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Tuesday, 30 July 1946

Mr SHEEHY (Boothby) .- I join in this debate principally to reply to some extraordinary statements that were made by honorable members opposite. Sometimes when I hear members of the Opposition make such completely mis-, leading statements I find it difficult to believe my own ears. The honorable member for Darwin (Dame Enid Lyons) spoke of the reforms which might be brought about to benefit working-class people. Yet in an earlier debate the honorable member said that everybody should be prepared to pay at least some little contribution to government funds.

Mr Conelan - Even if it were as low as threepence.

Mr SHEEHY - That is so. Now, however, the honorable member states that this Government has done nothing to assist people in the lower income groups, particularly those with family responsibilities. Under the proposals now before us a married man with a wife and three children who is in receipt of an income of £250 per annum from personal exertion will pay no tax whatever. The Government does not call upon such a person to pay 'even the threepence suggested by the honorable member. As a matter of fact, the wife of such a man would receive 15s. a week in child endowment. Honorable members opposite have contended that the growth in the bank savings of the people is not an indication of the prosperity of the people generally. I am firmly convinced that the increase of bank deposits has been possible- only because so many people have enjoyed continuity of employment throughout the war period. Reference has been made also to black marketing. It is true that black marketing of certain commodities is rife ; but surely it is not suggested that those who operate the black market are working-class people. Black market operators ' are invariably people with ample financial resources. Not long ago the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) stated in this chamber that when the war was over we would come out , of the ordeal well if all we had was what we then stood up in. What a contrast to the statements made by honorable gentlemen opposite today! In his speech on the budget last year the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) said that if "the continuance of high taxes and restrictive controls were the price of freedom we had secured it cheaply. The honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) and other honorable members have claimed that the incidence of high taxes has retarded the development of industry. During the last twelve months I have been doing everything- in my power to prevent monopolists from securing the right to import articles to the detriment of our local manufacturers. It is clear that if the Government removed restrictions on imports the opportunities for the full employment of the people would be reduced. The Leader of the Australian Country party cited a series of figures which were- most difficult to understand because of the rapid manner in which his speech was delivered. I gathered from his remarks, however, that he sought to have the people .believe that if the parties opposite were returned to office, he and the Leader of the Opposition would bring about a 40 per cent, reduction of taxes. The right honorable gentleman, however, did not indicate which section of the' community would benefit from such a magnificent gesture. During the campaign preceding the last elections the right honorable gentleman told .the people that if he were returned to office he would reduce taxes by one-third. The people, however, did not fall for such a promise. They knew very well that the only worthwhile reforms have emanated from Labour governments, both Commonwealth and State. I propose to cite some figures in order to refute some of the misleading statements made by honorable members opposite during the course of this debate. A single man in receipt of £250 per annum in 1943 paid in tax an amount of £36 14s. In 1945 he paid £30 6s.; and under the new schedule he' will pay £26 17s. In 1943 a married man with a wife and two children with an income of £250 paid £2 18s. income tax, and under the proposed schedule he will pay only £2 2s. Thus, we see that under the new schedule whilst a single man will pay' tax amounting to £26 17s., a married man with a wife and two children will pay only £2 2s., or less than ls. a week, in return for which he will be .eligible to receive the insurance benefits and social services provided by the Government. Therefore, I support the tax reduction proposals. However, the Government will make further reductions as circumstances permit. Honorable members opposite advocate a reduction -of income taxation by 40 per cent., but none of them has said when such reductions will commence. When dealing with tax reductions we must remember that the Government is committed to pay £70,000,000 in respect of the deferred pay of exservice personnel and approximately the same amount in respect of war gratuity. Do honorable members opposite suggest that the Government should repudiate - those obligations simply in order to effect a further reduction of taxes before circumstances warrant? We are committed to that degree, and we can meet our. commitments only from tax revenue. However, I ' again ask honor able members opposite, when they glibly advocate a reduction of 40 per cent., to state when they would propose that such reductions should commence. Of course, it is easy for honorable members in opposition to paint a pretty picture which does not square with the facts, but the Government bears the responsibility. Since the war ended this Government has made two reductions of tax. Under the guidance of the Prime Minister, who is one of the ablest treasurers yet to hold office in this country, we have been able to marshal our financial resources in one of the most crucial periods of our history. Despite the difficulties arising from war expenditure, he has stabilized the nation's finances and maintained economic equilibrium. I commend him for the reductions of tax which he has already effected. I assure the workers of this country that further reductions will be made as circumstances permit, but the Government will refuse to make any reduction which would jeopardize existing social services:

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