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Wednesday, 21 July 1915

Senator KEATING (Tasmania) . - Like other honorable senators who have already spoken in support of this measure, I agree that this national stocktaking is not being taken at all too early in our history. Certainly the events of the last twelve months, arising from the war, have forced the attention of Ministers to the necessity of adopting some such course as this. I believe that the principle underlying the measure is in every respect right. I think, however, there are some details in the provisions of the Bill and the schedules which may require consideration from the Senate. The Minister, at the outset, stated that he desired, if possible, that the measure should pass through at this sitting; but he intimated that if any honorable senator thought it was necessary that further time should be given to its consideration, the Government would offer no objection. I hope that some suggestions which may be made during the course of this debate or in Committee, will receive sympathetic consideration, and perhaps we can advance so far with the Bill that we may pass it through all its stages, except the third reading; then if such suggestions as I have mentioned commend themselves to the Minister, opportunity might be given for the recommittal of the measure. That would not be interfering with the passage of the Bill to any great extent. However, we shall see as the debate proceeds whether it will be necessary to take any such course, or whether suggestions which might commend themselves to the Minister may be incorporated in the Bill before it reaches the third reading stage. I have noticed that the Minister elsewhere invited the fullest and freest discussion of this proposal. In fact, the Minister who introduced the measure asked for the loyal assistance and co-operation of all members on both sides, and he said he would appreciate any such effort, and consider carefully all suggestions.

It has been said that a great deal of the information sought to be obtained by means of this Bill is already available to the Government. With that I agree to a certain extent. Some of the information is available in the returns furnished under various State enactments to various State Departments.

Senator Turley - Some of it.

Senator KEATING - Yes. But if we obtain that information from the States Departments, even then for our own purposes a great deal of work will be necessary in allocating that information into its proper quarter. There will be a great- deal of what I may call cross-headings, cross catalogueing, and cross-indexing in handling particulars so received from the State Governments. We desire to get certain information in a certain specified form. We might get that information,, or a great , deal of it, from the State Governments, but then would begin an arduous task of collocating it, and assigning it into its proper divisions. Senator Millen has pointed to two matters in particular in which he thought an improvement might be effected. He has suggested that, apart from the Bill, information should be acquired in respect of the number of motor vehicles in the country, and also the number of live stock. How far that information, when we obtain it, will be immediately useful for the purposes of the measure I am not in a position to say. I am of opinion that a considerable amount of labour will be involved in sorting such, information and in classifying it.

We all realize the difficulties with which the Commonwealth, in common with other parts of the Empire, is faced to-day. We recognise that there is a stupendous work ahead of us if we are to achieve the purpose which we have in view, namely, the speedy and successful termination of the war. Willing as it has shown itself to be, Australia is now asked by the Government, metaphorically, to take off its coat, to take stock of its population and wealth, and to prepare itself for any emergency. I am not one of those who say that this stocktaking necessarily implies other specific action. It has been suggested that the taking of a census is the precursor to something in the nature of compulsory service or of conscription. But when a man takes off his coat it does not necessarily follow that he is going to fight. It merely indicates that he is desirous of preparing himself for emergencies. The Vice-President of the Executive Council has expressly disavowed, so far as this Bill is concerned, any intention on the part of the Government to introduce anything in the nature of conscription, and I am content to accept his assurance.

Reference has been made to the fact that for some time Australian troops have been fighting at the Dardanelles, and the question has arisen as to whether or not they are fighting in Australia or for Australia. Geographically, of course, they are not fighting in Australia, but as a matter of fact they are fighting for Australia and for the Empire. Indeed, I venture to say that the destinies of Australia, more directly than those of any other country, are being determined at the Dardanelles. Let us reflect for a moment upon what would happen if we were not forcing the position there as we are doing. We know that quite recently Germany succeeded in allying herself with Turkey.. Prior to that she was, to some extent, bottled up in the southeastern portion of Europe. If she could establish herself at a base in the vicinity of the Dardanelles she would occupy a most threatening position so far as Egypt is concerned, and a commanding position so far as the Suez Canal is concerned. In such a contingency Germany would be able to dominate the civic intercourse between this part of the Empire and the

