which producers will increasingly have recourse so long as present conditions continue. I emphasize the importance of the three industries I have mentioned. Little need be said with respect to the pastoral and mining industries, except to say that in respect of the latter, assistance to it should not be so much a matter for the Government as for the Parliament. Anything -we can do to expand the mining industry, particularly in the post-war period, will react to the immediate benefit of the country as a whole. The same observation applies to the pastoral industry. Under the heading of the agricultural industry, one includes the great dairying industry, wheat-growing, barleygrowing, stock raising, market gardening, and fruit-growing. I urge the Government to accept my amendment.
– I support the amendment moved by the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron). I know from experience the heavy cost involved in obtaining water on properties. Very often, failure to obtain water has resulted in many farmers going bankrupt, and in respect of such disasters they receive no recompense. I am aware that depreciation is allowed in respect of bores and equipment, but the rate of depreciation is insufficient in view of the fact that bore water causes more rapid depreciation of equipment through rust and corrosion. Occasionally, when water is secured, the work is done on a community basis, the water being reticulated through the district and is, therefore, a national benefit.
Allowing that the provision of water facilities enhances the value of individual properties, and results in increased production, the Treasurer in due time reaps the benefit of that increased production and added value. I urge the Government to accept the amendment.
– Whilst I am not prepared to accept the amendment, I shall examine the points raised by the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) and the honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. Adermann).
New clause negatived.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
In Committee of Ways and Means: Consideration resumed from the 19th April (vide page 930), on motion by Mr. Chifley -
That a tax be imposed upon incomes at the following rates: -(vide page 926).
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Standing Orders suspended; resolution adopted.
That Mr. Chifley and Mr. Lazzarini do prepare and bring in a bill to carry out foregoing resolution.
Bill presented by Mr. Chifley and passed through all stages without amendment or debate.
Motion (by Mr. Chifley) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- I bring to the notice of honorable members, and particularly the Minister for Health (Senator Fraser), a matter arising from a letter which I received from an eminent medical practitioner on the subject of tuberculosis, and the treatment of sufferers. As this subject is of great importance, it should be dealt with, if not before, then very early in the postwar period. The doctor has written to me because of the activities of the Social Security Committee for several years. He pointed out that one of the objects of the South Australian Tuberculosis Association is the establishment of a colony on the lines of the Papworth colony. He proceeded -
We have received general approval from the State Government which has agreed to make land available, to contribute up to £20,000 on a £1 for £1 basis, and to make an annual grant. We anticipate that agreement on details will be reached soon. The main obstacle to success in the scheme is the Pensions Act, under which the ex-patient as soon as he starts to work and earn a weekly wage, even though it might be only half the basic wage, loses his pension. In the 1943 report of the Picton Lakes Village, speaking of Papworth occur these words, “ Efforts to establish a similar scheme in Australia have so far met with little success mainly because of - ( 1 ) the public’s fear of the disease, and an unwarranted prejudice to goods manufactured in a tuberculosis institution, and (2) the inflexibility of the Invalid Pensions Act to meet the special circumstances of those afflicted with the disease”. And later, “It was found that if patients were paid for their labour they would be liable to forfeiture of their pensions, &c. In the circumstances there was no alternative but to discontinue manufacturing”.
The doctor’s letter continues -
I am writing to you to ask for advice as to how we should proceed. What we would like to see is a provision in the act somewhat similar to that covering blind pensioners, who are allowed to earn up to £5 a week without deduction from their pension. Seeing that tubercular patients in most cases have a permanent partial disablement, and that they are in an infectious or potentially infectious state, we think it would be reasonable if they were given preferential treatment, just as the blind are, and were allowed to earn up to the basic wage or thereabouts before any deduction was made from their pension. We think that if this were done, with perhaps a proviso that they must not engage in an occupation in which they might spread infection to other people, the major difficulty in the establishment of an industrial colony would be removed. As things are at present, I feel that we are courting disaster to press on with the scheme, and I feel very diffident in advising my association to take even one more step forward until the difficulty has been overcome.
