6th Parliament · 1st Session
The President took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
Central and State Committees
– In view of the conflicting statements appearing in the press as to the existence of certain Munitions Committees, is the Minister of Defence disposed to make a statement to the Senate informing honorable senators of the personnel of the different Committees, the functions allotted to each, and the steps, if any, taken to co-ordinate their work?
– I think that a satisfactory answer to the honorable senator’s question renders a statement from me necessary, and I ask the leave of the Senate to make such a statement. Leave granted.
– First of all, the Commonwealth Government is charged with the duty of defence. It is also the channel of communication with the British Government in all matters affecting the war. I wish to make those two matters perfectly clear, because there seems to be some misconception outside on those points.
– There is a good deal.
– It is the desire of the Commonwealth, and I speak now, not only of the Government, but of the whole people, to assist Great Britain and her Allies in the supply of munitions of war. So far as the United Kingdom is concerned, all arrangements for the placing of contracts for munitions of war must be made, in the first place, by the Minister of Munitions of the Imperial Government. When the Commonwealth approached that Government on this matter, it was with a view to ascertaining whether the resources of this Government and of private enterprise throughout the Commonwealth could be utilized to supply munitions of war generally, and high explosive shell in particular, and whether they could in this way be of assistance to the Mother Country. After,, as honorable senators know, a very long delay, we received a final and definite reply that such assistance would be welcomed. The Minister of Munitions has further intimated that he is prepared to take an unlimited quantity of high explosive shells, not shrapnel, and has stated the price he is prepared to pay. He has further intimated that for this purpose the Commonwealth Government is his representative in Australia. We have six State Governments in Australia, all of whom possess well-equipped manufacturing works in the shape of their railway workshops. Many of these are, perhaps, the best manufacturing workshops in the iron trade in the different States. We have, in addition, many very highly developed manufacturing establishments controlled by private enterprise. The Commonwealth Government desire to utilize to the fullest extent the State Government agencies and the workshops controlled by private enterprise, so as to secure a maximum output of the shells required from Australia. In order that the necessary in- formation might be provided in a form in which it could be utilized by the State workshops and by those in charge of private establishments, I took occasion to establish what is known as the Central Munitions Committee associated with the Defence Department. That Committee has associated with it expert’s in various matters, and has been at work at this particular business.
– What business?
– The supply to State Government workshops and those controlled by private enterprise of the information necessary to enable them to determine whether they can take any part in the work of turning out high explosive shells for the Minister of Munitions in the Old Country. In the various States, at the time this question was given prominence in the press, greater or less activity was displayed by manufacturers, and in some cases by State Governments, to ascertain whether they could do anything in this regard. In New South Wales, the State Government called together representatives of the manufacturing interest, and associated with them representatives of their own manufacturing shops, upon a Committee which they charged with the duty of determining whether New South Wales could do anything in the direction of supplying munitions. That action was taken after the action taken here to form the Central Munitions Committee. In Victoria, the lead in the matter was taken by the Chamber of Manufactures, but they also had associated with them in their inquiries persons not directly connected with that chamber. In other States similar action was taken. For instance, in Western Australia, the Chamber of Manufactures and the Chamber of Commerce held a conference at which representatives of Labour organizations were also present. They approached the Government of Western Australia, and, as a result, that Government sent a joint deputation to Melbourne to interview me, and also to attend any conference that might be called in this city. The deputation represented the Chamber of Manufactures and the State Government workshops. The Victorian Chamber of Manufactures took action to call together, in the first instance, representatives of the Chambers of Manufactures in each of the States, so that a conference might be held to discuss what they could do in this matter in the different States. When they learned that other bodies were taking action in the matter, they extended their invitation, and called a conference, not only of the Chambers of Manufactures in the different States, but of representatives of other bodies that were not associated with those chambers. At the time of the convening of that conference, the definite information I have referred to as to the requirements of the Minister of Munitions had not been received, but before the conference met it was received. I was then asked to attend the Conference and explain what part the Commonwealth Government thought the various bodies could play in carrying out the manufacture of munitions in Australia, and in what way their efforts might be best directed. I attended the Conference, which I may say was a thoroughly representative one. There vere present at it representatives of all the States with the exception of South Australia, the absence of whose representatives was due to an unfortunate and unavoidable accident. There were present representatives of the State Governments, Chambers of Manufactures, mining interests, and the employees in the engineering trades. The Iron. Trades Council and the Amalgamated Society of Engineers were both represented. At that Conference I explained the steps which the Government were taking, and suggested that in each State there should be an amalgamation of the various bodies which had been making inquiries into this matter so that they might form a State Munitions Committee, the convening body connected with that amalgamation being the State Government. In other words, I suggested that the State Governments should call these various bodies together in their respective territories, and that their amalgamation should constitute a State Munitions Committee.
– The idea of the Minister was not that the States should start de novo to create other committees?
– No. The idea was that each State Committee should nominate a representative of that State to the Central Munitions Committee, which is associated’ with the Defence Department. The Central Munitions Committee is largely composed of experts. As it is the body which will have to place the orders for shells, which will have to arrange for the workers and for the delivery of the shells, and as it will require to be in close touch with the State Committees in order that it may know what quantity of shells each State can manufacture, and where orders can be placed, it is necessary to have on that Committee a direct representative of each State Munitions Committee. That proposal was unanimously adopted by the Conference; and, acting upon it, the Commonwealth Government have communicated with the Government of each State, asking them to take steps for such amalgamation, and to convene a State Munitions Committee. Some misapprehension appears to have cropped up in regard to this matter, but I think it is due to a lack of knowledge as to the exact part which these State Committees are to play. We believe that decentralization in the carrying out of the work is desirable. We think that State Munitions Committees, constituted in the way I have outlined, will have a better knowledge of the capacity of the workshops of their respective States than will a Committee of departmental officers with whom are associated certain experts. It will be for the Central Munitions Committee to obtain the desired information, and to then disburse the orders received from the Ministry of Munitions in England, according to the ability of the different States to manufacture the requisite number of shells. If the State Committees are constituted upon these lines, we shall have cohesion, and it will be a working arrangement which will link up the various interests concerned. The workers who are interested will have a representative on each State Munitions Committee, so also will the manufacturers, and each State Government. On the Central Munitions Committee we shall have a representative of each of the State Munitions Committees, as well as a number of experts, naval, military, chemical, &c, including university professors and others who possess special ability to sift information and decide about inspection, and all that sort of thing! I trust that these remarks will assist in clearing the atmosphere, and in removing any misapprehension which may exist outside as to what is really being aimed at.
– Will the shells to be manufactured by the Broken Hill Pro prietary Company at Newcastle, be made under Commonwealth supervision, and will their export be regulated by the Government ?
– The whole business, from start to finish, will be under Commonwealth supervision. The proposal is that the Broken Hill Proprietary Company shall make the steel and forge the shells, but that the machining of the shell shall be carried out in other parts of the Commonwealth. Any other steel works which are capable of doing similar work will be called upon to do it.
– Have the Broken Hill Proprietary Company’s works at Newcastle notified the Government that they are able to do this work ?
– I believe that they have reached such a stage that they now say they can do it.
– Has the Defence Department yet obtained the required formula for producing the special kind of steel that is needed ?
– The Broken Hill Proprietary Company have obtained it, and I believe that the Department is also in possession of it.
– Have the Lithgow Iron Works doneanything in regard to this matter?
– They have not intimated their ability to turn out thisspecial kind of steel.
– Have the Imperial Government notified the Defence Department that they have sent out samples of shells?
– They have notified us of the despatch of sample shells, but so far those shells have not arrived.
– The Ministerhas just stated that the Central Munitions Committee is largely composed of experts. Am I to understand from his statement that the gentlemen on that Committee are experts in the making of shells? Have they ever actually been engaged in shell-making?
– Captain Thring is an expert ordnance officer - that is to say, his whole training in the British Navy has been in connexion with ordnance, which includes, not shell manufacture, but the using of shells and a knowledgeof their composition. Colonel Dangarhas had a similar training on the artillery side in our land Forces. Mr. Marcus Bell is the chief chemical adviser of the Commonwealth. He has a knowledge of chemistry and a special knowledge of explosives. For many years he has been in charge of our cordite supplies inspection branch, and of all matters connected therewith. Professor Payne is the Professor of mechanical engineering at the Melbourne University. He is a specialist in that particular line. He, too, has not been primarily connected with the manufacture of shells, but the making of shells is one of those subjects which come within the range of his general knowledge. Professor Masson is professor of chemistry at the Melbourne University, and is an expert in that particular line. It was in that sense that I referred to these gentlemen as experts, and not in the narrower sense that they are experts in the making of shells.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister of Trade and Customs whether the reports now being received from the Inter-State Commission in regard to its Tariff investigations will be bound in one volume prior to the consideration of the Tariff in this Chamber?
– Rather than commit myself to a particular course of procedure in regard to those reports I would say that if any reasonable number of honorable senators desire them in a particular form, I shall be glad to arrange for their issue in that form. I will do anything to meet the convenience of honorable senators.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister of Trade and Customs if he will see that the report and the appendix are bound together. At present they are in two separate documents, and a member might get the report this week and receive the appendix to the report, containing the evidence and information, next week”, or perhaps later on.
– I would like to say in connexion with this matter that if any honorable senators express a desire to have the reports prepared in that way I will be pleased at any time to do all that is possible to oblige them.
– I ask the Minister of Defence whether it is correct that the Government have been inquiring into the truth or otherwise of the allegation published in the press some weeks ago that some soldier in our Expeditionary Forces had been guilty of sniping our own officers ? Is the honorable gentleman in the position to inform us of the result of the inquiry, or to assure us that the allegation is without foundation ?
– Immediately that statement appeared in the press, cables were despatched to the head-quarters in Egypt, and also to the War Office, drawing attention to this allegation, and asking to be furnished with any information available. So far no information has been received.
– I ask the Minister of Defence if he is now in a position to inform the Senate of the personnel of the War Committee appointed by the Government?
– As honorable senators know, it was decided that there should be a War Committee of members of the two political parties in Parliament. The parties have met and have chosen their representatives on the Committee, which will be constituted as follows: - Senator Millen, Sir John Forrest, Sir William Irvine, Messrs. Mcwilliams, M.P., Watt, M.P., and Glynn, M.P. (representing the Opposition), and Senators Long, Findley, and Messrs. Poynton, M.P., Webster, M.P., Page, M.P., and Sharpe, M.P. (representing the Ministerial side) . It is intended that the Committee shall deal with all such questions as are referred to it by the Government, and that the Minister whose Department may be affected by any particular question referred to it shall preside over the meeting dealing with that question. It has also been decided that the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition shall be ex-officio members of it.
– Will any of the reports of that Committee be available for members of Parliament?
– Does the honorable senator suggest that Hansard should report their proceedings?
– No; but I presume that they will have reports to make.
– I take it that the reports of their recommendations will be made available, but I do not know whether it is proposed to report the debates of the Committee.
– Will not the Committee be really an. extension of the Cabinet ?
– Order !
– I would like to know from the Minister of Defence if any definite scheme has been laid down in connexion with the return of wounded soldiers from the hospitals to Australia; whether soldiers who have been only slightly wounded are allowed to return to the Commonwealth in the hope that they will be sufficiently recovered in a few weeks to return to the front ? Is it the custom for the Minister of Defence, through his officers, to determine whether a wounded soldier may return to Australia or not?
– A soldier remains a soldier after he is wounded, and he is still under military orders. He has to go to the hospital to which he is sent, and he cannot return to Australia by his own choice. It is for the War Office to determine where he shall go and when he shall go; it is not a question for the individual soldier at all. If he is wounded, the General Officer Commanding determines to which hospital he shall be sent, and when he shall be sent; and the officer in charge of the hospital determines when a soldier is sufficiently recovered to return to the front, or whether he shall be sent back to Australia.
– In any case you have no control ?
– Yes, we have control through our officers. For instance, all the Australian wounded in England are in Australian hospitals under Australian officers, who are under our control. Of course, they act as they think best, and decide whether a soldier shall be sent back to Australia or whether he shall return to the front.
asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, u pon notice -
– Inquiry is being made, and a reply will be furnished as early as possible.
asked the Minister representing the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answer is as follows : - 1 and 2. This matter is entirely in the hands of the Governor of the Commonwealth Bank.
asked the Minister representing the Minister of Home Affairs,upon notice -
– The answer is as follows : -
asked the Minister representing the Minister of Home Affairs, upon notice -
Will the Minister inform the Senate, approximately, when the Transcontinental Railway (Port Augusta-Kalgoorlie) will be opened for traffic?
