13th Parliament · 1st Session
The President (Senator the Hon. P. J. Lynch) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
– The PostmasterGeneral has supplied the following answers: -
asked the Minister representing the Treasurer, upon notice -
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.The Treasurer has supplied the following answers : -
asked the Leader of the Government in the Senate, upon notice -
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follows : -
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
What extra allowances are payable to the above-named ranks in respect to -
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follow: -
Ten days schools and 21 A schools (examination for promotion) - an allowance equal to half-pay of rank.
School of artillery - all officers 2s. 6d. per diem.
Sustenance and accommodation, when necessary, are provided at all schools and courses of instruction, including those mentioned above.
Fares and travelling allowance of rank are also provided, when necessary, for attendance at schools and courses of instruction.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
In view of the very limited accommodation available at the General Post Office, Perth, for the use of federal members, and also of the absence at the same place of suitable facilities for interviewing constituents, will the Minister endeavour to effect improvements at an early date?
– The Postmaster-General states that the matter is already under consideration.
Assessment of Ad Valorem Duties
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The Minister for Trade and Customs has supplied the following answers: -
School Teachers’ Holiday Leave
asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
– The Minister for the Interior states that he has received no information on the matter from Mr. H. C. Brown, Secretary of his department. A despatch was received, however, this morning from the Administrator of the territory, stating that he had notified the Supervisor of
Education that, as school teachers in the Northern Territory were officers of the Public Service, and as such were subject to the provisions of the Public Service Ordinance, in future they would not be entitled to regard the annual Christmas school vacation as holidays or leave, but would be required to report as directed for duty with any of the other branches of the Administration during the Christmas vacation. The Minister for the Interior will discuss this matter with Mr. Brown, who will return to duty in Canberra on the 30th October.
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The Prime Minister has supplied the following replies: -
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
Has the Minister for Defence any information to give the Senate in reply to telegrams that have been sent to Canberra by the chairman of the Australian Air Convention?
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.The questions raised in the telegrams referred to can more conveniently be debated when the estimates for civil aviation are before the Senate.
Bill received from the House of Representatives, and (on motion by Senator McLachlan) read a first time.
The following paper was presented: -
Bankruptcy Act - Fifth Annual Report, by the Attorney-General, for period 1st August, 1932, to 31st July, 1933.
Debate resumed from the 24th October (vide page 3805), on motion by Senator Sir G eorge Pearce -
That the bill be now res>H a second time.
– I agree with what was said yesterday by Senator Carroll and others tha.t the proposals contained in this measure are not altogether new; they are part of the bold financial policy announced by the Government in the budget speech. So far as the measure makes provision for the remission of taxes, 1 think that it will have the support of almost every honorable senator. Of course, it is impossible to please everybody. Some honorable senators seem to believe that any remission of tax is an evil thing, or, at least, is not necessarily a good thing. For instance, Senator Collings assumed what seemed to me to be an entirely contradictory attitude. First of all, he said that, it was wrong for the Government to have any surplus-
– I said that it was immoral.
– If the honorable senator prefers that term, and sees a. distinction between it and the word “ wrong “, he is entitled to his own choice of words; but when he criticized the proposals in the bill he waxed eloquent in denunciation of any remission of land tax. Under this heading, the Government proposes to relieve taxpayers to the amount ‘of about £400,000, and when Senator Collings was asked how he reconciled his denunciation of that remission with his view that it is immoral for the Government to have any surplus, he disclosed himself as an ardent single taxer. I have no fault to find with that, because he belongs to a recognized school of political thought that is found throughout the world. But the honorable senator constitutes a class by himself when he sets himself up as being a single taxer, when he is not merely a very high protectionist, but actually a prohibitionist. Honorable senators will remember that not many months ago, he declared that he would have it made a criminal offence to import into this country goods that could be manufactured here.
– I do not believe in revenue tariffs.
– Apparently he still adheres to that view. No light has come to him during the intervening months that he has had for reflection.
The next measure of relief proposed in the bill is the remission of income tax charged to life insurance societies. We have been told by the Leader of the Senate that the Government realizes that the present system of taxation is imperilling the stability of these societies. This is a matter that affects, not the wealthy classes, but the thrifty and saving section who have tried to make provision for their closing years. I should have thought that- this proposal would have met with the approval of every section in this chamber.
One of the most important remissions of tax, and one in which I heartily concur, is that relating to the sales tax. By exempting additional items, relief will be afforded under this heading to the amount of £1,220,000, and the general reduction of the rate of tax by 1 per cent, will mean the remission of a further £1,350,000, making a total reduction of £2^570,000. All this relief from taxation must have a beneficial effect upon the whole community. I do not subscribe for a moment to the view that it will benefit one class only. We are all interested in sales and purchases, and any remission of the tax on these transactions must be felt throughout the community. When Senator O’Halloran, speaking as Acting Leader of the Opposition, said he feared that the remission would result in putting money into the pockets of wealthy shareholders, I think he particularly referred to remissions of income tax to life assurance societies-
– I did not mention those societies.
– I accept the honorable senator’s assurance, but for the purpose of my argument, it does not matter in the least. Even if the money does go into the pockets of wealthy shareholders, that is not necessarily an evil.
– I was referring to the remission of taxes payable by overseas shipping companies.
– That makes no difference. The money does not remain in the pockets of the shareholders, but is placed in circulation, and adds to the purchasing power of the community, a matter with which Senator Brown is greatly concerned. I cannot understand that honorable senator’s views on that point. He said that an increase of the old-age pension by 2s. 6d. a week will add to the purchasing power of the community, but I suggest that we do not create wealth by adding to pensions. We merely transfer the money from one set of pockets to another set of pockets. If the additional amount given to the pensioners represents purchasing power when in the hands of pensioners, surely it represents purchasing power when some one else holds it?
– If money is paid into a bank in reduction of an overdraft, does it retain its purchasing power?
– It does not remain in the bank. Bankers accept deposits, not for the sake of burying their arms in them up to their elbows, as Whang, the Miller, was said to do; but for the purpose of lending them out to people who are conducting businesses. If it is sound economic policy to give to pensioners an extra 2s. 6d. a week, would it not be more sound to pay to them much more than that? And why should these payments, with their consequential increase of purchasing power, be limited to the old-age pensioners? Why do we not, for instance, add to the purchasing power of Senator Brown by paying to him an extra £5 a week? But if we were to do so, we would not create additional wealth.
-linos. - Cannot the honorable senator realize the difference between wealth and purchasing power ?
– I cannot see that money represents purchasing power when in the possession of one person, but not when it is held by another person.
– Needy people must spend it immediately.
– I cannot understand any people keeping money in their possession merely for the purpose of looking at it. Usually they invest it in their own businesses, or lend it to the banks, which, in turn, lend it to other persons for use in their businesses. In either case, the money is put into circulation.
– Is it not a fact that in periods of deflation, money is called in by the banks, and is not re-issued? Does not the honorable senator know that the banks of Australia are holding large sums of money, which therefore is not used to increase the purchasing power of the community ?
– It is not a fact that the banks receive money and hold it. They have to pay for the money they get, and they are willing to do so because they can re-invest it with profit, not only to themselves, but also to the whole community.
– Does the honorable senator suggest that the banks hold a fi for fi metallic backing for all their cheque currency?
– I do not say that, but the latest figures available show that the proportion of advances to deposits was never greater than it is to-day.
I cannot help thinking that much of the opposition to the Government’s proposals in this chamber is due to a belief that it is the duty of an Opposition to oppose. Thus we heard Senator O’Halloran putting forward the very same amendment as was proposed in the House of Representatives, where it was treated with as scant ceremony as it was treated in this chamber. The several members of the Opposition may frame their remarks in different language and sound different notes, but all of them express practically the same view. They remind me of the new towel system which has been installed in this building. ; A person wishing to have a clean piece of towel merely presses a button and pulls the towel and a clean length is released for his use. Another press, another pull, and a further clean piece is exposed to view. Similarly, in the Senate, a button is pressed and we hear the soft dulcet tones of Senator O’Halloran ; we press another button, and we hear the silvery tenor of Senator Daly; another button is pressed, and out come the booming tones of Senator Dunn ; pressure on another button brings forth the staccato notes of Senator MacDonald; while yet another button lets loose a torrent of eloquence from Senator Collings. But though the tones differ, the nature and quality of the sentiment are always much the same.
– We get from the honorable senator only platitudes.
– The honorable senator, who, at the slightest provocation, pours forth a flood of eloquence and thumps his desk so vigorously that I sometimes fear that it will not stand the_ strain, resents the slightest criticism of his remarks or methods. A noticeable feature of the Opposition attack is the absence of sympathy with the proposal to remit a portion of the land tax. I wonder if that is because there are only 27,000 persons in. Australia who pay federal land tax. The Opposition is, however, full of sympathy for the old-age pensioners, and the Commonwealth public servants. The latter section is well organized and presses its views -strongly. I wonder if those facts were entirely overlooked by honorable senators opposite when framing the amendment which was moved by Senator O’Halloran, but rejected by the Senate.
I agree with so much of this measure as I have dealt with, but there is another part of it with which I cannot agree, much as I should like to give my moral support, fa:- whatever it is worth, to the Government which has done such admirable service to the country. It is not merely that the Government has carried on some admirable work begun by the Labour party, as Senator O’Halloran suggested, but it has for itself established a record which has been appreciated throughout the English speaking world. Every honorable senator, 1 suppose, knows that the part of the bill with which I do not agree is that which proposes to restore part of the reduction in parliamentary allowances. At the verylast moment a clause was inserted in the bill in the House of Representatives the effect of which was that members voted to themselves an increase of pay. I agree with Senator Carroll that if this proposal had been included as part of the policy for remitting taxation, and restoring retrenchment which had been made in the past, very little notice would have been taken of it, but I myself heard the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) say that this was such a good budget that the Government thought it advisable that members should not spoil it by asking for something for ourselves. That, I think, was a sentiment which should earn general approval.
– Was that said publicly?
– The honorable senator should not ask me to say anything more about it. The statement was made, and I heard it, as did several other senators. I do not propose now to discuss the question of whether honorable members are adequately paid, or whether they would be inordinately well paid if effect were given to this proposal. One’s opinion on that question depends largely upon the view one takes of the duties of members of Parliament. If we are, in effect, a board of directors of the nation, as some honorable members said yesterday; if it is our duty to run this country as we think it ought to be run; to direct the people how they ought to work and live; to turn out laws as a roller mill would turn out sheets of iron, then we are not only underpaid, but it would be impossible to remunerate us adequately. I have indicated before, however, that I do not believe that to be the duty of members of Parliament, and I have stated what I regard to be the limits of parliamentary activity. I remind honorable senators that we are not autocrats. We are not here to translate our own opinions into the statute law of the country. We are here to give expression to the will of the people.
– What is the will of the people?
– We are delegates. Senator BRENNAN. - We are not delegates, because we do not come here with a written mandate telling us exactly what we are to do. We come here with an indefinite mandate, and we have, to some extent, to sense what is the will of the people. Senator Sampson asked what is the will of the people? and I reply that it is our duty, so far as we can, to sense what their will is. In this particular instance, however, I am afraid that we have no difficulty whatever in knowing what is the will of the people. Every one of us knows that, if this matter could be submitted immediately to the people for their opinion, it would not receive the support of 5 per cent, of them.
– The people in the honorable senator’s State must be different from those in Queensland.
– That there are differences is apparent from the fact that one State returned Senator Collings to this chamber, while another State returned me.
– We shall have a difficult job if we seek to ascertain, and be guided by the will of the people .on every question which comes up for discussion.
– I do not know what I am to take from that interjection. Does the honorable senator mean that we are entitled to flout what we believe to be the will of the people?
– We should not pay any regard to popular opinion deliberately manufactured by the press.
– I do not wish it to be understood that I support the unmeasured and intemperate and, in many cases, utterly unfair criticism by sections of the press on this subject; but, after all, ] do not think that there is, or can be, any better index of popular feeling, as society is constituted at present, than the press. On the whole, I think the press, does reflect the opinion of the people. That the press can sometimes be intemperate, has been demonstrated on this occasion.
– With the exception of the leader in the Melbourne Herald.
– That is not the only exception. I agree with that leader, so far as it goes, but there have been others with which I can also agree. The Lieutenant-Governor of Victoria said recently, that parliamentary institutions were on their trial throughout the world. I agree with that statement, and I agree with his further remark, that it is the duty of the people not to decry unnecessarily the work that Parliament does. I think, however, that if this proposal is agreed to it will tend to lessen the respect in which parliamentary institutions are held by the people. 1 say that, not merely because of what is proposed to be done, but also because of the method adopted.
– What other method was there? -Senator BRENNAN. - The honorable senator knows to what I refer. The proposal for raising parliamentary allowances was not part of this bill when it was introduced in the House of Representatives, nor was any reference made to it in the budget, or in any of the papers laid before Parliament. We know that, because we have access to the records of the House of Representatives, and we read the daily press. We have been told that a message from the Governor-General was brought down in the small hours of the morning, authorizing the expenditure linder this proposal, and this message was lii id before the other chamber shortly afterwards. It is not for me, or for any other honorable senator, to criticize what happens in the House of Representatives, but a section of the Constitution says that a vote, resolution, or proposed law for the appropriation of revenue or moneys shall not be passed unless the purpose of the appropriation has in the same session been recommended by message of the Governor-General to the House in which the proposal originated. I do not know whether a message in telegraphic form from the Governor-General conforms with the general practice, and if it may be regarded as a message under His Excellency’s sign manual, to use an expression employed in England. That is a matter in regard to which the Government and honorable members of another place must, satisfy themselves. But ‘the manner in which the message was brought down clearly indicates that the proposal received consideration at almost the very last moment in the discussion of the bill in the House of Representati ves.
Something has been said about the position of this chamber. Yesterday, you, Mr. President, ruled that this bill is not a taxation measure, and that, therefore, it is one which the Senate may amend. I agree with that ruling. But the position of the Senate is also clearly set out in the Constitution. The only limitation upon its power to legislate is contained in section 53, which refers to only two subjects in respect of which the Senate has not co-equal powers with another place. The concluding words of this section read -
Except as provided iti this section, the Senate shall have equal power with the House of Representatives in respect of all proposed laws. lt has been suggested that in this case the Senate might exercise its powers beyond their ordinary scope. This chamber has before it a measure in respect of which its powers are co-equal with those of the House of Representatives. Therefore it would be within its rights in rejecting that part of the bill which deals with parliamentary allowances. If this statement of the Senate’s position is not strictly accurate, there can be no question that the Senate’s power to request amendments remains, and that power may be exercised just as effectively as the direct power of rejection. I do not quite agree with Senator Duncan-Hughes that there is anything wrong with the Government’s acceptance of support for this portion of the measure from any part of the chamber, because whatever else it may be, the matter is non-party. We have conclusive evidence of this in both the genesis of this new proposal and its reception in this chamber. This is essentially a matter in respect of which the Government is entitled to take the opinion of individual senators, apart altogether from party divisions. For that reason I find myself opposed on this issue to those with whom I am proud to be associated, and of whose record generally I have had reason to be proud during the short time that I have been a member of the Senate. I shall support the bill, but when it ia being considered in committee I shall have to vote against those clauses which deal with ministerial and parliamentary allowances.
