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Tuesday, 2 October 1906

Senator DOBSON (Tasmania) .- If there is one fundamental principle in the Constitution it is the Braddon section. Not only the statesmen of ' the various States, but also the mere men in the street, have seized on this section as being for the protection of States rights. Those, who have thought about the matter regard the present proposed legislation as a moral breach of faith- on the part of the Government. I have always been opposed to this Bill, and I have now more reason that ever for objecting to it. I understand that the Premier of Tasmania, and his colleagues are aghast at the spirit of reckless1 extravagance in which the Deakin Government are asking the Parliament to vote away the people's money. We have to look, not only at the schemes in the air, but at the schemes on the notice-paper of this Parliament, to see that an end to the extravagance must come very quickly - that we cannot afford the reckless expenditure which the Labour Party and the Deakinites combined are endeavouring to force upon us. Senator Macfarlane has made an excellent point. More than one-half of the citizens of the Commonwealth enjoy exceedingly liberal, almost lavish, systems of old-age pensions; and the poorer States, which have been deprived of a considerable amount of revenue tinder Federation, do not ask for any scheme. I do not think that these smaller States should be dragged into this enterprise in an indirect way - a way which is lacking in courage and statesmanship - when they are providing by methods of their . own for their aged poor. It may be said that Tasmania is a conservative State; but, at any rate, Tasmania, above all things, desires to be sound in finance, and to maintain its credit in the world. There is no desire in Tasmania for reckless expenditure, which it is felt we cannot afford. I venture to say that in Tasmania there -are very few people suffering hardship on account of poverty. The charitable and other provision made for the assistance of the poor in old age is most excellent and generous of its kind, and fulfils its purpose. It appears to me to be absolute madness to rush this old-age pensions scheme through before the Deakin Government have made a single attempt to deal with the Braddon section or the bookkeeping section, or to show that there is amongst them any financial ability whatever. Senator Mulcahy was warned that he must not allude to the Bounties Bill in the discussion; but I suppose that, by way of illustration, we may compare the different modes in which the Deakin Government are advising us to spend money. Do honorable senators consider a scheme of old-age pensions more important than the building of a Federal Capital in the bush. To hear some honorable senators talk one would think that we cannot make laws in a Federal spirit unless we start to pile up bricks and mortar. Do honorable, senators consider old-age pensions more important than defence? Everybody is nagging at the Minister of Defence and making all sorts of suggestions, and now, I understand, we are to have an Australian Navy, at what expense I know not. Which is the most important - to have our defences as we have been advised by naval officers both here and in England, or to have old-age pensions? If we are a Christian, a civilized, and a democratic community, there ought to be very few people in Australia wanting the necessaries and comforts of life. It is the duty of the States to see that the poor do not want the comforts of life.

Senator Guthrie - Sufficient wages are not given in Tasmania to enable the people to live.

Senator DOBSON - The honorable senator might just as well tell me that the moon is not made of green cheese. We are not talking of wages or labour, but of the grand. Christian, democratic duty of providing for those who cannot help themselves. That duty has been performed in Tasmania in a Christian" and civilized way, and the people of that State cannot afford a system of old-age pensions of 10s. per week given to all, whether deserving or undeserving - pensions which are proposed with no other motive than to enable the Labour Party to curry favour with the electors. The whole proposal is a sham and a disgrace. If the Deakin. Government are in favour of old-age pensions, why do they not bring forward a scheme and suggest the means? The Government has absolutely departed from the admirable report of the Royal Commission, which advised that the money ought to be provided out of the Consolidated Revenue. That recommendation was made after examining scores of ' witnesses, and after considering the matter for months. The course advised was the sound financial course; but the Deakin Government, for reasons best known to themselves - because thev think more of place and power than of the public welfare - brought clown the scheme now before us.

Senator Clemons - Is the honorable senator not confusing the Deakin Government with the Labour Party, the latter never having proposed to tax tea and kerosene ?

Senator DOBSON - I know perfectly well that the Labour Party do not want to tax tea and kerosene; but Senator Pearce has swallowed the dose, and very properly says, " I want old-age pensions, and if I cannot get them in the way the Labour Party desire, I shall take them in the way in which the Deakin Government will give them." I do not regard the scheme of paying £1,500,000 in old-age pensions as an honest scheme, but, as I say, one introduced for the purpose of currying favour with the electors - of setting the people who have nothing, against the people who have something. If the Government had proposed a. modest scheme, providing for contributions from employers and employed, I could have understood the position. If Tasmania cannot afford to pay her share of £1,500,000, she might be able to pay her share of £500,000; and I have shown that: if a young man contributed £1 4s. o,d. per annum from the age of twentyone to the age of sixty-five, he could provide for himself a pension of 10s. per week. I further showed that, under the scheme I suggested, a man need only pay 8s. 2d. a year in order to provide for himself in his old age. Some honorable senators contend that a man cannot afford to pay 8s. 2d. a year out of the wage of £2, £2 10s., or £3 a week 1 but that argument only shows that there is no common sense or financial ability behind this business. The Government are afraid to set forth the purpose of the Bill. The Minister of Defence tells us plainly that he will not limit himself to the purpose suggested, but desires to raise revenue on special duties for any purpose the Government please.

Senator Playford - Nothing can be done without the sanction of Parliament.

Senator DOBSON - The question of special duties bears some similarity to the question of the income tax at Home. British statesmen do not' like an income tax of is. or is. 3d. in the £1, but that is the only tax which can be resorted to in times of emergency for raising large additional revenue. The States retained the land, and nearly every State has a. land tax, with some sort of income, dividend, or ability tax; and it is idle for us to talk of raising £1,500,000 bv direct taxation.

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