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Wednesday, 26 September 1906

Senator CLEMONS (Tasmania) . - If I could presume to measure the feeling of honorable senators by reference to my own, I should say that the time is rapidly approaching when the strain which the Government is putting upon the Senate to discuss measures of vast importance is almost more than can be borne. I certainly have that feeling in regard to this Bill, and I express it all the more emphatically because, in my opinion, the ingenuity of its construction is scarcely less than, devilish. If such an adjective be deemed too strong, I shall make a modification to the extent of saying that it seems to me to be derivative rather than, humanly speaking, original. I suppose that there is not a single debatable point about which honorable senators have more diverging views than that which is the chief feature of theBill. It raises first the great debatable question of oldage pensions ;secondly, the source from which the fund should be derived; thirdly, the question whether, in order to produce that laudable result, we should adopt direct or indirect taxation - for instance, whether we ought, as some honorable senators strongly advocate, to impose a tax on land. It also necessarily brings up a question which was debated more or less openly in public for many years before Federation was inaugurated, and that is whether the operation of the Braddon section would cripple and hamper the financial resources of the Commonwealth. It further raises a question of the gravest importance to the smaller States, and that is whether there should be retained in the Constitution some safeguard which would insure to them a reasonable proportion of the indirect taxation which is entirely in the hands of the Commonwealth.

Senator Millen - That was part of the compact.

Senator CLEMONS - It was morethan that. I venture to say that there is not one section in the Constitution,, as it stands to-day, which attracted more attention, which was the subject of more earnest and deliberate debate in the Convention,, than the Braddon provision. The history of the last Convention, the history of the proceedings which took place prior to the inauguration of Federation, practically centred round the very provision which is now being attacked. To me it is scarcely conceivable that any honorable senator who comes from a small State - especially a small State in, a financial sense - can consent to allow this Parliament to begin to do something which would rob that State of its chief financial safeguard. As I do not wish to inflict figures upon the Senate at any great length, and as I do not care to use them except when it seems to me to be absolutely necessary, I propose at once to quote some figures with regard to a matter which I think it is my duty to bring before honorable senators. It has been urged within my hearing that, if Tasmania objects to a repeal or modification of the Braddon section, it can only do so on the ground that it is unwilling to resort to some scheme of equitable taxation, which ought to take the place of the indirect taxation, in the form of Customs and Excise duties ; in other words, that its Parliament ought to make some endeavour to get back such money as it may fail to get under the Braddon provision. There is no State in the Commonwealth which is in such an excellent position to answer such a charge as is Tasmania. An almost conclusive answer may be given in one statement from the Budget papers which were laid upon the table of the House of Assembly of Tasmania only a few weeks ago. The total amount of the Commonwealth revenue returned to the State for the last financial year was £256,301, while the direct taxation imposed by the State Parliament yielded £248,799. In other words, Tasmania is raising by direct taxation almost the same amount as she gets from the Commonwealth in respect of Customs and Excise duties.

Senator Pearce - How much of the revenue from direct taxation is represented by the tax on Tattersall's tickets?

Senator CLEMONS - Not one penny.

Senator Mulcahy - Oh, yes, there is.

Senator CLEMONS - Ishall explain that. The details of the revenue derived from direct taxation are as follow : - Land tax,£54,000 ; income tax, £70,000 ; ability tax, which is practicallyanother form of income tax, £28,000; stamp duties, £51,000.

Senator Mulcahy - A portion of that amount is derived from the tax on Tattersall's tickets.

Senator CLEMONS - Possibly some of it may be so derived; but that I think, does not answer Senator Pearce' s question. The other items are as follow : - Bank notes, £2,900; deceased persons' estate duties, £26,000; totalisators, £1,350; and licences, £13,900; making, a total of £248,000. I have omitted the odd figures.

Senator Dobson - £2,000 of the revenue from licences is derived from Tattersall's.

Senator Mulcahy - No.

Senator CLEMONS - I have accounted for all the items of direct taxation, and any honorable senator may attribute what he likes to Tattersall's. But it must be perfectly obvious to every one that not much is included in the total sum,. I venture to ask any honorable senator to offer a comparison from the Budget papers of his own State. I have no fear of this statement being contradicted : that no State in the Commonwealth can show anything like such, a proportion in revenue between direct taxation and indirect taxation as can Tasmania. If I were to take the case of Western Australia - and. of course, I am speaking without having before me the figures - probably I should find that the revenue from indirect taxation is at least double the revenue from direct taxation.

