13th Parliament · 1st Session
The President, (Senator the Hon. W. Kingsmill) took the chair at 11 a.m., and read prayers.
SenatorFOLL asked the Minister representing the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The secrecy provisions of theWartime Profits Tax Assessment Act preclude the Commissioner of Taxation from furnishing any information in connexion with the case referred to in these questions.
– The information asked for by Senator Poll regarding the value of tobacco removed from bond since the last reduction of Customs duty is being obtained.
Motion (by Senator McLachlan) agreed to -
That leave be given to introduce a bill for an act to amend the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act 1904-1930.
Bill (on motion by Senator Greene) read a third time.
Bill (on motion by Senator McLachlan) read a third time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The criminal law, which is part of the machinery for the protection of the fabric of society and of civilization generally, has to keep pace with the times. From 1914 to 1926, this Parliament enacted legislation for the protection of the Constitution, all public services, and the body politic generally; that protection is mainly against bodies and persons declared to be unlawful associations, which are defined as those which advocate or encourage -
The existing law creates offences and disabilities in . relation to unlawful associations and membership thereof, but does not provide machinery for securing an express declaration by competent authority as to whether or not any particular body of persons is, in fact, an unlawful association. One of the purposes of the present bill is to enable declarations to be obtained from the HighCourt or the Supreme Court of a State that a particular body of persons is or is not an unlawful association. To that end, complete machinery is provided in the bill. Once the unlawful character of an association has been established, the offence and disabilities connected with the membership, property, and propaganda of that association may be readily enforced.
The supplementary provisions include power for the Attorney-General to require the answering of questions and the production of documents relating to the funds and transactions of an unlawful association. The imprint upon any book, periodical, newspaper, &c, is made prima facie evidence that the book or other publication was printed or published by or on behalf of the person or body of persons specified in the imprint. The PostmasterGeneral is authorized to cancel any licence under the Wireless Telegraphy Act issued in respect of broadcasting stations, operated by or in the interests of an unlawful association. It is made an offence for any person to allow a meeting of an unlawful association on any premises of which he is the owner, lessee, agent or superintendent. So far as section 41 of the Constitution allows, a member of an unlawful association is debarred from enrolment for the Senate or House of Representatives. Power is taken to deport members of unlawful associations and persons who commit seditious offences, or who take part in or encourage industrial disturbances, or who, having once been deported, return to the Commonwealth. That power is not limited by the fact of a person not being a migrant ; its application is general, provided the person concerned was not born in Australia. The power of disfranchisement is limited by section 41 of the Constitution, but if this bill be agreed to, any State Parliament may legislate in aid of that power. I stress the necessity for this legislation, particularly at this juncture. The danger to the body politic is to be feared, not from the Communist party directly, but from various other organizations, dissociated in name, but in reality directing Communist activities in the Commonwealth. Friends of the Soviet Union, the League against Imperialism, and several other bodies rejoicing in equally high-sounding names really direct Communist activities, while pretending to be dissociated from them. The truth is that they advocate exactly the same vicious principles as the Communist party, and against them this legislation is directed. Proof that these bodies are unlawful associations within the meaning of the act may or may not be forthcoming; I believe that it will be. When a body is found to be an unlawful association, the consequences for which the Crimes Act provides will follow. I commend the bill to the Senate as a necessary measure to meet the intensified action and subtle methods adopted by certain bodies to evade the provisions of the existing law.
– Could not we deport these undesirables, and try them afterwards?
– That method is out of date. The gallant senator speaks from the fullness of his military experience; I am guidedonly by my knowledge of the law. If wewere to adopt the method he has suggested, restraining orders against the Commonwealth would be issued in all directions. We propose to proceed along the lines prescribed by the law.
Debate (on motion by Senator Barnes) adjourned.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
This measure is the outcome of a public demand for a change in the method of controlling wireless broadcasting in Australia, and marks another stage in the rapid advance which this service has made. To-day, an efficient broadcasting service is almost as essential to some people as are electricity and transport facilities; it is popular and cheap, and is undoubtedly playing a very important part in our social life. The bill proposes that control of the programmes broadcast by the national stations shall be vested in a commission, as is the control of most other public utilities, includingrailways and tramways. The supply of electricity to the people of Victoria is controlled by a commission in a most satisfactory manner.
For the control of broadcasting in Australia the Government has endeavoured to follow, as nearly as possible, the British system. The technical side of broadcasting will still be controlled by the Postmaster-General’s Department, but it is proposed that a broadcasting commission shall be constituted, to consist of business men, who will bring their experience to the assistance of the Government. The Government will have the benefit of the commission’s knowledge and experience of the requirements of the public, and the commission will operate in association with the Postal Department in managing broadcasting in the best interests of the people of Australia. At present our listeners-in pay approximately £400,000 per annum in licence-fees, which are distributed between the holders of the patent rights - Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia)Limited, the Australian Broadcasting Company, and the Commonwealth Government. Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited receives £50,000 for its patent rights; the Australian Broadcasting Company £202,000 for its service, and the Commonwealth Government £151,000. Of the last-mentioned amount a certain part is devoted to the provision and maintenance of equipment and expert technical service, and the balance is paid into the Consolidated Revenue. The payments to the British Government out of the revenue received by the British Broadcasting Corporation are nearly in the same ratio to the total receipts as the payments to the Commonwealth Government. Of course the British revenue is much larger; it amounts to about £2,000,000 per annum., or five times as much as is received in Australia.
It has been impossible to adopt, entirely, the British system of control. A separate technical staff, apart from that employed in the postal service, which consists of skilled engineers and mechanics, is at present beyond our means. It is pleasing, however, to note that a “wireless “ sense has developed in this country. That is, perhaps, due to the fact that because of our isolation from the rest of the world we are dependent to some extent upon wireless for the rapid dissemination of news, and to the mechanical aptitude of a large number of young Australians. Discoveries of some importance have been made by young men with only a smattering of technical knowledge, some of whom have developed into skilled radio engineers. As to embark on the establishment of a separate technical staff is, as I have said, at present beyond our means, it has been thought economical to utilize the services of officers now employed by the Postal Department. In that department we have over 200 engineers with specialized knowledge in broadcasting, and there are approximately 3,000mechanicsemployedon work of this nature, or allied thereto. The capital value of the plant and equipment used solely for broadcasting purposes is over £200,000, and includes special research apparatus.
The stations which will be directly affected by the bill are the A class stations, of which there are twelve in operation in the Commonwealth. It is desirable that further stations should be constructed, but that is a matter for future consideration, and cannot be dismissed at length in connexion with the present proposal. The Government will await recommendations on the subject, and so far has not committed itself to the erection of additional stations.
The proposed commission is to consist of five members; a chairman, who is to receive £500 per annum, a vice-chairman at £400, and three commissioners at £300 per annum. The commission will have power to appoint a general manager and the necessary staff, and will be charged with the provision of suitable programmes. It is not contended that the commissioners shall devote the whole of their time to broadcasting work. It is not considered desirable to appoint three or four commissioners at a high salary, and require them to devote the whole of their time to the work of the broadcasting commission. Men with extensive commercial experience and the necessary qualifications will be appointed, and they will, while providing an efficient service, have regard to the interests of economy. This, it is anticipated, will enable a selection to be made from a larger number of suitable applicants. The commission will appoint the general manager.
– Will the general manager devote the whole of his time to the work of the commission?
– Yes. Instead of appointing full-time commissioners at a high remuneration, it is considered desirable to appoint part-time commissioners, and they will appoint a full-time general manager. The commissioners will formulate the general policy with respect to broadcasting, and effect will have to be given to it by the general manager. After the commission has been functioning for some time, it will be in a position to make recommendations as to what policy is considered beat in the interests of broadcasting.
Although it is intended at present thai the technical side of broadcasting shall be under the control of the PostmasterGeneral, it may eventually be possible to place the whole control under one authority. There are various angles from which this proposal has to be considered before a definite conclusion can be reached. The present system has been found unsatisfactory to the public, but as the man who pays the piper should cai! the tune, it is considered necessary to institute a different system of control in the interests of those listeners-in who provide the revenue. It is expected that the proposed commission will provide a more satisfactory service than we now have, and provide better entertainment.
Debate (on motion by Senator Barnes) adjourned.
In committee (Consideration resumed from the 4th May, vide page 309) :
Where, prior to the commencement of this act, the importation or exportation of any goods has been prohibited by proclamation, and the proclamation is in force immediately prior to such commencement, any such proclamation . may bc cancelled or varied by regulation, and until cancellation shall remain in force according to the terms in which it was issued, and if varied, shall have effect according to its terms as so varied.
Upon which Senator Sir Hat. Colebatch had moved by way of amendment -
That after the word “be” tile word “reenacted “ lie inserted.
– Since the committee reported progress yesterday I have had an opportunity to look into the question raised by Senator Colebatch. His amendments would require every customs proclamation now in force, imposing a prohibition, to be brought under’ revision. That would involve a considerable amount of expensive and unnecessary work. Many of these prohibitions have been in operation since the early years of federation, and concerning them there is likely to be no difference of opinion whatever.
I suggest that we should validate any prohibition which has been covered by a proclamation within the last three years. That, I think, would meet the general desire of honorable senators. Of course, that would cover all the recent prohibitions, including the large list, for instance, contained in the proclamation issued comparatively recently, which, I think, expires in February next. In that list there were 36 prohibited articles, and the clause would cover all those, as well as a fair number of others issued during the last three years. We should not put the Customs Department to unnecessary trouble and expense. I suggest that Senator Colebatch should agree to my proposal, which honorable senators must realize is a fair one. The clause would then read -
Where, prior to the commencement of this act, the importation or exportation of any goods lias been prohibited by proclamation, and the proclamation is in force immediately prior to such commencement, any such proclamation may be cancelled or varied by regulation, and until cancellation shall, subject to the next succeeding sub-section, remain iri force according to the terms in which it was issued, and, if varied, shall have effect according to its terms as so varied.
The new sub-clause, the insertion of which I propose to move, is as follows : - (2.) Any proclamation in force immediately prior to the commencement of this act which has not been in force for a period of three Veal 8 shall cease to have effect on the 31st March, .1933.
The intention is to insert after the word “ shall “, first occurring, the words “ subject to the next succeeding sub-section “, and under the proposed new sub-clause, any proclamation during the last three years prohibiting the exportation or importation of any goods will automatically come up for review, owing to a regulation covering the prohibition being issued in* the meantime.
Senator Sir HAL COLEBATCH (Western Australia) [11.35]. - I am sorry that I cannot accept this amendment. The only justification that the Minister has given for not agreeing to my proposal is that it would cause’ trouble and expense to the department.
– It would cause a great deal of unnecessary expense.