– Having in mind the need to proceed cautiously in the discussion of this bill, I do not propose to occupy much of the time of honorable senators. The major portion of the bill has been well covered by other speakers, and I wish to refer briefly to only one or two features of it, including the provisions relating to invalid and old-age pensions. I am glad that the Government has seen its way clear to increase the rate of pensions, although the great augmentation of the numbers of pensioners is sufficient to make any administration hesitate before incurring further liability. No one will deny that every consideration should be extended to those of our citizens who are so unfortunately placed as to need assistance ; but the relief afforded must be regulated by the amount which the country can afford. Whether or not we can afford any more at the present time, is open to question. The burden would be very much lightened and the benefits more equitably distributed if there were a more general recognition of what is due by some people to their relatives, and by all the people to the State. It is, I think, reasonable to ask the Government to reconsider its attitude with regard to property which pensioners may possess. The present arrangements suggest an element of sordidness, and certainly inflict humiliation upon worthy people. Another objection is that once a lien over a property of a pensioner is established, that property ceases to be negotiable. In the metropolitan district of Western Australia the sewerage and drainage system is being extended. Although many pensioners are not able to pay for the house connexions, they are, nevertheless, liable for the payment of the new rates for which they will receive no service. In Western Australia there is what is known as a housing trust. Its function is to erect houses at an average cost of about £270, and let -them to deserving people on either a free life tenancy or on the rent purchase system at the rate of os. weekly. Unless the property provisions of the pensions law be amended in some way, I foresee further complications with the State Government, and additional hardships will be inflicted upon individual pensioners. The law relating to war pensions is, I think, understood by most honorable senators. When the former Government sought to reduce the total annual payment by nearly £1,250,000, it sought the best advice available, and appointed a committee of exservice men to suggest where reductions could be effected with the least ill result. Although every precaution was taken, hardships have been inflicted upon some persons, and .the purpose of that portion of this bill dealing .with war pensions is to give to them much needed relief. I suppose that, as the peak period of the annual liability for war pensions has passed, we may, in future, expect a decline in the total annual payments. Australia has, in many directions, been very generous to its sailors and soldiers. I hope that generosity will continue, and that, later, sympathetic consideration will be extended to some other classes of the community who, at present,’ are not receiving the recognition to which they are entitled.
I have heard many arguments in favour of the proposal to restore parliamentary allowances, and I agree with some of them. I could, indeed, adduce additional reasons in support of the action taken in the House of Representatives, but I think that the movement is premature, that it savours of extravagance and, furthermore, that it will embarrass State Governments, and, perhaps, lower the prestige of this Parliament. For these reasons I shall vote against that proposal.
– As originally introduced, this bill received general approval for the very good reason that relief from the emergency taxation was long overdue. I think also that no better policy could be devised for the reduction of unemployment throughout the Commonwealth than by relieving the people of some of the emergency taxation which ha3 been pressing so heavily upon all sections since the adoption of the Premiers plan. I give a good deal of credit to the Scullin Government for its action in fading a most difficult financial position, and for doing what must have been most distasteful to a Labour Minis- try. namely, making percentage reductions of salaries, pensions and social services, in order to bring about the financial rehabilitation of the Commonwealth. The proposed reductions of sales tax, primage, and land tax, and the partial restoration of war and other pensions, will be welcomed by everybody, and the Government should be commended for having introduced these proposals. But even with the remissions of taxation provided for in this bill, the burden of emergency taxation is still exceptionally heavy. The Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) stressed that fact in his budget speech. He quoted the following details of the burdens which had been imposed : - f
After allowing for the welcome remissions provided for in this bill, totalling £7,600,000, the burden of emergency taxation still imposed on the people is about £18,000,000.
The Premiers plan was evolved following consultations by the Federal and State Governments with leading financial experts and economists, whose recommendations, submitted to the then Prime Minister (Mr. Scullin) in May, 1931, were signed by Professors Copland (chairman), Giblin, and Melville; and Messrs. Pitt, Shann, Simpson, Stanley, Strutt and Stuckey. The keynote of the whole scheme was co-operation between the Commonwealth and the States. In the concluding words of their recommendation the experts stated -
The committee has confined its attention to the first problem of meeting the deficits of Australian -Governments taken as a. whole. The second problem of getting equilibrium in the several governments, as well as for the whole, can be only briefly referred to.
The plan for increased revenue recommends drastic increases in sales tax and primage, which benefit -directly the Federal Treasury. The additional income tax for various reasons is also proposed for federal action.
In consequence the net result of the economies in expenditure and increases of revenue proposed is to improve the Commonwealth position much more than that of the States, and some adjustment will be necessary.
I take it that the adjustments particularly referred to were reductions of taxes and increases of salaries and privileges that could be given at any time by means of a common plan from which the people of all States would derive equal benefit. The economists went on to say -
New South Wales must ,be left out of account for the present, both because information from that State is incomplete, and because, in other respects, the financial relations of that State to the rest of the Commonwealth are anomalous. For the other States, the combined effect of the measures proposed in this report is to give the Commonwealth and Victoria a small surplus, but to leave the other States with appreciable deficits amounting to about f 4,000,000 (exclusive of New “South Wales). In New South Wales, the scale of public expenditure is such that additional economies of £2,000,000 to £3,000,000 may be made towards meeting the deficit. For the other States, it is equitable that these deficits should be adjusted by special grants from the Commonwealth, so that the Commonwealth and the States concerned should be left with equal proportional deficits.
It was not contemplated by the economists who recommended the emergency taxation that the rich and bloated Commonwealth should have surpluses of millions, and that the States should be left distressed and financially embarrassed. The report continued -
It is contemplated that these remaining deficits should be met by loan pending general economic recovery. It might be possible to make the adjustment between States by suitable allocation of the burden of interest on the loan required.
Despite that most important recommendation, the States are left with practically the whole of their interest burden, although it was stressed by the economists and experts that the plan was a C0 operative one, and that the Common^ wealth and the States should be left with equal proportional deficits. It was implied that the financial recovery of the States should be brought about’ at the same time as that of the Commonwealth with the co-operation and assistance of the Commonwealth. I believe that the recent federal surplus of £3,500,000 would have been much greater but for slackness in collecting taxes at t,h.e end of the last financial year. The surplus should have been divided among the States in accordance with section 94 of the Constitution, which provides that the Parliament may provide, on such basis as it deems fair, for the monthly payment to the several States of all surplus revenues of the Commonwealth. Under the financial agreement, the States, under duress, were compelled to accept some modification of that section: but the considered opinion of the experts was that the excess revenue collected under the emergency legislation should have been divided equally among the States. The experts recommended that when the Premiers plan was put into effect, the Federal Government should assist all the States so that a general restoration to prosperity would be brought about.
-Would the honorable senator have preferred distribution of the surplus among the States?
– Yes. No better method could have been adopted. It would have brought all the States back to prosperity at about tho same time, instead of placing the Commonwealth in a much more favorable financial position than the more deserving States.
The recommendation which I have read was considered by the Premiers, and was agreed to. It is interesting to notice in the report the terms of the resolutions that were unanimously adopted by tho Commonwealth and the States. One resolution was as follows: - (a)Reduction of expenditure-
A reduction of 20 per cent. in all adjustable Government expenditure, as compared with the year ended 30th June, 1930, including all emoluments, wages, salaries and pensions paid by the Governments, whether fixed by statute or otherwise, such reduction to be equitably effected.
The report continued -
Before the details of the plan were settled and. in order to make’ it effective, the Leaders of the Opposition in the Commonwealth Parliament were invited to attend the conference. After full discussion of the whole plan, the following resolution was passed: -
The conference, including the Leaders of the Opposition, in the Federal Parliament,having most carefully considered the financial position of the Commonwealth and the States, and recognizing the national inability to meet existing Government charges, is unanimously of the opinion that to prevent national default in the immediate future, and a general failure to meet Government payments, all expenditure, including interest on Government securities and other interest, and expenditure upon govern mental salaries and wages, pensions, and other social services, must be substantially reduced.
These measures, drastic as they may appear, are the first essentials to the restoration of prosperity and the reemployment of our workless people.
The State Governments have fully honoured their obligations under the Premiers plan. State Ministers, members of Parliament, public servants, teachers, and employees in every walk of life have suffered great hardships and have had very little relief. Although federal emoluments are being partially restored in some of the States, further cuts are being imposed.
– To what does the honorable senator refer ?
– In “Western Australia the Collier Government has altered the incidence of the unemployment tax. It has quite properly granted further exemption from this tax to some employees receiving less than the basic wage, but it has substantially increased the flat rate of4½d. in the £ imposed by the previous administration to a rate that, begins at 4d. and increases to 9d. in. the£. Workers receiving only a few shillings above the basic wage have had a further cut of their incomes through the increase of this tax. This reduction has been applied to State public servants, workers in mines, farmers and the community generally. In New South Wales the State basicwage of only £3 8s. 6d. is much below the federal wage for that State, and on tho very day when the State basic wage was cut 2s. a week for a man and ls. a week for a woman, the Federal Government proposed toincrease ministerial and parliamentary allowances and the salaries of even the highest paid public servants. I complain that the Government held no consultation on this matter with the State Premiers or the economists. The Leaders of the Federal and State Oppositions were not called together; the Government acted entirely on its own initiative. Before departing from the Premiers plan, itshould have consulted all the State Premiers as equal partners in that plan. While I appreciate the proposals contained in the clauses of the bill, I regard the Government as alone responsible for the proposed increase of parliamentary allowances. I do not admire the action of the Government in trying to cast the responsibility upon other political parties. The Lang party and the Labour party do not now favour the Premiers plan.
– Mr. Scullin does.
– Yes ; and I recall that Senator Daly got into trouble with his party because of his support of that plan under difficult circumstances. It is distressing to find him expelled from the Labour movement because of that action. His colleague (Senator Barnes), is now threatened with trouble if he favours a partial restoration of the parliamentary allowance.
I object to the statement published in many of the leading newspapers in Australia last Friday and Saturday to the effect that the Country party had approved of the increase of the allowance. Individual members of all parties in tho other branch of the legislature supported the increases, but the statement tha.t the Country party approved of it is wrong. On Thursday, the 5th October, the Country party held a meeting in Canberra and unanimously decided to have nothing to do with the proposal of the Ministry to increase the allowance, and resolved not to discuss it. How different was the Prime Minister’s attitude to the proposal of the Leader of the Country party (Dr. Earle Page) to repeal the legislation which authorizes the Government to take possession of the little cottage home of the thrifty pensioner! On that occasion, Mr. Lyons said that he would stand by his budget, and would not allow it to be altered in any way. When it was reported that the numbers were in favour of Dr. Earle Page’s proposal, it is said that Mr. Lyons got in touch with the Electoral Department to ascertain if the electoral machinery was in order for an election. The strong Mr. Lyons won.
– And Dr. Earle Page bolted.
– Subsequently, a proposal to increase the present remuneration of members of Parliament was made. At the moment, I am not discussing the adequacy of the allowance paid to members. I am referring to the attitude of Mr. Lyons to the proposal. In this connexion, I quote from the Melbourne Age -
Governor-General Roused from Bed to Make Salary Grab Possible.
During the all-night sitting of the House or Representatives members of each party were called together to discuss the practicability of securing salary increases without delay. Representatives of the two Labour and Country parties met in the Opposition party’s room at Parliament House while the Financial Relet Bill was being debated in the Lower Chamber. The Government’s representative was Mr. Marr, Minister of Health, who informed members of what the Government had in mind, and asked if their support would be forthcoming in the event of the Government deciding to put its proposals before the House in the early hours of the morning. When assurances of support were given and a count revealed a majority for the Government, Mr. Marr at once deputed an official to communicate by long-distance telephone with the GovernorGeneral, Sir Isaac Isaacs, who was at Echuca. At 3 a.m. the Governor-General was aroused from his sleep, and when the situation was explained to him he agreed to authorise the submission of ‘the resolution to the House enabling the Government to introduce the necessary appropriation bill.
The Governor-General’s message was probably in the possession of the Prime Minister by 4 a.m. He had it in his pocket duringthe discussion, but made no mention of it. When the Prime Minister received the Governor-General’s message, he ought to have risen in his place and said that the proposed increase was in accordance with Government policy, and that the Government, after deciding upon it, was accepting the responsibility. The Age report continued -
After nearly every member had expressed his views, the Prime Minster said that when the budget was being discussed it was felt that some consideration should be given to members who had voluntarly reduced their own salaries by £250 a year. When the membersasked him to provide partial restoration he said the proposal should be discussed in the House.
Notwithstanding that the Prime Minister had in his pocket a telegram from the Governor-General containing His Excellency’s approval of the necessary appropriation, he waited to see how members responded to the suggestion that tneir emoluments should be increased before disclosing his action. Later, he moved the suspension of the Standing Orders to permit the Deputy Leader of the Lang party to move for the recommittal of the hill, thereby giving temporary control of the House of Eepresentatives to the leader of the smallest party. Tho voting in favour of the increase was 44 to 16. The Prime Minister accepted the vote, and on that occasion did not communicate with the Electoral Department to ascertain whether it was ready for an election; he uttered no threat of an election. The Prime Minister swallowed the insult involved in the salary increase and the alteration of the Government’s financial proposals. The right honorable gentleman is not always so ready to accept a vote. Last April, when the electors of Western Australia were asked to record their opinion of the subject of secession from the Commonwealth, 138,653 of them voted in favour of the proposal and only 70,706 against it. Notwithstanding the majority of almost two to one in favour of secession, the Prime Minister did not introduce a bill to give effect to the desire of the majority for economic freedom. Yet, we are told that the voice of the people is as the voice of the God. When 44 members out of 75 desired an increase of their own remuneration, the Prime Minister communicated with the Governor-General in the early hours of the morning; hut when a large, majority of the people of Western Australia voted in favour of secession, he did not communicate with His Majesty the King on the subject at 3 o’clock in the morning in order to secure the Royal Assent to the popular vote of the electors of that State. If the Government was in favour of the increased allowance, it should have made provision for it in the budget and should not have taken shelter behind the Lang and Labour parties. The result of the division was almost as much a foregone conclusion as would be a referendum of public servants or trade unionists on a proposed increase of their pay. I regard the action taken as a breach of the Premiers plan. It is no wonder that the people of Western Australia speak of the Federal Parliament as their federal overlords, when its members vote themselves increases which are denied to equally hardworking and deserving State Ministers and public servants.
– The honorable senator should, instead, ask “ Why have a Federal Parliament at all?” We do not want it. Before any restoration of salaries was made to members of this Parliament and federal public servants, there should have been a conference of Premiers with a view to taking common action throughout the Commonwealth. State Ministers and members of Parliament, as well as State Government employees, suffered reductions of pay in common with those in the federal sphere, in order to meet a national emergency, and now that a partial restoration is possible, all should share in the amounts to be disbursed.
– The reductions of salaries and wages were not the same in all cases.
– They were substantially the same. State employees in Western Australia have not received back any portion of the amounts taken from them and the remuneration of members of the State Parliament is still much less than it was.
– Western Australia has the lowest taxes of any of the States
– I do not know that that is the position to-day, because about a month ago, the State unemployment relief tax was increased graduating from 4d. to 9d. in the £1. The action taken to increase the allowance of members of this Parliament will create unrest among those sections of the community which have not had restored to them any of the amounts taken from them in a time of emergency. It is utterly irreconcilable with the Premiers plan, or with the public utterances of the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) and his colleagues who, for the past two years, have been urging the whole community to make sacrifices. This should not have been done until conditions permitted similar action to he taken simultaneously in both State and Federal arenas. I complain of it the more because it has been taken at a time when the wheat-farmers are in greater need of assistance even than last year, when the budget contained a provision to assist them to the amount of £2,000,000 Because of the low price of wheat, and the still large volume of unemployment, this action on the part of the Government will give rise to grave dissatisfaction and social unrest. If an increase were posssible at all, it should have been part of a proposal for giving general relief from the exactions of the Premiers plan, and action should have been taken only after discussion with State Premiers and economists. The restoration should have included relief for State parliamentarians, all State civil servants and employees and those working under State awards, whose wages have been heavily cut during the last few years. If we are able to increase salaries in the Federal Public Service, it should be done only after discussion with State authorities in the same way as the Scullin Government wisely consulted the States before making the common reductions. The amount involved is not large, as expenditure is regarded in these times, but it is the fact that the leaders of the economy plan were the first to exempt themselves from its full severity that has given rise to popular resentment.
