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Tuesday, 2 May 1961

Mr WENTWORTH (Mackellar) . - I thank the House sincerely for the consideration that has been given to this amendment. I thank the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt), particularly, for his promise, which I do not regard at all as an empty promise, that consideration will be given to this proposal at the proper time. 1 also thank the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) for some of the things which he said. May I just deal with one or two of the matters raised. I shall deal first with those raised by the honorable member for Watson (Mr. Cope). This amendment was circulated last week. It was foreshadowed in my speech at the second-reading stage, and a copy of the amendment was put on every honorable member's desk last Thursday.

Mr Cope - Somebody pinched mine.

Mr WENTWORTH - I am sorry. I do not sit on the Labour side and I cannot be held responsible for what happens on that side. I agree that this is a matter which breaks new ground and that further consideration of it may well be desirable. I am grateful indeed that the committee has given consideration to this new principle, which, I believe, will in some form or other eventually be embodied in our taxation legislation.

The honorable member for Watson and the honorable member for Port Adelaide (Mr. Thompson) asked what the cost would be. If they will look at the "Hansard" report of the second-reading debate, they will see that I explained that as we are now finding about £300,000,000 a year from revenue for loan works, and as the amount of cash subscriptions must, ex hypothesi, be many times larger than any tax rebate - probably four or five times larger - there will not be any charge on revenue. There will be a gain and it will be possible either to remit tax or alternatively to carry out additional public works without calling on the taxpayer to finance them. I think that this answers the main points raised by the honorable member for Watson and the honorable member for Port Adelaide.

I was a little surprised at the line taken by the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron) and the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Uren) that this would be worth more to the rich man than to the poor man. As the Treasurer said, we already have a provision in our taxation law - this has been approved by the Labour Party in the past, although apparently some members of that party do not approve of it now - for concessional deductions for a wife and children, which are worth a great deal more to somebody on a high income than to somebody on a low income. I must be fair and say that the honorable member for Reid and the honorable member for Hindmarsh said that they were speaking without any caucus endorsement, simply giving their own private opinions and not the opinion of the party, but apparently some members of the Labour Party are in favour of withdrawing the concessions given for wives and children under the taxation law. This is against the policy which that party as a whole has endorsed in the past. I do not think that in the lower age brackets there are many people receiving very high incomes. There may be one or two, but why, just because we may be conferring a big benefit on one or two, should we avoid conferring a considerable benefit on many hundreds of thousands? The Labour Party's attitude in this respect is one of - what is the phrase - envy, hatred, malice and all uncharitableness. I do not think that the committee should take these criticisms particularly seriously, because the kind of case that these honorable members mentioned is very exceptional indeed.

The point made by the honorable member for Port Adelaide, in regard to people in the higher age groups, may have some substance and may bear looking into in greater detail. I make no apology whatsoever for suggesting that people in the lower age groups, people who are engaged or about to be married and married couples beginning their families, should be entitled to save, and to save with the help of a deduction from their taxable incomes. It may be that the upper limit of £500 that I suggested will be considered toy some honorable members to be too high. That is a matter of detail. It may be, perhaps, that we should think in terms of £250, £300 or £400. Personally, I think that £500 is about the right figure, but this is a matter on which detailed argument could well be put forward with justification on both sides.

May I say, finally, that this is an attempt to meet two grave problems. The first is a sociological problem. It is not right that the teenager should enjoy a standard of life which is higher than he can expect for the major part of his life. It is not a good thing that a man should, on marriage, and on the birth of his family, face a lowering of his material standards. I have long felt that we are not giving enough to the married man and that he should be getting a larger part of the national income. This is one small step towards achieving that major sociological objective. I shall not weary the committee by arguing at length the moral implications. I know that many churchmen, social workers and parents are worried about this kind of thing and that we should be doing something to help the worthy objectives of these big, very important groups in the community. I suggest that we should range ourselves on side on this moral issue.

The second thing which is perhaps more germane to this debate, although it is not perhaps of greater importance, is that this is something which can confer a major economic benefit upon the whole community if it can increase our savings rate. It will make possible, for example, the maintenance of a high volume of employment without inflation. I heard the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley) refer to-day to the loss of value to bond-holders through inflation. This is one means of endeavouring to meet that kind of problem by increasing the savings rate. We have to do something towards this end if we are to get rid of the economic problems which are bedevilling us all. This is, I hope, a constructive suggestion.

As I have said, I am very grateful to the House for the debate. I am grateful to the Treasurer for the assurances he has given. I believe this is a good amendment. I am not prepared to press it to a division at this moment because of those assurances, but I do hope something along those lines will be incorporated in our income tax law before very long.

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