The Social Security Committee closely examined the incidence of tuberculosis, and made certain recommendations. Its first report stated -
The ease of invalid pensioners is clear-cut and even more pressing. At present an invalid pensioner is not permitted to earn any money atall, and if, as is often the case, he has little property or income, and is endeavouring to support a wife and children, general family distress may be anticipated. In such cases the present position is probably that the family is receiving voluntary or State charity. Many cases are known where the invalid husband has seriously endangered his chances of recovery by remaining at work instead of undergoing treatment for fear of leaving his family destitute.
The Government has given effect to a number of recommendations made by the Social Security Committee, and I appreciate greatly what has been done. Members of the medical profession are in general agreement upon the matter of tuberculosis. The committee in its sixth interim report, stated -
The committee recommends as essential principles of the campaign -
1 ) an increase in special rate pensions to the tuberculosis and allowances to dependants (approximating the basic wage) ;
extended and improved facilities at chest clinics for early diagnosis of cases detected by the preliminary survey methods of “ Mantoux “ testing and miniature X-ray photography; consideration should be given to making compulsory the examination of certain age groups.
Since the committee made those recommendations, progress has been rapid. In every State of the Commonwealth, movements have been launched to combat tuberculosis. In Tasmania X-rays are being taken under the system recommended in the committee’s report, and the State Government is most active. The work is proceeding in Victoria, whilst in New South Wales a good deal is being done by the Anti-Tuberculosis Association, assisted by the State Government, which recently made a grant of £2,000 for a campaign against this dread disease. I regard it as a tragedy that one Australian in every 27 dies from tuberculosis. That information is contained in a report of the Anti-Tuberculosis Clinic in Sydney. It reads -
A survey completed by the medical superintendent of the Anti-Tuberculosis Clinic in Sydney shows that, in the last six months, about one in seventeen of the patients in an unselected group of 1,000 had tuberculosis. As high as one in ten had been affected before or at the time of examination.
The Commonwealth Government has realized the gravity of the situation by providing £1,000,000, which will be expended in co-operation with the States. However, that alone will not solve the problem. To-day, intense interest has been aroused in the care and treatment of tuberculosis sufferers. Some States have adopted a new method of examination, which seems to have become an accepted practice. When men are entering the Navy, Army or Air Force, they are examined with a miniature X-ray plant and later, in some instances, with the aid of the large equipment. However, two difficulties arise. The first is that, when patients have been examined, known cases of tuberculosis are detected. There is not in Australia to-day a place in which treatment can be given to cases in which this active state has been discovered. If a person does not know that he is suffering from the disease, perhaps there is not much difficulty in the early stage, but immediately an examination discloses that he is affected, there should be some provision for his adequate treatment.
The second aspect involves economic considerations. A tubercular patient has to be provided with treatment in a sanatorium, and that cannot be done for all those who are now known to be sufferers. In the early stage of the disease a patient is almost certain to recover if he is satisfactorily housed and treated. Later, under the colony system, he could be given light work until he was able to go out into the world and again fend for himself. In this connexion, Dr. Cowan, of South Australia, has written to me in pathetic terms. The desire in that State is to establish a colony for patients who have recovered sufficiently to do work of some kind, but it has not been found possible because, immediately the patient begins to earn an income, his pension ceases and economic difficulty arises. I appeal to the Government to have the matter further examined, so that an invalid pensioner may be permitted to earn a specified amount in a colony provided he is certified as a sufferer from tuberculosis. A person who is not able to earn sufficient to maintain himself and his family should continue to receive the invalid pension, as do blind persons, up to or near the basic wage. Many of those who are now suffering from tuberculosis can be permanently cured, and again become active units in the community. In my view, a life that is saved is as good as a new citizen. I make this plea for what it is worth, in the hope that the Government will give effect to the recommendation of the Social Security Committee in this connexion.