– . A regulation embodying 500 prohibitions would cause very little, but I think that the actual number would be nearer 50 than 500. I cannot accept that as a sufficient justification for the Minister’s amendment. It seems to me that the longer a prohibition has been in force without Parliament having had an opportunity of reviewing it, the greater is the necessity for us to review it now. Unless a stronger reason than has been given by the Minister can be advanced, I hope that the committee will insist on carrying my amendment. The fact that a prohibition has been in force for three years, and that the Parliament has been deprive( of an opportunity of review, is not a good reason why we should be deprived of that opportunity for ever. Apparently, if we pass the clause in the form suggested by the Minister - and there may be some prohibitions to which a majority in this chamber has strongly objected - then, merely by the fact of being kept away from Parliament improperly for three years-
– Not improperly, but under statute.
-] do not hesitate to say that this has been done improperly. The section of the Customs Act authorizing the Government to prohibit imports by proclamation was undoubtedly intended by Parliament to cover only things which ought to be prohibited because of the nature of the articles themselves. If it were otherwise, the act would never have mentioned the things, the importation of which should be prohibited. The power contained in paragraph g of the section was given only because it was recognized that Parliament could not foresee all the articles of a deleterious and dangerous nature to which the prohibition should be applied. Therefore, the Government was given’ the right to prohibit by proclamation, and in using that power to prohibit purely for protective purposes the Government has abused its power, and has acted entirely improperly. That is the sense in which 1 make use of that word, and I challenge contradiction on the point. The last Government’ used a power given for the purpose of preventing the importation of articles, the use of which would be deleterious to the community, or contrary to public policy. It created a superprotection, knowing that a protective tariff would finally have to be considered by Parliament. That Government misused its power under the Customs Act to bring about an actual prohibition, and now we are told that because of the improper use of that power, some prohibitions, which have been in operation for three years, are to be continued indefinitely, I cannot subscribe to that doctrine.
Application to the State of New South Wales : Attachment of Further Classes of Revenue.
Motion (by Senator Sir George Pearce) agreed to by an absolute majority of the members of the Senate -
That somuch of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the submission, without delay, of a resolution under the Financial Agreements Enforcement Acts.
[11.43].- I move-
That, a resolution having been passed on the 16thMarch, 1932, by each House of the Parliament under suction six of the Financial Agreements Enforcement Act 1932 resolving inter alia that the provisions of sections seven to thirteen (inclusive) of Part II. of that act should have effect with respect to eight classes of revenue of the State ofNew South Wales specified in the resolution to the extent of the amount set forth in the certificate of the Auditor-General embodied in the resolution, this Senate resolves, in pursuance of section thirteen a of the Financial Agreements Enforcement Acts 1932, that sections seven to thirteen (inclusive) of Part II., of the Financial Agreements Enforcement Acts 1932 should have effect with respect to the following other classes of revenue and portions of classesof revenue of the State of New South Wales, namely: -
Revenue from interest payable to the Colonial Treasurer of New South Wales by any statutory body constituted by or under any law of that State but not including revenue from interest payable by the Transport Commissioners of New South Wales.
One-sixth of all revenue from earnings, receipts, rents, tolls and other moneys in respect of the Government railways of New South Wales or of any service or work in connexion therewith undertaken bythe Transport Commissioners of New South Wales ;
Any portion of the revenue from earnings, receipts, rents, tolls and other moneys in respect of the Government railways of New South Wales or of any service or work in connexion therewith undertaken by the Transport Commissioners of New South Wales (other than the one-sixth portion specified in paragraph (x) of this resolution) which is attributable to an increase in rates imposed on or after the date of the passing of this resolution ;
Revenue from death duties:
Revenue from stamp duties other than death duties;
Revenue from fees payable in respect of the issue, renewal or transfer of licences for the brewing, manufacturing, sale or disposal of fermented or spirituous liquors;
Revenue from the sale, lease, disposal or alienation, under any tenure whatsoever, of Crown Lands or of any lands which have been acquired by the State, and revenue from licences to occupy any such lands :
Revenue from fees payable in respect of the registration of motor vehicles and the issue of drivers’ licences, from the renewal of such registration and licences, and from any payments required to be made in pursuance of any condition imposed in any licence or permit issued in relation to motor vehicles.
If this motion is agreed to, it will be necessary to issue a proclamation setting out the classes of revenue, the whole or a portion of which could be attached. The Government will have ample latitude in the issuing of proclamations to accomplish its desire.
It may be well to give the Senate some detailed information in relation to the several paragraphs of this motion. Paragraph ix reads -
Revenue from interest payable to the Colonial Treasurer of New South Wales by any statutory body constituted by or under any law of that State but not including revenue from interest payable by the Transport Commissioners of New South Wales.
The paragraph has been framed in its present form in order that the Transport Commissioners of New South Wales may be dealt with in a special class by themselves. The term “ statutory body “ includes bodies like the Water and Sewerage Board of New South Wales, which have been constituted under the law of the State, and have obtained from the loan account of New South Wales the money for carrying out the works which they control. These bodies are required to pay interest to the State; and until Mr. Lang adopted his infamous policy, the interest payable to the bondholders who advanced the money for the construction of the works controlled by them was paid, either from the revenue they paid to the State, or, if that was not sufficient, from general revenue. Under this paragraph so much of the interest as is payable ‘by these bodies, which hitherto has been paid to the State Treasurer, will now be payable to the Commonwealth Treasurer. When we reflect that the Commonwealth is now liable for the payment of all interest due by New South Wales, we must agree that it is only just that public bodies which have had the use of loan moneys to carry out certain works, and are paying both working expenses and interest, should pay that interest to the Commonwealth in order that it may meet the interest indebtedness of New South Wales.
The revenue covered by paragraph x comprises -
One-sixth of all revenue from earnings, receipts, rents, tolls and other moneys in respect of the Government Railways of New South Wales or of any service or work in connexion therewith undertaken by the Transport Commissioners of New South Wales.
Estimates submitted by the Transport Commissioners, as well as by the Treasurer of New South Wales, indicate that the railways of that State are paying working expenses, but are not earning sufficient to pay interest on the whole of the money borrowed for their construction. In the past any deficit has been met from the Consolidated Revenue. That is the position as revealed by official records supplied by the New South Wales Government. The operation of this paragraph will enable the Commonwealth to take the surplus revenue over working expenses, but not the whole of the surplus. With this paragraph in operation, there will still be left in the hands of the Transport Commissioners of New South Wales a margin sufficient to run the railways as they are now being run, and to leave them a balance in hand after complying with this law of the Commonwealth. I wish to make it clear that the passing of this paragraph will not give the New South Wales Government, or the Transport Commissioners of that State, any excuse for not continuing to run the railways; should they discontinue any railway services their action will not be due to the operation of this Commonwealth law. The Transport Commissioners of New’ South Wales are a statutory body, whose revenue and expenditure are severable from the general revenue and expenses of the State. References to the budget papers and Estimates submitted to the State Parliament show that the Transport Commissioners have been treated as a separate body, and that their revenues have not been, and are not, transmitted to the Treasury as is ordinarily the case with government departments. Under this arrangement, the Commissioners will have full power, as well as ample financial resources, to enable them to continue to run the railways as previously; only a portion of their revenues which is surplus to expenditure will be attached under this paragraph and applied towards meeting the interest charges on the loans which have been raised for the construction of the railways. I emphasize that ample funds will remain in the hands of the Commissioners to meet wages and other charges, and still leave a margin.
– Are we to understand that the railway revenue of New South Wales is sufficient to cover only a portion of the interest on the railway loan money ?
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.Yes. The interest on the money expended in the construction of railways is between £5,000,000 and £6,000,000 per annumI speak from memory - whereas the annual surplus has varied between £1,500,000 and £2,000,000.
Paragraph xi deals with -
Any portion of the revenue from earnings, receipts, rents, tolls and other moneys in respect of the Government Railways of New South Wales or of any service or work in connexion therewith undertaken by the Transport Commissioners of New South Wales (other than the one-sixth portion specified in paragraph (x) of this resolution) which is attributable to an increase in rates imposed on or after the date of the passing of this resolution ;
Judging by the vagaries of the gentleman who is Premier of New South Wales, it is not unreasonable to expect him to impose increased rates and fares and freight charges on the New South Wales railways, and in doing so to endeavour to make it appear that, they are due to the operation of the Commonwealth law. The facts which I have already placed before the Senate show clearly that that would not be the ease. In the event of rates and fares being increased, the additional revenue so obtained would, by virtue of this paragraph, not go into the State Treasury, but would be applied towards meeting the interest on the railway debt and the general debt of New South Wales. The paragraph will make it clear to the people of New South Wales that the operation of the Commonwealth law will make quite unnecessary any increase in railway charges. Should increased rates be charged, the people will know that these have been imposed only for political purposes. In any case the higher charges will not benefit either the railways or the Government of New South Wales; they will merely represent so much more money taken from the -pockets of the railway users to meet the interest on the public debt of the State.
Under paragraph xii revenue from death duties will be attached. It is difficult to estimate the amount of revenue likely to be received from this source; but it is likely to be between ?100,000 and ?200,000 a month.
No explanation is necessary in regard to paragraph xiii, which deals with revenue from stamp duties other than death duties.
An interesting item is dealt with, in paragraph xiv, which reads -
Revenue from fees payable in respect of the issue, renewal or transfer of licences for the brewing, manufacturing, sale or disposal of fermented or spirituous liquors;
It is estimated that from this source a revenue of about ?300,000 .per annum will be received, most of which is payable in the month of June, when the annual licences are renewed. We have already passed legislation to ensure that the State will not refuse to issue licences to persons who have complied with the Commonwealth law. No ground for the victimization of such licensees by the State remains.
– Why not attach the money which is in the hands of the State collector of licence-fees?
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.There is power to do that; probably that method will be adopted.
– It would be far more satisfactory.
– Paragraph xv covers
Revenue from the sale, lease, disposal or alienation, under any tenure whatsoever, of Crown lands or of any lands which have been acquired by the State, and revenue from licences to occupy any such lands;
From this source about ?1,200,000 per annum is expected. In this case also, the Commonwealth law will protect lessees, and holders of conditionally purchased areas who, during the operation of this law, may become entitled to grants. Provision is made that grants must issue when such purchasers have complied with the conditions of their agreements, notwithstanding that moneys hitherto payable to the State have been paid by them to the Commonwealth. Indeed, the Commonwealth law goes further, for it provides that any payment to the State of moneys which are now payable to the Commonwealth Treasurer is illegal, and would not entitle the purchaser of lands to a grant. In such a case his title, if it were issued to him by the State department, would not be a legal title. It would be capable of challenge, because he had not complied with the .conditions of the law. In this matter the law with which he has to comply is that passed by this Parliament.
