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Thursday, 17 March 1932

Mr GUY (Bass) . -The provision of employ-men t for the workless is undoubtedly a matter of paramount importance, for there can be no successful economic and financial rehabilitation of Australia while 300,000 of our work people are idle. Doubtless, the Government will collate the suggestions put forward to-day, and during previous discussions on this subject, and will be able to submit concrete proposals after the Premiers Conference that is to be held in the near future. It is undoubtedly pur duty to create avenues of employment, but it is also necessary to keep people in employment. With the limited time at our disposal to-day, we cannot go thoroughly into the whole question of un employment, but I take this opportunity to point out that certain anomalies and rulings under our sales tax acts have a tendency to reduce employment. Paradoxical as it may seem, we may, by the imposition of more taxation, secure less revenue. All taxation is, more or less, objectionable, but our sales taxation is most objectionable. Although the Government will have its hands pretty full during the recess, I hope that it will give consideration to the removal of some of the anomalies and injustices which are brought about by the administration of our sales tax legislation. In my opinion, the sales tax should be abolished as soon as the financial position of the Commonwealth will permit it, but, in the meantime, some of the anomalies which cause annoyance and irritation should receive attention. I suggest that the tax should be collected at the source, as is done in the case of excise duties, that is to say, upon the importation or manufacture of the commodity.

Although fish and similar products areexempt from the sales tax, the Taxation

Department claims that as mutton birds are processed, they are liable to the tax. The only processing to which the birds are subjected is to salt them before placing them on the market. Beef, when corned and pickled, is exempt, yet mutton birds when salted are taxed! It is generally understood that all uncooked meats are exempt from sales tax, yet mutton birds, which are uncooked, are taxed. The people who are engaged in the mutton bird industry are mostly half-castes, whose income over a year on the average does not exceed more than £1 a week. If, in addition to what they have to pay for freight, wharfage, stacking charges, &c, they have also to pay 6 per cent. on their returns from the sale of the birds, their industry will be ruined. The sales tax officials in Tasmania, who arc conversant with local conditions, say definitely that these birds should not be subject to sales tax. I have received the following letter on this subject from. Major B. H. Davies, a member of the Tasmanian Parliament : -

Thereare engaged in the industry for about two months every year about 250 men, women and children. The annual value of the industry is about £8,500. The total catch of birds varies from 800,000 to 1,000,000 annually. The oil is worth about3s. per gallon, and at present the feathers are unsaleable. Sonic few years ago birds were worth 25s. per 100, but the present market price is from 12s. 15s. per 100. I would like to point out that this is practically a primary product and not a synthetic food, the birds being simply salted and casked.

Those concerned at present are not earning a living wage, and are mostly relying on the merchants to carry them over. Included in those interested are those people on Cape Barren - the half-castes - who are in a very bad way as regards having means to support them.

The half-castes are engaged birding for two or three months, and for the rest of the year are fishing and seailing, but rheir earnings are not more than £1 a week on the average over the year. If they are compelled to pay 6 per cent. sales tax it will mean ruin to them, and a number of them will be thrown out of employment.

Many anomalies under our sales tax laws should be removed. I suggest that all foodstuffs should be exempted. A person whois engaged in the preparation or manufacture of taxable commodities, and has a turnover of £50 a year in such taxable commodities, is obliged to register provided his gross turnover is £1,000 a year. Thus, a man with a gross turnover of £4,000 a year, but with a turnover of less than £50 worth of taxable goods, is not obliged to register, and consequently, pays no tax, whereas a man engaged in the same line of business whose gross turnover may be only a little over £1,000 a year, is obliged to register, and pay sales tax if his turnover in taxable goods is a little over £50 a year. Again, a tailor or mercer with a gross turnover of £10,000 or £12,000 a year pays tax on manufactured goods, that is to say, tailormade suits, although his turnover in those particular goods may be less than £1,000 a year, whereas a man who is purely a tailor, and whose turnover in manufactured goods is also under £1,000, is not required to register and pays no tax, except on the raw material he uses. He pays 6 per cent. on the invoice price of the roll of cloth he uses. The other pays 6 per cent. on the sale price of the ready-made suit less 15 per cent.For every Is. paid by one man in tax, the other man in identically the same line of business pays approximately £1. Educational books, including some containing splendid reviews of the working of various industries throughout the world, the compilation of which has necessitatedmost extensive research, are sent to Australia absolutely free, but are taxable. Although these publications are of inestimable educational value, they are subject to this abominable sales tax. I trust that the Government will consider the points I have mentioned in this connexion, particularly with regard to the mutton bird industry, which, if penalized any further, will cause further unemployment.

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