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Wednesday, 21 July 1915

Senator O'KEEFE (Tasmania) . - Senator Millen was anxious to find out the reasons for taking this census, if the Government had no intention to bring about conscription within a' reasonably short period.

Senator Millen - I did not say that the Bill was introduced with the intention of bringing in conscription, but I said that it would provide the machinery which would be necessary, if, later on, the Government were compelled to adopt that course.

Senator O'KEEFE - Senator Millenhas misunderstood me. I think I am quoting him fairly when I say that he asked what would be the use of this- Bill if the Government did not intend to go in for 'conscription. I agree with much that the honorable senator said, but I think thata very useful purpose may be served by the Bill in ascertaining the exact industrial resources of the Commonwealth", and the number of men engaged in every industry. It is within the region of possibility that conscription mav yet have to be resorted to. Most of us hope that the time is far distant, and we must all be pleased with the magnificent response which has been made in Victoria to the call for the voluntary service of the ablebodied men in the State. I have no doubt that a similar appeal in the other States will meet with a like response. But if it is found that we must go beyond the voluntary principle, this Bill will serve a very useful purpose. If we are to take our share of the burdens now falling upon every portion of the Empire we shall require a number of skilled men for the making of munitions of war, and possibly of arms. We are now making small arms, and I hope the day is not far distant when we shall extend that sphere of our activities. We should not be misled by a. feeling that when the present war is at an end there will be no danger of Austrafia becoming involved in war in the future. In view of what will almost certainly be the circumstances in which we shall have to live in Australia for many years to come, we must enter largely upon the manufacture of munitions of war, and it is necessary thai we should know the number of men in Australia whose training fits them for such work. It is very difficult for us to say to-day that there are so many men in Australia who at a. moment's notice could be put into a factory to turn out ammunition or arms. This Bill will serve a . useful purpose in supplying us with that information. Though Senator Millen appeared to object to the use of the word "organize " by the Vice-President of the Executive Council, I think it was correctly used. Some such measure as this must precede any attempt made by Australia in the near or the remote future to get into line with the older nations of the world in the preparations made for defence. We have had our eyes suddenly opened by the war to the fact that Australia has passed her time of peace, and must in future take her place with other nations in preparing for selfdefence. The importance of the difficulties which may have to be faced in the settlement of questions arising out of the war should be brought home to us by the struggle in which we are now engaged. Our easy times in the Commonwealth have gone by, and we must be prepared to resist aggression. It is necessary as a starting point that we should know the number of mechanics we have in Australia who may be called upon in time of need to do a particular kind of work.

Senator Ready - -This Bill may be described as a measure for national stocktaking.

Senator O'KEEFE - That is a very good term to apply to the Bill. I hope that the time is not far distant when, for the manufacture of our own munitions and arms, we shall use a large quantity of material we now export to other countries', and thus provide increased employment for Australians. These are questions which Australian legislators must face from this time forward. If the Bill contained only two or three clauses, and the second schedule enabling us to ascertain the wealth of the people of Australia, it would serve a very useful purpose. We are faced with the very unpalatable fact that in the future we cannot hope to have the easy taxation we have found sufficient hitherto. We must in the next few years face a heavy burden of taxation.

The PRESIDENT - Order !

Senator O'KEEFE - I do not wish to discuss the kind of taxation that is necessary, but as the second schedule will discover the sources of wealth which may be taxed, I thought I was entitled to make a passing reference to the taxation of the future. The object of the census of the wealth of Australia is to enable the Government, if, and when, it becomes necessary to impose additional taxation for the purposes of the war, to know where they may go for the money they require. According to the latest estimates, we shall have to meet within the next year an expenditure, for war purposes, of from £45,000,000 to £50,000,000. This will amount to £9 or £10 per head of the population. A month before the war broke out, it would have staggered us to contemplate such a thing.

Senator de Largie - No one imagines that all that money should be provided in one year.

Senator O'KEEFE - As we have a population of only 4,750,000, it is clear that, to meet a war expenditure of £50,000,000 in one year, we must raise over £8 for every man, woman, and child in the country.

Senator Senior - We shall have to raise the interest on that amount. We cannot expect to raise the capital sum in one year.

Senator O'KEEFE - This Parliament has never done anything more useful than the Government propose to do by this Bill in finding out exactly what is the wealth of Australia, and who owns it. With the information which may thus be obtained, the Government will be in a position to decide how they can best raise the money required for war purposes, and I say that it isunthinkable that it should be raised by a poll-tax. A number of those who are opposed, on general principles, to the Bill are asking why it should be necessary tohave this information with regard to the wealth of Australia. Many letters have been written to the newspapers question ing the necessity for the questions inr eluded in the second schedule; but I say that, before the present or any other Government attempt to impose the heavyburden of taxation which must be imposed in Australia in the near future, it is necessary that they should obtain thisinformation. The taxation must be imposed upon those best able to bear it, and" who they are cannot be discovered untilwe know where the wealth of Australia is, and who owns it.

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