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Tuesday, 4 October 1983
Page: 1241

Ms MAYER —My question is addressed to the Prime Minister. Would greater reliance on indirect taxation assist the Government in its fight against tax avoidance?

Mr HAWKE —The proposition involved in the question from the honourable member for Chisholm is, in fact, the wrong way round. To the extent that the fight against tax avoidance is successful, there is obviously a lesser need to tax the average income by any means whatever. I remind the House, as I have done on a number of other occasions, that this Government has taken several steps against tax avoidance and evasion. I remind the House very quickly that they are the tax recoupment legislation, the prescribed payments system and the proposed amendments to section 26 (a) of the Income Tax Assessment Act.

I am amazed that the Leader of the Opposition, both prior to and at his weekend Party conference, had the temerity to try to beat up the tax issue again. He might have a short memory in this matter but members of the Australian public know better. They know that what has been said by the Leader of the Opposition is coming from a coalition that protected in the past and continues to protect tax dodgers and the rip-off merchants in the tax avoidance industry. It comes from a leader of the opposition and an opposition which oppose the withholding tax legislation which they introduced when they were in government, giving credence to what the Leader of the Australian Democrats in the other place has called their mindless opposition to any government policies whatsoever. It also, most importantly, comes from an opposition which would have had a Budget deficit of at least $10.5 billion in 1983-84 and which could have got to the figure of $ 7 billion suggested by the Shadow Treasurer only if the Leader of the Opposition had given a clearance to impose the most massive tax slugs in the history of this country. But I suppose, after the events of the last weekend, that he would not even have had to ask the Leader of the Opposition for that permission; he would have done it and got him to sign on the dotted line afterwards.

What happened in respect of taxation in the budgetary procedure is that we went right through the process in the months leading up to the Budget. We know all the alternatives that are available. The only alternatives that would have been available to the Leader of the Opposition and the Opposition would have been to impose massive taxes in areas that they looked at before, such as books and service items that are important elements in the average earner's normal consumption of goods and services. The simple fact which is becoming increasingly clear with each passing week is that, if the Opposition were in a position to have its way, the honest taxpayers in this society would have been inevitably faced with a battery of new taxes such as the ones to which I have referred because by its action as well as by its deeds the Opposition is still the Party which is the protector of the tax dodger and the rip-off merchant. If what we have seen this last weekend in regard to tax policy is the best the Opposition can do, it had better go back to the drawing board because the Australian public simply will not buy it.