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Wednesday, 21 July 1915

Senator GARDINER - I wish it to be clearly understood that the Government, in introducing this Bill, have no idea of following it up with a measure to provide for conscription.

Senator Bakhap - Why are the Government so fearful of conscription ?

Senator GARDINER - Recruits are presenting themselves in such numbers and with such splendid enthusiasm that the Government prefer to fight the battles of the country with volunteers rather than with conscripts. I do not desire to enter upon an argument as to the merits or demerits of conscription, but I wish to assure not' only honorable senators, but people outside, that in introducing this measure it is not in the minds of the members of the Government to follow it with a measure to provide for the conscription of men for service outside the country.

Senator Bakhap - The Government will have to come to that yet.

Senator GARDINER - I shall not speculate upon that. I wish to go further, and say, in order to assure the wealthy section of the community that, although we are asking by this measure in the schedule dealing with the wealth of the people, that we should know exactly what the financial position of the people of Australia is, it is not the intention of the Government to deal in any harsh, unreasonable, or unprecedented manner with the owners of wealth in Australia.

Senator Mullan - I hope that the Government will deal with them in an unprecedented manner.

Senator GARDINER - That is not the intention of the Government in introducing this Bill.

Senator Mullan - I am sorry to hear it.

Senator GARDINER - I am not concerned with what honorable senators may individually be sorry for. The proposals of the Government for financing the warwill be placed before Parliament in the ordinary way., and the community, sensible of the magnitude of the struggle in "which we are engaged, must be prepared to meet them. There is, with regard to men, no connexion between this measure and conscription, and with regard to wealth, no connexion between the information for which we are asking under it and confiscation. That is not in the minds of the Government at the present time, and I venture to say that it will never be in their minds. If the fortune of war should go in the direction which some people fear, and it becomes necessary to resort to conscription to provide the trenches with an even fighting line, no matter what Government may be in office, they will have to face such a situation as it presents itself. This Bill is the first step to enable the Government, when considering the number of men who may be required, to know exactly what, in regard to the supply of men, the resources of the country are. We desire to have them tabulated, so that Ministers may be able to decide at a moment's notice what help they can give the Mother Land in strengthening the fighting line.

Senator Stewart - The Government have the numbers already.

Senator GARDINER - We want them in the form in which we are asking for them here. If a business man finds himself up against a sudden change in business conditions which could not be anticipated, he requires to know his resources in stocks, and the men upon, whom he can call to conduct different parts of his business. He must be in a position to know the means at his disposal to overcome his difficulty.

Senator Millen - He gets the information with the intention to act.

Senator GARDINER - He certainly does. He gets the information so that* he may be prepared for any emergency and be able to use it at the moment when it is most required. This is really the beginning of organization. Possibly it will be said this ought to have been done months ago.

Senator Stewart - The war will be over before this information is available.

Senator Millen - That is a pious hope.

Senator GARDINER - I recognise that the work we are doing will be very costly, but it will not be in vain even if the war is over - and I join most heartily in the cheers that welcomed that expression of opinion, because I recognise they come from men who desire that the war shall be terminated in only one way, and that is in the triumph of the Allies, and that there shall be not an armed truce, but a .guaranteed peace for the civilized world for a considerable time ito come.

Senator Bakhap - That is what we want.

Senator GARDINER - As far as this Bill is concerned, it is the beginning of the organization of the affairs of this country, not in anticipation that the war will be over this week, next week, or the following week, but in recognition of the fact that we are up against a big proposition, the end of which no man can see. The cost of the census will be very large.

Senator Senior - Approximately, how much ?

Senator GARDINER - Approximately, £150,000. But that statement, like the Bill itself, has been arrived at hurriedly and without time for actual computation, and there may be a difference on one side of the estimate or the other. I refer to the estimate because we know the magnitude of the work to be taken in hand, the object of which is to secure for the nation information that will be available promptly and effectively, and which will be at, the disposal of the Government or the Committees that may be working in unison with the Government, in order that we may systematize the machinery necessary for the efficient conduct of the war. The chief importance of the measure itself is in the questions which we are asking people to answer, and I - with those conservative instincts of my nature which are always strong in times of peace, when perhaps I would have something strong to say about an inquisitorial measure of this kind - say here, that as these are times of war through which we are passing, we all ought to revise our views concerning legislation which may be necessary. I want to say that, when Senator Stewart was opposing the suspension of the Standing Orders, if he had turned up Hansard he would have found instances where I joined issue with him concerning departures from the regular methods of debate in this chamber.

Senator Millen - You did not sit over there then.

Senator GARDINER - It is not the position that I occupy that has caused me to change my opinion, but it is the condition of things under which we are working. Even now I do not like departing from the view which I held so tenaciously and for so long, that the less you interfere with the individual the better for the individual and the country generally. The schedules to the Bill contain a list of questions which I have no doubt many people will seriously object to answer, but I appeal to those people that this is not a time for any trivial objections. We are up against a big proposition, and it is desirable that we should get as quickly as possible all the information we are asking for.

