7th Parliament · 2nd Session
The President (Senator theHon. T. Givens) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– (By leave.) - For the information of honorable senators who have asked questions on the subject, I desire to make a statement.
With further reference tothe graves of Australian soldiers on the Gallipoli Peninsula, telegraphic communication has been held with the High Commissioner in his. capacity as representative of the Commonwealth Government on the Imperial War Graves Commission which, under the. presidency of His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales, is charged with full powers and responsibility for the care of the graves of men from all parts of the Empire. As a result, it is possible to state that instructions’ were cabled several weeks- since to Australian Headquarters, Egypt, that a suitable officer be kept ready to proceed to Gallipoli at the earliest opportunity with a view to investigating theconditions of Australian graves there. On 31st October, Army Council, instructions were issued forthe urgent despatch to Gallipoli of a fully equipped Graves Registration Unit, inoluding. the Australian officer previously referred to, LieutenantC. E, Hughes, Australian Engineers. This unit had instructions to report at once on the conditions ofthe graves, then to proceed with the temporary marking of graves and enclosing cemeteries. The unit has beenon the Peninsula from the date of the landing of the first contingent of the armyof occupation, and an early report may be expected.
It may be added that the question of acquiring in perpetuity the land containing the graves is receiving the special attention of the Imperial War Graves Commission, who are in consultation with His Majesty’s Government on the subject. The Commission is already empowered by itsCharter to acquire and hold land for the purpose.
Some concern has been expressed as to the possibility of identifying the scene of burial of Australians at Cape Helles, owing to the conditions under which fighting occurred at that place. As to this, the High Commissioner considers that the identification ofAustralian grave sites at Cape Helles and in other parts of thePeninsula will be efficiently undertaken by the staff now there; which possesses complete maps prepared in anticipation.
The following papers were pre sented : -
Electoral Act 1902-1911, Referendum (Constitution! Alteration) - Act 1906-1915, and Electoral Act 1918. - Regulations amended. -Statutory Rules 1918, No. 310.
Lands Acquisition. Act 1906-1916. - Land acquired at -
Brighton, Victoria; - For Defence purposes.
Sydenham, New South Wales - For Postal purposes.
Papua. - Ordinances of 191 8-
No. 12. - Supplementary Appropriation, 1917-1918 (No. 2).
No. 15. - Appropriation, 1918-1919.
Public Service Act 1902-1917. - Appoint ment of H. H. Moore, Attorney-General’s Department.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs if he has an answer to the questions I asked a few days ago in reference to- the duty on imported films?
– On the 2 1stin- stant Senator Grant; asked the following questions: -
The replies furnished read as follows: -
Representations were made by -
soldiers whodidnot leave australia - Bankstown Soldiers’ Settlement.
– I ask the Minisr ter for Repatriation to . supply alittle information on a matter of public importance. Will men who enlisted a few months ago in the Australian Imperial Force, but who were, not sent from Australia, and have, since been discharged, be entitled, to any of the sustenance fund under the Repatriation scheme while looking for employment?
– The position with regard to tbe men who were recently in camp,and are now being discharged, is that they will be entitled to apply to the Repatriation Department, and, on doing so, will be treated according to the merits of their case. Any man who can show th at he has suffered in any way, either materially or physically, will be at once helped by the Department.
– I ask the Minister for Repatriation if he has made any arrangement with the Minister for Lands in New South Wales for a reduction in the amount paid to soldiers of the Bankstown Soldiers Settlement?
– I am not aware of any arrangement, or any proposal bearing on that matter.
– I have been informed that notices have been served on the settlers stating that arrangements have been made withthe authority of the Minister.
– I shall be obliged if the honorable senator will furnish me with a copy of the notice, for I can assure him that I have no knowledge whatever ofthe Bankstown Settlement.
– I shall furnish the Minister with a copy immediately.
Repatriation, Demobilization, and Matters relaxing thereto.
– I have received an intimation from. Senator Lt.-Colonel Bolton that he desires to move the adjournment of the Senateto discuss a definite matter of urgent public importance, viz., “Repatriation, Demobilization, and matters relating thereto.”
Senator Lt.-Colonel BOLTON (Victoria) [3.10]. - I move-
Thatthe Senate, at its rising,adjourn until 10, a.m. on Thursday.
Four honorablesenators having risen in their places in support of the motion,
.- I am consciousof the magnitude of the task imposed upon the Government,and also of thegreat weight of theresponsibility resting upon theMinisters concerned. I have, however, taken this extreme step, believing that the situation demands full and free discussion on the floor of the Senate, and in the hope that while there is yet timethe Government may be in duced to reconsider their policy, and reconstruct some of the methods of administration as applied to this problem. It may truly be said that all concerned in this problem of repatriation, with its kindred problems, during the last four years, have been more or less groping in the dark. Therefore, I do not propose - because it would be neither justifiable nor helpful - to attempt a general condemnation of the Government; nor do I pretend that I have a ready solution of the many difficultiesthat have to be overcome; but after some months of close observation of the operation of the Act, I have come to the conclusion that it has not inspired either the returned soldiers or the general public with confidence as to its ultimate success. In my association with returned soldiers, I have received overwhelming evidence to this effect.
In my opinion the initial mistake made by the Government was in placing the whole of the tremendous responsibility connected with repatriation upon the shoulders of one individual. I am free to admit that thehonorablegentleman who accepted that responsibility tackled the proposition with a masterful determination tosucceed, and I say, without hesitation, that if untiring energy, trained intelligence, and devotion to a great dutycould insure success, the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Millen) deserves success. It is not because of the absence of this qualification that I, at any rate, think thescheme has not been asuccess. It is rather - and I say this without any reflection on the Minister - the want of, ifI may use a military term, acorrect appreciation of the situation. The stupendous task involved is worthy of the combined efforts of the best brains this country can produce, and I am convinced that if the controlling authority had been vested in a body of three commissioners, entirely removed from political influence, and responsible only to Parliament, better results would have been achieved.
– If they were responsible to Parliamentthey would be amenable to political influence.
– I am fortified in this opinion by the report of thetrustees of the Australian Soldiers’
Repatriation Fund. Dealing with this aspect of the problem the report states -
Following upon this communication, the Deputy Chairman of the Board and Mr. Arthur Baillieu, who were members of the Executive available at the time, while considering themselves as an Executive bound by the terms of the Board’s resolution, held personal views, and felt compelled to submit the same to the Prime Minister. Their recommendations were -
The complexity of the problem calls for the application of a combination of faculties not usually found, in a strong degree, in any one man.
The area of criticism is so wide, and the feelings of the public in this regard are so tender, that even the best individual performance is likely to fall short of expectations; and to expose an individual to the full brunt of the criticism which is inevitable, would be to jeopardize his health if he should be a sensitive man, and if he be not a sensitive man, he, most probably, would lack the fundamental qualification for the position. His other capabilities apart from the essential for success in the administrating authority would be the possession of a sympathetic imagination. Without sympathy, there would be lack of the all-important human touch. Without imagination there would be lack of resource in finding a road through the new, various, and difficult situations that will continually arise. If you have in view a man who can combine these qualities with wide knowledge of life at many points (including the political intricacies of industrial life at the present time), with administrative facility and energy of action, by all means appoint him. But such a combination in one man is rare, and theexperiment of appointing one man on the off-chance, seems to us to be hazardous.
The mere geographical consideration impresses us. This administration will be as wide as the Commonwealth, and if it is to be effective it should be, at all points, fairly intimate. At the beginning, certainly, a personal visit to all the States will be necessary in order to piece together the machinery in conformity with a unified, policy. But we can conceive that occasional, perhaps frequent, visits will also be necessary. One man would have difficulty in so distributing himself. True, he could act on the reports of inspectional officers as do the general managers of businesses with Commonwealth ramifications. But, while the problem at hand has business elements, it is not a business as ordinarily understood. It has to do with the disposition of human factors which are not only variable, but abnormal. Situations will arise in different parts of the Commonwealth requiring prompt treatment, and they will not arise in all partssimultaneously.
For these reasons chiefly, Mr. Baillieu and myself think that the object in view would be more likely to attainment by the appointment of a Commission of three rather than of one. With three men, the field would he more effectively departmentalized, while the responsibility would be spread, and, being spread, would be better carried. Take the related questions of vocational training and employment alone; not only is it necessary to determine the most effective system of training (which is a fundamental question), but there is a further question of employment and the wide re-absorption of men into the industrial life of the community involves special arrangements with the industrial organizations - arrangements which may mean very considerable modification of the standard practice of those organizations. This, together with the promotion of special employments, and the survey of industrial activities generally, will require very continuous attention from a competent mind. The question of the handling of funds, and of tactful intercourse with, and regulation of all the honorary bodies associated with the collection and distribution of funds, likewise requires responsible attention. In addition, there is the general oversight of the administration as it applies . to the Commonwealth as a whole.
We have considered the question of cost as between a Commission of three and of one, and have concluded that in relation to the general object, this is not important. The cost of three need not, in fact,be appreciably more when it is reflected that the work of two additional Commissioners would still have to be done by officers of superior qualifications, paid accordingly. The only difference is that the officers would not carry the same responsibility, and would not, in all cases, be able to act directly and with the requisite authority.
Three Commissioners would be members of the Repatriation Board, and act as the Executive of such Board without any assistance from the honorary members. This arrangement would fit in conveniently with the conception of the Board as the “ Commonwealth Authority.”
ACommission of three would permit of one member being a returned soldier - an officer of standing - thus meetingthe view of the returned soldiersas a body more fully than would be the case if their representation were confined to membership of the honorary and non-executive section of the Board.
The passages which I have quoted clearly indicate the views that are held by some of the gentlemen who, in the earlier stages of our war experiences, were associated with the work of repatriation. Of course, the Minister for Repatriation will probably meet the argument which I have adduced with the statement that there is already in existence an honorary Commission, consisting of six or seven members. That is quite true. There is an honorary Commission of six or seven members already in existence, and I cast no reflection either upon their intelligence or their ability to perform the duties which they have undertaken. But let us see how the present system operates. As we all know, the Minister devotes himself very seriously to the discharge of his functions. After giving this question the closest consideration from all points of view, the honorable gentleman calls together this honorary Commission to frame rules and regulations for the carrying out of the work with which it is charged. But we know that the Repatriation Act itself really vests in the Ministerthe power to do almost anything that he chooses. He is, therefore, the dominating figure at meetings which the Commissioners, who have probably not met before, are suddenly called upon to attend in order to discuss important matters. In these circumstances, it is only reasonable to assume that the honorable gentleman dragoons the Commission in such a way that its members really have not any very clear idea of what are their individual views upon any question. That is what occurs in this Chamber, and it is reasonable to infer that a similar result is achieved at meetings of the Commission. After all, therefore, the dominant influence at these meetings is. the influence of the Minister himself. In my judgment, a permanent Commission, consisting of three members, who would be thoroughly qualified to undertake this work, who would adopt a bold, generous and sympathetic policy, and who would aim at an effective decentralized administration, would constitute a vast improvement on the existing system.
– What is the trouble except in regard to land settlement?
.- I was just about to point out some of the directions in which trouble occurs.
The Minister will probably urge, by way of reply, that we already have decentralized administration, inasmuch as Local Committees are in existence all over Australia. But no later than last night I was informed by the members of one of these Committees that they had arrived at the conclusion that they are merely wasting their time and energies. Time after time they meet and resolve to make certain recommendations, which have to be forwarded to Melbourne, and time after time action in respect of those recommendations is delayed for months.
– Let the honorable senator give me a case in which action has been delayed for months.
.- I will give the Minister one from the Ararat Council. I have the papers in my pocket now. I am not pursuing this course to embarrass the Government, but entirely with the view of letting daylight into the question, and to see if we cannot effect improvements. In regard to the suggestion concerning decentralization, I was much struck with the methods of the Government in the collection of the last war loan. A certain quota of the amountrequired was allocated to each State, and eachState allocated a portion of that quota to each city and municipality. Surely some means could be devised to decentralize the expenditure of money upon those lines, just in the same manner as money has been collected.
The second mistake made by the Government was in their rejection of a proposal to work in co-operation withthe organized body of returned soldiers. As late as the latter part of 1916 I approached the Government with a request that the Returned Sailors and Soldiers Imperial League of Australia should be registered and granted a charter conveying the exclusive right to the words “ Returned Soldier.” This was with the object, not. only of protecting the returned soldier from political and other adventurers with even less worthy motives, but in order to erect the organization on a sound basis, and endow it with responsibility. The Government replied that the organization could not be registered, nor could they, as a responsible Government, invest any other person or organization with responsibility. It takes two to make a contract, and this repatriation contract requires two or more parties. This is a contract between the people of Australia and the returned soldiers who have been fighting for Australia. There is no valid reason why the returned men should not have been encouraged to help in the solution of the repatriation problem, rather than that they should have been discouraged. It may have been that there was a latent suspicion in the minds of theGovernment that this organization might develop into a powerful political body. Butthere should have been no. alarm concerning the political views of men who have been prepared to fight anddie for their country. I would not feel alarmed concerning their votes. The men whom I am alarmed about are those who denied their country in the most critical hour of its : peril, and stayed athome to promote disunion among a community which was fighting for its life.
– What about the returned sailor? Has the honorable senator nothing to say for him ?
.- All that I am saying applies to the sailor equally with the soldier.Even at this late hour I strongly urge the Government to reconsider their decision, and endeavour to devise some ways and means of securing the whole-hearted assistance of the returned soldiers as an organized body. They would be found an invaluable aid in the difficult task of repatriation.
As it is administered to-day, repatriation is bound by somewhat hardandfast rules aiming particularly at uniformity. While uniformity is desirable in some directions, a very large proportion of the cases coming before the Department are so diverse that no rules and regulations can be constructed which would cover all. Hundreds of cases have been brought under my notice where the stringency of the departmental regulations has been such that the men requiring help could not be dealt with.
– If there is any regulation at all there must be limits.
.- There may be many circumstances which it would be impossible to legislate for or to regulate, and administration should depend on the human sympathy of the individuals dealing with the matters.
The Minister has often stated that the employees in the Repatriation Department number 97 per cent. of returned soldiers. But I know of many officials who are returned soldiers, and who have stated that, although they are entirely in sympathy with cases coming under their notice, they areprevented, owing to the regulations, from affording that relief which is obviouslynecessary.
– Would the honorable senator leave to every official the right to deal as he likes withapplications ?
.- I would leave it to some body.
– Whenthat body has reached a determination, some official might still find that decision insufficiently liberal to meet his views.
– It is a matter ofprinciple,and of sympathetic administration under that principle. It is quite a mistake to set up rules which debar deserving cases from being granted relief, and such administration creates resentment in the minds of the public.
– That is brought about by wild and reckless statements made by people in responsible positions.
– The medical service is deeply involved in the general subject of repatriation. Aman’s pension, first of all, isbasedupon thedegree of disability arrived at by the medical service. Many cases have been brought under my notice which show extraordinary variations for the same degree and class of disability. The most objectionable feature in the whole arrangement of pensions is a periodical reduction following upon a more or less perfunctory examination. This procedure introduces an element of financial bickering with a brave man which is almost too mean for words. My experience points to the necessity of a thoroughly organized medical service, and, in order to give confidence and security to the men and the public, the returned soldiers as an organized body should have authority to nominate a medical representative on each Medical Examining Board. It is an obviously sound. policy on the part of the Government to create a situation where it may be saidto the returned men, “ Well, you are the judges of your own case,” but the men have not thatprivilege’. Although a returned soldier’s medical officer may be on that Board, he is there as a nominee of the Minister, and the average returned soldier thinks that he may be dominated by influences which arenot to the best advantage of the returned man himself. For the same reason, returned soldiers should have authority to nominate one representative on each Pensions Board.
-The 55,000 men who made the supreme sacrifice have left relatives who need to be looked after.
– Does not the honorable senator realize that this organization is partly created for that purpose?
– The honorable senator has occupied his full time, and must conclude his speech.
.-May I ask for an extension of time?
– The- honorable senator cannot ask for, an the Senate may not grant, leave to extend his remarks, because the standing order on thepoint is mandatory. It is open to the honorable senator to ask the Leader of the Senate to move that so much of the Standing Orders as limit his time be suspended.
-Col onel Bolton. - Will the Leader of the Senate take steps to allow me an extension of time?
– I do not propose to move any motion.
– Under the Standing Orders the honorable senator must now resume his seat. I remind him that he has the right of reply for a quarter of an hour, provided that the total time allowed by the standing order for the debate on the motion has not been exhausted by others.
– Can a private senator move the suspension of the Standing Orders for this purpose?
– No. Motions relating to the conduct of business can be moved without notice only by a Minister.
– I make no apology for not moving the suspension of the Standing Orders,and Senator Bolton must not take my refusal as in any way personal to himself or as influenced by the subject which he has brought before the Senate. To move the suspension of the Standing Orders for the sake’ of one honorable senator on amotion for adjournment, which, in itself is an interruption of the conduct of business, would introduce an innovation that might have far-reaching and undesirable results. It would mean, not merely an extension of time for Senator Bolton, but also that this debate, and other debates on motions for adjournment, could go on without limit as to time. I do not feel justifiedin taking any step to make that possible.
– Do you not think that this question stands above and apart from all other questions?
– The question of suspending the Standing Orders is intimately related to all other questions.
I am unable, in dealing with Senator Bolton’s statement, to shut out from my mind some utterances and communications which he has recently made to the press on the same subject, and which are at some little variance with the tone he has adopted here to-day. I make no further reference to his statements to the press, except to say that they constituted a wholesale denunciation of the Department and all itsways and doings. The honorable senatorhas to-day been a little more moderate and rea sonable, but I have endeavoured in vain to find in his remarks any indication of weakness in the Department - anything on which he could place his finger and say, “ There the Department is doing wrong,” or “ Here it is not doing enough.” When it is all boiled down, his speech is not at all an attack upon a system. It is merely an attack upon the administration and the machinery. The’ honorable senator has not touched those things which I call the scheme - that is, the methods of vocational training and the steps taken to place men-
– If you gave me time I would.
– The honorable senator has made two or three public efforts, and has never yet touched upon them. From the time the Act under which we work was introduced, Senator Bolton has been consistent in insisting that no scheme of repatriation can succeed unless it is under paid officials rather than under honorary Boards. Let me show the difference between his proposal and the arrangement operating to-day. He asks for a Central Board or Commission of three, with State Boards in the Stales if necessary. To-day we have, in place of the Commission of three that he advocates, a Federal Commission, meeting in Melbourne, and consisting of seven members, including the Minister. On that body are three of the very types of men that the honorable senator says should be upon his Board of three - a returnedsoldier, a representative of organized Labour, and a representative of the Chamber of Commerce. There are certainly others on our Board, but those three interests or sections of the community are represented. No one will dispute that Mr. Grayndler can claim, as well as any man in Australia, that he represents the organized unions. Then we have Mr. Gibson and Mr. Sanderson, the representatives of the commercial life of the country, and two returned soldiers, against whom I am certain the honorable senator would not wish to say a word. We haverepresented on this Commission the same sectional interests as the honorable senator would include; but the real difference between the existing body and that which Senator Bolton seeks to create is that the formeris honorary, while the other would be paid. I have never disputed that thereis much to be said for that argument, but I cannot see how any man can logically claim to place this matter under the control of paid officials and at the same time denounce “bowelless officialdom.” Senator Bolton, in the one breath denounces this Department as one of bowelless officialdom, and in thenext asks us to sweep on one side the private citizen element that we have brought in and introduce more bowelless officials. The reason for the honorary Commission, as I said when introducing the Bill, was this: I had a fear that the Department might become a stereotyped public Department, and in order to introduce the sympathetic and personal touch, I tried to graft upon an official Department representation of the civil life outside. If we were to substitute for the Repatriation Commission, as now constituted, a body of three paid officials, I venture to say that they would shortly become just like ordinary Government officials anywhere they may be found..
