13th Parliament · 1st Session
The President (Senator the Hon.P. J. Lynch) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– Has the Minister for Defence any information to give to the Senate in reply to a telegram sent to Canberra by Mr. Shaw, the chairman of the Australian Air Convention?
– The subject mentioned could more appropriately be raised by the honorable senator on the motion for the adjournment of the Senate, or during the discussion ofthe Estimates and budget papers. It is impossible for me to deal adequately with the matter in answer to a question.
– Can the Minister representing the Minister for. Commerce inform the Senate of the date fixed for the conference to be held in Canberra of all interests that are likely to be affected by the implementing of the International Wheat Agreement, and the arrangements to be made for the handling of the Australian harvest?
– I understand that the conference will be held on the31st October.
Effects onassociatednewspapers limited,sydney.
Senater DUNN. - I ask the Leader of the Senate (1) What amount will he saved by Associated Newspapers Limited, Sydney, from remissions of taxation foreshadowed in the budget from (a) land tax, and (6) income tax? (2)What was the estimated saving to this company during the last twelve months of the reduction of rates for press telegrams? (3) What was the total value of newsprint passing through the hands of this company during the last twelve months? (4) What amount has been saved to the company by the exemption of newsprint from sales tax, primage and other taxes?
– I ask the Minister representing the Prime Minister if the attention of the Government has been drawn to the action of the New South Wales Arbitration Court last Friday, in reducing the basic wage in that State by 2s. a week; also were the factors responsible for this decrease taken into consideration by the Government before deciding to increase ministerial and parliamentary salaries?
– The factors were known, not only to members of the Government, but also to members of Parliament, and no doubt were taken into consideration by them.
– Is it a fact that Senator Johnston supported those provisions of the Financial Emergency Bill which proposed a general reduction of the salaries of federal public servants?
– I understand that the honorable senator did support that measure.
– But I did not support the present Government’s action with regard to invalid and old-age pensions.
– Is it a fact that since the introduction of the rehabilitation plan, under which the allowances of members of Parliament were reduced, the limited accommodation available at ‘Canberra has resulted in an increase rather than a decrease of the cost of living to members ?
– T am not able to answer that question, but I expect that ample opportunity will be afforded honorable senators later to discuss that matter.
– I rise to a personal explanation. In last night’s issue of the Sydney Sun appeared a statement that, as the result of a count of heads by the whips of various parties, a certain result is likely to be obtained when votes are taken in this Senate on the proposal for the restoration of portion of the salary which members of Parliament voluntarily surrendered two years ago in order to help the country through its financial difficulties. As the ministerial whip in the Senate, I am the only person on this side of the chamber to whom the paragraph Call apply. I have not discussed this matter with members of my party, or with the representative of the Sydney Sun, or any newspaper. I have disclosed no information upon which the newspapers could base a forecast of the result of any vote that may be taken in this chamber. Therefore, the reference to a tally by party whips can be founded only on surmise. It is very unfair on the part of the ‘Sydney Sun, or any other journal, to suggest that such a tally has been made. I make this explanation in order that there may be no misunderstanding regarding the votes of honorable senators on this matter. I have not the slightest idea what the voting will be.
– When Mr. Lamb, K.C., who was appointed by the Commonwealth Government to investigate the petrol industry, has presented his report, will the Government ask him to inquire into the activities during the last three year3 of Associated Newspapers Limited, Sydney ?
– It is not usual to disclose, by answers to questions, the policy of the Government in regard to proposed inquiries, or any other subjects.
– I ask the Leader of the Senate whether it is a fact that although the price of wheat at country railway sidings in New South Wales now ranges from ls. 5d. to about ls. 8d. a bushel, the price of a 4-lb. loaf of bread in Canberra is still ls.?
– I believe that not only in Canberra, but also in other parts of the Commonwealth, there is a serious discrepancy between the price of bread and the price of wheat.
– The following report is published in to-day’s issue of the Sydney Morning Herald: -
Canberra, Monday. - The wheat conference convened by the Minister for Commerce (Mr. Stewart) to discuss the proposed methods of implementing the international wheat agreement, will meet in Canberra on 31st October. Representatives of the wheat-growers, the wheat-merchants, and the State wheat pools in Australia have been invited to the conference.
Will the Minister bring under the notice of the Minister for Commerce the importance of allowing the consumers to be represented at that conference?
– I shall bring the matter under the notice of my colleague.
Does the Government intend, in giving effect t’o its partial restoration of pensions, to abolish the present practice of selling the property of deceased pensioners to recoup the amount of pensions paid to the owners of such properties since 12th October, 1932?
What is the total amount received by the Government from the sale of deceased pensioner’s properties, and from the insurance policies of deceased pensioners, since the operation of the recent Amending Act?
The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follow: -
It is not the present practice to sell the property of deceased pensioners to recoup the amount of pensions paid to the owners.
See answer to No. 1. It is not possible, to say what proportion of the amount recovered in respect of pensions paid to deceased pensioners was received from the proceeds of life assurance policies.
The following papers were presented : -
Seat of Government (Administration) Act - Statement of Receipts and Expenditure from Trust Fund for the Federal Capital Territory, insubstitution for that attached to Statement of Receipts and Expenditure of the Federal Capital Territory, for the period 1st July, 1932, to 30th June, 1933, laid upon the Table of the Senate on 4th October, 1933.
Tariff Board - Report and Recommendation - Wire Netting from the United Kingdom - Question of the application of the Industries Preservation Act.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Commerce, upon notice -
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.The Minister for Commerce has supplied the following replies: -
asked the Minister representing the Minister foT the Interior, upon notice -
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.The Minister for the Interior has supplied the following answers to the honorable senator’s questions : -
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Commerce, upon notice -
– The Minister for Commerce has supplied the following answers to the honorable senator’s questions: -
asked the Leader of the Government in the Senate, upon notice -
– In both of the flights referred to by the honorable senator, the pilots were seeking to establish records for the EnglandAustralia passage, which is determined on the time that elapses between departure from any point in England and the arrival at any point in Australia. The selection of either Wyndham or Derby instead of Darwin reduces the total distance, and so favours faster times. In selecting the route for the regular England-Australia air service, however, several important factors other than route distance and flying time between English and Australianshores had to be considered. The selection of Darwin as the port of entry for this service was made only after very careful investigation of the subject, and the Government does not intend to vary the advertised conditions of contract in the manner suggested by the honorable senator.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.The Minister for the Interior has furnished copies of telegraphic reports received from the Director of Mines, Darwin, through the Administrator, as under -
Bell at Tennant Creek reports Peter Pan lode forty-two inches wide south end and one foot wide north end. Two samples from south roughly dollied each indicating about half ounce in pan but confident lode matter contains other gold invisible in pan. Alleged Peter Pan loderichest at widest part lode outcrops almost continuously from Big Ben eastwards through Peter Pan to Wheal Doria nearly one mile and is greenish coloured material of complex composition but continuity undoubted deepest shaft Peter Pan only eight feet. Two lodes Wheal Doria also three shafts deepest between fifty and sixty feet also crosscut have not been underground yet but understand lodes widen and become richer with depth understand width about eleven feet saw very rich ore panned. Two shafts pinnacles about thirty feet deep understand lode mainly silicious material with hematite present shafts and costeens all within fifty yards or less presume lode continues east and west but have not traced it estimate bagged ore pinnacles panned my presence over twenty ounces ton. Pinnacles and Peter Pan totally different lines lode and many untried lodes exist. Consider prospects field promising but deepest shaft too shallow say definitely gold values live down.
Administrator. 25th September, 1933.
Bell reports as follows further mine twentyfifth sample workings Wheal Doria number one shaft forty-five feet six inches deep across lode fourteen feet seven feet foot wall side pans fifty pennyweights seven feet hanging wall side pans five pennyweights. Number two shaft two hundred and fifty yards further cas=t twenty-eight feet deep lode sixteen feet wide side pan five weights did, not sample. Number three shaft on separate lode thirty yards south number two ten feet deep pans ninety pennyweights. Pinnacles number one shaft were bagging ore obtained thirty-five feet deep foot wall exposed in short crosscut at bottom sample there over eleven feet from foot wall pans forty pennyweights. Long Costeen six feet deep forty yards west from shaft shows lode over thirty feet carries copper carbonate but pans only trace gold. All samples including two from Peter Pan main outcrop which showed nothing in pan carry very heavy mineral in which alleged rich gold exists and is highly probable in assay. Bringing all samples Darwin for assay now leaving for Kurranalli Ends.
Administrator. 27th September, 1933.
Field distinctly encouraging great length main lode from Big Ben through Peter Pan to Wheal Doria and width values lode Wheal Doria shaft forty-eight feet seem reasonable indications persistence of lode and values at depth. Development proceeding pinnacles Peter Pail Big Ben Great Northern and Wheal Doria all under option but some instances work slow owing scarcity skilled miners. Rich gold Wheal Doria and Pinnacles found beneath ironstone deposits and Garnetts easterly in Aboriginal Reserve and Euroa about sixteen miles west from Garnetts several score similar ironstone deposits occur each possibly auriferous. Am threatening forfeiture blocks unworked after twenty-eight days according regulation eighty-five this should result many lodes outside districts being tested. Majority ironstone outcrops ten to fifty feet above surrounding plain but four instances lodes outcrop in plains. I consider other rich discoveries probable and even if values not persistent depth practically certain ore now discovered must be treated and some permanent settlement here result. Water from stock well delivered field three shillings eight gallon drum early provision water supply on field first importance. Receiving applications for residence business areas both sides road and telegraph line reserve seven miles south telegraph station these probably being nucleus future township. Sanitary conditions field satisfactory health good work offering for experienced miners. If plan completed other matters finalized hope reach Darwin fourteenth.
Administrator. 6th October, 1933.
Debate resumed from 20th October (vide page 3767), on motion by Senator Sir George Pearce -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- This bill, which is designed to give legislative authority to some of the main proposals in the financial policy announced in the Treasurer’s budget speech, is almost as objectionable as is the budget itself. No honorable senator will complain that the finances of the country are in such a satisfactory state as a result of the policy followed by the Scullin Administration, that the Government is now able to restore to some sections of the people a proportion of the amounts taken from them two years ago in order to maintain the solvency of the nation, and also to make substantial remissions of taxes to other sections. But there are not wanting those who rightly complain that the Government proposes to make the remissions of taxes to those sections which received, a somewhat similar benefit last year. The remissions authorized last year and those now proposed in this measure, represent a relief from the burden of taxation of approximately £9,500,000 in two years, and show how complete has been the financial rehabilitation of Australia as the outcome of the sound administration of the Scullin Government. The present Government would do well to follow the policy of its predecessor in regard to the rehabilitation of not only” the Commonwealth’s finances, but also industry generally, by increasing production and reducing unemployment. In those directions the bill before us fails hopelessly. No assistance is provided in this bill for some sections of the people who are more entitled to such consideration than are many of those to whom it has been extended. Take the wheatfarmers, for example. If the Treasury is overflowing with money, surely it is the paramount duty of the Government to give what assistance is necessary to the agricultural and other primary industries upon which the economic welfare of the country so largely depends. Figures have recently been published in the press and elsewhere, showing that those engaged in wheat-growing are in a worse position to-day than ever before in the history of Australia. Last year, the Government made a grant of £2,000,000 to assist them, but this year, although repeated requests have been made for the inclusion of some such provision in this measure, the Government has not yet announced its decision.
The Government has been equally remiss in its duty to the unemployed. Who are more entitled to receive consideration at the moment, those who are in a position to pay taxes, and consequently can benefit from the remissions which are to be given, or those who, as a result of being unemployed for perhaps four or five years, have no income, and, consequently, are unable to pay taxes? It is obvious that tho Government’s first duty is to the unemployed, and, before remitting taxation, it should have devoted a part, at any rate, of the surplus to relieving those now out of work.
I also object to the manner in which it is proposed to distribute benefits as between the various States. We, in this Senate, are supposed to be the guardians of State interests, and it i3 our responsibility to see that tho burdens and benefits of federation are equally shared. It is distressing, therefore, to observe that little consideration has been shown by the Government to those States, including South Australia, which have been hard hit by drought and depression. Moreover, the Government committed a breach of faith, in spirit at least, in not consulting the States regarding the distribution of the surplus. Had the States not faithfully carried out their obligations under the Premiers plan, the Commonwealth would have had no surplus; therefore when the surplus is to be distributed, they are entitled to be consulted.
It is proposed in this bill to make still another remission of federal land tax, bringing the total for two years up to £1,100,000. Last year, approximately £700,000 was remitted, and this year a further £400,000 is to be taken off. It has been claimed by the Prime Minister and other Ministers that these remissions will benefit the primary producers. One would think that the farmers were the only ones who paid federal land tax, and, moreover, that every land-holder in Australia, large or small, came within the scope of the tax. This belief is very widely held, ‘ due to newspaper propaganda and the statements of Ministers, and I feel that it is my duty to correct that impression. No land-holder with a property of an unimproved value of k-ss than £5,000 will benefit from the remission of this tax.
– It will benefit all sections indirectly.
– The honorable senator’s interjection opens up a very wide subject. In the discussion of the tariff, when honorable senators on this side were urging the necessity for building up secondary industries, thus creating a wider home market for Australian primary products, the honorable senator was not so sure of the indirect benefits that would accrue to farmers from the adequate protection of Australian secondary industries. In this case, I repeat that it is doubtful that indirect benefits from this tax remission will be felt by the smaller land-holders and primary producers, though there can be no doubt that the larger land-holders will benefit substantially from this concession, coming, at it does, on top of a remission of £700,000 under legislation passed last year.
The latest official figures show that 67 per cent, of the land assessed for federal taxation purposes is classified as town lands and 33 per cent, as country lands, so that £67 out of every £100* of this £400,000 remission of land tax will benefit people who own city properties. It is doubtful that the benefit from this concession will be passed on to the people generally. Let us see further how individual land taxpayers will benefit, and also expose the shocking inequality of the Government’s propos.il. An individual land-owner with a taxable estate of £500, which means that the unimproved value of his land is £5,500, will have his land tax reduced from £1 5s. Sd. to 19s. 3d. In other words, he will benefit to the extent of 6s. 5d. A land-owner with a taxable property of £1,000, which means, of course, that the unimproved value of his land is £6,000, will have his tax reduced from £2 12s. Sd. to £1 19s. 6d., thus benefiting to the amount of 13s. 2d. When we get up among the larger aggregations of land values, the remissions are much more substantial. For instance, an owner liable to taxation on land valued at £60,000 will have his tax reduced from £195 per annum to £146 5s., a reduction of £48 15s. ; the holder of land valued at £75,000 will have his tax reduced from £937 10s. to £703 2s. 6d., a reduction of £234 7s. 6d.; and the owner of an estate having an unimproved value of £100,000 will have his tax reduced from £1,500 to £1,125, a reduction of £375. Compare these concessions with those conferred on the small land-holder, who, as I have shown, will benefit to the amount of only 6s. 5d. Can we pretend that these remissions of federal land tax will apply equitably to all sections of landholders. Is this legislation which the Senate can pass without amendment? When we further examine the Government’s policy in this regard, we find its inequalities even more startling. Last year, as I have already pointed out, it remitted land tax to the amount of £700,000. The present proposal is to reduce by 50 per cent, the rates operating before the reductions made last year.
