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Wednesday, 20 May 1942

Mr RYAN (Flinders) .- The Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) gave three reasons for not accepting the amendment. The first was that the amount which would he levied on the estate of deceased soldiers if the amendment were agreed to would be ridiculously small. I do not regard that as a valid objection. The whole object of the amendment is that the amount should be small. I think that the estate of deceased soldiers should be exempt altogether from estate duty. The honorable member for Bass (Mr. Barnard), in discussing this measure, referred only to large estates, but we want to place all soldiers' estates on the same level, whether large or small. "We believe that a soldier's estate of £6,000 should be treated in the same way as a soldier's estate of £60,000. That is the principle on which the amendment is based. The Treasurer also said that the Government which was in power when this bill was first brought in failed to give effect to the principles which we are now advocating. I have no responsibility for what was done then; I was not here at that time, and neither were the other honorable members who have spoken in favour of the amendment. The Treasurer further stated that the proposal embodied in the amendment was considered by the special committee on taxation, and turned down. I believe that joint committees of members of both Houses have rendered very useful service from time to time. They have been instrumental in ironing out a number of difficulties, and I hope that they will continue to do good work, but that is no reason why this amendment should not be accepted. Joint committees are no more infallible than is the Government or this committee. When a mistake is made by a committee or a government, the matter should be reconsidered and judged on its merits. It is never too late to correct a wrong.

Mr. FRANCIS(Moreton) [8.991.The proposals which we are now discussing were before this Parliament six or seven months ago. On that occasion, certain proposals were put forward by honorable members on this side of the chamber, and the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) undertook to examine them and, if he were convinced of their justice, to bring in a bill in which they would be embodied. He has chicled us to-night because we have proposed a further amendment designed to give special consideration in respect of estates of members of the fighting forces. He said that we ourselves should have made such provision long ago. The Treasurer's proposal is but a pious proposition. It is six or seven months since we discussed this matter previously. After examining the proposition, and considering representations made in the direction we now propose, and also representations made at a recent meeting of the special committee, the Treasurer now brings down not six amendments, but six pages of amendments. In such circumstances, can he seriously say that the proposal we now make in order to benefit members of the fighting forces must be disregarded because the Government has not had time to consider it? It is very seldom that six pages of amendments are proposed by the Minister in charge of a measure such as this. The Opposition asks that the estate of a man who voluntarily enlists in the fighting services and is killed in action, or dies as a result of war service, within three years shall not be subject to estate duty. The imposition of estate duty obviously depletes the estate to the disadvantage of the soldier's widow and dependants. The Treasurer has accepted our proposal that estates up to a value of £5,000 should be exempted from duty. The Opposition has achieved that much in this debate. I again urge the Treasurer to go a step further and liberalize the provision in respect of the expectation of life of members of the forces for the purposes of assessing estate duty. It can reasonably be presumed that a member of the forces who is killed on active service at, say, the age of 22, or 23 or 24, would normally live to an age of 60 or 65. We ask that exemption from duty be provided in respect of an amount calculated at the rate of 3 per cent, per annum, compound interest over the term of normal expectation of life. That provision is embodied in the British act. That is the effect of the amendment moved by the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. DuncanHughes). I contend that it is a reasonable compromise on the proposal submitted by the Treasurer. I note with pleasure that the Treasurer has accepted the Opposition's suggestion to reduce the rate of duty payable on the death of a second member of the forces in the same family. The proposals we now submit are equally, if not more important than those which the Treasurer has already agreed to. I renew the request which I made this afternoon that the benefits of this measure be applied to members of women's war organizations, such as, the Women's Royal Australian Naval Service, the Women's Auxiliary Air Force Service, the Australian Women's Army Service, the Australian Army Nursing Service and the Voluntary Aid Detachments, who are performing war service in which they may lose their life. I also urge the inclusion of members of all air raid precautions organizations who are directly concerned with civilian defence. These proposals are just as important as the six pages of amendments standing in the name of the Treasurer. Most of them were discussed when this matter was last debated in this Parliament. All of them are equitable. I am certain that the public of Australia would appreciate their adoption by the Government on behalf of the widows and dependants of members of our forces who make the supreme sacrifice.

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