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Thursday, 24 June 1915

Senator BLAKEY - The honorable senator does not like the Age because it is a Protectionist journal.

Senator GRANT - I would point out to the honorable senator that the Sydney Daily Telegraph is very strongly in favour of the fiscal policy of the Commonwealth. The Cook Government, which held the reins of office for twelve months, were also satisfied with that policy. It is about time that Senator Blakey realized that both the DailyTelegraph and the Age are thoroughly in accord with the declared fiscal policy of the Commonwealth. No doubt he is extremely anxious that higher duties should be imposed in order to avoid the necessity for levying a straight-out land tax. I do not forget, and I will not allow him to forget, that the Commonwealth is collecting £16,000,000 annually through the Customs, and only a paltry £2,500,000 from the land-owners of Australia.

Senator Blakey - Will not a Protective policy stop that?

Senator GRANT - Certainly not.

The PRESIDENT - The honorable senator will please address the Chair.

Senator GRANT - These interjections are quite uncalled for. If one looks down the columns of the Daily Telegraph, what will he find ? A whole page devoted exclusively to sporting matters. A portion of it deals with cricket-

Senator Lt Colonel Sir Albert Gould - This is not the season for cricket.

Senator GRANT - But in New South Wales there is a squabble about cricket in progress; and so the Daily Telegraph finds space for matter relating to cricket, instead of telling us how to manufacture shells. Then it devotes a number of paragraphs to hockey. Also it found room in yesterday's issue for the usual anonymous letter by an alleged mistress, who complains of the abnormally high wages that are demanded by domestic servants. It is not safe to read anything in that newspaper unless one is prepared to swallow a pill in regard to the referenda proposals. I wish now to make a suggestion to the Minister as to recruiting. I was pleased to read his able speech the other evening-

Senator Bakhap - What effect has it had? None whatever.

Senator GRANT - It was printed in very small type in most of the newspapers, whereas it ought to have been printed in the largest type and with big headlines. On the same evening, Senator Millen addressed a recruiting meeting at North Sydney. His utterance has not had much effect. With all due respect, it does not appear to me that these gentlemen are the right persons to appeal to our manhood to enlist for service abroad. To my mind, the most effective way of procuring recruits would be for the various municipal bodies to place at the disposal of the Defence Department the local Town Halls, and for that Department to get, not members of Parliament, but soldiers who have enlisted, to make an appeal to their fellow citizens to join them in rallying to the colours. I venture to say that if the Lord Mayor of Melbourne, who is elected, not by the citizens, but by the property-owners of this city, were to place the Melbourne Town Hall at the disposal of the Defence authorities, and if the Minister were to organize!-

Senator Bakhap - The Town Hall is plastered with ridiculous posters now.

Senator GRANT - It is idle to ask the Minister of Defence to address meetings with a view to stimulating recruiting, because he is not going to the war. It is equally idle to ask the Lord Mayor of Melbourne or Senator Bakhap to address similar gatherings. The men who can address recruiting assemblages successfully are those who are themselves prepared to go to the front. Let the Department bring down, not two or three of those who have enlisted, but 150 of them to make an appeal to their fellow citizens. No man who is himself unwilling to proceed to the front can successfully appeal for recruits. I throw out this suggestion in the most earnest way. I regret that Australia is being denuded of the best and most courageous of her manhood , We require to send forward reinforcements at the rate of 5,000 or 6,000 per month, and we now find that Great Britain is prepared to accept as many men as we can despatch, irrespective of whether they are equipped or not.

Senator Bakhap - We ought to have had those men in training from the beginning of the year.

Senator GRANT - They are not prepared to come in.

Senator Bakhap - Bring them in.

Senator GRANT - The people of the Empire are not yet of the opinion that, conscription is desirable.

Senator Bakhap - The question to be determined is, " Are the leaders of that opinion?" and, if so, have they the courage of their opinions?