Senator Mulcahy - I think it is between three and four times as much.

Senator CLEMONS - I am glad to hear that it is, because, if so, I shall not be accused of raising an argument unfairly. Speaking of the other five States, without singling out Western Australia, I . venture to say that it would be found that the revenue from direct taxation is certainly not more than one-half the revenue from the Customs and Excise duties. Those items of the Tasmanian revenue ought to be considered in conjunction with her expenditure. I desire to show the effect of Federation upon Tasmania's expenditure during the last few years. In 1900, under State control, the revenue from Customs and Excise duties amounted to £492,000. The decrease in revenue from that source has been continuous under the Commonwealth. In 1901 it was £373,000; in 1902, £360,000; in 1903, £342.000; in 1904, £330,000; and in 1905,£326,000.

From the revenue for each year, of course, the cost of administration has to be deducted. Let me now institute a comparison in regard to the revenue from the Post and Telegraph' Department. In 1900, under State control, it was £97,000. whereas last year it was £118.000.

Senator Findley - Is not that explained bythe fact that, before Federation, Tattersall's letters were not permitted to go into the State to a large extent?

Senator CLEMONS - I do not think that affects the question much. At any rate, so far as I know, the position has not been altered during the last three or four years.

Senator Findley - Ithas been affected since Federation.

