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Thursday, 28 May 1942

Mr CALWELL (Melbourne) (10:53 AM) . It is good to hear that the matter of invalidity is to be further considered by the Joint Committee on Social Security, because, even though a concession has been made in respect of 85 per cent of invalidity, that does not cover all cases; there are still many persons who, unfortunately, are suffering very greatly, because they have to maintain children, who, whilst not 85 per cent incapacitated in a strict physical sense, for all practical purposes are totally and permanently incapacitated. I have in mind an unfortunate girl who is a dwarf. Some dwarfs are able to capitalize their disability, and thereby make a fortune, whilst others who suffer from an inferiority complex are prevented from securing employment and thus earning a livelihood. The unfortunate girl to whom I have referred can wash cups and saucers, and help about the house. On that account, the authorities say that the could go out to work and make a living, whereas in fact she can do nothing of the sort. Her father has to buy special boots for her. He is a soldier at the moment, and would be exempt from income tax because of his low income and the size of his family; yet he is heavily penalized, compared with others, in that he is not granted a pension in respect of that daughter, although she is over sixteen years of age. I hope that something will be done to cover such cases. On the general principle, I support the case of the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James), that if concessions are made under State acts they ought to be made also under the Commonwealth act. We are seeking to achieve uniformity of taxation. Why can we not have uniformity of concessions?

Mr. Chifley.In some instances, no benefit would be derived.

Mr. CALWELL.I admit that; but in other instances, benefits would accrue. The honorable members for Eden Monaro (Mr. Perkins) and Bass (Mr. Barnard) have said that a recommendation in respect of this matter has been made by the Joint Committee on Social Security. If so, the Government ought even now to give effect to it. Far better would it be to have some provision in the Income Tax Assessment Act, than to continue in the hope that provision may be made later in an act relating to social security. The honorable member for Hunter has spoken with full knowledge of the conditions that exist in industrial districts. I, too, know how some people have to live. I have said frequently in this chamber that one out of every seven of my electors is an old-age or invalid pensioner. Sub-section 2 of the proposed new section 160 reads -

The amounts in respect of which a rebate of tax shall be allowed under the last preceding sub-section shall be -

(b)   in respect of each child . . . wholly maintained by the taxpayer -

(i)   inrespect of an only child or in respect of the elder or eldest of such children an amount of seventy-five pounds: and

(ii)   in respect of a child who is not an only child or the elder or eldestof such children an amount of thirty pounds.

What is the reason for the differentiation? Is it that child endowment is not paid in respect of a first child, and the Government desires to make an additional concession in that regard? If so, what is the reason for the further provision that the rebate of tax to be allowed in respect of the first child shall not exceed £45, and inrespect of subsequent children shall not exceed £5?

Mr. Chifley.That is a maximum.

Mr. CALWELL.I have not been able to make an arithmetical calculation that will enable the figures £45 and £5 to coincide with any existing amounts, in the Child Endowment Act or anywhere else.

Mr. Scullin.The object has been to synchronize the taxation laws of the Commonwealth and the States. There is the ordinary tax, and the war tax. The latter provides for a deduction of1s. a week inrespect of each dependant. Had the present law been maintained, therewould be no provision in respect of children after the first child. The proposal is to have an amount not exceeding £5 in order to cover the deduction of Is. a week, for which the war tax provides, in respect of each child. The war tax and the ordinary tax have now been amalgamated, and under the proposed concessions the total amount will be the same as it was previously.

Mr CALWELL - Could not the amount in respect of subsequent children have been brought nearer to £45?

Mr Scullin - Before the war tax was instituted, there was no provision for subsequent children; that was removed completely upon the introduction of child endowment. The war tax provided for a deduction of Is. a week. In order to have an equivalent of Is. a week, provision was made for a slightly greater concession, but one not exceeding £5.

Mr CALWELL - I hope that before the budget is brought down the right honorable member will have a further look at the matter in order that a nearer approach to uniformity may be made. The endowment principle, of fixing an amount of 5s. a week in respect of every child after the first, has been adopted. I hope that as big a rebate of tax as possible will be made.

Mr Scullin - The proper way to adjust it would be by increasing the child endowment.

Mr CALWELL - I agree with the right honorable gentleman, and should be happy to see all concessions in respect of children deleted from the income tax laws and the amount of child endowment extended. Perhaps the Social Security Committee could be asked to investigate this possibility also.

In my opinion the allowable deduction for funeral expenses is too low. The amount may not exceed £20, but even that sum is reduced by any payment received from a benefit society. Moreover, the allowable deduction in any financial year is £20 in respect of all the members of a family. Should two deaths occur in a family in a year, the total concession would be £20, less whatever amount is received from a lodge or friendly society. I think that that is a departure from tho existing law.

Mr Scullin - The present law has not bean departed from in that respect.

Mr CALWELL - Does not the law provide for a total allowable deduction of £20 in respect of any number of deaths in a family in the one year ?

Mr Chifley - The position is as stated by the honorable member. Unusual circumstances are taken into consideration.

Mr CALWELL - Unusual circumstances should not be left to the administration, but should be met by an adequate statutory provision. Either this clause should be amended, or other legislation should be introduced to provide for such cases.

Mr Scullin - The existing act contains a provision to the effect mentioned by the honorable member.

Mr CALWELL - The existing law should be altered to provide for a deduction up to £20 in respect of any one funeral.

Mr Chifley - I shall look into the matter raised by the honorable member.

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