– It is anticipated towards the end of 1916.
Depots for Reception of Books
asked the Minis ter of Defence, upon notice -
Will the Minister take into consideration the advisability of establishing depots in the various States to which citizens may forward papers, books, &c, with the view of having such literature forwarded by the Department to wounded, soldiers in hospitals, and troops nl the front V
– Arrangements have already been made with a view to the establishment of depots in each capital city to which citizens may forward papers for the use of the troops. It is also within my knowledge that the proprietors of newspapers are generously cooperating in the matter, and are daily supplying large quantities of newspapers, which are being carried freight free by the steam-ship companies and by Transport. The Commandant of the State concerned will give information as to location of depot if applied to.
asked the Minister’ representing the Attorney-General, ti pan notice -
Relative to the promise made hist week by the Minister, in reply to Senator Keating, that consideration would be given to the matter of more effectually and satisfactorily distributing statutes and statutory regulations, lias any, and if so, what progress been made with such consideration?
– The Department is at present preparing a reprint of all regulations made under Commonwealth Acts from the establishment of the Commonwealth to the end of last year, and in force on 31st December last. In addition, the more important of the prerogative orders of the Commonwealth issued during that period will be included. The reprint will run into three volumes, two of which are expected to be ready within about a month, while the third volume will probably be available several months hence. The price of the reprint will be £3 18s. for half-calf copies of the work, and £3 3s. for cloth copies. In addition, the Department contemplates publishing each year a volume of the statutory rules issued during the year. This volume will be arranged on the same principle as the consolidated edition above referred to, and the price of it will be £1 10s. for half-calf copies of the work, and £1 5s. for cloth copies. It is also intended to issue the statutory rules, commencing with the present year, in monthly parts to subscribers to the annual volume. The cost of annual volumes and monthly parts for a year will be- half-calf £2 5s., cloth £2. AH of the above publications will be obtainable from Butterworth and Company (Australia) Limited, of 180 Philip-street, Sydney. The Government Printer supplies copies of any Statutes to all persons applying for the same, and sending money in payment. The Statutes are supplied until the amount forwarded has been exhausted. The Government Printer has agents in most of the States, from whom the copies of the Statutes are obtained.
Report (No. 4) presented by Senator Barker.
In Committee (Consideration resumed from 21st July vide page 5113) :
Clause 4 -
Upon which Senator Keating had moved by way of amendment: -
That the following words be added : “ but shall not include particulars with respect to lands exempt from taxation under section 13 of the Land Tax Assessment Act 1010, subject to the limitations of such exemption provided for in section 34 of the said Act.”
Senator Lt.-Colonel O’LOGHLIN (South Australia) [3.36].- The VicePresident of the Executive Council would have done better to adhere to his first opinion that the amendment was one which the Government could accept. In this case first thoughts were better than second, for I failed to be convinced by the arguments he afterwards advanced against the proposal. We are taking stock of our available assets. There can be no question that it is for some ulterior purpose, and although no taxation proposals are before us now, the census may be the basis for some means of raising money later on. The Minister has given the Committee an assurance that churches, charities, friendly societies, &c, which would be exempt under the amendment, are not to he taxed. Why, then, encumber the return with information that gives us no intelligence regarding anything that will be an available asset in respect of any action that may be taken later on ? These individuals and institutions should not be put to the trouble of making returns that will be of no subsequent value to the Government. The amendment follows the precedent of the exemption under the Commonwealth Land Tax Act.
Senator Lt.-Colonel O’LOGHLIN.These properties have no commercial value for our purposes.
Senator Lt.-Colonel O’LOGHLIN.This is only a stocktaking of available assets for some future purpose.
– The object of the amendment is, briefly, to leave out of account in connexion with the returns to be furnished under this Bill the charitable, educational, and religious establishments throughout the Commonwealth. Why should we lumber the proposed census with a mass of information that has no bearing whatever upon the purpose for which it is to be made? The . VicePresident of the Executive Council has said that it is not the intention of the Government to take action in the matter of the imposition of taxation as the result of the operation of this Bill. We may readily acquit the Government of any such intention. The Minister went on to say that it is necessary for present purposes that the Government should know exactly what is the material wealth of the country. If that be the object of the Bill, there is neither point nor utility in asking those who have control of religious, educational, and charitable insti tutions to furnish a return under the measure.
– They are not required to furnish a return under the Land Tax Assessment Act, and so the work of furnishing such returns will be entirely novel to them.
– That is so; but I point out that if they do furnish returns the Government will still be. far from knowing, from the information to be obtained’ under this Bill, what is the material or negotiable wealth of the country. For instance, no provision is made for a return of the value of the institutions controlled by the Education Departments of the various States. They are not to be asked to supply any inventory of the value of the schools and other forms of wealth which they control. If we are not to get this information in respect of institutions controlled by the State Governments, what possible purpose can be served in estimating the wealth of the Commonwealth by compelling returns to be furnished in regard to teaching institutions managed by sections of the community? In this matter the Bill makes a half-hearted, slip-shod, and illconsidered attempt to arrive at the wealth represented by educational establishments in Australia. There are other forms of wealth controlled by agencies of the State Governments, such as benevolent institutions, of which no return is to be made.
– There is the wealth controlled by the State Railway Departments.
– That is so. What attempt is there made under this Bill to enforce returns of the wealth represented by State railways? If the object of the measure be to secure information of the material wealth of the Commonwealth, that the Government may be able later to consider what form drafts upon that wealth should take, how can it be effected if, while private citizens are compelled to furnish returns, State Governments and their agencies are to be under no such obligation in respect to the institutions under their control ? I might mention many other forms of wealth under the control of State Governments. In some cases mines are worked by State Governments. No return of the value of these mines is to be furnished under this Bill.
– Can one get at the cash value of a mine?
– I presume that every mine has some value, though the value of many mines is very low, as some of US know to our sorrow. When a Bill is submitted which will not accomplish the object of those who submit it, it cannot be supported upon solid ground. As to the means of arriving at a correct estimate of the value of some of the properties in connexion with which returns have to be made under the Bill as it stands. I take the case of a church in a remote part of the country. What value can be put upon it, and what system can be called into operation to assess the annual value of a church, charitable institution, or school ?
– What about churches that let property and receive considerable rent from it?
– Those properties will not be exempted by the amendment.
– There is no attempt made to exempt such properties. Senator Barker need be under no illusion on that score. I should not support, any more than would the honorable senator, the exemption from enumeration under this Bill of any form of educational institutions returning a profit to those controlling it. I am dealing only with the folly of passing a measure which will not serve the purpose in view. How will it help us to advance our position on the European continent, or to perfect our local defences, to know how much money is invested in churches, educational and benevolent institutions that return no profit to those controlling them ? Such information would not have the slightest bearing upon our capacity to defend this country here, at Gallipoli, in France, or anywhere else. To ask for returns as to the value of churches for this purpose is to make ourselves ridiculous. Take the case of a charitable institution such as the Refuge at Abbotsford. Who could furnish an estimate of the value of that institution ? We are calling upon the people controlling such institutions to furnish these returns without any necessity, and to no end. Those in charge of religious, educational, and charitable institutions can have no serious objection to the furnishing of such returns other than that it would give them a great deal of trouble and difficulty to arrive at a correct estimate of the value of the institutions they control, and they would not put their hands to an inaccurate estimate, whilst the return, when furnished, would be of no advantage whatever in promoting the object for which this Bill has been introduced.
– I suppose that no section of this Parliament would desire to levy taxation upon the lands or properties which it is the intention of the amendment to exempt from the provisions of the Bill. But there seems to me to be a middle course between taxing these properties and asking for a return of their value. It is quite true that many institutions have, in addition to lands and properties which they use for special purposes, from which no profit is derived, other properties in relation to which they stand in the position of an ordinary landlord.
– Those properties would not be exempt under the amendment.
– I quite admit that, but it seems to me that it would be a much more business-like way to treat those who control these establishments in the same way in which people are treated in connexion with the levy of an income tax. Under this Bill it is proposed that every person, no matter what his income may be, must furnish a return of it, but no one supposes that- there will not be a line of exemption in the imposition of an income tax. What the exemption will be I do not know, but if there is to be a tax levied on wealth, we know there will be some line of exemption drawn. If we are to exempt the properties proposed to be exempted from the necessity for a return under the amendment, because they are not to be taxed, to be logical we should provide that only those persons) whose incomes are above the amount to be taxed should furnish a return of their income.
– Every person does not fill in a schedule in connexion with the income tax.
– It is proposed under this Bill that every person between the ages of eighteen and sixty years shall furnish a return of his income. If a man is in receipt of an income of only £1 per week, he will have to furnish a return, but to tax a man receiving an income of only £1 per week is unthinkable. Such a man is in the same position in regard to his income as the institutions which have been referred to are in with regard. to the properties from which they derive no profit. I am dealing with the argument of non-liability to taxation as a reason for not making a return. It seems to me that all should be liable to furnish these returns, and it should be left to the taxation officials to say what incomes and what properties should be exempt from taxation. They should be in a position t o say that the properties belonging to institutions of which a return had been furnished are not liable to taxation, just as it will be left to them, and not to the persons sending in a return, to say what incomes are not liable to income tax.
– What is to be done in the case of property under the control of State Governments or municipal bodies ?
– Two difficulties arise in connexion with such properties. There is, first, the constitutional difficulty of taxing the instrumentalities of a State, or of the Commonwealth Government: and there is also the consideration that there is no sense in taxing institutions which the people themselves mainfain. It would be absurd to propose that the Commonwealth should tax State railways.
– The Melbourne and Metropolitan Board of Works would be exempt from the necessity to furnish a return under this Bill.
– I am not familiar with their constitution, but a municipal undertaking is in the same position as a State utility in this respect; and for a Government to tax the people with one hand in order to relieve them with the other seems to me to be a roundabout way of doing nothing.
– It is not a question of taxation, but of making a return of the value of property.
– I have no objection to municipal authorities being called upon to furnish returns of the value of properties and land under their control. But there is a difference between a board and a private individual. We can always trace the property of such an institution as the Melbourne and Metropolitan Board of Works, for example. But sometimes a conflict arises as to who is the owner of a piece of land. There are quite a number of persons who. because of municipal rates, will- not disclose their ownership of l!ind. I have heard a member of this Chamber offer to give land away because his ownership of it was known and he was not able to divest himself of it. In such circumstances it is easy to understand that a conflict may. arise as to ownership. But if the ownership is disclosed in the returns sought under this Bill, no possible harm can result to the owner, because it is well understood that it is not intended to levy taxation on the owners of such property as is covered by the amendment.
– If this Bill has any purpose behind it - and I assume that it has a very valuable one - that purpose is to ultimately guide us in imposing taxation and in doing other things which fall quite within the range of possibility, and which, to my mind, are very close indeed.
– Such knowledge as the Government wish to obtain under this Bill will very much strengthen our credit.
– Because that knowledge will provide us with a basis for equitable taxation. How are we going to draw upon our national resources ? We are going to draw upon them by means of taxation. At this juncture I do not pledge myself to exempt any form of income, no matter how small it mav be.
– I do.
– As a matter of expediency it may be desirable to institute an exemption, but at this juncture I do not pledge myself to exempt any income whatever. I have been a member of a State Legislature which did not exempt any income.
– Does the honorable senator think that a mau with an income of £1 per week should be liable to an income tax ?
– In Tasmania a man with a little more than £1 a week had to pay an income tax of 2s. 6d. per annum.
– It was ridiculous.
– Even then Tasmania did not derive sufficient revenue, although the tax amounted to ls. 4d. in the £1.
– That was because the honorable senator’s party refused to tax wealth .
– The Tasmanian Parliament imposed a higher income tax upon wealth than has ever been paid in Australia. It amounted to ls. 4d. in the £1. Having regard to national exigencies, I do not pledge myself to exempt any income, and consequently I desire a return of all incomes. Senator Millen has said that it is understood that institutions which are not of a profit-earning character will be exempted from taxation. Seeing that this is a measure to enable us to impose an income tax, or any other .form of revenue tax. -what is the use of information in respect of institutions which will be of no value? I am absolutely in accord with the spirit of the amendment, and will support it.
– I rise chiefly to ask the Committee to consent to a division being taken on the amendment without further debate. Senator O’Loghlin and Senator Bakhap appear to think that there is a set purpose underlying the collection of i these statistics, and that that purpose is taxation. I begin to understand Senator Bakhap when he says that he was a member of a State “Legislature which taxed incomes of £1 a week.