– The federal land tax ought to be abolished altogether.
– The honorable senator is entitled to his opinion. I submit that, in view of the state of Commonwealth finances, we cannot afford to abandon this source of revenue. The benefit derived by land-holders from land tax reductions during the last two years totalled £1,100,000 a year. Let us see how the respective land-holders will benefit. A man with taxable estate of a gross unimproved value of £6,000 will benefit to the amount of £1 6s. 4d. from the two remissions made by this Government, and a man with a taxable estate of £55,000 will benefit to the amount of £229 3s. 4d. whereas a man with land having a taxable unimproved value of £100,000 will benefit to the amount of £950.
– They all get the same percentage reduction.
– Of course they do. The Minister’s interjection brings me to the point which I was about to make, namely, that the vast sums of money spent by all governments, and particularly by State Governments, in the improvement of the public domain by the building of railways, the carrying out of water conservation schemes, and other public works, is ample justification for the imposition of this tax in order to ensure a return to the community of at least some portion of the heavy expenditure incurred. These various public works have been carried ‘ out with borrowed money, the bulk of which is still owing, and the interest burden is, as State Auditors-General have pointed out, the principal cause of the difficulties in which State Governments find themselves. The Auditor-General for South Australia (Mr. Rogers) has emphasized this phase of State finance in successive annual reports. Consequently, it follows that there is an. obligation on laud-owners, especially those possessing the larger estates, upon which, obviously, a much greater sum of the unearned increment has accrued as a result < : this expenditure, to bear some po. lion of the interest burden cast upon the taxpayers of this country. I know that some honorable senators will say that land-owners of a class, and particularly wheat-growers, are in a difficult position, and should be given relief; but I point out that this bill will not relieve small farmers to any appreciable extent, and that even those with comparatively large holdings are amply covered by the hardship sections of the Land Tax Assessment Act, which was liberalized last year. Regarded from every stand-point, the Government’s proposal to remit a further sum of £400,000 to land-holders who own the larger estates in this country, is unwarranted.
Another proposal, the justification for which I am unable to discover, is that to reduce the percentage rate of tax on the gross earnings of overseas shipping companies. This remission will represent about £25,000 per annum. What explanation has been offered for this concession ? In his second-reading speech the Leader of the Senate (Senator Pearce) gave no explanation. He may bc able to furnish in committee some reason for the Government’s action, but I doubt this very much. The only possible justification is that it would make possible a reduction of shipping freights on our. surplus exportable products, but having regard to tho huge volume of Australian production which is exported, it will be difficult to ensure benefits for individual primary producers by the reduction of shipping freights. I. feel sure that the bulk of the benefits from this reduction of taxation will go into the pockets of shareholders of the companies affected.
Another proposal, which, I venture to say, will not benefit the community to any material extent, is the reduction of the rate of the sales tax by 1 per cent., although this will mean a loss of revenue of £1,350,000. Retailers throughout the country have emphasized the difficulty of passing on any benefits from this tax reduction to the ordinary small shopper, who, because of his or her limited means, is forced to buy, in very small quantities, commodities which are taxable. It may benefit those who can afford to buy in large quantities, but the small purchaser, who is the most deserving member of the community, can hope for little or no reduction of the cost of living as the result of the sacrifice of this comparatively large amount of revenue. The Government might better have devoted the amount to be remitted to the relief of the wheat-growers and the unemployed.
I draw a comparison between the circumstances of those who are to be relieved of taxation under the bill, and those public servants who are to have restored to them a small proportion of the amount which they wore called upon, a couple of years ago, to sacrifice in the interests of national solvency. The land tax was not increased as the result of the financial emergency legislation, but land-owners are to receive a straight-out remission of a tax that was imposed many years ago. When the Financial Emergency Act was passed, a definite statement was made by the Leader of the Government of the day, supported by the Opposition, that as soon as the finances permitted, the wage and pensions cuts would be restored in full. Despite the fact that we have ample justification for that restoration, as is indicated by the Government’s proposals for remissions of taxes, the public servant will get only a 2J per cent. restoration, together with the sum of £8 a year which the present Government took from him last year without justification. The invalid and bid-age pensioner will not be given back one penny of the 2s. 6d. a week originally taken from him, but those pensioners who suffered the further cut of 2s. 6d. a week as the result of legislation introduced by the present Government last year are to have that 2s. 6d. restored to them. The Government also imposed very unjust conditions upon the pensioners by introducing legislation under which a. charge was. levied on their properties, so that upon their death, the Commonwealth might recoup itself the amounts paid in pension. So far as I am aware, a similar provision has not been enacted in any other part of the world. It is a direct blow at those who have been thrifty, and who, for many years, had denied themselves many comforts so that in- their declining years they might have a home of their own. Old folk are often assisted by members of their families to secure a residence; and just as the old homes of the aristocracy in Great Britain were handed down from one generation to another, these old folks are anxious that their homes shall pass into the possession of their children. They are deeply attached to their homes, and many of them have cancelled their pensions, and decided to fend for themselves, rather than encumber their properties. This iniquitous provision should have been repealed by the present ‘bill. It will encourage persons to dispose of their property long before reaching the age at which they will be entitled to the pension.
– ‘Surely the object is to help those who require assistance, and not those who already have means.
– I agree with that entirely. My main objection to the bill is that those who are entitled to assistance will not receive the help that they deserve. I look upon the old-age pension not as a charitable gift, but as a payment to which our old pioneers are entitled. In order to give the Government an opportunity to hold the scales of justice fairly ‘between all sections of the community, an obligation that rests upon the shoulders of any government, I move -
That all the words after “ that “ be left out with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words the bill be withdrawn and redrafted to provide for the complete restoration of the percentage reductions in Public Service salaries, wages, pensions and social services.”
– I submit that the amendment is not in order. The functions of this Senate are restricted to a certain extent by the Constitution. Since we are dealing with a financial measure, I submit that tho amendment should take the form of a request to the House of Representatives that certain action be taken. One objection to the amendment is that it violates the Constitution. It would add a burden on the taxpayers which it is not competent for this Senate to impose. Discussionhas arisen in this chamber on many occasions as to the form which amendments to financial measures shall take, and I submit that the amendment should comply with the practice adopted in the Senate in the past.
– The Constitution provides that laws imposing taxation shall not include any other matter. If the bill before us is one to impose taxation, some of its provisions are unconstitutional; if it is not a taxation measure, the point of order taken by the Minister cannot be sustained. I should like a ruling from you, Mr. President, as to whether or not this is a taxation measure, and, if it is, whether it can include provisions which obviously are not for the purpose of imposing taxation.
– It is a measure to grant relief from taxes, not to impose taxes.
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. P. J. Lynch). - With regard, first, to the point raised by Senator Daly, I direct attention to section 54 of the Constitution, which reads -
The proposed law, which appropriates revenue or moneys for the ordinary annual services of the Government, shall deal only with such appropriation.
Section 55 reads -
Laws imposing taxationshall deal only with the imposition of taxation, and any provision therein dealing with any other matter shall be of no effect . . .
In view of those provisions of the Constitution, I rule that this is not a taxing measure, and may, therefore, contain matters other than those dealing with the imposition of taxation.
The Vice-President of the Executive Council (Senator McLachlan) asks whether Senator O’Halloran is rightly proceeding by way of amendment instead of by way of request to the House of Representatives. In dealing with a money bill, the only procedure that is permitted is by way of request. This, however, is not a money bill; it is not one to impose taxation or to appropriate moneys for the ordinary annual services of the Government. Therefore, it comes within that class of bills which the Senate may amend. I, therefore, rule that the amendment of Senator 0’Halloran is in order.
Question - That the words proposed to be left out (Senator O’Halloran’s amendment) be left out - put. The Senate divided. (President - Senator the Hon. P. J. Lynch.)
Majority . . . . 9
Question so resolved in the negative.
– I shall not cast a silent vote on this measure because of the controversy which has taken place in the press over the week-end. I propose to vote to allow the bill to pass its second reading; but in committee I shall assist the Opposition to amend it. I believe that the action taken in another place was in order, and that in any restoration scheme members of Parliament, in common with other sections of the community, are entitled to have restored to them a portion of the amount which previously they sacrificed. It is all very well for persons with no experience of parliamentary life to question parliamentary expenditure. Their point of view is largely the result of the actions and statements of some members of Parliament, who, in private conversation, admit that they cannot pay their way on their allowance, but will not vote to restore a portion of the amount by which it was re- duced. One member of another place admitted to me this morning that he had voted against the proposal to increase the present allowance to members, although he himself could not live on it. If he could not balance his own budget, was it not right, provided the expenditure had been legitimate, to let Parliament know exactly the difficulty in which. he was placed ? As a matter of fact, this member has a private income, and is able to make up the deficiency in his parliamentary allowance out of his own private means. I know of no member of this Parliament who can live in affluence on the present parliamentary allowance. I admit that there are men on the bank of the Torrens River, in South Australia, and in the capital cities of all the States, who are existing below the bread line. I admit that they are making a great sacrifice, of which we should like to relieve them, but that is not a reason why we should fill this and another chamber with poorly-fed .and poorly-clothed men. It is no reason why we should offer as an inducement to men to control the destinies of a nation in a time of crisis, a salary very much lower than that which was offered to them during normal times. When a business is passing through a time of crisis, the chief concern of its directors should be to secure a maximum of efficiency in all departments. Certain honorable members - most of them, I think, with their tongues in their cheeks - tell us that the best way in which we can get through our present difficulties is to make a gesture to the people: “Do not let them think, “ they say, “ that we are moving in the direction of increasing our salaries while things are so bad. “ Unfortunately, that way of looking at things has recently found favour with those in control of some political movements, among them the movement to which1 1 owed my election to this Senate. It is the same movement as drove me out of the Labour party when I supported the Scullin Government in making the cuts a few years ago, and now it threatens to drive out of the movement those who take. any step to restore the cuts which were then made. Could there possibly be any stronger indictment of the principle of control of politicians by party movements ? We believe, as Labour representatives, that there should never have been any cut, but on that issue the party was rent asunder. The first section to break away was that which is now led in this chamber to-day by Senator Dunn. Then Senator O’Halloran and I were excluded from the movement because we supported the cut. Presumably, if I were now back where I was then, I should be turned out of the movement for proposing to restore the cut.
I agree with Senator O’Halloran that better provision should have been made in this bill for the pensioners.. While I deplore the fact that the Commonwealth ignored the States when deciding how to distribute the surplus, now that the task is before us, I believe that the pensioners should receive greater consideration. The full restoration of pensions would have been a decent gesture on the part of the Parliament of the Commonwealth. If we are to make gestures, let us make those that mean something to the people; but Senator O’Halloran’s amendment has been lost, and a wonderful opportunity for making an honest gesture has been allowed to pass. The same thing applies to Public Service salaries. I regret that we are perpetuating a system which is entirely inconsistent with the policy which nearly every member of the Commonwealth Parliament professes to support, namely, the policy of arbitration. At a time of emergency, we justified our decision to make arbitrary cuts of wages, and to ignore arbitration, by saying that the state of the country demanded it. To-day, we are told that the nation has turned the corner. The Treasurer has £7,000,000 at his disposal ; yet we propose still to ignore the principle of industrial arbitration. Senator O’Halloran’s amendment should have been carried, and the Government should have so recast this legislation as to restore to the workers the protection of arbitration. I shall vote for the second reading of the bill, and I hope that in committee we shall be able to increase the old-age and invalid pensions* I hope that better counsels will eventually prevail, and that more generous treatment will be given to those sections of the community which really need it.
– I regret that Senator O’Halloran’s amendment to provide for the restoration of pensions and salary cuts has been defeated. I was amused to note the vacillating attitude of certain honorable members who, after supporting the meagre restoration of salaries and pensions provided for in this bill, went squealing to the Sydney press during the week-end regarding the grievances of pensioners and public servants. Some honorable members seem to be inordinately fond of publicity. All politicians, we know, are richly endowed with egotism, and this, perhaps, accounts for their desire to see their statements in print. In the whole course of British parliamentary history I know of, only one man who had anything to do with Parliament of whom this could not be said, and that man was Guy Fawkes, who wanted to blow up the whole outfit. It is evident that there are a few modern prototypes of Guy Fawkes in Canberra, men who rush to the newspapers to put their own side of the case, even at the expense of their colleagues.
Much has been said in this chamber, and in another place, regarding the economic rehabilitation. of Australia. In 1931, when the emergency legislation was introduced by the Scullin Government, the public were asked to make sacrifices to the amount of £11,000,000. Now, some of the responsible persons associated with the Government which brought in that legislation, are expressing voluble dissent from the recent reduction of the basic wage in New South Wales. Not only were the public servants in that State made to bear a salary reduction of 12-A per cent., but workers outside the Service were, on the motion of the employers in the Arbitration Court, made to suffer a reduction of their wages by 10 per cent. Now, honorable members in the Federal Parliament have restored £75 a ye:’r of their own allowances, so that I presume the employers will approach the court- since the precedent has been established - with a proposal to restore to the workers that which was previously taken from them. It is only three years ago since the Associated Press of New South Wales forced its employees to accept a 10 per cent, reduction of their salaries. When the executive of the Australian Journalists Association showed signs of fighting against the threatened cut, the directors of Associated Newspapers told their wage plugs and press slaves that if, through their organization, they sought to prevent the reduction from being made, they would cease the publication of a number of subsidiary newspapers in Sydney, thus throwing out of employment a large number of journalists, as well as employees in other departments of the newspaper business.
– The honorable senator is straying from the subject ‘before the Chair.
