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Wednesday, 6 May 1942

Mr ARCHIE CAMERON (Barker) . - My remarks upon this subject will be brief, because the case for the disallowance of the regulations has been ably stated by the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) and the honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Jolly), but I wish to bring a few points to the notice of the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley). First, there is the very important fact that the earning capacity of land in these times of stress will not be constant. Because of the shortage of labour, the earning capacity of great areas in country districts will fall considerably; and when the earning capacity decreases, values must fall in sympathy. A man can only afford an assessment that bears some realistic relationship to the earning capacity of his land. That axiom applies equally to city and country lands. The times through which we are now passing will cause certain reductions of the rentearning capacity of city land. But whether it be city or country land, the Government should be fair in arriving at an equitable assessment. The Treasurer would be the last man to assure the House that, for the duration of the war. income tax assessments would he fixed at the rate existing on the 1st July, 1939. There is just as much logic in one contention as in the other. If we say that land tax assessments should be fixed as at the 1st July, 1939, we are equally entitled to claim that income tax assessments shall be fixed at the rate ruling on that date.

The point made by the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. DuncanHughes), namely, that values of land may rise or fall, is most important. It is not a matter of striking an average, because that would not give justice. 1 am rather surprised that a member of the Labour Government should seriously contend that no appeal should be allowed against assessments based on the value of the land on the l3t July, 1939. The Treasurer stated that, in certain cases of hardship, the taxpayer would have the right of access to a relief board, but the taxpayer does not want that. All he wishes to receive is a just assessment. If he has a just assessment, there is no need for him to approach a relief hoard for justice on that score. He might have occasion to appeal to the relief board in the circumstances to which the Treasurer referred, but that is an entirely different matter. It cannot, by any stretch of imagination, be made to relate to the case that the Opposition has put to the Government. The effort by the Treasurer to substantiatethe contention that no appeal should be allowed was most remarkable. The Government contends that the taxpayer, who holds some big properties in the capital cities, or the man in country areas who provides the great bulk of the land tax, should be compelled to pay tax upon the valuation of his land on the 1st July, 1939, a few months before the outbreak of war. He will be permitted no appeal against assessment. That is not the attitude which the Government takes towards conscientious objectors, who have the right to appeal to a court.

Mr CONELAN (GRIFFITH, QUEENSLAND) - That is not so now.

Mr ARCHIE CAMERON - The Senate deprived them of that right last week, and I heartily endorse the action. It is rather remarkable that some people discover their consciences only when they are asked to risk their skins. The Government has in existence at the present time a series of tribunals to which internees may appeal for the purpose of securing release. For eight days, one of those tribunals, at Tatura, heard the appeals of every confounded almond-eyed Japanese in the internment camp. Whilst the conscientious objector and the Japanese are entitled to a hearing, the taxpayer is not. My contention is unanswerable.

Mr Chifley - My point is that, at any given time, a value can only be assumed. We have no definite facts on which to form an assumption.

Mr ARCHIE CAMERON - I do not accept that dictum. Proceeds from the land tax form a very small portion of Commonwealth revenue. The number of men who are engaged to deal with appeals against land tax assessments is very small compared with the number who are employed to check income tax assessments. The Treasurer will not contend that the income tax should remain static. In my opinion, every justification exists for the attitude adopted by the Opposition. Section 44 k 1 of the Land Tax Assessment Act reads -

The taxpayer who is dissatisfied with the assessment made by the Commissioner under this act may, within 30 days after service by post of the notice of assessment, post to or lodge with the Commissioner, an objection in writing against the assessment stating fully and in detail the grounds upon which he relies.

I am sure that we have not arrived at the stage at which that provision cannot be carried out. The Lord knows that any numbers of men are engaged in perfectly profitless pursuits, for instance, the racing of horses and greyhounds, of which we see so much in New South Wales. By no stretch of imagination can it be said that those people are assisting in the defence of this country or in the organization of this country for war ; but the people who own the properties which produce the wool, mutton, beef and butter and run the factories on which the land tax is paid are entitled to some consideration. What has been not done for the conscientious objectors! Tens of thousands of pounds, I believe, has been expended to look after every Fritz, Wop and Jap. The Government is in charge of this country, and it cannot stand up and tell the Parliament that the taxpayers are not entitled to what is given to the enemy and to the conscientious objector who, although one of us by birth, is not prepared to stand up to his responsibilities.

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