18th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. J. S. Rosevear) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
Purchase of Aircraft Carriers
– I ask the Minister for the Navy to state what is the present position in regard to the contemplated purchase of three aircraft carriers for the defence of Australia. What is the estimated cost of such craft? Has the Minister yet conferred with the Minister in charge of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research regarding the vulnerability of such vessels to atomic bomb attack ?
Mr.RIORDAN. - There has been some conjecture in the press about the contemplated purchase by the Government of certainaircraft carriers. I have no comment to offer at this stage. I shall make inquiries in regard to the estimated cost of such craft and let the honorable member have whatever information I can supply. I shall have consultationswith the Minister in charge of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research on the point mentioned by the honorable member. The Government will be guided by its experts determining whether or not aircraft carriers shall be purchased.
Appointment of Mr. W. D. McDonald - Motor Cars - Real Estate Transactions.
– Has the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs received a protest from the Leader of the Australian Country party against the appointment of Mr. W. D. McDonald to an important position in the Prices Branch? Mr. McDonald was the defeated Australian Country party candidate for the electorate of Hume at the last Federal general elections. Has a protest been received from the Leader of the Opposition against this appointment of a defeated party political candidate, or are protests made only when Labour men receive appointments?
– I have not received a protest from either the Leader of the Australian Country party or the Leader of the Opposition in respect of the appointment of Mr. W. D. McDonald, the defeated Australian Country party candidate for the electorate of Hume at the recent Federal general elections. I should say that that appointment merely indicates that this Government gives consideration solely to merit when making appointments. I am quite sure that had the appointee been a defeated Labour candidate the Leader of the Australian Country party and to a less extent the Leader of the Opposition would have been most vociferous in objecting to the appointment.
– Will the Treasurer state whether it is a fact that the Government is giving consideration to the lifting of prices control on second-hand motor cars? In view of the prevalence of black-market operations in land sales - real estate agents state that three-quarters of private transactions in real estate during recent years have been effected on the black-market - has the Government given consideration to amending the regulations governing the sale of real estate?
– The matters raised by the honorable member are always under consideration and revision where necessary. The honorable member referred to the problem of policing the prices regulations applying to secondhand, motor vehicles. I am satisfied that had it not been for some control and policing of prices until new vehicles leached the market, prices of second-hand motor cars wouldhave been exorbitant. The control has substantially checked excessive prices for second-hand motor cars. I think the same can be said about the control of land sales. It has been claimed, by estate agents and solicitors, that a great deal of black marketing exists in land sales. I have often been puzzled whether their statements are based , on personal experience or assumption.
– Their clients tell them.
– But for the control exercised, the price of land would be excessive, especially toprimary producers. Many times we have been able to force down prices originally asked for land. What I havesaid about land sales equally applies to the sale of homes. Not long ago a valuer, giving evidence in a Sydney court, said that had it not been for the controls on the real estate transactions property values in the area with which the court was concerned would have risen generally, and the fair rents court would have had to take that into consideration in determining rents. An excessive price for one property in a neighbourhood affects the values, rents and rates of other properties. I have no doubt that, human nature being what it is, dishonest transactions occur.
– That is a confession. .
– History has shown that in a community there is always a percentage of dishonest people. But, on the whole, I am convinced that the retention of prices control on motor’ vehicles and real estate has been of benefit to the community. As soon as reasonable grounds exist to review those controls they will be reviewed.
Mir. BEALE. - I draw the attention of the acting Minister for Air to the decision given yesterday in the High Court by a majority of the Justices, declaring that certain Air Force regulations which purported to confer rights in regard to deferred pay are invalid, by reason of the fact that they conflict with a section of the Acts Interpretation Act. In the course of the majority judgment allowing the appeal it was stated, “ I regret that it will mean a great injustice to Welsh and to many other airmen in the same position “. Having regard to the decision of the court and its expression of opinion, will the Minister examine the regulations with a view to having them amended so that justice may be done in cases of this kind ?
– So far, I have not seen the press report, and have no knowLedge of the judgment of the court.. I shall have a look at the judgment, and will take whatever action might be considered appropriate, in the circumstances.
Manufacture in Australia.
– Has the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction seen a report in yesterday morning’s Melbourne Sun which suggests that General MotorsHoldens Limited - whose factory is situated in my electorate - are not proceeding with pl a ns for the manufacture of an. Australian motor car? Is it correct that the proposal has been abandoned? If not, can the Minister inform the House of the’ present position regarding the allAustralian motor car which General MotorsHoldens Limited have undertaken to manufacture at the request of the Government?
– I have not seen the’ report referred to, but there is no truth in it. Genera] Motors-Holdens Limited are going ahead with their plans for the production in large numbers of an Australian made motor car. Already three prototypes are in existence. They have undergone road trials, and officers of the secondary industries division of my department are well satisfied with the result. General Motors-Holdens Limited have invested £1,000,000 capital on plant and equipment for the production of the cars, and have engaged a large number of expert technicians. I understand that the production of cars in large numbers will begin about the end of next year. Therefore, it is not true that the plans of General Motors-Holdens Limited for the manufacture of an all- Australian motor car have been abandoned. ‘
Piping, Bore Casing’s and other Equipment - Transport of Supplies.
– Is the Minister representing the Minister for Supply and Shipping aware that in country districts in Queensland, supplies of water piping, bore casings and pumper rods are urgently needed by rural producers, and that in one case at least a farmer is still waiting for bore casings ordered two years ago ? Will the Minister confer with the Minister for Transport regarding the reported failure of transport facilities which are alleged to be responsible for the shortage, as it is stated that supplies are available -in, New South Wales? In view of the urgent need to correct the serious decline of rural production, will the Minister order an immediate investigation of these shortages with a view to remedying the. present unsatisfactory position ?
– The honorable member referred to the shortage of certain supplies necessary to assist primary producers. The Government is well aware that everything possible must .he done to make supplies available in sufficient quantities. The honorable member suggests that there is some difficulty with regard to transport. That, however, is only a suggestion, on his part; he has given no proof that that is the case. On that aspect of the matter I shall consult the Minister for Transport and ascertain if anything can bo done. The real difficulty goes farther than that. Production, of these materials is in the hands of private enterprise and we know how difficult it is to obtain the necessary labour at the present time to produce them in the quantities desired and needed by the community. All this goes back to the question of whether it is fair to criticize private enterprise for not producing in sufficient quantities the things that the people need.
Honorable members interjecting,
– Order !
– The honorable member, and other honorable members opposite, are much too fond of learning the Government for a matter which is really not its concern. In fact, they advised the people to vote against the referendum proposals which would have given the Govern ment additional powers-
Honorable members interjecting.
– Order ! The Minister must be heard in silence.
– Had honorable members opposite supported the referendum proposals designed to give the Commonwealth power over the production of materials–
– Order ! These organized -interruptions must cease. If there are further interjections I shall! name honorable members who disobey the ruling of the Chair.
– Had honorable members opposite supported the referendum proposals there might have been some cause for complaint that the Government had not taken the necessary steps to have these things produced. I shall consult with the Minister for Transport on the matter, but am certain that the shortage is not due to lack of transport but to the inability of private enterprise to produce in sufficient quantities the things that the people need.
– I address to the Prime Minister a question relating to the need to increase the production of food for our own requirements and for the people of Great Britain. “Many farmers have complained to me that they are unable to increase production because of their inability to obtain galvanized piping for the irrigation of their pastures and other parts of their holdings. In response to these complaints, I made, inquiries from the executive of one of the principal pipe-manufacturing companies at Newcastle, and he informed me that hundreds of thousands of tons of piping was lying at sidings at Newcastle because no transport was available for them. In view of the urgent need to distribute this piping throughout Australia, will the Prime Minister have inquiries made regarding the failure of governmentowned utilities to transport it?
– I shall make some inquiries to ascertain’ whether arrangements for .the transport of this piping can he improved. However, some of the statements made about quantities, of material lying at various ports because of the lack of transport have been grossly exaggerated. A few days ago, I was informed that 250,000 tons of certain goods was awaiting transport to Queensland from various ports in- Al.istral.ia. After the matter had been investigated I found that the actual quantity was 30,000 tons. At the same time, my investigations of several matter.? last week revealed a bank-up at Newcastle and Port Kembla of some necessary mate.ria.lls which are required in oilier States, and I have discussed this matter with the Minister for Supply and Shipping. Some of this accumulation of cement and other goods, the transport of which has been delayed because of the heavy demands upon railways and the shortage of shipping, kas been relieved by road transport. Quantities of galvanized iron have also accumulated, and the Minister for Works and Housing investigated this position for me a few days ago. As the honorable member has raised this matter, I shall ascertain whether means can be provided for improving the position and distributing this accumulation of piping.
Uran and Pollard - Egg Production
– Will the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture state what was the total production of bran and pollard in each of the six States during the years J98S-89 and 1945-46, and what i# the estimated production for 1946-47? What were the exports of bran and pollard from the Commonwealth in the aforesaid years, and what is the estimated export for 1946-47? What quantity was consumed in each State in the aforesaid years? What quantity of bran and pollard was shipped to Tasmania from the mainland in the years 1988-39 and 1945-46? What was the total egg production in the six States in the aforesaid yea rs ?
– I shall be glad to supply the honorable member with the information as early as practicable.
– I lay on the table the following papers: -
International Trade Negotiations - Tariff Requestsand Preferences- Schedules showing additional items in the Australian Tariff the subject of current international trade negotiations.
One schedule contains additional items in the Australian tariff on which other countries are asking Australia to negotiate; another contains additional items in respect of which Australia proposes to seek tariff concessions from other countries, and the third contains additional items which are of interest to Australia from the point of view of export trade and on which any country in the negotiating- group has made requests for tariff concessions on one or more countries, other than Australia, within the group. Any reduction in tariffs so obtained will automatically be applied to the produce of Australia. This list should be read in. conjunction with schedule 2 and supplements thereto, and does not include any items contained in that schedule or supplements.
– I have noticed in the press that in consequence of certain governmental happenings, the price of potatoes, an essential commodity, is likely to be increased to the Australian consumer. Is that in consequence of the shortage of potatoes on the Australian market? If it is, in view of the heavy crop in Tasmania, will the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture make shipping space available to carry potatoes to the mainland.In any event, will he ensure the availability of sufficient potatoes on the Australian market to keep the price at the lowest possible level?
– I shall refer to the Minister for Trade and Customs, the first request contained in the honorable member’s question. I assure the honorable gentleman that arrangements for the transport of potatoes from Tasmania to ports on the mainland are reviewed daily. We are obtaining all available shipping space for the transport of considerable quantities of Tasmanian potatoes to various parts of Australia.
Mr. P. G. Taylor
– Will the Minister acting for the Minister for Civil Aviation inform me why the great Australian airman, Mr P. G. Taylor, was refused a licence to establish an air service for tourists between Sydney and Lord HoweIsland ? Was this refusal due to considerations of Government; - policy on air lines, or because of departmental opposition to the scheme on the ground that toomany tourists would spoilthe island?Will the Minister confer with the Government of New South Wales on the matter of establishing air communications with Lord Howe Island, and its development as a tourist centre?
– Since I have been acting for the Minister for Air the matter of the issue of this licence to Mr. P. G. Taylorhas come before me. Services to Lord Howe Island are now under review and, when matters in that regard have been decided, Mr. Taylor will be advised whether a licence can be granted to him or not.
– Order ! What is the honorable member’s point?
– I ask again, as I did some weeks ago, that, as I am the only independent member onthisside of the House, and as you, sir, give the call first to. an honorable member on your right and then to one on your left, provided that no Minister or leader of a party rises, you should give the independent member the privilege of having his name called. Yesterday I rose in my place at every call that was made, and you did not call me. I now ask that you consult your mind as to whether’ you have not discriminated or shown bias against the honorable mem her for the Northern Territory.
– I. shall overlook some remarks of the honorable gentleman to which I might take exception, because it is patent that he has lost his temper. The honorable gentleman is one member sitting among about 29 on my left on the Opposition side of the House.
Mr.Blain. - You are protecting your own Government.
– Order ! If all Opposition members were to receive a call in rotation the honorable gentleman would receive one call out of about 29. The procedure that Ihave adopted in giving a call is to call a member from the Government side and then to share the calls between the two parties on the Opposition side of the House. The honorable member for the Northern Territory, who happens to be an independent member not attached to either party, must not think that he can get the call every time he rises.
– One call is all I ask for.
– The ‘honorable gentleman will get the call if time is available for it. He is not improving his chances by his conduct.
Mr.FALKINDER, - I ask the
Minister who is dealing with this matter: What are the objectives of the so-called Australian Reconstruction Brigade and has it the support, approval or recognition of the Government? How many members of the organization were recently given passports to visit Yugoslavia ? What visa was placed on the passports to enable the members of the party to reach Yugoslavia? Did members of the party travel on the troopshipAsturias and, if so, who issued the permits for travel on that vessel, and who paid for the passages?
– Speaking from memory I believe that a number of people have left Australia in recent times for Yugoslavia. The honorable member for Robertson raised this subject in the House some months ago and I then told him that no objection was being raised to Australians leaving this country for Yugoslavia, or anywhere else, though I said that I thought it was foolish of them to leave the best country in the world for Yugoslavia or for any other country. I do not know that any members of the organization to which the honorable member has referred have gone abroad, but I shall make inquiries and prepare a statement on the subject. I shall not ask for the leave of the House to read the statement, but will lay it upon the table for the honorable member to see.
– The Prime Minister was good enough .last evening to furnish me with a reply to a question that I asked some time ago regarding an alleged advance tax or surcharge of .19 per cent, on leather, lt would appear that by Prices Regulation Order No. 1 the price of leather was raised by 20 per cent, above the levels ruling on the 1st September, 1939. That 1 1 rice increase was passed on by the merchants in the form of a surcharge varying in accordance with the differences in the cost of various types of leather. It would appear that the surcharge is in no way a tax or impost by the Government, but is merely a method adopted by the merchants for fixing a price schedule for leather. As this surcharge is a heavy burden which is carried by leather users, including those who require boots, saddles and all leather goods, and is not taken into account in relation to the market prices for green hides, but is merely an added benefit of about 20 per cent, for the merchants, will the Prime Minister have the whole matter investigated, in the interests of the users of leather goods?
– I have sent a communication to the honorable member on this subject. He has now asked that consideration be given to a review of the surcharge. I know that everybody is not entirely happy about the surcharge, but I believe that some action of the kind was highly desirable and that, having regard to all the circumstances, it has worked satisfactorily. However, I shall have a. discussion with the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, with a view to determining whether there is a sound reason for a revision, of the surcharge.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether ten vessels of the American Navy are about to visit Australia?’ If it is proposed that they shall call at only Melbourne and Sydney, who was responsible for the drawing up of the itinerary? Will -the right honorable gentleman bring to the notice of those responsible for the arrangements the claims of the great State of Queensland to participate in them?
– When forces of other nations are visiting Australia, the arrangements are a’ matter for consultation among the parties concerned. I understand that, in the present instance, those responsible for the visit of the American task force desired that arrangements should be those that have been made. 1 have received numerous requests for the extension of the itinerary to include visits to Queensland, Newcastle and other ports. Being a naval matter, the arrangements have been largely conducted by the naval authorities of the two countries. It is always desirable to consult interested , parties, in this instance the visitors, as to the arrangements which they desire shall be made. All the requests that have been received are being placed before those who are responsible for the making of the arrangements. I shall arrange to have the matter further discussed, with a view to deciding whether consideration can bo given to the claims of the great State of Queensland.
