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Tuesday, 9 December 1930

Senator LYNCH (Western Australia) . - We are asked to vote for a measure to curtail the emoluments of ourselves and others. Ordinarily, that would be an unpleasant task; but the times are extraordinary, and what otherwise would be distasteful, cannot now be regarded as unpleasant. Others may be able to do our work better than we do it; but for the time being we are the elected representatives of the people. Therefore to us, not to others, comes the call for sacrifice. We are not alone in being called upon to relinquish a portion of our emoluments, for the bill provides that others in the public employ shall also make their contribution. But there a line has been drawn between what may be described as the higher-paid public servants - men who have attained to high status by reason of toil and study far into the night - and those who have not so worked. Why should those whose industry has earned them good positions now be penalized? If there is to be no reward for industry, what incentive is there for a man to devote his spare hours to study? We may as well waste our glorious and youthful prime if industry and perseverance are to remain unrewarded. To the extent that this bill penalizes the industrious section of the Public Service, it points the wrong way. A line has been drawn. On one side of it are 441 persons who are to be taxed; on the other side are 33,000 who are not to be taxed. Such a line of demarcation would be difficult to justify at any time; it is impossible to justify it when the country is passing through a difficult time. It is hard to imagine a single ground for excluding these 33,000 public servants from any share of sacrifice. This large body of public servants is being specially favoured now; but I doubt whether such treatment will tend to their ultimate advantage. After he had extracted £200,000,000 from the French nation, Bismarck said that the next time he conquered tlie French he would insist on paying that nation an indemnity, because the favours conferred on the German people by reason of the money obtained from France,, demoralized, instead of benefited, them. Although the Government may make these 33,000 public servants the curled darlings of society, they will not be curled darlings long, because there is an equalization always going on in our social system. Tolstoi has said that cows in a field, with grass up to their bellies, will not long reap the advantage of their favoured position if there are hungry cows outside, for the hungry ones will soon break down the fence. That is what will happen in the Public Service of the Commonwealth; the time will come when the present privileges will be wiped out.

The Labour Party, if it stands for anything at all, stands for the abolition of. privileges. Yet this bill creates privileges. Our motto should be: " Win gold and wear it." In a democracy there should be privileges for none. If nien arc not to be encouraged by higher pay to qualify for responsible positions in the Public Service, we might as well get back to tlie days when men were .ruled by clubs. The average citizen goes on much as before, marrying and giving in marriage, unaware that Australia is facing the most desperate situation in her history. At such a time when sacrifice is called for all round, one section of the community is deliberately allowed to escape. What is the justification for making curled darlings of Commonwealth public servants, and levying toll on other sections of the community for their benefit? Will the Government, attempt to justify its monstrous proposal ? I had not intended to speak as I have spoken, for I realize that there are other and more important things demanding our attention. Particularly at such a time I do not. desire to raise the party issue. But fair play is bonny play, and fair play does not favour one section of the community at the expense of other sections.

I wish that we were addressing ourselves to the more weighty problem's that confront us. Probably, before we realize it. we shall have to face those problems, and endeavour to find solutions for them. The country will fare ill if we fail to solve them. Instead of saving £60,000, the Opposition claims that the Government ought, to save £1,000,000 under this bill." Even £1,000,000 will not go far to bridge the yawning chasm which tests the courage of the bravest; but it is something. We are asked to engage in a. sham battle when soon - perhaps in a few weeks - we shall be called upon to engage in real warfare. And it is a sham battle of the meanest description, because we are asked to sanction something which is unsportsmanlike. Australians believe in fair play; they stand for a policy of playing the game. This bill asks us to play, not a fair game, bur a foul game; it asks us to grant favours to a sheltered section of -the community while heavier burdens are placed on others. I claim to be a friend of the Commonwealth public servants. For 2i years my voice has been raised in this Parliament in favour of making tlie Public Service of this country selfsupporting and self -respect! ug. I have stood for men being fully paid for what they do. But the position to-day calls for sacrifice. The sacrifice which the Commonwealth public servants are being asked to make cannot be compared with that which is being made by other section;: of the community. This Parliament has done much for the servants of the Commonwen 1th. It passed a superannuation scheme which had the approval of the executive heads of the Public Service. It also introduced a child endowment scheme, involving the country in £250,000 annually. Excepting, perhaps, in the case of some private institutions, such as hanks, there is no general scheme of family endowment in any part of Australia, other than, in the Commonwealth Public Service. And then on top of all those favours comes this further one, at a time such as the present! Where is the justification for it? The action is indefensible. For a long time Commonwealth Governments were in affluent circumstances. I well remember supporting one at. a time when it had money to bum - and when it burnt it, right and left. Then, as now, . the States had scarcely enough money to pay their way; A certain Federal Minister travelled to Western Australia and. lavished conces- sions in all directions upon the federal public servants employed in that State, with the result that a gentleman, who is now in the State Ministry of Western Australia, asked me what it was all about. There was the State Government, with a depleted treasury, asked by its employees to grant similar concessions to those introduced by the Federal Government. To do so it had to go on the market and borrow money. Such happenings bring about a difficult situation between State and Commonwealth,' and create jealousy between their respective employees. The Common wealth Government never troubles about how its action will affect the budgets of the States. Take the position of John Brown, in the Commonwealth Service, and John Smith, in the State Service, living in the same town. Both are excellent citizens, willing to accept their fair share of the cost of the privileges that they enjoy as members of the community. John Smith, of the. State Service, bears his equitable burden, but John Brown, the Commonwealth employee, the curly-headed boy and pet of a foolish Government, does not. The whole thing is anomalous and places John Smith in an unfortunate position.