– It is rather rough on the landholder.
– If he complies with the law, he is fully safeguarded. Paragraph xvi. of the resolution states that revenue from fees payable in respect of the registration of motor vehicles, and the issue of drivers’ licences, from the renewal of such registration and such licences, and from any -payments required to be made in pursuance of any conditions imposed in any licence or permit issued in relation to motor vehicles, may be attached by the Commonwealth. The previous resolution empowered the Commonwealth to attach revenue derived from motor taxation but, in addition to revenue derived- from this source, other revenue is obtained from registration fees, and the Commonwealth is now taking power to seize that revenue also.
– Would the payment of such fees to the State authority be, not only invalid, but an offence against the law?
– lt would be an offence, and the payment would not discharge the obligation.
The manner of collecting this revenue has been considered very carefully, and in general, the arrangements which exist, at- the time of the passing of this resolution and the issue of the proclamation, will be continued up to the point where previously the moneys were paid by a State officer into the bank to the credit of the Colonial Treasurer. At that stage the moneys will now be paid to the Commonwealth. We are not bound by that procedure, but in most cases it will be followed, for the reason that it will cause a minimum of interruption in the administration of services in New South Wales. The obligation to. hand over the revenue to the Commonwealth is one which we are empowered by this law to place on every State officer, and any State officer who breaks the law is liable to a penalty under the provisions of this law. It is obvious, therefore, that, so far as legal provisions can do so, the Commonwealth is armed with power to intercept the revenue, and to take possession of it.
This revenue may be used by the Commonwealth for one purpose only, namely, to pay the interest due by the State of -New South Wales. It cannot be used by the Commonwealth for its own purposes, nor even for the benefit of the State of New South Wales in any direction other than the discharge of interest obligations. I remind honorable senators that the Government of New South Wales has now defaulted on the interest due on its internal debt, as well as in respect of its external debt. It. now refuses to pay the interest due to citizens of Australia who have lent it money. There has been no “ scaling down “ of interest, to use Mr. Lang’s expression. So far as New South Wales is concerned, there has been an absolute repudiation of all obligations to pay interest, not only to bondholders overseas who have been a favorite topic of denunciation, but to the bondholders in Australia as well, including citizens of New South Wales.
This resolution, and the proclamation which will follow it, constitute an attempt to do, on behalf of the people of New South Wales, what I am sure the great majority of them desire to do : That is, honestly and honorably to meet their obligations to their creditors overseas, and in Australia. For that purpose I confidently ask for the co-operation of the Senate. It ought not to be too much to hope that this resolution will be passed unanimously. It is of no use saying that we are opposed to repudiation if, at the same time, wc endeavour to defeat the only means whereby Australia as a whole can honour its obligations. When the Government of New South Wales is breaking its undertaking to bondholders at home and abroad, there is only one way in which we can show the world that we are opposed to repudiation, and that is by supporting the action of the Government which, according to the judgment of the High Court, is legally using the revenues of New South Wales to meet the statutory obligations of that State.
– Is it proposed in this resolution to attach the proceeds of the unemployment tax?
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.Unemployment taxation revenue is not included, nor are child endowment funds. Those funds have always been available to the Government of New South Wales, and have never been, nor are they now being, interfered with ‘ by any of the legislation, resolutions, or proclamations of the Commonwealth Parliament.
– Is it intended to attach such funds in the future?
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.It has not been done up to the present, at any rate. The charge of Mr. Lang that child endowment funds have been interfered with by the Commonwealth is utter rubbish, and has been made simply for political propaganda purposes. Funds for the discharge of child endowment claims are, or should be, in the State Treasury. Mr. Lang continues to receive the tax from employees in New South
Wales for child endowment purposes, and unless he has wrongfully used the money for some other purpose, it should be in his possession now to meet claims. I know that it is said that the Common.wealth, by its order to the banks to hand over State deposits to the Commonwealth, has prevented Mr. Lang from using ordinary banking facilities for the payment of child endowment claims. I desire to destroy that myth, also. In New South Wales widows’ pensions have always been paid in this way: Treasury officials bring down to the bank from the Treasury a sum of money equal to the total payments to be made, and accompanying the money is a list of those who are to receive pensions. The bank then pays out the money to the claimants certified in the list.
– The account was not in the name of the State Government, but of the persons who were to receive the money.
– That is so. Exactly the same procedure could be followed by the Government of New South Wales in the payment of child endowment. If Mr. Lang really desires to pay these claims, there is nothing to prevent him from handing, over to the bank a lump sum sufficient to meet the claims, together with a list of persons authorized to receive the money.
– The bank is still paying widows’ pensions in that way?
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE Yes. The fact that Mr. Lang and his cohorts have sought to fasten this charge in respect to child endowment on the Commonwealth indicates how desperate his position must be. The Commonwealth Government has in its possession a letter addressed to a widow drawing a pension in New South Wales. ‘ It was written by the Welfare Department, as it is called, which is responsible for paying the pensions. There has been a delay of a few days in the payment of the pensions, and this long letter was written by an official in the department, blaming the Commonwealth Government for the delay. The fact that the department was able to pay the pension at all shows that the delay was not due to any action of lie Commonwealth, because if the pension could be paid on one day it could have been paid on another. That letter is a piece of pure, political propaganda. While the pensioner was actually receiving her money, she had this piece of poison poured into her mind in -an endeavour to make her believe that her pension was in danger from the Commonwealth Government. That sort .of thing is being done by government officials in New South Wales, apparently at the direction of the Government.
– And in spite of the fact, that the Government of New South Wales has defaulted on its interest payments, it is now refusing to pay for ordinary State services.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.That is the extraordinary thing. What is the virtue of a plan unless somebody derives benefit from it? But all the Lang plan has done is to bring ruin and disaster in its train. New .South Wales has the highest percentage of unemployment in the Commonwealth, and the. highest proportion of destitution amongst its people. The Defence Department generally has on its hands stocks of unserviceable military clothing which, though condemned for military use, is suitable for other purposes. The late Government commenced the distribution of such clothing to unemployed and destitute persons, and altogether more than £100,000 worth of clothing, valued even at depreciated rates, has been issued up to date, speaking from memory, not less than seven-eighths of that clothing has been issued in the State of New South Wales. We may assume that only those who are absolutely destitute would apply for, and receive this clothing. So that it becomes plain that New South Wales, the State in which the Lang plan operates, possesses a greater amount of destitution than any other State in the Commonwealth.
Senator BARNES (Victoria) [12.15 1. - It would seem that the Federal Government is having more trouble in its attempts to round up Mr. Lang than “ Clancy of the Overflow “ had in rounding up his brumbies. Ministers have been three months on the job now, and although they have about worn out their stock whips, apparently they have not made much progress. All this trouble with the Government of New SouthWales is of very great concern to the people of Australia. They have no desire to see the time of the Federal Parliament occupied in everlastingly passing resolutions to attach this or that source of State revenue, or the time of the State Parliament taken up in dodging the Commonwealth’s legislative proposals. I think that we are all agreed that the sooner the trouble is brought to a head and settled one way or the other, the better for the people generally, This Government has complained of the ineffectiveness of the action taken by its predecessors to do what it is now attempted by the wiseacres directing Commonwealth policy. As I have said, they have been three months on the job and, up to the present time, have not done very much. Apparently the gentleman being chased is about two lengths ahead all the time, and although the Commonwealth Government has thrown many barriers across the track to intercept his flight, he seems to be able to take them in his stride; he is keeping well ahead of his pursuers who are not getting any nearer. But this unfortunate conflict between the Federal and the New South Wales Governments has its tragic as well as its ludicrous side. Since it is claimed in some quarters that the people of New South Wales are suffering as the result of this Government’s action, the onus is on Ministers to show that the charge against them cannot be sustained, that the Commonwealth Government is not responsible for the withholding of child endowment, as well as pensions to widows and other recipients of the State Government benevolence. This accusation regarding the financial over- lordship of the Commonwealth has been broadcast by the New South Wales Government and the people interested in the success of Mr. Lang in his conflict with the federal authorities. The Commonwealth Government, has. at its disposal the resources of the capitalist press and the national broadcasting services for the statement of its case, and if it cannot convince the people that it is right and Mr. Lang is wrong, then the fault must lie with the Government. This business is no good to the rest of the people. Personally I offer no opposition to the passing of the resolution if it will put an end to the present trouble and enable the Commonwealth and States to work together harmoniously. I do not know if this Government has sought to employ other means to reach a settlement with the New South Wales Government; I am not aware, for example, if, instead of using force, it has attempted to reason with Mr. Lang. But I am informed that the Premier of New South Wales would not hesitate to meet his interest obligations overseas and within Australia were it possible for him to tap those sources of State revenue that are closed to him because of the attitude of the Legislative Council, which he is powerless to shift. Apparently the only alternative, if the State Government is to meet its interest obligations, is to cut down pensions payable to widows and others, and levy additional taxation on those people who are least able to bear it. If this correctly sums up the situation, this Government, which represents the capitalistic element in this country, should be able to bring some pressure to bear on the New South Wales Legislative Council. Possibly if the Prime Minister and his able colleagues in the Cabinet approached the Legislative Council, they would be able to persuade members of that chamber to pass the necessary legislation so as to permit the State Government to meet its obligations.
– Did not Mr. Lang appoint sufficient members to the Legislative Council to give effect to his policy?
– I understand that that is not so. I am informed, and I have no reason to disbelievemy informant, that if the Legislative Council would accept legislation which Mr. Lang sends up to it, he would have no trouble whatever in collecting sufficient taxation from the right sources to meet his obligations.
– Is it not a fact that the Australian Labour party members in the council have always turned down Mr. Lang’s taxation proposals ?
– I have put the situation as I see it, and I suggest that, in times of stress like this, every available avenue should be searched in order to end this trouble. I need not attempt to give the right honorable the Leader of the Senate (Senator Pearce) any instruction in diplomacy, because I know that he could lose me in that art; but I do suggest that good might result if he brought some pressure to bear on the Legislative Council of New South Wales.
– Why does not the honorable senator himself try his hand on the Australian Labour party members in the Legislative Council? They have been responsible for this rejection of Mr. Lang’s proposals.
– They say that fools rush in where angels fear to tread. I have no desire to buy into the fight between this Government and the Premier of New South Wales, and the people behind him.
– The general secretary of the honorable senator’s industrial organization has rejected Mr. Lang’s scheme.
– He always does the wisest thing possible. It is, I repeat, desirable that this trouble should be ended without further delay, but, apparently, we are still a long way from finality. Evidently, the majority of members in the New South Wales Parliament are in wholehearted agreement with Mr. Lang, otherwise they would quickly displace him, for I cannot imagine the followers of any party blindly supporting a leader if, in their judgment, he is wrong.