– Has the Prime Minister seen the report of a debate in the House of Lords yesterday, in which Lord Woolton, war-time Minister for Food in the United Kingdom, referred to the serious lack of fats in that country, and stated that the present food position would “ seriously increase the unhappiness and weariness which anyone with eyes to sec can detect in the faces of the British people “., and in which the Government, spokesman admitted that the .meat ration in England may have to.be reduced from a value of ls. 4d. to one of ls.. 2d. weekly? In view of these facts, will the right, honorable gentleman endeavour to clear up the conflicting statements that have been made in this House, by communicating with the Prime Minister of Great Britain with the object of learning what is the real position in that country, and how best Australia can help to improve it?
– I have read or heard some references to a statement by Lord Wool ton and other statements by responsible Ministers in the British Government, in regard to the food position in Great Britain. During the last few days, i have- had conversations with responsible residents of the United Kingdom, who are now in« Australia. I may say in passing that T have gathered from the conversations! have had that the British people very .greatly, resent the suggestion that they are members of a .half-starved nation,, which is frequently made when the position is being discussed. I understand that, although there is plenty of food in Great. Britain, it lacks variety and is consequently monotonous. It may be that the available diet is not always completely balanced. It is not necessary for me to have consultations with any authority, or to communicate with Mr. Attlee. Through the office of the High Commissioner for the United Kingdom in Australia, and by means of other communications, wO are kept fully informed of the position, which has been most acute for a considerable, time. It was bad when Sir Ben Smith was Minister for Food, and when the existing circumstances and future prospects were discussed with him and later with Lord Addison by Mr. Beasley and myself. I do not suggest for a moment that the British people are not labouring under very great difficulties, or that everything possible should not be done to help them. I believe that I can say, not only .for myself but also for my colleagues, that nothing will be left undone which can be done to provide relief.
– I ask the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture whether chaff supplies in New South Wales and Victoria are now so plentiful that, no further imports of Tasmanian chaff are required by those States. If that be the case, is there any likelihood of there being a market for Tasmanian chaff in any other State? Tasmanian producers of chaff are in danger of experiencing a glut, and at a time when the price is the highest it has been for several decades. Can the Minister offer any suggestion or assistance ?
– The position in regard .to chaff. supplies, as I know it without having to make a complete investigation, is that in Victoria, they arc reasonably good. I understand that the situation in New South Wales is not had, although it is not so good as it normally is. I accept the word of the honorable gentleman that in Tasmania it is excep tionally good, and that the producers of that State are looking for an outlet for their surplus production. To the extent that my department may from time to time receive inquiries for supplies of chaff from other parts of Australia, I shall be very glad to refer inquirers to the situation which the honorable member states now exists in Tasmania, and to assist in any way that I can to overcome the glut- in that State.
– The Sydney Morning Herald to-day published the report that the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture had differed in caucus from the recommendation “of the Australian Battlefields Memorial Committee, a body which, according to the press, had reminded Cabinet that “ Monuments always retained their significance and were indelibly a reminder of what they stood for “, and that “ hospitals and other memorials of that type were likely to lose their significance over the years “. Even though the Government may feel disposed to erect beer houses and dance halls in the guise of national theatres to remind us of our dead on Australian soil, will the Prime Minister refrain from listening to the chorus from caucus and have erected the most simple of monuments in areas outside Australia - New Guinea, Borneo, Burma and Malaya - to remind those whom we term inferior peoples, and whom we are trying to uplift; that the white man fought for them as well as they fought for themselves against the barbaric Japanese, and also to keep ever sweet the age-old sentiment, “ To be remembered is not to die”?
– The honorable member got the call to ask a question, but he has not asked it yet, although he has made an excellent speech.
– The honorable member has raised a matter about which there is room fbr honest difference of opinion. For years past, I have felt that the money expended upon the erection of various monuments might well have been spent on memorials of a utilitarian, character. The whole matter has been closely- considered by the Minister for the Interior. There- is in existence an advisory committee composed of distinguished citizens, some of whom are returned soldiers.
Even among the members of this committee there is not complete agreement as to the forms which memorials should take. The opinion expressed by a majority of the committee, arid shared by a number of -Ministers, is that although utilitarian memorials have great value, there is a possibility that future generations may forget the purpose for which they were erected, so that they will cease to be related in the public mind to that period of our history when men fought and died for their country. The belief is that the essential character of the monument* as memorials would not persist if they were of a utilitarian character. There is no violent dispute on the subject, but there is room for honest difference of opinion. Al! that the Labour party did was to. express the opinion yesterday that Cabinet might have another look at the matter to see whether the decision reached ought to be modified or varied. I appreciate the sentiments expressed by the honorable memb er for the Northern Territory.
Debate resumed from the Sth May (vide page 2149), on motion by Mr. Cm if ley -
That the hill bc now read a second time.
Mr. FADDEN (Darling DownsLeader of the Australian Country party) 1 11. 14]. - The main characteristic of Australian post-war taxation policy is that it has been completely unimaginative. No account has been taken of those fluid, though foreseeable, factors which, if considered at the right time, would have provided much-needed relief io the individual, and, at the same time, maintained unimpaired the revenue yield. The Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) has been so unduly cautious in his taxation policy that each step in the relief granted since the end of the war has been taken months after it was justified. An unbiased examination of the revenue returns, in retrospect, must make him admit this is so. Revenue returns for the seven months since the last election, make it abundantly clear that it would have been quite safe to give the relief which I then proposed.
In my speech on the financial statement, I indicated the extent to which the Treasurer had under estimated revenue receipts for the first nine months of this financial year. At the end of March, 1947, customs and excise, duties were £19,500,000 higher tha,n the previous year and, at £75,000,000, were within £14,000,000 of the full yearly estimate. Sales tax, at £29.000,000, was within £2,000,000 of the total expected for the year. Income tax collections from the 1st July, 1945, to the 31st March, 1946, were £124,400,000. Despite reductions already made, collections this financial year, to the end of March, are £122,300,000, only £2,000,000 . below those for the same period last year.
As the proposed new reductions will take effect from the 1st July, next, and will have no. effect on 1946-47 revenue, it is clear that the Government, by the end of June, will have provided practically no overall relief, but will have extracted almost the same aggregate amount of tax .from Australians as it received the previous year. Practically no relief will be felt until the following year, which, I remind honorable members, is election year.
The absorption of over half a million ex-servicemen into remunerative employment has increased greatly the number of individual taxpayers. That factor, alone, ensures to the Treasurer the maintenance of revenue receipts at a high level, and shows that the extension of relief justifies rae in stating that not enough relief has been given. Last month the Commissioner of Taxation informed me that the total estimated yield, on the basis of the 1946-47 rates, ‘would be £128,500,000, including a rise in the assessment level brought about by the increased level of wages and generally buoyant economic conditions. The new field of taxable income to be created as the result of the demobilization of the forces, the relaxation of wage-pegging, the recent, basic wage increase, the rise of the cost of living, and the increasing revenue returns from rehabilitated ex-servicemen indicate that the figure given is far too conservative and that the Treasurer is unduly cautious. These factors will go far towards wiping out the revenue losses anticipated from the lower tax scales to be- come operative on the 1st July. Many of these items were, as usual, not foreseen by the Treasurer when, under pressure from State Premiers who had to face elections, he announced the prospective tax cuts some months ahead of their operative date. The taxation policy of the Treasurer is based on gloomy and pessimistic forebodings. It; gives no ray of hope in the ability of this country to develop and expand as it would were a wise economic policy adopted. All of these factors must surely have been foreseen or are foreseeable by the Treasurer and his advisers, but they have been brushed aside, lt is the policy of the Treasurer to give no relief until it can be granted without risk to his unduly conservative estimates of revenue. The wisdom of the proposals I placed before the people before the last elections has been proved conclusively. The Treasurer made a bad error of financial judgment in condemning my anticipation that tax relief amounting to £35,000,000 for a. full year could have been effected on the 1st January last. However, it is not yet too late for the right honorable gentleman to have another look at my proposals, with a viewto granting additional relief much earlier than he has so far thought possible.
The Treasurer might at least give consideration to the adjustment of anomalies, even though it might result in some loss of revenue. The first, overdue reform i’s to .scrap the present rebate system in favour of the deduction system. I have reiterated the arguments in favour of the restoration of the deduction system so often that it should not be necessary for me to traverse them in detail again. It must be obvious to everybody, to the officers of the Taxation Department, to tax agents, and to discerning honorable members of this House that the rebate system is much too cumbersome, difficult for the taxpayer to understand, and calculated to increase administrative costs and to delay the issuing of assessments. It should be scrapped in favour of a. straight-out, deduction system, without frills or’ complexities. Although when the Labour Government introduced the rebate system it may have had approximately the same effect on taxpayers with dependants as had previous deductions, its subsequent extension has undoubtedly caused the dice to be heavily loaded against them. The ‘ Treasurer subtly admits that that is true by resisting all attempts on ray part to have the deduction system restored. The right honorable gentleman argues that it would cost too much; in other words, those who would benefit by the deduction system are now contributing much more to revenue under the rebate system. When, in August, 194G, I asked what would be the cost of reconversion from the rebate system to a system of straight-out deduction, the Commissioner of Taxation replied -
Tin- effect on revenue of reconversion from iiic present concessional rebates to concessional deductions depends upon the amounts allowed as deductions, Prior to the introduction of the rebate system, the amounts varied considerably. For example, prior to 1930 no deduction whatever was allowed for a spouse, whilst only £50 was allowed for each dependent child under the a-re of sixteen years. The allowances for medical expenses were on a much restricted scale. The present rebatable amounts were designed upon the introduction of uniform taxation to (rive appro.vima.tely the same concession as had been obtained under the old deduction.
If. however, conversion were made on the basis of the amounts now taken into account for rebate purposes, it is estimated that the cost would be upwards of £25.000.000 at the present rates. For purposes of this estimate, it is presumed that the allowance for a spouse would be a constant amount of £1.00.
Every common-sense person knows that if i to revert from the rebate system to the deduction system will result in a loss of revenue of £25,000,000, it must be obvious that the present system is costing somebody £25,000,000. “ Who is bearing that additional £25,000,000? It is borne largely by the married men with dependent wives and children. I do not say that they pay the whole of it. because that amount has relation to all rebatable items, but it cannot be denied that they bear the greater proportion of it. Undoubtedly, the family man is contributing to his own family endowment scheme by this method of rebate, and he does not know it. When recent, adjustments of tax rates were made I asked the Commissioner of Taxation what would be the effect on the revenue of the increase of the rebate for a wife from £100 to £150, and for a child from £75 to £100. In his reply the Commissioner said -
The cost of the increase in the rebatable amounts for dependants may be considered to he £11,500.000. Whilst this approach may be somewhat arbitrary, the dissection of the total cost to revenue is considered to be sufficiently accurate for practical purposes.
In other words, the advantage received by married taxpayers with dependent wives and children as the result of the recent £34,000,000 reduction of income tax is £11,550,000.With the permission of the House, I shall incorporate in Hansard the following tables showing the varying rates of tax under the rebate and deduction systems : -
The recent increases of the rebates for dependants are more apparent than real. The alleged concession is like a box of chocolates given as a prize at a country show. It is nicely wrapped and secured with ribbon and tinsel but when the winner opens it he finds it contains few chocolates. I particularly direct attention to the participation of a married man with a wife and one or two children, in the £11,500,0.00 that is the calculated cost of the increased) rebates. To do so I have to compare the tax paid by,- a man with no dependants; and a man with- a wife; because the difference must be the concession granted’ for the maintenance of a wife1.- A mau- with a-n income of £250- and no dependants pays £26’ 17s: tax, and’ a man with- a wife £13, an- advantage1 to- the man with a wife of £13 l>7s. Under the proposed scale their respective taxes will be £1’S 18s, and: .-63 15s-., admittedly a. difference of! £15. But that is the trouble. Whereas previously the rebate was £13 17s., it is now to be £15.. That means rita* only -S I. 3s. is* h-i’s share of the- extra rebate- of £50 for the alleged maintenance off a wife. ‘Unit is all he gets out of: the £11,500,000. A man on £30.0 with no dependants pays. £40. tax and a man with a. wife £26’ 13s., an advantage of £13. 7s-. Under the proposed scale the respective payments will be £28 ls’, and £11 5s., an advantage- of £16 16s. So. the man on £3.00 with- a wife is to receive £3 9s. of the £11,500,0,00. A man on £350 with no dependants pays £53 19s. and1 a man with a wife £88 Ils., a-n advantage to the latter of £15 Ss. Next financial year the man with no dependants will pay £3S and the man with a wife £21, an advantage of £17, which is only £1 12s. more than his previous advantage, whereas the man on £300 with a wife will- receive £3 9s. more. That in itself is an anomaly, but I think it is not innocent but intended. There are- more tax-payers om £300 a year than’ in other grades. Every one knows that the Government has focussed its attention on men on £30.0 a. year. So the curve was adjusted for political purposes. A man on £400 a year with a wife will have an added advantage of £1 3s., on £500, £1 18s., on, £600. £2 16s., and 011 £800, £4 15s. It will be seen that the man on £300 is out of balance with the nest. ‘ The reason is obvious. I intend now to examine the effect of the proposed increase of the rebate for a dependent wife and child from £175 to. £250 on men on various grades of income. A man on £3QQ with a wife and child has received a rebate of tax on their account of £2.4 8s. He will receive £25. 16s., an additional £1 Ss. The respective figures for a. man on £350 are £27 15s. and £27 10s., a loss of 5s. compared with the gain of £1 Ss., received .by the man on £300: Men on £.400 gain! 14s., on £50,0 lose ls., and on £.600 gain £2. 17,s. ‘ Those figures are based, on the Government’s own tables.
– They do not receive a reduction of tax for dependants.
– No. such thing !r The figures are indisputable. J do not desire to mislead the people. Their,, taxes are to be cut. B,ut the Government is, trying, to deceive them,- It is trying to: make them; believe that they will reap an advantage out of, the £11,500,000 which, it, is alleged-,. th$ extra, rebates; will cost., The comparison; of the treatment- of a ma#. and a w.ife and a man and a wife and two children, is, too. glaringly anomalous to be allowed to pass without protest. Under the proposed scale a man. on £350 with a wife and- two children will: be ls. worse ©if , because his tax ad vantage omer th,e single man on the same income, will dr.o.p from £32 16s. to £32 15s. He is allowed nearly. £11 for the maintenance of each of his dependants. Does any one who believes in the need to populate, and develop Australia think that such treatment, of family men will encourage others to rear children or migrants to. come here?
– What does he pay in tax?
– He will receive a reduction of his tax, .but not sufficient to encourage him to rear a family. His treatment is out of harmony with the cry that our country must be peopled.
– He will not pay any tax.
– Of course he will. I have another official table which was sup- ?lied to me from, the 2,6th Report of the Commissioner of Taxation. It indicates that the most valuable units of the community, from the standpoint of an increase of population in the future, are the married men with more than one child, who have taxable incomes of between £3Q1 and £50,0 a -year. There are 308,000 such taxpayers out of a total of 477,000 in this class. This is. one of the greatest anomalies, and it affects the most worthy section of the whole community. These married men, who have accepted family responsibilities, must be given equitable treatment. Unfortunately, they obtain the least advantage, and often no advantage at all, from the proposed increases of rebates.