– Frequently, in this chamber, we hear mention of food production, which is becoming increasingly important as time goes by. Only last week, our people had to submit to a reduction of their meat ration, because of the position in Great Britain. The press to-day states that the people of Sydney may have difficulty in obtaining meat during this week-end. From overseas has come news which has hit the headlines, of the acute food problem in Europe, and of the prospect that famine may face hundreds of thousands of people. There are many items of value associated with the production of food, but I shall mention only <a few: for example, piping, galvanized and other wire and wire netting, and galvanized iron. From time to time, honorable members have referred to the subject, and on every occasion the Minister for Munitions (Mr. Makin) has stated that we have the materials but not the man-power ; so we have had to go sorrowfully on our way. A week ago, the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White), with that alertness and intelligence which characterize him, perusing a trade journal, espied the item, “ Pencil sharpeners available in any quantity; lid. a thousand; useful for young and old; made at the Lithgow Small Arms Factory”. The honorable gentleman, realizing that there was a war on somewhere, rushed into the chamber and asked the Minister for Munitions (Mr. Makin) a pertinent question. The Minister replied that he would inquire as to whether or not our munitions establishments were engaged in the manufacture of this most important and useful article, and yesterday, the honorable member for Balaclava received a reply which is really a “ beauty “ and. is worthy of publication in Punch. It is so good that I shall read it -
The honorable member for Balaclava has requested information as to the manufacture of pencil sharpeners at the Small Arms Factory. These pencil sharpeners, which hitherto have been imported, are being made in Australia in pursuance of the general plans for expansion of manufacturing in Australia. They are a superior piece of mechanism, calling for tools and gauges of the type employed in arms manufacture.
These little contraptions are somewhat conical in shape. The end of the pencil is inserted in them. They are then revolved, and the pencil is sharpened. Children use them, and lose them ; mostly, they lose them. They are a very useful gadget, but I do not know whether they could be described as mechanism of a superior type, calling for the use of tools and gauges of the type used in arms manufacture. The reply continued -
The employment in the small arms group of factories has been reduced by 70 per cent, and Army orders for small arms and machine guns are being decreased further at the moment. It is considered most inadvisable, however, that the skilled employees at the Small Arms Factory, who can be employed only upon mass production precision work, should be further dispersed at this stage in the prosecution of the war.
I think you will agree, Mr. Speaker, that the war is going very well. In Europe, it is almost finished, and matters are fairly rosy in the East. The reason for my having raised this matter is obvious. Doubtless you, sir, like myself, have been in Newcastle, and have inspected, the wonderful industrial plant of Stewarts and Lloyds (Australia) Proprietary Limited, which manufactures piping. I have no doubt you have also inspected the establishments of Rylands Brothers Australia Proprietary Limited and Lysaghts Newcastle Works Proprietary Limited, where wire and wire netting a re manufactured. All of these commodities are of great importance at the present time, having regard to the production of food in this country. For example, boring contractors have been at work in my electorate for many months in an endeavour to locate water, the supplies of which, by reason of the drought, are somewhat short. When water is obtained by means of boring, galvanized iron is needed for the making of tanks. Piping, also, is required. Inquiries which I have made disclose that piping is almost unprocurable, and that galvanized iron cannot be supplied for nine months. This does not please those owners of stock who have no water. Frequent inquiries in regard to supplies of fencing wire reveal that applicants for it have to take their place on a roster, and wait for something like five or six months. This makes the producer, as well as the honorable member who submits representations on his behalf, very annoyed. The firm of .Stewarts and Lloyds (Australia) Proprietary Limited has a most remarkable industrial plant, which passes through different processes almost an endless belt of steel. It does not need a large number of men. What is true cf that plant is more true of Rylands Brothers Australia Proprietary Limited, where one can see wire being drawn, and of Lysaghts Newcastle Works Proprietary Limited. Almost any child of fourteen, who has average intelligence, could work those machines. Certainly, they could be worked by the majority of adults, with reasonable intelligence. I repeat that the man-power required is not great, particularly at the plants of the firms mentioned. The commodities which I have mentioned are of great importance from the point of view of cereal-growers, dairymen, poultrymen and stock-raisers. The only explanation given to the House is not that the supply of raw materials is inadequate, but that the necessary manpower is not available. A considerable number of men is engaged in the manufacture of pencil sharpeners, and the House should consider whether manpower could not be more profitably absorbed in the production of materials necessary for essential foodstuffs. No doubt, there are problems associated with the removal of workmen from one district to another, but they are not insuperable.