The action of the Government in this regard will make it more difficult for the States to continue the implementing of the Premiers plan. It has probably smashed that plan. It will break the spirit of the State governments and their employees, who, until now, have loyally accepted the hardships which the plan imposed. I hope that the Senate will decline to make the proposed increases, at least until provision has been made for paying the wheat-farmers 3s. a bushel at sidings. That demand has come from all over the country, and to comply with it will involve the expenditure of millions of pounds. Until that is done; until unemployment has been considerably reduced, and until State parliamentarians and public servants are able to share in the general benefits, we are not entitled to vote this increase to ourselves. The Government of Western Australia is financially embarrassed, and the people of the State are suffering from the effects of over-taxation. We, in Western Australia cannot afford our share of the cost of the proposed increases to members of Parliament and Commonwealth public servants, neither do we desire to share in the social and industrial unrest which will follow the setting of this very bad example by the Federal Government.
– Various estimates, ranging from £7,000,000 to £9,000,000, have been made of the value of the remissions which the Government proposes to make this year, and for which provision is made in the budget. The greatest evil in Australia to-day is unemployment, and that problem must be solved before Australia can really recover. If I had the power, I should use the £7,000,000 or £9,000,000, which the Government proposes to remit to taxpayers and others, for the purpose of inaugurating large public works that would absorb the unemployed. In this way the spending power of the community would be increased, and trade would benefit. If the theory of Franklin Roosevelt is sound, that would be the best way to start the nation on the way to recovery.
I oppose the proposed land tax remission, which this year is estimated at £400,000. Last year £700,000 was remitted, making a total for the two years of £1,100,000. If we were sure that that money would be put into circulation in providing additional employment, we should not object’ so much, but I believe that money given to the wealthy class in this way is not usually spent in creating additional employment, at any rate in Australia. According to literature issued by the Australian Travel Association, approximately £40,000,000 a year is taken out of Australia, and spent by travellers overseas.
– Do not those who visit Australia from abroad spend money here?
– I should be surprised if visitors to Australia spend £5,000,000 a year in the country, as against the £40,000,000 which Australians spend abroad. That sum would be enough to pay the interest on our national debt.
The proposed remission of taxation to overseas shipping companies is not large, but I believe that they could very well have waited a few years before receiving this gift of £25,000. The Labour party is in favour of remissions to life assurance companies, because the ramifications of life assurance are very extensive. There are no fewer than 1,600,000 separate policy-holders throughout the Commonwealth, and all of them should benefit to some extent by the remission. “We also favour the remission of the sales tax; we hope that the benefit will be passed on to the consumer. It is very easy for traders to disguise their costs, and put into their own pockets the 1 per cent, remission which it is proposed to make. The Labour party is opposed on principle to indirect taxation, because we know that it hits the working classes hardest.
We heartily approve of the proposed restoration of pensions to old-age, invalid and war pensioners, and I regret that Senator O’Halloran’s amendment, which involved the restoration of pensions to their old level, was not agreed to. Members of the Labour party would rather have the full restoration of pensions than the remission of taxation. We believe that the restoration of pensions would put more money into circulation, and would stimulate trade and employment.
The Government is budgeting for two successive deficits; one this year, and another next year. In my opinion, those are only paper deficits. Fourteen months ago, I pointed out that the cuts being made at that time, including those in parliamentary allowances, were not necessary because customs revenue was so buoyant that we should, in all probability, finish the year with a surplus of between £5,000,000 and £6,000,000. Again this year, there is a feeling that, with the expanding customs revenue, tho position of the Commonwealth will be much .better than is at present anticipated by the Government. I do not wish to pose as a prophet, but I feel sure that that will be the result.
The Government made a great mistake last year when it made further cuts in Public Service wages and salaries, and invalid and old-age pensions. It has practically admitted its mistake by the partial restorations included in this bill, and also by the further remissions of taxation. We, therefore, claim with some reason that the introduction of this measure fully justifies all that was said by Labour senators and Labour members in another place, only a year ago, when these matters were under discussion. I am glad to know that the Government proposes to give relief to invalid and old-age pensioners by making concessions in connexion with the iniquitous property qualifications that were inserted in the act last year. The concessions, we are told, are being made because of the fall in the cost of living, although living in Canberra, as I do, I find it difficult to realize that there is a decline in living costs, but a pension of 17s. 6d. may have, as Senator Duncan-Hughes said .yesterday, the purchasing power of 23s. 9d. in 1925. All honorable senators, I feel sure, desire to see the position of our pensioners made as comfortable as possible, with due regard, of course, to the state of Commonwealth finances. It would appear that, when the Government last year introduced and passed those sections attaching to the Government property possessed by pensioners, it. ignored the much commended principle of thrift, and apparently forgot the well-known maxim - “ Save the pennies and the pounds will take care of themselves.” Many distressing cases of hardship among pensioners have come to my notice within the last few months. One old man, over eighty years of age, who could scarcely make his way to the Federal Members’ Rooms in Brisbane, told me that unless he signed the white card, and, by that act, handed over to the Government the house in which he was living, he would be deprived of his pension. This is a scandalous law, and I am astonished that any political party in this country should support it. I understand that the Government intends to bring in an amending bill to give a substantial measure of relief from the operations of those sections of the act dealing with the pensioners’ property. T congratulate Ministers upon this, and hope that the promised legislation will be passed without delay.
A few minutes ago, Senator Brennan charged Labour senators with a lack of original thought, and declared that our speeches were simply a gramophone record of those made by our colleagues in the House of Representatives. Having known Senator Brennan for about 25 years, I have no hesitation in saying that, despite his legal preeminence, he knows but little about economics and political affairs. Honorable senators of the party to which I belong are capable of delivering, on any subject, speeches containing a considerable amount of original thought, and representing a substantial contribution to the wisdom of the Senate.
Several speakers iu this debate directed attention particularly to the proposal to increase ministerial and parliamentary allowances. This proposal is one which, I think, should command general support, because of the improved outlook in Australia. We are receiving higher prices for our wool and butter, to mention only two of our major export commodities, and we arc hopeful that, following action being taken by the President of the United States of America, the world situation will justify the optimism that is now being felt in Australia.
– The new policy of the United States of America is largely experimental.
– It may be an experiment, but it is certainly better than doing nothing. For four years Australia lias been in the international Sargasso Sea. It was the first country to feel the effects of the economic blizzard which has since swept over the world, and the Government is to be commended for the optimism with which it is now facing the future. Russia also is giving effect to a number of experimental policies, and while I do not agree with its abandonment of the principle of democracy, which ve hold so dear in Australia, there are, in the Soviet system of government, many things of which I. approve, and I hope that they will be successful. ,
The proposal to increase ministerial and parliamentary allowances will, I believe, be approved by the people generally. It is true that there is opposition in some sections of the press, and we have been told that this move is the result of some midnight meeting of members. Speaking for myself. I knew nothing about it until I. entered the House of Representatives on Friday morning last, when the debate was in progress. Prior to that I had heard scarcely a whisper of the proposal; so the charge made by certain newspapers that all political parties had connived at it, falls to the ground. It is, of course, fair to say that when the suggestion took definite form, and had reached a certain stage, it. had to be submitted to members of the different parties, but it was not the result of a midnight meeting to “ raid the Treasury as some newspaper critics allege. The Prime Minister said definitely that the matter had been considered by the Government when framing the budget, but apparently Ministers were faint-hearted, and did not proceed with it. Every one who has been associated with political life in this country knows how certain sections of the press, jealous and envious of other people’s privileges, are ready always to criticize and ridicule. I well recall the strictures passed by the press about 30 years ago on members of a State Parliament who were then drawing a miserable allowance of £4 15s., for having taken action in the House in the most straightforward manner possible to increase their salaries by £60 a year. The newspapers of that day described this “ raise “, to use an American term, as a deliberate attempt to rifle the public till. They referred to it as “the £60 steal” They entirely overlooked the fact that some members, even on that pittance, had to maintain two homes, one in their constituency, and one in the city, in order to carry out their parliamentary duties. We have heard similar criticism on many occasions since then. Not infrequently it comes from people who themselves are improperly pocketing hundreds of thousands of pounds in the form of concessions given at the expense of the community generally. One of the wealthiest newspapers in Australia - the income of the proprietors at that time was well over £100,000 a year - took a prominent part in the general attack on members of the State Parliament on the occasion to which I have referred, for having dared to suggest that the miserable allowance made to them should be increased.
The newspapers of this country have done very well out of the Government and the people. They have formed rings to keep lip prices and have brought about mergers to ensure a monopoly of news services, thus making possible a substantial increase in the price of advertisements and the cost of newspapers to the people. I must, however, except one Brisbane journal, which has taken up a perfectly fair attitude towards this proposal to increase ministerial and parliamentary allowances. In a leading article of a recent issue, which has just come to hand, it states that while the time may be inopportune, it cannot be argued that a salary of £825 for a member of a federal parliament is unduly high, especially in the case of members representing distant and large constituencies. That is fair comment. Since the last adjournment of the Senate, I have travelled about 5,000 miles through Queensland, and expended a tidy sum. It is essential that honorable senators representing distant States should take advantage of every opportunity to meet their people, but it costs money to do that, and the possession of a railway pass is not sufficient. It may not be generally known that members do not get £750 nett. They are obliged to meet a number of calls which are not made on ordinary citizens. A man receiving £400 a year and doing routine work is much better off. It is easy for the press to condemn members of this Parliament for voting an increase of their allowance from £750 to £S25 a year, but our critics will not be so ready to recognize that most of us have to maintain two homes. The expenses of those from distant constituencies must be enormous. Big city newspapers are not justified in howling like a pack of dingoes at the heels of politicians simply because they do not like them. When I was elected as a member of the Senate I entered into certain commitments on the understanding that I should receive £800 a year, and when the allowance was further reduced to £750, scarcely a voice was raised in this chamber against that action. I did not then protest as the outlook was not regarded as hopeful. Some of those who control the press, and hate politicians, would not be plucky enough to mount an election platform as candidates for parliamentary honours and face ihe criticism that could properly be hurled against them. Honorable senators are fully entitled to accept the partial restoration that is now proposed, and no honorable senator who votes against the increase should take the extra payment. If anybody declares that we should not be justified in taking it, I wish to know his motive, though usually I am not like Mr. Wickfield, in David Copperfield, who always looked for the motive behind the actions of others. Owing to the stir created by the press two members of my party are in a difficult and painful position with regard to this increase, and every honorable senator should deeply sympathize with them. I urge the Senate to give a fitting answer to the press by supporting this restoration unanimously.
The Retail Traders Association of New South Wales recommended to its members on Monday last that the reduction of the basic wage in that State by 2s. a week be not applied. The association gave cogent reasons why that course should be followed. It was pointed out that a reduction of the wages of employees would reduce their purchasing power, and that the coming Christmas trade would suffer a heavy blow. If that principle is applicable in the case of basic wage earners in New South Wales, surely it applies equally in connexion with the matter that I am now discussing. President Roosevelt is attempting to raise the price of labour and of goods in the United States of America, and the action of the New South Wales Retail Traders Association conforms entirely with the object of the American economic recovery plan. The Haymarket Central Square George-street West and Broadway Association decided at a recent meeting to ask the Stevens Government to prevent the operation of the reduction of the basic wage in New South Wales, and we read in the Sydney press yesterday that that Government had decided not to apply the reduction to State public servants. Therefore, I contend that the partial restoration of the federal parliamentary allowance would give a lead in the right direction to the business community. The proposed increase of our allowance, which will cost £9,000, is a small sum in proportion to the total cost of the remissions of taxation and the restorations proposed in this bill, namely £9,000,000. The proportion is .1 per cent., so the restoration of portion of the parliamentary allowance cannot be regarded as excessive. A German banker. who was a minister in the Bavarian Government, has stated -
One of the many reasons why capitalism never can be made to work properly is that attempts at rationalization tend to reduce the amount distributed in wages, and thus also the buying power of the public, so that rationalization defeats its own end.
Rationalization means the rationing of work, the reduction of wages, the lowering of prices, trade stagnation, and the sending down, down and still further down of business confidence and trading of all kinds. The Government has every justification for increasing the parliamentary allowance, because the banks are bursting with money. Avenues of investment are required, and better times are more likely to be ushered in by an optimistic rather than by a pessimistic outlook. It would bc disastrous to the community to allow money to rust in the banks; it must be put into circulation if it is to serve a useful purpose.
– Confidence will do that.
– My argument is that confidence Would be created by increasing the parliamentary allowance as proposed, because it would indicate to the people that in the highest circles it is regarded that the financial position has improved. If honorable senators declare that the finances do not justify the restoration, industry will be discouraged. I hope that the good sense of the Senate will prevail, and that these threats will be disregarded. The action taken by members of the House of Representatives may assist bankers to release credits, and so assist industry generally. Unfortunately, industry is at the mercy of the banks. That the problem of unemployment is still acute in this partially-developed country is a disgrace, because by a progressive policy of public works it could be solved. All the disadvantages of a multiplicity of railway gauges still exist, yet nothing is done to establish a uniform gauge throughout Australia. The last estimate for the unification of gauges was £57,000,000, but it may be less now that the Kyogle to South Brisbane line has been completed. For the development of the Northern Territory railways are -essential. Many of the harbours around the coast of Australia need to be improved; the expenditure of public money in that direction would be a good investment.. That money is plentiful is shown by the reduction of interest rates by the banks. When times are bad, people cling to their money, with the result that the withdrawal of money from circulation causes unemployment and distress. If every person in the community clung to his money, we should soon revert to a system of barter.
Senators Brennan and Caroll have said that they would not have opposed the increased allowance to members if it had formed a part of the Government’s financial policy as set out in the budget. I regard that as a paltry argument, for there are many ways in which this matter could have come before Parliament. That it came spontaneously from private members, rather than from the
Government, is in its favour.
A barrister’s opinion is, to him, a matter of great importance. I am not a barrister, but I, too, take pride in my opinions, and consequently I feel somewhat aggrieved that I was not consulted about this proposed increase; but it is a good thing that it came spontaneously from private members themselves. Had it been a part of the Government’s programme, there is no knowing how members of the Opposition would have viewed it. People speak of this addition - to our present allowance as an increase, but it is not so; it is merely a partial restoration of an allowance which we voluntarily agreed to forgo for a time, in order to meet a national emergency. I regret that some honorable senators should profess to dislike the proposal and yet be willing to accept the additional payment. It would appear that, while willing to take the money, they wish to pose as patriots. They seem to be tossing a doubleheaded penny. Honorable senators who are willing to take money obtained at the expense of mental suffering and distress on the part of their fellow members, should not seek a cheap advertisement. One member has admitted to me that if he had had any idea that the proposal would be brought forward, he would not have spoken in opposition to it as he has done. The action of the House of Representatives has caused a great howl in certain newspapers, but those who believe that the partial restoration is justified should have sufficient moral courage to disregard the press and take what is due to them. Senator Brennan said that if this matter were submitted to the electors, not more than 5 per cent, of them would vote for the increase. That may be so if tory newspapers like the Melbourne Argus and Age were the only means of influencing public opinion. Fortunately, the public platform and the printing press are still available to counteract the influence of the monopolistic press of Australia. Time after time the people have shown that they have minds of their own, and are not prepared to be led by the nose by the tory press. Were the electors of Australia acquainted with the facts, I feel sure that a large majority of them would support the increase.
– Why not postpone the decision until the people have been consulted?
