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Wednesday, 3 June 1942

Senator CAMERON -- 1 accept that correction. In Western Australia, a motion opposing the scheme was passed in both branches of the legislature, but it cannot be truthfully said that the Parliament of that State has consulted the people of Western Australia on the matter, despite its unanimous decision.

Victoria has the doubtful credit of coming within the category of thrifty States. It is thrifty because governments of Victoria have starved the social services of that State. They have set out to attract capital to their State, where a higher margin of profit from capital invested could be obtained than in other States, and social services have been reduced to a minimum for that purpose. In addition, some Victorian industries particularly the clothing industry, have been notorious for the "sweating" conditions that existed in them. At one time, a Victorian government fraudulently appropriated £100,000 intended for the relief of unemployment in order to grant assistance to hospitals. In order to pre serve its reputation for thrift it was prepared to rob the workers will 0 had provided that money. It took that step rather than impose heavier taxes on vested interests and the wealthier sections of the community. Victoria also has the unenviable record of having at the same time taxed women in order to provide for those who were unemployed, and of refusing relief to unemployed women. Yet honorable senators opposite hold up Victoria as an almost ideal State. However, the people, not only of Victoria, but also of the other States are beginning to see the position more clearly. The result will be that before long we shall have in this Parliament a Labour government with a majority in both houses, and therefore able to give effect to its policy. The present Government is handicapped as to numbers, but it is doing the best that it can in the circumstances. I regret, therefore, that when it has proved that it has increased the country's resistance to its enemies beyond what existed when it came into office, honorable senators opposite should be prepared to vote against proposals which would improve the position still further. When these proposals become law, Australia will have only one income taxing authority, instead of seven. That will mean a considerable reduction of overhead costs, and the release of manpower. With the enemy at our doors, honorable senators opposite say that we must be careful how we act, because oi some doubt as to the constitutional aspects of this legislation. At such a time, they are concerned that some citizens might have to pay a little more than is paid by the citizens of other States! When I reflect on these things, I wonder whether some honorable senators opposite have the interest of the country as much at heart as they would have us believe. It would appear that the prospect of increased profits is to them a more important consideration than the defence of their country. That, at least, is a logical deduction from their attitude towards this bill. Senator Spicer had a good deal to say about taxpayers in Victoria who would be taxed £10 a head more than if they lived in another State. That may be the position according to the honorable senator's arithmetic, but it is not what is found in practice, because whether the small wage-earner lives in Victoria, New South "Wales or any other State, he will always be taxed to the fullest degree that he can be persuaded or coerced to accept. A country may be flowing with milk and honey ; there may be abundance for every man, woman and child; yet by a process of assessing wages based on the cost of living, minus both indirect and direct taxation, the workers are forced to accept the very lowest in terms of commodities or of gold. Our arbitration courts and other wage-fixing tribunals act in that knowledge. Senator Spicer's remarks will not apply to persons in receipt of low incomes, but they may, as they should, apply to persons in the higher income groups. When incomes are not equal, and the whole economic structure is not on an equitable basis, all this talk about persons paying so mucin a head is merely so> much political window dressing. No real increase of wages is ever granted by any wage-fixing tribunal. In terms of fictitious currency, or substitute money, that would appear to be so ; but the fact is that to-day the wage of the average worker will not purchase, in terms of commodities, more than the average wage of 30 years ago. That cannot be denied. Senator Spicer said that he could see no reason why a man, or woman, earning £3 a week should not be taxed. The proper time to consider such a proposition will be when all single men and women now receiving in excess of £3 a week are taxed down to that income. Why should persons in receipt of £3 a week be taxed simply because they are single when many other single persons in the community, after paying tax, still enjoy considerably in excess of that income ? That would be unjust ; and such a proposition would not be supported by any one who really desires to treat the people as a whole as fairly as possible. Would any one suggest that a man under the age of 21, who is serving in the front line, should be taxed because he is single, when many other single persons in the community are in receipt of incomes considerably in excess of that amount after they have paid their tax? It cannot be said that the latter are doing anything nearly so useful in the defence of the Empire as the soldier in the front line. Before a young man in the firing line is taxed simply because he is single, the incomes of all other single persons should be taxed down to the level of his income

Senator Leckie - The young soldier under 21 years of age does not pay tax.

Senator CAMERON - Then let on take the single man, or woman, who is employed in a workshop on necessary work for the defence of the country. Is it fair to propose that he, or she, who may be receiving £3 a week, should be taxed while other single people who are engaged on non-essential work receive considerably in excess of £3 a week even after they pay tax?