The Commissioner of Taxation has estimated that after the proposed remissions of tax, amounting to £34,000,000, are made, the tax yield will be £95,000,000. In other words, the amount of £34,000,000 lias been subtracted from £129,000,000. In this simple subtraction, no regard has been paid to the natural development and expansion of Australia, and almost a total ignorance has been displayed, of, to say the least, the 500,000 persons who will return to civil production and become taxpayers have been overlooked, to say nothing of the advantages which will accrue to Consolidated Revenue from the relaxation of wage-pegging, and increases of the cost of living and the basic wage. Despite all those powerful factors, honorable members are asked to believe that the future tax yield can be determined by a simple arithmetical subtraction of £34,000,000 from £129,000,000. Any one who has any faith in, or feels any optimism about the future of Australia, and has any regard to the indisputable factors which are so evident, must recognize that the collections of tax of Australia will exceed £95,000,000. The Commissioner of Taxation stated that the proposed adjustments of tax, which will take effect from the 1st July next, will cost Consolidated Revenue £34,000,000. I contend that the amount of £34,000,000 has simply been subtracted from £129,000,000. The Commissioner of Taxation also estimates the effect of the remissions on the budget for the financial year 1947-48 at less than that figure, and states that, in his opinion, it probably will not exceed £30,000,000! With all due respect, I am not prepared to accept this unduly cautious figure, having regard to all the factors which I have mentioned. I am not criticizing the Commissioner of Taxation personally. He has to give the information as he sees it, and he is not supposed to adopt the role of a prophet. However, in all the circumstances, he would be an absolute pessimist and a poor Australian who would not consider that the financial capacity of Australia would not yield tax collections of more than £95,000,000.
The nearest estimate, so far as I can ascertain, is that the taxpayers’ under the pay as you earn system comprise approximately 50 per cent, of all who pay tax on income derived from personal exertion. Consequently, the effect in respect of these on the 1947-4S budget would be from £15,000,000 to £17,000,000. I realize that allowance must be made for provisional tax, but I shall not be easily convinced that, if the reduction of taxis £34,000,000 now, the budget for 1947-4S will be affected by an amount anything like £30,000,000, I put this’ proposition to the Treasurer, and I submit that, if he is sincere in his estimate of the yield from individual income taxation for the next financial year, he must accept it. I ask: Will the Treasurer specially ear-mark all individual income taxation revenue which he will derive foi- the year ending 30th June, 194.S, in excess of his estimate of £95,500,000 for the purpose of further reductions of tax, ‘ to be retrospective from the 1st July, 1947, for the adjustment of anomalies apparent in the present legislation and for the immediate reconversion thereafter of the rebate system to a sensible, straight-out deduction system, calculated on a. basis which is found to be financially possible? I. am not so stupid as to ask the House to believe that the Taxation Department can revert from the straight-out rebate system to the original deduction system and, at the same time, give the nominal allowance df £150 in respect of a wife and £100 in respect of a child. By the adoption of that the revenues would be too harshly affected. But I contend that in order to achieve simplicity, remove the complications, and overcome the difficulty which taxpayers have of following the calculations, a formula should be found to provide a simple straightforward system of deductions in place of the rebate system. The formula should be calculated on such a. basis that the allowance is reasonable, having regard to the fact that it is a straight-out deduction. In no circumstances could the maintenance allowance in respect of a wife, of a straight-out deduction of £150, and for every child, of £100, be allowed. A suitable formula can be found. I believe that I could find one. Simplicity would be its basic principle, and the justice of the deduction would be more real than apparent It is time that we abandoned this misleading and deceptive method of rebate in favour of the straight-out method of deductions.
In committee, I shall refer to certain clauses of the bill. At this stage, I commend the proposal for the allowance of a deduction for capital expenditure incurred in combating or preventing soil erosion. Because of the serious nature of damage from soil erosion and the consequent loss of fertility, especially in Australia’s richest producing districts, the Leader of the Australian” Country party in the Senate, Senator Cooper, moved an amendment to the. previous Income Tax Assessment Bill. The Government refused to accept the amendment, obviously because the Australian Country party had submitted it. Strangely enough, the Government has now adopted that identical proposal. This is another example of the way in which the Australian Country party sets the standard in order to obtain reforms. In committee, the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) will submit other desirable amendments for the purpose of assisting the rural industries. Ou,r taxation system requires careful examination in the light of changing circumstances, and the conditions under which we live. During the war, the act had to be amended expeditiously and often without thorough consideration, because the fundamental necessity was to obtain the requisite finance for an all-in war effort. To-day, however, we live under peace-time conditions, and we should re-examine this hasty legislation and the incidence of taxation with a view to consolidating and simplifying our tax laws. I move -
That all the words after “That” be left out with h view to insert in lieu thereof the following words: - “the hill be withdrawn and redrafted for the purpose of adjusting the glaring anomalies against the family man which are contained in it, and for the purpose of substituting a straight deduction system in lieu of the present cumbersome a.nd unfair rebate system.”.
At the appropriate time, I shall submit amendments proposing further reductions of tax, to take effect retrospectively from the 1st January, 1947.
.-The Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. .Fadden), who made some remarkable statements in his speech, has moved that the bill be withdrawn and redrafted for the purpose of adjusting what he described as “ glaring anomalies against the family man “. If one of the examples of unfairness which the right honorable gentleman cited is correct, and the remainder of his figures have a similar basis, 1 am certainly not impressed by his contentions. He referred to the allowances granted to a’ man, with u wife and two children, in receipt of £300 per year.
– I meant £350, though, inadvertently, I may have said £300.
– In any case, the contention of the right honorable gentleman was that that man would be only £33 better off than a man without dependants. The right honorable gentleman failed to explain the reasons underlying the alteration in 7-espect. of a man without dependants and a man with a dependant wife and two children. He must be well aware that if the man with a dependent wife and two children had been paying a tax of 10s. in the £3 when the rebate for his wife was based on £100 and the tax was reduced to Ss. in the £1, it would be essential that the rebate be increased to give the same total amount of tax to be deducted. That is elementary. I do not think that the right honorable gentleman put the position fairly.
– I gave the facts.
– But the right honorable gentleman left the implication that unfair treatment was being meted out to the man’ with the dependent wife and two children. I do not know whether the Leader of the Australian Country party is of the opinion that the taxes -in respect of single men without dependants are not heavy enough, or whether he is objecting to the reductions that are being made.’ He cannot have it both ways. It must be remembered that the married’ man is also to be granted a rebate of £150, instead of the former £100, in respect of his dependent wife. That must be taken, into account in considering the relativepositionsof the single man without dependants and fee married manwith a dependent wife and two children.
The argument used by the Leader of the Australian Country party in relation to deductions and rebates would apply in certaincases whetherdeductions or rebates were allowed. Every care has been taken to ensure fair treatment to the men with dependants. A man withoutdependants on an income of £350 will pay £38 under the new scale, which represents a reduction of 49 per cent. on the amount that he would have paid under the higher rate, while aman with a dependent wife and two children on an income of £350 will pay £5 5s. - a reduction of 83 per cent. During the last election campaign the Leader of the Australian Country party suggested that reduction of taxes at certain rates should be applied. I am under the impression that he advocated a flat-rate reduction.
– I did not; a graduated sceale was maintained through the whole formula.
– In that respect the proposal of the right honorable gentleman differed alittle bit from that of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies).
– It differed a big bit.
– Well,, a big bit. The Leader of the Opposition proposed that there should be a flat-rate reduction of 20 per cent. We have been provided with detailed information on how the Government’s proposals will work in particular cases, but, unfortunately, the table applicable to the proposal of the Leader of the Australian Country party is not available to us.
Mr.Fadden.-I had tables prepared.
– Unfortunately, they are not available to us at this moment for the purpose of comparison. The right honorable gentleman is suggesting that a married man with a dependent wife and two children would have received much more relief under his proposals than under those of the Leader of the Opposition, but tables are not available for comparative purposes. Information that is available to us, however, indicates very clearly that under the Government’s proposals a married man with a dependent wife and two children will be very well treated in comparison with single men without dependants. I have already stated the comparisonand the Leader of the Australian Country party should not attempt to hoodwink the public into believing anything else. It is a simple matter of calculation that if a married, man with a wife and two children is allowed a heavier rebate in respect of his wife, and is also liable to a reduced rate of tax compared with a single main without dependants, he must be better off.
The honorable member for Reid (Mr. Lang) referred last night to the complicated income tax return forms which taxpayers are required to furnish and asked that they be simplified. The Leader of the AustralianCountry party has indicated that the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) intends to move certain amendments with the object of simplifying the return which taxpayers are required to furnish. It is an accepted fact that when people were paying, taxes at the very much lower rate that applied before the war the requests for exemptions were not nearly as numerous as they became after the heavier war-time rates were applied. All honorable members of. this Parliament, and also members of State parliaments, as I know from my experience in a State legislature,have been requested from time to time to make representations to the taxation authorities for more sympathetic consideration for people who found themselves in difficult financial circumstances. We know very well that if general application were given to some of the requests that were made for relief in individual cases, heavy inroads would be made into the revenue from income tax. The officials of the Taxation Department, therefore, were requested to endeavour to evolve a system whereby relief could be given to genuine cases without providing for general application of such methods. It is obvious that the more numerous the exemptions become in respect of individual ‘cases, the more complicated the assessment forms must be. If we could give general application to certain principles that now apply only in special instances it would be possible to simplify the returns to a marked degree. To the man in the street who has had a reasonable education and takes the necessary trouble, it is not difficult ito calculate the tax that has to be paid on income from an ordinary wage or salary, supplemented, perhaps, by a littleincome from interest ona savings bank deposit.
– Under the payasyouearn system of collection of income tax, the employermakes thecalculation.
-We know that, to a degree, the position is met in that way. The allegation has been made, not only in this House, but also elsewhere, that the tax law is so complicated that one does not know where one stands. That difficulty does not arise in the case t hat I have cited. Last night, the honorable member for Reid referred to notional income as though it affected the great bulk of the people. The very statement from which the honorable gentleman quoted cited specifically the section of the act which applies in such cases. It the honorable member were to read that section he would learn that it deals with leases and with premiums paid or received on their account. Do the. great bulk of the taxpayers own leases from which they derive a premium of hundreds of pounds every two, three or five years, and have to calculate exactly what tax they have to pay on that income? Of course not. The honorable member attempted to heap ridicule on the Treasury and the Government by making it appear that the community as a whole is affected, whereas it is practically confined tobusiness people who have interests of that kind. ‘ I have not had a university education, nor am I professor or an expert with figures, yet it would not take me very many minutes to calculate the tax that is payable by an ordinaryman. The honorable member for Reid argued that the tax is based on a scale running into three decimal figures, and asked how one could understand the process. I have found in public life that with a flat rate of tax within specified limits of income; discontent is aroused in the nian on the lowest income within a higher range when he compares the tax that he has to pay with that paid by the man in receipt of thehighest - income of the range immediately below him. Honorable members have had representations made to ‘them for an alteration of the ‘law to obviate such experiences, and the department has been urged to make such provision as will enable the income tax to be reasonably increased as the income rises, without penalizing anybody. I believe that when’ a uniform ; income tax was introduced, no tax was payable onan income of £100 a year. If my memory serves me aright, the rateoftax ion £101 was 6d.in the£l, at which rate the tax payable would be £2 10s.6d. The fairness of that was questioned by some persons who raised thematterwith me, and my reply to them was that if they read other provisions in the act they wouldlearn that the tax was notto exceed 50 per cent. of the extra amount ‘earned, and would therefore be 10s. instead of £2 ’10s. 6d. I make this explanation in order to convince honorable members who complain about decimal point increases that they should’ try to understand the reason for the system, andthe outcome of it. [Quorum formed.] The object is, not to bamboozle taxpayers or add to their difficulties, but as far as possible to impose equitable rates throughout all the ranges of income. If the practice of taxing at a flat rate were reverted to, and the man in receipt of an income of £300 had to pay at the same rate as the man with an income of £1,000, the honorable member for Reid would strenuously object, and rightly so.
– It would be an easier system than the present one.
– I agree. But the present system is not a difficult one to apply. A taxpayer who really wants to calculate ‘his tax and to ascertain the total amount of rebates can readily do so by applying himself to the task. The honorable member for Cook (Mr. Sheehan) interjected earlier that the employer makes the calculations on behalf of his employees. Inreality, that is not done by the employer. He is supplied by the Taxation Department with tables containing ‘a host of figures. I have been supplied ‘with them, and know what they are The tables are in the form ofa ready reckonerof the amounts thathave to be deducted from wages and salaries to meet the tax onthe approximate earnings for a year. Candidly, I like the old deduction system better than the present rebate system. It was more readily understood by the ordinary man. The leader of the Australian Country party has pleaded for greater consideration for (lie family man, and has endeavoured to prove that the Government has been remiss in that respect. The old deduction system did not have the equalizing effect that is attained now under the rebate system, even though the latter is not altogether ,what I should like to be applied. When honorable members interpret the law so as to suit their own purposes, they are not doing a service which will enable the people generally to understand the position as they should. Honorable members who sit on this side of the House hold the view that taxes should be levied in such a way as to ensure their payment mostly by those who are best able to bear them. A flat-rate system would not affect all taxpayers equally. Provision has to be made to meet the circumstances that, are caused by differing methods df earning income, by personal exertion, or from investments or property. One taxpayer may have children who are always healthy, whereas another may have a crippled child or a constantly sick wife, and thus be put to a good . deal of extra expense. Every class of case that is brought within the range of rebates rnakes tile system more complicated. Despite the suggestion of the Leader of the Australian Country party that the Government was trying to put something over the people, I say that whatever amendments have been made to the Income Tax Assessment Act were put there to meet difficulties that existed at. that time. Honorable members opposite may say that they are not complaining of the benefits which the bill provides, but of the difficulties and complications inherent in the act. I do not think that any of the provisions in the act which they now describe as complications were put there except at the request of members of Parliament, or of some section of the community that wished to benefit from the alteration. Take bad debts, for instance. There is a distinction between debts that there is no chance of collecting and those that may possibly be collected. If the Treasurer agrees that some allowance should be made in the case of uncollectable debts, he will ask his officers to draft a suitable section. Then, when he sees it, he may say, “ This is a bit complicated’’. The officers will explain that there is no other way of achieving the end desired. Ultimately, the provision may get into the act, and later someone will complain that it has’ had the effect of making the act difficult and complicated.
Honorable members opposite have said that heavy taxation is preventing industry from expanding in Australia.. The Treasurer has prepared a table showing the Comparable rates of income in Australia, Great Britain and New Zealand. I have examined this table, and I arn convinced that if taxation rates are a drag on industry in A-ustralia, then those which operate in Groat Britain and New Zealand must bc much more of a drag on industry there. We have also been told that high income tax rates are preventing capital from coming into Australia ‘ and preventing the establishing here of overseas firms. After examining the rates in operation in Great Britain. I cannot understand that our income tax rates can have the effect of keeping capital away.
