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Wednesday, 20 May 1942

Mr FRANCIS (Moreton) .- This measure was discussed in Parliament last session, and many honorable members objected to the Government's proposal to levy duty on the estates of members of the fighting forces who died on active service. The Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) promised to reconsider the position, but the measure is still harsh and inequitable, showing a lack of appreciation of the volunteers who sacrifice their lives in the defence of their country. The Government has not shown the regard for widows and dependants of deceased soldiers that was shown in the last war. Clause 4 of the bill provides exemption only up to £5,000. It reads as follows: -

Section 0 of the principal act is repealed n.nd the following section inserted in its stead d - " D. - (I.) For the purpose of determining the value for duty of the estate of a member of the Naval. Military or Air Forces of the. Commonwealth, or of any part of the King's dominions, or of any ally of Great Britain who, during the present war in which His Majesty is engaged, or within one year after its termination, dies on active service or as a result of injuries received or disease contracted on active service, there shall he deducted in respect of such part of the estate as passes to the widow, children, grand-children, parents, brothers, sisters, nephews or nieces of the deceased, a sum of £5,000, or where the value of that part is less than £5,000, an amount equal to the value of that part. (2.) Where any property in respect of which a deduction has been allowed under the last preceding sub-section later forms the whole or part of the estate of some other such member so dying, there shall be excluded from the estate of that other member so much of that property as passes to the widow, children. grand-children, parents, brothers. sisters, nephews or nieces of the other member.".

During the last war, the estate of any member of the forces who died in those circumstances was exempt from probate duty. The members of our fighting forces in Great Britain were, in those circumstances, also exempt. I strongly urge the Treasurer to reconsider this provision. I fail to understand why the conditions applying in the last war should now be altered in any way. The honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) has pointed out that the original Estate Duty Bill was introduced in 1914 by the then Treasurer, Mr. Andrew Fisher. On that occasion, Mr. Fisher said -

We might reasonably consider the point as to whether the estates of persons who are fighting the battles of this country should be taxed. I think that they should be exempted. They are taking exceptional risks on the battlefield while we are stopping at home. Whereas those who remain at home should be called upon to bear the full tax, those who are at the front should, in my opinion, be exempted.

At the committee stage of the bill, the following provision was inserted to meet the point: -

Nothing in this act shall apply to the estate of any person who, during the present war or within one year after its termination, dies on active service or as a result of injuries received or disease contracted on active service with the military or naval forces of the Commonwealth or any part of the King's dominions.

The Government has now very definitely departed from the principles which were then enunciated by Mr. Fisher. I again urge the Treasurer to give this matter further consideration. If he cannot see his way clear to retain in full the benefits that were extended to members of our fighting forces in 1914-18, he should at least give them more favorable treatment than is proposed in this measure. I admit that Great Britain also has departed from the provisions which it applied to members of its fighting forces during the last war. However, the present British provisions are very much more liberal than those contained in this bill. When our young men are about to enlist in the fighting services, and while they are on active service, they are very concerned as to what may become of their wives and dependants if, in defending their country, they should be called upon to make the supreme sacrifice. I admit that we are now obliged to find unprecedented millions in order to meet our war commitments. But, surely, we can win this war, and provide sufficient supplies of munitions, food and clothing for our fighting forces, and meet all of our other financial obligations, without asking the soldier who dies fighting in the front line to contribute to the cost of -the war in this way. This measure does not treat the members of our fighting forces as sympathetically as they deserve. Unfortunately, in many cases, more than one member of the same family makes the supreme sacrifice. I ask the Treasurer to provide that, in such cases, the duty payable on the second death shall, as is done under the British legislation, be reduced as follows: -


In this matter I support the arguments advanced by the honorable member for Fawkner, and the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Duncan-Hughes). It has been stated that the objections to adopting the British proposal are: first, loss of revenue; and. secondly, difficulties of administration. We must be in a very sorry plight to put forward the first objection. The total amount involved is not more than a few hundred thousand pounds. This loss, I suggest, could very easily be made good in other directions. With respect to the second objection, I am sure that officials of the Taxation Department are capable of overcoming any administrative difficulties that might arise. I have always held our Public Service in the highest regard. I have no doubt that our taxation officials are equally as efficient, if not more so, than the public servants of Great Britain. Great Britain has overcome these alleged a dminitr ative difficulties, because this provision has operated in that country for some time. I can see no reason, therefore, why such an objection should be allowed to stand in our way.

I deplore the omission from this measure of certain personnel associated with our war effort, all classes of whom are entitled to the limited concessions granted in the bill. I refer to members of the various women's organizations such as the "Women's Royal Australian Naval Service, and the Women's Australian Auxiliary Air Force, and women's organizations associated with the Army. I also ask for the inclusion of members of the Australian Nursing Service, who have already done wonderful work in this war, and the Voluntary Aid Detachments, who have gone overseas to assist them. These provisions should also be applied to all sections of air raid precautions workers. Should the occasion arise, these workers will render valuable service in the defence of this country. I repeat that an unanswerable case has been made out for a more liberal and sympathetic consideration of estates of deceased members of our fighting forces under this measure.

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