Home Land. Our soldiers, therefore, are fighting in Gallipoli for Australia. If Germany secured anything like a proper base at the Dardanelles she would be very much nearer to Australia than she would be by any route via the North Sea - assuming that the North Sea were open to her. She would also be nearer to South Africa. That is, doubtless, one of the. reasons why the Australian troops in Egypt were sent to the Dardanelles. I repeat that at this point more than anywhere else the destinies of the Commonwealth are being determined.

If we can prepare ourselves now for any emergency that may arise we shall be taking the proper course. I believe that a separate census will insure to us a more speedy return of the data we require than will a resort to the information that is already in the offices of the different State Governments.

A few moments ago I said that some details of this measure required modification at our hands. Senator Lynch referred to the fact that, under the Bill, returns will have to be furnished in regard to certain properties; such as church properties, school properties, the properties of charitable bodies, or of organizations no't formed for profit, &c. Not only would returns relating to these properties have no value from the standpoint of enabling us to determine the available assets at our disposal for the prosecution of the war, but in many instances it would be impossible to furnish accurate returns.

Senator Grant - Would those properties include trades halls ?

Senator KEATING - I am not specifying particular cases. I am merely suggesting the advisableness of modifying the particular clause of the Bill which deals with the issue of a proclamation by excluding from the scope of that proclamation all the lands which are exempted from taxation under Commonwealth legislation. Section 13 of the Land Tax Assessment Act 1911 sets out a number of lands which are exempted from taxation, and section 14 of that Act cuts down the limitation, and provides that where such lands are being enjoyed for the particular purposes described, and there is an outside owner of them, that owner shall not escape taxation. I mention this matter so that the Minister may take into consideration the prac- ticability of inserting in the section relating to the issue of the proclamation some provision of the character I have suggested. The lands in question include lands owned by the State, by a municipality or public authority, Savings Bank lands, friendly societies' lands, building societies' lands in which the building, society has not become the owner by foreclosure of mortgage, lands of trusts, charitable, and educational institutions, or of religious societies, or belonging to places of worship, &c.

Senator Grant - 'Any widows' lands?

Senator KEATING - I do not know. A modification of the provision of the Bill in the direction I have indicated would be a recognition of the policy to which we have already given effect in the Land Tax Assessment Act. At the same time, we would not be exempting persons from any obligation the discharge of which would be of value to the Commonwealth. Returns relating to these lands would not be of much value in enabling us to determine our Avar assets. At the same time, it would be extremely difficult in some cases to get anything like an accurate return, such as is required by law. The schedules to this Bill have already been criticised. I feel that the first schedule is defective, and I have no hesitation in suggesting modifications in the nature of additions. In that schedule every person is asked the nature of his employment. The next question is, "What other occupation, if any, could you undertake?" Then there is another which reads - "What military training, if any, have you had?" I should like to see some more specific questions inserted. One of the objects of the measure, I take it, is to ascertain -our war capabilities. I would like every person to be required to fill in an answer to some such questions as these - "Are you a machinist?" " Have you any knowledge of the working of motor engines?" and "Have you had any experience of the handling or manufacture of high explosives?" In the form in which the schedule stands at present, many a man who may possess knowledge in the direction I have outlined may not be prompted to notify the fact.

Senator Pearce - Is not that possibility covered by the question, "What other occupation, if any, could you undertake " ?

Senator KEATING - I am inclined to think that that question is too general. In many cases it will fail to elicit the fact that men are machinists, or that they have a knowledge of motor engines or of high explosives. I would suggest that the question should be made a little more searching than it is.

Senator Millen - A little more direct.

