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Wednesday, 21 April 1915

The CHAIRMAN - Order ! I must call the honorable member for Oxley to order. He is not entitled to say that.

Mr SHARPE - I trust that the Government will take into consideration the question of paying the extra 2s. to the. old people, and thus give them the opportunity of enjoying additional comfort in the declining years of their lives. There is also another item to which I desire to draw attention, namely, the payment of pensions to widows and orphans. We are pledged to bring in this pension scheme, which, if operating in full effect, would confer a benefit upon 140,000 widows and 92,000 orphans. If they received the pension on the basis of the military scheme, it would mean on that basis an expenditure of £8,500,000 per annum; but, taking the basis of application for the old-age pension as a guide - that is, one in three - this would be reduced to £2,800,000 per annum. The only items to which the Government are not pledged are the pensions to the blind and to the old people in institutions. The blind pension would cost the Government £85,000 per annum; the pensions to our old friends in the benevolent institutions will cost £40,000 ; and an additional 2s. 6d. per week to the old-age and invalid pensions would mean £680,000 per annum.

Mr MASSY-GREENE (RICHMOND, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Is that the Treasurer's estimate ?

Mr SHARPE - No; these are figures which I have obtained from Mr. Knibbs.

Sir John Forrest - Would you give every blind man a pension, whether he was wealthy or not'

Mr SHARPE - If he desired to have it, yes; but I do not think we have many wealthy blind people in the Commonwealth. There are very few indeed, and probably they would not apply "for the pension. The expenditure on account of the old people in the benevolent institutions would only mean £40,000 per annum, and I should think that the Commonwealth is sufficiently prosperous to be able to pay that amount without any inconvenience whatever. These proposals would mean a total additional expenditure, as far as pensions are concerned, of £3,605,000 per annum ; but, as we know that there is an opportunity in the Commonwealth at the present time of tapping resources of revenue not hitherto touched, and from which we might probably obtain the whole of the revenue required, I think it is only fair and reasonable that the Government should give it some consideration. The source of revenue I refer to was that mentioned by the honorable member for Maranoa, namely, a tax on bachelors; and in connexion with this matter it is instructive to know that 42 per cent, of the male population in Australia is unmarried at the present time. We have heard much in this chamber, more especially since the war broke out, about the unemployed male portion of our community; but my own opinion is that there are probably more women than men unemployed. Many countries in the world have attempted legislation on the lines I suggest; and it is eminently necessary, in view of the fact that, in the present day, men wait until they are forty-five or fifty years of age before they marry. This is because our unmarried men, in many instances, earn salaries sufficient to enable them to live as single men in such ease and luxury that they do not care to settle down to married life with its responsibilities. All will agree that this question is one of very serious importance to Australia. Authorities declare, not only in Australia, but in other countries, that a great social evil arises from the tendency to which I have referred. The money that could be raised by means of a tax of this kind is urgently needed, especially when we consider that. under the present circumstances, the Government may not find themselves in a position to pay the pensions that have been announced to the people. The presence of so many unmarried men in the community gives rise to evils that we must all deplore. The lives of many innocent girls are disturbed ; and men delay marriage until they arrive at an age when their health is not what it would be in the married state. At forty-five or fifty years of age, as I have already said, they find that they are not so attractive as they were when younger, and they feel compelled to make an attempt to settle down, with the result that, in many cases, they marry girls from twenty to twentyfive years their junior. My own opinion is that any tax under 8 per cent, would not be of much use. As a matter of fact, I am not inclined to think that even such a tax as that would not cause many men to marry, but it would probably cause some to do so. As far back as 1695, William III. of England imposed a tax, ranging from ls. to £12 10s. per annum on all unmarried men over twenty-five years of age. In 1785, Pitt, when Prime Minister, taxed all bachelors' servants; and in Bulgaria in 1909 a tax of 8s. 4d. per annum was imposed on bachelors. In 1910 the German Parliament passed a law of the kind; and just before the war the Finance Commission of the Russian Duma approved of a Bill with that object in view. In 1795, unmarried men in France were taxed; and in several of the States of America bachelors are called upon to pay for the privilege of living a single life. The number of unmarried men in the Commonwealth between the ages of twentyone and sixty is 541,000.

Mr MASSY-GREENE (RICHMOND, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Would the honorable member tax a bachelor over the age of sixty ?

Mr SHARPE - From all I hear about the honorable member, he has become afraid of some tax of the kind. I fancy that those honorable members who now seem very much amused at this proposal will prove to be its staunchest supporters. If we take one-third of that number of men as taxable, and we impose a tax of £10 per head per annum, the resultant revenue, after exempting all earning less than £200 per annum, and all who are responsible for dependents, such as parents or invalid members of the family, will amount to nearly £2,000,000 per annum. The gross earnings of bachelors who are earning over £200 per annum, amount to £68,211,000; and if we take one-third of that amount as available for taxation we get, at 8 per cent., £1,800,000. Many people consider that a much greater revenue than I have suggested might be raised from this form of taxation. I am not the only member of this House who has advocated the taxation of bachelors. I am satisfied that many will be pleased to hear that a proposition was to be submitted for the taxation of these people. Many of them who are in a position to pay taxation are escaping probably a fifth of the taxation of the community generally in the Commonwealth to-day, and, quite apart from that, by refraining from getting married, they are not doing their duty to the nation.

Mr Joseph Cook - Is the honorable member proposing a resolution in connexion with this matter, or what action does he propose to take?