Senator CLEMONS - Possibly. In 1900 the expenses in connexion with our post and telegraph services amounted to £86,000, as against a revenue of £97,000; while last year the expenses amounted to £120,800, as compared with a revenue of £118,000, showing that, under the Federal management, the Department has been worked at a loss, instead of a small gain. In 1900, under State control - perhaps because we starved our Defence Forces - our expenditure on defence was £17,900; whereas last year, under the Commonwealth, it amounted to £40,135. It can be little wonder to any honorablesenator, even though he comes from another State that he should be asked by me to give deliberate consideration to the condition of Tasmania's finances. Such a request, of course, it is unnecessary for me to make to any representative of the State. I do not wish to' say anything harsh about Senator Keating ; but I do ask him to make some effort, if he can, to justify - because the point will be raised - his voting, not for other proposals which have gone by, but for a provision which, if adopted, he must know, as well as I do, would seriously affect the finances of Tasmania. I hope that,. before the Bill is passed, if not before it is taken into Committee, he will offer some remarks on that point. I admit that he may have a ready defence, which, however, I hope he will not use, because to use it would be to put every other honorable senator in an unfair position. He might say that, with a full recognition of the position, he deliberately decides to take away from Tasmania a possibility of raising revenue, in order to provide for a system, of old-age pensions. That is the difficulty with which we are confronted, and that, I repeat, is the devilish, -ingenuity of the scheme. There is not a single man in the Senate who does not recognise that he is going to be put. in a false position, do what he may, with regard to this Bill. There is not a possibility of the most ardent member of the Labour Party, or, for that matter, of any honorable senator on this side of the Chamber, whom the members of the Labour Party ma.v consider to be their chief antithesis, getting out of the difficulty created bv the Bill. The honorable senator, who is most anxious to provide an old-age pensions scheme, will have to admit, if he is challenged for voting for the Bill, that in order to provide it he has agreed to tax tea and kerosene. Many honorable senators have distinctly, deliberately, and plainly refused to sanction duties on tea and kerosene, because they decline to put taxes upon poor people. Yet if we vote for this Bill, we shall be liable to be charged with having deliberately taxed those people who are least able in the Commonwealth to bear taxation. If, on the other hand, we vote against it, what will be said? We all know that there are difficulties in the way of providing oldage pensions. Every one realizes that. But if we do not accept this method it will be said, " When some means were suggested whereby the difficulties could be overcome you refused to take advantage of them." What is the position of men in this Senate who have been accused, rightly or wrongly, of being opposed to the scheme altogether? Their position is even worse. They will be told at once, "You took the first and easiest opportunity of finding an excuse for refusing to grant old-age pensions. You were not bold enough to say you were against the whole scheme, but you took advantage of this particular Bill, because you alleged it interfered with the ' Braddon blot,' to vote against it." I say that that charge would be a most unfair one. There is not a single member of this Senate against whom it could be made with fairness and justice. But nevertheless that is the position in which the Government places us by asking us to pass this Bill. There are many other reasons why the Bill should be opposed. Let us come to a salient feature of it. It is proposed to allocate 'Special duties foi a special purpose. Senator Stewart said, and I believe he spoke with accuracy, that no parallel to such a' provision can be found in any part of the world where the English tongue is spoken. No such parallel has been shown, and I venture to say that there is none within the recollection of any honorable senator. If only on the ground that the principle of allocating special duties for special purposes is inherently bad, and impossible to justify, I do not believe that any honorable senator will rise in his place to defend it. If such a defendant is found, then this is a criticism that can be applied at once and rightly - if we are going to allocate special duties for a special purpose, why does not the Government state in the Bill what the special duties and the special purpose are? If it be desirable to allocate duties on ten, and kerosene for this purpose, we have to admit that they would be largely paid by the poorer persons in the community. Whether we approve of such duties or not for revenue purposes, no one can gainsaythat their effect is to press with severity on the poorer classes. But why should tea and kerosene be chosen? Is there no item in the whole range of our Tariff exemptions that offers some slight justification for selection except tea and kerosene? I can instance one - not that I should vote for it or approve of it, though I say that if we are going to specialize we should do so in the direction of some luxury. It is obvious that one article which might be mentioned is stimulants. There would be just a shadow of a pretext for saving that if that were proposed it would be taxing the drink of the people; but the reply would be that it was being taxed to provide for persons, many of whom require old-age pensions because of drink. On that point no one can offer any firm denial . But, as I have said, specialize where you like and how you will, the principle is a wrong one, and we have no right to adopt it. But I have to look at this matter from yet another aspect. We all recognise that this Bill is an attempt, whether for good motives or bad, to impose upon four States in the Commonwealth the will of the Federal Parliament. We know that at present there are two States that have old-age pensions systems. We recognise that there are difficulties in regard to an old-age pensions scheme unless it is made Federal. I admit that. We recognise that it is desirable that an old-age pensions scheme should have an application over the whole Com- monwealth. No one will, venture to deny that. But, admirable as such a scheme may be, desirable as it may be from that point of view, it is quite another thing when the Federal Parliament puts itself in the position of saying that four States have not passed legislation which, in its opinion, they ought to have passed - in other words, have not provided old-age pensions - and that we therefore take upon ourselves to pass such a measure as will compel them to do it.

Senator McGregor - What was the use of putting the provision in the Constitution if it were not for that purpose?

Senator CLEMONS - It was put there for a laudable purpose^ but Senator McGregor will recognise that the Constitution does not provide that we should break one section of it in order to give effect to another. The Constitution was intended by its framers to be read as one whole. But if we are going to give oldage pensions, there are many_ other ways of doing it than that now proposed. It is not impossible to obtain a sufficient sum out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund. But I cannot conceive of any scheme for getting over the difficulty - which I most readily admit - that deserves more severe condemnation than the one now before us. The Braddon section was put in the Constitution, as we all know, to protect the smaller States. But the figures I have quoted have, at any rate, justified any honorable senator who heard me in coming to the conclusion that Tasmania, not to mention Queensland and other .States, mav one day be in great and dire necessities with regard to the amount of revenue which she receives from Customs and Excise. The day mav come when Tasmania, or some other State, may say, " Much as we regret it, we have to urge our representatives in the Federal Parliament to pet_us more revenue." J am not saying whether that is right or wrong. I have certain views, which it would be needless for me to mention now. with respect to the revenue. But we h' to face facts as we find them; and we find that this Bill proposes to take away from the smaller States the one spec.cial safeguard that the framers of the Constitution gave to them. I cannot help referring to another aspect. Can any member ofl the Senate deny that this Bill is framed in the vaguest possible way ? We understand from what the Minister has said, and from our general knowledge, that it is intended to tax tea and kerosene in order to provide funds for old-age pensions.

