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Tuesday, 30 July 1946

Mr CALWELL (Melbourne) (Minister for Immigration and Minister for Information) . - Compared with the war-time collections of revenue at the tax rates which operated most severly during the last two or three years of the conflict, the tax reductions made and proposed by the Government represent a loss to the .national revenue of £37,000,000. Compared with the period subsequent to Japan becoming an active belligerent, the reductions total 22 per cent.

Mr Archie Cameron - It reminds me Of the -Premier's plan.

Mr CALWELL - I shall compare the reductions of taxation by the present Government after six years of a most terrible war, with the conduct of honorable members opposite when they became the government of Australia in 1932.

Mr Spender - What has that to do with the present debate?

Mr CALWELL - Everything.

Mr Spender - I rise to order. I submit that the Minister is not competent, in a debate on the resolution before the committee, to discuss what occurred in 1932 or at any period antecedent to the present time.

The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.I shall hear what the Minister has to say I shall then be better informed.

Mr CALWELL - In 1932, honorable members who now sit opposite and pretend to be concerned about the interests of the small man, reduced pensions from 17s. 6d. to 15s. a week and pauperized the pensioners by making children maintain their aged parents. They saved - if that word may be used - £650,000 a year by " slugging " the oldage pensioners, and £80,000,000 a year by a reduction of the amount of the maternity allowance. For the first time during the existence of that latter social benefit, they applied a means test in order to establish theeligibility of an applicant for it.

Sir Earle Page - That is not true. That was done by Mr. Theodore in 1931. He effected a saving of £230,000.

Mr CALWELL - It is true.

The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN Order! The Minister must connect his remarks with the subject before the Chair.

Mr CALWELL - I am doing that. If I may not discuss the matter in detail, perhaps I may deal in general terms with the tax reductions in the years from 1932- 33 to 1936-37, during which' some honorable gentlemen who now sit opposite were Ministers of State. The income tax reductions were: 1932-33, £500,000; 1933- 34, £2,400,000; 1935-36, £200,000; 1936-37, £2,105,000. While the workers were pulling in their belts, and persons out of employment were existing on 6s. a week, given to them by governments of the same political persuasion as the Victorian , Ministry in which the present Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) was a Minister, the Commonwealth Government of the day relieved the big interests of taxes totalling £5,000,000. The honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) has spoken about a reduction of income taxation by £10,000,000.

Mr Holt - I did not suggest that.


Mr Holt - I am being misrepresented.

Mr CALWELL - The honorable member is always misrepresenting the motives of the present Government. He has' referred to an estimated expenditure of £10,000,000 on unemployment and sickness benefits. Although I told him that the expenditure would be mostly on sickness benefits, he repeated that the purpose ofit was unemployment relief.

Mr Holt - I asked the honorable gentleman to state what portion of it was for unemployment relief.

Mr CALWELL - I shall tell the honorable gentleman who received the income tax remissions in the years of the depression. Persons receiving more than £8 a week received 94 per cent, of them. While a government composed of the parties that now sit opposite was remitting taxation in respect of the tycoons of industry, the squatters, and others whom it represented, it did not vote anything towards unemployment relief. The workers had to starve themselves back to prosperity. Those honorable members now want another depression. They wish to impose on this country a policy of deflation, and to make the workers pay for the war that they have' won. They hate to be reminded of their misrule during the awful years of the last depression. In addition to the remission of income tax by £5,000,000 in the five years from 1932-33 to 1936-37, there were remissions of land tax amounting to £1,200,000. As land tax is imposed only on property of an unimproved value of £5,000, the whole of that benefit went to the squatters represented by the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) and the other members of his party.

Mr White - I rise to order. You, Mr. Temporary Chairman, would not permit me to discuss the sales tax. Is the Minister in order in discussing the land tax?

The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.While I have been occupying the Chair, a degree of latitude has been allowed. I permitted an honorable member to discuss the taxation that was imposed while he was Treasurer, as far back as 1928-29. Whilst displaying strict impartiality, the Chair will allow a reasonable degree of latitude. A general discussion of the land tax, however, will not be permitted, because that would be out of order.

Mr CALWELL - I am not contesting the validity or desirability of the land tax, but am merely citing it in order to show that the squatters benefited from remissions of it, as they always do when anti-Labour governments are in power. The small farmers do not benefit from any remissions of tax that are made by the political representatives of "big business ". All the income tax remissions that were made during the first two of the five years to which I have referred went to the ' 7,000 capitalists whose incomes were £5,000 a year or more. The present Government believes in commencing its remissions at the bottom-, not the top, of the income groups. The whole of the opposition to the present proposals comes from big business interests, which want a reduction of the companies tax. Honorable members opposite consider that 6s. in the £1 is too high a rate for "big business" to pay in companies taxation. They want the workers again to be compelled to pay an unemployment relief tax at a flat rate of ls. in the £1, as they did under the unemployment relief taxes of the various States. They yearn for the return of those days, and hate this Government's practice of placing the burden of taxation on the shoulders of those best able to bear it. They want to throw the responsibility back upon the small wage-earner. With their hypocritical talk they pretend to be concerned about the small man.

Mr Anthony - I rise to a point of order. In the . House recently, Mr'. Speaker ruled that an honorable member would not be in order in referring to another honorable member as hypocritical. I therefore ask that the Minister be called upon to withdraw that expression, as it is offensive to me and other members of the Opposition. .

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