Mr SHARPE - I am giving expression to my views on the subject. My idea is that we could raise sufficient revenue by this means to pay the pensions which, I think, should he paid to people in the Commonwealth. The Government do not desire to impose new taxation in any other form. This is a source of taxation which can best be tapped at the present time. Many people in the Commonwealth are not paying a tenth of the taxation which they should be paying, and I am confident that I have underestimated the revenue likely to be derived from a tax upon bachelors. I should like to submit to honorable members the names of one or two people who have already advocated the taxation of bachelors before quoting the opinions they have expressed. Amongst the number are the Lord Mayor of Melbourne, Sir David Hennessy; Mr. Carmichael, late Minister of Education in New South Wales; Miss Gladys Taylor, barrister-at-law ; Mr. Watt, the honorable member for Balaclava ; Mr. Atkinson, the honorable member for Wilmot; Dr. Maloney, the honorable member for Melbourne; Mr. Denny, the late Attorney-General in the Verran Government; and the Rev. Douglas Price, a prominent clergyman in Brisbane. I may add that several newspapers published in the Commonwealth have also strongly advocated this form of taxation. This is what the Lord Mayor of Melbourne had to say on the subject - " In a country like this," continued the Lord Mayor, " we require population, and, from a patriotic point of view, it is better to have our own people than to invite immigrants. Look at America. Its curse is its population of aliens from all lands. Bachelors are intensely' selfish, and it is useless for them to cry poverty as an excuse. Most bachelors spend more than would keep two wives. If they only had the sense to marry, they would benefit financially as well as morally. If they don't, and won't, marry - well, tax and re-tax them."

This is what Mr. Carmichael said -

I find that in the whole of the Commonwealth, out of 1,248,000 men between the ages of eighteen and fifty, 079,000 are unmarried, widowed, or divorced. As a politician who has had experience in the Treasury, the number to be taxed is a great temptation.

Mr Joseph Cook - There is no advocacy of the bachelor tax in that statement.

The CHAIRMAN - The honorable member's time has expired.

Mr SHARPE - I should like to be allowed to finish what I have to say on the subject. It will not take me more than ten minutes to do so. Miss Gladys Taylor said - " If a man remains single from choice, no tax will make him marry or alter his selfish existence." Miss Taylor thinks " that every person should be married at twenty." She believes that the unmarried man or woman is a social evil.

This is Mr. Watt's opinion -

I don't think that the bachelor is a curse to society. In every State a certain number of bachelors is inevitable.

But his subsequent remarks stamped Mr. Watt as a keen advocate for the bachelor tax.

Mr Fenton - That is not as emphatic as the honorable member usually is.

Mr Watt - That is blank cartridge.

Mr SHARPE - This is the testimony from Mr. Atkinson -

Mr. Atkinsonthinks that while, at the present time, there may be some justification for the imposition of a bachelor tax, such an impost can hardly bc supported on general principles in ordinary times, as it would be only a class tax. " And," he added, '* if the object of the tax is to induce people to marry, then it can scarcely be compatible with the idea that marriages are made in Heaven."

This is Dr. Maloney's opinion - " Surely I would tax every blessed bachelor there is," he said, when he was asked the question. " The party to which I belong wants to make life for every man and woman such that they shall have when they make the means to exist without fear for the children, who will be the future units of the State." A bachelor tax would be a realization of one of the ideals he had cherished since he had been in Parliament. " When I started parliamentary life," he said, " I had three ideals - woman's suffrage, old-age pensions, and a child pension. Two of these have been realized through the agency of the party to which I belong, and before long I hope to see this bachelor tax - my fourth ideal - also realized."

The Rev. Douglas Price, an eminent Brisbane minister, expressed this view - " I do not consider," said Mr. Price, in answer to a question, " that this tax- would make any one marry who did not already intend to. The only moral defect in this tax that I can see would be to make unmarried men realize that they have a duty to the State. A. man earning £200 a year could well afford to pay 5 or 10 per cent. Then I should say married men with families, and who are earning less than £250, should be exempt from taxation. If women drew equal wages, ana were economically in the same position, it would be a fair thing to tax them also; but they arc not. I advocate the taxation of bachelors only on the ground that it will be fair for all who can to take part in the burden of common life. It won't make men moral, nor will it induce them to become parents."

Mr Boyd - Does the honorable member believe in the taxation of spinsters ?

Mr SHARPE - No. I have many other authorities, gathered from newspapers throughout the Commonwealth, which I might quote. I am not the only member of Parliament who has advocated this proposal. My references to it tonight have caused some merriment, but that fact will not cause me to alter my view.

Mr Watt - Are we to have a vote on this question?

Mr SHARPE - I hope so.

Mr Watt - I was wondering whether the bachelors could " pair."

Mr SHARPE - I cannot say, but I feel that if the Government are sincere in their desire to bring about the payment of the pensions we have advocated, they will be able by means of such a tax to raise all the necessary revenue. Many of our old people are living in misery because of the insufficiency of the invalid and old-age pensions.

Mr Page - Where should we get the money if all the bachelors married as the result of this tax ?

Mr SHARPE - It would not be sufficient to make them marry, and those who did not ought to pay such taxation.

Sir John Forrest - Some men could not pay it. lt would apply to all the loafers in the country.

Mr SHARPE - 16 would apply only to bachelors in receipt of over £200 a year.

Mr MASSY-GREENE (RICHMOND, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Why should not bachelors receiving less than £200 a year contribute to the revenue in this way ?

Mr SHARPE - We do not consider that those who receive less than £200 a year should be taxed at all.

Mr Boyd - There are many workmen who do not receive £200 a year, and they have to maintain a home and family.

Mr SHARPE - Quite so, but I think it would be sufficient to exempt from the tax those receiving less than £200 a year, which I estimate would yield £2,000,000 per annum. I shall bring this matter before honorable members again in the near future.

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