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Wednesday, 26 September 1906


Senator TURLEY (Queensland) . - As pointed out by Senator Stewart last night, the action of the Government in introducing this Bill has placed many honorable senators in a very peculiar position. I have advocated the payment of old-age pensions for a number of years in Queensland. I have always believed that they should be paid out of the Consolidated Revenue. I have to go to Queensland presently, and shall have to tell the people there exactly my position regarding this measure. I am going to oppose it because I think that it is based upon a most pernicious principle. I know very well that I shall be told that the measure has to be sanctioned by a referendum. But I am not going to make a fetish of the referendum. I believe in. the principle of any proposed alteration of the Constitution being submitted to the people, but, surely, that is no argument why all sorts of measures should be dumped down upon the table of the Senate, altogether illconsidered, ill-digested, containing "just a few clauses hastily ' put together, and thrown before us by a Minister who says, "You need not worry about this; it is all right; push it through, and' let it go to the people; it went through the other House all right, and why should we trouble about it up here?" All that affords no reason why honorable senators should not take an interest in business which affects their States. In what position should I be if I adopted the view of the Minister, swallowed this measure on his assurance that it is all right, and were then asked by my constituents why I had voted for it? What ridiculous nonsense it is to commend the Bill to us on such grounds. Why should I be prepared to say to the Government, " I will vote for any measure you like to put before me because it has to be submitted to the public before it becomes operative " ? If a measure has been submitted to both Houses and fully considered, we are likely in Committee to come to some understanding which will enable Parliament to put that measure to the referendum as one which has been passed unanimously. or nearly so. But this measure has received scant consideration in another place, and has been thrown down here at this late hour of the session. Some honorable senators are asked to go back on the principles of a lifetime in order to give their adhesion to the Government, and they then may no out and advise the electors not to vote for this particular proposal. But if I support a measure in the Senate as being in the best interests of Australia, I shall certainly advocate that measure when before the people. I am opposed to the principle of this Bill, which I understand to be that whenever this or any other Government desires to carry out some proposal they may come to Parliament and ask that duties may be imposed on certain articles, not included in the Tariff, in order to raise the necessary funds. This Bill need not be confined to old-age pensions ; next year money might be wanted in connexion with defence - for the building of vessels, and so forth. So far as the Bill is concerned, we have no guarantee that it will be applied only to old-age pensions, there being nothing to indicate that it relates to any one particular object. No one knows what special tax the Government may consider it necessary to impose under this Bill. The excuse is that the Premiers of the States have agreed to the breaking of the Constitution by means of this Bill, which we are asked to swallow without any particular consideration. As a rule, the States Premiers and Treasurers are not much inclined to agree to anything of the sort when it touches their financial interests. At the Hobart Conference the Premiers distinctly refused to agree to any special duties being raised by the Federal Parliament from Customs and Excise, unless the conditionsof the Constitution were complied with, and thev received three-fourths of the revenueraised. Is there anything in the resolution passed at the last Conference of Premiers to show that they are prepared to sanctionany proposal of the sort embodied in this' Bill? The resolution merely says that if the Commonwealth . Parliament believes it necessary to pay old-age pensions it must raise the necessary money without trenching on the three-fourths of the revenue which has to be returned under the Constitution. That resolution does not say that the Premiers are prepared to sanction ai Bill which will in all probability deprive them of three-fourths of £1,000,000. Senator Pearce has told us that there are quite a number of articles on the free list, in addition to tea and kerosene, which, if taxed, would return something like £1,000,000; and I do not think that the Premiers would be prepared to abrogate the Constitution to such an extent as to entail a loss of three- fourths of that amount. At the present time the States Treasurers require as much as they can possibly get returned to them from Customs and Excise. This question has to be regarded from a' number of aspects. It is all very well to say that certain duties will produce a certain amount, out of which old-age pensions may be paid. We must not forget, however, that estimates of revenue are very often wrong. In the States, and even in the Commonwealth, mistakes have been made in this connexion. I can remember Queensland having a deficit of nearly £500,000, and of course, there have been instances in, the State of surpluses of, perhaps, £100,000. The Federal Government may be acting in perfectly good faith when they estimate that they will be able to raise the money necessary from the sources named ;. but what is proposed to be done if the revenue does not come up to expectation? Are the Government then to be allowed to make up the deficiency from the Consolidated Revenue? I am in favour of old-age pensions, but not of pensions which depend on any special duties of Customs and Excise. In my opinion, old-age pensions ought to be paid out of the Consolidated Revenue year by year, and a guarantee thus afforded to the pensioners that there can be no failure in funds - that, whatever straits the Government may be in, the pensions must be paid, short of legislation to the contrary. Of course, we can understand this sort of legislation with regard to trust funds, where revenue is raised from particular sources, and may only be used for certain limited purposes. I am speaking of money contributed by a certain class, and confined to certain uses j and have in my mind stock taxes and other taxes which are paid into a special trust fund. For instance, the Pacific Labourers' Fund, in Queensland, may be used only for certain purposes. In the Bill before us, however, there is nothing definite. All we are asked to do is to take power to impose certain special duties which, it is estimated, will bring in a certain amount of money annually. If that amount is not raised annually, are we to cut down the pensions of the old people? In a case of that sort, we could not draw on the Consolidated Revenue for services which are not included in the ordinary services of the Government. A number of funds connected with the public services have got into difficulties in Australia. In Queensland there is a Police Superannuation Fund; and years ago. when it was instituted, it was almost demonstrated that it could never become insolvent.


