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Monday, 16 June 2003
Page: 11463

Senator HOGG (9:23 PM) —As I indicated earlier, I did not really want to speak on the Taxation Laws Amendment (Personal Income Tax Reduction) Bill 2003 but, having listened to a number of people in the chamber, I thought it worth while to get up and say a number of words. In particular, I want to make reference to those people who are in family situations. I cast my mind back to my first speech in this place. It was focused on low-income and single-income families—the people at the end of the economic spectrum in this country. And they do suffer—there is no doubt about that. I have heard a few `M' words used here tonight to describe the tax cuts that the government are putting forward in this legislation, and I think they are pretty right. Senator Nettle, I think, referred to them as `measly'. I think they could also be described as minuscule, miserly, miserable and even mingy.

Senator HOGG —And mean also. We have cast the net around for a few words, and one that is not an `M' word is `tricky'. It is an illusion for people in those low-income and single-income families. For the average family, $4 a week is going to pan out at somewhere between $1 and $1.33 per head in that family. If the government believes that that is going to improve the situation of those families in any way, then it is not in touch with the real world. It is not the sort of injection that is needed to assist those low-income and single-income families. Instead of people receiving tax cuts in the order of $11 at the higher level—and I understand that we are going to be among those people—it would have been far better had the tax cuts been directed to the low-income group and the bottom end of the middle-income group, so that people got something realistic out of it to improve their lifestyle.

The people at the top end of town have already benefited through the GST legislation. There is no doubt in my mind that the GST legislation saw a redistribution of wealth from the poor to the rich; it shifted the tax burden from the rich to the poor. That was the net effect of the GST. Of course, after having introduced the GST, the government, now trying to redress the issue of bracket creep in some small way, give tax cuts in the order of $11 to people on substantial salaries in the order of $100,000, while those on very basic salaries are receiving no more than $4. There is no equity, no justice, in that at all—absolutely none. It is the families of Australia—those low-income and single-income families—that are suffering.

I can speak with some degree of certainty on this because I am still an active person in my trade union, which I have stated in this place on many previous occasions. I am an active person out there in the field, listening to the needs of people. Whilst I am not there on a day-to-day basis, I do know where they hurt. They have expectations that governments, if they are going to give something, do not give a miserly handout such as the one that has been given on this occasion. It is just an insult to people. That is the only way you could describe it—an insult. Four dollars a week! What is it going to do? Absolutely nothing. As has been discussed in this debate, according to Senator Vanstone it is not even going to buy a hamburger and a milkshake. I do not know where you go to get a hamburger and a milkshake for $4. It is certainly not going to assist the cafe latte set or the chardonnay set. It is not going to help those who like their meat pies and it is certainly not going to help those who have a taste for fast food. It is not going to buy even the basic commodities in terms of the needs of the family, whether that be milk, bread, margarine or fruit and vegetables. The $4 that these people are going to receive by way of these tax cuts, which the government are making out to be so generous, is just not going to go anywhere. The government have put out there in the general public a totally miserable and much misrepresented tax cut to make people believe that there is something there for them.

I have always believed that those with the greatest capacity to pay tax should pay the most. In this case, those people should be the high-income earners. That is reasonable and fair, and is what natural justice and equity would dictate. Instead, what we see is that they are receiving $11 a week and the average worker is going to receive a miserable $4. As I say, it is a complete slap in the face. It would be remiss of me to let this opportunity go by without pointing out that the government should not be patting themselves on the back. They should be going back to the drawing board and seeing what real policies they can put in place that are going to assist those families that are struggling to educate their children and to give them the basics in terms of clothing, footwear, natural health treatments, medicines and so on.

This government should not be favouring the people at the top end of town. They should be looking to those people who are suffering the most out there in the community. They should not be handing out insults to them left right and centre by offering them a miserable and mean $4. At the end of the day, it goes no way at all to resolving the economic woes that these people are confronted with. Whilst we will be supporting the bill, I believe that the government have well and truly missed the mark in delivering a proper family tax cut that would assist those people who find themselves at the bottom end of the economic scale in our community.