– I contend that my criticism of Associated Newspapers ia definitely in order, because, within the last few days, there have appeared in the newspapers controlled by it strong criticisms of the proposed increase of ministerial and parliamentary allowances, and I am endeavouring to show that the directorate of that company, at all events, is not above criticism. Being a politician, I am not thin-skinned. The press of this country can “ belt “ me as much as it likes. I have nothing to be ashamed of, either as a politician or as a private citizen. As a member of this Parliament I am on the grid-iron of public opinion for practically 24 hours daily. Recently I was under fire by the press of New South Wales in regard to another matter. I wonder if some of the directors of Associated Newspapers could come out of a similar ordeal with such a satisfactory record, especially Mr. Fordyce Wheeler, a director of Associated Newspapers and a wife snatcher. He is the last man who should criticize any politician of this country or say anything about raiding the Treasury during the midnight hours of a parliamentary session in Canberra. Such criticism as this comes well from a wife snatcher - a man who has smashed a home and ruined the prospects of four children.
– Order !
– Who is this Mr. Wheeler?
– He is connected with the Sun newspaper. Another gentleman who_ should be noticed is Sir Hugh Denison, the chairman of directors of
Associated Newspapers. During the war he was the first man in Australia to be convicted and fined for trading with the enemy. He is a nice man to get up on the platform in Martin-place on Empire Day and parade his patriotism! I demonstrated my patriotism for five years during the war with a rifle and 250 rounds of ammunition on my shoulder, but I do not get up in Martin-place and squeal about it. I am not like these newspaper directors, who are so busy, in these days, “bashing” politicians, but who, not so long ago, met in the secret room under the golden ball in Elizabeth-street to plan cuts of their employees’ wages. It is as well to take this opportunity to check up on these people who, some months ago, when I was involved in certain judicial proceedings in Sydney, sent women reporters to my home during my absence in Canberra, to see if they could get something “ on “ me as a husband and father. I am wondering if Mr. Fordyce Wheeler will be able to come out of his trouble with clean hands, and whether he will need an increase of hia salary to pay the legal costs of his wife-snatching escapade.
– I presume that the honorable senator is replying to an attack which was made upon him recently.
– I am replying to attacks that were made on all members of Parliament by. the “ dingo “ directors of Associated Newspapers of Sydney. Is that clear enough? This recent criticism is, of course, intended to cover up their propaganda of the last two years for the purpose of making possible further cuts in the basic wage. Not so long ago workmen on the basic wage had their pay cut to the amount of 14s. 6d. a week by the State Government, which owed its accession to power to the associated press of that State. Of course, these men, the greatest crowd of commercial “ gogetters “ and press prostitutes seen in the history of this country, can do no wrong!
– Order! The1 honorable senator must moderate his language.
– I have the greatest contempt for these men who water their stool’s and rob people right and left. The daily newspaper is a unit in the everyday life of the community, but in the course of its development the Sydney press, as represented by Associated Newspapers, has not been a paragon of purity or a monument of integrity. It- can ill -afford to point the finger of scorn at members of this Parliament and make veiled references to “Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves,” who, according to the story, were to be destroyed by pouring hot oil into the jars in which they were concealed. Nothing less powerful than dynamite would dislodge all the thieves connected with Associated Newspapers, and drive them out of their “ funk “ hole, stink hole, and rat hole under the golden ball in Elizabeth-street. Comrade Sir Hugh Denison, this Knight of the British Empire, this man. who, once every twelve months, swings hia belly in the breeze in Martin-place and talks about his patriotism, suggests that all connected with the party to which I belong are Communists or near Communists. The Leader of the Senate (Senator Pearce) would have been well-advised to reply to questions which I put to him this afternoon, with reference to the desirability of appointing Mr. Lamb, K.C., who ii making inquiries into petrol prices in Australia,, a royal commissioner to inquire into the activities of the Associated Newspapers of New .South Wales. If this were done, we should, perhaps, obtain some interesting information as to the ramifications of these interests and learn something of the condition of many hundreds of persons who, formerly, were engaged in the newspaper industry in Sydney, but to-day are living on the dole in that city, or walking the roads of New South Wales. I suppose that Mr. Wheeler and his girl friend will have a very nice little dinner to-night. But what about the wives and children of these unemployed press people ? They will not be in that happy position. Comrade Denison has attacked the politicians in this Parliament. I am ready at all times to defend anything which I may do here. I think I have said all that I had set out to say with regard to Comrade Wheeler and Comrade Denison, the Mutt and Jeff of the Elizabeth-street “ funk “ hole. They talk about politicians diving into the public purse! They are not above accepting the remissions of land tax, sales tax and primage duty, -which this Government is making to them. Nor have they said anything about the “ rakeoff “ which they got when they increased the price of their newspapers from Id. to ld. Of course, they did not consult Parliament, the people, or the Sydney Trades Hall before they made that move. All they did was to meet in that little secret room in Elizabeth-street under the golden ball, and resolve that, in future, if the wage plugs of New South Wales wanted a newspaper, they would have to pay l£d. for it. Thus, at one stroke, they increased by 50 per cent, the price of newspapers to the people in that State. There was no one to check their actions or to ask for the publication of the official minutes or to inquire into this midnight plot, so that the people would know who moved and who supported the resolution to cut clown their employees’ wages by 10 per cent. These newspaper directors are concerned only with profits. They have no regard for the welfare of the kiddies who sell their newspapers in the streets, and who, sometimes, in the rush to earn ,a few pence in commission on sales, get crushed beneath the wheels of Sydney tramcars. Their one concern is to sell newspapers.
I was the Parliamentary Whip of the Scullin Government, but Senator Rae and I were expelled from the ranks of the party because we could not see eye to eye with that Ministry. Nevertheless, we have fought constantly in the interests of the pensioners and the public servants. I notice that a big squeal has come from some of the public servants in Canberra on the ground that they are not receiving justice from the present Government. It is true that hundreds of public servants in Canberra should have fully restored to them the cuts in their wages and salaries as was proposed in the amendment submitted by Senator O’Halloran ; but I cannot overlook the fact that a number of them became members of a government “ basher “ gang when the Lang administration was in power in New South Wales, and an SOS was sent out that Mr. Lang intended to despatch an army to Canberra. Those public servants rushed forward to form themselves into a basher gang, and batons were issued to them. I suppose that they will have to receive an increase of their salaries, if the lower-paid public servants in Canberra benefit under this measure. A precedent has been set in the House of Representatives for a general restoration of public servants’ wages and salaries throughout Australia, and the sooner action is taken in that direction the better it will be for everybody. Yet, when the Lang Government was in power, the associated press of New South Wales preached day in and day out that that Ministry should be smashed. That press is still. squealing under the golden ball in Castlereagh Street, but Senator Rae and I will continue to fight for full restoration to the pensioners and the public servants, and for decent conditions for industrial workers and farmers. Although farmers in New South Wales and in other States “have their crops and holdings heavily encumbered, they got no measure of assistance from Senator Badman when I took action on their behalf in this chamber a few days ago. I regret that Senator Badman is not present to hear what I have to say regarding him. Like every other citizen, he is entitled to express his opinions, and when he was interviewed last Saturday by the associated newspapers, he had a good deal to say in criticism of the Government because of the proposed increase of the parliamentary allowances. Also, he condemned the Government freely on my motion for the adjournment of the Senate as an instruction to the Ministry to arrange for 3s. a bushel to be paid to the wheat-growers; but, when the bells were rung, and the Government could have been defeated, Senator Badman voted with the Ministry. I like the Chairman of Committees, Senator Herbert Hays personally, but I dislike him politically. He went to Sydney on Saturday, and, like Senator Badman, stretched his tonsils by condemning the action taken in the House of Representatives to increase the parliamentary allowance; but why was he not fair enough to tell the people of New South Wales that he was receiving an extra £500 a year as Chairman of Committees in this chamber? The honorable senator is an honest man, no doubt, but if his criticism was sincere, he should have brought out the skeleton, and allowed the bones to rattle properly, so that all might hear them.
Senator Hardy lias been described by Smith’s Weekly as “ The Cromwell of the Riverina. “. A newspaper reporter once drew a picture of 10,000 farmers on the banks of the Murrumbidgee holding up their hands and swearing that they would form an army if led by Senator Hardy, to drag the Lang Government from the treasury benches, because the farmers were not getting a square deal. Smith’s Weakly is owned by a commercial “gogetter “ named Joy n ton Smith, a racecourse “ urger “ from New Zealand.
– I believe he originally came from London.
– He used to be a “ pot walloper”. I tried to communicate with Senator Hardy, in order to enlist his assistance in the interests of the wheatfarmers, but I was disappointed. I made a trunk telephone call to Wagga for the purpose of speaking to the “ Cromwell of the Riverina “, and was informed by a member of his office staff that he had left for Tocumwal to speak that night at a meeting. I then rang up Tocumwal, and through a stock and station agent named Tuck, I sent an appeal to Comrade Hardy to hasten back to Canberra to give a vote which would assist, in defeating the Government on the issue that I had raised regarding wheat. Senator Hardy did not reply; but he could go to the press ami talk about the Tammany methods followed in the other branch of this legislature. I should say that the honorable senator was elected to this chamber, not by Tammany, but by Rafferty rules. When it was decided by the Country party in New South Wales to run a candidate for the Senate, “ Cromwell “ Hardy was put in the team with Senators Cox and Massy-Greene, and those who now talk about Tammany methods “ ditched “ cx-Senator Walter Duncan in the process. Those who went protesting to the newspaper under the golden ball in Castlereagh-street, which was painted by. “ Comrades “ Packer, Wheeler and Denison, with the gold they had robbed from investors, were among those who got behind Senator Hardy; and if they are not prepared to tell the people of Australia about it, I am. Who is at the bottom of this agitation about the action taken in the House of Representatives for the restoration of the parliamentary allowance, if not the Associated newspapers of Sydney? Dear old “ Granny,” the Sydney Morning Herald, also indulges in propaganda. The associated press is condemning the politicians of Australia, of whom I am one. At least I am supposed to be a politician, for I am on the pay-roll of this Parliament, and I am defending my colleagues iu another place. On behalf of the party with which I am associated, I say definitely that, if we could, we would restore to the old-age pensioners and the public servants the amounts taken from them, and also lay down new principles to guide the Arbitration Court in fixing the basic wage. I shall not. be afraid to stand in my place and express my opinion. I am not a wife snatcher.
– It is not easy to discuss this bill without first having had a general discussion on the budget, because the measure before us seeks to give legislative effect to important features of the Government’s financial policy. It is impossible to deal properly with this bill without taking into consideration a great many factors which do not appear in it at all. For instance, there is no provision in the hill to give effect to the Government’s proposals in relation to remissions of income taxation, and there is no mention of primage and exchange. It contains no reference to any alterations of indirect taxation, or, indeed, to finance generally. I have no desire to open up a general discussion of the budget - indeed if I were to attempt to do so, I should probably be ruled out of order - but in considering the principles of this important measure, the general position of Australia, and of the world at large, must be taken into account.
I draw special attention to the absence of any provision, first, for any payment in respect of Australia’s war debt to Great Britain, and secondly, for any payment to the States apart from the amounts promised to them at the conference of Premiers held in Melbourne some months ago. The Commonwealth Grants Commission will, I presume, submit a report during the current financial year, yet the budget contains no provision for the policy that may be recommended although a considerable sum may be involved. Thirdly, I draw attention to the absence of any provision for payment to the wheat-farmers. He would be a bold man who, in view of the present position of the wheat industry, would declare that the growers of Australia will be able to carry on throughout the year without any assistance from the Commonwealth. These are important omissions from the budget speech.
Important though the restoration of pensions, and of allowances to members of Parliament may be, the bill does not deal with those subjects alone. Speaking in the briefest and the most general terms, I assume that the Government’s objectives in the shaping of its policy were the revival of trade and the employment of the people. With those objects all will cordially agree, but we must be careful not to go too fast when making reductions.
Senator O’Halloran correctly said that two thirds of the amount represented by the reduction of land tax would go to the holders of city properties, and the remaining one-third to the man on the land. Apparently, ho is of tho opinion that the Government’s object is to assist certain wealthy individuals in the community.
– Whatever the object, that will be the effect.
– Some of these supposedly wealthy individuals are not particularly well off at present. It may be that the Government has decided to remit land tax because it realizes that this tax is a capital levy, which has to be paid whether or not the land-owner is making any profits. Honorable senators will agree that it is grossly unfair to continue to tax heavily, a man who is making a loss every year. I do not like the “ hardship “ provisions of the Land Tax Act, because their effect, is that while the effective and the efficient are taxed the ineffective and the inefficient are allowed to escape. The Government’s main purpose was not, I imagine, the abolition of an unfair capital levy, but rather the easing of the burden of taxation so that men could trade more, produce more, and offer more employment. From whatever point of view we regard it, the decision to remit land tax is a wise one.
I compliment the Government on its decision to reduce the sales tax from 6 per cent, to 5 per cent., and to extend the list of exemptions. Among the exemptions are-
– Coffins, with the object of reducing the cost of dying.
– These exemptions will benefit friendly societies, and will render unnecessary certain increase^ of prices which otherwise, I understand, were contemplated.
I pass from these general remarks to deal with a number of proposed increases of expenditure. In their order of merit, as I view them, they are: First, war pensions; secondly, Public Service salaries and wages; thirdly, parliamentary allowances; and ‘fourthly, old-age pensions. T am particularly pleased that war pensions to 57,698 widows are to be increased slightly. The total cost of the concession is estimated at ?1.36,000 per annum, or about ?2 each, which is not a large additional sum to pay to the widow of a soldier.
In South Australia,- there has been, a good deal of criticism recently regarding the proposal to increase the wages and salaries of ‘Commonwealth public servants when the remuneration of State employees is being reduced. As a matter of fact, in my own State at the present time the vote for education is even being still further reduced. In the official report of the last conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers held in Melbourne in June, particulars are given on page 28 of reductions of salaries and wages during the period 1932-33. It gives the percentage reduction compared with the rates in force in 1929-30, and covers Public Services proper, and also police and school teachers. If we are to consider what restorations are proper, it is only right that we should take into account what reductions have been made. The average reduction in the Commonwealth Service since 1929-30 is 21.9 per cent. In New South Wales the reduction is even greater, namely, 23.4 per cent. Reductions in the other States are: - Victoria, 17 per cent.; Queensland, 15.2 per cent.; South Australia, 19 per cent.; Western Australia, 19.2 per cent., and Tasmania, 20 per cent. A study of the figures given here, together with those relating to taxation, show pretty clearly that Queeusland has in part been getting out of its difficulties, not by reducing its expenditure, but by increasing its taxation. In Queensland, taxation has been higher than in any other State of the Commonwealth, with the exception of New South Wales, and this year even that exception has ‘been removed. Queensland has not cut down its expenditure adequately, but has increased its taxation, and I do not regard that as a proper fulfilment of the Premiers plan.