Senator Bakhap - The questions ought to be amplified in some respects.

Senator GARDINER - I may say that, in dealing with them, we could have amplified them in such a way that we could never have got the questions answered as they ought to be. The AttorneyGeneral made the statement that any further questions with regard to the wealth census would be submitted, before the Government gazetted' them, to the Committee of both Houses.

Senator Mullan - It is a guarantee that practically ignores Parliament.

Senator GARDINER - I do not want the honorable senator to misunderstand me. It does not. The Government are not going to get this Bill through, and then use any power to ask unreasonable questions.

Senator Mullan - Why was this special assurance given with regard to the wealth schedule only, and not the other ?

Senator GARDINER - Because no exception was taken to the other; but, personally, if the honorable senator asked me, as Minister in charge of the Bill, if I would give an assurance with regard to the other, I would willingly give it. There is little to which anybody can take exception. In the absence of Parliament sitting, the guarantee given by the AttorneyGeneral is an assurance that nothing is intended in that direction. I would like to quote clause 6 of the Bill for the information of honorable senators -

Every person who is included among the persons or classes of persons specified in any proclamation under this Act shall -

(a)   obtain, or cause to be obtained, a copy of any form which he is required to fill up;

(b)   fill up and supply in a form, in accordance with the instructions contained in or accompanying it, all the particulars specified therein;

(c)   sign his name to the form; and

(d)   within the time specified in the pro clamation in which he is included, transmit the form to the Statistician in accordance with the instructions contained in or accompanying the form.

I have read the clause because it is important for the people to know that they are responsible, under this measure, for obtaining the forms and filling them in. I have said, and I say again with a view of giving a little publicity to it, that at the present time there is a splendid opportunity for members of the public anxious to do useful work to render valuable service to this country by assisting people to fill in these forms. I venture to say that districts can be organized, and that honorable senators may with advantage exert their influence in organizing them. If the people in different localities will use their educational abilities in the direction of insuring the filling in of these forms quickly, such voluntary aid will be of very great assistance to the Government at the present time.

Senator O'Keefe - I take it that the forms will be carried free of postage?

Senator GARDINER - Yes. The whole resources of the Postal and Defence Departments will be used in effectively carrying out this work.

Senator Grant - Then I hope that the Government will impose a special tax to cover the cost of the undertaking.

Senator GARDINER - I recognise the desire of some honorable senators to impose taxation. When I was quite a youth I used to be assured that there were two things which Heiland men hated - tolls and taxes. Yet in this Chamber I am up against two Scotch senators who are always anxious to tax people.

Senator de Largie - But they only desire to tax the " other fellow."

Senator GARDINER - That may beThere is no honorable senator who is notaware that owing to the pace at which we are spending money to meet the present great emergency, taxation is inevitable. Everybody will be thoroughlysatisfied with the nature of the taxation that the Government feel themselvescompelled to propose to meet theexigencies created by the present war. Our expenditure has been enormous, and if the war continues that expenditure will be an increasing one. The need for meeting it will be in exact proportion tothe part that we take in the momentousstruggle. If by an unusual expenditure of arms and men during the next few months we can bring the conflict to an early termination, obviously we ought not to pause in our efforts. The quicker the war is ended the better will it be for all concerned.

Senator Barker - And the cheaper.

Senator GARDINER - Yes. This Bill, in itself, does not foreshadow any fresh taxation. It is necessary in order that we may know what wealth exists in. the country when we come to consider measures of taxation in the future.

Senator Mullan - The Governmentwill not be able to base anything upon the information acquired under this Bill for about twelve months.

Senator GARDINER - I am quitesure that the honorable senator whomade that interjection has not the slightest idea of the capacity for work of the gentleman who will be called upon to administer this measure - the AttorneyGeneral. I venture to say that nosooner will the Bill be the law of the land than machinery will be at work printing the forms to be issued to thepeople, and that within a fortnight thereturns will be coming in, and will be in course of classification. I do not hesitate to say that within ten weeks of the passing of the Bill, the Government will be in possession of information which will be really valuable to them in the conduct of the war. If the honorable senator thinks that the measure is going to wait on our present overworked Public Service he is labouring under a delusion. The Attorney-General is already making preparations for the employment of a huge body of clerks to carry on this work immediately the Bill becomes law.I have endeavoured to put before honorable senators the provisions of the measure, and' to emphasize its urgency. The most important portions of it are its schedules. I quite recognise that some honorable senators may think that the questions which it is proposed to put to the people go too far, whilst others may be of opinion that they do not go far enough. Personally, I think that they strike the happy medium.

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