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Wednesday, 2 April 1941

Senator COOPER (Queensland) . - I commend the Government upon the introduction of this bill, which, I think, is long overdue. I point out to Senator Allan MacDonald that the Government is now expending its revenue at a high rate for war services, which are increasing every week, and within six or twelve months it may be necessary to double the amount now being expended for war purposes. The gap between revenue and expenditure is gradually increasing, and we must take every care that it is not increased to a greater extent than war services render necessary. Child endowment is essentially a social service, and one which will remain, I hope, for all time. Therefore, it should be placed upon a sound financial basis, and, in my opinion, the Government is taking a wise step in asking that the financial basis of the scheme be made sound from the outset. To obtain from Consolidated Revenue £13,000,000, the amount required for the proposed scheme, would mean an increase of approximately 23 per cent, in the income tax or exploring the lower range of incomes to provide the revenue. Under present conditions the method adopted by the Government to raise a portion of this money by a payroll tax until the heavy burdens imposed by the war are considerably lightened is sound. A pay-roll tax of 2$ per cent, will admittedly cause a small increase of the cost of living, and it will fall as a burden on industries which cannot pass on the cost of the tax; but any Government, in introducing a social service of this kind, must regard the matter from a broad point of view, and ascertain who are the persons in the community to whom such a. tax would be least detrimental. I maintain that that is what has been done by the Government in this instance, and that in exempting pay-rolls not exceeding £20 a week, proper assistance will be afforded to a large number of small farmers, individual shopkeepers and one-man businesses in which the owners themselves may not be earning the basic wage. In the pastoral industry in Queensland, the exemption up to £20 a week permits of the employment of three men and a boy without the employer being subject to the tax. Many of the large pastoral companies which pay more than £20 a week in wages will no doubt be able to bear the slight increase of their costs which this tax would involve. The bill recognizes the same humane principle in regard to those who will supply the money for this social service as to those who will benefit from it.

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