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Thursday, 27 September 1906


Senator MACFARLANE (Tasmania) . - I desire to say only a few words on this matter. I did not speak on the second reading of the Bill, but I wish now to give a reason for the vote I shall give on the amendment. I consider that this Bill is a bad one. Perhaps, on that account, I should vote against everything connected with it, but, as the amendment would improve the Bill as it stands, I am constrained to support it. In connexion with the last Bill we had under discussion for the alteration of the Constitution, the Government disclosed no policy. In this Billthey disclose a policy which I consider vicious. I object to the imposition of special taxation for special purposes in the way proposed in this measure. The proposal is practically to levy a poor law tax upon the people - a form of taxation which is dying out now in Great Britain. I believe it is a form of taxation which would be resented by the people of Australia. All the expenditure of. the Commonwealth should came out of the Consolidated Revenue. As the Government have not disclosed what they are going to do with the special duties which might be imposed under this Bill, I must certainly support Senator Millen's amendment, which would specifically indicate the purpose to which the money raised by these special duties must be devoted.

Senator Lt.-Col.GOULD (New South Wales) [7.50]. - It appears to me that we are being asked to confer powers upon the Government which might be exercised in a way which we could not approve. Senator Drake has moved an amendment intended to recast the clause, and I would ask the honorable and learned senator whether he contemplates that this is a matter which can be dealt with without first consulting Parliament, both with regard to the special purpose contemplated and also the special duties to be imposed ? I presume, however, that nothing can be done until the matter comes before Parliament again. Senator Millen has proposed an amendment on that movedby Senator Drake, substituting the words " the purpose of providing a fund for thepayment of old-age pensions" for the words "the special purpose." One of the baits held out to members of the Federal Parliament to induce them to agree to this

Bill has been the desirability of. instituting a system of old-age pensions that will be applicable to the whole of the Commonwealth. As a matter of policy, I recognise that it would be far better that there should be one system of old-age pensions for the whole Commonwealth rather than that old-age pensions schemes should be adopted in some of the States and not in others. I recognise, " also, that if a. man resides in one State for a lengthened period, and subsequently removes to another, that should not debar him from the benefit of an old-age pension scheme. The battle for old-age pensions has been fought and won. and the feeling of a majority of the people is in favour of the payment of these pensions. If we had a Bill before us proposing this, honorable senators could count on my vote in favour of it. Under existing conditions, New South Wales and Victoria have established old-age pensions schemes, but if a man resided in SouthAustralia for thirty or forty years, and then came over to Victoria or New South Wales, and resided there fourteen or fifteen years, he would not be eligible for an old-age pension. We ought to regard the Commonwealth in this respect, not as a loose collection of States, but as an amalgamation of States, desiring legislation on distinct lines applicable to all. I question whether those States that have not yet established systems of old-age pensions are prepared at the present time to approve of a proposal of this character. New South Wales pays old-age pensions with a maximum of 10s. per week, and Victoria has a maximum of 8s. per week. These two States between them spend from £700,000 to £800,000 per annum in the payment of old-age pensions, and it is unquestionable that it would be to their advantage if a Commonwealth system were established. Western Australia, as a wealthy State, would probably accept such a proposal readily, but I am not satisfied that Queensland, South Australia, and Tasmania would be prepared to do so; nor am I satisfied that the present is an opportune time for the extension of such a system throughout the Commonwealth. There can be no question that the establishment of a Commonwealth system would involve increased expenditure in those States that have not yet .made provision for old-age pensions. We know that the special duties provided for would have to be imposed on articles of almost universal con- sumption, and as it is probable that the poorer people would have lo bear the great share of this taxation,- I feel' that by the adoption of the system we should be putting the people of the States in a worse position than they are in at the present time.


Senator Findley - Would the honorable senator favour the creation of a fund by direct taxation?


Senator Lt Col GOULD .- I think that direct taxation should be left to the States.


Senator Findley - How would the honorable senator propose to raise the necessary fund?


Senator Lt Col GOULD .- I think we ought first to be satisfied that each of the States is prepared to agree to a constitutional amendment of this character. I may be told that the measure must receive the support of the majority- of the electors in a majority of the States. I point out that New South Wales and Victoria, having already adopted systems of old-age pensions, would be disposed to accept this proposal, whilst its adoption might be detrimental to the interests of Tasmania and South Australia. The people of the latter States would be overwhelmed by the vote cast in the former States, since Victoria and New South Wales have nearly three-fourths of the total population of the Commonwealth. In the circumstances, until we are absolutely satisfied that the smaller States are willing to be taxed in the way proposed to provide pensions for their old people, we ought not to take this decided step inadvance.


Senator Findley - How can we know, unless we allow the people to give- a vote upon the measure?


Senator Lt Col GOULD .- I desire that the people should be informed as to the desirability and possibility of establishing a Commonwealth system of old-age pensions at the present time. With the best feeling towards such a system, I do not believe that the time is ripe for its adoption ; and as at present advised, I do not see my way to support the proposal. We cannot feel absolutely certain that the electors would so fully realize what they were asked to sanction on short notice such as they would get, as they would if afforded a longer opportunity in which to reflect and make up their minds. I think that in this case festina lente is about the best motto for the Committee to observe when such an important and drastic change is sought to be introduced. If the proposed alteration were sanctioned, the members of the Parliament might be led to exercise the power at an earlier date than would be really desirable in the interests of the people of the Commonwealth as a whole.







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