Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
 Download Current HansardDownload Current Hansard   

Previous Fragment    Next Fragment
Monday, 26 May 1997
Page: 4004

Mr TUCKEY(5.47 p.m.) —I came to speak in the grievance debate on some pretty important things, but I cannot let that speech go by without some comment. The reality is that we are suddenly going to make a family trust into some sort of connivance.

I stood in this parliament some years ago when we had the great white knight of tax evasion—which, of course, was the bottom-of-the-harbour scheme. The great white knight was then Minister Dawkins.

Mr Martin Ferguson —We knew all about that in Western Australia, didn't we, eh?

Mr TUCKEY —We sure did. You knew a few of the blokes who used to sink everything to the bottom of the harbour because they used to come to your ACTU meetings. But the reality is that John Dawkins, as your minister, carried on just as the shadow minister just did. It is all in the Hansard . You should go and read some time about just how their family trusts worked, how it minimised their tax and how they capitalised interest in a deal. I have since talked to the bloke who purchased the land. It was all very tax effective. So do not think there are people in the community who behave any differently to some of your own.

The reality of family trusts is that they are not, in general terms, tax avoidance measures. They are made by some extremely wealthy people. You were going to get the $800 million; the tax office was going to get the $800 million—but nobody has got anything yet because it is not there.

Let me tell you something about a family that might have more than one trust. They transfer a few losses around the place. The fact is that they are making losses—there are plenty of people making losses at the moment—because business is not travelling too well, and when they do they do not pay tax. If that is a crime, get up and say so. The reality is that, if one of your businesses does not do well, it is reasonable that you can bring those arrangements together and make it a single figure, whatever it turns out to be. That is not tax evasion.

The shadow minister was at some pains to talk about tax minimisation. It is apparently your view that, if a family has one business doing well and one that makes a loss, they do not sack all their staff and they carry on and carry those people, they should pay tax on one and carry the loss on the other. Of course they do not—and neither should they. But keep it up: all those views that have just been expressed are a nice message that I am going to circulate amongst the small business people in my electorate. They want to know what you really think. There is still this attitude of hatred.

You have got a great opportunity now to join up in one group in the parliament and to go and have a proper look at the Australian tax system. Of course PAYE taxpayers get a raw deal. They get it at every level—you know it—whether they have got a big income or a small income. You could do something about that because it is unbalanced in today's society. You people get up and talk about tax! That word l-a-w will never leave this place.

Mr Bevis —You supported the fringe benefits tax, didn't you, Wilson?

Mr TUCKEY —I did, as a matter of fact. I criticised my own people. Politically it was difficult, but that did not stop me going out in my electorate and explaining the benefits to people.

Mr Bevis —But you voted against it.

Mr TUCKEY —No, I did not vote against it. There was no vote.

Mr Bevis —I will check the record.

Mr TUCKEY —On the fringe benefits tax?

Mr Bevis —Yes.

Mr TUCKEY —It has never been in this parliament. I am sorry, I am getting mixed up. I was thinking of the GST. You will have to check the record on the fringe benefits tax.

The fringe benefits tax is a joke. That is the tax where Keating got up and said, `It is a very bad tax.' It is a silly tax because there are better ways of doing it. Do you know who invented it? The ACTU. Your candidate in Kalgoorlie, at the last election—an ex-leader of the opposition in Western Australia, Mr Taylor—got up and said, `If I am elected to the federal parliament, I will move to get rid of the fringe benefits tax.' Your bloke. Your candidate, who tried to beat Graeme Campbell. Do you know why? The union movement has suffered dreadfully from the FBT in all remote areas because it has created a thing called `fly-in, fly-out'. Your union organisers hate you for your fringe benefits tax. It has driven members away from them in their hundreds because it is all fly-in, fly-out and you cannot keep up with them. That is an interesting little bit of education for you. It is your invention; furthermore, it is a highly inefficient tax. But it is like so many other taxes.

You are worried about employment in the car manufacturing sector—and so you should be because we have a tax system that puts thousands of dollars on the manufactured cost of a motor car. And that is considered smart! We put lead in the saddlebags of our own manufacturers who are trying to employ people, and you think that is a good idea. It is no good waiting until the next election to try to work out a tax policy. For you or for us? The time to do it is now, in the national interest, instead of making silly speeches like the shadow minister has just made.

Why not look at the tax system and say, `What is in the national interest?' If you want to say what is in the national interest then say it. Do not just stand up in here and tell lies and carry on. You go on with a fear campaign because you think it might get you re-elected and it does not matter. There are so many aspects to the Australian tax system, whether it is income tax or any other tax. Because we have a high dependence on income tax you wonder why we have people paying accountants millions of dollars to find their way around the income tax law. Businesses ought to be paying accountants to tell them how to run their business and be more profitable so they can employ more people. All of these things can be attended to.

Everybody is running around saying that we should have a bipartisan approach to immigration. What is wrong with having a bipartisan approach to tax? Nothing except you guys think that there is one more fear campaign to be run—on tax reform.

Mr Bevis —You have the Sheriff of Nottingham approach to taxation.

Mr TUCKEY —The reality is that we have not got an approach at all. Why can you not come along and talk in the people's interest and put facts alongside your claims. The reality about taxation is that there is plenty to criticise in the Australian system. It is wrong from start to finish. You will not improve it by running out with election rhetoric. You guys are not going to come along and say, `Let us get together.'

Would it not be interesting if such an initiative came from your side and you said, `We think the national interest demands we do something about this problem'? Put your points of view and substantiate them with facts and not rhetoric. Come up with some decent suggestions and not a fear campaign, not half the story or portraying trust as some deliberate mechanism that only has one use in all the world and that is tax minimisation. Get together and show that there are a few statesmen on your side of the House. Take a bit of initiative to achieve the bipartisan approach which got Australia the best tax system. It is not beyond the resources of the people in this place.

Do you realise that this parliament has never had an inquiry into its own tax system? It has paid other people to do it but never done it itself. Do you think that is a good idea? I do not know what the outcome would be. That does not matter. The reality is that you could sit down and look at all the problems and collectively try to come up with a good idea.

Please remember your last promises. You were going to cut personal taxation and create no new taxes. You got elected and you put 6c per litre tax on fuel. Do you think working people do not buy fuel? Is it only the rich who buy fuel? Most of your people had all the beat up, poor old leaded machines and you put extra tax on them. That is how much you thought of your people and they gave you a message. You put two per cent on sales tax. Do you think they do not pay sales tax and that only the rich pay sales tax?

You hit them all because you could not tell the truth during an election campaign. You tried to work a miracle. That is a great problem. It is heartbreaking because the biggest problem confronting Australia today in terms of its ability to compete around the world is a tax system that loads costs on to people who export or import. It is pretty silly when we tax those people in so many ways— $2,000 a week on a semitrailer in a country like Australia where everything has to move great distances. It is silly. Why not wake up to it and stand up and say, `Let us do something better for once.'(Time expired)