Senator Playford - Not necessarily so. I merely said that that was one form of taxation. I have not said that tea and kerosene would be taxed.

Senator CLEMONS - I accept that answer gladly. My reply to it is that 'this scheme is bad enough if it has the clear and definite object of providing the money for old-age pensions bv taxing tea and kerosene. But if the Minister admits that the Bill does not say that at all, and that we are asked to take steps to pass a Bill which will enable the Federal- Parliament to tax anything whatever that is not mentioned in the Tariff, for any purpose whatever that the Federal Parliament or the Executive may at any time decide, he adds further condemnation to the Bill. He does nothing to justify it, because he makes it more vague. Is it a justification to Parliament that the more the motive of a Bill is concealed, the more it is desirable to pass it ? That is not mv idea of a Bill ; and it is for this reason that I have endeavoured, as every honorable senator should endeavour, to direct my criticism to the object that is clearly implied and understood in connexion with the Bill. I hope that Senator Playford will not justify it by saying that it is even vaguer than it purports to be.

Senator Playford - It opens up the whole question for Parliament to say whether it will raise revenue for a special purpose. We can put the purpose in if the honorable senator likes.

Senator CLEMONS - It is an easy task for any honorable senator who will take up the Customs and Excise Tariffs to ascertain what items are left untaxed. I, at any rate, have not heard any honorable senator give an indication of other items except tea and kerosene, which are likely to be taxed for this purpose.

Senator Drake - There are no other items.

Senator CLEMONS - We arrive at that conclusion by eliminating all other possibilities. There are no other items that any member of the Senate can name, unless Senator Playford can throw light on the subject. But if we approach this subject in a business-like way, we ought to be told by the Government whether, in their opinion, duties on tea and kerosene would yield sufficient revenue to provide pensions to the extent of £1,500,000. Has the Minister indicated any particular duties that will be sufficient to raise that revenue? I have seen a number of estimates made, based on the taxation of tea and kerosene, and, while I cannot guarantee the accuracy of them, nor even venture to make an estimate myself, I do believe that it can be safely assumed that aduty of 3d. per lb. on tea and 6d. per gallon on kerosene will not raise anything like £1,500,000.

Senator Drake - There is talk of a duty of 5d. per lb. on, tea.

Senator CLEMONS - I have mentioned the duties of 3d. per lb. on tea, and 6d. per gallon on kerosene because those were thedutiesmentionedwhenwewerediscussing the Tariff in the first Commonwealth Parliament.

Senator Pearce - The duties first mentioned were 3d. per lb. on tea, and 3d. per gallon on kerosene.

Senator O'Keefe - A - And it was estimated that the duties then, proposed, whatever they were, would produce £700,000- or £800,000.

Senator CLEMONS - I am speaking on the -safe side; and I say that duties of 3d. and 6d. would, in the opinion of competent persons, raise no more than £500,000.

Senator Playford - - The amount would be £700,000.

Senator CLEMONS - Then I shall accept £700,000, because, as I say, I desire to be safe.

Senator Playford - That is about half the amount required.

Senator CLEMONS - Will Senator Playford indicate where the other half is to come from? There is nothing else left to be taxed, and are we to be forced to the conclusion that, if this is a business proposition, we shall have to face the possibility of a duty of 6d. per . lb. on tea and a duty; of1s. per gallon on kerosene? I venture to say that, if Ministers were bold enough to make a statement to that effect - if they were bold enough to say that they had gone into the question, and had decided to raise the £.1,500,000 by such duties - this Bill would be defeated on the second reading by an enormous majority.

Senator Millen - And then the kerosene duties, in a few years, might yield nothing, because there is a bigshale deposit in New South Wales, which is in process of development.

Senator CLEMONS - Even if we grant, that a duty on tea may for all time operate as a revenue duty - though that is not certain - it is extremely debatable whether a duty on kerosene would also produce revenue for all time. It is not only truethat we may produce kerosene ourselves, in which case a duty of1s. per gallon, would prove to be largely protective, instead of revenue-producing ; but it is a. fact, as disclosed in a recent debate, that in a short time there may be found some substitute for kerosene. Only a few days ago I expressed the opinion that a most promising industrial opening in the Commonwealth was the production of alcohol: at such cheap rates as to make it likely that it will largely supplant kerosene. If that hope be realized - and no one in, the Senate would fail to be glad if it were - the revenue from the kerosene duties would be a diminishing quantity. What would thenhappen to the old-age pensions scheme? Are the Government prepared to tell the old-age pensioners that the kerosene duties having failed to produce revenue, there areno other sources of taxation to which we can resort?

