13th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. G. H. Mackay) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
Bee Goods and Road Tractors
– Will the Prime Minister consider the desirability of adding to thelist of goods exempt from sales tax bee goods and road tractors used by shire councils for road-making purposes?
– The additional exemptions to be proposed to the House will include bee goods. The exemption of road tractors will be considered.
Report (No. 2) brought up by Mr.E. F. Harrison, read by the Clerk, and agreed to.
– The newspapers state that the visit of the Premier of New South Wales to Canberra yesterday was connected with the negotiations for the conversion of the New South Wales £13,000,000 loan which is about to mature in London. Will the Prime Minister he able to make a statement regarding the progress of the negotiations before the House adjourns to-morrow?
– The Premier of New South Wales visited Canberra to discuss with Commonwealth Ministers the loan conversion negotiations. The statement made in some sections of the press this morning that the Government is negotiating for conversion at 4½ per cent. interest and 3 per cent. discount, is incorrect. The Attorney-General (Mr. Latham), when in London, made preliminary inquiries regarding the prospects of conversion, and conferred with the financial authorities there. Since that date the negotiations have been more or less continuous. Immediately upon his arrival in London, the Minister without Portfolio (Mr. Bruce) gave special attention to this matter. Loan conversions have to be negotiated by the Commonwealth Government on behalf of the Loan Council, but, because the Government of New South Wales has a particular interest in the impending transaction, Mr. Stevens has been kept informed of the progress of our conversations in London. The terms at present being discussedare much better than those indicated in this morning’s newspapers, and I hope to be able within a few days to make an announcement that will give general satisfaction.
– Has the Prime Minister noticed the flood of literature released by Amalgamated Wireless of Australasia Limited, doubtless at considerable expense, apparently for the main reason of booming Mr. E. T. Fisk, by suggesting thathe is working in double harness with Marconi to enlighten the world regarding wireless broadcasting? As the Commonwealth has to bear half theexpense of this company, will the Prime Minister ascertain from the Commonwealth representative on the board or directly from Mr. Fisk, how much this propaganda has cost during the last twelve months?
– I shall look into the mattnr.
– Has the
Prime Minister seen the statement published in the Sydney Sun of yesterday regarding the leakage of intimate governmental and commercial conversations over flic Anglo- Australian telephone? Will the right honorable gentleman take steps to have the cause of this leakage investigated?
– I shall make inquiries into the matter.
– Will the Minister for the Interior inform the House why Mr. Frederick Bateman, Secretary of the International Labour Defence Organization, was prevented from leaving Australia, and why his passport was cancelled ?
Mr. ARCHDALE PARKHILL.First. the name under which this gentleman applied for a passport was not that by which he was known as an organizer for the Communist party. Secondly, his stated reason for leaving Australia was that he was assured of twelve months employment on the other side of the world, whereas the department ascertained that the real object of his mission to Europe was to attend the forthcoming conference of the Red Internationale of Labour Unions in Germany. Thirdly, the Government was not satisfied that he had made adequate provision for the maintenance of his wife and children during his absence. Therefore, his passport was cancelled.
– Has the former Acting Minister for Trade and Customs given effect to his promise to inquire into the restraint of trade by the manufacturers of wire nails and barbed wire?
– I communicated with several of the manufacturers, but no reply which the honorable member would regard as satisfactory was received. Apparently the Commonwealth Government is powerless to take any action in this matter.
-I ask the Assistant Minister for Defence whether the Aviation Committee which has been considering proposals for subsidized aerial services has yet submitted its report to the Government? If it has done so, when will the report bc available to honorable members?
– I anticipate that the report will be received by the Minister early next month.
– Yesterday, in replying to a question, without notice, by the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Nairn), I mentioned that pensioners in receipt of the maximum rate of 17s. Gd. per week represented 80.5 per cent, of the total pensioners. The accuracy of this figure was questioned by the Leader of the Opposition, and I accordingly took steps to have it verified. The Assistant Commissioner of Pensions has to-day furnished mc willi the following figures: -
The figure - 205,601 - representing the total pensions at the maximum rate, will accordingly be seen, on calculation, to represent 80.5 per cent, of the total number of pensions, namely, 255,609.
– Those receiving the maximum pension may have other income.
– I explained to the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Nairn) that those on the maximum rate would continue to draw 17s. 6d. a week until their circumstances had been investigated, and I added that they represented S0.5 per cent, of the total number of pensioners.
– But it does not follow that 80.5 per cent, will continue to receive 17s. 6d.
– No, but 80.5 per cent, will continue for the time being to receive that amount.
Relay Station im Northern NewSouth Wales.
Mi-. THOMPSON- Will the PostmasterGeneral inform the House what steps, if any, are being taken by his department to complete the arrangements for the erection of a new relay station in northern New South Wales? For several months, this proposal has been under consideration, but the only information I can obtain from the department is that no decision has yet been reached.*
– The sites of regional and other wireless stations must be determined by experts. These matters have been decided in the past by the departmental engineers, and with considerable success. I stated about a week ago that in five States, new regional stations will be erected, and tenders for them will be called at an early date. As soon as the engineers have decided where the stations shall be situated, Parliament and the public will be informed.
– Will the PostmasterGeneral say whether an agreement has yet been reached between the Imperial Communications Company and the wireless and cable companies in Australia?
– So far as I am aware, no arrangement has yet been completed.
Formal Motion itoh Adjournment.
– I have received from the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. McClelland) an intimation that he proposes to move the adjournment of the House to discuss a definite matter of urgent public importance, namely, “ the critical position of those engaged in the production of wheat, and the necessity for immediate action for their relief “.
Five honorable members having risen in their places,
– I have no desire to attempt to take the control of the business of the House out of the hands of the Government. As the reply which I received from the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons), only yesterday on this subject indicated that the Government does not fully realize the posititon of those engaged in the wheat industry, I felt that I had no other course open to me under the Standing Orders but to move the adjournment of the House to enable the matter to be discussed. I invite honorable members to cast back their memory to the year 1930, when the Scullin Government convened a conference of representatives of the wheat industry, which submitted recommendations which were embodied in a measure entitled the Wheat Advances Bill. That bill, although carried in this chamber, was, unfortunately, rejected in another place. I believe that had it found its way into the statute-book, the provision of some of the millions of pounds that have been spent during the past two years on unemployment relief would not have been necessary. During the fifteen years immediately preceding 1930, those engaged in the wheat industry received for wheat an average price of approximately os. a bushel at railway sidings. Yet, notwithstanding that long period of comparatively good prices, those who participated in the 1930 conference expressed the opinion that the wheatgrowers had never been in a more unfortunate plight than they were in then. They have been going from bad to worse since that time. I have a vivid recollection of the then Prime Minister, who was seised of the desperate position of the wheat-growers and of the community generally, making a most eloquent appeal to the conference, in which he urged growers to produce more wheat, in an endeavour to reestablish Australia’s credit overseas. The Wheat Advances Bill provided for a price of 4s. a bushel at country sidings. The wheat-growers responded magnificently to the appeal of’ the Prime Minister, and produced the biggest crop in the history of Australia. Yet, instead of receiving 4s. per bushel for it, which was the price promised to them, they received only ls. 9d. a bushel at country sidings. The result was disastrous. For the five years prior to 1930” the average Australian wheat crop was 136,000,000 bushels. The crop of 1930 was 212,000,000 bushels, or 76,000,000 bushels in excess of that fiveyear average. These additional 76,000,000 bushels at the extremely low prices ruling that season brought £9,000,000 of new wealth to Australia. But, as the cost of producing wheat is about 3s. 9d. a bushel, and the growers received that year only ls. 9d. for it, they lost from £20,000,000 to £21,000,000 on their record crop of 212,000,000 bushels. Notwithstanding that terrible setback, the wheat-growers of Australia stood by the country, and in 1931 produced a crop of 190,000,000 bushels, another record, excepting that of the previous year. The increased production for that season over the average for the five years prior to 1930 was 54,000,000 bushels which, at the f.o.b. value of 2s. 3d. a bushel at that time, was the means of bringing £9,000,000 more of new wealth into the country than would have been the case had only an average crop been produced. The net amount received by the growers for this season, inclusive of the 4£d. bounty, will average 3s. a bushel, which is 9d. a bushel below production costs. So it will be seen that they sustained a loss amounting in the aggregate to £7,000,000 odd, or a total loss of £28,000,000 for the years 1930 and 1931. These figures make it apparent that the wheat industry of Australia is at present in a most critical position.
I had intended to embody a reference to the wool industry in my motion, but the Government’s action in appointing a committee of inquiry to consider the position of that industry relieves me of the necessity. One. of the chief reasons for the unfortunate position of our industries generally is ‘that wool and wheat had to carry on the last two years at a loss of more than £50,000,000, which was the difference between what they received and their costs of production.
Much has been said here and elsewhore regarding the rectification of our trade balance. I have made it clear that the wheat and wool industries have done much to restore a trade balance in our favour. But despite heroic effort on the part of the wheat-growers, it is evident that they cannot continue indefinitely producing at a loss. One wonders whether the Government realizes the critical posi tion of the wheat industry, for it has failed to give any tangible support .to those engaged in it. The wheat and wool industries of Australia have been able to carry on during the last two years chiefly because this country has enjoyed bountiful seasons during that time. The Bestower of all good things has sent lifegiving showers, with the good result that I have mentioned, but one shudders to think of what must happen when we are again subjected to the devastating effects of a drought. The prospective prices for the current season’s crop are no brighter than they were at this time last year. As these industries have been declining in the manner that I have indicated, it is essential that something definite and direct be done if they are to be. prevented from going out of existence.
Much has been said in this chamber about the balancing of . budgets. The majority of us agree that that must be done. The Government has had from this corner of the chamber the support to which it is entitled, and the results that have been obtained up to date are very gratifying. But we should not lose sight of the fact that one of the chief reasons why the governments of Australia have been unable to balance their budgets is that those engaged in our export industries are unable to make ends meet. We cannot expect to have permanently balanced budgets while the growers of our export commodities are receiving prices below the cost of production. Fully SO per cent, of those engaged in the wheat industry at present have before them the prospect of .insolvency unless this Government comes to their aid. No government can afford to permit the present position to continue. It may be said that this Government cannot continue to assist or give bounties to the wheat-growing or any other basic industry. I say that we cannot afford not to do so; but the Government of the day must realize the absolute necessity to assist our staple industries, and particularly the wheat-growing industry. We are at present fortunate, in that prospects are bright for the coming season. But many of the wheat-growers have sown their growing crops in anticipation of the continuation of the bounty which they received last year. I therefore urge the Government to continue the bounty But, instead of the bounty being 4½d. per bushel on all wheat produced, I would recommend that it should, be 6d. per bushel on all wheat exported. There are other ways in which the Government may be able to asist the production of wheat. The wheat-growers should at least receive for that portion of their wheat which is locally Consumed, prices equivalent to the cost of production. That could bc done by placing a sales tax on flour, the machinery for which is already in existence. Our primary producers have piled up enormous debts, and the Government could give them material assistance by bringing about a reduction of interest, which is in accordance with the much discussed Premiers plan. The Government could co-operate .with the States in assisting to raise the finance necessary to enable the bulk system of handling wheat to be established throughout Australia. In at least two of the States, it has been clearly shown that the bulk handling system reduces the cost of production by about 3d. per bushel. The land tax, which bears heavily upon primary producers, should bo removed. The Government could assist in the endeavour to establish a more orderly method of marketing our wheat.
– The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- I join in this discussion about wheat-growing because I fully realize that our export industries have been, and must continue to bc, of the greatest importance to Australia. While I cannot perhaps agree with all the mover of the motion has said in regard to the wheat industry, I think that that industry is deserving of every assistance at the hands of the Commonwealth and State Governments. The honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. McClelland) began his speech by saying that over a period of fifteen years, prior, I take it, to 1930, the wheat-growers of this country received 5s. a bushel for their grain. But if we take the period of fifteen years prior to 1914, it will probably be correct to say that the wheat-growers received then, on the average, about 4s. a bushel for their product. During the war, the prices of our exports, and indeed prices generally, were inflated, and to obtain a proper idea of the values that will, in future, rule for these commodities, we should take pre-war conditions into consideration. Therefore, I suggest that the price of wheat in the future will probably be 3s. 6d. or 4s. a bushel. The honorable member for Wimmera deplored the fact that a bill which was introduced into this Parliament by the last Government to guarantee a price of 4s. a bushel to the fanner was not passed. I entirely dissociate myself from that opinion. The figures quoted by the honorable member show definitely that had that measure been passed and put into operation, the Commonwealth would have been called upon to find about £20,000,000, that , amount representing the difference between the export value of the crop and the price that the farmer would have received for his wheat. I suggest that had that guarantee been given, the farmers would ultimately have had to contribute their full share of that loss, and consequently, at the best, the guarantee would have been only of temporary relief to them, and would not, in the long run, have assisted those engaged in the wheat industry. For that reason alone I am pleased that that legislation was not passed. I agree with the honorable member for Wimmera that the primary producers have continued in their respective industries during the last few years largely because bountiful seasons have been experienced ; but there is nothing more certain than that less bountiful seasons will come, with a great decrease in the crops produced. That has been the experience of Australia; there can be no doubt that lean seasons will come again. In the past when there were bountiful seasons the producers were able to put aside sufficient funds to enable them to carry on during less favorable seasons. Unfortunately, during the past few years the producers, although enjoying bountiful seasons, have been unable to put aside any considerable sum of money, and they will undoubtedly be in an unsatisfactory position when bad periods recur. I would support fully any proposal by the Commonwealth or State Parliaments to assist the wheat industry. The contention of the honorable member for Wimmera that the farmers have sowed large areas because they considered that the bounty would be continued is not according to fact. The policy of the United Australia Party, and I believe of the party which he represents, is against the granting of bounties and subsidies to industries.
– That was not our policy.
– It was, at all events, the policy of the United Australia Party. That policy was broadcast throughout Australia, and the farmers were well acquainted with the fact that this Government would not stand for subsidies and assistance to industries.
Let us examine some of the burdens which have been placed upon our export industries. The tariff is a heavy burden,, but it ‘ will be generally admitted that this Government has taken a definite step towards redeeming its election pledge to lighten that burden to some extent. In accordance with the budget speech there have been remissions of taxation to the extent of £400,000 in respect of articles required in primary industries. The land tax has been mentioned by the honorable member. The abolition of the land tax has been considered by this Government, and I suggest that more favorable consideration than it has had to date should be . given to the subject. During the last two or three years, that imposition on the land-holders has been neither more nor less than a capital levy, and the land-owners cannot continue to pay that impost as they have done in the past. The remission of that tax would relieve the primary producers of an impost of about £2,000,000 per annum. There are other burdens over which this Parliament has no control, and it should be the object of the Federal Government to co-operate with the State Governments in an effort to give relief in regard to some of them. One of the heaviest burdens on the primary producers at present is railway freight. I have already quoted the approximate pre-war price of wheat. Since 1914 the State Governments have increased rail freights on primary commodities by about 70 per cent. Because of the decline in the value of those commodities, it is only fair to insist that the freights should be reduced to something like pre-war level. Wharfage charges have also been increased. The fanners could be helped by the reduction of these charges to their former levels by the State Governments.
-The honorable member’s time has expired.
– No one will dispute the sincerity of the desire of the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. McClelland) to assist the wheatgrowers; consequently, full consideration must be given to the case he has presented to honorable members. I assure him that his submissions will be most carefully reviewed by the Government before a decision is reached. But I ask the honorable member to credit the Government with a sincere desire to help the man on the land. This Government has proved its sincerity in this respect, for in the last few weeks many articles have been exempted from primage duties and sales tax. The aggregate amount of relief in this regard and others is, in round figures, £1,500,000, and I estimate that the man on the land will benefit to the extent pf £1,000,000 through that relief. The Government realizes the extent to which the nation is dependent upon the primary producer for its prosperity. Even if I were to speak at great length on this subject I could promise no more than the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) promised the honorable member for -Wimmera on another occasion, when he said that every consideration would bo given to the man on the land. The Government must adopt a policy which will be acceptable, not only to the farmers, but to every other section of the people. This makes it necessary that the whole of the facts shall be brought under consideration. We shall have to consider, for instance, the probable price of wheat this year. It has been estimated that wheat” will be sold at 3s. 4d. a bushel f.o.b., which would give between 2s. 9d. and 2s. lOd. to the farmer. Last year the farmers received only 2s. 7d. a bushel on their farm. It is possible that the price of wheat will continue to rise. If it does, the whole situation will be altered. Another important factor which must be considered is the probable yield this year. As the honorable member for Wimmera has said, we have experienced several bountiful seasons. The farmers have also been induced to grow more wheat, probably by the false pretences of the previous Government ; but I shall not go into that matter in detail. Last year our wheat crop totalled 190,000,000 bushels. Although it is too early yet to speak with any degree of certainty, it is estimated that the yield this year will be 200,000,000 bushels. The honorable member must admit that these are important factors, which should affect the policy of the Government. Another factor which must be considered is the financial position of the Commonwealth. The bounty of 4½d. a bushel paid on wheat last year has already involved an expenditure of £3,382,043, which amount must be added to the national debt. This sum has been paid in respect of the 143,623 claims that have so far been considered, but other claims are awaiting consideration. It is estimated that the full expenditure under the bounty will be £3,450,000. The bounty has been paid on 1S0,375,627 bushels. The Government had. to meet this obligation, which was incurred by the previous administration, and it had no wish to avoid it. The administrative costs involved in the payment of the bounty have been about £12,000, but when it is remembered that in some cases the services of officers of other departments than the Department of Commerce, such as postmasters, have been used, the actual “cost will be something less than. £12,000. When all the facts have been considered, it may be found necessary to reduce, increase, or discontinue the bounty; but the Government will not reach a decision until all the circumstances have been reviewed. It may be taken for granted, however, that the welfare of the wheatgrowers will not be disregarded.
It is unfortunate that our circumstances are such that an honorable member can rise in his place in this chamber, and show that the wheat-growers are in such a lamentable position; but other honorable members could make out just as strong a case for the wool-growers, the orchardists, the citrus-growers, and those engaged in other branches of primary production. This emphasizes the necessity for bringing all the facts under considera- tion before a decision is made. It is not the intention of the Government to make the wheat-growers the sport of politicians, as they have doubtless been in recent years. We all remember that a couple of years ago a certain gentleman, who was seeking the suffrages of the electors, promised the wheat-growers that, if he were returned to power, they would receive 7s. 6d. a bushel for their wheat.
– That is not true, and the Assistant Minister knows it.
– I was surprised that the honorable member for Wimmera placed such reliance in the measure passed by this House during the regime of the Scullin Government, which provided for the payment of 4s. a bushel for wheat. I do not doubt that many farmers throughout the country grew more wheat during that season because they thought that a sympathetic government was in office; but, even if that bill had been passed by another place, the guaranteed price could not have been paid. The financial position of Australia at that time would have made it impossible. So the farmers would have been “let down” in any case. On the other hand, if it had been possible to carry out the provisions of that measure, the rest of the community would have had to carry an impossible load, and a breakdown would have occurred somewhere else, which would have resulted in the certain insolvency of this great country. I again assure the honorable member that his remarks will receive the earnest consideration of the Government.
– I compliment* the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. McClelland) upon having placed the ease of the wheat-growers before the House in such a clear manner in the limited time at his disposal. The fair way in which he stated the facts was in marked contract with the unfair attitude of the Assistant Ministe’r. That honorable gentleman discussed the subject from a party political aspect, from the beginning to the end of his speech, whereas the honorable member for Wimmera kept the subject entirely free from party politics. It is a bigger issue than any party question. The Minister said that the farmers were induced to grow more wheat by false pretences on the part of the previous Government: . That remark was entirely unwarranted. The conference referred to by the honorable member for “Wimmera of representative wheat-growers from all parts of Australia and representatives of the Government and all parties in this Parliament at that time, was one of the most earnest gatherings that I have ever attended. I addressed the conference, and urged the farmers to grow more wheat. I did so as the Prime Minister of this country, because I believed that we were on the verge of a financial collapse, and that we needed to export all we could in order to save the nation from default. The growing of more wheat was the most ready way in which we could correct our position. As the honorable member for Wimmera has said, the farmers responded to my appeal, and produced the maximum result in the minimum time. There was no false presence about it. The bill which the Government promised to submit to Parliament was drafted in consultation with those engaged in the industry. Although it was passed by an overwhelming majority of the members of this House, which included members of practically every party in the Parliament, when it went to another place it was defeated. The Assistant Minister (Mr. Perkins) has said that even if it had been carried, the guaranteed price could not have been paid. As one who held a most responsible position “at that time, and knew all the facts, I say that that statement is incorrect. The guaranteed price could and would have been paid. It has been, said again and again that my Government had no undertaking from the Commonwealth Bank that the money would be provided. That statement has been repeated not only by members of this Parliament and by the dail. press of Australia, but also by certain journals which advocate the views of the Country party. I am glad to admit that when the documents were laid upon the table of this House and the facts brought under the notice of one such journal it expressed regret for having misrepresented the position. I have with me at this moment an extract from the letter of tho Commonwealth Bank Board stating that the money would be available. The honorable member for Grey (Mr. McBride) bas said that, according to his calcula tions, it would have cost £20,000,000 to pay the guaranteed price of 4s. a bushel. That statement serves to show what a mistake it is for the honorable member to jot down a few figures on a sheet of paper and make a hasty, conclusion. He should have informed himself of all the facts, but he has overlooked two or three important considerations. The payment of a guaranteed price of 4s. a bushel for wheat for export would have fixed the price of wheat at approximately 4s. 6d. for home consumption. Fifty million bushels of wheat would have been consumed and used for seed in Australia, and on that quantity there would have been no loss. Another factor is that if the farmers had been paid the guaranteed price, the Government would have received a very much larger return from them in income taxation, because they would have been able to pay such taxation. Further, the very great depression which has fallen upon this country would have been eased, because the price of wheat would not have fallen to such a low level.
