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Tuesday, 30 July 1946

Mr ANTHONY (Richmond) .- Honorable member's opposite have gone to great .pains to show that a substantial reduction of income tax has been made, and that the person most in need of tax relief, namely, the married man, has benefited most by the Government's decisions. The honorable member for Boothby' (Mr. Sheehy) is prominent among honorable members . opposite- who are becoming very alarmed at the dissatisfaction being registered throughout the country with the paucity of the reductions being made. Therefore, those honorable gentlemen manipulate figures to show that the workers are being given a marvellous deal. The honorable member for Boothby said that under the proposed schedule a single taxpayer with an income of £250 would pay tax amounting to £26 17s. a year, whereas a married man in the same income class with a wife and two children would pay only £2 2s. That is a difference of £24 15s. That means that a married man with a wife and two children will be given £24 15s. with which to provide for his three dependants. .

Mr Conelan - Plus child endowment.

Mr ANTHONY - Child endowment has nothing to do with this matter. Perhaps the honorable member for Boothby makes his revelations simply because he is a comparatively new member. I have no doubt that an experienced member would advise him to put the soft pedal on his statement that he was using every endeavour to . prevent the importation of manufactured goods because it might adversely affect employment in, I presume, South Australia. If the primary industries of this country are to flourish and find a market for the products which we produce in abundance such as butter, wheat, meat, wool, dried fruits and apples, we must import manufactured goods from other countries in return for the exports which we expect them to take from us. That applies particularly to the United Kingdom market. Great Britain suffered financially more than any other combatant in the last war. The resources and reserves which it possessed when war broke out disappeared during the course of the conflict. The Mother Country was obliged to liquidate its funds in the United States of America and other countries. Consequently, to-day, in order to be able to purchase our primary products, Great Britain must export 150 .per cent, more than it' exported in 1939. Who is going to buy those additional British exports? Will it be such countries as the Argentine, South Africa, India, Russia or Czechoslovakia? We know that Great Britain can expect to- sell those additional exports principally within the British Empire. We know that the substantial market which we must find for primary products grown in this country must, and will, be in the United Kingdom. Therefore, when the honorable member for Boothby reveals that the Labour party proposes to erect insurmountable barrier against imports from the United Kingdom, it is clear that that party is driving a nail in the coffin of primary industries in this country. Such a proposal is utterly reckless. Nevertheless, I congratulate the honorable member upon the candour with which he has revealed the real policy of the Labour party in this matter. No Minister would be game to make a statement of that kind, because the Govern ment does not want the public to know its real intention.

I turn now to the Government's disregard and lack of understanding of our primary industries in its tax- reduction proposals. I refer to a particular instance of government administration which calls for immediate review. It is based on a complaint made by farmers throughout my electorate. For very many years, ia farmer who employed a farm hand, or a member of his own family, arid provided that employee withboard and lodging, particularly board, was allowed in respect of that cost a concessional deduction of £1 a week. The cost of living has risen, according to the Commonwealth Statistician, by no less than 24 per cent., but, according to the housewife, the rise is 50 to 70 per cent. No one who tries to make £1 go as far to-day as .it should, if the statistician is right, accepts his figure, but in spite of the fact that since 1941 the cost of living has officially risen by 24 per cent., the rate allowed to a farmer for the keep of an employee was reduced in 1945 from £1 to 15s. a week. The Commissioner of Taxation has said in a letter to me that if a- farmer can prove that the cost is in excess of 15s. a week, he will allow the actual cost. I ask the Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Frost), himself a farmer, whether he thinks 15s. a week is a reasonable allowance. I ask the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Fuller), who represents a country district, whether he believes that many farmers; or businessmen, for that matter, are able to supply facts and figures to prove that the cost of the keep of an employee was £1 instead of 15s. It would be impossible for the averagefarmer to comply with the request that a. person should prove the cost. Consequently, he is deprived of the benefit of the allowance of £1 to which he was formerly entitled.

Mr Frost - But not so many farmers nowadays board their employees, do they?

Mr ANTHONY - Not so many board outsiders, but a great many board' members of their own families employed on the farms, and it is with particular reference to them that I have raised this matter. Thousands of farmers throughout Australia, with one or' two sons, employ them and supply them with board and lodging.

Mr Frost - The honorable member is right there.

Mr ANTHONY - They are the ones affected by this ruling. In view of the facts that I have stated, no warrant exists for the Government or the Commissioner of Taxation to take that line in respect of rural industries, and I sincerely hope that the Commissioner and the Treasurer, who has the final say, will re-examine the . matter, with a view to restoration of the former allowance. The farmers do not want concession to which they are not entitled, but they certainly do not want to be told, as they have been told in the letter from the Commissioner -

The standard allowance of 15s. per week for keep provided by an employer has been established as representing the average cost to employers of all classes.

I should like to know how it possibly «ould be established when the rate was formerly fi. The letter goes on to say -

It may be that the standard rate is a little too high in some cases, and a little too low in other cases, but it is reasonable in amount,

And provides a practicable working rule for general application.

I say that it is not reasonable in amount and that it should be immediately reviewed.

I do not know whether I should be in order in referring now to indirect taxes.

The CHAIRMAN - This measure deals with the income tax.

Mr Holt - Make some passing references.

Mr ANTHONY - One ' cannot divorce direct taxes from indirect. The money comes out of the same pockets and from the same sources. Although a modest reduction .of direct tax is proposed, no attempt has been made to reduce the indirect taxes that affect so many, in the community. I propose to refer to a few commodities, the indirect taxes on which indicate the degree to which indirect taxes affect people. I do not say that they are commodities that I feci strongly about in con nexion with taxes. I cite them because I saw them referred to recently in an article.

Mr Conelan - I rise to order! I should like to know whether every honorable member who desires to talk about indirect taxes in this debate will be allowed to do so.

The CHAIRMAN - The Chair is waiting to hear what the honorable member for Richmond is getting at. I have advised him that the question before the Chair refers to the income tax.

Mr ANTHONY - I accept your ruling, Mr. Chairman. I was making a passing reference to certain items that indicate how indirect taxes operate. The excise on a packet of cigarettes costing ls. 8d. is 9d. and the customs duty on a bottle of Scotch whisky-

The CHAIRMAN - Order ! I ask the honorable member to keep to the matter of the income tax.

Mr ANTHONY - Well, I merely mention that the duty on a bottle of Scotch whisky costing 21s. 9d. is 12s.

The CHAIRMAN - Order ! The honorable member's time has expired.

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