– Mr. Lang was not put in his present position by his party, but by the Labour Conference.
– Members of the State Labour party, if they thought Mr. Lang was wrong would shift him from the leadership. They have their own powers, and can do what they want to do.
– Not in New South Wales.
– There may be some reason why they do not take the course suggested, but I fully believe that, if they desired to get rid of Mr. Lang, they could do so.
– No; he wields the big club over their heads.
– It is said that a stern chase is a long chase. Apparently that truism holds good in this instance, because the New South Wales Premier is being well advised as to the loop-holes in this legislation, and, up to the present, has been pretty successful. The situation reminds me of a hare that is being chased by a dog, running in and out of holes in a hedgeuntil finally the dog gets knocked up and the bare escapes.
– Mr. Lang has not found any loop-holes in this legislation so far.
– Nevertheless the Government has not caught its hare, and, so we are informed, Mr. Lang has defaulted to the extent of £2,300,000, while the Commonwealth Government has collected only about £440,000.
SenatorFoll. - The Government of which the honorable senator was a member collected nothing.
– But the interest was paid. The action taken by this Government has not prevented Mr. Lang from defaulting from clay to day. The newspapers tell us that he has made further defaults in his overseas and internal interest payments, and although this Government has been making every effort to check him, it has not yet succeeded.
– Will the honorable senator help us?
– I am wondering who will knock up first in this contest - the hare or the dog. Anyhow, I wish the Government luck in this matter.
– I do not wish to delay the passage of this resolution, but I desire to. express the hope that the Government, in utilizing the powers granted to it by this Parliament, will show as much consideration as possible to taxpayers so as not to inconvenience them in the lawful prosecution of their business. If in the further administration of this legislation the Government follows the course it adopted with regard to income tax payments, requiring licence-fees and other payments to the Crown for land rents and other purposes to be paid to the Commonwealth Bank, instead of to the State office where the records are kept, it will alienate a large body of influential public opinion in New South Wales that is at present entirely behind the Commonwealth in its fight with Mr. Lang.
– It would not be practicable to have land rents paid into the Common wealth Bank, at any rate not as a commencing point.
– I am glad to have that assurance, and I hope that the Minister will follow it up by saying that it is the intention of the Government to have those land rents paid to the Crown Lands office, after which they will be attached. A great many of those who are on the land acquire their blocks on a conditional purchase scheme extending over 20 to 30 years, and two or three times a year they send cheques, covering capital and interest, to the Lands Department. The majority trust the department to send their titles when the contract is terminated. They often do not bother to keep the receipts for twenty or more years. It would be most awkward for such persons if they were instructed to make their payments other than through the State Lands Department, as the amount might not be credited to their accounts. A similar position exists in regard to licence-fees for motor vehicles and for hotels. The registration of a motor car in New South Wales is rather an intricate matter. The vehicle has to be weighed, the horse-power calculated, and other matters attended to, which occupy the best part of two hours. It would be impracticable for Commonwealth Bank officials to undertake that task.
– The honorable senator does not suggest that there would bo any difficulty in connexion with the collection of income tax?
– In this debate I am permitted to refer only to the new sources of revenue that are to be attached under this resolution. Hotelkeepers represent a deserving section of the community, and it would be wrong to instruct them to pay their licence-fees to an official of the Commonwealth Bank, who would not be in a position to enlighten them as to what amount they had to pay, or as to the position generally. In New South Wales, and most of the other States, these fees are based almost entirely on the amount of the turnover of the previous year. The State department possesses a complete record of liquor purchases, and is able imme diately to ‘determine what fees have to be paid. The Federal Government should attach such moneys only after they are paid to the State office concerned.
I hope that, so far as is possible, the Government will avoid the unfortunate practice of making taxpayers bailiffs to the Commonwealth, a position which subjects them to inconvenience and disturbs their business arrangements. I have no objection against the amounts being first paid to the proper State department, and then, after the usual receipts are given and credits made, attached by the Federal Government. The act has been amended to permit of that being done.
Senator Sir HAL COLEBATCH (Western Australia) [12.37]: - I did not speak last night on the amending bill, which paved the way for these resolutions, for the very good reason that the brief speech of the Leader of the Government in the Senate in introducing the bill gave no very clear indication as to what it meant; and, as a matter of cold fact, I had not finished reading the bill when the vote was taken.
I opposed the first steps taken in regard to this enforcement procedure for two reasons, the first being that I believed that the contemplated action was contrary to the provisions of the Constitution. That objection has now been removed. Whether I agree or disagree with the finding of the High Court in the matter, I recognize it as the duty of every citizen of Australia to abide by that decision.
My second objection remains. I object on the ground that this procedure is entirely contrary to the federal spirit of the Constitution,and on the ground that it might, and probably will, in future, be regarded as a precedent underwhich a Commonwealth Government, aiming at unification, can effectively smash the whole of the States. There is no question that not one of the States can at the present time, or is likely in the future to be able to meet its obligations without some sort of assistance from the Commonwealth. That is the position into which we have drifted. It may well bo that whereas an attack is now being made upon a State which refuses to pay, we shall find attacks being made in the future on States that are unable to pay.
It seems to me that two things are essential to the carrying on of this federation - the financial independence of the States, and its corollary, the financial responsibility of the States. I, for one, cannot regard with complacency the complete destruction of those two elements in the federation. It is worth while considering for a moment how their destruction has come about. The framers of the Constitution recognized that this was going to be one of the great difficulties, and they set up provisions which, in their wisdom, they believed would protect Australia against these difficulties. Unfortunately, those provisions have been evaded. The first evasion was the subterfuge employed . by a Federal Government to evade the payment of surplus revenue to the States. The second was the unexpected taxation of State imports at a time when State Governments were importing goods largely by the aid of borrowed money. Those two factors had the effect of swelling Corn mon wealth revenue to an extent that was bound to excite n period of extravagance, not only by the Commonwealth, but, in imitation, also by the States. I venture to say that those two events have played a big part in bringing about those difficulties which are peculiar to Australia to-day, and are si.n addition to the troubles that we are suffering in common with the rest of the world. The third step was the abolition of the *per capita payments, and, following upon that, the making of the Financial Agreement, which was, in effect, forced upon the States. I remember very well when I was carrying on a campaign against that Financial Agreement that I directed particular attention to sub-clause 5 of what is now section 105a of the Constitution, and I protested against putting into the proposed amendment something that might entirely destroy the constitution of the States. I was in Sydney at the time, and I published that objection in the newspapers of Western Australia. The present Leader of the Government in the Senate was then in Western Australia, and he sent mc a long telegram in which he incorporated the opinion of the then Attorney-General to the effect that the inclusion of sub-clause 5 was merely intended to prevent either the Common- wealth or the States legislating themselves out of the Financial Agreement. I am confident that neither .the AttorneyGeneral nor the right honorable senator imagined for a moment that that provision would be used in* the way that it is being used to-day. In effect, we have reached the point when we have destroyed at once the financial independence and the financial responsibility of the States. Those are very unhappy consequences, especially when we happen to have a Premier in charge of one of the States who is ready to take the utmost advantage of something that seems to relieve him of responsibility.
I was very sorry to hear the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Senator Dooley), a man for whom I have the very highest respect, talk last evening in the fashion that he did about starving women and children. That is no new plea. Over and over again, persons who, by gross mismanagement of the territories under their control, have cither created or desperately increased the poverty of the people, have tried to screen themselves by the plea that they were charitably distributing other people’s money among the poor. We do not have to go very far back for an example. Take a comparatively recent one, that of Boss Tweed. the most notorious of the great corrupters under the influence of Tammany Hall, Kew York. After misappropriating some millions of pounds from the citizens of that city, he made the proud boast that he was charitably distributing much money among the unfortunate poor. Big Bill Thompson, of Chicago, used exactly the same plea, after he had almost ruined the City Corporation, and rendered it impossible to pay public employees. He boasted that bo was paying money to the poor - poor largely of his own creation. Still more recently we have the case of Scarface Al Capone, who, charged with failure to pay his income tax, boasted that he was maintaining 2,500 poverty stricken citizens of Chicago.
Sitting suspended from 12.45 to 2.15 p.m.
– T have endeavoured to make an appeal to those honorable senators who are inclined to support, in some part at least, the attitude adopted by Mr. Lang, and even to Mr. Lang himself, if he would deign to listen to such an appeal, to drop all this talk about women and children. I have also endeavoured to warn them that, if they persist along those lines, they inevitably place themselves in very bad company. The cases that I have quoted are not remote; they are well known and can be readily authenticated. It was in the last years of the previous century, that Boss Tweed commenced the corruption of New York under Tammany rule. The details are at the easy disposal of honorable senators. They can assure themselves that it was the practice of Boss Tweed, by devious means, to rob the city of millions of pounds, and that, during the whole of the time that . he was reducing the city to poverty and bringing trouble upon it, he was distributing large sums of money among the poor, principally those of his own creation, the victims of his own bad policy. It is only a few years since Big Bill Thompson, through corruption and maladministration out of which he and those who were associated with him made enormous sums of money, eventually reached the stage that he was unable to pay the city employees, and the entire city was brought to the verge of bankruptcy. He also distributed money among the poor of the city, on a scale that had never been reached previously. Then there is the final example of Scarf ace Al Capone. His principal defence when he was charged with having defrauded the public revenues by his failure to pay taxation, was that at that very time, out of his own pocket, he was feeding from 2,500 to 3,000 of the poor of Chicago every day. In each of those cases, but particularly in the first two, the attempt was made to excuse maladministration, and, by playing up to the sympathies of the people and making a pretence of doing something that other people were unwilling to do for the deserving poor, to obtain a further lease of power.
F put it that the man who is really entitled to the thanks of the deserving poor, and of women and children, is he who, in spite of hostile criticism, in spite of many difficulties, in spite possibly of abuse, so shapes his public policy as to reduce poverty and unemployment; not the man who, greedy for personal power, does not care to what extent his policy injures his- country, and looks upon the poor, in whom -he is willing merely to keep a flicker of life, in one case as servile instruments at the ballot-box that will enable him to remain in power, and in other cases as instruments that may be used to incite disorder and violence in the ranks of a community that otherwise, by patience and endurance, would work its way out of its own troubles.
