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Thursday, 25 July 1946

Mr ADERMANN (Maranoa) . - The financial statement before the House is largely a summary of figures; ! t contains few details. In justification of the high taxes imposed by the Government, ministerial supporters have referred to the increased deposits in savings banks. It is true that those deposits have increased, but that increase does not reveal the true state of affairs. In addition to increased savings banks deposits,' there are large sums of money in current accounts at banks. In some instances those deposits also have increased, but it must be remembered that costs have risen considerably, so that these deposits are, in fact, worth about 25 per cent, less than their value a few years ago. In considering these matters we must also pay regard to losses incurred through depreciation. Farmers and graziers have suffered great losses from soil erosion, whilst buildings generally have deteriorated because paint has not been available to protect them. Moreover, farm machinery has depreciated th rough lack of inability to obtain spare parts for renewals, and fences have not been maintained because of a shortage of wire and wire netting. If we set all the debits against the credits it will be found that many persons' who have increased deposits to their credit in banks are much worse off than in pre-war days.

On a previous occasion I referred to the unsympathetic attitude of the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) towards persons who have suffered from drought. They have been treated harshly by the Taxation Department. I assume that that department carries out the policy of . the Treasurer. I refer to, the cattle-owner who has been advised by his taxation expert that it would be more advantageous to him financially if he were to allow one-quarter of his herd to die rather than dispose of all of them, if he were unable, by reason of. drought, to replace them in the same financial year; because the Commissioner of Taxation has ruled that any income derived from . the sale of .stock must be assessed in that'. > financial year, and there can be no offset unless other stock be purchased in the same period. Whilst I am not a taxation expert, I have- cited figures prepared by a' man who is. an expert. The Treasurer will not deny that they are correct; yet he has completely evaded the point at issue, and has ignored the request for sympathetic consideration. One must assume that the right honorable gentleman is too unsympathetic to alleviate the sufferings of many, hundreds of cattle-owners, particularly in Queensland, in consequence of drought, not in one season only but in four consecutive seasons. His appeal for greater production rings hollow in view of his totally unsympathetic attitude towards those who are prepared to produce. ' .

Repeatedly, I and other honorable members on this side of the House, and perhaps some ministerial supporters who represent country districts, have made appeals on behalf of share councils which desire to obtain road-making machinery in order that they' may undertake a progressive programme of . road repairs. Some shire councils that are not far distant .from capital cities have been treated more favorably than others. Within the last fortnight, I have received representations from four shire councils in western districts o'f Queensland. They have appealed repeatedly to the Coordinator of Works in Brisbane, the Commonwealth Disposals Commission, or whatever department appeared to be in charge of the matter, and have been always advised that when the machinery they needed became available they would be informed ; 'but they have never received any further advice. When we have approached the Minister, his reply has been in the form of a circular letter, stating that he will look into the matter and advise us later. The stereotyped reply is that this machinery is scarce, that none of it is available, and that advice will be forwarded when the position alters. The shire councils are unable to undertake the work that they desire to do. I have represented to the Minister that machinery in the islands, and perhaps in north Queensland, should be released more expeditiously.. I blame the Army Depart- ment for its reluctance to declare surplus machinery that is deteriorating. The Commonwealth Disposals Commission cannot be blamed, because it cannot make machinery available until it has been declared surplus. It is understood that when machinery could be sent from the islands, the shipping to bring it south was not provided. According to advice that I have received, for the accuracy of which [ cannot vouch, some machinery in north Queensland is deteriorating. I have repeatedly put it to the Minister that if no second-hand- machinery can be made available, the Government should allow new machinery' to be manufactured and sold in Australia or, if necessary, imported. Shire councils have informed me that that is not permitted at the present time, and that the machinery now in the country must first be distributed. Undoubtedly the local authorities constitute one of the .best avenues for the implementation of a full employment policy; unfortunately, they lack, not only machinery, but also housing -for the accommodation of men whom they could employ. I protest against the apathy, of the department responsible for the distribution of road-making machinery, and the consistency of the stereotyped replies that are received by shire councils. I ask that definite action be taken immediately to enable them to secure what they need.

The Financial Statement refers to new works that are to be undertaken by the Postmaster - General's Department. I asked the Minister representing the Post master-General what amount had been expended by the department on constructional work during the financial year 1945-46, in the Commonwealth as a whole, in each State, and in the capital city of each State. I wanted to learn what percentage of the total expenditure had been allocated to country districts. The Minister informed me that the total expenditure in the Commonwealth badbeen £3,798,218. The Financial Statement mentions £4,235,574 in this connexion. Probably the latter amount includes expenditure on other new works not classed as constructional work, if so both amounts' may be- correct. The expenditure in the States was : New South Wales, £1,633,358; Victoria, £1,037,500; Queensland, £518,438; South Australia, £253,000; Western Australia, £198,422; and Tasmania,' £157,500. I emphasize that the expenditure in the capital cities, does not include expenditure in cities such as Newcastle and Ballarat. The expenditure in Sydney was £1,255,000, and in the rest of New South Wales £378,35S. The expenditure in Melbourne was £712,500, and in the rest of Victoria £325,000. The expenditure in Brisbane was £309,000, and in the rest of Queensland only £209,438.- The figures for the other three States are more or less comparable with those. Repeatedly, the people in country districts have applied to the Postmaster-General's Department formail services. I received to-day two letters from people living 50 miles from a post office. They have to ride. 20 miles for their mail even on Sundays, yet they cannot obtain a mail service. The Deputy Postmaster-General in Brisbane is sympathetic, but is limited by the amount that is made available- to the State by the Government. The policy should be altered. The Government is losing sympathy in country districts because of the lack of mail services, telephone facilities, and new post offices. '.At' Kingaroy, a staff of 35 works in a room about 25 or 30 feet long and from 14 to 20 feet wide. When Senator Ashley, then PostmasterGeneral, visited Kingaroy, he stated that the congestion was so serious that, although the war was still in progress, the provision of better accommodation should be undertaken immediately '; yet up to date the work has not been put in hand. Dalby is in the same category. Many othertowns in my electorate urgently need new post offices; but constructional work is not undertaken outside the capital cities.

Silting suspended from 11.80 p.m. to 12 midnight.

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