.- I draw attention to the effect of subsidies granted under the Commonwealth price stabilization plan upon country electrical undertakings, which are operated mostly by shire councils. I have received a letter over the signature of the State Minister for Electrical Undertakings in Victoria, and it sets out clearly the present position. There are nine elec tricity suppliers in my electorate alone, which for a considerable time have been endeavouring to secure the performance of undertakings given by the Commonwealth Government with respect to subsidies to cover their increased cost of materials, labour and other things incidental to the production of electric light and power in country districts. The letter from the Minister has been handed to me by the Honorable P. T. Byrnes, M.L.’C, with a request that I should place the matter before the House. It, reads -
In response to your request for information relating to the financial disabilities suffered by certain country electricity supply undertakings as a result of the operation of the Commonwealth’s Price Fixing .Regulations, I have pleasure in supplying^ the following information: -
Prior to the promulgation of Prices Regulation Order No. 1015 in April, 1943, the Commission had followed the procedure of referring to the Prices Commissioner, through the Deputy Prices Commissioner, Victorian Prices Branch, all applications made by Victorian electricity supply authorities for permission to increase charges for electricity supplied to consumers. Each such reference embodied a recommendation made after careful consideration of statistical and financial data furnished by the supply authority, and sought the Prices Commissioner’s concurrence in the price increments recommended.
Under this arrangement, nine electricity supply undertakings out of 73 had applied for permission to increase charges. Of these, one was rejected, six were referred to the Prices Commissioner with recommendations, and two were held over by the Commission pending the receipt of further information from the applicants. The procedure worked smoothly and results were satisfactory, except that in some cases the delay which occurred in securing the Prices Commissioner’s acceptance of the recommendations occasioned considerable losses to the supply authorities concerned. All these recommendations were based on increases in the cost of essential materials and labour over corresponding costs in 1939, and it was recognized that subsequent reviews would be necessary since costs were constantly rising.
As you are aware, Prices Regulation Order No. 1015 changed the whole basis of price control and introduced the Commonwealth Stabilization Plan. The main feature of this plan is that factors which would normally give rise to increased prices are reviewed at their place of incidence and are absorbed by payment by the Commonwealth Government of an appropriate subsidy if it is disclosed that the particular industry cannot equitably absorb the. increased costs out of profits.
When this order was promulgated, the Commission’s officer responsible for making recommendations in this regard interviewed the Deputy Prices Commissioner,. Victorian Branch, and was given to understand that it was the intention of the Commonwealth Government to subsidize electricity supply undertakings where this was necessary to prevent any further increases in electricity tariffs, and that each recommendation made in future should state the extent to which the electricity supply undertaking would need to be subsidized in order to avoid the necessity for tariff increases. This outlook was later confirmed by correspondence between the Commonwealth and State Governments.
Since Order No. 1015 became effective in April, 1943, sixteen recommendations for the granting of subsidies for the electricity supply undertakings have been made. Eight of these were in respect of centres in the Wimmera district, namely, Birchip, Boort (two), Kerang, Quambatook, Murrayville, Underbool (two years) and Wycheproof. A summary of these recommendations is given in the annexure hereto As previously, recommendations were based on increases in the cost of essential materials and labour over corresponding costs in 1939. So far, no reply has been received to any of the recommendations, except in one case where an advance of £200 was made to avoid the closing down of the undertaking.
