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Thursday, 27 September 1906

Senator GIVENS (Queensland) . - I am going to vote against the amendment of Senator Millen, against the original amendment of Senator Drake, and against the whole Bill. The position put by Senator Millen in regard to the intention of the Government is absolutely correct. The Government desire to appeal to the humane and sympathetic feelings of the electors, in order to carry an amendment of the Constitution which, otherwise, they would not dare to propose. On the second reading, I think I showed conclusively that, if we were really' in earnest about old-age pensions, no amendment of the Constitution would be necessary - that all we should require is courage to take the means ready at hand* and provide pensions straight away. The Government proposal, although it may appear on the surface to be humane, is the very opposite. The Government profess to be anxious to minimize the want and suffering of our aged poor, whereas their proposals will have the "effect of taking the bread out of the mouths of the little children of the poorer classes. The proposal is to impose duties on necessaries of life, for which there are no substitutes in the back country.

Senator Turley - And which have to be heavily paid for now.

Senator GIVENS - That is so. As I pointed out on the second reading, a working man with a wife and two children, and a wage of £2 a week, contributes £8 per annum to the revenue; in other words, he has to contribute four weeks' work as his share of the cost of government.

Senator Millen - That is, if he is in continuous work.

Senator GIVENS - Even if the man is not in continuous work, he has to contribute the same amount. The wealthy man is not called upon to contribute anything like an equal proportion, and even if he were, he, unlike the poor man. is not deprived of a single necessary of life. I strongly object to the poor man being unduly taxed, and his poor innocent little children being deprived of the necessaries of life, in order to provide a scheme of old-age pensions. The scheme presented to us is an abortion, and should not be tolerated for one moment by the Committee. If there is one source of taxation more than another to which the Government should go for the purpose of providing funds for old-age pensions, it is the lands of Australia. The labours of our old pioneers and explorers, and the population which followed, has given the added value to our land, and created avenues of employment in all directions. Old-age pensions should not depend on any special tax, but should be provided out of the Consolidated Revenue, just as is other expenditure undertaken by the Government. A special tax and special fund will accentuate the idea that an oldage pension is a charity, whereas they should be a charge on the State to which the recipients are entitled, because of the value they have been to the State during their years of active life. In addition to creating a tinge of charity, and consequent soreness amongst the recipients, a special tax and special fund will create a feeling of resentment in the minds of those who have to pay the special tax. This resentment will give rise to a desire to get rid of the burden, and the only way will be to get rid of the special purpose.

Senator O'Keefe - Does the honorable senator mean to say that the people who receive the ola-age pensions will pay the tax ?

Senator GIVENS - If the greater portion pf the people pay the tax there will be an almighty force created against a most worthy object. I contend that the position cannot fairly be put before the people by means of this Bill, because it presents an alternative which really does not exist. Practically we shall say to the people - " You cannot have old-age pensions unless you agree to this tax ' ' ; and that is not a fair statement of the case.

Senator O'Keefe - If the people agree to give the power to the Government, does the honorable member suggest that they will go back on their word immediately afterwards ?

Senator GIVENS - Very probably they will, when they see the effect of the tax. There have been such instances even in recent history; and we should do nothing which will tend to create such a feeling as I have indicated.

Senator O'Keefe - I do not think such a feeling will be created.

Senator GIVENS - Does the honorable senator say that it is wise to make old-age pensions a special charge under a special tax?

Senator O'Keefe - The Bill seems to me to be an effort in the direction of old- age pensions for which we have been waiting for many years.

Senator GIVENS - Yes, and we have to obtain old-age pensions by a subversion of the principles which we have held for an equal number of years.

Senator O'Keefe - If the honorable senator can get sufficient support to enable direct taxation to be imposed for this purpose I am with him.

Senator GIVENS - We shall never accomplish reforms if we are frightened by difficulties, or if we weakly palter with our principles. Nothing will drive us into direct taxation but stern necessity. Indirect taxation is the most unjust, wasteful, and extravagant method of raising revenue. Even those who favour indirect taxation know the truth of my words ; but they also know that it is the only way in which the people can be robbed while they are asleep, and the burden shifted on to the shoulders of the poorer people. No vote of mine shall be cast in favour of maintaining the present undue burden of taxation, and certainly not in favour of adding to that burden as the Bill proposes.

Senator Col. NEILD(New South Wales) [12.10]. - I am entirely^ in favour of the amendment. As I indicated, in the plainest manner, on the second reading, if this Bill is not to be restricted to old-age pensions, I shall vote against the third reading. The Bill, as it stands, makes it possible to impose duties on articles which are not now subject to duties, and to use the funds so raised for any purpose under heaven. I feel so strongly in the matter that if the amendment is not carried I shall, as I say, deem it my duty 'to vote against the third reading. The Bill opens the door to the widest breach of the Braddon section, which was so lengthily fought in the Federal Convention, and which was specially designed to protect the revenues of the States. At the same time, it imposes no obligation to inaugurate an old-age pensions scheme. The funds raised might be used for a desert railway, the exploitation of the Northern Territory, or any other purpose.

Senator de Largie - For a bush capital

Senator Col NEILD - I should strongly object to funds raised under this Bill being used for any such purpose. The only excuse for the measure is the need of the aged poor.

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