The tax remissions foreshadowed by the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) will be of great benefit to the people. The Leader of the Australian Country party, when drawing comparisons between former tax rates and those now proposed, compared the tax paid by a man with a wife’ and no children with that payable by a man with a wife and two children, and thus conveyed a misleading impression. The right honorable gentleman said that , he was reciting cold facts, but the cold fact from which he cannot get away is that a man with a wife and two children wlm, during the war, paid £2 18s. a year tax on an income of £250, will now pay nothing on that income. .Such a. man on an income of £300 paid £17 Ss. during the war. whereas he will now pay nothing, anil at the wine time, a man on an income of £350 who’ paid £31 12s. during the war. will now pay only £5 5s. - a reduction of S3 per cent, on war-time rates. The comparison which the right honorable ‘member made was unfair. I do not say that, he cited incorrect figures, but everybody knows that a man who is clever with figures can, without falsifying them, use them in such a way as to create a false impression, and that is what the right honorable gentleman did. Merely to recite a long list of figures, and to have tables of figures inserted in Hansard is not enough to prove, an argument, however useful it may be in making a political point.
I can understand the feelings of honorable members opposite. I believe that the honorable member for Darwin (Dame Enid Lyons), before she became a member of this House, said on one occasion that every one should contribute something toward social services, if it was only threepence. I take it that she meant that if a man, no matter how large his family, were earning as little as £1 a week, he would still be expected to contribute. We on this side of the House take a different view. We say that the nation owes a. duty to its citizens. Honorable members opposite claim that the wheat-growers should be assisted out of public funds in time of drought, and that assistance should be rendered to other primary producers in time of need. We say that there is an equal obligation upon the Government to assist other people in time of need. Boiled down, social benefits may be regarded as being, in much the same category as bonuses or grants to primary producers. 1 do not say that the primary producers should, not receive assistance, and when I. was a member of the South Australian Parliament I supported proposals for giving them help, proposals which involved a contribution of 50 per cent, by the State, and an equal contribution by the Commonwealth. I have always believed that the primary producer is just as deserving of help in time of need as is the man who works, with a pick and shovel when he is in need. I believe that income tax should begin from the point, when a man has more than just enough to get along.
I trust that this bill will be approvedby the House. The Leader of the Australian Country party has forecast certain amendments which he intends to move, but he surely ‘cannot expect that members on this . side will support his amendments on the strength of the arguments that he has ‘been able to advance. Wo do not believe that he is capable of doing a better job than the Treasurer has done, and we certainly will not agree to his proposal that the bill should be withdrawn, and redrafted. I commend the Treasurer for the way he has handled this matter. There may be a few points regarding which I could suggest improvement, . but we must realize that we cannot all get exactly what we want. Our concern should be to do the best we can, in all circumstances, for the people as a whole, and particularly for those who most need assistance.
You siN.Y I0°l) they are keeping you ‘.” There are many people like that man. In the United Kingdom there are still very many people who own large areas of land, whole villages and towns, which had been granted to their forefathers by the King in recognition of their services to the Crown.
– In a modified way, that is Labour’s policy now.
– What does the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. McBride) know about Labour’s policy? Every statement he makes decrying Labour’s policy is tinged with a desire to have adopted in this country a policy which will ensure that he, and others in his fortunate position, are able to retain the wealth and influence that many of them have held and wielded for many years. The honorable member is well aware that the most valuable ai-eas in South Australia were allotted to our early pioneers and that much of the land is now held by their grand-children and great-grand-children. I do not, for one moment, detract from the valuable work clone by the pioneers in the development of this country, nor do I say that they had not every right to the lands which were given to them in the early days, of our history ; but I question whether their descendants, who, themselves, did nothing n> earn these holdings, should be permitted to retain them without paying tax on their unearned incremental value. It is only by means of our taxation policy that we are able to say to these people, “ You did nothing to improve the value of your land; its value has increased as the result of the efforts of others ; therefore, you must pay tax on the value of this improvement “.. The. building, of new railways and the construction of arterial roads, all of which has1 been paid for by the public, have increased land values enormously. Accordingly, we- say t’o these people, “ We do not mind you retaining what you have, but if you are going to claim all the benefits of citizenship of this’ community you must pay your fair share of the cost of running it according to your ability to do so “. In the United Kingdom, members of the. peerage have, for hundreds of years handed down, to successive generations, thousands and’ ‘thousand’s of acres of the choicest land in the country. I commend the bill to the House..
Mr.Q DEPUTY SPEAKER-Order ! The1 honorable- member’s time has expired.
– For the last three-quarters of an hour I have listened closely to. the speech of the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr;
Thompson), in an endeavour to ascertain his views on the- taxation policy of the Government, without avail. The honorable member professed to be perfectly satisfied, with, the taxation legislation inrtroduced by the Government, but then, by way of parenthesis, he said that he would prefer the deduction system to the rebate system and that he would not ca.re to. discuss the merits of the- existing high rates oi taxes. If the honorable member bad perused the- bill carefully he would undoubtedly have, found a number of things he would like to alter; but because it is a Labour measure, and because he is a good Labour man, lie is prepared to support it. He referred to the mass of figures cited by the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden), saying, “ It is. well known that figures may be used to mean what any one wishes them to mean “. That is a trite observation which has been made again and again. It is equally true that an- honorable member may use words that mean actually nothing, and that is just what the honorable member has been doing for the last, three-quarters of an hour. His contribution to the debate is of no value in the consideration of this bill’. Let us ascertain just how far the honorable member’s staatements can be- justified. He is content to- receive- this amending bill, consisting of 36 pages and containing 38 clauses, and a memorandum consisting, of 99. pages, a.”l!l’ superimposed on the Income Tax Assessment Act of approximately 188 pages, and he says, “ This is quite satisfactory “. The honorable member has fold us that the computation of assessments is an easy matter, that anybody can work them out, that an employer is even- helped to work them- out by the Taxation Department. Surely he knows that when a taxpayer has paid his contributions under the pay-as-you-earn method’ the- taxpayer’s obligation does not end there. When the. assessment is finally posted. Uo him the taxpayer finds either that he has to pay more to the taxation, authorities or that he is* entitled to’ a refund in respect of over-paid. tax. How many complaints has the honorable member received from people in his electorate about the rebate system ? For the greater part of his speech the honorable member spoke with tongue in cheek, knowing’ very. wellhe wasnotbeing sincere. The intricaciesof our taxationlegislationconfuse not only the taxpayers, and the tax agents who. make a life-timestudy ofits provisions, but also the officials of the Taxa-, tion Department. I ask honorable members to turn to page 59 of the memorandum and read the formula thereindescribed for the assessment of the amount of Australian tax referable to a dividend of £1,000 received from a company in the United Kingdom. There is a mass of figures which I defy any honorable member to understand. Thesole purpose of this complex computation is to obtain a. tax of £89 15s. from an amount of £1.000. The sooner we simplify our income tax laws, the better will it be for the individual, for the country, and also for the peace of mind of honorablemembers.I am reminded of the days when politicians stumped the country campaigning for federation. - They promisedthe taxpayers that the annual administrative costs of federation for ‘each individual would not amount to more than the price of a dog licence. Since then, a gigantic financial burden has been piled upon the shoulders of the unfortunate taxpayers. All of the agitation for federation culminated on this date twenty years ago, when Parliament House was ceremoniously opened amidst great splendour. What is the purpose of taxation? It is designed to finance the administrative organization necessary for the efficient conduct of the affairsof the nation. Therefore, it is a. meatier for comment that. to-day, twenty yearsafter the official opening of Commonwealth Parliament House, over 300artisans demonstrated in these precincts against the conditions laid down by a Labour government in the administration of the Australian Capital Territory. Three hundred men packed the galleries of this chamber only a. few minutes ago after protesting against the sordid conditions under which they are called upon to work at a time when taxes are at the highest level in the history of this country. Never before has there been such a demonstration in Parliament House against the failure of a. government to provide satisfactory conditions of working and living. In the early days of federation, the tax system was fairly simple. There was no need for complexity, and the average taxpayer knew how muchhewouldhave to pay to the Treasuryeach year. However, as the years passed, greater powers were given to the Taxation Commissioner until this Government, in its endeavour to wring the last farthing from the taxpayers, has evolved a complex system which, in my opinion, is designed to hoodwink the people so that they will not know, until they receive their assessments, the amount of their annual liabilities to the Treasury. As long as the ‘Government can shroud its methods of taxing in a veil of mystery, so long will the taxpayers be prevented from objecting to unfair assessments until the appropriate time for objecting has long passed. That is the reason for this complex system. The honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) last night pointed out that an unfair burden had been placed upon industry. He remarked that the Government was rapidly killing the goose which lays its golden eggs. That is a. fact. In addition to imposing penal rates of tax, the Governmenthas vested the Taxation ‘Commissioner with dictatorial powers lest some small amounts should escape its clutches. The Taxation ‘Commissioner to-day has greater power than is possessed fry this Parliament. I refer to the power conferred upon him by section 167 of the Income Tax Assessment Act, which states -
Obviously that section is designed primarily to prevent evasions of tax and the making of incorrect returns. I do not wish to protect persons who are not prepared to pay what is demanded of them ‘by the tax laws, but I want to have justice and equity in these matters. The Taxation Commissioner has acquired the habit of -wielding his power in a way that intimidates the average taxpayer, who is -made to feel that he must obey every direction of the Commissioner without question. He fears that, unless he does, he will be “ put through the hoops “ by the Commissioner.
Sitting suspended from 12.^5 to 2.15 p.m.
– What I have said about the dictatorial powers of- the Taxation Commissioner must not be construed as a -personal attack on the gentleman because I have the highest regard for him. I know that it is impossible for him in his gigantic department to administer the last letter of his powers. I know too that many of those powers have been conferred on him from time to time to prevent tax evasions. But I join issue with the department on the method employed in the exercise of those powers - powers over the life of the community greater. I think than any other man in Australia holds. The powers should be used with discrimination, not indiscriminately^ as they have been. Penalties have been imposed arbitrarily when they need not have been imposed at all if the ordinary procedure of seeking information suspected of having been withheld had been followed by the commissioner and his staff. The commissioner’s powers were given to him te protect the Government against “ crooks “, but, in the exercise of them,, lie has penalized and imposed arbitrary tax assessments on hundreds of thousands of honest traders who should never have been subjected to the charges levelled against them. . If an investigating officer of the department regards a return of income by a taxpayer as incorrect, he makes an arbitrary assessment, without asking the taxpayer to produce his books. In effect, he says to the taxpayer, “ You say that your business has returned yon “ x “ pounds but we say that it should have returned you “ y “ pounds, and, therefore, we have assessed your tax on the sum of the two amounts. We do not have to prove that your return is incorrect; you have to prove that our assessment is’ incorrect. “ I have two instances to support my contention that the exercise of such a power as that should be discriminatory. One- concerns a woman in a small way of business. She made her return of income. The department said that it believed that the return for a business of the type conducted by her should have been greater than she had stated and that it, therefore, had made an assessment on a taxable income of £375, under the provisions of Section 167 of the Income Tax Assessment Act. She lodged an objection against that assessment and was asked on the 24th Febuary, 1947, to furnish certain information to enable a review of the assessment to be made. She says that she had lodged full particulars by the return mail after having received that notice. She was told in April, however, that as soon as the particulars requested were furnished by her, action would bc taken to review her assessment. Although the instance is a minor one, in my -opinion it is indicative of the arbitrary way in which the department makes assessments without calling on the taxpayer affected to produce the details on which the return’ of income sent to the department was based. Honorable members will be astounded at the second in-, stance of arbitrary methods of the Taxation Commissioner. A professional man in a small way received a curt notification that his return was considered unsatisfactory and that tax had been assessed on a greater amount of money than had been returned by him as his income. The taxpayer objected an writing. Three months later he was told to submit his books. He did so. He was then informed that his return was satisfactory and* advised to apply for a refund of the extra tax, which he had paid,- and he did so Another three months passed and he then received an amended assessment ignoring his request for a refund, and giving another amount,, higher than the first, and stating that he would have to pay on the higher amount which was regarded as his earnings for the year. He demanded another interview, which was granted three months later. The investigator whom he interviewed said that he could not discover how the extra tax had been arrived at. When the taxpayers asked how there could he such a difference between the tax in the two arbitrary assessments, he received the extraordinary reply that it depended on the officer who handled the return. That indicates the chaos prevailing in the department. Disgusted, the taxpayer, realized that all he could do to avoid -further imposts by way of penalty for default was to pay the extra tax, and bc paid. Ite protested in a letter to the press, which honorable members may have read. Those two instances show how the system works. The powers of the Taxation Commissioner are too great for one man unless he uses discrimination.
But the power of making arbitrary assessments of tax is one of the least of t.ho powers exercised -by the Taxation Commissioner. Honorable members may remember the case of Magrath v. Jackson. Mr. Jackson preceded Mr. McGovern m- Taxation Commissioner. The case which went eventually to the Full Court of the Supreme Court of Sew South Wales was one in which Magrath, a 90-year old grazier, claimed that he had been libelled by the commissioner in his report in 1943 to the Commonwealth Parliament. It was complained that the report included his name, amongst others, under the heading “ Questionable Returns” and stated that he had understated his income tax between 1930 and 1940 by £109,000 and that a penalty of £7,000 in addition had been imposed upon him. The grazier claimed that that was tantamount to putting him in the “ rogues gallery “. In the course of his judgment, the Chief Justice said -
The mutter complained of in the course of the summing-up was clearly defamatory. The net prohibits the disclosure of a taxpayer’s affairs to any one else. Members of the public ure required to make the fullest disclosure of their affairs to the department and are encouraged to do so by the promise of secrecy. Such information as was given in Jackson’s report is prohibited by that section which enjoins secrecy upon the department. There could he no defence to the publication of mutter which is prohibited by ‘ statute.
And yet we find that the Commissioner of Taxation, using these’ powers indiscriminately, has libelled individuals. Magrath’s case was an extraordinary one and he won his action. In the course of that action he proved conclusively that he had bt-on libelled by being termed a defaulter, he had been put in the “ rogues gallery “, and he was not a defaulter. That is the type of thing of which I am complaining, and I appeal now for .a simplification of taxation law and procedure. It has grown from the early days of simple assessment to a system so complex and shrouded in mystery that it would take an Indian yogi countless years of meditation to unravel. The taxpayer is placed in a position where it is impossible for him to understand the department’s calculations. Taxation agents arc bewildered and even the officers of the department are confused by the system. To-day many people are paying much greater amounts in taxes than they should because the average person, rather than incur the wrath of the department, pays up and looks cheerful. Recently, I wrote to the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) about such a case, and on the 2nd May I received a. reply) which reads in part as follows : -
The Commissioner informs me that it is not the practice to subject to provisional tax any part of the remuneration received in the circumstances described, and that the assessment issued was not in accordance with that practice. The Commissioner also informs me that a notice of amended assessment and a cheque in refund of the amount overpaid will be, forwarded to thi* gentleman by the Deputy Commissioner of Taxation at Sydney at an early date.
In other words, this man had been incorrectly assessed and had ‘been called upon to pay taxa tion which he was not required by law to pay. Had he not had the benefit, of the advice of a taxation agent, who informed him of the true position, this refund would not have been obtained. This is not an isolated instance, but, on. the contrary, cases like this are occurring all the time. As an illustration of this I may cite another example. In this case the victim was an ex-serviceman. I represented the matter to the Treasurer and in the course of his reply he said -
However, through inadvertence, OK special reducing deduction allowable to members of the defence forces under section SI of the Income Tax Assessment Act was not allowed in arriving at the taxable income, in amended assessment will bc issued at an early date to adjust the matter and will have the effect of reducing the amount of tax payable to £22 3s. A cheque in refund of the amount of tax overpaid will be forwarded te the taxpayer as soon as possible.