-That is an argument against payment of members of Parliament.
– Heaven forbid that I should argue in that way! The question is, and it is a very important one : Can the members of the Repatriation Commission do the work which has to be done ? I say that there has never been a week since the Commission sat, and cases - the information upon which has made it possible to finalize them - have come before the Commission, that that body has not cleaned up the week’s work.
Senator Bolton, through the press, made the statement that, as a result of the methods adopted, cases are dealt with in batches of forty and fifty. Heaven only knows where the honorable senator got his information on that point. The statement is simply not true. It is impossible that it could be true. Every case that comes up is dealt with as an individual case, and that is the only way in which it can be dealt with.
– Does the Minister know all the cases that come before his Department?
– I know all the cases that have come before the Repatriation Commission. The honorable senator made the statement publicly that cases are dealt with by the Commission in batches.
– By the State Boards, not by the Repatriation Commission.
– There, again, the honorable senator is wrong. I do not think that I break any confidence in saying that the honorable senator is now going upon a statement made by a returned soldier who is a member of a State Board, and who, because he fails to quite understand business methods, I venture to say, has assumed that something is taking place which is not taking place. Every one who knows anything of the management of companies by boards of directorsmust be aware that after a time certain cases become stereotyped, and where cases arise similar to those which have previously been approved, it isnot necessary to go into them individually.Where an application is received of the same type as others that have been approved, it is surely not necessary to go into it particularly, and it is little more than a formal matter to assent to it. It is possible that where a State Board has dealt with forty or fifty cases, twenty or thirty of them of a similar type may be dealt with together in conformity with previous decisions. It is of no use to go through those cases separately when they may be put through on the lines of an adopted policy for similar cases. Even in such cases, if a member of a State Board considers that any of them differ materially from cases similarly decided upon, I can only say that he is remiss in his duty if he does not ask that those particular cases shall be separately dealt with.
– Only extraordinary cases are considered separately.
– In all matters where Boards are concerned the proper procedure would be that the officials submit matters to the Board in three or four groups- those cases which have become formal by long practice, and which can go through on decisions previously arrived at; those cases which may be dealt with generally in conformity withthe accepted practice, but in connexion with which there are some variations, and a further batch of cases that are entirely new. In the first group of cases, where similar applications have been granted before, there is no reason why twenty such applications should not be dealt with at once in a similar way.
– What about the third group of cases?
– Each of those cases must be dealt with separately.
– And hung up indefinitely.
– I hear these general statements aboutcases being held up indefinitely. There are delays in the Repatriation Department, as in all public Departments, and I am endeavouring to do all that is possible to minimize them. I admit that we have made mistakes. I have never denied that. I know more about those mistakes than does any other member of the Senate, and I am sorry that they have occurred. But I desire that people should bear in mind that, as is generally admitted, returned soldiers are at first a little abnormal, and take some time to settle down. All public men, in Parliament and elsewhere, have at one time or another appealed to private employers to be a little patient withthese men, to recognise their degree of abnormality, to make allowances for them, to bear with them, and encourage them until they return to a normal condition. I want it to be remembered, when persons criticise the Repatriation Department, that 97 per cent. of our staff are returned men. If we should tell private employers that, because of the strain these men have undergone, and their degree of abnormality, they should be patient, am I not entitled to ask the public, who are the employers of the men in the Repatriation Department, to be equally patient with them ? The absence on leave on account of sicknessin the Repatriation Department, due to the war services of the men employed in that Department, is vastly in excess of that in any other Department. It is inevitable that it should be so, because all these men came back invalids. We have had as many as 16 per cent. of our men away for two weeks running because of sickness.
– And the Department has refused to pay the doctor’s expenses.
– That is another of the general statements made, and let me answer it. The answer is that the Repatriation Departmenthas just completed arrangements for the medical care of returned soldiers. Any returned soldier, no matter where he may be, who is suffering from a recurrence of wounds or sickness incurred during the war, may not only receive medical treatment near his home, but may, if his case demands it, be conveyed to the nearest suitable hospital, and will receive travelling allowance and sustenance during the time he is incapacitated.
– I know of a case that has been held up for three months.
– The honorable senator made the statement that an application for doctor’s expenses was refused. I am not contending that all these arrangements have been in operation from the beginning. They have not; but we are completing an organization under which any soldier anywhere may go to the nearest doctor in the way I have described.
– Does the reference to 97 per cent. of returned men apply to the whole of the staff, or to the administrative staff?
– The wholeof the staff throughout the Commonwealth.
I am entitled, further, to ask the critics of the Department to remember that these returned men are not trained officials. They are not wanting in ability, and in many respects I am quite proud of the men we have around us. , But they were not trained for their present jobs. These men, when they first went into camp, were unable to do the goose-step without training, and it is not to be supposed that, without some training, they can carry out their work in a publicDepartment efficiently. I ask those who criticise the Repatriation Department for delays and mistakes to remember the fact that we are trying to do that which, in the hands of a private employer, would be considered a big undertaking, and that is, to establish a big organization with 97 per cent. of returned soldiers as employees.
Let me get back to Senator Bolton’s suggestion that there should be a paid Board of three. If the honorable senator had had a longer experience of parliamentary life he would not have made one statement which he has made. He has advocated a Commission of three paid men free from political control, but subject to Parliament. There is only one way in which an outside body can be made subject to Parliament, and that is through a Minister.
– What is the relative position of the Railway Commissioners and the Minister for Railways in Victoria?
– They are subject to Parliament through the. Minister for Railways. The connexion between the Victorian Railways Commissioners and the State Parliament is the Minister for Railways. I say that that is the position which exists here to-day. It is because that is so that Senator Bolton is able to address the Repatriation Department in this chamber through myself. I do not believe that this Parliament will ever hand over to any individual or any body of individuals the absolute and autocratic control of the business of repatriation. There is only one wayin which Parliament can keep a grip over it, and that is by having a Minister for the Department who in his place in Parliament will be subject to the criticisms of honorable senators, and possibly in a position to make some reply to them.
I wish to say that nothing would delight me more than to havesome means devised by which not only a great proportion of the work which has to be done, but also a great deal of the responsibility might be removed from the Minister in charge of this Department. Honorable senators will accept my statement that I do not hanker for more work or more responsibility. I have in many respects reached the limit of my tether now in this regard. So far as I am concerned, it is not possible to carry on the Department without a considerable accession of help, though what form it should take I am not in a position to say now.
Senator Bolton spoke of decentralization, and I claim, as the honorable senator said I would, that we have provided for a system of decentralization. That it is not working quite smoothly yet I readily admit, but that is not the fault of myself or of the Department. It is due very often to little local differences of opinion. It sometimes takes months to adjust differences between two little cliques in a town, and get the local committees to work. There may be differences as to the area to be covered by a committee or the town in which it should meet, and some of the differences are so petty that it is almost unthinkable that they couldarise in connexion with a problem like repatriation. They have been largely responsible for delay in the creation of Local Committees, and consequent upon that delay it has not been possible for us to do, in many places, what we intended to do., and that is that once the Committees were formed we intended to send round officers or inspectors to help them in the task they have undertaken, and generally to establish the closest connexion between them and the Department.
Some of the Local Committees seem to think, and they may be right - I shall not stop to argue that point now - that when they deal with a case and make a recommendation, that recommendation should go. They make out a case when they say that they are local people, know thelocal circumstances, and the man concerned, but there will be 700 of these Local Committees, and if we were to agree to all their suggestions it is easy to imagine 700 variations in the method adopted for dealing with similar cases. If we are to have due regard to the equal treatment of returned men, and the general interests, which ought not to be entirely overlooked in this matter, we must have some centralized direction. I am not saying that the administration must necessarily be centralized, but I do say that in fairness to the returned soldiers and to the community generally, we cannot at this juncture permit Local Committees to deal with cases coming under their consideration just as they think fit. I hope that as time goes on we may be able to give Local Committees a larger measure of autonomy than has been found to be practicable up to the present. I want decentralization, but I cannot at the present juncture go so far as many who support the Local Committees ask me to go.
The honorable senator spoke of a refusal toco-operate with the Returned Soldiers Association, and he gave as an instance that the Commonwealth Government have told him that the registration of that organization is impossible. That is not an evidence of unwillingness to co-operate. The. honorable senator was told that the registration he sought would not be constitutional, and he immediately regards that as an offence on our part. We cannot help the fact that the Constitution does not permit of the registration of such an organization.
– What about the War Precautions Act?
-The honorable senator asks that the Government should use their powers under the War Precautions Act to secure the registration of the Returned Soldiers Association and give it a standing and position which he was told could not be given it under the Constitution. I venture to say that to make use of the powers of the War Precautions Act for that purpose would not be the proper course to adopt. In addition, I may say that if the organization were registered by the operation of the powers of that Act the registration would expire after the termination of the war. That was pointed out tothe honorable senator, andhe was advised further that the organization could make application for registration in each State under the State laws. That course is open to the honorable senator now. I do not think in the circumstances that what has occurred in. connexion with this matter indicates any unfriendliness on the part of the Government to the Returned Soldiers Association. On the contrary, I am just sending out an invitation to that body that, on the termination of its conference to meet early in December, in Melbourne, the representatives attending it should subsequentlymeet the Repatriation Commission andconsider some of the matters about which complaint has been made, with a view to arriving at a satisfactory solution of certain problems. There is no suggestion there of unwillingness to co-operate with the Returned Soldiers Association.
I do wish to say, however, that the authorities of the Returned Sailors and Soldiers League, judging by the utterances of the spokesmen of the league, have never been helpful and constructive, but have for the most part confined their remarks to denunciation of the Department in general terms. Such statements are very difficult to deal with, and, I venture to say, are not at all helpful. On the contrary, they rather tend to create a feeling that these men are being harshly dealt with, or are neglected, and create, also, in the minds of many people a feeling of resentment, which, on closer examination of the problem, will be found to be unjustified.Senator Bolton has spoken, as he has every right to do, as the representative of these men. But just before I came to the Senate to-day I received a deputation from a conference of the State branch - that is, the Victorian branch of the Returned Soldiers and Sailors Imperial League of Australia. They had a conference, I understand, with the representatives of their country branches, and at 2 o’clock they had an interview with me; and, for the first time in my association with this body, they brought forward a series of practical resolutions - something helpful and constructive - though I do not say that all their proposals commend themselves to me. In view of the tendency on the part of very many people to indulge in a general denunciation of the work of the Department, it is interesting to know what Mr. Roberts, the vice-president of the league, at the deputation to-day, thinks. Speaking of the vocational training, he said -
I was one of the trainees at Sunshine. I was treated exceptionally well, hut a recurrence of my trouble forced me to get out. Everything you have set your mind on has been carried out all right, and we come to help you in your duties. So far as I am personally concerned - and I speak as vice-president of the Returned Soldiers and Sailors Imperial League - I have yet to learn where a man is not decently treated, provided the Department knows the facts. Provided the Department knows what we want, and those wants are in conformity with those promises made before we went away, those promises will be fulfilled. I want to emphasize this.
When Lt.-Colonel Bolton, speaking of the administration of the Department, makes it appear that there is nothing right from the foundation-stone to the roof, I am entitled to give, in reply, this testimony furnished to me by the vice-president of the Victorian branch of the Returned Soldiers and Sailors Imperial League. I have received hundreds of letters from men expressing their highest appreciation of the efforts of the Department on their behalf, and I point out that the public do not hear of the vast majority who are being satisfactorily handled. They hear only of the small minority, who, for some reason or other, are not satisfied, and believe they have a grievance against the Department. I suggest, therefore, that Lt.-Colonel Bolton, or any other public man who desires to criticise the Department, should keep these facts in mind.
– I know as much about the returned soldiers as you do.
– I know the honorable senator does, and I know he is getting a little uneasy about the matter. I dare say he is influenced by what is told him. If, in the course of a day, one meets a dozen men who suggest that things are wrong in the Department, there is a tendency to assume that they must be wrong. But do not let us overlook the fact that where there are a few who think things are wrong, there are hundreds who think otherwise.
Now, let us see what the Department has done. The Department has dealt with 39,000 cases, and has placed 20,000 men in employment. Up to the present 68,000 have been discharged in Australia, all of whom were entitled to sustenance allowance pending their return to civil life, and I say it is distinctly encouraging to know that out of that 68,000 men discharged there are to-day only 1,772on our books drawing sustenance money.
– How much have you paid in Victoria during; the last six months?
– I will come to that presently. ‘The fact that out of the 68,000 men who have been discharged, only 1,700, or about 2£ per cent., are on our books to-day, is so satisfactory that if this result had been ‘achieved in any other country in the world, Australian public men and Australian journalists would have been heralding it from the house tops.
I do not pretend, of course, that it will ever be possible to have a clean sheet, because men are coming back every day; but I point out that the average time occupied by the Department in finding employment for these men is three weeks, and the average sustenance allowance drawn is a little over £1. This is all the more encouraging in view of the fact that large numbers were returned to Australia before the Department was inaugurated, so wc had to overtake a heavy accumulation of arrears. Though it may be possible to devise better machinery to get our returned soldiers back to civil life, I do not believe we shall ever get a better set of figures. I would be glad of the cooperation of the Returned Soldiers Association if they can show that this problem can be handled in a better manner.
Taken as a whole, the figures I have given are distinctly encouraging, and, if I may say so without egotism, they are highly creditable to the Department and the scheme it has adopted. General denunciation of the work of the Department will not help; and I ask those who are inclined to criticise the Department in this way to bear in mind the facts I have stated. But, while there are some people from whom one can expect nothing, there are others, including public men, who have a proper appreciation of all that is meant in, dealing with this problem. The soldiers themselves, very many of them, come back with a slightly exaggerated idea of what the country can do for them; and. if we are not able to help them just in the way they expect, there is created in the minds of some the thought that they have a grievance.
Senator Bolton has referred to the fact that we are working on certain hard-and-fast rules; but I point out to him that we have a drag-net regulation which meets all cases. When the ‘State Boards send on to u3 a certain number of cases of similar type, we provide another regulation to meet them. But the dragnet regulation operates- all the time, and I say that no soldiers or dependants, if a bond fide case is presented and a reason- , able proposition made; need fear that fair treatment will not be given. No soldier or dependants can honestly say they are left friendless or without some help.
– Senator Bolton deserves the thanks of the community for having brought this matter before the Senate. I was rather inclined to think” that too much “acid” was used by the Minister (Senator Millen) in his reply, because no public man should remain silent if he thinks the machinery of a Department is not working as rapidly and efficiently as he has reason to expect. For my own part, I have not spoken on matters connected with repatriation because I realize that, during the next few months, the Department-will have to bear a tremendous strain; but I would point out that the facilities for repatriating the 50,000 or 60,000 men who have returned are fairly numerous, and that, as the months go by, and when the men are returning in their thousands, difficulties will be greatly increased. The Minister will then realize that he is up against a tremendous problem. I am of opinion that a voluntary Board will not then meet the difficulty. I would like to see a Department with the Minister at the head of it, and responsible to Parliament. I congratulate Senator Bolton for having brought this matter forward, and I think the Minister might have met tie criticism offered in a more friendly spirit.
– Do -not forget that this is the second edition of it; the first appeared in the newspapers the other day.
– I do not desire to say anything more at present, and I shall resume my seat, in the hope that Senator Bolton may have a little further time to state his case and reply to the Minister.
– The debate reminds me of a series of amendments which I moved when the Repatriation Bill was before the Senate. I agree with the Minister (Senator Millen) that the figures regarding the work of the Department are very encouraging, and that, if published in connexion with any other country, would have had considerable praise bestowed upon them. But I am afraid that trouble in the administration of this enormous Department will considerably increase as our soldiers are returning in larger numbers, and that only partial success can be looked for with the administration in the hands of gentlemen acting in an honorary capacity. The enormous responsibilities of the Department can best be discharged by men who are able to devote their whole time to the work. Judged by his reply to-day, the Minister is under the impression that the gentlemen comprising the Central Commission have accomplished wonders. I do hot know whether they have done so or not. But I do say that the Government ought immediately to reconsider the question of amending the Repatriation Act with a view to providing for the appointment of paid officials who will be entirely responsible to the Government, and whose energies will be exclusively devoted to this very important work which must become increasingly difficult as the months go by.
– It seems to me that much of the existing dissatisfaction with the Repatriation Department arises from the undue delay which takes place in finalizing the accounts of our returned soldiers. I know from the correspondence which reaches me that this is one of the chief causes of dissatisfaction. Of course, I do not expect the Department to promptly dispose of all cases which may come before it. I am aware that enormous difficulty is experienced in securing suitable land upon which to settle our returned soldiers. No matter what efforts it may make in that direction, it is bound to come into contact with land-owners who desire to obtain more for their land than it is honestly worth. The Department cannot rush proposals of that character. Further, it should be remembered that in a wealthy country like Australia there is no reason why, upon their return from overseas; men should not bekept on the paysheet for a considerable time. There is no reason why they should be rushed’ on to a job the moment that they return. Personally, I do not think that there has been undue delay on the part of the Department in providing employment for these men.
Another cause for dissatisfaction is that when men have left Australia in the enjoyment of a certain rate of pay, and have obtained an increase, say, of 1s. per day, the Department has automatically reduced the separation allowance due to their dependants.
– What Department ?
– The Defence Department.
– We are now dealing with the Repatriation Department.
– A good many of these matters are mixed up with the question of repatriation, but it is scarcely fair to blame the Department for them. If the Department can submit to Parliament a scheme which will open up fresh avenues of employment, I am satisfied that far less trouble will be experienced in restoring returned soldiers to civil life. The other day I paid a visit to one of the establishments in which some of these men are receiving vocational training, and I was surprised to find them well satisfied with their conditions, and doing remarkably well. The establishment to which I refer is situated in Lonsdalestreet in this city, and appears to be performing a very good workindeed. The Minister should not be intolerant of criticism which is directed against his Department by men like Senator Bolton.
– I am only intolerant of generalities.
– The Minister should not be intolerant of criticism by Senator Bolton, who, doubtless, feels that he is more than justified in bringing under our notice the complaints of returned men. Although his statements were of a general character, I have no doubt that he is quite willing to supply the Minister with concrete cases in support of those statements.