In September, 1944, the Commission was given to understand by the Victorian Prices Branch that, in considering an application by an electricity supply undertaking for a subsidy, all other trading activities of the undertaker would be taken into account, and in the case of a municipal council the results of all other financial dealings of the council would be reviewed. It was also indicated that any subsidies granted would be based on the increase in cost per KwH sold, due to the rise in cost of fuel, lubricating oil and, possibly, labour since August, 1939. The undertakings would have to bear losses up to the 12th April, 1943. All subsequent recommendations for subsidies have been prepared on this basis. Full information relating to electricity supply undertakings in this State, including details of present tariffs and any alterations made since the 31st August, 1939, as requested by the Prices Branch at this time, was compiled by the Commission and forwarded to the Deputy Prices Commissioner on the 14th November, 1944.
With particular reference to the Wycheproof Sea Lake electricity supply undertaking, a preliminary recommendation for the granting of a subsidy of approximately £976 to cover losses insofar as they were due to increased costs for the year ended 30th September, 1943, was made on the 26th August, 1943. A final recommendation for the granting of a subsidy of £942 was made on the 21st November, 1944, after a careful examination of the accounts of the undertaking for the year, and protracted negotiations with the council concerning the transfer of past profits from electricity supply to other municipal accounts.
John G. B. McDonald Minister in Charge of Electrical Undertakings.
With the consent of the House I shall incorporate inHansard the following summary of recommendations made to the Commonwealth Prices Commission for the granting of subsidies to electricity supply undertakings in the Wimmera electorate : -
These applications for subsidies have been completed insofar as the Electricity Commission of Victoria is concerned. The dates range from the 30th September, 1942, to the 3rd February, 1945. On the schedule are all the particulars of the applications, and the dates upon which they were dealt with by the State Electricity Commission. So far, however, no subsidies have been paid, notwithstanding the fact that heavy financial losses have been incurred because of the increased cost of fuel, labour and equipment. I have been in touch with the Commonwealth Prices Commission time after time in an endeavour to have the payment made, but without success. I bil vi- Ill-en informed unofficially that ti if hold-up is in the Treasury. I do not know whether that is so, but there seem.= to be a definite antipathy on the part of Treasury officials to meet obligations of this kind. It is in their blood, and they hold up payments which ought to be made and which, if made, would merely represent justice to those entitled to benefit. The losses incurred range from £127 for the period indicated to as much as £1,189. If there is any merit in the Government’s stabilization plan, these payments ought to be made, especially having regard to the fact that millions of pounds have been paid away in subsidies in other directions. In this case, we are dealing with rural undertakings which provide an important amenity for country residents, and it is not right that there should be this interminable delay in the settlement of their just claims. I appeal to the Minister to take up the matter immediately with the authorities responsible.
– Recently, I complained to the Department of Commerce and Agriculture, and also to the Department of Transport, because growers of onions in the Mount Gambier district were refused permission to transport them to New South Wales to be sold there. There is a flour mill at Mount Gambier and, naturally, the proprietors wished to keep it in full production, but they are faced with the competition of flour imported from Victoria. Apparently, there is no difficulty in obtaining permission to transport flour from Victoria to Mount
Gambier. When I made representations on the matter, I was informed by the Minister for Transport (Mr. Ward) that only a small consignment of 480 tons of flour was involved. If 480 tons of flour can be taken into Mount Gambier from Victoria, I should like to know why it is not possible to take 180 tons of onions out of Mount Gambier into another State. The present position does not seem to make common sense, and it should be looked into immediately.
