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Thursday, 15 November 1973
Page: 1856


Senator WEBSTER (Victoria) -The Excise Bills before the Senate are of some importance and they add considerably to the income of the Commonwealth Government during this present financial year. Most of these duties have been imposed already. They were imposed on the night that the Budget was presented in the House of Representatives. The effect of these measures can only be described as inflationary. It gives me no pleasure whatsoever to speak to them or to realise the impact that they will have on the community. When the previous LiberalCountry Party Government was in power I can well remember over the past few years that on nearly every occasion on which indirect taxation was increased Labor Party members would stand up and criticise wholeheartedly the attitude of the then Government. They said that such action was the very opposite to what the working man wanted. They said that he was an individual who wanted to see direct taxes applied on the basis that if a man received a small income he should pay little tax. If a man received a large income he should be taxed more heavily. That principle usually appeared to me to be reasonable. It was never in my imagination that a Labor Party would come into government and at the first opportunity would impose duties that we see imposed in these Bills. They are calculated to represent very excessive indirect taxation.

We find that the cost of those consumer products which the labouring man in our society appears to enjoy- for instance, cigarettes and beer- has been escalated quite significantly by the impost of new customs duties on items such as cigarettes, tobacco, petrol and even diesel fuel. I am opposed to the imposition of this type of taxation. I imagine that a government has a variety of obligations to take into account when it is seeking to raise extra revenue. My recollection is that before last December the Labor Party members said that if they gained office there would not be a need to increase taxation. While the Government has hidden behind the vow that it would not increase personal taxation it has increased indirect taxation. The effect of this type of taxation is inflationary. The tax on fuel, whether petrol or diesel fuel, has created an impost on all goods that have to be transported. It is impossible to calculate the cost of these goods without taking into account the cost of transporting them. I would suggest that there is no area of manufacture or transport which has not had to increase its prices since the introduction of this government impost. As I said, this is an inflationary measure and the Labor Government has something to answer for in regard to the great escalation that has occurred in the rate of inflation.

I noted an article which appeared in one paper this week which said that some of the industrial experts at present are saying that the rate of inflation in this country is beyond a joke and that desperate measures will now have to be taken to counter an inflation rate which will be running at some 20 per cent at least this side of Christmas but which early in the new year will probably not escalate to such a great extent as that created by the Labor Party in its first year of office. The inflation rate has a tendency to have a harsh effect on those people who live beyond the great city areas. It can be well seen that the Government's move to place an impost on transport, which means an added cost for freight, is directed against those people who live beyond the seaboards of this great country. Indeed, this is another example of an attempt by the Labor Party to injure those who live in our rural areas.

I am surprised at the hard and fast stand that the Labor Party is taking against rural and primary producing industries. The Labor Party has deprived these industries of concessions which they had by way of small subsidies; it has deprived primary producers of the taxation deductions that were available to encourage them to become more efficient by replacing their old machinery with new machinery which in turn would create efficiency in production; and it has withdrawn from them the ability to be able to obtain taxation deductions on their assessable incomes for works of a capital nature such as the construction of dams and storage sheds for fodder.

The Northern Territory is not another area that will be affected by this legislation. Yesterday Senator McLaren said that when he visits the Northern Territory he indicates to the people how he has encouraged the Government to look after them. Of course, it was brought out in a Senate Estimates Committee debate earlier this week that instead of looking after the transport needs of the people of the Northern Territoryand the former Government of an anti-socialist flavour had seen fit to contribute $138,000 by way of subsidy for the transport of consumable goods into the Territory- this Labor socialist Government on the strength of an idiotic report put to it by the Coombs task force accepted a recommendation to the subsidy on the cost of transport into the Territory. This action alone has meant an increased cost of $ 1 50,000 or $200,000 to the people of the Northern Territory. This does not include the cost which will result from the measure now before us. It will add 5c on to the cost of each gallon of fuel, 5c to each packet of cigarettes and also an extra charge on beer. The increased impost on these items is against the interests of people who live beyond the seaboard cities. Without doubt, many areas of our economy have been disastrously affected by Labor's policies in the last 9 months.

