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Thursday, 7 August 1930

Senator E B JOHNSTON (Western Australia) (6:14 AM) . - At this late hour of the morning 1 shall be brief in stating my objection to this legislation. I object to the enormous load of taxation that is proposed to be placed on the shoulders of an already overburdened taxpayer. This tax will bring into the Treasury about £6,500,000 a year. For the remaining ten months of the current financial year it is estimated that the receipts from it will amount to £5,000,000. We have had hardly an opportunity to study the bills. Copies of them have been available only within the last few minutes. I object to the action of the Government in digging up from the middle ages this obsolete form of taxation, which is so abhorrent to all British communities. So far as I am aware, this system of taxation is being applied in only one portion of the British Empire - the Dominion of Canada - and there the rate of the tax has been reduced to the lowest possible limit. This legislation will increase the cost of production and the cost of living at a time when every effort should be made to reduce them so that Australia may hold its position in markets oversea. I have received a large number of telegrams from persons engaged in primary industry in Western Australia, protesting against the burdens which this legislation will impose upon them. It would appear from the nature of the protests made that the interests of primary producers in that State, at all events, have been entirely overlooked. But I suppose this need not occasion surprise, in view of the distance separating Western Australia from the seat of government in Canberra. Many requests have been made to me to induce the Government to extend the list of exempted goods, and when the bill is in committee I shall move for the exemption of the principal requisites for the mining, agricultural, and pastoral industries.

Senator Daly - I shall be obliged if the honorable senator will tell me how the estimated revenue will be obtained if the exempted list is extended.

Senator E B JOHNSTON - I tell the Minister plainly that the primary producers in Western Australia are not in a position to bear additional taxation burdens. Already they are called upon to pay 12 i per cent, more for their machinery and other agricultural requisites than is charged to primary producers in the eastern States, these increased prices being due partly to the incidence of the Navigation Act and to the fact that the principal secondary industries are established in the eastern States. This sales tax will add to the load, and as agricultural requisites are, in the majority of cases, sold on hire-purchase terms,* the burden will be all the heavier on that account. The struggling farmers in the more distant States will be still further handicapped by a sales tax on commodities the price of which is, as I have shown, higher in Western Australia than in the eastern States. The mining industry, particularly gold-mining, as well as the agricultural and pastoral industries, cannot bear these additional burdens. The Prime Minister (Mr. Scullin), shortly after he took office, realizing the part played by the primary producers of Australia in maintaining the overseas exchange position, issued an urgent appeal to our farmers to grow more wheat.

Senator Daly - And the Senate rejected the Wheat Marketing Bill.

Senator E B JOHNSTON - This chamber rejected that measure because it would have placed on the citizens of a State such as Western Australia, burdens enormously heavier than are laid upon the people of other States such as Queensland, which has done so well under federal legislation. 1 trust that, when the bill is in committee, the Minister will accept suggestions to extend the list of exemptions, and so lighten the incidence of this new taxation on the mining, agricultural, and pastoral industries.

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