– Taxation in Queensland is placed upon those who are able to carry it.
– I have introduced this aside in order to draw a few interjections from my Queensland friends. I shall be pleased if they can refute what I have said, and can show that Queensland really has carried out its undertaking. It appears to me that since salaries have been reduced to a greater extent in the Commonwealth Service than in any other, except that of New South Wales, it is only reasonable that Commonwealth public servants should have their salaries restored to a parity with those in the States. AVe all admit that the public servants perform a valuable work,’ the quality of which, of coui-.se, varies, and that the Commonwealth owes some consideration to them. I. hope, however, that the Common wealth public servants will not press their claims - their rights, if you like - too far. I imagine that the Government has tried to keep as many of its servants employed as possible during these difficult times, probably more than are really needed to do the work. If the public servants insist on getting back 100 per cent, of the cut, the inevitable result must be that the services of many of them will be dispensed with. I hope that this will not occur, because I believe that the Government during a time of such great depression should employ as many as possible at a lower wage, rather than a smaller number at a high wage.
I now come to parliamentary allowances, the proposed increase of which will involve approximately £10,000. It is interesting to note what is paid to parliamentary representatives in other parts of the world. In Great Britain members of the House of Lords receive no payment at all, and never have received, any. It may be useful, even in a thoroughgoing democracy like ours, to know that England has never lacked public men to do its public work without fee or reward. Members of the House of Commons are paid £400 a year, and I do not think that they are over-paid. I suppose it might be argued that the ordinary members of the House of Commons are as much in need of an increase as are we in this Parliament, our allowance being double theirs. In the United States of America, senators and members of Congress receive 10,000 dollars a year, which is equivalent to between £2,000 and £2,500 a year, according to the rate of exchange. They also receive certain travelling allowances. Therefore, whilst members in Great Britain receive only half what we do, congressmen in the United States of America receive more than twice as much. My attitude in regard to. the increase of parliamentary allowances is governed, first, by the promise I made to my constituents. I shall vote against the clauses providing for the increase, because I promised my constituents that I should do so. Beyond that, 1. do not consider that the general economic and political state of the world, at this time, justifies us in increasing our allowances, and I am doubtful whether we are justified in granting even, some other forms of relief which it is proposed to grant. I am certain that we are not justified in increasing old-age and invalid pensions at this time. We have only to look around us to see that the condition of the United States of America, at any rate, is one of extreme doubt, and that of Europe is hardly any better. No on-‘ can say that our own situation, in regard to the wheat industry, is a happy oneWith all the distress around us due !o unemployment and reduced incomes, we are not warranted, in my judgment, in raising parliamentary salaries. I agree that members of Parliament have many calls upon them, but we must remember that we are still in receipt of considerable allowances. I do not believe, as some honorable members do, in lopping the tall poppies, but neither do I believe that, at the present time, we are justified in giving ourselves a greater increase than we aro able to give those persons in our service who are much worse off than we are. I do not speak so much about unemployment as do some honorable members, -but can we fairly vote to ourselves, as a body, £10,000, when multitudes of people in Australia are out of work and in actual distress? I cannot see that this proposed action is on any account permissible; I am certain that it is not judicious. This proposal is not really a Government matter. It was not mentioned in the budget and was only inserted in this bill at the eleventh hour. It is at least arguable that its presence in the bill now is due as much to the action of private members as to the desire of the Government. It is perfectly obvious that this move will bring parliamentary institution into disrepute, whether deservedly or not. It is being attacked by every newspaper of any standing throughout the Commonwealth. I do not, say that newspaper opinion is necessarily right, but, insofar as it reflects public opinion, it is deserving of consideration. Organizations of taxpayers and graziers, as well as trade union secretaries and others prominent in the commercial and industrial world, have expressed the view that this move is not justified, particularly in view of the fact that it was made almost at the very last moment of the dis- cussion of this bill in the House of Representatives. I therefore urge that, as it was not a Government proposal, Ministers should not seek to have it carried in the Senate with the assistance of Labour senators, and against the votes of its own supporters, as was the case so frequently during the debate on the tariff. I ask the Government to consider whether the clauses dealing with the ministerial and parliamentary allowances should not be postponed until a more suitable occasion, so that in the meantime the whole proposal can be fully discussed and the public mind educated to the financial needs of members of this Parliament. There is distrust of this move. This distrust, whether or not it is deserved, will recoil, not only on those who vote for this new provision, but on the entire parliamentary system, at a time when it is most desirable that the system should be strengthened, and not weakened. The Government could now quite well withdraw the clauses dealing with this matter.
– In other words, it should “ knuckle down “ to the press.
– Not . at all. I wish to make it perfectly clear that I am not speaking in this way because of criticism that has appeared in any section of the press, but because I believe that the course which I am urging the Government to take is the wise one.
I regret that the Government has made any alterations in the provisions with regard to invalid and old-age pensions, because, in my opinion, such alterations are not justified. I remind honorable senators that, when the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons), introduced the budget last year, he said this -
The Government regrets th at it is necessary to propose a further reduction in in vh I id and old-age pensions. Twenty years ago Iiic provision of these social services cost approximately £2,000.000 a year. Last year, even with the reduction effected, the cost waa £11,120,000, or about six times the original cost. If there had been no reduction from the maximum rate of £1, the cost for the present year would have reached £13,500,000, or almost seven times the original cost. … In the last few years, the increase has been very pronounced. The country simply cannot afford this increasing charge.
I believe that to be a fair and true statement of the position, and, for my part, I stand by it. Last year the Government’s estimate of expenses on account of invalid and old-age pensions was £10,500,000, and the actual expenditure was £10,770,000. The estimate for this year is £11,000,000. In his budget statement, delivered in the House .of Representatives a few weeks ago, the Prime Minister said -
It is interesting to note that, based on the cost of living index for food and groceries, with which the pensioners are most concerned, 17s. Cd. will now purchase what would have cost 23s. Od. in 1925, when the pension was raised from 17s. Od. to £1. Expressed in another form it now takes only 14s. 9d. to purchase what would have cost £1 in 1925, when the pension was increased to £1. With a pension of 17s. fid. per week the pensioner is, therefore, relatively in a rauch better position now than he was in 1925.
A pension of 17s. 6d. has now the purchasing power of 23s. 9d. in 1925. The real value of the pension is, I suppose, higher than it has ever been. This, surely, is conclusive evidence that an increased payment to a section of the people to which the Government is not committed in the way that it is to the recipients of war pensions, and its employees, is not warranted. The country, as the Prime Minister said last year, simply cannot afford to pay this amount. Two years ago, Mr. Scullin, the leader of a Labour Government, declared that unless he had agreed to the Premiers plan, he would not have been able to pay pensioners more than 12s. out of the Treasury. Yet this Government, by the latest increase, is giving to pensioners the equivalent of 23s. 9d., or nearly double the amount mentioned by Mr. Scullin. Its real value is higher than pensions paid in any part of the world, and I submit that it is more than this country can afford, while hundreds of thousands of people find it impossible to balance their individual budgets. A fair thing is a fair thing. What I am saying will, I know, be taken up by other honorable senators, but I ask Senator Collings, who will, perhaps, not give me a fair answer, what is the limit for a pension? Is it 17s. 6d. ? Or would he make it £2 10s. ? Whenever I have been discussing this subject at public meetings, I have sometimes addressed a similar question to those of my hearers, who, obviously, were advocates of higher and still higher pension .payments, and, as a rule, I have had to be satisfied with replies couched in general terms. The real test of whether our pension system is fair is the measure of assistance given in other countries in substantially the same position as Australia. I hope that what I have said on this subject will at least promote a certain amount of discussion and, therefore, serve a useful purpose.
– I rise with apologies to Senator Carroll, who, in a statement made some days ago, expressed a great deal of personal discomfort at having to be a member of a chamber which contained Senator Collings, who, he said, was the human equivalent of the American aloe, which blossoms once in a hundred years. I regret that he should be distressed at having to live temporarily, at all events, alongside such an unusual and exotic product. Senator Duncan-Hughes put a question to me, and then was ungentlemanly enough to suggest that I would not answer it fairly. That was unworthy of the honorable senator. I intend to ask a question of him, but I shall not suggest that he will not answer it fairly because he supplied the answer in his speech a few minutes ago. My question to him is: - “Would he like his aged father or mother to be living on the miserable pittance which to-day constitutes the old-age pension?” Let him answer that ! I answer the question which he put to me by saying that there is no limit to the wealth which we can jointly create, and there is no part of the world where wealth can be created so inimitably as in Australia. There is no difficulty whatever in providing an unending surplus for foreign exchange. There is at our disposal ample power over nature to gratify fully every need, for the complete training and education of every faculty, and for the most exquisite enjoyment of every artistic delight. What competitive individualism and capitalist anarchy have been wholly unable to accomplish, is easily possible under a well ordered system of democratic collectivism.
– Has the honorable senator any promoters’ shares to give away ?
- Senator Guthrie, who rarely makes his appearance in the chamber, and, when he does, speaks always as the accredited mouthpiece of the Graziers Association of New South Wales, should, if he wishes to preserve his dignity, keep out of the present argument.
I say in answer to the question put to me by Senator Duncan-Hughes, that if I had my way, and I believe Australia could easily accomplish it, the Commonwealth Government would bring in a national insurance scheme to provide complete insurance for all the people of the Commonwealth against oldage, invalidity, accident, disease, and loss of ability, and in every way ensure that all persons in the Commonwealth, who had borne their full responsibility as citizens in the production and distribution of the wealth of this country, would be insured for all time against any form of disability. I am grieved and astounded to notice the ease and calm with which honorable senators opposite, and particularly the honorable senator who has just resumed his seat, and who is well-known to be financially independent, say that it would be unwise to improve the lot of the old-age pensioners. Those honorable senators, however, must bear the responsibility’ for their opinions ; I am exceedingly grateful that I do not have to bear it. I regret that the amendment submitted by Senator O’Halloran was not agreed to ; it did not receive even a semblance of intelligent consideration from the Government and its supporters. I shall vote for the bill, because I accept the assurance of the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) that the finances are.,in such a condition that the Government can afford to distribute largess, but I shall take serious objection later to the proposed method of distribution. I have always considered that a government is guilty of an immoral act if it has a surplus, because a surplus shows that the Government has taken from the pockets of the people taxes that it should not have collected, or that it has underpaid its servants or starved its services. A private commercial undertaking is conducted for the express purpose of making profits, but the object of a government should be not to make profits but to render service to the people. A ministry is simply an executive for the purpose of carrying on the affairs of the public, and its budget is merely an account of its stewardship during the year. It should give so much service to the people that profit is impossible. I strongly object to any remission of land tax-
– How does the honorable senator reconcile that statement with the remark that the Government should not take from the people money that it does not require ?
– I cannot agree to the remission of this tax to any landholder, irrespective of the size of his holding. Land, air and water should not be privately owned, because they are gifts of the Creator to all mankind, and not to any particular section. . A sane policy would be to obtain all necessary revenue by means of a tax on land. Useful land is limited in area, and once the people are prevented from access to it, they are deprived of the means by which they live. The Government has certainly not taken, by way of taxation, so much money as it should from the owners of land. Only a few individuals contribute the greater part of the money collected in land tax, and they certainly are not the small farmers. Practically the only land-owners who pay this tax, in Queensland at any rate, are big companies. The objection to it comes mostly from the press and other vested interests. No matter how biased an honorable senator may be, it must be obvious to him that the land in Australia was of no value in it’s virgin state, except to the aborigines, who derived their living from it. It acquired a value as man began to wrest from nature her wonderful products, and to apply to industry the results of scientific investigation. As the population grew, and the needs of the people increased, the land assumed a value which it otherwise would not have had. The community needed railways, water-ways and other services, and it was found necessary to impose land and other taxes to raise the money required to pay for them. The whole community provided the facilities which increased the value of the public estate, and, therefore, that estate should have been retained for the benefit of the public. Not one foot of it should have been alienated in feesimple thereby enabling private individuals to gain the unearned increment. There cannot, in any circumstances, be a clear title to land, because no legal title can be given to that which has been stolen, no matter how many times it changes hands.
– Except as against the rightful owner.
– It would be difficult to discover the rightful owner. In my youth I read a story concerning a man who, when crossing a field belonging to a lord, was accosted by the lord’s gamekeeper and asked if he knew on whose property he was trespassing. The man replied that, although the land was supposed to belong to Lord so-and-so, he was not its rightful owner, because, on the gamekeeper’s own showing, it had passed through many hands and the first alleged owner had claimed that he had fought “William the Conqueror for it. He concluded, “ and I intend to fight your boss for it”. There is no rightful owner of any land as against the community.
– Except the people themselves.
– Those who have the best claim to be the rightful owners are the aborigines, whom the white people of this country have treated disgracefully, robbing them of their heritage, transmitting to them all ‘ the bad and none of the good characteristics of the conquering race, and driving them to their death.
The proposed remissions of land tax have been cunningly and scientifically devised with a view to handing out largess to the already wealthy friends of the Government. A man who holds land of an unimproved taxable value of £500 will, under the Government’s proposal, benefit only to the amount of 19s. 3d. a year. Another, with land of an unimproved value of £1,000, will gain £1 19s. 6d. a year - sufficient to buy a Christmas present. But a man with property of an unimproved value of £20,000, will receive from this beneficent Government £77 10s. a year - sufficient to provide a second-class return fare to the Old Country. The Jowetts of the community, the unimproved value of whose property is £100,000 or more, will be better off to the amoun’t of about £400 a year. These people, having provided the election funds, of the party now in office, naturally call the tune to which the Government dances. Instead of granting these remissions to its wealthy friends, the Government should have distributed among the old-age pensioners any funds available for disbursement.
Senator Duncan-Hughes said that Australia cannot afford to restore the old-age pension to the amount at which it stood before it was reduced under the pressure of a great emergency. He doubts whether Australia can carry on, even with the pension limited to the amount at which it stands to-day. Yet the latest figures supplied by the secretariat of the League of Nations show that the nations of the world spend on armaments at least £900,000,000 per annum, on the basis of the value of the £1 sterling before Great Britain departed from the gold standard. The world can spend more than £2,000,000 a day on armaments, yet this National Parliament of Australia hesitates to restore to £1 a week the pension payable to the aged and infirm in our midst.
– The first reduction from £1 was made by the Scullin Government.
