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Wednesday, 26 October 1910

Senator ST LEDGER (Queensland) - - The suggestion of Senator Rae that millionaires may escape the tax by visiting Australia occasionally in aeroplanes, is blown to pieces by the first definition of the word " absentee." I would further point out that the word " reside," which appear in the clause, has a very definite meaning at law. There is scarcely a Court which would define that word in the way that my honorable friends opposite suggest. Under the Commonwealth Franchise Act we confer a privilege or a right upon citizens for their continuous presence in Australia during a specified period.

Senator Givens - And the honorable senator wishes to offer a premium to them for their continuous absence.

Senator ST LEDGER - Under the Commonwealth Franchise Act, we provide that residence in Australia must be continuous for six months. Now that we wish to impose a penalty upon persons who are absent from the Commonwealth, I claim that we ought to follow the precedent which we have already established. Let us make the analogy complete by providing in this Bill that absentees must be continuously absent from Australia for a specified period. If we fail to do that this clause will undoubtedly drag into it persons who ought not to be covered by it. So far no valid reason has been advanced by honorable senators opposite as to why the word " continuously " should not be inserted. What injury would result from the adoption of the amendment? The danger is that under the clause, in its present form, persons whose absence may aggregate more than six months in a year may be penalized. It is within the knowledge of every layman that it has been found impossible to convince learned Judges of the common-sense interpretation which should be placed upon words. Cases have had to be taken to the Appeal Courts, and even to the Privy Council, in order to convince them. All this trouble will be avoided if the Vice-President of the Executive Council will abandon his attitude that we must not amend the Bill, even to the extent of crossing a "t" or dotting an " i."

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