Senator Millen - There are two similar insolvent funds in New South Wales now.


Senator TURLEY - When that fund was instituted, the amount which the prospective pensioners had to pay out of their salaries was fixed, and it was arranged that considerable sums of money, such as police rewards and a portion of the fines, should also be paid into the fund. Yet a few years ago the Government came down, and pointed out that years before certain liabilities had been created ; and year bv year large sums of money had to be taken out of the Consolidated Revenue to make the fund good. After a considerable agitation there was an actuarial investigation, and it was reported to Parliament that the fund was insolvent to the extent of £430,000 odd. I certainly believe, as I say, in old- ' age pensions, but I am not prepared to indorse the system proposed, because I do not believe that the old people, who have done a great deal of work in building up Australia, would be safe for a moment, if they had to depend on the imposition of special duties on special articles. I suppose that every member of the Senate is in favour of something being done for old and infirm people. It has been argued that, under the scheme proposed, we shall be able to relieve the States to a very great extent of their expenditure in connexion with charitable institutions. I think that is very doubtful.


Senator Millen - New South Wales has not saved a penny on the charitable vote since the institution of old-age pensions.


Senator Clemons - It would be cruel to do away with the charitable institutions merely because old-age pensions were provided for.


Senator TURLEY - I do not think they could be done away with. There are a number of people in every State in the Commonwealth to whom a pension of 8s. or 10s. ,a week would be of very little use, if they had not friends and relatives prepared to look after them. In the institutions referred to there are men and women who are practically helpless, and who, if they were outside, and dependent upon a pension of 8s. or 10s. a week, would not be able to get the attention they require. These people must be looked after in an institution. I know that there are some who say that, . if we had an old-age pensions scheme established, we could do away with charitable institutions ; but I do not agree with that for a moment. It appears to me that this proposal takes us back to the English system of many years ago. In its effects it would be very much like the poorlaw system; in England, under which people in the .poor districts were called upon to support their own poor, whilst the people who lived in villa residences, and in districts in which there were very few poor, had no poor tax to speak of to pay.


Senator de Largie - Does the honorable senator contend that the whole of this taxation would fall upon the people who will get the old-age pensions?


Senator TURLEY - I say that the bulk of the revenue derived from the taxation proposed would be contributed by the people who will eventually have to fall back upon the old-age pensions fund. I admit that in Australia, as in other new countries, there are many ups and downs. I personally know men. who five or six years ago were worth £200,000 or £300,000, and to-day some of them are receiving charitable relief. But these are exceptional cases, and I say that the bulk of 'the money, under the system proposed, would be paid by the people who will eventually require. to fall back upon the old-age pensions fund. How much kerosene is used in Melbourne, with its big gas and electric light works? If honorable senators walk down the street, they will find that very little kerosene is used.


Senator Clemons - Half the population of the Commonwealth residein the big cities.


Senator TURLEY - I admit that an enormous number of them use kerosene.


Senator de Largie - I thought the honorable senator said that the people who live in cities do not use it.


