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Thursday, 20 October 1949

Mr DEDMAN (Corio) (Minister for Defence and Minister for Post-war Reconstruction) . - in reply - This- bill provides for an increase of the maximum rebatable amount in respect of superannuation fund contributions, life insurance premiums and payments of a similar kind from £100 to £150. The only other matter with which it deals is the depreciation allowance in respect of machinery. Four members of the Opposition have spoken to the motion for the second reading of the bill. They are the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender), the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt), the honorable member for Parramatta (Mr. Beale) and the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) . I am certain that if a prize were given for the best speech based upon cant, hypocrisy and humbug, it would be awarded to the honorable member for Warringah for the speech that he made last night. The honorable gentleman attacked the proposal to increase the rebateable amount from £100 to £150 and suggested that the principal reason for it is that it will benefit Labour members of the Parliament. That point has been laboured not only by the honorable member for Warringah, but also by the press of this country. There is no truth whatever in the allegation. The honorable member for Warringah has himself made representations to the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) upon this matter. On the 25th November, 1948, he presented to the Treasurer a letter that he had received fro.m, one of his constituents, who had stated that in the year ended the 30th June, 1948, he had contributed £241 10s. 8d. to a superannuation fund. The honorable gentleman requested that consideration be given to the request of his constituent that the rebateable amount should be increased beyond the figure of £100 at which it then stood.

Mr Thompson - When did the honorable gentleman make that request?

Mr DEDMAN - On the 25th November, 1948, he presented a case to the Treasurer in support of an application from a constituent to have the rebatable amount increased to meet his constituent's needs. The constituent had said that his payments to a superannuation fund were approximately £241 a year. It is clear that the honorable gentleman was speaking with his tongue in his cheek when he raised this matter in the House last night.

Mr Turnbull - Is it proper for the Minister at this stage to divulge the contents of that letter ?

Mr DEDMAN - The honorable member for "Wimmera (Mr. Turnbull) is not my mentor in this matter.

Mr Turnbull - I have asked the Minister a question.

Mr DEDMAN - I contend that a Minister or any other member is entitled to use any evidence that comes into his possession which shows that a member of the Parliament has been guilty of hypocrisy and humbug of the kind in which the honorable member for Warringah indulged last night.

Mr Turnbull - Is that the Minister's answer ?

Mr DEDMAN - That is my answer. The honorable member for Warringah is not the only member of the Opposition who has raised this matter. On the 17th November, 1948, representations were made in this House by the honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Ryan) on behalf of service personnel. The honorable gentleman pointed out that senior officers were contributing sums of from £200 to £400 a year to superannuation funds, and he said that, while the maximum rebateable amount remained at £100, a very heavy burden was imposed upon those officers/ The honorable gentleman asked the Treasurer to see whether it would be possible to increase the amount of the rebate. On the 25th May of this year the honorable member for Fawkner, speaking in this House, directed attention to the greatly increased amount of estate duty that was payable upon estates and to the depreciated value of the pound, and stated that Australian citizens had found it necessary to insure themselves for large sums of money in order to provide for the security of their families.

He asked the Treasurer whether the Government had given or would give consideration to increasing the maximum amount of the rebate in respect of premiums paid upon those policies. The Treasurer said, in reply, that the representations that honorable members on the Opposition benches had made in regard to that matter would receive consideration before the budget session. It can truly be said that one of the reasons for the introduction of this provision is that honorable gentlemen opposite have made representations with regard to it.

They are not the only persons who have made such representations. It is quite untrue to say that this measure is designed merely to benefit Labour members of the Parliament. From time to time a number of organizations have made representations to the Treasurer upon this matter. Representations have been received from the Associated Chambers of Commerce in Australia and from the United Bank Officers Association, an association that, in another sphere, is using all its resources and some resources that, in the opinion of some of us, it is not entitled to use - < -

Mr Beale - What does the Minister mean by that?