.- I am sure every honorable senator thoroughly realizes the -mighty task with which the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Millen) ‘is confronted, and recog-nlms, that the honorable gentleman will find it extremely difficult to please every member of this Chamber, and even a proportion of the people outside of it. I agree with Senator Gardiner and Senator Grant that the Minister is not acting wisely ih exhibiting intolerance of criticism of his Department and of the policy for which he is responsible, because that criticism is often intended, to suggest some solution of difficulties which perhaps has not . presented itself- either to the Minister or officers of his Department. If the honorable gentleman, who has behind him the sympathy and encouragement of every honorable senator, and who is possessed of splendid abilities and an almost inexhaustible fund of energy, cannot make a success of this big problem, I am satisfied that the position occupied by every other Minister is relatively a hopeless one. I am, however, very sanguine that he will make a success of it. I am certain that the criticism which has been directed against his Department has been intended to be helpful, and has not been offered ia any captious spirit. Indeed, members of the Opposition, ever since the inception of this Department, have almost abstained from criticising it, realizing, as they do, the difficult task which faces the Minister, and desiring that he should have as free a hand as possible to lay the foundation of a successful scheme. But obviously it is only in the development of that scheme that we can hope to discover its weaknesses. To me it now appears that the Central Commission, which is constituted of ‘honorary members, has reached its limit of usefulness, and that we shall have to create a Department to deal with this question. It is a matter of regret that when the Minister thought it wise to appoint the Central Commissioners, the two men who, above all others in Australia, could have assisted him in’ his difficult task were turned down in the most unceremonious manner. I refer to Mr. Arthur Baillieu and Mr. M. Williams, who for eighteen months had devoted the closest attention to this question in all its phases. If any two gentlemen could have been of practical assistance to the Minister in the early stages of the development of the repatriation scheme, it is the gentlemen whom I have named, who were sent adrift almost without a “ thank you “ from either the Government or the Minister for Repatriation. To my mind, it is exceedingly unfortunate for the returned soldiers of Australia that the services of these two gentlemen were not retained on the Commission. Strange to say, the services of other men were retained, although they had not the claims, the knowledge, or experience of the two whom I have mentioned.
– But they have special and intimate knowledge of matters which may be of importance.
– I am quite satisfied that the Minister arrived at that conclusion before he offered them seats on the Commission. Hitherto I have remained silent upon this question because I had no ‘wish to embarrass the Minister, but I felt it very keenly when the services of Mr. Baillieu and Mr. Williams, who had laboured so loyally and unremittingly in an honorary capacity for so long, were dispensed with in the way I have outlined. The Minister ought to be convinced by this time that honorable senators upon this side of the Chamber are just as anxious as he is to see our repatriation scheme a success. Any help that we can render him with that object in view will always be forthcoming. To my mind, it would be an excellent thing if we could have a discussion upon this question from time to time. We are all indebted to Senator Bolton for having brought it forward this afternoon. If we could have a discussion upon it, say, once a week, I am sure that the debate would not be productive of unprofitable results.
– I think I would apply for leave of absence.
– Even then the discussion might not be without profit, because the Minister has some very worthy lieutenants. I hope that what Senator Bolton and others have said this afternoon will sink into the mind of the honorable gentleman, and that he will realize that their criticism was not the outcome of hostility to his scheme.
.- I should have liked the Minister to grant an extension of time to Senator Bolton this afternoon.
– Order! That matter cannot be discussed.
– Then I desire to say a few words in regard to the State Boards which have been constituted under the Repatriation Act. When that measure was under consideration in this Chamber, an amendment was submitted affirming that these Boards should consist of members to be paid for their services. Upon that occasion I intimated that I was in favour of the appointment of honorary Boards, but that if experience proved that such Boards were not satisfactory, I would support the appointment of paid Boards. But, having come into contact with the Queensland branch of the Repatriation Department, I cannot at present support any proposal to change the existing system. We have in Queensland a number of gentlemen on the State Board who are doing admirable work. The chairman (Mr. L’Estrange), practically since the first men returned from the war, when repatriation was carried on by public subscription, has given the whole of his time to assist in the settlement of soldiers. There are two or three other gentlemen, among them Mr. Harris, representative of the Trades Hall. He also nas done very- fine work. There is perfect harmony in that State in regard to repatriation work, and I see no reason why there should be a change, so far, of course, as Queensland is concerned.
Senator Bolton referred to cooperation between the Repatriation Department and the Returned Soldiers Association. As to the matter of the registration of that body, are we to understand that the fact that it was not registered has proved a barrier to co-operation ? Because the league is not registered as an industrial or some other kind of organization, that should not prevent the Repatriation Department from seeking its co-operation. When Senator Millen was in Queensland a little while ago I introduced a deputa tion from the Queensland branch of the league. We kept the Minister for about seven hours while” a number of cases were brought under his personal notice. He promised that he would rectify various” anomalies, and since that time I have received no further complaints from the branch. I have referred to that deputation because, when the Minister was completing his remarks, he asked if there had been any cases brought under the notice of the Deputy Controller of Repatriation in Brisbane which had not been dealt with. The reply was that there had not been one grievance submitted locally which ‘ had not . been attended to. Honorable senators will, therefore, understand my view-point’ when I repeat that to alter the present system would court disaster. I have great sympathy with Senator Bolton. In his remarks to-day he ventilated grievances.
– I had no grievances. Do not insinuate* that.
– I take it that the” honorable senator has brought forward his motion in order to put before the Senate some proposition which would be an improvement upon the present repatriation scheme. Unfortunately, he was not able to complete his remarks, and honorable senators were not given the benefit of what Senator Bolton probably intended to suggest as an improvement upon present methods.
I desire to bring under the notice of the Minister (Senator Millen) the case of a sailor who enlisted at the outbreak of hostilities for the period of the war. He has carefully saved his pay, and recently he bought some property in Victoria and in Queensland. He is at present on one of the little coastguard ships attached to the Australian Navy. I made an application to the Acting Minister for the Navy for this sailor’s discharge on the ground that he was anxious to work his newly-purchased properties. This is a case where a man has not sought the assistance of the Government, but has repatriated himself. The official reply which I received, however, intimated that it was hoped to release the sailor in three or four months. A special discharge might well have been granted in this instance. I realize, of course, that this specific case has nothing to do with the Repatriation Department.
While I was in Sydney recently, as a member of a Select Committee, certain investigations were made regarding the operation of the Repatriation Department in New South Wales. I was informed by the Deputy Controller in Sydney that a man who has been in camp for only a fortnight, and has been discharged as an undesirable, is in the same position in respect to obtainingrelief from the Repatriation Department as a man who has served four years and a half at the Front, and has returned with a good record.
– That is not so.
SenatorFOLL. - I am glad to hear that.
So far as Queensland is concerned, I think I have not had to bring two concrete cases before the Department since I have been in the Senate. I have had to deal with numerous complaints respecting delays in the finalizing of pay, and similar matters; but so far as the Repatriation Department is concerned, there is very little complaint that I have been in a position to make.
Senator Lt.-Colonel BOLTON (Victoria) [4.44]. - It is rather unfortunate that such an important matter as I have introduced cannot be given more extensive discussion. I do not object to any “ acid “ which has been introduced into the remarks of the Minister (Senator Millen).I can understand that his many duties may irritate him almost beyond endurance at times ; and I dare say that if I were in his place I would be in a worse position, when it came to answering statements such as I have had to make.
– To read the honorable senator’s statement, as it appeared in print the other day, a man would require to be a super-Christian not to feel a little annoyed.
– The Minister’s principal objection to my remarks was that he does not like general denunciations. If I were to bring into this chamber all the concrete cases that have been placed before me, we would be here for a week rather than devoting part of an afternoon to the subject. The statement of Senator Millen as to my position being incongruous, in that I have com plained about bowelless officialdom while I am, at the same time, asking that more officials be employed and paid for their services, can best be answered by remarking that bowelless officialdom has created the bowelless rules and regulations which are the chief point of my complaints. The officials have no power other than to obey those rules and regulations; and, to a very large extent, the administration of the Department is gradually assuming the character of a red-tape bureaucracy, which is calculated to defeat the very object for which it was established. I could cite several specific regulations regarding which very genuine complaint might be made. There is one in particular, and I can give a concrete instance which has been most appalling in its outcome. One regulation provides that in the case of the decease of a soldier who was born out of wedlock his parents shall receive a pension for only a certain period.
– Will the honorable senator please distinguish between pensions and repatriation.
.- I have maintained that there is no distinction, and that there should not be.
– There is, so far as my responsibility as an administrator is concerned.
.- I understand that it has been publicly announced that the Repatriation Department was to take over the Pensions Department. I am, therefore, giving the Minister information, so that when he administers pensions he may act upon my statements and alter a very serious state of affairs. The parents of a deceased soldier who was born out of wedlock may receive a pension for a period of only two years. . There have been some appalling disclosures of secret family life, which have resulted in trouble and dishonour being heaped upon practically innocent people. Such circumstances have been brought under the notice of the Government, and immediate action should have been taken to alter regulations responsible for such results.
– Was the mother dependent on the soldier while he was alive?
-Colonel BOLTON.- I know of three specific cases, and in one instance the mother was dependent.
– If so, it would make no difference whether she got a pension or not, because this Department brings up the income, inclusive of pension, to a certain amount; and, whether there was any amountof pension or no pension, the amount would be the same.
.- That does not alter the fact that when the persons interested instituted inquiries disclosures were made which should never have been pemitted.
– Had that parent been told to go to the Repatriation Department for relief, a very signal service would have been done her, and she would have been saved those disclosures. The Pensions officials are tied down by the Act.
SenatorLt.-Colonel BOLTON.- I realize that I have exposed myself as a target for thescintillating eloquence of the Minister; but I am not at all concerned about that, if, by my action today, I can secure one tithe of the measure of reform which I am anxious to see in the Repatriation Department. Any martyrdom that I may have to suffer at the hands of the Minister will have been well repaid if I can secure some betterment of existing conditions.
Motion, by leave, withdrawn.
asked the Minister representing the Acting Prime Minister, upon notice -
What are the names of the persons constituting the Commonwealth Meat Administration Board, the Australian Frozen Meat Committee, or similar organizations?
– There is no Commonwealth Meat Administration Board. Sir Owen Cox, K.B.E., was appointed Commonwealth Meat Administrator,, and he secured the voluntary services of seven citizens in Sydney and five in Melbourne, together with certain of their staff, to assist in the administrative work. I know of no body styled the “Australian Frozen Meat Committee.”
Service on QueenslandCoast.
asked the Minister representing the Acting Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers are -
asked the Minister representing the Acting Prime Minister, upon notice -
Whether the Government will consider the advisability of despatching an expedition of geological experts to examine and report on the presence or otherwise of phosphatic rock in the,German Possessions in the Pacific, now under British control, with a view to acquiring such deposits as a Government monopoly for the subsequent improvement of the fertilization of the arable lands of the Commonwealth ?
– The Government is already aware of the existence of certain deposits in these Possessions, and the matter is at present under consideration.
asked the VicePresident of the Executive Council, upon notice -
If so, will the Minister repudiate the following statements made therein: -
– The answers are-
Senator NEEDHAM(for Senator
What is the quantity of wheat carried overseas by the Commonwealth Government during the war?
What are the names of the vessels employed ? 3.What has been the rate of freight charged?
– The answer is too long to read. I, therefore, lay on the table a statement containing the information desired by the honorable senator.
asked the Minister representing the Acting Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The Regulations under the provisions of the Act now in force have been tabled, and the prescribed forms have been issued.
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
Have any members of the Australian Imperial Force died on any vessel going from or coming to Australia, as a result of having contracted Spanish influenza?
– A total of sixteen cases of death from influenza, not specifically designated “ Spanish influenza,” havebeen reported to date, on transports proceeding to or from Australia.
– Arising out of the answer given to the question I addressed to the Minister for Defence, may I ask the Minister-
– Order! The honorable senator may not ask another question without notice at this stage.
– Iwas allowed to do so last week.
– The honorable senator must know that Ministers object to being asked questions without notice.
– It has been customary to allow honorable senators to ask questions arising out of answers, and that practice obtained until last week.
– That custom was followed until objection was taken that it was not. in accordance with the proper procedure under the Standing Orders. When attention was called to the matter, I was bound to take notice of the objection.
– Attention was not called to it.
– Attention was called to it. Ministers objected to being asked questions without notice, and intimated that they would not answer them. It would, therefore, be only a waste of time to allow them to be asked.
– Seeing that up to the last day of sitting this procedure was allowed, may I ask you, sir, why 1 should now be debarred, and under what standing order you can prevent me from asking a question arising out of an answer given to me by a Minister?
– The standing order specifically provides that questions can be asked without notice, or on notice given, only at the time set down for the purpose. There is also a certain stage at which notice of questions can be given, and no notice of question may be given after that stage has expired. That stage has expired to-day. No question of which notice was not given can now be asked.
– I was not doing that.
– The honorable senator was distinctly doing so. He was asking a further question without notice, after the time for asking questions without notice had expired, and also after the time for giving notice of questions had expired.
– I was simply following the usual practice in asking a further question arising out of an answer given by a Minister. Why should I be ruled out of order this time?
– The honorable senator knows the proper course to pursue if he chooses to disagree with my ruling.
– I shall not bother to do so, because I should not be supported. Still, it is rather an autocratic position for you to adopt now.
– The honorable senator has his remedy.
– I know what to do in the future. I am singled out for these things at times.
– The honorable senator will withdraw that expression.
– I withdraw it with pleasure.
Bill received from the House of Representatives, and (on motion by Senator Russell) read a first time.
Motion(by Senator Russell) pro posed -
That this Bill be now read a third time.
– It is not my intention to speak at length, lest the Minister in charge of the Bill (Senator Russell) should add me to the pests which the new Institute is intended to destroy. My opposition to the Bill has arisen from the fact that I have always most enthusiastically advocated the application of science to industry, but I am afraid that this haphazard way of imposing a Federal Department on top of the existing State Departments - which are doing the work particularly well - will have a bad effect on that desirable object. Nearly all the State Governments are opposing the sudden intrusion of the Commonwealth Government into this arena. They have been doing good work, and suddenly the Federal Government stepsin and seems to want to brush them to one side. That is very ill-advised. The following item from the Age of recent date, regarding the blow-fly pest, shows what has been happening : -
Brisbane. - The State Government sheep expert, Mr. W. G. Brown, who has just returned from Soma, says that a most important discovery has been made in connexion with experiments now being conducted by the Federal Government at Dalmally, Roma. In the pupæ of blow-flies found in traps, chalcid wasp has been discovered. The wasp, which destroys the pupæ, or fly, appears to be very numerous. Mr. Taylor, who is conducting experiments for the Federal Government, in breeding wasp, has invited pastoralists to send him samples of blow-fly pupæ, so that they may be examined for the presence of wasp, and those who have not got it will be supplied. A wide distribution of wasp is expectedto assist materially in overcoming the blow-fly pest.
– Do you think the wasp will be worse than the blow-fly?
– I think not, as it is a very small insect. The point is that this is not a discovery by the Federal authorities at all, as is shown by an article which appeared in the Pastoralists’ Review of the 16th July, 1915. The Minister will find in that issue the fullest possible description of the experiments made in introducing the chalcid wasp cure for the blow-fly pest.
– I made no such claim.
– The claim is being made.
– I am not responsible for the press.
-I thought the Minister might possiblyhave been misled. Does he not know that the Institute has some one now looking into the blow-fly question? There is no doubt that it is so. Mr. Froggatt, who was working for the State of New South Wales, discovered this possible remedy some time ago; and now it appears that the Federal Government come along and intrude into the work.
– No ; I give the honorable senator the assurance that we shall not duplicate any work now going on.
– Is it not the case that Mr. Taylor, who is conducting experiments for the Federal Government, as the above extract shows, is actually intruding now? That is the sort of thing I complain of.
The Federal authorities are causing irritation by duplicating Departments, which is the very thing we want to avoid. All these Governments, Federal and State, are supposed to be run for the benefit of the people, and we want no overlapping. We have had it already in the Taxation Departments, and the Government have promised to do away with it; but they have not done so, and here again they are duplicating Departments and expenditure. I urge the Minister to go right into this question.If he has not the time himself, let him employ one of the Committees that are available.The new Bureau contemplates an expenditure of £20,000 a year, and a friend of mine, who is up in scientific matters, told me that it might run into £200,000 a year before long, and that £500,000 was to be spent on a great laboratory. Before we do that, let the proposal be looked into by the Public Works Committee. Propositions involving the expenditure of over £20,000 in connexion with railways and other public works have to be submitted for report to that Committee, and before we launch out upon a great venture like this, I think that it might very well be submitted to the same Committee.
Wedo not want to do this tiling in spite of the States ; and though Senator Millen said the other day that this proposal is quite constitutional, I cannot agree with that opinion. The honorable senator endeavoured to justify the statement by a reference to section 51 of the Constitution, which provides that -
The Parliament shall, subject to this Constitution, have power to make laws for the peace, order, and good government of the Commonwealth with respect to -
Trade and commerce with other countries and among the States.
Senator Millen contends that under paragraph xxxix. of the same section this proposal may be held to be within the Constitution. That paragraph reads -
Matters incidental to the execution of any power vested by this Constitution in the Parliament or in either House thereof, or in the Government of the Commonwealth, or in the Federal Judicature, or in any Department or officer of the Commonwealth.
The honorable senator’s suggestion is that this proposal may be held to be a matter incidental to the carrying out by this Parliament of its power in connexion with trade and commerce, but I do not think that such a contention would be upheld by the High Court. If the door were opened as wide as that, almost anything might be held to be incidental to the powers of this Parliament in connexion with trade andcommerce. It might justify our interference with land questions which are entirely State matters. It might be suggested that as trade and commerce would be increased by further land settlement, that would justify our interference with land questions.
This venture has been launched too hurriedly and in a haphazard fashion. I am entirely in favour” of the application of science to industry. I realize that if the chalcid wasp turns out to be a cure for the blow-fly pest, Australia will have reason to be proud that the discovery has been made here. The pest is found in almost every country in the world, and no remedy for it has yet been discovered. If the State Government of New South Wales have, through their officers, discovered a remedy for the pest, they will deserve the greatest possible credit.
The proposal embodied in this Bill should be thoroughly thought out before any of the people’s money is spent in connexion with it. We should not duplicate Departments when, as a political party, we promised, where possible, to secure the unification of State and Federal Departments. There are fields in which such a Bureau as is proposed might carry out useful work. We have great timber resources in all the States of Australia, and honorable senators who hadthe privilege to listen to the instructive references to this subject recently at Federal Government House will remember that it was explained as very important in the interests of Australia that a common name should be adopted throughout the States for timbers that are practically the same, although they are now known by different names in the several States. Good work might be done by a Bureau on such lines, but to send an expedition here to inquire into the blow-fly pest, and there to inquire into the prickly-pear pest, would only lead to a waste of money, and, further, would have the effect of taking the heart out of those charged with the investigations of the State scientific Bureaux who are already inquiring into these matters.
I pointed out a little time ago that we shall require every penny we have or can obtain, and very careful consideration should be given beforethe Government start another huge spending Department which, in my view, will not achieve the object in view; and will be hurtful rather than helpful to the advance of science which we all desire to promote.