.- I listened with great interest to what the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Barnard) said about the ravages of tuberculosis, especially among returned soldiers. The matter is undoubtedly important. There is another matter of great importance, also, to which I desire to refer, namely, soil erosion. On several occasions in the past I have raised this subject, and asked questions about it. In answer to one question the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Scully) said that the Australian Agricultural Council has appointed a standing committee on soil erosion, and he mentioned its personnel. This matter is so important that it should engage the attention of the national Parliament. I dealt with the subject exhaustively in a speech which I made in September last. The Parliament of South Australia met shortly after that, and a motion was submitted in each House calling upon the Government to give its attention to the prevention of soil erosion. The Premier, Mr. Playford, refused to allow the discussion to proceed, on the ground that the problem was too big for the State Government to handle. He said that it had grown to the dimensions of a national responsibility. On the 2nd May, the following item was published in the Canberra Times: -
Dust storms, blowing from the Riverina and Central Australia, had interfered with the operations of the Royal Australia Air Force against the Japanese as far north as the Celebes and as far west as Flores, in the Netherlands East Indies. This was stated in a Royal Australia Air Force announcement to-day which added that air crews, while over the Banda -Sea, found the targets obscured by Australian dust.
The time has arrived for this matter to be dealt with on a national basis, because if this menace is to be tackled with any prospect of success, it must be tackled by the Commonwealth in cooperation with the States. Some time ago I was informed by the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Scully) that a Commonwealth Soil Conservation Service has been established. I had not previously known of its existence, although I was aware that there were various experts at the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research. I suggest that a Commonwealth water and soil conservation service be established, and that it should commence operations without delay in the Northern Territory. Erosion is spreading rapidly throughout the Commonwealth, and I fear that, if not arrested, the future of our pastoral areas and the success of primary production in the Commonwealth will be seriously jeopardized. The Northern Territory comprises an area almost as large as the largest of the six States comprising the Commonwealth, and we do not want in that territory to see a repetition of what has occurred in the States, where the soil has been mercilessly exploited. Because of that exploitation, the States are faced with a problem of regeneration which is too big for their Governments to tackle. The development of the Northern Territory should follow along well-planned lines, in which soil survey and scientific knowledge will play a prominent part. Investigation should be made of the productive possibilities of the land. I regard the southern portion of the Northern Territory, which comprises country with a light rainfall and generally an unfavorable climate, as peculiarly susceptible to erosion. I therefore, suggest that the Government should take immediate steps to preserve that country from exploitation and destruction, such as has befallen similar country within State boundaries. The setting up of a water and soil conservation service by the Commonwealth would enable much valuable work to be done in the Northern Territory. The service could then co-operate with the States, and I believe that the good results which would accrue would lead to a more active campaign against erosion by the States. That would mean that the Commonwealth and the States would indeed .be united in developing the Commonwealth in the interests of future generations. Unless something practical is done soon, future generations will have little cause to thank the national leaders of this generation. During recent months various newspapers and journals have attempted to convince the people of Australia of the seriousness of the erosion menace, and I regard it as my duty as a public man to bring this matter forward again, and to urge the Government to give to this matter further serious consideration. Throughout the country people are becoming more and more alive to the erosion menace because of the drought to which the country has been subjected during recent years. I know that some people say that good rains over the Commonwealth would put things right. Rains would improve conditions immeasurably, but they would not do more than postpone the evil day. This is a problem of national importance which must be grappled courageously. Unless we take steps to preserve our soil, it is idle to talk of a large increase of population in the future. I urge the Government not to neglect this vital matter.
.- I wish to raise a matter affecting the administration of the Repatriation Commission, and am glad that the Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Frost) is at the table. I would have dealt with this matter through ordinary departmental channels, but the case to which I shall make particular reference presents some features which might have a wider application than to the correspondent who has been in touch with me. The case on which I base my remarks relates to a deceased airman who, after joining the Royal Australian Air Force, became attached to the Royal Air Force and was killed in August, 1941. Twenty-three years ago his mother divorced her husband, and thereafter she oared for the boy. I point out that not only did she divorce her husband 23 years ago, but the husband himself died about two years ago. I understand that her application for a pension has been rejected. I can only presume that itwas rejected on the ground that at the time of his son’s death, the husband was still alive. An unusual aspect of this matter, as this mother point3 out, is that had she been an unmarried mother she would be entitled to a pension. Surely, the House will not lay it down that a mother who has divorced her husband shall be in a lessfavoured position than a mother who has not married at all. I am assured that is the position. However, I am sure that if that be the law, the Minister will not fail to find out whether he has discretionary power in a matter of this kind to enable him to do justice to this womanThere must be many cases throughout the Commonwealth of mothers who have divorced their husbands many years ago, and have borne the expense of rearing their sons who have later been killed in action. I ask the Minister to look carefully into these cases as a whole.