Senator O'Keefe - I - If the Government found a decreasing revenue from kerosene, couldthey not try some other source?

Senator CLEMONS - What other source ?

Senator Playford - We have the wholerange of Customs and Excise, and of direct taxation as well.

Senator CLEMONS - I am glad that Senator O'Keefe has come into the chamber to offer a solution that no other honorable senator has ventured even to hint at. Senator O'Keefe will observe that this Bill provides for special duties of Customs or of Excise - upon goods of a description not liable to Customs or Excise duty on the first day of January, One thousand nine hundred and seven, and imposed expressly for specific purposes.

Goodness knows what the Ministry may ask us to do before the session is over; but I do not think they will ask us to sweep away half of the items in the Customs Tariff before the 1st January, 1907, in order to give freer latitude for thisprovision.

Senator O'Keefe - T - The honorable senator seems to have the idea that there are only two items on which to raise the revenue, and that, if the revenue de- must go. Are there no other items besides those two? The honorable senator may answer me without asking me to name a particular item.

Senator CLEMONS - I do not ask the honorable senator particularly to discharge that duty, but I ask any member of the Senate to name an item.

Senator Millen - That is, an item -which willyield the necessary revenue.

Senator CLEMONS - An item that will yield a revenue worthy of the name - that is, a revenue that will approximate to £1,500,000 within, say, £50,000. From my experience of the last eighteen -months I ought to know something of the contents of the Customs and Excise Tariffs ; and I may tell Senator O'Keefe that the items on the free list are there with the specific intention, in almost every case, of encouragingthe industries of the Commonwealth. Those items simply represent raw material - articles which, in the opinion of both free-traders and protectionists, it is desirable to admit free of duty ire order to promote the industrial welfare of the Commonwealth.

Senator Drake - Do not forget that for tea we have a substitute in coffee, which is being produced in Australia.

Senator CLEMONS - I do not forget the fact, but: I do not lay much stress on it, because Ithink that for a long time any duty on tea must produce a good revenue.

Senator Drake - But if there were a duty of 6d. per lb. or.' tea, together with a bonus on the production of coffee, the importation of tea would diminish.

Senator CLEMONS -That is very probable. No ingenuity is sufficient to find any purely revenue-producing items, outside kerosene and tea. Can we contemplate the alternative that, in order to attempt - because it will lamentably fail - to find sufficient revenue for old-age pensions, we are to tax some of those articles which we have deliberately left free in order to promote the industrial welfare of the Commonwealth?

Senator Playford - We have the whole range of direct taxation to fall back onas well.

Senator CLEMONS - I wish Senator Playford would resort to his whole range -of direct taxation, and stick to it. What Senator Playford is now saying is, "Here as a Bill for indirect taxation, but, if it fails let us resort to direct taxation."

Senator Playford - Raise a portion of the revenue by one method, and a portion by the other method.

Senator CLEMONS - That is a poor justification for breaking the Commonwealth Constitution - for doing something which will undoubtedly hamper and make still more difficult the work of the States in financing their affairs. Moreover, I venture to say that this is a proposal which will never see the light of day. Does Senator Playford or any one else believe that if direct taxation be resorted to for this purpose it will be merely as an auxiliary? If it be agreed that direct taxation ought to provide the means for old-age pensions, we may be certain that Parliament will not make two bites at that sort of cherry. If Parliament once decides that direct taxation must supply the needs, it will definitely, finally, and conclusively decide that direct taxation must provide all sufficient funds for the purpose. I do not wish to dwell any longer on that aspect, but it is one which ought to be seriously considered. If any honorable senator thinks that by voting for this Bill, in spite of his strong objections to taxing the articles usedby the poor, he will succeed in establishing old-age pensions, I tell him that he will lamentably fail in his object. He will fail by a long way, and his efforts will simply result in gross injustice and unfair treatment.