I was very sorry to see in the press the other day that we are not to have the advantage of the services of Professor Lefroy, who is a scientist of world-wide reputation.He has said that owing to an attack made upon him by the Pastoral Committee in Sydney, who are dealing with the blow-fly pest, he will not come to Australia. I hold that, as a rule, Australian billets should be given to Australians, but it is not always possible to secure Australians with the experience and information necessary for a highly scientific position, and I hoped that Professor Lefroy might have been appointed to such a position under this Bill. He is a man of great experience and reputation, and would be of great assistance to a Scientific Bureau. I took the trouble to try to find out who was responsible for the statements which were made about Professor Lefroy, and I have here a letter from the chairman of the Pastoral Committee meeting in Sydney to deal with the blow-fly pest, in which he says that the Committee had nothing whatever to do with the attack upon the professor, and did not know of it until they received notice of his resignation.
– I shall be glad if the honorable senator will put their repudiation into Hansard.
– I shall be very pleased to read the letter which I received from Mr. James Kidd, the chairman of the Pastoral Committee for the investigation of the Blow-fly Pest. He wrote to me as follows: -
At the request of the Pastoralists Associa tion of Victoria, I send you herewith cuttings from the Stock and Station Journal of the 17th and 21st May, containing the articles to which Professor Lefroy objects. I also inclose cutting from the Stock and Station Journal of the 15th November, containing the latest article on Professor Lefroy, togetlier with copyof a letter I received from the professor on the I5th November, with copy of my reply attached. All of these documents speak for themselves.
I think I need only trouble the Senate further with Professor Lefroy’s letter, dated 20th September, 1918, and Mr. Kidd’s reply thereto. Professor Lefroy wrote -
Heston, Middlesex, 20th September, 1018.
Dear Mr. Kidd,
I was extremely surprised to find an article in the Sydney Stock and Station Journal, obviously inspired by a member of the Pastoral Committee for the Investigation of Blow-fly. So far as I know, my relations with your Committee were always friendly, andI had not knowingly expressed my opinion on your work. As your Committee have not in any way repudiated that article, or dissociated themselves from it, I cannot see. how I can work with its members, and I have asked to be relieved of the appointment. I am sorry this did not happen while I was in Sydney, as I could have discussed it with your Committee directly. You will, I know, accept my assurance that I am sorry this has happened, and if I can assist you from this end, I will do so.
Believe me, yours very truly,
Mr. Kidd replied by the following letter :
Dear Professor Lefroy,
I pan in receipt of your letter of the 20th September, which I have read with regret.
Until yesterday, when the matter was brought under my notice by a representative from one of the newspapers, I had not seen, nor was I aware of the existence of, the articles you refer to in the Stock and Station Journal. I have no knowledge as to whoinspired them, and they were certainly not published by the authority, nor had they the indorsement, of the Pastoral Committee for the Investigation of the Blow-fly Pest, the members of which are fully occupied with the real work of the Committee, and are not looking round in order to disassociate themselves from the work of irresponsible journalists. You were assured, and the Commonwealth Advisory Council of Science and Industry was assured that every possible assistance would be given to you by this Committee in your investigations. That has been our attitude, nor has it ever altered.
Believe me, yours truly,
I think that, after that repudiation by the Pastoral Committee, Professor Lefroy may withdraw his resignation. . I hope he will, because the members of the Pastoral Committee desire to work amicably with him. He is a man of vast experience, and his services, could they be secured, would be of great advantage to Australia.
I again impress upon the Minister : the necessity of a full inquiry into this proposal. We do not want toduplicate the work of State and Federal Departments, or to interfere with the scientific investigation work which the State Departments havecarried on so successfully for so long. To proceed with the proposal may involve the Commonwealth in a lawsuit with the State Governments, as in ray judgment the proposal is not constitutional. I think the State authorities would welcome a scheme which would not involve duplication of effort. The people’s money must be well and intelligently expended if we are to conserve the interests of Australia.
– I desire to utter my final protest against the passage of this Bill. I opposed it on the second reading and. in Committee, and I am still opposed to the measure, not because I do not approve of every advancement of science and its application to in dustry, but becauseI think, as other honorablesenators have contended, that this measure will result in the unnecessary duplication of scientific efforts.
I wish to refer to one clause of the Bill, which I am sorry to say was overlooked when it was under consideration in Committee. I refer to clause 18, which provides that -
The directors may charge such fees, and may agree to such conditions as they think fit, for special investigation carried out at the request of any authority, institution, association, firm, or person.
I suppose that the Government have already in mind the persons who are to be appointed as directors of the proposed Institute; but they are being given power to charge the taxpayers of Australia whatever they may think fit for any. experiments they may carry out.
– To charge whom? Not the taxpayers, but the persons for whom the experiments are conducted.
– That clause was referred to in Committee.
– I did not hear it referred to. I shall not deal with it any further.
The Vice-President of the Executive Council (Senator Russell), in his speech on the second reading of the Bill, said it was brought forward in order that co-operation might be brought about between the Commonwealth and the States in connexion with scientific investigation. I say that co-operation between the State authorities exists at the present time. Queensland, New South Wales, and South Australia have arrived at a border agreement, and are co-operating for the purpose of dealing with the tick pest. During the last few days Lands Ministers of the different States have met in conference in Melbourne to consider the bearing of land settlement upon repatriation. If the State authorities can co-operate on such a question, there is no reason why they should not be able to do so on the question of the eradication of various pests. Should Spanish influenza be introduced, andI sincerely hope it will not, there is no reason to think that the State authorities will be prevented by petty jealousies from co-operating to prevent its spread.
I do not see how it can be suggested that they are unwilling to co-operate for the eradication of pests and the advancement of science in every way. The progress made in combating the weevil pest is the result of a Conference of States representatives called, I understand, by the Minister in charge of the Bill, and without any assistance from this new Department which the Government propose to create.
I make my final protests against this continual increase in the Public Service of the Commonwealth, this saddling of additional expenditure upon the taxpayers at the whim of any Government. The manner in which Boards have been created of late, taking the executive power out of the hands of the Government, makes one wonder where it is going to end. It is all very well for Senator Senior to say the cost of providing the Institute will not come out of the taxpayers’ . pockets. If it does not, I would like to know out of whose pocket it will come.
– I did not say that.
– The proposal, I believe, is the outcome of some whim or fancy of a member of the Government who desires to create fat billets for two or three gentlemen, one of whom (Dr. Gellatly) has already been appointed. I do not say. that Dr. Gellatly is not a. capable man. Probably he is; but if the Government are going to create new Departments and positions for every capable man in the community, we do not know where the business will end. I believe the Government have made a mistake in introducing the measure - I hope, however, that my misgivings will not be justified. If I am wrong, I shall not hesitate to admit it. I wish now to utter my final protest against this measure. I know it is useless to say any more, but I hope the Government will see fit to withdraw the Bill in another place.
– As I was listening to the remarks made by the two previous speakers, I remembered that when the Commonwealth Constitution was under consideration, those favorable to the measure assured us that it would not cost more than 2s, 6d. per head. I am not afraid of a little expenditure in the crea tion of any new institution calculated to be of benefit to the community, butI rose to emphasize the point brought under notice by Senator Fairbairn, as to whether the creation of this Department is within the power of the Constitution.The Government would do well to consider carefully this aspect of the question before effect is given to the Bill. I have hurriedly glanced through the powers conferred upon the Commonwealth Parliament by the Constitution, and, personally, I believe that the objection raised by Senator Fairbairn is fatal, though it may not affect the working of the Bill perhaps until some years hence, and until some important interests are concerned. The Minister (Senator Russell) would be well advised to consider whether we have the power, and if we have not, the Government should immediately bring down an amending Bill, because I think it is time the Australian Parliament had power to legislate for all Australia.
– I recognise that at present, perhaps more than at any other time in the history of Australia, it is necessary to have some such measure as this, and I am rather pleased to think that two honorable senators who are opposed to the Bill base their objections on the ground that it will mean duplication of expenditure and effort.I think, however, that those who have studied the Bill carefully will realize that it will not be duplication so much as an extension of work at present being done in the States.
– Do you mean in spending more money?
– I am confident that the honorable senator himself would not object to spending more money if by doing so he could secure a larger return and better interest. I have no doubt that he has been doing that all his life, and so is now known as a successful man. I want Australia to be known throughout the world as a successful nation. This result cannot be. achieved if we continue any short-sighted policy.
It may be urged that the States do co-operate at the present time, but they have not power to go as far as may be necessary in the interests of Australia. Let me quote what is happening in South Australia. On the peninsula, as well as in other parts of Australia, the people are now busy harvesting salt, though we have a Commonwealth embargo against the exportation of salt. If that embargo is not lifted those men will have to be withdrawn and thrown upon the market as unemployed. This Bill does not deal with that particular problem, but it is intended to enable the Commonwealth Government to secure co-operation in that direction. The States have no power to compel co-operation, and, hence, in my opinion, this Bill is necessary. Senator Foll objects to duplication. Nobody wants duplication or the creation of unnecessary new Departments; but if we proceed along the lines indicated by Senator Foll, we shall never achieve anything. He might just as well have pleaded that we should not have created the Department for Repatriation, because that, too, is a spending Department.
– It does not mean duplication .
– I grant that, but it secures co-operation of effort throughout Australia, and that is what this Bill is designed to secure in other directions. If ever there was a time in the life of Australia when we should move forward on scientific lines it is to-day, and I hope sincerely that the Bill will do all that is expected of it.
– Judging by the remarks of Senator Fairbairn, I am inclined to think that if he made one more speech he would prove to be a hearty supporter of the Bill. He now asks that we shall go thoroughly into the question of the blowfly pest. I am hopeful that the discovery made in Queensland will prove successful, and I can promise that the gentleman who is carrying on that work will receive every assistance possible from the new Institute. We have no other desire than to co-operate with such men.
– It is being done in other places already.
– I ask Senator Fairbairn what he would think if, in the event of the Queensland experiments being successful, the New South Wales Government decided to take no action, with the result that while Queensland might be clear of the pest, it might find a breeding ground in New South Wales, and so continue to be a menace to the whole of Australia ?
When honorable senators who oppose the Bill speak of the Institute as being a charge upon the people of Australia, they must bear in mind that if private firms or corporations desire the Government to carry out any investigation the Institute will be entitled to make all sorts of arrangements.
– Then it will be a trading concern?
– No, it will be a co-operative concern to help the people of Australia. If the pastoralists make a request for special investigation into a problem affecting their industry, surely we should have the right to request their co-operation, financial and otherwise, by asking them to place at the disposal of the Government their stations, cattle, and other means for carrying out those investigations. Indeed, we should not be justified in placing a Government institution entirely at the disposal of wealthy corporations without asking for their cooperation. It seems to me that the last two opponents of the Bill have made speeches favorable to it, and I am quite satisfied.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a third time.
– I move -
That this Bill he now read a second time.
This is largely a technical measure, and one which, like the Defence Bill that was recently before us, is the result of experience which has been gained during the war. It is designed to bring our Naval Defence Act into accord with the procedure which it has been found necessary to adopt in war time. Weaknesses which have been disclosed in the principal Act need to be remedied, and provisions in it which are not quite workable under war conditions require adjustment. There are no important principles involved in the measure. It is entirely a Bill of the character which I have indicated. But because it contains only such amendments as I have outlined, it is necessary for me to explain the nature of those amendments.
The principal Naval Defence Act provides for issue of commissions to officers, but not for the issue of warrants to warrant officers. Under the existing law the” former are issued by the GovernorGeneral, and it has now become necessary to amend the Act so as to provide for the issue of warrants by the same authority. Then it will be remembered that at one time the Navy and Defence Departments formed one Department under the Minister for Defence, and. that our Defence Act still contains many provisions which relate to the Navy, notably those having reference to universal training and the training of the Naval Reserve. Although for some time there has been a Minister for the Navy it has not yet been set out in our Statutes that those portions of our Defence Act which affect the Navy really come under the administration of the Navy Department One of the amendments proposed in this Bill will, however, make that fact perfectly clear.
As in the Army, so in the Navy. During the war it has been found necessary to temporarily appoint officers to carry out certain duties. Many officers have been appointed from the mercantile marine as naval officers, and in making these appointments certain provisions in the principal Acthad to be ignored. For instance, under the law as it stands, we can make only provisional appointments, and before those appointments can be confirmed there must be an examination of the officers. But in time ofwar that procedure is impossible. In the first place we cannot take officers away from their duties to subject them to a theoretical examination, and secondly, they are not available to undergo the examination. They are probably engaged in fighting the enemy or looking for submarines. It has become necessary, therefore, to legalize these appointments. This Bill provides for their legalization, so that the commissions which have been issued shall have the force of law behind them.
Then, “under our Naval Defence Act some doubtful points have arisen in interpretation in relation to matters of discharge. Honorable senators will recollect that we had to alter the definition “ in time of war.” When our Defence Bill was framed, a somewhat loose definition was adopted. It is now intended to make section 28 of the Act more definite in that respect. That section provides -
A member of the Naval Forces shall be en titled to be discharged, therefore, at the ex1 piration of the period of service for which he enlisted, unless such expiration occurs in time of war, in which case he shall not be entitled to his discharge until the war has terminated. “Time of war” is defined in the Act; and its expiration is declared to take place upon a definite event, namely, the issue of the peace proclamation. It is proposed in this Bill to substitute the term “ time of war “ for “ war “ in the last line of section 28, in order that there may be no doubt as to the exact date upon which seamen will be entitled to their discharge.
– Why is it proposed to strike out “ Warrant Officers “?
– It is not. We propose to include provision for Warrant Officers under the heading of “ Commissioned Officers.” In other words, we provide for the issue of the warrants by the Governor-General.
-Why do the Government propose a period of eighteen months in sub-section 5 of section 11 of the principal Act ? Why not have a shorter period?
– We are there seeking to legalize the appointments of officers where’ we have not been able to comply with that provision in regard to the prescribed examination. Broadly, that is the purport of the amendment. Certain officers were appointed, and all necessary steps taken, and we have now to legalize these actions. The Bill, therefore, is largely one for consideration in Committee. All its provisions are really drafting amendments, which have in view the end that I have outlined.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and reported from Committee without amendment; report adopted.
– In moving -
That this Bill be now read a second time, it will not be necessary to occupy the attention of honorable senators for more than a few moments. It will be remembered that, in introducing the Land Tax Bill, I pointed out that the figures disclosed by the Treasurer’s Budget showed thata gap of more than £6,000,000 existed between the anticipated’ revenue and the anticipated expenditure for the current financial year, and that that Bill was one of the measures which were designed to bridge that gap. The Bill which is now before us is intended to achieve the samebeneficent purpose. It proposes an increase of 30 percent. in the income tax, with a corresponding alteration in regard toCompanies. There is also analteration contemplated in regard to the taxing of prizes won in lotteries. The other day, Senator Gardiner suggested that the Government were attempting to tax these prizes retrospectively. That statement is not quite correct. Under this Bill, nobody will be taxed upon a prize which he won before the imposition of the tax. But the fact is that, after the tax had been imposed, a number of persons who won prizes in lotteries, and who oughtto have paid the tax, did not do so. They were really defaulters - many of them unconsciously so. The Department is now attempting tocollectthe tax in respect of those prizes. There is another proposal in the Bill, which will have the effect, of formally repealing what is known as the bachelortax.
– Why isthat tobe done ?
– This Government isnot at all like a certain historical personage, who learned nothing fromexperience. In the light ofevents, Ministers propose toask honorable senators to join with them in repealing that particularpieceof legislation.
-In thelight of what events ?
– It is not at all necessary for me to state them. I am now submitting a proposal which I anticipate will command the approval of honorable senators opposite. If they were opposed to the course which I am suggesting, I might find it necessary to adduce arguments in favour of its adoption. But, inasmuch as they are already in agreement with me on this question, I should be merely wasting time by arguing the proposal.
– In view of the approaching close of the session, I shall not occupy much time in discussing this Bill. But I do think that the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Millen) was entitled to explain to honorable senators the reasons which have induced the Government not to do that which they are sworn to do, namely, collect the bachelor tax during the time that it has been in existence. When the measure authorizing the collection of this impost was under consideration, Irecollect the strenuous opposition which was offered to it by honorable senators on this side of the chamber, who recognised how utterly repugnant itwas to public sentiment. Ministers have since discovered that our opposition was justified. As a result, the Minister now says that, in the light of certain events, he is submittinga proposal which will meet with our approval, and that, consequently, there is no needfor himtooffer an explanation of the reasons which underlie this change of front on the part of the Government. He deems itsufficient to say that Ministers propose to do this because of certain events which have transpired. When did those events happen,and where did theyhappen? The Government sought to make the young bachelors who would not go to theFront pay.
– It is a great ‘pity they did not force them to do so.
– If that is the honorable senator’s sentiment, I hopehe will support us in theattitudewe now take with respect to therepeal of that tax, andwill agree that we should know the reason why itis to be repealed.
– The trouble is that there are too many supporters of the Ministry who are wealthy bachelors.
– And members of the Ministry.
– The Government thought it would catch somebody, of course; but they found that it would be their own wealthy bachelor friends who would be called upon to pay this tax. And that, naturally, would be altogether unreasonable and unfair. Had the Government been straightforward theywould have pointed out candidly, in view of the long period which has elapsed since that form of taxation was decided upon, the specific reason why it had not been col lected.
– The honorable senator just got out of the Government in time, or he would have been fathering this Act.
– I recognise that; but the Government have not told us how much they have collected, or whether they have collected anything at all. If we pass legislation at the instance of the Government, it is their duty, surely, to give effect to it. It is not reasonable or defensible that the Government should pass a Bill for a set purpose, and according to deliberate policy, and then fail to act upon it. I dare say that not one penny has been collected by means of the bachelor tax. Here were thousands of pounds at the disposal of the Government by merely giving effect to that Act. Yet the Government preferred to collect the children’s pennies. The point of view was that the children had not a vote, and that, after all, a penny would not be missed when the kiddies came to spend their pocket money on the merry-go-round. But as for the wealthy bachelors, who are behind the Government at election time, they are a different proposition. I am glad, at any rate, that the Government have at last come to our way of thinking. Apparently, it has taken many months for the common-sense arguments of the Opposition, presented at the time when the Bill was introduced, to take effect. I trust that this will be a precedent, and that arguments which we may now, apparently unsuccessfully, advance will at last dawn favorably upon the Govern ment. While the Government are looking around for all manner of forms of taxation, even to the taxing of the kiddies’ picture shows-
– The honorable senator took a hand at taxing amusements. He brought in the first amusements tax.
– We brought in an amusements tax which would tax those who could afford to pay. That was a legitimate matter; but it is descending to the depths when that same form of taxation takes away the kiddies’ pennies. If there is anything wrong with any of the taxation which I, as a Minister, was responsible for, or assisted in placing on the statute-book, it is not the duty of the Government to taunt me with the fact, but to repeal the offending Statute. The reason why it is not proposed to repeal the amusements tax is that the people who have to pay are not sufficiently well-to-do to hold the ear of the Government. It is the wealthy bachelors who must be deferred to. The Government brought in the bachelor tax deliberately. It was passed with the aid of a Government majority, and in the face of strong objections on the part of the Opposition. Yet the Government propose to repeal it, and they entirely sidetrack their obligation to state the reasons for its repeal. The Government are now out after money in small places, even down to 3d. dips and the like.
