29 September 1938

15th Parliament · 1st Session

The President (Senator the Hon, J. B. Hayes) took the chair at 11 a.m., and read prayers.

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Senator ABBOTT:

– I ask the PostmasterGeneral whether it is a fact, as reported in the Sydney press to-day, that he has promised the New South Wales Government his full co-operation in giving effect to the starting-price betting legislationshortly to become law in that State? If so, what will be the position of racing tipsters using the Canberra radio station to broadcast racing information, and thus evade the State Act? In what way does the Commonwealth propose to co-operate generally?

Senator A J McLACHLAN:

– I fully ‘ apreciate the legal complexity of the honorable senator’s question. I have already given the matter some consideration. When the representatives of the press interviewed me and submitted a similar question, I told them that I jumped my hurdles whenI reached them and not before. The matter will be taken into consideration at the appropriate time. It is our intention to respect the State law,.and the necessary steps will be taken to do so.

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Senator A. J. McLACHLAN (South

Australia - Postmaster-General) [11.4] - by leave - read a statement which was made simultaneously in the House of Representatives by the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) (vide pages 332-333).

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Profits - Government Securities - Land and Buildings


asked the Minister representing the Treasurer, upon notice -

  1. To what purpose are the profits of the Commonwealth Bank devoted?
  2. “What is the balance-sheet value placed on government securities and other holdings of the bank?
  3. What is the real commercial value (approximately) of these holdings?
  4. What is the balance-sheet value of land and buildings of the bank?
  5. What is the real commercial value of these?
  6. If real values were shown on the balancesheet, what effect would it have on profit and reserves ?
Senator FOLL:
Minister for Repatriation · QUEENSLAND · UAP

– The Treasurer states that inquiries are being made, and that a reply will be furnished as soon as possible.

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Land Resumption

Senator BROWN (through Senator

Courtice) asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice -

  1. Who are those responsible for taking over a large part of Darwin township for purposes of building officers’ quarters?
  2. What is the estimated cost of the resumption of property that will be necessary?
  3. What length of time has elapsed since the decision to resume such properties was first decided upon?
Senator FOLL:

– The Minister for Defence has supplied the following a newer: - 1, 2 and 3. As a result of the expansion of naval and military activities at Darwin, a committee representing the Departments of Defence and Interior and the Northern Territory Administration investigated the matter and made certain recommendations as to the action which they considered should be taken. The matter was gone into by the Minister for the Interior while he was in Darwin recently. He will report to cabinet the result of his investigations. An estimate of the cost of resumption cannot be given until the Government decides what action it will take.

SALES TAX BILLS (Nob. 1 to 9) 1938.

Bills read a third time.

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Second Reading

Debate resumed from the 28th September (vide page 305) on motion by Senator Foll. -

That the bill be now read a second time.


– The Opposition does not intend to oppose the passage of this measure, but there are one or two comments which I should like to make concerning it. The remarks I made yesterday on the Sales

Tax Bills with respect to direct and indirect taxation apply particularly to the bill now under consideration, and the figures I then cited need not be repeated. The bill imposes a flat rate tax of 15 per cent. on incomes, I am aware of the fact that federal income tax is not levied on salaries below a certain amount, and in justification of our attitude towards direct and indirect taxation, I now suggest that a flat rate is not the best method of levying this additional impost which is required to provide revenue for a specific purpose. It is mere sophistry to say that a 15 per cent. levy will be made on all incomes over a certain amount. I repeat the statement I made yesterday, that the amount which a man pays as tax is not of such importance as the amount that he has left after he has paid it. No one is likely to shed any tears if a man with an income of £10,000 a. year is called upon to pay income tax at the rate of 15 per cent., but the position is entirely different in respect of a man whose incomeis only £ 1,000 a year. It is entirely incorrect to say. that there is equality of sacrifice. However, I shall not pursue that argument this morning. I pass on to point out that, whereas in 1921-22 the revenue derived from income tax was £16,800,000, and in 1931-32, when times can scarcely be said to have ‘been good, it was £13,400,000, the estimate for the current year is only £12,100,000. I submit that if an increase of the taxon incomes be necessary, it should be a graded tax, and that a much higher rate should apply to the immense incomes of wealthy persons than to the smaller incomes of less fortunate members of the community. We have a right to ask that that be done.

SenatorFoll. - That is what isbeing done.


– Are we to understand from the Minister’s interjection that this tax will not be at a flat rate?

Senator Foll:

– As incomes rise higher in the scale, the gradient of the graph becomes steeper.


– The Minister need not think that he can side-track me with a statement of that kind. I know how the ordinary tax on incomes, is graded. I am, however, not dealing with that practice, but am suggesting that this additional tax also should be graded, and made heavier on the higher incomes. The man who has the most to protect in a time of emergency should pay for the protection given to him. I do not wish to become over-enthusiastic on this subject, for I know that the Government’s proposals, which I believe to be well justified, will receive the endorsement of the Senate. Because the Labour party agrees with direct taxation it has no objection to this additional impost so long as it does not add to the burden of theunder-dog. At every possible opportunity, the Oppositionwill urge that in all times of national emergency - whether resulting from depression, or from the shadow of war - the rate of the tax on higher incomes should be greater than on smaller incomes. As I have said, the Opposition will not oppose the bill, which is simple and easily understood.

Senator COLLETT:
Western Australia

– One can only regret the necessity for this measure. It is well known that taxpayers generally regard the tax collector in a certain light, and also that that feeling is reciprocated, in that the tax-collector views the taxpayer as a person who must be watched carefully. Complaints have been made to me that, in the correspondence addressed bythe Taxation Department to taxpayers, there is a certain abruptness of language which is embarrassing to nervous taxpayers. I suggest that a little more care in the wording of letters would be an advantage. I am also informed that taxpayers in Western Australia who wish to obtain information about their assessments have to speak to a junior officer in a public room. That is undesirable. I suggest that arrangements be made whereby taxpayers may have their cases dealt with by senior officers under conditions providing some privacy.

