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Tuesday, 30 July 1946

Mr HOLT (Fawkner) .- I desire to devote the fifteen minutes at my disposal to a consideration of matters which have not been dealt with so thoroughly as they might be. First, I shall analyse the claim by the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley), in opposition to a charge which I made earlier this session, that Australia was the heaviest taxed country in the world. He claimed that our rates of tax compared very favorably with those in Great Britain and New Zealand. Three interesting points arise from the right honorable gentleman's reply. First, he issued a table showing comparable rates of tax in Australia, New Zealand and the United Kingdom, but he included in the statistics applicable to the United Kingdom and New Zealand, the payments made by way of contributions towards social, services. So far as I am aware, this was the first time that a Labour government has acknowledged that social services, which in the past, the Labour ' party always claimed were given free to the people of Australia, are provided by taxing the people who receive them. In other words, the Prime Minister has exploded once and for all this myth about " free social services provided by a Labour government". They are paid for, and paid for very heavily, by the wage earning unionists of the country. My second point is that although the Prime Minister claimed that the rates compared favorably with those in the United Kingdom and New Zealand, he omitted any reference to indirect taxation, including excise.

Mr Conelan - Those matters are notrelated to this taxing measure.

Mr HOLT - Indirect taxation has a great deal to do with the Prime Minister's claim that Australians are not the most heavily taxed people. Honorable members will find, on examining the tables in the right honorable gentleman's Financial Statement, that the total collections of revenue from all sources of taxation last year amounted to £360,000,000, total collections from income tax including £215,000,000. Therefore, a large part of the total collections was obtained by indirect taxation. I invite the Prime Minister, if he is so confident that our rates of tax are low compared with those of other countries, to prepare a detailed table showing taxation per capita in the Commonwealth. If he does so, he will show that collections in respect of every man, woman and child, from income tax and indirect taxation including excise, amount to £49 per annum. That represents much heavier taxation upon the individual wage earner, because when we deal with, taxation per capita we include women and children who do not earn salaries or wages. Therefore, I challenge the Prime Minister to present to the Parliament before this session ends a comparative table showing the taxes paid in Australia under all the heads I have mentioned, and the taxes paid in. the countries to which he referred. I notice that he selected the two most highly taxed countries, Great Britain and New Zealand, and did not point out that taxation of Australians is twice as heavy as that of citizens of the United States of America and Prance, and more than half as heavy again as that of citizens of Russia. In the absence of a comparative table, I say what I believe to be true, and what I am sure most Australians believe to be true, namely, that we are now, as we have been for many years past, the highest taxed people in the world.

The Government claims that substantial taxation relief has been granted in the last year or two. In order to indicate the severity of taxation in Australia, I cite the case of an unmarried taxpayer, without dependants, earning a weekly wage of £5 19s. 8d. I have chosen that figure because, according to a pamphlet circulated by the Minister for Information, it is the average adult wage earned in Australian factories. Therefore, it is a useful wage barometer for us to consider. Various honorable members have claimed that, under the schedules circulated by the Prime Minister, a man with a family will be at a disadvantage compared with a man without dependants. I agree with them. Therefore, I assume that an unmarried man is on a more favorable footing than other taxpayers. Nevertheless, such, a man, earning £5 19s. 8d. a week is taxed a total of £46 annually. In other words, out of a little less than £6 a week he pays a little leas than £1 a week in tax. In view of the fact that the severity of taxation increases proportionately as the income rises, and that those who have dependants are at a disadvantage, it is not a matter for wonder that Australia is not giving the productive effort of which it is capable. If ever the nation needed a real tonic to stimulate production and to promote continuity of production, it needs one now. The Government will not increase production by means of the footling and cheeseparing concessions that it has made so far. Let us consider the latest statement, made by the Prime Minister, that the Government will remit an amount of £17,500,000 in taxes this financial year. It has been shown already that £17,000,000 of this total represents the excess of collections over the budget estimate of the last financial year. We have seen references to a 40 per cent, general cut in certain taxes. These are merely intended to mislead the public. The true' picture can be seen if we relate the total reduction of £17,500,000 to the total amount of income tax collected. Collections last year amounted to £215,000,000. Thus, £17,500,000 is only about 8 per cent, of the total. Apparently this is the maximum concession that the Government is prepared to offer to the taxpayers, in spite of its anxiety to placate them before the general elections. Total Commonwealth expenditure last year was £82,000,000 less than the total for the preceding year. Most of this reduction was due, of course, to decreased expenditure on war services, and we may reasonably expect that there will be a very much greater decrease in the current year. Thus, we may assume that the Government is not alert to the importance of stimulating economic life. As the honorable member for Griffith (Mr. Conelan) pointed out, it is making provision for an item of £10,000,000 for unemployment benefits during the current year.

Mr Calwell - For sickness and unemployment benefits !

Mr HOLT - The schedule which I have before me refers to unemployment benefits, without any qualifications. There is a separate item for sickness benefits. I invite the Minister to verify my statement by reference to the Hansard report of the Treasurer's statement. An item of £10,000,000 for unemployment benefits is cited, and I take the statement at its face value. We know that there is a high level of employment generally to-day, and the only reason for providing £10,000,000 for unemployment benefits that I can imagine is that the Government expects to disburse this amount of money to persons who may be in employment in the generally understood sense, but who will be claiming unemployment relief because of lost working time arising from industrial disputes. During 1945, 2,100,000 working days were lost throughout the Commonwealth as the result of industrial disputes.

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