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Wednesday, 26 October 1910

Senator MILLEN (New South Wales) . - If honorable senators will refer to the definition of " absentee " they will see that it excludes from the obligation to prove residence -

a.   public officer of the Commonwealth or of a State who is absent in the performance of his duty.

I wish to remove from that obligation Australians who may be abroad serving their country, or the Empire, in another capacity than that of a public servant of the Commonwealth or of a State. I move -

That after the word " include," line 20, the words 11 an officer of the Crown or " be inserted.

Take the case of Australians who have to be in the Imperial Navy for a considerable time. Why should they have thrown upon them this liability to become absentees? I want to relieve an Australian who may be performing a public duty in the service of the Empire or of the Indian Government just as much as he would be relieved if he were a servant of the Commonwealth or of a State. It happens that a member of the Senate is an Imperial officer, whose services might be required in India at any time. Is it reasonable that he should have either to accept the responsibility of being an absentee, and paying the higher rate of taxation, and having withdrawn from him the exemption, or to accept the annual obligation of proving that he is a resident of Australia temporarily absent? Every argument which justifies the relief of an officer of the Commonwealth or 'of a State from the obligation can also, in my judgment, be urged in support of my amendment.

Senator Rae - Might not the insertion of these words except a non-resident who owned property in Australia?

Senator MILLEN - No, because this part of the definition of absentee merely says that it shall not apply in certain cases. I do not suggest that the wording of my amendment is perfect, but if the Minister approves of it, it will not be very difficult for him to find a better form of words. It is extremely hard, and against public policy, that we should not give the advantage of this relief to an Australian who may be called upon to serve the Crown in India, or to go on a diplomatic service, and who is as much a servant of the Crown as if he were employed by the Government of the Commonwealth or of a State.

Senator Pearce - Does the honorable senator say that this exemption does not cover the case of an Imperial officer in our employ ?

Senator MILLEN - Yes.

Senator Pearce - Senator Cameron holds a military commission from the Commonwealth.

Senator MILLEN - He is also an Imperial officer.

Senator Pearce - That does not matter.

Senator MILLEN - If it be a fact that Senator Lt.-Colonel Cameron is a public officer of the Commonwealth, that would not meet the case I have put. He would not be abroad in the discharge of his duty to the Commonwealth within the meaning of this exemption. Clearly, it relates to the performance by a man of duty to the Commonwealth or the State of which he is a public officer. I have in my mind the case of a man who may be abroad in the capacity of a servant of the British Government.

Senator Pearce - Then he would not be an absentee.

Senator MILLEN - Under this definition, he would have to prove that he was not an absentee. The only exemption provided 111 this paragraph is as to public officers of the Commonwealth or of a State who are absent in the performance of their duties. I maintain that an Australian who is serving the British Government abroad, in any of the capacities which I have indicated, ought to be afforded relief just as much as ought any of our own officers.

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