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Tuesday, 11 April 1961

Mr UREN (Reid) .- There are a few things I wish to take up with reference to what the honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull) said. I support the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Cairns) in saying that the cat was let out of the bag in respect of increasing the flow of imports into this country. The honorable member for Mallee said that was done to help the country interests. What about the manufacturing industries, the big industries which employ the great mass of the workers in the country? In my electorate one firm which employed 2,600 persons last June now employs only 1,200. In the textile industry, the employees of the firm of Davies Coop, in the electorate of Parramatta, which is represented by a responsible member of the Cabinet, were working a five-day week but those employees and members of every textile industry union have now been cut down to a four-day week. That is the responsibility of the Govern ment. In addition to increasing the sales tax on motor cars from 30 per cent. to 40 per cent., the Government opened the country to a flood of imports and introduced a credit squeeze. Those measures are bound up together.

Members of the Country Party are the only supporters of the Government who have spoken in this debate. No city representative in the Liberal Party has spoken in this debate. The honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. Browne) although a member of the Liberal Party really represents Country Party interests. Indeed, at the next election the Country Party will probably nominate its own candidate for the Kalgoorlie seat, which is the biggest electorate in Australia. The honorable member for McPherson (Mr. Barnes) said that in the days of the Chifley Administration people could not afford to buy motor cars or petrol. That was a transitional period following the war, and the Chifley Administration adhered to a level and balanced economic policy. It maintained full employment and balanced the flow of imports and exports. The truth is that this Government since it took office in 1949 has had an adverse balance of trade amounting to £1,800,000,000. That is the record of this Government. It has gone into a deficit of £1,800,000,000, a great deal of it brought about by the importation of motor cars and petroleum, which increased year after year. We have a problem in this increased use of imported petroleum products and we have tried time and time again to explain how it can be dealt with. The honorable member for Hughes (Mr. L. R. Johnson) pointed out that the Government increased the sales tax on motor cars from81/2 per cent. in 1949 to 30 per cent. by 15th December last, and then by another 10 per cent. The Government has increased aggregate collections of sales tax from only £39,000,000 in the financial year 1949-50 to £1 80.000,000- the estimate under its last Budget. A few months ago the Government brought in this sales tax increase from 30 per cent. to 40 per cent. on motor vehicles, which gained it another £5,000,000.

The Opposition's amendment says that the Government was wrong in increasing the sales tax on motor cars; that action did not solve the problem. We voted against the proposal and said why we did so. Now that the Government has decided to take our advice and reduce the sales tax to 30 per cent., all we ask it to do is to refund the £5,000,000 which it has collected to persons who bought motor cars during the period of the increased tax. We say that the 54,000 people who bought motor cars in that period did so because they had to. The statement of the honorable member for Mallee that they should not have bought them is a lot of rot.

Mr Turnbull - I did not say that.

Mr UREN - They had to buy motor vehicles. Otherwise they would not have bought them. I ask the honorable member to get up on his feet if he wants to answer me, instead of interjecting like a Mallee duck. The money collected under the increased sales tax should be given back to the people from whom it was taken. All this amendment asks the Government to do is to refund the money to the 54,000 people who purchased motor cars and had to pay the increased tax. I am very pleased that the Government has accepted the Labour Party's advice and has reduced the sales tax from 40 per cent, to 30 per cent.

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