Taht is an example of ex-servicemen being exploited because of their ignorance of the- ta-x remissions which’ the country has allowed them. Of course,, one cannot wonder at it because, these taxation- laws would’ baffle even a Philadelphia lawyer. I agree with the criticism of the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Lang)’, and I do not think that one honorable member . in this House could understand a company taxation assessment or, say, an assessment on. investments abroad. I have already given an example of that, quoting the page- of the memorandum in case reference to it is needed, f have never seen anything- of such a complex nature; even Einstein, with his theory of relativity, could never have- unravelled the problem presented by this explanatory memorandum. Honorable members are- asked to- agree to a batch of amendments which require 99 pages of explanatory notes to- make them intelligible. The Commissioner of Taxation’ already wields- dictatorial powers, and yet it is proposed to aggravate the present impossible situation by superimposing further complexities on the already confused, taxation assessment system. I have details of another case which I could.’ quote, but I think I have given sufficient, proof of the injustice this system works in practice.
I- pass now to the1 amount of uncolected assessments- and the number of unassessed: returns reposing’ in; the department’s offices; to-day. The- Auditor.’ General inr” his last annual report drew attention to the fact that uncollected taxes, amounted to. something like £45,00.0,000: At a time like this when we are imposing, taxes, far higher than those o£ any other- country it would- seem that we really do not need the money when our administration, can afford to allow a sum like £45,000,000- to go uncollected’. We cannot expend the money that is budgeted for, and yet. we are holding back, as a kind of reserve, assessments which make up this huge sum. I can imagine how this is- affecting indus? try, and, in turn, the whole community. There are a number of industrial firms which have not received an assessment for over three years. In consequence- they .have to make reserves against taxation’ payable, and that means that they- are withholding from developmental investment huge sums of money to meet these assessments when they are issued. Some fir-ms did not. receive assessments for three years. Finally; when they arrived and the firms did not pay them promptly, they were threatened with penalties. No firm holds in* reserve the’ amount, represented by three year’s taxes. It invests the money- hr long-term loans,, or places it. on fixed deposit with a bank, and is not able to realize on the securities’ in a moment..
The Commissioner of Taxation is confronted with the .fact: that he is- obliged to. administer ai complex system, which confuses even the officials, of the Taxation ^Department, as well as the general taxpayer. He is also faced with the problem; of collecting assessments- which t-he staff does not appear to be capable of handling.. That reveals an axtra ordinarily chaotic condition of affairs in our system of taxation. This system, which- has been- built up over 47 years, has now assumed top-heavy proportions. One. or two additional complexities- will cause- the whole: structure to collapse. The Treasurer must devise a method of simplifying- the- taxation laws, so that industry may be able to. interpret -. them and know what their-“ indebtedness; to the Taxation Department will be.
-37]– My remarks this afternoon will be devoted mainly to criticizing the speech made by the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Lang)’. He complained about the expression,/’1 for the purpose of determining the rates of tax “, which is used in the resolution upon which this bill is founded.. He went so- far as. to claim that a. few years ago a taxpayer was- able to- fix with certainty,, within a few shillings, the amount of his liability to- the taxation department. That assertion was- entirely wrong. Before this Government introduced the pay-as-you-earn system the rates of tax were seldom,, if ever, enacted at the time ratepayers were required to lodge their returns.
Mr-.. Archie- Cameron. - This bril does not deal with the- rates of tax.
– Frequently, months elapsed before the rates of tax were enacted. “
– I rise to order. 1 point out, Mr. Speaker, that this hill deals with the- method of assessing income tax, and has nothing to do- with the rates which will subsequently be imposed or which, have been imposed. Therefore, I submit that the honorable member’s re: marks about rates of tax are not in order.
– Order ! Everything that, the honorable member for Hume has said up to the present is in order.
– This: Government introduced, the, pay-as-you-earn system of 0 taxation, and instalments- of tax are deducted regularly from, salaries and wages. These instalments normally approximate the ultimate liability of the* taxpayer. Hi® group certificate shows the total instalments which he has paid, and he knows, that at the end of the* financial year he will have to pay only a small balance of tax, or he may even receive a refund. How, then,, can the honorable member for Reid contend with any justification that an “indefinite liability hangs over the head of the taxpayer”. Those were his words. At one time the approximate liability could not be determined at the1 time the taxpayer lodged hia return, because, the rates of tax had not then been enacted. This Government enacts the rates of tax before the coin- inoncement of the; financial year in which they will apply. Haw, then,, can it be suggested that any other government has enabled the taxpayer to know at such an early date what his liability will be?
Tha honorable member for Reid complained that he could not understand the proposed method of determining the rate of tax. The method is similar to that which has been used for a long period.
– I. rise to order. I ask you,. Mr-. Speaker, whether’ the honorable member for Hume is in order in reading hig speech?
– I am not sure that the honorable member for Hume is reading1 hrs- speech.
– The rate of tax on a fixed amount of taxable income is clearly stated, and then it is provided that for each additional £1 of income the rates shall’ be increased by a fraction of Id. What is complicated about that? Doeany honorable member suggest that the increase should be expressed only in pence without fractions or decimal points? That would lead to anomalies. Numerous legislatures have rejected that method because it does not produce equity. This House has recognized that fact for many years. Merely because the honorable member for Reid desires to make, a charge of unnecessary complications, which cannot be sustained, he ignores entirely all matters of equity.
Immediately hostilities in the Pacific ceased the Government reduced taxes, by 1 2.4 per cent. Those reductions amounted to £20,000,000. Further reductions were made from the 1st July, 1946, .and were estimated to cost the Treasury” another £17,000,000. The new proposal will involve the sacrifice by the Treasury of £34,000,000, including £1 for special concessions to taxpayers with dependants, farmers, and mining concerns’. Therefore, the total income tax concessions since the end. of the war will .bc about £71,0.00,000 per annum. From the 1st July, 1947, the reductions in individual cases will range from 100. per cent, to 10 per cent.., and the majority of taxpayers will pay less than 50 per cent, of their war-time tax. A taxpayer with a dependent wife and two children will pay less than onehalf of his. war-time tax, if his income is less than £S00 a year.. A taxpayer with a. dependent wife, and one child will receive reductions/ of 50 per cent. ‘ or more, if his income does not exceed approximately £700. A taxpayer with a dependent wife and three children will be exempted from the payment of social services- contributions and income tax if his income is less than £350 a year, or approximately £7 a week. In addition, this person receives 15s. a week, or £39 a year, as, child endowment. In war-time his tax was £24 14s., and he received as child endowment 10s. a week, or £26 a year. A taxpayer with a dependent wife and four children will be free from both levies if his income does not exceed £40.0 per annum,, or. approximately £8 a, week. He receives 22s. 6d. a week, or £58 10s. a year child endowment. In war-time his tax was- £32- 4s. and his child endowment 15s. a week,, or £39 a year. A taxpayer with a dependent; wife and six children will also be free from both levies provided his income does not exceed £500 a year, or approximately £10 a week.. His child endowment amounts to 37s. 6d. a week or £97 10s. a year. In war-time he paid £48 17s. as taxes and his child endowment was 25s. a week, or £65 per annum. The bill also proposes special deductions for capital expenditure incurred in combating soil erosion and for water conservation. Farmers will also obtain benefits from the proposal to allow losses to bc carried forward seven years, instead of four years as at present.
When the Government appealed to the people last year it did not attemptto mislead them. The Opposition parties offered tempting baits to the electors; the Liberal party offered a reduction of taxes by 20 per cent. whilst the Australian Country party proposed a reduction of 28 per cent. The Labour party made no promise; the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) said that taxes would be reduced as opportunities offered. Now, oniy seven months later, a reduction of taxes by £34.000,000 is proposed. The Government has fulfilled its promises to the people. It would have been easy to promise big reductions of taxes, but tha Government and its supporters chose to be honest. When we look around and see how the people have prospered under a Labour Government we have no fear that they regret their choice. During my campaign in the electorate of Hume I emphasized the increase of savings bank deposits under Labour’s administration.
– Did the honorable member get the figures for Albury?
– Yes. On the 30th June, 1941, the savings bank deposits at Albury totalled £602,200. When I delivered my election speech in that city on the 23rd August. 1946, they had grown to £1,685,121. A similar state of affairs was revealed at Gundagai ; savings bank deposits which on the 30th June, 1941, totalled £89,400 had grown to £210,000 by the 4th September, 1946. The respective figures for Cootamundra were £269,625 and £624,268. Even the little township of Boorowa had a similar record. At the end of June, 1941, the savings bank deposits of its people totalled £11,165, but on the 8th September, 1946, they had £29,S26 to their credit. At Binalong the same story was told ; the savings bank deposits increased from £5,370 on the 30th June, 1941, to £7,778 in 1946.
One of the greatest victories for the Labour party in the Hume electorate occurred last Saturday in the State electorate of Yass. At the 1941 elections Mr, Sheehan, the State member, had a majority of 1,800votes, . but after last Saturday it was seen that his majority had increased to over 3,000. The figures for Yass in respect of savings bank deposits are similar to those for the other towns in the electorate that I have mentioned ; the deposits rose from £253,000 in June1941, to £585,000 in 1946. Another illustration of the success of Labour administration is given by the establishment of, new industries. In the Hume electorate alone seventeen new industries have been established in recent years. Yet honorable members say that there is no incentive for industries to expand. When, in addition to the growth of savings bank deposits, we reflect that primary producers have reduced their overdrafts by £60,000,000 in recent years, we are forced to the conclusion that the Labour Government has done a good job. That the people realize the benefits of Labour rule was clearly shown last Saturday, when the electors of New South Wales exercised the franchise.
In conclusion, 1 wish to refer to a statement made last night by the honorable member for Reid. In the course of a speech in which he attacked the Government I interjected that when he was Premier of New South Wales his government had increased the unemployment tax from 3d. to1s. in the £1. The honorable member then indulged in a bitter personal attack on me. , One of his remarks was a deliberate lie.
– I rise to order.
– Sit down. The honorable member for Reid has taken no exception to the remark.
– I take excep tion to the remark of the honorable member for Hume.
– The honorable member will resume his seat.
– When the honorable member for Reid visited Tumut he claimed that 1 had sought protection under a moratorium passed by his Government. That was a wilful and deliberate misstatement. Never at any time have I been called upon to seek protection under any moratorium. I have been in business since 1925, and not once have I had an overdraft of1s. at any bank. Tt ill becomes the honorable member, who is the greatest betrayer of Labour in this country, and who sits in isolation, to say such things. Why does he not transferhis human frame to where it belongs, namely, the Opposition benches? He is nothing more nor less than a “ stooge “ for the Opposition. There is complete collusion between him, the Australian Country party and the Communists. 1 am convinced that they are linked together for the destruction of the Government. The honorable member for Reid is despised by every honest Labour man. If ever a man suffered for supporting him, I have. I lost thousands of pounds in supporting this individual who comes here to destroy the Labour Government. To-day he is despised, and I am confident that after the next general elections he will no longer be a member of this Parliament.
– I am not interested in the personal dispute between the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Fuller) and the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Lang), but when the honorable member for Hume states that the Communist party is linked with the Australian Country party, I am impelled to reply that there is abundant evidence that the Communist party is linked with the Australian Labourparty. The failure of the Government to take action against lawless Communists because of fear of losing votes is in itself sufficient proof of that fact.
The Government’s delay in implementing effective reductions of income tax is hindering production in this country. The reductions proposed in this measure will take effect as from the 1st July next so far as the great body of employees is concerned ; but taxpayers who are obliged to wait for their assessments will receive no benefits from ‘ these reductions until April, 1949, because the assessments which they will normally receive in April next year will be in respect of income earned up to the 30th June next. One cannot help noting the Treasurer’s failure to meet the needs of both primary and secondary industry by his stubbornness in respect of tax reductions. I intend to deal with only three aspects of the measure.
The first is the proposal to treat as an allowable deduction all expenditure incurred in the conservation of water. I agree with that provision; Previously this concession applied only to depreciation on dams which were defined by departmental officers as embankments constructed across a waterway,’ but did not include tanks constructed by excavating earth. Many primary producers suffered an injustice under that definition. Proposed new paragraph h of section 75 of the principal act, which is contained in clause 12, embraces - (h.) the construction of dams, earth tanks, underground tanks, irrigation channels or similar structural improvements, or the sinking of bores or wells for the purpose of conserving or conveying water for use in carryingon primary production on theland ;
A notable omission is that the clause does not provide for expenditure on the desilting of dams.
– That would be part of the farmer’s expenses, and would be an allowable deduction.
– If that is not the case, I shall seek an assurance from the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) on the matter.
No provision is made in the bill to meet the submission which I made on an earlier occasion with respect to losses resulting from drought. I explained how graziers, or stock-holders, are penalized when they are forced to sell their stock because of drought conditions, and later, because of the continuance of drought conditions, are unable to . purchase fresh stock within the same financial year. In those cases, the money received from the sale of stock is assessed as income and taxed accordingly. I pointed out that even the taxation officers agreed that it was more advantageous financially fo’r a grazier to sell only half his stock and “to let one-quarter o’f them die, and ‘try to ‘hold the remaining ‘quarter, -rather than sell all ‘Iris ‘stock. From a national point o’f ‘view, however, it is obviously better to make some ‘arrangement whereby ‘the amount received for “stock -which an owner is forced ‘to sell because df drought conditions could ‘be carried forward, so that the amount involved in ‘the ‘repurchase of stock when rain came, could be offset against the original transaction, if that is not done, stockowners will suffer considerable loss in the circumstances I .have indicated. I hope -that at the committee stage ‘that defect ‘in the ‘measure will -be remedied.
The third ‘matter I -wish to deal with concerns the -taxing of superannuation pensions. This is a contentious matter., hut -the more one studies -it the more one sees how unfair it is that public servants and others who receive pensions from superannuation funds -are taxed on those pensions. During the period of their employment prior to reaching the age of retirement, they were compelled to contribute to their respective superannuation funds. At this juncture I do not propose to -discuss She very important subject o’f the abolition of the means test, birt I submit that superannuation pensions should be entirely excluded fr.om any application of ‘the .means test. I also submit that where a person has no income other than a superannuation pension, such -pension ‘Should not be taken into account as capital in assessing eligibility for, or the rate of, pension to which “such persons may ‘become entitled on the ground of agc or invalidity or any other ground. If that is not accepted, the Governmentshould at least increase the limit of capita.! allowable in determining eligibility for pensions, and by that means enable.. persons in this class to earn a small additional income without suffering disqualification for a pension. There are various superannuation schemes in addition to those applying to Commonwealth and State public servants. In addition, there are many provident funds in respect of which, in .many cases, lump sums are payable, whilst in other cases pensions are paid fortnightly to ‘beneficiaries. An analysis of ‘the facts shows that the value of the protection afforded to contributors to superannuation -funds and .”provident funds “has ‘decreased very substantially in recent ‘years. In some cases that decrease has been -so :great as” practically to nullify ‘the real benefit -;of such protection. Payment -to superannuation funds is made according to the age and ‘classification of -‘the contributor, and the pension payable upon retirement varies according ~to the scale of contributions. 2Tot only -do the .contributors’ to -these funds practise ‘thrift, hut during the ; ti mc -they are making ‘their ‘contributions ‘they :a.’.re compelled ‘to live “frugally in- order to he a’ble-to -rear their .families. (Dha t was particularly the case before any of ‘the existing social service benefits were introduced. - -Even now, persons who are contributing for pensions ‘at -such a rate as -would preclude them -from -receiving social service -benefits are obliged to live on a-n income less than the wage prescribed -in their respective -a-w-ards.
