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Wednesday, 26 November 1941

Mr HARRISON (Wentworth) . - Honorable members opposite must be somewhat concerned over the fact, that one measure, after another which has been brought before the House has had to be explained by members of the Opposition. We cannot but be struck by the paucity of the information given by the Assistant Treasurer (Mr. Lazzarini). In. fact, he has failed to give any explanation, and we have had instead a variety of opinions expressed by honorable members on the Government side of the House; for instance, the honorable member for Watson (Mr. Falstein) says that this is not a capital tax, whilst the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Morgan) says that it is, and that it should be continued as a capital tax. As a matter of fact, he said that he considered this but the first step of many which should be taken in the same direction. It is because of the controversial nature of this tax that successive governments have varied the legislation, some increasing the tax. and others reducing it, and in the end, the original purpose of the tax has been departed from. It is a controversial tax because it is obviously sectional, and imposes a burden on those who have borne the brunt of developing both the primary and secondary industries. It was introduced in the first place, not to tax big city properties, but to break up big country holdings. Every one who supported the measure when it was first introduced visualized that it would bring about closer settlement, and stimulate primary production. When they found that it was not likely to have that effect - that, in fact, it was likely to strike at the heart of our primary industries by retarding the development of the agricultural and wool industries - they were content to support it as a revenue tax. As was stated by the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) the Opposition does not intend at this juncture to oppose the bill. We realize that revenue must be obtained in various ways for financing the war effort; but because of the extraordinary divergence of opinion expressed by the honorable member for Watson and the honorable member for Reid I consider that we have the right to reply, and place the matter in its true perspective. We have frequently heard honorable members opposite express their interest in postwar development and expansion of industry. They have referred to the need for long-range planning. If the suggestions of the honorable member for Reid and the honorable member for Watson be given effect by the Government, they will retard the development of industry, and strike a blow at the big pastoral holdings, and at the breeding of stud stock. The post-war expansion of industry will be rendered impossible. The honorable member for Fawkner only asked that this legislation be reviewed at the end of the war, and surely that is a reasonable request. If we want industry to expand, we must relieve it of some of the taxation that is bearing so heavily upon it mow. The suggestion of the honorable member for Fawkner, instead of being opposed by the supporters of the Government, should be considered very seriously by them, because those they represent will be the first to be affected if the looked-for expansion of industry does not take place. The Government should watch very carefully the incidence of the various taxation measures which it has introduced, especially those which bear heavily upon private companies, and are likely to affect post-war employment and the expansion of industry. If it be discovered that taxation measures are likely to have detrimental effects, they should be reviewed as soon as possible.

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