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Tuesday, 24 November 1959

Mr BRYANT (Wills) .- We have just heard the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Bury) raise a form of financial nonsense into a species of doctrine. What exactly is the objection that the Opposition takes to this measure? We say, first, that sales tax is progressive and extremely objectionable.

Mr Cramer - We are not discussing sales tax in that sense.

Mr BRYANT - It may not be a point to honorable members opposite, because they have managed to live a pointless existence as a government for ten years, and it is a little late in the day to try to make them understand the finer points of financial policy. No matter how much the honorable member for Wentworth may deplore tax evasion, I would have thought that he in his profession as a species of accountant, more or less, would have sponsored it. In fact, a whole profession has been built around the business of tax evasion. He is now advocating an increase in sales tax on certain motor vehicles. I do not know how long it should take a Treasurer in this Commonwealth to wake up to the fact that this sort of thing is happening. It has been going on for some time and has been common knowledge to many people with whom [ associate. However, it gives me some pleasure to know that the people who will pay the increase will be mostly people in Liberal-held electorates, because they buy this type of vehicle and therefore will pay the extra tax. It will not be the workers of Wills who will be rushing in to buy station wagons and convert them to passengercarrying vehicles.

This is the imposition of a further tax on the sale of motor vehicles. We on this side of the House take every opportunity to make clear to the people of Australia what the financial policy of the Government is, particularly as it is exemplified by sales tax. It is interesting to note that the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) has had to take these steps to try to overcome what was originally a deficiency of his own department by defining more fully the type of vehicle to which the higher tax is applied. The general principle upon which the whole structure of Liberal Party capitalism has been based is the avoidance of the payment of taxes and the use of all kinds of legal dodges to avoid taxes. But now he has had to bring down a special bill to make this amendment which will affect mainly his own supporters. Yet honorable members opposite, including the honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull), try to erect this into a system of high morality. Suggesting that those who have chosen to indulge in this practice have been very remiss and have acted illegally is an effort to build a system of bad law into a principle of high morality and is not a principle upon which the Parliament should act.

We say that sales tax is bad. It was imposed in this country originally in the 1930's at a comparatively low level in proportion to the total national budget. During the war years full use was made of sales tax as a means of raising extra revenue, but the amount of revenue raised from this source was decreasing by 1 per cent, or 2 per cent, per annum from 1946 to 1949. But since the advent of this Government to the Treasury benches the impact of this tax - a consumption tax as the honorable member for Wentworth called it, falling equally on rich and poor - has been increasing in relation to the general level of taxes. We on this side of the House base our opposition to the bill on the general principle that sales tax is a bad tax. An increase in sales tax from 16i per cent, to 30 per cent., as in this case, on a particular line of vehicles, although it is only a small proportion of the total number of vehicles sold in Australia, is wrong. Honorable members opposite are simply espousing the Liberal Party doctrine as exemplified by the remarks of the honorable member for Mallee. As I remarked they are trying to turn bad law into high morality.

In line with our general attitude towards the Government's taxation policies, we are opposed to this bill. Where does this sort of thing end? Take a person who buys parts of a motor car and builds a car himself, thus avoiding sales tax. Then we would have some new law, covering many pages, giving greater facilities to lawyers to earn more and employing great phalanxes of taxation officials to work out a new system. We on this side of the House heartily oppose the principles embodied in this bill.

Mr. BRIMBLECOMBE(Maranoa) [10.21. - The House should take into consideration the suggestion put forward by the honorable member for Chisholm (Sir Wilfrid Kent Hughes). The bill should be delayed and given further consideration for the reasons advanced by the honorable member. The impact of this increase in sales tax from 1 6f per cent, to 30 per cent, will fall mainly on the self-employed man in business. It will fall not particularly on the primary producer, but on the painter, the carpenter and the electrician. I admit that there is an anomaly in the act, but there is another way to approach this problem. The selfemployed man would not buy this type of vehicle, which is dearer than an ordinary car, unless he could use it as a business vehicle and, at the weekend, as a vehicle in which to take his family for an outing. I am speaking for the self-employed man tonight. The effect of the proposed increase in sales tax will be felt by those people, particularly those who are just stalling out in business.

I suggest, as a way out of the problem, that the 30 per cent, rate should be charged on all motor vehicles. Then the genuine person who is employed in business could sign a declaration stating he has no other vehicle and that he is using his vehicle for business purposes. In that way the struggling selfemployed person would not be penalized; but the Government would catch the person who tried to dodge tax by purchasing a station wagon for other than business purposes.

I do not believe that many people are evading the law. If they were, officials of the Taxation Department would be down on them quickly. I suggest, if my proposition is accepted, that people found attempting to evade tax on a vehicle should be dealt with more harshly than they are at present. I believe that in the sales tax field we are too prone to get over our troubles by throwing a blanket over the whole problem and penalizing the genuine person as well as the person who sets out to break the law. We should abandon that attitude. If the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) will not give this bill further consideration along the lines I have suggested, I propose to vote against it.

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