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Tuesday, 22 September 1942


Mr JAMES (Hunter) (5:57 AM) .The honorable member for Denison (Mr. Beck) criticized the austerity campaign and implied that it was designed for only one section of the people. I assure honorable members that members of the working class Have been practising austerity day in and day out for many years. Few men on the basic wage rearing families can afford to buy more than one suit in every five years. That is the average, and that was about all I could afford when rearing a family. Remarks have been levelled against the Government by the honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Guy), who came into this chamber in 1931 pledged to support the Labour party and its programme, but went back upon his pledges to the people of Tasmania. He voted against the then Labour Government and its financial policy, which was the same as that of the present Government, namely, that bank credit should be utilized to provide employment for the people in peace-time in the same manner us it has frequently been used in war-time to finance the manufacture of hellish instruments of death. That was the war policy to implement, in respect of which the right honorable member for Kooyong (Mr. Menzies) admits that his Government used approximately £27,000,000. If it was good enough to use money in that way, it can be used equally well in peace-time, to feed people and give them useful reproductive employment. The attitude of the right honorable member and others towards the Government's policy is one of definite sabotage. They tell the people, with tongue in cheek, that they desire a united national government which will devote the whole of its energies to war purposes. How could we work with such a mutinous crew? I ask the people to analyse what this Government has done in comparison with its predecessor. I am quite sure that, if it does nothing more, it will go down in history as the saviour of Australia, particularly in view of the fact that, when Japan entered the war in December last, the Prime Minister, on the instruction of his Government, appealed to the Prime Minister of Great Britain to send not only the Australian troops back here to defend this country, but. also to give us assistance, although we had never previously appealed to the Mother Country, but had in every war in which it was involved given our best. We always gave the Mother Land the flower of our manhood for overseas service, in wars about which we were never consulted. It was sufficient for us to know that the Mother Country was in trouble, and we sent not only our money and equipment, but our manhood to help it. On this occasion, the Government was told, to a degree, that we could not expect assistance, and that no transports were available to bring the Australian Imperial Force hack to Australia. lt stands to the credit of the Prime Minister that he said he would appeal elsewhere for assistance. He did so, and the President of the United States of America answered his appeal, but the Opposition criticized Mr. Curtin for this action. Were it not for the action of Mr. Roosevelt, and the attitude taken by this Government, we should have been in a very serious position had the attack which was stopped as the result of the Coral Sea battle been made on this country. Every body knows that the enemy was then only 300 miles from Townsville, with a very large force threatening to invade Australia. We must pay tribute not only to this Government, but also to the President of the United States of America for answering our call, because I say quite definitely that we owe to the United States of America the fact that this country has not been invaded. Compare that with the attitude of the previous Government, which would never have asked for the return of our troops. It was prepared to conscript and send every body out of this country and leave it undefended although it was known that Japan would enter the war sooner or later. A protest was made by the working classes against shipments of iron ore and scrap iron, wool, wheat and other commodities to Japan. No notice, however, was taken of their appeal. Sydney Harbour was attacked by midget submarines, one of which I had the privilege of seeing three days after it was raised from the bottom of Sydney Harbour. It occurred to me that in ail probability those submarines were made from iron that had been obtained from Yampi Sound in Western Australia. In 1936, I pro- tested against Japan Laving a lease of a certain area at Yampi Sound, -which was handed over by the then Prime Minister, the late Mr. Lyons, to Braeserts a British company, which was allowed to deliver the consignments to Japan. It was a bogus company which acted in the interests. of that nation. One thing that stands out clearly is the attitude of the waterside workers of Port Kembla, when the right honorable member for Kooyong, as Prime Minister, " put it over" them that they must ship that iron ore to Japan. The Labour party, which was then in opposition, was sincere in its objections, but it was common talk among supporters of the Labour movement that the then Prime Minister had the Leader of the Opposition, the present Prime Minister, in his pocket. The Prime Minister's memorable reply, which is a tribute to his loyalty to the people of this country, was this: " Neither Mr. Menzies nor anybody else has ever had me in his pocket. If anybody more than another has me in his pocket, it is this country of Australia that I love." Those were good words, and I pay that personal tribute to the right honorable member. Many men considered that the Prime Minister was, to a certain degree, weak, but he has displayed his strength through this Government in his attitude to Mr. Churchill, when he said that he would seek assistance elsewhere. I repeat that, if the Government does not do anything else, it will go on record, when the history of this war is written, that this Government saved Australia from invasion.

The honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Rankin) made some remarks concerning my constituents in particular, which comments I very much resent, because a more loyal body of citizens never existed. Statistics disclose that in the last war the mining community enlisted in greater numbers than those in any other. In and around the district from. Newcastle to Tamworth, comprising coal-mining centres and a good deal of dairy-farming land, actually three battalions were raised and maintained. A doubt has always been raised concerning the Australian coal-miners' loyalty owing to strikes, but twice the number of strikes has taken place in British and American coal-mines since the war began. The loyalty of our coal-miners therefore cannot be challenged successfully.