– Who would have paid the guaranteed price?
– In my opinion it would have been in the best interests of the country if the burdon had fallen upon the whole community and not only on* the farmers. My Government was intensely in earnest in its desire to assist the wheat-growers. Much has been said about a bill which passed both Houses of the Parliament during the time I was absent from Australia^ and when the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Fenton) and the honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Lyons) were acting for me, under which a guaranteed price of 3s. a bushel was provided for wheat. When the present Prime Minister and the Postmaster-General were in charge of. the Government during my absence in Great Britain, that measure was passed because of an earnest desire to assist the wheat-growers; but no pool was agreed to, and when it was said that there was no power to .guarantee a certain price for wheat, the Government’s proposal could not be carried out by the bank. Then we submitted the proposal for a fiduciary currency issue of £12,000,000 for the relief of unemployment, and £6,000,000 for the assistance of the wheat-growers. That also was defeated in the Senate. But my Government did not rest there. It went hack to the Loan Council and asked’ for financial assistance to the unemployed and the farmers. The banks eventually agreed to come to the assistance of farmers, but not of the unemployed.
It must bc realized that the man on the land whose industry is at a standstill is a self-employed worker. The very basis of financial rehabilitation is the retention of men on the land, for no primary industry gives a greater amount of employment than does wheat-growing. I suggest that the members of the Country party should support the Opposition on this question. Let the financial institutions advance credit to enable work to be provided for the unemployed, and a bounty for the wheat-growers. The Government cannot possibly provide a bounty from its present revenue; nor is it necessary to draw on existing revenue, or to reduce invalid and old-age pensions, or even wages, in order to deal with the distress of the wheat-growers. At a time of depression such as we are now passing through, we have a right to mortgage the future to the extent of raising an internal loan by means of the credit machinery of the banks of Australia. If the wheat-growers go out of production, or are required to produce their commodity at a figure which is below the cost of production, it will be impossible to find employment for the men usually engaged on the waterfront and in the transport services. The Minister made a fairly reasonable speech, except for the political aspect of it. If the price of wheat increased and the bounty were not required, the payment should not be made. The time is approaching when the man on the land will have to prepare for next season’s crop.
– He 13 already doing that.
– Therefore, # the Government should make up its mind to do something at once to induce the farmer to produce more wheat next year. It will be necessary to watch the price close’ly, because last year the price opened at a higher figure than is promised this year, and then it fell away. There is no just reason why the last Government should be accused of false pretences in this matter. It was unworthy of the Minister to select an isolated speech alleged to have been made by a man who denied having made it, and then to repeat it in this chamber. It would be easy to recall scores of statements made by honorable members opposite at the last election, such as the promise that if they were returned to power they would immediately find a job for everybody. The Minister should have followed the excellent example set by the honorable member for the Wimmera.
.- I do not intend to review the steps taken in recent years for the purpose of granting assistance to the wheat industry. We should let the dead past bury its dead, and concentrate on the present and the future. It seems appropriate that the first shot in this discussion should have come from the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. McClelland). I am reminded of the many fine efforts made on behalf of the wheatgrowers by the late Mr. P. G. Stewart, who represented that electorate for many years. The honorable member who has succeeded him has presented a good case in a commendable spirit. He expressed doubt whether the Government fully realized the position of the wheat industry. Many of us have made efforts privately to induce the Government to assist the industry, and from conversations that I have had with at least five members of the Ministry, I am confident that it is alive to the seriousness of the situation. The ex-Minister for Commerce (Mr. Hawker), who resigned from the Cabinet only last week, is himself a wheat-grower, and would, no doubt, have presented the case fully to his colleagues. It cannot be denied that the wheat farmers stand in great need. Some have asked, “What about the wool-growers, the fruit-growers, and the wine-growers ?” I point out, however, that for three years wheat farmers have experienced drought conditions and low prices. The honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) spoke of the losses of business men. Heavy losses, of course, have been experienced by men in all walks of life, but I doubt whether any section Las suffered greater loss than have the wheat-growers. I find myself in a difficult position this afternoon. Australia has a floating debt approaching £100,000,000. If a bounty is granted on wheat, it will have to be paid by the issue of further treasury-bills, unless a flour tax is resorted to. One does not desire to see further inflation, and yet the outstanding needs of the wheat-growers make prompt remedial action essential. I am making a public plea on the growers’ behalf. particularly those in the Mallee districts, and new areas. The promise has been made that earnest consideration will be given to the claims of the industry, and I trust that immediate action will be taken.
.- No subject of greater importance could be considered in this chamber than that raised by the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. McClelland). This is not merely a farmers’ matter; it is of concern to everybody in Australia. The wheat-growing industry is one of the chief sources of our national income. The farmers of Australia were asked by the last Government to produce more wheat, because the sale of that commodity in increased quantities on the world’s market would enhance our national credit. The farmers responded to the jail, but they suffered a loss of £20,000,000 in doing so. I blame the last Government, and in a smaller degree, the present Ministry, for having placed additional burdens on the primary producers, which have prevented a fall in their costs of production. I was greatly disappointed yesterday to note the unsympathetic attitude of the Government towards the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory), when he referred to the action of the Government in connexion with the glass industry. Honorable members should recognize that whatever industries may suffer, we must give first consideration to the wheat and wool industries. At the present time, 75 per cent, of the wheat-growers are practically insolvent, having suffered heavy losses foi two or three years in succession. Yet, under the fiscal policy of Australia, they carry a burden greater than that imposed on primary producers in any other country. Until the cost of production can be lowered, it is necessary to pay a bounty on wheat, or to accord the growers some other relief to compensate them for the heavy disadvantages under which the.v work. The interest they are paying on the money borrowed for the development of their farms is not much below the old rate, whereas wheat prices have collapsed; in fact, during the last year the price fell as low as it has been at any time since the sixteenth century.
– What became of the profits of the wheat-growers during the good years?
– The benefits that might have accrued to the farmer during the good years were taken from him by a fiscal policy which has led to centralization of population and industry. The cost of production was so increased that the margin of profit left to the grower was less in Australia than in any other country, and during the war, because of transport difficulties, the growers of the Commonwealth lost £120,000,000, in comparison with the prices realized by the wheat of other countries. Compare the prices which the Australian farmer has to pay for the implements of production in comparison with those paid by his rivals abroad -
These excessive costs must be removed if primary production is to be placed on a sound economic basis. The farmer cannot do the impossible. Is it not wiser to allow the export industries to flourish than to foster other industries by penalizing the primary producer? The importance of the export industries is realized by all sections, so why allow to batten upon them secondary industries that are not economically beneficial to Australia ? I repeat that 75 per cent, of our farmers are bankrupt, and to force them off the land and allow their properties to revert to large pastoral holdings is not. sound policy. Unless the Government takes prompt remedial action Australia will drift into economic chaos. The wool industry is in similar straits. About 95 .per cent, of the growers produce 50 per cent, of the wool, and they are producing under cost.
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- I appreciate the financial difficulties of the Government, but it must realize the urgency of this matter. It is unnecessary for me to labour the disabilities of the farmers and the need for doing everything possible to keep them on the land. One honorable member asked by interjection what the farmers had done with their profits while the prices of wheat were high. The wheat industry in Western Australia is of more recent growth than in the eastern States, and, in consequence, the cost of land development there has been high. In order to keep the wheat-growers in production, the Government ‘would be wise to promise a bounty on export. I do not desire that the farmers or any other section of the community should be continually approaching the Government for assistance, and I believe that great benefit to the wheat industry would result if the Commonwealth were to promote the use of fertilizers by offering a subsidy on their manufacture. The productivity of land would then be increased by probably 40 per cent. A subsidy of £2 a ton would lead to an enormous increase in the quantity of superphosphates manufactured, with a possible reduction in price, and not only would farmers use more fertilizer, but, owing to this enrichment, the land would be able to carry morestock. In several ways the production of natural wealth would be increased. I need not dwell at length upon the need for maintaining the export trade. We owe large sums of money overseas, and whatever fiscal policy we adopt we must continue to import certain commodities. If the farmer fails, the whole industrial fabric will collapse. The land industries must be kept going. During the last couple of years the primary producers have suffered enormous losses. In Western Australia, South Australia, the Mallee districts of Victoria and parts of the Riverina, not only are the farmers distressed, but traders and banks also are involved. I do not like having to ask the Government to bolster artificially any industry. I have always advocated that every industry should be selfsupporting; but the primary industries have been penalized by the concessions given to secondary production. Unfortunately, some honorable members will not admit that when the Commonwealth removes competition from abroad it gives the equivalent of a bounty to the manufacturer. This country would progress more soundly if all sections of the community were more self-reliant. Nevertheless, we must recognize the fact that there will be no market for the manufacturer unless the primary industries are kept in operation. I ask the Government to treat this matter as one of urgency. Within the next six weeks the crops will be harvested, and the farmers will want to know what they are to expect from the Government. I hope also that my proposal for the payment of a subsidy on the production of superphosphates will be favorably considered. Its adoption would, I believe, do more than anything else to increase the production of wealth from the soil.
.- Because I am a consistent protectionist I believe in assisting the wheat-grower as well as the manufacturer. But some honorable members who ask for the payment of a bounty on wheat are not ready to give protection or assistance in other ways to the secondary producer. I compliment the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. McClelland) upon his reasonable statement of the case for the wheat-grower. He is proving a worthy successor to the former representative of Wimmera, the late Mr. P. G. Stewart, who was for many years the foremost champion in this Parliament of the wheat-growers. While I was Acting Minister for Markets, I had opportunities for appreciating the circumstances of the wheat industry. Moreover, I reside in a wheat-producing district, and I recognize that many factors make difficult production at a profit. One of the chief burdens of the industry is the high price of land. Extensive areas have been acquired for wheat production at £10 and £11 per acre! The high rate of interest is another important factor in the cost of production, but it is frequently overlooked by those honorable members who seek to concentrate all blame upon Australia’s accepted policy of high protection.
I regret that the Assistant Minister (Mr. Perkins) accused the Scull inGovernment of false pretences in connexion with the promise of assistance to the wheat-growers. I attended several of the conferences of representatives of the wheat industry and, as Acting Minister for Markets, convened one of them. When the Scullin Government came into office there was an Australianwide agitation for an orderly marketing scheme, and every member of the Cabinet was keenly desirous of helping the wheat-growers. At that time we had to face an accumulated deficit of £5,000,000, and direct assistance from the Treasury was not easy. Owing to the world-wide depression there had been a calamitous fall in wheat prices, which were, at that time, lower than they had been for 36 years. The value of Australia’s wheat production in 1920-21 was £62,000,000, and in 1929-30 it had fallen to £20,000,000. This heavy decline in the national wealth had a detrimental effect upon employment and industry generally. The Federal Labour party favoured an Australian-wide marketing scheme and the formation of a Commonwealth wheat pool to co-operate with the State wheat boards, these bodies, controlled by the farmers, to fix an Australian price based on the cost of production.
My party has always stood for a price to the Australian wheat-growers, based on the cost of production. That is why the Scullin Government introduced the Wheat Marketing Bill. I was glad to hear the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. McClelland) declare that it was a bad thing for the wheat-growers of Australia when that bill was rejected by the Senate. That reminds me of a speech made by Mr. H. K. Nock, president of the Farmers and Settlers Association of New South Wales, and, incidentally, the present honorable member forRiverina. Speaking at the Narraburra branch of his association, Mr. Nock is reported as having said -
THE FARMERS PLEASED.
Appreciationof Action of Government.
Mr: H. K. Nock, president of the Farmers and Settlers Association of New South Wales, was the guest of Narraburra branch at a social function last night, when he was presented with a fountain pen.
In his speech he referred to the recent conference at Canberra. He remarked that farmers appreciated the Labour party’s action in calling together representatives of different States, so as to encourage proposals for a general wheat pool, though he thought the Government would have been justified in taking the risk of making the guarantee 5s. instead of 4s. a bushel. Owing to the parlous financial condition of the country, increased production was the only thing to save the position, but 4s. would not achieve that aim as far as the wheat-growers were concerned. He believed, however, if5s. were guaranteed, a million acres more would be placed under crop. In that way a large number of unemployed would get work, increased sums would be paid in taxation, and’ there would be more prosperity all round. He, as their president, had endeavoured to get the Government to make the guarantee for three years, but here again it was thought the risk was too great. By giving the farmers full control, the Government had gained their appreciation. Half the farmers in New South Wales were on their uppers, but with a guarantee of 5s. a bushel, they would cultivate more land.
That statement, published in the Melbourne Age of the 22nd February last, proves that the honorable member, in his capacity of president of that association, was much fairer than the present Acting Minister for Commerce (Mr. Perkins), for he gave the Labour party credit for its desire to do something to help our wheat-growers. So unfortunate is the position of our wheat industry that it demands the careful consideration of everybody who has the interest of his country at heart. I beseech the Government not to delay for twelve months before taking action to relieve the industry, but to act immediately. It would assist wheat-growers to obtain credit, and enable them to provide additional employment if they were assured of a better figure for the coming crop than that which now prevails.
I remind certain Country party members that their party had half the seats in a composite ministry for a period of eight years, yet they did not go so far as did the Federal Labour party in evolving an orderly marketing policy to assist Australian wheat-growers. Much has been said by the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) and the honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Prowse) regarding the extra cost to wheat- growers resulting from Australia’s protectionist policy. I remind those honorable members that they supported composite Nationalist-Country party Ministries which increased customs taxation from £27,000,000, in 1922, to £43,000,000 in 1926-27, and placed tariff imposts on fencing wire, barbed wire and wire netting, and also on iron and steel used to manufacture wire and wire netting.
We hear a good deal from representatives of the Country party about the necessity for an Australian price for wheat. That cannot be brought about unless we have sufficient Australian consumers, and it is impossible to increase their number unless we have a wellbalanced protectionist policy. In addition to helping tobacco-growers, wheat-growers, dairy farmers, producers of peanuts, onions, potatoes and other crops, such a policy must protect our secondary industries and enable them to provide employment. I believe that a majority of Country party representatives really desire to do the fair thing by all sections of primary producers, but I remind them that Senator Johnston, one of their number in another place, voted against the Wheat Marketing Bill, and, apparently, is unrepentant, for on the 25th July, 1930, he is reported in the Sydney Morning Herald, as having said -
The Wheat Marketing Bill was a socialistic measure based on the policy of the Labour party for State control of the means of production. I am glad that it was rejected.
Honorable members should endeavour to bring about unity in their own ranks. I know that if the honorable members for Wimmera (Mr. McClelland) and Riverina (Mr. Nock) had their way, their colleagues would not oppose a measure designed to help wheat-growers, the rejection of which had the condemnation of Victorian and all other wheat-growers in Australia. Honorable members opposite beseeched the Scullin Government to do something, and their request was complied with. In turn, I ask this Government to act speedily in this matter.
– I am glad, indeed, that the debate has not developed into a definite criticism or censure of the Government. For no speaker has yet offered any specific criticism of the Government’s action in connexion with the wheat industry. That indicates a healthy attitude, and is an admission by all honorable members that the Government has not failed in its duty towards the wheat and other rural industries.
The granting of a bounty on wheat, wool, or any other commodity, should be determined entirely by the price obtaining on the open market for that product. The attitude adopted by the Government with regard to the wheat industry is entirely justified by events. The honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Forde) urges that immediate action should be taken. I oppose that proposal strongly, and will advance strong reasons for so doing. About this time last year, the price of wheat was as follows: -
During that period, the Scullin Administration was devising means of assistance to our wheat-growers, but, despite the low price then prevailing for wheat, no definite relief was granted until November, 1931. In the circumstances, no opposition should be critical of the attitude of this Government towards the industry until a fairly definite idea is obtained as to what price will rule for the new season’s crop.
– I strove very bard to have that bounty paid for the previous year’s crop, which was grown in response to my appeal, but I failed.
– Our discussion should centre about what actually happened, and what was achieved by the honorable gentleman’s Government.
– An administration cannot always be judged on that basis.
– Perhaps not, but it is a reasonable attitude to adopt on this debate. Although the price of wheat ranged from1s. 6d. to 2s. a bushel during the period that I have named, no relief was granted to growers until November, when the Government gave a bounty of 4½d. a bushel.
– The honorable member is not fair in his presentation of the case.
I should correct him if he gave me the opportunity to do so.
– To-day, wheat is worth 2s. 9d. a bushel at country sidings, or about ls. a bushel higher than its value this time last year. Yet the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin) and other honorable members opposite want the Government immediately to grant a bounty for the new season’s production, irrespective of what its price will be. It is impossible, as yet,” to form an idea of that price. We must remember that a large portion of the old crop has been damaged by mice and is vermin infested. This has detrimentally affected its value. Therefore, we may confidently expect that there will be a definite increase in price when the new season’s wheat is marketed.
– That is a very unwise statement to make.
– I urge that we should consider all the possibilities of the case. We must remember that the winter wheat production of the United States of America this year was 4J 1,000,000 bushels, while in 1931 it amounted to 7S7,000,000 bushels, a drop of nearly 50 per cent. The International Institute of Agriculture, Rome, estimates that the wheat acreage sown this year in Europe, India, France, North Africa, and other European countries is lower by 7,000,000 acres than last year. We must also take into consideration the fact that during the past few months Russia has become an importing, instead of an exporting country, and is buying wheat from Great Britain and flour from Australia. The International Institute of Agriculture also estimates that there will be a decline in the Indian wheat yield this year of 7,000,000 bushels. The wheat industry is not the only rural industry in Australia. There is the wool industry, and it is estimated that a loss of £9,500,000 was made on last year’s clip. The Government cannot single out the wheat industry for a bounty irrespective altogether of the seasonal conditions, the extent of the crop, and the price which is likely to rule on the open market, without giving some consideration to the wool-growers, the citrus fruit-growers, the potato-growers, and other primary producers. The honorable member for
Capricornia (Mr. Forde) said that he favoured a bounty on citrus fruits.
– I said that I favoured an embargo.
– I apologize to the honorable member if I have misrepresented his remarks, but I feel sure that he said that he favoured a bounty on citrus fruits.
– The honorable member’s time has expired.
– I support the motion of the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. McClelland). The farmers of Australia are in a serious position, and iu spite of what the honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. John Lawson) has said, the Government has failed to realize the seriousness of the position. It has given the farmers some concessions, which they appreciate. But the farmers generally are anxious, nervous, and disappointed. Calculating the concessions granted by the remission of sales tax and primage duty, and averaging them over the aggregate crop of Australia, the farmers have received the benefit of a reduction in production costs equivalent to one-third of a penny per bushel. It is ridiculous to suggest that that benefit will save the farmers. As a gesture, we appreciate it; but we look to something’ more tangible which will restore the balance between primary and secondary industries. One of the greatest troubles in Australia to-day is the loss of the purchasing power of our export industries, and that has been brought about, not altogether because of seasons, but mainly because of the reduced overseas prices. That is a matter beyond our control. The primary producers have put their shoulders into the collar in an effort to stave off default in Australia, and, because of that, they are entitled to some consideration at the hands of this Government. It is very nice to have a balanced budget, but the balancing of a budget can be the result of a short-sighted policy. We must look ahead. Any farmer could have balanced his budget last year by selling his seed wheat and plant, but what about next year, and the years to come? The Government, in trying to balance its budget, is taking so much out of industry as to prevent it from continuing to produce on the same scale as before. We must have an honest government if we are to have a restoration of confidence; but, in addition, we must maintain the volume and value of our exports. An honest man cannot obtain credit or financial assistance from a bank unless the bank is satisfied that ho will be able to meet his commitments. Honesty alone will not save Australia. The maintenance of the volume and value of our exports is only possible by enabling the producers of our export commodities to break even. That will take a long time if they receive a benefit of only one-third of a penny per bushel each year. There is an obligation on the part of the Government to tide the producers over this period of stress. There should bc no postponement of the Government’s decision, because this is an urgent matter. Harvesting operations will commence in five weeks’ time, and, although the wheat bounty legislation was introduced as late as the 4th November last year, it was generally known long before that what were the intentions of the Government. Since I spoke at Temora a couple of years ago in respect of the prices ruling for wheat, and the need to assist the farmers, wheat costs generally are lower. Land values are lower, the interest rate is lower, and production costs have decreased somewhat. At the last Bathurst conference, it was estimated that the cost of wheat production was 4s. O-Jd. per bushel. With the reduction in labour costs on the farm and reduction in interest, it is safe to say that to-day’s average cost of working and cropping an acre of land, at any rate in New South Wales, is approximately 45s. With an average yield of 12 bushels, that works out at 3s. 9d. a bushel. The present country price for this season’s wheat is 2s. 8d. a bushel. In addition, new wheat is offering on the English market at 28s. a quarter. How can the farmers carry on under those conditions? No industry can long survive at a loss. Taking 3s. 9d. a bushel as the cost of production, and 2s. 8d. as the average price, there has during the last two years been a loss to the farmers of approximately £10,000,000 per annum, the average loss spread over 65,000 or 70,000 farmers, being £140 each per annum. In some instances, the farmers have had an actual cash loss, and in others, the farmers have got further into debt. It is of the utmost importance that this Government should give substantial assistance to the wheat producers.
