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Thursday, 27 September 1906

Senator TRENWITH (Victoria) . - I am prepared to support the amendment as originally proposed, but I am opposed to Senator Millen's amendment. In altering the Constitution, we should take all reasonable powers. This is simply a permissive Bill. It proposes to permit us to raise revenue in a special way for a special purpose. We have in mind now one special purpose for which, according to the present feeling of Parliament, it is desirable to raise revenue in this special way. But there might easily arise some other equally laudable special purpose for which it would bc well that we should have this special power without the necessity of having recourse again to an amendment of the Constitution.

Senator Millen - At some future period.

Senator TRENWITH - Yes. It is in accordance with the well-known and wise business rule of corporations to take all possible necessary power. It does not follow that these powers will be exercised. Some honorable senators speak as though it were here proposed to take a power which must necessarily be immediately abused. The powers proposed to be provided for by this Bill can be exercised only after all the forms of Parliament are applied to them by means of a specific Act. For this reason, I believe, that while we are amending the Constitution in this way, it is as well that we should take as wide powers as possible. Senator Givens contends that a,nv form of Customs taxation for this purpose is objectionable. I am with the honorable senator and against him. I think that the principle he affirms is- sound to the last degree - that where practicable direct taxation is the most equitable and wise form of taxation to adopt. But we have to consider that we are to-day confronted with the necessity of relieving a large number of extremely deserving citizens, and that at present we have not the power to relieve them.

Senator Givens - We have.

Senator TRENWITH - We should have, if we were agreed. But we are not agreed, and therefore we have not the power. The honorable senator has pointed out that Customs taxation is believed, generally speaking, to be the least open to objection, because, to use his own language, it is a means by which we can rob people whilst thev are asleep. It is, however, the most cumbersome and inequitable method of taxation which we can conceive. Senator Turley has said that the doctrine of expediency always lands those who follow it in the bog. I remind the honorable senator that civilization has reached its present stage only by the continual application of the doctrine of expediency. We are now faced with the necessity of adopting an (expedient. We have to decide whether we shall adopt the most expeditious means of raising revenue in order t» meet the requirements of old and necessitous persons, or whether we shall stand by sound principles in fiscal matters, and determine that taxation shall be direct, though these necessitous persons may remain unrelieved.

Senator Givens - The honorable senator means that the stronger party should weakly subvert its principles in order t» effect a compromise with the weaker party

Senator TRENWITH -If I thought that the stronger party were the party prepared now to adopt direct taxation to his end; I would be with Senator Givens ; but I am confident that it is not the stronger party, and that the means bv which we can most readily attain our object is the means provided for in this Bill. I vote for the measure because I think that object ought to be achieved at the earliest possible moment, and that the reproach ought to be removed from the Australian' people that, walking about on this Continent, there is a, considerable number of poor and aged men and women, who came here years ago, and underwent tremendous hardships to make the country as comfortable as it is for us to-day, and that, whilst they are in a necessitous condition, and unable to provide for themselves, we will not do what we might to provide for them.

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