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Thursday, 5 August 1926

Senator THOMAS (NEW SOUTH WALES) . - I agree with much that was said by Senator Barwell yesterday, and especially his references to taxation. I had not the opportunity to listen to Senator Duncan, but I gathered from what Senator Chapman said in reply to him that he criticized rather severely the Treasurer (Dr. Earle Page), and referred at length to statements made by that honorable gentleman as Leader of the Country party, before he took office. I am not one of those who expect the Treasurer to apologize for or withdraw anything that he said prior to his joining the Ministry. His objection then, if I remember rightly, was to the amount of the budget, and the tendency of the Government to increase taxation. I take exactly the same stand to-day. To me it seems strange that a private member should say anything that he is not prepared to say when he becomes a Minister, at all events on fundamental principles. The budget anticipates a revenue of over £50,000,000. It behoves us to see if something cannot be done to reduce taxation, which undoubtedly, as Senator Barwell has said, is a burden upon industry. The Treasurer, as we all know, was a severe critic of the late Government during his leadership of the Country party, and he gave the people to understand that things would be different when he attained to power. His attitude reminds me of that incident in biblical history where the people appealed to the son of a king, who had just died, to relieve them of some of their burden which his father had put upon them. Disregarding the good advice of the old men who - spake unto him saying: If thou wilt be a servant unto this people this day and wilt serve them and answer them, and speak good words to them, then they will be thy servants for ever, he followed that given by his young men, and said to the people -

My little finger shall be thicker than my father's loins.

And now, whereas my father did lade you with a heavy yoke, I will add to your yoke: ray father hath chastised you with whips, but I will chastise you with scorpions.

The result was that trouble followed. Had the Treasurer reduced taxation each year, he would have been esteemed more highly as time went on. I admit that it is easy for any one who is not in office to find fault with budgets, and to say that governments are extravagant. But when a man takes office, he often finds that much to which he has previously taken exception is unavoidable. I have noticed in the press lately that it is the intention of the Government to appoint another commission. I congratulate the Leader of the Senate (Senator Pearce) upon his versatility. Senator Barwell, recently, in support of his arguments against compulsory arbitration, instanced the United States of America as a country where wages are better than they are in Australia, although in that country there is no compulsory arbitration. In reply, the Minister pointed to the United States of America as a country where sweating conditions existed, and children were compelled to work at ages at which they would not be permitted to work in Australia. Now the Government wants to appoint a commission to inquire into industrial conditions in the United States, of America, and so the Ministry supports his contention in a subsequent speech delivered in Sydney, that wages are higher and production more in America than elsewhere. The Ministry seems to have an obsession for the appointment of commissions. Apparently it does not think that it is possible to appoint further commissions in Australia at present, there being sufficient already in existence to cover every field into which inquiry could be made. For that reason, a commission is to be sent abroad. Should the present Government remain in office for a considerable time, which I hope will be the case, the position will be reached when, like Alexander of old, who wept because there were no more worlds to conquer, they will groan because they will be unable to find a reason for the appointment of further commissions. I am opposed to sending a commission to the United States of America, because I cannot see that any good will come from it. It is true that wages in that country are higher, and production greater than in Australia, but is it necessary to send a commission there to ascertain the reasons, which are obvious?

Senator Ogden - What are the reasons ?

Senator THOMAS (NEW SOUTH WALES) - In the United States of America there are 110,000,000 people with- no Customs barriers between them, as compared with Australia's population of about 6,000,000. The home market in the United States of America is much greater than it is in Australia. There is perfect freedom of trade within the borders of that country. Moreover, in the United States of America there is only one railway gauge, whereas in Australia there are five or six gauges. It is as bad to have different railway gauges between the States as it is to have Customs barriers between them.

Senator Thompson - At one time there was a number of railway gauges in the United States of America.

Senator THOMAS (NEW SOUTH WALES) - I am speaking of conditions there to-day. Another factor of importance is that the workers in the United States of America are prepared to accept piece-work ; and we know that the results from the system are better for the moment than from the day-work system. What the effect of piece-work on the individual will be after a number of years is, perhaps, difficult to say.

Debate interrupted under sessional order.

Sitting suspended from 6.30 to 8 p.m.

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