I have dealt with the need of the industry, and I come now to its merits. In spite of the assistance of nature, there could not have been anything like the great export of wheat from. Australia which has occurred had it not been for the farmers putting their shoulders into the collar and redoubling their efforts to increase the acreage sown. The average acreage during the last three years was 16,000,000 acres, and with the prospective crop, the average yield will exceed 200,000,000 bushels. During the preceding four years, the average acreage was 13,300,000 acres, and the average yield 140,000,000 bushels. During the last three years, there has been a considerable increase in both acreage and yield, in spite of the fact that the farmers on the average lost on every acre sown. The wool-grower, by using skilful and scientific methods, tas increased his yield per sheep, and this year, it is expected that nearly 3,000,000 bales will be offered for sale. Butter exports have increased by 96 per cent., egg exports by 340 per cent., mutton exports by 63 per cent., lamb exports by 114 per cent., pork exports by 3,600 per cent, and apple exports by 190 per cent. Dairying seems to be the only industry that is paying and has established a system of control and price fixing for home consumption. The wheat producer could be assisted either by a direct bounty, or by an increase of the exchange rate. The Government could guarantee the Commonwealth Bank against any loss by establishing an exchange pool. If that were done, the cost of the assistance given to the export industries would be spread over the whole of the people of Australia. The decision of the Government should not be postponed. The bounty could be provided. The whole of the consumers of Australia could assist the wheat industry through the medium of a sales tax on flour, and I believe that arrangements could be made with the State Governments to co-operate in the introduction of such a tax.
– The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- I am pleased indeed that this motion is before the House. Honorable members, in discussing it, have indulged in no captious criticism of the Government, although an effort has been made, particularly by the honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. John Lawson), to introduce political colour into the discussion by criticizing the previous Government for allegedly not attempting to assist the wheat industry until the very last moment.
– I did nothing of the sort.
– The honorable member said that it was only at the last moment, in November 1931, that the Government really considered the position of the wheat-farmers.
– I said that the bill was assented to on the 4th November.
– The honorable member is merely quibbling. He entirely forgot to state that; directly the Scullin Government took office, a conference of those interested in the wheat industry was called, and as a. result, three or four attempts were made to assist the wheatfarmers. The honorable member, who represents a rural constituency, has put obstacles in the way of the efforts of the members of the Country party to assist the wheat industry. He spoke of other industries which, he said, were also in need of assistance. I submit that we should deal with one industry first. Manypeople engaged in the production of one of our principal export commodities are on the verge of collapse. Some of them are old farmers, and others pioneers. In Western Australia, most of the farmers are pioneers; they have gone on the land without a shilling, and have made good to some extent, with the assistance of the Industries Assistance Bank.
– The land was not dear in Western Australia.
– That is true. Many of the farmers in the pioneering stage lived practically on boiled wheat and treacle. They managed to get out of debt, hut circumstances then arose over which they had no control. The price’ of wheat overseas declined considerably. If we are to balance our budget in accordance with the Premiers plan, we must encourage our exporting industries so as to maintain a favorable trade balance. Our two staple industries are wool and. wheat.
– We also export butter..
– Our principal exports are wool and wheat, and we export’ butter to a less extent. The butter manufacturer is well provided for, thank* to the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson). The wheat-farmers are in a worse position than those engaged in any other Australian exporting industry. Although abundant harvests have been reaped in recent years, the farmers are worse off than ever they were. Unless an arrangement is made to assist them by the payment of a bounty, or by some other means1, this industry will be ruined. I hope that the Government will treat this subject as urgent. Unless assistance is given to farmers, the business people in our country towns, the workers who obtain employment in agricultural pursuits, and the whole of the settlers in our back country from Bourke to the hinterland of Western Australia will be ruined.
– I support the statements of other honorable members who have participated in this discussion that the wheat-growers of Australia must be helped if they are to continue in this industry. The assistance may be given by means of an alteration of the exchange rate, or by a bounty, or, perhaps, by some other means. I am of the opinion that it is far better for the Government to subsidize an industry which is keeping men in employment than to provide doles for the relief of unemployment. I do not intend to traverse the ground that has been covered by other honorable members in this discussion. I believe that it would be a good thing if a representative committee of honorable members were appointed to make a recommendation to the Government as to the best means of helping the farmers. Therefore I suggest that a committee consisting of the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. McClelland), the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory), the honorable member for Riverina (Mr. Nock), the honorable member for Grey (Mr.
McBride), the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Hawker), and the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. A. Green) be appointed to furnish a report upon the position of the wheat-growers to be presented to the Government at the earliest moment. Such a committee should be able to propound a scheme which would be acceptable to the farmers and the Government. A great deal has been said during this debate on the importance of the farming industry, and I believe that the prosperity of this country is very largely dependent upon the prosperity of the farmers. That our agricultural industry is on the brink of disaster cannot be denied. If this industry fails, many people who are now in employment will lose their work, and the plight of the country will be worse than ever it has been. I hope, therefore, that honorable members will support my amendment.
– The motion before the chair is “ that the House do now adjourn “, and upon that there can be no amendment.
.- I should not have participated in” this debate but for the way in which certain honorable members have sought to misrepresent the remarks of the honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. John Lawson). The honorable member was trying to point out that this Government is already considering what can be done to assist the farmers; but he has been accused of saying that the previous Government did nothing for the farmers until last November. I think it will be apparent to all honorable members that as that Government introduced a bill into this House during that month it must have given consideration to the subject for at least some time before then. I regret that the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. A. Green) who appealed to the House to consider this subject in a common-sense way should have failed to credit the honorable member for Macquarie with having done that very thing. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin) also went out of his way to adopt unfair tactics in discussing this subject.
– I must ask the honorable member for Barton (Mr. Lane’ to confine his remarks to the subject before the Chair.
– The Leader of Opposition drew attention to the actions of the the wheat-growers, and it was quite proper for the honorable member for Macquarie to describe to the House what this Government has done in that direction. As the honorable member fo» “Macquarie stated that the Scullin Government introduced a bill in November to provide assistance for the farmers, the Leader of the Opposition should credit us with sufficient common sense to infer that it had considered the matter a month or five weeks earlier. There is still ample time for this Government to do something to aid the farmers if it thinks it necessary to do so. There is no question but that our primary producers must be kept on the land ; but some honorable members who represent rural electorates have exaggerated the plight of the farmers. This was also done not so long ago when the position of the tobacco-growers was under consideration in this House. Some honorable members who visited Queensland after that discussion found that the tobacco-growers were quite satisfied with the attitude that this Government had adopted. As a matter of fact, the mau on the land, generally speaking, is of the opinion that this Government is quite as generous to him as was the Government in which a number of members of the Country party held office. This debate has shown clearly that honorable members of this party are just as concerned about the welfare of the farmers as are the members of the Country party. It has been admitted that the price of land has fallen. I made a statement yesterday that certain land was sold for £10 an acre, and objection was taken to it. Certain honorable members in the corner opposite said that I knew nothing about the subject. But this afternoon, it has been stated by members of the Country party that land at £10 an acre was an unfair charge upon production.
Motion (by Mr. Ward) put -
That the question be now put.
The House divided. (Mk. Speaker - Hon. G. H. Mackay.)
Majority . . . . 53
Question so resolved in the negative.
Debate interrupted under Standing Order 257b.
The following paper was presented: -
Wine Overseas Marketing Act - Fourth Annual Report of the Wine Overseas Marketing Board, for the year ended 30th June,1932, together with a statement by the Minister regarding the operation of the Act.
(Nos. 1 to 9) 1932.
Debate resumed from the 16th September (vide page 588), on motion by Mr. Lyons -
That the bills be now read a second time.
– I do not intend to speak at length on these bills, for I have had numerous opportunities in the past to deal with the matters raised in them. I have painful memories of the first eighteen sales tax bills that I introduced.
– I thought that the number was 27.
– We originally thought that there would have to be 36 bills, but the number was eventually reduced to nine assessment bills and nine rate bills. This was made possible by the capable work of officers of the Crown Law Department in conjunction with officers of the Taxation Department.
The sales tax was first imposed in 1930, to make up the loss of customs revenue that occurred when our trade balance was being adjusted. We were then losing about £14,000,000 in customs revenue. The sales tax is, like a customs duty, an indirect impost, and, undoubtedly, the burden of it falls mainly on the consumer. So far as I have studied the matter, in times of rising prices a charge slightly greater than the tax is passed on to the consumer, and in a time of falling prices, less than the amount of the tax is passed on, owing to the competition due to falling prices, and because a certain number of traders bear a portion of the cost. In normal times, the exact amount of the tax is passed on, no more and no less.
Ithas been stated recently, that the sales tax should be replaced by a turnover tax. The honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) submitted that proposal in a private member’s motion, and delivered a most interesting speech in support of it. I have had a number of interviews with traders who are interested in the turnover tax. They urge that a turnover tax should replace the sales tax, and they have made substantially the same claims for such a tax as those advanced by the honorable member for Balaclava. They say that the turnover tax would yield an equivalent amount of revenue, that it would be more equitable, and that the incidence of the tax would not be so heavy. My opinion is that, if the turnover tax would yield the same amount of revenue as the sales tax, it would necessarily be as heavy in its incidence. Of course, it might be that there would be a saving in the administrative cost of the tax, but that, I think, cannot be shown, although I am open to conviction on the subject. I would support the change from a sales tax to a turnover tax were I satisfied that the latter would accomplish what the honorable member for Balaclava has claimed for it, and I would certainly be glad to join in an investigation of the matter. I have, however, already considered the subject a good deal. My Government inquired into the matter, and was convinced that the sales tax was much less irksome to the public than the turnover tax in the production of a given amount of revenue. The turnover tax involves really the taxing of every sale effected. Some articles change hands, perhaps a dozen times; on an average articles change hands, perhaps, five or six times. It is remarkable how many transactions occur before an article passes into the hands of the consumer. A turnover tax would involve an impost at a given rate of interest on every transaction, and would thus become a multiple tax. The only way to test its effects would be to ascertain the experience of the various countries in which it has been applied. I agree that, in Europe, more countries have adopted the turnover than the sales tax. Apart from Australia, four leading countries have adopted the sales tax and seven have applied the turnover tax. A number of smaller countries have also chosen the latter method of taxing sales. The advantage of the sales tax is that it is applied once only. As I have said, the sales tax was imposed by the last Government as an emergency measure, to obtain revenue to compensate for the loss of customs revenue suffered in 1930. It was then predicted that it would be very costly to collect the tax. I was glad to hear the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) announce in his second-reading speech that the cost of collecting this tax compares very favorably with the cost of collecting other taxes in Australia, and that, I think, is largely due to the efficiency and competence of the Taxation Department. I commented on this when the original measure was submitted to the House, andI again pay a tribute to the Taxation Commissioner and his officers, and to the officials of the AttorneyGeneral’s Department who prepared for the imposition of th is tax. The Government was entering an entirely new field of taxation; neither the Commonwealth nor any State Parliament had had any experience of the operation of such taxation. We practically adopted the Canadian system, and a capable expert officer was kindly lent to us by the Canadian Government. Consequently this new venture was entered upon with much less embarrassment to trade and industry than had been expected. I do not suggest that the tax is regarded as a popular one; that would be too much to expect of any tax ; but there is no doubt that it provides a method forraising a great deal of revenue. Every expertwho has examined it, particularly those appointed by the League of Nations, has said that it has proved the most useful tax employed to rehabilitate and straighten out the finances of European countries during the trying years following upon the war. Germany was the first country to adopt the sales tax, and Fra nce followed in her footsteps.
Mr.Beasley. - Has Germany adopted the turnover tax?
– Germany first, adopted the sales tax, aud subsequently imposed the turnover tax. Other countries that have adopted the sales tax are France, Canada, and Czechoslovakia. The chief countries that have the turnover tax are Belgium, Italy, Hungary, Roumania, Russia, Austria, and Poland. I believe that a score of countries have adopted it at one time or another. For the first year of the operation of the sales tax in Australia, the revenue yielded by it amounted to £3,472,000, although it was estimated that about £5,000,000 would be obtained. The sharp drop in prices at that time prevented the realization of the amount of revenue anticipated. In the following year the tax was considerably increased, and the sum collected was more than double that obtained in the first year. Last year the tax yielded £8,425,000, and it is estimated to yield almost as large a sum this year, after allowing for exemptions. Therewas a considerable list of exemptions when the tax was passed. Basic foods, and many other articles, were exempted. Last year the list of exemptions was considerably increased. Close consideration was given by the last Government to many requests for exemptions. I believe that the Government was urged to grant an exemption in the case of nearly every article that is taxed; but it went carefully into the whole matter, and took the view that when the financial positionof Australia would permit, it, would be more equitable to reduce the rate of the tax than to add to the list of exemptions. There are items taxed today in regard to which there is just as strong a claim to a reduction as there is with respect to any item in the schedule of exemptions proposed in this bill. If the financial position of Australia permitted, I would strongly favour a reduction of the rate of tax, which I confess frankly is a heavy, though an unavoidable, ona. When the rate was increased to the present amount, it was done in furtherance of the plan of financial rehabilitation. When the emergency plan was adopted last year, there was a deficit of £20,000,000 to be faced. On that occasion, the rate of sales tax was more than doubled. Income taxation was also increased. The last Government had to make reductions in the income of various sections of the community in order to straighten out the country’s finances. Sales tax at the existing rates on the items now being taxed was imposed as part of the plan of general sacrifice, in order to assist in the balancing of the budget.
A question which we must ask now is, “ Do our finances permit of any reduction of the sales tax ? Apart from amendments to the existing law for the adjustment of anomalies or the rectification of obvious injustices, do the finances warrant any reduction of taxation? It is very easy for those who are in Opposition, and have not responsibilities, to echo the popular cry Reduce taxation “ ; but has a stage been reached when that demand oan be acceded to? I adopted an unpopular attitude in 1927-28 when the Bruce-Page Government remitted in one year £1,800,000 worth of income and land taxation while simultaneously borrowing overseas. I said that although the Commonwealth finances showed a surplus, the country could not afford to reduce taxation and at the same time pile up the public debt abroad, increasing the annual interest bill, and releasing a flood of imports. The day would come, I prophesied, when in the midst of depression we would be increasing taxation, whereas while we had a surplus the wiser policy would be to reduce the overseas debt. The policy I advocated was not popular, but honorable members will admit, in the light of later experience, that it is a thousand pities it was not adopted, for nothing stays the wastefulness of a community like taxation in times of prosperity if the proceeds are used for the reduction of the public debt,, so that the burden of interest will pressless heavily when lean years corned The present is not a time of prosperity,, and I. would like to reduce taxation; but can the country alford to do that? The Attorney-General (Mr. Latham), speaking on the Financial Emergency Bill, questioned my sense of responsibility, and challenged those who objected to the reductions of pensions, maternity allowance, and salaries, to indicate how otherwise the Commonwealth could finance its requirements. He accused rue of avoiding a problem of real significance, and merely trusting to luck. That was the most unfair criticism uttered during the debate, because if there was one thing I emphasized when we were examining the need for the reduction of social services and salaries, it was that this drastic step was not necessary while the Government was remitting £1,200,000 of taxation. That was a clear indication of where the Government could get the funds that it needed. I stressed several times that the rehabilitation plan should be departed from only when changes could be made equitably and in the same ratio as that in which the burdens had been imposed. I see no distinction between a tax and a cut in wages and pensions. Whether a man’s income be reduced by one means or the other, the effect is the same; both are forms of taxation. The suggestion fh.at the cutting of salaries and pensions is economy, and that taxation is not, is illogical. The gap to be filled by the methods which the Government was adopting was created by its remission of £1,200,000 of taxation.
In answer to our contention that there was no need to ‘reduce old-age pensions, the maternity allowance, and salaries, the Attorney-General drew attention to the accumulated deficit of £17,000,000, and added that if the Commonwealth had to pay interest on the overseas war debt the deficit in this financial year would amount to £7,631,000. These alarms which were raised on behalf of the Government to justify the reduction of pensions, are equally applicable to the reduction of taxation. However popular the advocacy of reduced taxation might be—and I would be glad if reduction were possible, because taxation is exceedingly high - I ask myself as a responsible member how we can justify the immediate remission of taxation and the promise of further remissions while at the same time cutting social services and salaries? Already the Government has promised further remissions of land tax and the super tax on incomes. Apparently, Ministers are optimistic when they are considering taxation, but they descend to the depths of depression when they are considering the income of the poorer sections of the community.
– The remissions of taxation reduce the cost of production.
– A little too much stress lias been laid on the virtue of reducing the cost of production. Even members of the Country party who have stressed that need in and out of season are at last beginning to realize that we have gone too far in that direction, because reduced costs of production involve reduced purchasing power. I do not deny that, in a period of depression, when the national income has been seriously diminished, costs have to be cut whether we like it or not; wc cannot pay out what we have not got. But to adopt, as a definite economic policy, continual reduction instead of the uplifting of prices, is to deny economic facts and ignore the lessons which the whole world should have learned during the last twelve months. None of us can be dogmatic in regard to economic principles, but leading economists, financiers and publicists throughout, the world are beginning to realize that the doctrine of reduced cost of production, through the lowering of wages and prices, is leading us into depths of depression from which Ave shall have difficulty in rising. We should now advocate the raising of prices. If price levels were normal I would not advocate anything in the nature of inflation; but I am sternly opposed to the policy of continual deflation.
When Ave were discussing the reduction of social services and salaries, the danger of the accumulated deficit Avas kept before our mind. But the accumulated deficit has been funded, and the Premiers plan did not contemplate that it should be reduced while the depression lasted. As a matter of fact, when I discussed this matter with bankers and other experts last year, the opinion Avas held that governments should aim at achieving budgetary equilibrium at the end of three years, and should then turn their attention to the reduction of the deficit that had accumulated to the end of June of last year. That Avas the best that Ave thought we could manage. Fortunately, the Commonwealth has done a little better than Avas anticipated, although it has been aided in unexpected ways. The accumulated deficit is part of the national indebtedness, and to attempt to reduce it at this stage would be to place too great a load on our people. Having funded the accumulated deficit, our duty is to strive for a manageable deficit in the current financial year, and to balance the budget at the end of three years. Therefore, the emphasis placed on the accumulated deficit by Ministers and other honorable members to justify the reduction of pensions, Avas in the nature of special pleading.
Some exception was taken to my statement that the budgetary crisis is past. I repeat that. The economic crisis is still with us, as the extent of unemployment and the difficulties of the farming community prove, but the budgetary position is not nearly so acute a3 it Avas a year ago. Nevertheless, supporters of the Government’s policy emphasized the gravity of the budgetary position in answer to our objection to the cuts in social services and salaries. The Government must accept responsibility for the policy it has adopted. It is lifting taxation from one section of the community and, by cuts of pensions, allowances and salaries, is increasing it on another.
– The right honorable member’s Government had to do that too.
– -No. My Government called for sacrifices by all sections. It cut pensions, but it also increased taxation. The honorable member cannot accuse my Government of having cut deeply into the incomes of the poorer sections of the community, and allowed to go free those people Who we re better able to pay. I do not say that the primary producers are a rich section, but their necessity is not comparable with that of the old-age pensioner.
– They are much worse off.
– A primary producer who is worse off than the pensioner will not be buying any machinery, and, therefore, he will receive no benefit from the proposed remission of sales tax.
I have every sympathy for those on the land, who are in a position of dire poverty, but I know of none of them able to buy machinery this year, therefore this remission of sales tax will not assist them. “When my Government refused to apply the sales tax to the products of the farmer it was told by the leader of the Country party that that conferred no advantage. The long list of exemptions that is now held out to primary producers will benefit only the few who are in a position to buy the articles specified. What the farmer needs is a better price for his product.
The Government is endeavouring to justify the remission of taxation in one direction and the imposition of additional burdens in another. That would be right if it could be shown that those who are to be further laden were in a position to bear the burden. The Government’s case is very week indeed when it resorts to balancing between the ability to pay of primary producers on the one hand and pensioners on the other. Personally, I should welcome an all-round reduction of taxation, and I shall be glad when it is possible to retrace the steps taken last year and, in the just and equitable manner then employed, restore wages and allowances. I protest against the Government using the argument of the seriousness of its financial position to justify a cut in pensions, at the same time making a reduction of taxation. However, it is for the Government to take the responsibility.
– I realize that these amending bills are to remove certain anomalies in existing legislation, and to extend the present list of exemptions. The Government is to bc commended for its action, for the result will be to make the operation of the Sales Tax Act less irksome. I appreciate the great relief that will be given to primary producers and others by these further exemptions. “While I welcome these measures, I should be even more pleased if they were bills to repeal the principal act. However, I realize that the Government cannot afford to lose revenue at this juncture, and that my hope is beyond the realm of practicability. These bills can be dealt with best in committee, and I shall limit my remarks on the second reading to directing attention to anomalies that still exist. I am loath to seek a further extension of the list of exemptions, but I feel compelled to put forward two items for consideration. One is agricultural lime, which plays a very important part in primary production. Recognizing how essential it is to efficient primary production, the Tasmanian legislation classifies agricultural lime as a fertilizer. Unfortunately, that is not the case under Commonwealth regulations. If it were, agricultural lime would be exempt from the sales tax, which exempts fertilizers I urge the Government to rectify that anomaly by placing on the exempt list this necessary for primary producers.