– Senator Guthrie seems determined not to let me forget that a Labour Government was the first to reduce the old-age pension. But the honorable senator fails to tell the Senate, or those to whom he looks for votes, that the Scullin Government reduced the pension to 17s. 6d. a week only because the banks had said that if that were not done the Government would not be able to pay more than 12s. in the £1 after the 1st July next ensuing. Rather than reduce the old-age pension to 12s. the Scullin Government decided to make it 17s. Gd. a week, and to call on the rest of the community to make up the difference. That Government believed in equality of sacrifice, so far as it was possible to obtain it. So long as I am in this chamber, and in full possession of my voice, Senator Guthrie will not get away with such statements. Indeed, I shall follow him and his colleagues through the country, particularly in Queensland, and denounce them for the political frauds and impostors that they are. For the benefit of Senator Guthrie, I quote a passage I have read - “ There is the patriot who waves a flag, hut’ a greater patriot is he who blushes every time he sees a neglected child.” We on this side of the chamber say that the Government should not, have handed out largess to its friends, while there was a neglected child, a necessitous pensioner, or an underpaid and over-worked public servant in Australia.
Sitting suspended from 6.15 to S p.m.
– I now pass on to another matter which seems to have greatly disturbed honorable senators, particularly Senator Duncan-Hughes. This is the proposal to restore to members of Parliament part of the reduction in their parliamentary allowances which was made during the financial emergency, when conditions were very different from what they are to-day. I have no compunction whatever in declaring myself to be entirely opposed at all times to the reduction of wages and salaries, and, therefore, by parity of reasoning, to be at all times in favour of increasing them. When I first entered this Senate, I expressed my opinion quite clearly on the reduction of parliamentary allowances which had then recently been made. When the Labour party in Queensland called for nominations from those willing to contest a seat in the Senate, the salary was ?1,000 a year, little enough in all conscience for those called upon to make and administer the laws of the Commonwealth. A considerable time elapsed between the calling of nominations and the election, and, in the interval, parliamentary ‘ allowances were cut fro:n ?1,000 to ?800 a year. I was elected when the allowance stood at ?S00, and for two months I was paid at that rate. Then, without any reference to me, or to my party, the allowance was reduced by ?50. Speaking in the Senate mi the 28th September, 1.932, I said -
T intend to oppose the reduction in parliamentary allowances with all the energy that I can command. Of course, the axe is going to fall; I a.ni not worrying about that. I intend to take this opportunity, through Ilansard, to address myself to the people of Australia, and if the Senate adjourns for some weeks, as we are told it is likely to do, r shall avail myself of the further opportunity to bring my views more fully before the people. During the short time I have been a member of this chamber, I have realized that it is becoming less and less a place in which the working class will be able to secure representation ; it is becoming more and more a social club, the members of which will consist largely of those who are able to retire, and to whom their parliamentary allowance is of little moment. Membership of this chamber suits those who attach special value to social prestige, but it is becoming increasingly difficult for the representatives of the working class to become members of this Parliament, and to maintain themselves in Canberra solely on their parliamentary allowance. I protest against the reduction of that allowance, because 1 contend that the highest chamber in the National Parliament of tho Commonwealth should be open to the poorest individual in the community, and that the allowance should be sufficient to enable men to remain here and do their job even if they have no other source of remuneration. I believe that the most sacred work individuals in this enlightened democracy can be called upon to undertake is to make laws under which people have to live.
Therefore, on this occasion, I cannot bo accused of inconsistency. With Canon Donaldson, the author of a work entitled The Gospel of Social Problems, I believe that -
Politics is the science of a nation’s life, and the art of conducting it; and, therefore, not to be concerned with politics in its true sense is a sign, not of wisdom, but of folly; not of religious zeal, but of carnal indifference.
Mr. H. Snell, an ex British Labour member of parliament, once said -
If a man brings to the service of Parliament his best gifts, and leaves behind him everything that is selfish and uncharitable, there is no place on this earth where he can render better service.
What is the difficulty which honorable members experience in accepting this slight restoration of what they have given up? The trouble is that the press of Australia has seized on this proposal to raise a. scare. I have never been under any misapprehension, since I have been able to think at all, regarding the troubles which afflict humanity, regarding the vicious influence exercised by the newspaper press of the Commonwealth. Almost without exception, every journal is prostituted to the service of Mammon. It is impossible for the newspapers to deal impartially with any man who attacks the citadel of wealth and vested interests. I have never had any illusions on this subject. As honorable senators know, it is usual for a man elected to Parliament to return thanks to the electors, and to those who have assisted him. On the occasion of my election, I said that, to the press and those who had tried to prevent my election, I had no thanks to offer, and that if ever the time came when the Nationalist press of Australia had a kind word to say of me as a politician or a citizen, I should feel it necessary to examine my conscience in order to see what had gone wrong with me. I am not concerned with the opinion of the press on this matter except to say this: the press of Australia cannot at any time be accepted as the mouthpiece of real public opinion. Those who control the press sell their journalistic souls in the worship of the golden calf, and never by any chance do they depart from the course laid down for them. Yet these people are receiving charity from this and every other Government in the Commonwealth. They are receiving concessions from the Commonwealth alone estimated at £500,000 a year. It is they who will benefit as much as any one else from the remission of the land tax, because they own city land valued at thousands of pounds a foot. They have also been granted remissions of income tax, while the sales tax on the products they use has been reduced. These are the people who, during the war, in the nation’s hour of crisis, raised the price of newspapers by 50 per cent., and have since declined to reduce that price, even though the country has been passing through a terrible economic depression. These are the people who receive concessions in the shape of special newspaper trains and low freight rates, besides the remission of duty on newsprint. They receive the use of the telephone service at reduced rates, and have special dictaphone services provided for their benefit. Yet they have the effrontery to talk about Tammany methods, and to heap ridicule and opprobrium on members of this Parliament when they seek to restore part of what they gave up during “the country’s time of stress. This is not a party matter; no one can say that it is the proposal of the Labour party, or the Lang party, or the Country party, or the Government party. As a national policy, 1 believe it is right to increase wages and salaries to a proper level. I believe that we are conferring “a benefit on the community by moving now for this partial restoration of the cut. It is this action which has given the lead to the Government of New South Wales in questioning the recent infamous, cruel and cowardly cut of the basic wage in that State, and which has encouraged the captains of industry, and the big emporiums in Sydney, to refuse to give effect to that cut. Henry Ford said at the beginning of the crisis in the United States of America that there was no way out of the difficulties with which they were surrounded but by increasing wages and reducing the number of working hours. The same is true of Australia, and we should set a good example. The hands of honorable senators on this side are clean, because we have asked that, before this largess is distributed, the salaries of public servants be restored to their old level, and that pensions be increased. It is an iniquitous thing that we ‘who have to legislate for the Commonwealth should receive allowances which are only one-fifth of the salaries paid to some public servants whom we ourselves appoint. I told .(the people.in my State that I was opposed to the ‘ reduction of parliamentary allowances, because I knew that they had been reduced only that the pensioners and the lower-paid public servants might the more easily be reconciled to the cuts to which they had been subjected. Of course, I know how much more than the basic wage is the salary I am now receiving; but members of the Labour party stand not for more people on lower wages, but for more people on higher wages. We have proved our bona fides by asking the Government not to make any remissions of any kind whatever until the pensioners and public servants have had restored to them what they lost. Before entering this Parliament, I was paid £600 a year, and, if away from my home, £1 a day travelling allowance, as the State organizer for the Australian Labour party. After I entered Parliament, my parliamentary allowance of £800 was cut to £750, and I receive no travelling allowance. If a man is prepared to loaf on the job, I suppose the allowance is worth having, but if he is prepared to work at it as he should, if he is’ prepared to make it a full-time job as he should, if he accepts the position at all, then the salary is not commensurate with the work and the responsibility. In addition to performing our parliamentary duties here, for which we are ridiculously underpaid, we are carrying the propaganda of our party into all parts of the country. Recently I conducted a tour of the south-western portion of Queensland, the expenses of which I gladly paid out of my own pocket. Honorable senators, and particularly those who intend, to oppose an increase of the allowance of members of parliament, know that the calls upon their income are exceptionally heavy. I refuse to be told that I, as a legislator for the Commonwealth, when travelling on public business, am not entitled to a travelling allowance similar to that paid to public servants. The paltry restoration of £75 to our parliamentary allowances would, if agreed to, assist to some degree to meet the expenditure which Ave must necessarily incur in doing the nation’s work. Some honorable members of the House of Representatives who supported an increase of the allowance mentioned the area of the electorates they represent, and gave the distance which they have to travel in order to interview some of their constituents. It is true that some of the electorates, particularly in Western Australia and in Queensland, are large, but each honorable senator represents a whole State, and the expenditure involved in keeping in touch with his constituents is necessarily larger. A public servant receiving up to £312 a year is entitled to a travelling allowance of 12s. a day ; between £313 and £480 “the rate is 14s.’ 6d. ; from £4S0 to £780 it is 17s. and from £780 to £999 it is 20s. a day. Those rates are paid even to officers who have not reached the maximum salaries of their classifications. From £1,000 and over they are paid such travelling allowances as may be determined from time to time by the Public Service Board.
– Should not the rates be reversed ?
– Yes, like every other thing, including the remissions of taxation which this Government proposes. This afternoon Senator Duncan-Hughes endeavoured to discredit the Government of Queensland, because it is attempting to balance its budget by increasing taxation instead of by reducing expenditure. I remind the honorable senator that the. Government of that State does not believe that the wealth of the nation can be increased by impoverishing the people. It does not believe in entering into a poverty competition with other countries in which the lowest only can win. We do not believe in the rice and loin cloth policy, but in maintaining a decent standard for the people. It is true that taxation in that State is higher than in the other States, and also higher than the average of the Commonwealth, but in Queensland the burden of taxation is placed upon the shoulders of those best able to bear it.
I detest the nationalist press of this country, and deplore its utter incapacity to- act as free agents. J do not include those servants of the press who do such splendid work in the press gallery of this and other parliaments. I do not belong to the political party responsible for the policy sponsored by Sir Keith Murdoch, which, when put into operation in Brisbane, resulted in 120 employees being thrown on the industrial scrap heap. We know that the men who sit in the press galleries are the innocent victims of a vicious system. Our position is perfectly clear. We regard pressmen as fellow workers and we deplore the fact that they have to sell their journalistic abilities for a mess of pottage. We decline to put ourselves or the class that we represent in that position. The banquet table is groaning under the weight of everything calculated to make happy the heart of man, but the acts of this and similar governments make this plenty available only to the class which they represent, while those who do the real work of this country scramble for the crumbs.- The party of which I am a member does not oppose the remissions of sales tax or of income tax, but our complaint is that in remitting this taxation no attempt has been made to hold the scales evenly between the well-to-do in this community and those who have to struggle for an existence. It is clear from the bill that the Government is anxious to confer the utmost possible benefit upon those engaged in private enterprise including land-owners. In the Canberra Times of the 11th October, there is an article entitled “ The Budget and Lower Interest.” That paper cannot be accused of supporting the political party to which I belong, but it asks the Government in most definite terms when it proposes to show some earnestness in the matter of interest charged by the banks and other financial institutions which, by their iniquitous demands, are bleeding the workers of Australia white. We are quite logical when we support those restorations which the workers are entitled to expect low that prosperity is supposed to have returned. We welcome the fact that a surplus of from £7,000,000 to £9,000,000 is available, and as money is being distributed by remissions of taxes the Government should see that all sections of the community receive a just share. If I had my way I would see that the nation and this Parliament were protected from the onslaughts of the capitalistic press. I would see that it did not receive any privileges, and that for the services it receives it paid exactly the same as others do. I would deny its representatives access to the press galleries while their principals continue to bring this great national Parliament into contempt. Why should the press of Australia be permitted to continue a policy of misrepresentation and lying, and by vicious slander to ridicule a great parliamentary institution in this democratic country? Does it desire that the democratic system of government under which we are privileged to live shall some day be withdrawn, and that we may have in its place some form of Fascist dictatorship? I do npt know who will be the dictator. He may bo Mr. Eric Campbell, one of tlie most incapable men I have ever met, and who, although unable to make a success of his own business, was financed to go to the other side of the world to consult with the Fascist dictators in at least three European countries. Perhaps the dictator will be Sir Keith Murdoch!
The members of the party to which I belong will support the bill. We know that we cannot alter its incidence, but we trust that even those honorable senators who, being themselves economically independent, have said that they will oppose any increase of parliamentary allowances, will show some semblance of intelligence and dignity by deciding to support the proposal embodied in the bill.
– I congratulate the Government upon the production of the satisfactory budget on which this bill is based., and upon the remissions of taxation proposed. Senator O’Halloran made the extraordinary statement that the Commonwealth Government had no right to decide on remissions of taxation and other means of distributing the surplus without consulting the State Governments. For years past there has been a universal cry that the Commonwealth has invaded fields of taxation which- it should not have entered, and if, as is now proposed, certain fields of taxation are to be vacated, the States will have a better opportunity to collect revenue to assist them in developing the territories under their control. Like Senator Collings, I disapprove the remissions of land tax, but only because I consider that the Commonwealth should completely evacuate this field, leaving it entirely to the States. Since under the Constitution, State Governments are responsible for all laws relating to land development, they should have complete control of laud taxation.
– By the same line of reasoning, the honorable senator would not approve a proposal for a wheat bounty.
– If the Commonwealth interferes, as it has done, in the business of wheat production, it should make good the damage done.
– The Commonwealth is the only authority that may give a bounty on wheat.
– As we shall be discussing that subject a little later, I do not intend now to occupy the time of the Senate with my views on it. Surely no one will deny that the remissions of taxes proposed in this bill will have a beneficial effect upon the people, and will, to some extent at least, lower the cost of living. It has been said that tea merchants do not intend to pass on benefits which will accrue to them from the reduction of the customs duty, and the removal of. the primage duty on tea - concessions estimated to benefit the industry to the amount of £320,000. Although I have always been a strong advocate of tariff reduction, I wish to make it clear that, if the tea merchants regard the concessions being made by the Government as too insignificant to pass on to their customers, I shall heartily support a proposal to reimpose the duties.
A great deal has been said, and particularly by honorable senators opposite, about the restoration of pensions. I challenge them to say that any honorable senators on this side of the chamber are not as anxious as they to do the right thing by all those who are entitled to the invalid or old-age pension.
Senator Collings. - The honorable senator cannot escape responsibility for his colleague, Senator .Duncan-Hughes, who said this afternoon that the payment was too high.
– What Senator Duncan-Hughes said was that, in the present state of Commonwealth finances, the Government could not afford to pay the increased amount.