It cannot but be argued that the Government took a most unusual action when it reduced by 25 per cent the import duty on goods from overseas. This was an illegal action as the Government did not refer such a reduction to the Tariff Board. It just decided to write 25 per cent off the existing rates of tariff as they applied at the date that the Budget was introduced. This action has had an effect on not only those industries that are producing consumable items for home consumption but also those producing industries that were exporting overseas. These industries are finding that they are facing great competition from other countries which have lower standards of living and lower rates of inflation than this country. They are finding that it is probably better to diversify and to produce some other items. We are going to be divested of the benefit of having certain goods produced in Australia. In other words, we will not be so self-supporting.

I think that the first major firm that was being forced out of business because of the reduction in tariffs is located in the Albury-Wodonga complex. What stupidity it is for the Government to declare its interest in expansion of decentralisation and then to put forward a move that is likely to reduce the ability of private industry to employ labour. The whole basis of this Government's taxation system is most harmful to the community. For some peculiar reason- one which I am well able to follow but which I am afraid the general public in Australia has not taken to its heart as yet- is the fact that Labor tends to hit those who would be its supporters. These very measures hit the small person, the person who perhaps is earning a moderate wage and who is hoping to build a house. This is the very man who has been hit by increased interest rates. This is one of the imposts which such people will feel in the coming year. The worker on a moderate wage, of whom we are so proud, probably has a higher percentage ownership of motor vehicles than any other group of people in the world. One need go only to the vast factories of the multi-national corporations of this country to see acres and acres of vehicles which are owned by the employees of those factories. It is a great thing that we have been able to build up such a standard of living in this society. But the average worker will not see the effect that increased interest rates, increased petrol tax and increased tax on cigarettes and beer will have on his pocket until about 6 or 8 months hence. It is only then that he will begin to realise that there is an inflationary tendency in this country and that all of these imposts will lead him out of business. As Mr Clyde Cameron said a day or two ago, it will lead to increased unemployment in this country. I draw the Senate's attention to the fact, as I have done on a number of occasions- the public should be alerted to it also- that we have in office a government that is directed absolutely to the socialisation of this country. It will bring it about by any means and, if it means bringing it about to the detriment of the working man, that is what it will do. In support of what I say I shall quote from an article- I am afraid I have not the date of it- apparently from the 'Australian' published prior to the Labor Party coming to office. It is a comment on the book entitled Towards a New Australia' which was written by Jim Cairns on Labor's basic aims. The article states:

The basic aims of the Australian Labor Party are socialist aims. They are to change society from its acquisitive, competitive character, as it is in capitalism, to a humane, co-operative society which is socialist.

A change of this nature is basic and it is revolutionary. It is unlikely that it can be quickly brought about in Australia. It is unlikely that one, or even several, Labor Governments could by themselves do very much towards changing Australia.

Labor in office, as is the case of working-class governments everywhere, is very much subject to the strength of the capitalist power centres. They are still as much as ever the hegemonic power in Australian society. But Labor values are sound and strong values; there is no reason why they should not prevail over capitalist values- except that we ourselves may not stand resolutely for them.

There is no reason why the people should not choose humane leadership genuinely concerned for others and for the most needy first, rather than slick, social-climbing 'swingers'.

I could go on. Jim Cairns outlines in his book the revolution that he hopes to bring about in this society. It will be brought about, firstly, by the degrading of the worker, and the measures we are debating are measures which will hit the worker most. The worker who hoped to have some pride in owning his own home will not be able to do so. The Government will see that he gets into a rented, government owned house. That is Labor policy. If he wishes to own a vehicle, the Government will see that the interest rates become so high that the cost of owning vehicles- and homes also- is something that the average working man will not be able to afford.

It will raise the cost of transport and fuel to such an extent that the average working man will not be able to afford to keep his vehicle. I know that the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Senator Cavanagh), who, like Jim Cairns, so rightly recognises himself as one of the great socialists of our society, fully recognises that this is so. I would be surprised if Senator Cavanagh is not one who previously stood up and said that he abhors indirect taxation. I would think that he would wish to apply taxation on a different basis. But here we see Bills being brought in to the harm of the ordinary working man, and I say that they spell shame, as do many other items in present Labor policy, for their effect on the Australian working man. (Quorum formed.)







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