Speaking generally, all primary produce and uncooked meat salted meat, fish, game and poultry are exempt from the operation of the sales tax. This bill further includes fish that has undergone processing. Clause 5 reads -
For the purpose of paragraph (g) of subsection ( 1 ) of this section, the form, naturi* or condition of crustacean marine animals shall be deemed not to have been altered by boiling, and the form, nature or condition of fish shall be deemed not to have been altered by smoking or drying, if the Commissioner is satisfied that the boiling, smoking, or drying was necessary to enable those products to be transported from the place where they were originally derived to another place for sale in a wholesome condition by the person who so derived them or by a person who purchased them from that person
I suggest that its scope should be enlarged t,n include mutton birds. In order to market mutton birds, it is necessary to salt- them, as with beef and other perishable commodities, and the department rules that their nature is thus altered, and they become liable to sales tax. It is claimed by the department that they do not come under the category poultry, game, fish or meat. I ask what sort of commodity is the mutton bird? The department rules that though Crustacea may be boiled, their nature is not altered. Similarly with fish that is smoked or dried.
I contend that a mutton bird is a species of game, and should be exempt from the operation of sales tax. The unfortunate packer is forced to pay that tax on the salt that he uses to preserve the birds, and again on the finished article. That is a serious injustice to those engaged in the industry. It is all very well for the department to say that the catchers of mutton birds do not pay a sales tax, that that is done only by the wholesale merchants. Superficially, that may appear correct, but honorable members are aware that there is a way of placing these taxes back on the producer, and I assure them that, in this instance, it comes back on the catchers. The amount involved does not exceed £100 per annum - a paltry sum to the Government, but a considerable one to the struggling people who are engaged in the industry. During the past two years the price of mutton birds has dropped 50 per cent., and, added to this taxation, that makes their position a difficult one. Those engaged in muttonbirding on Flinders Island do not earn more than £1 a week, out of which they have to pay sales tax twice, in addition to wharfage, freight, and stacking charges. Tasmania n State officials are familiar with local conditions, and they admit that mutton birds should be exempt from sales tax. Unfortunately, head office, which apparently does not know a mutton bird from a steer, insists upon having its pound of flesh and in mulcting the unfortunates engaged in the industry. I urge the Government to give consideration to the two proposals I have put forward. I should also like to see foodstuffs exempted generally from the operations of the sales tax.
.- I was hoping that the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin) would say something regarding sales taxation, also concerning a turnover tax. Instead, the right honorable gentleman dealt with general financial matters. If we were all able to do that, we could probably show that one tax was right, and another wrong, and offer other suggestions with reference to finance generally.
As the Leader of the Opposition said, this is not the time to get rid of taxes.
I take it that the extra exemptions now allowed by the Government are accepted rather in the national interest than as a relief to any particular section. In bad times there are two ways of trying to right matters. One is to endeavour to cut expenses without interfering with efficiency. The other, the correct means, sponsored by proper business methods, is to increase turnover. The turnover of this country being primary products, the Government, in its wisdom, considers that the best way to increase that turnover is by taking off costs which press harshly on those who produce for export, and thus add to our national wealth. For that reason, I am glad that the Government has introduced into this measure a considerable number of exemptions from the sales tax. There are others, of course, that we might be able to suggest, but when we are faced with such a considerable list we feel ashamed to ask for any further exemptions. We are thankful for what we receive, and I am sure that the country generally is also thankful for this considerable list of exemptions from the sales tax.
This tax has caused more annoyance to business men than any other tax. People who do not come into contact with it have no idea of the trouble and worry that it inflicts on the business community. It is not the amount of the tax, but the dependence on rulings and regulations and the general ambiguity of the acts that cause trouble to the wholesalers. One of the things which the retailers complain about is the application of the Sales Tax Act to themselves, because they happen to sell an article at lower than the retail price to other shopkeepers who may have short supplies, and thus constitute themselves “wholesalers.” For instance, a large store in a town is used frequently by smaller shops in that town for the purpose of buying any particular article of which they happen to run short, and because the large storekeeper sells at a reduced price, generally at a trade discount of 10 per cent., he becomes a wholesaler under the act. A builder, carpenter, or blacksmith may go to the store and buy a pound of nails, or any other article which he uses in the course of his business. He buys only small quantities locally, because any large quantities that he requires are purchased from the city wholesale houses. The retailer, when he makes such a sale sit a discount, has to pay sales tax upon it. He has to register, and to pay sales tax on all articles which he sells in a wholesale way, and if the tax on any article has already been paid he’ applies for a refund. I have with me a copy of an invoice from a country store. It contains a list of 45 items. The storekeeper has to pay sales tax on the difference between the cost of the article to him and the price at which it is sold. This means that after the invoice is made out, instead of simply posting it on, it is given to the head of the department concerned who has to calculate the sales tax on, say, a pound pf nails, including the cost of railage from Brisbane to the town in question. How can any one work out the railage on a pound of nails? It cannot be done. Considerable trouble is experienced in producing evidence to show that sales tax has already been paid on certain items. This’ particular’ storekeeper has informed me that the extra labour in working out returns on which he pays a sales tax of £40, costs about £80 The extra labour is costing him twice as much as the tax. There should be some method under which these storekeepers would not be treated as wholesalers. If the storekeeper sells a pound of nails; not to the builder or blacksmith, but to a private person, no tax is levied, but just because he happens to sell an article in a wholesale way, he is put to the inconvenience of supplying’ returns involving considerable labour. The storekeeper is penalized just because he charges a reduced price to local tradespeople in order to keep business in the town.
– What is the discount?
– It is 10 per cent., and some times more, because, if the builder wants a considerable quantity of material the storekeeper has to cut his price otherwise the builder will order his requirements from Brisbane. Another complaint of the larger businesses is that they have to pay sales tax on small things such as the printing of window tickets which they print themselves. If they have a little machine which prints their circulars, not a Boneo machine, which is exempt, they have to pay a sales tax on its product. After the type is set up they have to take the work to the local printer and ask him to assess its value. It is treated as a manufacture, and sales tax has to be paid upon it. No tax causes so much trouble to business people as the sales tax. They do not object to its payment, because they understand that the tax is necessary in order to improve Australia’s financial position. But it would pay many of these people to forward to the department a cheque for double the amount that they paid the previous year, provided that they were not put. to the expense of making out a return.
No other measure on our statutebook places so much responsibility upon the . Commissioner for Taxation in respect of the explanation of the various provisions of the act. We understand exactly the application of the Income Tax Act or the Land Tax Act but no one knows by looking at the Sales Tax Act to what it applies. The Commissioner has to be approached for an explanation. It Ls a. wonder to me how he can get through his work. A person may think that the act means something when it really means quite the opposite. ‘ The people affected by the act depend entirely upon rulings. It is two years ago since the department promised to issue a booklet dealing with the rulings, but it has not yet been published. The business. people do not know where, they stand. Many amendments,, which I have not yet had time to read, have, been placed before us. It is probable that, had I read those amendments, I should not now be making this speech. It is probable that many of the anomalies to which I have referred are being rectified by these amendments. An act of Parliament is supposed to express the intention of Parliament, but the Sales Tax Act does not do that. Things have been done under this legislation which Parliament never intended when it passed the act. We have reached the stage when business people would be prepared to pay more so long as they could get rid of the tax. They suggest that a turnover tax or something similar should be substituted. When iu Brisbane and Sydney over the week-end, I made inquiries of the advocates of the turnover tax, but I could get no information from them as to its exact working. A turnover tax, which would give the Government the same revenue as the sales tax yields, would be an immense boon, because it would save the business people a tremendous amount of trouble. If the turnover tax were suitable, the Government would be foolish not to adopt it. I should be prepared to advocate such a tax provided that I was convinced that it would be effective.
– The honorable member should have been in the House the other night.
– I listened carefully to the speech of the honorable member, and 1 did not hear anything new. I suggest that the Government take action similar to that ‘taken in regard to the income tax. It has already appointed a royal commissioner, and his job is to endeavour to correct anomalies in income taxation, and to make things easier for the taxpayer in respect of the preparation of his returns and the understanding of the act. I know from my own experience and from what my friends in the profession have told me, that the whole of our sales taxation acts could be simplified, and made understandable to any intelligent person. At present we do not know where the taxpayer stands. This work of simplification could be carried out by expert accountants outside. Once these anomalies and pinpricks have been removed. the people will pay their taxes with better grace, because they will not be compelled to keep special books and records to enable them to compile their returns. There are several proposed amendments to the act with which I agree, and others with which I disagree. I do not agree with some of the amendments relating to definitions. Many things were done under the act by regulation about which there were doubts, and from the point of view of equity, it looked as if the doubts were in favour of the taxpayer. These doubts are now being settled by leaving no doubt at all that the taxpayer is liable. I regret that the act has been tightened up, because this will inflict hardship. It would have been better to broaden the act so that the people outside could easily understand its provisions. Take, for instance, the definition of manufacturer. It is now being definitely laid down that assembling is manufacture. The High Court has said that assembling is not manufacture, but this bill says that it is manufacture. Therefore, any one who assembles part3 becomes a manufacturer. Take an extreme case. A person may purchase a lawn mower and so as to carry it conveniently take the handle off in the shop.When he assembles the machine at home he becomes a manufacturer. Of course this provision is intended to apply to big machinery, but if a man buys a machine at the list price, after having seen a picture of it in a catalogue, he does not want to incur heavy expense in addition to the purchasing price. If he buys the machine abroad it must be taken to pieces for transport and reassembled where it is to operate, and the mau who re-assembles it becomes, under these provisions, a manufacturer, who must pay tax. Otherwise, this amendment does not mean anything. Quite definitely the amended definition of “ manufacture “ makes assembling manufacturing. These provisions could be simplified. If a practical man were consulted, be could draft a definition which would be clear to ordinary persons, and would not leave to the department the duty of determining what is and what is not manufacturing. The onus of such a decision should not rest upon the Taxation Commissioner, when a clear definition could be easily framed. All such definitions should appear in the act, and not be left for later rulings. It is clear that an agent who sells a machine does not complete his sale until the machine is erected in the place where it is to operate, yet the erection of the machine makes the agent a manufacturer. ‘ If a private person buys a machine direct from the manufacturer abroad and assembles it himself, he, under this definition, becomes a manufacturer.
The new definition which has been inserted of “ sale of goods by retail “ might be all right when applied to ordinary goods, but would be useless when applied to certain other classes of goods, such as patented articles, wireless sets and the like. It is clearly impossible to fix the value of one wireless set, which is said to beworth £30, on the basis of another which is said to be worth £25. That remark also applies to many other proprietary articles. Consequently, this definition also requires careful examination. The more one examines these provisions the more he realizes the necessity for the setting up of a committee of experts to determine these matters. A committee is required which will look at the questions placed before it not from the point of view of the Government or that of officials who have to interpret what they believe to be the intention of an act of Parliament, but from that of the ordinary citizen.
In my opinion the proposed amendment of section 4 of the principal act, requiring a person to remain registered, is entirely unnecessary.
One of the most objectionable of these new provisions - and it has not been referred to, so far as I know, in any of the notes that have been issued - reads as follows: -
For the purposes of this act a person shall be deemed to have sold goods if, in the performance of any contract under which he has received, or is entitled to receive, valuable consideration, he supplies goods the property in which (whether as goods or in some other form) passes, under the terms of the contract, to some other person.
There is no doubt that that is intended to apply to the formation of companies. A good deal of trouble has been caused to chambers of commerce and business people, as well as private individuals, over the application of sales tax to such transactions as are referred to in that provision. I have had brought under my notice by the client of a partner of mine, the case of a Brisbane business man who was conducting a chain works. In the ordinary process of development he desired to incorporate himself, so that instead of being “Tom Jones”, the firm would become “ Tom Jones Limited “. After the preliminary steps had been taken in this matter, the value of the plant was assessed, and a claim was made for sales taxation. That was twelve months ago, but nothing has been paid. The journal entry of this transaction reads as follows: -
Being issue of 8262 full-paid shares, as per agreement and Memorandum of Association.
A ruling that was issued gave relief when contracts were worded so as to exclude specific reference to a monetary consideration, even though the consideration were in the form of shares ; but if the amendment now introduced is agreed to even that limited ruling will become absolutely null and void. I ask the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin), who introduced the first sales tax bill into this Parliament, whether it was the intention of Parliament that such a transaction should be liable to sales taxation. Personally, I do not think that there was any such intention. The Government should go very carefully into this aspect of the subject. The imposition of sales taxation in the circumstances which I have outlined is hindering the formation of companies, and the progress of business, and is preventing the merging and reconstructing of companies. This dragnet clause has other objectionable features. It is applicable, for instance, to goodwill. Everybody knows that, when a business changes hands, goodwill is a consideration. Acts of Parliament are supposed to’ express the intention of Parliament, but I do not for a moment, believe that it was the intention of Parliament that considerations for goodwill should be taxable. The intention of Parliament should be stated so clearly that ordinary citizens would understand it. The provision may also be held to include mortgages, and it would certainly cover the buying of motor cars on terms. We know very well that, when a motor car is bought on terms, the seller gets the cash immediately, because he lodges the bills of his customer with a financial company, which really becomes the legal owner of the car. In such circumstances the financial house could be obliged to pay taxation, although the transaction would not be a sale.
There is no doubt whatever that double taxation occurs under our sales tax measures. In the case of a photographer, for instance, the film which forms the basis of his finished article is taxed, because it is not actually a part of the finished article. The use of the phrase “ not wrought into “ causes difficulty. In this connexion, a peculiar position arises in regard to goods manufactured for export. While such goods are exempt under the act, part of thom ia taxable under the regulations. Take, for example, the1 position in relation to such important exports as wool tops, carbonized wool, and scoured wools. The tax imposed on soaps ©ils, soda ash, caustic soda, and other goods used in the course of manufacture is a heavy burden on thu exporter whom the act is intended to encourage by the exemption of exported goods. I know that there may be a difficulty in regard to the division of expenditure, for it is said that the next request will be to exempt the exporter from paying tax on stationery and office costs. No one. would dream of. asking that office costs should be regarded as deductions; but a manufacturer for export should not pay when goods are entirely changed in the course of manufacture? I hope that the Government will do its best to extend the exemptions to avoid difficulties of the kind I have referred to, which are constantly arising.
I wish now to refer briefly to the subject of objections and appeals. There is no provision in. this legislation for any objection except on the sale value of goods. This aspect of sales taxation is being, continually brought under my notice; and bitter complaint is made that a taxpayer’s only right of objection under the act is against the sale value of goods as declared by the act or decided by the Commissioner. It is considered that there should be a right of objection and appeal against any decision or determination of the Commissioner. Under- o,ur income and land taxation law, there is a right of appeal, and no reason can be advanced why there should not be a similar right of appeal under this legislation. We have a board of review to hear other taxation appeals, and the same body could hear appeals against this taxation.
I should like to know why there is need for a taxpayer to enter into a bond in regard to sales taxation. We require no such security from the taxpayer in regard to the payment of his income or land taxation, and we should not require one in regard to the payment of sales taxation. The presence of this provision in the act has increased the business of many insurance companies, for it has forced people to take out bonds.
I shall reserve any other remarks, that I have to make, until the committee stage of the bill is reached, and will content myself at the moment with reiterating my statement that this taxation has caused extreme annoyance and inconvenience in business circles. Nine-tenths of the trouble is due to the failure of Parliament to frame a measure which can be easily understood by the business community.
.- The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin) referred to the sales tax as an emergency measure, but it seems- to me that this is an old man of the sea that will be found on our shoulders for many years to come. Numerous other countries have passed sales tax measures, but I cannot remember one which has repealed them. Sales taxation is an effective means of revenue collection, and for that reason one would be rash to forecast its discontinuance in the near future. Our sales tax legislation was based upon Canada’s ten years’ experience. The Canadian legislation, in turn, was based upon a critical examination’ of the sales tax measures of numerous other countries, notably those of Europe In Prance and Germany sales taxation, or turnover taxation, provides a substantial proportion of the revenue. About 20 per cent, of the revenue of France is collected by this means. In 1930-31, the tax amounted to about 17 per cent, of the total revenue of the Commonwealth, apart from that of the post office. Bearing in mind the volume of experience that has been taken into consideration in framing our sales tax legislation, one is naturally hesitant, in recommending proposals for reform. As the cost of collection is only just over 1 per cent, of the revenue, the tax is obviously a good one from the point of view of administration; but it is a bad one in regard to the annoyance it causes and the impossibility of implementing it equitably. There is also the consideration that it applies equally to rich and poor, which is unfair. It seems, however, that from the budgetary point of view, for many years wo shall probably be unable to do without a sales tax in some form or other. Like every other tax, it resembles a postage stamp, in that it is much more easily put on than taken off.
When one goes into figures to ascertain how much of our production is subject to the sales tax, it is seen to be less than would at first be thought. Our recorded production, primary and secondary, plus our imports for 1930-31, is valued at about £385,000,000, whereas sales tax was collected on £177,000,000 only. Therefore, a. considerable proportion of our commercial transactions is exempted from this tax. Tax is paid now on less than half
Df our recorded production, and probably on not more than one-third of our total production. It is impossible, because of its nature, to apply the sales tax fairly to all. Most honorable members know the difficulties of administering the sales tax as between the wholesaler and the large retailer. Some of the provisions of the bills under discussion are designed to rectify the worse defects.
The Government is apparently actuated by two principles. It insists that nobody who should legitimately be taxed shall escape, and that the tax shall be paid only once. This raises an important question. What is the best point in the chain of production at which the tax should be imposed? Sales tax can be collected at the source of production, or, in the case of imports, at the Customs House, or from the consumer. If it is collected at the source, or at the Customs House, it becomes practically a turn-over tax- or an excise duty. The tax is cheaper to collect at the source, but when so collected produces less revenue, because the closer to the source of production, the less the value of the goods. In order to obtain the. same revenue it has been estimated that if we collected the tax at the source or at the Customs House, the rate, instead of 6 per cent., would have to be about 10 per cent. By collecting as closely as possible to the consumer, the maximum amount of revenue is obtained, but also the greatest amount of irritation is occasioned. With the latter method, however, we avoid the clanger of what the officials call “ pyramiding”, that is, of imposing the tax more than once. In actual practice, although not in theory, the tax is collected in i respect of various classes of goods, at various points in the chain, at which it will bring the maximum amount of revenue with the least dislocation - bearing in mind the two principles of letting none legitimately escape, and collecting the tax once only on every article.
Much research into this subject has been made by the officers of the Taxation Department, and I do not think that any. of us is prepared to suggest, offhand, a radical alteration of the tax. The people are reasonably used to the present methods, little as they like them, and I, for one, am not able to agree with those who suggest the substitution of the turnover tax. I have been unable to get anybody to explain just what the change would be. When a tax of this nature is collected far back in the chain of production, it is practically a turnover tax, and if collected close to the consumer, it becomes a sales tax. I suggest that when we can afford to collect less revenue by means of this tax, it might be worth while going more fully than has been possible up to the present time into the possibility of collecting the tax further back. Admittedly, that cannot be done now, and it may not be possible even in the future, unless we are prepared to accept £3,000;000 or £4,000,000 in revenue from this source instead of £8,250,000. In that case, the tax would be less unpopular, cheaper to collect, and simpler to administer generally.
In trying to get at the figures that this lax represents, one is brought into contact with the difficulties inherent in our method of collecting our production statistics. I cannot see how the Government could calculate, with precision, just what amount of revenue will be lost as the result of the proposed exemptions. I have discussed this matter with the officials concerned, and have seen the figures on. which their calculations are based. It would, I think, be necessary to take an intensive course of thoughtreading to arrive at an estimate likely to be within 25 per cent, of the probable answer. In my opinion the Government stands a fair chance of losing considerably more revenue than is expected.
If I am not raising a matter entirely irrelevant to the bill, I would like to draw attention to the present method of collecting our production statistics. In dealing with tariff matters in particular one finds our production statistics to be most inadequate, and the disability is also a serious one in connexion with such a matter as the sales tax. Our production statistics are obtained from the State officials by the Commonwealth Statistician. They are invariably nearly twelve months out of date, and the classification is far from being sufficiently detailed. I realize that the matter has been given consideration, and that a conference between State and Federal authorities takes place every two years in an effort to improve the position; but, so far as I know, the questions of greater uniformity, more detailed subdivision, and greater speed have not been seriously considered by the Governments concerned. I commend this subject to the Government as one worthy of investigation and reform.
The honorable member for Bass (Mr. Guy) spoke about agricultural lime. I endorse his plea for the reconsideration of the request that that commodity be exempted from the sales tax. It is not classified as a fertilizer, because it does not contain one of the three recognized forms of plant food; but, on the other hand, it is used extensively in Victoria and most of the other States, particularly Tasmania, for the sweetening of the soil, and I maintain that the plea that it is not a fertilizer is largely an academic one. The official objection to the request is that it is impossible to distinguish agricultural lime from builders’ lime. If we specified some large percentage, say, 25 per cent, of unburn t lime in the mixture, we should probably not have great difficulty in distinguishing between the two kinds of lime, because a product containing a fair percentage of unburnt lime could not be used for building.
– The bills under consideration contain so many anomalies that the Parliament is justified in reviewing them, although a number >of the anomalies that are of a technical nature can safely be left to the Attorney-General (Mr. Latham) and the law officers. The department having had nearly a year’s experience of the sales tax, there should be no difficulty in rectifying anomalies of the latter class. When in normal times it is possible for a government to remit taxation, everybody is pleased ; but the honorable member for Corio (Mr. Casey) was correct in suggesting that once a tax is imposed, it cannot easily be removed, particularly when it produces a considerable amount of revenue. There is a danger, however, of succeeding governments, by a process of elimination, making a measure, which was once just in its incidence, become more and more a tax of a class nature. I have no desire to be antagonistic to the Government’s proposals; but I suggest that these bills discriminate between different classes of taxpayers. On going through the list of exemptions now proposed, one cannot escape the conclusion that the Government has concentrated its attention upon giving relief to one section of the community only. I do not suggest that that section is not entitled to assistance. I will go further, and say that the proposed exemptions come under the heading of tools of trade, and that there are other articles and commodities besides those mentioned in the bills, which could just as fairly be exempted from the tax. In my opinion, all tools of trade, and even industrial equipment, should be exempted. While the proposed remissions of tax should help to revive industry, the degree of relief sought under this measure cannot make any noticeable improvement in the present economic position of Australia. My objection to these bills, if I have any, is that the principle involved is fundamentally unjust, because it sets aside the teachings of the most widely recognized economists, who have always pointed out that, in imposing taxation, governments should be careful to spread the burden as uniformly as possible over the community as a whole, the incidence of the taxation being such that the heaviest, load is placed upon the shoulders of those most able to bear it. Nobody can truthfully contend that that policy has been followed by the present Government in regard to these bills. It has thrown a sound principle to the winds, and while relieving one section, has imposed further burdens on other sections of the people.