Senator TURLEY - No. I say I believe that the bulk of this taxation would be paid by people who will eventually require assistance from the old-age pensions fund, because throughout life they are unable to make provision for their old age. These are not the people who have electric light installed in their houses,, who have gas stoves to warm their feet in winter, and who do their cooking, by gas. The well-to-do people who have these conveniences will not contribute a penny towards the special duties proposed. People in the back country of Australia, who are doing most for the development of the resources of, theCommonwealth will be called upon to pay this taxation. Kerosene is the cheapest and best illuminant which the man in the bush can get, and even some of the small towns in the back districts of Queensland, and I suppose also in, other States, have their streets lighted, with kerosene lamps placed on the top of posts.


Senator de Largie - The people who live in towns are all rich, and those who live in the country are all poor.


Senator TURLEY - Not at all. The bulk of the people in the cities, and the people in the back country, will contribute almost the whole of this taxation. Does Senator de Largie believe that the man who works for 25s. or £2 a week in Melbourne is able to use gas or electric light?


Senator O'Keefe - W - What about the people in towns in which no gas or electric light is supplied?


Senator TURLEY - There are not a great many towns in which neither gas nor electricity is supplied ; but I agree that small towns in Queensland, and I believe in other States of the Commonwealth, have to depend upon kerosene.


Senator O'Keefe - W - Will all the people in those towns require old-age pensions?


Senator TURLEY - I do not say that they will ; but they are certainly not as well off as the men in a large way of business in Melbourne, Sydney, or Brisbane. We are here asked to impose special taxation which expressly excludes those who are best able to bear taxation.


Senator O'Keefe - W - We could get more than half of the amount required from the direct taxation of people of that class.


Senator TURLEY - The statement was made in my hearing, not long ago, that the land values of Collins-street amount to more than those of the State of Western Australia, and yet the owners of property in Collins-street would escape this special taxation. I cannot swallow such a proposal at all. I am prepared to go a long way to secure old-age pensions for the people of Australia, but I think there should be a majority in the Federal Parliament prepared to support, and in fact to compel the Government, if necessary, to carry legislation to provide a fund for oldage pensions by direct taxation rather than by this miserable method of collecting the bulk of the fund from the poorer people, who will ultimately require to look to it for relief. Why should we be told that if we sink the principles which, we have been advocating for years and allow these special duties, in which we do not believe, to be imposed, we shall be able to continue to agitate for a land tax, and for other direct taxation ? I should prefer to be able to tell the people of Queensland that, if they wish to have old-age pensions established, they must send to this Parliament a majority prepared to compel the Government to bring in legislation to impose direct taxation to provide the necessary funds.


Senator O'Keefe - T - The trouble is that those who join with the honorable senator in opposing this measure will not help him in what he desires.


Senator TURLEY - Is that any reason why I should sink my principles?


Senator Best - What is the direct taxation to which the honorable senator refers?


Senator TURLEY - Land taxation.


Senator de Largie - There is no State in which it is so little likely to be imposed as Queensland.


Senator TURLEY - I am advocating it, and have been advocating it in Queensland for a number of years, and I have always been prepared to stand by my principles.


Senator de Largie - The honorable senator never realizes any of them.


Senator TURLEY -We have done something in Queensland. ' We have had to fight against opposition more strenuous than any that has been experienced by the Labour Party in any other State of the Common - wealth, and we have been able to gain more ground than I expected we should gain for a long time. It is all very well for Senator de Largie to interject, but only a little time ago we were told that Western Australia possessed the cream of the population of Australia; that the adventurous spirits had congregated there from all portions of the Commonwealth - the men who hold strong radical opinions on public questions. It is nothing wonderful that a band of radicals selected from the whole of the Commonwealth should return radicals to Parliament. It seems to me that that is what we might have expected, but when radicals go amongst a population the majority of whom are absolutely conservative, and still make progress, they can claim some credit for the work they do.


Senator de Largie - The honorable senator cannot complain of the radical character of the people of Queensland.


Senator TURLEY - The work has been done in Queensland against enormous odds, which the party has never had to contend with in the State from which Senator de Largie comes.


Senator Best - Does the honorable senator suggest that the whole fund should be raised from direct land taxation?


Senator TURLEY - I remind the honorable senator that we have a certain amount of money which we can utilize at the present time.


