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Tuesday, 2 May 1961


Mr HAROLD HOLT (Higgins) (Treasurer) . - Mr. Chairman, the amendment that has been moved by the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth) has rightly gained from all parts of the committee commendation for the spirit behind it and the objective which the honorable member seeks to attain. I believe we all are agreed that the topic which he has raised - the giving of sufficient inducement to young people who, in a period of high employment, are able to obtain relatively high wages and to enjoy opportunities that are available at a stage of their lives when responsibilities do not rest so heavily upon them - brings before us an objective to which we all should subscribe. There may be differences of opinion about the best methods to be adopted, but I do not think any of us can fairly claim to have given this important subject as much thought as it deserves. We all have been aware over recent years - we have been glad to see such a state of affairs - that, to a degree not known by us in our adolescent or teenage years, the younger people in the community have been able to enjoy good earnings and regular employment and at the same time have an opportunity which is by no means so readily open at a later stage of life to put aside a big proportion, relatively speaking, of their weekly earnings in the form of savings.

Unfortunately, many of them do not take advantage of that opportunity. Perhaps it is because they do not realize - I do not blame them; it is a fault of youth and inexperience rather than because of any lack of character on their part - that it will not be so easy at a later stage of their lives to set aside funds which may be applied to the responsibilities they will have to assume. A challenge is presented to us all to find some way to give adequate encouragement to young people to put aside what they can afford in the early stage of their lives so that they shall be able to assist themselves more effectively during some of the more difficult, but perhaps more rewarding times, ahead of them.

The honorable member for Mackellar has produced a particular method of obtaining this result. Members on' both sides of the chamber have directed attention to what they believe to be weaknesses in his proposal. There may be some force in the objection that apparently the proposal would give not only a greater incentive but also a greater return to a person in receipt of a higher income than to a person on a lower income. How far does the committee or do honorable gentlemen opposite wish to take that line of argument? There are other elements in our taxation provisions which in net terms give a better return for savings or from taxation deductions to people who are in receipt of higher incomes. Do honorable gentlemen opposite propose, for example, the abolition or a modification of the present form of deduction for a wife and children because it has the direct effect of giving a greater cash benefit to the person who receives a higher income than to the person who receives a lower income? I prefer to believe that we have worked out a taxation scale which, although it bears more heavily in terms of the cost per £1 of income on the person who enjoys a higher rate of income, provides, when it comes to the matter of deductions, a proportionately greater benefit. Over the whole period the process averages out in a way which I believe accords with the sense of social and economic justice that exists in the community. At any rate, the policies which we have adopted in that regard have been endorsed, we claim, by the electorate during our period of office. 1 do not dismiss out of hand the scheme that has been proposed by the honorable member for Mackellar because that objection to it has been raised. As the honorable gentleman himself has acknowledged, the proposal has important economic and sociological effects. Some one said that it breaks new ground. Whilst some study has been given by the Treasury to the outline of the proposal that the honorable gentleman gave to me earlier, I do not claim that our ideas have become sufficiently clarified for me to be willing to adopt the amendment in its present form at this stage. But I assure the honorable gentleman that further study will be given to it, and I share the sense of indebtedness to him that has been expressed by honorable members for having stimulated some further thought on this very important subject.







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