– I was not a member or the Legislature at that time.
– I was under the impression that the honorable senator was. I say that the Parliament which would impose an income tax on incomes of £1 a week’ would be guilty of anything. Under this Bill we are asking every farmer to supply us with a return showing the number of horses and mules that he possesses. But does anybody imagine that we are going to tax him upon the possession of those animals ?
– Will they not be available for transport purposes ?
– That is one of the contingencies of the measure, I apprehend.
– Exactly. But we do not desire to create the impression that the things in regard to which the people are going to be taxed are those which they are asked to include in these returns. The Bill is intended to secure useful information. Although church lands may be of no value for taxation purposes, if once we permit of exemptions, where shall we leave off? Why, at a time like this should we shirk trouble? Why should any section of the community exclaim in a crisis such as that with which we are now faced, “ This is too much for us to be asked to do “ ?
I say that nothing is too much to ask of them in view of what others have already done, and are still doing. Everybody must shoulder his share of responsibility, and all sections of the community must be placed on the same footing.
– I hope that the amendment will not be pressed. I regard the information which is being sought under this Bill as of greater importance than that which is apparently attached to it in connexion with taxation which may be imposed upon property held by the people of the Commonwealth. If there is one thing which ought to be known it is the wealth of our churches and benevolent institutions. If that .information served no other purpose than that of disclosing to the world the extent to which our people are imbued with those higher qualities which make for nationhood, I think that it should be supplied.
– Does the Bill compel municipalities and trusts to supply returns?
– Wealth of every description will be covered by this census. There will be no exemptions.
– Municipalities supply an annual return of their valuations.
– Then it will not be necessary to obtain those valuations, though possibly they might be attached to the war census. I take it that the idea underlying this measure is that we should be furnished with complete knowledge of our possessions. To omit from these returns information as to our benevolent institutions would be to the lasting discredit of this Parliament. There is nothing in connexion with our religious and benevolent institutions of which we need feel ashamed. It will be no trouble to them to furnish the desired information. It would be a pity indeed if any false ideas prevented the supplying of that information which will stand to the credit of the people of the Commonwealth.
– We must not lose sight of the possibility that within a year or two we may be called upon to resort to the extreme of taxing all wealth without any exemptions whatever. Should that time unfortunately arrive, if we now exempt certain properties from the necessity to supply returns - as is proposed by Senator Keating - it may then be necessary to take another census. I do not think it is intended in the immediate future to tax charitable, religious, or educational institutions which are not being carried on for the sake of profit. But the fact remains that within a year or two we may be up against a stiffer financial proposition than that with which we are faced to-day, and it may then be quite impossible to exempt institutions in our midst which everybody acknowledges are doing splendid work.
– If ever the time comes when we tax those institutions we ought to be shot.
– There might come a time when it will be necessary.. We must not forget that this taxation will be raised for the purpose, and only for the purpose, of defending all Australian property, and such properties will be included in that category, so that it is probable those who are responsible for the conduct of those institutions will, when the time comes, be quite satisfied to meet their share of the liability. I think ‘that Senator Lynch did not mean what he said just now, and that his interjection was made in a jocular manner. The time may come - we all hope it will not - when, if this war lasts longer than we hope it will, we shall be so financially embarrassed that Senator Lynch will be of the same opinion as I am now regarding taxation of property. The time may come when these institutions which are exempted to-day under our Land Tax Act will be included under special war taxation ; but if we accept Senator Keating’s amendment now, we shall not have the necessary information to guide us. I do not think any great harm can be done by allowing the information to be gathered in this census, especially while we are all of the opinion that such properties will not be included in any taxation measures proposed.
– The amendment submitted by Senator Keating is one which, I feel sure, will in itself meet with sympathetic consideration from members of this Chamber; but I ask honorable senators if these are normal times.
– The times were normal when we instituted the land taxation which exempted those properties.
– True ; and because these are not normal times, and because the Government and those sup porting the Government are extremely anxious that this return shall be as comprehensive as possible - that it shall be a historical return - I think it would be unwise to make any exemption such as has been suggested by Senator Keating. If we turn to section 13 of the Land Tax Assessment Act of 1910, we find that the following ‘are among the lands which are exempted from taxation -
All lands owned by a State, or by a municipal, local, or other public authority of a State.
Information concerning these properties, if it were obtained, will be highly informative.
– I do not think we will get it under this War Census Act.
– I think we will. We know that in some of the States municipalities carry on various enterprises, employ labour, and enter into contracts for the performance of work in connexion with their respective undertakings. I read the other day a highly interesting interview in the MelbourneHerald with Mr. Ellery, a gentleman who, until lately, filled an important position as town clerk of Adelaide. In that interview, Mr. Ellery briefly but pithily stated what had been done by the City Council of Adelaide in certain directions. He stated that a considerable sum of money had been expended by the municipality in undertakings which would continue to be of material advantage to the citizens of the metropolitan area. Thousands of pounds had been expended in these works for the common good, and they were making substantial profits on those enterprises. That is typical of many municipalities in Australia ; and I, with other members of the Labour party, have for a long time been extremely anxious that we should have such information at our disposal as would enable those who favour the municipalization of such enterprises to place facts and figures before the people of Australia to convince them that enterprises carried on by municipalities are much better than private enterprises. In such circumstances, would not such a return as is contemplated under this schedule be invaluable to everybody?
– In England you get such information from the Year-Booh.
– Yes ; and the same information is published in other countries, from whence we get first-hand knowledge with regard to municipal Socialism. I could, if I felt so disposed, tell the Committee what many municipalities in Victoria have done, and are doing. Here in Melbourne the City Council have their markets, and their lands-
– They ought to be ashamed of some of their markets.
– Well, they have their markets, and they derive revenue from these municipal undertakings as well as from lands upon which substantial buildings have been erected. The Council also control largely the electric lighting, and are interested in other enterprises. Valuable information with regard to such undertakings will not be available to us if this amendment is carried. Like other members of the Labour party, I am connected with trade unions which own buildings and lands, and I think a return giving first-hand information of their value would be extremely useful.
– You do get that information from their returns.
- Senator Keating suggests that we get that information from other sources, and my reply to his statement is that some members who have given their support to this Bill have said that it is unnecessary to introduce such a measure, because much, if not the whole, of the information sought under this schedule is already available in different statistical works. But I would point out that to find that information we have to fossick hour after hour, whereas if we had it in the form contemplated in this schedule it would be readily available.
– If it is going to cost so much, it ought to be as complete as possible.
– Yes. In regard . to church lands, of my own knowledge there are certain religious organizations in Australia which had lands granted to them in the years gone by for religious purposes.
– Very properly, too.
– Yes ; and I know that some of those organizations are now utilizing the lands so granted by the Crown, not directly for religious purposes, but as business sites for warehouses and other purposes, from which they derive a considerable revenue.
– They would not come “within this amendment. You will get that information if this amendment is carried.
– Yes, if they are managed for pecuniary profit.; but I want to know what pecuniary profit means. I understand it to mean that some individuals who are engaged in a particular undertaking, make a profit, and thus derive a pecuniary profit from it for themselves. But in connexion with these religious enterprises to which I am referring, the profits are utilized afterwards for religious or educational purposes. No single person derives any pecuniary profit from their use, and the same applies to other kindred associations that are engaged in undertakings. Once you make an exemption, you on:n the door, and once the door is owen, as suggested by this amendment, the returns will not be so complete as is desired.
– Take the Wonthaggi coal mine - will you get any information about that under this Bill?’
– I hope so. My reason for supporting it is that we shall be : bie to get a return of such a comprehensive nature that it will give us the approximate value of all municipal, State, and Federal undertakings.
– The State Government will tell you to mind your own business.
– They might; but I do not think that, in times like this, any Government will tell us to do that. We have every reason to expect that we shall have the hearty co-operation of municipal, State, and Federal authorities in respect of this return. If I had any doubt in. my mind that the Government proposed to tax enterprises controlled by municipal, State, or charitable organizations, I should hesitate before I would cast my vote against this amendment; but because we have received an assurance from the Government that there is no intention to tax any of these institutions, I am going to vote against the amendment.
– Then curiosity will prompt the inquiry with regard to these institutions.
– The argument that the Bill will probably lead to the taxation of charitable and religious institutions goes by the board, because the Government have no such intention. It is also objected that a good deal of trouble will be caused to certain persons in furnishing satisfactory replies. That argument applies to every one to whom the cards will be sent.
– No, because every other person has the means of assessing his individual wealth, whereas these persons have not.
– No doubt the difficulties will be many, but they will not be insuperable. The only real objection is that it will be difficult for those responsible for the conduct of charitable, religious, and educational institutions to answer the questions.
– Is it not misleading to getan incorrect value?
– I have sufficient confidence in the people intrusted with the conduct of these institutions to believe that they can approximate their value just the same as the municipalities will be able to approximate the value of their enterprises.
SenatorO’Keefe. - If you take the land value and the cost of, the building you will surely be pretty near it.
– You should get very close to it. If the Government found it imperative to resume, say, St. Paul’s Cathedral corner to safeguard the interests of the citizens, does Senator Lynch think that those responsible for the conduct of the church and grounds would not be able to approximate the value they desired to obtain from the Government? If they could not, they would not be business men. Not long ago the Government were anxious to purchase a municipal building and land, and the municipality was very quick to place on it the value . they thought they should obtain for it. I do not think the deal was ever effected. The main objection is that the Bill will cause trouble. No return asked for by the Government is considered by the average man easy to fill in. “We shall be asking the physically strong and the physically weak, the halt, the maim, and the blind to fill up schedules, and I do not expect that a number of people will find it a very easy matter.
– It will be no more difficult than filling up an old-age pension claim.
– That is not so very easy, because there are a number of questions on that claim which cause even the average public man to think before giving them a definite reply. If we ask all and sundry, literate and illiterate, to fill in the first schedule, it will be a mistake to exempt anybody in regard to either the first or the second schedule. I trust that the returns will be, as the Government desire, all-embracing, comprehensive, and invaluable to every member of the Committee in after years.
– The two previous speakers seem to have missed the object of the census. The purpose of the Bill is to ascertain the taxable value of property in the Commonwealth.
– Why the taxable value? Say the value.
– If there is one thing that has surprised me in this discussion it has been the immaculate innocence of the Minister. It is of no use to blink the position before us. One of the main objects of the Bill is to ascertain the taxable value of wealth in Australia.
– Is that why we are asking for the number of horses?
– The Government are asking for the value of certain properties in order that Parliament may be able to impose certain taxation on them.
– I have said time after time that we do not intend anything of the kind.
– Then the Minister is about the only member of the Senate who does not intend it. If the land on which St. Paul’s Cathedral stands was used for the same purpose as the building on the opposite corner, imagine the taxable value of the block then as against its present value! What taxation could the Government get out of St. Paul’s Cathedral to-day? Used for its present purpose, the block has no taxable value. The simpler the form in which we get the information aimed at by the Bill the better. In questions of taxation we ought to be able to discriminate between wealth and capital. Take the case of private hospitals or public charitable hospitals, and St. Vincent’s Hospital as a particular instance. How can any one value the land, building, or equipment of that institution for any purpose covered by this Bill ? I cannot believe that the day will ever come in this country when it will be proposed to tax charitable institutions such as that hospital.
– At the present time, surely the capital value of hospitals has some application.
– We may apply to some of them to take our returned wounded, but that argument only emphasizes the absurdity of thinking of taxing institutions of the kind. All these things show the advantage of carrying the amendment. Notwithstanding the assertions of the Minister, one of the ultimate objects of the Bill is the taxation of wealth.
– That is not one of its objects.
– Then I do not understand why it was introduced.
– Do you not think the time may come when even the people who are getting the benefits from these institutions will come forward willingly with their share of taxation for the protection of that property?
– I cannot foresee the possibility of anything of the kind. The amendment does not exempt church property leased to third parties for purposes of profit, arid that fact should be sufficient to show that, the interests of the community will be safeguarded. If I thought there was any probability of the Government losing taxation to which they are justly entitled. I would not advocate this proposal, but Senator Keating proposes to exclude from his amendment all information that is really required under the Bill to carry out what must be the ultimate object of the Government. That being so. if we do not exempt the institutions which Senator Keating wants to exempt, we shall be building up a most elaborate return that will be very difficult to fill in. It is our duty, seeing that we want the census taken as quickly aiiia ( cheaply as possible, to simplify the schedules as much as we can, and the amendment will certainly simplify the second schedule.
