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Wednesday, 21 July 1915


Senator STEWART (Queensland) . - I think it is very desirable that at the present juncture the Government should be in possession of the information which it is intended to gather under the provisions of this Bill. My objection to the measure is that nearly all the information that is necessary is already available to the Government, without incurring the expense of what may be termed a census of our population and of our wealth. The Vice-President of the Executive Council has said that this census will cost about £150,000. Now the question which honorable senators should ask themselves is, " Would it not be wiser to spend that money upon practical defence rather than in an effort to obtain information which can be secured for a comparatively small sum of money?" With regard to our effective population, from a defence stand-point, I would point out that only this afternoon a return was presented to the Senate in which the numbers for each State are clearly set out. Our last census in Australia was collected in 1911 - only about four years ago. There cannot 'be a very great difference between the position which was then revealed and the present position, and consequently there is no need for the Government to spend this large sum of money in seeking information which is already at their disposal. With regard to wealth, I think it is necessary that the Ministry should have some clear idea of the extent of our national resources - resources upon which it may be necessary for the Government, in certain eventualities, to levy. But again I say that that information is already at their disposal.

In every State an income tax is in operation. In nearly all of the States there is an exemption of £200, but above that exemption there is a complete record of the income earned in every State. That record can be secured by the Government.


Senator Turley - It will not give us any idea of the wealth of the country.


Senator Russell - There are no State income tax returns which indicate more than one-third of the income of the people of Australia.


Senator Millen - That is because twothirds of that income is in the hands of people whose incomes fall below the exemption.


Senator NEWLANDS (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - The honorable senator wishes the Government to beg of the States' Governments for information which they ought to get for themselves.


Senator STEWART - Some honorable senators seem to think that £150,000 is a mere bagatelle, but let me tell them that before we are 'out of the wood we shall think a great deal more of £150,000 than we do now. My objection to the Bill is that all this information can be obtained for comparatively a small amount of money. The Assistant Minister has interjected that we cannot get at more than one-third of the incomes of the people of the Commonwealth. But in every State - as I have already pointed out - there is a record of the incomes above a certain exemption. That record is available to the Government. Senator. Newland interjected just now to the effect that the Commonwealth Government are being asked to beg of .the States for information. There is nothing whatever in that contention. The Commonwealth Government have a perfect right to ask the States for all the information that is in their possession.


Senator Russell - The Statistician sets out the total amount of incomes in excess of £200 in Australia at £62,000,000, but estimates the total incomes of the people at £295,000,000.


Senator STEWART - The difference, I take it, represents incomes which are below the exemption. I do hope that there is no intention on the part of the Government to tax persons whose incomes are on a par with what I may call a living wage. If there is any such proposal put forward I shall feel compelled to oppose it. No man who is only earning a living wage ought to be called upon - except in the last extremity - to contribute even to a war tax. There is in Australia a vast amount of property which can be levied upon and which ought to be levied upon. Until that is exhausted I will not consent to taxation being placed on the backs of cbe working people of this country.


The PRESIDENT - I would remind the honorable senator that there is nothing in this Bill relating to taxation.


Senator STEWART - The object of the measure is to ascertain the resources of the. people of this country. For what reason ? In order that the Government may know whom to tax and in what amounts. That appears to me to be the object of the Bill, and, consequently, I think my remarks, as to probable taxation are quite permissible.


The PRESIDENT - Order ! The honorable senator must not dispute my ruling, except in a proper way. Senator de Largie insisted that the real object of the Bill is conscription. Senator Stewart says that its real object is to ascertain what taxation may be levied. Now, our Standing Orders take no cognisance of the object of the Bill but only of its provisions. It is laid down in our Standing Orders thatdiscussion upon a Bill must be relevant to its provisions. There is no referenceto taxation in this measure, and, consequently, I cannot permit a debate on "that subject, although a passing reference to it is allowable.


Senator STEWART - Unfortunately our Standing Orders appear to render it impossible for one to intelligently discuss any measure coming before the Senate. I have already pointed out that, so far as income is concerned, the Government can put their finger on all the information that they require for the purposes of this Bill. Now, with regard to land. The second schedule to the measure provides for the acquisition of information relating to the capital value of land, together with the value of all improvements, including houses and buildings thereon. That information also is at the disposal of the Government, in every State. Every year people are called upon to make returns, not only of the land they own, but of the buildings thereon, of the live stock they possess, and of a number of other things which are referred to in the second schedule. To my mind, therefore, this expenditure is entirely unnecessary. It is proposed to spend £150,000 in securing information which is already in the possession of the various State Governments. Senator de Largie indicated that he was strongly in favour of conscription. I may indicate just as clearly that I arn not in favour of compelling any Australian citizen to leave Australia for purposes of defence, and have no intention of consenting to anything of the kind unless much stronger reasons than have ever been advanced here are given for doing it.


Senator de Largie - Are you in favour of recalling the Australian Navy to Australian waters?


Senator STEWART - I' am not going to say what I am, or am not, in favour _ of doing, but, if permitted by the Standing Orders to do so, I could give reasons that probably would not appeal to some honorable senators here,' but that would find a hearty response throughout the Commonwealth, for confining our defensive operations to this continent. I oppose the Bill, because it is unnecessary, and means wasting money which might well be directed to other purposes. The Government estimate that this census will cost about £150,000. Probably before the information is obtained and tabulated in such a form as to be of any use to the Government the cost will be double that amount. It will certainly cost a great deal more' than an ordinary census. The expenditure is unnecessary, the information can be obtained, at any rate, approximately, from the States, and the money might well be employed more profitably in another direction.







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