Mr DEDMAN - I mean what I say. [Quorum formed.] The United Bank Officers Association has made representations with regard to this matter. That organization, in another sphere, is using all the resources at its command and, in the opinion of some persons - I repeat this for the benefit of the honorable member for Parramatta - some resources that should not be used for the purpose, to endeavour to bring about the downfall of this Government. Those efforts will be in vain, but it is interesting to note that the association is one of the organizations that has made representations to the Treasurer about this matter. The Queensland Cane-Growers Council, the High Council of the Commonwealth Public Service Organizations, the Victorian Teachers Union, the New South Wales Teachers Federation and the Taxpayers Association of New South Wales have made similar representations. Incidentally, the Taxpayers Association of New South Wales is generally antagonistic towards the Labour party, and to anything that the party does. There fore, it becomes clear that the increased concessions that are declared in this measure have not been inspired, as suggested by certain sections of the press and the honorable member for Warringah, by pressure from members of the Parliament or the Labour party. The concessions are the result of the consideration that the Treasurer has given to the matter after representations had been made to him by the various organizations that I have mentioned and by a number of members of the Opposition, including the honorable member for Warringah in a particular case. That is why I say that the speech by the honorable member for Warringah was a prime example of cant, hypocrisy and humbug.

The honorable member for Warringah also suggested that the amount allowable to employers in respect of their contributions to employees' superannuation funds, should be increased from £100 to £150. The limit of £100 that is allowed to employers at the present time was fixed in 1944 in order to prevent the exploitation of income tax allowances for the benefit of a favoured few executives of big companies. I cite a specific instance. A certain company in Melbourne, was expending large sums of money to provide not superannuation benefits for the rank and file employees, but huge benefits for its highly paid executives. I need hardly state that those in charge of that company are completely opposed to the Labour party. The limit of £100 was fixed in 1944 in order to prevent the exploitation of that allowance. However, the Government recognized at the time that, in some instances, the limit of £100 would be insufficient, and, consequently, the Commissioner of Taxation has been granted a discretionary power to increase the amount that is allowable to an employer. Of course, the Commissioner of Taxation is not allowed any discretion in respect of the increase of the allowance from £100 to £150 provided in this bill and to which I have previously referred. Employers are treated most generously in this matter. That explanation disposes of the second point that was raised by the honorable member for Warringah.

In the course of the debate, the honor- able member for Balaclava (Mr. White) emphasized the importance of tin production to the Australian economy, andi advocated a total exemption of tin-mining; profits similar to the exemption allowed5, to the gold-mining industry.

Mr Beale - A few moments ago, the' Minister referred to a discretionary power that is vested in the Commissionerof Taxation. What is the section im which that provision is made? .

Mr DEDMAN - If the honorable gentleman will see me later, I shall show him the section, and even read it to him should he require any assistance.

Mr Beale - I do not need any assistance to read the section. All I want, is the truth.

Mr DEDMAN - If the honorablemember for Balaclava had understood' the provisions relating to the tinminingindustry, he would not have made the-' statements that he made last night.. At present, profits from tin-mining in Australia are exempt to the extent of 20 per cent.

Mr White - I said that.

Mr DEDMAN - In addition, dividends out of the exempt profits are freefrom tax in the hands of shareholders.. Those exemptions were granted by theGovernment in 1942 because of the need: to increase the production of tin. Although that emergency has passed, those provisions have been continued. From timeto time the Government has considered' claims of the kind that the honorable member has advanced, but, to date, it hasnot seen its way clear to make further concessions either to the tin-mining industry or-

Mr White - Why did the Ministersay that I did not understand the position?"

Mr DEDMAN - The honorable member has already spoken on this bill, and' I did not interrupt him. The honorablemember misleads the House.

Mr White - So does the Minister.

Mr DEDMAN - I may mislead the House occasionally by accident, but thehonorable member misleads the House byintent.

Mr White - This offensive Ministerhas made an extremely offensive statement, and I ask you, Mr. Acting Deputy Speaker, to request him to withdraw it..

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