– I am quite prepared to do that if necessary, and if my expenses were paid by one of tho wealthy opponents of this partial restoration I would welcome the opportunity to take part in a referendum campaign on the matter. The proposal to restore to members a proportion of the amount which they voluntarily relinquished a year or two ago, is in keeping with the budget proposals to ease the burden on the people generally. If we reject this proposal we deaden the optimistic note struck by the Treasurer in his budget. It is shown in the budget that the country can afford to be liberal to various sections of the community, including public servants and pensioners, as well as to others in possession of considerable wealth, and it is cowardly for members of Parliament to oppose this increase in their allowances. Their motives are open to question. If they had any consideration for their colleagues, upon whom this proposal has come suddenly and without warning, they would at least give us the moral support of a unanimous vote. Ten years ago it was proposed that parliamentary allowances to members of the New South Wales Parliament should be increased to £800 a year. The tory press immediately raised a howl of opposition, and the government of the day referred the proposal to an arbitration court. This tribunal heard evidence for and against, and, at the conclusion of the hearing, gave a verdict, not for £800 a year, but for £S75. If it were proposed now to increase allowances to £1,000 a year, I should oppose it, as I did when, at the time of the Hughes Government, it was proposed to raise allowances from £600 to £1,000. At that time, members of the Queensland Parliament were receiving £500 a year, and I’ thought that £1,000 for Commonwealth members was too much, and that £800 would be fair. As editor of a Labour newspaper, I have had the obligation of expressing my views on this subject before, and I know that there are a great many people, even some trade unionists, who are joist as keen to keep politicians down to the breadandbutter line as are the editors of the tory press. In view of the fact that members of thi3 Senate represent vast areas, which we are expected to visit periodically, we are entitled to fair remuneration.
– The honorable senator’s time has expired.
– It must be gratifying to the Government that this measure has been so well received by honorable senators in all parts of the chamber. The -bill has been made possible because the budget, which reflects the successful carrying out of the Premiers plan, has been more favorable even than we hoped for. I appreciate the difficulty which honorable members of the Opposition must find in criticizing the budget, and the proposals contained in this bill. No effective criticism has been offered, and, indeed, I can remember no budget ever presented to the Federal Parliament which has been received, both inside and outside Parliament, so favorably as the latest one has. The Government is to be commended on its decision to afford relief to all sections of the community by means of this measure. This action will, I believe, contribute more than anything else towards the stimulation of trade and industry, and will encourage business people to launch out into new enterpries The remission of taxation will be reflected in greater employment, and, as we know, unemployment has been Australia’s greatest problem during the last few year3. The Government has faithfully carried out the promises that were made when the Premiers plan was first introduced.
Though the financial position of the Commonwealth has so wonderfully improved, we cannot overlook the fact, however, that the position in some of the States is far from satisfactory. The Commonwealth has ended the year with a substantial surplus, but the States find it impossible to balance their budgets. I admit that; when the effects of the relief which this bill provides are felt throughout the States, their financial position will probably improve, because fresh sources of revenue will be available to them. Nevertheless, the Commonwealth has yet to face and solve the problem of its financial relations with the States, particularly the smaller ones. The Premiers plan has so far worked well; but, taking into consideration the financial position of the States, it is evident that we cannot yet afford to relax our efforts to achieve economy. Senator MacDonald said that we should release credits, and spend more money. Actually, what we need is to maintain the confidence that has been built up in Australia and abroad. If we can do that, the other benefits for which the honorable senator hopes will follow. The position in some of the States at the present time is extremely difficult. In Tasmania, for instance, those engaged in primary and secondary industries are feeling the pinch severely, and we should direct our efforts towards assisting them in every way possible. The Government is to be commended for having introduced these proposals. The proposed remissions of taxation will be much appreciated by the general community.
Within the last few weeks there has been a great deal of discussion about the position of the wheat-growers. While I sympathize with all those engaged in. that industry, I remind the Senate that other primary industries, not less important to the welfare of Australia, arc also languishing. The position of the apple and potato-growers in Tasmania is especially serious.
– Dairyfarmers also are in difficulty.
– That is so. Practically all primary producers are in an extremely serious situation. I do not wish to minimize in any way the troubles confronting the wheat-growers who, in the aggregate, represent a substantial majority of primary producers; but I remind the Senate that persons engaged in nearly every other form of primary production are in just as critical a position.
Considerable attention has been directed to the proposal to increase ministerial and parliamentary allowances. I do not know why that subject should overshadow all others in this debate, and I fail to understand why personal attacks should be made on some members, simply because all do not think alike in this matter. Surely we can agree to differ without imputing ulterior motives to those who do not think as we do.
– I do not think thatany ulterior motives have been suggested.
– There has been a suggestion of that nature as regards myself, because my views on this subject are not those held by some other honorable senators. I do not intend to support those clauses providing for the partial restoration of the cuts made in parliamentary allowances, because I consider that, as we agreed to the Premiers plan, we should be prepared to make the necessary sacrifices until a greater measure of prosperity has been restored to this country. But this is a matter for the individual judgment of honorable senators. Each must decide whether or not. this is an opportune time for the introduction and support of such a proposal. I shall not quarrel with other honorable senators who do not share my views on this point. I am opposed to the increase because of the financial position of Tasmania. The allowances to members are shown in the Estimates at the original amount, namely, £1,000 a year, less the deductions made. This suggests that, in clue time, the Government of the day will restore to members the full statutory allowance. Personally, I think the time is not opportune to do this.
– Does the honorable senator think that the Government has made proper provision for the assistance of the farming community?
– I have not suggested that the Government is unmindful of the difficulties confronting our primary producers, and if the finances of the Commonwealth permitted, I should have great pleasure in supporting any proposal to give further assistance to them. I regret that, with the exception of wool prices, there has never been a time in the history of this country when primary producers were getting smaller returns than they are to-day. In most cases the margin of profit has entirely disappeared. Fruit-growers in Tasmania have appealed to the State Government for assistance. They have asked that finance be made available for the purchase of cases from local sawmillers for the coming crop. The business of fruit-growing is entirely different from that of wheat production. While wheat-farmers may drop out of the industry for a season when prices are low, the orchardist cannot neglect any phase of his activities if the productivity of his orchard is to be maintained, and as some orchards do not come into full profit for ten years or fifteen years, the capital cost involved is considerable. Fruit-growers and potato-growers in Tasmania have never been in a worse position than they are to-day, and so serious is the condition of State finances, that the State Government has not been able to grant increments to public servants or reduce taxation.
– Does the honorable senator think that the Commonwealth surplus should have been distributed amongst the States?
– That is a matter for the Commonwealth to decide. But the States were parties to the Premiers plan, under which drastic economies were made, and I think it would have been better if the Commonwealth Government had consulted with them before deciding what it should do with its surplus.
.- The bill deals with a number of important subjects which, in other circumstances, would have been brought forward in separate measures. Consequently, the time occupied in their discussion would have prolonged considerably the sittings of the Senate. The debate on the various subjects dealt with in the bill is in many respects the equivalent of a discussion on the budget. The Government claims that the Commonwealth is in a satisfactory financial position. At the end of the last financial year, it had a surplus of £3,500,000. The people have been told that the Government proposes to distribute the surplus, and is budgeting for deficits in the next two years. Three years ago the Government sounded a clarion call to the people, declaring that the financial position was so serious that every member of the community, irrespective of his circumstances, had to make a monetary sacrifice in order to bring about financial rehabilitation. No doubt, Ministers desired that no justice should be done to any section, and we may take it for granted that they believed that a general sacrifice was necessary. The visiting economists advised the Government that the first essential was balanced budgets. The accounts for the year 1931-32 showed a small surplus, and for the year ended the 30th June last, a further surplus of £3,500,000 was revealed. In those circumstances, I wish to know why the Government is not now prepared to restore in full the cuts made in public servants’ wages and salaries, in pensions, and in other social services, seeing that a balanced budget has been obtained in two successive years.
I find grave fault with the proposals put forward by the Government in this bill. One reason for the excess of revenue over expenditure last year was that the imports for the year were much greater than the Government expected. The increase of imports contributed, to a large extent, to the disastrous position in which we found ourselves when the depression set in. The treasury was empty, the trade balance was seriously adverse, and credit was at a low ebb. By a policy of protecting Australian industries, the Scullin Government corrected the adverse ‘balance of trade. But that policy has been abandoned by the present Government. A large increase of revenue was brought about last’ year by the importation from overseas of goods which might well have been made in Australia, giving employment to our own people. Goods to the value of about £5,500,000 that could have been produced in this country were imported from abroad. The Government has announced that it is not intended immediately to provide for the reduction of the accumulated deficit, but that it is to be augmented in the next two years. The statement appears in the budget speech that the Government proposes to restore prosperity by providing relief from taxes. Large companies are to be granted assistance in this way, although the stock of one group of companies is worth, to-day, 25 per cent, more than it was worth a year ago. I am glad to hear of that prosperity, but ft is unfair that companies which are in that favorable position should be among the chief recipients of government assistance in the form of relief from taxes. These prosperous companies will benefit by £585,000 from tax remissions which are not justified when other sections of the community are in greater need of assistance. I have no desire that any Australian company shall be in financial difficulties - indeed, I should like to see every section of the community prosper - but if the position of some of these companies is as has been stated here to-day, the Government should not hand out largess to them. The financial barometer shows that Australia has made great progress, for £100 bonds, which a couple of years ago were valued at £60, are now above par. Those figures indicate that Australia has emerged from the “ Slough of Despond.”
Under the Government’s proposals, life insurance companies are to be benefited by £710,000. The 1932 Tear-Book gives the paid-up capital of these companies as £1,700,000.
– Mutual life insurance companies do most of the business.
– I understand that since the 1932 Tear-Book was published, the capital of the proprietary companies has been reduced by about £300,000. In my opinion, the whole of the insurance business in Australia should be conducted by the nation. Other remissions of taxes proposed include £1,100,000 in respect of the special tax on property, £25,000 to overseas ship-owners, and £400,000 to land-owners, in addition to remissions amounting to £700,000 last year. Compared with those amounts, remissions amounting to £200,000 to persons whose income from personal exertion is £500 or less, is not a great sum, because of the large number of taxpayers involved. If there is one section of the community which might reasonably be called upon to make the greatest sacrifice, it is that comprising the owners of property. I agree with Senator Rae that the measure of sacrifice is not what a man has given up, but what he has left after he has given. ^ The taking of a few thousand pounds from a millionaire does not impose so great a hardship on him as the taking of £5 from a man on the bread-line imposes on him.
Overseas ship-owners are to have the rate of tax on their income reduced from Ti per cent, to 5 per cent., although they are less entitled to consideration than are people engaged in any other business undertaking in Australia, for they have consistently exploited the people of Australia, particularly the primary producers. Indeed a previous government established a Commonwealth government line of steamers, in order to protect the primary producers of this country from the extortionate freight rates charged by the overseas companies for conveying Australian produce to the world’s markets Unfortunately, another government practically gave those vessels away.
Silting suspended from 6.15 to 8 p.m.
– During the last two years remissions of federal land tax amounting to £1,100,000 have been granted and now further remissions are proposed. This is not a form of taxation specially imposed under the financial emergency legislation passed by this Parliament, and therefore is not in the same category as the other taxes mentioned in the bill or in the budget papers. The federal land tax, which was first imposed to compel the subdivision of large estates and thus provide holdings on which persons desirous of settling on the land could make a living, has remained in operation for 23 years and no previous Government has advocated its abolition. Up to the present the Government has not given any valid reason why further remissions of this tax should be made, or why land-owners who are able to pay the tax should receive this special consideration. The representatives of the wealthy land-owners in this Parliament must be numerous if a further remission of this tax is agreed to.
– It is not the number, . but the influence they exert.
– These interests have established organization which have a strong influence over governments.
I am pleased to see that over £600,000 is to be restored to invalid and old-age pensioners. “When pensions were reduced owing to the financial stringency the . present Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons), who was then in opposition, said that full restoration of pensions should be made at the earliest possible moment. In view of the remissions of taxation which the Government is able to ma.ke to other sections, it should restore pensions to the original amount of 20s.’ a week. The time has arrived for a complete restoration of pensions, and, if such a. proposal had been embodied in the bill, it would have received the whole-hearted support of honorable senators of the Opposition. It is gratifying to find that the Government’s policy with respect to properties owned by pensioners is to be modified and that the title deeds of a pensioner’s property will not be held as security against any pension paid. An attempt was made in this chamber and in the House of Representatives to restore the original pension rate, and the percentage taken from public servants’ salaries, but the result has clearly demonstrated to the people that the Government is not earnestly endeavouring to assist those most in need. It is considering only the interests of those whoso services and financial assistance will be most effective when next an appeal is made to the people. The Government proposes in some instances to increase the invalid and old-age pension to 17s. 6d. a week, but it has also provided that any increases above that rate shall be based on the cost of living figures, as is done in fixing the basic wage.
– Only as between 17s. 6d. and 20s.
– Yes. A pension exceeding 17s. 6d. a week will be paid only when the index figure reaches 1,800, but it is a million to one that it will not reach that figure in the next 20 years. As ample funds are available I do not know why the increase of pensions and public servants’ salaries should not be made retrospective to the beginning of the present financial year. The Commonwealth public servants, who have placed their case very clearly before the people have shown some of the injustices under which they are labouring. Public servants who have had to submit to a reduction of 20 per cent, of their salaries are to have only 2 J per cent, restored, which appears inadequate when compared with the remissions being made in other directions. Although some public servants may be paid reasonably well and have a certain security of tenure, which is not enjoyed by many in private employment, they are deserving of better treatment than is being meted out to them by this Government. If public servants criticize the Administration they are likely to lose their positions or become marked men, but men occupying similar positions in private employment can criticize a Government and by so doing influence public opinion. A public servant who wishes to fight for his rights cannot use the weapons available to those who have the support of a strong industrial organization, such as the Australian Workers Union. Because of that, they should receive even more sympathetic consideration than other members of the community, particularly as they voluntarily surrendered 20 per cent, of their salaries in order to help the country in its hour of need. It is not necessary to go outside Canberra to learn how hard has been the lot of many of the lower-paid public servants who have had to live on reduced salaries. In addition to having their salaries reduced, they have been denied the benefits of awards granted to them by the tribunal set up to govern their working conditions.
Perhaps the most deserving people of all are the unemployed, and this bill contains no provision for helping them. The pensioners have been badly treated, it is true, but they have something, whereas the unemployed have nothing. In
Victoria, a married man who is out of work receives only two days’ employment a week, and for this he is paid 22s. out of which he is SupDosed to keep his wife and family. That man is even more worthy of consideration than is the old-age pensioner. He is willing to work if only work can be found for him. A little while ago, a body of men in Victoria went on strike for the purpose of getting -more work, which is the only instance of its kind I know of.
– That has nothing to do with the Federal Government.
– Perhaps not, but I mention the’ occurrence in order to show how deserving of our sympathy the unemployed are.
– This budget will help to provide work for them.
– My. complaint is that the budget will do nothing of the kind. I do not say that the Commonwealth Government is entirely responsible for the relief of unemployment; the State governments share the responsibility; but the Commonwealth Government controls Australia. During the war it mobilized an army of hundreds of thousands of men, and sent them overseas, and it should accept responsibility, now that many thousands of those men are out of work and in actual distress, of finding employment for them. It cannot be said that there is no work to be done in the country. One honorable senator mentioned the work of unifying the Tailway gauges which, if undertaken, would provide employment for tens of thousands of men. Of course, it would cost a great deal of money, about £60,000,000 it is estimated, but when completed it would be of great benefit to Australia, not only economically, but also for defence purposes, and we have heard a great deal lately about the need for effective defence. The Government cannot even urge the objection that it has no money with which to do the work, because it has been proved by what has taken place recently in the United States of America that money can be found for such undertakings if the Government is willing. There, money is being made available in the same way a3 the Labour Government attempted to make it available in Australia a few years ago. President Roosevelt is trying to improve the conditions of 120,000,000 people in the United States of America by raising wages and reducing the number of working hours, and he is doing so in spite of the protests of those who have been employing sweated labour. He realized that his country was moving swiftly in the direction of economic perdition, and that desperate measures were necessary to save it. Like the courageous man he is, he took the people into his confidence, and has secured their cooperation in an effort to put the country on its feet again. Our Government, however, has given no indication that it recognizes that we cannot restore prosperity, or inspire confidence among investors overseas, while we have an army of unemployed in the country. Five years ago, when the Labour party advocated higher wages and fewer working hours as a method of relieving the economic depression, wo were howled down by the press and by our political opponents; yet, today, we see the big business firms in Sydney pleading with the Government of New South Wales not to enforce the recent reduction of the basic wage made by the Arbitration Court. They have declined to put the reduction into operation because they realize that the man who is getting a fair wage is a better spender, and, therefore, of greater use to the business community than is the man on a low wage. It has taken four years of depression to hammer that into the heads of some people.