Senator Best - The honorable senator refers to the balance of the one-fourth of Customs and Excise which is not expended by the Commonwealth. "Senator TURLEY.- Yes. The revenue from the land tax would make up the balance that would be required. Two hundred thousand pounds might be derived from such taxation, even though we should exempt every piece of land in Australia of the value of £240.


Senator Best - Am I to understand that a progressive land tax, such as the honorable senator suggests, would return the £500,000 a year?


Senator TURLEY - The land tax which I believe should be imposed would go a long way beyond that.


Senator Drake - The honorable senator suggests an exemption of only £240.


Senator TURLEY - According to, some evidence which was given before the Oldage Pensions Commission, a tax of1d. in the £1on all land, with an exemption of £240,. would return £1,174,000 a year, and the estimated cost of a Federal system ofold-age pensions is £1,400,000.


Senator O'Keefe - I - It is said here that the honorable senator proposes to superimpose that upon the existing land tax.


Senator TURLEY - I admit that there are some difficulties in the way of the imposition of a Federal land tax. But, at the same time, is it better to tax the people in these States who are least able to bear the burden of a special tax than to tax the people who are able to pay an increased tax of1d. in the £1 ?


Senator Best - Where does the Federal land tax of the LabourParty come in, as contrasted with the land tax to which the honorable senator is now referring?


Senator TURLEY - We are trying to raise money with which topay old-age pensions. . I, for one, am prepared to vote for direct taxation, with an exemption far below that which is put forward bythe Labour Party, in order to raise money for that purpose, rather than to get if through the Customs House.


Senator Best - The cutting up of large estates would not be an element in that proposal. But the progressive land tax of the Labour Party has for its object the breaking up of them.


Senator TURLEY - It would effect that result more quickly, because, if an exemption of £240 were allowed, a person who held a large estate would have to pay a considerable increase upon the amount which he is now paying.


Senator Best - But it is the progressive nature of the land tax which would burst up large estates.


Senator TURLEY - This tax could be made progressive too. According to the Government Statistician for New South Wales, a land tax of1d. in the £1, with that low exemption, would return nearly £1,200,000 to the Commonwealth..


Senator Best - In addition to the present land tax of a State.


Senator TURLEY - That is so.


Senator Best - Would it not overburden the land?


Senator TURLEY - I do not think so. Victoria and New South Wales, which have a system of old-age pensions, might not be able to remove the land tax at once; but there are other ways in which they could ease the taxation. So far, there has been no complaint about the ability of either State to stand the present land. tax. In the caseof either South Australia or Western Australia I contend that those who are getting a return in increased value from the labour and energy of those who have now to ask for old-age pensions should be called upon to pay the greater portion of the cost of the Federal scheme.


Senator O'Keefe - T - The. honorable senator cannot get any support for that here, though his contention is quite fair.


Senator TURLEY - I am prepared to advocate that proposal, as I have done for a long time, but I am not prepared to advocate a system which would allow the Government, if they had a majority, to raise a revenue by Customs duties on special articles for any purpose which they might choose, and that is what this Bill practically provides for. It contains no reference to old-age pensions or to a Customs duty on kerosene, or tea, or any other article.


Senator Best - I am af raid that the honorable senator is throwing away the substance for the shadow.


Senator TURLEY - I do not think so.


Senator Best - The honorable senator is prepared to allow the old people to wait for a few years longer. That is what it means.


Senator TURLEY - I admit that, without resorting to sophistry to prove that I am prepared to sink my principles with the. object of getting old-age pensions during the next three years, when there Is no guarantee that it would be obtainedfrom the enactment of this Bill. The Government are merely asking for a power which would enable them to submit toParliament a measure. Are we to believe that there will always be in Parliament a majority prepared to go back upon the work which they did three or four years ago? I remember that when, with the waving of flags and blaring of trumpets, Queensland's representatives returned after the Tariff was passed, and said, " See what we have been able to do. We were not prepared to allow the necessities of life to be taxed more than was absolutely necessary." They were cheeredto the echo on every platform where I saw them.


Senator O'Keefe - S - Some members of the Labour Party said more than that. They said that the imposition of duties on tea and kerosene might be justified for this special purpose.


