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Wednesday, 26 September 1906

Senator O'KEEFE (Tasmania) . - - Senator Clemons, in an interesting speech, has said that he anticipates that, at the coming elections, hard things will be said of honorable senators who vote against this Bill. Although he and I will be voting on opposite sides, and standing on opposite platforms, if we both seek reelection in Tasmania, I can give him my word that I shall not say anything harsh about him, or about any other member of the Senate who is opposed to me on this Bill. Surely we can give each other credit for honest convictions on the question of old-age pensions? I believe that if Senator Clemons were, satisfied that the necessary revenue could be raised without injury to Tasmania, .and believed in oldage pensions, he would vote for the Bill. At present, I do not remember whether the honorable senator Has declared himself in favour of, or against, old-age pensions. Amongst those who have so declared themselves, is Senator Drake, who, last night, said that we all had the question at heart, and believe that old-age pensions should be established as soon as possible - if a scheme can be adopted which will be consistent with the requirements of the different States. Old-age pension schemes are in operation in two of the States, and Senator Drake asked why the Parliaments of the other States did not raise the necessary funds. I do not know what difficulty presents itself in Queensland against the raising of a fund for this purpose, but in Tasmania there is an insuperable bar to the raising of such a fund. Even if that State were not suffering from financial difficulties

Senator Walker - The surplus there was £45,000 last year.

Senator O'KEEFE - I - I know more about, the surplus, and the way in which it wasobtained, than ' does Senator Walker. If Tasmania derived as much revenue from Customs now as she did prior to Federation, there would still be an insuperable bar to the establishment of old-age pensions in that State. I honestly believe that the Legislative Council of Tasmania would never consent to pass an old-age pensions, scheme. I believe in old-age pensions, and it is because I believe it would be impossible. under existing conditions, to carry such a scheme in Tasmania, owing to the peculiar Constitution of the Legislative Council in that State, that I must fall back upon the Federal Parliament to pro-: vide a scheme.

Senator Drake - The honorable senator wishes the Federal Parliament to impose a tax upon the people of Tasmania because the State Parliament will not do it?

Senator O'KEEFE - -Th -The Constitution has given the Federal Parliament the power to impose taxation upon the people of Tasmania, and, possibly, some of the taxationnow imposed through Customs and Excise does not find favour with many people in that State. We cannot quarrel with that, however, because the majority of the people, in accepting, the Constitution, agreed that the Federal Parliament should have the power to deal with the matter. That is, I think, a very pertinent answer to the' interjection. Surely the Parliament of the Commonwealth is not exceeding its province in projecting a scheme to raise the necessary money? If, as I believe, the majority of the members in each House - and I believe I can include Senator Clemons in the number - are in favour of establishing a Federal scheme of old-age pensions, then what we have to consider is, how can the money be raised. I admitthat in the case of Tasmania it becomesa very serious question. Although I recognise that Senator Clemons is quite honest and fair in objecting to the proposal owing to the financial position of' the State, still he should give me creditfor sincerity of conviction and honesty of purpose when I state that, in voting for the Bill, after weighing the advantages against the disadvantages, I shall be doing the right thing in the interests of its people, and one to which they will not object when" they thoroughly understand the position.

Senator Clemons - I do not . know about that ; but I believe that the honorable senator is voting as he thinks right.

Senator O'KEEFE - T - The other point will be decided at the elections, when it may be a burning question. I propose to vote in a direction in which I have spoken for six or sevenyears. I have been waiting until I am tired of waiting for an opportunity to give a vote in the direction of finding the money for a system of old-age pensions, even although the scheme proposed does not quite come up to my ideal. We cannot possibly provide the fund out of" the surplus now returnable to the States without doing an injury to at least two States. Certainly Tasmania could not afford to provide £68,000 a year for that purpose.

Senator Clemons - How does the honorable senator expect Customs duties upon tea and kerosene to provide that sum?

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