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Wednesday, 14 October 1931
Page: 751

Mr WHITE (Balaclava) .- I support the amendment of the honorable member for Darling Downs (Mr. Morgan). I realize that the Government is out to obtain revenue, and must exploit whatever source promises results. But. it ought to keep out of this particular field. Does it wish to place a tax on knowledge, and to encourage intellectual starvation in Australia? When one looks round this chamber one is inclined to feel that we are already suffering from that malady. Because of her isolation, Australia is cut off from the culture of the old world, and if we. have not ready access to books, particularly educational works, we must suffer in consequence. The primage of 10 per cent, is a very severe tax,- because, coupled with other taxes, it makes almost prohibitive the importation of books. I quote the following article that appeared in the Melbourne Herald of the 6th instant, evidently from the pen of an Australian writer: -

The writer suffers in common with bookseller and book-buyer. Primage and sale taxes on books in themselves arc severe. Here is an illustration - the cost involved in landing in Melbourne a recent consignment of 12 cases of books valued in London at £317 lis. 5d. : -

In view of those charges for some of which - such as exchange - the Government is not to blame, it is difficult and expensive to import books into this country. At a recent exhibition in London of Australian literature, which did not receive very favorable report, the London Times said that Australia had produced no literary Melba. Is it any wonder that we have produced no great literary men when these handicaps are being placed on booksellers and writers?

Mr McNeill - Australia has produced some good writers.

Mr WHITE - Yes; but no outstanding writer. If an Australian produces a book, no matter what it is like, he finds great difficulty in having it published in Australia. The reading public in this country is exceedingly limited.

Mr McNeill - Authors like Dickens are not produced every year.

Mr WHITE - At least great writers are being produced in other parts of the world.

Mr Watkins - Australia has produced the finest poets in the world.

Mr WHITE - Shakespeare was certainly not an Australian. Australian writers have found the greatest difficulty in getting their books published here, and if their books are published in Great

Britain they have to bear heavy income taxation. If a book written by an Australian and published in the Colonial edition were sold . at, say, 9s. 6d., the royalty on it would be approximately 2d. So it is evident that the bookseller, the author and the employees in the book trade suffer from the slightest taxation on literature. The Minister has intimated that he will not consider placing books upon the free list, and I, therefore, give notice that I shall move that educational books be added to the list of books and periodicals imported for public libraries and subject to a 4 per cent, primage duty. 1 urge the Minister to make this concession in respect of educa*tional books, particularly in this time of depression.

Mr Martens - What does the honorable member mean by educational books?

Mr WHITE - That can be denned by the department in consultation with the booksellers. At the moment the citizens of Australia are finding exceptional difficulty in attending to the education of their children. Those who hitherto have sent their children to public schools are now, in many instances, transferring them to State schools. So that if the Government is producing a revenue of £100,000 by means of the primage tax on books, it would be no exaggeration to- say that it will lose more than .that because of the increased cost of educating those children who are now being transferred from public to State schools. I earnestly urge the Minister to reconsider this matter. I know that representations have been made to him by the Australian Society of Authors, various booksellers associations, and other organizations connected with the trade. If he will not place these books on the free list I hope that he will at least place them in the category of books for public libraries, which are subject to a primage duty of 4 per cent.

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