Another work urgently calling for attention is the installation of sewerage systems in provincial and country towns. This work would be immediately reproductive, and would involve the country in no added financial burden. The Government takes some credit to itself for having reduced the volume of unemployment. Two years ago, the percentage of unemployed was 2S; to-day, it has been reduced to 25 per cent. When the present’ Government was elected it promised every man a job, but it has taken two years to reduce unemployment by 3 per cent.
While the Government has made ample provision for the remission of taxation to certain sections, one other proposal of comparatively minor significance, as regards the amount involved, has during the last few days come very prominently under the public notice. I refer to the new clauses which the Government had inserted in the bill in the House of Representatives to restore to Ministers and members of Parliament a portion of the cuts made in their allowances. Two years ago members of this Parliament voluntarily reduced their allowances by over 25 per cent, in accordance with the Premiers plan. Therefore, it is only right that, in its general restoration scheme, the Government should make up to them some portion of the deductions then made. That this provision was not made in the budget was, I think, due to absentmindedness. Apparently, the Government thought of other sections of the community but forgot’ the members of its own household until some one was game enough to take action which resulted in the Governor-General being aroused from his sleep at 3 o’clock in the morning, so it is said, to authorize the necessary message recommending an additional appropriation. The newspapers a few weeks ago declared that the Government was doing a magnificent thing, because, among other proposals, it had included a remission of income tax to overseas shipping companies, whose shares in some instances had increased by 25 per cent., thus indicating that they must have been earning big dividends. Now these newspapers are assailing members of this Parliament for daring to suggest that, in the general restoration scheme, they also should receive some consideration. After all, what does the proposal mean ? It simply means that the budget expenditure will be increased by approximately £9,000 a year. Apparently, the newspapers have forgotten the £7,000,000 of fiduciary notes which is being remitted to other taxpayers in the community. All they can see is the £9,000 to be handed back to members of Parliament - an amount that, in comparison with the concessions to other sections, is no larger than a comma on a sheet of newspaper. “When I was a young man I always knew what wages I was to receive from my employer, and if the amount fixed did not suit me I, did not accept the work offering. Some members say that they are worse off financially than they were before they were elected. I am not claiming that I was better off before I entered politics, but I know that I am not much better off than I was before as a member of Parliament. I have had enough to eat and drink and wear, but . I have always had that.- The newspapers that criticize this proposal are simply making themselves ridiculous in the eyes of the people. [Extension of time granted.] There is ample justification for the proposal. As the Government is taking action to restore some portion of the cuts in pensions and Public Service salaries, there is no valid reason why members of Parliament should be overlooked. I intend to support the proposal.
– I congratulate the Government upon its proposals to give relief to taxpayers, and partially to restore cuts made in Public Service salaries, and the pensions of the invalid and aged, and certain dependants of soldiers.
At the outset of my remarks I direct the attention of honorable senators opposite and others to the extraordinary change in the position of Australia during the last two years. Prior to the advent of the present Government, Australian stocks on the London market, as well as the name of Australia, were at a very low ebb; but due to sound government, and sane finance, there has been a total rehabilitation of the good name of the Commonwealth, and Australian stocks which, two years ago, were selling at as low as £57, are now quoted at a premium. There may be reason to doubt that we have yet turned the corner, but undoubtedly the outlook has improved, and that, I repeat, is due to wise government and sound finance, and to the fact that all sections of the people faced the crisis courageously, played the game, tightened their belts, and did everything possible to ensure the return of prosperity. I do not desire to praise only one section of the people for this happy result. I am proud of Australia as a nation, and of all sections of its people who played their part during the great crisis which then faced this country, and through which, we hope, we have passed. Australia is the first country to balance its budget in recent years.
The state of the Commonwealth finances - there was a surplus of approximately £3,500,000 in the last financial year - has enabled the Government to act very liberally - some may consider too liberrally - to most sections of the people. We must, however, remember that, while the Federal Government has balanced its budget, State Governments have not yet done so, although they are all making valiant efforts to that end. I mention this fact, because I am of the opinion that the budget, introduced in the House of Representatives a few weeks ago, erred, if anything, on the side of extravagance, due, possibly, to the spirit of over optimism that prevails to-day in political circles.
We must acknowledge that a great deal of good work has been done by the former Assistant Treasurer (Mr. Bruce), not only as the leader of the Australian delegation at Ottawa, where very helpful concessions were obtained for Australia, but also and more particularly in his capacity as Resident Minister in London. The conversion of many millions of- high interest-bearing loans to securities carrying a lower rate of interest has saved the taxpayers of this country nearly £2,000,000 per annum in interest charges. But his task has not yet been completed. There is still a considerable portion of the . Australian debt owing in London to be converted into loans bearing a lower rate of interest, and I feel sure that, when they are appealed to, the people of the Mother Country will meet us as far as is possible. We have every right to expect sympathetic treatment, because Australia, in its financial and other relations with Britain, has played the game. We have paid high interest on huge loans raised in London, and despite the many difficulties which” have confronted us, we have never defaulted. I hope we never shall. British investors have not had the same happy experience in their financial relations with other countries. Interest on hundreds of millions of pounds invested in some of the South American States, and in Russia, has not been paid, and much of the capital has been lost.
The bill gives liberal concessions to taxpayers, but very heavy taxes have been imposed in recent years, and if any section has to bear an inordinately heavy share of taxation, the country suffers and employment is reduced. The taxpayers have manfully shouldered a heavy burden, and I am glad that relief .is to be given to all sections. The increased payments to be made to pensioners are most welcome. The restoration to soldiers’ dependants alone will cost about £250,000 per annum, and some restoration is to be made of the amount by which the salaries of public servants were reduced. I have not so much sympathy with the higher-paid public servants and members of Parliament as with the lowerpaid members of the service, and with wage-earners generally. Those in the lower strata should have their salaries and wages restored to them before parliamentary allowances are increased.
– In the case of the lower-paid public servants, the bill provides for a complete restoration.
– I am pleased to hear that. It was shown conclusively yesterday by Senator Duncan-Hughes that with 17s. 6d. a week, the old-age pensioners will be much better off than at any time since they have been blessed with the pension. All of us would like to pay to the invalid and aged as much as the finances warrant. Certain honorable senators opposite have laboured the case for the pensions as if a Labour government had initiated the pension, but I remind the Senate that the original act was introduced by the Deakin Government. Originally the payment was 10s. a week. Nationalist governments gave practically all the subsequent increases until the pension amounted to £1 a week, but the last Labour government reduced it to 17s. 6d. a week.
– A Liberal, the late Hon. J. H. Howe, was instrumental in having the provision inserted in the Constitution which enabled the Commonwealth Parliament to institute the old-age pension.
– It is gratifying to know that the Government has decided to make some restoration to the pensioners, and the figures supplied by the Commonwealth Statistician show that 17s. 6d. a week is equivalent to 23s. 9d. a week in 1925, when the payment amounted to £1 a week.
The most urgent necessity of this country is that we shall so shape our legislative course that all those who are willing and able to work may obtain employment. We cannot continue the dole system indefinitely. No doubt it was necessary when it was introduced. Nobody disapproves of granting sustenance to those in need of it, but undue prolongation of the dole would undermine the morale of the rising generation, and those who have been out of employment for a long period. Our paramount duty is to do everything possible to restore our people to employment, and the reduction of the crushing burden of taxation will do much to achieve that end.
Yesterday, when some honorable senators were discussing this bill, they indulged in personalities. I have no intention to make a party speech, and I certainly shall not introduce personalities, but it seemed to me, Mr. President, that you were very lenient in allowing some of the remarks that were made yesterday.
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. P. J. lynch). - I should like honorable senators to understand that while the Chair endeavours to see that the rules of the Senate are observed, it looks to individual senators, whenever their good name is reflected upon, to call attention to it. I admit that a few harsh observations were made yesterday. I hope that a sense of propriety will lead honorable senators to choose their words more carefully in future, in order to obviate resort to the powers conferred upon the Chair by the Standing Orders.
– Whilst there is much in the budget speech that is gratifying, I am most disappointed that it does not forecast a proposal for the complete abolition of the federal land tax. This impost was introduced by the Fisher Government in 1910, with the avowed object of breaking up large estates; it was not imposed for the purpose of raising revenue. If honorable senators will read the speeches of Mr. Fisher, Mr. Deakin, and others who participated in the debate on the original hill, they will find that speakers on both sides emphasized that it was not a taxation measure, but was intended to break up large holdings. The tax has been enormously increased since 1910. The number of land-owners assessed in 1910 for the payment of this tax was 14,920, and the amount assessed, £1,404,969; but in 1920, the tax rose to £2,530,S41. Although primary products and land were then of greater value than now, the number of persons assessed for the tax in 1928 had increased to 27,994, and the tax assessment increased to £2,866,823. In 1930-31, the tax rose to over £3,000,000. When this tax was first imposed, over 60 per cent. of it was paid by the owners of rural land, but to-day, nearly two-thirds of it is contributed by city property holders. The value of both country and city lands has fallen but Government valuators have not made allowance for the fall; on the contrary, in many instances, their valuations were enormously increased. While I admit that the Government has given some relief from taxation, I maintain that the federal land tax is a most unfair class impost. It constitutes an annual class tax upon the capital of the primary producer, because five-sixths of his capita! is the value of his land. Is it British justice to single out a section of the community for a special annual class tax upon his capital? Nobody minds bearing a fair share of the tax burden, but one would think from the remarks of honorable senators opposite, that land-owners had not to pay any other imposts, whereas they pay every other tax imposed directly or indirectly upon other sections of the community. If people have an income, let them pay n heavy income tax on a sliding scale; but the primary producers, owing to the collapse of the prices of their commodities, have been carrying on their industries at a heavy loss for four years consecutively, and have had to borrow money to enable them to pay the land tax which the Government makes a first charge upon their land.
– Is there notan exemption of £5,000 unimproved value?
– Although a man may be assessed as owning land, tho unimproved value of which is £5,000, or even £50,000, he may owe on it more than that. Unfortunately, many primary pro- ducers owe as much on their land as it is worth; yet there is no deduction for mortgages. After four years of falling prices for products, which they must sell in the open markets of the world, the farmers have been reduced to a sorry plight.
The wool clip is the main product of Australia. For the last four years, the average gross price for wool has been S£d. per lb. Judge Dethridge found that, without allowing for interest on the capital invested, the cost of wool production was Hd. per lb. The price received by the producers has been 7fd. per lb. at country railway sidings, which is pence per lb. below the production costs, even without charging interest on capital. The improvement in the price of wool lately has been a God-send to Australia - and everybody in it, and, probably, the liberal i provisons in this bill are due to the fact that the Government has largely banked upon this fact. The rise in the price of wool is due to two factors: first, a world shortage and secondly, a bad season involving a decrease of the Australian clip by at least. 450,000 bales. Although the price of wool is higher than it was, many wool-growers will be credited with less for this year’s clip than they received last year. Unfortunately, in many cases they do not receive the money themselves; it is paid to the credit of their overdrafts. The estimated world shortage of wool this year is between 700,000 and 800,000 bales, of which Australia’s proportion is about 450,000 ‘bales. Compared with last year, the clip in South Africa this year is expected to be 200,000 bales short, in New Zealand 50,000 bales short, and in the Argentine from 50,000 to 100,000 bales short. It is indeed fortunate that, the reduced production is accompanied by higher prices.
The Government’s budget proposals are over liberal, for Australia has not yet turned the corner. As a primary producing nation, we must pay heed to facts: we must have regard to the money we are likely to receive this year for our produce. Since the cost of producing wheat is at least double the price received for it, the 64,000 wheat-farmers of Australia are in a serious plight. Although iri my opinion the Government ought to have made some provision, either in the budget or in this bill, to alleviate the distress among them, I have sufficient confidence in it to believe that it has net forgotten these primary producers, and that, when it is in a position to estimate fairly accurately the yield of the forthcoming harvest, which I believe will be less than has been estimated - it will take steps to assist the farmers. If the Government does not do so, many in. the community, including myself, will not hesitate to criticize it.
Other primary industries also are in a serious position. In 192S-2.9 the average price of Australian butter in London was 171s. per cwt., as compared with S6s. 6d. per cwt. to-day. The onion-growers of Australia are also facing difficulties. It does not pay them to grow onions for 15s. a ton in bags, which is the price to-day in Victoria. Potatoes and fruits are selling below the cost of production. What chance have those engaged in the great poultry industry of making any profit, with the export price of eggs at 6d. a dozen? In view of the serious position of these’ primary industries, I am disappointed that the Government has not set out its intentions in regard to them. We hear a great deal about the claims of old-age pensioners and public servants for a restoration of pensions and salaries. I admit that our public servants are a fine body of men and women, who should be reasonably remunerated for their services; but it must be remembered that, at the end of their official life, they retire on a pension. The primary producer will not receive any pension when he reaches the age of 65 years, or even 95 years. I cannot see why there should be objections by any section of the community to a sales tax on flour to enable assistance to be given to the wheat-growers. There are fixed prices for dried fruits, butter, sugar, and other commodities; manufacturers are protected by the tariff, and employees in industry by wages boards and arbitration courts; public servants have security of tenure, and a pension on retirement; but there is no protection for the wheatfarmers. It would be a poor country indeed which could not pay its faithful servants a decent allowance on retirement, but I claim that unless something is done for our primary producers they will leave the land for the city, where they will swell the already disproportionate populations. Centralization is one of the curses of Australia; 50 per cent, of the people live in the capital cities. If we can fix a home price for sugar, which costs the taxpayers of Australia nearly £7,000,000 a year, why cannot we do the same for the wheat industry? It is ridiculous to contend that a sales tax on flour would increase the cost’ of living. It should not materially affect the price of bread. It takes 50 bushels of wheat to produce 1 ton of flour. With wheat at 2s. 6d. a “bushel, which is above the present market price, a ton of flour costs £6 5s. The selling price at the mill is £7 5s. a ton, so that the miller makes a profit of £1 a ton, and, in addition, receives £2 10s. for the bran and pollard which he obtains from the gristing of 50 bushels of wheat. Altogether, he receives £9 15s. for wheat which co3t him £G 5s. The value of the wheat in a 2-lb. loaf of bread is little over Id., yet a 2-lb. loaf costs from 4d. to 6d. in different parts of Australia. When at home, I pay 4d. or 5d. for a 2-lb. loaf; the cost in Canberra is 6d. A ton of flour will make 1,350 loaves weighing 2-lb. each. A ton of flour costing £6 5s., if converted into bread and sold at 4d. per 2-lb loaf, represents £22 10s., or with bread at 6d. per 2-lb. loaf, £33 15s.
– Does the honorable senator suggest that the Government has the power to impose a tax on flour ?