Sitting suspended from 6.15 to 8 p.m.
– My complaint is, not that one section of the people will be relieved of taxation, but that the effect of this limited relief will be to impose further hardships on the remainder of the people who have to continue to pay. i have said several times, and I am more than ever convinced, that the only way to restore industry is by increasing prices. This measure will increase prices, but in the wrong way and at the expense of those who will continue to pay the sales tax, and they, in the last analysis, will be the actual consumers. The poorer sections of the people have had further taxation imposed upon them, and because they are the most numerous, they are the largest consumers. This legislation will further contract the already reduced purchasing power of the community. The only legitimate way to increase the purchasing power of the people, and to remove the chocks from the wheels of industry, is by creating a greater demand for goods and services. This bill will not do that. In any case, its results will be small, and for that reason it Cannot be satisfactory. Everybody will welcome the removal of the anomalies with which the act teems, and the amendment of those provisions which involve unfair competition, but the bill makes no effort to relieve the army of shopkeepers, manufacturers, and consumers generally; on the contrary, it purposely and systematically lifts taxation from only one section. In that respect it is opposed to the dicta of political economists, that taxation should be imposed on a uniform basis, giving relief to the most needy, and imposing the inevitable burdens on those best able to bear them. I agree that, as far as possible, taxation should be lifted from the tools of trade, and one commendable feature of the bill is that most of the goods to be added to the list of exemptions come within that category. Other articles, however, have equal claims to consideration. I am glad that the Government has recognized the need for removing the sales tax from explosives used exclusively by miners in the pursuit of their calling. But fishermen also are entitled to consideration. While I was temporarily representing Flinders, the fishermen of Mornington asked me to represent to the Government their views on this subject. I am also concerned about the plight of the fishermen in my present electorate of Melbourne
Ports, who pay too much for their nets, &c.
– By inadvertence fishing nets and cotton for mending nets were not included in the list of exemptions. The Government will propose their inclusion.
– I welcome that assurance. The justice to be done to the miners and the fishermen will make the bill less objectionable to me. I hope that the Government will, even now, take heed of the lessons taught by experience during recent years, and realize that the policy of deflation, the contraction of spending power by the reduction of salaries and wages, whether directly or indirectly, is making our position daily worse. The only hope of relieving all sections of this unnatural class of taxation is in creating a greater demand for goods and services by establishing a new wages fund which will give a stimulus to industry. This bill, unfortunately, will not do that; it is neither scientific nor logical, and cannot achieve what we all desire.
.- This bill is mainly one for consideration in committee, and as I had an opportunity on the motion which I made on the 15th September to discuss the anomalies of the sales tax and suggest the substitution of a turnover tax, my remarks this evening will be brief. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin) and other honorable members spoke of the difficulty of introducing a turnover tax. I think everybody is alive to that; indeed, one reason for retaining the sales tax is the difficulty of tearing it up by the roots. Many traders are prepared to continue under the present impost rather than incur the trouble and worry which a change would involve. This is an emergency tax, and it has been a most, fruitful source of revenue. Nevertheless, the present Prime Minister of Canada, where a sales tax has been longest in operation and has raised a great deal of revenue, is opposed to it, and advocates the substitution of a turnover tax. Several honorable members have expressed doubt as to how a turnover tax would operate. Of course, certain exemptions would have to be given, and they would constitute the principal problem. The honorable member for Corio (Mr. Casey) has rightly said that it is not easy to obtain exact statistical information on which to base calculations regarding the effect of such legislation. The Commonwealth Statistician has estimated the total business turnover of Australia at £400,000,000 a year. A turnover tax of 1& per cent, on that suan would yield £5,000,000. The sales tax has produced £12,000,000 in two years. If we can get correct statistics regarding business turnover we can easily estimate what the proposed tax would yield on alternative percentage bases; then the problem of exemptions could be investigated. The obstacles to the substitution of a turnover tax are not insurmountable. A royal commission is inquiring into the simplification of income and land taxation. Why not extend the scope of its inquiry to cover the sales tax ?
The Government has proposed many amendments to the existing acts; I have given notice of niue, and I know that others are to be moved. Nevertheless, we cannot hope by this hurried revision to rectify all the anomalies in the law. I appreciate the difficulty which the department experiences in administering this tax. That is revealed clearly by the fact that the Commissioner has issued over 700 rulings to date, and although I have asked on many occasions for. a compilation of them, it has not been furnished yet. By this amending legislation several of the most objectionable features of the law will be improved, but the statutes will still be far from equitable. I give the Government credit for the concession it is making to primary industries. Relief in that way is more justifiable than the payment of a bounty to wheatgrowers, as was suggested this afternoon. Let us, by legitimate concessions, make the conditions of the man on the land as easy as possible, but bounties are a form of assistance which the country cannot afford. The Government is now endeavouring to clarify the law, and I hope that the amendments which I shall move to that end will be accepted. Only two of them need be indicated in advance. The Commissioner has ruled that firms which arc principally retail cannot quote their certificate at the
Customs House; therefore, they have to pay the sales tax before the goods are cleared from the customs, and when the goods are sold later to a government department the seller receives no rebate.. Another firm which is principally wholesale may quote its certificate and, upon selling the goods to government departments, get a rebate of the 6 per cent, sales tax. This 6 per cent, is increased by, other taxes, so that it becomes 9.11 per cent, on goods subject to a duty of 5 per cent., and rises to 15 .63 per cent, on goods subject to a duty of over 100 per cent. The Government’s proposal to rectify the anomaly I have mentioned should be made retrospective, so that’ importers who have been penalized, and have been protesting to the Government, shall not be made to pay the taxation that is in dispute.
Another anomaly is in relation to tram cars. It is extraordinary that the Commonwealth should demand from a government institution, the Tramways Board of Victoria, sales tax on tram cars built in the board’s workshops, although it does not collect the tax from railway workshops or tramway authorities in other cities than Adelaide. J shall propose an amendment to remove this absurdity, and I hope that honorable members will appreciate the need for it. I trust that the Government will consider every amendment on its merits, paying regard to its equity rather than to any loss of revenue which it may involve.
.- First, I should like to express my appreciation of the relief already granted by the Government, by lifting the application of the sales tax from many items which are’ so vital in the further development of our primary industries. “We are dealing with a series of most complicated measures. There are nine principal sales tax acts on the statute-book, and we have here nine- amendment bills and nine sets of further amendments to those bills. Not only do we find this legislation complicated; the taxpayers concerned also find it extremely complicated.
As other honorable members have pointed out, there are quite a number of anomalies in the principal acts. I shall mention one or two about which I am particularly concerned. Though it may not be possible for the Government to remedy them on this occasion, I hope that when sales tax legislation again comes before its for amendment, which is inevitable in the near future, the Government will keep my representations in mind. and give them consideration. I am very definitely opposed to the practice of demanding from those liable to pay this tax a security, in the form of a bond. That is not done in connexion with any other form of taxation. The Government should realize that these taxpayers are not here to-day and gone to-morrow. They have a stake in. the country, and there is no good reason why they should be asked to enter into a fidelity bond of from £25 to £1,000 to ensure that they will meet their sales taxation. That is an entirely new and uncalled for practice, which inflicts unnecessary expense and other vexatious burdens on the taxpayers.
It is not only the payment of the tax that causes the ill-feeling that undoubtedly exists among taxpayers. The tremendous amount of inconvenience to which they are put in their endeavours honestly to apply the statutory rules and regulations is extremely irksome and irritating. I have books full of these regulations, all trying to explain the methods by which the sales tax are to be put into operation concerning different industries. Even the report of the Commissioner ofTaxation admits that a difference of opinion exists , between the authorities as to the application of the law, and the collection of the taxes. The reports reads: -
Difficultyhas been experienced in deciding when an authority which is apparently a government authority is completely controlled or financed by the State Government.. It is natural that differences of opinion on the subject should arise, but it is expected that ultimately these willbe satisfactorily settled.
The reason is that there is no definite basis of understanding between Federal and State authorities as to what is and what is not taxable, and no accepted principle regarding charitable, semipublic and public institutions. In some respects they are taxable and have to pay sales tax for federal purposes, but a few weeks later the federal authority makes money available through the States in order that those bodies may be financed - to pay the sales tax. That duplication and overlapping of State and Federal activity involves much additional clerical work in the government departments and institutions of both authorities. I earnestly appeal to the Government to do its utmost before this bill is passed through its committee stages, to remove glaring anomalies, and to see that a proper interpretation is placed upon the powers of the Commissioner. At present the act reads -
Where, in this act the exercise of any power or function by the Commissioner or the operation of any provision of this act is dependent, upon the opinion, belief or state of mind of the Commissioner in relation to any matter, that power or function may be exercised by the Second Commissioner or that provision may operate (as the case may be) upon the opinion, belief or state of mind of the Second Commissioner in relation to that matter.
That interpretation of the Commissioner’s powers, read in conjunction with the Commissioner’s admission of the difficulties experienced in the administration of the act in relation to authorities that are under State Government control, should be sufficient to impress upon this Government the need for a clear definition in the matter.
I shall give another illustration of the confusion which exists and is forced upon many people who honestly endeavour to comply with this multitude of acts and statutory regulations. Take the case of pastry-cooks. They manufacture scones, bread, buns, sandwiches, milk pastry, arrowroot biscuits and so forth, all of which may be exempt from the sales tax. But any cakes manufactured bythem are liable to sales taxation. I challenge any member of the Government to walk into a pastry-cook’s shop and state definitely where the line of demarcation can be drawn between cakes and other articles.
– Certain cakes weighing up to six ounces are now exempt.
– If that is so, a further anomaly is created. One cake weighing 6 ounces will be taxed while another of less weight will be tax-free. It is quite possible to group the various taxable and non-taxable items and definitely state exemptions. Then taxpayers would not have to wade through these many bulky volumes of laws and rules. The Commissioner’s annual report admits that the authorities have endeavoured to prepare a handbook on the sales tax. It also admits that many alterations to the principal acts, the discovery of numerous anomalies, and the unavoidable delay in introducing legislation have made it impossible to produce the promised handbook, which is essential for taxpayers to assist them to interpret the law. The Government has partly accepted the principle that the requirements of certain industries which are essential to the welfare of the country shall be exempted from the application of the act. The purpose is not, as was claimed by the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway), to single out one section of the community for relief. The exemptions before the House give relief to those engaged in all classes of primary production, because those industries arc the basis of our national wealth, upon which all classes and sections of the community depend.
It is necessary that these various acts should be consolidated and simplified, for they concern the daily business of tens of thousands of manufacturers, producers, retail houses, and so forth, upon whom is placed an exasperating burden. Another serious anomaly is that there is no discrimination in the application of this tax. It is usual to tax only profits, luxuries, or something that is tangible. Because of the serious financial position many business houses are compelled’ to sell great quantities of stock at less than cost. Despite that loss they still have to pay 6 per cent, tax on such sales. Some provision should exist for a set off to meet exceptional cases that are disclosed from time to time.
The honorable member for Melbourne Ports referred to tools of trade. The Government would be well advised to accept the principle of exempting from the application of sales tax purchases of machinery and plant to establish industry, in order to increase the manufactures of the country. ‘ If the sales tax is applied to the purchase of machinery and tools of trade required even in the construction of the factory itself, which will continue for many years to manufacture articles that would be legitimately taxable under the sales or any other tax, we shall really rob that industry of capital that should be utilized in its ‘establishment and extension. A heavy burden will be thrown on those who are endeavouring to establish industries by buying machinery and other tools, because they will be penalized to the extent of 6 per cent on the total cost of factories, which are so necessary in this country at the present time in order to maintain our manufactures and to extend our industries in other directions. The Government has already removed the sales tax from articles such as machinery and the requirements of those engaged in mining, grazing, agriculture, bee farming, fishing and various other primary industries. Surely we should extend the exemption to those who are purchasing machinery and tools of trade in order to build up an industry for the manufacture of goods which would legitimately be subject to the sales tax. To-day, when a set of interests convert their capital they are penalized to the extent of C per cent. on the total expenditure. These anomalies have caused considerable ill-feeling, annoyance, and heavy cost to those who are honestly endeavouring to comply with the requirements of one of the most complicated pieces of legislation in the statute-book. I understand that second-hand material is also subject to sales tax so long as it does not come under the various exemptions. Any parcel of secondhand material comes under one of two headings. It was either purchased before the sales tax was in operation and should, therefore, be exempt when re-sold, or it has been purchased, sold or manufactured since the sales tax operated and has already had sales tax paid upon it. It was never the intention of this Parliament that the sales tax should be collected more than once on any given article. If the second-hand article was manufactured or sold prior to the introduction of the sales tax, it should be exempt from taxation, even though it is being sold for the second, third or fourth time. I do not know the position which would exist if a farmer had a clearing sale. “When this amending legislation is passed, quite a number of items at a clearing sale would be exempt, while others would be taxable because although, the articles were secondhand, having probably been in the possession of the farmer for half a generation, they would still be taxable because of not being included among the various exemptions. I do not say that as articles they should be exempt, but as second-hand goods they should not be taxable, because they were manufactured or sold long before the introduction of the sales tax, or have been purchased since the operation of the act and have already been taxed. These amendments are not sufficient, to simplify this legislation and to make it acceptable to the people, although they may remove much of the unnecessary friction, that exists today. I hope that the Government will remove that most obnoxious clause which demands a fidelity bond in connexion with the payment of the tax, and thus relieve the taxpayers of unnecessary work and expense.
.- I am extremely pleased that a measure of relief from taxation is being provided under this bill. The objection expressed to the measure is that the relief which is being given benefits a section of the people which can well afford to bear the tax, or at an) rate, is not suffering to the same extent as another section which is being forced to accept a reduction in pensions. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin) said, and I agree with him, that if relief were to be given, he preferred that the rate should be reduced rather than that the exemptions should be increased, and that it was impossible to exempt all the articles set out in the amendments without causing anomalies. Once we begin to exempt articles from taxation, dissatisfaction is certain to arise in the minds of a number of people who are compelled to continue to pay taxation on certain articles which they require, while people using other articles are benefiting because of their exemption. But I differ entirely from the Leader of the Opposition when he argues that this measure of relief is being given at the expense of the old-age pensioners. I admit that he and other honorable members are honest in their desire to assist the most needy section of the community, and I presume that the only reason why the right honorable member does not agree with me on this issue is because of our different environment. I have always been anxious to prevent elderly people from getting into a position which compels them to claim the old-age pension.
– The honorable member must confine his remarks to the bill.
– By giving a measure of relief from taxation to the primary producers, including those engaged in the mining industry; we make it possible for many of our old people as well a3 our able-bodied people to earn a living with their hands instead of being placed in the position of having to receive a pension. The relief that is being given under this bill to those engaged in industry will enable them to provide more work for the people, and only an honorable member with a short-sighted view would say that this relief is being given in the special interests of individuals. If that were the purpose of the bill, I should be opposed to it. The object of these exemptions is to relieve those upon whom the community is most dependent - those engaged in production. The reason why there is unemployment in this country is because those engaged in industry are unable to employ workmen profitably, and to the extent that we relieve them of taxation, and lessen the cost of their machinery and tools of trade, the more they will be able to offer employment. I know of many worthy people who are struggling to keep off the pension and sustenance list; people who, if they were in a position to buy tools of trade, would engage in work. As the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway) has said till tools of trade should be exempted from tax, and I agree that many people, if they could afford it, would buy picks and shovels to mine in the creeks for gold or tin. Some would purchase axes and cross-cut saws for the felling of timber. Many people would work willingly rather than accept, the pension. If it were possible, we should extend this measure of relief. The people who receive the benefit of the exemptions will, of course, be pleased, but those exemptions must necessarily cause dissatisfaction among many other people. They will say, “ Why should persons who use chaff-cutters be exempt from taxation while we who use machinery of another kind have to bear the sales tax?” For that reason, we must admit that the making of exemptions is not the best means of relieving the community from taxation. But the Leader of the Opposition would be equally opposed to this measure if it provided for a reduction in the rate of the tax, because his objection to the whole measure is that we are reducing taxation, and, at the same time, withdrawing certain benefits from the old-age pensioners. I have no wish to discuss at length the merits or demerits of this system of taxation. It was introduced as an emergency measure. It has caused inconvenience to a large number of people, but, in the main, I think that it is an equitable form of taxation. It certainly does not tax one section of the community at the expense of another. It does noi tax capital as do other taxes, such as the land tax. It is the inconvenience and anomalies arising out of this tax that have made it objectionable to the taxpayers. I am certain that the relief given in this measure will particularly benefit those very people whom some honorable members have argued will be penalized by its operation. I sincerely hope that in the near future it will be possible to eliminate the anomalies that exist in this legislation. The dissatisfaction which this taxation has caused would be largely overcome if the rate of tax were substantially decreased. I hope that the inquiry that has been promised will lead to the adoption of some simpler and more equitable method of taxation. Unfortunately, the majority of the people, and, I am afraid, the majority of their representatives in Parliament, look at all taxation measures from the point of view of their effect upon themselves, and pay no regard to their effect upon the whole body of citizens. From the taxation stand-point there is no difference between the merits of a man who earns £5 a week in wages, and those of a man who makes £5 a week in some primary industry - all must be taxed equitably to provide revenue for public purposes. Our energies should be bent to the task of finding some form of taxation which will bear equitably upon all sections of the people. I am sure that all broadminded citizens will admit that the aim of this Parliament is to give relief from taxation to those engaged in industry, so that money may be released for investment in industry. This would enable the people to work out at once their own salvation and that of the country. We must reduce costs in Australia if the ship of State is to be got upon an even keel again, and the nation is to meet its obligations.
.- No doubt the passage of these measures will give relief to certain sections of the community, but, unfortunately, the granting of this relief has involved the placing of heavier burdens upon other sections. So the rejoicing of some people will be offset by the wailing of others. Our taxation should be placed upon the shoulders of those best able to bear it. No one can say truthfully that the taxation measures passed during the past three years have been equitable in their incidence. It is to me regrettable that in order to provide this measure of relief from sales taxation, the Government has reduced old-age and invalid pensions. I quite realize that our sales taxation has fallen unfairly upon certain people. During the last Parliament I filled many pages of Hansard in pleading with the Government of the day to exempt from sales taxation explosives used in mining coal. I pointed out that it would be a simple matter to exempt the explosives used by miners working on contract, but that Government turned a deaf ear to my pleading. I am glad, therefore, to compliment the present Government upon having yielded to my appeals in this regard.
– The Leader of the Opposition was quite prepared to use the coal-miners in order to put himself in the position of Prime Minister, but after his assumption of office he callously deserted them. He went further, in fact, for he placed a tax on their explosives which was equivalent to a reduction of 6d. a day in the wages of contract miners.
– I am glad to see the honorable member supporting the Government.
– I have not voted with the Government so often as the Leader of the Opposition. That gentleman used the assistance of the Government supporters when they were sitting in Opposition last year to reduce the pensions of the aged and infirm. I am quite prepared to give credit where credit is due - even if it be to my political enemies. I hope, however, that the Government will do a little more for the coal-mining industry. I should like the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) to define the meaning of “ machinery and parts thereof to be used in the mining industry”. Do those words exempt hand-propelled boring machines used to drill holes for the Wasting of coal ? . Do they cover tools of trade such as shovels, picks, wedges, and the like which are utilized by coal-miners in the course of their work? I notice that certain kinds of hessian are added to the exempt list. “Will brattice cloth used for ventilation purposes and for driving foul air from mines also be exempted? This is a kind of hessian, but much stouter than ordinary hessian. Will nails, rails, and dogs be exempt? A great deal has been done” to give relief to the agricultural industry, but I remind honorable members that mining is also a . languishing primary industry which deserves assistance. If mining requirements, such as those I have mentioned, are exempt, from sales taxation, produc-tion costs will be reduced, and, possibly, advantages to the workers in the industry will follow. The Government could encourage coal-mining in other ways. In many countries of the world, bounties are provided on coal produced for export. Nothing of that kind has been done in Australia with’ the “exception of the provision of £50,000 for this purpose two or three years ago. Many boats trading to Australia take in sufficient bunker coal for their round trip. Perhaps something could be done to encourage them to use more Australian coal. I know that the Tariff Board has reported against the imposition of coal duties, but the figures which led it to reach that conclusion were taken from the Campbell report, and were based on the 1927-28 production. They are not, therefore, a true indication of the condition of the industry to-day.
I hope that the Government will do more- to encourage the industries which arc being established around Newcastle and Sydney for the manufacture of electrical appliances. The articles of this description which are being produced in Australia are worthy to be compared with those manufactured in any other part of the world. If they were exempt from sales tax the industry would be greatly assisted. The sales tax has an unhappy way of falling ultimately upon the consumers. It is desirable, therefore, that everything possible should be done to make it as equitable as possible.