As regards the proposal of the Government to submit a referendum to the people, the honorable member for Darwin (Sir George Bell) stated that he did not think that the people of Australia would do anything but reject the suggested increase of membership of this Parliament. In making that prediction, the honorable member is holding a losing ticket. When he was speaking, the Minister for Health (Mr. Holloway) -asked him by interjection how many electors he represented, and he replied : " Approximately 30,000." That is about one-half the size of the ordinary constituency in New South Wales or Victoria. Federation would never have been achieved unless the people had believed that it implied the discontinuance of State Governors and ultimate abolition of the State Parliaments. That statement is true of every part of Australia except, possibly, Western Australia. I lived in that State for a number of years and am. aware of the arguments that were used there against the proposal to federate. One of these was that Western Australia had no land transport facilities linking it with the eastern States. Since then the transAustralian railway has been built, and, in more recent times, aeroplanes have provided an auxiliary service. As a matter of fact, Western Australia is not distant, in flying time, from Canberra. In any case, unification sentiment is growing in Western Australia month by month. I believe that an increase of the membership of this Parliament is absolutely essential to enable it to do its work effectively. If various State instrumentalities should come under Commonwealth control, the appointment of extra representatives of the people to the Commonwealth Parliament would be inevitable. There are approximately four to five State members for each member of the Commonwealth Parliament The present Commonwealth electoral basis does not give adequate representation to the people. Many services now provided by State instrumentalities could be provided by local-governing authorities constituted on a wider basis than those at present operating. I believe that, with unification, we could co-ordinate many governmental activities with distinct advantage to the people. In any case, post-war reconstruction makes unification, or at any rate a substantial enlargement of Commonwealth power, unavoidable unless we are to face a repetition of the chaotic conditions that followed the termination of the last war.

It is particularly necessary that the Commonwealth shall be granted additional power in relation to arbitration and marketing. The James appeal case showed the deficiency of Commonwealth powers in relation to marketing. The Commonwealth, as honorable members will recollect, desired to stabilize and organize the marketing of certain primary products, but Mr. James - he is no relation of mine, let me say - desired freedom to trade within the State. He won his appeal and the Commonwealth was rendered practically helpless to achieve its objective of orderly marketing. In relation to arbitration, we had a Premier in New South Wales - and a good man too - who endeavoured' to maintain the then State basic wage of £4 2s. 6d.


Mr Spender - What was his name?


Mr JAMES - Lang. At that time, the basic wage in some of the States was low. In one State it was only £3 5s. a week. Victoria and Queensland were both operating under a low basic wage and certain manufactures of those States were offered for sale in New South Wales under conditions which caused great hardship to the local manufacturers. If we could have a common rule in relation to arbitration awards, with a common basic wage for all States, a much more satisfactory industrial situation would develop. We must have this extra Commonwealth power if we are to organize effectively for post-war days.

