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Tuesday, 24 November 1959

Mr NELSON (Northern Territory) . - I do not rise to defend those in the community who seek to circumvent the laws of this country, but I raise my voice against an act such as this bill seeks to amend. However, this bill is manifestly unjust and unfair to a great number of people in the community, especially people in the Northern Territory who have no alternative means of transport and who must rely solely on vehicles of this type and other types to transport themselves and goods from place to place throughout the Territory where rail and air transport is limited. The people of the Northern Territory must rely mainly on motor vehicles for transport, not for pleasure but for business and for everyday requirements of themselves and their families.

The Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) rests his case on the abuse of the act by certain motor interests and certain members of the business community. Those people have been circumventing the spirit of the act and escaping payment of sales tax at a higher rate. The Treasurer in his speech stressed the point - it was the only point that he did stress - that business interests were getting around the provisions of the act and, in conjunction with certain traders, had profited thereby. To emphasize that point, I quote from the Treasurer's speech. He said -

As I previously mentioned, the convertible vehicles are basically station wagons, and are of a type which does not lend itself to the carriage of goods generally. Thus there is no substantial demand for the vehicles for commercial use, and most people who desire vehicles for the delivery of goods find their needs much more satisfactorily met by the use of a commercial vehicle such as a panel van or delivery van, with its greater space and more utilitarian finish.

Here I point out that the whole tenor of the Treasurer's speech was the abuse of this section of the act by business interests. No recognition was made of the fact that many other people in the community rely on this type of vehicle for the everyday activities of their profession. The Treasurer continued -

It is understood that production of the convertible type of station wagon will be discontinued by all except two of the current manufacturers when the bill becomes operative, but as suitable other types of delivery vehicles are readily available, it is not expected that any inconvenience will be suffered by the business community.

That is not a correct summing-up of the position. The whole conception of the bill is wrong. It is certainly silly at this stage to try to patch up an unworkable section of the act that is so unjust that even members of the Australian Country Party, as well as many other members of this Parliament, recognize it as such.

The station wagon is not a luxury vehicle in the generally accepted sense of the term. 1 do not say that vehicles in the £2,000 or £3,000 class which can be regarded as luxury vehicles should not be brought within the scope of this provision. I refer to those vehicles which are in the middle price bracket and are used by all sections of the community for essential services. These are not, and cannot be, classified as purely luxury vehicles or purely passenger vehicles.

In my electorate are many people who are not the station owners or the pastoralists who generally purchase luxury vehicles. They are men in professions, men in public life, men in business, miners and men who follow many other pursuits in the community and can be regarded as a general cross-section of the people. They are the persons who use this kind of vehicle. The Government would be wise to withdraw fms bill and review the legislation with a view to arriving at some better means of classifying those vehicles which may be deemed to be in the luxury class and those which may be deemed to be essential.

I remind the House that a utility was once considered to be a luxury, but nobody to-day would so regard such a vehicle. We then progressed to the stage at which the station wagons, or the estate cars, as they are called in many instances, were justly classed as luxury vehicles. But with the progress and the development of the station wagon, it has come to be regarded as something that fills the need of various people for a vehicle that is something between a utility and a passenger vehicle, but which cannot be classified as one or the other. We must adjust our thinking to meet the times, and accept the fact that in many respects and in many classifications station wagons are no longer regarded as vehicles to be used by millionaire pastoralists. In fact, they are in common use and are a necessity in the ordinary everyday life of the community. The Commissioner of Taxation should have the right to differentiate between vehicles in the luxury class and those which may be regarded as essential. I suggest that vehicles above a certain price range should be classified as luxury vehicles and those below that figure should be classified as essential vehicles, which indeed they are. The point of view is no longer held that station wagons are luxury vehicles which only the millionaire pastoralists can afford to own, and the sooner that we adjust our thinking to meet present-day conditions, the better it will be for the community.

If I had the right to vote on this measure, I should have no hesitation in recording my opposition to it. If this bill were defeated. it would be an instruction to the Government, not only to withdraw the measure but also to review the clause which seeks to classify vehicles, so that it can be brought more into line with the realities of the situation.

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