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Tuesday, 12 September 1972
Page: 1140

Mr DALY (Grayndler) - I will not detain the House for long; I will speak for only a few minutes. I refer to the income tax concessions insofar as they apply to blind people. I think that this is a matter at which the Government might look. The whole matter of taxation concessions requires a full and complete investigation. Without being political I say that the Government has been in office for so long that it has forgotten to review many laws, including those relating to personal taxation, sales tax and other matters of particular interest to the people. On 22nd June I received a letter from a sheltered workshop manager of the Royal Blind Society of New South Wales. He referred to my visit to that workshop. The letter dealt with expenses of travelling to and from work incurred by handicapped workers in a workshop of this nature.

This is the situation: One man is deaf, dumb and blind and another man is deaf and blind. These handicaps make it impossible for them to avail themselves of a travel pass for government transport as they are unable to seek a guide on transport and crossing roads. This means that their only reliable means of transport is by taxi. I was told that it is most important for persons like these to have employment to occupy them mentally. One man spends most of his income on taxi fares just for the therapeutic value of being occupied. The manager asked me whether I would see what could be done. One of these gentlemen receives a gross wage of $40.70 a week, which is a lot of money. His taxi fare varies with traffic but the average is $3.40 each day. For 49 weeks his taxi fares would cost approximately $733. Honour able members can see that he would not have much left out of his $40.70. He is going to work merely to be occupied because of the grave disability which he suffers. The other gentlemen who, by the way, is a non-European, receives a gross weekly wage at this workshop of $16.90. His taxi fare averages $2.46 each day, so for 49 weeks it is $612.70. To be quite frank, we can say that these people are actually travelling to work and drawing their wages to be occupied and they are spending practically all their wages in getting there because of their inability to use public transport. I wrote to the Treasurer (Mr Snedden) about this matter and subsequently recived a reply in which he states:

The Commissioner, who was asked to comment, has confirmed that, under the present law, your request is one for consideration under a general provision which authorises a deduction for expenditure incurred in gaining or producing assessable income or necessarily incurred in carrying on a business for the purpose of deriving such income, except to the extent to which it is of a capital, private or domestic nature. In this connection, the courts and taxation boards of review, whose decisions must be taken into account in the administration of the law, have held on a number of occasions that expenses incurred by a taxpayer in travelling to and from work are expenses of a private nature and thus not deductible for income tax purposes, even when incurred by a person whose physical disabilities preclude him from using public transport.

It is nearly time that decision was reviewed because such a person has no other way to get to work. If honourable members had seen these gentlemen they would realise the grave difficulties involved. The Treasurer goes on to state:

Although the cases of the 2 employees concerned have been sympathetically considered, it will be appreciated that the Commissioner is obliged to confirm that their costs of travelling to and from work are not deductible as the law now stands.

One cannot live on sympathy just as one cannot live on love. Consequently this is a matter which should be reviewed. I think that all fares to and from work should be an allowable taxation deduction. After all, a company director travelling in his car charges this cost against the profit and loss account of his company. He is one of the fortunate persons in the community. But here are 2 people who are working for the purpose of being occupied because of the disabilities which I have mentioned. I know that honourable members on both sides will realise the conditions under which they live, the darkness of their lives and the fact that they must be engaged in some form of activity. I suggest to the Minister assisting the Treasurer (Mr Garland) who is at the table that he have a look at concessions of this nature and see whether something can be done, particularly to make an exception in relation to those in sheltered workshops. If anybody is earning his living the hard way it is he who is engaged in the workshops I have mentioned. I bring this matter to the attention of the Minister and ask that something be done in relation to it. At a time when the Government boasts of its great contribution to the taxpayer, such as the 10 per cent reduction in personal taxation which it has given, it is tragic to think that a matter of this nature has escaped the Government's attention. I hope that it will give special consideration to this in order to relieve the distress, suffering and financial loss to these gentlemen who, as I say, are engaged merely for the purpose of being occupied.

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