– I shall not enter upon a discussion of the relative merits of the turnover tax and the sales tax. I wish to bring under the notice of the Government certain aspects of our sales taxation legislation as they affect the manufacture of plant required in the agricultural and pastoral industries. I do not expect the Minister in charge of the bill to give me an immediate reply on the points I shall raise, but I hope that, at a later stage, he will provide me with the information I desire. The business firm which has directed my attention to this subject refers particularly to the provision for the exemption of water pipes, windmills, piping, and the like, and expresses the fear that, as it now stands, it is not wide enough to exempt necessary accessories to windmills, engine pumps, and gear required for the raising, storing, and reticulation of water for farming, pastoral, and mining purposes. It is pointed out that although windmills are exempted, accessories such as pump rods, pump rod joints, and tank-stands are not. Apparently the intention of the Government was to exempt both windmills and necessary accessories. Tanks are exempted, but tank-stands are not, and it is particularly requested that the exemption should be extended to them. It is further suggested that pipes, fittings, and sprinklers for irrigation plants should also be included in the list of exemptions. In outlying parts of the country, it is necessary for the man on the land to keep a supply of duplicate parts for his machinery, and these, apparently, are not exempted. Provision has been made for the exemption of agricultural machinery and implements and “ parts thereof not being parts of a kind not used for any other purpose.” The original measure also exempts mining machinery and parts; but, apparently, no provision is made for the exemption of duplicate parts. I trust that the Government will give this matter sympathetic consideration.
.- I appreciate the action of the Government in proposing to exempt from sales tax machinery and other articles that are essential to the primary producer. I am also grateful for the consideration shown by the Ministry with regard to two matters which I raised in this House a fortnight ago; I refer to the inclusion in the list of exemptions of fishing nets and cottons for repairing them, and also chaff bags. The Government proposes to amend the acts to make the exemption of chaff bags retrospective from the commencement of this« legislation. In view of the extreme moderation which always characterizes my demands on the Government, I feel somewhat reluctant to ask for more, lest Ministers might be disposed to treat me as Oliver Twist was dealt with when “ asking for more.” However, I support the suggestion of the honorable member for Corio (Mr. Casey) who, with the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Guy), asked the Minister in charge of the bill to consider adding to the list of exemptions agricultural lime. The honorable member for Corio pointed out that the department has always contended that it would be impossible to distinguish between agricultural and building lime, and he made the valuable and practical suggestion that lime containing not less than 20 per cent, of unburnt lime could safely be regarded as lime which would be used only for agricultural purposes, as it would be unsuitable for building, and might well be placed on the exempt list.
– Would it be as effective for agricultural purposes if it were unburn t?
– Such lime could bc used for agricultural purposes. It would not dissolve so quickly as burnt lime.
A good deal of criticism has been levelled at the sales tax, which is undoubtedly unpopular and complicated, and is capable of a good deal of simplification. No doubt it could be made much less objectionable than it is at the present time. But with all its faults, it is a better means of raising revenue than the primage duty. If we ask which of these taxes provides the greater amount of revenue, in relation to the added cost of the articles on which they are imposed, the sales tax is by far the superior. In the first place, the primage tax is applied to the first transaction immediately when goods are landed, and as they frequently pass through many hands, and in some eases arc the raw materials of the manufacturers, ample opportunity is afforded for giving this tax a snowball effect. The sales tax, however, is imposed as late as possible. It goes on the last wholesale transaction, and only one opportunity is available for the retailer to make a profit in the process of passing the tax on to the consumer. The primage tax affects only imports; but, unfortunately, the price of locally-manufactured goods is often raised by reason of the extra protection obtained on account of the protective incidence of primage, and any increase to the public in the cost of locally-manufactured articles, owing to the incidence of the primage, goes into the pockets of the manufacturers rather than into the Consolidated Revenue. The sales tax is imposed both on the locally-manufactured and the imported article, and thus revenue is obtained from both sources. I have no desire to be regarded as an out-and-out champion of the sales tax; but if one contrasts it with primage as a means of raising revenue, and asks which furnishes the larger amount of revenue- to the Treasury, having regard to the added cost to the consumer, the sales tax is preferable to thcother and bv far the lesser evil.
– It is generally recognized that the sales tax is one of the most irritating measures ever passed by this Parliament. Many honorable members have drawn attention to its anomalies, and, notwithstanding the 700 or more rulings that have been given, I venture to say that if the number were twice as large further anomalies would be discovered. Although retail tailors are granted certain exemptions from the sales tax, they are seen to he badly hit by it when their position is compared with that of the wholesale tailor who conducts his own workroom. I have had correspondence from the retail tailoring section of the manufacturing trade, and my attention has been drawn to the fact that, although it has been relieved to the extent of 20 per cent. of the tax, it is still penalized to the amount of approximately 5 per cent. of its turnover. The retail tailors point out that although they do not manufacture goods themselves, they procure cloth for that purpose, send it to the manufacturers, and are required to pay sales tax on the selling price of goods. They are thus placed in an unfair position compared with the large wholesale tailors. In certain cases, small firms that have made direct losses up to £200 have had to pay approximately £130 in sales tax. In times of depression, the smaller men are forced to make payments out of capital, because of their losses; the sales tax was not intended to have that result.
The administration of this impost cannot be carried out without unfair discrimination being shown between certain classes of traders. Confectioners, for instance, have only small sales, and, in most instances, they cannot pass on the 6 per cent. sales tax which is imposed. If they have sales to the amount of £100, they cannot pass on the sales tax, but must pay it from their sales, which are then worth only £94. However, they are compelled to pay income tax on the £100, so that they are hit both ways. I particularly call attention to this class of trade, because the sales tax which is imposed on small traders directly affects the small consumer who is least able to bear this burden. These anomalies to which I am directing attention contribute to the increased cost of living. Neither these small traders, nor the section of the public whom they chiefly serve, can afford to be penalized in this way. The whole incidence of the tax bristles with anomalies. Many suggestions have been put forward, and they probably fall far short of providing a solution. The honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway) urged that tools of trade should be exempted from this impost. But how are we to define “tools of trade”? We might carry the honorable member’s argument on and apply it to professional tools, or to the clothing that is worn by artisans. If we began to make exemptions on that scale, the revenue raised by this tax would disappear. I suggest that the best way to overcome the difficulty would be to substitute a turnover tax. The honorable member for Corio (Mr. Casey) suggested that this tax should be applied at the source as a sort of excise tax, but I cannot agree with him in that matter. The primage tax is already imposed at the source of supply, and the unfortunate taxpayer is taxed indirectly both at the source and also after the goods have been manufactured. 1 endorse what was said by the honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. Hunter) regarding the anomaly of allowing the Commissioner of Taxation to adjudicate on appeals from his own rulings. The federal income tax board of reference should be empowered to decide these issues. The taxpayer should not be obliged to commit a breach of the law, involving his appearance in a police court, to have his grievance heard beyond the Commissioner whose decision he disputes.
The Government would be wise to substitute for the sales tax a turnover tax. Some honorable members have said that they do not, understand what such taxation would mean. The following figures indicate how it would operate : The tax would be imposed on the total wholesale value of the goods sold. According to the 14th annual report of the Commissioner of Taxation, the wholesale transactions in 1930-31 amounted to £379,000,000. Allowing an average retail profit of 20 per cent., the total volume of sales would be -
On this amount a tax of½ per cent. would produce £3,171,000,¾ per cent. £6,255,000, and 1 per cent. £8,342,000. In the ten months of 1930-31 for which the sales tax operated it yielded £3,465,028, equivalent to £4,168,025 for the full year. It will be seen, therefore, that a turnover tax of i per cent, would return approximately the same amount.
– Does that estimate allow for any exemptions ?
– No; exemptions would have to- be allowed.
– That would necessitate an increase of the rate of tax.
– Possibly. Moreover, the tax would have to be applied on an ascending scale, being low on a small turnover and higher on a large turnover. I believe, however, that by a proper application of a turnover tax the anomalies and irritation of the present sales tax could be avoided. The former is in operation in more countries than is the sales tax, and that fact may be regarded as evidence of its greater virtue.
The honorable member for Darwin (Mr. Bell) said that the sales tax does not penalize one section of the community at the expense of the other. I join issue with the honorable member on that point. The tax does penalize one section of the community at the expense of another, for it applies equally to the person on the basic wage and the person with considerable means. Sales taxation is indirect. Why not substitute additional direct taxation in order to raise the revenue which the Commonwealth requires? A graduated income tax, applying to lower incomes than are at present taxed, would give to all sections of the community a greater sense of responsibility, and increase their national pride. Such a reform in lieu of the sales tax would overcome the vexation and irritation to which the business community is now subjected.
.-Being well pleased with the instalment of relief which the Government is proposing to give to the primary producer, thus reducing the cost of production, I do not propose to speak at length. The bill, however, includes in the list of exemptions ‘ preparations for use in the prevention, cure, or eradication of diseases or pests in poultry, birds, or live-stock; rabbit poisons.” I ask the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) whether the Government intends to include fumigators for the .destruction of rabbits.
– I, too, deplore the need for the continuance of this vexatious tax. I find that there are on the statute-book nine sales tax acts, nine sales tax assessment acts, nine amending acts, and goodness knows how many amendments are now proposed. Having regard to the difficulty which honorable members experience in making themselves au fait with this legislation, the small retailer cannot possibly be expected to keep track of its variations from time to time. Therefore, if the tax is to be continued, the statutes relating to it should be consolidated and clarified as early as possible. We are told that this is an emergency measure. A sales tax was imposed in France during the war, and was intended to last for only a short period, but it has been already in operation for eighteen years: the rate has increased to 20 per cent., and there seems no likelihood of its abandonment. The Commonwealth Government is to bc heartily commended for having recognized the claims of the primary producers, and for having proposed exemptions which will help, not only the man on the land, but those engaged in all forms of mining. The exemption of explosives will apply, not only to coal-mining, as the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) suggested, but to all forms of mining. Notwithstanding the increase of the list of exemptions, certain anomalies will continue, but that I am afraid is inevitable. I was glad to hear the Prime Minister announce that fumigators for rabbit extermination will be added to the list. Horticultural seeds are exempt from both primage and sales tax, but garden bulbs are subject to charges of 10 per cent, and 6 per cent, respectively. I understand from nurserymen that the introduction of new varieties of bulbs from time to time is necessary, and that the propagation and sale of the new strains constitute a fairly large industry. The differential treatment of horticultural seeds and bulbs seems to be anomalous. I support the remarks of the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) regarding the lack of justification for charging sales tax on tram cars constructed in the workshops of the Melbourne Tramways Board. The tram cars in Sydney and other capital .cities are free of this tax, and its imposition in Melbourne has thrown about 200 men out of employment. Moreover, the workshops of the Melbourne Tramways Board do a good deal of work for tramway systems in rural centres, and the additional cost which this tax involves has made it more difficult for such systems to replace their antiquated and worn rolling-stock. I have personal knowledge of one of the hardships imposed by this tax. An engineer in a fairly large way of business bad in his workshop a lathe which was not big enough for the job he had in band. He broke it down and spliced into it a section which extended it by about two feet. He was required to pay sales tax on that job. I am certain that that imposition was not in accordance with t he spirit in which the sales tax was conceived, and 1 hope that if payment of the tax wac insisted upon, the Government will agree to rebate the amount.
– I give to the Government full credit for the benefits which it proposes to confer upon the rural industries by Ibo generous and comprehensive extension of the list of exemptions proposed in this bill. This concession will be greatly appreciated by the primary producers, and will afford much needed relief to men who are carrying on their industry under adverse conditions. I shall not, however, utter one word to encourage the continuance of this sales tax, and I hope that the earliest (.opportunity will be taken to substitute some other means of raising the required revenue. If the sales tax is to be continued it should be collected at the source - the waterfront or the factory. Alternatively, the Government might substitute a turn-over tax. I am not able to judge which reform would be most acceptable to the Treasury, but the unfortunate taxpayer is worried, not so much by the amount of the sales tax, as by the irritation and expense involved in its collection. Any honorable member who is connected with business knows the tremendous cost and harassment which the operation of this tax entails. If the Government can, in the near future devise another means of raising revenue, it will deserve not only the thanks of the primary producer, but also the gratitude of the community. Among the sheaf of amendments to these bills designed to help the producer are amendments designed to lift the tax where it affects the fruit-grower in fighting diseases attacking his trees. There is one noticeable omission. The bananagrowers in the Gympie district of Wide Bay are, at present, suffering severely from the ravages of thrips, and it has been found that the attack can be effectively counteracted if each bunch of bananas is covered with hessian. It is calculated that if the precaution were not taken only 40 per cent, of the crop would be marketable, whereas if adopted 90 per cent, may be gathered. Yet no purchasers of hessian to be used for this purpose receive exemption from sales taxation. That is anomalous in view of the fact that exemption is given to those who buy oils, sprays, and other similar materials for pest destruction. 1 have previously brought the matter before the notice of the Government, as also did the Queensland Committee of Fruit Marketing, and in each case the application was rejected. The purchase of hessian is a big item to banana-growers, representing, approximately, an additional £12 an acre. When sales tax is superimposed, the burden becomes oppressive. Even without this hurden fruitgrowers are feeling the strain, for the depleted purchasing power of the community makes fruit a luxury, with .the result that markets are limited. Growers have to accept what is offered to them at auction, or in negotiation with a private buyer. By meeting the bananagrowers in this respect the Government would confer a considerable advantage on a deserving section of the community.
The Australian public would greatly appreciate the exemption of school books from the sales tax. There exists a demand for similar relief in connexion with text books used for secondary education. So many people have suffered the reduction of income that the purchase of text books, the price of which is inflated by high exchange and other factors, becomes a burden, and I hope that the Government will assist in this direction. I. intend, too, to move for the exemption from sales tax of our public libraries which exist by the charge of a small subscription. National libraries are already exempted. I trust, too, that as it becomes manifest from time to time that further amendments to the law are necessary in order to relieve primary producers and others of irksome and anomalous conditions, the Government will promptly introduce the necessary legislation.
– The numerous amendments that are now before honorable members afford Striking testimony to the multitude of the anomalies that have become evident in connexion with the operation of the sales tax -acts. The imposition of this tax has been most burdensome to industry generally. Many small business men to-day find that the 6 per cent, sales tax which they are unable to pass on covers the profit of their business. It is estimated that, on an average, it has added one per cent, to the overhead costs of such establishments in the cost of preparation of returns and information. This year, it is proposed to take over £8,000,000 from the community by this form of taxation. Apart from the fact that that retards business and industrial development, it means that so many millions less will be available to relieve unemployment. It has also been correctly pointed out that the operation of the sales tax adds considerably to the cost of living. Like other honorable members, I should prefer to see the sales tax abolished, but I realize that that is impracticable at present in view of the financial position of the country. We should aim at substituting for the tax a form of raising revenue less irritating and confusing to the community. Until we can accomplish this, anomalies should be removed as they arise. I am, therefore, pleased that the Government is introducing amendments to eliminate many existing anomalies, and to lessen the confusion and irritation that exists as a result of the operation of our sales tax legislation.
– I am impressed by the remarks of the honorable member for South. Sydney (Mr. Jennings), in regard to the simplification of the measure. He referred to the fact that these measures had caused consider able inconvenience to retailers, and have added costs that might be avoided. I feel that it is hardly sufficient to leave it at that. Can Ave not obtain an assurance from the Government that it will take steps to simplify the application of this taxation? The phraseology of ‘these measures originated in the Crown Law Department, and their purpose is consequently enshrouded in legal technicalities. I am confident that if this legislation were referred to two or three competent business men associated with retail organizations, men who know the practical side of its application, it could be simplified to the satisfaction of the department and the public. I do not wish to point to past failures in connexion Avith the Sales Tax Act, because I know that this form of taxation was new to the country, and that the Scullin Government had not much time in which’ to study it. How- ever, experience teaches, and now that the act has passed the experimental stage, the Government should be able to give the assurance that I seek.
Honorable members listen to the criticism levelled against measures - criticism varying according to the point of view of the speaker. Unfortunately, all too frequently, the matter simply rests there. The Government of the day, having other things to occupy its attention, takes these measures in its stride, and after they have been disposed of, seeks, temporarily, at any rate, to forget them. The criticism passes unheeded, and is, therefore, valueless. It would be interesting to know whether the speeches of the honorable member for South Sydney and other honorable members to-night have had any effect upon the Minister. Is he prepared to fall in
Avith my suggestion, the adoption of which would confer real benefit on the business community? It would also be the means of saving money, which could be diverted to the relief of unemployment.
I Avas not present in the chamber when the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) spoke to these bills, but to-day I received a telegram from the Retail Confectioners Association, Sydney, seeking my support for an amendment that is to be moved by the honorable member. I believe that the origin of the proposal was a meeting of the association held iu Melbourne, at which a Mr. Harper presided. The honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell) was present, and his attitude was a very guarded one. He stated that if the arguments advanced were sufficiently convincing he was prepared to give them consideration. The honorable member for Balaclava was more definite, and declared that the application of sales taxation to this section of the community ought to be removed.
– The honorable member for Balaclava has moved an amendment.
– At that meeting the honorable member for Fawkner said that he was open to conviction that an alteration of the method of taxation to a gross turnover basis would simplify existing methods. As the measure is such a complicated one, I am unable to determine what would be the result if the proposal were adopted.
I have received correspondence from a farmer in New South Wales, pointing out that the Prime Minister referred in his budget speech to the exemption of spraying and dusting materials from the operation of sales tax. My correspondent writes -
Should this exemption be retrospective to the 30th June, 1932, sales tax is, I understand, levied on sales over a period of twelve calendar months, and the Government will be making a present of a considerable sum collected as sales tax since that date, to manufacturers or distributors of the article; unless of course it forces a rebate of the amount collected, to the purchaser. I trust that you will press this point in the interests of the farmers.
The reason why I specified spraying materials is that because spring is here, a tremendous quantity of those commodities is being purchased, upon which sales tax will have to be paid. I should like the Minister to give a pronouncement on the subject. I also hope that the Government will heed my other suggestion, and endeavour to simplify the application of the act.
– I should like to express my appreciation of this early evidence of the Government’s intention to redeem its promises in regard to the abatement of taxation. I hope that it presages further and even more pronounced relief from the intolerable burden of taxation which now oppresses the whole community. This bill providing for the remission of taxation is not class legislation at all, because ihe benefits conferred extend to every section of the community. This legislation is designed to rectify some of the anomalies which have become associated with the administration and collection of the sales tax. It does not presume to rectify all the anomalies of which we have heard so much to-day, but because it aims in that direction it merits our approbation. In the course of this debate the primary producer has had many champions, but one section of primary producers seems to have been overlooked ; I refer to those engaged in the fishing industry. We have spent a considerable portion of to-day’s proceedings in discussing the wheat bounty, and the necessity for encouraging the growing of wheat. A day or two ago we also spent a considerable time in discussing a bounty on gold production. Here we have an almost unlimited crop, sown and grown for us, and only waiting to be garnered. At the recent science congress, held in Sydney, considerable attention was paid to the possibilities of our fishing industry, and I hope that honorable members will be no less appreciative of the potentialities of that industry than were the distinguished members of that congress. Provision is made in this measure for the exemption ,from sales tax of fish which is treated by the catcher or by the purchaser from the catcher at the seashore, so that it may be marketed in good condition. Fish which is treated by a co-operative society which catches fish itself and treats it, or purchases it from the original catcher and treats it will also be exempt. Fish which is purchased by a dealer at the seashore from the fishermen will also be exempt from the sales tax. But there the exemption ends. I contend that it is not nearly wide enough to cover the whole field which merits relief from this taxation. It does not give any relief to many fishermen who are plying their calling away from the conveniences of the city, and are unable to treat their fish because of lack of facilities. Fisher-‘ men working under such conditions are entitled to more consideration than those who arc working under better conditions.
– How do they dispose of their fish?
– The fish is sent to the market alive or in fresh condition, and is treated by the shopkeeper. Under this legislation it will not be exempt from the sales tax. The purchaser from the fisher men under such conditions will certainly not be prepared to pay more for the fish than he would have to give if its sale were free from taxation. I hope that when the bill is in committee, the Prime Minister will be prepared to rectify this anomaly.
– I do not propose to refer to all the points raised by honorable members. The position is that the Government is granting certain relief by increasing the number of exemptions from the sales tax. We feel that we have gone as far as it is possible for us to go, though there may be one or two additional exemptions that will be acceptable to the Government. The aim of the department has been to make this tax equitable as between the various taxpayers. It may be that it will press severely upon certain individuals, but the object is to ensure that it shall press equally on all individuals of the same class. Every one will agree that the department is doing its best to administer this taxation equitably. Time will tell whether we can evolve a scheme which will be more equitable,, more acceptable, less unpopular and less irksome to the taxpayers.. This system of taxation is under our close consideration all the time, and if the Government can evolve gome other suitable .and more easily administered scheme, honorable members can rest assured that, it will be substituted for the one that is now in operation. Up to the present time, we have not been able to obtain a better method of applying the sales tax, and therefore all that we can do is to endeavour to rectify anomalies and injustices as between individuals. It has been stated by more than one honorable member that the intricacies of this class of -taxation make it irksome for the taxpayers, and difficult for them to find out exactly what they have to do, and the Government has been requested to clarify the position, and to give a better guidance to the taxpayers. I am pleased to be able to inform honorable members that a special officer has now been appointed, whose duty it. will be to prepare a hand-book for the guidance of taxpayers generally. Immediately these bills are passed by Parliament, that officer will begin the preparation of the hand-book which, when completed, will, we hope, be of real assistance to those who have to pay the tax. The honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. Hunter) has raised one or two points. He said that no explanation had been given in regard to the position of contractors, and that these proposals would include the particular transactions with which he dealt. He said that the proprietor of an industry might decide to turn his undertaking into a company, which would mean a change of name only, that there would bc no profit in the transaction and no added capital in the. company, and that these proposals would make him liable to taxation on that transaction. That is not so. The illustration given by the honorable member has been dealt with by the department, which has decided that such a transaction is not taxable, and that .it has no intention of applying the tax in such a case. The honorable member also referred to certain imports which were assembled in Australia. He said that an individual who imported a machine for his own purpose and assembled it here would be liable to taxation under these proposals. That is not so, unless the person concerned were a manufacturer and did the assembling in the course of his trade. The objection raised by the honorable member is therefore groundless. It is impossible to consider all the suggestions that have been advanced by honorable members while the. bill is. being put through this House’, and even through the Senate. But I promise that they will be fully considered before this legislation is further amended. The honorable member for Calare (Mr. Thorby) said that he felt sure that there would be further amendments. He can depend upon that, and I assure him that all the suggestions that have been made will be considered. In the meantime we shall continue to endeavour to make this taxation more equitable. One or two suggestions for further exemptions have been made. As the Attorney-General has said, some of the articles mentioned by honorable members have been inadvertently omitted from the exemptions.
The honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson) referred to fishing nets. A definite decision was come to by the Government to exempt fishing nets, but in some way they were omitted. Provision is now being made to add them to the list. The honorable member for Bass (Mr. Guy), in the early part of the discussion, suggested that mutton birds should be exempted from taxation. The revenue that the Government derives from this source is scarcely worth considering; therefore we are prepared to place mutton birds on the list of exemptions. The honorable member for Gippsland referred to agricultural lime. The department contends that it would be difficult to administer a tax on agricultural lime if it were exempt for agricultural purposes only. That difficulty still remains, but I am satisfied that it is not insurmountable. I recognize that if we exempt fertilizers, then lime used agriculturally might well be included. I cannot give any promise at this stage, but I am hopeful that we may be able to introduce an amendment in the Senate which will make some provision for the exemption of agricultural lime from sales taxation.
– What about my question relative to mining machinery?
– The items referred to by the honorable member cannot, under the existing law, be classed as mining machinery, but I promise him that his requests will be considered before the next amending bill is introduced.
– Are not boring machines of the type mentioned classed as machinery?
-I do not pretend to be a legal authority, but I am informed that they are tools, rather than machines.
I shall be glad to give any further explanationin committee.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bills read a second time.
Clause 1 agreed to.
Clause 2 (Definitions).
(10.3]. - I move-
That, after paragraph (a) the following paragraph be inserted: - “(aa) by omitting from the definition of Manufacturer ‘ the word ‘ : and ‘ (second occurring) and inserting in its stead the words ‘, and a person (not being an employee) who makes up goods, whether or not the materials out of which the goods are made are owned by him, but’”;
This amendment is necessary in order to prevent avoidance of the incidence of sales tax by tailors and like persons. Under the existing law, when an individual takes his own materials to a tailor for the purpose of having a suit made to measure, and the tailor takes measurements only and sends the customer’s materials to a manufacturing tailor to be made up, sales tax cannot be levied on the sale of the completed suit, for the reason that neither the tailor who takes the measurements nor the manufacturing tailor who makes up the suit comes within the definition of “manufacturer “. This loophole has come to the knowledge of the tailoring trade, and many tailors are conducting their business in such a way as to avoid the incidence of sales tax. The amendment will have the effect of protecting the honest tailor who is observing the law, for it provides that the manufacturing tailor shall be deemed to be the manufacturer, and, by a further provision, which will be inserted in the bill by way of amendment of section 18 1, the manufacturing tailor will be deemed to have sold goods so made up at the price charged by him for the making up of those goods, and for materials, if any, used by him in making up the goods.
Amendment agreed to.
.- I move-
That at the end of the definition of “ Sale of goods by wholesale “ the following be inserted : - “ and
a sale of goods to a manufacturer (whether or not he is required to be registered in accordance with the provisions of this act) to he used in wrought into or attached to goods to be manufactured by him;”
The Taxation Department has consistently maintained that the sale of raw materials to a manufacturer is a whole sale sale, on the ground that it is in substance a sale of goods for re-sale by the manufacturer, for the raw materials are re-sold when the manufacturer sells the products which contain those materials as ingredients. From time to time doubts have been raised as to the correctness of the department’s attitude in this connexion, and, in the absence of any judicial guidance on the point, it is desirable to place the departmental interpretation beyond doubt by the insertion of a declaratory provision in the law.
If the existing law is maintained, an adverse judicial decision would not only dislocate the established practice of the department, but would give rise to a number of anomalies of which the following are examples : -
Amendment agreed to.
.- I move -
That in paragraph (c) all words from and including the words “ and includes a trustee “ to and including the weirds “ realizing that business “ be omitted.
Under the existing definition a trustee is treated as a wholesale merchant. I hope that the Government will reconsider this provision. Trustees and liquidators ofbusinesses are obliged, under State laws, to lodge substantial bonds with the State authorities, but if this amendment is agreed to they will also be obliged to lodge a bond in respect of every business that they liquidate. If they lodge one bond, that should be sufficient. If the Government can assure me that one bond will be accepted, I shall ask leave to withdraw my amendments I have been given to understand that a regulation could be issued to achieve this end.
Mr. LYONS (Wilmot- Prime Minis the argument of the honorable member, and I am given to understand that his wishes could be complied with by the issuing of a regulation. If that is so the Government is willing to take the necessary steps to issue such a regulation.
Amendment - by leave - withdrawn.
Clause consequentially amended, and, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 3 agreed to.
Clause 4 -
Section18 of the principal act is amended -
Section proposed to be amended -
– (1.) For the purposes of this act, the salevalue of goods, not being goods to which the next succeeding sub-section applies, which are sold on or after the first day of August One thousand nine hundred and thirty, shall be the amount for which those goods are sold to an unregistered person, or to a registered person whohas not quoted his certificate in respect of that sale.
Provided that, where the goods are sold by retail, the sale value of the goods for the purposes of this act shall be the amount which would be their fair market value if sold by wholsesale, but if the Commissioner is of opinion that the amount set forth as the sale value of any such goods in any return furnished under this act is less than the amount which would be their fair market value if sold by wholesale the Commissioner may alter the amount set forth in the return to the amount which, in his opinion, would be the fair market value of the goods if sold by wholesale, and the amount so altered shall be the sale value of the goods for the purposes of this act. (2). For the purposes of this act the sale value of goods treated by the manufacturer of the goods on or after the first day of August One thousand nine hundred and thirty as stock for sale byhim by retail, shall be the amount which would be the fair market value of those goods if sold by him by wholesale.
Provided that, where the amount set forth as the sale value of any such goods in any return furnished under this act by the manufacturer is less than the amount which, in the opinion . of the Commissioner, would be their fair market value if sold by wholesale, the Commissioner may alter the amount set forth in the return to the amount which, in his opinion, would be the fair market value of the goods if sold by wholesale, and the amount as so altered shall be the sale value of the goods for the purposes of this act. (3.) For the purposes of this act, the sale value of goods manufactured by any person and, on or after the first day of August One thousand nine hundred and thirty, applied to his own use shall be such amount as, in the opinion of the Commissioner would be the fair market value of the goods if sold by that person in the ordinary course of trade.
– I move -
That paragraphb be omitted, and the following paragraph inserted in its stead: - “(b) by adding at the end of sub-section (1.) the following proviso: -
Provided that where a manufacturer who makes up goods for another person is not the owner of the goods so made up, and charges some other person for making up those goods and for materials (if any) used by him in the making up of the goods, he shall, for the purposes of this sub-section, be deemed to have sold those goods, at the time of their delivery to that other person, for the amount so charged.’ “.
This amendment is complementary to the first amendment which I moved, bywhich the definition of “ manufacturer “was extended to include a class of manufacturer such as a manufacturing tailor who makes up suits of clothes for a madetomeasure tailor out of materials supplied to the latter by his customer.
The proviso inserted by this amendment will have the effect of imposing tax on the amouut charged by the manufacturing tailor for the making up of suits of clothes and for materials, if any, used by him for that purpose.
Amendment agreed to.
– I move -
That paragraphsc and d be omitted, with a. view to insert the following paragraphs in lieu thereof: - “ (c) by omitting from sub-section (2.) all the words after the word ‘goods’ (second occurring) and inserting in their stead the words ‘ as stock for sale by retail shall be -
where the goods are of a class which the manufacturer himself sells by wholesale - the amount for which the goods would be sold by the manufacturer if sold by wholesale; and
where the goods are of a class which the manufacturer himself docs not sell by wholesale - the amount for which the goods would have been purchased by the taxpayer from another manufacturer if that other manufacturer had manufactured those goods in the ordinary course of his business for sale to the taxpayer.’ “ ; “(d) by omitting from sub-section (3.) all the words after the word ‘and’ (first occurring) and inserting in their stead the words applied to his own use shall be -
where the goods are of a class which the manufacturer himself sells by wholesale - the amount for which the goods would be sold by the manufacturer if sold by wholesale; and
where the goods are of a class which the manufacturer himself does not sell by wholesale - the amount for which the goods would have been purchased by the taxpayer from another manufacturer if that other manufacturer had manufactured those goods in the ordinary course of his business for sale to the taxpayer.’ “.
Clause 4 of the bill was inserted for the purpose of providing a new basis for the calculation of a sale value in three classes of cases in which a manufacturer is taxable in respect of his products on some value other than the actual sale price. The three classes ofcases are -
The value prescribed for these cases by the clause as it stands is, briefly stated, the amount for which the manufacturer could have purchased similar goods from another manufacturer.
Attention has been drawn to the fact that the manufacturers concerned frequently make wholesale sales of goods, which they sell by retail or treat; as stock for retail sale or apply to their own use.
It is desirable to provide that in such cases the sale value of the goods shall be the price for which the manufacturer sells such goods by wholesale. The amendment is designed to achieve that” result, but the provisions of the clause as it stands in the bill are retained for the purpose of being applied to all classes of cases in which the manufacturer does not sell similar goods by wholesale.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause further verbally amended, and, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 5 -
Section twenty of the principal act is amended by insulting after sub-section (1.) the following sub-section: - (1a) For the purposes of paragraph(g) of sub-section (1.) of this section, the form, nature or conditionof crustacean marine animals shall be deemed not to have been altered by boiling, and the form, nature or condition of fish shall be deemed not to have been altered by smoking or drying, if the Commissioner is satisfied that the boiling, smoking or drying was necessary to enable those products to he transported from the place where they were originally derived to another plane for sale in a wholesome condition by the person who so derived them or by a person who purchased them from that person.
Section proposed to be amended -
– (1.) Notwithstanding anything containedin thelast preceding section, sales lav shall not be payable under thisact by the portion specified in that sectionupon the salevalue of- (aa) goods sold to theGovernment of the Commonwealth or the Government of a State, where the Commissioner is satisfied that the goods are for the official use of a Government Department, or of an authority which is completely controlled by, and the expenditure of which is exclusively borne by, the Government, end arc not for re-sale.
– I move-
That the clause be amended by inserting after “amended” the following: - “(a) by inserting after paragraph aa of sub-section 1 the following paragraph: - ‘(ab) goods produced by the Commonwealth Hank of Australia;’ and (b)”;
The Commonwealth Bank is technically liable, as a manufacturer, for the payment, of sales tax with respect to its production of cheque books, Commonwealth bonds and treasury-bills, entertainments tax tickets, and other goods of a like kind. It is considered undesirable and unnecessary that the Commonwealth should involve itself in the expenditure and administrative difficulty associated with the collection of tax on what, in effect, are the products of a Commonwealth activity.
-I urge the Government to amend the amendment by adding “and Blind Institutions.” This matter was raised by the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell). It seems to me that the products of blind institutions might well be exempted from the sales tax.
– Consideration was given to this matter, but the Government is unable to exempt blind institutions. Difficulties would be created by reason of the fact that they enter into competition with other traders, and the adoption of the suggestion of the honorable member would lead to further anomalies.
Amendment agreed to.
– I move -
That the clause be amended by inserting after paragraphab the following.: - (ac.) any tramcar manufactured by or for any public tramway authority to be used solely by that authority for the purposes ofpassenger transport; and
This amendment is also strongly supported by the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. E. F. Harrison). It is anomalous that in Adelaide and Melbourne, sales tax has to be paid with respect to tram cars made by Government institutions, while those made by railway departments are not so taxed. The question has been raised by the Taxation Commissioner whether the Melbourne and Metropolitan Tramways Board is a Government department. The board was constituted under the Melbourne and MetropolitanTramways Act 1914, to take over and operate the tramways previously controlled by various municipal tramway trusts and the cable tramway board. Its members are appointed by the Governor in Council, and most of its important functions are subject to the approval of the Governor in Council. Before it can borrow, the board must obtain the consent of the Governor in Council. It may manage and control the tramways until the State Parliament otherwise provides. Members of the State Parliament are empowered to travel free on the tramways. The board cannot abandon any of its tramways, should either branch of the State Parliament object to the adoption of that course. The board must pay into the Consolidated Revenue a sum equal to the amounts payable by the Treasurer of Victoria to the Queen’s Memorial Infectious Diseases Hospital and the Metropolitan Fire Brigades Board. Other State institutions also are supported by the profits of the Melbourne tramways. There has been a decline in the revenue of the board, and unemployment has been definitely created on that account. Sales tax amounting to about £3,000 has had to be paid with respect to 32 tram cars manufactured by the board, and on that account a proposal to construct four new tram cars was abandoned. Further employment would be provided if all such boards were placed on a similar basis. The Melbourne board considers that it should be exempt from the sales tax under section 114 of the Constitution, which provides that the Commonwealth may not rax any State property, and no State may tax a Commonwealth property. Differences between the board and the Commissioner of Taxation have resulted in considerable correspondence between them, and the time has arrived when the matter should be settled.
– I am prepared to accept the amendment. I am led to believe that it might have the effect of increasing employment.
Amendment agreed to.
– Is the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) prepared to accept the proposal submitted by me in my second-reading speech? I suggest leaving out all words after “ drying.” The retention of the qualifying words which follow that word would create an undesirable anomaly. If a piece of fish lying on a slab in a shop in Sydney had been cooked at the seaside, it would be exempt from the sales tax, while a piece of fish that had been cooked in the city would not be exempt. Whatever may be said of some of the provisions of this measure, the present clause would create an impossible position, and would lead to fraud, because it would be impossible to discover where a piece of fish had been cooked.
– I understand that difficulty would be experienced if the proposal of the honorable member were acted upon ; but the Commissioner is satisfied that the position could be met administratively by refraining from collecting the tax on fish purchased in city markets, and subsequently dried or smoked. I hope that that assurance will satisfy the honorable member.
– I fail to see why suitable action cannot be taken legislatively, and my suggestion seems to meet the position. There are certain places on the coast of New
South Wales where facilities are provided, for smoking and drying fish, and for boiling crustaceans. Places such as Port Stephens have these facilities, but more remote towns such as some in Illawarra have ho such facilities, although the fishermen there are entitled to special consideration, if any discrimination at all is to be shown.
.- I fail to see the object of making the distinction proposed under this clause. One of the chief grounds of objection to this legislation is its technical nature. Surely it should be sufficient to say that crayfish, which has been boiled, and other fish which has been smoked or dried, shall be exempt, without adding the qualification provided in this clause.
– I promise honorable members that the Government will look into this matter, and if, on further inquiry, I find that the difficulty can be overcome by means of an amendment, the clause will be amended before the bill is sent to another place. .
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Section 26 of the principal act is amended by adding at the end thereof the following sub-sections : - (4.) Where goods are sold by any person to the Government of the Commonwealth or the Government ofa State or to a Commonwealth or State Authority in such circumstances that no sale value is prescribed by section eighteen of this Act in respect of that sale, and the Commissioner is satisfied -
that, by virtue of the provisions of paragraphaa of sub-section (1.) of section twenty of this Act, sales tax would not have been payable in respect of the sale if a sale value had been prescribed by section eighteen of this Act,
) that tax hasbeen paid or is payable under this Act in respect of some prior act, operation or transaction in relation to those goods, or goods used in, wrought into or attached to those goods,
that the amount of that tax has been paid or is payable by the person who so sold the goods, or has been wholly or partly included in the price for which that person purchased those goods, or the goods used in, wrought into or attached to those goods, and
that the amount of that tax has been excluded wholly or in part from the price for which the goods were sold by that person to the Government or Government Authority, the Commissioner may refund or pay to that person the amount which, in the opinion of the Commissioner, was so excluded. (5.) Where the Commissioner is satisfied that goods, which have been manufactured by a baker or pastrycook, and to which the sale value prescribed by sub-section(2.) of section eighteen of this Act applies, have been donated to any public organization or committee established for the purpose of assisting unemployed persons in necessitous circumstances, or to any charitable institution, the taxpayer shallbe untitled to a rebate of tax on the sale value of those goods.
Section proposedto be amended - 20. (1.) Where the Commissioner finds in any ease that lax has been overpaid, he may refund the amount of tax found to be overpaid.
– I move -
That in proposed sub-section 4 the words “ or to a Commonwealth or State authority in such circumstances that no sale value is prescribed bysection eighteen of this act in respect of that sale,” be omitted.
That paragraph (a) of proposed new subsection 4 be omitted with a view to insert the following paragraph in lieu thereof -
that the goods are for the official use of a Government department, or of an authority specified in paragraph (aa) of sub-section (1.) of section twenty of this act, and are not for re-sale, and, in the case of goods sold to the Government of a State, an arrangement of the kind specified in that paragraph has been made between the GovernorGeneral and the Governor of the State.
The two amendments are interdependent, and are merely drafting alterations designed to give clearer expression to clause 6. The existing law provides that sales tax shall not be payable on the sale, by a registered person to certain government departments and authorities of goods intended for the official use of those departments or authorities. The exemption has full effect when the department or authority buys goods in such circumstances that tax has not previously been paid thereon, that is to say, (a) direct from the manufacturers thereof, or (b) from a wholesale merchant who has obtained the goods free of sales tax by quotation of his certificate. The exemption is not affected where the department or authority, as is frequently necessary, buys the goods from a retail merchant who is not registered under the Sales Tax Assessment Acts, or from a registered person who was not permitted by the law to quote his certificate when purchasing the goods. In the latter instances, tax will have been paid on the sale value of the goods when they were purchased by the person who sells them to the department or authority concerned. Such vendors are thus at a serious disadvantage in selling goods to government departments in competition with manufacturers and wholesale merchants, for they have to include in their prices the sales tax passed on to them. The proposed amendment will benefit the retail merchants, and also government departments and authorities which buy goods from them, by providing for relief to the extent of sales tax paid on some previous act or transaction in relation to the subject goods.
. -The amendment will rectify an anomaly that has operated unjustly. A retailer importing goods which he supplies to a government department on contract cannot quote his certificate and must pay the sales tax at the customs office. Although goods sold to government departments are not subject to sales tax, there has been so far no provision for a refund of the tax which the importer has paid. On the other hand, a wholesaler importing the goods, can quote his certificate, clear the goods from the customs without paying the tax, and sell them to a government department at an advantage of 6 per cent. over his retail competitor. The amendment will place all sellers on an equal competitive basis by enabling a refund to be made to the retailer in such circumstances.
.- The Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) has admitted that the anomaly which clause 6 removes was not intended, and I, therefore, ask him to indicate now his concurrence in the amendment to clause 9, of which I have given notice, to make clause 6 retrospective. The amount of revenue it will involve will be small, because few retailers could compete with wholesalers, who had the benefit of the 6 per cent. sales tax.
.- I know of a retailer in Western Australia who had contracted to supply certain goods to government departments. He was required to pay the sales tax, and the Government objected to its addition to the contract price. A good deal of confusion arose through inconsistent decisions by the department. If the retailer is not to get a rebate of the sales tax he has paid on the goods sold to the Government, he will suffer an injustice.. I therefore support the request of the honorable member for Balaclava that the amendment which the Government is proposing shall be made retrospective.
.- To make these refunds retrospective by a definite provision in this bill would be dangerous. It would be difficult to ascertain whether the tax has been passed on by the retailer; where it has been passed on a refund would be equivalent to a bonus. It is possible for a retailer who is probably not in competition to calculate the sales tax he has paid on top of all his other costs, and add it to the price he has charged. If the refund is made retrospective, the department will be involved in considerable difficulty. The Commissioner can examine all cases of hardship that come to his notice, and if he is .satisfied that an injustice has been done, refunds can be made and parliamentary approval obtained by making provision in the Estimates.
.- I understand that some of the traders have not been paying the tax on goods supplied to government departments, and have protested against the endeavour to collect it. Such cases as the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin) mentioned could arise, but as the payment of this tax on goods sold to the Government was never intended, and its collection was due to a misinterpretation of the law by the Commissioner, retrospective action would be quite justified. There is a precedent for this course, because refunds have been made in connexion with much more complicated transactions relating to chaff bags. The Commissioner may not desire to have cast upon him the responsibility of deciding the claims for refunds. The amendment I intend to propose to clause 9 will make clause 6 operate as from the 18th of August., 1930.
– Refunds could not be made retrospective to August, 1930, because sales to government departments were not exempt until the 11th July, 1931. The procedure suggested by the.. Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin) would be preferable. The Commissioner can ascertain all cases of hardship, and I will undertake that provision will be made on the Estimates for the necessary refunds.
Amendments agreed to.