It is unwise to tax prizes derived from lotteries. We are pleased, as a Parliament, to consider lotteries illegal. We will not permit the delivery through the post of letters addressed to Tattersall’s. Most honorable senators, I dare say, have been concerned in syndicates sending to Tattersall’s for tickets at one time or another. But our National Parliament will not recognise consultations of that character. It would be merely consistent, therefore, seeing that lotteries are not recognised, that those same lottery prizes should not be regarded as legitimate sources of Federal taxation. If we tax lottery prizes, while we still regard lotteries as an evil, then we shall be, as a Parliament, participatingin an evil which we refuse to recognise. Can we logically take such a stand, or can we tax a prize in Tattersall’s without at the same time allowing the individual who has won that prize to deduct, in his income tax return, the amount he has invested? It would be only fair to adopt such an attitude. I know something of the case of a poor widow who won £5 lis. Id. as her share in a Tattersalls sweep. The amount of tax payable upon that huge prize was 10 per cent., and she had to give up the lis. Id. Altogether, this form of taxation is an annoyance to the general community. The most astonishing feature, however, is that - if I am informed correctly - the Government have made some arrangement with Tattersalls, in Tasmania, by which those people collect the tax for the Commonwealth Government. That is to say, Tattersalls deduct the amount of taxation before sending on the prizes to lucky clients. Thus the National Parliament becomes a party to what they regard as illegal. This Commonwealth is too big a concern to link itself in any way with the collection of moneys from consultations or sweeps. . If the National Parliament intends to raise funds in such a manner, it should be consistent, at least, and legalize sweeps. But the effect of that would be to cause a serious moral slump in the community. The desire to get rich quickly by such means should rightly be controlled.
– Is it at all controlled at present? Does the stopping of letters addressed’ to Tattersalls have any effect in reducing the number of subscribers to Tattersall’s sweeps?
– I do not think it has any serious effect. It merely becomes a source of inconvenience -to those who send for tickets. When I want a ticket in Tattersall’s, I have to set about getting it by some devious means. The astonishing anomaly is that one Federal Department, namely, the Post Office, which is presided over by that distinguished poet and statesman, Mr. Webster, refuses to have anything to do with Tattersall’s sweeps; yet, at the same time, another Federal Department - that presided over by the Treasurer (Mr. Watt) - does not close its eyes to this illegal business, but takes some adequate means of participating in Tattersall’s prize lists. The Minister for Repatriation (Senator Millen) has announced that this form of taxation is not to be retrospective. I am glad to learn that. Some of the statements made to me led me to believe that the Department was actually calling up the tax on prizes won a considerable time ago. I have not yet satisfied myself whether that is so or not.
– You are quite right.
– The chances are that I am right when Senator Grant says so, because he, too, is careful to verify his statements. It was made quite clear by statements made to me that prizes won in 1915 and .1914, a considerable time before .the Act came into existence, had been taxed. The Act came into existence in 1917.
However, the Bill is before us, and the cost of the war is still going on, although there has been a cessation of hostilities. Would it be out of place for me to say on this Bill that possibly much of the revenue that will be collected under it need not be collected if the Government would adopt a more up-to-date method of saving money? I do not know how many thousands of internees are in our camps; but, with the news reaching us that the American warships are malling back to America from British harbors, could not the Government make a start on some system of releasing the internees from the German camps? Guessing with some little knowledge of what I am talking about, I venture to say that the camp in Sydney costs £1,000 a day to run. If within the next few weeks, or few months at the longest, the Government release men who are not guilty of any disloyalty, but are only suspected, men of standing in the community, men who own land-
– The honorable senator is not entitled to discuss that matter on this Bill, although he may allude to the cost as illustrating a possible saving in expenditure.
– If you, sir, had allowed me to go a little further, you would have seen the point I -was coming to.
– I have no wish to curtail the honorable senator’s remarks, so long as he makes only a passing allusion to- the subject.
– I decline to. be hampered in my way of putting my arguments. You can try to curtail me if you like.
– I am not trying to curtail the honorable senator’s remarks.
– Then I object to being interrupted in the middle of my argument-
– Order! The honorable senator is not ; in order.
– If I cannot speak on a Finance Billin the way I desire to speak,I have no wish to remain here. Here is a Bill for increased taxation, and here is a proposal that I am puttingbefore the Senate to avoid the necessity for raising at least some part of this extra taxation bysaving £1,000 a day immediately. Of course if you,sir, in your broad interpretation of the scope of debate in this Chamber, say I cannot reason inthat way, well and good. The Senate will be the loser, because it will not have the advantage of hearing my observations onthis most important matter.
The Bill is to increase the burden on theshoulders of the people, and goes a very big step in advanceof similar taxation in previous years. Ihave no doubt that Senator Millen willbe perfectly satisfied, in replying,to point out that the Government of which I was a member was the firstthat imposed a Federal income tax. I. say emphaticallythat, had Ihad the sole control of the finances of this country during the whole period of the war, only two forms of taxation - income tax , andland tax - wouldhave been imposed. Just as thewar has called forth all our energies, the system of taxation required to meet such a catastrophe should follow thosewell-beatentracks. The Government are pursuingthat policy in their two main taxation Bills, and I have no complaintto make on that score. But the time is here, And, more than here, for the Government torealize that more is required of them than simply to make the ledgerbalance by another increase in the land and income taxes. What is requiredof them isa curtailment of expenditure ; a rapidlook round to seewhere money can be saved. Wherever a shilling can be saved, they should save it. I . recognise that there is need for the money to be raised by the Bill before us. For this financial year, at any rate, the cost of the war alone will be £70,000,000 or £80,000,000. When that expenditure ceases, there will be an enormous expense for a considerable time for the repatriation of those who have fought for us. When the Government demand an increase of one-third over the amount paid by the people in income tax last year, I recognise that they, being the committee in charge ofthe affairs of the nation, are the only people who know the whole of the facts, and have given the matter full and deep consideration before they introduced the measure. But when they have placed it beforeParliament,I still say that, to make the ledger balance by increased taxation is not all that is required of them. There must be the most rigid economy.
I saw it foreshadowed the other day that another Minister will goto England. I . have an idea that the placefor Australian Ministers in time of war is Australia.
– That is thereason why Sir Robert Borden and General Botha are going to Englandnow !
– I refuse to take what other tourists aredoing as a guide for Australia at the present time. For some months we have hadtwoMinisters in England, andthe fact of their being thereat the cost of this countryis one of the” reasons why we are to increasetaxation. I do not pretend that they will cost the country hundredsof thousands of pounds, but when twoMinisters are sent away, and two other Ministers areadded to thestaff here to carry on, those are the little things that would tell ifeconomy was being considered by the Government indeadly earnest.
– There wasno increase of public expenditure when two extra Ministers were appointed.
– If there was not, theGovernment Whipisright; but I wishhe was righ t.
– Theonly extra portfolio created was the one allo tted to me.
– There are also the Assistant Ministers.
– No extra payment is involved intheir appointments.
– There may be no extra payment, but there are extra duties and extra staffs. Take the Minister for Recruiting as an example.
– There is extra work.
– That portfolio was only made necessary by sticking to the voluntary principle.
– I shall not be permitted on this Bill to adequately answer all these interjections, and, therefore, will not attempt to answer any of them.
– There is no answer to my interjection.
– I merely instanced the fact that two Ministers were away, and that one more was to go. The Minister can correct me if I am notright in that assumption. After that one has well gone, there will probably be another to follow. I am pointing to these increases in expenditure, none of them amounting to much in itself, and yet it is: the many little increases which make increased taxation necessary. Now, if ever is the time for the Government to show the people that if they have failed in everything else - and I think the Senate generally will concede that they have failed in pretty well everything they have tried-
– Hear, hear!
– I am glad to hear Senator Lynch say “ Hear, hear,” to. that remark. If the Government have failed in everything else, they, may be a success if they only study how to curtail expenditure. That is one direction to which the Government can, with advantage, direct all their energies and ability.
– The honorable senator did not attempt to save anything the other night.
– I am sorry if my protest against the suspension of the Standing Orders the other night still weighs heavily on the honorable senator’s mind. I do not expect much from the Government, but there is a chanceof their being successful if they turn their attention to saving money.
– You think they are not past redemption yet ?
– While there is life there is hope. There is such a thing as death-bed repentance, and I have heard it said that the Government are very close to their death bed, or, rather, very near to ending their daysby assassination.
This Bill provides for several forms of taxation. First, it repeals the bachelor tax, which we so strenuously opposed, and then it increases the total amount of taxation imposed last year by 30 per cent. That represents a substantial increase on last year’s tax, which in itself was an increase of 25 per cent. on the tax of the previous year. I understand that the gap between the estimated expenditure and the estimated revenue, part of which this tax is to furnish, is about £6,000,000. This tax will provide a few of the planks to bridge that chasm. The gap is a pretty wide one, but, with the war over, our troops returning, and. a huge expenditure on repatriation before us, the Government must be careful how they impose taxation. In the very early stages of the war quite a number of people were clamorous that its cost should be met out of revenue. I well remember how the Treasurer of our Labour Government made haste slowly, and the care with which we handled the finances of the country at that time. The caution, wisdom, and forbearance of the then Labour Government had much to do with the smooth running of industry and business during the whole period of the war. Now that we are in the concluding stages of the war, I urge the same caution, prudence, and forbearance in dealing with the income-earning concerns of the Commonwealth, because, after all, there is a limit where safety disappears. Adopting the well-known axiom of the New South Wales railways, “ Safety first,” I would impress on the Government that safety first is the main consideration in. dealing with the huge businesses of this country. When, as a result of a general election, a Labour Government was returned to power, the big commercial and business interests imagined that ruin had met them more than half way, but they found forbearance and considerationextended to them in the earlier stages of the war by the Labour Government of the day.
I urge the present Government to be most careful in what they are doing. It appears to me that following upon the war we may safely anticipate a very extended period of prosperity for the people of Australia. With such a prospect in front of us, it is not nearly as necessary now that we should be in a position to balance the national ledger to-morrow or the day after.
– The people soon got very tired of the Labour Government to which the honorable senator refers.
-When that Government had such followers as Senator de Largie, I am not at all surprised that they did. However, I am not actuated by any party motive in suggesting as an example to the present Government the consideration shown to those engaged in commercial and business undertakings by the Labour Government in the earlier stages of the war.
– It was not shown in the official manifesto of the Labour party issued prior to the last general election.
– The honorable senator might find something to complain of in a political manifesto, but I am giving the facts.
– That manifesto is a fact.
– It is a fact that the Government areintroducing an income tax of huge proportions.
– That manifesto included some more drastic taxation proposals.
– The business people have not to pay taxation because of a manifesto, but under an Act of Parliament.
– The party to which the honorable senator belonged pledged themselves to make the business people pay.
-I am prepared to set bur manifesto against the proposal of the present Government to increase the income tax by 30 per cent., and leave it to the business men of the community to say which would affect them most.I am not making these references for party purposes, but I am quite honestly asking Ministers in the closing stages of the war to exercise consideration for the people who have the business, financial, and commercial undertakings of this country in hand, as the Labour Government did in the earlier stages of the war. I put that proposition forward, not with a view to booming the Labour Government to which I belonged. It would be painting the lily to try to add to the lustre of that Government. Their record is established, and their place in history is assured. It is of no use now to discuss how they will stand in the eyes of the community ten or one hundred years hence.
While the war continued Federal Governments had to look forward year after year to increased expenditure from which there would be no financial return. Now that the war is at an end, the present Government are, I suppose, looking forward to the whole of the cost of the war being returned to the Commonwealth as soon as peace conditions have been arranged. I suppose that at any rate Australia will expect an indemnity of from £300,000,000 to £500,000,000. The Win-the-war Government will be certain to see that we get that. They will not allow us to be dropped now that all that could have been done has been done, and say, “ The honour and glory and satisfaction of having won the war is enough for us. We are not mercenaries, and we do not want any payment.” There has been huge expenditure by this country, and those responsible for it should be made to pay. Are the Government looking forward to that, or have they framed their taxation proposals on the assumption that there is no hope of any return from the quarter I have indicated? I think it would be as well for them to consider all the prospects before dipping too deeply into the taxpayers’ pockets. Are we to understand that the Government expect no return such as I have suggested, that we must continue to bear the burden of taxation, which is growing heavier every day, and that they intend only to impose further taxation upon the already heavily-taxed business men and big commercial interests of the community ?
These are matters which should be considered in connexion with a Bill of this kind. Perhaps the Government have considered these matters, and still believe that this measure is necessary. Having addressed a few sentences to Ministers to remind them that they should carefully consider whether money might not be saved in the administration of the different Departments, and that we might secure an indemnity of £300,000,000 or £500,000,000- and with two Ministers in London the Government ought to be able to get that much for us at least - I conclude my remarks on this Bill.
Sitting suspended from 6.28 to 8.0 p.m.
– I was glad to hear Senator Gardiner say that, in his opinion, we had reached the limit of income taxation; a limit beyond which the community cannot fairly be asked to go, and beyond which, perhaps,the incentive to exertion will be affected with consequent curtailment of income. I have every sympathy with any Government that has the responsibility of office just now. All the world over the question of finance is looming larger and larger, and the problem set for every Government is how best to raise the remainder of the money required for war expenditure, and how best to adjust the burden on the shoulders of those best able to bear it without dislocation of production and without taking away the incentive to exertion on the part of those people whose incomes will have to bear the liability for war expenditure. We know that, as far as we can judge, a sum little short of£350,000,000 will be required by Australia before the whole of our war commitments are cleared up, and before things resume that normal course which we hope will not be long delayed now. This amount will govern the permanency of our war taxation in the future, because public finance is the reverse of private finance. In private finance, expenditure is governed by income received; but Government income has to balance expenditure, not expenditure balance income. We shall have to adjust our finances in accordance with the money we have at the close of the war, and all future world Budgets, including that of Australia, must contain huge items directly caused by expenditure on the present war. In my opinion, pre-war finance has gone, never to return in our time, and perhaps not in our children’s time. Great Britain has probably paid out of taxation nearly 5s. in the £1 on her total war expenditure. This burden has been very largely borne by income taxpayers.In the Mother Country direct taxation averages £10 per head of population, including about £5 per head obtained from the war-time profits tax.
An interesting point has been raised regarding the Australian contribution to the British war-time profits tax. There is no doubt whatever in my mind that, by reason of the excess freights charged by British ship-owners on all goods that reach us in British ships from the Motherland, Australia is paying indirectly many millions towards the British war-.time profits tax. It seems to me clear that if freights from England in British ships are £10 per ton, and if those freights are being charged to the Australian merchant, and ultimately to the Australian consumer, and if the actual war cost is £4 per ton, nearly £6 per ton is profit, and about 80 per cent. of this, under the British war-time profits tax, is going directly into the British Exchequer. For the sake of this argument, we may assume that if 1,000,000 tons of freight comes to Australia in one year, charged at an average rate of £10 per ton, at least £4,000,000 or £5,000,000 is paid by the Australian consumer into the Exchequer of the British Government.
– Order! I do not think the honorable senator’s remarks apply to the present Bill. And if I remember aright, the honorable senator used much of his present argument, almost word for word, in the debate on the first reading of the Bill, when, of course, he was perfectly in order.
– I think, Mr.
President, your memory is entirely at fault. I did not use this argument in the speech I made on the first reading of the measure last Thursday, and I resent any insinuations of that sort, especially from the President of a Chamber such as this.
– Order ! I am only concerned in ascertaining if the honorable gentleman’s argument has relation to the Bill before the Chair.
– I want to point out - and respectfully submit that I am in order - how Australia is going to raise the money to pay interest on her war debt. The hulk of this expenditure has to come from the income taxpayers, who, in addition, are paying indirectly some millions to the British Exchequer. Australia will this year pay in direct taxation a total of £15,000,000, representing about £3 per head of population, and as the States’ direct taxation is approximately a little more than £1 per head, Australian taxpayers are already paying over £4 per head, as against a net sum paid by the British taxpayer of £5 per head. For that reason, I hold, with Senator Gardiner, that we have almost, if not quite, reached the limit of direct taxation, and that if any further revenue is requiredother avenues of taxation will have to Se opened’ up.
The Budget-papers have not yet reached the Senate, but, according to the statement of expenditure and revenue for the year ending 30th June, 1919, the total of income ta* expected is £7,400,000. In addition to that, succession duties will realize about £750,000, war-time profits tax £1,800,000, land tax £2,000,000, and entertainments tax £205,000. The increase imposed in this Bill is estimated by the -Treasurer (Mr. Watt) who, I take it, gets his information from the Commissioner of Taxation, to be about £2,200,000, and that, added to the other increases of direct taxation - the land tax, £3S0,000, and entertainments tax, £205,000 - totals approximately the £15,000,000 I have mentioned as the sum to he extracted from the pockets of Australian taxpayers. When we talk of averages of taxation we do so in a rough and ready way, because, when we say that £15,000,000 is the total of direct taxation to be imposed on the 5,000,000 people of Australia, and that it represents £3 per head, we should remember that a small proportion of the whole people pay by far the greatest bulk of this tax. For instance, as I pointed out last Thursday, there are 125,000 persons in Australia in receipt of incomes of £300 or more, and I think it is perfectly reasonable to assume that 90 per cent, at least of the total direct taxation of the Commonwealth is paid by this class. Consequently, when we say that £15,000,000, or £3 per head, is raised by the people in Australia, we ought to say that, as 125,000 people pay the bulk of it, the average is nearer £150 per head.
I believe that the bulk of our war expenditure must be raised from our income taxpayers, not by a levy on capital in the crude way, as has been proposed from time to time; but by levying heavy taxation on incomes, concurrent with land tax, succession duties, and other imposts. By way of illustration, I may say that an estate of £100,000, if it passes to a direct descendant, pays in New South Wales, Commonwealth, and State probate duties to the amount of £21,000, and that an estate of £200,000 pays £47,000. If the estate passes to any person other than the widow, or testator’s children or grandchildren, the Commonwealth duty is half as much again. In certain circumstances as much as 25 per cent, is taken from an estate of £70,000, graduating up to a maximum of 30 per cent, on estates of a higher value. I repeat that I agree with Senator Gardiner that we have reached the reasonable limit in income taxation, and that we have approached very close to the line of taxation in Great Britain, and that if further revenue is required, as has been forecast by persons in responsible positions, fresh avenues will have to be sought.
