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Thursday, 28 August 1941

Senator AYLETT (Tasmania) . - I am not entirely satisfied with the answers which I received yesterday from the Minister representing the Treasurer to my questions relating to exemptions over and above a wife and one child for taxation purposes, and I wish to bring certain aspects of the matter to the notice of the Government. The reply given to my questions was to the effect that circulars had not been issued by the Commissioner of Taxation stating that deductions would not be allowable in respect of children for whom child endowment is payable. That is contrary to the information which I have received from several people in Tasmania. The following is an extract from a letter forwarded to me by a taxpayer: -

By a footnote on the base of a taxation circular recently received, my list of exemptions for dependants is limited to wife and one child, owing presumably to child endowment, but I have five children under the age of sixteen years.

Apparently that taxpayer had a circular attached to his taxation form informing him that deductions would be allowable only in respect of his wife and one child, whereas actually he has five children. It seems that the Treasurer (Mr. Fadden) is endeavouring, by means of back-door methods, to extract something from taxpayers without the authority of Parliament. The Minister knows that, because in answer to my question yesterday he said that the Treasurer had indicated to certain departments that these deductions were contemplated. The deductions are not being made at present unless the assessments are challenged by the taxpayers, and exemptions are asked for. That is a most cowardly way of approaching the matter. Taxpayers started to receive endowment only at the beginning of the financial year 1941-42, but the Government is seeking to deprive them of taxation exemption in respect of the income earned in the previous year. The Minister has admitted that the Treasurer issued instructions to that effect, though he had no legal power to do so.

Senator McBride - Of course be had.

Senator AYLETT - I challenge the Minister to produce and lay on the table of the Senate the regulation under which the Treasurer acted. The Minister knows very well that the Treasurer had no such power; he was just trying to slip a swift one over the public. This is the gentleman who is now seeking to become Prime Minister of Australia. I have mentioned one of the tricks that he has been getting up to even before he has attained that high position. What may we expect from him, if he ever does achieve his ambition? The Minister may smile, but we all know very well what the Treasurer is after. We. know why we were called here to Canberra a week before the fixed date. It was because of the chaos which had developed in the ranks of the Government's supporters - because Mr. Fadden and one or two of his friends were seeking to employ against Mr. Menzies the same tactics as that gentleman himself had used against the ex-Prime Minister, the late Mr. Lyons.

Another anomaly has to do with the refusal of the Treasurer to allow income tax exemption to the parent of an invalid child over sixteen years of age if that parent is in receipt of a certain income - and it need not be a very large income. The invalid child cannot obtain a pension because the parent is in receipt of more than the stipulated income, and the parent cannot receive income tax exemption in respect of that child because the child is over sixteen years of age. The Government is trying to get it both ways. I say that a father who is not receiving a large income is entitled to a £50 exemption in respect of an invalid child over sixteen years whom he is supporting. In order to qualify for a pension, the invalid child must leave its parents' home and wander the streets, or go to a boarding house and, being unable to pay its board, have itself brought before the court as a destitute person. That is an anomaly which cries aloud for correction.

It would he greatly to the advantage of members of Parliament, anr] to the public generally, if Ministers were able to attend more expeditiously to matters brought to their notice. During the lost period of this session of Parliament, I approached the Minister for the Army (Mr. Spender) with a request that fares be paid to soldiers returning on leave to their homes in isolated places not served by railway or suitable ships. The honorable member for Bass (Mr. Barnard) and I put the case to the Minister, who promised to give to it sympathetic consideration, and to furnish a reply later. No reply was received. I sent a letter to the Minister jogging his memory and this time he replied saying that the matter was receiving his attention. Several weeks later I received another letter from him, but it did not deal with this matter - it waa on a different subject altogether. Then I wrote a long letter to the Minister in which I repeated the original request. After another week had elapsed I received a reply from him saying that the matter was receiving attention. A few weeks later - since the beginning of this period of the session - I received from the Minister the following reply: -

Witta reference to your further representations of 28th July, in regard to free transport for members of the military forced proceeding to and from Flinders Island on leave, I desire to inform you that as the provision of free air transport concerns all services, it has been necessary to refer the matter to the Department of Defence Co-ordination for consideration.

As soon as a decision is made, further advice will be furnished.

Thus, after he had been considering the matter for months, he suddenly realized that it did not concern him at all, and referred it to the Department of Defence Coordination. The same sort of thing happened in regard to a matter which touched upon shipping. I addressed the application in the first instance to the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Harrison). I do not know whether I was right in doing that, but it is very hard to keep track of Ministers, and their depart* ments in these days when they are being changed around so rapidly. After a few weeks, a reply was sent stating that the request had been received. Then, two weeks later, a communication came from the Minister for Supply and Development (Senator McLeay) stating that the application was receiving consideration. A few days ago, I received a further communication stating that the matter did not concern Senator McLeay's department, but should be dealt with by the Minister for Commerce (Sir Earle Page), to whom he had referred it. I saw the secretary of that department, who promised to speed things up, but I have heard nothing since. I am curious to know whether the next reply will be from the Minister for the Navy (Mr. Hughes). I do not for a moment believe that these delays are due to the wilful neglect of Ministers, but if they are caused by the present unstable political situation, then the sooner the Government parties can come to some understanding among themselves or get out and allow some one else to govern; the better it will be for Australia.

SenatorMcBRIDE (South AustraliaMinister for Munitions) [4.41]. - This morning, Senator Clothier asked the Ministerrepresenting the Minister for Labour and National Service the following question : -

Can the Minister give the Senate any information as to the action proposed by the Government to ensure that sufficient manpower is left available to the gold-mining industry to prevent the threatened wholesale closing down in some districts of Western Australia ?

The Minister for Labour and National Service has supplied the following answer : -

Labour supply for the gold-mining industry was discussed personally with the Premier of Western Australia in Melbourne on the 11th August, and immediate action was taken by the Department of Labour and National Service, the Man-power and Resources Survey Committee and the military authorities in Western Australia to meet the special difficulties to which the Premier called attention. A report was received from Perth on the 15th August that the matter had been adjusted to the satisfaction of the Western Australian Minister for Mines. A high proportion of occupations in the industry were alreadyon the reserved list, and it was arranged that substantial numbers of non-reserved goldmining employees should not be called up for militia training. Special consideration has been extended to isolated mines. This whole question is now engaging the attention of the newly-formed Man-power Priorities Board.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

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