Senator TURLEY - I do not intend to say that honorable senators opposed or supported those duties for a particular reason. But Senator Stewart can bear out my statement that one of the great messages which Queensland's representatives brought back to the people was that, as the Parliament was constituted, so far as the Labour Party could effect any reform, it was to be in the way of freeing the necessaries of life.


Senator de Largie - Did Senator Stewart also say that the leader of the Labour Party in the Senate had said that he was willing to tax tea if ft meant the securing of old-age pensions?


Senator TURLEY - No.


Senator de Largie - He might have done so, because it would have been the truth.


Senator TURLEY - I do not suppose that Senator Stewart agreed with that statement when it was made, any more than he does now.


Senator Stewart - No.


Senator TURLEY - Why should Senator Stewart tell the people of Queensland what the opinion of another member of the Senate was? He told his constituents what his own opinions were, and his actions. I take it that in Queensland the members' of the Labour Party took credit for refusing to allow the necessaries of life to be taxed.


Senator de Largie - For ordinary purposes.


Senator TURLEY - I was glad to hear Senator Stewart say that he is still of the same opinion.


Senator O'Keefe - T - The honorable senator should not charge other senators with deserting their principles.


Senator TURLEY - I have not charged the honorable senator with deserting his principles.


The PRESIDENT - I must ask honorable senators not to interrupt, especially to make improper imputations.


Senator TURLEY - I decline to go back upon my principles merely because the Government have thrown upon the table an ill-digested scheme, and asked me to sup-, port it. as it would have to go to a referendum of the people. The revenue derived from the imposition of special duties would be of a fluctuating character, but the demand for old-age pensions would be fairly steady. The number of persons who fall out of work year by year is not on the decrease. In proportion to the population, there are in Australia to-day more persons who would be entitled to an old-age pension than there were twenty years ago. Therefore the amount required for financing a scheme would be ever increasing. We have no guarantee that the revenue from special duties would increase or decrease. But we do know that, so far as the Customs revenue generally is concerned, it fluctuates. No one is able to gauge its amount with any exactitude.


Senator Best - -There are articles other than tea and kerosene which could be easily taxed.


Senator TURLEY - Yes; but the two articles which have been mentioned by the leader of the Senate and other honorable senators have been tea and kerosene. I would remind Senator Best that the greater proportion of the other articles which appear on the free list are the raw materials of Australian manufacturers.

Sitting suspended from 6.30 to 7.45 p.m.


Senator TURLEY - When the sitting was suspended I was replying to an interjection by Senator Best that the articles which I had mentioned were not the only ones to which special duties should be applied. I then said, as one who believed in protection, that nearly all the articles that were specially exempted under the Tariff were the raw materials of certain industries carried on in Australia, and which could not be carried on profitably otherwise. In most cases they are materials which we do not produce. Some of them we could not produce. Since the adjournment I have looked up the Customs Tariff Act, and find under the exemption heading in the third column quite a number of articles which are not produced in Australia. The reason why they are upon the free list is that it was not desired to handicap the industries in which they are used.


Senator Best - That is the case in regard to some.


Senator TURLEY - It is the case with nearly all. If Senator Best looks, for instance, at the item " Apparel," he will find upon the free list such articles as binding, buckles, buttons, body and skirt steels, and other things which we do not produce. Those articles are part of the raw material used in industries that are conducted in this country. Is Senator Best prepared to put a handicap of 10 per cent, upon goods which are essential to the carrying on of certain Austraiian industries, and thereby to handicap the industries in which they are used? I d'o not think that would be a wise thing to do. Ac the Premiers' Conferences some of the members said that there were duties on tea and kerosene in some of the States before Federation, and they pointed out that, as their States were not getting back from the Commonwealth as much Customs and Excise revenue as they required, it would be a fair thing to reimpose those duties. But they did not ask for a Bill like this, under which they would receive nothing. The Premiers of the States did not say that they were favorable to the Commonwealth imposing tea and kerosene duties for the purposes intended by the Government. The Treasurer of the State of Queensland strongly objected to anything like this. I know that there was not much formal opposition to it, but at the same time the Premiers have never given their adhesion to the principle. I have no doubt whatever that if the Bill is submitted to the country, the members of the Queensland Parliament will strongly oppose it simply because it supersedes one of the basic principles of the Constitution. I intend to quote some passages from evidence taken bv the Royal Commission in Queensland from men whom I knew personally, and who are strong supporters of the old-age pensions proposition. They are also members of the Labour Party, and have taken a prominent part in making it what it is in that State. I will first quote from the evidence of Mr. George Jackson, who is at present Chairman of Committees in the Queensland Legislative Assembly. I should like to say this for Mr. Jackson : That, having known him and sat beside him in the Queensland Parliament for a number of years, I am safe in saying that, if there is a man connected with that Parliament who has made the oldage pension question his own, it is the member for Kennedy. By the way, I may mention that he is a gentleman who has no very strong opinions in favour of land taxation. I do not know whether that is because he happens to own a fair quantity of land himself. I impute no motives to him; I would tell him exactly the same thing if he were here. Mr. Jackson, in giving evidence before the Old-age Pensions Commission, on the 14th June, 1905 (page 135 of the report, question 2850), was asked -