.- I move -
That proposed new sub-section 5 be omitted with a view to insert the following in lieu thereof - “ (5.) Where the Commissioner is satisfied that goods which have been manufactured by a butcher, baker, or pastrycook, and to which the sale value prescribed by sub-section (2.) of section eighteen of this act applies, have been donated or sold to any public hospital or to any public organization or committee established for the purpose of assisting unemployed persons in necessitous circumstances, or to any charitable institution, the taxpayer shall be entitled to a rebate of tax on the sale value of those goods “.
I have been informed by the Salvation Army, which is doing wonderful relief work among ‘ the unemployed, that although its institutions are being run at a loss, it is required to pay sales tax on sausages, which the Commissioner has declared to be manufactured goods. The Gill Memorial Home serves 5,000 meals a week at prices ranging from Id. to 6d. a meal, and provides cheap beds ; it is losing from £16 to £20 a week, and the sales tax is adding considerably to its expenses. .The Australian Red Cross also is asking for relief. The clause in the bill exempts only goods donated to institutions. But tradesmen are not in business for the good of their health, and the goods donated may be few. Therefore goods sold to these institutions also should be exempt.
Mi-. SCULLIN - Docs the honorable member want to include articles sold to th cse institutions ?
– Yes. Practically all foodstuffs are now exempt from sales tax, and I am asking only for a slight extension of the principle. Considerable relief has been given to primary producers, who at least have their health. I admit that they may suffer business losses : but that is common in these times. The Government would make a gesture that would be appreciated by the community if it agreed to my amendment.
– I cannot accept the amendment of .the honorable member. This clause really deals with the exemption of donations, which the Government is prepared to exempt.
– Will the exemption include donations to orphanages?
– I may safely say, yes. Where traders make donations of goods to these institutions they will not be called upon to pay tax on the transactions. Actually, there is no sale. At the same time, it would be impossible for the Government to acquiesce in the honorable member for Balaclava’s proposal to exempt sales to institutions. That might be all right if the exemption could be restricted to sausages, but if the Government agreed to the amendment it would create for itself innumerable difficulties.
.- I realize some of the difficulties associated with the acceptance of my amendment. At the same time, I suggest that as applications for further exemptions came in they could be dealt with on their merits. I do not consider that there is any concession in exempting donations from sales tax. It is iniquitous that they should ever have been taxed. The Government is merely removing an anomaly. I submit that as all food items other than those I have mentioned are exempted, my amendment should be accepted.
– I take it that the purpose of the honorable member’s amendment is to widen the scope of the exemptions in regard to these institutions, and to include goods that are sold as well as those donated. I see the value of widening the scope of the exemptions. In common with other honorable members I have had the experience of the Income Tax Department ruling that donations to certain charitable institutions could not be exempted, as the institutions did not conform to the department’s interpretation of a charitable body. A. similar state of affairs will occur in connexion with the sales tax exemptions, for both taxes are administered by the same department.
Regarding the other matter, if the honorable member for Balaclava’s investigations satisfy him that the exemption of the items he mentioned would enable charitable institutions to extend their sphere of usefulness, and provide more accommodation and a greater number of meals, I am prepared to support his amendment.
Mi-. SCULLIN (Yarra) [10.55].- The sentiment behind the amendment and behind the opinions expressed by the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) appeal to every honorable member. I occupied the responsible position of head of a government, and I shall nor now take advantage of my changed circumstances. I realize that the acceptance of this amendment would not have a markedly detrimental effect on the revenue, and would assist charitable institutions only to a very small extent. There has already been a considerable widening of this legislation with regard to pastrycooks’ wares, and the only commodities not now exempted appear to be butchers’ small goods. I warn the committee that if we admit the right to have a special exemption in all cases because the transaction sales are to these institutions, there would c be a tremendous sacrifice of revenue. My Government considered, the matter, and. while it naturally would have liked to make the concession, it realized that such a step would have seriously embarrassed its finances, and opened the door to all sorts of requests which could not hecomplied with. It is astonishing to mc that donations have been taxed, because I do not see how they can be classed as sales. I shall support any endeavour to widen the exemptions concerning donations, but surest that we should confirm ourselves to that relief at this stage, and that the honorable member should not press his amendment.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 7 agreed to.
Clause 8 (Amendment of First Schedule - Exemptions) .
Amendment (by Mr. Lyons) proposed -
That the item “ fire rakes and fire plows “ he inserted.
.- I suggest that the words “fire-fighters” be included in the amendment.I think that it is the intention of the Government that all equipment for fighting bush fires should be included in the list of exemptions.
– With the limited information at our disposal, we are hardly in a position to accept the honorable member’s suggestion. It may be that the term “ fire-fighter “ is applied to machines or instruments that are not in use in rural areas at all.
– The fire-fighter is a water tank built on two wheels, with a pump and a spray attached for putting out bush fires.
– I shall give consideration to the honorable member’s suggestion.
Amendment agreed to.
.- I have an amendment to move relating to the exemption of tram cars, but there is a doubt whether it should be inserted in this clause. Will the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) give me the assurance that it will be inserted in its right place in the bill?
.- The bill will be recommitted to enable the honorable member to move his amendment.
.- Some farm tractors have attached to them a gas suction plant which provides the gas for propulsion purposes. Other farm tractors have not that equipment, and certain farmers are desirous of attaching the gas plants to their tractors. The exemptions cover tractors with gas suction plants, but there is some doubt whether a gas suction plant which is later attached to a tractor is also covered.
– The plant referred to by the honorable member is covered by the list of exemptions.
– I wish to make it clear to honorable members that I am taking the printed amendments in. the order in which they have been circulated. If honorable members have any prior amendments, I ask them to indicate them in their proper sequence.
.- I move-
That the item “ fertilizer spreader “ be inserted.
Field mowers come under the heading of agricultural and other machinery and implements. That heading also includes Drills - seed, grain and fertilizer. Many of the machines used for spreading superphosphates and other fertilizers are not drills. They are hopper and fan or shaker types of fertilizer spreaders. I should like the Government to include fertilizer spreaders in. the list of exemptions, because I do not think that their inclusion would involve any great loss of re venue.
– I am prepared to accept the amendment.
Amendment agreed to.
Wagons, drays and spring drays for use in farming or pastoral pursuits.
.- I move-
That after the word “drays “ (second occurring) the words “ and poison carts “ be inserted.
I should like poison carts included in the list of exemptions. There is provision made for the inclusion of rabbit poisons, but not the poison cart which distributes the poison baits.
– I cannot accept the amendment. The Government has gone a long way in trying to meet the position of the primary producers, and if we continue to. extend these exemptions we shall never reach finality. The Government has a financial responsibility cast upon it, and while these items taken individually may not mean much loss of revenue, taken collectively they would involve a considerable loss of revenue. The first request for exemption related to certain wagons in which grapes were carted in South Australia. We thought it fair to add other carts used in agricultural and pastoral pursuits. Now the honorable member is asking that poison carts be included. There must be some limit to the list of exemptions.
.- I support the amendment of the honorable member for Riverina (Mr. Nock). The Government has given the farmers certain concessions to facilitate the growing of their- crops. The honorable member for Riverina wants poison carts to be exempted from sales tax so that the farmers may be in a better position to exterminate rabbits. 1
.- I have no wish to press my amendment.
Amendment (by Mr. Lyons) agreed to-
That the item “machines for planting seedlings “ he inserted.
Agricultural, horticultural anil viticultural spraying and dusting materials, and preparations, to be used in the checking of noxious weeds, plant and seed insect pests and plant and seed diseases.
Amendment (by Mr. Bernard Cosser) agreed to -
That after the word “preparations” the words “ and materials “ be inserted.
Amendment (by Mr. Lyons) agreed to.
That the item, “ Bee-keepers’ equipment, but not including articles ordinarily used for any other purpose;” be inserted.
.- I move -
That the item “ confectionery “ be inserted.
The object of this amendment is to exempt from sales taxation the confectionery goods handled by small shopkeepers who sell many lines the sale price of which is definitely fixed at ½d., Id., 3d., Gd., and ls. We know very well that the sales tax is passed on to the consumer ultimately, but 6 per cent, of a penny, 36d., is all impossible sum to collect. Actually, these small shop-keepers pay the sales tax on the goods they buy, but cannot recoup themselves, and it is the manufacturer who passes it on to the retailer. It is paid by the manufacturers. The trade organization of these persons advocates a turnover tax, and there is justification for it in this case. It is an anomaly that sugar, tobacco, beer and certain other commodities are exempt from sales tax while confectionery is taxable. It would probably be stretching definitions to include confectionery as a food, but actually it does come within that category. The purchasers of the lines I have in mind are principally children, and people with small means. It would very greatly relieve the small shopkeepers if my amendment could be accepted.
– I cannot accept this amendment. It would involve the sacrifice by the Treasury of about £250,000. I do not think that the honorable member for Balaclava would care to embarrass the Government to that extent.
Amendments (by Mr. Lyons) agreed to-
That the following items be inserted: - “ Binder twine “, “ blowfly traps “, “ explosive sold to a person engaged in the mining industry for use in that industry; “.
Chemicals sold to a person engaged in the mining industry for use in the recovery of gold by the flotation, cyaniding or similar processes.
Amendment (by Mr. Lyons) agreed to-
That after the word “ gold “ the words “ silver or base metals “ be inserted.
Amendment (by Mr. Hutchin) agreed to -
That after the word “cyaniding” the. word “ electrolytic “ be inserted.
Amendments (by Mr. Lyons) agreed to -
That the item commencing with the word “ pastry “ be omitted with a view to insert the following in lieu thereof: - “ Pastry, scones, bread sandwiches, articles made of a mixture substantially similar to that from which yeast buns are made; articles made of the mixture known as sponge; cake made in separate sizes weighing less than six ounces each; Baby Husks, Milk Arrowroot biscuits, Baby Rice biscuits, but not including other biscuits; “.
That the following items be inserted: - “ Fumigators for extermination of rabbits “, “ mutton birds “, “ nets and netting for fishing and cotton for repair thereof.”
Water pipes (galvanized) not exceeding 3 inches in diameter, and galvanized pipe fittings; windmills and towers, pumps, pump jacks, power pumping heads, pump valves, tanks and troughing for use in farming, pastoral or mining activities.
– This clause provides in paragraph I for the exemption from the sales tax of windmills and towers, pumps, &c, including tanks and troughing for use in farming, pastoral or mining activities. Doubt has. been raised whether windmills and towers include the necessary accessories for -windmills. It is suggested in a telegram that I have received that the clause should include accessories, such as pump rods and pump rod joints. Although the exemption of windmills, together with the piping and the tanks, is provided for, tank-stands are not exempted. The department thinks “ Accessories “ to be too wide a term to employ; but in the meanwhile I move -
That after the words “ pump valves “, paragraph t, the words “ pump rods, pump rod joints, tank-stands “ be inserted. and ask the P-rime Minister to look further into the matter.
– I am willing to accept that amendment.
Amendment agreed to.
– It was evidently intended to exempt irrigation plants, particularly those in connexion with which sprinklers are used. I suggest that at the end of paragraph I, after the word “ activities “, the following words be inserted: - “Sprinklers and fittings for irrigation plant “. I have been asked whether duplicate parts are included in the list of exempted articles. Clause 8 provides for the exemption of agricultural and other machinery and implements, and “parts thereof, not being parts of a kind that are ordinarily used for any other purposes “. When windmills are dispatched, to a country district duplicate parts may be sent out with them.
.- I had intended to submit an amendment to paragraph I; but, on being assured by the department that the punctuation employed renders it unnecessary, I shall not do so.
[11.39 . - I point out to the honorable member for Darling Downs (Sir Littleton Groom) that pipe fittings and duplicate parts are covered by the exemptions. If any doubt arises on the matter, it can be dealt with when the bill reaches another place. I shall consider the honorable member’s request in regard to the inclusion of sprinklers and fittings for irrigation plants.
Amendments (by Mr. Lyons) agreed to-
That the item commencing with the words “ Wire netting “, paragraph m, be omitted, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the following: - “ Wire netting, barbed wire and iron or steel wire of gauges 8 to 14; manufactured field wire fencing and gates, and fencing droppers and posts for wire fencing, which are ordinarily used in farming or pastoral pursuits “
Clause further verbally amended, and, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 9. ( 1. ) The amendment effected by section five of this act shall be deemed to have commenced on the twenty-sixth day of October, One thousand nine hundred and thirty-one.
– I suggest -
That, after sub-clause (1.), the following sub-clause be inserted: - “(1a.) Sub-section (4.) of section twenty-six of the principal act, which is inserted by section six of this act, shall be deemed to have commenced on the eighteenth day of August, One thousand nine hundred and. thirty “.
This amendment relates to exemptions affecting bakers and pastrycooks, that are to come into operation after the act has become law. All the other concessions provided for in the schedule operate from the 2nd September. If this measure were held up in another place, considerable loss would be sustained by the traders concerned.
– It was stated in the budget speech that action would be taken to exempt, immediately from the sales tax, machinery and other requisites of the primary producers; but the exemption was not to apply in other cases until the act became law. No particular date was indicated, and it should have been clearly understood that the exemption in the case of other articles would operate only from the commencement of the act. Difficulty would be experienced if refunds of tax had to be made, because the sellers of other goods have increased their charges to an extent sufficient to provide for the payment of the sales tax. It seems to me that those concerned will be quite content to be relieved of the tax from the time of the passing of this measure.
.- The Prime Minister, in his second-reading speech on the bill, definitely gave the impression that all the new items to be placed on the exempt list would be freed from the sales tax as from the 2nd September, unless otherwise stated. I have a copy of the speech before me.
– If the honorable member were permitted to quote the whole of it, he would be unable to show that I had made the statement which he has attributed to me.
– It was first explained by the right honorable gentleman that the bill contains provisions that would come into operation on the 2nd September. The Prime Minister gave a long list of exempted goods, including cakes and pastry. In the same speech there was a further statement that other exemptions would operate from the 2nd September, the only exception being that certain exemptions were to be retrospective to the 11th July, 1931. There was no indication of the date of the exemptions except the general statement that they would operate from the 2nd September. On the basis of that statement, I advised pastrycooks in Perth that the exemption would operate from that date. Iunderstand that those engaged in this trade in Melbourne have been under the same impression, and have been selling on the assumption that the tax does not apply to cakes and pastry.
– They had no right to assume that until the bill was passed.
– That assumption was justified in view of the Prime Minister’s statement. They have not kept records, and will not be able to furnish records of sales to the department.
Sitting suspended from11.47 p.m. to 12.15 a.m. (Friday).
Friday30, September 1932.
– There is no justification for theassumption that the exemption of pastry would apply from the 2nd September. Only by completely misreading my speech on the second reading could such an impression have been gained. The difficulties in the way of makingtheexemptions retrospective to the 2nd September are so great that the Go vernment would not be justified in adopting the suggestion of the honorable members for Balaclava (Mr. White) and Perth (Mr. Nairn).
Clause agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported with amendments.
(Nos. 2 to 4).
Bills reported from committee with consequential and circulated amendments.
Sitting suspended from 12.25 to 12.50 a.m.
In committee :
Amendments (by Mr. Lyons) agreed to-
That the following items be added to clause 4 (Amendment of Schedule) : -
Beekeepers equipment, but not including articles ordinarily used for any other purpose.
Explosives imported by a person engaged in the mining industry for use in that industry.
Fire rakes and fire ploughs.
Fumigators for extermination of rabbits.
Machines for planting seedlings.
Nets and netting for fishing, and cotton for repair thereof.
Pump rods, pump rod joints, tank stands.
Ships and power-driven vessels of over 1,000 tons gross register.
Wire netting, barbed wire and iron or steel wire of gauges 8 to 14; manufactured field wire fencing and gates, and fencing droppers and posts for wire fencing, which are ordinarily used in farming or pastoral pursuits.
That the following clause be inserted: - 4a. Where any bags or sacks used for chaff have been imported into Australia on or after the first day of August, One thousand nine hundred and thirty and prior to the tenth day of July, One thousand nine hundred and thirt y-one -
if sales tax has not been paid in respect of those importations - sales tax shall not be payable in respect thereof;
if sales tax has been paid in respect of those importations and the Commissioner is satisfied that the tax has not been passed on to or beenpaid by the user of the bags or,if so passed on and paid by the user of the bags, has been refunded to him by the person who paid the tax-the Commissioner may refund the tax to that person.
That sub-clause 5 of clause 6 be omitted.
Bill further consequentially amended, and reported with amendments.
(Nos. 6 to8) 1932.
Bills reported from committee with consequential and circulated amendments.
Bill reported from committee without amendment.
(Nos. 1 to 9) 1932.
Reports adopted, and bills read a third time.
Motion (by Mr. Lyons) - by leave - agreed to by an absolute majority of the members of the House -
That Standing Order No. 70 be suspended for this sitting to enable new business to be taken after 11 p.m.
In Committee of Ways and Means:
– I move -
That sales tax be imposed at the rate of six per centum upon the sale value of goods imported into Australia after the commencement of the Sales Tax Act. (No.6) 1930 which are, on or after the date of the commencement of the act passed to give effect to this resolution, applied to his own use by a taxpayer who imported those goods.
The Sales Tax Act (No. 6) 1930-1931 provides for the imposition of sales tax upon the sale value of goods imported info Australia and sold by the importer. A bill which has been introduced to amend the Sales Tax Assessment Act (No. 6) 1930-1931 contains a provision for the purpose of requiring payment of tax on goods which a registered person imports free of tax by quotation of certificate, and which are subsequently applied by that person to his own use. The scope of the act is thus to be extended beyond the existing requirement of payment of tax only in respect of goods imported into
Australia and sold bythe importer.. It is necessary to make consequential amendments in the corresponding taxing act, that is the Sales. Tax Act (No. 6), in order to bring that act into line with the amendments of the Assessment Act.
– If carried out, this proposal would cause hardship and annoyance to many who receive presents from the other side of the world. Could not an exemption be provided, up to an amount of, say, £5.
– This proposal will not affect the cases referred to by the honorable member. It merely enacts that an importer who quotes his certificate and later applies the goods to his own use will be required to pay sales tax.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Standing Orders suspended, and resolution adopted.
That Mr. Lyons and Mr. Fenton do prepare and bring in a bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill brought up by Mr. Lyons, and passed through all stages without amendment or debate.
Motion (by Mr. Lyons) agreed to -
That the House at its rising adjourn until 2 p.m. this day.
– I move -
That the House do now adjourn.
It is proposed to adjourn this afternoon until the 12th October, which is a Wednesday. On following weeks the sittings of the House will commence on the Tuesday.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 1 a.m. (Friday).
The following answers to questions on notice were circulated: -
Tariff Board Reports
Inview of the fact that several of the Tariff Board’s recommendations recently tabled were signed by the members of the board from one year, seven months, to two years, one month, after the date that the applications were referred by the Minister to theboard for inquiry and report -
Will he, where applications for increased duties are to be referred to the board, instruct his departmental officers to prepare a quota of imports of the articles tobe reviewed, in order to prevent overseas suppliers from flooding the Australian market pending the receipt of “the board’s report and the Minister’s action thereon ?
Will he, if he considers that the Customs Act or any other act does not give him the power to make quotas of imports, bring in legislation to enable this to be done, and so place Australia in this connexion on a par with many European and other countries who use the quota system against our exports?
Importations from the United States of America.
Duty on Hosiery.
Amalgamation of Commonwealth Departments
Sydney and Canberra, prior to his appointment as secretary to the Department of the Interior, and to Melbourne and Sydney since such appointment.
In view of the large amount of public as well as private money which is being expended in afforestation, particularly in the planting of pine forests in South Australia and Victoria, and more particularly in view of the large amount of development money which is being spent in South Australia for the same purpose, has the Federal Government satisfied itself that a profitable market will be found for the produce from these plantations, especially for the great volume of interim thinnings which must become available during the progress of the plantations toward maturity?
South Australia is the only State which has maintained its planting quota, and as the other States have fallen short of the original proposal, a revision now appears to be necessary if the future timber requirements of the Commonwealth are to be met from local sources of supply.
Control of Oil Prices
Salaries of Judiciary
Cost of Overseas Delegations
When will he he able to supply particulars of the cost to the Commonwealth of the recent delegations to Geneva and Ottawa, and also the visit of Australian Ministers to the United States of America after the Ottawa Conference ?
The preparation of a statement of the total expenditure of the Ottawa delegation, including the visit of Ministers to the United States of America, is dependent upon the receipt of statements from London, and from Commonwealth officers in New York and Toronto. The matter will be expedited as much as possible, but it cannot at present be stated when the desired information can be made available.
What has been the total number of stamps printed of the -
Twopenny Sydney Bridge design recess printing;
Twopenny Sydney Bridge design surface printing;
Twopenny Sydney Bridge design surcharged O.S. ;
Threepenny Sydney Bridge design surcharged O.S. ;
Halfpenny King George design surcharged O.S. ;
Fourpenny King George design surcharged O.S. ;
Fivepenny King George design sur charged O.S. ;
Sixpenny Kangaroo design surcharged O.S.?
The quantities shown under (c), (f), (g), and (h) are the numbers of copies printed during the year 1931-32.
Postal Linesmen - Waterproof Coats
I am now in a position to inform the honorable member that much consideration has been given in an endeavour to secure suitable types of waterproof clothing, particularly for use at centres subject to heavy tropical rain. Orders for new coats have been fulfilled, and those for the replacement of defective coats are at present being executed. The present contract terminates on the 30th June, 1933, and all Queensland firms will have an opportunity to tender when the invitations are issued prior to the date mentioned.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 29 September 1932, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1932/19320929_reps_13_135/>.