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Thursday, 8 September 1983
Page: 552

Mr SAUNDERSON(11.18) —Yesterday, before I was interrupted because of the time limitations, I was talking about how remarkable is the amount of turnabout that has been taking place in the Opposition. In fact, I have now realised why I have seen members of the Opposition staggering around the passageways in the Opposition area. It is obvious that as they come out of the Party room they are all giddy from the merry-go-round they are all on. Every time we have proposed Bills or put up propositions, some of which have been in line with the position the Opposition took during its period of Government, we find that some form of mild opposition is bleated. It is also interesting that every time we have proposed legislation or amendments to Acts, some of which were even proposed by the previous Government-but that Government was not prepared to implement them-and which will bring about a situation where people who can afford to pay more than they have been or who have been evading their responsibilities to contribute to the income of the nation will be made to meet their responsibilities, the Opposition cries foul. I am talking about bottom of the harbour schemes. We are trying to get at those people who have morally evaded or avoided tax. Now we are saying that we want those people to face up to their responsibility. In the superannuation changes we--

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Millar) —Order! I remind the honourable member that his remarks should be relevant to the question before the House. I ask him to speak to the Bill.

Mr SAUNDERSON —I am being relevant to the question, Mr Deputy Speaker. In those areas in which we have been proposing-in the same way as we have in this Bill- that those who can afford to pay should pay, honourable members opposite have bleated opposition. As I pointed out yesterday, as regards television licences and radio licences, we are raising the fees so that we shall raise just under $2 .5m above what would have been expected if we had not put the additional 0.5 per cent increase on the rates. I pointed out yesterday how during the years 1980-81 and 1981-82 the radio stations recorded a 75 per cent increase in profits. Clearly, we are here dealing, as we were in other areas such as bottom of the harbour schemes, superannuation, and withholding tax, with areas in which people can afford to pay. But every time we apply a tax there, the Opposition complains .

The Opposition should be putting up propositions for positive alternatives. It has not yet indicated where it would raise the money to contribute to the Budget . It has not yet shown any positive alternative as to where we should raise money-other than perhaps falling back on its old line that pay-as-you-earn wage earners, those who have already been bearing an inordinate amount of the responsibility of carrying the debt, should pay a little more than they have already been paying.

We have pointed out that clearly these broadcasting stations can afford to pay. The Government has indicated that it is prepared to consider offsets in terms of Australian produced programs in relation to the additional $2.5m that it is raising. It is a very small impost. It represents only a 5 per cent increase above what the stations would have expected to pay. I believe that it is justified. Opposition members were talking yesterday about our attacks on radio and television, and they compared them with the $100m that we imposed on Telecom Australia. As I said yesterday, it is a surprising turn-around for them to be saying that we are attacking Telecom, when unfortunately they forgot to say that all that we have done is simply to impose a charge in exactly the same way as they did when in government. During the last 12 months of their Government, they were attempting to destroy both Telecom and Australia Post-which the honourable member for Murray (Mr Lloyd) lauded in his speech as being the most efficient organisations that he could see. As I have said, this Government has done a great deal to consolidate Telecom's position. It is looking after the people in rural areas, by so preserving Telecom in that sense, and much more so than the previous Government would have done had it been allowed to continue with the Davidson inquiry-the Public Inquiry into Telecommunication Services in Australia -as it was going to do.

In summarising the legislation and the changes that we are introducing, I have to say that it represents only a 5 per cent increase upon what the stations would otherwise have expected to pay. It affects a very small proportion of radio and television stations. It affects only those stations earning in excess of $9m in gross earnings. It is a small thing to expect an area which is very profitable to be able to carry at least some of the burden resulting from the gross mismanagement of the previous Government. There will be other areas at which we shall be looking, but I believe that this is just a very minor impost on an area in which people can well afford to meet the cost.