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Tuesday, 29 November 1960

Mr KILLEN (Moreton) .- -Som, few years ago, there was a fascinating poli tical character in France by the name o; Monsieur Poujade. This gentleman had t claim to fame because he believed ii abolishing all taxes.

Mr Clyde Cameron (HINDMARSH, SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - Who was he?

Mr KILLEN - Monsieur Poujade. Hi assured for himself a spectacular place ir French political history, but it was inevitably a fleeting place. However, his name has crept into the political lexicon. Tonight, if I had closed my eyes and let my imagination run away with me, I could have envisaged myself listening to a devoted disciple of Monsieur Poujade. Because if you take hold of half the essential thesis of the honorable member for Lalor as expressed to-night you know unhesitatingly that if he had his way he would be a progressive of the first order. And what would he do? He would expound the brillian; and highly original policy that Poujade propounded and abolish all taxation. Thai is one-half of his thesis.

Then, when you come to the other hal' of his thesis, you do not find anything spectacular. On the contrary. As I listened to the honorable member - a gentleman for whom, if I may say so without impertinence, I have a great deal of respect - II could well imagine that he would be a sta: turn at a wake; because he put forward with deathly seriousness that this country was heading pell mell for the worst form of disaster that any person could contend plate. That is precisely the sort of thin; that the honorable gentleman and many o' those around him want to exaggerate anr- cultivate and keep going. Once you destroy confidence in a nation, once you grab hold of people and say to them, " There is no hope for you ", of course you expose them immediately to all the political charms, such as they are, of the Labour Party.

Having said that of the honorable member, I return to something else that he had to say because it has been characteristic of some of the arguments that have been used to-day. I want to say that it surprised me that some people inside this House and outside it have taken these various economic proposals and used them as an excuse to make an attack upon the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt). At heart, honorable members opposite know that the right honorable member for Higgins, who holds the office of Treasurer, like the honorable member for Wills (Mr. Bryant), the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) and myself is a Poujade. He would like to abolish taxation, but it is not completely practical. One would gather from the criticism of honorable members opposite that the Treasurer gets a great deal of pleasure out of levying taxation. One can imagine him in the role of an Indian fakir lying on top of a bed of nails and saying every time he increases a tax, " Would you mind putting another nail there so that it will prod into me? "

Mr Clyde Cameron (HINDMARSH, SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - I will bet the "Sydney Morning Herald" has a cartoon on that subject to-morrow.

Mr KILLEN - Is that so? I am glad to find myself thinking in such distinguished company. The truth of the matter is that the anxiety of the Treasurer is essentially human. I suppose his great search, as would be the search of every other person who ever occupied the Treasurership, would be represented in these words, " Peace in my time in the Treasury ". But is the right honorable gentleman gaining any peace in his time in the Treasury because he increases taxes here or because he is compelled by circumstances to impose the authority of the Treasurership in a particular direction? It would be very easy for the right honorable gentleman to say, in a most irresponsible way, " Let us do away with all taxation ", and carry his Poujade-ish philosophy right through.

I say to my honorable friends opposite who have criticized the Treasurer in this sense that their criticism is completely without foundation. The right honorable gentleman's responsibility - and it is an earnest one which he has propounded quite fearlessly and openly - is to preserve stability in Australia. Even though a thousand and one critics may come along and inveigh against a particular economic proposal, it is a singular feature that of the thousand and one critics, possibly two or five of them would have two thoughts to rub together to produce a constructive proposal. Having said that, might I move on to what I believe is the root cause of our present distress?

Mr Curtin - What is your majority?

Mr KILLEN - My majority is going to increase. If I can encourage the honorable member for Kingsford-Smith to come into my electorate, I will guarantee to organize a meeting for him, and I shall be most surprised if at the following election my majority does not increase twofold or threefold. As I have said, the root cause of our trouble is to be found in the basic fact that in the course of the past ten years Australia has known development of such magnitude that one can find no parallel of it. certainly not in Australian history and in only a few of the western countries. One has only to go back a decade to 1949, which marked the end of the Labour epoch and the beginning of the Menzies Government, and then go forward to the year 1959. That is ten years, and it provides a fair test. Let us take, for example, the number of motor cars registered in Australia in the year 1949- a total of 125,138. In 1959, the number of motor vehicles registered in Australia totalled 267,000, a remarkable increase over a period of ten years. Total petroleum imports into Australia in 1949 were worth £42,500,000, equal to 9 per cent, of the value of our total imports. That was under a Labour Government. In 1959, the value of petroleum imports was running at £100,000,000 for the year, or 12 per cent, of the value of our total imports.

Yet the honorable member for Lalor, in reply to the honorable member for McPherson (Mr. Barnes) on the subject of petrol rationing, said, " Of course, times were different- in 1-949 ".- Of course, times were different in 1949; but I remind the honorable gentleman and all those- who have any heed for historical facts that it is completely unassailable that the argument of the Labour Party in 1949, expressed in the most explicit language, was, " You cannot do away with petrol rationing". Yet when the Menzies-Fadden Government was returned in 1949, in a matter of a week or a couple of weeks, petrol rationing was abolished. It is an interesting exercise to look across the Tasman to New Zealand and see what a Labour government has done there. A Labour government in that country, faced with an import-export problem approaching that of the character we have here in Australia at the moment, increased the sales tax' on motor vehicles in 1958! from 20 per cent, to 40 per cent.

