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Wednesday, 26 September 1906

Senator McGREGOR (South Australia) . - In the words of an ex-member of the Senate, if I may be permitted humbly to address this, assemblage, I should' like briefly to put my views on this question before honorable senators. I do not propose to address my remarks to any very great extent to honorable senators opposite, because, although they have expressed sympathy with the old-age pensions movement, by their speeches and actions, they have indicated that they are not going to materially assist the passage of an old-age pensions scheme until the expiration of the operation of the Braddon section. Senator Millen has just declared that we shall have only a little while to wait, but if the honorable senator were over the age of seventy, and in straightened circumstances, he might consider three or four years a very long time. In such conditions it is probable that he would hardly expect to live even for that short period. It has been stated that in the next Parliament we shall have to deal with the Braddon section. That is very questionable. There will be no necessity to deal with it in the next Parliament, because if we do not do so it will continue as at present; and we can deal with it afterwards when we please. However, it is to the members of the party to which I belong that I should like to address a few remarks. Something has been said about direct taxation. I have always been in favour of direct taxation, and probably as strongly in favour of it as have any representatives from any of the other States. But one honorable senator from another State who is in favour of direct taxation has stated that for twelve years the effort has been made to secure the establishment of an old-age pensions scheme in that State by means of direct taxation.

Senator Givens - No, he did not say that, but that we have been trying to get old-age pensions provided for.

Senator McGREGOR - They have been trying to secure old-age pensions by any means, and have been unable to do so.'

Senator Givens - Because we have a nominee Upper House there.

Senator McGREGOR - That is exactly the reason why I wish to extend the powers of a Parliament that has not a nominee Upper House. That would not suit the Opposition, but it ought to suit the members of a party that is always advocating that the will of the people should prevail. The more power we give to this Parliament, the better it will be for the majority of the people. It is be cause this and a previous measure which we dealt with would have the effect of giving this Parliament more power that I so ardently support them. If we pass this measure, in what position will it place the members of the Labour Party? Will it compel them, if they are strong enough in the next Parliament', to adopt duties on tea or kerosene, or any other article, to provide funds for old-age pensions? If they are strong enough, will they not have the power to pass the direct taxation they talked so much about to-day, and to avoid the necessity for the indirect taxation to which they object at the present time?

Senator Givens - Does the honorable senator object to them talking about direct taxation to-day?

Senator McGREGOR - Certainly not, but I point out- the absurd position in which they place themselves. If they reject this Bill, and will not have the power in the next Parliament to carry a measure of direct taxation, will they then have the power to assist the aged and indigent people whom they profess now to be so anxious to serve? Certainly not. The Federal Parliament has. been in existence for nearly six years, and the reason why we have not been able to secure old-age pensions up to the present time is that we have laboured under the disadvantages of the " Braddon blot," and have had to return to the States three-fourths of the revenue derived from Customs and Excise, whilst we have not had the power to impose direct taxation.

Senator Givens - This Parliament has the power if it were willing to use it.

Senator McGREGOR - But Parliament has not the power if it has not the numbers to pass such legislation. Senator Givens knows that. If he knew that fie would have behind him the numbers in Parliament to-day he would he the very first man to make an attempt to carry such a measure. But he is aware that he has not the numbers, and that in the circumstances' any such attempt at the present time would be futile. _ We have gone on for nearly six years, and the poor old people of the Commonwealth have suffered., because we have not had that power. Why is this amendment of the Constitution necessary ? Because the one*-fourth of the revenue from Customs and Excise which the Commonwealth is entitled to retain is not sufficient to pay old-age pensions and all the other expenses of the Commonwealth, and it is not possible for us to get sufficient under present conditions. The Government say, " We are prepared to provide for old-age pensions if we are given the money." They do not suggest that we should give them the money through direct taxation, because they know that their supporters and the-

Opposition would oppose such a proposal, even though the Labour Party were in favour of it.

Senator Givens - We, the stronger party, must give way to the weaker party.

Senator McGREGOR - I am surprised at the honorable senator's interjection. It does not matter how strong the honorable senator might imagine himself to be, he is not strong enough, nor is the parly to which he belongs strong enough, to force the Federal Parliament to give him the direct taxation which he advocates, and we find that he is prepared to ally himself with the very people who will always resist it. The Government say we cannot get the money out of the Consolidated Revenue at the present time. Here I might deal with the question whether the revenue from this special taxation will go into the Consolidated Revenue or the money paid for oldage pensions will come out of the Consolidated Revenue. Of what use is it to argue it? It is a technical question probably, but I say that if we are ever in a position to pass a vote for old-age pensions I have no doubt it will be included in a Supply Bill. We must appropriate the money atsome time from the Consolidated Revenue, and whether we get it through the medium of a tax upon articles that are not dutiable at the present time, or in some other way, is a matter of indifference so far as we are concerned. But if we do not pass this Bill we shall be absolutely compelled to wait for another four years unless we can force direct taxation, and if we are in a position in the next Parliament to force direct taxation we shall be able' to say that we will not submit to these heavy duties on articles at present free. We shall then be in a position, by the will of the people of Australia, to secure direct taxation and to put the Consolidated Revenue fund in a position to supply the money necessary for old-age pensions. I know, as well as does any member of the Labour Party, that it we had the numbers we could do it very easily. There is over £60,000,000 in land values in Australia held by absentees. Twopence in the £1 on that would give us nearly £500,000. If the scheme which we are proposing to the country at the present time were adopted, estates valued at from ,£15,000 to £30,000 would yield us nearly another £500,000. Honorable members of the' Labour Party ->\ho are 'opposing this Bill can see that the source of revenue is there, if we could only get at it. We have not been able to get at it during the last six years, and if we can get at it within the next three years we can have old-age pensions without a duty on tea or kerosene or any other article that is now duty free. There mightbe a necessity for this Bill within the next four years for other purposes than for old-age pensions. If the four years had expired there would be no necessity for the Bill at all, but it is introduced so as to make it possible for poor old people to get some benefit from a system of old-age pensions within a shorter time than four or five years from the present. Seeing that the avenues for obtaining revenue are so restricted that we cannot obtain the money to provide for oldage pensions, the Government in this measure ask that they should be given an opportunity of appealing to the people of Australia to say whether they are prepared to permit the Federal Parliament to impose taxation to provide the money necessary to give them old-age pensions. If the people say " No," and Senator Millen be successful in New South Wales,and Senator Turley in Queensland, in persuading the people of those States that this is not a wise measure to pass, it will probably be rejected, even though it should pass both Houses of the Federal Parliament, and things will be as they are now when we meet in the next Parliament. Senators Givens, Stewart, and Turley, will still have to fight for the direct taxation from which the money should be provided, and then we shall see whether their new allies will assist them in that direction in the same way as their old friends would.

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