Senator Leckie - How many " £3 a weekers " are there in munitions factories ?

Senator CAMERON - I was stating a hypothetical case. However, if that does not satisfy the honorable senator, let us take the single man, or woman, employed on a farm, who receives a wage of £3 a week, or less. Why should he, or she, be taxed when other single persons in the community, who are not doing work nearly so useful in the interests of Australia, enjoy an income considerably in excess of that amount, even after they pay tax? A young man may be drawing considerably in excess of £3 a week as the proceeds of investments in war bonds made on his behalf by his parents. He is doing nothing towards the war effort, and, certainly, is not so useful to the community as the average farm labourer. Honorable senators opposite appear to take the view that individuals should be judged not on the value of their efforts in the interests of the community, but on the basis of their incomes; and they are not very much concerned how the well-to-do obtain their incomes. I can well imagine that a man who may have won, say, a prize of £5,000 in a lottery, would make a much more favorable impression upon honorable senators opposite, and would be considered by them to be a more valuable member of the community than the average farm worker who receives a wage of £3 or less for the essential work he performs on behalf of the community. Honorable senators opposite would not dream of taxing these two classes of taxpayers in proportion to their incomes. In considering the incidence of taxation we should have regard to these factors.

We should realize that persons on lower incomes pay more indirect tax, at all events, than those who enjoy higher salaries, or incomes.

Senator Leckie - Is the honorable senator suggesting that every one should be taxed down to £3 a week?

Senator CAMERON - No. Men and women who are doing useful work in the interests of the community, whether it be in munitions factories, or on the farms, or any work essential to our interests, and are earning only £400 a year, or less, should not be taxed. If we really want to set an example in equality of sacrifice, we should decide that no one earning under, say, £1,000 a year, should be taxed until every one receiving an income in excess of that amount is taxed down to that level.

Senator McBride - Has the honorable senator yet been able to convince his colleagues in that direction ?

Senator CAMERON - My colleagues are quite convinced on that point; and I have sufficient faith in them to believe that when we obtain a majority in both Houses, we shall give effect to such a policy. Under more favorable conditions, we shall find a very severe and necessary levelling down of incomes generally, particularly the incomes of those who are making unprecedented profits out of the war. The longer the war lasts, the greater will be the danger of the small man being driven out of business, whereas big business in both primary and secondary production will tend to expand. That is one effect of war under existing conditions. It was one of the results of the last war. For instance, the last war did more to establish the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited than any other event in the history of that company. That observation applies to every privately controlled monopoly, or privately controlled financial institution. So long as the means of production are monopolized by private interests, war will have the effect of driving the small men out of business to the advantage of big business. If we do not prevent this development, we may well wake up when this war is over to find that Australia is owned, not by the people, but by a handful of monopolists in private and secondary production. Small business people, such as retail shopkeepers, are being forced out of business because vested interests in this Parliament, even now, are stronger than the people. Long before the war, members of the parties in opposition to the present Government were cogitating amongst themselves how best they could put the small wheat-growers out of production in the interests of the private banks. It is because this situation has developed that public opinion throughout Australia is hardening in favour of the Labour party.

Senator A J McLACHLAN (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - Will uniform income taxation have that effect?

Senator CAMERON - Uniform income taxation is not an end in itself ; it is only a means to an end. We are living under a system which is centralizing ownership and control of primary and secondary production into fewer and fewer hands and at the same time increasing the number of men and women who will be forced to work for wages or low salaries. I shall now comment on Senator Spicer's reference to the effect of these measures on theCommonwealth and State Public Services. He said that if uniform income taxation in accordance with the proposals of the Government were introduced in peacetime, a number of public servants would become redundant. The policy of honorable senators opposite would be to put them on the street to look for another job. That would not occur if a Labour government were in power implementing its policy. Instead of public servants being put out of the Service as redundant and reduced perhaps to the dole, the conditions of public servants generally would be improved. Senator Spicer said in one breath that the enactment of uniform income taxation legislation would not result in any saving of man-power, and in the next breath he asked what would be done with the public servants who became redundant. My answer is that in wartime these public servants will be placed in positions in which they can give better service to the nation than duplicating work in the taxation offices. Those not required for taxation work could be transferred to other work without loss of status or pay. That is within the realm of practical politics. The only eventuality public servants have to fear is that a large number of their colleagues will not vote for the Labour party but will vote for the United Australia party, which will impoverish them.

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