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Wednesday, 7 December 1938

Mr CURTIN (Fremantle) . - I move -

That after sub-clause ( 1 . ) the following proviso be inserted: - " Provided further that in calculating the amount which may be paid to a State under this section any artificial manure used by a primary producer shall be excluded unless -

(a)   during the year ended the thirtieth day of June, One thousand nine hundred and thirty-eight, he derived no taxable income; or

(b)   having derived such income during that year, he produces evidence to the satisfaction of the prescribed authority that there are circumstances by reason of which it is just that he should have received the payment from the State."

This amendment is drawn in conformity with a provision inserted in legislation passed by this Parliament some years ago, in which the principle of need was recognized. On the 1st December,1933, the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons), discussing the principle implicit in this bill, said -

The Government felt that it would be anomalous to make payments out of such funds to persons who were really not in financial difficulties.

He went on to say -

It is known that many who received government assistance in the past did not need it. Either they were growing wheat under more favorable conditions than most, or they had incomes from other sources. The object of the Government is to assist those who are really in need of assistance, and it considers that a man who is in a position to pay federal income tax has not a just claim for financial help from public funds.

That was the declaration of the Prime Minister in 1933 in respect of an identical provision to that which I now seek to embody in this bill. We do not wish by this amendment to deprive of assistance those primary producers who, but for the subsidy, would be unable to use fertilizer during the coming growing season. We accept the argument that a reduction of the cost of production is desirable and also that it is advisable to demonstrate the value of fertilizers in production generally; but, having regard to the necessities of Commonwealth finance and the burdens that those necessities impose upon large sections of the people who are in worse circumstances than are many of the prospective recipients of this subsidy, we are of the opinion that the bounty for this year shall be conditioned by the proviso which I have submitted. I submit itthe more readily because I believe that there is a great deal in the argument that it was never contemplated that this subsidy should be of a permanent nature. Further, I remind the committee that one of the principal spokesmen of the Country party in this chamber has already acknowledged that the Government is exceedingly generous in continuing the subsidy for the present season. I submit that the Government has no right to be generous with public funds. Its duty is to act economically in the use of them, having regard to the burdens imposed upon the community. I cannot understand why the distinction of needs in respect of this subsidy should not be the distinction already contained, in the measure. The bill limits the subsidy to 10s. a ton up to ten tons. It does so because the Government believes that some limit should be imposed. I seek to impose the additional qualification that the recipient of the subsidy shall be in need of the assistance. I repeat the declaration that I am willing to assist all primary producers who, were it not for the subsidy, would be unable to use fertilizer, but 1 see no reason why payment should be made to those primary producers who, regardless of the subsidy, are in a position to buy fertilizers.

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