An attack has been made on the Government in the last few days on its compulsory trade unionism policy. Honorable members of the Opposition must realize that compulsion is inevitable in relation to the law. Every law passed by the Parliament involves the compulsion of some of our citizens. Honorable gentlemen opposite are concerned to retain the present capitalist system, whereas we on this side of the chamber wish to see it abolished. We also wish to see the workers consolidate their position. The slogan "United we stand, divided we fall ", carries with it a great truth. We speak frequently in this chamber about freedom and liberty. Where is our liberty under the law? It is true that we enjoy a greater degree of freedom than do people in totalitarian countries, but nevertheless, the law implies compulsion. Honorable members enjoy greater liberty, in some respects, than do other citizens of the country, but some of us have been suspended more than once from the service of this House because we have transgressed the Standing Orders which are the laws governing our proceedings. I believe that I have the highest record of any honorable member in this respect, though the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Ward) probably runs me a close second. Government sunporters hold the view that whether a man belongs to the pick and shovel or the black-coated brigade, he is still a worker and needs the support of the trade union movement. The Labour party developed from the trade union movement. In the eighties and 'nineties of the last century the Labour movement was weak, and in days when members of Parliament did not receive an allowance for their services, the trade unions drew generously upon their own funds to provide sustenance for Labour members of Parliament. The Labour party was able, even in those times, to secure the enactment of major reforms, because it held the balance of power. In the early days of the movement, particularly in New South Wales and Victoria, invalid and old-age pensions schemes were provided because theLabour party forced the issue; and in 1908, the late Sir Littleton Groom introduced a bill in this Parliament to provide Commonwealth invalid and old-age pensions, but he- was forced to do it by the pressure of Labour politicians. I make no secret of tb e fact that the Labour movement, as I. understand it, advocates the establishment of a socialist state, wherein production shall be for use and not for profit. When that day comes, international strife and bloody wars such as we are now passing through will be much less likely to occur. Many of the wars of years gone by were caused by trade differences and the attempt of particular nations to obtain profitable markets. A good deal has been said in this debate about the depression of a few years ago. That depression need not have occurred. Although many of our people went hungry in those dark days, there was an abundance of food in the country. Our granaries were full, and our bulk stores were bursting with surplus stocks. Yet Sir Otto Niemeyer told our people that they must tighten their belts. The Labour Government that was then in office, but not in power, was forced to consent to a programme that was abhorrent to it for it was unable to obtain money to carry out projects that appeared on its programme. After the last war, every effort was made to meet interest obligations while people were allowed to starve. I say definitely and clearly that that kind of thing must not happen again. If it is good enough for our sons to shed their blood, and even to give their lives, for their country, it should be good enough for the wealthy classes of the community to forego interest on money they lend to the nation to prosecute the war. When we are able to eliminate the profit motive from trade and commerce, we shall be a good distance on the road towards the realization of the brotherhood of man., goodwill among nations, and peace on earth. These ideals will be achieved through the unity of the workers of the world and they will be expressed through the Parliaments of this and other countries which will initiate reforms in order that the masses of society may live decent lives in reasonable comfort, and enjoy the products of their labour. Surely that is not too much to ask in a land in which there is more than enough to go round ! Yet, under the present economic system we have passed through periods of crisis, which have been accompanied by unemployment and starvation, while the stores have been bursting with the commodities that have been needed to sustain human life; but because they could not be disposed of profitably, they were destroyed. Will the soldier who returns from the present war consent to be subjected to the conditions that operated after the last war, when many men had to take up a swag and search for an elusive job? The Government has been criticized because it has commenced to plan for the peace. The Opposition has said that the present is not an opportune time for the institution of social reforms. I acknowledge that every energy must be strained in order to achieve the end that we all desire. At the same time, however, I want to inspire the manhood of this country with the knowledge that, by means of social reforms, they will at least be assured that their aged parents shall be catered for as the Government has already catered for widows under its widow's pensions legislation, and for families under the child endowment scheme. The people have confidence in the Government because it has shown its bona fides not only in prosecuting the war, but also in giving effect to its social reform policy. We are now budgeting for an expenditure of £549,000,000. What a tragedy it is that such a huge sum should be expended on the destruction of mankind; necessarily, otherwise we might ourselves be destroyed. ' The people will recall that during the Scullin regime a sum of £18,000,000 was sought to be raised in order that employment might be provided in reproductive undertakings that would have developed this country. A hue and cry went up. A run on the banks was caused, and the Government Savings Bank of New South Wales was compelled to close. Had certain interests succeeded in their aim, the Commonwealth Bank also would have been closed on the plea that inflation was likely to result. In war-time, action on similar lines is described as the utilization of the credit resources of the nation. Whenever there has been a shortage of subscriptions to loans, previous governments have allowed the Commonwealth -Bank to underwrite them. It' it be good enough to utilize the credit system of the nation in war-time in order to manufacture hellish instruments for the destruction qf mankind, the same system of finance should be used in order to provide the employment that the people require to enable them to purchase foodstuffs. We are well aware that after the war unemployment will prevail unless something definite be done to prevent its occurrence. Everybody knows that the advent of mechanization in not only the coalmining industry, but also every other industry, has eliminated man-power. The honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Rankin) questioned the loyalty of the coal-miners, thousands of whom in the Newcastle area are shedding their blood and giving their lives for this country, which in peace-time could not provide them with a job. In order to escape from economic pressure, and to remove from their parents the burden of maintaining them, many young men left home, because while so housed they could not obtain the dole or relief work, the official view of the State Government being that they were adequately maintained on the income of £2 10s. a week earned by the father as a coal-miner. Those who, as in the last war, seek to profiteer in war industries and to draw increment from investments, must realize that the money they receive is stained with the blood of the flower of the manhood of this country, many of whom had never been given the right to work before they left Australia to fight. Their bones are bleaching on the battlefields of the world. I plead with this Government and Parliament to avoid discontent among the men who return. We must plan for greater reforms in order that those who have wealth shall be exalted by christian ethics into a desire to help the poor. He who gives to the poor, gives to the Lord. The existing system cannot continue, and we must plan for a more equitable one.

