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Wednesday, 20 May 1942

Mr ARCHIE CAMERON (Barker) . - I do not intend to say a great deal at this stage, because the most important discussion will take place in committee; but I take this opportunity to point out that there is a vital difference between the attendance in this House to-day, when we are discussing estate duty, aud yesterday and last week, when widows' pensions and other pensions were under consideration. I do not expect more than one Minister to be present, but the presence of only two members of the Labour party is a clear indication of what may be expected from some of our friends opposite when the new order has steam up and gets going.

Mr MARWICK (SWAN, WESTERN AUSTRALIA) - They are interested only in one side of the new order.

Mr ARCHIE CAMERON - Tim difficulty is that there is only one side to the new order. So far as estate duties are concerned, I have always held the view, from the time I entered politics - first in the State sphere - that the Government has a perfect right, within limits, to levy all sorts of taxes on a man from the time he is born until he dies; but T also consider that one of the most indefensible forms of taxation is that which steps in when a man is no longer interested and says that out of what he has left, governments shall take a certain amount. I believe that is the most immoral form of taxation that one could impose. I say that not in any partisan sense, as the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) will realize; my criticism relates to estate duties generally and not to any matter contained in this bill.

Mr Holt - It is confiscation, not taxation.

Mr ARCHIE CAMERON - It is a capital levy. It cannot truthfully be called anything else. It is a levy made on capital passing from the man who owned it to those to whom he has bequeathed it. This bill ha3 very interesting facetsfrom whichever point it is viewed. The honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Duncan-Hughes) raised important points which, might well be taken into consideration by the committee in a serious fashion, and not by a committee so indifferent as the present attendance in. the House. The first question which must be taken up is what is the attitude of this Commonwealth towards the imposition pf estate duty on the estates of men who voluntarily answer the Government's appeal to go on active service and who lose their lives on that service. I say that such estates should be dealt with in a separate category. It is entirely wrong morally and indefensible politi cally to tax the estate of a man who met his death on voluntary active service.

The second category includes those members of the community who, in times of war, are called up for the defence of their country. They should be treated differently from persons who volunteer to serve overseas and are killed. The third category includes civilians who are killed as the result of enemy action. In the past, it 'has been customary to refer to such deaths as having been caused by acts of God, but now it would probably be more correct to say that they are caused by acts of the Son of Heaven in Tokyo. I admit that the Treasurer has done something to meet these different cases in fulfilment of the promise which he gave when the principal act was before this House last November. Of the Treasurer it can always be said that if he gives an undertaking to do a certain thing or to take a certain matter into consideration he will do so, generally with some result. I realize the difficulties confronting him, as does every honorable member on this side. We appreciate the energy with which he administers the most difficult and distasteful portfolio that any man can hold in time of war - the portfolio which involves the extraction' of money from the people. This Parliament is entitled to lay down certain principles in connexion with the raising of money by means of a duty on deceased estates, but the details are matters for the committee stage rather than for the second reading. It is my intention to support the amendment foreshadowed by the honorable member for Wakefield, and I hope that it will receive from the committee the consideration that it deserves. The 'Government will probably argue that its proposals have been dictated by necessity; but whatever arguments may have been advanced last November, shortly after the present Government took office, have largely been vitiated by the Government's own acts since then. When I see millions of pounds being distributed in all sorts of ways by the Government on its own initiative, I cannot concede on the score of necessity what otherwise I might have conceded. Indeed, in other circumstances, the Government might justly have demanded things which now, because of its actions in various directions, may reasonably be withheld.

Estate duties are levied by State parliaments, as well as by this Parliament. In view of the Government's proposals in respect of uniform income taxation, I ask the Treasurer to say whether there is any intention on the part of the Government to treat estate duties in the same manner as the Government expects to act in connexion with income tax.

Mr Chifley - No.

Mr ARCHIE CAMERON - I thank the Treasurer for that assurance.

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