Tn ‘.T9-14, ‘State public -servants ‘in Queensland were ‘assured of an annuity- of £100 a year, and ‘that pension was more than ‘double the Tate <“of the -old-age pension, -and only -about >10s. ‘less than ‘the ‘basic -wage at ‘that time. But the annuity of >£100-a year, which is equivalent -to only £1 18s. i’6d. a week to-day, is considerably less than one-naif of the present ‘basic wage. -The Queensland legislature definitely undertook that all payments to this fund should ‘be exempt from any .charge -or duty in respect of income tax> stamp duty, or probate or succession duty. That ‘definite obligation was incorporated in ‘the Queensland statutes, and it was honoured up to the time when the uniform ‘tax came into ‘force. The Commonwealth “‘has not continued to honour it, the reason obviously being that it could not “discriminate as between public servants in the different States who come under various pensions schemes. The “position should be met by an exemption being granted when such payments are made. The ‘Queensland public servant has been forced “to contribute “during the whole df his working life for a pension of £L l’8s. (6d. a week, -and -thus rentier :him.self -ineligible for an old-age ‘pension >df fi 12s. ;6d. a. week, which is “to ?foe ‘raised to ‘-£1 17s. -6d. a week. The (thrifty man is penalized by being obliged to ‘contribute to the revenue collected by means of taxes in order that pensions may be paid to the thriftless. That is the exact effect. T protest against the continuation of this inequity against pu’blic servants and all others who contribute to superannuation schemes. “We should encourage the thrifty, because they are obliged to live on a lower amount than would be ordinarily due to them, by being taxed in order that the thriftless may ‘benefit. I have no objection to any one being taxed to help those who are in -need, as is the case of many now receiving a pension. I submit, however, that there can be no gainsaying my contention that any benefits derived from a superannuation fund, whether an a lump sum or by weekly or fortnightly payments, should be exempt from income tax.
Mc.. WHITE (Balaclava) [3.8]. - I wholeheartedly support the case put by the honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. Adermann) in regard to .retired public servants who receive superannuation. They have contributed to a fund for the whole of their -working lives in order that they (might (have a ‘retiring allowance, which, as the honorable member has .shown, is in most instances little more than the present old-age pension. I ha ve protested, on many occasions against the practice of taxing such payments. I urge the Treasurer (M:r. ‘Chifley) to pay heed to what the honorable member for Maranoa has said, and to ensure exemption from tax of worthy citizens who have given great service to ‘this country for many years and to-day are not looking for charity, but are living on the contributions they have made to a superannuation fund. Taxes in Australia, are still too heavy and punitive. We are paying to-day for socialistic experiments of all kinds, which have cost the “ country millions of pounds. That money is extracted from the pockets of the taxpayers. The Government decided to nationalize banking, -with the result ‘that new bank premises are being erected throughout Australia at a time when houses are badly needed. Another experiment is TransAustralia Airlines, which I believe would be better described if it were entitled, “ Tax all Australia Airlines “. The whole nation has to bear the losses of that concern, ‘whereas private companies have to conduct their operations by means of the fares and freights which they receive from those who use their services. Although that organization is giving employment to excellent young aircrews, it is losing money at a most extravagant rate. I .have asked .questions in regard to its losses, but so far have not been able to obtain the full facts. ‘Going a little further back, there is the ridiculous experiment of the w.heat distilleries, by means of which it was hoped to produce petrol from wheat at a time when the world badly needs wheat. These distilleries were erected at a cost of £2,000,000, and the people are still being taxed to pay for them. There is also the fatuous action of the ^Government in paying .the wheat-growers of Western Australia -not to grow wheat during the very year in which wheat was imported from the United States of America at a price which we have not yet been able to discover.
– T;hat is not true.
– The estimates for last year made provision for the last payment to ‘the ‘farmers of Western Australia. These outgoings now have to be recouped from the unfortunate taxpayers. It is high time an end was put to such foolish socialistic enterprises. ‘Such government services do not return revenue by means cif “taxes, because they are tax free, whilst people who are trying to make a living in this country, and deserve credit for their enterprise, are harshly taxed. The Prime Minister is an obstinate. Treasurer. He comes into this House with a mass of figures, and attempts to prove that the revenue is being reduced by many millions of pounds. It is not. When the sales tax is reduced there- is a greater turnover in business, and the money that flows. to the Treasury is augmented. The right honorable -gentleman may be likened to the cashier at a circus. He does not care where the money comes from . so long as a large. sum is received. Last year he made a statement in respect of tax reductions in which he announced that the revenue .would be reduced by a certain amount. That reduction did .not come to .pass. The right honorable gentleman said that the tax reductions would range from 39.6 per cent, on ,a taxable ;income of £125 to 6:8 per cent, on a taxable income of £5,000, in respect of a .taxpayer -without dependants. The Taxpayer, a journal whose statements cannot be refuted, says -
But it is now revealed that rates quoted don’t apply. In assessments now being calculated taxpayers will be dunned for a considerably higher liability. For example, a man earning £400 a year, maintaining a wife, will pay £00 Ss. instead of £01 5s., as Mr. Chifley stated. On £300 a taxpayer without dependants will pay £50 12s. instead of £40 5s.
The journal goes through the whole schedule of those who pay tax, and shows, that the amount actually paid is different from the amount which the Treasurer stated would be paid. The right honorable gentleman led us to believe that the reduction would be one of 12£ per cent., whereas it was only one-half of that for a full year because it operated for only six months. I agree with what has been said in regard to the need for simplicity of returns of income and tax assessments. Few citizens other than those who are on a straightout salary or do not own property can calculate what their income tax assessments will be. The honorable member for Reid (Mr. Lang) has drawn attention to that difficulty, it, should he possible for tax officials to produce a simple form.. The tax form to-day is most terrifying to the ordinary citizen. The preparation of a return gives a headache to even a man who has accounting knowledge. The time is overdue for the production of a new form. I have a letter here from the Treasurer relating to income tax concession on gifts to the Red Gross. Honorable members will agree that this great humanitarian organization is probably doing more good in the world to-day than any other international body, and I do not except Unrra. It has carried on through two wars, and has brought succour, not only to exservicemen, but also to millions of civilians. The record of the Australian Red Cross is as good as that of any other branch of the organization throughout the world. I have been asked from Queensland whether gifts to the Red Cross for assistance’ to Britain in its hour of need would be exempt from income tax. I wrote to the Prime Minister on the subject, and I have received a reply beginning -
The Commissioner advises me that the Australian Bed Cross Society is a public benevolent institution in Australia and that gifts to the society are therefore not subject to the concessional allowances for income tax purposes.
That ruling on gifts in Australia is satisfactory, but the. remainder of the letter, which I shall quote later, will be a surprise and disappointment to a great many Australians. The British Red Cross appealed to the Australian Red Cross to assist in overcoming the shortage of food, and to relieve distress arising out of the recent disastrous floods, the worst experienced- in Britain for over three centuries. The Commonwealth Government promised to co-operate with the Australian Red Cross in every way, and I understand that this co-operation was forthcoming generously through officials of the Department of Commerce and Agriculture and the Department of Trade and Customs. However, it would appear that the ruling just given by the Treasurer may have the effect of sabotaging the fund. I do not know whether anything has been published in the press in connexion with the ruling of the Treasurer, hut the people will now know that if they give money to the Red Cross for the British appeal they will not be able to claim an income taxdeduction. I see one of the Treasury officials in the corner shaking his head, and perhaps if the Treasurer will consult with his seconds he may be able to reassure us. However, this is what he wrote- to me-
However, if the Australian Red Cross Society or any other organization were to establish a separate fund under separate management, for the provision of relief outside Australia, gifts to that fund would not be subject to the concessions. I would explain in this connexion that the Income Tax Assessment Act restricts concessional allowances for gifts to gifts made to specified public institutions and public funds for application in Australia. For this reason, also, gifts to ex- Austral ian institutions such as the British Red Cross Society are not subject to the income tax concessions.
In the light of that paragraph, I ask whether I am right or wrong in assuming that no concession will be made in respect of contributions? The letter is signed by the Treasurer, and is dated the 7th May. The Prime Minister must be aware that the Australian Red Cross operates, not only in Australia, but also overseas, and .assistance is given overseas in the form of both good’s and money. In this respect. Australia’s record stands high. The Australian Red Cross sent special teams to Greece, taking with them food and clothing. The name of Australia will he remembered with gratitude in Greece for centuries to come. Indeed, there has been a sympathetic bond between the people of “Britain and Greece since Byron’s day. If it is true that contributions to Red Cross funds for expenditure outside Australia will not be exempt from taxation, it will be a cruel blow to this great humanitarian organization.I am sure that if the Treasurer says the word the matter will be put right. Perhaps the ruling to which I have referred was given inadvertently, because the letter says that the Treasurer had been advised by the Commissioner for Taxation. If the position is as stated in the letter, I hope that an opportunity will be taken to correct it when the bill is in committee.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Anthony) adjourned.
The following bills were returned from the Senate without requests: -
Customs Tariff Validation Bill 1947.
Customs Tariff (SouthernRhodesian Preference) Validation Bill 1947.
Excise Tariff Validation Bill 1947.
Re-establishment:LandSettlement; housing:useofwar Gratuity - Wire and Wire Netting - Canberra: British Workmen’s Food Supply;
Parks and Gardens - Income Tax: concessions-Communism.
Motion (by Mr. Chifley) proposed -
That; the House do now adjourn.
. - I wish to bring to the notice of the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) the case of a returned serviceman in Western Australia who attempted to settle himself in civil life on the land. Thisman had four and a half years’ service with the 9th Division, and was discharged medically unfit. After he partially recovered his health he decided to take up farming, the occupation which he had followed for most of his life. He found a property in the south-west of Western Australia for which the owner asked £2,320, walk-in walk-out. The prospective buyer thought that it was too much, and offered £2,200, which the vendor said he would accept as he wanted to arrange a quick sale. This was in October of last year. The ex-serviceman, having had previous farming experience and being a client’ of the Rural Industries Bank in Western Australia, had no trouble in arranging for a loan of £1,000. Then the matter had to come before the Sub-Treasury for approval, and a Treasury official valued the property at £1,840, which was not acceptable to the vendor. At a conference between the wife of the intended purchaser, who was acting on his behalf while he was sick, the Treasury official, and the agent of the vendor a price of £2,000 was agreed upon. The SubTreasury would not agree to any price beyond that. Then the negotiations brokedown, and the intending purchaser applied to the agent of the vendor for the return of his deposit of £220, but this was refused. The matter was referred to the court, and the judge in chambers decided that a new valuation should be made, as there was no time limit to the negotiation. This valuation was made in March last, five months after the original one, and the price was fixed at £2,200. This was not” acceptable to the prospective purchaser, who said that the property had depreciated in value from the time he had first inspected it, when apparently there was a crop on it. The vendor told the prospective purchaser that if he would not accept the property, he would have no hope of getting the same price from anybody else because the property was not worth it. In the meantime, the returned soldier had suffered some sickness, and his wife went out to work. He acquainted his wife of the facts, and 1 understand that, she wrote to the Prime Minister, who in turn said that the matter was being handed” over to the Commonwealth Actuary, and that a decision would be notified to her in due course. Up to that point, everything had been fair and above board, but then something happened, and it is in this connexion that I want the Government to have an investigation made. Some officer of the Commonwealth Sub-Treasury in Perth communicated with the vendor and informed him that if he could arrange the sale at £2,200, the purchaser would be permitted immediately, to resell the property at. £2,400. That proposition was not acceptable te the. vendor. Stupidly, this officer of the Sub-Treasury telephoned the solicitor who was handling the matter, on behalf of the purchaser, and’ told him the same story. Meanwhile the: ex-serviceman has been able to establish, himself, and’, of course-, wants to wash his hands of the whole affair. He has asked for a refund of his deposit, less the. agent’s commission, *111’ch he is prepared to pay in full, and. also the vendor’s costs in, the court cases. The vendor will not accept the proposal, and wants to bind, this; man to the contract. To-day,, the 9th of. May, is-, the final day for- negotiations, and he either has to. lose; the £220< or accept the farm that is being- forced upon! him’ and which he does not. want. I am prepared to give the names of the individuals- to the. Minister concerned, but I do- not propose to make- them public at, the moment. I ask the Treasurer to. make an investigation of the matter with a view- to taking action against these people, in. government departments! who are prepared to carry- on such practices as this. I admit that, there are. two sides to.- every question, and that at the- moment I have only heard the side presented by the. gentleman who has- written to me., The other side may be entirely different,’ but there is no doubt about the position, and again I urge an immediate, investigation-..
»- One of my constituents, ai discharged naval man, wishes, to build his own home- Hia problem is typical of that of thousands of others. He wants to build’ a home but he does not have sufficient money.. There are, of course, methods by which moneycan be borrowed for home building, but even if he were to. obtain, the necessary finance i» that way, ha would still be up against the problem of having the. building erected. This mau is not unique in that having some skill in building; he believes that if he could secure’ the building materials he could erect a modest home for himself-.. He wishes to; draw his war gratuity so- that he may purchase the necessary- materials: The War Gratuity Act provides tha* an ex.” serviceman, may draw his gratuity before the1 elapse of the- prescribed. period for the building of a. home provided he-, pays, it to atn, approved building society or approved, company, such as an insurance company; but as I have said,’ this man wishes to build, has own home. Unhappily the War. Gratuity Act does not make provision for the payment of the gratuity in- these, circumstances. The Government no doubt had a. reason-, for framing’ the act. in. this way, and I. do: not wish to criticize the Government or any one else in tha,t regard.., I merely wish to> bring to the notice of- the Minister for the Navy (Mr., Riord’an) and: of the Governmen,t, the problem that- exists ia regard to this -man - a. problem- which I have no doubt: is duplicated in- many other cases’. I ask the Minister to; examine the- matter to; ascertain, whether anything earn be; done to meat this unfortunate man’s position. I realize that, human nature being what it is the Government, in preparing the war gratuity legislation, may have believed that, if provision were mad’e to permit the payment of a war gratuity to any ex-serviceman who said that lie- wanted to build a house,, some men would not use- tile money for that purposes In this, case, however; .a local patriotic society that knows, this man has written to me stating that it, is prepared to vouch for him, and guarantee that the money will’ b& used to build his home. Surely it is not beyond the wit of the Government either- to establish an administration to supervise the payment of wai: gratuity for home, building, or, alternatively to avail itself of the services of those groups of patriotic citizens- that still exist in every community in this country for that purpose. I ‘trust- that the Minister will examine the matter sympathetically to see whether something can. be done in this particular case, and to establish a general policy in regard to the- matter.
