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Wednesday, 2 April 1941


Senator ALLAN MacDONALD (Western Australia) . - Like all honorable senators I am in favour of a child endowment scheme, but the Assistant Minister (Senator Leckie) advanced few, if any, arguments in favour of the method proposed in this bill to raise the money with which to pay the endowment. The' Assistant Minister dealt at length with Australia's receding birth rate, which we all deplore, but none of us can foresee what real effect child endowment will have on the birth rate.


Senator Collings - On a point of order, I suggest that the proper time to debate points such as the honorable senator is now raising is when the Child Endowment Bill is before the Senate. If we have a general debate on child endowment now the passage of this measure will be delayed.

The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. J. B. Hayes). - Strictly speaking this is not a bill dealing with child endowment - it is a bill which imposes a tax - but as the Assistant Minister (Senator Leckie) in moving the second reading made passing reference to child endowment it would be unfair, indeed impracticable to debate this bill without making passing references to that subject. I rule that on this bill a general debate on child endowment cannot be permitted. No honorable senator will suffer injustice in that respect, because the Child Endowment Bill will shortly be before the Senate. At the same time, I exercise leniency towards any honorable senator who wishes to make a passing reference to child endowment, because the purpose of the proposed tax is well known.


Senator ALLAN MacDONALD - Until such time after the scheme is in operation, the effect that child endowment will have on the birth rate must be left to conjecture. What I am concerned about now is the absence of any sound reason why a pay-roll tax should be imposed in order to raise the money necessary to pay for child endowment.


Senator Fraser - The Government says that it is the only available means.


Senator ALLAN MacDONALD - I join issue with the Government on that point. My main concern is what this tax will cost industries which have no means of passing it on. The major industry of Australia, the pastoral industry, will be severely handicapped because it has no means of passing on the tax. Its product is acquired under the wool acquisition scheme. The gold-mining industry, another industry of great importance, is in a similar position because it has no voice in fixing the value of its productGold has to be marketed according to prices fixed by the Government for fine gold. If there is one industry in Australia which should be encouraged to-day it is the gold-mining industry, because it largely provides the means to create the fund, particularly in the United States of America, which is so necessary for the purchase of war equipment. In Western Australia the gold-mining industry employs about 15,000 men and with the tax at2½ per cent. it will have to contribute about £160,000 per annum to the child endowment fund. That amount is in addition to the war gold tax which costs the industry in Western Australia more than £1,000,000 per annum. This proposed tax will affect the gold-mining industry. There are other primary industries, circumscribed in the marketing of their products, which cannot pass on the tax. Statements that employers will recoup themselves for the tax in increased prices for their products are inapplicable to the important indus tries I have mentioned. I should have preferred that the money be raised by the Treasury.


Senator Spicer - How?


Senator ALLAN MacDONALD - By taxation which is borne by every one in the Commonwealth and not only by certain employers whose pay-roll exceeds £20 a week. We all know the argument about many wealthy professional men who do not pay wages, and there are one hundred and one reasons why this pay-roll tax should not be imposed. I should have liked the Assistant Minister, instead of giving us a dissertation on the birth-rate, to give some clear reasons why this tax is the only way in which to raise £9,000,000 of the estimated cost of £13,000,000 that will be involved in paying child endowment. Child endowment is a social service, necessary to Australia, which I have advocated for many years, but the cost should be borne by all the people, not by employers only, and especially by those who cannot pass it on. The iron and steel, coal, and other similar industries can bear this impost and pass it on, but the primary industries cannot do so. The equitable way in which to raise this money would bethe way in which the Commonwealth Treasury now finds the money with which to pay for other social services such as invalid and old-age pensions and war and service pensions, which I am glad some of the people of Australia enjoy. Child endowment is no less necessary than are those social services, but for the reasons stated I shall oppose thisbill.







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