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Thursday, 20 November 1941

Senator KEANE (Victoria) (Minister for Trade and Customs) [3.46J. - in reply - In replying to the very moderate criticism which has been levelled against this measure, I should like to emphasize " that- this Government, like its predecessors, does not favour controversial .legislation such as this. However, it is realized that revenue must be obtained. The sales tax was introduced originally in 1929. by the 'Scullin Government at, .a time of emergency. A promise was then given that when the financial position of the country improved sufficiently the sales tax legislation would be removed from the statute-book. Successive governments formed by the parties now sitting in opposition did not fulfill that promise when the time came, but continued to impose the tax, and to-day it is a recognized means of obtaining revenue. I suggest to the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McLeay) that the items on which he proposes to move certain amendments can be 'better dealt with on their merits at the committee stage. In my second-reading speech I endeavoured to make it quite clear, that exemptions from sales tax covered items coming within the ordinary regimen of the average worker.

Senator Spicer - What about scones and pastry?

Senator KEANE - Such things are not vital to the health of the people. Quite a lot has been said by honorable senators about the tax on fish, and that matter will be fully discussed when the item is reached in committee. One aspect of this -measure which should not be lost sight of is the fact that there is a" big responsibility on officials of the department to see that when the new schedule comes into operation there will not he a repetition of what occurred on the last occasion. Obviously when the new rates are imposed manufacturers, wholesalers and retailers will have stocks on hand. So far as I can ascertain, until now no adequate steps have been taken to see that the now rates are not charged on stocks on hand when a new schedule becomes operative. However, some measure of control is exercised by the Prices Commissioner.

Senator McBride - Will the Prices Commissioner permit the tax on fish to be passed on?

Senator KEANE - At a later stage I shall give the Senate a brief resume of " the method employed by the Prices Commissioner in handling such increases as these. I agree with the Leader of the Opposition that it is unfortunate that legislation of this kind is necessary, but I repeat that items in every-day use are exempt from the tax. The schedules of exemptions are very extensive, and can fairly be said to safeguard the vital interests of those engaged in primary and secondary production. Agricultural machinery and other equipment in use by men on the land, dairying machinery, poultry farmers' gear and equipment, bee-keepers' appliances, foodstuffs, beverages, bread, meat, fish, bacon, dried vegetables and numerous other commodities are exempt from sales tax. I hope that when the act is reprinted the schedules will indicate the rates of sales tax applicable to the goods named in them. Like Senator Leckie, I am amazed at the opposition to this bill, as he was surprised at the silence of Ministers regarding the budget proposals. A large number of bills has -to be considered' before Christmas, and the Government desires to have an opportunity to consider them fully as "soon as possible.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

Bill read a second time.

In committee:

Clauses 1 and 2 agreed to.

Clause 3 (Amendment of First Schedule).

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