Senator GRANT - If the community desires to see recruiting stimulated in a way that it has never yet been, the Minister should adopt the course which I have suggested. I believe that such an appeal could not be resisted by a large number of men in our midst. I hope that the Minister will enlist the support of the municipal authorities throughout the Commonwealth in an endeavour to give effectto my suggestion. If he does so, he will secure such an army of recruits within; fourteen days or so as will astonish him. I feel sure that the people do not realize what the Empire is up against in fighting the Germans.

Senator Bakhap - Then they must be awfully stupid, and they are. There is nodoubt about that.

Senator GRANT - There is one other matter upon which I should like to touch.. We do not cease to applaud the conduct of the young men who have left our shores to fight for the Commonwealth, but we have never yet proposed to give them the franchise. I asked the Minister the other day how many young men between the ages of eighteen and twentyone had gone to the front, and he wasunable to tell me. I feel confident, from reading various reports, and from other information I have, that a very largeproportion of the men who are prepared' to sacrifice themselves for the Commonwealth have hitherto been denied thefranchise. I think that it is up to thi* Parliament, even at this late hour, totake steps to see that every man who has gone to the front, and every man who is prepared to go, should be given the franchise. Senator Bakhap is prepared totake men from eighteen years of age and upwards, and compel them to go to thefront.

Senator Bakhap - I am prepared alsoto go to the front myself with men of: my own class if they are required.

Senator GRANT - I say that every man who has gone to the front should have the franchise extended to him, not only for this Parliament but for the State Parliaments and for municipal -councils as well. It is a scandalous thing that these young fellows, who have finished their education, and many of whom are very well informed, and who are prepared to do battle for the existence of the Commonwealth, should be debarred from the exercise of the franchise. I hope that the Government will in the near future bring down a Bill for this purpose. It might be said that it would be a contentious measure; but there should be no contention about such a proposal.

I wish to say a word on the subject of providing munitions of war. Notwithstanding the fact that Victoria has had in force the glorious policy of Protection ever since it has been a State, we have, unfortunately, to confess to-day that Victoria cannot make a single shell; we have to confess that we have not the skill and ability to make even one shell in any part of the Commonwealth.

Senator Bakhap - We have both the skill and the ability, but the preparations for the purpose have been delayed.

Senator GRANT - There is something .absolutely lacking. I speak with the very greatest respect of those who have been prepared to invest their money in steel and iron works and in engineering enterprises throughout the Commonwealth, but I repeat that we have never yet produced a single shell in Australia.

Senator Blakey - Thank God, there has never been any necessity to do so before.

Senator GRANT - That is so, or, at all events, we thought there was no necessity. But when the German nation was arming itself to the teeth, we were lying asleep. The necessity has existed all along, but we were not aware of it.

Senator Bakhap - That is the fault of Imperial statesmen for not arousing themselves and us.

Senator GRANT - That may be so.

Senator Needham - Why blame us for their neglect of duty?

Senator GRANT - I give Senator Millen credit for doing all he could during the time he held office. I do not suppose any man could have done more than he did during that time. I do not say that he did as well as might have been done, but he did what he could to the best of his ability. The honorable senator made mistakes, and every Minister of Defence will ' make mistakes, and many of them because the conduct of the war is a new enterprise for Australia to undertake. The fact remains that notwithstanding all the efforts of Senator Millen and Senator Pearce, there is not a single firm of engineers in the Commonwealth in a position to make a contract with the Federal Government for the supply of shells.

Senator Bakhap - The plant has to be obtained to manufacture the shells.

Senator GRANT - The plant is not here, and must be imported or manufactured. I have listened to the statement made by the present Minister of Defence oh this question, and I feel confident that he has left nothing undone to secure the manufacture of shells and guns in the Commonwealth at the earliest possible moment. It is, however, futile to expect that the plant for the purpose will grow up like mushrooms in a night. Time is required, and it may yet be several months before we shall be doing very much in this way. We have .not the specifications here yet of the steel required for shell-casing, or of the contents of shells.

Senator Bakhap - There is one element that we can furnish, and that is men.

Senator GRANT - The scheme I have suggested would do much, I think, to overcome the difficulty in securing a sufficient number of men.

Senator Bakhap - It might do a good deal, but it will not do all that is required.

