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Tuesday, 21 October 1997
Page: 9403

Mr MILES (Parliamentary Secretary [Cabinet] to the Prime Minister)(8.20 p.m.) —I listen to a number of debates and take carriage of quite a number of bills in this House and, I must say, on a number of occasions the opposition does raise issues which I think have some merit. But, on this occasion, I must say that I listened fairly carefully to both the speakers who have just spoken and I think that they really want to continue the sort of administration as that of the previous government. That is a very sectional interest type of thing—give a bit here. It is really populist politics. It is interesting just to listen to the way in which it is being argued. What we say as a government is, `Let's treat everybody fairly and equally. Everybody earning over $70,000 per annum will pay the surcharge.' You want to say that there is one particular special group in this country which should not come under that rule and that they want to be selected out.

Mr Bevis —It is a special payment that goes to a special group.

Mr MILES —The members have had their chance to put their thoughts and I have listened to them quietly. It is interesting, though, that they argue this case. They never said, `We'll start whittling away at the surcharge which raises, say, about $500 million.' Nor did they say where they would get the money from if they did not have this surcharge. Quite frankly, you have been arguing the case against the battlers of Australia. You are really saying, `Let's not tax the rich.'

Mr Laurie Ferguson —Are you saying these people are wealthy?

Mr MILES —I am saying that people who earn over $70,000—double the average wage in Australia—are doing quite well. You are saying also that we are not informing people. That is not true at all. Let us face it, there are lots of people who actually get annual performance bonuses for increased productivity. Are you going to say that people who get bonuses for productivity should not have to pay the surcharge?

Then you are going on to say that a person getting commission bonuses based on the level of the person's sales should not have to pay the surcharge. What nonsense. That is the higgledy-piggledy sort of administration this country had for 13 years, trying to pick winners here and do a deal there, a special deal for this group and a special deal for that group. You are trying to reimpose that on this government, which has now got the management and administration of taxation and the budget back into balance. You would like to send us back into a $10 billion deficit. That is what you would like to do. The fact is that lots of people get different bonuses for a whole range of reasons, and in regard to these sorts of circumstances we want to treat everybody in Australia fairly and equitably. There is no overwhelming reason why retention bonuses should be excluded from the calculation of adjusted taxable income for the purposes of determining surcharge liability.

I was very interested that the member for Brisbane (Mr Bevis) said that these people are not stupid. I agree with that. The fact is that you are saying that these people are not going to be aware, like all other Australians, that their income is going to go over $70,000, so they will not know that this surcharge applies to them. All other Australians will realise, will read the papers, will be taking information, and you are saying that these people will not realise it. I do not think that is the truth. I think these people are very able, competent people who do a great job for Australia.

The recently issued information statement sent to all members of the Australian Defence Force included information about the superannuation contributions tax, and we have the opposition over here saying that they are not informed. That is total nonsense. Quite frankly, the argument which has been put by the opposition does not hold water at all. It is populist politics involving sectional interests, and that is about all there was in the argument that was put. It was not about having a taxation system that treated everybody equally and fairly. You are arguing the case that we should not tax people on $70,000 but rather should let those people off. (Extension of time granted)

I say to honourable members on the other side that we do not support this amendment. There is no plausible reason why you would accept this type of amendment to this legislation. Not only that, but in regard to informing people in the defence forces, the Taxation Office and ComSuper, which administers the military superannuation schemes, will provide members with ongoing information in relation to the superannuation surcharge tax. ComSuper also periodically sends a newsletter to service pay centres on topical issues affecting members' superannuation entitlements. The people in the defence forces are people who are aware of the various matters which will affect their superannuation; I have no doubt about that. As honourable members were saying, they are able people and they would understand the implications of the surcharge tax. As I said, no plausible argument has been put by the opposition in regard to this matter, and we oppose the amendments which are being proposed.

   Question put:

   That the amendments (Mr Bevis's ) be agreed to.