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Tuesday, 30 September 1997
Page: 7233

Senator HOGG(4.59 p.m.) —I rise to support my colleagues to insist on the amendment. The government's move not to insist on the amendment does nothing more than assist the mates of the government. It does nothing to assist the battlers. After all, the battlers are the PAYE taxpayers and this move does nothing at all on the government's part to assist those people. As I say, purely and simply it assists their mates. What it does is give their mates access to a privilege which is not otherwise accessible to the battlers. To insist on this amendment makes good sense indeed because it cuts out a privilege which will be felt and experienced by only a few.

In speaking to this matter yesterday, Senator Sherry, my colleague, pointed out that something like 97 per cent of small businesses have $1.3 million in business assets. I understand that is an ABS figure. If so, and if that is a correct figure, then one is really looking at the remaining three per cent being affected by the government's decision not to insist on the amendment that this Senate has passed.

If one looks at those who would fall in that three per cent above the $1.3 million, there would be a number who would even fall outside the government's own test of $5 million in business assets. So what we are really talking about in this whole debate is those who lie between the $1.3 million in business assets and those with less than $5 million. Even under the government's own stricture, those people outside the $5 million bracket would have been excluded.

When one takes into consideration which businesses those might be, we are indeed looking at a very small group of businesses that would get the direct benefit if the government's motion not to insist on this Senate amendment were to succeed.

In effect, this is doing nothing more than satisfying the needs of a few mates and a few privileged people—people who undoubtedly, in their own right, have personal wealth. They may well have their yachts, their Ferraris, their artworks, their antiques and their holiday houses as personal assets on the side, and they may be very well-heeled indeed to meet the rigours of the economic environment in which we live today. These people are not really in need of any additional privilege; they have privilege to start off with. This is nothing more than a boost to the personal wealth of a group of business people that lie within that $1.3 to $5 million bracket.

What we are insisting on, by taking into account of the personal assets of these people, is that we will limit the access of some people to a free ride on the back of the PAYE taxpayer. In insisting on the Senate amendment, we are not talking about the Newcastle workers, those people who will find themselves without jobs or those people who will have to use their superannuation, if they are over 55, before accessing social security. Those people have no nest egg for themselves. We are not talking about them in this particular move by the government not to insist on the Senate amendment. We are talking about a select group of wealthy people who really do not need a leg up to have a comfortable retirement. They are more than adequately catered for as it is now.

The average battler retiring on superannuation will have in the order of $100,000 to $200,000 maximum on which to retire. That, by many standards, is not an overwhelmingly great amount of money but nonetheless they are forced and caused to struggle to survive and plan their retirement around those amounts of money. And yet here we have a windfall which will fall to those people in that select range where they will stand to benefit to the tune of almost half a million dollars—give or take the tax that might come out of it. Of course, this benefit is not, under any circumstances, available to the PAYE taxpayer.

Here we see a group of people being very nicely advantaged by this move by the government. If the government initiative removes a tax responsibility from the rich, then all it does is transfer the responsibility to the poor. What we must see in this case is that, if a select, wealthy group of people are going to benefit by what is in effect a tax benefit to them, then someone has to pay—and I would put to you that the people who will pay the most are the poor people.

The fact in my mind remains that the benefit, whilst it will be for a few, will be for a very select few. It will be for those who are well-heeled; it will not be for the battler. The retirement benefit that this will confer upon those people is a retirement benefit that is well and truly beyond the reach or even the dream of the average worker. It is not hard work that is being rewarded; it is purely and simply something that is giving a select group of people an even better retirement.

In my view, the Senate must insist on the amendment for the issue of equity and justice not only to be seen to prevail but to actually prevail in our society. I seek that the Senate insist on the amendment that has been passed by this Senate.