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Thursday, 20 November 1941

Senator KEANE (Victoria) (Minister for Trade and Customs) . - Item 3, fishing equipment, covers boats, including oars, sails, lifebelts, lifeboats and other similar accessories, crayfish pots and engines for use in the fishing industry. Computed on a sales value of £60,000, the revenue involved in the acceptance of the amendment is £3,000. The original proposal of the Government was that the whole of item 3 should be removed from the5 per cent. to the 10 per cent. schedule. Because of representations made to it in the House of Representatives the Government agreed to allow sub-items 4 and 5 to remain at 5 per cent. because it acknowledged that nets, lines and such equipment were goods the replacement of which could not be avoided. They are subject to heavy wear and tear and thus depreciate quickly. In contrast to these goods, boats and engines for boats are notquickly wasting assets, and the sponsors of the original representations realized that it was not unreasonable to expect the postponement of replacements until better times or, if that course were not followed, that the goods should bear the normal rate of sales tax which is borne by other production plant.

Furthermore, labour arid plant of the kind used to produce such goods as boats and engines is urgently required for the production of the necessaries of war. In these circumstances, the Government is justified in declining to accept the amendment. The gravamen of the criticism directed against this proposal is that the proposed increased tax will still further increase the already high price of fish. This proposed alteration of the rate of tax has no bearing on the price of fish. I agree with the honorable senators that, for sonic reason unknown to us, the price of fish is scandalously high. No Government has yet been able to put its finger on the cause. Even in the metropolitan areas a reasonable meal of fish for three people costs 5s. or 6s. The price of fish will not bc affected by the proposed increased tax on this item. Senator James Mclachlan said that there are many items in the schedules which should be exempt. Undoubtedly any honorable senator can point to some items in the schedules which, in his opinion, should not be taxable. It has been said that the amount of revenue involved in the acceptance of the amendment is not very large. I point out that in these difficult days every penny counts and the Government lias to secure revenue wherever it can in order to finance the war effort. In view of that this item is surely not worth the controversy that has arisen over it. I appeal to honorable senators opposite to give to the Government the. same co-operation which honorable, senators on this side of the chamber invariably gave to the previous Government during its period of office. Senator McBride might sneer, but the truth is that no financial measure of the Government of the day was opposed by honorable senators on this side when they were in opposition. Certainly, we criticized the Government's measures, just as honorable senators opposite are criticizing this measure In plain language, I "wheel it up" to the Senate that this is .part, of a considered budget, and a scheme designed to enable us to do what all of us want done, namely, the financing of the tremendous project in which the Government is now engaged. For those reasons, I cannot accept the amendment.

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