Looking at it from the point of view of the Queensland taxpayer, how would you view a proposal to reimpose tea and kerosene duties, and to ear-mark the money so received for oldage pension purposes ?

He replied -

I do not think that would be popular with the party to which I belong.

I believe he was absolutely right. The next question was -

Is there not a disposition in Queensland to ask for those duties to assist State finances? - Not on the part of the party to which I belong, and I scarcely think that there is a general opinion in favour of that policy. 1 notice that one of your newspapers suggests that that should be done? - There is no popular agitation in favour of it.

Mr. Jacksonwas perfectly right.


Senator de Largie - Better to be right than popular !


Senator TURLEY - I feel that myself. I am satisfied that I am perfectly right, and that the honorable senator is taking the stand which he believes to be popular. Personally, I do not think it is, but I am satisfied that those who are directly interested shall settle that point for themselves.


Senator de Largie - If there is any point in the honorable senator's argument, I am not popular, however right I mav be.


Senator TURLEY - The honorable senator does not represent Queensland. He comes from a State on the other side of the Continent. I certainly know of no popular agitation in favour of such a policy. In my opinion there is a strong opinion against it pretty well throughout the States.


Senator Guthrie - To what party does Mr. Jackson belong?


Senator TURLEY - He is a member of the Labour Party. His evidence proceeds -

How do you think the people of Queensland would relish the idea of the Commonwealth Parliament entering the region of direct taxation ?

I have said that Mr. Jackson is not a strong advocate of land taxation, but, at the same time, he realized that when, it came to the question of doing something for the aged people. Parliament should get its money from the best source possible. He replied -

I should think it quite fair and legitimate for you to do that. It is for you to decide how to raise the money. If you grant old-age pensions you should have the courage to raise the revenue. You ought not to be afraid of facing the situation. If in Oueensland we were to establish a pension of ios. a week under Act of Parliament, we should have to find the money. I for one should cheerfully face the situation, and I do not see why you should not.

That is the position which I take up now. I believe that the Commonwealth Parliament and Government should face the situation; and should determine that those who are best able to bear the taxation necessary to provide for the necessities of the old people of Australia are those upon whom fresh taxation could be imposed. I wish to quote from another Queensland witness, Mr. W. P. Colborne, President of the Trades and Labour Council, Brisbane, who was examined on the 14th June, 1905, and whose evidence is to be found on page 142 of the Commission's report. I take it that this witness was well able to voice the opinions of the Labour Party in Queensland. I, as a member of that party, am voicing its opinions here. Mr. Colborne gave the following evidence: -

A proposal has been made that one method of raising part of the revenue would be to impose taxes on tea and kerosene ; are you favorable to that method ? - Certainly not.

Why not? - Because tea and kerosene are practically necessaries of life. In one way they are not necessaries, but if a workman is not to give up the standard of living to which he has been accustomed all his life, he is supposed to get tea and kerosene. I think there are very few instances in town where men in this country do not get those articles.

Is kerosene used in the average workman's home in Brisbane? - Kerosene is used in nearly every case. Kerosene is also used in the bush.

What is generally used in the homes of richer people? - Kerosene principally in the bush, but in the towns I suppose that gas is generally used, and in a few cases electric light. But I do not think that the electric light is used very much in private houses in Brisbane. Outside of Brisbane it is very little used.

Tea is the usual beverage of the working people, is it not? - Yes, more particularly in the bush.

