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Thursday, 20 November 1941

Senator KEANE (Victoria) (Minister for Trade and Customs) . - In this item an annual revenue of £10,500 is involved. The plea put forward for retaining in the 5 per cent. list canned fish and. imported fish preserved by the cold process is that these foodstuffs are consumed largely by persons in remote portions of the Commonwealth. That is true in some degree, but the greater proportion of this class of goods is disposed of in the metropolitan districts. Indeed, some of these goods rarely, if ever, are seen in the outback. They really come within the category of luxuries. There are no means by which the fish consumed in outback districts can be segregated from the luxury lines which are consumed in the big centres of population. The cost of excluding the whole item would be out of proportion to the relief afforded to the people of the outback. For these reasons, the Government is unable to accept the amendment.

SenatorE. B. JOHNSTON (Western Australia) [5.27]. - I voted against the Governmenton the previous item because a definite principle was involved. Under normal conditions I am opposed to the sales tax altogether. It, is a. form of taxation which can be justified only under abnormal conditions. To its credit, previous governments did not increase the rate of tax on the items now under consideration, hut the responsibility for doing so rests with the Government which has introduced these proposals as part of its budget plan. Unless some very definite principle be involved. I do not propose to deal in detail with a long list of amendments, and say"I shall support, this" or "I shall oppose that". I should like to see this class of legislation removed from the statute-book altogether, but if it be a part, of the policy of the Government, Iam pledged not to harass this, or any other government, during the war, where no question of principleis involved. I shall therefore vote against, the amendment, and also against most of the other amendments which have been foreshadowed. The responsibility for raising revenue rests with the Government, I do not like this means of raising money, but 1 realize that a nation at war must, have revenue. Unless good reasons exist I am not willing to support any action which would deprive the Government, of hundreds of thousands of pounds under existing war conditions.

Senator leckie(Victoria) [5.29].- I do not know whether I misunderstood the Minister, but I think that he said that £10,500 is involved in this item.

Senator Keane - Yes.

Senator LECKIE - If that,beso, it means that fish to the value of £200,000 is canned in Australia eachyear. Surely, the Minister is wrong in saying that so much revenue is involved; otherwise it must be admitted that this industry is well-established in Australia. I ask the Minister not to misinform the committee as to the magnitude of the industry. On the face of it, his statement is wrong.

SenatorKeane. - The revenue involved is £10,500 on a sales value of £210,000.

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