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Wednesday, 21 July 1915

Senator LYNCH (Western Australia) . - In supporting this measure, I' want to say that up to this stage I havenoticed only two forms of objections, and-' one is that we are seeking information of a kind that is already in the hands of the several State Governments. I do not know whether it is so or not, but we cannot get m that information at the present moment without paying for it.

Senator O'Keefe - We want it in a concrete form.

Senator LYNCH - If we depend on the State Governments to do this work 'for us, we shall simply be deceiving ourselves, because in the end that information will not satisfy our requirements. Therefore, the best course to pursue is to do the work ourselves, so that if any blame is attach- able to anybody, it will rest upon our shoulders, and not upon those of the State Governments. There is also another aspect to be taken into consideration, lightly or wrongly, some of the State Governments hold the view that the Commonwealth wants to get a lot of work done cheaply. I know- from personal observation that that is the opinion held by a certain number of people whose interests, it is true, lie chiefly with the State Governments, and therefore if the Commonwealth wishes to rid itself of that form of complaint, it can make a start now by passing this Bill, and doing, in its entirety, the work that we require done. I do not know that we need take any notice of the objection urged in other quarters concerning the inquisitorial nature of the Bill. That is a very ancient form of objection to any legislation of this nature, and is usually held (by men who are the first to be hit by any proposed legislation. If men come honestly by wealth or any earthly substance, they should have no objection to make a return disclosing the amount of it, and how they came by it. No good purpose can be served by me in addressing myself to this form of objection, because it has been urged so often by interested parties that it no longer serves duty as a valid reason against passing legislation of this kind. I hold that the intention of the Government to engage in a national stock-taking, so to speak, is necessary, and that it will also prove convenient in this terrible time as well as in times of peace. In ordinary times this Parliament is engaged in forms of legislation about 90 per cent, of which has mostly to do with the every-day life of its citizens. To a large extent we legislate in the dark, and we -will continue to do- so until we are in a position to know what is the condition of the people financially and economically. Until we know what is the condition of the people in whose interests we are making laws, what earthly chance shall we have of passing well-balanced legislation that will bring even-balanced justice to the people ? Therefore, any objection to this proposal on that score is urged perhaps in order that some people may be allowed to hide something which they may be ashamed to make public. There is however, one shortcoming in the Bill that appeals to me. I believe it is going too far in asking for returns as to the resources of this country in a charitable, educational, or religious sense. The schedule, as it appears at present, compels every citizen over eighteen years to furnish a return of all kinds of material property in his personal charge, or of which he stands in trust. Let us consider the position with regard to educational establishments of a private nature, that are run by certain religious organizations of the country, such as the Roman Catholic Church, and the various branches of the Protestant denomination.

Senator O'Keefe - The Salvation Army, also.

Senator LYNCH - Yes. A great many of these educational establishments are directly under the control of, or are managed in conjunction with, various religious denominations, and this schedule will compel the people nominally in control to furnish all particulars concerning such establishments. The particulars so obtained, I submit, will not contribute one whit to the information that we really desire to obtain, and, therefore, it is needless to ask for a return concerning those institutions.

Senator Keating - It is difficult for some to make a return at all.

Senator LYNCH - That is quite true, and I might quote St. Paul's Cathedral as an instance. Under the terms of the Bill, that property will have to be accounted for. I believe that during the last boom the ground on which St. Paul's Cathedral stands could have commanded over £1,000,000; but it. is bard to assess correctly the value of that building and the land upon which it stands at the present time. The same could be said of St. Patrick's Cathedral. The same objection will apply to charitable institutions. A return concerning those institutions could serve no purpose at all. Reverting again to the educational institutions, I understand it is not proposed to call upon the several State Governments to furnish returns of their schools, but it will be incumbent and obligatory upon those who manage private establishments to supply returns. It would appear, therefore, according to the terms of the schedule as drafted, that an invidious distinction will be made between State Governments and those in charge of private institutions. That is a distinction which cannot be_ sustained fo>a moment, and by the time the Bill leaves this Chamber I hope it will be removed. I support the Bill, not only as a measure that is absolutely necessary at the present juncture, when we are almost at our wits' end to know what to do in order to put up the best effort on the part of the Commonwealth, but in order to assist our Allies in this war. We must make the inquiry, which is the first and essential step, before further action can be taken. Inquiry always precedes action, and in setting about this national stocktaking we are doing what ought to be done, and what should have been done in times of peace. Still, now that it is to be done in war time, I welcome it, and I support the Bill, but intimate that at a later stage I shall move an amendment which will have the effect of excluding educational, religious, and charitable institutions which are not run for a profit.

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