There is this distinct analogy between Tweed, of New’ York, and Thompson, of Chicago, and Mr. Lang, that they were responsible for the maladministration which largely contributed to the troubles of those cities, and that the money distributed among the poor was other people’s, and not their own. I am not at all sure that Mr. Lang’s latest action does not definitely suggest that he has in mind the creation of trouble and disorder, in which event the greater the suffering in the community the more likely might be his chance of success. I say that because I do not think it is possible to escape the conclusion that whatever view a citizen may take of the judgment of the High Court, it is the bounden duty of every citizen to obey it. When Mr. Lang appealed to the High Court, he certainly had my sympathy, in the belief that his view was the correct one. But when the verdict went against him, it undoubtedly was his duty to comply with the decision of the court. So 1 have no sympathy for him in that respect. But I dp feel that the difficulty extends a good deal beyond Mr. Lang, or the borders of New South Wales, and that it is one in which the whole of Australia is concerned. Even though Ave have in Mr. Lang one who is making the difficulty worse than it otherwise would be, and creating troubles that ought not to exist, I do not believe that even that section of the trouble can or should be settled by force or violence. I am very much inclined to. think that Mr. Lang is, with some deliberation, playing for such a settlement; and I am bound to say that I do not think that the course that, is being followed by
Lbc Federal Government is best calculated to avoid the possibility of such an unfortunate happening. For that reason, while I shall certainly not offer any obstruction to this resolution, or say anything in defence of the actions that have been responsible for it, I feel much inclined to echo the sentiment of the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Barnes) and, while dissociating myself from the whole business, wish the Government every luck in carrying it into effect.
– This is another of the numerous moves that have been made by the present Government’ within recent weeks to bring about the downfall of the Government of New South “Wales. If all were true that has been said by our opponents in support of the three measures chat have been enacted by this Parliament, and the resolution that the Senate has been asked to pass to give practical force to their provisions, no one could refuse to listen to the appeal of the right honorable the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Pearce) to pass this resolution unanimously. But, as I pointed out when I spoke on the first of these measures some weeks ago, there is a good deal to be said for and against the cause of New South “Wales as well as for and against that of the Commonwealth. I think that we can discuss the real merits of the case, and the effect upon the Australian federation of the ultimate decision and its consequences, without laying ourselves open to the charge either of supporting Mr. Lang or of believing in his policy of repudiation. “When I spoke in this chamber previously, honorable senators supporting the Government who followed me twitted me with being in favour of Mr. Lang’s repudiation policy, and with being a supporter of that gentleman unci his Government. I do not believe in Mr. Lang’s methods, nor am I a supporter of his Government. But I recognize that, for the time being, he is the Premier of one of the most wealthy and populous States in the Commonwealth - a State to which some of the poorer States, whose representatives in this chamber have hurled at it candid and harsh criticism within recent weeks, owe a good deal. I cannot forget that my own State, because of disabilities suffered under federation, and other natural disabilities, has been dependent on the largess of the Commonwealth Parliament within recent years.
– It is not largess, but a right under the Constitution.
– I agree with my honorable and learned friend, that possibly “ largess “ is the wrong term to apply, and that it would bc more appropriate to say that they are payments which are made to compensate the State for disabilities due to federation and to natural causes. The point that I wish to make, however, is that the money for those payments has to be found by the taxpayers of other States which are not receiving similar treatment, because they are not subject to the disabilities that the payments are calculated to remove. Ultimately, the result of this may be the instigation of a feeling in this Parliament that will not be beneficial to the States that depend upon it for financial assistance.
During the whole of .this wretched business, judging by the actions of the Commonwealth Government, and the statements that have been made by its leader, I have been unable to free my mind from the belief that they are more concerned with the downfall of the present Government in New South Wales than with the collection of the money that is due to the Commonwealth, by that State: because they must know that, at some time or other, if the present Government in New South Wales does not honour its obligations, and if all that, we hear concerning the antipathy of the people of New South Wales towards it is true, that Government must come to an end; and in such an event, there would be in the Parliament’ of New South Wale3 a government that would discharge its commitments to the Commonwealth. I believe that, had negotiations been conducted, as honorable senators who sit on this side suggested they should be when the first of these measures was before the Senate, the dispute could have been amicably settled, as it was by the last Government. These measures, which have caused so much bitterness and ill- * feeling, would have been rendered unnecessary, and the resolutions that we have been called upon to pass would not have occupied the time of this Parliament, which ought to be dealing with the many urgent and important problems that call for solution by it.
Like Senator Colebatch, my principal objection to this legislation was on the ground of its constitutionality; and that has been removed by the decision of the High Court. But my second objection still remains. The fact that the validity of a law has been upheld by the High Court does not necessarily prove that law to be a good one. All that the court has done is to certify that this Parliament, acting under its Constitution, had the right to pass the legislation it enacted, and to apply its provisions to the conditions obtaining at the moment in New South “Wales. The court was not called upon to decide whether the law passed by this Parliament to deal with the dispute between the Commonwealth and New South Wales, and with the financial position of that State, was a good or a bad law. My objection on that ground still stands, because each succeeding step taken by this Government under the provisions of the three measures passed recently, and the steps contemplated by this resolution to which we are asked to agree unanimously, remove the last vestige of financial power from all the State Parliaments in Australia. Previous resolutions attached certain classes of revenue which were payable to the Treasury of New South Wales, and this resolution extends the ambit of the attachment principle. The Government and its advisers must have pondered deeply and long when drafting this resolution, because if it is given effect, not very many sources of actual or potential revenue will remain unattached by the Commonwealth. The resolutions provide that the trading activities of the State shall be interfered with, that portion of the returns which are available day by day and week by week shall be taken by the Commonwealth, and that licence fees shall be seized. They also provide that death duties shall be seized. That will not matter much to the citizens of the unfortunate State of New South Wales. A man who was dying in a mining camp had bequeathed a few shillings to several of his friends. One friend who happened to be at the bedside asked what they should do with their small legacy. The dying man said, “ Have a drink after I have gone “. The friend then said, “ Shall we have a drink on the way to the cemetery or on our return ?” The man replied, “ Drink when you like ; it will not matter very much to me “. The seizure of death duties will not matter very much to the people of New South Wales, but nevertheless this resolution pursues them beyond the grave by attaching death duties which are paid into the Treasury of New South Wales.
This legislation destroys the last vestige of financial sovereignty which the States possess. What is to be done in New South Wales to-morrow may be done in the near future in some of the other States. Where is this business to end? Are we to continue to deal with effects in this higgledy-piggledy incompetent, and haphazard manner as they arise, or are we to endeavour to dealwith the root cause of the world trouble? Senator Colebatch during his excellent speech attempted to draw a comparison between certain notorious gangsters and Tammany lenders in the United States of America and the Government of New South Wales, but he would have given more point to his observation had he indicated in what respect the management of New South Wales under the present State Government resembled the business practices of the notorious Tammany leaders. Is it because of mismanagement and maladministration that the State of New South Wales is to-day unable to pay its interest bill?
Senat or Greene. - Largely.
– If that is so, is it because of maladministration that the States of Western Australia and Tasmania recently obtained special financial assistance from the Loan Council to enable them to meet their commitments?
-Retrenchments were made in both States.
– And also in South Australia.
– And yet they did not make both ends meet.
– That is so. Are we to get to the milk of thecoco-n ut ? Is the real reason for the Commonwealth attacking New South. Wales the fact that it has refused to retrench and to reduce wages and pensions of widows and child endowment? If that is the reason then we know wherewe stand. Is it the failure of the people of New South Wales to work and produce that has brought that State to its present position? It is not. Let me illustrate the position of the farmers of South Australia because what applies to them applies with equal force to the farmers of New South Wales.
SenatorHerbert Hays. - The fanners ofNew South Wales are not responsible for the position of that State.
– Nor are the farmers of South Australia responsible for the fact that that State cannot pay itsway. ‘ Last year those farmers produced morewheat than had been produced in South Australia before, yet many of them are now living in absolute poverty. Recently, when vi siting one of thewealthiest agricultural districts in that State, I discovered that many farmers who had grown record crops had not the price of a suit of clothes to show for their year’s labour. That position affects the taxable capacity of the State, and reduces its revenue to such an extent that the Government has to decide whether wages and salaries are to be reduced belowwhat is claimed to be theliving standard ; whetherwidows’ and other pensions are to be discontinued, orwhether some equitable adjustment should be agreed to on the part of those to whom the State is in debt.Sooner or later this Parliamentwill have to face the position. The passing of this legislationwill not increase the taxable capacity of our people. The taxable capacity of New South Wales has recently become so diminished that that State has had to curtail its expenditure. It has decided that it is preferable to continue pensions and endowment payments rather than to meet its interest commitments. That brings us to the consideration of the question whether we can pay all that weowe, and it is here, that I part company with Mr. Lang. There will have to be an adjustment of not only national, but also private, commitments in this country, and, in fact, throughout the world.Before the people of New South Wales can produce at. a profit, and again become revenue-earners and taxpayers to the Treasury, there will have to be a scaling down of liabilities which were incurred during the years of inflation. It is impossible for us to meet, with our deflated returns, the interest on the commitrneiits incurred in a period of inflation. Our taxable capacity has been reduced, and State revenues have diminished. There is every likelihood of other States defaulting, and of the Com- monwealth attempting to enforce this legislation in respect of them. I am not conducting a crusade against the bondholders,whose interests the Commonwealth is seeking to protect under this legislation. We have to face- the facts honestly and fairly, and the sooner Ave do that the better it will be for the nation and the individuals, because if the individuals cannot pay their way it is obvious that the nation cannot pay its way.
The Leader of the Government in the Senate- (Senator Pearce) made an apology in anticipation ofwhat he believeswill be the effect of the application of this resolution. He explained that the application of paragraphs ix and x of the resolution would not bring about the discontinuance of the transport services of New South Wales, because the Commonwealth Government proposes to leave in the hands of the Transport Commissioners sufficient money withwhich to meetwages and working expenses. This Commonwealth is not in a position to decide how much money is required to maintain the transport services. It has introduced a dangerous principle, because next year South Australia, or any other State, may be forced into a position similar to that ofNew South Wales. I. do notwant the Commonwealth Government to instruct South Australia as to what percentage of the railway and harbours revenue must be devoted to the maintenance of those services, and what percentage must be paid to the Commonwealth Treasury, so as to ensure that the people from whom we have borrowed money shall receive the interest due to them, no matterwho suffers in the process. This Government, although it professes to be opposed to unification - the policy that we on this side advocate - is taking effective steps to bring about the downfall of federation, and to place the people of Australia under the control of one Parliament; The Leader of the Government in the Senate also made a strong denial of the statement that the action of the Commonwealth in applying certain provisions of this legislation to the banking institutions of New South Wales had been responsible for the non-payment ‘ of widows’ pensions and endowment.
– Widows’ pensions have been paid.