The Bill provides for the aboil tion of what is popularly called the bachelor tax, and it provides the machinery for the collection of an additional tax upon the present rates. I would, however, like to say a word or two with regard to the Taxation Department, which, as the Budgetpapers will show, has imposed upon it the duty of collecting about £15,000,000 from the people of Australia. It ia becoming increasingly important. We must look to this source to raise the money which will be required in connexion with our huge war indebtedness. The Taxation Department is the Department upon which every Treasurer during our time will rely for obtaining a large amount of the revenue that we shall require. In connexion with this Department taxpayers are constantly being brought face to face - to their bitter cost - with the complexity of our system of direct taxation. The Department itself is fully seized of the ever increasing difficulties which are being created by the Acts on our statute-book, and of the almost impossible task of efficiently administering those Acts. I regard the Commissioner of Taxation as a very capable officer, and a very estimable man. His deputies throughout the Commonwealth, so far as my experience of them goes, are also capable men who are thoroughly trained to do their duty. I have nothing to say against the competency of these officers, ur against their devotion to duty. I know that they are competent; I recognise that they are faithful,- and I know that they are hard worked. Night after night, week in and week out, and year in and year out, they are working in an endeavour to keep pace with the increasing complexities and responsibilities of their position. We are imposing upon them an almost superhuman job. What is Mr. Ewing charged with now ? Not only has he to administer the most complex Income Tax Act and formulas to be found in any part of the world, but he has also to administer the Succession Duties Act, the War-time Profits Tax Act, and the Land Tax Act. We are also putting upon his shoulders the administration of the Amusements Tax, and there is at present a Bill before another place which will impose upon him the additional obligation of determining what a man shall invest in any future war loan. I consider that the principle which we are adopting is an entirely wrong one. Any one of these tasks would be a full man’s work. The system, I repeat, is altogether wrong, and I do urge upon the Government the necessity of realizing what they are expecting the Income Tax Department and its officials to do. I trust that they will speedily set about buttressing the capable administration of that Department with a view to bringing about greater efficiency and less complexity than we have now. One may take up the ready reckoner issued by the Department, and there find the computations which have to be made by officials. But I defy any honorable senator to work out to his own satisfaction half-a-dozen assessments which can be put to him.
– The results will all be different.
I have from my place in this chamber again and again urged upon the attention of the Government the desirableness of securing uniformity in regard to our Commonwealth and State Taxation Departments. But since the last Income Tax Act was before us, we have made very little progress in. that direction. There has been a Conference between the State Premiers and the Treasurer of the Commonwealth, with the result, I understand,- that it has been left to the Premier of New South Wales and the Treasurer of Queensland to frame some workable suggestions for the consideration of the Commonwealth. New South Wales has gone a little way in the direction of securing uniformity since the matter was last discussed here. In the Parliament of that State a Bill has been submitted, the object of which is to make the taxable year for the State and for the Commonwealth synchronize. Hitherto the year for which State taxpayers were required to send in their schedules ended on 31st December, but under the measure I have -indicated, it will be made to close on the 30th June. This is certainly a small step towards uniformity, but it does seem to me that something should also be done in the interests of the taxpayers. As soon as som( of the obsessing war problems are out of the way, this is a direction to which the Government may turn their attention with great benefit to the community.
Owing to the immense load of work which is at present imposed upon the income tax officials, it is impossible to administer the various Acts which come within their purview in the way in which they would like to see them administered. In my opinion, some .millions sterling m ay yet be derived from direct taxation, even at the present rates. Instead of the Government devoting so rauch time to minor matters, I do ask them to consider how a greatly strengthened Income Tax Department may be made more efficient, and may thus add substantially to the revenues of the Commonwealth. I again urge upon Ministers the desirableness of at once instituting inquiries as to what is going on in this particular Department. From my own personal knowledge, officials who are called upon to give decisions in matters affecting the taxpayers are obliged to work night after night. There is practically nothing less than slave-driving in connexion with the attempted administration of the complex Acts which are already on our statute-book. Take the leading taxation officials in Sydney, Melbourne, and Adelaide as an example. The whole of their time is occupied, month after month, in personal interviews with taxpayers, “ One man will come along who is concerned with the War-time Profits Tax Act; another will have some complicated leasehold question which he desires to have elucidated; whilst a third will be troubled about assessments in respect to gas mains. Day after day this sort of thing goes on, and it does not seem humanly possible to efficiently administer this Department. With a view to procuring uniformity between the Commonwealth and the States, may I suggest that if two or three of the very capable State Income Tax Commissioners could be co-operated into the Federal Income Tax Department, that Department would be greatly strengthened, while the revenue of the Commonwealth would be considerably enhanced.
Personally, I stand for the principle of graduation in taxation the whole time. I do not approve of curves of the second and third degrees. I think we might have a system of graduated taxation by Simple steps.
– That would not be as artistic as are the curves.
– Certainly not. But these curves have been imposed upon the taxpayers by impractical men. I am very glad that the Treasurer has given a sort of half promise that these curves may some day be revised. I can quite understand that the problems of govern ment with which Ministers are now faced are overwhelming, but I do urge that if some attention were devoted to this Department, upon which we shall have to depend for the collection of the money with which to pay our war debt, it would be very greatly to the benefit of the Commonwealth and of the Treasury itself.
– Before calling upon Senator Grant .to begin his speech, I desire to make’ a personal explanation. I find that in calling Senator Pratten to order for irrelevance and repeating almost word for word what I thought was an argument which he had used on the motion for the first reading of this Bill, I was in error. I do not mean in error in regard to irrelevance; that part of the ruling was correct, but in regard to repetition. My only excuse is that his argument very closely resembled an argument which I distinctly remembered being used on the occasion in question. I have, however, refreshed my memory on the matter by looking at the Hansard report of the debate, and I find that it was Senator Fairbairn who used an argument almost exactly on all-fours with that put forward by Senator Pratten. I owe Senator Pratten an apology for having attributed to him a statement for which h? was not responsible, and, therefore, I apologize to him.
– I am so glad that we do not misunderstand each other, because I have always recognised your fairness in the chair. But when I was called to order, I was merely using an argument which had been employed by Senator Fairbairn, and which I was endeavouring to reduce to figures.
– This Bill might be improved in some very important particulars. When a previous Government was in office, and when itf members were looking around for means to obtain more revenue, the principal Income Tax Act was passed. That measure included the notorious subsection e of section 14, which reads -
The income of any person shall include - five per centum of the capital value of land, and improvements thereon, owned and used or used rent free by the taxpayer for ‘ the purpose of residence or enjoyment and not for the purpose of profit or gain.
I very much regret that the present Government have not seen fit to submit a proposal to eliminate that provision from the Act. It is my intention at the proper time to submit an amendment in that direction. I regard that particular provision as a direct tax upon industry. It is a direct discouragement to the investment of capital. It’ tends to drive capital away from the country, and to prevent the employment of labour; and, while it may be regarded by some as a proper section in an Income Tax Act, it is, to my mind, entirely wrong. Suppose that two persons each owned a block of land at Mornington, worth £300. Upon those blocks they are not called upon to pay any taxation under the Income Tax Act. But one of those two, more enterprising than the other, decides to employ labour and improve the locality, and build a home for himself. If his income is a taxable income, the Commissioner, under the Act originally introduced by the Labour Government, and subsequently tacitly indorsed by this Government, immediately compel ‘him to pay income tax, not only on the value of the house, but upon the value of the land on which it stands. At the same time, the Act carefully provides that the land-jobber next door shall get off without paying any taxation. We should all be anxious to encourage the investment of capital, and to do all possible to secure work for our returned soldiers. The staff under the Minister for Bepatriation (Senator Millen) is growing larger almost every day, in order to find employment for returned men. But if any individual employs a returned -soldier in the erection of a home, and his income is taxable, he is immediately fined, not just for one year, but for every year subsequently, in proportion to the value of the house erected and the amount of labour employed. If the Government did the right thing, they would agree to wipe out this section of the Act, or to support a clause which I intend to move. The mere fact that the Act was introduced by a Labour Government may be regarded by some honorable senators as demanding their support. But the matter should be viewed in its true light. To-day the cost of building is so high that very few men are prepared to undertake it unless ‘absolutely obliged. Yet, although that work gives employment to skilled men - among them soldiers returned from abroad - under this Act every man who dares to invest his money in building is immediately called upon to pay added taxation. It is unfair that the man who does nothing with his land should escape, while he who improves his property should be fined in proportion to the extent of those improvements.
There is nothing good at all about income taxation. It is all wrong. It is founded upon an incorrect basis. What right has any body of men, under the guise of a Government, to appoint income-tax gatherers to compel the public to hand over to the State portion of their incomes? If a man has earned his income honestly, it is his own, and any effort to extract any of it is radically wrong.
– The honorable senator will have a full opportunity, in the Bill immediately to follow this, to discuss that matter.
– And I promise you, sir, that I shall not lose that opportunity to fully discuss it. The mere fact that Great Britain has imposed an income tax is no reason why we should do the same. Who would think of following Great Britain in respect to all her taxation? There has never been a Labour Government in Britain, and all the taxation has been imposed so that it falls most heavily upon the poorer classes of the community. The income taxation in Great Britain is fairly heavy, because it can all be passed on. But why should we follow in Britain’s footsteps?
It is quite impossible for any honorable senator to calculate the amount of his own income under the formula? supplied. The latter are so complicated that the officials themselves are unable to work them out, and they have had to bring expensive machines from Switzerland, or some other part of the world’, to do it for them. I intend to move to eliminate the formulae at the end of the Bill, and I will ask the Senate to agree to something which can be understood by a person possessing an ordinary education.
Under the Land and Income Tax Act of Tasmania, the rate charged on incomes under £150 per annum is 3d. in the £1. It is quite easy for any one to understand that. But here is the first schedule in the Bill before the Senate -
Rate of Tax upon Income Derived from Personal Exertion.
For so much of the whole taxable income as does not exceed £7,600 the average rate of tax per pound sterling shall be threepence and three eight-hundredths of one penny where the taxable income is One pound sterling, and shall increase uniformly with each increase of One pound sterling of the taxable income by three eight-hundredths of one penny.
The average rate of tax per pound sterling for so much of the taxable income as does not exceed £7,600 may be calculated from the following formula : -
For every pound sterling of taxable income in excess of £7,600 the rate of tax shall be sixty pence.
In Tasmania the scale runs as follows : -
I shall not read the whole of the rates, which run up to1s. 3d. in the £1 on £2,000 and over. But that is a form of scale which should be adopted by the Commonwealth Parliament. There is no humbug about that. A man with an ordinary education can understand it. But we are to be worried and annoyed with a scale under which there are not six members of the Federal Parliament capable of making out their own income returns. Why should we tolerate this ?
– What nonsense!
– The Tasmanian Bill is easily understood. The honorable senator if asked to calculate £150 at 3d. in the £1 could do it quickly, but he could not work out the other calculation.
– If they had the beautiful simplicity of a tax of1s. in the £1 there would be no curves and no trouble !
– I am delighted to hear Senator Millen getting back to the faith he originally possessed. I only hope that later on he will bring down something tangible in the shape of a1s. in the £1 land tax. I urge the Government to disregard the complicated mathematical eccentricities foisted upon us by the Government Statistician and his numerous arithmetical friends. They are quite unintelligible to me. I have had no education to fit me to solve the problems by these formulae. I want something straight out, at so much per £1, that I can understand. I am sure business people would welcome a simple rate of that description. They would then be in a position to check the calculations of the Income Tax Commissioner. At present they are not.
– Oh, yes.
– The honorable senator may be, but I very much doubt it.I do not believe he could calculate the tax, even under the first schedule. The second is much more complicated, the third is still worse, and the fourth no man can understand, but simply pays. We should intimate to the Income Tax Commissioner that he has gone quite far enough in this direction, and that we want something plain, straightforward, and understandable. The present system is one of the reasons why our income tax is somewhat expensive to collect. It would not be nearly so expensive if the Department had not to employ calculating machines in order to ascertain a person’s taxable income. I do not say the machine is not right, but it is not nearly so quick or satisfactory as if the taxpayer himself could checkthe amount he was called upon to pay. It may be true that the cost of the Department has been increased by the numerous Acts it has to administer, but it is still more considerably increased by the necessity to calculate the taxes to be collected under the razzle-dazzles, and slippery slides, and other things at a penny a time. We cannot expect such problems to be solved, and the taxes collected, without extra cost. The New South Wales municipalities collect a considerable number of millions every year under the Local Government Act, and have no trouble about calculations of this description. It is the same with, local taxation all over Australia. This graduated tax is a purely German concoction. It is no good, and never was and never will be any good. It is simply a source of annoyance ‘to every one concerned, although it may be a source of amusement to the income tax authorities to know that they can impose on a person any tax they like, and he will pay it like a lamb. In New South Wales the local taxation is imposed on land values only. THe value of the land in the municipality is ‘ascertained. Then the council decide on the amount of revenue required, and strike a rate of so much in the £1 to meet their requirements. Every taxpayer who knows the value of his landed estate is immediately in a position to tell “definitely now much his tax ought to be, and can correct any mistake on the part of the council clerk. Under our income tax it is quite impossible for the ordinary taxpayer to do so. I give the Government notice now that I intend in Committee to move for the elimination of the present complicated system, and to replace it by a scale which will bring in approximately the same amount of revenue. I do not wish to interfere with the amount of revenue the Government intend to obtain from this source, although I would like to knock the tax out altogether. We should insert a scale imposing the tax in some current coin of the realm, in whatever graduations the Government like, in order to bring in the’ same amount of revenue.
Clause 7 deals with the taxation of prizes in lotteries. Originally the Act provided that when a person received a cash prize - no allowance was made for the expense incurred or for outgoings or losses - it was to be regarded as part of his income. Many people did not so regard it, and did not include it as income. The income tax authorities, having nothing else to do in their spare moments, have been hunting these people up all over Australia and elsewhere, and are gradually unearthing them, and asking them to pay tax on the prizes they have received right back to the time when the first Federal income tax was imposed, in, I think, 1915. Lately the Department have adopted a new method. They regard Tattersall’s as the agent for the col lection of the tax, and now ask Parliament to increase the Commonwealth’s share from 10 per cent, to 13 per cent, of the gross prize money. I understand that the Tasmanian Government also take 10 per cent, of the gross amount of the prizes, so I do not know ‘how much will now be left for the lucky winners. Under our legislation prize moneys from this source are hot now to be regarded as part of the taxpayer’s income, but the tax is to be collected direct from the promoters. Certainly that will be an advantage from the point of view of the Income Tax Commissioner.
The amount of £2,200,000 proposed to be collected by the increase in the Commonwealth income tax imposed by this Bill would be far more equitably collected from other sources. I shall vote against the tax at all its stages, but I have not much hope of success, because I know the other side are determined to have taxation in this direction. I trust that the amendments I have foreshadowed will be accepted by the Government.
Senator MILLEN (New South WalesMinister for Repatriation) (8.56]. - :I listened with a great deal of astonishment, not unmixed with amusement, to Senator Gardiner’s speech. It was quite a revelation to find him in the guise of an apostle of economy. I do not wonder that Senator Pratten took the opportunity to welcome a new convert to at least a portion of the faith that he holds, but I am not certain that the honorable senator will be able to carry this new alliance very far. It is true that Senator Gardiner expressed doubt whether we could carry income taxation any further, and Senator Pratten agreed with him there ; but when Senator Pratten went on to say that it may be necessary to find other avenues of taxation, I began to conjure up grave doubts whether Senator Gardiner and he would agree on where those avenues should be. Senator Gardiner was even more astonishing when he announced his adherence to land and income taxes only. If he had had his way, he said, he would have adopted no other taxes during the war. At the last election he was out as an advocate of his party’s official manifesto, which distinctly put in the forefront of its programme the imposition of war profits taxation. I understand that Senator Gardiner, breaking from his party, now abandons that not unimportant plank..
– It is in effect an income tax.
– It is a wonder, then, that the Labour ‘party in that manifesto made such a distinction. Indeed, they became quite eloquent and indignant over the insufficiency of the Government war-profits taxation proposals.
Another thing that surprised me in Senator Gardiner’s speech was his hope that Australia would be made the richer by the enforcement of a big indemnity against Germany. I say nothing about the hope, but I direct attention to the fact that the honorable senator has again slipped very badly from the official attitude of his party, who, I understand, believe in no indemnities and no annexations.
– They said, “ no penal indemnities.”
– Any sum of money I have to pay is a penal sum.
– It is not so with me. I would pay a land tax willingly.
– Any other man without land would pay a land tax willingly.
– But I have land.
– Then the amount of tax would be so small that the honorable senator would nol feel its loss.
I welcome the point raised by Senator Pratten when he drew attention to the sharp difference in principle between ,private and public finance. He pointed out that whilst with private finance you have to limit your expenditure by the amount of your income, in dealing with public finance you have to raise the income necessary to meet your expenditure. It is time that idea was scattered broadcast through the country. One of the most fallacious but most frequently used statements, made by public men and in the press, is that we must cut our coat according to our cloth. Nothing could be more fallacious in dealing with public expenditure. What we have to do is not to cut our coat according to our cloth, but to weave our cloth according to the size of the coat which public necessities demand we should make. The fal lacy to which I refer is responsible for more loose thinking in dealing with public finance than is any other of which I am aware. I am very glad, therefore, that Senator Pratten exposed it in the terse way in which he did.
Having agreed with the honorable senator on that point, I should like now to ask him .to review another statement which he made, and in the making of which he was preceded by Senator Fairbairn. These honorable senators claim that we have a right to share in- the profits made by British ship-owners which are collected by the Imperial Government under their war profits taxation.
– I do not think I claimed the right; I merely pointed to the fact.
– I think I may assume that, if the honorable senator pointed to the fact, he did so with a view of at least suggesting that that is’ something from which we ought to benefit.
– I suggested that we are paying additional taxation in England in that way.
– I should like to share the view which honorable senators have expressed on this point; but I am unable to do so. If we have any right at all in the profits made by British shipowners because of the higher rates charged for transporting our produce, we must have a corresponding right in the profits made because of the higher rates of freight charged for the transport of our produce by Japanese, American, and Scandinavian vessels, and those of other nations. All these vessels have charged higher rates of freight, but no one will suggest that we have any right to share in the profits made by an American shipowner who has sent his vessels to trade with Australia.
– I do not think we have any right to share in the profits of British ship-owners; but I pointed out that Great Britain is obtaining additional revenue through those profits.
– Senator Fairbairn went further than did Senator Pratten.
– I did. not hear Senator Fairbairn on the point.
– I ruled Senator Pratten out of order for following that line of argument as irrelevant to the second reading of the Bill.
– I accept the hint; but, while I warmly appreciated your decision in ruling Senator Pratten out of order, I view the matter in a different light when it is suggested that I am the offender. However, I shall say no more on that point. It is an interesting point, and on some occasion when it will be more orderly to do so, I should like to pursue it with the honorable senators who raised it.
I do not think that there was anything else in the debate to which I need now refer. The matter which Senator Grant specially stressed can be dealt with when the honorable senator moves his suggested amendment in Committee.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 and 2 agreed to.
Clause 3 -
Income tax is imposed at the rates and amounts declared in this Act.
– I think that this is the clause upon which I can most properly request the repeal of paragraph e of section 14 of the existing Act, which reads -
The income of any person shall include -
Five per centum of the capital value of land and improvements thereon owned and used rent free by the taxpayer for the purpose of residence or enjoyment, and not for the purpose of profit or gain.
– Paragraph e of section 14 of the principal Act is not before the Committee. Clause 3 of the Bill, which is now before the Committee, makes no reference to section 14 of the principal Act.
– The clause deals with the tax to be imposed upon incomes. It occurred to me that it involves the definition of income, and I desire the repeal of the definition of income included in paragraph e of section 14 of the principal Act. Perhaps you, sir, will tell me where the request I wish to move can be appropriately submitted.
– That is not for the Chairman to say.
