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Wednesday, 20 May 1936

Senator J V MACDONALD (QUEENSLAND) . - This bill has been spoken of as " very largely a consolidating measure", but it appears to me that a number of new provisions have been incorporated in it. For instance, clause 63 reads - (1.) Debts which are bad debts and are written off as such during the year of income, and -

(a)   have been brought to account by the taxpayer as assessable income of any year; or (b)are in respect of money lent inthe ordinary course of the business of the lending of money by a taxpayer who carries on that business, and no other 'bad debts, shall be allowable deductions.

That provision is new to me, and I should like some information regarding it.

Senator A J McLACHLAN (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - But it is very familiar to me.

Senator J V MACDONALD (QUEENSLAND) - I direct attention also to the following observation in the introductory speech of the Minister in charge of the bill: -

Honorable senators will appreciate that, at present, there is a variety of concessional deductions under the Commonwealth and State acts. An attempt has been made to bring these into harmony, and in this connexion the Commonwealth's contribution has been to concede a deduction of£50 to a married man in respect of his wife, or, wherethe taxpayer is a widower, in respect of a female relative having the care of children under sixteen years of age, provided that the wife or relative is a resident and is wholly maintained by the taxpayer. This concession, it is estimated, will cost the Commonwealth from £300,000 to £350,000 in revenue the next financial year, but it was regarded as a proper deduction to be made in the interests of the married section of the community, as well as in the interests of uniformity.

I am familiar with a deduction of that nature, but it may be that it appears in the Queensland law. I should like the Minister to indicate in his reply whether it is new in Commonwealth law.

Without doubt, a greater degree of uniformity is highly desirable, not only in our income tax legislation, but also in the laws relating to other subjects dealt with by our so-called federation. Numerous newtaxes have been introduced in recent years, and taxpayers are to-day faced with many involved considerations when they set out to prepare their returns. It should be possible to make provision on one large return for all the information a taxpayer is under obligation to supply. As this bill makes a useful contribution towards the achievement of uniformity, I shall support it.

Generally speaking, I am opposed to the taxation policy of this Government, for it bears with undue severity on the working classes. The Labour party believes in direct taxation. The ideal canon of taxation is that taxes shall fall most heavily upon the shoulders of those best able to bear it. That consideration should be borne closely in mind in the organization of our national finances. It seems to me, however, that the working people of Australia have not had a fair deal from this Government. Sales tax, for example, imposes severe hardship on the people on the lowest rung of the social ladder, whose capacity to pay is very limited. The general policy of this Government undoubtedly favours the richer classes of the people to the detriment of the workers and the producers.

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