Ohe. of the biggest and most acute problems confronting thousands of farmers’ and pastoralists to-da.y is the shortage of fencing wire. I doubt if there is- one primary producer who* is not hampered by this shortage. I; do* not know exactly how, many miles- of fencing there are in this country,, but. a rough calculation indicates that- there; would be at- least 1,000,000 mires. My experience has been that an optimistic estimate of the life of fencing- wire is 40 years. Little wire- baa been available for five or six years, and the mere trickle that has Gome1 through has always been required to repair damage caused by bush fires or floods. Anything surplus to- these requirements has1, quite properly, been earmarked fie* use by ex-servicemen wishing to establish themselves on the land. The net_ result has been that farmers and pastoralists generally have not received supplies of fencing wire for what amounts to approximately one-eighth of the total life of. their fencing. It is becoming increasingly difficult for farmers and pastoralists to carry on while fences are tumbling down everywhere. We hear many rumours as- to the reason why fencing wire, is not available. We have been told that not enough coal has been hewed, that ships are scarce, that the railways are not carrying wire, that there is- not enough man-power, that there is- insufficient zinc for galvanizing purposes, and that pernicious private enterprise has- fallen down on its job. I was actually told recently that, at Newcastle, factories capable of manufacturing wire had ceased to make it because all of their storage buildings had been filled with wire which,, for some reason, could not be removed. I understand that there wa3 a vestige of truth in that statement. However, I maie. no charges against the Government or anybody else. I do not know the facts relating to the production and distribution of wire, but I am very much aware of the seriousness of the plight of farmers and pastoralists. Even if the manufacture of wire is now tile exclusive responsibility of private enterprise, the Government is still interested in many aspects of production and distribution. It still has authority in- relation to shipping, import permits for machine tools, and the distribution of non-ferrous metals, such as zinc, which are used for galvanizing wire.. In any case, this is a matter of national interest. Will the Minister- for Works and Housing (Mr. Lemmon) state the full facts of the situation in the interests of the people who -are suffering’ from the shortage? I believe that he is capable of doing so in an unbiased manner. Also, will he state whether the Government is concerning itself about this problem? 1 believe, that it is doing so, but I am not sure whether it realizes- the magnitude and the- urgency of the problem. I ask the Minister to indicate when supplies wi’l’l become available to farmers and pastoralists through the ordinary channels. Literally scores of thousands of miles of fencing - that statement is not exaggerated - -have become nonstockproof. The position is aggravated also by a serious shortage of man-power in rural areas. In these circumstances, the simplest and1 quickest way to make dilapidated’ fences stock-proof is- to use. woven sheep-fencing- and put it along the old fences. That will make an .old fence stock-proof foi’ some time-.- For years past not a single coil -of woven sheep fencing has been manufactured’ in Australia. Som& pig fencing has- been made, but widespread investigations which I have made have not brought to light any sheep fencing. I ask the Government to ascertain- why woven sheep-fencing is not being made. It would he invaluable to farmers and pastoralists in the present crisis. These mcn are distracted because of their inability to confine their stock to their own properties. Farmers and pastoralists who are interested in this matter will be very appreciative, if the Minister will state exactly what the Government is able to do. about the situation.
-.- I direct attention to a matter which, no doubt, is well known to the Minister for Works- and Housing (Mr. Lemmon). In Canberra- to-day we had the extraordinary spectacle of a mass’ descent upon Parliament House by several hundreds- of men, most, of whom were British migrant builders. They swarmed through King’s Hall and the corridors and galleries of Parliament House, and when they were interrogated by members of this House they expressed very grave dissatisfaction with the- treatment which had been meted out to them since their arrival at Canberra-.’ I shall not pass any strictures upon the Government in relation to this matter, because^ at the moment, I have no first-hand knowledge of the facts. I am guided only by what the men have said to me. The British workmen are accustomed to severe food rationing.
However, they complain that, since they have arrived in Canberra, they have been accommodated in barracks of ‘ a military type and have been governed by rules of a military nature, somewhat akin to those which were imposed upon members of the Civil Constructional Corps during the war. Their food-ration books have been taken from them by authorities at the camps where they are housed, and their tea, butter, sugar and meat coupons have been extracted. That is not an unusual procedure at boarding houses. However, the men complain that, although their coupons have been taken, they are not obtaining commensurate quantities of food, particularly sugar. They claim that, since they have been in Canberra, they have been without sugar more frequently than they have had it and that their frequent complaints to the authorities have been more or less ignored. These men have endured many hardships in Great Britain. They should not be subjected in Australia to greater hardships than are suffered by Australians.
Among the men who descended on Parliament House to-day were numbers of Australian workmen who live in the same barracks as the British workers. Several of these Australians told me that, in their opinion, the migrants were receiving worse treatment than the Australians accommodated in the same quarters. I merely state what was told to me by men who appeared to be decent Australian and British working men. I am not able to vouch for the accuracy of their statements. The British workers also complain that very little consideration has been given to their comfort. They do not expect luxury, but they say that conditions at their camps are very unsatisfactory. It is no compliment to Australia that outside Parliament House at this .moment there are hig placards bearing the words, “Horror Camp” and “Eastlake for Starvation”. “Who is responsible for it I cannot say. I simply state the facts. Those placards wore in front of Parliament House at least ten minutes ago. The men complain that they were placed in barracks. They found the hand basins filthy. They managed to clean them, but as there were no plugs the basins were useless until they devised a substitute. They complain that as most of their work is well away from their quarters they have to take a cut lunch and that, as one man said, “ The butter on the bread consists of a piece about the size of a half-crown brushed on after the butter has been melted “. Those” complaints were made by men who seemed to rae to be decent Britishers. Three I call to mind were from Scotland, Wales, and Devonshire. They do not complain about being in Australia. They said they liked it and were willing to stay, but were not receiving the consideration that they were entitled to. One of the difficulties of Canberra life is one reason why I have spoken on this subject. It is that the people of Canberra have no voice in the Commonwealth Parliament. To place their grievances before the Government they have to take extraordinary measures. It seems that no liaison exists between the British migrant builders and an authority before whom they may place their complaints. If it is necessary for them to descend in mass upon Parliament House to register their complaints with the Minister, re-organization and a new official outlook are necessary. Most of the complaints seem to be minor. They are- about little things like sugar and butter.
– The honorable member had no sugar at one period this week.
– -Yes, but these men have been without sugar for a long time. They complain that they do not receive the food value of their coupons. They are entitled to as much sugar as the honorable member gets.
– I agree.-
– I am giving the Minister for Works and Housing the opportunity to reply to their complaints. I am not able to vouch for the accuracy of their statements, but they do call for investigation. I am certain that the complaints were made to me and other honorable members in .good faith. The matters they complain about are minor, but they all- add up. to an irritation of men who are strangers in this- country. The Government, as their employer, has the responsibility to see to their comfort- and to ensure their satisfaction and contentment. “J have been informed that about half of them have left Canberra,, not to return to Britain, but for other parts of Australia where they think the amenities are better and the conditions more favorable. The Government brought them here to help build Canberra. It will not succeed if their dissatisfaction with conditions here is such that they clamour at the door of Parliament House for their grievances to be heard. Several Australians were mingled with them.
– Including a couple of “ Commos “, probably.
– I agree. For once i he honorable member may have hit the nail on the head. Several Australian workers were with them. Some of them may be agitators and fomenters of discontent. That warrants investigation. The fact remains, however, that this demonstration is a bacl advertisement for Australia. The Minister for Immigration (Mr. Calwell) has announced that about 200,000 applications have been lodged at Australia House in London for passages to Australia. I have no doubt that reports of the discontent, or alleged discontent, of the men will be cabled to London, and published in the British press. That will do Australia an ill service. If the Minister and departmental officials have been unaware that their discontent is ‘so great as to force the men to demonstrate in this building today, it shows the need for greater cooperation between the department and its employees. Had these men been employed by a private company - “a monopolistic enterprise “ - doubtless a great many honorable members opposite would have become vocal about the matter, but they are the employees of the Government, and, however great or small their grievances may be, the Minister ought to get busy about rectifying them. I understand, that he was waited upon by a deputation of British workmen and others,so he must have the story at his finger tips. I raise the matter to state the case put to me by them in order to provide the Minister with the opportunity of stating the Government’s view.
Mr. BLAIN (Northern Territory)
It- should have been obvious to any one that people at Tennant Creek, which is 350 miles north of the nearest railhead, are at a great disadvantage. What is the lot of a stockman on the Barkly Tableland or at Camooweal ? For nine months of the year a stockman there lives “ in his swag”, rolled in a dustheap, and during that time he probably does not see even his head station. The Minister for the Navy (Mr. Riordan), whose electorate adjoins mine, is familiar with the conditions of settlers in those outlying areas. Throughout the Northern Territory great difficulty is experienced in obtaining labour for the reason that most of the territory’s young men enlisted in World War II., and of those who returned to Australia from the war many have tasted the amenities available in the southernarea and will not return to the Northern Territory. There is no attractionfor them to dosobecause the wages are relatively no higher than they are in the south, and this disadvantage is aggravated by the operation of uniform taxation. However, the Treasurer apparently failed wholly to realize the real position, because he replied to my questions in these terms - .
I dispute that, and I am astonished that the Treasurershould make such a reply. His written reply continues -
It would be impracticable to provide any special taxation concession to any particular tax-paying section of the community or to minimize the effect of uniform taxation.
I do not concede that, because the Treasurer could introduce such a provision for the Northern Territory, which is entirely under Commonwealth administration. I trust the Minister for “Works and Housing (Mr. Lemmon) will bring this matter to the personal notice ofthe Treasurer.
-The Constitution prohibits any discrimination as between States or portions of States.
– I submit that it would be competent for the Commonwealth to establish even separate customs or excise duties for the Northern Territory because it is Commonwealth territory.
However, I pass from that to a more disturbing matter which is raised in a letter to me from two soldiers in Darwin who sign themselves “Dinkum Aussies”. They do not wish their names disclosed because they fear that they “ will be victimized by the ‘comrades ‘ that overrun this town” if their identity is revealed. The letter reads as follows : -
We , are taking the liberty of writing to you regarding a matter which we are sure will ho of interest to you.
To-day, as you know, is May Day, which we thought was synonymous with Labour Day. Imagine our surprise whenwesaw the May Dayprocession being precededby a huge Communist flag and an equally huge “red rag”, the Australian flag being conspicuous by its absence.
In searchingthrough the ranks of marchers the onlysymbol of nationality , we couldfind was the “ hammer, sickle and star “ and a large “red rag”. Only a digger spectator nextto us describing the procession with the Australian adjective assured us that we were on Australiansoil.
This mighty procession of so-called Aussie workers marched past, and we returned to the fresh air of our homes.
At 1,400 hours we took ourselves to the local sports ground to view the physiques and prowess of our young Australian manhood.
There!Right, “there in the centre of the grandstand waving brazenly before us was a hugeCommunist flag and equally huge “ red rag”. The Australian flag stilt conspicuous by its absence.
By this time we had stood as much as any good Australian could stand. It took more than a littleself-control to restrain ourselves from tearing down these unwelcome symbols of aggression.
We have nothing against our worthy allies: in fact, we admire them for their effort during the war years. But we do object to what appears an invasion of our soil by a foreign power. If an Australian flag or Union Jack were flying alongside the Communistflag, this letter would not havebeenwritten toyou.
We have been tolerant, but now we feel that ourtolerance mustcometo an end, if we are to be good free-thinking Australians.
Is there not an international lawthat whenever a foreign flag isflown it must be accompanied bythe flag of the country in which it is flown?Atleast you would thinkthatcourtesy would demand it.
The fact that the violation of this principle was by our own so-called Australian workers makesour pillharder to swallow.
It isabout time that wehada “ spring cleaning” and put our house in order so that our fighting sons enjoy the freedom they fought for.
Can you tellus wherewe are heading for? As for ourselves, weare still in a daze.
Nom-de-plumes “ Dinkum Aussies “.
P.S.- - Please do not use our names unless absolutely necessary, as we fear that we will be victimized by the “ comrades “ that overrun this town if our identitieswere revealed.
A copy of this letter is being forwarded to the “Archer”, announcer for 6PR, Perth.
I put it to the Government that it is time some action was taken against communism in Darwin. I am not going to mention the name of the youngdoctor in Darwin who opposed me because I believe, from something I heard yesterday, that he has seen the light and that he was suffering from a malady of youth, but I will mention the man who was very proud to come and do his “spruiking “ for him, a man named Mortimer. He was imported from the south. He boasts of the fact that he has- come to Darwin to lead’ the’ Communists. He has’ established, his own “ rag “ there now, called the Northern Standard.. I feel I have no reason to shield his name, and possibly he will, be very, proud of the fact that I have mentioned it.. He came there to be a nuisance to the Administrator arid there are a number of. disruptionists who have, come to Darwin. I urge the Minister, to obtain first-hand information about this matter. He has invited me to accompany him to Darwin in the near future, provided he is able to proceed there byair.
Conditions ar.e far1 from satisfactoryin. Darwin. I have been endeavouring to obtain improved shipping services for the. Northern Territory, and speed’ up the works and, housing programmes, and the re-designing’ of Darwin. I object to the efforts of his Honour the Administrator and the lagging efforts of the Commonwealth Ministers being obstructed by these red “ Commos “, who are in Darwin because they believe that they have fertile soil there for the propagation of their ideology. There is no possibility of “diluteeism “ in Darwin as there is in the south. We see it reflected here. They grin and smirk, and the Government can only show the firmness of a trapped rabbit in the coils of the communistic- python. Here they smile, and get away with their acts, because of the larger population. In Darwin, the cleavage is clearer. The line of demarcation is so obvious that, metaphorically speaking, it can be cut with a knife. If Commonwealth Ministers visit Darwin, I shall be pleased to convene a- meeting for them, and I shall be interested’ to know whether they will stand on. the same platform as Mr. Mortimer. I was proud when the Administrator, a fortnight ago, refused to mount the same platform as Mr. Mortimer was occupying at a public meeting called to discuss the shipping crisis and lack of food supplies. His Honour the Administrator preferred to speak from the- floor of the building in which the public meeting was held.
The “ Commos “ in Darwin are proud of being able to publish their own news sheet. In order to combat their influence, the administration in Darwin is: now issuing its own publication, through the department,, and I am extremely gratified with this- action. More power to- it ! A twisted, ideology is taking possession of Darwin through Mr. Mortimer, who has this wretched,, rotten, filthy sheet. The B,ed: Standard is another publication of the same character. The Minister’ for Works and Housing perhaps can enlighten me as to whether the department is issuing its own sheet for the purpose of combating the twisted facts which are disseminated by the “ Commos ‘’. I urge the Minister to give to this matter, urgent and earnest consideration,, and have a thorough “ cleanup “ in. that town. I hope that he will refuse to speak from the same platform as a “ Commo “, or take second place to these wretched people who profess to show greater loyalty to a foreign power than they deem, necessary to show to their own country. It behoves the Minister to “ put them on the spot “ immediately, and show that he has the “ guts “ that I think he has-.
– A little while ago I had. trouble with the administration in Darwin, and I set out to make a certain “ clean-up “.
– I am referring, not to the department, but to the necessity for “ cleaning-up “ the “ Commos ‘’.
Mi’. LEMMON. - When I have a “clean-up” I invariably receive a number of letters urging me to reconsider my decisions. If any more trouble occurs in the department I shall take the same action as I have taken in the past to deal with it.
-7- I rise to order. The Minister has misunderstood, or is misconstruing my remarks.
– Order !’ The honorable member must control himself. This is the second occasion that he has offended to-day. He has no right to rise while the Minister is speaking.
– Because I have had to take drastic action on two occasions in the Northern Territory-
– . Prompted by the “’ Commos “.
– I am not saying that they were “Commos”. I do not brand people unless I am sure- of my facts.
