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Wednesday, 30 November 1938

Mr SPEAKER - Order ! The honorable member must confine his remarks to the bill.

Mr JAMES - The burden of this tax is going to be borne by that section of the community which is least able to make the contribution. The amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition, if carried, would give right-thinking people an opportunity to devise some other means of spreading the burden more equably over the whole community. The Country party, with fifteen members in this chamber, hold's eight official paid positions in the Ministry, more than the number held by the United Australia party, which has a far larger number of members, and it definitely dictates the policy of the Government. The policy of the Labour party is to confine assistance to those industries which provide decent wages and conditions for their employees. I was informed to-day, in reply to an interjection, that the wheat industry cannot afford to pay the wages. I accused it of paying, namely, from 10s. to 25s. a week. Before the composite government was formed in New South Wales there was in existence a rural award providing wages and conditions for workers engaged in rural occupations, but when the Country party joined with the United Australia party in the formation of a government it insisted that the operation of the rural award be suspended. If an industry asks for assistance from the Government, whether by way of bounty or tariff protection the Government at least should specify that before any assistance is granted the industry should give an undertaking to comply with arbitration awards. It is very interesting to compare the opinions expressed now by the United Australia party Ministers with those expressed by them before the composite Ministry was formed. I have already referred to what the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) said when he was Minister for Trade and Customs. Let us now7 see what the present Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Perkins) had to say but a few years ago. On the 11th December, 1934, he said -

A member of this House told me recently that last year he had bought out two of his neighbours, and paid a fairly high price for the land. That gentleman is now expecting to benefit by the passage of this legislation.

Some other honorable gentlemen of the Parliament are in a similar position. I in common with other honorable members on this side of the House, and with most members of the general community, certainly take exception to members of this Parliament voting themselves bounties out of taxation imposed upon the poorer sections of the community. The poorer sections of the community will be called upon to make the greatest contribution to the fund to be set up by this legislation by reason of the fact that they eat the- most bread. Professor Giblin, writing on the subject of taxation, said -

A tax on any necessity is bad, because it exacts a much higher rate of taxation from the poor than from the rich. It is particularly bad when the commodity is used by children as much, or even more than, by adults, as with sugar, butter and broad. In such a case the tax becomes regressive to an apalling degree. A bachelor with an income of £1,000 per annum would pay an additional 15s. per annum through the home price of butter. He would contribute less than onefifth of a penny in the £1 of his income, to relieve the depressed industry. A basic wageearner, with wife and three children, would contribute over £3, or about 5d. in the £1 of his income.

That is perfectly true so far as bread is concerned. I know that great exception is taken to taxation of this sort by the dole recipients, because no variation of the dole provided by the various State governments is made to cover increases of the cost of living. The staple commodity in the diet of the dole worker is bread, and it is absolutely necessary that he should be able to obtain sufficient bread. In view of Professor Giblin's statement with regard to the unfairness of taxation it seems that the Government by this legislation proposes to make the little children of Australia suffer by reason of the fact that they will not be able to get the quantity of bread to which they have been accustomed. I strongly urge the Government to give serious consideration to the necessity for the devising of some better method of taxing the people to provide the funds necessary for the assistance of wheat-growers who are in necessitous circumstances. Surely no honorable member of this House can justify the payment of the bounty to people in receipt of taxable incomes. Some members of this House, as you know, Mr. Speaker, and as everybody else knows, propose to vote themselves a bounty on top of what they already receive by way of parliamentary allowances and emoluments. I have no desire to accuse the honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Prowse) wrongly-

Mr Prowse - The honorable member may do so if he can.

Mr JAMES - Is the honorable member a wheat-grower, and will he participate in this bounty? He does not answer, therefore I must take it that he is and that he will participate in the bounty. Let us consider his income apart from what he gets as a wheat-grower. As Chairman of Committees he gets about £1,750 a year-

Mr SPEAKER - Order! Personal remarks are quite out of order.

Mr JAMES - Then again let us take the honorable member for Riverina (Mr. Nock). Is he a wheat-grower?

Mr Thorby - No, but his son is.

Mr JAMES - There is always a way of getting out of these things. One may hand assets over to a son or a wife. At any rate, it cannot be denied that the honorable member for Riverina is interested in wheat-growing. As joint Government Whip he receives extra emoluments. What will the people of Australia think about a government which attempts to justify the payment of a bounty to members of Parliament already in receipt of extra parliamentary allowances? I sympathize with the honorable member for the Northern Territory who is a surveyor, but who, because he is a member of Parliament, is unable to undertake surveys for the Government in the Northern Territory. Some criticism has been levelled against the AttorneyGeneral (Mr. Menzies) for having accepted a fee from the Victorian Government in respect of the appeal to the Privy Council in the James case.

Mr Thorby - Does the honorable member's argument apply to any primary producer who may participate directly or indirectly in any bounty paid, whether it be in respect of apples, oranges, fruit or anything else?

Mr JAMES - Yes. Whether he be a producer of apples or anything else, no member of this Parliament should be entitled to vote himself a bounty. I am quite candid about the matter. If a member of Parliament who happens to be a lawyer or a surveyor accepts a fee from the Government for undertaking some governmental work he is immediately condemned for doing so. How much more should a member of this Parliament be condemned for voting himself a bounty?

Mr Thorby - Would that apply to honorable members interested in a tariff schedule or in an industrial award?

Mr JAMES - It would apply to everybody.

Mr Thorby - Would the honorable member's remarks apply to industrial awards?

Mr JAMES - Yes. I say definitely that if I were a wheat-grower I would not record a vote on any legislation designed to provide a bounty for wheatgrowers.

Mr Thorby - What about parliamentary allowances?

Mr JAMES - The Constitution provides that members of Parliament should have control over their allowance. The honorable member for Riverina, whom I have already criticized, because of his interests in a farm, which, it is said, is conducted by his son, was one of those who voted against1 the increase of the parliamentary allowance, yet when the bill was passed he gladly accepted the in erc fi s6.

Mr SPEAKER - The honorable member is out of order.

Mr JAMES - Now he is asking for more. I do not like to mention these things, but I have been forced to do so. The honorable member for Riverina voted against the first proposal to restore parliamentary allowances, but the bill was passed, and he accepted the increased payments.

Mr SPEAKER - Order ! The honorable member is discussing a matter which has nothing whatever to do with this bill.

Mr JAMES - The Labour party takes the strongest possible exception to this measure on the ground that the proposed tax will fall most heavily upon the poorest section of the community.

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