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Thursday, 7 August 1930

Senator PAYNE (Tasmania) (6:22 AM) . - I endorse all that has been said by those honorable senators who have preceded me concerning the action of the Government in introducing this important legislation at such a late hour in the session. It is impossible to discuss it fully in the short time at our disposal. We are forced te take it as we find it. We should, nevertheless, enter an emphatic protest against a continuance of this procedure. These sales tax amendment bills have attracted a great deal of attention, particularly from the commercial section of the community. The full weight of this new taxation must inevitably fall upon the purchasers of those commodities upon which the tax is levied. In other words, the tax must be passed on to the purchaser or consumer. I very much regret that, in the preparation of these measures, no attempt was made to provide that nothing more than the amount of the taxation levied upon each article should be passed on to the general public. It is, I think, inevitable that in many instances the charge to the consumer will be higher than the amount of the tax. This will apply particularly to the purchasers of the cheaper commodities, for this reason : As the smallest coin in our currency is one-halfpenny, it is probable that, if the tax breaks into a fraction of one penny, an extra halfpenny will have to be paid by the purchasers or consumers of the articles affected. In some instances the extra charge to them will represent, not 2} pe? cent., but perhaps 5 per cent. or 7$ per cent. I wish to refer also to the Minister's explanation of the position of the retailer who also is :in importer. The Minister explained that such a person would pay the tax when passing entries through the customs. That transaction, I submit, will not be payment of a sales tax, but an addition to customs duties.

Senator Daly - An entry through the customs by a retailer who imports goods will be, in law, regarded as a sales tax.

Senator PAYNE - I do not agree with the Minister's interpretation of the bill. If I were an importer, and if I received an invoice showing that goods to the value of £1,000 would arrive by a certain vessel, I would have to pay, according to the Minister's statement of the case, a sales tax on the whole of the goods imported at the time of passing the entries, although, at that stage, I might not have sold one pennyworth of the goods in question. It is possible that I would not be able to sell 10 per cent. of those imported goods. An importer who is a wholesaler is in a different position from an importer who sells goods retail, because he will pay the tax on the sale of his imported goods to a retailer. With Senator Lawson, I hope that, when these bills are in committee, provisions will be inserted in them, requiring the amount of tax paid to be shown on all the goods sold. This is the only fair way in which the act can be administered. Let me cite an illustration which, I hope, will convey to honorable senators what I mean. Suppose two men are competitors in the same class of business. One man may be scrupulous in all his transactions, and determined to pay 20s. in the £1 ; the other may not be quite so scrupulous. He may be slightly embarrassed financially. If he is not required to show the amount of tax payable on all goods sold, he may decide to undercut his competitor by omitting to pass on the amount of the tax. In this way he would be able to compete unfairly against his more scrupulous business rival, and possibly injure him in his business. I recognize, that it would not be. wise for the Senate to attempt to defeat these taxation proposals. The Government must raise additional revenue in order to carry on the affairs of this country. But I do protest most strongly against the presentation of these bills on the closing day of the session, when it is impossible to discuss them adequately.

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