Senator FOLL:
Minister for Repatriation [11.21]. - in reply - The representations of Senator Collett regarding the language used in departmental communications and the conduct of business in Western Australia, as well as the remarks of the Leaderof the Opposition (Senator Collings · Queensland · UAP

will be brought under the notice of the Treasurer.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

Bill read a second time and reported from committee without requests or debate.

Standing and Sessional Orders suspended; report adopted.

Bill read a third time.

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Motion (by Senator A. J. McLachlan) agreed to -

That the Senate at its rising adjourn till Wednesday next at 3 p.m.

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Answers to Questions

Motion (by Senator A. J. McLachlan) proposed -

That the Senate do now adjourn.

Senator COLLETT:
Western Australia

– I take this opportunity to protest against the method adopted in answering questions submitted by honorable senators. Generally, I agree with the refusal of Ministers to answer questions involving government policy, and, in my opinion, they are right in taking exception to accusations of evasion of questions. Yesterday I asked the following questions : -

  1. Is the Treaty of Commerce and Navigation between Great Britain and Italy, signed at Rome on 15th June, 1883, extant?
  2. If so, is the Commonwealth of Australia a party to, or bound by the terms of, this Treaty? 3.If the answer to (2) above is in the affirmative, do Articles I., XIII., XIV. and XV. of the Treaty override the provisions of the Immigration Act 1901-1935?

From the Minister representing the Minister for External Affairs I received the following replies: -

  1. Yes.
  2. The Commonwealth Government was not, as such, a party to the treaty, which was made applicable to all of the States (then colonies) of Australia with the exception of South Australia by separate notifications given in1884 in pursuance of a provision enabling such application to be effected. The extent to which the Commonwealth of Australia is bound by the treaty is a question of law and it is not the practice to express legal opinions in answer to questions.
  3. This also is a legal question.

It is to the following words that I wish to direct special attention -

The extent to which the Commonwealth of Australia is bound by the treaty is a question of law and it is not the practice to express legal opinions in answer to questions.

We arc asked to believe that after the Commonwealth has been in existence for 38 years the Government does not know its legal position with regard to this treaty. We are simply told that it is a question of law.The answer to my final question was -

This also is a legal question.

I point out that these two instruments - the treaty and the Immigration Act - are matters of international law and, as such, public matters, administered by Ministers of the Grown. Their terms are interpreted by the Attorney-General. They are not matters of private law. If honorable senators cannot secure information from official sources as to how the public laws of Australia are interpreted we occupy a very anomalous position. I suggest that the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Hughes) has treated my questions very lightly, to say the least. The answers he has given are not only unworthy of a Minister, but alsocast a reflection on this chamber.

Senator Collings:

– The honorable senator is wrong there ; the answers of the Minister are worthy of him.

Senator A J McLACHLAN:
Postmaster-General · SOUTH AUSTRALIA · NAT

– in reply - I was the Minister in this chamber entrusted with the duty of delivering the answers to the honorable senator’s questions. I agree that he made a point in the distinction he drew between matters of private law and matters of public international importance.

SenatorCollett. - The Minister will appreciate the form in which I cast the latter part of my question.

Senator A J McLACHLAN:

– Yes. This matter has been the subject of considerable debate in legal circles ever since I have been associated with any government in this country, and it. involves a highly complex question of law. The honorable senator referred to international law. One wonders at times, whether there has been any international law since 1914. I assure the honorable senator, however, that no discourtesy was intended towards him, nor was there any desire on the part of the Minister for External Affairs to evade the issue. The questions raise a very thorny and tricky problem indeed, one which I have run up against on previous occasions. It has given rise to considerable doubts in the minds of legal men.

Senator McBride:

– The Government must have adopted some line of action in respect of this matter when dealing on previous occasions with our immigration law.

Senator A J McLACHLAN:

– That is so, but we must be careful as to how far we go in answering questions concerning so thorny a problem as this. I shall bring the matter under the notice of the Minister for External Affairs with the object of having it considered by Cabinet in order that the position may be clarified - that is, if it be deemed wise to have it clarified at this particular stage.

I take this opportunity to thank honorable senators generally for remaining here to-day. I assure them that they have not been delayed through any fault of myself, or my colleagues, but wholly because of the present very delicate position overseas.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

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The following papers were pre sented : -

Commonwealth Public Service Act - Appointment - Department of Treasury, D. Dain and F. R. E. Mauldon.

Papua Act - Ordinances of 1938 -

No. 3- Supply 1938-1939.

No. 4 - Port Moresby Electric Light and Power.

No.5 -Samarai Electric Light and Power.

No.6 - Diocese of New Guinea Property

No. 7 - Customs Tariff.

No.8 - Police Offences.

No.9 - Supplementary Appropriation (No. 2) 1937-1938.

Seat of Government Acceptance Act and Seat of Government (Administration) Act-

Ordinances of 1938 -

No. 24.- Walter Oswald Watt Me morial Fund.

No. 25 - Seat of Government (Desig nation ) .

Building and Services Ordinance - Amendment of Canberra Electric Supply Regulations.

Buildingand Services Ordinance - Amendment of Canberra Sewerage and Water Supply Regulations.

Canberra University College Ordinance - Regulations Amended.

Hospital Tax Ordinance - Regulations amended.

Senate adjourned at 11.35 a.m.

Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 29 September 1938, viewed 22 October 2017, <>.