– I have been endeavouring to show the serious condition of our primary industries. In 1919, there were 8,000 pastoralists in Australia whose taxable income was assessed at £10,100,000, and 27,000 wheat-farmers with a taxable income of £9,000,000. Although the federal land tax was increased enormously in the meantime, only 3,000 pastoralists were assessable for income tax in 1930-31. Their taxable income was assessed at £2,200,000, or only £1 for every £4 they had in 1919. The 27,000 wheat-farmers who were assessed for income purposes at £9,000,000 in 1919 were reduced to 9,000 in 1931, and their assessable income to £2,000,000. Unfortunately, we, in Australia, cannot control the world prices of the goods which we export, and we have to sell abroad the major portion of our primary products.
Take the greatest of our products, wool: Were every man, woman and child in Australia compulsorily clothed in Australian wool, we should still have to export 85 per cent, of Australia’s total wool clip. Let us now consider the position of those engaged in what we term secondary industries. In 1919, Australian manufacturers were assessed for income purposes at £1,000,000 compared with £9,250,000 in 1930-31. As the result of a high protective tariff, the assessable income of Australian manufacturers has increased 900 per cent. These are official figures, and tell a true story.
I come now to the contentious subject of the allowance paid to members of this Parliament. It is most unfair for the press to call the partial restoration of the amounts voluntarily relinquished about two years ago a salary grab. It is nothing of the kind. A member of Parliament who is foolish enough to give away any of the salary which Parliament pays to him gets no thanks for his action. When I was first elected to the Senate, the allowance which I expected to receive was £600 a year; but before I took my seat in the Senate the allowance was raised to £1,000 a year. Not having had any parliamentary experience, I thought at the time that the public was right in referring to the action of members as a salary grab, and, consequently, I did not take the additional £400 a year to which I was entitled. The money was paid into the Consolidated Revenue, and, unfortunately, I cannot now claim it. I received only ridicule and abuse for having done what I thought was right. If Parliament in- “ creases my allowance in the future, I shall not allow it to accumulate in the Treasury for the benefit of the Consolidated Revenue; I shall take if to meet the needs of the people whom I am called upon to represent.
After a member has paid the cost of keeping practically two homes going, there is none of the allowance left. That is true particularly of members from Western Australia and Queensland who have to travel long distances, and be away from their homes for considerable periods. The allowance to Ministers is not too high when we reflect on the number of calls on them. Even ‘with the additional £75 a year, our emoluments will be considerably lower than those of legislators in Canada, the United States of America, and many other countries. But Australia is not yet out of the wood, and the unemployment problem has not been solved. I am pleased to learn that the pensions of those receiving less than 17s. 6d. a week are to be restored to that amount, but others receiving salaries lower than the allowance paid to members of Parliament, have not received full restoration. In these circumstances, I do not think that the time is opportune for members of Parliament to increase their allowance, and I do not like the way the increase has been proposed. Had the Government made provision in the budget for an increase, little complaint could have been made. Although the allowance now paid is little enough, I consider that the time is not ripe for an increase, and as I do not like the way in which it is being done, I shall vote against it.
– I listened with interest to Senator Guthrie, who said that he does not think the present allowance to members of Parliament is sufficient, and that had it been introduced in a different manner he would have supported it. Other honorsable senators have made similar remarks ; but I fail to see why an honorable senator should be willing to support a proposal if it were contained in the budget, and oppose it because it has been submitted in another way. The honorable senator should have said that he did not favour a restoration of 7 per cent., and would vote against it. I intend to support the proposed increase, and if it is agreed to I shall accept it. Honorable senators and members of the House of Representatives reduced their parliamentary allowance twice, once while the Scullin Government was in power and again during the regime of the Lyons Government. ‘ If members of Parliament have the power to reduce their allowance, they should also have the right to increase it. The honorable member for Angas (Mr. Gabb) said that, although he was opposed to the proposed increase of 7 per cent., he intended to take an allowance up to £800 a year, which was the amount he was receiving
when re-elected to this Parliament. By the same reasoning, those who were receiving an allowance of £1,000 a year when first elected are entitled ito receive up to that amount.
I suppose Australia suffers more from centralization, which was referred to somewhat extensively by Senator Guthrie, than any other country. The honorable senator should have said that the in>provements in farming machinery are largely responsible for the centralization of which he complains. In conducting harvesting operations some years ago, three men would be engaged on each stripper, three on the winnower and one in rounding up the wheat heap; but today, in consequence of the improvements effected in farming machinery, only one man is now necessary. Remissions of taxation have been made in many directions, but those least able to bear the burdens have not been relieved. The workers are not to benefit by any reduction of taxation, and, after all, the wage-earner should be the first to be given relief.
Senator Guthrie, who is always advocating the interests of small land-holders, knows that the federal land tax is not paid by those holding land, the unimproved value of which does not exceed £5,000. Remissions of this tax are being made in the interests of the financial institutions, insurance companies, newspaper organizations, and land and mortgage companies, such as Goldsbrough, Mort and Company, Dalgety and Company, and Elder, Smith and Company Limited, who own large city properties. These are the business concerns which Senator Guthrie is anxious to assist. The federal land tax was imposed primarily with the object of bursting up large estates, and it had the desired effect, because millions of acres which previously were used for grazing purposes are now under cultivation. When that tax was first imposed, it was said that the wool-growers would be ruined, but small land-holders are now producing more wool than was grown on the larger estates.
Senator Guthrie emphasized the fact that the Deakin Government placed the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act on the statute-book. W.e do -riot deny that; but the act was the price of Labour support. Senator Pearce, who was a member of the Labour party at that time, knows that Mr. Deakin was told that if his Government did not provide by legislation for the payment of invalid’ and old-age pensions it would be turned out of office. Mr. Deakin immediately responded to the demand, and a measure providing for the payment of pensions was passed.
Senator Johnston said that he was opposed to the restoration of the parliamentary allowance, but be should remember that the first reduction of it gave a lead to other governments and private employers, who immediately reduced the wages of their employees. It was said that a reduction of wages would mean that 100,000 additional men would be provided with employment, hut in less than twelve months the number of unemployed was actually increased by that number. This Government should give a lead to other governments, and to private employers; if the allowance paid to members of Parliament is increased, private employers also will increase salaries and wages. It will give them an argument to put before the Arbitration Count. Every one knows that when salaries are reduced the next step is usually an application to the Arbitration Court for a reduction of wages.
Senator Duncan-Hughes, speaking in opposition to this restoration, said that the members of the House of Lords received no payment at all. It is common knowledge that many of the “ lords “ are bishops of the Church of England, and here is a list showing the salaries received by a number of them -
– They do not receive those salaries for being members of the House of Lords.
– I do not think that they ought to have a seat in the House of Lords, but, being there, they should not do the job for nothing. It is that system of representationwhich is blocking progress in Great Britain. It is not proper that men, simply because they inherita peerage, or by virtue of being bishops, should have the right to make laws governing the working men of England. If there must be an Upper House in England, it should be elected on an adult franchise, as is the House of Commons. Once we accept the principle of the non-payment of members of Parliament, we exclude the workers of the community from parliamentary representation. We frequently hear it said that we should have in Parliament men of business experience, education and culture, butif such men were elected, and not paid for their parliamentary services, they would make laws which would benefit themselves and their class, but be of no use to working men. Members of Parliament should be paid, and the salaries should be big enough to keep them honest.
Some members of this Parliament have been influenced too much in the consideration of this subject by press criticism. Let them console themselves with the fact that this matter will be a nine days’ wonder, if it lasts so long, and then will be forgotten. I regret that the individual of whom I intended to speak is not at the moment in the press gallery. Perhaps it is a good thing for him that he is not. Journalism in this country has been dragged down to the gutter, and it ill becomes any newspaper reporter to pursue such tactics that this man hasdone. No writer should find it necessary so to wallow in the slush.
SenatorFoll. - He wrote about soap, not about slush.
– It would take a great deal of soap to cleanse his soul after the filth he has written for the Sydney Telegraph. I trust that his friends will warn him that, as one of his confreres was once debarred from the press gallery of another place, he should not risk his bread and butter by behaving in a way which may lead to his being similarly penalized.
[9.40]. - The Leader of the Opposition (Senator Barnes) and Senator Guthrie seem to be of the opinion that members of the Public Service have been very badly dealt with. During the time of the depression public servants have had secure jobs, while the workers outside have either been unemployed or have been rationed. The Public Service Commissioner’s report for the year just ended shows on page 10 that, out of a total of 27,596 officers in the Public Service, 21,160 are on salaries below £312 a year. Any officer who, on the 1st July, 1930, was on a salary of £250 or less, will, by this relief bill, have the whole of the cut restored to him, and he will be worse off than- he was then, only to the extent of the automatic cost of living reductions which have been made. Those on salaries of £260 will have 83 per cent, of the cut restored. To enable a comparison of the treatment of the public servants with that proposed in respect of members of Parliament, I may add that a public servant receiving £800 a year will have 22.2 per cent, of the cut restored, while one on £1,000 a year will get back 19.9 per cent. Senator Guthrie will be comforted by the knowledge that the lower-paid members of the Service, who include approximately 20,000 out of a total of 27,000, are to have the whole of the cut in real wages restored to them.
– I congratulate the Government on that.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.Senator Barnes seems to entertain the idea, that in normal times, most of the workers are employed by the Government, but that is not so. Prior to the depression, SO per cent, of the workers were employed by private enterprise, and the best that we can do for the unemployed is to make private enterprise profitable again. That would be much better than employing them on public works, because as soon as the works were finished they would be thrown out of employment again.
– Private enterprise has failed.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.It has not failed, as I propose to show presently.
One of the purposes of the bill is to relieve industry of some of the taxation burdens imposed on it in recent years, and so make private enterprise profitable again. Only in this way can we hope to create more employment. This is what has been happening. If Senator Barnes had examined the budget figures more carefully, he would have seen that the percentage of unemployment in the second quarter of 1932, was not, as he stated, 28 per cent., but 30 per cent., and that in the second quarter of 1933, it had dropped to 25.7 per cent., a decline of approximately 5 per cent., not in two years, but in one year If the honorable gentleman would also examine last year’s figures for his own State, and for New South Wales, he would find that the number of people drawing sustenance to-day, as compared with twelve months ago, had declined to a similar extent. The explanation is not that the Government is spending millions of pounds on public works, but that by the restoration of confidence and due to the little turn towards prosperity, which has taken place, many industries which, a few years ago, were unprofitable, are now becoming profitable again and are seeking more workers to increase their turnover.
Something has been said about the remission of land tax. It is as well that those who criticized the Government’s action in this respect should know why the tax was imposed. I recommend them to read the Hansard report of debates from the 10th August to the 8th September, 19.1.0, and particularly pages 1536 and 1537. If they do so, they will learn that the then Labour Prime Minister, Mr. Fisher, declared that the object of the tax was not to secure further revenue, but to break up the large country estates. Obviously, it was never intended to break up large estates in the cities because it would be impossible further to subdivide Some high-priced city allotments. The aim was, as I have stated, to break up country estates, and I think it was a mistake that city lands were included. The loth report of the Commissioner of Taxation contains a schedule which shows that in 1 9.10-11 the amount realized from the sale of country estates was £9,000,000. In. the following year the amount was £8,500,000, and there was a steady decline in the figures until 1929-30, when the amount realized had decreased to £2,030,990, at which level it had been constant for several years, thus proving that the aggregation of large estates had ceased and that the act had done its work in the earlier years of its application.
I turn now to some rather extraordinary statements made by Senator Brown with regard to banking, and the release of credit, a term which he used somewhat flippantly. It so happened that, shortly after Senator Brown spoke’ yesterday, I received a letter from a wise old man who touched upon the very subject which Senator Brown had discussed. I quote from the letter, because it states the facts simply and lucidly -
The first duty of a bank is to take proper charge of its depositors’ money and let them have it when they want it. They have no obligation whatsoever to ally borrower, public or private, to lend them money Their first consideration in lending money is, “ Shall we get it back in full on the date the borrower stipulated to pay?” The rate of interest charged must be fixed by the lender in accordance with his expectation of this promise being fulfilled.
That is the bedrock principle of sound banking. Senator Brown appears to think that money, lent by banks, belongs to the community, whereas, in actual fact, it belongs to individuals who have “ entrusted it to the bank for a specific purpose. Furthermore, I remind Senator Brown that there can be no release of credit unless people are seeking it. What is the use of talking in general terms about the “ release of credit “ unless some one is prepared to take what credit is available? People will not seek credit unless they are confident of being able to make good use of the money which they borrow. Has the depression taught Senator Brown nothing ? Has the honorable sena- tor noticed in the banking statistics, that, during the last two years, the amount of money on fixed deposit in banks has increased, while the amount of money on current account has decreased ? Surely the honorable senator knows what that means. People will not put money on fixed deposit at a low rate of interest in a bank if they think they can employ it more profitably in some business enterprise. It follows that, in prosperous times, the amount of money on fixed de. posit in banks decreases. Businesses are operated on current accounts. Therefore, in prosperous times the amount on current accounts in the various banks increases. I assure Senator Brown that the banks are not unwilling to release credit. On the contrary, they are only too glad to release it if people are willing to take it and use it profitably. Banks make their profit from the lending of money entrusted to them by their depositors, so it would be stupid for them not to release credit if there was a demand for it. If they did otherwise, bankers would be regarded as a set of fools instead of, as they are, shrewd business men.
I wish now to say a few words about the proposal to increase ministerial and parliamentary allowances. I have endeavoured to summarize the objections offered to the proposed restoration of portion of the cuts made under the financial emergency legislation. The main objection seems to be that Parliament is voting money to itself. This argument is used by practically every newspaper critic, the suggestion being that there is something improper in members of Parliament voting money for themselves. I remind these critics that under the Constitution the salary of members of the Commonwealth Parliament was fixed at £400, “ until the Parliament otherwise provides.” This clearly shows that Parliament is the only body that can either increase or reduce the salaries of members. Another objection, and to my mind, the weakest of all, is as to the manner in which this proposal was made. It is contended that the Government should have included the proposal in its budget; had that been done, it is said, it would have been perfectly straightforward and proper. I submit, however, that parliamentary allowances are a form of expenditure different from all others, in that the matter concerns Parliament itself. The budget is the expression of the’ Government’s policy. This is why, in all British Parliaments at any rate, governments regard an attack on the budget as* vital to their existence. The remuneration of members of Parliament is not a matter of Government policy, nor is it a party matter. It is one upon which Parliament itself must be the judge. The Constitu- tion provides that Parliament shall make this decision. Therefore, it is the duty of Parliament, from time to time, to express its opinion in the only way open to it, namely, by resolution, directing the Executive to either increase or reduce parliamentary allowances. There is nothing improper in either House giving a direction to the Government in this matter. On the contrary, any such action is in strict accord witu the Constitution. Therefore; the allegation, by some newspaper critics that this restoration of parliamentary allowances is being done behind the backs of the people, is sheer nonsense. It is being done in full view of the people.
