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Wednesday, 10 December 1930

Senator CARROLL (Western Australia) . - During the debate on this bill various uncomplimentary titles have been suggested for it. It has been described as being confiscatory in character and still other designations, which might also be applied to it, would receive my cordial approval. I feel that it has been introduced simply because the Government failed to do its duty under another taxation measure which was passed yesterday. It is not a pleasing task for any government to have to retrench or to impose additional taxation. Both are objectionable courses to adopt ; but, like a great many things in life, whatever the consequences may be, they are at times inevitable. We are now considering -an alternative proposal. It has repeatedly been stated, and the truth of the assertion cannot be denied, that this measure, while striking a tremendous blow at the thrifty section of the community, allows the spendthrift simply . to carry on and enjoy all the advantages which the thrifty should expect. The spendthrift is able to say, "Let us have a good time while we can, because if anything should happen we always have the old-age pension to rely upon. Consequently they make no effort to save. In later years the Government of the day is practically forced to confiscate the savings of those who have denied themselves pleasures in order that it might assist those who freely enjoyed such pleasures, and, because of their early improvidence, have become a burden on the State. That is the position which confronts us to-day. Governments supporters claim that the Government is faced with a situation not of its own creation. No reasonable man would charge either the present, or the previous Government, with having been responsible for the country's present unsatisfactory position. The Government for the time being in office can always claim that its predecessors were improvident,, reckless and extravagant; it is a good excuse. I have heard of one Treasurer who was thankful that -he left the treasury empty for his successor. If we could charge the previous Government with having caused the tremendous fall in the prices of wool and wheat, there would be some justification for saying that it was responsible for the present unsatisfactory financial position of the Commonwealth. During this debate the effect of the fall in the prices of those two commodities has scarcely been mentioned, notwithstanding that that fall is mainly responsible for our present difficulties. If wool and wheat were again suddenly to realize the prices obtained for them twelve months .ago, the Government would be relieved of much which now embarrasses it. Unfortunately, certain happenings recently have tended to aggravate an already serious position. I refer particularly to the recent strike of slaughtermen in Sydney. It is significant that those slaughtermen carried on under an agreement until the commencemen.t of the lamb export season, when they decided to stop work. Their action has resulted in the loss of over £200,000 to Australia - money badly needed at this time. The farmers and graziers of Australia have been robbed of that amount, and Commonwealth and State Governments deprived of revenue which they had reason to expect.

Senator Guthrie - The price of meat was increased to the consumers.

Senator CARROLL - That is so. A good deal has been said during this debate regarding the standard of living. One is tempted to ask, whose standard? The standard of living in Australia will unquestionably be lowered if this measure becomes law, for it will rob many a man of the ability to employ some one who is sorely in need of employment. If a man has to pay out his money' in taxation, he cannot use it to employ labour.

Yesterday Senator Rae complained of the way in which the Labour caucus was being attacked in this chamber and elsewhere. I have a good deal of sympathy with the honorable senator. I 'have nos, quarrel'-with any political party discuss: ing its proposals in private before they are brought before Parliament. ' It is evident 'thai Senator. Rae is acquainted with that' proverb of Solomon; " In the multitude of counsellors there is safety."

Another factor which has an important; bearing on this subject, is the economy in administration promised by the Government. Particularly in times of financial stress, when incomes "are reduced all round, it is the bounden duty of any government to explore every avenue by which expenditure might be reduced. When honorable senators in Opposition urge a reduction of expenditure it is wrong to assume, as Government supporters have done, that they mean only a reduction of salaries and wages. A mere reduction of the salaries and wages of public servants will not do much to balance the budget. Any Government which ''attempts to retrench its public service finds itself in a difficult position. The matter is not so easy as many outsiders believe. In my opinion, no Government in Australia really governs. In the final analysis, the Public Service governsthe country and, indeed, controls governments. The question we should consider is not whether public servants should be paid £3 or more a week, but whether there is need for a drastic reduction in their number. I am not charging public servants with disloyalty. After all, they are only human and naturally look after themselves. But I say that the Public Service of Australia is out of all pro-, portion to the population, and that its cost is more than the people can bear. I am not asking for a reduction of 6d. or ls. a week or, as Mr. Lang is proposing in New South Wales, ls. in the £1. I am asking that the larger question should be taken in hand as some day it will have to be. I protest against the imposition of a tax which, while doing tremendous injury to the people of Australia, will prevent the finances of the country from being placed on a satisfactory basis. This bill places a premium, not on thrift, but on extravagance, spendthriftness and profligate living. It is destructive to, people who are anxious, that their country shall be respected among the nations of the world.

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