– Nevertheless, he and Senator Carroll will support the proposed remission of land tax.
– The history of invalid and old-age pensions discloses that the original pension was introduced, and every increase of it granted, not by Labour governments, but by their political opponents.
– The pensions legislation is on the Statute-book as the result of the activity and propaganda of the Labour party.
– I sympathized with the Scullin Government when it was compelled, by circumstances over which it had no control to reduce pensions, and I recall the difficult situation of its Senate Ministers, who, in order to pass its measures, had to depend upon the then opposition.’ Sympathy for the poor of this country is not the monopoly of one party in this Parliament. All sections represented in this chamber have always been willing to do what was possible to alleviate the suffering and distress which, unfortunately, exist in this young country.
– How did the honorable senator vote on Senator O’Halloran’s amendment this afternoon ?
– I voted as I did on that amendment because it threatened to take away a good deal of what the bill offers.
– If it had been carried it would have been a definite instruction to the Government to do the right thing.
– Can any honorable senator say just what is the “right “ thing to do in any given set of circumstances? We all try to do the right thing according to our lights.
As regards the proposals contained in this bill I remind honorable senators that in this debate the lesser seems to be obscuring the greater, as so often happens in other circumstances. The Government is giving remissions of taxation and other concessions to the people amounting to about £8,000,000. These concessions include a percentage restoration of cuts made in salaries and social services, and in the aggregate represent a considerable sum. But, strange as it may seem, they have been overlooked in the present discussion. I suppose that scarcely a soul in Australia could say, off-hand, by what amount the Government proposes to reduce taxation. Yet the whole country knows all about the enormity of the proposal to restore to Ministers and members of Parliament a portion of the cuts made in their allowances, at a cost to the country of about £10,000. Viewed in the light of the general budget proposals this is not a large amount, and if the Government had included it in the bill I am confident that it would have been passed without comment. As, it is, there lias been a universal howl - I cannot call it anything else - in the press about the baseness of the whole business. Let me review what really happened : According to newspaper reports, when an announcement was made in the House of Representatives that an amendment dealing with the property qualification of pen; si oners would be moved by the Leader of the Country party, the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) declared that if the budget proposals were not accepted as presented, there would be an appeal- to the country. Of course, that may have been merely one of those magnificent gestures which wehear occasionally. The newspapers further stated that, on his return to Canberra about a fortnight ago, the Prime Minister sent for the chief electoral officer to question him as to how soon tho rolls could be got ready for a general election. Whether or not the Prime Minister had that interview I am not able to say; I am merely quoting from press reports that the Prime Minister intended to appeal to the country if the budget were interfered with. Then, at almost the last moment in the discussion of this bill in the House of Representatives, a proposal was made for an increase of the ministerial and parliamentary allowances. I repeat that, if that had been part and parcel of the general financial proposals, I would not have opposed it. Owing to the manner in which the proposal has been introduced, I regret that T cannot support it.
– Will the honorable senator accept an increase if Parliament sanctions it?
– I have always obeyed the law. If a reduction of the parliamentary allowance were made, I should accept the decision. If it be the will of the majority that the allowance bo increased I shall accept that decision also.
I congratulate the Government upon being in the happy position of being able to remit taxation, and restore at least a percentage of the amounts that were regretfully deducted from the payments to public servants and invalid, old-age and war pensioners. Contrasting the position with which the country was faced only two years ago, to the circumstances which enable these remissions and restorations to bc proposed, one can say that the days of miracles are not yet past.
– The honorable senator remarked that he had as much sympathy as have members on this side, with the unemployed. I have not the slightest doubt as to the extent of his sympathy, but the unemployed need practical relief. I am reminded of the story of a tramp who, in order to win the sympathy of a householder, knelt on the front lawn and ate the grass. The lady of the house sympathetically exclaimed, “My good man, come round to the back of the house, where the grass is much longer “ ! Honorable senators on the tory side readily extend their sympathy to those in need, but the Opposition desires to do something tangible to improve the standard of living of workers, public servants, invalid and old-age pensioners, and even politicians. Honorable senators opposite are pleased to inform us that prosperity has been brought back. Personally, I do not care who brings back prosperity, so long as it is brought back alive. Twelve months ago Senator Massy-Greene told a doleful story of the position of Australia. In his second-reading speech on the Financial Emergency Bill, he said that the position of Australia was fairly serious, and he impressed upon everybody the necessity for the utmost economy. Members of the Opposition, both in this chamber and in the other branch of the legislature, declared then that the Government knew that the position was not so bad as stated by Senator Massy-Greene. He estimated a deficitof £7,681,000, but within a year the Government is proposing to remit taxes to the amount of £7,350,000. Certainly we may agree with Senator Carroll that the days of miracles are not yet past. Has the passage of twelve months made so much difference? The Government is most fortunate in being able to remit taxes; but, in my opinion, relief is to be given in the wrong quarter. The remission of taxes will not necessarily result in an increase of employment, and the placing of Australia on the highroad to prosperity. The Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) stated in the budget speech that the objectives of the Government in remitting taxes were as follow: -
Lightening the burdens on industry by reduction of -
I fail to see that the return of public money rather than the spending of it will result in an increase of employment. It seems reasonable to believe that, if a government that has been spending millions of pounds, suddenly reduces its expenditure, unemployment will increase. The community has a certain aggregate purchasing power, and, if that power is not increased, how can more employment be given? Does the remission of taxes increase purchasing power? Much depends upon what is done with the money that is saved by remissions of taxes. If taxpayers who benefit from the remissions merely reduce their debts to the banks, employment will not be increased.
– It is surely good for the country if people can pay their debts.
– If all debts were paid the present economic system would collapse, as any student of economics knows. As the indebtedness of a community is increased, more employment is found. During the last few years, the purchasing power of the community has fallen, because the bank deposits have exceeded the advances. In a period of deflation the banks demand from their customers the repayment of overdrafts. They limit credit, and thus reduce the amount of purchasing power ; the result is widespread unemployment. Therefore, the great need of ‘ the community to-day is increased purchasing power. How do honorable senators explain that during the last few years, the people of Australia have not been able to buy what they themselves have’ produced? Senator Duncan-Hughes said that Australia cannot afford to give some of the old-age pensioners another 2s. 6d. a week. Surely this country, with all its natural wealth, can provide these unfortunate people with sufficient food, clothing and shelter to enable them to live decently.
– I said that the treatment, of the pensioners is out of proportion to the treatment of more important members of the community.
– We are told that under the present Government’s administration, prosperity is returning; and yet apparently the finances of the country will not stand the strain of restoring to the pensioners 2s. 6d. a week !
I dispute the contention that, by remitting taxes, industrial conditions will be improved and unemployment lessened. The Prime Minister also claimed that the Government’s proposals will encourage people with money to invest it in industry. I should like to know in what industry they will invest their money. Will it be the wheat, the meat, the sugar or the boot industry?
– Most likely it will be the sugar industry.
– Already Australia is producing more sugar than its people need. Some people reading newspaper reports that sugar farms are being bought and sold, immediately jump to the con-, elusion that our wealth is increasing, whereas there has merely been a change in the ownership of certain lands. If the Government has a surplus which it wants to return to the people, the best plan would be to return it to those who would use it to increase their purchasing power. For that reason I am pleased that the public servants and the pensioners are to get something; I wish that they were to get more. I am glad, too, that members of Parliament are to receive a few pounds more.
– I suppose the honorable senator is sorry that the increase is not greater.
– No; but I agree with the Prime Minister that members of Parliament are entitled to a restoration of a portion of the amount taken from them when restoration is being made to other sections of the community. A restoration in full of the amounts taken from public servants and pensioners would increase their purchasing power; whereas part of the proposals of the Government will mean the withdrawal of money from circulation, and, consequently, no increase of employment. What additional employment will be offered by the shipping companies which will benefit by more than £25,000 a year from the Government’s proposals? The remissions of land tax. will not, I am afraid, create further employment for our people. The Government proudly claims that during its term of office unemployment in Australia has been reduced by 2 per cent, in two years. At that rate its present policy, if maintained, would take 30 years to solve the unemployment problem. The public is led to believe that these remissions of taxes will be passed on to the general » community. Gilbey’s gin, “mothers joy”, is to be strengthened according to press advertisements, but the price of tea is to be increased. A few days ago, the Prime Minister made the somewhat cryptic statement that if these remissions of taxes were not passed on, the people would know what to do. Did he mean that the people should boycott traders who did not pass on the concessions, or was his statement a warning that the Government would deal with those who failed to reduce prices?
No government has caused more mental distress to the aged people of Australia than has the Lyons Government through its action in relation to pensions. Honorable senators of the Opposition know something of the fears of pensioners as to what an unsympathetic government might do. Surely there was never a more despicable act than that of the Lyons Government in confiscating the property of pensioners! Yet the Prime Minister expects the approbation of the people because his Government proposes to restore 2s. 6d. a week to some pensioners. His colleague, the Leader of the Senate (Senator Pearce), told us that’ some of those who will receive the 2s. 6d. a week will have it taken away from them later.
– I did not say that. I said that it would be given in all cases’ pending investigations; if it was found that some pensioners were being overpaid an adjustment would be made, hut any amount overpaid would not be recovered.
– The right honorable gentleman says that the Government will adjust the pension ; I say that the word “ adjust “ is merely a euphemism for “ taking away “. The Government is not justified in treating pensioners in that way. Yesterday, the Leader of the Government in the Senate said -
Careful consideration has been given by the Government to the effect of tile recent property provisions of the pensions act, with the object of ascertaining whether they were operating harshly and called for amendment. The conclusion arrived at was that the law was based on sound principles, and that adequate provisions existed for granting relief in cases of hardship. It is interesting to note that, since the Government’s policy in this direction was announced, no fewer than 12,074 pensions have been volu.uta.rily surrendered.
The Government may salve its conscience by saying that the pensions were surrendered voluntarily, but those of us who have been closely associated with pensioners know that many of them surrendered their pensions rather than submit, to the ^property provisions of the legislation passed last year, notwithstanding that their action -caused them much privation and distress. The right honorable gentleman went on to say that claimants for pensions since the amending legislation was passed numbered only 31,500, compared with 44,750 for the corresponding period of the previous year, a reduction of 13,250. He said that the Government was proud of that reduction, because it represented an improved moral tone in the community. The right honorable gentleman’s speech continued -
These figures are a clear indication that in the past pensions had been paid to a large number of persons whose circumstances, including the circumstances of their relatives, were such that, although they were eligible for., they were not in need of, a pension.
That is not a true explanation. Most of these people could have a pension to-day, but they decided to forgo their right rather than lose their property. As the result of agitation by a few members of the United Australia party and the United Country party and the constant pressure of the.Labour party, the Government has decided to reconsider the matter before the end of the present session. It has now come to the conclusion that, perhaps after all, the law was based on unsound principles, and so it -proposes to meet the wishes of the men who nearly turned the Ministry out of office, and will give further consideration to the property clauses of the act. I hope that those clauses will be entirely removed, and I am only sorry that the amendment of Senator O’Halloran was not carried.
Senator Pearce made one statement which requires further elucidation. He said -
To protect thu security for’ the Commonwealth charge, tho Financial Emergency Act , 1932 requires every pensioner to furnish an undertaking that he will not mortgage or transfer without the prior consent of the commissioner. lt also makes it an offence for any person to accept a mortgage or transfer without the prior consent of tlie commissioner, and it voids any mortgage or transfer made in contravention of the act. The present bill repeals the provision voiding mortgages or transfers.
Am I to understand that if an old-age pensioner transfers his home to a member of his family, he will still be eligible to draw a pension? After all, a man who has worked all his life to acquire a little property should not have.it taken from him by the Government.
Honorable senators opposite have condemned the land tax on the ground that it is a tax on capital. They never seem to regard, a reduction of the salaries of public servants, or the throwing of thousands of people out of work, as a tax on the workers’ capital. The land tax was imposed in order to give the unearned increment on land to the community which had created it. Another purpose of the tax was to force the subdivision of properties, and to prevent the reaggregation of large estates. In this direction it has worked well. The small farmers are not affected by the tax, whether it be high or low, because no one with property of an unimproved value of less than £5,000 has to pay the tax. It is not even the big graziers who are chiefly concerned. The latest figures available show that, of the total amount collected, £1,921,000 was paid on city properties, and only £945,000 on country properties. In other words, the town provided 67 per cent, of the tax, and the country 33 per cent. Assuming that the relative assessments for town and country remain the same, the present remission of land taxation will benefit town taxpayers by £26S,000, and country taxpayers by £132,000. The total land tax remissions for the last two years amount to £1,100,000. If it be possible to make these remissions to people who are in a good position, surely it should have been possible to restore in full the salaries of public sen-ants, and to increase pensions to £1 a week. I cannot conceive why a man of Senator Duncan-Hughes’ mental calibre should say that he is unable to support the Government’s proposal to increase pensions. He said that the country could not afford to pay the increase. Yet apparently it can afford to give £1,100,000 to the landholders.
– The honorable senator should not forget that we are paying three times as much in oldage pensions as for the defence of Australia.
– I admit that pensions cost several millions of pounds, but so does the payment of interest on our overseas indebtedness ; yet neither Senator
Duncan-Hughes, nor. Senator Brennan, nor any of their friends, expresses disapproval of that. The Government has betrayed the community by committing us to pay twice as much in goods to service these loans as we should be paying. Why do not honorable senators opposite object to this vicious drain on our resources, instead of opposing a slight increase in the old-age pensions? Of course, we know - or at least we have been told often enough - that Mr. Bruce is doing his best, and no doubt by the end of the century we shall have gained a substantial reduction of the overseas interest rates.
– Does not the honorable senator think that Mr. Bruce has done extraordinarily well for Australia?
– I do not wish, for a moment, to detract from the value of the work done by any public man on behalf of Australia. From the point of view of honorable senators opposite, Mr. Bruce has done very well, but, from our point of view, he has done very poorly. It is time that there was in power a government which would insist on the rate of interest paid on public loans corresponding more closely to the current value of money on the English market.