– The Leader of the Government in the Senate pointed out that the same machinery exists to-day as existed prior to the passing of this legislation. Of course it does. We all know it. But if the Commonwealth succeeds in attaching the revenue of New South Wales, which it seeks to attach, the machinery will be useless, because the lump sum referred to by the right honorable gentleman will not be available for the payment of those pensions. It will have, been diverted by the Commonwealth to pay interest. On this Government and this Parliament, therefore, will rest the odium of having denied to these people that to which the Parliament of New South Wales says they are entitled.
The right honorable gentleman made another most remarkable observation relating to the attachment of revenues receivedby the State Lands Department from the sale or lease of land or from any other means adopted in New South Wales for the disposal of lands which are undoubtedly controlled by the Parliament of the State under the Constitution of the State. Ho said that if we could succeed in attaching that revenue, people who owed certain sums to the State would he bound to pay it into the Commonwealth, and that this was the law to-day. He said that if a man had to make a final payment of £500 to the State Government, he would be obliged to pay it to the Common wealth. That is probably correct under the decision of the High Court. But he went on to amplify the point, and said that if the man paid the £500 to the Government of New South Wales his title would not be valid.
Sena to r McLachlan. - No ;he said that the man’s title would be valid, and that he would be entitled to demand it.
– Our enforcement legislation contains nothing re lating to the disposal of the lands of New South Wales, or to the relations between Crown tenants and the Lands Department of the State, and I venture to prophesy that under paragraph xv of the motion we shall have another long and expensive cycle of the litigation which these blundering attempts of the’ present Government to settle this dispute have already produced. The only people in Australia who are smiling to-day are the legal fraternity of Melbourne and Sydney. They will long bless this enforcement legislation and its results, which have been the source of lucrative fees that have come their way.
Instead of using the whole of the constitutional and legislative machinery of the Commonwealth to bring about the downfall of a certain government because its opinions and . police- run counter to those of the Government in power in the Commonwealth, would it not be better for us to survey the whole position calmly and honestly? During the last two days we have heard agreat deal about the supremacy of Parliament and the danger there is of parliamentary institutions being overthrown. In my opinion, the actions of the present, Government, along the lines of this motion, are a source of greater danger to Parliament than any organization that exists in Australia could ever he. Those people who profess such antipathy to Mr. Lang, and fear the consequences of his becoming a power in the polities of Australia, are doing more to make him great than anything he or his government could do.I was amazed recently when I made a fairly extensive tour of the country districts of South Australia to find the number of people who made no secret of the fact that they believed Mr. Lang was nearer right than, any of the other leaders in politics to-day. Large numbers of people, not men who were carrying their swags or living on the dole, or even men working for wages, but men of substance, farmers, business people and others, are recognizing the truth of what I said a few moments ago - that the position of New South Wales and other States is due, not to maladministration or to the failure to- utilize our national resources to produce the maximum, but. to the calamitous foll in prices, which is affecting the whole world to-day.
– I ask the honorable senator to endeavour to confine his remarks more closely to the terms of the motion. The general principles upon which he has now begun to speak have already been debated two or three times in the Senate. The details of the motion only may now be discussed.
– I thought that I was within my rights in pointing out that if certain other steps were taken it would not be necessary for the Senate to pass this motion. I am suggesting that, as an alternative, the Government should cease hostilities towards New South Wales and get to grips with the real problem which has made the passing of this motion necessary, and with which it will be forced to get to grips unless, as Senator Daly pointed out yesterday, it vacates the treasury benches in favour of an administration which will grapple with the problem on the lines 1 have suggested. I regret that the time of Parliament should be taken up in passing a motion of this kind. How ineffective it is likely to be is , shown by the statement of the Lender of the Government in the Senate that the total amount collected and withheld from New South Wales is under £500,000. I take it that the amount includes the sums withheld by the Commonwealth.
– The honorable senator can accept my assurance that -it does not.
– When we passed the first resolution, the State owed so much. We have collected so much, andthe amount, owing rises week by week. I am afraid that, despite the passing of this motion, next week or the week after it we shall be considering other aspects of this unfortunate question instead of getting to grips with the real problem which must be solved if we are to maintain the respect of the right-thinking people in our community.
– The right honorable the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Pearce) has painted a vivid picture of the position of New South Wales, and has described the Premier of the State as a defaulter and a repudiationist. According to the right honorable gentleman, Mr. Lang has been guilty of almost everything that a mau can be guilty of. I believe in getting down to the principle adopted at the Premiers Conference, and I believe that the truth should be told in this chamber, or, at any rate, that we should get as close to the truth as we possibly can. It was understood at the Melbourne conference which drew up the Premiers plan that the Premiers had the sanction of the conference to make economies in their own States in their own way. I think that that is the truth. At any rate, it is what I have gathered from the reports of the conference. In accordance with his promise to the conference, the Leader of the Government in New South Wales submitted to the Legislative Assembly a bill to reduce all wages and salaries of judges, politicians, and civil servants to a maximum of £500 per annum. Unfortunately, the gentlemen of the Legislative Council, supporters of the majority now in the Commonwealth Parliament, rejected the measure, contending that it was not equality of sacrifice.
– It was a bit of shadow sparring, was it not?
– I do not think so. It was more than the other States endeavoured to do, and I shall show how far the shadow sparring has gone. Mr. Lung then introduced another bill into Parliament, embodying a graduated form of taxation, under which all incomes over £500 would be taxed at the rate of 5s. in the £; but again the Legislative Council rejected it. In fairness to the Premier of that. State we should say that he did hia utmost to keep up with the undertaking entered into at the Premiers Conference in Melbourne. That was his intention; but the Legislative Council prevented him from doing what he desired. I often wonder whether honorable senators from the other States realize the extent to which those States must also be affected by this legislation.
– They rely upon New . South Wales paying its debts.
– New South Wales has helped the State represented by the honorable senator for a number of years. New South Wales is prepared to pay its debts; but those at present controlling its destinies are not “willing to allow its people to go without food in order to pay interest to overseas bondholders.
– What about, iiic interest on its internal debt?
– What about the widows, of whom we have heard so much?
– I do not wish to discuss that phase of the question, which has been unjustly ridiculed by honorablesenators opposite. I know the actual position in New South Wales much better than do honorable, senators opposite. They do not know the hardships that are being imposed upon the people of that State as well as I do. That is why I am in a position to speak more authoritatively for them than arc honorable senators interjecting. We have been’ informed that every State Government, with the exception of the Government of New South Wales, has observed the agreement made at the Premiers Conference in Melbourne. That has been said so often that some honorable senators opposite have come to believe that it is true; but the Governments of Queensland, Victoria and Western Australia, as well as the Government of New .South Wales have been unable to keep their deficits within the limits laid down in Melbourne.
– They made reductions.
– Of the four States mentioned whose deficits exceeded those stipulated, that of New South Wales was relatively less .than those of the other three States. Notwithstanding this the Commonwealth Government has said that the three States with greater deficits than New South Wales have kept within the Premiers plan, while New South Wales has not done so. New .South Wales complied with the undertaking entered into in Melbourne to its fullest possible extent. Had the legislation, to which I have referred, been passed by the New South Wales Parliament, there would have been no occasion for the Commonwealth Government to introduce its Financial Agreements enforcement legislation or for a display of enmity towards Mr. Lang.
– He has 8 majority of Labourites in the Legislative Council.
– It all depends- on what is meant by Labourites. A great deal ha3 been said with reference to the money received from New South Wales, and the actual amount owing by that State. A little controversy occurred a few minutes ago between the Assistant Minister (Senator Greene) and Senator O’Halloran, on that point. In order to show how far the Commonwealth has succeeded under its wonderful enforcement legislation, I quote the Prime Minister, who said that-
The Premier of New South Wales, Air. Lung, hud defaulted in internal interest to the amount of £184,54.3 representing the discount on treasury-bills. The gross default of New South Wales to-day is approximately £3,200,000. The recoveries under the Enforcement Act are approximately £440,000, and the net amount outstanding is £2,700,000.
I am reminded of a remark of Senator Barnes, that the action of the Government resembles that of a dog chasing a hare. The. Government’s enforcement, legislation has not had the effect anticipated. Notwithstanding its efforts no progress has been made, and it appears that the practice of introducing amending bills will 110 get its very far. I believe that there is i.no .her solution of this difficulty. I have come to the conclusion that wiser counsel should prevail, and that it would be preferable for the Government to adopt a conciliatory attitude rather than to hold a gun at the State concerned. I have been an ardent supporter of conciliation all my life. When an industrial dispute occurs between employers and wageslaves in this country, honorable senators opposite always advocate concilation ; but when faced with a major dispute, such as this, affecting as it does the whole of Australia, they advocate not conciliation, but direct action such as is now being taken. In these circumstances, one is justified in concluding that even if the New- South Wales Government were able to pay its overseas and internal indebtedness, that would not be sufficient to satisfy the Commonwealth Government. This Government would not mind if Mr. Lang defaulted in those payments, provided he reduced the basic wage, abolished child endowment, widows’ pensions, and other social services. If he had agreed to reduce the basic wage in N ew South Wales to £211s. 6d. per week everything in New South Wales would, according to the opinion of honorable senators opposite, be all right. Even if a general election were held in New South Wales the position would not be altered. I am firmly convinced that the fight is only against the Premier of that State, It is fortunate that the people of New South Wales have a man prepared to fight when be thinks he is right.
– Even if he smashes the whole State.
– The people of the State are behind him.
– He is frightened to go to the electors.
– What difference would it make if he went to the people, and was returned?
– There is no hope of that.
– I arn afraid that me honorable senator is not acquainted with the position in New South Wales. The whole trouble from the viewpoint of this Government is that the Premier of New South Wales will not reduce the basic wage to £211s. 6d. ner week, and interfere with certain social services Thank God, we have at the head of the Government of New South Wales a man //ho does not believe in a reduction of a paltry basic wage of £4 2s. 6d.
– He stands for protection to the extent of £15,000 under the moratorium.
– He stands in the interests of thosewho elected him. He has been returned to the New South Wales Parliament . with the largest majority that one party has ever had in that House since the inception of responsible government. This is the gentleman who, we are told, should go to the people. At present, Mr. Lang has a following of 5 5 members, and as sure as he goes to the people he will be returned with the support of at least 60. I wonder whether it will be said then that he has a mandate from the people?
– I am satisfied that the honorable senator means that.
– Not unless he pays his debts.
– It does not matter what he does, so long as he does nor. do what the Commonwealth Government requires in the matter of the basic wage, his actions will be condemned by it. I hope that he will not do what this Government wishes him to do. I oppose the motion.
