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Friday, 23 September 1949

Mr WHITE (Balaclava) .- The people will find very little comfort in this budget because it continues heavy imposts and punitive taxation. Whilst it may suit some submissive people who believe that the State must be allembracing and not the servant of the people, I am sure that it will not be approved by the majority of Australians. The great bulk of our people will be angered by the continuance of heavy taxes. They do not want socialism. They have been sorely tried by this Government and its taxation policy. In a democratic community they can show their resentment only at the ballot-box, and I am sure that they will do so.

The Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) proposes to collect this financial year the sum of £576,000,000 in taxes, whereas in 1938 collections of taxes amounted to only £74,000,000 and that sum was considered to be sufficient to meet the cost of government. Although the people did not, perhaps, object strongly to "the lavish expenditure incurred during the war years, no reason exists why the Government's expenditure should not now be reduced to reasonable proportions. Whereas the tax per capita paid by Australians in 1938 amounted to £10 13s., it now amounts to £69 16s. 4d. per capita. Nevertheless, our people are worse off to-day. than they were ten years ago. One does not need to be an economist to be aware of the rise in the prices of commodities. The housewife, in budgeting for her home, recognizes that fact only too well. Consequently, things are more difficult in spite of the fact that nominal wages are higher to-day than they were in 1838. It would be difficult to compute the loss which the nation suffered as the result of the recent lamentable coal strike. That loss has been estimated at, approximately, £100,000,000 whilst it is also estimated that Australian workers lost £30,000,000 in wages during that strike. This nation has also suffered incredible loss as the result of the ban that the waterside workers have placed upon Dutch shipping. The Minister for External Affairs (Dr. Evatt), who until recently, as President of the General Assembly of the United Nations, wa9 telling other countries what they should do to settle their troubles, has allowed that ban to remain for the last five years. I understand that to-day the ban is not complete because Dutch ships bringing oil from the Netherlands East Indies are being unloaded. However, the waterside workers still refuse to load exports to, or unload other imports from, the Netherlands East Indies. In doing so they are acting at the behest of their Communist leaders, one of whom was gaoled for contempt of the Arbitration Court during the recent coal strike. In this matter the Minister for External Affairs, who is also Deputy Prime Minister, has remained impotent. Those facts are examples of the punishment which the Australian people have suffered under the present Government. The losses that 1 have indicated will ultimately' be reflected in every workshop, and throughout the country generally, when the recession comes. Already there are signs that a recession is coming, although I do not believe for a moment that it will be nearly so severe as was the economic blizzard which this country experienced in the 1930's. Nevertheless, since the end of the recent war, when our trade with war-devastated countries that were crying out for our primary products should have expanded by leaps and bounds, the Government remained inactive. Since 1938, its collections of taxes have increased by 550 per cent., whereas during the same period our national income has increased %r only 125 per cent. Even Micawber hew that if his income was only £1 and le spent 21s. he would meet disaster. Today, out people are over-taxed and our economy is correspondingly harassed. Tie concessions made in this budget arc but a few minor reductions of taxes. The Treasurer proposes to reduce the sales tax Which, incidentally, was introduced by the Scullin Government during the depression on the advice of an expert whom it brought from Canada. During the war the sales tax on some items was increased to as much as 25 per cent. In that emergency the people did not very greatly mind such an impost, but since the end of the recent war the Government has been tardy in reducing the sales tax. That is an indirect tax which is extracted almost imperceptibly from the worker's pay envelope. However, the community is waking up. That is true particularly of the housewives. Customs and excise duties, primage, and sales tax are indirect taxes that amount to millions of pounds. Since the days when honorable members now sitting in Opposition formed the Government of this country tariffs have become principally revenue earners. Primage has been raised to 10 per cent, and sales tax has been increased to as much as 25 per cent. Although the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) is prepared to grant reductions of primage and sales tax, the Government's aim is to collect about £567,000,000. From indirect taxation alone £185,000,000 is raised to-day, compared with £57,000,000 in 1938. The indirect taxes now levied average £23 14s. 5d. a head of population. In addition, direct taxes are levied at high rates. Furthermore, we must remember that the currency has been depreciated.

Mr Archie Cameron - I rise to order. As no Minister of State is present in the chamber, the business cannot proceed.

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