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Tuesday, 11 April 1961

The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN (Hon W C Haworth (ISAACS, VICTORIA) - Order! The honorable member must not refer to a Minister in those terms.

Mr UREN - I withdraw the statement. The position is that this Government has raised a certain amount of money by increasing the sales tax on motor cars temporarily, and now it should return the additional money to those who bought motor vehicles during the relevant period, following its decision to remove the additional 10 per cent, tax which it imposed only in November. All honorable members have received complaints from electors who were caught by the rise in the sales tax. I have had many representations made to me. The arrogant statement that was made by the Minister at the table should not be accepted by the people. Supporters of the Government claim that it has achieved what it set out to achieve. What did it set out to achieve? First, it said that too much money was being spent on motor cars and that too much steel was being consumed by the motor vehicle industry. It adopted two measures. First, it increased the sales tax on motor vehicles from 30 to 40 per cent.; and secondly, it introduced a credit squeeze. Now the Government has reduced the sales tax to 30 per cent. The reason for the reduction is that the big motor vehicle combines - General Motors-Holden's Limited and the Ford company - put pressure on the Government. Actually, the Treasurer did not make a statement when the sales tax was reduced; it was the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) who bowed to the wishes of the big motor car monopolies.

As to the credit squeeze, those two combines will not be affected because they can make their own finance available and so maintain the sales of Holden and Falcon motor cars. Thus, there, will continue to be an upward surge in the sales of motor vehicles; so the Government has not achieved what it set out to achieve. Once again, the motor vehicle industry will be a drain on the steel industry of Australia and once again, it will impose a greater burden on our export earnings. Huge increased quantities of petroleum products will have to be imported. The Government did not set out on a pattern of education. The Opposition's policy has not been one of laisser-faire. We have advanced a progressive and positive policy. We have said previously on many occasions that the sales tax on motor cars should be applied on a sliding scale according to petrol consumption. The sales tax should be lower on cars which consume less petrol. If a luxury motor car travels only 15 to 18 miles on a gallon of petrol, the sales tax on such a car should be increased. Thus, the people would be educated to buy a worker's motor car that the Australian people can afford. That is an indication of what we would do. That is a positive policy.

Let us look at the record of this Government in relation to sales tax. When the Chifley Government went out of office in 1949, the rate of sales tax on a motor car was 8 per cent. By November last year, the rate had risen to 30 per cent. Then this Government increased it to 40 per cent, until, under pressure from the monopolistic motor vehicle interests, the Government relented and reduced the sales tax to 30 per cent. Those monopolies will not be affected because they can make finance available for the purchase of Falcon and Holden motor vehicles. Many of the small dealers outside the Holden or Falcon networks cannot sell motor cars. Consequently, they will be affected; but, in whole, the position of the country will not be any better. Our export balances will be affected by the increased imports of petroleum products. The steel industry will be affected. Steel which should be going into more essential industries will be absorbed by the motor vehicle industry. This is one of the issues that this Government has not faced and will not face - the issue of priority, of where money should flow within the community in the best interests of our development. The Government is a laisser-faire government. When we on this side are elected to office we will be a progressive government, because we have some vision, we have some feeling for this country, and we are aware of its capabilities for development. We will face up to that position.

Lastly, I should like to say that surely the Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Osborne), who is now at the table, will take back to the Treasurer and his Cabinet colleagues the message from this debate that the Government should relent in regard to its stupid decision to retain the £5,000,000 which it has been able to steal from the unfortunate purchasers of motor cars in that tragic period between November and March. Surely the Government will not be so foolish as to retain this £5,000,000, and surely honorable members opposite will support the Opposition's amendment.

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