Mr Harold Holt - An increase of 100 per cent.

Mr KILLEN - -Yes, an increase of 100 per' cent". It did that in 1958 because it was faced with a- difficult import-export problem.

Mr Harold Holt - That was a Labour government.

Mr KILLEN - Yes, of course; characteristically, it did not believe in doing things by halves. The honorable member for Lalor built up a point of view that this would never happen under a Labour government. It was a notable feature of his argument to-night that he did not even hint at the fact that a Labour government in New Zealand two years ago increased sales tax on motor vehicles by 100 per cent.

What is the nature of the import problem in Australia? In the year 1-955-56, with fairly stringent- import restrictions, imports of motor vehicles, chassis, bodies and parts, amounted to £77,000,000. In- 1956-57, the corresponding- figure was- £53,000,000} in 1957-58 it was £59,000,000; and for 1959-60, it was £88,000,000. Petroleum products imported into Australia in the last financial year amounted to £100,000,000. In the last quarter of the last financial year, importations of motor vehicles, chassis, bodies, parts and petroleum products was at the rate of approximately £200,000,000 per year. This represented 20 per cent, of- our total recorded imports-. That is the first limb of the argument of the. Treasurer and of the Government and, I would hope, of all people- who can rationalize this problem. A- terrific drain- is made upon our economy by these motor- cars, parts and petroleum products.

The second problem is represented by the growth in internal demand. In 1953-54 the number of motor vehicles registered in Australia was approximately 1,900,000. By 1957-58 the number had increased to 2,520,000, a terrific figure. There are now 245 vehicles for every 1,000 people in Australia. I am sorry to cite all these figures, but it is necessary in order to see the problem in some perspective. It is significant that one fiftieth of the total number of motor vehicles in the world is to be found in Australia. Australia is one of the four countries in the world that can boast of having a motor vehicle available for every four of its population. What I have said about the rate of growth is spectacular enough, but if you look at the growth in this current year you find revealed, the sort of problem that is emerging. For the September quarter of 1 959 there were 69,000 new registrations but for the September quarter of 1960 there were 82,000 registrations. The same sort of tale can be told about the number of motor cars assembled in Australia.

The second limb of the Treasurer's argument - and it is ancillary to the one that I have instanced - is represented by the demand made upon credit facilities, by people who want to buy vehicles. In the year 1959-60 the value of retail hire purchase agreements in Australia reached £425,000,000, an increase of £66,000.000 over the previous year. More than £212,000,000 of that total was finance made available for the retail of motor vehicles. I put it to honorable gentlemen opposite that if they can explain away the demand upon hire purchase facilities by people wanting to buy motor cars and' if they can explain away the demand on our overseas funds that is made by purchases of petroleum products, there is no problem. But it is completely impossible physically and. I should imagine, intellectually, to explain away those factors.

The next matter to which I want to refer very briefly is employment. If one listened to the honorable member for Lalor (Mr Pollard), the star turn of the week, one would gather the impression that wholesale unemployment is to be brought about in Australia. That is complete and utter nonsense. Let us look at the record. In New South Wales, General Motors-Holden's Limited have said that no retrenchments are contemplated. The British Motor Car Corporation in New South Wales has announced that no retrenchments are contemplated. In Victoria, again, General Motors-Holden's Limited has announced that no retrenchments are contemplated. The Ford Motor Company of Australia Proprietary Limited in Victoria has announced that no retrenchments are contemplated. The manufacturers of the Volkswagen have announced that no retrenchments are contemplated. In South Australia and Queensland, General MotorsHolden's Limited have announced that no retrenchments are contemplated. In Queensland the Ford Company has announced that no retrenchments are contemplated. To the very few companies in which retrenchments are contemplated, the Department of Labour and National Service has immediately sent officers to assist displaced employees to find other employment. This is a factor which cannot merely be brushed aside.

No Government embarks on a policy of unnecessarily high taxation for the sheer love of it. The Treasurer is not given to self-flagellation; he does not sit up every night, thinking out new, highly imaginative ways of levying taxation. No Government wants to create unemployment and this Government has approached the problem quite sensibly. I ask the critics of this measure, inside and outside of this House, to explain away the demand for skilled labour and materials that has been involved in the terrific increase in the number of motor cars in Australia. We have reached the point at which the demand for skilled labour and materials is, in essence, quite critical. Just as unemployment or a glut of anything are to be avoided, so also is the other extreme to be avoided. The other extreme can be quite as dangerous and quite as grievous in its effect as unemployment and a glut.

I believe that the Treasurer has acted wisely. He has acted fearlessly. He has acted not in the interest of only one section of the Australian community, but in the interests of the entire community. I think, that, in the final analysis, that is where the real test of Government and of responsibility is to be found. Has the Treasurer done this to serve one section of the Australian community or has he done it to server the entire community? There is no doubt in my mind on which side responsible people will come down in answer to that question.

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