– It is a great pity that so much that is not referred to in the Bill has been imported into the discussion. The Bill nowhere mentions taxation. The Minister has a dozen times repeated that this Bill has no relation to any taxation proposals.
– Does the honorable senator believe that statement?
– I do. The Government have no power to impose fresh taxation by this measure. If it is their intention to impose fresh taxation, they must introduce a separate Bill to give effect to it.
– I grant that at once; but what is the object of this Bill?
– The honorable senator has said this afternoon that this is a taxation measure.
– Taxation is its ulterior object.
– Last night the honorable senator made no reference to taxation, but spoke as an alarmist, and invited the people to believe that the object of the Bill is conscription. According to the honorable senator, it is a wicked and dangerous Bill, and no one can tell what may follow if it is passed. He informed us that nine out of every ten members of the Senate know that the Bill has been introduced for the purpose of establishing conscription. I can see no connexion between this Bill and conscription or taxation.
– Will the honorable senator tell the Committee what object this Bill lias in view ?
– I do not care about discussing things which I do not know, and when Senator de Largie says that nine out of every ten honorable members of the Senate know that this is a Bill to establish conscription, he is saying something that he does not know.
– I ask the honorable senator what he knows about it.
– I am going to tell the honorable senator. The whole of the argument advanced this afternoon in support of the amendment amounts only to an objection to the Bill because of the trouble it will give the persons who> will be responsible for making returns in respect of the properties which have been referred to. No taxation is suggested, and conscription is not suggested. The Minister says that he wants to get a fair idea of the value of all property in the Commonwealth.
– With what object ?
-So that he may know what the value is.
– That, and that only ?
– The honorable senator is a very innocent person.
– I may be, but I base my opinion on the matter I find printed in the Bill, and on the repeated statement of the Minister, on behalf of the Government, that there is no suggestion of taxation in the measure, and that they want the Bill passed for a certain purpose.
– What is the purpose?
– If, afterwards, taxation is found to be necessary, the Government will know the value of the land and property in the Commonwealth from one end of it to the other. If a taxation measure is introduced later, as Senator de Largie seems to fear, honorable senators can deal with it when it is before them.
– Will the honorable senator say that there will be no taxation measure introduced ?
– No! I have taken the word of the Minister, and my honorable friend is taking his own opinion.
– I back my opinion against the word of the Minister that there will be no taxation measure introduced.
– The Minister said nothing of the kind, and I do not say anything of the kind. What we have both said is that this Bill has no relation to taxation.
– That is a mere quibble.
– Senator de Largie is merely beating the air, and that is what has been done by every honorable senator who has spoken in support of the amendment. Their whole objection to the inclusion of the properties to which reference has been made, amongst those for which returns must be furnished, is the trouble that it will give those who have control of such properties. If I have any fault to find with the Bill, it is that it does not make provision for sup plying all the information we require. It has been said that no return of the value of public utilities will have to be furnished under the Bill, and I remind those who have used that argument in support of the amendment that the best way to improve the Bill is not to exempt other properties, but to include public utilities amongst the forms of wealth for which returns must be furnished.
– Persons employed in the Public Service will have to furnish returns.
– Those are only personal returns. The Bill makes no provision for returns, of the value of State properties and public utilities. It should not be forgotten that information of the value of State and municipal utilities may be obtained from the balance-sheets which are issued in respect of them every year. No good case has been made out for the exemption of properties controlled by religious and charitable organizations. In my view the arguments which have been used in support of the amendment can only prejudice the measure beforehand in the minds of th,e people, with whom any proposal for the furnishing of inquisitorial returns is always sufficiently unpopular. I hope that the Committee will not agree to the amendment, as no good reason has been given for the exemption of the properties1 which have been referred to.
– I can scarcely understand why the amendment has been submitted. Information as to the value of the lands and properties controlled by religious and charitable organizations will surely be very useful. If we make the exemption proposed, where should we stop ? If we proceeded far in the direction of the amendment, the returns provided for would be so whittled down as to make the census of no value at all. If church and charitable organizations and friendly societies were consulted on the subject, I am afraid that not one-third of them would object to furnish these returns. I have for a very long time been connected with friendly societies, and I say for such societies throughout Australia that nine to one of their members would agree to send in the returns asked for, that the resources of Australia might be known. I have always been closely connected with church life, and, speaking also for church people. I say that they would have no hesitation in furnishing returns of the value of their property. It has been said that it is a difficult matter to estimate the value of a church. I was reminded by that statement of the fact that in the little city where I live, the authorities of the denomination to which I belong were offered £10,000 for a church which the intending purchaser proposed to convert into a warehouse. The church authorities refused to sell the property for that amount, but if the sale had been made the purchaser would, under this Bill, have been obliged to furnish a return of the value of the property. If any of the properties which have been referred to changed hands, returns would have to be furnished of their value. I have in mind a place where the authorities of a certain church in the early days received a large grant of land, which is called Glebe Land. That land at one time was comparatively idle, and I have myself seen crops of oats grown on it; but to-day there are scores of beautiful buildings erected on that land. The area is considerable, and portions of the land were sold on a ninety-nine years’ building lease. The buildings which have been erected will eventually come into the hands of the church to which the land belongs. Senator Findley dealt with the question of the pecuniary profit derived from these properties, and I can say that the income from the property to which I have just referred, although very considerable, goes into the church funds, and makes it possible for larger stipends to be paid to the ministers of that church than perhaps could otherwise be paid to them. It might, in the circumstances, be contended that the church in question is deriving no pecuniary profit from the possession of this land, in a legal sense.
– If the amendment is carried, returns in respect of that land will have to be furnished.
– That may be so, and I hold that in every case returns should be furnished of the value of property. I cannot see why any objection is raised to the furnishing of such returns. Trades Hall properties and the properties of other similar institutions have been referred to, and if in all these cases it is unnecessary for returns to be furnished, we shall not obtain the information we require under this Bill. Speaking only for myself, and not for the Government or the Vice-President of the Executive
Council, I do not say that this Bill has absolutely no connexion with a tax. It seems to me that in future the returns furnished under this Bill will be used as the basis of some tax.
– That will be the time for exemptions to* be considered.
– Exactly. I am satisfied that the Government are sincere in the statement that they have no idea of taxing the institutions which have been specially referred to in connexion with the amendment, but when we get these returns we may discover something that ought to be taxed. I believe that some of these institutions that are in receipt of enormous incomes from lands which they use as private owners use their land, should be subject to taxation in respect of those lands.
– They are subject to taxation in respect of such lands now.
– We want all the information we can get in respect of the wealth of the Commonwealth, not only for ourselves, but for the benefit of those who come after us, and who may not be of the same mind as ourselves in connexion with some of these matters. I hope that the amendment will be rejected.
– In the discussion of the amendment, honorable senators are gettingaway from the purpose of the Bill, and! of this particular clause. The real object of the measure is to do in Australia what was done in England in the time of William the Conqueror, when the Doomsday Book was made up. Surely from such a measure as this we cannot exclude certain properties, and say in effect that they are outside of Australia. We have been told that the taking of this census will cost £150,000, and it does seem common sense therefore to make it as complete and minute as possible. Even if we do not want the information this year, we may require it next year. The objection which I have to the Bill is that which has already been urged by Senator Newland, namely, that it does not go far enough, and that we should not only secure information in regard to our individual activities, but that we should also obtain the fullest particulars in regard to our municipalities and our friendly societies - indeed, in relation to all the activities of the State. I venture to say that if we do come up against a really evil day, we shall find that our churches are not averse to making any sacrifice which may be required for the defence of the Empire. It would be of value to know exactly what the State is spending in its charitable enterprises, and also what assets it possesses under that heading. I can see rib good purpose to be served by obscuring any portion of our activities.
– Take the fire brigade system.
– Exactly . If we obtain information in regard to our fire brigade strength the Minister will be able to say at once, “ Here is a class of man that we want.” When the returns provided for under this Bill come to hand they will not only be dissected, but classified. We shall then be able to determine not only what is the engineering strength of the community, but what are the religious and charitable exercises of the people. I am in entire accord with the spirit of the Bill. Upon the motion for its second reading, I stated that my only objection to it. was that it did not go far enough. I hope that the amendment will not be pressed. My view is that we should practically obtain information as to the capital account of Australia. It would be a good thing if we could ascertain what Australia is spending upon its amusements - upon its racecourses, its theatres, and” its picture shows - because undoubtedly if ever there was a time when we are faced with a serious position that time is now.
– Several honorable senators who have opposed the amendment appear to believe that, under this Bill, it is intended to lake stock of every asset in the Commonwealth.
– We should do that.
– Some honorable senators assume that that is what it is proposed to do. As a matter of fact, the Bill contemplates nothing of the kind. Its object is to secure the taking of stock so far as the war assets and the war capabilities of our people are concerned. The schedule providing for returns in regard to individuals is confined only to males.
– We have not passed the schedule yet.
– So far as our properties are concerned it is only proposed that we shall take stock of the war assets of the Commonwealth. I moved the amendment which is now under con sideration because I do not think that the properties covered by it can be regarded as war assets.
– Why does the honorable senator say “ war “ assets?
– Because this is a “ War Census Bill,” and this clause is entitled “Taking of war census.” I listened to Senator Findley urging how desirable it was that we should obtain information in regard to municipal activities. But, under cover of a “ war census,” are we going to gratify his laudable curiosity in that connexion ? Under cover of a “ war census ‘ ‘ are we to add to the historical archives of the Commonwealth? If we want that information, let us get it straightforwardly, and in the most complete manner. I agree with Senator Findley that it is most desirable that we should obtain information in regard to our municipal activities. But under cover of a “ war census,” do not let us attempt to get it. To my mind, it is essential that the information sought under this Bill should be secured as expeditiously as possible- Why are we asking for information as to the number of horses and motor vehicles in. the Commonwealth? Simply because they may be turned to a useful purpose in case of war. If the Bill be passed in its present form, will the building in which we are assembled be included in the census? Certainly not. Will every one of the post-offices of the Commonwealth, the Customs Houses, the land and property occupied as fortifications, the defence works of Australia, and the civil establishments of the Commonwealth, be included ? I venture to think not.
– It would not be very difficult to get the value of the transferred properties, seeing that the States have made a valuation of them.
– Are we looking for those valuations? No. We are really seeking to assess the capabilities of the people for the prosecution of the war - their personal capabilities and their property assets. The Vice-President of the Executive Council has assured us that the Bill is not intended to be the precursor of taxation. But I cannot subscribe to the doctrine that he would be held responsible for the ultimate consequences which may flow from this measure. Developments may occur which may compel resort to very drastic taxation. Then, if the data supplied in these returns were used for the purpose of assessing taxation, I could not hold him responsible. I repeat that developments may occur which may necessitate resort to these returns, either by the present or a subsequent Government. Senator O’Keefe has already admitted that aspect of the matter. Under the Bill it is not proposed to take stock of every property in the Commonwealth. I am seeking to exempt only those properties which are already exempt from land tax under the Land Tax Assessment Act. Some honorable senators have urged that church organizations hold properties from which they derive considerable rent. I merely wish to say that such properties will not be exempted from the operation of the Bill under my amendment. If there is any pecuniary revenue derived from them-
– What does the honorable senator mean by ‘ ‘ pecuniary revenue “ 1
– I mean money revenue. If land is being used for purely charitable or ecclesiastical purposes, and it is yielding no money revenue, it is exempt from taxation. But if it is yielding money revenue, it is subject to taxation. If the Bill passes in its present form, I doubt very much whether it will be possible to obtain the information sought by Senator Findley in regard to certain municipal activities, because I do not know that they will fall within the scope of the measure. In seeking information in regard to our charitable and religious organizations, we shall only be burdening the returns unnecessarily, and increasing the work which will have to be done in the taking of this census without serving any useful purpose.
– I have listened carefully during the progress of this debate to the arguments of those who are in favour of the amendment, but I have to say they have not brought me round to their -way of thinking. Senator Keating, I think, disclosed the real object of the amendment. Senator O’Keefe in his remarks referred to the fact that in the future we may have to resort to drastic taxation, and said that if this information were available the Commonwealth might be induced to ask the owners ‘of those properties to pay something towards the national revenue. That, in my opinion, is the reason why this amendment has been proposed, because, if it is carried, the information will not be available, and those responsible, if asked to pay something, will have the excuse that there would not be time to furnish the information.
– Do you propose to tax charities, then ?