I come now to the proposal to increase parliamentary allowances. I do not know of any one, whether he be a socialist, a fascist, or an anarchist, who would not take pleasure in restoring his own salary. Had I been as richly blessed with this world’s goods as is Senator Duncan-Hughes, I might have joined with him in thinking that we shall bring parliamentary institutions into disrepute by restoring to poor politicians £75 of the £250 which has been taken from them. In this connexion, it is amusing to witness the posturing of the “ Cromwell of the Riverina “ (Senator Hardy) who, I am sorry to learn, is, at the moment, ill. I wish him a speedy recovery. He has been telling the press that he wishes he were in Canberra so that he might put an end to these Tammany tactics. The public should be told that this is no more than a proposal to restore part of what we have lost. The Government has said that prosperity has returned, and it has brought down proposals to restore a portion of the percentage, reduction of public servant’s’ salaries. Therefore, members of Parlia ment, who are, in effect, public servants, are also entitled to have restored to them part of what they lost. Of course, if 1 desired to make an impression upon the people, I might say, “ Take away this dross ; I will not have it.”
– Does not the honorable senator fear the Greeks even when they bring gifts?
– This is not a gift. We have been assured by the Prime Minister, and by the Leader of the Senate, that it is merely a restoration. Nevertheless, indignation has been created throughout the laud by the Associated Press, which is calling down on our heads the condemnation of the populace because wo are ma-king of this a restoration budget in very truth, by restoring something to ourselves, as well as to others. Too much lias been said on this matter by the press. I am quite willing, as is Senator Duncan-Hughes, that we should revert to the practice of being governed by amateur politicians, provided that the change permits my expenses to be paid. We have amateur cricketers and footballers, and, as honorable senators know, it often costs more to keep the amateur than to keep the professional. There are honorable senators opposite whose incomes are ten times as large us ours and who are doing no more for the country than are we. We who have spent a lifetime in the Labour movement, working without reward, have not had the desire to gather spoils for ourselves, and must rely upon the community to provide us with a. fair return for our services. We have nothing in the bank, and are not ashamed to accept this restoration. Since I have been a member of the Senate I have come to the conclusion that members of Parliament are merely a medium for distributing purchasing power to others. A number of the persons who seek interviews with me in Brisbane do so with the sole object of obtaining in one form or another some portion of my parliamentary allowance. Every man who has been in public life for any time knows of the numerous calls made upon his income, and it is grossly unfair for the press of Australia to belittle us for endeavouring to obtain a restoration of a portion of our allowance. There is no hole-and-corner business about this; in discussing the subject we have been quite frank. No newspaper can accuse us of being otherwise, and if the Senate decides that an increase of the present rate is justified we shall accept, it ; but if a majority ‘ should oppose a partial restoration, we shall accept the decision with good grace.
I regret that Senator Carroll should have said that the institution of invalid and old-age pensions was the work only of those opposed to Labour. At the third political Labour conference held in 1905,* the payment of invalid and old-age pensions was placed on the platform of the Australian Labour party.
– I said that legislation providing for the payment of invalid and old-age pensions was placed on the statute-book by an anti-Labour Government.
– We admit that; but it was the intensive, propaganda of members of the Australian Labour party and the pressure directed by them on. the Deakin Government that resulted in pensions being granted to the aged. The adoption of many social reforms, including invalid and old-age pensions, has been due to the strenuous efforts of members of the Labour party.
I contend that the Government has not shown in the budget, on which this bill is based, the statesmanlike qualities essential for effectively governing the country. By adopting merely a negative policy, remitting taxation, and basking in. the sunlight of public approval, the Government will not provide employment. As the present Government apparently has not sufficient capacity to handle the financial . and economic problems now confronting us, we shall have to wait until those in opposition assume control of the administration before any effort is made to govern in the interests of the whole of the Australian people.
– After listening to the speeches of honorable senators opposite, I have come to the conclusion that they do not welcome the fact that this Government has managed the affairs, of the Commonwealth during the last two years with such success that it is able to grant substantial relief to a large number of persons in Australia; the members of the Opposition are not prepared to give to the Government credit for what it has done. In fact they seem embittered because the affairs pf the country have been so successfully managed that reliefcanbe afforded to those who have been ground down by the excessive taxation,and to those whose salaries were subjected to severe cuts because of the financial stringency. I congratulate the Government uponhaving kept faith with the people of Australia. When there were expressions of regret at the heavy additional taxes that had to be imposed, and at the heavy cuts that had to be made in salaries, we were told that relief would be afforded as soon as practicable. The object of this measure is to obtain legislative authority to carry out this undertaking.
– The land tax was not an emergency measure.
– The honorable senator overlooks the reason for which the federal land tax was first imposed. Every State Government imposes a land tax and the sooner the Australian people are relieved of dual taxation in this or in any other form the better it will be for them. This bill provides for financial relief with respect to land, income, sales, and entertainment tax, invalid, old-age and war pensions, salaries and wages and pensions to officers. The main argument used in support of a federal land tax was that it would assist to burst up large estates; but that objective has not been attained. Senator Collings and other honorable senators opposite should remember that although a portion of the federal land tax is to be remitted, the States still have the right to increase their land taxation if necessary so that large land-holders may not escape in the way that has been prophesied. Moreover, there is not the wide disparity in favour of the wealthy land-holder that some suggest, because a lower rate is levied upon a small land-holder than upon one who owns large areas of land. The statement that the Governpient is not holding the scales pf justice evenly between all sections of the community is not in accordance with the facts.I am glad that there is to be a further remission of the land tax. The operation of the tax has exposed the fallacy of the argument used when it was imposed, that its purpose was to burst up the large estates. It is impossible to subdivide large estates in the capital cities.
– Our intention is to get something out of the people who own those large estates.
– The fact of the matter is, the honorable senator does not believe in the private ownership of land, and he based his argument, in opposition to this proposal, on that ground only Senator O’Halloran also declared that the Government’s proposals concerning the reduction of the income tax are inequitable, because, so he alleged, they favour wealthy taxpayers -against persons with smaller incomes. If honorable senators will read again the budget speech, they will find the following: -
The Govern ment proposes to make the following reduction of income and land taxes: -
Honorable senators opposite will not find in the budget speech any reference to a proposal to reduce the rate of tax on income from property. The only reduction mentioned is in respect of personal exertion, so the charge made by Senator Collings, that, in its treatment of the smaller taxpayers, the Government is not holding fairly the scales of justice, is not borne out by the facts. We all have sympathy with the position of the man whose income is derived from personal exertion, because we regard him as one of the real workers, and the Government has realized his need by remitting 15 per cent. of the rate levied on his income, while leaving untouched the rate of tax on income from property.
It has also been suggested that the adjustment of the taxation in respect of life insurance companies will favour the wealthy classes of the community.
– Who said that?
– Senator O’Halloran said that the benefit from this adjustment would go into the pockets of the large shareholders.
– Every one knows that life insurance companies have already made provision for a substantial reduction of the rate of interest, due to the proposal of the Government to give to them relief from taxation.
– Only the Australian Mutual Provident Society has made that announcement. Can the honorable senator point to any shareholding company that ‘is reducing its interest charges?
– I should be sorry if, in his private dealings with people, the honorable senator applied the harsh judgment which he brings to bear on his fellow men in this chamber. Has he no charity in his make-up? Does he believe that life insurance companies which, after all, are merely an aggregation of small shareholders, will refrain from passing on to their borrowers the relief from taxation which they will get under this measure?
– lt is the wealthy people who hold the bulk of the shares in those companies.
– I very much deplore the spirit of antagonism that is so often displayed by some honorable senators opposite, when subjects of this nature are under discussion. Their purpose seems to be, not to lessen, but to widen, the breach existing between the different sections of the community. Apparently this is done for political purposes. Doubtless, they realize that, if the breach were closed, they would lose their occupations either as political organizers, or as the so-called representatives of the working class. Honorable senators on this side are equally concerned with the welfare of the workers, and always do what lies in their power to make more harmonious the relations existing between the employing and wage-earning sections of the community.
I am glad to know that there is to be a reduction of the rate of sales tax, and I feel sure that the relief to be given will be appreciated by the people.
– But will the relief be passed on to the people ?
– I think it will be.
– The bill provides no machinery to ensure that.
– Since the competition between all classes of business is keener than ever it was, I am quite certain that the concessions made in respect of the sales tax will be passed on. The business man who refrained from giving his customers the benefit of this relief would have no hope of success.
– Tea merchants have stated that they will not pass on the relief which is given to them in respect of customs duty and primage.
– I wonder how much the honorable senator really knows about the business of the tea merchants. A few days ago I read in the commercial columns of one of the city newspapers a quotation of the market, showing that there had been an increase in prices paid to growers. This being so, there must necessarily be an increase of the prices charged to purchasers. The suggestion always is that the tea merchants will retain for themselves any additional profit which may arise out of this legislation; but is it not obvious that, if tea is now costing more in. countries where it is grown, it would also be dearer to the people who buy it, but for this proposed reduction of customs duty and the removal of primage? It is a satisfaction to me to know that there has been a large addition to the list of exemptions from the operation of this tax, and I am hopeful that, when the bill is in committee, the Government will see its way clear to accept some proposals I shall submit to add a few more items to the list. But, whether or not the Government accepts my amendments, I congratulate it on having prepared such a comprehensive list of exemptions, many of which will give much-needed relief to primary producers.
The bill provides, also, for the abolition of the entertainments tax. Having always deplored the entry of the Commonwealth into this field of taxation, I welcome its withdrawal from it. I have always felt that a tax on entertainments should be exclusively reserved to the States. I am glad to know that, due to its wise administration, the Government is now in a position to abandon this impost. State Treasurers will, I imagine, welcome the opportunity to re-adjust their rates.
Part 6 of the bill gives financial relief to invalid and old-age pensioners. In connexion with this part of the Government’s proposals, many extraordinary things have been said during this debate. I could not understand the statement, by one honorable senator, that not one penny of relief was to be given to those who needed it most. A3 a matter of fact, the bill provides for an increase of pensions to 17s. 6d. a week.
– For whom?
– For certain invalid and old-age pensioners. It also provides that the pension shall increase, as the cost, of living advances, until the maximum pension of 20s. is payable. This is a wise and statesmanlike provision.
I have not much to say concerning the partial restoration of the percentage reductions made in Public Service wages and salaries. I welcome this move on the part of the Government. When the first Financial Emergency Bill, and also the later amending measure, were under discussion, everybody deplored the necessity for introducing such legislation, but realized that it was necessary to bring about, as speedily as possible, the financial rehabilitation of the Commonwealth. To do this it was essential that the salaries of Commonwealth employees, and pensions and other social services should be reduced, but it was stated definitely that, as soon as the finances permitted, restoration would be made to those who were called upon to make such sacrifices. I am glad to know that the Government has so successfully managed the finances of Australia that it is now in a position to include, in this bill, proposals to give effect to that definite undertaking. I hope that the second reading of the bill will be carried, and that honorable senators, having carefully weighed each provision in committee, will reach the conclusion that the measure is in the best interests of the community.
– While the bill contains some provisions of which we must approve, I find it impossible to support all of them. I do not propose to congratulate the Government, because a great deal of the so-called prosperity is fictitious. While the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) claimed in the budget speech that the Commonwealth had a considerable surplus for this year, to which was added the surplus of last year.’ he admitted that the accumulated deficits of previous years amounted to over £17,000,000. In an airy manner, he remarked that it was not proposed to deal with them at the present time. Although the payment of interest on our war debt to Great Britain has been temporarily suspended, we have no guarantee that demands will not be made for it in the future, and no provision appears to have’ been made to meet that liability.
I disapprove of wrangling as to which party deserves credit for the introduction of invalid and old-age pensions. The federal Constitution, though not drawn up by labour mcn, made provision for legislation on the subject of pensions. While giving credit, to those who framed the Constitution, it is wrong to say that the Labour party took no part in the introduction of the pension. I remember that when the Deakin Government was in office, the Labour party, then led by Mr. Andrew Fisher, supported Mr. Deakin, and made it possible for the Government of the day to establish the pension sooner than would otherwise have been possible. Certain sums had been paid into trust funds, and Mr. Fisher suggested that that money could be used for the payment of oldage pensions. None of us contends for a moment that honorable senators opposite are devoid of humanitarian feelings; but tho political pressure that has resulted in practical effect being given to such sentiments in dealing with the aged and infirm has been noticed only since the advent of the Labour party. There is admittedly a tendency of one party to try to steal the thunder of another, and because of that, a government, tory at heart, will often introduce democratic measures. This tendency has been observed in Great Britain. Before, a Labour party came into existence there, a Liberal or Radical Government would advocate, say, an extension of the franchise. That Government would be put out of office before it could pass the necessary legislation, hut the pressure from thu electorates would probably force the next conservative government to confer that boon upon the community. All political parties try to court public favour, and we ought to be frank enough to admit it.
Senator Duncan-Hughes said that he was not correctly quoted as having declaimed against old-age pensions. He remarked that he merely said to-day that undue importance was being attached to them. I shall submit an argument that I have previously advanced. “Would any decent family in a civilized community do other than give the best possible attention to an aged or infirm relative? Any one of us would see that a sick wife or child was given the best possible care and attention, and similarly a nation should give of its best to the aged and infirm who are a charge on the public. Therefore, if the Government is in a position to remit taxation, the most helpless section of the community has the first claim upon it. Some honorable senators seem to imagine that, because some aged persons have contrived to live on reduced pensions, 17s. 6d. a week is a munificent payment; but, as a matter of fact, we have never done more than give grudgingly to the aged and infirm. Even though the purchasing power of money may bc a little higher now than it was a few years ago, I contend that £1 a week would not be an extravagant payment to pensioners.
The amendment of the law to enable the department to recover from the estate of a deceased pensioner thu amount paid in pension was most unjust, lt is true that occasionally persons with other means have taken an unfair advantage of this provision, and I offer no opposition to stops being taken to ensure that the department is not defrauded by humbugs; but the great majority of the pensioners have strong sentimental attachment to their old homes, which they have acquired as the result of great financial sacrifice. In thousands of cases sous and daughters have helped their 1):u eli ta to acquire a property, and the Government cannot congratulate itself on the fact that 12,000 persons have surrendered their pensions rather than lose their homes. It cannot be said that any considerable number of these people can afford to live in reasonable comfort merely because they possess a residence, for most of them have been assisted by relatives to acquire and keep their homes. It is said that the number of new applicants for the pension has decreased by 13,000. As 12,000 ha%re surrendered their pensions” owing to the property provision, about 25.000 fewer persons are now on the pensions list. No matter how large the expenditure on old-age and invalid pensions may be, the money received by them is circulated among the community more promptly than that spent in any other way. It is impossible ( for an old-age pensioner to save, because the whole of his income is needed to supply the ordinary necessaries of life.
I claim that not only the remissions of land tax, but also the proposed heavy expenditure on defence, cannot be justified while the public servants and the old-age pensioners are denied the financial relief due to them. Senator Collings dealt effectively with the Government’s proposal to remit land tax and I shall not repeat his arguments. I merely remind the Senate that neither the abolition nor the reduction of the land tax would relieve the great majority of the people. If the tax is not paid by the land-owner, it is paid by his tenant in additional rentals.
