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Tuesday, 18 September 1928

Mr MCGRATH (Ballarat) . - I am surprised that the Government has proposed this increased taxation. I read in the budget speech that it had no intention to increase taxation in any way. The right honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Watt) has made reference to the "trust to luck" budget, and has mentioned that it contains no proposal to increase taxation. Now the Treasurer comes along with a proposal to tax the most thrifty section of the community, forgetful of the fact that only a year ago he gave the wealthy section the benefit of a reduction in taxation.. In the dying hours of this session, the Government proceeds to impose an additional tax on those who can least afford to bear such a burden, and who should be encouraged in their thrift. Let me remind the Treasurer that in 1917-18, the indirect taxes amounted to £2 13s. Id. per head of the population, and in 1926-27 to £7 2s. 6d. Direct taxes in 1917-18 amounted to £2 5s. 8d., and in 1926-27 to £2 10s. 2d., making a total of> £4 18s. 9d. in 1917-18, and £9 12s. 8d. in 1926-27. Side by side with that alarming increase there has been a decrease in the taxes imposed on those who can best afford to pay them. The form of taxation under consideration was imposed for the purpose of meeting the expenditure caused by the late war. The patriots of this country were prepared to undertake any responsibility of that kind to ensure the succeess of the war, but now that safety has been secured this tax has been continuously on the decrease. We now have a proposal to increase by about £300,000 per annum the burden of the poorest members of the community. The honorable member for Robertson (Mr. Gardner) need not talk about the wealthy policy holders in the mutual societies, because most of the members hold policies ranging from £200 to £400.

Mr Gardner - What would be the cost to each member on account of a reduction in bonuses sufficient to meet this taxation?

Mr McGRATH - No matter whether the premiums were increased, or whether the bonuses were reduced, the members of the societies would be taxed just the same. This is a contemptible way in which to treat persons of thrifty habits who make sacrifices in order to provide for the future. The present Government is living up to the name it has earned as the rich man's Ministry. In the dying hours of the session it panders to those who live in wealth and luxury, while the poor and thrifty section, who cannot organize to protest against this form of legislation, have to submit to an unjust impost. If the Government had brought down a proposal to increase the tax levied on those with hig incomes, restoring a law that obtained a year or so ago, those concerned would cause a lot of trouble to the Ministry, because they supply the party funds of the Nationalist party. I realize that the Government has the necessary numbers to carry this proposal; but the issue will he revived before the electors. The sooner the election is held the better it will be. I have heard it suggested that the Government proposes to ask honorable members to sit next week. That may suit the Government's game. Personally, I advocate brief debates and a few divisions on important subjects, so that the earliest possible appeal may be made to the people. The Opposition will probably be defeated on this clause, but I hope that early next year the Labour party will have an opportunity to rescind this provision.

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