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Wednesday, 11 October 1972
Page: 1469

Senator MAUNSELL (Queensland) - I welcome the 3 Bills now before the Senate. They represent a positive step m the direction ki which the Country Party, which I represent, has been heading for a long time. We hope that they represent the start of what in the end will be the abolition of probate duty, at least in the Federal sphere. It is interesting to note that, as a result of the alleviation being provided in the 3 measures before us, something like half the people who up until now would have been subject to Federal estate duty will now be exempt from it. It is also interesting to note that the rural sector, which pays something like 6 per cent of the taxation revenue, pays something like 40 per cent of the estate duty revenue that is raised. I think that Senator Milliner asked earlier where those figures came from.

Senator Milliner - I asked for the source of that statement.

Senator MAUNSELL - It comes from the statistics supplied to us each year by the Commissioner of Taxation. It is most unfortunate, as has been pointed out by Senator Lawrie and others, that in the rural sector properties have to be a certain size if they are to be viable - that is a word commonly used these days - or profitable. If people faced with probate duty have any commitments to financial houses or are in debt to any extent, the only thing they can do is borrow more money if possible and hang debt around their necks for many years or sell part or all of their property. In many cases they cannot sell even half their property to pay probate duty. This applies particularly in a State such as Queensland where most of the land is under leasehold tenure.

Senator McAuliffe - So it ought to be.

Senator MAUNSELL - We are gradully converting the system. At present, in the case of land held under leasehold tenure, blocks cannot be split up and therefore the person concerned has to sell his block or secure funds from other sources if that is possible. We have reached the stage in Australia where we have unlimited resources, particularly in minerals, and we have the potential to manufacture and to develop. However, we have not the finance, or individual people have not the finance, for Australia to be developed by Australians. That is why we hear screams today about there being so much foreign ownership of our resources. I believe that we are taxing the very people who could supply the money for the development of our resources. We are imposing death duties and so on and we are taxing the people who would be most likely to invest in Australian resources. One generation of a family after another has to pay probate duties and estate duties and each succeeding generation has to start off from scratch again, whereas they should be in the position of being able to expand, if not into land industries, then into the mining industries, and thus develop our resources. That is why I believe that in the Federal sphere at least we should gradually retreat from the imposition of estate duty.

I refer now to the position of the States. Whether the States are to pick up the tab, as someone has said, is a matter for the electors in the particular. States. The States control such things as land laws and other laws pertaining to property. It would be much fairer at least if taxes were levied according to the laws that operate in the State rather than that we have a Federal body administering laws which can be completely unfair to individuals in one State when compared with individuals in another. That is one of the arguments I use in favour of the Federal Government retiring from the estate duty field.

Then we must consider the matter of gift duty. It is quite true, as Senator Lawrie said, that once the Commonwealth retires from the field of estate duty there will not be much need for the law relating to gift duty. However, I point out that there are many young people starting off in life who need money, if only to buy a home or to start a business. The decision to raise from $4,000 to $10,000 the figure above which gift duty applies will be of great assistance to those who want to help young people start in business and to get them to the stage of being productive Australians long before they otherwise would be. I think it is essential in this growing country of ours, with all its potential, that we see that those people who are prepared to develop our resources are given the opportunity to do so at the earliest possible time.

I support any move to alleviate the payment of death taxes or gift duty. The amendment moved by Senator Byrne is an addendum to one Bill. As with similar amendments in the past, I fully support the amendment. I hope that on this occasion more honourable senators will support the amendment. I do not think there is any need for me to cover the ground that has been covered so well by

Senator Byrneand Senator Lawrie in particular, except to say that I support the Bills.

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