Senator Duncan-Hughes, as usual, made a thoughtful contribution to the debate on this bill. I was particularly interested in his justification for the restoration of the cuts made in public servants’ salaries. He pointed out that the Premiers plan provided for a reduction of 20 per cent, in adjustable governmental expenditure, and quoted figures to show that the various State Public Service salaries had been cut by amounts varying from 15 per cent: to 20 per cent., whereas Commonwealth Public Service salaries had been cut up to 22J per cent. The honorable senator justified his vote for the restoration of Public Service salaries by pointing out that, when the restoration had been made, the per:centage cut still remaining would be equivalent to the average cuts made in the State Public Service salaries; therefore the proposed restoration would not represent any real departure from the Premiers plan. The honorable senator was quite logical in his reasoning and I was surprised that he did not apply it, as he might have done, to the proposed restoration of parliamentary allowances. I am forced to the conclusion that, at the back of the minds of those who intend to vote against the restoration of parliamentary allowances, is the feeling that there would be something wrong in voting for a proposal in which they have a personal interest. But the logic applied to the increase of the salaries of public servants is overwhelmingly in favour of the restoration of parliamentary allowances also. And Parliament is the only authority that can restore, increase, or reduce members’ allowances. These allowances have been treated in a way that is not quite understood by the public. The general impression is that the ‘only cut in the salaries of members of this Parliament was made as the result of the operation of the Premiers plan, but that is not so. “When the Scullin Government was in office, and before that plan was introduced, the Income Tax (Salaries) Act 1930, and the Income Tax (Salaries) Assessment Act 1930, were passed, and received Royal Assent on the 15th. December of that year. Those measures operated for the whole of that financial year, and affected all federal salaries above £725 per annum. They therefore brought about the reduction of parliamentary allowances as follows: - (a) Minister of State or presiding officer, 15 per cent, of salary or allowance; (6) Chairman of Committees or Leader of the Opposition, 12^ per cent, of salary or allowance amounting to £187 10s.; (c) senator or member, 10 per cent, of salary or allowance, amounting to £100.
Then came the Premiers plan, and in 1931 the Scullin Government repealed the acts passed in 1930; but, of course the reductions had been made. This repeal simply embodied the reductions in. the financial emergency legislation, so that the higher-paid officers of the Public Service and members of the Federal Parliament alone throughout the Public Services of Australia, experienced a reduction for one year more than any State parliamentarian or public servant. That is a fact which the public does not realize, and to which the press has not directed attention.
The criticism of the present proposal ranges from grave to gay. The ultrarespectable Sydney Morning Herald, which claims to uphold the best traditions of Australian journalism, published on its front cable page on the 24th October, as if it were a crisis of tremendous imporNtance, an article which placed in the background the news regarding the withdrawal of Germany from the League of Nations, and relegated to the back pages the disarmament -controversy and the crisis in the Far East. In this Parliament had occurred a “ crisis “ which involved an expenditure of £6,000 for the remainder of the current financial year. The article was headed as follows : -
But Ministry will Accept Rejection.
Portion of the article read -
Protest to Mr. Lyons. “An Inopportune Increase.”
A largely attended meeting of business men, who are members of the council of the Haymarket, Central-square, George-street West, and Broadway Association, yesterday unanimously carried a resolution protesting against the attempt of the Federal parliamentarians to increase their salaries. . . .
Mr. R. C. Clark, who presided, said it was deplorable that the Federal legislators should take advantage of their power to increase their salaries behind the backs of the people. . . . Prospects were brightest for the Christmas trade, but now a gloom had been cast over the business community . . . “We are dealing with a budget that provides for remissions of taxes to the business community amounting to ?7,000,000, and yet a proposal to increase parliamentary allowances by ?6,000 has so obscured the vision of some business men that they issued thegloomy forecast that their Christmas trade would suffer as a result of this action. The same journal published a statement from Canberra by Dr. F. W. Watson, formerly editor of the Historical Records of Australia. A quarter of a column was devoted to. the remarks of this gentleman, who did me the honour of saying -
About 1924 Sir George Pearce visited America, and many thousands were paid from the Treasury for his expenses without effective protest from Parliament.
Of course, we can see the bearing that this has on the present crisis. The Sydney Morning Herald also devoted a leading article to the Senate, in the course of which it said -
The Senate has to-day, evenat the last moment, an opportunity to act as public opinion desires to see itact in the matter of increasing members’ salaries. It is, in fact, an opportunity such as rarely presents itself for the Senate to fulfil its true and original function.
I always find that when a newspaper decides that a certain thing ought to he done, and that the Senate ought to do it, that thing is the true and original function for which this chamber was brought into existence. The article continued -
For the Senate, as is too often overlooked, was designed by the makers of the Constitution to be in large measure a body free from partisan prejudice and to guard with a just equality the rights of the States.
What are the rights of the States in this matter, and who is to be the judge of those rights? I am one of the representatives of a small State, and, notwithstanding what the Sydney Morning Herald may say, I have considered the proposed increase of parliamentary allowances from the view-point of a small State. What is the experience of Western Australia with regard to the Federal Parliament?I do not think Senator Johnston will deny that it is difficult to induce a business or professional man in actual practice in Western Australia to stand as a candidate for this Parliament.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE:I have had the task on several occasions, and so also, I think, have you, Mr. President, of trying to get suitable candidates for federal seats in Western Australia. When I interviewed leading business and professional men, they were always willing to recommend me to somebody else; but when I suggested that they should come forward. I was invariably met with the reply, “ I cannot afford to make the sacrifice.” That was the answer I received when the parliamentary salary was not ?750, but ?1,000. No doubt some of those men will bc joining in the hue a.nd cry raised against the proposed increase. Although they declared that they could not afford tr make the sacrifice that would be involved in contesting a federal seat, they are willing to sacrifice their wives’ relations in any good cause !
Mr. Baker, the Attorney General in Tasmania, is one of the State representatives who has joined in the chorus of instruction to honorable senators. I suppose that this gentleman would be described by the Sydney Morning Herald as a fit and proper champion of the rights of the States. I remind the press that this is not the only occasion on which Mr. Baker has joined in a discussion on federal affairs. Recently when this Parliament was faced with one of the greatest crises in Australian history, when the Sydney Morning Herald was calling on the Senate to save New South Wales, and when certain action was being taken against the Government of the day in that State, Mr. Baker said that such action was an invasion of the rights of the States. If Mr. Baker’s advice had been acted upon, and this Parliament had done nothing, it would not have been possible for the Government to submit so favorable a budget this year or the bill which is now under consideration.
– The honorable senator’s time has expired.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clause 1 agreed to.
Clause 2 (Commencement.)
– Why does not the first part of this clause apply to the entertainments tax ? I see no particular reason why the provisions as to the cessation of that, tax should not come into force as soon as the measure receives the Royal Assent.
[10.13]. - It would be better to give effect to the abolition of the entertainments tax by a proclamation, because in some States the Commonwealth acts as collector of the State tax, and a State may desire to continue the levy after the federal authority abandons it.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 3 agreed to.
Clause 4 (Reduction of land tax.)
– I move-
That the consideration of the clause be postponed till after the consideration of Par VI.
The bill is divided into a number of parts, each of which provides for a remission of taxes or a lightening of burdens on sections of the people. A large proportion of the relief to be afforded under the measure takes the form of a reduction of land tax and income tax. There being only a limited sum available for distribution, it is obvious that if the whole of it is devoted to certain purposes, there is nothing available for other purposes. There should have been a greater restoration of pensions than is provided for in the bill ; but if we allocate to other purposes all the money available for distribution, there will be none for increasing pensions, no matter how sound the arguments in favour of that course may be.
– The honorable senator will not be in order in anticipating the discussion on Part VI., although he may make passing reference to that portion of the bill in support of his motion for the postponement of this clause.
– By retaining the present rates of taxation, we could ‘restore pensions in full. The bill proposes to decrease the rate of tax.
– Remissions of both land tax and income tax, as well as the abolition of the entertainments tax, are proposed. I submit that if we vote away the moneys which those taxes would yield before we deal with the provision relating to pensions, we shall deprive ourselves of the revenue from which the higher pensions would be paid.
– The bill could be re-committed.
– Theoretically, that is possible; but, like a motion to disagree with the ruling of the Chair, the result is practically a foregone conclusion. It is not easy to get a bill re-committed other than to deal with a vital point which has been overlooked. Our only opportunity ‘to restore pensions to their full amount is to deal with the proposals embodied in Part VI. before voting on the clauses providing for remissions of taxes in other parts of the bill.
– I agree with the contention of Senator Rae, and I believe that by agreeing to his proposal, we shall save much time. The Government has a certain sum of money available for distribution, and it proposes to apportion it among different classes of people, including land-owners and pensioners. Before I can make up my mind regarding the relief which ought to he granted to land-owners, I want to secure the maximum amount possible for the pensioners. The Leader of the Senate (Senator Pearce) says that we could recommit the bill, but if we proceed as the right, honorable gentleman desires, we shall be told, when the clauses dealing with pensions are reached, that there is no money available to increase pensions. The Senate should decide now whether the interests of the pensioners or the. landowners shall be placed first, and it can do so only by accepting the proposal of Senator Rae. I support the motion.
Question - That the amendment (Senator Rae’s) be agreed to - put. The committee divided. (Chairman - Senator the Hon. Herbert Hays.)
Majority . . . . 13
Question so resolved in the negative.
– It was my intention to ask the committee to reject this clause altogether for the reasons which I gave in my second-reading speech. I think that I speak for all members in opposition when I say that we regard the division just taken as a clear indication that the committee desires to grant remissions of taxes to land-owners, and for that reason, while formally registering our opposition to this clause, we shall not force a division on it.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 5 and 6 agreed to.
Clause 7 (Life insurance companies).
– I should like to know whether this clause has anything to do with the
Insurance Bill which was previously before the Senate.
– Nothing whatever.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 8 (Oversea ships).
– Under this clause, it is proposed to remit £25,000 of the taxation now paid by oversea shipping companies, and, as I pointed out in my second-reading speech, I cannot see how any possible benefit will be derived by any section of the Australian people by its remission. Such a reduction should not be made, particularly at a time when inadequate restoration is being made to others who were compelled to make sacrifices. No reasons have been advanced by the Minister (Senator Pearce) in support of the clause which I trust the committee will reject.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE (Western Australia - Minister for Defence) [10.32]. - The rate of tax on overseas shipping companies is not fixed on the same basis as that on which the income tax is applied to others. It is not possible to determine the taxable income of these companies, and therefore an arbitrary method was adopted of levying a specific percentage of the total amount received by the companies concerned in respect of all passengers, mails, and cargo shipped in Australia fortransport abroad. It is easy to see that under such a systemwe may not be taxing profits, but actually imposing a tax on companies incurring losses. A tax of 10 per cent. was first imposed in 1915-16, and as the result of further investigation and. representations on behalf of the companies concerned, the rate was reduced in 1923 to 7½ per cent. It is now proposed further to reduce it to 5 per cent. The shipping companies have complained of this tax, and any one who has read the balance-sheets, particularly those of recent years, of the shipping companies trading to Australia, will realize that they have been making seriouslosses. In the interests of primary producersand other exporters, it is desirable that every effort should be made to prevent an increase of freights. Only a little while ago an increase appeared imminent; but the Government intervened, and reduced its charges in various directions, which enabled companies to reducetheir losses, and anincrease of freights was thus avoided. As this is one way in which an increase may be prevented, I trust that the committee will agree to the clause.
– Under this clause, it is proposed to relieve overseas shipping companies to the amount of £25,000 a year. Australia had an unfortunate experience with these companies, particularly in connexion with what may be termed the “ pinching “ of the Australian Commonwealth Line of Steamers. As a representative of the Australian Labour Party, I cannot support a remission of £25,000 of taxes from this source. We are supposed to support a White Australia policy; but by agreeing to this clause, we shall be rendering financial assistance to shippingcompanies employing Chinese, kanaka and other coolie labour. For these reasons, I shall vote against the clause.
Question - That the clause be agreed to - put. The Senate divided. (Chairman - Senator the Hon. Herbert Hays.)
Majority . . . . 13
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 9 (Citation of Sales Tax Assessment Acts)
Senator O’HALLORAN (South Aus from thesales tax has been considerably increased, primarily with the object of assisting those engaged in rural production. We are pleased that the Government is able to give further assistance to that section of the community, but I cannot understand why tanks and material used in the manufacture of tanks are not exempted when used in the production of primary products. Troughing, piping, and windmills, which are extensively used by primary producers, have been included in the list of exemptions, and as tanks form an essential part of farm equipment they should also be exempt.
– Quite recently I paid the tax on such material.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 10 (Exemptions - Sales Tax Assessment Act (No. 1) ).
– -Included among the items which this clause exempts from sales tax is “grafting wax for use in the fruit-growing industry.” I am pleased that the item is included, but there is also another material, which is- used for the same purpose. It is a proprietary material marketed under the name of “ Graftex,” and is being increasingly used because, in many respects, it is more suitable than ordinary wax. Will the Minister state whether the exemption for grafting wax will cover this material ?
[10.47 ] . - I am informed that if the commodity is put up and sold exclusively for use by fruit-growers in grafting, it will be covered by the provision contained in the bill for the exemption of grafting wax for use in the fruit-growing industry.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 11 (Exemptions - Sales Tax Assessment Act No. 2).
– I observe that coffins, fittings and trimmings have been exempted by this clause from sales tax, and I ask the Minister to extend the exemption to floral wreaths. There are. two firms in Sydney which employ 40 persons in the manufacture of these articles, and there are, in addition, hundreds of families engaged in growing flowers. This is an item which affects the poorer people who wish to honour their dead by placing wreaths on the graves.
[10.49]. - I do not think that removing the sales tax from funeral wreaths would increase employment. The view taken by the Government is that coffins are a sad necessity, whereas wreaths are, in a sense, a luxury. However, in view of the representations which have been made to the Government on the subject, consideration will be given to it when the list of exemptions for next year is being prepared.
– Most honorable senators have been supplied with a list of requests for exemptions from sales tax, and, if we are to make the requests now, we shall be here for a long time. If, however, the Minister will give an assurance that these requests will be considered if they are preferred to him subsequently, much time will be saved.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE (Western Australia - Minister for Defence) [10.51]. - I am glad that the honorable senator has raised that point. The Government has gone as far for the present as it can go, and, in any case, it could not accept requests made now without inquiring what loss of revenue would be involved. Therefore, I suggest thathonorable senators who have requests to make should send them in to the Minister, and they will be considered.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses12 to 21 agreed to.
Clause 22- (1). Section 4 of the Principal Act is amended by omitting from the definition of “ Income “ the words “ not any “ and inserting in their stead the words “ shall not include the value of any assistance by way of sustenance or food relief granted under any law of a State or Territory of the Commonwealth relating to the relief of unemployment, or any wages received for work performed under any scheme of emergency or intermittent relief work provided under any law of a State or Territory of the Commonwealth, to the extent to which such wages are received in lieu of sustenance or food relief, except in cases where, for the purpose of determining the eligibility of any personto receive such assistance or wages, any pension paid under this act is excluded from income, and shall not include any. “
– I move -
That the words “ except in cases where, for the purpose of determining the eligibility of any person to receive such assistance or wages, any pension paid under this act is excluded from income, and shall not include any “ be left out.
The effect of the clause as it stands is that in New South Wales a pension would be taken into account when another member of the same household applied for food relief. If the wife draws a pension, and the husband begins to draw food relief, the wife’s pension will be reduced by 2s. 6d. The same principle applies to work in lieu of the dole.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE (Western Australia - Minister for Defence) [10.57]. - I think that the honorable senator is under a misapprehension. This clause really gives relief in such instances, and was introduced to meet cases in which sustenance had been taken into account when fixing pensions. The amendment is unnecessary.
– The Leader of the Government in the Senate is entitled to use what arguments he pleases, but it is a fact that in New South Wales a wife’s pension will be reduced if her husband begins to draw food sustenance.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 23 to 27 agreed to.
Clause 28. (1.) Section 52d of the Principal Act is amended -
– I should like some information as to the manner in which the department intends to administer the property provisions of the act. If the existing procedure is continued it will lead to endless trouble and expense. For instance, if Mr. Sydney Myer, of Melbourne, wished to sell a block of land to Anthony Hordern, in Sydney, he would have to give an undertaking that he was not drawing a pension. The sections dealing with the property qualifications of pensioners are ridiculous and the cost involved in their administration must bc considerable. Why not eliminate them altogether? The Minister should agree to a postponement of the clause in order to have it redrafted so as to get rid of its objectionable features.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE (Western Australia - Minister for Defence) [11.3]. - The act provides that’ every pensioner or claimant for a pension shall give an undertaking not to transfer or mortgage any real property or any estate or interest in real property without the consent in writing of the commissioner. It is now proposed to amend the law by enacting that the undertaking shall cease to be binding upon a. claimant if his claim is rejected, and upon a pensioner if his pension is surrendered or cancelled, and the pensioner pays to the Commonwealth the amount due in respect of pension drawn. This amendment will take effect from- the 12th October, 1932: With regard to tin* other point raised by Senator Daly, I understand that the Attorney-General (Mr. Latham) has promised to examine the clause to see if the procedure can be simplified in the light of objections that had been raised, some of which were voiced by Senator Duly.
