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Thursday, 25 July 1946

Mr BERNARD CORSER (Wide Bay) (1:10 AM) . - I protest against the in adequacy of the tax concessions. The Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) claimed in his Financial Statement that he was rebating £17,500,000 of income tax to the taxpayers this financial year, but, in view of the fact that the rebate will not operate for the full twelve months, it is obvious that that amount will not be rebated. The hopeless inadequacy of the concessions is demonstrated by the fact that the Go"vernment has at least £92,000,000 of uncollected and unassessed income tax on which to draw whenever it likes. If it got some of that money into the Treasury it could afford to be much more generous in its treatment of the taxpayers who, throughout the war, gladly paid high taxes in exchange for their safety. The war is over. The treasury coffers are bulging with money. Other resources are in hidden reserves. It is scandalous, therefore, that the earners of low incomes who were taxed for the first time during the war in order to assist in fighting the war, should continue to be taxed. Greater tax reductions would be of tremendous assistance to industry, and would encourage the increased production that is so necessary to ensure our continued solvency. The Treasurer has refused to cut taxes further -because of his desire to keep a curb on expenditure. He claims that substantial . tax reductions would cause economic trouble. But that is an absurd argument, one that the people will not accept.

I object to the fact that the Treasurer contended himself with making an inadequate financial statement instead of bringing down a budget. Since the war began we have not had a budget giving full details of expenditure. Now that peace has returned the Government is under an obligation to show what the position is. The honorable member for Watson (Mr. Falstein) justified the failure of the Government to bring- down a budget before the general elections by the fact that the Fadden Government did not bring down a budget before it went to the people but the circumstances are utterly different. The Fadden Government was defeated and. forced to go to the people, whereas this Government can choose and probably has chosen a date for the Federal elections to suit itself. The Government, having the choosing of polling day in its own hands, had plenty of time to prepare and present a budget, and it .should have done so.

In the Commonwealth Treasury to-day there is a fund of about £11,000,000 or £12,000,000 made up by war damage insurance premiums. Insufficient war damage occurred in Australia to absorb that money.

Mr Calwell - A lot of damage was done in New Guinea.

Mr BERNARD CORSER - Yes, but the war damage insurance premiums were collected in respect of possible war damage in Australia, and, fortunately, little damage was done of the type that the war damage insurance fund was designed to cover, but war damage of another type was done, not by the enemy, but by our own forces and those of our Allies to country roads. Those roads were built by the ratepayers to as good a standard as they could afford. They are in a state of disrepair as the result of six years of military use. The Government has not offered to assist in the financing of their repairs, but it should divert some of the millions of pounds that it is holding in premiums for war damage insurance to that purpose. It has not done so because it wishes to keep hidden in the Treasury the money that will remain after damage done in New Guinea and the Northern Territory has been paid for. The Government, we have been informed, will make available to the local authorities heavy earth-moving machinery which is required, particularly for the repair of roads. In many parts of Australia and the islands, large quantities of this equipment are stored. In the past, the Prime Minister stated that this machinery could not be released to local authorities, because it had been obtained under the lend-lease agreement. Now, with a final settlement of lend-lease, this equipment will be available for distribution to the local authorities. Unfortunately, the Commonwealth rejected an offer by America of valuable machinery in the islands to the. north of Australia, for £1,500,000. The Government of New Zealand purchased it, and now this machinery is being used to repair roads and prepare land for the settlement of ex-servicemen. In one hour this machinery can increase the value of land from £3 to £7 an acre. I hope that the lend lease material which- the .Commonwealth has acquired will be distributed at once.

Unfortunately, the Government has not acceded to requests that I have made repeatedly for the removal of the duty on gifts to ex-servicemen of amounts up to .£2,000. These* gifts relieve the Commonwealth of the obligation to assist the -recipients, and relief from such oxis a small assistance to our ex-service members. I urge the Treasurer to reconsider his decision on this matter.

Substantial sums -of money are being expended upon the establishment of a secretariat to investigate and prepare plans for the standardization of railway gauges. The States own the railways. I ask : "Why is it not possible to create an authority to examine water conservation and hydro-electric projects? Admittedly, water conservation is a State responsibility, but if the Commonwealth can provide money for the standardization of railway gauges, it should be able to assist the States to develop water conservation and hydro-electric schemes. In- my opinion, water conservation is a more useful national work than is the. standardization of railway gauges, which will not create any additional wealth or provide one more railway station.