– I rise only to put before the Senate the authentic figures concerning which there was a controversy between Senator O’Halloran and myself, while the honorable senator was speaking. The figures quoted a few moments ago by Senator Mooney as to the total default of New South Wales are not correct. The gross default of the State is £3,948,672. The monthly interestwhich is the contribution by the Commonwealth - set . off, is £729,354. There has also been set off an overpayment of interest amounting to £19,105. The amounts recovered - in other words, the amounts which have been actually collected from the taxpayers of New South Wales - aggregate £481,357. This makes a total recovery of £1,229,816, leaving at the moment a default of £2,718,S56. That is the actual position as I know it to he, and I think it well to place it on record. I suggest that, the recovery of £1,229.816 is a better result, than was achieved by the Scullin Government.
– That sum includes amounts which have been withheld.
– The Government regards as satisfactory the results so far achieved by its action ; it hopes to do better in the near future.
– It seems a pity that this matter could not be dealt with in a different way. I opposed the principal act, which this bill seeks to amend, because of the constitutional difficulties which I feared would arise if it became law. Since then, however, the High Court has declared that the legislation, whose validity I doubted, is constitutional, and therefore I -can no longer take the stand which I formerly took. A further reason for my opposition to that measure was that I anticipated that the Government would expert- ence considerable difficulty in collecting the money. Difficulties still remain. I should like the Leader of the Senate (Senator Pearce) to explain the position of a hotelkeeper who pays his licencefees to the federal authorities in accordance with the Commonwealth law. Will he be liable to prosecution, by the State for keeping a hotel without a. licence? Similarly, I should like to know how the law will affect the owner of a motor car who pays his registration fee to the Commonwealth? Will the State authorities be able to proceed against him for using an unregistered vehicle?
– In matters in which the Commonwealth is entitled to legislate, the Commonwealth law overrides the law of the State. The High Court has ruled that this is a matter upon which the Commonwealth is entitled to legislate, and that being so, the Commonwealth law is supreme. The Commonwealth can therefore protect the hotelkeeper by compelling the State to issue a licence provided that the other requirements of the State law have been complied with.
– No lawyer would give that advice.
– A good deal has been, said about the starving condition of many persons in New South Wales. Their misfortune has been used as an argument against paying the interest due to bondholders. Such statements merely show how Mr. Lang and his followers are playing to the gallery. South Australia is the most heavily taxed State in the Commonwealth, and possibly in the world; but that State has endeavoured to meet its interest commitments as well as supply its people with food. Every State has its own system of supplying food to the unemployed, and others in want, and there is, consequently, no reason why any person in the Commonwealth should starve. There is no solid ground for the argument that people are starving, and that interest payments should therefore not be made.
Senator Mooney said that Mr. Lang endeavoured to pass through the State Parliament legislation providing that no person should receive a salary greater than £500 per annum. - In my opinion, Mr. Lang was not sincere in regard to that proposal. As evidence of his insincerity, I point out he appointed a man to a position at £1,500 a year after he had put his proposal forward.
– Had he been sincere, he would have reduced his own salary to £500.
– That is so; but he did not do so. When his Government appointed a new Agent-General in London, Mr. Lang did not say to the proposed appointee that the Government had Fledged itself not to pay more than £500 a year to any man, and at that rate he could “ take it or leave it “. Instead, he paid the new Agent-General £2,000 per annum. By his actions, Mr. Lang has evidenced his insincerity.
In one breath, Mr. Lang says that’ New South Wales cannot pay the interest due to bondholders; in the next breath he claims that his State is the wealthiest in the Commonwealth. Surely that is a paradox ! Does Mr. Lang want to see in Australia the rule of the jungle, which means that the weakest must go under? By his action in refusing to pay interest, he is pushing to the wall the weaker States, such as Tasmania and South Australia, which. are less able than is New South Wales to carry the burden. Mr. Lang should at least recognize the underlying principle of democracy and not injure the weaker partners of the federation. Each State should bear its share of the burden on the basis of its population.
Had Mr. Lang wanted to prove his sincerity in. the matter of maintaining high wages and satisfactory conditions for the workers, he had a glorious opportunity to take a stand in that direction when he was asked to accept, the Financial Agreement. Instead of signing that agreement, he should have stood out and insisted on the maintenance of the then standard of living. For any lowering of that standard Mr. Lang is equally guilty with the other Premiers.
– I must ask the honorable senator to confine his remarks to the motion before the Senate.
– Mr. Lang’s statement that the action of the Federal Government, which he tei-ms persecution, has robbed the widows and children of
New South Wales of the payments due to them has been given great publicity. The Minister in charge of the bill (Senator Pearce) has denied his charge. I hope that he will see that the same publicity is given to the facts of the case as has been given to Mr. Lang’s statement. The people should know that Mr. Lang, not the Federal Government, is responsible for the non-payment of these pensions.
Sooner or later, the Federal Government must triumph in the present battle, and then the Lang Government will go out of existence. But I suggest that if Mr. Lang Avishes to prove his bona fides, he should not Avait until he can no longer resist the pressure brought to bear -upon him, but should immediately appeal to the people of New South Wales. Indeed, that is the only honorable thing that he can do. His supporters say that an appeal to the electors would result in the return of the Lang Government. All I can say is that, in that case, it would have a mandate to carry on. I hope that Mr. Lang will soon give the electors an opportunity to prove whether they arewith or against him.
Sitting suspended from3.30 to4.15p.m.
– In order that the scope of the resolution may be somewhat widened, I move -
That the following words be added to paragraph (x) : - “or by any other body or authority, or any department, which is, on or after the date of this resolution, substituted in whole or in part for the Transport Commissioners of New South Wales, or which exercises at any time any power or function which, at the date of this resolution, is exercisable in whole or in part by the Transport Commissioners of New South Wales”.
I do not intend to traverse any of the observations made in this debate, but I think it highly desirable that there should be a realization by the Government of New South Wales, as I believe there is by the people of that State, that ultimately it would be better in the interests of New South Wales if its Government comported itself Avith honour and honesty. Whatever adjustments may have to be made, and probably such adjustments will be necessary throughout the world, these cannot be accomplished by bluff and bluster, or dishonest methods. This amendment will make the provision in paragraph x more elastic, and enable it to play on the functious of the Transport Commissioners of NeAv South Wales irrespective of whether the title of that body is changed or whether the particular functions which the commissioners are now discharging are entrusted to some other person or authority.
.- As honorable senators on this side have not had an opportunity to consider the effect of the amendment, Ave are at a disadvantage in resuming the debate. 1 shall be glad, therefore, if the Minister will allow me about ten minutes for the consideration of the amended proposal.
– The effect of the amendment is to apply paragraph x to any other body that may be substituted for the Transport Commission of NeAv South Wales.
– If that is all it means it may be all right, but I should like further time to consider it. I, therefore, ask leave to continue my remarks.
Sitting suspended from4.20 to 4-.30 p.m.
– During the brief suspension of the sitting, I have given careful consideration to the amendment proposed by the Acting Attorney-General (Senator McLachlan). There is a further weakness in the resolution, and my honorable colleague, Senator Dooley, who is particularly interested in the State of New South Wales, proposes to make a suggestion to the Government Avith regard to it.
– Iwish to have a further pro- vision inserted in paragraph xi.
– Unless the alteration occurs in the amendment that has already been moved, that amendment must first be disposed of. Anything that comes subsequently must await its turn, and form the subject of a separates amendment.
– If Senator Dooley were permitted to explain what is in his mind, the Government might be prepared to give the undertaking that he desires.
– Senator Dooley has already spoken to the amendment, and has resumed his seat.
– I sat down because you, sir, ruled that I was not in order.
– The honorable senator has discovered an explanation of which I would not have thought. As a reward for his ingenuity, I shall allow him to continue his remarks.
– Speaking on the motion for the adoption of this resolution, I pointed out that the people of New South Wales apprehended some danger from it. They believe that the concern of the Commonwealth Government is that the bondholder shall get his interest, and that the welfare of the individual employee may be lost sight of. I merely wish to safeguard that position, and to make sure that it is the intention of the Government not to penalize the employees. That can be done, either by an amendment or by the giving of an undertaking by the Government. I suggest a proviso to paragraph xi., setting out that nothing in the paragraph shall prevent the payment of existing award rates, and the observance of existing conditions, and that the Commonwealth guarantee the employees accordingly. I take it that it is not the intention of the Commonwealth to make the employees in the railway service of New South Wales suffer as a consequence of the attachment of one-sixth of the revenue of that service. There is the danger that the revenue may fall off to such an extent that it will not be possible for the Transport Commissioners or the Government to pay the wages of the service after meeting the requirements of the Commonwealth. I should like the Leader of the Government to give the Senate the assurance that, in the event of such a depletion of revenue that the fivesixths remaining with the State is not sufficient to pay the wages of the employees, it will not take the one-sixth at the expense of those employees.
[4.37]. - The Government could not agree to the suggestion of the honorable senator as a condition precedent to the acceptance of the amendment to paragraph x. The proposed addition does not appear to have anything to do either with the amendment or with the resolution itself. The Commonwealth cannot, under the power that it possesses, determine the wages that shall be paid in the railway service of New South Wales. Nor is that one of its powers under the Financial Agreements Enforcement Act. It has no power to interfere with wages.
– The right honorable gentleman apparently has misunderstood the position that is taken up by the Opposition. The Commonwealth proposes to take onesixth of the railway revenue of New South Wales. Out of that revenue certain obligations, including wages, have to be met. The State is to be permitted to retain five-sixths of the revenue. If that five-sixths is not sufficient to pay the wages of the employees, who will make good the balance?
– Is there not enough left?
– If the five-sixths is sufficient to pay the employees, there is no harm in the Government giving the undertaking that it will not attempt to interfere in any way with the wages fixed under the arbitration system. All that Senator Dooley has asked for is an undertaking that if, out of the amount of railway . revenue left to the State, there is not sufficient to pay the wages prescribed by an industrial tribunal-
– Which industrial tribunal?
– An industrial tribunal that is competent to fix wages.
– The wages would be fixed by a federal award.
– They are not now so fixed.
– Whether it is a Federal or a State tribunal does not make any difference. Senator Grant cannot, mention any judge, either State or Federal, who has ever acted contrary to the oath of office taken by him.
– What about Judge Piddington ?
– The honorable senator evidently has read some small sporting newspaper published in the north of Tasmania.
– Read the Bulletin.
– No man to-day stands higher in the legal world of Australia than the learned gentleman to whom he has referred, and his awards have been followed in very many instances by other tribunals. On the figures quoted by the Leader of the Government, it would appear that there will be sufficient in the five-sixths of the revenue to meet wages commitments.
– We made absolutely sure of that.