– I hope that the whole of the provisions relating to the property of pensioners will be rejected, because they change the obvious intention of Parliament when it passed this law, namely that those who had done their part in the development of this country should be entitled to, at least the right to live in some degree of comfort during their remaining years. The idea now seems to be to humiliate them to the dust. It is scandalous that persons who were thrifty enough in their working years to provide homes for themselves, or who have been fortunate enough to have children sufficiently fond of them to provide or help to provide a home for them, should now be required to sign away their interest in a property they may hold before they can get a pension. Yesterday, the Leader of the Senate (Senator Pearce), in reply to questions which I asked about a fortnight ago, stated that no property had been con fiscated by the Government under these obnoxious sections of the act, nor was there any means of ascertaining what money had been received’ from the payment of insurance policies. I think that the right honorable gentleman must have fallen into some error, because there must be some record in the department of such financial transactions. The Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) speaking in the House of Representatives a few days ago, stated that the department had already attached property of deceased pensioners to tho value of £34,000, and the sum actually received was about £9,000. It would, therefore, appear that considerable claims have already been made on estates of deceased pensioners. It. has also been asserted that, because 12,000 odd pensioners had surrendered pensions rather than sign away their rights to property which they own, the persons concerned had been drawing pensions under false pretences. That is not a sound argument in favour of these provisions, although it might apply to some cases. My explanation of the surrender of pensions is that members of pensioners’ families have made a special effort to help their parents rather than see the old people deprived of their homes. No government worthy of the name should allow these obnoxious provisions to remain in the act. Pensions are paid with alacrity to ‘certain people who, during their working lifetime have occupied the seats of the mighty, but they appear to be given grudgingly to the poorer people who, by their toil in the production of wealth over a long period of years, are fully entitled to every consideration, without being humiliated.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE (Western Australia - Minister for Defence) [11,10]. - I wish to remove a misconception that appears to exist in the mind of Senator Rae. The reply given to him, on behalf of the Treasurer, was quite accurate. No home has been sold under the property provisions of the act. Money has been received from beneficiaries in the estates of pensioners who have died, in satisfaction of claims made by the department, but the department is unable to say whether it came from the sale of the deceased pensioners’ homes or from payment on account of insurance policies. The other point raised by the honorable senator clearly indicates a difference i3f opinion as to policy. I do not think that it need be argued at great length. The Prime Minister has promised, on behalf of the Government, that before Parliament adjourns for the Christmas vacation, the sections dealing with pensioners’ property will be further examined to see whether they can be liberalized. That promise will be honoured.
.- No one believed when the sections dealing with the property of deceased pensioners were under discussion, that they would apply to the small homes of pensioners. “We were definitely informed that it was essential to comb out a number of persons who were drawing pensions, but were not entitled to them. Without disclosing what took place at a meeting in the party room, I can say .that individual members cited instances of persons drawing pensions who were living in properties worth, in some instances, many thousands of pounds. I supported the principle on that basis.
– Provision is made to meet cases in which the children of a pensioner have an equity in the home.
– Of course, it is difficult to determine the rights of the children, but I have always considered that the object of the property provisions was to prevent imposition. I am prepared to accept the assurance that the matter will be reviewed in the next few weeks. Knowing the opinions of many members of my own party, as well as those of honorable senators opposite, I feel confident that the matter will be, rectified; but I do not believe that any ‘honorable senator would agree to the home of a pensioner being taken by the department. A combing out process has already been put into operation, and those not entitled to the pension are not now receiving it.
– I sympathize with the view expressed by Senator Rae. I have circulated an amendment to clause 29 for the purpose of testing the opinion of the committee on the principle of whether this charge should be levied on the property of a pensioner, but my object will be served if I submit a similar amendment to the clause under consideration. I am not satisfied with the declaration by the Government that this matter is under consideration. Cases of hardship have been constantly arising. The property provisions of the act came as a bolt from the blue, and few people believed that any government would introduce legislation to make pension payments a first charge upon the property of a pensioner at his death.
– I rise to a point of order. The object of this clause is to relieve the pensioner of a certain obligation in regard to his property, and I submit that an honorable senator is not entitled to discuss generally the provisions of the principal act.
– I ask the honorable senator to confine his remarks as closely as possible to the clause under consideration.
– The Leader of the Senate has made it necessary for me to make my position, clear at the outset. As Section 52n of the Principal Act is to be amended by this clause, I submit that it is competent for the committee to request that that section be repealed. It provides - *
Penalty: One hundred pounds.
The fifth paragraph is to be amended by this clause, and, I therefore, move -
That all the words after “is” be left out. with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words “ hereby repealed “.
.- While I do not doubt the assur- ance of the Leader of the Government that this matter will be favorably considered at a later date, the Government has merely given a promise that amendments will he made. I wish to have a test vote taken to decide whether we should eliminate the provisions which impose this unjust charge on the property of the pensioner. Senator Foll spoke of fraud on the pension fund by persons who arc well able to support themselves. The existence of a home cannot be hidden, and machinery could easily be established to safeguard the department without branding every old-age pensioner as a potential thief unless he can prove his bona fides. These disgraceful provisions constitute an insult to the pensioner. We should vote to wipe them out. Nothing less will be of. any use.
– No land transaction of any kind can be registered in any of the Land Titles Offices of the States until a certificate from the Federal Pensions Office, showing that the persons concerned in it are not pensioners has been produced. Because of this provision, the Chief Justice of Western Australia, Sir John Northmore, was compelled recently to submit a certificate that he was not a pensioner, and, until he did so, a land transaction in which he was interested could not be registered. Other claimants against a property protect themselves by registering their mortgage, or by lodging a caveat, and there is no reason why the Commissioner of Pensions should not do the same, so long as these provisions remain on the statute-book. J agree with Senator O’Halloran regarding this amendment and the other which he has forecast. No more miserable provision than this claim against the little cottage of the thrifty pensioners is to be found in our laws. It definitely discourages people from owning their own homes. The sooner the Commonwealth drops its arrogant attitude the better. A claim against property by a government is nothing new. -Agricultural banks and other State departments frequentlyhave claims against property, and they register them in the same way as other persons having similar claims do. I hope that the Minister will give us an assurancethat, until this wretched law is wiped out, the pensions department will follow the procedure adopted by the States.
– I hope that the committee will accept the amendment. Senator Foll has made it clear that, had the members of the United Australia party known how this provision would work, he, at least, would not have voted for it. The principal act operates harshly against the most deserving section of the poor. A case of a pensioner who had a State bank home came before me recently. At his death his estate received £50 under an insurance policy. His funeral expenses amounted to about £23, and the remaining £27 was taken by the pensions department as repayment of amounts granted to him before his death, thus leaving his widow without money to. meet hospital and medical expenses. She could not mortgage the home without first getting the consent of the Deputy Commissioner of Pensions. Since Government supporters have stated that they would not have voted for the provision in the original act had they Understood how it would be applied, I appeal to them now to wipe it cut. Should the Government consider it necessary to bring in a provision to prevent fraud, it could easily amend the Pensions Act accordingly.
Question - That the words proposed to be left out (SenatorO’Halloran’s amendment) be left out - put. The committee divided. (Chairman - Senator the Hon. Herbert Hays.)
Majority . . … 10
Question soresolved in the negative.
Clause 29- (1.) Section fifty-two e of the principal act isa mended -
Section proposed to be amended - 52b. (1 ) Upon the death ofa pensioner and upon the death of a person who, after the commencement of this section, ceased to be a pensioner, the amount of pension paid to thepensioner or person after the commencement of this sectionand not repaid to the Commissioner under theforegoing provisions of this part shall be a debt due to the Commonwealth in priority to all oilier debts and liabilities of the pensioner (except encumbrances existing, prior to such commencement, upon real property of the pensionerand except encumbrances thereon in respect of which the Commissioner has consented in writing and except emcumbrances created bona fide forvalue before the grant of a pension to thepensioner)andshall be recoverable by the Commissions in anycourt of competent jurisdiction
– I move-
That the words “grant of a pension to”, paragraph a, sub-clause 1, he left out with a view to insert in lien thereofthe words “death of”.
The effect of the amendment would be to enable a pensioner to obtain a loan on his property in order to obtain funds to meet medical and other expenses incurred with a view to preserving his health.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 30 to 35 agreed to.
Clause 36 (Amendment of Ministers of State Act 1919).
Question - That the clause be agreed to - put. The committee divided. (Chairman - Senator the Hon. Herbert Hays.)
Majority . . . . 10
Question so resolvedin affirmative.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 37 (Reduction of parliamentary salaries and allowances).
– I do not wish to delay the committee, but I desire to make one or two observations on this clause. I have been bombarded with telegrams, and some letters, from organizations and individuals regarding the proposed increase of the allowance of members of Parliament. After listening to the Minister in charge of the bill (Senator Pearce) when replying to the debate on the second reading, I am convinced that very little need be said by me. I should, however, like to say that I have no apologies to offer for supporting this clause, because it merely provides for a meagre and partial restoration of the allowance granted to members of this Parliament. Even ifthis slight increase is agreed to, our allowance shall still be down 17½ per cent. When this Parliament voluntarily agreed to reduce the allowances of its members,’ and that was a good time ago, there was no flourish of trumpets nor was anything said on our behalf. As to the argument that we have no right to increase our allowance, I submit that, as Parliament has the right to reduce the allowance paid to its members, it naturally follows that Parliament, if it deems fit, can partially or wholly restore it. No one else can do it, and all the hysterical stuff that has been published in the press leaves me stone cold. Senator Brennan said this afternoon that we should discover what is the people’s will. How can we discover the people’s will? Some quote the phrase, vox populi, vox dei. But the voice of the people is not always the voice of God; sometimes it is the voice of the devil. During the last few days many wild and extravagant expressions have been used. This is not a matter in which heat should be engendered ; it is one for quiet and calm consideration. “We should endeavour to arrive at a just and reasonable conclusion. It is purely a matter for the individual senator, and I have not the slightest scruples or diffidence in saying where I stand. Even if the allowance be increased to £825 per annum, it will still be £111 less in real value than the allowance of £600 paid in 1907. One respectable sheet - I refer to the Sydney Morning Herald - said that those guilty of voting for this meagre restoration would be guilty of a breach of trust. I resent that. It is not true. There is no breach of trust ; the action we propose to take is simple, logical and just. The reduction of the allowance was made voluntarily by members of this Parliament, and without demur, and now, when we are engaged in discussing what is known as a restoration budget, it is only fair and reasonable that members should share in the restoration. Neither Ministers of the Crown, nor members of this Parliament, are overpaid. I have held the opinion ever since I have been a member of this Parliament that the remuneration paid to the Prime Minister of the Commonwealth is shockingly inadequate; it is shabby, particularly when one considers the load of responsibility and care that is constantly pressing upon him. It is unreasonable that a country such as Australia should be content to allow him to carry such a tremendous burden for the miserable pittance that he receives. He may wear himself out and become an old man long before his time, and possibly end his days in penury. That has happened in this country before to-day. lt is not good enough; it is not reasonable or right.
– Newspaper executives receive more than the Prime Minister.
– I do not care what they receive. The Prime Minister, or any other Minister, does not receive an allowance nearly so large as those received by men in big business, or in the professions, or even by some public servants of this country. If some of the most bitter critics of the Prime Minister and other Ministers of the Crown were asked to work with such constant strain for a reward so small, they would be the first to squeal. I was elected to the Senate as a supporter of this Government; when the interests of that State are involved, the State must come first, but I cannot vote against this proposal, because, by doing so, I would humiliate the Government and the man from Tasmania who led Australia in its darkest hour. About eighteen months ago he was receiving the plaudits of the people who to-day are hounding him down:For that reason, if for no other, I have not the slightest hesitation in supporting this clause.
Thursday, 26 October 1933.
– I support this clause, because when we, in common with the rest of the community, accepted sacrifices under the Financial Emergency Act, it was clearly understood that those sacrifices would be mitigated as and when the financial position of the country permitted. I resent the reference to this proposal as a salary grab. This is not a proposal to increase parliamentary allowances, as has been stated; it is a proposal to restore a part of what we gave up, and I make no apology to any one for supporting it. I look forward to the time when ‘conditions will have so improved that the parliamentary allowance will be restored to £1,000. One honorable senator said that we have no right to make this restoration without receiving a mandate from the electors, but I remind them that, at the election before last, we received, according to the honorable senator, a mandate to pay ourselves £1,000 a year. Do those honorable senators who object to this partial restoration consider that they disobeyed that mandate when they accepted a reduction? At the last election we were receiving £800 a year, but a further cut of £50 was made without a mandate to that effect having been received from the people. As a matter of fact, the people have nothing to do with fixing parliamentary allowances. As the Leader of the Government pointed out, under the Constitution that power rests in Parliament and nowhere else.
Question - That the clause be agreed to - put. The committee divided. (Chairman - Senator the Hon. Herberthays.)
Majority . . . . 10
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 38 to 48 agreed to. “
New clause 49 (Dates from which reductions operate) negatived.
[12.12 a.m.].- I move-
That the following new clause be added: - “49.- (1.) The provisions of Parts VI., VII., VIII. and IX. of this Act to the extent to which they vary, or authorize the variation of, any periodical payment shall have effect in respect of any periodicalpayment made on or after the twenty-sixth day of October, One thousand nine hundred and thirty-three. (2.) For the purposes, of this section periodical payment ‘ means any payment by way of pension, salary, wage, feeor allowance which is ordinarily made at regular weekly, fortnightly, semi-monthly or monthly intervals, but does not include -
any payment which is made on or after the twenty-sixth day of October, One thousand nine hundred and thirty-three and which relates wholly to a period the last date of which was prior to the twenty-fifth day of October, One thousand nine hundred and thirty-three; or
any payment affected by sections thirty-five, thirty-six or thirtyseven of this Act. (3.) Sections thirty-five, thirty-six and thirty-seven of this Act shall commence on the first day of November, One thousand nine hundred” and thirty-three.”.
Under this new clause 49, the increases in old-age pensions, salaries, &c, will not operate until the pay-day following the dates of commencement of the relevant sections. It was hoped last week that the bill would be passed by both Houses of Parliament in sufficient time to permit of the increases taking effect on the next pay-day, commencing with the old-age pension pay-day on Thursday, the 26th October. It was found impossible for the bill to be passed in time for that to be done. The Government, therefore, decided to introduce an amendment which would have the effect of making the increases definitely payable in respect of the next pay-days, commencing with the old-age pension pay-day on the 26th October. It. will not be possible for the actual payments to be made on that day, or on the following Friday, which was the Public Service pay-day; but this amendment will make the increases retrospective to those paydays, and the extra payments will be paid over at the earliest opportunity, probably on the following pay-day. In the case of ministerial and parliamentary allowances, the increases will not, however, be payable until the pay-day of the 30th November.
Proposed new clause agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported with an amendment; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
Sitting suspended from 12.15 a.m. to
Message received from the House of Representatives intimating that it had agreed to the amendment made by the Senate in this bill.
Motion (by Senator Sir GEORGE Pearce) agreed to -
That the Senate, at its rising, adjourn till Thursday, the 0th November next.
Senate adjourned at 1.47 a.m. (Thursday).
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 25 October 1933, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1933/19331025_senate_13_141/>.