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Thursday, 8 December 1938

Mr MCCALL (MARTIN, NEW SOUTH WALES) - And biscuits, too.

Mr CASEY - That is so; I know the honorable member's interest in biscuits. On a previous occasion, now happily two years ago, I went into the question of the cost of the ingredients that go to make up macaroni, and also the retail price at which macaroni is sold. What I had to say then was to the effect that there appeared to the Government to be a sufficiently substantial margin between' the cost of the ingredients used in the manufacture of macaroni and the final retail price at which that commodity is sold to enable the Government to have a clear conscience in imposing what might, in other circumstances, be considered a double burden of tax. As to the flour tax on macaroni, that has 'been threshed out on a previous occasion and the necessity for it has been made evident to honorable members. As . to the subsequent tax on the increased price of macaroni, that also has been threshed out during sales tax discussions in this chamber on many occasions. The Government has exempted as wide a range of foodstuffs in general use as possible. The question of the competitive position of macaroni, in respect of other foodstuffs relatively close to it in the public mind, makes it quite clear to the Government that these two taxes can be, and, we believe, should be, imposed on that commodity. The same general argument applies in respect of biscuits, which are by no means a new subject in this chamber, as the honorable member for Martin (Mr. McCall) knows. Biscuits have been dealt with on many occasions and it has been submitted that biscuits are a staple food-

Mr Sheehan - A necessary commodity.

Mr CASEY - I thank the honorable member for having found a suitable description for me to use; but, unfortunately, the figures relating to the total value of biscuits consumed in Australia do . not bear out that assumption. Biscuits cannot be said to be in . any way a staple food of the people. The Government is exempting more and more of the staple foods; in fact, practically all staple foods are now removed from the incidence of the sales tax and, in the course of time, the list of exemptions will, no doubt, be extended.

Mr Sheehan - Why not exempt the lower grades of biscuits which the workers are forced to buy?

Mr CASEY - Because the Government has had experience of exempting one class and not the whole range. The exemption of biscuits as a whole will have to await the time when similar foodstuffs and staple foods can be exempted as a whole.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

Bill read a second time, and reported from committee without amendment or debate; report adopted.

Bill - by leave - read a third time.

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