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Tuesday, 29 September 1942

Mr SPOONER (Robertson) .- This is the time for the Government to take action to prevent local-governing bodies from increasing rates. As a rule, rates are struck in January or February, and if action be not taken within the next month or two, it will be too late. What is happening is that localgoverning bodies and some semi-governmental authorities are finding that their normal financial resources for works programmes are restricted. Usually, moneys for such purposes are raised from current revenue and from special loans which are sometimes raised with the endorsement of State governments, and sometimes, for larger amounts, with the approval of the Loan Council. Very properly, in view of war conditions, loan money is not now available to local-governing bodies in any great amount.It is proper that the Commonwealth Government should have at its disposal all the financial resources of the country in order to proceed with our war effort. Some local-governing authorities, having found that their loan resources are not now available in the normal way, are striving to increase their funds by increasing their rates. If this procedure be permitted to continue, the financial resources of the Commonwealth Government will be adversely affected, because ratepayers who are called upon to pay increased rates will have so much less money to contribute to war finance. At a time when private individuals and companies are being required to restrict their spending to essential needs, thus reducing the demands upon man-power and material and releasing money for war purposes, it would be proper to oblige local-governing authorities to conform to the same requirements. Action should be taken at once to achieve this end.

I wish now to refer to the proposal of the Government of New South Wales to impose a land tax on rural land-holders. If that proposal becomes operative, the result will be the same as if localgoverning bodies are allowed to increase their rates, for in each case the capacity of taxpayers to make more money available to the Commonwealth for war purposes will be reduced. No State authority should be allowed to increase its imposts on citizens at a time like this. All the money available should be at the disposal of the Commonwealth Government for war purposes. It has been stated that the proceeds of the proposed land tax in, New South Wales are to be paid into a special fund and used for repatriation purposes. I have always understood that repatriation was a Commonwealth function. I therefore hope that the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) will give immediate consideration to this subject. State taxes should not be increased at this stage. During the war period it will not be practicable for the State governments to increase the income tax, so we should make it impossible for them to increase other taxes.

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