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Thursday, 7 August 1930

Senator CHAPMAN (South Australia) (6:45 AM) . - I also wish to protest strongly against the imposition of this tax which, in addition to being unjust, will cause a great deal of confusion among the commercial community. Assuredly this: will increase the cost of living, which every economist says that we should doour utmost to reduce. I protest against, the manner in which the Government has given effect to this tax. Although the tax ha3 been collected since the 1st August this Senate is only now considering the measures that are designed to operate it. This is the first occasion in the history of the Commonwealth that such action has been taken. Honorable senators have been inundated with telegrams from persons who are anxious to know the position in which they are placed by this legislation. Even the Government itself realizes that the wholesalers cannot stand this tax. In Adelaide, some wholesale companies have not been able to pay their usual dividend, and in addition they have been compelled to dismiss a number of their hands. The tax has to be passed on. The first definite information which Adelaide traders had of it was conveyed by the Adelaide Advertiser of the 31st July last, which announced that the tax was to be operative from the following day, and that the bills had been explained in the House of Representatives by the Prime Minister. A telegraphed summary was all that appeared. Then the same newspaper on the following day announced the fact that the tax was in operation and stated in its headlines that there was confusion in trading circles, and that no official intimation had been received by those whose duty it was to administer it. The position of the traders has been well voiced by Mr. S. McGregor Reid, the president of the Taxpayer's Association in Adelaide, in the following terms : -

It shows a complete disregard for the welfare of trade and industry. A Government which included any one with a knowledge of the difficulties of commerce would never have been responsible for such roughshod methods. The Prime Minister has stated that the administration of the tax will be simple. This may be true from the point of view of the Government, who has merely to collect cheques, but it will certainly not be true for the merchant who has to pay the tax, especially during the first months of its operation. Not even the local Taxation office, which will have to administer the tax in South Australia, has any information, and there will not be time for the merchants to receive copies of the bills before they will be subject to the liabilities which the bills create.

That is the position in a nutshell. Many traders do not know upon what goods they will have to pay tax. I therefore suggest to the Minister that, where there is failure to adjust prices because of lack of information, and business firms have been saddled with charges that they did not pass on owing to this lack of information, tin; Commissioner should be empowered to refund the tax.

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