Senator GRANT - The honorable senator has not the slightest chance of forcing his ideas of conscription upon the people of Australia.

Senator Bakhap - All the more pity for the people.

Senator GRANT - Once the people of this country realize the seriousness of the position, I feel sure that they will respond. It must not be forgotten that while a few of the officers of our Expeditionary Forces are fairly well paid, the men who have gone to the front for about 6s. per day cannot be said to have volunteered for the money they would receive, but because of a desire to maintain the integrity of the British Empire. I have no doubt that thousands will be ready to follow them when the true position is properly realized.

I have a word or two to say on the subject of the Small Arms Factory at Lithgow. I have said before that I was very much concerned about that Factory. I visited the place a few days after the recent Federal elections, and tried to get a grip of the position. As I have no knowledge of engineering matters, I knew that 1 should be quite unable to grasp the reason for the difficulty alleged in increasing the output of the Factory. I asked Mr. Wright why he did not work a second shift, and he gave me a noncommittal answer. I asked the sub-manager Mr. Ratcliffe, why a second shift was not worked, and he gave me his view of the position. Listening to the statements of irresponsible people outside, and to what we have heard from Senator Millen and Senator Pearce, I am satisfied that, even up to the present time, it has not been possible, with advantage, to put on a second shift there. But we have, at last been assured by the Minister of Defence that we are on the very verge of the establishment of a second shift. It has taken about nine months to arrive at that stage, but I suppose that the second shift will be working there within a few days from now. I hope we shall not be disappointed in this regard.

I wish to refer to an item in the schedule to this Bill for the purpose of advertising the Commonwealth abroad. The Bill is intended to cover the expenditure for one quarter, and I should like to hear from the Minister representing the Treasurer why it is proposed to spend £5,000 under this .measure for advertising the resources of the Commonwealth abroad. I shall take good care, when we come to consider the schedule, to divide the Senate upon this item. We shall then see what honorable senators are prepared to go on expending money advertising the Commonwealth abroad during the coming year, as we have done in years gone by. To my mind there is not the slightest possible justification for doing anything of the kind. I enter the strongest protest against it, and I shall also oppose the expenditure of any more money in connexion with the Panama Exposition.

I should like now to enter a protest against the inefficiency of the Land Tax Department.

Senator Russell - The inefficiency of the Department?

Senator GRANT - Yes. I have been trying to obtain some information from the Department with an ulterior purpose. I wish later on to suggest the taxation of land values for war purposes, and, in doing so, I expect that Senator Bakhap will back me up.

Senator Bakhap - Let honorable senators opposite bring in an equitable proposal for war taxation, and they will have my support. Let the honorable senator not say that it is for some other purpose.

Senator GRANT - No; merely a war tax.

Senator Bakhap - I desire that we shall thoroughly understand each other in the matter.

Senator GRANT - I learn from this Bill that the Defence Department will require, during the current year, something like £25,000,000. That is not very much, and I should not be surprised if we should find it necessary to spend £50,000,000 in connexion with the prosecution of the war.

Senator Guthrie - The honorable senator would not object to it?

Senator GRANT - Certainly not. I should not object if we spent our last shilling so long as we win. My troubles about what it will cost! I say, however, that in meeting the war expenditure, we should levy taxation in such a way that it will fall upon the shoulders of those best able to carry it. As the result of inquiries I have made, I find that the Land Tax Commissioner, although he gets about £80,000 a year to conduct his Department, is unable to answer a simple question such as I put to him through Ministers the other day. He is unable to say how much revenue would be derived by a slight alteration in the land tax. He does not know, nor does Mr. Knibbs know, what is the value of land held in estates of less than £5,000 in value. Something ought to be done to place the Commonwealth in a position to tax the total land values of Australia. In reply to an inquiry by the Assistant Minister, Mr. Knibbs wrote -

The Secretary to the representatives of the Government in the Senate states that you want to know what information is available regarding the number of. estates of less value than £5,000. I understand that the Federal Land Tax Commissioner has information of the number of estates between £3,000 and £5,000. It was, of course, obvious to me long ago that this information would bo required, and I endeavoured to get it through the State Statisticians, but the Taxation Departments were not willing to incur the expense of its compilation, since, from the stand-point of " revenue collection," it was a matter of no moment.

