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Tuesday, 30 July 1946

Dame ENID LYONS (Darwin) . - As usual, in a debate of this kind, a great deal of unnecessary talk has been indulged in to obscure the real issue. Common sense has been smothered frequently by the use of economic jargon and rhetoric. The question is not who won the war, or how stable is our economy compared with that of other countries, but whether our economy is itself essentially stable. A further test is : Does the family receive due consideration? That, I maintain, is the touch-, stone of public finance, an indication of the kind of national balance we may expect.

Honorable* members opposite have devoted a lot of time to attempting to justify what I regard as an unsatisfactory financial position. They have sought to show by various means that our economy is entirely healthy. They have pointed to the amount of money in the savings banks, and to the increased spending power in the hands of the people, but they have ignored the excessive expenditure on luxuries, they have ignored the enormous, even the abnormal, increase of gambling, and they have ignored altogether the flourishing black market. Are. those signs of financial health ? I should say they were anything but that. They are rather the accompaniment - indeed, the symptoms - of an inflationary condition. However much they may be regarded as the results of the war - and I agree that they are largely the results of the war - they nevertheless constitute a constant menace, and those who try to obscure the facts are doing their country no service at all.

Let us consider, first of all, the savings bank deposits. They represent merely delayed spending power in the purchase of those goods which are normally available in abundance, hut which to-day are non-existent. It is true that we have money in the bank - money in the bank but not shoes enough to go round ; money in the bank, but not enough suits of clothes, dresses or underclothing; money in the hank but not enough household furnishing or enough homes. Is that, I ask, a sign of economic health ? I suggest that the money in the savings banks represents, to only a very small degree, savings by the family man.

Mr Fuller - Savings bank deposits have trebled compared with 1941.

Dame ENID LYONS - I have already stated some of the reasons for this, and I am about to add more. The money is In the savings bank partly because the goods are not available on which to spend it. In addition, a great deal of the savings bank deposits represents the savings of young married couples who, owing to the war, have' not been able to set up their homes. In most instances, the wife was living in the home of her parents, while the husband was away on active service, so that she was able to save much more than would have been otherwise possible. I myself 'know of several such couples who have been able to save as much as £1,000, which is a considerable amount of money. In many instances, the wife has, in addition, been earning, so that she has been able to put away more money. Thousands of men on service made allotments with the provision that the money was to be paid into a savings bank account for their use on their return. Another factor is that £62,000,000 has been passed out in deferred pay in the last twelve months, and a large part of that is in savings banks. All these deposits, however, have very little bearing on the health of the family economy.

The honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley) resorted to the language of. the schools - very impressive, but a little misleading. He spoke, for instance, of the high velocity of the circulation of money, which he regarded as an excellent thing. In some instances, it undoubtedly is, but I point out that the greatest velocity of circulation to-day is on the race-course. It is of such a character asto astound -most people who are not familiar with the facts. The velocity of circulation is of such a character, that in the Victorian racing season, through the totalisator alone, £7,000,000 changed hands. There is also a pretty high velocity of circulation in the workers' homes. I doubt whether it can rightly be described - as circulation, because the money which enters in the pay envelope by the front door goes straight out of the back door before it has time to circulate at all. When we consider the cost of household goods, particularly children's clothing and household furnishings, we can reach no other conclusion than that there can be very little stay of proceedings in a worker's home. Another important aspect of this subject is the quality of the goods available for family use. Any one who has been a member of a large family, or has tried to cope with the requirements of a large family, will know that .the general practice has been to cut down father's pants for the boys, and mother's skirts for the girls.


Dame ENID LYONS - It is interesting to hear the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Fuller) speak in such terms of the struggles of people with small incomes and large families. I assure the honorable member that a woman who tries to make ends meet in a home where the family is large and the income small has a difficult, if not impossible, task. In' the past the quality of the clothes worn by the parents was such that garments could be cut down for use by the children, but the poor quality of clothing now available does not permit that to be done.

Mr. -Conelan.- People have more money now to buy what they want.

Dame ENID LYONS - It is clear that honorable members opposite are not prepared to face the facts. I am pointing out the difficulties confronting certain sections of the community, but honorable members opposite apparently do not wish to have the facts presented to them. In the past women have been more or less inarticulate in regard to these matters, but' the time has come for more consideration to be given to those who are trying to raise families. Previous governments, as well as the present Government; should have done more in this direction. We hear a good deal of Australia's need for' a far greater population, but what is being done to assist those who would have larger families? They are given very little practical encouragement. . The committee is indebted to the Leader of the Australian Country' party (Mr. Fadden), himself a brilliant accountant, for his clear disclosure of the misstatements that have been made in this place. - The right honorable gentleman gave to the committee certain figures which the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr, White) was about to present when his time expired.

Mr White - I shall speak again later.

Dame ENID LYONS - I shall repeat what has already been said in order to emphasize that the concessions to be granted under this schedule are unfair to married men, compared with the treatment meted out to single men. Under these proposals, a single man with an income of £250 a year will save ls. 4d. a week in taxes, whereas a married man on the same income and without children will . save only ls. 2d. a week. A married man with .one child will pay only 6d. a week less than he was called upon to pay previously, and a married man with two children will be better off by only 2d. a week. On that reasoning, it would appear that a man with three children will not receive any concession at all.

Mr Fuller - The point is what each of them pays as taxes.

Dame ENID LYONS - A single man with an income of £400 a year will save 5s.' Id. a week under these proposals, whereas a married man with two children will pay only 2s.- 6d. a week less than hitherto. The- right honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin) said that a single man is entitled to a greater measure of relief because he pays more tax, but I point out that the needs of the family man are very much greater and also much more urgent. A pair of boots for a boy of eleven years costs about 19s. 6d., according to the pamphlet to which I referred at question time, and an overcoat for him requires an expenditure of about £3 10s. The price of household drapery has increased by 75 per cent, in recent years. It is in the family home where these things suffer from wear and tear, not in the home where only adults live. These items form no part of the expenses of a single man who lives in a boarding-house. The seriousness of the position has been accentuated by the rebate system introduced by the present Government. There had been disclaimers concerning ,the results of that system, but when it was introduced I consulted with Treasury officials and obtained some interesting information from them. Under the rebate system, a man who had an income of £500 a year had at the rate then operating a tax liability of £136 13s., less a rebate of £72 16s., making his net tax £63 17s. Under the deduction system previously in force his net tax would have been about £40. It will be seen, therefore, that under the rebate system he had to pay about £24 a year more as tax. The family man is hit hard by the rebate system.

Mr Mountjoy - What are the figures for a man with an income of £300 a year?

Dame ENID LYONS - I have not the particulars with me. I have taken £500 because that income had already entered into the debate.

Mr Mountjoy - An income of £300 a year would be more in accordance with the amount received by the average worker.

Dame ENID LYONS - Honorable members opposite continually say that we on this side are concerned more with the interests of the wealthier sections of the community than with those with smaller incomes. Nothing could be farther from the truth.

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