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Tuesday, 25 November 1941

Debate resumed from the 13th November (vide page 381), on motion by Mr. GEORGE Lawson -

That the bill .he now read .a second time.

Mr. .HARRISON(Wentworth) {5.54]. - The Opposition commends tfe Government for its endeavours .to raise the revenue needed for war purposes, by methods of taxation, but issues .a warning against the tendency to use the Postal Department as a taxing (authority. From time to time, complaint has been made of the diversion of revenues raised by this department. Lt is an easy channel for the collection of funds to swell the consoLidated revenue account.

The history of postal rates is rather extraordinary. The House will remember that in 1908 there was penny postage, which extended to the United States of America. That was the rate throughout Australia in 1911, when it was declared to be sufficient to reimburse the Postal Department for the services which .it rendered.. At that time, the revenue of the department was buoyant, and the 'Government did not need to contemplate an increase ©£ the rate. The .profits derived from the 'operations of the department could not be applied ito an expansion .of services, but have been used purely *to buttress consolidated revenue. .During the last war, the rate was increased to l£d., in order to meet war commitments. The original rate has mot since been irestoned. If the intention was to raise additional revenue for war purposes, the increase should have ceased to apply .at the termination of ohe war1; but it has been continued as .an added impost on those who use the postal services. Transport, postal, and all other .essential services should be controlled .by .the Commonweal th in the interests -of the people as a whole, but should not be used by them as. a taxation medium.. During the depression, the rate, was again increased; and the Government now, proposes to raise it still further, in. an endeavour to obtain the revenue that, iti needs- for war purposes. I have no quarrel, with that objective ; but I ask the Government to embody in the bill ai provision, which will- ensure the restoration off the existing rate at the termination of the war. No person who uses: postal services would object to an increase in postal rates in order that the revenue needed for war purposes may be raised; but the Government is not entitled to use essential services merely as taxing authorities, by continuing such imposts-, after the war. Had the Gorvernment, of which I was a member, introduced a bill to increase postal rates, it would have incorporated in it the provision! that the increase should apply only for the duration of the war and a short subsequent period. The honorable member for Hume (Mr. Gollins),,, the then PostmasterGeneral,, would have had sufficient consideration, for postal subscribers to make that suggestion to his colleagues. If the Minister is prepared to move the suggested amendment we shall" give the bill a. speedy passage; if not, we shall strive to impose the limitation.

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