Senator KEATING - Yes. I have bad some experience of getting personsto fill up returns that are required of them by law, and it is astonishing, no matter how simple the returns may be, how otherwise 'intelligent persons fail tosupply the information sought. I believe that there are a good many young men in the community who have a knowledge of motor engines, and who might easily pass by the question referred to by Senator Pearce without giving the desired information. Similarly there may be some who have a knowledge of high explosives, but who would fail to realize the fact that the possession of such knowledge is an extremely valuable asset in the prosecution of .the war. If we are to assess the war capabilities of the nation, we require to put a few more direct and pertinent questions to the people than are set out in the first schedule. The Minister will know, from what I have said, that any criticism of the Bill which I have to offer will not be hostile either in regard' to its principle or its details. Except that I would like more direct information to be supplied in regard to personal matters, and that I desire to see ecclesiastical and charitable institutions exempted from its operation, I heartily support the measure. I come now to the making of income returns for the twelve months ended! 30th June, 1915.

Senator Gardiner - I intend to propose an amendment to alter the date in question 7 of the second schedule from 30th June, 1915, to 31st December, 1914, as in question 6.

Senator KEATING - The income tas returns in several of the States are made up to 31st December of each year, aud it will simplify matters, while also giving the Government a check on the returns, to keep to that date. I wish the measurea speedy passage, believing that, after it is passed, its objects will have just ,as speedy a fulfilment as the Minister has indicated.

Senator Lt.-Colonel Sir ALBERTGOULD (New South Wales) [6.7].- I was anxious that the Minister, when introducing the Bill, should give reasons for its introduction, and state what the Government proposed to do under it, but the Minister appeared to avoid the question by carefully explaining what the Bill did not mean, and what the Government did not intend to try to get out of it. He seemed particularly anxious to point out that the idea of conscription did not underlie it. The question was raised in another place, and, apparently, he thought he had better anticipate the possibility of it being raised here. Perhaps he thought it might give the measure a little better chance of being acceptable to honorable senators than if he left in their minds a suspicion that it sought certain information as the foundation of a subsequent demand for national conscription. It is curious that the first schedule applies only to men within the fighting ages - eighteen to sixty. No one under eighteen or over sixty is called on to make a return. That seems an indication that it is intended to use the information for the ultimate purpose of conscription. If that is not the present intention of the Government, the information will still be available later on for this or another Government to use for that purpose. Several other questions indicate the same tendency. A man is asked to state whether he is single, married, or widowed, and the number and relation of his dependent relatives, if any. Of what use is that information to the Government or the public at this time unless it . is to show what the man would be suitable for? If it ever became necessary to call out the nation, the single men would be called out first, because they have not the same ties and obligations as married men. The whole schedule, on the face of it, appears very much like a foundation for something of the kind. A man has to state his present occupation - information which will probably be very useful if service other than actual fighting is required, because certain men would, perhaps, do much better work here than at the front. He is asked to state what other occupation, if any, he can undertake, what military training, if any, he has had, and the number, and description of firearms and quantity of ammunition he possesses. Of what value is it, from an ordinary business standpoint, to know whether a man has had military training or not, or if he possesses a revolver and a few cartridges, unless there is some unspecified object of another kind behind? The question about military training must give the idea that a man who has had it will be more valuable than if he has not. The schedule bristles throughout with invitations to regard it as very valuable if such an emergency as national conscription should arise. Otherwise, the information sought could be, to a large extent, obtained from the ordinary census returns, under which a man has to state his name, postal address, date of birth, whether married or single, number and ages of children, his occupation, where born, and whether naturalized, although the number of dependent relatives is not asked for. An immense amount of the information sought under the schedules in this Bill is already in the hands of various Government Departments. I admit that we should like to bring it right up to date, as the census information is now about five years old, although the annual statistical returns give us a very shrewd idea, from year to year, of the number of individuals of various ages in the community. This Bill may get that information *a little more accurately, but unless it is- to be made the basis of something on the lines I have indicated, I do not see how we are to justify the spending of £150,000 - the Government estimate - in obtaining all these details. We are confronted with serious financial obligations which we cannot evade, and it behoves us to be particularly careful how we spend our money. It has not been shown that the information to be obtained under the Bill will be sufficiently valuable to justify the spending of that large sum at a time like the present. We are confronted, also with a proposed expenditure of £100,000 on the referenda, and the two items make £250,000 - a very big sum. We ought to be absolutely satisfied before we pass the Bill that the information we are going to get will be worth what we pay for it. If there was any idea, in the minds1 of Ministers that something in the way of national service might be required, there would be some justification for asking us to incur the expenditure, for if such a thing came upon us we ought not to wait until the last moment to prepare to meet it. I presume it may take months to get the full information. Even those who are now most strongly against dealing with the war in any other way than it is being dealt with at present may be converted by the stern logic of events to the view that national service must be tried, at any rate, while the war lasts. If that were in contemplation, it might be a justification for voting for this large expenditure. Question 7 of the first schedule is, " If suffering from blindness, deafness, or loss of a limb, give particulars." That sort of question can be necessary only if there is a possibility of calling out all men of the fighting ages, and it is desired to know how many able-bodied men can be called on in case of emergency. The wealth schedule contains many searching inquiries regarding the material position of individuals. A return showing the real wealth of the community, apart from the progress statistics now available, may be valuable for general purposes, but why is it wanted now ? What do Ministers propose to do by virtue of it? Do they intend to introduce any legislation which such information will further? If an income tax were to be levied, I could understand the Government asking the various States that have income taxes in operation to supply them with returns of income, omitting, naturally, those whose earnings' are below the assessable amount. I do not suppose Commonwealth Ministers would wish to place an income tax on people in humble circumstances, earning bare livings. These would probably and properly be exempt. Information about all other incomes can be obtained from the State income tax returns, and if there is any State which imposes no income tax there will be sufficient information from the other States to enable a fairly accurate judgment to be formed of the distribution of wealth and earnings in that particular State. If the intention of the Government is only to introduce an income tax, the particulars required in the wealth schedule appear to be valueless, or, at ally- rate, not worth the money they will cost to collect; but if the Government tell .me that they are going to introduce a wealth tax, I can understand their desire to obtain particulars of this kind. Do the Government contemplate the imposition of such a tax? If they do not these inquisitorial returns can only serve, as in the case of those which will be furnished under the first schedule, to provide a foundation for future action. If the Vice-President of the Executive Council will tell me why the Government consider it necessary to have all this information about the wealth of the community I may be given a reason for voting for the Bill.