When it was proposed to call for returns for the Federal land tax, I urged the desirability of getting returns of all holdings whatsoever. The year of collection of the land tax being also the census year, it was eminently desirable that we should know the value of the landed estates in Australia, and the opportunity for obtaining it was a unique one. I pointed out personally to the Land Tax Commissioner that the whole of the compilation could be done for each State by officers of this Bureau for all estates under the value of £5,000, so that the Land Tax Commissioner could have dealt with the estates above £5,000, and this Bureau with the estates under £5,000. We should then have had the necessary data for one of the largo elements in determining the wealth of Australia, which is frequently asked for, and we should also have had the means of knowing what revenue could be derived by a tax with a lower limit than £5,000.

In my memorandum of 23rd December, 1910, S. strongly urged the matter, the value of the information being set out in my memorandum of 5th September, 1910. I understand that the number of naturalized Germans in South Australia holding a number of estates sufficiently large for taxation under the £5,000 limit is considerable.

The PRESIDENT - Order ! I ask the honorable senator to resume his seat. I notice the Honorable T. J. Ryan, Premier of Queensland, in the gallery, and I propose, with the consent of the Senate, to ask the honorable gentleman to take a seat on the floor of the chamber.

Honorable SENATORS - Hear, hear !

Senator GRANT - Mr. Knibbs said, further -

In my judgment a valuable opportunity for acquiring this information has been lost, and there would be no hardship in insisting that the part of the community relieved from taxation should have been required, nevertheless, to have made returns. There is no possibility whatever of making even the roughest estimate of the number of estates of various ranges of value under £5,000.

That 'discloses to me a position of affairs which, I think, ought not to be tolerated one day longer than is necessary. I am informed on good authority that the total value of land held in estates of less than £5,000 in value runs into something like £250,000,000 or £300,000,000, and I say that the people who own that immense amount of wealth should be able to pay something towards the cost of this great war.

Senator Bakhap - It all depends on what the annual value is.

Senator GRANT - But I am talking about the capital value. It is the capital value that ought to be taxed, not itsannual value. We do not want any business of that kind. We want to see the capital value taxed, and unless this is done, what will happen? All the war expenditure will require to be paid by those less able to bear it. We find that the British Government to-day, instead of appealing to the big land-owners to pay by means of a land tax, are issuing a further loan. I hope this Commonwealth will not follow that example. We have an excellent opportunity of placing the taxation on the right shoulders, anil I certainly shall expect when the time comes that the Government will not be afraid to impose a straight-out land value tax on all estates, without any exemption or graduation whatever. I shall expect, also, that Senator Bakhap and Senator Millen, who understand this question so well, will "back up" the proposal. I will conclude my remarks by saying that, so far as I am concerned, .1 will be no party to doing anything whatever that will interfere with the successful prosecution of this war. When I see the Age, with its seven pages of advertisements, and the Daily Telegraph, with its seven and a-half pages of advertisements daily, carrying on business as usual, I say there is no wrong at all in this Parliament doing a little business apart from the war. I do not think that these proposals will interfere in any way with the successful prosecution of the war. They will not. interfere with any of the engineering firms who are prepared to come to theassistance of the Government, and they will not interfere with the establishment of a Commonwealth gun factory, or a factory for munitions. At the present time we have clothing factories and harness factories at work.

Senator GUTHRIE - And woollen factories, too.

Senator GRANT - Yes, a woollen factory almost in operation. We have commandeered the woollen output of the Commonwealth, and we are doing a thousand and one things which are more or less directly connected with the war. We must not forget that it is a most serious thing to close down all businesses and to do nothing except to " offer " to do something. A mere "offer" to assist in a war is not of any value. What is required of the Commonwealth is that something should be done to render practical assistance and to urge on those who are capable of enlisting the duty of doing so. I hope that any observations that I have offered on these questions will be accepted in the spirit in which they have been made, -and I trust they will be acted upon.

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