I direct attention to the 22nd annual report of the 'Commissioner of Taxation, in regard to fines imposed upon people who have lodged questionable returns. I refer first to the amount owing by way of fines, not only by living persons, but also by the estates of deceased persons. There is no hope of recovering that amount and the Government, instead of following the policy laid down by its predecessors, should endeavour to negotiate with these debtors with a view to arriving at a compromise. I should feel it very much were my father indebted to this country by way of tax, because of neglect, fraud or otherwise. I should regard it as my duty to try to liquidate the debt, if for no other reason than to prevent annual publication of it in the report of the Commissioner. I have gone to the trouble of consulting the Taxation Department, and have been furnished by it with the following figures: -

 

A summary of cases in which the additional tax did not amount to £50 for each taxpayer shows that the amount of the under-statement was £895,714, and of the additional tax £11,859, making the grand totals - under statement £3,541,525 ; additional tax £299,645. [Extension of time granted.]

It is rather alarming to find how wide a discretion the Commissioner of Taxation can exercise. I should not disclose the names that I am about to read, were it not for the fact that they have already appeared in the 22nd annual report of the Commissioner in respect of income earned in the years 1938-39 and 1939-40. The following table shows the amounts by which some incomes have been understated, the extra tax charged, and the proportion which the extra tax bears to the amount by which the income was understated : -

 

There are many other equally glaring examples of the exercise of a wide discretion by the Commissioner of Taxation. I understand that the late Senator Johnston handed to a member of this chamber, a certain statement on the understanding that it would be read to honorable members.


Mr Bernard Corser - He did not do anything of the kind.


Mr JAMES - I am pleased to be corrected on that matter, in which I had relied on a newspaper report. His understatement of income is set down at £36,000, and the fine amounts to no less than £60,000. or nearly 200 per cent. [Further extension of time granted.]Mr. T. C. Trautwein was a member of the New South Wales Parliament, and he is 74 years of age. He was asked to account for certain transactions extending as far back as 1911, when he transferred a property in trust to a child three years of age. He also had to give particulars of transactions relating to transfers to his wife in 1916. I put it to honorable members that any man who does not try to make provision for his family has very little regard for those for whom he is responsible. Mr. Trautwein admits that he transferred certain property, including some bonds, to members of his family. After having been in and out of gaol over a period of two years, he was released for a month in order to give him an oppor tunity to trace these bonds. He had accounted for all but £12,000 worth when the time expired, and though the Official Receiver appealed to Mr. Justice Lukin for an extension, this was refused, notwithstanding the fact that he had been released on the bond of £50,000, and had to report twice daily including Sundays. This is not prosecution, but persecution. Mr. Justice Lukin, who refused the application, retired from the Queensland Supreme Court bench in 1926 on a pension of £1,000 a year. In the same year, he was appointed by the Bruce-Page Government to the bench of the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration at a salary of £2,500 a year, making his income £3,500 a year from salary and pension. During the depression in 1931, he refused to accept a reduction of salary under the Premiers plan, although reductions were accepted by other judges and by the then GovernorGeneral, Sir Isaac Isaacs. Mr. Justice Lukin is in his dotage; he willbe 75 years of age on the 4th January next. The Scullin Government recognized the viciousness of this modern Judge Jeffries, and removed him from the Arbitration Court bench to the Bankruptcy Court, where it believed he could do no harm. Even there he has earned an unenviable record by keeping women in gaol, and now by refusing Mr. Trautwein an opportunity to clear up his affairs. The Government should not hesitate to remove him from hia present position, which should be encumbered with rejects from other States. Mr. Trautwein is an old man himself now, being 74 years of age. He is prepared to pay the amount for which he was assessed, hut the fines imposed by the State and Federal taxation authorities amount to over £300,000 so that if the property of the whole family were sold up - which this judge is prepared to do - it would not yield enough to pay what is demanded. The Government is in urgent need of revenue, particularly h view of the evident determination of the Opposition to sabotage the £100,000,000 loan. Therefore, the Treasurer should come to terms with Mr. Trautwein, and accept a reasonable payment. I exhort the Treasurer to require the Commission ex of Taxation to remit the fines and the Treasurer should also inquire why the Commissioner, in the exercise of his discretionary powers, treats some taxpayers so leniently, while persecuting others. The Government should give some measure of justice to members of Parliament, whether of State legislatures or of the Commonwealth Parliament. Mr. Trautwein was a member of the Legislative Council in New South "Wales, where ite had a record of which any man might be proud. The late Senator Johnson, though he was opposed to me politically, was a man who always stood up for what he believed to be right. He was a great Australian who, as a member of the State Parliament in "Western Australia and of the Senate here, took a prominent part in the development of Western Australia. Why, therefore, should his name and other names be recorded in an official publication among the list of debtors when they are prepared to pay their original assessments? He married late in life, and left a wife and young family. There was no time to prevent the inclusion of his name in the current report of the Commissioner of Taxation, but unless some action be taken it will undoubtedly appear in the next report. I ask the Treasurer to look through the report, and there he will see the names of many men, some of them, perhaps, friends of his own, recorded for all the world to see as debtors of the Commonwealth when, by compromise, we could eliminate the whole lot.







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