.- Despite the lateness of the hour I make no apology for raising a matter which I consider to be of the utmost importance. During the week I asked the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) whether the Government would consider dropping medical aid to Australian prisoners in Japanese bands. It is, of course, very difficult for an honorable member to put forward a case on such a matter in the form of a question. Perhaps, the proposal may have sounded somewhat unfeasible. I mentioned it originally when the announcement was made in this House of the saving of Australian prisoners from a Japanese transport that had been sunk. I then asked that a strong protest be sent regarding the barbarities of the Japanese, and that we should find out whether we could not send aid to Australians in their hands. Since that time, relief has been given in this way to allied prisoners in enemy-held territory, including western Holland and Belgium. Although, at first, the enemy would not agree to co-operate, relief was provided by dropping supplies from the air. During the past week the Royal Air Force has dropped over 1,000 tons of food in this way to allied prisoners in enemy-held territories. I submit that we can aid our prisoners in Japanese hands in the. same way. Having been a prisoner myself for two and a half years in the last war I know the atmosphere in prison camps. I ‘have spoken to prisoners repatriated from Germany in this war, and some of the men who were saved from the Japanese. Prisoners in Japanese hands are being treated even worse than was the case in the last war. The relatives of these men are aware of the fact, and they are asking that help ‘be given in the way I suggest to relieve the anxiety of these men. Men in captivity feel that they are living on another planet. They are completely out of touch with the amenities of civilization. I protest at the failure of the Government to do anything in this matter. Some prisoners who have been released speak of the wonderful work that is being done by Australian and British medical men in Japanese prison camps. Allied doctors and nurses are working miracles, using home-made appliances in order to save the lives of prisoners. Are we just content to go our measured way and live our ordinary lives, when we know that there were at one time 18,000 Australians in Japanese hands? Shall we not take steps now to assuage their sufferings? By doing so we may save many lives. With long-range aircraft, and our knowledge with respect to certain enemy prison camps, we can send them aid in the way I suggest, particularly as Australia to-day has a means of dropping supplies from the air more efficient than anything that has been devised in any other country. I refer to the use of storpedoes, a torpedo-shaped container which is dropped by parachute. Experiments in dropping supplies by this means to commandos in New Guinea have shown that even eggs can be dropped ‘ in this container without being broken. The Army, Air Force and Red Cross would be only too glad to supply all the means required to effect this relief, and the Government should take steps in this direction at the earliest opportunity. Many people have written to the Prime Minister on this subject. A Melbourne doctor has been pressing for information as to whether a ship cannot be sent with such stores by permission of the Japanese. Russia is not at war with Japan, and we could enlist the good offices of that nation in this direction. At all events, the Japanese authorities should be approached in order to learn whether they would permit such relief to be afforded. Japan is not a signatory to the Geneva convention. That country is not bound to observe the humanitarian rules of warfare, and, indeed, it is not observing those rules. The only information we have had from Japan is that prisoners in camps situated in Japan itself are better looked after than in campsin outlying districtswhere no supervision by neutral observers is possible. This is the third time that I have raised this matter, and as my proposal may be the means of saving many lives, I intend to bring it up again unless the Government does something about it. So far, I have merely been told that the merits of the proposal will be examined. I am not satisfied with that answer. The proposal is feasible, and all that is now required is government action.
– I shall bring the remarks made by various honorable members to the notice of the Ministers concerned. The case mentioned by the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) is somewhat intricate. In a letter which he has supplied to me, reference is made to the mother’s income. If the mother were completely dependent upon the son who was killed in action she would be eligible for a pension in ordinary circumstances, but if she were not dependent on the son, but had means of her own, a means test is applied. Should she later be without sufficient means she can apply for a pension. I assure the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) that the Government is vitally interested in the welfare of Australian servicemen who have been taken prisoner of war.