However, I shall not stand any nonsense in the departments concerned.
– The honorable member for Northern Territory was referring to civilians who are not employed by the departments.
– I have no power to interfere with them. The honorable member, for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) referred to the little demonstration in front of Parliament House this morning. I believe that there were absolutely no grounds for it. The honorable member for Richmond admitted that the men’s complaints were of a minor nature, but I considered that, they should be examined. The real reason for the demonstration has not been mentioned in this debate. The honorable member apparently considered that the men were not receiving sufficient butter. Let us examine the position. These men came to Australia as permanent and full-time workmen, and we took their ration coupons for meat, butter and sugar. Ever since, the men have received the full ration of butter to which they are entitled, and which al! Australians receive. The Australian workmen who occupy the other hostel at Eastlake get the same quantity of butter. Almost every week, the honorable member for Richmond emphasizes that Australia must send more food to Great Britain. Obviously, he would not entertain the thought that I should approach the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator Courtice) with a view to obtaining for these English tradesmen a bigger ration of butter than the normal issue to Australian citizens, because that would deprive their fellow countrymen in Britain of some butter.
– The honorable member for Richmond did not suggest that.
– I am sure that he would not suggest it. The point which I emphasize is that these English tradesmen receive the normal butter ration. When the second batch of English tradesmen arrived the food bill at their hostel was double that at the hostel housing Australians, although approximately the same number of men were in each hostel. Probably the reason for the increased consumption by English tradesmen was that they had lacked a variety of food, but they ate their fill in the government hostel.
We had decided that they should not go short of food ; and as much fowl as they could possibly eat was provided for them. I did not see the placards that some men carried at the demonstration this morning, but I assume that the honorable member’s description of them was correct. He said that the placards stated that the men were living under starvation conditions. I offered to meet a deputation of three men representing those who took part in the demonstration. I took the deputation into my office, and asked, “ What is wrong with the food ? “ They replied, “ There is nothing wrong with the food. The only thing wrong is the cut lunches.” I propose to place on record two menus showing the food which is provided for these men in the Eastlake hostel under government control. . The menu for Monday, the 13th April, was -
Toast, bread, butter, jam, tea.
Soup, brown onion.
Steak and kidney pie.
Cold corned beef.
Bread, jam, tea.
Soup - barley broth.
Corned beef with onion sauce.
Cabbage, pumpkin, creamed potatoes.
Sweets - banana cream and jelly.
Bread, jam and tea.
Condiments with each meal: Tomato sauce,
Worcestershire sauce, fruit chutney.
A variety of food is provided, and there is no re-cooked meat in any of the hostels.
– Who supplied the Minister with this information, and can he verify it?
– I have verified it, and I vouch for it.
– By personal examination ?
– I have been to the hostel, and, in addition, the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) went there without any prior announcement of his intention to do so. I invite the honorable member himself at any time and without any prior announcement to go to the hostel and examine the menu. In such circumstances, there could not be a “ clean up “ beforehand. The menu for Tuesday, the 14th April, was -
Fresh mince on toast.
Fresh meat curry.
Toast. bread, butler, jam. tea.
Fresh meat curry.
Bread, jam, tea.
Brown onion soup.
Steak and kidney pie.
Pumpkin. Cabbage. Creamed potatoes.
Sweets - Steamed date pudding andcustard, apple pie and custard.
Bread, jam, tea.
Condimentswith each meal: Tomato sauce, Worcestershire sauce, fruit chutney.
Moreover, the men were not stinted ; as to the quantity of food made available to them. Second helpings were freely provided. A complete answer to the charges that have been made is that the expenditure in respect of the hostel for British workmen was double that for the hostel which contained Australians. The statement that there has been preference in favour of the Australians is entirely unfounded. The only possible ground for a charge of differential treatment would be that in some rooms of the newer buildings occupied by British workmen electrical fittings to which radiators may be connected have not been installed. I’ do not know whether that is so or not, as I have not made a personal inspection. On a number of occasions, I have visited the hostels and made a personal examination, although I do not suppose that many of the men recognized me. I vouch for the conditions which exist so far as fittings and furniture are concerned.
I deprecate the action by the honorable member for Richmond in interrogating the men when they arrived at Parliament House this morning. The real cause of the trouble has not yet been revealed. Some time ago it came to my notice that at the hostel at which British workmen, numbering about 170, arehoused, crockery and cutlery to the value of £50 disappeared in ten weeks. Recognizing my responsibility to the taxpayers, I could not allow that state of affairs to continue, and accordingly I issued instructions that it must end. It was then that the complaint was made that the men were being forced to live under military conditions. This morning, when a deputation from the men waited on me, I asked them if they thought that I, as Minister, should allow crockery and cutlery to disappear and not take any action. They replied. “ No “. After further conversation they asked to be given another month’s trial under existing conditions. The members of the committee promised to do their best to improve conditions at the hostel. I said that on those conditions I was prepared to allow things to continue; but I emphasized that I was not prepared to allow public property to be lost or destroyed. I frequently visit buildings under construction, generally on Sundays, and on many occasions I have seen cups belonging to the hostel lying about on jobs. I will not stand for that. The real cause of the trouble is. that I have taken a stand in this matter. The position now is that the same conditions as have prevailed hitherto at the hostel will continue for another month. At the expiration of that period the position will be reexamined.
The honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen) referred to shortages of wire and wire netting. This matter has caused the Government considerable concern, because it realizes the effect on production of a shortage of these materials. Although the shortage is mainly due to six years of war, it has been aggravated by the fact that primary producers generally are in a sound financial position, and therefore are able to buy wire and wire netting. The production of wire netting in 1946 was 75 per cent. of the quantity manufactured in 1939. Plain fencing wire manufactured in 1946 was equal to 41.5 per cent. of the output in 1939, whilst 16 per cent. of the 1939 production of barbed wire was reached in 1946. The present rate of manufacture is 63.5 per cent. of the 1939 output of wire netting and 47 per cent. and58 per cent. respectively, for plain wire and barbed wire. Although the rate of production is gradually increasing, it is not expected that the shortage will be overcome until the new wire drawing plant which Broken Hill
Proprietary Company Limited, is now installing is in full production. The chief trouble in the industry is lack ‘ of man-power. It is a heavy industry in which most factories have nor, been modernized. Accordingly, it is difficult, to get men to work in them. Until the new plant is working I do not thin’k that the 1939 production will be reached.
– I take it that the Minister aims at increasing the 1939 production?
– Yes. In 1939 about 17,000 tons of wire and wire netting was used in Australia. The existing plant, if working at full pressure, could produce about 20,000 tons a year, notwithstanding that some of it is obsolete. With the new plant in operation, it should not take long to overcome .the shortage, and produce sufficient material to meet Australia’s requirements and also supply the export market.
– When is it expected that the new plant, will be in production?
– It is expected to be in operation early in 1948, but, of course, i.he Government is not in control of it. The Government has, however, assisted in every possible way, such as obtaining equipment, machine tools, &c. That service has. been offered to any manufacturers who desire it.
Lt is true that, at times, considerable quantities of wire have been stored at Newcastle. That is because I have issued instructions that the more distant States, particularly Western Australia, Queensland and Tasmania, shall receive their quota allocation. I gave that direction because. I was informed that because of a shortage of stocks, vessels occasionally left Newcastle with less than the quota for those States. [Extension of time granted.’] I did more than ensure that the quotas should be maintained, because 1 issued instructions that, whenever possible, additional materials should bo loaded for distant States in order that stocks there could be built up. I did so because T know from experience that as the result of the difficulties in respect of coastal shipping the distant States would be very lucky to be able to get supplies at the end of the quarter.
– Boats are leaving Newcastle short-loaded with steel; Melbourne is short ‘of steel.
Mi-. LEMMON. - I am surprised to hear that, because only the day before yesterday I was in touch with Newcastle in respect of supplies of iron to Victoria.
– That was two, or three, weeks ago.
– The position has im-« proved since then. At that time, Victoria was over 4,000 tons behind its quota. During the last ten days three boats have taken away full loads of steel to Victoria, and at present, I believe, there are 1,150 tons at Newcastle awaiting shipment to that State. I have directed that 700 tons a week, compared with the normal weekly quota of 400 tons, be sent to Victoria in order to make up arrears. Arrangements are being made with the Premier of that State for road transport to Tift material at, the New South Wales border.
– When -the Minister speaks of ‘issuing directions with regard to allocations to the States, what is the limit of his authority in this matter?
– I have authority only to see that -the actual tonnage is divided equally between the States. I have no power to do anything else.
Mr. ARCHIE CAMERON (Barker.) [4.26 j. - I am not sure which Minister is in control of the City of Canberra for the time being, but I should like to know whether what I have .seen to-day is au example of the Government’s policy of re-employment. Around the Patent Office building there is a lawn about half an acre in area. The Minister for Works and Housing (Mr. Lemmon) -may have noticed that- for two, or three days, this week, two men have been employed, and to-day, four men have -been employed, working on that lawn. I have seen them on their haunches picking weeds out of the lawn plants. The Minister, as a graduate of an agricultural college, will know that certain methods must be employed if one is going to plant lawns, and allow weeds and foreign grasses to take root. It is unfortunate -that if one waits until those grasses go to seed before employing men to pick them out a similar crop will appear next year. I have seen some almost perfect examples of wasted man-power in government employ ; but J do not think I have seen anything to cap what I ‘have seen around the Patent Office ‘building this week. At the rate those men are going, doing a good day’s work,they will be there probably next year engaged in the same task.
Another thing I have noticed in the Australian Capital Territory, which is of some interest to me with my scraping acquaintance of agriculture, is the method employed for disposing of leaves in parks. One of the most wicked things one can do is to burn leaves which are suitable for mulch; but that is done every day, apparently as a. matter of course, in Canberra. Those leaves and hedge trimmings are very valuable when dug in around the trees; and with due respect to those responsible for selecting this area as a site for the National Capital, very little of the soil is good. It badly needs building up. Therefore, it horrifies meto see beautiful little fires made of leaves which would improve the ground if they were dug into it. There is enough ground around Parliament House to take all the leaves that could beaccumulated during the next century in order, with the aid of worms, to im- prove the soil. I hopethat I may be able to get an assurance that what I haveseen this week does not represent the Government’s idea of putting into effect its policy of full employment.
Mr.RIORDAN(Kennedy- Minister for the Navy)[4.30].- I shall bring the matter raisedby the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Hamilton) to the notice of the Treasurer ; (Mr. Chifley). As the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Blain) has said, I am familiar with the conditions he has described, and 1. shall also bringthe matter which he raised to the notice of the Treasurer. I can assure the honorable member that itwillreceive very sympathetic consideration.
In reply to the honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen), with respect to the use of war gratuity by an ex-serviceman for the purpose of building a home, I recall that the honorable member took up this matter with me some time ago. I have examined it, and it would appear that no provision is made under the War Gratuity Act for the use of a war gratuity as payment to an individual for building purposes. The Central WarGratuity Board decided to approve such use ofthegratuity only by those organizations which were not only regis tered under that legislation but were also effectively controlled under it. However, the case cited by the honorable member is worthy of very close investigation, because other ex-service personnel may find themselves in similar circumstances. 1 point out that there is a body in existence which is prepared to : see that war gratuity can be utilized for the purpose of which this particular ex-serviceman desires, namely, for the purchase of building materials. I shall look into the matter further.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The following papers were pre sented : -
Papua-New Guinea Provisional Administration Act - Ordinances - 1947 -
No. 2- Supply (No. 2) 1946-47.
No. 3 - NativeLabour (Wages and Conditions of Employment).
House adjourned at 4.33 p.m.
n asked the Minister representing the Minister for Supply and Shipping,upon notice -
– The Minister for Supply and Shipping has supplied the following information : -
n asked the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The Minister for Trade and Customs has supplied the following information : -
n asked the Acting Minister for the Interior; upon notice - :
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Food for Britain: Surrender of Meat Coupons.
d.- On the 23rd April the honorable member for New England (Mr. Abbott) asked the following question: -
Can the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs say whether the Deputy Commissioner of Rationing in New South Wales issued instructions that ration tickets for meat are to be accepted only from residents of Sydney and Newcastle and not from people living in rural towns and areas? If such instructions were issued, does it mean that the department acknowledges that it cannot effectively police the rationing of meat outside cities, in other words that these tickets are valueless in rural areas and even if surrendered will not serve to increase the quantity of meat available for shipment to Great Britain?
The Minister for Trade and Customs has supplied the following information : -
The statement which appeared in a Sydney newspaper, towhich the honorable member apparently refers, was made in November. 1945. in a letter from the Deputy Director of Rationing, New South Wales, to the organizer of Food for Britain Appeal, and was revoked in a further letter dated the 21st December, 1945. Since that date meat coupons from any district may bo surrendered voluntarily to the eoniniission or destroyed.
Meat: Ban on Export of Meat Paste to Burma.
– On the 30th April the honorable member for Cook (Mr. Sheehan) asked a question relating to the export of meat paste. Meat paste is classified as canned meat which is under export control. There is no quota allocation for the export of canned meat to Burma and at the special request of the British Ministry of Food canned meat is not released for shipment to that destination on a trader to trader basis unless it has been sponsored or agreed to by the Burmese authorities designated by the Ministry of Food as the Burmese Consortium. I have no knowledge of any shipment of meat paste from Great Britain to Burma.
Mr.Chifley. - On the 29th April the honorable member” for Darwin (Dame Enid Lyons) asked a question in connexion with the relationship between the shortage of certain commodities and’ the high levelof employment in Australia. In accordance with the undertaking I gave on that occasion I have obtained from the Commonwealth Statistician information regarding employment which Iam pleased to furnish herewith: -
The Statistician advises that the estimated number in work in Australia in December, 1946. had never been previously exceeded. However, in January and February, 1947, there were further increases in the number in work. The following comparative figures may bo useful;-
Table No. 1 (appended) gives a dissection oftheabove total numbers in work (except mid-1946). As the trend of employment in factories appears to be of particular interest to the honorable member. Table No. 2 is appended giving comparable details for June. 1039, and June, 1946 (latest available) of wage salary earners employed in each of the sixteen major factory groups. ‘ It should be noted that these figures of factory employment cover only part of the total numbers appearing under the heading “Industrial (Manufacture, &c.)” in Table 1.
While the precise number not at work at any particular time can be ascertained only at a census, it is evident that apart from persons temporarily idle (cither voluntarily or due. to sickness) the numbers unemployed in recent months have been small. The number in receipt of unemployment benefit on 28th February, 1947, was 13,1 54. The figure 95per cent., quoted by the honorable member, if referring to the proportion of available wage and salary earners at work, appears to be conservative.
y - On tha. 2nd May the honorable- member lor. “Wakefield (Mr. McBride) addressed a question- to- me regarding, tile policy of the .Capital. Issues Board in permitting new issues of capital at. par or at a premium. The following is’ a copy of a press statement which- I issued on the 8th October; 194’6!: -
In- cases- whore new. issues- axe- proposed1 by. companies, the market value of, whose, shares U above par, issue at a premium will not necessarily be insisted upon, but trie circumstances, of each case will be considered and, to. enable, this to. be done, applicants: should’ state their reasons for. not wishing to make mi issue at’ a premium. since that statement was: published, several premium issues have been made, but in the majority of cases’ the- terms of issue were determined voluntarily by the companies concerned.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 9 May 1947, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1947/19470509_reps_18_191/>.