Senator Playford - Oh !

Senator CLEMONS - As the Tariff is at present framed-

Senator Playford - Would the honorable senator wait for three years, and then take the necessary money out of the Consolidated Revenue?

Senator CLEMONS - I repeat that an honorable senator who votes for the Bill will find that he has committed an act of gross unfairness and injustice to the class whose interests he desires to promote, and, at the same time, he . will miserably fail to give them any sort of compensation in the form of old-age pensions. How much revenue does Senator O'Keefe imagine would be derived in Tasmania from a duty on tea and kerosene? How much would Tasmania have to provide for an old-age pensions scheme? 'If the honorable senator will consider those two questions, he will find that there' would be created a deficit with which it would be impossible to cope. Unless tea and kerosene were taxed beyond all reason, there would be ludicrous failure to provide sufficient money for any such scheme for. Tasmania. Will Senator O'Keefe allow this Bill to fool him - to allow the delusive, hopes of the Ministry to trap him into imposing a duty which otherwise he would absolutely refuse to impose?

Senator Playford - Why does the honorable senator ' worry about his colleague from Tasmania? Cannot he leave his colleague alone ?

Senator CLEMONS - I am not hurting my colleague; I am offering no remarks that he resents.

Senator Playford - I should resent them if I were Senator O'Keefe.

Senator O'Keefe - S - SenatorClemons need not worry about my falling into a trap. I shall give my reasons when the honorable senator has finished.

Senator de Largie - Are some of Senator demons' colleagues kicking over the traces ?

Senator O'Keefe - D - Do not call me a colleague of Senator Clemons because I voted with him on the Railway Survey Bill.

Senator CLEMONS - I am not ashamed that Senator O'Keefe- should be my colleague. If Senator O'Keefe chooses to deny me as a colleague, I should not deny him.

Senator O'Keefe - A - At anyrate, we were very loyal colleagues over the Railway Survey Bill.

Senator CLEMONS - When I quarrel with Senator O'Keefe on "the floor of the Senate, I can assure Senator de Largie that both Senator O'Keefe and myself will be quite able to look after our own affairs, without his intervention. It is quite open to any honorable senator to charge the Government with using this Bill as an electioneering placard. Whether that charge be true or not, any honorable senator, under the circumstances, would be justified in taking that view. The Government will doubtless say that for five years the Federal Parliament have played with this most important question of old-age pensions, and that no Government, until they came into power, proved itself capable of offering a solution. They will point to the various Governments which have been in power, previously, and I have no hesitation in saying that they will emphasize the fact that when the Labour Party was in office, with all its enthusiasm, nothing was done to promote old-age pensions. But this deus ex machina - this heavengifted Ministry - is the one Ministry to ask the electors to send them back to power with sufficient support to carry such measures as this !

Senator de Largie - More credit to them if they can do what no other Government has done.

Senator CLEMONS - Then the more discredit to the Labour Ministry. If it is any consolation to Senator de Largie that the present Ministry can do more for the establishment of old-age pensions than the Labour Ministry could do, I will ask the honorable senator to go on to the public platform and say so.

Senator de Largie - The Labour Ministry had a tenure of office extending over only three months.

Senator CLEMONS - One would have thought that even three months would be sufficient time to enable a Labour Ministry, not, perhaps to carry out, but to indicate an honest endeavour to solve this question, and, at least, a capacity to do so. It is no concern of mine if Senator de Largie, at the coming elections, proposes to eulogise the present Ministry.

Senator de Largie - We shall be at peace in the coming elections.

Senator CLEMONS - I warn the members of the Labour Party that, whilst the party with which I am especially connected is not likely to give them any peace, in many respects they will get no peace from the present Government, who, with their supporters, will make use of this very measure to induce the electors to believe that where, the Labour and every other Ministry has failed, the present Government alone have been able to submit a feasible scheme to give pensions to all the poor old people in the Commonwealth to relieve themfrom their miseries.

Senator de Largie - More credit to them.