– In the last analysis that is true of all taxation.
– No one can add to the area of tho land in the world. Some honorable senators in advocating the abolition of the land tax, have indulged in curious arguments. Senator Payne said that the object of the tax was to break up large estates. That is not so. That was the purpose of the exemption. It is true that we cannot profitably break up valuable estates in the cities, where the building allotments are small, but we should provide that those who gain by an increase of the population should repay to the public treasury the community-created increment. There is no sound argument for exempting big land owners from taxation. The abolition of the land tax would merely accentuate the evils of private ownership of land, by removing the penalty which now exists for keeping valuable land idle. The removal of the penalty would tend to create land monopolies, because the owners could wait for others to improve their property and then would reap the unearned’ increment.
– Does the honorable senator suggest that the people should be encouraged to grow more wheat or barley ?
– Perhaps Senator Guthrie will tell the Senate how many wheat farmers pay the federal land tax?
– Not a great many of them pay the land tax, but the tax affects the value of their asset for both borrowing and selling purposes.
– I do not believe that national prosperity depends on the ability to mortgage estates.
– Unfortunately, most of the land is heavily mortgaged.
– That difficulty would not be overcome by abolishing the land tax. The abolition of the tax would merely provide greater facilities for obtaining money on mortgage. If I had the power, I would increase, rather than decrease, the land tax. Senator Payne said that the States already impose land taxes. There is practically no State land tax in New South Wales. Many years ago a land tax of one penny in the £ on the unimproved value of the land was imposed by the Reid Government. Later, when a system of local government by shire councils was inaugurated, the land” tax was abolished, except in the extreme western division, where there are no shire councils, and where 90 per cent, of the land is devoted to pastoral pursuits and pays no tax at all.
– Do not the shire councils levy rates?
– The shire ‘ councils charge rates for services rendered, but these charges are entirely different from a tax on the land itself.
– In the other States land tax is imposed in addition to local council rates.
– This remission of land tax is a political bribe to the wealthy section of the community which does not need it.
– The land-owners are probably the poorest persons in the community.
– A person who holds land of the unimproved value> of £5,000 can scarcely be called poor..
– He may have a mortgage of £6,000 on his property.
Senator- RAE. - Does Senator Guthrie contend that those who lend money on mortgages should be made secure? The abolition of the land tax would merely play into their hands ; I fail to see how it would benefit the farmer.
The Government is to be commended for its proposals in relation to the sales tax, but there is no guarantee that the remissions will be passed on to the consumers. Reference has been made to the sales tax on tea. I know something of the tea business, for at one time I was a teagrower. There is probably more swindling in the tea trade than in the whisky trade. Some years ago, when tea in bulk could be bought for as low as 5d. per lb., the consumer could not get the commonest rubbish for less than ls. 3d. or ls. 6d. per lb. Enormous fortunes have been, and are being, made by those who stand between the grower ‘and the consumer of tea. I look forward to the day when Australia will supply its own tea requirements. It1 has plenty of land suitable for the purpose, but the competition from tea grown in other countries by cheap labour makes tea-growing here unprofitable.
I shall vote for the partial restoration of t’he allowances paid to members of Parliament. I may be permitted to state briefly my attitude on this subject. When the reduction was proposed, I said that I would be prepared to accept any reduction, even to the extent of bringing my allowance down to the basic wage, or less, provided every other citizen in the community had to accept the same income. That is not socialism. My proposal would not interfere with the social system. I would allow merchants to buy and sell as they now do, but I would not allow them to retain more than a certain amount as their income. .On that occasion, I compared a bankrupt State with a boatload of shipwrecked passengers and crew. When a ship founders at sea, those who take to the lifeboats share the food and water, as well as the work. A duke’s son is placed on the same footing as a stoker. I submit that in a time of emergency, a bankrupt, State should place all its citizens on the same footing. All this talk of equality of sacrifice is so much hypocrisy, because the extent of a person’s sacrifice is measured not by how much he gives up. but by how much he has left. It is not equality of sacrifice to require the man on the basic wage to forgo 20 per cent, of .his wages, and to reduce another man’s salary from £1,000 to £800 a year. If sacrifices are necessary in the interests of the nation, every citizen should be brought down to the same level.
– Would both be making the same sacrifice?
– Of course they would, because they would have the same ability to, live on £4, a week. I have opposed every proposal to reduce salaries because I have regarded the amount which would be saved as such a mere fraction of what is required that the proposal amounted to nothing more than a gesture to make the public believe what brave fellows we were. Similarly, in the case of this proposed restoration, the amount involved is trifling. In. respect of private members from Tasmania and Western Australia, it will amount to only £75 a year. The amount is a mere flea-bite, though that, I admit,, does not affect the principle. I contend that the legislator’s position is one of the worst paid jobs in the country. In any walk of life one of the most important factors is security of tenure, and in that respect the ordinary public servant has an infinitely better job than the ordinary politician. We have no security of tenure; we do not know when Parliament will be dissolved, or when the electors will change their minds and choose some one else to represent them. Therefore, we are compelled to spend a considerable amount of time, energy and money in campaigning from time to time in an endeavour to assure that our jobs will be renewed. Anything we can save during the life of a Parliament is swallowed up at election time. Moreover, even during by-elections, we are expected to devote our time to helping the party to which we belong. When we take into consideration all the inescapable deductions, our income probably amounts to less than half of what it appeal’s to be. For that reason I have no hesitation in supporting the proposal for the restoration.
I hope that honorable senators will have the position in regard to pensions clarified before they allocate the surplus to less deserving objects. The Government is spending large sums of money oh increased defences in response to a panic worked up by war-mongers. This expenditure is quite unjustified. There is no such thing as adequate defence; at least,, it is not possible for Australia to achieve, because we would have to provide ourselves with such defence forces as would enable us successfully to resist any hostile combination that might come against us. Even Germany, at the height of its military supremacy, was not able to do that, and there is always the danger, if we indulge in a race of armaments, that we may, eventually, be plunged into a conflict even more terrible than the last.
– I congratulate the Government upon the many excellent proposals contained in the budget, and in the bill we are now discussing. The Government is fortunate that the improved financial position of the Commonwealth allows it to bring forward such a satisfactory balance-sheet. It is particularly gratifying that it has been able to convert a proportion of the overseas debt on satisfactory terms. The savings already effected in this way amount to £1,600,000 for the current year, and there is a prospect, if certain optional loans are converted, of saving a further large sum during the next two years.
– And we are borrowing more money every year.
– It is true that we are still borrowing, but I presume that the money will be wisely spent. For my part, I do not believe in borrowing, even for public works. With our huge annual revenue, we should be able to finance our public works without borrowing. Within two years from January next, about £20,000,000 of our overseas debt will mature. In addition to that, optional securities amounting to approximately £62,000,000 may be converted. As the value of Australian stocks in London is so high at the present time, there should be no difficulty in converting even this £82,000,000 at reduced rates of interest. The saving on such a conversion, however, will not be so great as on some of the other loans, because the rate of interest on these ranges from 3 per cent. to 5½ per cent., the average being not much more than 4 per cent.
It has been stated by honorable senators opposite that very little has been done to reduce interest on mortgages and bank advances. That statement is hardly borne out by the facts. Under the Premiers plan the interest on all mortgages was reduced by22½ per cent., and subsequently there was the spectacular voluntary conversion of our internal debt carrying various rates of interest into 4 per cent. stock. Those converted stocks are now well above par, which shows how remarkably our credit has recovered, both at home and abroad. It is interesting to compare the rates paid by the banks on deposits at the present time with those paid on the 1st January, 1931. I take the rates paid by the Commonwealth Bank as’ an example. At that time the discount rate on treasury-bills was 6 per cent., while on the 1st July of this year it had been reduced to2½ per cent. The overdraft rate has been reduced from6½ per cent. to 4¾ per cent., while the fixed deposit rate has beendecreased from 5½ per cent. for twelve months and5¼ per cent. for 24 months to2¾ per cent. and 3 per cent. respectively. It is clear, therefore, that the investor has had to accept about half the return on his money that he was able to get in January of 1931.
It has been said that there is no equality of sacrifice between various sections of the community, and that the wealthy taxpayer has been treated unduly well. I remind honorable senators that when the emergency taxation was imposed in 1931 it was borne chiefly by the wealthy people. Much of it took the form of a super tax on property and incomes generally. The total increased burden placed on the people at that time was £27,500,000. The total remissions up to date amount to only £9,500,000, so that the public are still paying £18,000,000 more in taxation than they paid two or three years ago. Although there have been fairly heavy reductions of income tax, this levy on the people amounts to £18,000,000 more than it was two years
SenatorO’Halloran. - Where is the additional money?
– It has been used to pay for the Commonwealth services.
– As a matter of fact, there has been no increase in the revenue collected.
– I have taken these figures from the budget speech, and 1 have no reason to doubt their accuracy. The remaining annual burden of recent increases of taxation included the 10 per cent, super tax on property incomes which yields £2,700,000, and the percentage additions to income taxation, £800,000. In regard to the income tax, the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) said -
The proposed change in the income tax rate on personal exertion income removes the whole of the extra taxation imposed in1930and 1931 on taxable incomes up to £500, but higher incomes will still bear a considerable part of the super tax as then imposed.
This change’ will also have the effect of reducing the tax on certain of the lower incomes to a rate below that obtaining before the financial emergency legislation started to operate. In view of the general introduction of wages tax in most of the States, I am sure this relief will be welcomed by thislarge class of taxpayer.
That shows that the additional income taxation is now being borne largely by those deriving incomes from property, and by those in receipt of comparatively high incomes from personal exertion.
I am not strongly in favour of the manner in which the Government propose to allocate the surplus, particularly in view of Section 94 of the Constitution, which provides that -
After five years from the impositionof uniform duties of customs, the Parliament may provide on such basis as it deems fair, for the monthly payment to the several States of all surplus revenue of the Commonwealth.
– That section was amended by the financial agreement entered into between the Commonwealth and the States.
– That may be so; but the Constitution originally provided that the Commonwealth should not retain surpluses. I agree with the views expressed by some honorable senators that the Commonwealth should not collect more revenue than is required for carrying out the ordinary services of the Commonwealth. It would be a godsend to the States, especially the smaller ones, whose funds are depleted, if they were to receive the surplus revenue collected by the Com- monwealth. Actually, however, there is no real surplus, because no allowance is made in those figure’s for the accumulated deficit amounting to over £17,000,000. Some effort should have benn made to reduce that deficit before submitting some of these proposals for the remission of taxation.No doubt the Government has tried to do its best for all sections,andI think that it has done well. The amount of relief proposed to bo distributed this year is considerable. For instance, I notice, according to the budget, the following increases: - Invalid and old-age pensions, £635,000; war pensions, £248,000; and Public Service salaries, £550,000. I am also pleased to note that the Commonwealth proposes to restore in full its contributions to the Public Service superannuation fund. Many retired public servants have to depend solely upon these superannuation payments. The amount involved in this connexion is £80,000 annually. This is a further indication of the fact that the Government is endeavouring to assist all sections.
With regard to parliamentary allowances, I say quite frankly that I intend to vote against tha provision for a partial restoration. T do so because I consider that the time is not opportune for such a stop, and that we should have waited a little longer, until the financial position of the Commonwealth is more secure. Moreover, I do not like the way in which action is lining taken. Had the proposed increase been included in the budget instead of being brought forward at the end of an all-night sitting of the House of Representatives, it would have boeu more creditable to the Government.
SenatorDunn. - If it is agreed to will the honorable senator accept it?
– Yes, I shall be obliged to; but the additional amount will be placed to the credit of a trust fund, and used for purposes quite apart from my own parliamentary expenses. 1! sincerely hope, however, that that contingency will not arise. This proposal has been defended as being merely a restoration to members of Parliament of the equivalent of the2½ per cent. to be received by public servants, but the parliamentarian is to receive £50, plus2½ per cent. of the original cut. We beard a short time ago that the Government proposed to stand or fall by the budget, and that it would not accept any amendment of its financial proposals. But the amendment providing for increased parliamentary allowances, which was moved by a private member of the Opposition in the House of Representatives is now being supported by the Government. This is a non-party measure, and 1 feel quite free to voce upon it as I desire, and to record the protest of my constituents. The method adopted to bring about the increase was an easy but not a correct one. Apart from this feature of the. bill, I am supporting the Government’s excellent proposals for the rehabilitation and advancement of the Commonwealth, and I feel sure that wecan look forward to greater prosperity than Australia has enjoyed in the last few years.
Debate (on motion by Senator Brennan) adjourned.
[10.58]. - I move-
That the Senate do now adjourn.
Atone stage I thought that it might be necessary for the Senate to meet at 11 o’clock to-morrow morning, but in view ofthe assurances I have received, I anticipate that, without recourse to an earlier meeting, the bill will be passed by the Senate to-morrow night.
SenatorO’Halloran. - There will be no obstruction from this side of the chamber.
– I Lope that it will be possible to pass the bill by to-morrow night, because arrangements have been made to have it assented toas soon as it. is passed, so that the proposed relief may be afforded as early as possible.
– When we were consulted by the Government Whip this morning, I understood that the Senate was to meet at 11 to-morrow morning, in order to expeditethe passage of the bill. Itappearstome that if we do not meet at that hour the subject of parliamentary allowances will for the second time have to be dealt with after midnight.
– On the motion for the adjournment of the Senate on Friday last, I made reference to a series of communications despatched to honorable senators by Mr. Shaw, chairman of the Australian Air Convention. The Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Pearce) did not have an opportunity to reply to the points then raised, and this morning I asked whether it was the intention of the Government to deal with the matter. I do not know Mr. Shaw, but he states that the 664 representatives who attended the convention desire the Government to appoint a royal commission to inquire into the whole matter of civil aviation in Australia. Can the Minister indicate the Government’s attitude towards this request?
[11.2]. -Iam sure that the honorable senator will not expect me, at this late hour, to deal with the subject at length. When the Financial Relief Bill is disposed of, the Senate will have before it the Government’s budget proposals, in which there appears a vote for the Civil Aviation Branch. The honorable senator, and other honorable senators who wish to discuss the matter which is raised in the correspondence from Mr. Shaw, will have an opportunity to do so, and the case for the department will then be stated in full. It will be much better to deal with the matter in that way when we shall have all tho facts before us.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjournedat 11.3 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 24 October 1933, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1933/19331024_senate_13_141/>.