Do you regard it as a luxury? - I could hardly think it a luxury ; I look upon it as a necessity if people are to live up to their accustomed standard.

Then the witness was asked several questions on the subject of direct taxation.

Do you think that a tax of id. per £1 on the unimproved value of land is a very fair method? - I am a strong supporter of a land tax, but under present circumstances I venture to think that such taxation should be reserved for State exigencies. There is no land tax here at present. When Customs revenue is taken from the States, as will probably happen in a few years, it is only fair that the States should have this source of revenue left open to them.

If the Commonwealth Government were to relieve the States of a large amount of revenue which is now paid to charities, would it not have the same effect as if we left them the land tax? - If the 'Commonwealth imposed a land tax for the purpose of old-age pensions until the time arrived when the Commonwealth took the whole of the Customs revenue for its own purposes, it would be a fair thing ; but I think that when that time arrives that particular source of revenue should be left to the States.

This man, I take it, represents the views of, to say the least, the big majority of the working people of Brisbane, and of Queensland generally. There is no doubt that he regards a land tax as the best means of raising money for the purpose of oldage pensions, being of opinion that otherwise the burden will fall on the bulk of the poorer classes and the average worker, with the result that, to some extent, the standard of living will be lowered. I am not here to vote for any legislation that will tend to lower the standard of living, as we know it in Australia to-day. Our object is not to lower, but to raise that standard - to spread that divine doctrine of discontent which makes people realize that there is a higher plane of living to which they can attain, and that by methods of production it is possible to live a better life from the point of view of material wealth.


Senator McGregor - The honorable senator, is in advance of his new party !


Senator TURLEY - Evidently some of us are a long way ahead- even of Senator McGregor in our ideas. We are prepared to enable the Federal Government to raise a fund - not a separate fund, but one to be paid into the Consolidated Revenue - which shall prove sufficient for the purposes of old-age pensions. We do not desire anything like a trust fund, with its constant fluctuations, and outside of which we could not go to make good any "deficiency. We desire something fixed and definite, so that the people who are entitled to oldage pensions will know that the money is always there, whatever may be the fluctuations of the Customs revenue.


Senator McGregor - Will the honorable senator's new allies help him to get that?


Senator TURLEY - I nave no new allies. These interjections suggest that character in Dickens, who could not talk about any subject without introducing " King Charles' head." Quite a number of honorable senators are unable to give credit for good intentions to any one who does not support a particular Railway

Survey Bill, and that Bill is dragged in on every conceivable occasion.


The PRESIDENT - I must ask the honorable senator not to discuss the Railway Survey Bill.


Senator TURLEY - I have no desire to do so; I was only too glad to see the last of that Bill. Senator Pearce said that the people of Western Australia would contribute a great deal more to the revenue raised by the special duties than the people in some of the other States - that Western Australia would contribute a sum greater than1 that necessary for the indigent poor of that State. But that applies to other outside States such as Western Australia, Queensland, and I suppose the best part of South Australia.


Senator Guthrie - South Australia is the central State.


Senator TURLEY - Whatever the honorable senator may call South Australia makes no difference to the fact.


The PRESIDENT - Those interjections only lead the speaker off the track, and do not advance the debate.


Senator TURLEY - Evidence was give* before the Royal Commission by the Statistician of Queensland, who gave figures showing the proportion to the total population in each of the States of persons aged at sixty-five and upwards. In Queensland the proportion was 2.57 ; New South Wales, 3.45 ; Victoria, 5.50, or more thantwice the proportion in Queensland; in South Australia, 4. 12 ; in Western Australia, 1.80, the lowest of all', and in Tasmania, 4.07. I am opposed to the system suggested, because those States which contain the most old people, and people who are not so well off, will be called upon to bear the largest proportional share -of the cost of old-age pensions. I know that, as new expenditure, this will be calculated according to population; and I have no particular .objection to that. But we must remember that Victoria at the present time is very prosperous, with a surplus of £500,000 or £600,000, and that New South Wales has a surplus of £700,000 or £800,000, while, on the contrary, other States have deficits, or have just escaped deficits. Yet these latter States will be called upon to pay the largest proportional share of the proposed duties, and I think it is time for some of us. to pro-, test. According to Mr. Coghlan, the sum necessary to be raised is about ,£800,000. Mr. Coghlan was supplied by the Royal

Commission with a schedule of questions which he returned with their answers ; and from these I extract the following: -

What can be done to raise money to pay pensions? - It has been suggested that dutieson kerosene and tea might be imposed, but it it evident that not more than£800,000 could be raised from this source.

