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Friday, 9 December 1927

Senator NEEDHAM (Western Australia) . - Yesterday the Leader of the Senate (Senator Pearce), in closing the debate on the motion for the second reading of this bill, endeavoured to counteract arguments that I had adduced respecting certain portions of the measure. I said that there had been a considerable increase in indirect taxation and an appreciable decrease in direct taxation, and I pointed out that the workers, the men with comparatively small incomes, were suffering because of that increase, whilst those who were more generously endowed with this world's goods had had their hurden lightened. The right honorable gentleman quoted from a bulletin issued by the Bureau of Censors and Statistics, and instanced the large importations of motor vehicles, the duties on which, he contended, had no effect upon the workers. He evidently sought to convey the impression that a motor vehicle is a luxury. He must know that it has progressed far beyond that stage and that in both the primary and secondary industries it is now essential for transport purposes. To enable these vehicles to be run, we must secure supplies of petrol, which is sold at a high figure. The high cost of motor vehicles, for which the customs duty is largely responsible, is a tax on industry and in the last analysis is borne by the workers. Wo honorable senator appreciates to a greater extent than the right honorable gentleman the soundness of my argument, because he is, at heart, just as keen a disciple of Henry George as is my honorable friend Senator Grant. The only difference between them is that we do not hear him expound those views so frequently. The argument that the worker does not suffer as a result of the collection of a large revenue from a duty on motor vehicles will not stand investigation. The right honorable gentlema.n also referred to the improvement in the basic wage, and said that whilst it had risen since 1922 to the extent of something like £18 in the case of a married man with three children, the increase in indirect taxation on a similar basis had been not greater than £7.

Senator Sir George Pearce - I said that that was the total increase for a family of five.

Senator NEEDHAM - I also shall quote from the quarterly Bulletin a set of figures which will prove the truth of my contention. The Leader of the Senate wished us to believe that the improvement in the basic wage had eased the position. I remind him, and Senator Barwell also, that the basic wage has still a long way to go before it will reach the dizzy height to which the cost of living has soared. Indirect taxation increased from £5 17s. 7d. in 1921 to £6 10s. lOd. in 1926, a rise of 13s. 3d. The weighted average nominal weekly rate payable for a full week's work was in 1921 £4 14s. 6d. for males and £2 8s. 4d. for females; whilst in 1926 it was £4 19s. 4d. for males and £2 lis. 8d. for females ; the increase being 4s. lOd. in the case of males and 3s. 4d. in the case of females. Those figures support the contention that whilst the Government on the one hand has reduced direct taxation, on the other hand it has increased indirect taxation, thus continuing a heavy burden on the major portion of the community and giving relief to the few.

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