– That is on the present figures. We would like to reject this resolution; but, as we cannot, we ask for the assurance that, if the five-sixths is not sufficient to meet the wages payable, and to compensate for the observance of the conditions, the Commonwealth Government will pay to the workers, out of the one-sixth that it confiscates, what they are entitled to receive under any awards that may be made from time to time.
– As I understand the position, the purpose of the resolution is to set out clearly the different classes of revenue that may be attached by the Federal Government. Any proposal to superadd a proviso that is quite foreign to the purpose and the intent of the resolution, I submit, would be out of order. If it is in order, I should fail in my duty did I not safeguard the interests of other elements in the community, in addition to those who are receiving wages under awards.
– We will support you in that.
– If the proposition of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Senator Dooley) is accepted, and the railway revenue of New South Wales proves to be so buoyant that one-seventh or one-eighth will satisfy the needs of the Commonwealth, that buoyancy should be made subservient to those who principally keep the railways of this State going, namely, the people in the country, by the reduction of freights, particularly on wheat, which to-day is produced at a loss.
Amendment agreed to.
Amendment (by .Senator Sir William Glasgow) agreed to:
That after the word “ Wales “, line 4, paragraph xi the following words be inserted: - “ or by any other body or authority, or any department, which is, on or after this date of this resolution, substituted in whole or in part for the Transport Commissioners of New South Wales, or which exercises at any time any power or function which, at the date of this resolution, is exercisable in whole or in part by the Transport Commissioners of New South Wales.”
– Would I now be in order in moving the amendment I have outlined?
– The honorable senator cannot do so. He has already spoken to the motion. One of his colleagues who has not spoken may submit it for him.
– On a point of order I submit that it is clear from the remarks of Senator Dooley that the amendment he has suggested would be out of order, because the only statutory power we have in this matter is to carry a resolution specifying- the revenues or classes of revenue which we are seeking the approval of Parliament to attach. We are empowered, in this motion, to describe only the classes of revenue, and when the proclamation is issued we proclaim certain of these, attaching the whole or only part of them. .
– Can an assurance be given that in any future proclamation or regulation following upon this resolution the employees will be protected to the extent desired by me?
– The only assurance I can give is that the Government is taking power to attach only a portion of the railways revenue, leaving sufficient to enable the utility to be carried on by the Railway Department for the benefit of the public. I take the point of order that the amendment would not be in order.
– I agree with the Vice-President of the Executive Council The purpose of the motion is to name revenues and classes of revenues to be affected, whereas apparently the suggested amendment relates to certain wages which shall be paid. Such an amendment would bc irrelevant to the main purpose of t.hr motion.
– I think that Senator Pearce, when introducing this motion, said that, although it was proposed to take one-sixth of the revenue from the railways of New South Wales. there would still be sufficient left with the State to carry on the railways as they are now being carried on.
– That is so. There would be more than sufficient for that purpose.
Motion, as amended, agreed to. special adjournment.
Motion (by Senator Sir George Pearce) agreed to -
That the Senate at its rising adjourn till Tuesday next at 3 p.m.
Order of Business - Wartime Profits Tax - W yndham Aerodrome.
[4.51]. - i move -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
Events being normal - I think I ought to make that qualification at this juncture - the Senate will deal with the Australian Broadcasting Commission Bill as its first business next week.
. - i desire to bring under the notice of the Minister for Defence (Senator Pearce) the latest independent evidence that has come from an air traveller from Europe to Australia as to the superiority of the Wyndham aerodrome, upon which since its establishment nine years ago, the Commonwealth has spent £9, as compared with £4,000 expended on the Darwin aerodrome. Mr. R. T. Richards, a distinguished English aviator, has just brought Lady Chaytor’s aeroplane to Australia, and while in Western Australia he made some observations after having visited Darwin and Wyndham. i quote the following from the West Australian. dated the 29th April, 1932:-
Asked whether he considered the Wyndham aerodrome suitable as a landing ground for overseas aviators, Mr. Richards said that it was in every way suitable. The sea crossing from Kupang to Wyndham was loss by 100 miles than from Ku pang to Darwin. In the flight to Darwin, head winds might prove a seriousmenace on account of the limited fuel supply which aeroplanes could carry.If the crossing were made to Wyndham, it would not matter if head winds at 40 miles an hour were encountered; the flight could still be made safely if the engine held out. Moreover, there was an excellent landing ground at the Drysdale Mission, which was on the line of flight.
He could not, of course, say what the Wyndham ground was like in wet weather, but it was in splendid condition when he landed there on Tuesday.
Thusthe tremendous volume of evidence as to the superiority of Wyndham, and the shortness of the sea route from Timor to Wyndham compared with that from Timor to Darwin,has been added to by this distinguished overseas aviator.
– Why is the Wyndham route not taken?
– It is taken by a great many aviators. The Dutch aviators used, it when visiting Australia. I am inclined to think that Darwin has been favoured because it is in Commonwealth territory. I ask the Minister for Defence to take into consideration these representations from an independent source when dealing with the request of the people of Wyndham, that an all-weather aerodrome should be established at that airport. According to the West Australian, in the last fortnight a new site has been discovered at Wyndham which, if cleared, can be made -safe for aeroplanes all the year round.
– If 100 miles issaved on the sea journey, what would be lost on land by using the Wyndham route instead of the Darwin?
– I do not think that any distance would be lost.
– Which port gives the more direct route to the larger centres of population?
– They are all practically the same distance. Air-Commodore Kingsford Smith has frequently flown to Asia by way of Wyndham. Thanks to the courtesy of Mr. President, honorable senators can see hanging in the Senate club room a large handsome air map of Australis supplied by Mr. McCallum Smith. M.L.A., of the Perth Sunday Times. That map shows clearly that the route to Asia via Wyndham is just as short as that via Darwin. There is practically no difference. Even if there is, I submit that an all-weather aerodrome should be established at Wyndham at the expense of the Commonwealth, so that those aviators who desire to make a shorter sea crossing in planes designed mainly for travelling over the land should be given the chance of both routes by the provision of suitable aerodromes at the two centres.
SenatorFOLL (Queensland) [5.1].- The answer to a series of questions I submitted this morning in connexion with certain assessments under the Wartime Profits Tax Assessment Act states that owing to the secrecy provisions of that act, the Commissioner of Taxation is precluded from furnishing any information in connexion with the case referred to in my questions. In these circumstances, I ask the Acting Attorney-General whether the secrecy provisions of that act are not provided to ensure that the profits or particulars in assessments shall not be made public, rather than to prevent information being withheld when a taxpayer who thinks that he has been unjustly treated w ishes to bring his case under the notice of Parliament. I can recall an occasion some time ago when a debate ensued in another place, and when the Leader of the Opposition, Mr. Scullin, spoke at considerable length concerning the alleged failure of Sir Sidney Kidman to pay taxation said to be due to the Federal Government. On that occasion a lengthy and bitter debate ensued and serious charges were made by the then Leader of the Opposition in another place. In the case mentioned in the questions I asked, a taxpayer feels that he has received an unjust deal from the Taxation Department, and also from certain partners in business, owing to the manner in which his assessment was dealt with by the department. He, therefore, seeks an opportunity to bring his case under the notice of the Treasurer in order that he may have what he alleges a wrong redressed.
– Such a procedure would establish a dangerous precedent. Other taxpayers would claim the same right.
SenatorFOLL. - It would establish a dangerous precedent if details of any taxpayer’s assessment were made available. 1 agree that the secrecy provisions of the Wartime Profits Tax Assessment Act or any other act administered by the Commissioner of Taxation, should be strictly observed. The Federal Taxation Commissioner should not be subject to the direction of Ministers in the matter of making available particulars contained: in taxation returns made to him. This is a case in which an injustice is claimed to have been perpetrated upon a man by his partners - a man who,, owing to the fact that the Taxation Department is not prepared to make certain assessments available, is unable to establish his partnership in a business in Western Queensland.
– Income tax returns are not available as evidence in court. The Commissioner of Taxation cannot disclose what they contain.
– If a person feels that his partners have not been assessed in such a way as to ensure him receiving justice, and the Commissioner has given his decision and an appeal has been heard,, he has no right to bring the matter before Parliament. He cannot, even if an injustice has been done, place his case before this Parliament in order that the Treasurer, who is the nominal head of the Taxation Department, may have an investigation made. In spite of the brief but courteous answer to my questions,I may say that this case was discussed at considerable length in the Queensland Legislative Assembly, where it was not regarded as being outside the scope of debate.
– The Minister did not’ say it was outside the scope of debate; but that he could not answer the questions.
– If the questions cannot be answered, it is useless attempting to have the matter debated. It would appear that this man who has undoubtedly been badly treated, not so much by the department as by his partners, has little opportunity of having his grievances redressed by Parliament;
– The position is, as Senator Foll knows, that the Minister cannot direct the Commissioner of Taxation in the execution of his duties to answer any of the eleven questions asked by the honorable senator. The Commissioner is the sole judge of whether he should or should not divulge any information in his possession. To do so would be a breach of the oath of office which he takes. It is not competent for any Minister to direct the Commissioner to divulge any information. Sub-section 7 of section it of the Wartime Profits Tax Assessment Act reads -
An officer who acts in the execution of hia office before he has made the prescribed -declaration, or who, after making the declara-tion, divulges any information relating to the affairs of a taxpayer except in the performance of his duty shall bc guilty of an offence.
The declaration which the Commissioner makes is as follows: -
I nf … in the
State of in the Commonwealth of Australia do solemnly and sincerely declare that except in the performance of my duty under the Wartimes Profits Tax Assessment Act 1917, or any amendment thereof, I will not directly or indirectly divulge or communicate to any person any information relating to the affairs of any taxpayer.
There is greater necessity for secrecy in ‘ connexion with the Wartime Profits Assessment Act than there is in regard to Income or Land Tax Assessment Acts. That is the first point. Secondly, if I remember aright, the debate in connexion . with Sir’ Sidney Kidman’s land tax assessment was based on the Annual Report of the Taxation Commissioner, which is tabled in Parliament every year, and in which is set out the activities of the department. Consequently, the information in. that case, such as it was, waa available to honorable senators. The Commissioner of Taxation is obliged under the act to make such. a report to Parliament. This is an entirely different matter. It is within the discretion of the Commissioner of Taxation to determine whether the furnishing of any information would be a breach of his duty under the law. I assume that the position is that the Government cannot say to .the Commissioner that he must divulge the information, and he is within his rights in withholding it.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE (Western Australia - Minister for Defence) [5.10]. - I can assure Senator E. B. Johnston that the recommendations made - by the distinguished aviator he mentioned will receive full consideration of the Government if and when it is in a position to do anything further in the direction of assisting civil aviation and the opening up of air ports.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 5.10 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 5 May 1932, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1932/19320505_senate_13_134/>.