– I understand that the honorable senator is quite in favour of taxing a widow’s land, no matter how poor she may be. The alleged trouble of filling in these returns is not the real objection to the schedule. The real objection is to disclose the value of property. As soon as the income tax is proposed property owners everywhere immediately set up a universal .howl throughout the country, objecting to the inquisitorial character of the tax. But it is not the inquisitorial character of the tax that they are opposed to so much as the painful operation of paying the tax, and I venture to say that is the objective of this amendment. However, we have the assurance of the Minister, that these properties will not be taxed, and I for one am quite prepared to accept it.
– That being the case, what is the purpose of this inquiry ?
– The purpose is to obtain a valuation of these properties. It may so happen that the values will be found to be of so fabulous a character that we might even be disposed later on to favorably consider the idea of taxing them a little.
– We are going to spend £150,000 for mere curiosity.
– The extra trouble involved in getting a return of these properties will only represent a very small fraction of the £150,000 which it is estimated the census will cost. It will not increase the cost to any appreciable extent if -we extended the schedule and asked for a good deal more information than is now contemplated. I hope the Senate will not be misled by any arguments adduced by those in support of the amendment, and that they will support the measure as it stands, so that we will know exactly what our resources are if, later on, we have to consider the necessity of imposing drastic taxation. So far as I am concerned, I accept the assurance of the Vice-President of the Executive Council that there is no present intention to tax these properties.
– Apparently my argument has not been properly understood. I did not wish to convey the idea that this Bill gives the Government of the day any direct taxation power. What I did argue was that its ultimate object was in connexion with taxation, and I should have thought that even the “Vice-President of the Executive Council would have understood me.
– I can assure the honorable senator that I do not understand him.
– Well, that may be. so, and it might not be my fault. I argued that the ultimate object of the Bill was taxation.
– That is not so.
– Well, suppose the necessity arose for- taxation later on, would not the statistics that we are about to collect be used to prove the necessity for an income tax, a land tax, or a property tax ? Does the Minister expect us to believe that there is no connexion between this War Census Bill and taxation?
– The honorable senator will be lucky if he does not have a scheme of taxation upon him before’ even this war census is taken.
– If this Bill is not intended for the purpose of ascertaining the taxable wealth of the community, so that later on we may be able to apply taxation to it, then I cannot understand the arguments of this afternoon. If we are going to obtain an idea of the property in the community, how will that property be connected with the war unless with the object of taxation?
– You can apply it to movable property, such as horses and motor cars.
– Yes, it might be applied to portable property; but it is clear to me that the taxation possibilities of the land can only have application to the war, and no good purpose can be served by skating over thin ice by saying that the Bill has nothing to do with taxation. I did not argue that the measure gave the Government a power of taxation, but, as I have already said, I. maintained that its ultimate object was - first, to promote recruiting in connexion with the war; and, second, to obtain information for the purpose of raising the wherewithal, the sinews of war, from property. Now we are discussing the kind of property to which we may be able to apply such taxation. We propose, under this amendment, to exempt certain classes of property, and any attempt to make us believe that it has no connexion with the war is only an attempt to throw dust in the eyes of the public.
– Even at the risk of continuing the debate, I must most emphatically deny that there is any ulterior motive behind this Bill. Everything is clear as regards taxation, and before ever one card is issued with reference to this census, Senator de Largie will know what taxation the Government intend to bring in. Everything will be done in a plain, straightforward, and open-handed manner.
– Independent of this information?
– Absolutely independent of it. The cards will be on the- table, and the public will know, as well as the honorable senator, what the tax.at.ion will be. I want to be most emphatic on the point. If Senator de Largie’s argument held good, that we wanted a return of these properties for taxation purposes, every man with a few head of stock could take the same view, and say, “ Oh, the Government only want to. get a return of my stock in order to tax me.” It would create a most unfortunate impression if we allowed a suggestion to go out from this Senate that we are asking for a return of the wealth of the country for the purpose of taxing it. We are doing nothing of the kind, and I assure the honorable senator that I was in earnest when I said that, as far as this Government were concerned, we had no such taxation proposals upon the stocks.
– Will you tell us if you have information about property under the control of State, Governments?
– We have that already. In connexion, with this matter, some honorable senators have endeavoured to put me in a wrong position. We are simply asking, for a return of the property in the schedule, and they ask that certain people shall be exempted. Because we ask for a return of that property, and they press for an exemption, they are trying to make out that we intend to tax that property, when, as a matter of fact, we have no such in- tention. When those who desire exemptions have people to speak’ in their interests, and claim exemption, it is about time the rest of us looked around to see who else can be exempted; but if we did that the whole thing would be a farce. I am in sympathy with the motives underlying the amendment, and I had hoped that I could accept it; but, after I had looked into the matter more carefully, I came to the conclusion that, if one section of the community claimed exemption, another would do likewise, and the census would not be worth taking. I am sorry that Senator de Largie will not accept my assurance, and will persist in thinking that some future taxation is behind this proposal for a wealth census. Taxation is imminent, and it will be upon the Parliament and the country at an early date. But it will come in one of those ordinary forms of taxation which the country has been expecting for months, and the surprise is that the Government have held their hands so long.
– I desire to say just a final word before this matter goes to the vote. I want those who intend to vote against the amendment to conjure up for themselves what the position will be in the future. When they obtain the information as to the wealth represented in charitable, religious, and educational institutions, will they be able to say that it is a correct return? Certainly not. Senator Grant may scan the list as long as he likes, but he will not be able to obtain from it a correct estimate of the wealth in Australia under that heading?
– Why not?
– No1 official document issued by the Government of Victoria gives an accurate estimate of the value of the land on which the Yarra Bend Asylum stands. No Western Australian official return sets forth the value of the land upon which the Kalgoorlie Hospital stands. There is another hospital, not run by the Government, alongside that institution. Under this Bill, the Western Australian Government will not furnish a return regarding the one, but those conducting the other will have to furnish a return. As to Senator Grant’s remarks, there appears to be need to take an inventory of the schools in Australia to which some senators might well be sent, judging by the ignorance displayed in this debate. At
Croydon, in North Queensland, where I spent some time, there are schools, but the Queensland Government do not publish one line showing the value of the land on which their school stands, while those conducting other schools will be called on to furnish returns. Therefore, only partial information will be obtained; and when Senator Grant gets up to say that the value of the land on which schools are erected is so much, he will be speaking from misleading and incomplete information, because no State Government will have recorded the value of the land on which State teaching or benevolent institutions are erected. This effort will, therefore, be misleading and fruitless and place us in a most ignominious position. I would point out to Senator Grant, and all the others who are going to gloat over the information, or expect some comfort from it, that they will get only a partial account of the value of lands employed for benevolent and educational activities. By passing the clause as it stands we shall, therefore, be showing ourselves in a foolish, ridiculous, and impossible light.
– I frankly and readily comply with the well-known practice of the Senate as regards accepting Senator Gardiner’s statements. All I can say is that there is a difference between min and Mr. Hughes, who introduced the measure in another place. It was argued there, originally, that if we were to have conscription of men we should also have conscription of property. Mr. Hughes said that in the past we had always proceeded with our taxation without having sufficiently reliable statistics to go upon. He complained that that was an unscientific way to proceed, and that this Bill was introduced to get the accurate data of taxation before proceeding to impose it. He said he was going to reverse the old order by securing the information first, and the taxation measures would come before us later on. We are now informed by Senator Gardiner of the possibility of the taxation Bills coming before us before the information is secured by this Bill. If the case is so urgent, and the Government cannot wait for the information, it does not alter my argument, nor change the nature of Mr. Hughes’ contention, that one of the objects of the Bill was to secure information regarding the taxable property of the Commonwealth, in order that taxation measures might be introduced later. Those arguments prove what I have been contending all through : that while the Bill isnot a measure by which taxation can be wrung out of the people of the Commonwealth, it is the first step in that direction, and has a direct connexion with the Bills that are coming later.
– I should not have risen but for Senator Lynch’s speech. There is no man in the chamber for whom I have a greater admiration and respect; but I think he was unfair to Senator Grant, and even to myself and others who are going to vote against the amendment. His unfairness consisted in specifying certain institutions, and making it appear to the readers of Hansard that we were interested only in getting returns from our charitable and religious institutions, and against a proposal to protect them, which enlisted the sympathy of every other member of the Committee.
– He did not argue that way.
– He did. He said that Senator Grant wanted a return in respect of our educational institutions which it would be impossible to get.
– So it would be.
– I do not think so. The Government of Victoria know approximately the amount they havepaid for the land on which their schools have been erected.
– This Bill does not affect the State Governments.
– It will give us, I hope, the opportunity to get all the information which the Federal Government and their supporters desire.
– It will not be complete. All Government institutions are left out.
– It is not impossible to get such a return. Are honorable senators aware of the actual exemptions under the Land Tax Assessment Act of 1910? The first is-
All land owned by a State, or by a municipal, local, or other public authority of a State; All land owned by a Savings Bank regulated by any State Act;
Do those voting for the amendment desire those exemptions to be made? All land owned by any society registered under a State Act relating to friendly societies or trade unions;
The amendment covers that land. Are those supporting it anxious that we shall not know the value of the lands and buildings owned by friendly societies ? 1 an anxious to know approximately the value of the lands and buildings belonging to our trade unions.
– Of what use is it for the purpose before us ?
– It is useful to me as a public man, and it will be useful, I hope, to Senator O’Loghlin when we get it.
– We are not going to get it.
– If the amendment is carried we shall not get it -
All land owned by any building society registered as a building society under any Act or State Act, not being land of which the society has become owner by foreclosure of a mortgage;
Do not honorable senators want that information?
All land owned by or in trust for a charitable or educational institution, if the institution, however formed or constituted, is carried on solely for charitable or educational purposes and not for pecuniary profit;
While I respect Senator Keating’s opinion, I still have my doubts as to the legal meaning of the words “ pecuniary profit “-
All land owned by or in trust for a religious society, the proceeds whereof are devoted solely to the support of the aged or infirm clergy or ministers of the society or their wives or widows or children, or to religious, charitable, or educational purposes;
It will be some trouble for those conducting these institutions to supply the information required under the Bill, but nobody when he knows the real purpose for which the Bill is introduced will have any objection to furnishing that information. It will be informative to all of us to know the number of charitable institutions, the value of their land and buildings, the extent to which they have been subsidized by municipal, State, or Federal authorities, the number of their inmates, and what they are costing the people of the Commonwealth in all -
All land owned by or in trust for any person or society and used or occupied by that person or society solely as a site for - a place of worship for a religious society, or a place of residence for any clergy or ministers or order of a religious society ;
I have great respect for every religious order in Australia, but there are many buildings in which ministers of religion reside to-day that may change hands tomorrow. What real objection can there be to furnishing a return giving the approximate value of the buildings in which those people reside ? -
A charitable or educational institution not carried on for pecuniary profit;
The amendment, if carried, will exempt all those institutions. There are dozens of clubs, societies, and associations not carried on for pecuniary profit.
– Take the Commercial Travellers Club, probably the best building of the sort in Melbourne.
– It all depends on what pecuniary profit means.
– It is exempt under the Land Tax Assessment Act.
– I was a member of the Government which made the exemption The commercial travellers’ clubs of Australia are not carried on for pecuniary profit. Profits are made, but they do not go into the pockets of individual members of the club. They are utilized in a very laudable manner.
– The collective profits made by the club go to members in the shape of funeral benefits and other such benefits.
– The commercial travellers’ clubs are treated as friendly societies, which they really are.
-I have said that their profits are utilized in a very laudable manner. They have a mortuary benefit fund, a sick and accident fund, and other funds for the benefit of their members. If the amendment be carried all the commercial travellers’ clubs in Australia will be exempt, and will not be required to furnish returns of the value of their property. I am a member of the Commercial Travellers’ Association, and I do not believe that they would have the slightest objection to supplying all the information asked for under this Bill. Then, we have the case of public libraries, institutes, and museums. They would be exempt trader the amendment. Are we not interested in knowing the number of public libraries and museums in Australia, and the value, approximately, of their buildings and other property?
– We should not get that information under the
Bill. They are exempt already; the Bill does not cover them.
– That is true ; but if we desire that information we could obtain it from the State Governments.
– Of what use is it to argue the matter from the point of view of Victorian State laws; we are dealing with a Federal matter?
– We are dealing with the States of the Commonwealth. Are show grounds exempt under this Bill ? Senator Gardiner. - There are no exemptions under the Bill.
– A proclamation under it may contain exemptions.
– That is so.