Senator Gardiner - The reason is that so many things may happen within the next twelve months.

Senator ALBERT GOULD (NEW SOUTH WALES) -Colonel Sir ALBERTGOULD. - That is how the Minister justifies the first schedule. The suggestion is that emergencies may arise within the next twelve months for which we should be prepared, and it is better to collect this information now than to leave its collection until an emergency has arisen.

Senator Senior - What are the Government going to do with the furniture ?

Senator ALBERT GOULD (NEW SOUTH WALES) -Colonel Sir ALBERTGOULD. - I remember that in New South Wales many years ago a Government introduced a property tax, and in the Bill dealing with the question people were called upon to state what furniture they possessed, and what was its value. I believe that detailed schedules of the furniture they possessed had to be sent in by the people. Is that kind of thing really worth while? A man may own furniture to the value of £50, £100, or £1,000, but how will it help the Government to know what is the value of the bedsteads and sticks of furniture which he has in his house ?

Senator Bakhap - If every one starts to sell his furniture the value will drop very quickly.

Senator ALBERT GOULD (NEW SOUTH WALES) -Colonel Sir ALBERTGOULD. - A man may misrepresent the value of his furniture. Will the Government take possession of it in such a case ?

Senator Gardiner - Will the honorable senator read question 6 of the second schedule ?


What was the approximate value of real and personal property held by you in Australia nt 31st December, 1014.?

Senator Gardiner - " Approximate value." There is no reference to a detailed schedule.

