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Wednesday, 25 March 1998
Page: 1557

Mr ANTHONY (3:57 PM) —It is amazing to hear the member for Gellibrand (Mr Willis) talk with false indignation, as he pounds his chest, about a lack of tax reform. It is amazing that he said in his opening comments that his government introduced this bill in 1995 and yet the current government did not do anything about it until last year and the bill went through last week. Isn't it incredible that we got into government in only 1996—correct me if I am wrong, Ralph—but in 1985 it was your Prime Minister who actually put up this paper, the white paper on the tax reform you wanted to introduce, and you did nothing about it?

Why is it that you stand in here speaking with such righteousness about battlers, yet it was those very battlers who rejected your party in the last federal election? They rejected you because 20 per cent of the income of the lowest income earners of this country is spent on indirect taxes—indirect taxes that you introduced through the seven different regimes of wholesale sales tax—not to mention that you did not index bracket creep.

Mr O'Connor —And you are going to slug them with a GST.

Mr ANTHONY —Quite frankly, they already have it. What about that famous comment that no child should live in poverty? What about what was happening in the finance sector? I should know because I worked there. The top 200 in corporate Australia made the biggest profits they ever made when you were in government. Every day we would see in the national papers people like the previous Prime Minister, Bob Hawke, ingratiating themselves with the business captains—hardly the light on the hill, hardly what Ben Chifley would have described as Labor supporters. And what about the previous Prime Minister and how he enriched himself on a parliamentary salary? I wonder how that happened. Because of the connection the previous government had with the big end of town.

Don't come in here and lecture us about the propriety of taxation. What did you do? Let us have a look at it. Isn't it amazing that even ACOSS is in the process of supporting this government because we are going to come up with a fair and equitable tax regime? Let us look at this.

Mr Martin —No, they're not.

Mr ANTHONY —Even the member for Cunningham followed the yellow brick road. He is probably one of the best of the bunch over there.

Mr Sharp —What colour hair did he have at the time?

Mr ANTHONY —His hair is now a good colour. In March 1991 he brought down the report about reforms—and what happened to the recommendations? Oh, no, we could not implement those. Ralph was probably the Treasurer at the time. The main tax reform initiative happened in 1995.

Let us have a look at what this government has done—much to the contradiction of the pious comments of those opposite. Isn't it amazing that we have introduced reforms after only two years of being in government. Even though it has taken two years, that is a lot faster than 13 years, my good gentlemen. We have introduced tax avoidance measures for charitable trusts. We did it for franking credits.

Mr O'Connor —You will protect your mates—the 19 in the cabinet that have trusts.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Nehl) —The member for Corio, you are not part of this debate.

Mr Barresi interjecting

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER —And neither is the member for Deakin.

Mr ANTHONY —What did the Labor Party do? What else did we do? We abolished R&D syndicates. You guys! Here you are representing the battlers, the so-called blue-collar workers and here you are fraternising with R&D syndicates. It is quite well known. So is the member for Hotham (Mr Crean). Yet you got up here with all the indignation you could to show how wrong we were in trying to reduce an obvious tax minimisation scheme, tax avoidance—and you had the audacity to actually put up this fake defence that you thought it was wrong.

What about the abolition of infrastructure borrowings? Who did that? It was not the opposition. It was not the member for Gellibrand. It was the coalition government. What about franking credits? You guys set up the huge tax reform, the financial deregulation, the flourishing industry of imputation credits and a lot of them were used for inappropriate reasons. It was us who minimised offshore provisions on interest.

But isn't it interesting when you go back and look at when the Labor Party was in government. They talk about how we have taken two years to actually do the right thing to reduce trafficking in trust losses and to tighten up legislation. No wonder people are going into trusts. Who introduced capital gains tax? Who introduced FBT? Who introduced 15 per cent superannuation? Who introduced seven different taxes under wholesale taxes? Who did not reform bracket creep? No wonder it was under your stewardship, when you were in government, that we saw this accelerated increase in trusts. It was quite obvious.

You and the Leader of the Opposition have got up here. What a defence! It was actually when you were in power. It was actually when he was the Minister for Finance. He was the Deputy Prime Minister. Indeed, Mr Martin was the Speaker at the time. What happened? There was an increase of 32 per cent from 1991 through to 1996. Correct me if I am wrong, but I do not think the coalition were in power then; it was you. We also had a massive increase in company structures, obviously to legitimately reduce tax, by 34 per cent. There was also a growth in super funds of 67 per cent. Come on, guys, you knew what was happening; you were the architects of it all.