How could the balance be obtained? - The best suggestion I have met with is to impose a stamp duty of . 2.d. on all weekly wages. This, I think, would yield a sufficient sum to make up the deficiency between the cost of the pensions and the amount obtainable from the duties on kerosene and tea.


Senator McGregor - Is the honorable senator quoting from Senator Dobson?


Senator TURLEY - No, but from a gentleman who is very often quoted in this Chamber as the authority of the Commonmonwealth on statistics - Mr. T. A. Coghlan.


Senator Guthrie - I do not approve of what hesays.


Senator TURLEY - I do not approve of a stamp tax on wages, and for the very reason that I do not approve of the proposal now before the Senate, because it would mean a tax on those least able to bear taxation. Mr. Coghlan gave this further evidence -

As to the amount of the pension, what is your idea? - I think the pension should be fixed at 8s. a week, and any State desiring to pay more might do so. Thus, the New South Wales Government could supplement the Commonwealth pension of8s. a week by the addition of 2s. a week, in order to bring up the pension to. the maximum now granted.

What would be the cost to the Commonwealth of pensions at 8s. a week, according to the New South Wales scale? - Excluding persons under 65 years of age, and making the pension purely an old-age allowance, the cost would be £1,180,000.

What could be obtained by duties on kerosene and tea ? - From Sir George Turner's estimate, I understand that these duties would yield £800,000 and a stamp duty of 2d. on wages would yield about £428,000, 'or from the two sources there would be a revenue of £1,278,000. That would allow £48,000 for working the system, which no doubt it would cost.

Do you see any advantages to be gained by the levying of a special tax for pension purposes ? - I think the levying of a special tax in the form that I have suggested, namely, a stamp duty on wages, would have the effect of maintaining a certain respect for those on the pension list, who could claim to have provided the money out of which their pension is paid. At the present time a large number of persons in destitute circumstances, and entitled by residence, by age, and other qualifications named in the law, do not take advantage of the pension system, because they look upon it as a charity, and would consider themselves paupers if they accepted relief from the States. The case of these persons would be entirely different if their pension was paid for out of the proceeds of special taxes.

I do not know whether that opinion recommends itself to honorable senators who are supporting this legislation. It is really an opinion that if the fund were provided by taxation paid by the workers, they would feel relieved from the sting of charity if they had ultimately to fall back on the oldage pensions fund. I thinkI can take far higher ground than that. It is the duty of the Commonwealth to provide for its aged poor, and to do so without extracting most of the money necessary for the purpose from the pockets of the people who will require eventually to fall back upon the fund. It is the duty of the Commonwealth, in my opinion, to take a considerable proportion of the amount necessary from the people who have most of this world's goods. I think that is a reasonable proposition. I am satisfied that the proposal now before the Senate will not commend itself to the people of Queensland. So far an old-age pensions scheme has not been established in that State. I think such a scheme should have been established there. I voted for it every time it was submitted in the Queensland Parliament by motion. We were never able to get a Bill dealing with the subject passed through that Parliament, but Mr. Jackson, to whom I referred before, submitted a motion on the subject year after year, for, I suppose, the last ten years at least. Those who were in favour of Federation believed that the Federal authorities would be able, by direct taxation, to raise a fund without bearing too heavily upon the poorer classes of the community. I shall vote against this Bill, because it is not in the interests of the party to which I belong, and because it is opposed to the principles I hold. If the Government succeed in carrying the measure, when I go back to Queensland to give a hand to some of my friends to retain their seats in the Federal Parliament, I shall useevery endeavour to induce the electors of that State to reject this proposal. I believe that the principle of it is vicious. If the Government are given a general power in the way proposed to raise special duties, they may or may not exercise it, and there is nothing in this Bill to prevent them next year, if they have a sufficient majority behind them, proposing to raise money by this means for some other purpose. I am prepared to tell the people of Queensland what I have done in the matter, and to take full responsibility for the action I take in endeavouring to prevent this Bill from becoming law.







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