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Wednesday, 26 November 1941

Mr SPOONER (Robertson) .- This bill will be another addition to the already long list of taxation laws which are in force in Australia to-day. It is the first all-Australian measure designed to impose a tax on gifts. However, similar legislation is in operation in the State of Queensland and the Dominion of New Zealand. In certain respects this bill follows the lines of such legislation, but it makes departures in other respects. Some of the departures are necessitated by the conditions which must govern the application of such a tax throughout the Common weal ti. The Opposition does not propose to oppose the second reading of the bill, although 'in ordinary circumstances, the wisdom of introducing a new form of tax to supplement"""" existing systems, thus further complicating our method of raising, revenue, might reasonably be questioned ^ In- his secondreading speech the treasurer (Mr. Chifley) told the House that the Government desired to enact this measure, first, for the purpose of raising approximately £500,000 per annum, and secondly, for the purpose of protecting the revenue against persons who seek to minimise their liabilities in respect either of estate duty or income tax, by dispossessing themselves of estate. To-day, when the rates of income tax and estate duty are very high, it is important that people should be prevented from so rearranging their affairs as to reduce their financial responsibility to the Commonwealth. The bill is important to the taxpayers as well as to the Government because, in these days, everybody is expected to pay large sums of money to the Crown for the prosecution of the war, and it is advisable that individuals should be prevented from creating distinctions in their own favour. For this reason, the Opposition agrees that the passage of this legislation is desirable at the present time. Under normal conditions, however, the Government could achieve its objects more effectively and more efficiently by means of amendments to the income tax laws or other laws, and by introducing new forms of administration; these would probably produce the same amount of revenue and have the same effects as this bill. Whilst the bill will not be a great revenue raiser, it will have the effect of compelling people, who transfer their estates, to compensate the Crown for the revenue which otherwise they would avoid contributing. So far as I am aware, nothing in the bill prevents anybody from transferring assets, or dispossessing estate, by means of transfers to third parties. But anybody who does so will be obliged to pay the appropriate rates of tax set out on the graduated scale in the schedule to the bill. I have nothing more to say concerning the principle of the bill, but I believe that its administration will make one more addition to the cost of government. It cannot be administered easily; it will necessitate the establishment of another branch of an already overworked department; it will require another set of returns to be furnished by taxpayers; and it will provide an extra cost to appeal1 in the Treasurer's next statement of receipts and expenditure. Extra obligations and liabilities will thus be placed upon the administration and the people generally.

Mr Calwell - Therefore the measure might hasten unification.

Mr SPOONER - I arn in entire agreement wilh the honorable member on that subject; we see eye to eye in respect of it. My difficulty in that regard is that .1. cannot discover why it remains for me to advocate the reduction of State powers and the expansion of Commonwealth powers, for I was taught to believe that this is the policy of the Labour party.

Mr Rosevear - The honorable gentleman is a recent convert.

Mr SPOONER - Oh, no! Since we all are in school together, I may tell honorable members that while I was a minister of a government in another sphere I occasionally found myself in very hot water for making statements similar to some that I have made in this House on this subject.

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