– The honorable member for Balaclava has not a monopoly of the concern for their welfare.
– I did not claim to have a monopoly of it.
– The Government is doing many things which I am not able to mention for security reasons. I have done everything in my power to alleviate the plight of Australian prisoners of war, because I am vitally interested. My eldest son is a prisoner of war. The sons of some other Ministers and honorable members are also in enemy hands. The honorable member for Balaclava declared that the expense incurred in providing relief for them would not be great. Regardless of what the cost might be, the Government will do everything in its power in that direction.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The following papers were presented : -
Commonwealth Public Service Act - Appointment - Department of Civil Aviation - M. J. Meston.
National Security Act -
National Security (Emergency Control) Regulations - Order - Military powers during emergency.
National Security (General) Regulations - Order by State Premier - Victoria (No. 60).
National Security (Supplementary) Regulations - Order by State Premier - South Australia (No.3 of 1945).
Regulations - Statutory Rules 1945, Nos. 56, 57, 58, 59, 60.
Seat of Government Acceptance Act and Seat of Government (Administration) Act- Ordinance - 1945 - No. 4 - Liquor.
House adjourned at 5.5 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
n asked the Acting Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The information is being obtained and a reply will be furnished to the honorable member as early as possible.
Government Motor Launch at Melbourne.
n asked the Acting Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Post-war Economic Conditions: Statement by Mr. L. R. Coleman.
n asked the Minister for Information, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
t asked the Acting Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : - 1 to 4. The question of the admission of Argentina was brought before the United Nations Conference on International Organization as an issue requiring immediate decision and the Australian delegates gave their vote in accordance with the discretion vested in them by the Commonwealth Government. Mr. Forde and Dr. Evatt are the fully accredited representatives of Australia at the conference and the Government has every confidence that they will give fullest consideration to all the factors involved when casting their vote on matters that come before the conference. They are aware generally of the policy of the Government on international matters. The proposals drawn up at the United Nations Conference on International Organization will not be binding upon this country until finally approved by the Government.
t.- On the 19th April, 1945, the honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Chambers) asked in the House, upon notice -
Will the Minister for Repatriation make provision for pension payments by his department to be forwarded by post in cheque form to those recipients who desire payment to be made in that way?
I undertook to have the matter further investigated. The position is that there are two methods of payment of war pensions -
The payment tobank accounts has proved satisfactory to those who desire that system, and at presentbetween 3,000 and 4,000 pensioners are paid in this way. This system of payment was introduced in the latter part of 1943, and is popular to the extent mentioned. Moreover, the number is steadily growing.
Representations have been made in recent months by the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia with a view to having the pensions paid to bank accounts at fourweekly instead of twelve-weekly periods, but the Treasury has raised objection on the ground that payment each four weeks to a bank account would involve considerably more work and, to achieve any marked reflection in the nature of reduction of work in the post offices, the number of pensions tobe paid to bank accounts would have to be very great in proportion to the total number of pensions payable.
The question of payment of pensions by cheque has been considered on numerous occasions, and such a system has been fully investigated, but has been strongly opposed, not only by my department,but also by the Treasury, on account of the administrative difficulties and cost which such a system would entail. The chief arguments against the introduction of payments by cheque are -
All of the reasons against payments by cheque still exist and, with the two systems now in operation, it is my view that the facilities are adequate to meet reasonably the convenience of all pensioners.
Australian Army : Liquor Supplies for Troops in Tropical Areas.
asked the Minister representing the Acting Minister for the Army, upon notice -
n. - The Acting Minister for the Army has supplied the following answers : -
Papua and New Guinea: Investigation by Mr. J. V. Barry, K.C.
asked the Minister for External Territories, upon notice -
d. - The answers to the honorable member’s questions are at follows : -
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 4 May 1945, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1945/19450504_reps_17_181/>.