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Thursday, 4 May 1939

Mr BARNARD (Bass) .- Having extracted some information, and at least some satisfaction, from the Government respecting Hospital Tax Ordinance No. 20,I hope to gain additional information concerning Ordinance No. 22. I understand, although I am not sure, that Ordinance No. 22 has been altered since this motion was made some months ago. However, I strongly disapprove of one feature of the ordinance. I refer to the rate of tax imposed on certain subscribers. The ordinance provides that the tax shall be at the rate of threepence a week on persons receiving £1 or more but less than £1 10s. a week; 6d. a week on those receiving £1 10s. or more but less than £2 a week, and 9d. a week on those receiving £2 or more. I object to that scale of charges. I contend that a tax of three- pence a week is much too high on persons receiving less than 30s. a week, and 9d. a week is certainly too high on salaries of £2 a week.

Mr Archie Cameron - What rate would the honorable member suggest?

Mr BARNARD - It is for the Government to suggest a reasonable scale. In Launceston, one private firm has an agreement with the public hospital for the payment of subscriptions by employees. The scale of charges in that case is very much lower than the scale operating in Canberra. The Government certainly should 'be able to introduce in a city like Canberra a scheme at least comparable with that operating in Launceston.

Mr Archie Cameron - Canberra is about the dearest city in the Commonwealth.

Mr BARNARD - That is no reason why heavy levies for hospital treatment should be imposed on the poor, while persons in receipt of high salaries are more or less exempt. Without doubt this ordinance gives preference to those in the community who are in comfortable circumstances. The honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) surely does not disagree with the statement that the position of a man who receives 41s. a week is not fairly comparable with that of a man who receives £9 or £10 a week; yet in Canberra both have to pay the same amount of hospital tax.

Mr Archie Cameron - I disagree with the honorable member on that point.

Mr BARNARD - Apparently the honorable member believes in taxing the poor for the benefit of the rich. The charge of 3d. a week in respect of persons earning over £1 and under 30s. a week is too high, and 9d. a week is too much to levy on those whose income is £2 a week ; it should be not more than 3d. a week. The levy is not sufficiently heavy in respect of those who receive more than £2 a week. That paid by the private firm in Launceston to which I just referred for hospital services for its employees is considerably less than 9d. From memory, I think it is only 3d. a week in respect of persons who earn £2 a week or more. If that is sufficient for a private firm in Launceston to pay it should be possible to arrange a lower scale of charges in respect of the Canberra Community Hospital. Although I realize that the Minister has not been in charge of this department for very long, I hope that he will be able to give me some indication of what the Government has done, or proposes to do, in regard to this hospital tax.

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