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Monday, 23 November 1998
Page: 373

Mr BEAZLEY —My question is to the Prime Minister. Has the Prime Minister seen the comments made by the Tax Commissioner, Michael Carmody, on the 7.30 Report last week regarding tax avoidance when he said:

What we are seeing here is a mass marketing of a style that we have not seen in a long time. It is potentially several billion dollars.

Has the Prime Minister also seen Mr Carmody's comments that the benefits being claimed from tax reform will simply not be delivered if aggressive tax planning is not targeted and changed? Is this the reason why some high wealth individuals are avoiding paying their fair share of tax? Will you guarantee that the measures necessary to combat the problems identified by the Tax Commissioner will be put before this parliament alongside the legislation to introduce a GST?

Mr HOWARD (Prime Minister) —This is a question that has come from a man who sat for 13 years in a government that did precious little to clamp out tax avoidance practices. He is also the leader of an opposition that opposed the crackdown on the tax avoidance abuses under the syndication scheme. I take the opportunity of reminding the parliament of the measures that have been undertaken in the last 2½ years. There have been measures relating to abuses under R&D, the trafficking in trust losses, and the franking, credit and dividend streaming arrangements.

If my memory serves me correctly, didn't the Labor Party vote against the measures to stamp out tax avoidance in relation to syndi cation? Didn't the Labor Party also vote against measures to ensure that high income earners in this country paid a greater contribution to removing their own budget deficit via a superannuation tax surcharge? Doesn't it pass very strange that this is the same group of people who voted to oppose measures to extract from high income earners in this country a contribution towards eliminating their own budget deficit?

I can remember when the Treasurer's first budget was introduced in 1996 that one of the measures was the imposition of a surcharge on superannuation contributions. If I remember rightly that was widely seen in the community as being a fair measure. It was not a popular measure among high income earners: I can testify to that. The Treasurer can testify to that and so can anybody on this side of the House testify to that. It was a very unpopular measure but, very interestingly, the Labor Party moved heaven and earth to try to stop that measure being passed into law. It is therefore an act of great hypocrisy for the Leader of the Opposition to be up here asking me questions about tax avoidance.

We have a tax plan that will create a fairer, more transparent Australian taxation system. We believe the measures contained in that, and the measures that have been introduced by the Treasurer over the last 2½ years, represent, in those 2½ years, a more vigorous assault on tax avoidance than we saw from the Labor Party in 13 years.