– There are show grounds covering very large areas in different parts of the Commonwealth, and it would be helpful to know the total area of those grounds and their approximate value.
– For war purposes ?
– For public purposes. I hope it will not happen, but it might be- necessary during this period, so very different from any other in the history of Australia, to utilize some of these show grounds for war purposes. The Flemington race-course covers a large area, and suggestions have been made in the columns of the press that the Defence Department might utilize that ground for the training and drilling of recruits. It might be found convenient also to use some of the show grounds in the same way. As a matter of fact, the Defence Department is to-day making use of the grounds of the Royal Agricultural Society of Victoria, adjacent to the Flemington racecourse. It has been suggested that the annual show of the society should not be held this year because of the war, and that on that account the Defence Department should pay a certain rental to the society for the use of the ground. It would be useful for us to know the area and value of the show grounds of Australia, so that if at any time it becomes necessary to rent them for public purposes we shall have some basis upon which to estimate the rent which should be paid for them. Then there are public gardens, recreation grounds, and reserves. We have been accustomed, in this State, to say, with a good deal of pride that, in proportion to its area Victoria has a greater number of recreation reserves than has any other State. Will it not be useful to know the area and approximate value of all our public reserves? Then, the different fire brigades throughout the Commonwealth control buildings of considerable value, especially in all the capital cities.
-Colonel O’Loghlin. - Shall we get information concerning their value under this Bill?
– We shall not get it if the amendment is agreed to.
– The Bill does not cover it.
– I hope that we shall get the information, because the Vice-President of the Executive Council has said that there will be no exemptions. Then, I may mention that that magnificent organization, the Australian Workers Union, possesses a number of buildings from which they do not derive pecuniary profit. If the amendment be carried, we shall get no information as to the value of the buildings and land owned by the Australian Workers Union. Information of the value of all the properties to which I have referred will be denied us if the amendment is carried. No injury will be done to any section of the community by insisting upon the furnishing of these returns. All that they will involve is a little labour and trouble. Let me repeat that if I had the least doubt about the object for which the Bill is being introduced, I should be found whole-heartedly supporting the amendment. It is because I have no doubt whatever that no attempt will be made to impose taxation upon the properties of religious, educational, and charitable institutions in this country that I am prepared to vote against the amendment.
– The honorable senator believes that those properties will not be taxed?
– I believe so.
– Then the inquiry in respect to them would be futile.
– I do not agree with the honorable senator. I join with the Vice-President of the Executive Council in saying that the object of the Bill is not conscription, and is not the taxation of the wealth of the country. I trust that the amendment will not be carried.
Question - That the words proposed to be added-(Senator Keating’s amendment) be added - put. The Committee divided.
Majority . . . . 13
Question so resolved in the negative.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 5 - (].) It shall be the duty of the Statistician, subject to any proclamation and to the directions of the Minister, to prepare forms and instructions, and take all necessary steps, for the taking and collection of the census.
– This clause deals with the preparation and issue of the forms which are required to take the census. It authorizes the Statistician to put into operation all the necessary machinery for the purpose. Now, I understand that many offers of voluntary assistance have been made to the Government in connexion with the taking of this census. Many members of the Commonwealth and State Public Services have offered their aid. It might be very well to accept their offers, but we ought to recollect that there are quite a large number of men and women in our midst to-day who are unemployed, and who are sufficiently skilled to undertake this work. Consequently, I desire the Vice-President of the Executive Council to publicly state that all unemployed men and women who are fit to discharge the duties involved in the taking of this war census will be employed before any voluntary offers of assistance are accepted.
– The talcing of this census will entail a large expenditure of money and effort. In that effort much labour will be employed. As soon as it was announced, through the columns of the daily press, that the Government intended to take a war census, a number of well-meaning citizens offered their services without, I feel sure, any expectation of fee or reward. Many of these offers came from persons who are already in employment, and who are so circumstanced that they are in a position to keep the wolf from the door. They offered their services in their spare time to> the Government in connexion with the taking of this census. But there are quite a large number of persons in the Commonwealth who are not able to keep the wolf from the door. Whilst every sphere of industrial activity is affected by the drought and the war, I do not suppose that there is any section of the community which is feeling their disastrous consequences more than are the clerical workers. Whenever business is dull the clerical staffs are naturally reduced,, and the clerical employee cannot usually take on any other kind of work. When voluntary offers of assistance were made to the Government, a meeting of the clerical workers of this State was held, at which a resolution was adopted expressing the hope that their services would be availed of before any voluntary offers were accepted. I think that there is every justification for a resolution of that character. If, for example, a number of transports required to be fitted up, it would be unfair for carpenters in employment to come along and say that, in their spare time, they would fit up those vessels. Such an offer would be a generous one, but it ought not to be accepted if competent tradesmen were available to do the work and those tradesmen were unemployed. If voluntary offers of assistance are to be accepted, in the taking of this census, thus displacing clerical workers who would otherwise be employed, the same principle should be extended to every other branch of industry. I feel sure that the Government are sympathetic with these men who are unemployed, and that, whilst not unmindful of the generous offers made by patriotic citizens, they will not forget that there is quite an army of competent clerical workers idle in our midst.
– I desire to nip this debate in the bud by saying that the Government have had offers, from the State Governments and from other places which they cannot overlook in carrying out such a huge work as the taking of this war census. Probably my statement will set at rest any anxiety on the part of Senators Needham and Findley when I say that this work is so urgent that it will require the services of a large body of officials working two shifts, a day. Voluntary labour cannot, supply, this need. Labour which can only give its services, during its. spare time is useless in the compilation of statistics which must be prepared expeditiously. If there is one thing noticeable throughout the community, it is the intense desire of all to do something, however little, to assist in the prosecution of this great war. Whilst recognising that desire, I am informed by the Attorney-General that the services of a thousand clerks, working two shifts, a day, will be necessary to expeditiously complete this war census. Let no honorable senator imagine for a moment that the employment which will be offered in this’ connexion will partake in any way of. charitable employment. The undertaking will be a business one from beginning to end. None but efficients are- needed, and none but efficients will be employed.
– I am glad to learn that the Government view this matter in. the common-sense way that has been outlined by the Vice-President of the Executive Council. We know that the clerical workers of Australia have an equal claim to recognition with the members of other trade unions. I hope, too, that in. the talcing of the census, not merely male, but female clerks will be employed. There are quite a number of female clerical workers in our midst who ought not to be excluded from such an undertaking. I recognise that in the taking of this census we want to practise economy as far as possible. At the same time .1 hope that the Government will see that no cheap labour is engaged in the work until all unemployed clerical workers have been placed.
I am pleased to know that the Government intend following the ordinary lines by engaging the services of men and women for this undertaking.
– There can be no doubt that even now there are a large number of male and female clerks unemployed in the Commonwealth. Probably in the near future the number will be largely increased. The £20,000,000 loan which the Government are about to float for war purposes will withdraw a large amount of capital from industries. This will certainly result in the discharge of a considerable number of persons from all occupations. Then, again, we hear rumours of war taxation. Such taxation will interfere with the course of industry. So far as I can see, the outlook in the immediate future is not promising. The probability is that before we know where we are we shall have a huge army of unemployed on our hands. These people must be provided for. They cannot be allowed to starve. The Prime Minister stated some time ago that in fighting the Germans we were prepared to expend our last man and our last shilling. But I think that fighting poverty within our own borders is even more important than fighting the Germans. Seeing that we have this prospect before us, I trust that the Government will not encourage the engagement of voluntary helpers. These people are in employment now. We all admire the generosity which inspires their offers, but we have to consider the persons who are idle, many of whom have families to provide for, and are in a semistarving condition. Whilst such a state of things exists, and whilst we have a shilling to assist in keeping them supplied with food and shelter, no voluntary helper should be engaged in the taking of this census. I said before that it is proposed to squander £150,000 in collecting information which is already available to the Government. If that money must be expended, let it be spent in assisting to keep a number of our own people out of the ditch of poverty. So far as I am concerned I shall never countenance the employment of any voluntary labour, and I am sorry we did not take steps, when clause 3 was under observation, to eliminate this.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 6 and 7 agreed to.
Clause 8 -
The forms which may be required to bc filled up shall be in accordance with the forms of thu First and Second Schedules to this Act, with such modifications or additions as are prescribed.
– This is a clause which, I think, requires very careful consideration. Yesterday I heard Senator Millen condemning, and, to my mind, rightly, the practice of giving a blank cheque to a Government.
– I thought you were denouncing me then.
– No, I was not.
– I did not know that there was such a strong combination on the eve of being formed over there.
– This clause practically presents a blank cheque to the Government, if we pass it in its present form. Attached to the Bill are two inquisitorial schedules, which, I think, Parliament should take the full responsibility of framing, so that we may know exactly what powers are to be given to the Government, and also that they will not be modified or added to. I am not prepared to give to this or to any other Government power to add to or to modify those schedules in any way; but, on the contrary, I would like to see the schedules, as they leave this Parliament, moulded in such a way .that they will accomplish the object of the Government. In legislation of this nature, which I recognise is necessary at this time, it would be unwise for Parliament to go into recess and leave the people practically at the mercy of the Government, with power to add further questions, and, as it were, to peer still more closely into the private affairs of their lives. I think the clause can very well stand with all the words after “ Act “ deleted. It will then he all the more imperative on the Committee to scrutinize carefully the schedules as they are going through, to see that they are sent to the people in a proper form, and without being too inquisitorial. In order to test the feeling of the Committee, I move -
That all the words after “Act” be left out.
I do that because I desire that this Parliament shall retain full and complete control of the questions that are to be submitted to the people in this War Census Bill. If the Government find that the schedules do not meet the object they have in view, let them appeal to Parliament to grant further power.
– I ask Senator Needham not to press his amendment. I do not say that this or any other Government have a right to ask for a blank cheque, as T realize that Parliament should know the limit of the power it is handing over., I am not questioning Senator Needham’s desire to see that the powers of Parliament should remain in the hands of members elected to conduct the business of Parliament ;- but I want to point out that it might happen that when we are preparing a proclamation dealing with this matter, it might be found that some simple question, concerning which there is not the slightest shadow of a doubt Parliament would approve, has been omitted, and if the amendment is carried we would have to call Parliament together to get over the difficulty. Government is always a question of cheques and balances. In this particular clause we have practically a blank cheque, but a Committee has been appointed, and Mr. Hughes, when dealing with the matter in the other House, said that no questions other than those in the schedule would be put in, except with the approval of the Committee.
– Except with the approval of the Committee, or after reference to them?
-I can only say that the impression conveyed to me was that nothing would be added without the approval of that Committee, but that that would not give the Committee power to accept questions, because, after all, the Government would act as a check.
– The Committee could not suggest anything.
– At the present time we are living under a condition of things previously unheard of, and extraordinary powers can be exercised at any moment by the Government, almost without the check of Parliament, and if the Government cannot be trusted with this small matter it is for the Senate to say so. When introducing the Bill I said that had we been living in ordinary times a measure of such an inquisitorial character would have received my opposition. Now that we are exercising such extended powers, why should there be hesitation as to whether the Government should have the DOWer embodied in this clause? I will put it to honorable senators that, in their caution to prevent us from doing something that may involve quite a remote danger, they may prevent us from doing something which is very useful and necessary, and something which Parliament would certainly approve if the matter were submitted to members. However, the matter is for the Committee to decide. Personally. I hope the amendment will not be carried, for the simple reason that there is no intention on the part of the Government to transgress upon the privileges of Parliament; but, as I have said, when we are issuing the proclamation we might find that something which should have been included has been left out, and we should have the power to include it. I really think we can be intrusted with this power, because, so far as I can see, no other question will be submitted. The Government only want to be in the position of knowing that if there is any omission it can be rectified.
– I am in favour of the amendment, because I strongly object to the handing over to an irresponsible Committee that is not even appointed by Parliament the power to undo work which the Parliament has done.
– Did I not make it quite clear that they have no power?
– No. And I might add that the Minister did not present all the facts of the case, because Mr. Hughes, in his statement to the other House, distinctly said that after the Bill had been passed the schedules would be submitted for the approval of a Committee which is not even appointed by this Parliament.
– Did I say that?
– No; but Mr. Hughes said it, and in the light of the statement made by the Minister who introduced the Bill in the other House, I want to know why we should give any power over these schedules to that Committee. We will do that if we do not accept the amendment moved by Senator Needham. It is very dangerous to hand such a power over to that Committee, because the power to add to them might just as effectively affect the schedules as the power to take from them anything that Parliament inserted.
