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Tuesday, 23 October 1956

Mr CAIRNS (Yarra) .- This legislation is presumably a revenue-raising measure. The justification for imposing customs duty and excise on cathode ray tubes is apparently the raising of £210,000 in the coming financial year. The Minister for Customs and Excise (Mr. Osborne) has not explained why this measure has been introduced, and why the Government is seeking to raise the sum of £210,000 in this manner.

Mr Osborne - Yes, I did. I explained it when I introduced the tariff proposals. The honorable member has presumably forgotten that.

Mr CAIRNS - The Minister did not explain whether or not it is the intention of the Government to impose this duty for the purpose of raising £210,000, or whether that sum could have been raised in a better way.

It seems to me that there are far more desirable ways of raising £210,000 than this way. First, the Government appears to have supported the introduction of television. Only recently it placed before us legislation apparently directed to the encouragement of the establishment of the television industry; but, at the same time, it has decided to impose customs duty and excise, each of £7, on every cathode valve used in television receivers, thereby increasing the cost of every television set, although we well know that the price of television sets in this country is already too high for most people, being well over £200 a set. The price of a television set will be increased as a result of the imposition of customs duty and excise, not only by the total amount of the duty and excise, but also by an additional profit margin, because the profit margin, based on the wholesale cost, will include duty and excise, lt seems to me that the net result of the Government's action will be to increase the price of television sets and to make us fear that if only about 50,000 cathode valves are expected to be subject to the duty and excise in the coming year - which will mean that only 30,000 television receivers will be produced - the television industry in this country faces a very dim future indeed. It may well be that the Government is hoping that capital which might otherwise be invested in television will be invested in industry generally, (f that is so the television will find itself, at the end of the year, in considerable difficulties.

This is just one of the odd contradictions of many contradictions of a similar sort right through the Government's financial policy, if one can call it a policy. On the one hand the Government proceeds to encourage (he establishment and development of a particular industry, like television, whilst on the other hand it imposes a duty of this kind which can only have the effect of retarding the industry. There are many more equitable ways of raising this amount of money than the way that the Government has adopted.

The honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull) touched on a point raised by the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell). The honorable member for Mallee seems to know less about wireless than he does about wire netting. The honorable member for Melbourne said that is was inequitable to impose on cathode ray tubes the same amount of excise as the amount imposed as customs duty - that is to say, £7 in each case - because the conditions of production in a number of countries from which we derive cathode valves are very different from conditions in Australia. He said that there was not only the difference in the length of the working week, but also the difference in wages and conditions of employment.

Mr Turnbull - That is exactly what I said he said.

Mr CAIRNS - This is a matter which the honorable member for Mallee did not accurately represent in his criticism of the remarks of the honorable member for Mel bourne. The 40-hour week in Australia is of value in itself, and is not to be valued simply on the test that is continually applied by honorable members opposite. According to them the only real test of the value of the 40-hour week principle is the test of material productivity. The 40-hour week brings a condition of life in Australia which is in itself of value. 1 believe the Australian emphasis on leisure and the opportunity to improve and develop leisure, is a most important contribution to Western society. The honorable member for Mallee took the point made by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition out of its context.

Although, in general, this measure is . not being opposed by the Opposition to the extent of dividing the House, it seems to me to be a bill which is full of mysteries, like many other bills which have been introduced by the Government in an effort to raise money during this financial year. I could suggest a dozen different ways of raising the £210,000 which the Government expects to receive under this measure. The methods I could suggest would have a far better effect than this bill on the distribution of income, on the allocation of resources between one kind of production and another, and on inflation. This Government professes to be most concerned about inflation, but rarely goes beyond the mere profession of concern. These are matters on which the Opposition has a right to ask questions, regardless of whether we oppose the measure. I should like the Minister to explain to the House why the Government has chosen a tax of this sort to raise £210,000 during this financial year. Has the Government considered any alternative measures, or does its planning of financial measures not extend to the weighing up of alternative measures of raising the amount of revenue that it expects to raise by this measure?

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