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Wednesday, 16 December 1914


Senator MILLEN (New South Wales) . - I do not propose to detain the Committee very long in dealing with this Bill. A number of reasons conduce to brevity this session. One, to which I may refer, arises from the impossibility of instigating debate in this Chamber, in view of the unfortunate disparity between the number of those who are of the true political faith and of my honorable friends opposite. I am not going to enter into the merits or demerits of death duties. These are generally admitted as a legitimate source of revenue; but one cannot set aside altogether the evidence presented by this Bill of a growing tendency on the part of the present Government- to impose double taxation in the Commonwealth. Apart from the terms of our Constitution, sooner or later we shall be called upon to consider whether certain fields of taxation should not be left exclusively to the Commonwealth and others to the State Governments. It is clear that if this course of imposing double taxation is pursued, a certain line of policy, adopted by either the Commonwealth Government or a Government of a State, may be frustrated by the action of either a State Government or the Commonwealth Government in imposing taxation. In connexion with this particular matter, since the State Governments impose varying succession duties, and the Commonwealth proposes the imposition of a uniform tax. it is clear that it will work unequally over the people of Australia. The rates proposed in this Bill, owing to the double imposition by Commonwealth and State, must result in something very little short of confiscation. New .South Wales already imposes a tax of 15 per cent, on the larger estates, and the Commonwealth Government propose another tax of 15 per cent, on those estates. This will make 30 per cent, in all. I do not know at what point my honorable friends consider that taxation ceases and confiscation begins, but with a tax of 30 per cent, nearly onethird of the estate is forfeited to the taxing authority.


Senator O'Keefe - That is on estates of the maximum value.


Senator MILLEN - I am referring to such estates.


Senator O'Keefe - The honorable senator's remarks would make it appear that they are applicable to any estate.


Senator MILLEN - I am referring to estates which will have to bear a Federal tax of 15 per cent, and a State tax of 15 per cent. I am not dealing with the small estates left to those who have a majority of votes, and which my honorable friends have been careful to exempt.


Senator Pearce - Those who leave these estates have lost their votes.


Senator MILLEN - Probably that is one of the reasons why my honorable friends opposite are so disposed to tax them. Apart from the merits of probate and succession duties, I suggest that when we take away a third of an estate by taxation we overstep the line which separates fair taxation from confiscation. We have not the machinery Bill which is the complement of this measure before us, but it is pertinent to the matter we are now discussing to ask the Government whether it is proposed to collect this tax irrespective of the frequency with which a particular estate may be liable to it. A man may lea.ve an estate subject to taxation at the rate of 30 per cent., and in the same year the widow to whom he left it, may also die. Is the estate to be taxed twice at this rate within that period, or will there be some provision in the machinery Bill to prevent an estate which has already borne the tax, being called upon to bear it again within a given period? It must be within the knowledge of my honorable friend that it frequently happens that the original owner of an estate and the beneficiary under his will die within a period of a few months. Where that takes place under this Bill 60 per cent., or nearly two-thirds of the value of an estate, may be forfeited to the Crown. If my honorable friends wish to mark their term of administra tion by regard for anything but a vindictive desire to annex wealth when it is held in large parcels, they should give some little consideration to the case I now present to them.


Senator SENIOR (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - Such a case would be a rare exception.


Senator MILLEN - Then there is the less reason why my honorable friend should refrain from making provision for it.







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