Senator Hoare - Two wrongs do not make a right.

Senator LYNCH - 1. arn curious as to how Senator Hoare will defend the action of his Government. Inequality cannot beget equality. An ill-adjusted project like this must have ill-adjusted consequences. It must bring about a feeling of suspicion and jealousy and bad blood between State and Commonwealth public servants. Why should one section of the community be favoured at, the expense of the remainder? If it were a downtrodden section I should not mind. We have a model Civil Service, but favoritism such as this will bring about its undoing. I believe that the majority of our 33.000 Commonwealth public servants arc willing to do the manly thing, and. to accept, their fair share of the burdens of the community, particularly in days of unprecedented difficulty such as the present. Why does the Government not give them an opportunity to do the proper thing? It knows that in many instances*' where working men know that the enterprise which employs them cannot pay the prescribed wages, they approach the management a'nd say, " We know that your business cannot pay such wages, we are prepared to accept a substantial reduction in order to tide you over the present time of stress, and to enable your business to keep its head above water ". Why should the Government make the Commonwealth Public Service sacrosanct in matters of taxation? Why does it put this taboo upon it and say, in effect," If you want to impose any hardship upon the community you can apply it to those outside this protected ring?" Such an attitude has not even the semblance of fair play. It is foul play, and those already overtaxed will have to bear a heavier load.

The Government's proposed schedule of taxation bears particularly heavily upon those in receipt of incomes from property. Where previously a net income of £250, after making all deductions except statutory exemptions, bore no tax, it, is now subject to tax at the rate of 21.Sd. in the £1 or an annual tax of £9 2s., a. tremendous increase. The effect will be to cripple the productive capacity of the community and to destroy, more or less, the employing capacity of industry. I know that money has to be raised, but I suggest the burden should fall equitably upon all sections. The Commonwealth Government is not imposing any increased taxation on incomes below £500 derived from personal exertion. The majority of Commonwealth public servants will .receive an advantage both ways. They will be exempt from salary tax, and, after the statutory exemption is made, practically free from income tax. The new taxation begins to affect those on £700 and over. Whereas, under the old rates, a person receiving £700 per annum paid a tax of £14 10s. Id., he will in future pay £15 3s. 3d., and the burden increases with progressive severity as the salary becomes greater. . Why should those under £500 receive an advantage in every -way?

Senator Daly - The honorable senator must remember that, under the Melbourne agreement, the Federal Government undertook to keep out of the field of taxation as much as possible. Surely itis not his desire further to burden those who receive under £500?

Senator LYNCH - I am sure I do not know what this Government is to do to make ends meet, in conformity with the decisions of the Melbourne conference. It should, at least, do its utmost to balance its budget, and see that there is no favoritism such as it proposed by this bill. I shall not vote against the measure, because I know that we must avail ourselves of every source of* income, but I censure the Government for not gathering £1,000,000 from the Commonwealth public servants, as it proposed to do a short time ago. The present problem will become even graver in the near future and the Government must hold in reserve all the courage, wisdom, foresight and patriotism that it possesses to cope with the desperate situation that will confront the nation.

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