Honorable members opposite have declared that before the Labour Government took office, late in 1941, very little was done to prepare this country for war. Those statements are not in accord with1 the facts. During the first, ten months of the war, from the 3rd September, 1939, to the 30th June, 1940, enlistments for the fighting services totalled 121,230. In the Royal Australian Air Force, recruits in training and men waiting to be called up for air crews numbered 5,463, and recruits in training and waiting to be called up for ground staff numbered 18,211, a total of 23,674. On the 30th June, 1940, 15,200 persons were engaged in essential work producing munitions in government factories and munitions annexes. From the outbreak of the war, ships of the Royal Australian Navy were on active service for 24 hours a day, and for seven days a week. In the first fourteen months of hostilities, ten naval vessels of various types were laid down in Australia, including a destroyer and patrol vessels. Two vessels were completed, and two were undergoing trials. Preparatory work was begun on a further ten naval vessels of various types, and others were ordered. Additional establishments began shipbuilding operations, and a few months later two additional vessels were completed. Surely that was a practical indication of the government's regard not only for Australia's naval defence but also for the shipbuilding industry.

In the first ten months of the war, 22 Australian Imperial Force camps were established, whilst militia camps were set up at 36 centres. The approximate cost of constructing the camps was as follows : -


In a national broadcast on the 16th June, 1940; the then Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) announced the Government's decision to provide a land force of 250,000 for home defence. To fulfil that objective, an additional . 80,000 to 90,000 men were required. Extensive camp accommodation additional to that already available was needed for the home defence force, and. the Government set aside £2,000,000 for the purpose. At the same time, the Department of the Army investigated new camp sites in each State, and worked out a schedule of camps which provided accommodation for 250,000 troops of the Home Defence Force.

Australia was one of the four partners in the Empire Air Training Scheme. An agreement was reached between the parties at a conference held at Ottawa. Australia's organization for this scheme was well up to schedule, and the Government produced its quota of air crews in the time fixed under the agreement. In June, 1940, Australia had attained a high degree of efficiency in the. production of munitions. Its factories could produce modern munitions and equip mentnot only for its own requirements but also to fulfil . orders for Great Britain and other parts of the Empire. The rate of production of small arms and munitions was four times greater at the end of May, 1940, than it was in April, 1939, that is to say, an increase of 400 per cent. in thirteen months. In the period April, 1939, to May, 1940, the rate of production of gun ammunition increased as follows : -

Shells - Rate of production fifteen times greater.

Bombs - Rate of production 25 times greater.

Depth charges - Rate of production twenty times greater.

Cartridge cases - Rate of production four times greater.

Fuses and primers - Rate of production seven times greater.

The rate of output of rifles was fifteen times greater at the end of May, 1940, than it was in April, 1939, whilst the rate of output of machine guns was six times greater. The Bren gun, which was a most complex weapon, was made here. All of the 23,973 gauges and many of the tools required in its manufacture had to be made in England. Early in 1940, the Government decided to build at a cost of £300.000 a factory to make 25-pounder guns. The Menzies Government decided also to produce the famous 2-pounder anti-tank gun. After the Menzies Government assumed office in April, 1939, capital expenditure of more than £14,000,000 was authorized for new government munitions establishments and extensions to existing factories as follows: - Two new gun factories, three new explosives factories, one new cartridgecase factory, and one new small arms ammunition factory. The capacity of the machine gun factory, explosives filling factory, shell factory and storage and magazine areas were to be doubled. In April, 1939, no munitions annexes were in production, but by June, 1940, 25 had been established. All that work was planned and done long before the Labour Government took office late in 1941.

After Germany invaded the Low Countries, it became difficult for Great Britain to fulfil all our orders for aircraft. Therefore, other sources of supply were investigated, particularly the

United States of America, and additional new orders were placed in Australia. For example, an already large order for Wirraway aircraft was increased to a total of 811, the additional order representing an expenditure of £8,000,000. Workshops in New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia were prepared for the manufacture of air frame components for the Beaufort bomber. Those achievements constituted an excellent record which was not exceeded by the Labour Government.

This debate has revealed the extent to which this Government lacks ideas for giving people an opportunity to develop the latent wealth of Australia by relieving them of the heavy burden of war taxation. I hope that in the near future, the people will elect a government which will provide relief from heavy taxes and enable the country to develop as nature intended that it should.

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