Senator Lt Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD - I did not say that a detailed schedule was proposed, but that I thought that wa3 provided for in the New South Wales measure, to which I referred. I may value my furniture at an amount which it would never bring if put up to auction. It is apparently intended by this Bill that the inquiry with respect to property shall be very searching, because after dividing it into ten sections, there is a further section covering " other property, exclusive of life assurance policy."

Senator Millen - That may refer to golf sticks.

Senator ALBERT GOULD (NEW SOUTH WALES) -Colonel Sir ALBERTGOULD. - It may cover golf sticks, tennis rackets, and golf and tennis balls. Surely the Government are in this matter going too far altogether. People as a rule do not invest much wealth in furniture.

Senator Pearce - The return is required of " furniture and personal and household effects."

Senator Lt Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD - It is possible that some people may have collected art treasures?

Senator Pearce - Or diamond rings.

Senator Lt Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD .- Such things might be dealt with separately. It might be provided that if a person owns jewellery beyond a certain value he should make a return of it. That would not affect very many people. There is the same objection to the making of all these particular inquiries. The Vice-President- of the Executive Council has said that he has always been strongly opposed to inquisitorial investigations, and yet he is now proposing to ask people for returns which will be inquisitorial and useless. I should like to direct attention to the fact that trustees are to be asked to make returns of interests as beneficiary in trust estates up to the 31st December last. It is usual for the trustee of an estate to supply a statement of assets and liabilities connected with the estate twelve months after the date of the death of the testator or granting of probate. The second schedule should in this matter be based on that practice, so that the return furnished iti such cases may be the same as that which has to be furnished to the Courts by executors and trustees. That would require a slight alteration of the schedule. But it would simplify the obligations of trustees under the Bill.

Senator Pearce - I do not quite grasp the amendment the honorable senator suggests. .

Senator Lt Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD - The trustee of an estate has to send in a return to the Court at a particular date, which may be, for example, the 31st October, and under the Bill he would be called upon to furnish an additional return up to the 31st December.

It should be sufficient for a trustee to supply a copy of the return for the year which he is obliged to furnish to the Court.

Senator Pearce - The honorable senator means that he should send in under the schedule a copy of the latest return he has made up for the Court.

Senator Lt Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD .- That is so. Under clause 8 of the Bill it is provided that -

The forms which may be required to be filled up shall be in accordance with the forms in the First and Second Schedules to this Act, with such modifications or additions as are prescribed.

The meaning of that is that the forms may be altered by regulation. I do not think that in a Bill of this character it should be left to regulations to determine what information should be given or to decide that people may omit to give certain information which Parliament has deliberately said ought to be given.

Senator Pearce - The Vice-President of the Executive Council has given some guarantee as to what it is intended shall be done.

Senator Lt Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD - The honorable senator pointed out that a matter may be referred to the War Committee, and may then be dealt with by regulations, but that those regulations will have to be approved by Parliament. I would remind honorable senators that they will have effect unless they are dissented from by a specific motion within a limited time after they have been tabled.

Senator Pearce - Is that not a guarantee that modifications or additions will not be decided solely by the Government?

Senator Gardiner - The honorable senator will be in an infinitely better position *on the War Committee in dealing with the matter than he is in as a member of the Senate.

Senator Lt Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD - It should be understood that in my criticism of the Bill- 1 am not hostile to the present or any other Government. I am satisfied that the Government will administer the Act in accordance with their honest convictions.

Sitting suspended from 6.30 to 8 p.m.

Senator Lt Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD - Referring to the possible modification and additions of questions prescribed in the first schedule, I was pointing out that under this provision it will be competent for a large number of additional questions to be submitted, although the Minister interjected that they would first come before the War Committee. I must point out, however, that while this might be the intention of the Government, the Government would by no means be Bound by the decision of that Committee.

Senator Gardiner - You would not expect us to be, would you ?