– There is no power given in this Bill, nor has the promise been made that the Committee will insert any amendment, ‘or alter one letter of the schedule. There was a promise that if the Government proposed any further question it would be submitted to the Committee in the event of Parliament not sitting. We thought that was a fair compromise.
– Let me read to honorable senators just what Mr. Hughes said, on page 5057 of Ilansard -
As far as the wealth schedule is concerned, we shall do what we can, with the advice proffered to us by experts, to make it as perfect as possible.
Now here is the point -
It will then bc submitted for approval to the War Committee representing the whole Parliament, and will not bc issued until it has been made acceptable to that body.
– .What will not be issued ?
– These schedules. It is an extraordinary statement for a responsible Minister to make, and it is an extraordinary position for Mr. Hughes or any member of the Government to place Parliament in. It does not matter what promise the Minister here makes-
– Does it not? The Senate is the supreme body of this Parliament, you know.
– It seems that the War Committee will be supreme.
– Does that statement convey the impression that the War Committee will be supreme and above the Government ?
– Yes. Above everybody, so Mr. Hughes stated. In confirmation of that. I want to read a statement which the Attorney-General subsequently made, as reported on page 5060 of Hansard -
I am entirely in the hands of the Committee in this matter. Two suggestions have been made. There is no difference of opinion on the point that the Second Schedule shall not como into force until it has been approved either by the War Committee or by this House. In my view, the War Committee could best deal with the matter, but I do not press that. I propose to make a number of amendments in that Schedule now, because I do not desire that the Bill should go to another place until wc have done the best we can with it.
– From what is the honorable senator reading?
– From the remarks of Mr. Hughes.
– The honorable senator is entirely out of order.
– I thought I would give Mr. Hughes’ actual remarks for greater accuracy. Substantially what he said was that, whatever Parliament did, its work was to be disregarded, and that the War Lords appointed by the Government were to be supreme. That is a dangerous proposal, which no Parliament should tolerate, even in a crisis like the present. It would be better for Parliament to sit continuously than to hand over its powers to any Committee. I hope that, for the protection of Parliament, if for no other reason, we shall carry the amendment, which, to some extent, will clip the wings of the War Committee.
– As one of the War Lords referred to, I suddenly find myself on a pinnacle on which even my most exalted ambition never pictured me. Senator Mullan has entirely misapprehended the position, and quite misunderstands the functions allotted to the War Committee and the statement of the representative of the Government. No matter what that Committee does, Parliament can override and annul it. Its amendments of the schedule would have to come before Parliament as a regulation.
– Parliament might not be sitting.
– By that interjection the honorable senator recognises that the Committee will be operative only when Parliament is not sitting. It is not an overriding of Parliament, but an additional safeguard to it. What Mr. Hughes said, repeated by his colleague here, is that if Parliament is in session the schedule, as amended, if it is amended, will naturally come before Parliament for approval; but if Parliament is not sitting we have the assurance that the Government will not amend the schedule unless the War Committee, which is equally representative of both sides, is in agreement with what they propose to do. If the Committee approve, and Parliament was in session, Parliament could still override the regulation. Parliament would be in no better position if the War Committee had no voice at all. The
Committee is given no extraordinary powers, because the position would be exactly the same if the Committee was not there. It cannot be said that the Committee will override Parliament.
– Temporarily it will, but it should not be able to do so at all.
– It will not, because Parliament, if not in session, would not be able to do anything. If the Committee did not exist, the Government would alter the schedule as they liked, and Parliament would not be overridden, although impotent for the time being. To bring in the Committee does not impair the rights or powers of Parliament, but merely means that the Government will buttress themselves with the assurance that a body of men representative of both sides is in full approval of what they are doing. Senator Needham, when he said he agreed with me, reminded me of the possibility of a new and powerful alliance - between him and myself.
Sitting suspended from 6.30 to8 p.m.
– There is a distinct difference between the proposal now submitted and that which I discussed last night. I urged, in connexion with the matter discussed last night, that no more power than is absolutely necessary to enable them to administer affairs should be intrusted to the Government. In connexion with that matter, there was no possible advantage in giving the Government the power proposed, and therefore the argument as to the folly of giving the Government a blank cheque applied; but in this case I think it can be shown that it is not only useful, but necessary, that the Government should have this power. Already suggestions for additions to the schedules have been urged as desirable, and it is quite conceivable that before the printer is called upon to do his work in connexion with this measure, further valuable suggestions may be offered for the modification of the schedules in, perhaps, vital particulars. The Vice-President of the Executive Council, in introducing the Bill, said that the Government ought in ten days to have all the preliminary machinery for the war census ready for work. If that is so, and Parliament should be in session next week, it is not unreasonable to suppose that the Government will be in a position to inform the Senate, and honorable members of another place, what is’ contained in the schedules as revised up to that time. I feel certain that Ministers will be prepared to give an undertaking to bring down regulations framed under the Bill as early as possible; and as the Government are under considerable pressure to hasten the operation of the Bill, it seems to me unthinkable that there will be any necessity to revise the schedules after next week. If that be so, the regulation may still be brought before Parliament in the ordinary way before the anticipated adjournment, and Parliament will then be able to exercise its power of control. I can remind older senators, and by that I mean those who have been longer members of this Chamber than others, of an almost historic debate which took place in. this Chamber, and was very fruitful in its results. I remember an occasion when certain regulations were tabled, and a schedule of questions was successfully challenged, and the Government of the day called upon to modify them. If the Vice-President of the Executive Council could give the Committee an assurance that the schedules to this Bill will be revised in the course of a few days, and the regulations presented to Parliament before the proposed adjournment, the minds of some honorable senators would be greatly relieved.
– Whilst I have no hesitation in giving the Committee the assurance that these matters will be pushed on with as quickly as possible, it is beyond my power to promise that the regulations will be tabled before the proposed adjournment. If Parliament continues to sit for three or four weeks longer, the regulations under this Bill will be presented ; but if the adjournment takes place next week, they will not. When the Bill is passed, the need will be very serious and urgent, indeed, that will induce the Government to modify or add to the schedules. They certainly will not alter the schedules wantonly. I know the work which the Crown Law Office has been called on to do within the last six months, and I cannot now make any promise that regulations will be drafted and submitted to Parliament without knowing how long it is likely to continue sitting. There is, apparently, a feeling of suspicion against the Government, though I do not say that it is entertained by the honorable senator who moved the amendment.
– That feeling of suspicion applies to all Governments.
– I feel that the present Government should, at least, be free from the suspicion of their own friends.
– They should be like Caesar’s wife - above suspicion.
– They are, of course, altogether above suspicion, and :f weighed in the balance would not be found wanting, unless it be in respect of confidence and support from quarters to which they have a right to look for such confidence and support. I do not care how critical of this measure honorable senators are. I am glad to find them as careful of the rights of the Senate as I should be myself if I were in their position.
– There is no doubt about that.
– I am sorry to find honorable senators’ memories so good when I am trying to put a matter in the correct official way. If the amendment is carried the Government will be deprived of the power to make regulations which they are given by almost every Act that is passed. I remind honorable senators that Parliament has already given the Government powers in connexion with the conduct of the war which far exceed any powers they ask for in this Bill,’ and the powers which have already been given them might be used if they so desired to enable them to do all that they think it well to do under this Bill whether the amendment is carried or not. Why should honorable senators try to bind the Government in this way with a piece of string when Parliament has already given us sufficient power to break bands of steel ?
– According to that argument the Government do not need this Bill.
– We do need the Bill, because we desire to do everything that is necessary just as it should be done if we were living under normal conditions. We desire that all the power for which we ask shall be given the Government in a constitutional way. The Government have no desire to do in any underhand way what they are not prepared to openly ask Parliament to give them power to do. When honorable senators have agreed to the war powers which have already been intrusted to the Government, I can appeal to them to give us the small powers that are asked for under this Bill.
.- The Vice-President of the Executive Council is not justified in complaining that in this matter he is not receiving the support of members of the party to which he belongs. There is no party matter at stake in connexion with this Bill. The honorable senator should not have suggested either that there is some suspicion of the Government on the part of honorable senators on this side. I have no suspicion of the Government, but I should take the same stand as I am taking in connexion with this Bill no matter what Government introduced it. I attach no weight to the suggestion of Senator Millen to which the VicePresident of the Executive .Council has conditionally agreed, because the Government without the amendment will still have the power to modify or add to the schedules of this Bill, and that is what I object to. Senator Mullan referred to the statement made by the Attorney-General, and as he introduced the Bill, and is the legal adviser of the Crown, we are justified in attaching considerable importance to what he has had to say. He has said plainly that the schedules of this Bill will not become operative until they are agreed to by the War Committee. That is a strange statement for the honorable gentleman to make. This Parliament has been elected by the people to frame legislation for their protection. We have a Bill before us for consideration, and yet the AttorneyGeneral says that the schedules to that Bill will not be enforced until they are approved by the War Committee.
– Not these schedules.
– Yes, the AttorneyGeneral referred specifically to the wealth schedule of the War Census Bill. When that statement is analyzed, what it means is that twelve members of this Parliament are to supersede the Government and Parliament. The statement is embalmed in the pages of Hansard, and we are compelled to take notice of it. The Government themselves propose to hand over to an irresponsible committee the powers for which they ask under this Bill. We have plenty of time in which to determine exactly the questions which we think should be submitted to the people in connexion with the proposed war census. While I am in favour of the principle of the Bill, and recognise its necessity, I want to safeguard the rights of Parliament, and by so doing protect the interests of the people. They have a right to complain if put to unnecessary inconvenience, and if there is too great an inquisition into their private affairs. I hope that the amendment will be accepted, because its object is only to enable Parliament to retain its authority. Honorable senators have to decide whether they will do that or will give the Government in this matter unlimited power. The Vice-President of the Executive Council has reminded the Committee that, even if the amendment is carried, the War Precautions Act will enable the Government to do all that they could do under this Bill without the amendment. Senator Mullan very properly wished to know where -is the necessity for the introduction of this Bill if that be the case. The logical deduction from the statement made by the Minister is that, no matter what amendments may be made in this Bill, the Government may use the powers with which they have already been invested for the conduct of the war to defeat the decision of this Parliament.
– They would be justified if the necessity arose.
– They would not “be justified in going behind the back of Parliament.
– They have no intention of doing so.
– The honorable senator reminded the Committee that the powers with which they have been invested for the conduct of the war would enable the Government to do so.
– I think it is their intention to do things as regularly as possible, although we are in a state of war.
– I reiterate my statement that I have no suspicion of the present Government. I am speaking in an entirely impersonal way. Other honorable senators agree with me that these unlimited powers should not be given to the Government. We should so frame the schedules to this Bill that they will not need modification or additions after the Senate has dealt -with it.
Senator Lt.-Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD (New South Wales) [8.15].- When speaking on the motion for the second reading of this Bill, I objected- to giving the Government the extensive power that would be conferred by this clause. I am, however, quite willing to vest them with a portion of that power. I would have no objection to the clause reading -
The forms which may be required to be filled up shall be in accordance with the forms in the First and Second Schedules to this Act, with such modifications as are prescribed.
That would preclude the possibility of the Government making any number of additions to those forms, of which we are entirely ignorant at the present time. The Vice-President of the Executive Council has assured us that it is necessary that the Bill should he passed as quickly as possible. But surely we are not going to have some new questions sprung upon us within the next few days, although that might easily be done under the clause in its present form. If the Government have no desire to do that, why do they insist upon the retention of the provision as it now stands? I join with other honorable senators in objecting to give the Government power to add to the questions to be put to the people, seeing that the questions already prescribed in the schedule are sufficiently numerous. It is true that questions may be framed under regulations, but it is equally true that the moment any such regulations are made, they have the force of law, and may be acted upon before Parliament has time to disagree with them.
– Let it go. I can assure the honorable senator that the regulations will be issued before Parliament adjourns. Q ‘
– Then where is the need to give the Government authority to make additions to the schedules? I am willing to consent to vesting Ministers with power to make modifications to the questions prescribed in the schedules, but not to make additions to them.
– Let us get to a division.
.- I should like to know if Sanator Needham will consent to alter his amendment so as to provide for the elimination of the words “or additions,” which appear in the clause.
– I ask leave to temporarily withdraw my amendment.
– It is not necessary for the honorable senator to adopt that course. I will put his amendment in two parts. The question is -
That the words “ with -such modifications,” proposed tobe left out, be left out.
Question put. The Committee divided.
Majority . . 15
Question so resolved in the negative.
