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Thursday, 5 December 1974
Page: 3185

Senator WOOD (Queensland) -Of the 4 Bills before the Senate at present I would like to mention firstly the Estate Duty Assessment Bill and to say, in a very brief way, that I am one of those who think that estate duty is something which should not be assessed at all.

Senator Cavanagh - My, how your estate will get hit hard.

Senator WOOD -My estate will not get hit hard because I will not have any left for assessment. I feel that the abolition of estate duty should come about only after consultation between the Commonwealth and the States in which the Commonwealth agrees to make ample provision of finance to enable the States to abolish estate duty. That would then provide the Commonwealth with an opportunity to abolish estate duty in the Commonwealth field. I have held that view for quite a long time and I think it is one that is gaining ground with the people. I think that the sooner estate duty is abolished in both the State and the Federal spheres the better. That is all I desire to say on the matter. That puts my view very clearly.

The other Bill upon which I wish to speak is the Income Tax Assessment Bill (No. 2). I feel that the attitude of the Opposition in this regard is again one that does not have my support. I believe that this Bill gives the Opposition an opportunityunlike the Bill about which we spoke last night, which the Senate would have had to throw out completely- to move for the elimination of sub-clauses (1) and (2) of clause 16 from the Bill. It would be a very simple matter for us to do that. I indicate that at the Committee stage of the debate I intend to offer opposition to this part of the legislation. I hope that somebody else will support me and that we will have a division on the question, thereby showing just where the people stand on this issue.

Once again we have had the Opposition stating that it is opposed to this provision and saying that when it gets into office again it will repeal it. How ridiculous that is. People will be made to suffer through the loss caused by the reduction in this tax allowance from $400 to $150 over the period of time that it takes certain events to take place before the Opposition again gets back into Government. During that time people will lose the benefit of the higher taxation concession. I know that it is very easy for people in the capital cities and the major cities to treat this matter in an airy-fairy way and say that it is of no great importance. As one of those who live in a provincial city I know what takes place in the provincial towns and country areas in my State of Queensland- no doubt the same takes place in other States as well- when people take the opportunity of sending their children to the major schools which are very often to be found in the capital cities and, in the case of Queensland, mostly in the southern centres. Naturally that entails a considerable amount of expense. The desire of those people is to give their children what they think is a good education.

I have always felt that the giving of a taxation concession to individuals who send their children to such schools is more in keeping with my line of thinking about keeping the private schools going than the provision of straight out subsidies by the Government, which has never been to my liking. Such individuals are getting a concession because they are trying to give their children a better education. There is no doubt that these expenses are incurred. There is no question that very often the schools to which they send them are much better than the schools they have in their own small communities. In fact, they probably do not have schools up to the same standard in their own areas. When one looks around country centres one can visualise that there is not the opportunity in those areas to give children higher education. Because of the great distances in States like my own that people have to send their children if they are to get such an education and because of the cost of keeping their children at such schools, surely to goodness those people are entitled to some concession for giving their children the opportunity of obtaining a good standard of education.

It seems rather strange to me that the government of the day has decided to cheesepare with the individual in this regard. It has been pointed out by Bishop Shevill that certain people, such as the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam), Mr Hawke and others, went to some of these private schools. No doubt they did so, in the opinion of their parents, to get a higher standard of education. It was all right for them because they lived in the areas in which such a standard of education could be obtained but what about the people who do not live in such areas? I feel that the Government has shown itself to be really miserly towards the people from country areas who desire to educate their children to a high standard. These people should be commended and encouraged by the Government because of their desire to give their children a higher education. There is no question that if we could lift the standard of education of people throughout this nation, to get them to think clearer and along better lines, this country would be all the richer and all the better for it. 1 was one who did not have the opportunity of a secondary education having left school at the age of 12 years and 10 months, but I know the value of education. I know that people of their own volition can educate themselves in various ways after leaving school, but there are many people who probably require education in a more compulsory manner, by their parents sending them to the schools which they think are necessary and which they think sometimes are of a higher standard.

Therefore I think that this Bill is very bad in that regard. There should be a stronger expression about it by people generally and by this Opposition. It really bewilders me that the Opposition adopts this nebulous fashion of moving a motion condemning this Bill instead of opposing it. This was one opportunity for the Opposition to show strength on an important question, but unfortunately the leaders or the people within the organisation decided otherwise. They talk about when they get into office again but that depends upon their political nous. As I said last night, that might happen quickly; it might take a long time. A decision on when one goes to an election is a matter of political judgment.

I want to refer to what Senator Hall said last night. He was not at the particular meeting and would not be aware of the details but he said that no doubt I was one of those who voted for the Government to be forced to an election in May. As a matter of interest, I was not one of those people who considered that an election in May was appropriate. My assessment, based on my judgment and political sense, and it was expressed at that time, was that after another 9 to 12 months- that is from December to Marchwould be a better time to have an election. I thought that we as an Opposition would then walk in and become the Government. As the situation has developed today, I am convinced that the Opposition should have taken a strong stand in connection with the Budget on items such as this and taken the matter to the people. We have the right to force the Government to the people if we believe that the country is being badly managed, as I believe it is, and that things are going contrary to what the people require. If we had an election now, or at any time within the next 2 or 3 months, there is no question that there would be a change of government.

The financial situation in this country has become serious as a result of the actions of this Government.- There is raging inflation, massive unemployment and the economy is in a real mess. The Government has made certain moves since coming to office which it considered were forward moves but they were backward moves. The Government has backtracked on practically everything it has done in relation to the economic aspects of this country. That shows that its handling of economics is very bad. What staggers me and frightens me is that I read the other day that Mr Whitlam is going to take a stronger hand in the control of the economy of this country. That frightens the life out of me because Mr Whitlam is a babe in the woods as far as economics are concerned, and that is generally recognised. If he is to take a stronger hand in the running of the economy of this country, it makes one wonder what could happen. I have no faith in him so far as economics are concerned. The situation is serious. The Opposition should have taken the opportunity on this occasion of letting the people again express themselves on how dreadful they think things have become. I am surprised that the Opposition has not seized the opportunity. To deal with legislation such as this and for the Opposition to express itself as being strongly opposed to it and then to move a pious amendment to add words to the end of the motion, is not to act according to my way of thinking. Naturally I will have to support that expression but I want it to be known that when we come to the Committee stage I shall oppose this clause. I hope there will be others who will oppose it also in order that we might have a division to see who really opposes this type of legislation.

I do not want to delay the Senate. Those are my feelings on this matter. As I have said before, I think that the Government's action in cheeseparing to the disadvantage of worthwhile citizens who send their children to schools in order for them to have a higher standard of education, indicates just how mean it has become in relation to certain very important aspects of the development of this country.

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