Senator ALBERT GOULD (NEW SOUTH WALES) -Colonel Sir ALBERTGOULD. - No ; because the Ministry, after all, are responsible. They mightconsider that certain questions ought to be submitted, and provide for them by regulations. It is true those regulations would have come before Parliament and could be objected to within fourteen days, but if they were made when Parliament was not sitting, they would take effect from the date they were promulgated and gazetted. We would then find that the regulations, having been passed, had the force of law until they were dissented from; but it might be two or three months before Parliament would meet, and in the meantime the regulations would be operative. I know that the Census Act of 1905 covers nearly all the particulars required under the Bill. It embraces - the name, age, sex, condition as to, and duration of, marriage, relation to head of the household, profession or occupation, sickness or infirmity, religion, education and birthplace (where the person was born abroad), length of residence in Australia, and the nationality of every person abiding in the Commonwealth during the night of census day.

The only particulars that are not asked for under that Act are as to a person's military knowledge and his offer to take up any particular class of occupation. But substantially all the questions we are asking in this census were embodied in that Census Act, and, in addition, under sub-section c particulars were required regarding " any other prescribed matters." We know that there were other prescribed matters, because there was a debate in this Senate on that subject, with a result that several questions proposed to be put to the people were omitted from the schedule, on the ground that they would be of no value, because they were purely of personal concern. I want honorable senators to realize that in prescribing the questions we should do it in the Act of Parliament, so that every one will know how the law stands, and will not be liable to be surprised by some new provision.

Senator Russell - Do you not think that we ought to have the greatest freedom in regard to war matters?

Senator ALBERT GOULD (NEW SOUTH WALES) -Colonel Sir ALBERTGOULD. - The Government are seeking to pass a Bill by means of which they will acquire certain specific information, and I say that we should have all the information required embodied there. But let it end there. Of course, there might be some special matters which should receive very special consideration, but I say that if we are going to allow legislation by means of regulation, we shall be establishing' a very dangerous precedent.

Senator Senior - We have it now.

Senator ALBERT GOULD (NEW SOUTH WALES) -Colonel Sir ALBERTGOULD. - But not so strongly as is provided for here. I remember quite well that when the census of 1911 was taken certain questions were objected to.

Senator O'Keefe - Yes, I remember that I took exception to one. They wanted to know what sort of liquors a man drank, and I thought that was quite unnecessary.

Senator ALBERT GOULD (NEW SOUTH WALES) -Colonel Sir ALBERTGOULD. - I find that question No. 4 dealt with the amount of money held in gold, notes, silver, and in copper during the night of census day; and the last question was to the effect whether a person was a total abstainer from alcoholic beverages. These were two of the questions that were objected to, and they show the possibilities of legislating by means of regulation.

Senator Watson - There is nothing like that in this Bill.

Senator ALBERT GOULD (NEW SOUTH WALES) -Colonel Sir ALBERTGOULD. - There is no reason, if questions canbe put in by means of regulation, why they could not be included, if the Government wanted to ascertain what was the attitude taken up by citizens with regard to alcoholic beverages and the drinking habits of the people. A question of that kind would be just as pertinent, and probably more so, in a measure of this kind than under the Census Act, under which the only information required was as to the number of people and their occupations, and not as to whether they are hard drinkers or moderate drinkers. That is one of the reasons why I object to questions being introduced by means of regulation, although there' would be the safeguard, as the Minister said, of sending these questions before a Committee of both Houses before being gazetted. Notwithstanding that, it might happen that these regulations would be in force for a period of two or three months before Parliament would have an opportunity of expressing an opinion upon them, and during that time the people might be compelled to furnish these particulars. I want honorable senators to understand I am not desirous of criticising the measure in a hostile manner. I realize that it has been introduced with the idea of obtaining information that will be of value in connexion with the- present great emergency. In this matter the Government have received a pretty free hand from Parliament, because, after all, it is immaterial what Government are in power; when the question of the national safety arises, it is only right that men, wherever they sit or whatever their political views may be, should stand together as one body in defending the integrity of the nation and the integrity of their own portion of the Empire. For that reason we should criticise measures of this kind fairly and reasonably, and any suggestions made in the best interests of the community should in this time of emergency receive careful consideration at the hands of the Government.

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