– I move-
That the House of Representatives be requested to repeal paragraph (e) of section 14 of the Income Tax Assessment Act 1915.
– Order ! That is not before the Committee.
– I wish to bring it before the Committee at this stage.
– The honorable senator will not be in order in doing so.
Clause agreed to.
Notwithstanding anything contained in the last three sub-sections, the tax payable by any person who -
.- I ask the Minister in charge of the Bill whether he will consider the question of exempting from the flat rate of £1 men who have served at the different Fronts during the war? This would be but a small recompense to men who have done so much for Australia and the Empire in their time of need. Every exemption from taxation granted to a returned soldier will assist him to get upon his feet again. Many of these men suffered monetary losses through going to the Front, and, in the circumstances, I hope that the Minister for Repatriation (‘Senator Millen) will not think that I am unreasonable in submitting this request.
– It is not from any want of sympathy with the returned soldier that I say what I am about to say now. I cannot help thinking that it is a mistaken notion to conceive that we are serving the true interests of the returned soldier by remitting these small civic obligations. I think it is our duty to put the returned soldier back into the position of a selfsupporting member of the community, and to ask him to carry his fair civic obligations. The £1 would not be much, as Senator Foll has said ; but if I were a returned soldier, I think I should feel that it would be placing somewhat of an indignity upon me for the Government to remit £1 a year from my taxation upon my becoming again a civilian. The object of repatriation and the national responsibility in that regard is to put the returned soldier on his feet as a selfsupporting citizen in a position to discharge his civic obligations. I may inform the Committee that the Government are considering, though not in this piecemeal fashion, what attitude should be adopted towards returned soliders in many similar directions, and in the circumstances I ask Senator Foll not to proceed with his suggested request.
.- I have a little sympathy with the suggestion made, but I think it might apply to others as well as returned soldiers. On the introduction of the income tax we agreed that a certain amount of income, equivalent to a bare living, should be exempt from taxation. But since that exemption was decided upon the cost of living in the Commonwealth has increased by 60 per cent., and obviously the exemption, which was fair then, is not equally fair now. I think that in present circumstances the exemption of £100 in the case of persons without dependants and the exemption of £156 in other cases should be increased. It is obvious that the purchasing power of £156 to-day is nothing like what it was at the beginning of 1915. I suppose that £200 to-day would not be equal to the purchasing power of £156 at that time. I have some sympathy with any movement to increase the amount of income exempt from this tax.
– I also think that the exemptions under our income tax legislation are too low. In England the exemption is £130. I do not know of any Income Tax Act in any part of the world in which so low an exemption is provided for as in the Commonwealth Income Tax Act.
– The British Act makes no difference between single and married men.
– That is so. The Inland Revenue Department of Great Britain, apparently, does not feel that it is worth while, in view of the cost, to collect income tax on incomes lower than £130 a year. Seeing that under recent awards of the New South Wales Board of Trade 10s. per day is to be the minimum living wage, the Commonwealth Government might, for that reason amongst many others, be well advised to raise the exemption under the income tax law. Another reason which might be submitted is that the Federal Income Tax Department costs anything from £125,000 to £150,000 a year, and, speaking from memory, each assessment costs an average of 10s. Is it worth while to attempt to collect this small amount of taxation in view of the necessity of simplifying, as far as possible, the operations of the Department? I feel sure that a very great deal of trouble is given the Federal Income Tax Department throughout Australia through attempting to collect these small amounts. Personally, I do not think it is worth while from a revenue point of view, and that it would be more in consonance with our views concerning the increased cost of living if Parliament were to lay down the principle that no man should be called upon to pay income taxation until he is in receipt of a reasonable amount on which to live. It is generally admitted now that the cost of living has gone up. Another point that does not come within theambit of the Bill, but which I would like to see carefully considered, is the amount of Commonwealth allowance for children. Our allowance is paltry as compared with allowances made elsewhere, and I think it is the duty of Parliament to be liberal in this respect.
– Order ! I ask the honorable senator not to discuss that matter.
– I am aware it is not within the ambit of the Bill. If it were, I would suggest to the Government that the amount of allowance be raised, for the reasons given. Personally, I should be prepared to raise the minimum exemption, because I think it is too low - probably the lowest in the world - and I do not think the collection of such small amounts is worth while. I am in sympathy with Senator Guy’s suggestion. We very lightly impose duties of this sort upon the Commissioner, who has the responsibility of giving effect to them, and
I think the Government would be well advised if they considered the incidence of the income tax, so far as it concerns the amount of exemption and the difficulty of collection, as well as the raising of allowances for children. The clause suggests that these small amounts are not worth collection, because it imposes a minimum amount of £1 in taxation on every single person with an income of over £100, it being reasonable to assume that it would not be worth while collecting less than £1 from any taxpayer.
. –lt Senator Guy feels inclined to move to raise the amount of income exemption from £100 to £156, I shall support him. I am against anything in the nature of a poll-tax, which this seems to be. The exemption fixed is altogether too low. I have always been of the opinion that an exemption of £156 is quite low enough. Of course, it might be argued that a single man has not the responsibilities of a married man, and that he ought to be able, in times like the present, to contribute £1 towards the national expenditure. But it is -very often forgotten that single men contribute in other ways to the revenue, and that a considerable portion of their earnings finds its way into the public exchequer. I am also reminded that the Government proposal will hit females earning over £100 a year. I think the principle is wrong. The amount fixed is too low; it should be £156.
.- In view of the assurance given by the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Millen) that the Government are considering certain matters in relation to returned soldiers, I shall not press for an amendment. With regard to the question raised by Senator Guy, concerning the limit fixed for single men, it has, in view of the present high cost of living, always been a wonder to me how many married men live on £156 a year. I feel sure they are less able to bear taxation than single men in receipt of £100 a year. If any honorable senator is prepared to move an amendment to increase the exemption to married men, he will get my support.
Clause Agreed to.
Clause 5 agreed to.
Clause 6 -
In addition to any tax (including additional tax, if any) payable under the preceding provisions of this Act other than sub-section (5) of section 4, there shall be payable a super-tax equal to 30 per centum of the total amount of the tax so payable.
– I take it that when the schedules are under consideration, if any amendment is made, there will be opportunity to deal with this clause.
– The schedules are not under consideration at the present time, and the honorable senator will be out of order in discussing them.
– I presume that if any alteration be made in the schedules affecting certain clauses of the Bill there will be opportunity to reconsider them.
– If subsequent alterations affect any particular clause of the Bill, it will be quite competent for the Committee to recommit such clauses for reconsideration.
– The clause under consideration does not affect the schedules in the slightest, as it imposes a super-tax of 30 per cent. I take it that this means that an additional tax of 30 per cent, will also be collected on the minimum of £1 paid by single unmarried persons without dependents, whose incomes are over £100. If so, their payments will be £1 6s. instead of £3 .- I should have liked to have the matter of exemptions further discussed, particularly the exemption of married men, had it been possible under this Bill, but it is not within the order of leave, and, consequently, cannot be dealt with by this Committee. I would, however, ask the Government to seriously consider this question with regard to future amendments, as it seems to me that the loss of revenue will be very small. In fact, I do not think 10 per cent, of taxation on these small incomes is ever collected, and that leakage is caused because of the large number of taxpayers whose income exceeds so very slightly the minimum amount to be taxed, that it is not worth while bothering about. I think we ought to face it up in a business-like way, and raise the exemption.
– The clause should he struck out altogether. It is proposed to impose a super-tax. If the Government want money, why do they not seek to get it decently, straightforwardly, and honestly, by imposing a flat rate per £1 of income, so that people would know where they stood? The Government propose to collect a certain amount under the different schedules, and in this clause they are seeking to collect a super-tax. What kind of complicated proposal is this? Why not be fairly honest with the taxpayers? Why victimize them in this manner? Why not tell them straightforwardly what is required from them? Surely it should be easy for the Government to so arrange the income tax rates that they would be able at a moment’s notice to say to the taxpayer, “ You have a taxable income of £2,000,” without the aid of curves of the first, second, third, and fourth degrees, and without the supertax on top of them. What do they all mean? The other day we had an address by Senator Pratten on the excessive cost of collecting revenue on the part of the Taxation Department. I do not wonder at it. In New South Wales, under the State Income Tax Department, a taxpayer knows exactly what he has to pay so long as he knows his income. But it is quite impossible for a man to say what is his income under the four schedules of this Bill and under the super-tax. It would be much more satisfactory and much more economical if the Government withdrew the entire Bill and substituted for it. a measure containing a schedule which the ordinary citizen could understand. I protest against this obsolete method of doing business. It is a German idea, and one that ought not to be tolerated for a single moment. It is wrong at every point. It is a source of annoyance to the taxpayers, it is costly to collect revenue under it, and it ought to be abandoned. There are some taxes which the people would pay with great pleasure.
– I wish the honorable senator would indicate what they are.
– I differ from Senator Pratten when he says that persons with small incomes are not called upon to pay taxation. I think that they are. I recently had a look over four or five floors of the building which is now occupied by the Income TaxCommissioner and the Entertainments Tax Commissioner in New South Wales.
-Order! The question before the Committee is the super-tax.
– I am quite aware of that. But reference has been made to the cost of collecting these taxes, and it has been stated that those who are in receipt of small incomes are not paying them. In my opinion very few persons with small incomes will escapethem. It wouldbe much more satisfactory if the Government would say straight out what rate of tax in the £1 they desired to levy. At the present time it is very necessary that the ordinary citizen should get his income tax schedules filled in by an expert. What does the average taxpayer do with them? He includes in them all the exemptions of which he can think, But there are a few more of which he cannot think, and the taxation expert includes them in the schedule for him. It pays the ordinary citizen, therefore, to consult a taxation expert.
– Order! The honorable senator is getting very wide of the clause.
– I am pointing out that the imposition of a super-tax renders it necessary for the taxpayer to employ the services of an expert in filling in his schedule. That ought not to be the position. The Government should bring down a measure which can be easily understood by the ordinary citizen. I move -
That the House of Representatives be requested to leave out the clause.
– The honorable senator, having confused himself with references to innumerable curves, to additional tax, and to supertax, has made an heroic effort to confuse the Committee. In reality, the matter is one of comparative simplicity. Thereason for the super-tax may be briefly stated. The schedule indicates the rate which a man willpay according to his taxable income. In conformity with that schedule a series of tables has been prepared which will enable anybody who is not a first class mathematician to determine what his tax amounts to. When the Government, on the presentation of a previous Budget, proposed to increase the tax upon incomes by 25 per cent., obviously it was better to declare that the tax should be increased by that amount than to alter the whole schedule. The same remark is applicable to the super- tax. It is a very simple matter to determine what is 30 per cent. upon a man’s income tax. Any person can ascertain what his income tax is by reference to the ready reckoner, with which the Income Tax Department is willing to supply him. The simple question before the Committee is whether honorable senators are in favor of this super-tax or not. If they approve of it they will vote for the clause.
– Does the Government regard the super-tax as a war tax ?
-Undoubtedly. I submit that if Senator Grant wishes to destroy the method of calculating the tax - the curves - his correct procedure is to vote in favour of negativing the schedule. The super-tax does not affect the schedule.
– The Minister for Repatriation (Senator Millen) stated, in reply to the question which I put to him just now, that the Government regard this supertax as a war tax. Perhaps I should have gone further and asked whether the Government regard the super-tax as a war tax which may some day be remitted. That is really what I meant to convey by my question. In another place reference has been made to some taxation being of a temporary character. Personally, I do not think we can regard this income tax as an impost which is likely to be abolished in the near future. But I should like to know whether under certain circumstances - say, for example, the payment of a partial indemnity by Germany or the receipt by Australia ofa portion of her war expenditure - this tax would be one of the first imposts to be remitted.
All sorts of things may happen during the next few months, andif it be possible for the Minister to give us some indication of the intentions of the Government in the circumstances I have indicated, it would, I think, be welcomed by the country.
Senator MILLEN (New South Wales-
Minister for Repatriation) [9.43]. - Senator Pratten will recognise that it is absolutely impossible for me to say what the Government financial proposals will be for next year. But as the Income Tax Bill is an annual measure, it is quite apparent that it cannot be continued without Parliament being first consulted. Whether, in the event of some unexpected source of wealth being discovered, the income tax would be one of the first imposts abolished I cannot say. But I assume that if the Government obtained revenue from sources at present not available, they would not say that this particular tax should be remitted, but would take it into consideration in connexion with the general question of the remission of taxes. The land tax, for example, would have to be dealt with on the same footing. But Senator Pratten may accept my assurance that this obligation has been imposed on account of the war. The Government would regard it as a very great achievement if they could see their way to remit some of the taxation which has already been imposed. In this connexion I have just had placed in my hands what appears to be a very apt quotation. Robert Lowe, the well-known English statesman, is credited with having said upon one occasion -
It is the business of the Chancellor of the Exchequer to distribute a certain amount of human misery, and the man who distributes it most equally is the best Chancellor.
That may be taken to animate most Governments and most Treasurers, and, according to the equality of their distribution of misery so is the gauge of their success.
– Shall I be in order, Mr. Chairman, in asking whether the Government can give any indication as to their attitude in respect to an indemnity from Germany?
– The extra burden of taxation being imposed on the people now is due to no fault of their own. Yet there is continued silence on the part of the Government so far as the question of indemnity is concerned.
– I ask the honorable senator not to discuss that phase of the question.
– It is incumbent upon the Government to take what steps they can to see that an indemnity is secured from Germany, if it be at all possible. The Commonwealth Parliament is the body best qualified to take steps in that direction ; and any movement should not require to be left to such bodies as the Melbourne City Council.
– Seeing that taxation such as this is being imposed as a war tax, I want to know whether, in the event of some unexpected windfall, the Government will now commit themselves to first remit these war taxes which have been imposed for the special purposes of the war. So far as the Income Tax is concerned, the Fisher Government first brought in a Federal Tax. Then a super-tax of 25 per cent. was added upon those rates. Now we are putting a further super-tax of 30 per cent. upon both of those, for war purposes. I agree with Senator Gardiner in his objection that income taxation has almost reached the limit to which it can go in Australia, and that if it is advanced further it will remove that incentive to exertion in the production of wealth which is so important for our future development and continued solvency.
– I support Senator Grant in his proposal to request the omission of clause 6. The possibilities of an indemnity from Germany are great - or we should assume that they are. Our nearness to the edge of the margin on which business can be successfully carried out under the burden of taxation compels this Committee to carefully consider the considerable increases proposed under the Bill. I realize that money is wanted ; and, so far, my attitude has been that when the Government say more is required, that has been enough for me. But evidently the Government think that to make a demand is the best way to se curetheir ends. I join with Senator Grant, therefore, in requesting another place to omit this clause-.
– That is, you are against the increased tax?
– Yes, in the absence of careful administration. We must hope in vain, it seems, for that careful administration of finances the necessity for which should be particularly apparent now. I trust that the Government will find that it is not going to be so easy to persuade the Senate to acquiesce in the piling up of taxation unless, at any rate, there is a corresponding exhibition of careful administration.
.- It is complicating matters to set out in one clause that there shall be 25 per cent. additional taxation, and then, in another clause, to refer to a 30 per cent. addition. Many people will think that the 25 per cent. and 30 per cent. additions will be equal to 55 per cent. ; but it appears to me that it will be 25 per cent. on the rates, and then 30 per cent. on the rates plus the 25 per cent.
– Sixty-two and a half per cent. on the original tax.
– Would it not be more straightforward to indicate that it will involve a 62½ per cent. increase, instead of having two different rates indicated in the Bill?
– I am sorry that I cannot vote for the proposed omission of the clause. So far as one can see by a study of the Budget papers and the commitments of the Commonwealth, for the twelve months ahead the revenue may be even less than is anticipated. We are £4,000,000 or £5,000,000 short of the revenue we should collect in the next twelve months, if we are to honestly square our financial position. Therefore, I cannot support this proposal, which would have the effect of taking away additional revenue approximately amounting to £2,000,000 sterling - money that is very badly wanted. I saw an estimate only to-day. that before the whole matter is done with our Pensions bill may be between £6,000,000 and £7,000,000 next year. I urge Senator Grant not to press for this specific form of economy. I take second place to none in advocating economy and efficiency in administration; and I think that the manner in which this measure and previous Income Tax Acts have been framed, is wrong, and that it makes in the direction of extravagance rather than economy. In the case under discussion what is the calculation to be? First, there is the income tax imposed by the
Fisher Government; then there is a sum which has to be worked out at 25 per cent. upon that; and next there is a third sum, to be worked out at 30 per cent. upon that. It all makes for complication and complexity, and those things at all times lead to inefficiency.
Question - That the requestbe agreed to - put. The Committee divided.
Majority . . . . 16
Question so resolvedin the negative.
Clause agreed to.
There shall he payable in respect of a cash prize in a lottery won after the thirtieth day of June, One thousand nine hundred and seventeen, and before the commencement of this Act, income tax to the amount of 10 per centum of the gross prize money, and, in respect of a cash prize in a lottery won after the commencement of this Act. income tax to the amount of 13 per centum of the gross prize money.
.- I move-
That the House of Representatives be requested to leave out the clause.
My objection is one of principle. I was told earlier that the Government of which
I was a member was the first to introduce this form of taxation. On inquiry, I find that is not the case.
– I did not say your Government introduced that form of taxation. I said they introduced the amuse- mentstax.
– The tax on prizes won in lotteries applied only to people with taxable incomes. This Government is applying it to people, whether they possess taxable incomes or not They have made the tax a source of annoyance and inconvenience to thousands of people, for which the amount collected under it does not compensate. I also object on principle to going to polluted sources for revenue. If we say Tattersall’s consultations are outside legitimate business, and will not permit letters for Tattersall’s to be carried through our post-offices, we should pursue the principle to its logical conclusion and do without the small amount of money collected from this source.
– That is a strong reason for making the tax 100 per cent.
– No ; because we become participators in the business. The business of lotteries is so objectionable to the people of Australia, and so controlled, that, when Senator Thomas was Postmaster-General, he was one of the most zealous in carrying out that objectionable feature of the Post and Telegraph Act which forbids the delivery of letters to the promoters of lotteries. Ho was, of course, compelled to carry it out, because Ministers are sworn to carry out Acts of Parliament.
– Is it in the Act, or done by regulation?
– There is no practical difference.
– It is in the Act. It applies to bookmakers also; but we have never had a Postmaster-General who would put it into force against them.
– When Parliament becomes a participator in gambling concerns, it gives the promoters a vested interest in them, and encourages the people to gamble. That is the beginning of worse things, and we should nip the evil in the bud.
– I welcome the motion tabled by Senator Gardiner, and hope it will be carried.I do not believe in condoningwhat the Commonwealth law has already practically classed as a felony. Personally, I do not regard a lottery as a crime. It would have been wiser for the Commonweal th Parliament to allow Tattersall’s sweeps to go on, and then from that source a large amount of revenue could have been obtained in a perfectly legitimate manner. Other parts of the world, just as moral as the Commonwealth, encourage such sweeps; but the Commonwealth Parliament has decided that Tattersall’s sweeps are illegal.
– No; it could not decide that. It simply decided that the Postmaster-General shall not carry letters to people who are promoting sweeps or making bets.
