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Thursday, 11 June 1970

Mr DAVIES (Braddon) - I wish to bring to the notice of the Treasurer (Mr Bury) and also to members of the Government a request by many people who live on the west coast of Tasmania, and also many organisations in that area, for a transfer of this region from zone B to zone A for income tax concessions. Zonal concessions in respect of various areas were brought in 25 years ago. They are included in section 79a of the Income Tax Assessment Act. Sub-section (1.) provides that for the purpose of granting to residents of the prescribed area an income tax concession in recognition of the disadvantages to which they are subject because of uncongenial climatic conditions, isolation and high cost of living in Zone A and, to a lesser extent, in Zone B certain deductions shall be allowed.

I repeat that determination of the zoning of an area stems from 3 conditions - uncongenial climatic conditions, isolation and the high cost of living experienced in these areas. The west coast of Tasmania has enjoyed zone B concessions for some 25 years. Over the past 20 years various organisations, including the Tasmanian Labor Government, have been endeavouring to convince the Government of the need to transfer this area from zone fi to zone A. It is obvious that up till now we have had very little success in this regard. We have been unable to convince the Government of the disabilities in this area. Apparently they are not to be compared with the disabilities' of people living in zone A areas such as Mount Isa, the Northern Territory and the northern areas of Western Australia. Most of zone A consists of places where water is scarce and temperatures are high. T believe, on the other hand, that constant rainfall and low temperatures are a greater threat to health than the conditions experienced in those zone A areas. The average rainfall on the west coast of Tasmania varies from 120 inches at Lake Margaret to 80 inches a year at Rosebery. Low temperatures and high humidity mean that clothes are difficult to dry and moulds flourish. Lung and throat complaints mean a definite loss of labour to the mines and are serious enough to have caused the Commonwealth health authorities to check on the high incidence of hospital patients there compared with the rest of Australia.

Labour is attracted by high pay and bonuses, but because of the unsuitable climate, the high cost of living and isolation, men are quick to leave even though it means a drop in wages. The turnover of the labour forces is about 50%. I doubt whether employers in zone A areas can show a greater turnover. I cannot stress too much that a turnover of labour like that must be a true indication of the unfavourable conditions under which people on the west coast of Tasmania live. If people will not stay in the area despite the high wages then it must be because of the disadvantages for which the zone allowance is paid. This means that these disadvantages are present in a high and marked degree.

Isolation is less a problem that it was before, but only because good roads have been built. However, roads can be blocked by snow falls, rock falls, fog or mist. Mail can take up to 2 days to get to and from Hobart. The high cost of living is a fact of life on the west coast of Tasmania. The long roads through uninhabited areas cause the whole burden of the transport cost to fall on the towns of the west coast. This cost is increased by a transport zone tax which effectively cuts off the west coast from the north-west coast. Grocery items are from 5c to 10c higher per article than the same goods in Burnie. The 10,000 people in the area must be given some incentive to stay longer. A more stable work force would allow expansion within the area, which in turn would mean better amenities and higher economic returns by the businesses in the area. It is important for the economy of Tasmania that the mining, forestry and fishing sections of the west coast should receive all possible assistance to allow for efficient utilisation of their assets and to give sufficient incentive to continue opening up this area.

Wide areas of the west coast south of Queenstown are uninhabited and open to prospectors only during the dry months. They have never been properly explored or prospected. There are few areas anywhere in Australia which are as little known and as little prospected as this area. The incentive of a zone A allowance might well trigger a movement which would allow all the west coast of Tasmania to be utilised economically. There seems little doubt that the zone B allowance is not sufficient to cover the climatic disabilities of the west coast, although perhaps the high cost of living and the isolation are not comparable with those in zone A areas on the mainland, lt is an exciting prospect that the mining, fishing and timber cutting industries could be given sufficient incentive to make labour more freely available, which in turn would open up more land on a permanent basis and create new fishing ports with the hope that farming would gradually increase as the mines depleted their mineral assets.

It seems that the zone allowance is an allowance to encourage the opening up of new areas. When introducing the original Bill in this place in 1945 Mr Chifley indicated that this scheme was designed to offer people some kind of inducement to establish themselves in the remote areas of Australia. The Tasmanian Government in recent years has done a lot to open up the West Coast with its improvements of old roads and the building of new roads. Roads alone will not make this a popular place in which to live. A tax incentive, such as a zone A allowance will assist and should lead finally to the recoupment of tax lost, plus the permanent profit of an increase in population and a corresponding increase in the wealth of Tasmania as well as corresponding benefits to Australia as a whole.

In support of this argument for the transfer of the West Coast area of Tasmania from a zone B allowance to a zone A allowance, I refer also to the award banded down by Mr Commissioner Clarkson in relation to the gold and metalliferous mining industry. At page 11 of the document in which this matter is set out. Mr Commissioner Clarkson takes note of the disabilities under which the people who live in this area work, or refers, at least, to a certain predominant work force in the area. He was required to inquire into this work in the mining fields on the whole of the West Coast area. He introduced a special industry allowance as a compensatory factor to .those people. I quote briefly from the award made by Mr Commissioner Clarkson in relation to the gold and metalliferous mining industry. He said:

The Commission has decided to include in the total wages and not as a separately identifiable amount compensation for all the circumstances in which the work is performed. This compensation has been designed on an averaging basis to cover all of the common incidents of working in mining areas, some of which are isolation, somewhat limited medical and dental and hospital facilities, limited secondary education facilities, higher cost of goods and services, climatic conditions and healing costs, limited entertainment facilities and limited shopping facilities .... 1 maintain that these are the requirements which the Income Tax Assessment Act lays down for any area of Australia to qualify for a zone allowance classification. In particular, if these matters are recognised by Mr Commissioner Clarkson in granting this award, we maintain that they should be recognised by the Government in the transfer of this area from a zone B allowance classification to a zone A allowance classification. The award for this industry has a special loading to compensate these people for isolation, the high cost of living, limited educational facilities and so on. This award applies only to miners working in the mines on the West Coast of Tasmania. Some recognition by the Government of this special area would be necessary because many other forms of employment in the professional field, semi professional field, shop keepers and various related services that go to make this area an economic community are to be found there.

So, I do bring to the notice of the Treasurer and the Federal Government this morning the latest request made by the many people and by the many organisations on the West Coast of Tasmania - an area in my electorate - for the transfer of this section of Australia from a zone B allowance classification to a zone A allowance classification. I ask also that consideration be given by the Government to the inclusion of King Island, which lies halfway between Tasmania and Victoria and which suffers much the same dis abilities as those which I have outlined concerning the West Coast of Tasmania, among those areas that receive this taxation concession.

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