Senator CLEMONS - I should be prepared to say more credit to them if I could believe that they were sincere, and that this measure is not a sham and a pretence, or that, if carried, anything would be done under it to give effect to so laudable an object. If I am satisfied however, that that hope will never be realized, as a consequence of this measure, why should I say, " More credit to the Government?" I saythat noMinistry has any right to attempt to delude those who are looking for old-age pensions into the belief that they will get them under the operation of the Bill we are now asked to pass. I shall be no party to such an attempt. Even members of the Labour Party who have spoken on the measure have condemned it. We know what Senator Stewart's views of the Bill are - the honorable senator spoke of it as " cruel, cunning," and he did not say half enough when he said that.

Senator O'Keefe - S - Senator Stewart is opposed to the Bill on entirely different grounds from the honorable senator. He would not raise a penny of revenue through the Customs, and favours direct taxation.

Senator CLEMONS - I have admitted already that the devilish ingenuity of this Bill is such that there is no point of public interest which is not touched by it, and no individual senator, let alone a political party in the Senate, that does not find himself confronted with a difficulty that seems almost insuperable. Senator Stewart is not alone in this respect. I am under as great a difficulty in dealing with the mea-. sure as he is, though not for the same reasons.

Senator O'Keefe - B - But although the honorable senator would help Senator Stewart to defeat the Bill, he would not help the honorable senator to carry his scheme for the establishment of old-age pensions.

Senator CLEMONS - What is Senator Stewart's scheme?

Senator O'Keefe - T - To establish the fund by direct taxation.

Senator CLEMONS - The time has not yet come when I am asked to agree to Senator Stewart's scheme. But if I might venture to guess what it is, I say that the time is rapidly coming when we shall all of us have to deal with the basis of the system of finance as between the Federation and the States, and will have to overhaul and entirely alter the existing conditions. To that extent I am in entire agreement with Senator Stewart. Whether in the process of overhauling we shall be found acting together is quite another question. I agree with the honorable senator, as every other member of the Senate must be forced to do, that the time is almost imminent when we shall have to give far more serious consideration to the financial questions of immense importance which confront us than the present Government have done, or have given us the opportunity to do during the closing days of the session. This Bill, and another which was before us, are merely miserable, contemptible make-shifts for postponing the consideration of the financial question. They are deserving of no more consideration than should be given to a temporary expedient. Senator Playford will not assert that this Bill is any more than a temporary expedient, or that it will solve the question.

Senator Playford - It is an attempted solution. We are asking the electors to agree to our proposal.

Senator CLEMONS - And what are we to tell the electors? I shall have to tell them something, if I stand for re-election.

Senator Playford - The honorable senator will not know what to say to them. He is evidently in a very great fix.

Senator CLEMONS - I am in no greater fix than Senator Playford will be.

Senator Stewart - If they ask what articles are to be taxed, what will the Minister say?

Senator Playford - I shall say that that is a matter for the consideration of Parliament.

Senator CLEMONS - If Senator Playford says that he is in no fix, it means that he will tell the electors all sorts of things about this Bill which he will not tell the Senate. If I can gather anything from his interjection, it means that he knows a great deal more than he will tell the Senate, and I think it is his duty to give us the information which he is prepared to communicate to the electors. Whatever the Minister has to say to the electors, I' shall be unable to tell them anything concerning this Bill which will be satisfactory, and I have not yet heard any honorable senator speak to the measure who will be able to do so, unless we except Senator Playford, and there was nothing in his remarks which would be con.sidered very satisfactory by the electors. At the risk of repeating what I said on another occasion, I have to say that I think the Senate should resent, with some effect and purpose, the conduct of the Government in asking us to deal with the financial Question in such a piecemeal way, and at a time when they know that proper consideration cannot be given to it. At the risk of an interjection from Senator Playford. I have to say that this measure, again,, is bound up with the 'Braddon section, and also with the bookkeeping provisions. The Government is once more tinkering with the whole business, and doing nothing that will be permanent; nothing, in fact, but shelving the solution of the difficulty. We are going, by this measure, to impose upon the ignorance and credulity of the electors, and we must confess ourselves unable to understand what, as members of the Federal Parliament, we should have at our fingers' ends. That is the position in which the Ministry are placing us. I ask every member of the Senate, unless he is clear as to what this Bill will lead to, and can approve of' the object, both as to the methods and results, to do his utmost to have the measure rejected.

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