You think it is a sin to have a family trust. I do not have a family trust, but I know a lot of farmers do. And why shouldn't they? They are legitimately providing revenue and a structure which will keep people on the land, which will keep that vital industry. That is something you do not know because most of you come out of the union movement. You are not wealth creators but wealth takers. You try to redistribute but you have not.

What we are trying to do now is to integrate and to modernise the Australian tax system. What about Mr Burke and Mr Bannon and all those others and some of your previous prime ministers and the Prime Minister before that? What about the $1.3 billion deals that are being done now in China by a Labor icon? Who was that? The previous Prime Minister Mr Hawke. But, of course, he is representing the working man, just like most of you. What we are trying to do is to modernise this tax system, and we should have you onside.

Let us look at the record of inconsistency of the opposition, particularly the illustrious shadow Treasurer. Let us have a look at him now. Your policy is that you have no policy, you are a policy vacuum. You hide taxes and hide debt. That is how you operate.

Dr Southcott —Is this according to Gareth?

Mr ANTHONY —This is according to Gareth. Listen to this, you might learn something. On 1 October 1996, in an interview on 3AW he said:

I think, since we are so under-taxed by any relevant international standard, there is a case for having some overall revenue increase.

That is interesting. Two days later he said in an article in the Sydney Morning Herald :

I did not say that there was a case for higher taxes or for increased taxes . . .

He must have looked into his ashtray to get that. Then in 1997 he was talking about death duties. This was a classic. You come in here complaining about what we are doing to reform the mess you left us with nursing homes and here you are wanting to introduce death duties. On 17 August 1997, the shadow Treasurer said:

The States can redress that vertical fiscal imbalance in a number of ways, not only through services taxes but through the old chestnut of property or inheritance taxes . . .

But, of course, on 25 August 1997, less than a week later, he reversed the proposition:

I did not say that the states should impose death duties, service taxes, income surcharges or higher payroll taxes . . .

You cannot trust this guy. Look at negative gearing. You guys introduced negative gearing. Ralph, you did it. Here you are talking about abolishing it, like R&D syndicates. The member for Holt said on 3LO last Thursday:

That's certainly one of the many options that we are considering.

Of course, less than 24 hours later, he must have been looking in the ashtray again, an article in the Australian stated:

In a statement, Mr Evans has now ruled out an end to negative gearing.

Come on, guys. If you believe passionately in this, give us a policy. Let us now look at the member for Hotham. On Meet the Press he said:

The ALP will fund tax cuts from high economic growth.

This is a classic! You are going to reform the taxation system by doing absolutely nothing, by ensuring that the average taxpayer, as you well know, will be in the top marginal tax bracket because you guys did not alter bracket creep. You might have reformed some of the tax scales, but everyone slid up into the top bracket. Remember, these are the workers, these are the people you are meant to represent. But what are you going to do? The magical solution, the magic pudding, is that you are going to have high economic growth.

Isn't it amazing, because you told us to look towards Asia. That was your big vision: to look towards Asia. Look at what has happened to that. It is just as well we did not through the prudent fiscal policies that we had.

Mr O'Connor —We gave you four per cent growth and you could not even match it.

Mr ANTHONY —Yes, growth, that is right. It is not called growth. It is called paying today and borrowing from future generations—your kids. One day Steve Martin's kids might be in here and I hope they will not have inherited a national debt. We are talking about the member for Holt because he is proposing to return to the days of fiscal drag—higher inflation and higher tax brackets.

Frankly, their attack today has been quite hopeless. Considering the Leader of the Opposition was the Minister for Finance and the Deputy Prime Minister, your one-angle defence was, `We were going to do it,' and we have taken two years. You guys were here for 13 years and you did not do anything. Trusts expanded and exploded, and you know that. More companies went into bankruptcy. Bigger profits were made by corporate citizens than by the top 300—probably because most of them were on the payroll of the Australian Labor Party. What are your policies? High debt, high taxes and no vision. What about the poor old worker? For Christ's sake, you have abandoned them and now you are masquerading with R&D syndicates. (Time expired)