Question - That the words “ or additions “ proposed to be left out be left out - put. The Committee divided.
Majority . . . . 9
Question so resolved in the negative-
Clause agreed to.
Clause 9 -
For the purpose of making any inquiries or observations necessary for the proper carrying; out of this Act, all persons shall, when required; by the Statistician or by any officer authorized in that behalf in writing by the Statistician,, answer questions and produce documents witliin such time as the Statistician or the authorized officer thinks fit.
– I would like to draw the attention of the Government to what I think is an error in the drafting of the clause which states that for the purpose of making any inquiries and observations necessary for the proper carrying out of this Act, all persons shall answer questions and produce documents. Clearly that is not sense, because for the purpose of making any inquiries a person does not answer questions. He asks them. The error has, I think, arisen through taking over the first two lines from another section of the Census Act. Those lines, I think, ought to be transferred in this Bill from clause 9 to clause 11. If honorable senators will look at clause 11, they will find that it reads -
Any officer authorized in writing by the Minister may, at any time, enter upon and search any premises.
That will give power to break open any safe; and, clearly, power to enter premises and to break open a safe ought to be a power under this Act. If honorable senators will turn to the Census Act, they will find a corresponding section 19, which states -
For the purpose of making any inquiries or observations necessary for the proper carrying out of this Act the Statistician or any officer authorized in writing by him may, at any time during working hours enter any factory - and so on. We have put in the covering words contained in the first two lines, and I would suggest that if they go in anywhere they should be in clause 11. Clearly, they are out of place in clause 9, because for the purpose of making any inquiry a person does not answer questions. The authority to demand an answer to questions is contained in section 18 of the Census Act, which states -
Every person shall, to the best of his knowledge and belief, answer all questions asked him by the Statistician or an officer authorized in writing by the Statistician, necessary to obtain any information required for the purposes of any statistics authorized by this Act to be collected.
It does appear that in the hurried drafting of this measure there has been a mixing of the two sections from the Census Act.
– There is such a thing as hurried reading, too.
– If that is my fault on the present occasion, the responsibility rests on the Government for trying to hurry this measure through; but I venture to say that my reading is the correct one.
– I cannot find any fault with the drafting of the clause. Of course, it would read correctly with the elimination of the words to which Senator Millen takes exception. Let me read the clause again -
For the purpose of making any inquiries or observations necessary for the proper carrying out of this Act,
There is nothing ungrammatical about that- all persons shall, when required by the Statistician or by any officer authorized in that behalf in writing by the Statistician, answer questions and produce documents within such time as the Statistician or the authorized offi- cer thinks fit. 1 fail to see anything ungrammatical in the clause.
– Will you tell me why a person making inquiries is called upon to answer questions?
– It does not say that.
– Yes; it says that for the purpose of making inquiries or observations, all persons shall answer questions.
– Personally, I fail to see anything to which exception could be taken, though there may be a doubt as to the wisdom of inserting words which might be considered superfluous; but I prefer to leave the drafting of provisions in a Bill which is to become an Act of Parliament to those who are more competent than I am.
– I appreciate the objection which Senator Millen has put forward; but to my mind the clause, as it stands, is all right. However, as there is a difference of opinion, and time is valuable, I will meet the honorable senator’s wishes, and I move -
That the word “making,” line1, be left out.
Amendment agreed to.
– The words “ or observations “ are now quite unnecessary and out of place. So far as making inquiries are concerned, the clause as it now stands is all right; but to say that, for the purpose of making observations a man shall answer questions is, to my mind, an absurdity which has arisen from the transposition of two sections from the Census Act.
– I object to the clause passing as amended. However ungrammatical it was before, it is worse now. When we start tinkering with a clause in a Bill we do not know when we shall reach finality.
– The word “observation “ has no business there.
– Having struck out the word “making,” which was said to be superfluous, the word “ observations “ appears to be unnecessary. The clause will be ridiculous unless it is further altered.
– The clause will be clearer if made to read : “ For the purpose of any inquiries necessary for the proper carrying out of this Act. . . . “ and so on. The word “ observations “ is not wanted. Any observations necessary are covered by succeeding clauses.
– You do not ask questions in regard to a document. You observe a document.
– Power is not wanted to observe documents. What is required is power to produce them.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 10 agreed to.
Clause 11 -
– Will the Minister agree to introduce, at the beginning of the clause, the words “ For the purpose of making any inquiries or observations necessary for the proper carrying out of this Act”? The clause gives drastic powers even to the breaking open of a safe, vault, or place. There can be no objection to the granting of any power necessary to the carrying out of the object of the Bill, but as the clause stands we are giving a power irrespective of the Bill.
– The fact that it is included in the Bill shows that it is for the purposes of the measure.
– If that follows, there was no need to put the words in clause 9. The same words appear in section 19 of the Census Act. The power of entry should be exercised only when necessary for the discharge of duties thrown by the Act on the officer.
– He cannot exercise the power of entry unless authorized in writing by the Minister.
– I am prepared to give the Minister power to send an officer to exercise the right of search only for the purpose of carrying out the provisions of the Act.
– Why not put it “For the purposes of this Act “ ?
– I shall be quite satisfied if the Minister will accept that amendment.
– I will accept it if you move it.
– I move -
That before the words “Any officer” the words “ For the purposes of this Act “ be inserted.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clauses 12 to 14 agreed to.
Clause 15 -
Any person who has furnished a form under this Act and who changes his postal address after the date upon which the form was furnished, shall, within three days after the date upon which his address was so changed, forward to the Statistician a statement in writing specifying -
In the event of any such person again Changing his postal address, he shall, within three days after such change, forward to the Statistician a further statement specifying -
– This is a proper provision, but the subsequent penalty clause provides that a breach of it may be punished by a fine of £50. That is extortionate, especially in a country with a large nomadic population.
– To meet the honorable senator’s views, and in order to limit the maximum penalty for an offence against, this provision, I move -
That the words “Penalty for any offence under this section, Five pounds “ be added.
– Have honorable senators considered the consequences which this clause will entail on any man who, having filled up a form, has to travel the continent from end to end in search of employment? He may have no address for months, and be unable to comply with the clause, no matter whether the penalty is 5s., £5, or £50. That is true of thousands of men in this country.
– A man of that character would never be prosecuted.
– He might leave his address, and not be settled in another for several months afterwards.
– The honorable senator is talking about change of residence.. The Bill says change of postal’ address. A man may have the same postal addressalthough away for some time in search of work.
– What is the postal address of a man with no home? A great many of these men leave no address, and are lost to sight when they get into the interior. I want no undue penalty placed on a large section of our people. If the clause passes as it stands, it will be a very sore point to many workers.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to..
Clause 16 agreed to.
Clause 17 (Punishment of offences).
– With regard to penalties and the punishment of offences, honorable senators will see that the Bill is to remain in operation during the continuance of the present war and no longer. Can the Vice-President of the Executive Council say what will be the position with regard to offences which may be committed, and in respect of which prosecutions are not taken until some time after the Act has ceased to operate?
– I feel inclined to ask Senator Keating to give notice of that question. He is an authority on such matters, and he will excuse me if I do not try to answer a technical question of that kind. But it seems to me that it would not be possible to prosecute under an Act which is not in existence.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 18 agreed to.
First Schedule -
Commonwealth of Australia.
To be filled in by all Males aged 18 and under60.
State Age last Birthday…….. years.
State Number and Relation of Dependent Relatives (if any).
State Country of Birth of: -
– The Minister, in introducing this Bill, described it as a measure for national stocktaking. It is the idea of the Government to be in a position to organize our military and industrial resources. If that be the object in view, I do not see why questions concerning the national stocktaking should be confined exclusively to males, as is the case in this first schedule. If the Bill does not mean conscription, and I accept the assurance of the Minister on that point, why are these questions confined to males? If we want to take a census of the productivity of labour, we should surely recognise the great number of females employed in factories. The number is approximately 82,000. There are, in addition, males and females under eighteen years of age to the number of 13,000, and they are not taken into consideration in this schedule at all. These persons represent approximately one-third of the total factory productivity of the Commonwealth, and yet they are not to be taken into consideration in this national stocktaking. Then we have to consider the enormous number of women who are employed in many other important industries. We should have some estimate of the value of their efforts, if the intention of the Bill is that we may have a real knowledge of the resources of the country. We might want to know, for instance, how many nurses and how many women who have a knowledge of first aid there are in the Commonwealth. Why not take some cognisance of those women? The Minister, in objecting to the exemptions suggested by Senator Keating, said that even although the Government did not want certain information they ought to get it.
– I did not say that.
– Now, apparently, the honorable senator does not want information which the Government ought to get.
– Does the honorable senator propose to alter the ages?
– If the returns are for the purpose stated by the Minister - to secure some estimate of the resources of the country, its wage-producing power, the productivity of labour, and to make a scientific investigation of our industrial resources - we should ask for information from females as well as from males, and from both below the age of eighteen as well as above that age. There are persons above even the age of sixty years employed in different industries.
– There are some in Parliament.
– Some, as the honorable senator reminds me, are engaged in the work of legislation. If the object of the Government in introducing this Bill was to introduce conscription, I could understand these questions being confined to males between eighteen and sixty years of age. But that is not the object of the Government.
– What did the Minister say the Bill was for?
– He said it was for a national stocktaking - that we might know the full resources of the Commonwealth.
– For the purposes of the Bill?
– What are they?
– I can only say that if the Bill is intended for a national stocktaking, the first schedule needs modification.
– For military purposes we require to know the number of males between eighteen and sixty .years of a/rc. We require to know whether they are married or single, .and their fitness for service. Under the card system, when we get the information required, there will be a division on something like these lines. Those between eighteen and thirtyfive years of age will be first class fighting men, those between thirty-five and forty-five years of age will be second class, and those between forty-five and sixty year3 of age in the next class. We require to know exactly what our resources are in regard to men fit for service. I repeat that this is not for the purpose of compelling men to fight, because the Government believe that the services of every available man in the Commonwealth will be at their disposal. No doubt some honorable senators who believed that this Bill meant conscription have been disappointed. I have said that it does not mean conscription, and I now go further and say that if a Bill for conscription is introduced in the Senate, some Minister other than myself must introduce it.
– Do not say that.
– I do say it.That is one of those things about which one can bcf perfectly certain. I have had a strange experience to-night. I have heard Senators de Largie and Mullan deliberately say that this Bill has been introduced for some purpose other than that for which I have assured the Senate it has been introduced. I have gone OUt of my way to make myself understood om this point, and I shall always put matters before the Senate in a straightforward manner. Senator Mullan hast given the Committee the figures of those engaged in manufacturing industries. If the honorable senator has those figures,, what occasion is there to ask for the information again under this Bill ?
– I could give the honorable senator some figures with regard to the men available for military service, but he would not accept them.
– Th6 alterations, of the schedule which Senator Mullan: suggests would lead to the gathering ire of so much chaff and so little grain that after the returns were received it would be difficult to find the grain. For military purposes we propose to have a census taken which will give us information as to the available fighting population. I believe that there are many men over sixty years of age who could and would, if the necessity arose, render excellent service in fighting in Australia.
– Here is one.
– The honorable senator may yet render very good servicebefore the present war is over. The next- schedule will require some careful consideration, and I ask honorable senators to let the Committee get on to it.
– The Vice-President of the Executive Council is mistaken when he says that I have not accepted his assurance that this Bill is not introduced for the purpose of conscription. The very amendments of the schedule which I have suggested should prove to the honorable senator that I have accepted his assurance. He has stated that such amendments of the schedule are unnecessary when I already have the information, but the figures 1 have given are only approximate. I could give further approximate figures. The approximate value of the product of manufacturing industries in the Commonwealth last year was £161,000,000; the wages paid, about £33,000,000; the value of the raw material used, about £96,000,000; the enhancement of value by manufacture, about £65,000,000. But these figures are only approximate. We should have accurate information, and the Government are disregarding the necessity for that information in the taking of the proposed census. I could give approximate answers to practically every question that appears in the schedule, but the Minister would not accept that information. If the honorable senator is in earnest about securing a national stocktaking, he should in these schedules submit questions which will give the Government all the information that is required.
– I trust that the schedule will be maintained in its present form, because I do not wish anything to be done by this Parliament which will suggest that Australia has reached the stage when we have to consider the application of compulsion to our women folk in the undertaking of any work. At this juncture I decline to consider the possibility of our having to organize the women workers of this country.
Schedule agreed to.
Second Schedule -
Commonwealth of Australia
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 22 July 1915, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1915/19150722_senate_6_78/>.