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Thursday, 13 November 1930

Senator PAYNE - The press was so informed.

Senator Daly - By whom? The information may have come from the Leader of the Opposition.

Senator PAYNE - Does the Minister say that the press was not informed that in the Government's proposals there would be no inequalities in the matter of wage reduction ?

Senator Daly - I say quite definitely that the Government did not make any such statement concerning public servants' salaries.

Senator Sir George Pearce - Did the Government come to a decision?

Senator PAYNE - The point I wish to make is that it is iniquitous for any government to impose a special tax of £45,000 upon 1.33 per cent, of the Public Service, and allow the remaining 98.67 per cent, to be free from any such impost.

The Leader of the Opposition stated that certain representatives of the Public Service met the Acting Prime Minister and Acting Treasurer, who asked them if they would consent to any reduction. They replied, " Certainly not." Consequently no reduction in their salaries or wages was made. It is clear that the best interests of Australia have again been subordinated to an endeavour to gain party advantage. Prior to the general election last year public servants were requested by public advertisement, inserted by representatives of the Public Service organizations, to vote for the Labour party. Possibly the fact that such a course may be followed at the next election has had some effect upon the Government in amending its proposals concerning a reduction in public service salaries. The public has to provide the salaries of public officers. A section of the people .is heavily taxed so that the present rate of pay and a high standard of living for public servants, except one small section, may be maintained, while thousands of people in Australia have no standard of living at all. I have already quoted from, the Prime Minister's budget statement, in which he 'refers to equality of sacrifice, and I have before me a similar statement by the Acting Prime Minister. 'Do the proposals of the Government embody anything that can be regarded as equality of sacrifices?

I now wish to read a printed circular which confirms what I have said with respect to political pressure brought to bear upon this Government, and which shows that certain advantages are expected by a section of the community. It is headed " The Non-official Postal Employees Union of Australia," and states that this form of application is sent to the person to whom it is directed, so that, he may become a member of a union. It is signed by the secretary, whose name I shall give shortly. A portion of this circular reads -

I .hold a pledge from the Federal Labour party that they will give favorable and sympathetic consideration to any matter placed before them by this union. The Federal Government has expressed their intention qf granting preference to unionists, therefore they are giving loyal supporters every chance to como together and express their views as a well united organization should . . .

Senator Daly - What has that to do with the present position?

Senator PAYNE - It indicates why only one section of the Public Service is called upon to bear most of the burdens of the Government's economy proposals.

Senator Sir George Pearce - To what organization is the honorable senator referring ?

Senator PAYNE - 1 am quoting from a circular issued by the Non-Official Postal Employees Union of Australia, and the secretary's name is John T. Callaghan.

This afternoon certain figures were given to illustrate the extent to which the Government proposes to tax persons with small incomes from investments in companies. These people, in my opinion, are deserving of every consideration at the hands of any government. They are really the backbone of Australia. We may be sure that they all gave of their best to their employers during their working lifetime, and, being thrifty, they invested their savings in trading companies or other enterprises so as to provide for their old age. And yet they are to be crucified under the Government's newtaxation scheme. This enormously in- . creased taxation upon their thrift would not have been necessary if the Government had honoured the pledge given by the Prime Minister (Mr. Scullin) at the Melbourne conference that substantial reductions would be made in governmental expenditure. The great majority of the shareholders in the various trading companies throughout Australia are people of comparatively small means. Recently, the chairman of the Electrolytic Zinc Company, in Tasmania, in an analysis of the list of 9,560 shareholders in that company, showed that the average holding was 230 shares. Of the total number of shareholders, 2,892, or 30 per cent, held 50 shares or less; 5,195, or 54 per cent., held 10,0 or less; 6,984, or 73 .per cent, held 200 shares or less, and only 292 persons, or 3 per cent;., held over 1,000 shares. I am' convinced that a similar analysis of the share lists of practically all the trading companies and! large commercial enterprises throughout Australia will show the shareholders to be in much the same proportion. I feel sure that honorable senators supporting the Government have an entirely wrong conception of the composition of these trading companies, otherwise' they would be reluctant to impose such heavy additional taxation upon hundreds of thousands of small investors, , and threaten them with insolvency.

Senator Dooley - The Government is not anxious to tax any one.

Senator PAYNE - As a result of its careful administration of the finances, the Bruce-Page Government found it possible, from year to year, to raise the exemption in the income tax, until to-day no person with a taxable income of less than £300 is called upon to pay federal taxation on income. Honorable senators who are now supporting this Ministry secretly applauded the Bruce-Page Government for its action in this respect, but refrained from giving utterance to any words of commendation because they were unwilling to give any credit to the political party then in power.

Senator Daly - We are paying for it to-day.

Senator PAYNE - If the Minister had been a member of this chamber during the regime of the Bruce-Page Government he, like other members of the Labour party, would have supported any attempt to increase the income tax exemption. The federal income tax, as we all know, was imposed originally for the purpose of meeting our obligations in connexion with war. That burden has been particularly heavy. Up to the end of June last the cost of the war to Australia had reached the enormous sum of £744,662,409. The Government and its supporters conveniently forget that the Nationalist Government paid £371,200,85S out of revenue towards war expenditure. This was an astonishing record for a population of only 6,000,000, and it proved conclusively that the affairs of this country were managed wisely during that critical period. If the Labour party had been in power, and if it had subscribed to the doctrine which now seems to find favour with its supporters, instead of meeting any portion of war expenditure out of revenue, it would have passed it on to posterity.

Senator Guthrie - The Nationalist Government also paid £45,000,000 off the war debt since the war.

Senator PAYNE - I have quoted these figures to disprove the statements of Labour supporters concerning the finance administration of the Bruce-Page Government. Actually, those allegations are entirely without foundation.- Figures contained in the financial statement just presented by Mr. Lyons show that the Nationalist Government served Australia well by contributing more than the amount legally necessary for the liquidation of the national debt within the period fixed originally. If this had not been done; if instead of making additional contributions to the sinking fund the revenue had been devoted to administrative expenditure, instead of disclosing a deficit during the last two years of its administration, the Bruce-Page Government would have been able to show a surplus of several millions of pounds.

Sitting suspended from 6.15 to 8 p.m.

Private business taking precedence afterS p.m.,

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