– It has not actually declared Tattersall’s sweeps illegal, but by the Post and Telegraph Act it has made it illegal for people to correspond with Tattersall’s. Let us get down to common sense. It is well known that there is an Act of this Parliament preventing correspondence with Tattersall’s sweeps in Tasmania.
– With any promoters of lotteries and with bookmakers.
– I will include the lot. Senator Thomas, when PostmasterGeneral, rigorously applied that law.
– He was a regular “ wowser.”
– He was even worse than a “ wowser,” if such a thing is possible. By this clause we are asked to take a certain amount of money from those who win prizes in a lottery. On the one hand, we say the lottery is wrongful and immoral, but when people have participated in it, and have been fortunate enough to win, the Government say, “Now, you must share your ill-gotten gains with the Treasurer.” Let us be honest with ourselves.
-It is the attitude of a hypocrite.
– It is more than hypocritical. I believe in lotteries. Life is a lottery. I have often tried to win a Tattersall’s sweep, and have not succeeded. I am still trying. Even if I won only a £5 prize I should be quite willing to part up portion of it to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who is represented here by Senator Millen, if the honorable senator was consistent. But he tells me, on the one hand, that I must not try to win the sweep, that he will not let my correspondence reach the promoters to give me a chance to win - touse his own words, he will not allow any opportunity to “ spread this misery abroad “ - and the moment any one wins it he demands a share on behalf of the Treasurer. That is hypocrisy of the deepest dye. Let us be honest, and strike out the clause.
– Let us win the sweep first.
– I am trying to save the honorable senator, after he has won the sweep, from parting with some of his ill-gotten gains to a Treasurer who says it is unlawful for him to participate in it. If by the law of the land we were allowed toparticipate in lotteries, the clause would be all right, but the present attitude of the Government is utterly inconsistent.
– There are at least three, and, I think, four, honorable senators present to-night who were here when the original Post and Telegraph Act was put through the Senate, containing the section referring to lotteries. It was well known, and was stated openly here, that the section was aimed at the institution known as Tatersall’s, in Tasmania. It was argued that this was absurd legislation, because the Commonwealth was given no power by the Constitution to deal with lotteries or gambling. It was also pointed out that in all the States there were different methods of gambling, and that that section did not discourage any other than that known as lotteries, and particularly Tattersall’s sweeps. Section 57 of that Act, it is true, gave power to deal with other forms of gambling, but I remember no instance in the eighteen years of Commonwealth administration where it has been put into operation against bookmakers.
– Yes, against three or four.
– Those instances have been so few and far between in eighteen years that the Act in that regard has been practically a dead letter.
– The Postal Department would put it into operation if some member of Parliament pushed them up against any bookmaker. But we do not want to do that.
– They could not get out of it if their attention was directly called to a case; but they have not taken action of their own volition. Several Postmasters-General have put a large number of residents of Hobart to great inconvenience by prohibiting the delivery of postal articles to them because it was believed that they were acting as agents for Tattersall’s. The whole business is absolutely hypocritical and unworthy of the Commonwealth Parliament. We are asked to say that if Tattersall’s continue their illegal business, we insist upon sharing in their ill-gotten gains to the extent of 13 per cent. of the value of the prizes they offer. Honorable senators might consider the trouble and expense involved in collecting the very small amount of tax payable upon a £5 prize in Tattersall’s sweeps from the thousands of persons throughout the Commonwealth who win such prizes.
– The Government are collecting the taxation at the source now.
– That is so; but we know that the Taxation Department has been collecting the tax from winners of the prizes, and the amount collected in that way cannot be worth the trouble and cost of collecting it. Section 57 of the Post and Telegraph Act provides that -
If the Postmaster-General has reasonable ground to suppose any persons to be engaged, either in the Commonwealth or elsewhere, in receiving money or any valuable thing -
– The honorable senator is wide of the clause under consideration.
– Clause 7 of the Bill, which is under consideration, deals with the tax on cash prizes in lotteries, and I contend that the Senate should not be asked, by passing this clause, to require an institution, that has been declared by Commonwealth legislation to be illegal, to be a tax gatherer for the Commonwealth Government. If section 57 of the Post and Telegraph Act is to continue in operation, it is about time that the Post and Telegraph Department opened its eyes to the fact that there are institutions other than Tattersall’s which might be brought under the operation of that section.
– The honorable senator will not be in order in discussing section 57 of the Post and Telegraph Act. He may make only a passing reference to it.
– So long as that section continues in operation, and the Post and Telegraph Department refuse to carry mail matter addressed to Tattersall’s, we should scorn to ask that institution to be a tax-gatherer for the Commonwealth. This is absolutely one of the most hypocritical pieces of legislation ever submitted in any Parliament in the world. Let us get down to bedrock.
– The way to do that is to amend the Post and Telegraph Act, and not this Bill.
– That would be one way of dealing with the matter. I say that while the Post and Telegraph Act remains in force this Parliament should refuse to have anything to do with an institution which under that Act is declared to be illegal, and should certainly refrain from asking that illegal institution to be its agent in the collection of income tax.
– I intend to support the request moved by Senator Gardiner. I have for a long time felt humiliated to think that the Federal Parliament should use for the purpose of collecting taxation an institution which has been declared as clearly as possible by this Parliament to be an illegal institution. One of two things should be done. We should decide to leave out clause 7 of this Bill, or should amend the section of the Post and Telegraph Act which practically declares Tattersall’s sweeps to be illegal. I think that the prizes won in those sweeps are a legitimate source of taxation, but solong as we declare those sweeps illegal we have, no right to attempt to collect taxation on the prizes won in them. Under this clause a person who participates in a raffle at a church bazaar and wins a crazy quilt or a cushion may find the article assessed at a certain value by the Federal Tax Commissioner, and may be called upon to pay a. tax on his prize of a greater amount than the article is worth. The clause offers unlimited possibility for the collection of taxation on prizes secured by methods generally considered to be illegal. I do not wish to speak at length on this matter, but I would rather not record a silent vote upon it. I do not wish to be misunderstood, and, therefore, I say that I have no objection to Tattersall’s sweeps, and do not regard them as immoral or demoralizing. I believe that the man who sends 5s. to Tattersall’s should not be interfered with, any more than is the man who spends 5s. in any other way, so long as he comes by the money honestly.
– Tattersall’s is not declared an illegal institution.
– That is so. A man in Tasmania who takes a ticket in Tattersall’s is considered quite a respectable citizen, but if a man in any other part of Australia takes a ticket in Tattersall’s he is assumed to be doing something which is very questionable. In my view, persons who invest in Tattersall’s sweeps do nothing wrong, and the Government are wrong in proposing to collect taxation in the way provided in this Bill.
– If you bet with a bookmaker in Tasmania you are likely to be sent to gaol.
– If you bet with a bookmaker in South Australia you are also likely to go to gaol; and if you send 10s. to Tattersalls’ sweep, the Federal Government will try to persuade you that you are doing something distinctly wrong. The Government refuse from time to time to deliver letters to certain addressees, because they are suspected of being agents for Tattersall’s, but they now propose to collect taxation on such winnings. Their attitude is contradictory. I cannot understand how, when this opportunity has come to us to repeal these objectionable provisions of the Act, advantage has not been taken of it.
– We cannot do that.
– We can do so to the extent of declaring that we shall cease to humbug the matter by pretending, on the one hand, to be honest and respectable, while, on the other, we seek to collect money from those who participate in something which is declared to be illegal. For that reason I shall support the amendment.
.- I shall support the request moved by Senator Gardiner, because I regard the action of the Government as grossly inconsistent. In the Post and Telegraph Act, it is provided that if the PostmasterGeneral has any reasonable ground to suppose that any person is engaged in carrying out any scheme connected with a lottery, a game of chance, or an unlawful game, he may order that no postal article shall be delivered to such person. Under this provision, the Postal Department has attempted to shut down all correspondence with Tattersall’s in Tasmania, though they allow similar mail matter dealing with church raffles to be delivered through the Post Office. Quite recently there was a lottery in Queensland for the purpose of raising funds for the repatriation of our soldiers.
– Order ! I must ask the honorable senator to connect his remarks with the Bill before the Committee.
– I am pointing out why I intend to vote for the request. The Government proposal is a gross piece of inconsistency. It is a good sample of “ wowserism “ to declare that mail matter shall be prohibited in connexion with Tattersall’s, and yet allow people to be pestered with lottery tickets for church bazaars and similar institutions.
Senator McDOUGALL (New South Wales [10.37]. - When this matter was before the Senate on a previous occasion, I objected to the proposal on the ground now taken by Senator Gardiner and other honorable senators. I protested that it meant an infliction of a hardship upon certain unfortunate people. I have in my hand an assessment notice from the Deputy Federal Commissioner for Taxation at Hobart directed to a poor widow, a dressmaker, working for David Jones and Company, Sydney, claiming11s. 1d. in respect of a certain prize which she won in Tattersall’s. She was induced, with others, to speculate a shilling on a ticket in Tattersall’s on the Sydney Cup. They won a prize which brought £511s.1d. to each of them, and she is now called upon to pay taxation on this amount. The winnings in sweeps should be treated as any other income, and should not be taxable until the total income of the person who has won the money reaches the amount of exemption provided by the Act. So far as Tasmania itself is concerned, I have no sympathy with that State at all, because in order to make money the State Government legalized Tattersall’s in Tasmania after the institution had been kicked out of all the other States. But so long as there is no other way of meeting the objections which have been taken to this clause, I shall vote against the Government proposal. There are plenty of other means of raising revenue. I could point out to the Government how it would be possible to raise £500,000, but they will not take any notice of me. Instead, they adopt this miserable course of taxing merrygorounds and other forms of entertainment. I wonder if they will tax those Entertainment Flats at Wooloomooloo ? It would be just about on a par with this proposal. The only course I have is to vote against the clause, unless we are promised some method by means of which the injustice to which I refer is eliminated.
– The Government have given no indication of the amount of revenue they anticipate receiving under the provisions of this clause, and I think they have made a mistake in not doing so. They have not attempted in any way to justify their departure from the method laid down by the previous Governments. In the original Act the amount of any prize money received was regarded as part of the income of the recipient, and unless the person who won a prize had a taxable income, he would pay no taxation whatever on the amount of prize money received. This clause, therefore, is a distinct departure, as it is proposed now to disregard altogether any exemption limit in regard to such prize money. It does not matter in what lottery the prize may be won, or how small the amount. If it is only £1 in value, the person winning it will be called upon to pav 10 per cent, of ite value for the financial year 1917-18, and 13 per cent, for the current financial year. This proposal will throw an enormous amount of work upon the Federal Income Taxation Commissioner, because it will apply not only to Tattersalls, but to every Tottery that may be promoted throughout the Commonwealth.
– If a person wins a Christmas goose in a lottery he may be called upon to contribute to the revenue.
– Yes, if it has a cash value the winner will have to pay 10 per cent, on that amount if he won it last year, and 13 per cent, this year. I invite the attention of the Committee and the Government to the fact that the clause is not to apply only to people who are now paying income tax, but to every person in the Commonwealth, irrespective of the amount of income earned. This principle was never contemplated in previous legislation of a similar character. It will throw upon the Commissioner for Taxation an enormous amount of extra work, and increase the cost of running the Department. I feel certain that no Commissioner will be able to discover all the people who have won such prizes, because a vast number of lotteries are promoted in various centres throughout the Commonwealth.
– There was one in Parramatta some time ago, I believe.
– Yes, and a very profitable one, too ; but, unfortunately, perhaps, for the honorable senator, the bulk of the revenue derived from it was used in furthering the very estimable objects of the Australian Labour party. All efforts on behalf of the National party to extort that money from the Labour party has ignominiously failed. There are other good objections which might be urged to this clause. Senator McDougall has stated that in the twinkling of an eye he could show the Government how they could raise an additional revenue of £500,000. So could I, if Ministers were amenable to reason. I hope that the amendment of Senator Gardiner will be accepted, and that this proposal to tax the poor members ‘of the community will not bc persisted in.
.- I think that we ought to have some basis underlying ‘ any form of taxation. But there is no sound basis underlying thisproposal by the Government. Had I been a member of the Senate when the Post and Telegraph Act was under consideration, I should have supported the provision which it contains in regard to Tattersalls sweeps, because, in my judgment, we have no right to tax vice. The only reason why Parliament at that time did not declare that these sweeps were illegal was that it was beyond its power to do so under the Constitution. However, it did as much as was possible, and went as far as was possible in the direction of preventing these lotteries. It refused to allow mail matter relating to them to be carried through the post. To me it seems hypocritical for Parliament to take up that attitude if it is now going to tax the prize-winners in these sweeps. I can quite sympathize with those who think that this clause will levy .a tax on any person who wins a prize irrespective of his income. I repeat that there is no sound principle underlying such a proposal. It seeks to take advantage of any person who happens to win a prize in a lottery. If a prize-winner were permitted to set off his investments .against his winnings, there might be some element of fairness about it.. But a man may invest £50 in a sweep and win only £5. Yet, under this clause, he will be obliged to pay income tax on the amount of his prize. I intend to support the request.
– I should like some information from the Minister for Repatriation in regard to the retrospective character of the legislation proposed in relation to lotteries. I can quite understand the proposal to levy a tax of 13 per cent, upon all prizes won in lotteries from 30th June, 1918. But I see no reason why this form of taxation should he retrospective in its operation, and why we should levy an impost of 10 per cent, on prizes won during the previous years.
– As I pointed out earlier in the day, this tax will not be retrospective in its operation.
It is aimed at persons who have evaded the payment of the tax under a previous Income Tax Act.
– Did not the previous Act provide for the collection of 10 per cent. upon cash prizes, and did it not cover the period commencing on 1st July, 1917 ? Further, if that tax has not been collected, how can fresh legislation legalize its collection?
– Senator Pratten wishes to know what is the necessity for repeating in this Bill the provision to which he has referred. The fact is that a number of persons who ought to have paid the tax under a previous Act have not done so. In order to give the Government the right to follow up these defaulters, it is proposed to continue in this Bill the power to collect the amounts which they should have paid under a previous Act.
– Does not their liability continue under the previous Act, irrespective of whether or not that Act has expired by effluxion of time?
– The Bill is an annual one.
– But the obligation rests on these people to pay the tax under the previous Statute.
– The Crown Law Officers advise that it is necessary to put this provision in the Bill. I can say no more.
– In the event of a person whose income does not fall within the taxable amount,winning a small cash prize, will he be liable to pay 10 per cent. if his prize was won in 1917-18, and 13 per cent. if it was won in 1918-19?
Question - That the request be agreed to - put. The Committee divided.
Majority . . . . 4
Question so resolved in the negative.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 8 agreed to.
Clause 9 -
Section six of the Income Tax Act 1917 is repealed as from the twenty-eighth day of September One thousand nine hundred and seventeen.
.- I move-
That the House of Representatives be requested to insert after the figures “ 1917 “ the words “and sub-section (e) of section 14 of the Income Tax Assessment Act 1915.”
Having been employed in the building trade for many years, and believing that it is desirable - more especially now than at any previous time in the history of the country - that houses should be built without let or hindrance, and certainly without any penalty being enforced upon those who spend their money and employ labour in that direction, I ask the Committee to agree to my proposal. I regret that this section was originally placed upon our Statutes by the Labour party. It is not to their credit. It is absolutely wrong.
Deaths of Soldiers from Spanish Influenza - Questions Without Notice - Quarantine in New South Wales.
Motion (by Senator Millen) proposed -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
– I desire to ask a question now which I was prevented from doing this afternoon. In reply to a question upon notice, as follows: -
Have any members of the Australian Imperial Force died on any vessel going from or coming to Australia as the result of having contracted Spanish influenza ? the Minister (Senator Pearce) answered -
A total of sixteen oases of death from influenza, not specifically designated “ Spanish influenza,” have been reported to date on transports proceeding to or from Australia.
What I proposed then to ask, when you, Mr. President, would not allow me to put the question, was if the Minister could supply the name of the vessel or vessels, and the names of those troops who had died. I hope that the Minister may be able to comply with that request now.
Although you ruled me out of order, sir, I find, according to Hansard, that on 14th October you permitted Senator Pratten to ask a question following upon the answer given to a question upon notice. The circumstances were similar to the position this afternoon when you ruled me out of order. Senator Pratten asked the Minister for Defence -
Senator Pearce replied ;
The answer is given in the form of a return., which I will lay on the table of the Senate.
Senator Pratten then said ;
Arising out of the answer, may I ask if that return includes commissions granted abroad as well as those granted here?
To which Senator Pearce replied -
The return has been compiled in strict accordance with the honorable senator’s questions.
You did not intervene on that occasion, sir, although you pulled me up sharply when I asked a similar question to-day arising out of the answer to the question of which I had given notice. And I wondered why you had fastened upon me while allowing another honorable senator the right to put a question in similar circumstances.
– Before the Minister for Defence (Senator Pearce) replies, I should like to answer the honorable senator, in order to remove a misapprehension from his mind. It is quite true that upon the 14th October, and up till that date, honorable senators were permitted to occasion ally ask questions arising out of answers given to questions upon notice. But it was upon such an occasion that the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Millen) took exception to Senator Pratten putting a further question arising out of an answer; and it was pointed out that Ministers in this Chamber were invited to answer questions upon subjects not connected with their Departments, and that they could not be expected to supply answers without notice having been given. The Minister for Repatriation quite rightly called my attention to the position, and he pointed to the fact, also, that the time for asking questions without notice, and for giving notice of intention to ask questions, had passed; wherefore such questions could not then be asked.
There are matters of which I do not take notice until my attention is called to them. I take no notice whatever of whether there is a quorum present in the Senate until my attention has been called to the fact - that is, with the exception of the first meeting of the Senate at any sitting. When my attention was directed to the situation arising in connexion with the asking of these questions following on questions upon notice, I had to recognise that the Standing Orders were not being obeyed. I had, therefore, to intimate to the Senate that in future questions could not be allowed when the time for asking or for giving notice of them had expired. Therefore, Senator Needham is quite wrong in thinking that he was being singled out for special treatment in any way. It is a rule which has now been laid down by myself, in response to representations from the Minister leading the Government in the Senate, and in strict accordance with the Standing Orders, and the honorable gentleman is entirely under a misapprehension in thinking that I was applying anything especially to himself.
-i thank you, sir, for the explanation.
– I will endeavour to obtain the information sought by Senator Needham.
Senator GARDINER (New South
Wales) [11.8]. - I desire tocall attention to what is regarded as a rather serious danger in New South Wales in connexion with the threatened invasion of influenza. A good deal of feeling has been aroused in respect to the quarantine grounds in that State. I suggest that contacts who are not infected should he sent to Trial Bay. There has been an internment camp established there, so that accommodation at Trial Bay is available. If such contacts were de- spatched to that place it would be possible to relieve the pressure upon the present quarantine grounds, which are so close to crowded centres. Further, the contacts could be taken direct to Trial Bay by boat without coming into contact with the rest of the community.
SenatorMILLEN (New South Wales - Minister for Repatriation) [11.9]. - I will place the suggestion before the Minister controlling quarantine matters in the morning.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 11.10 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 27 November 1918, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1918/19181127_senate_7_87/>.