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Tuesday, 17 February 1987
Page: 126


Mr CARLTON —My question is directed to the Treasurer and it concerns the bottom line of welfare to Australian families. I refer the Treasurer to the fact that when Labor was elected in March 1983 a family on average weekly earnings was paying 17 1/2c in every dollar in tax and that even after the proposed second round of tax cuts in July this year that same family will be paying 20 1/2c in every dollar in tax. Is it a fact that such a family would need an additional tax cut of $15 a week merely to bring it back to where it was in 1983? What excuse does the Treasurer have to offer for his disgraceful tax treatment of Australian families?


Mr KEATING —In mentioning 1983 is the honourable member referring to the 500,000 families the honourable member for Bennelong banished to the employment scrapheap? Are they the families the honourable member is talking about-families that did not have jobs to pay any income tax on? Are they the families he is speaking about? Are the 700,000 people who were banished to unemployment in the Fraser years and the 500,000 who were banished to unemployment in the former Treasurer's last 18 months the people he is referring to or does he think they are martians? Does he think that the people his Government banished to the unemployment queues were part of Australian families or not? Fancy honourable members opposite talking about families. The Opposition had nothing but contempt for Australian households all the years it was in government. It beat them to death and never at any stage did it give them tax indexation. It took the $3 billion of new cheap lazy oil money out of Bass Strait and spent it on the Burdekin Dam and everything else it could get its hands on when it could have relieved the taxpayers and families of this country. It never cared less.

Since 1983 the Opposition has opposed every wage increase in contemplation. It has supported a wage freeze on every occasion since 1983 and did so well before that. But honourable members opposite get up here and bleat about the disposable incomes of families via the tax system-that is their point-and say that there should not be any wage increases; that we can have inflation from the Howard years of 11 per cent, but families should be given nothing. When this Government said `Let us put a decent policy together which has restraint and which tracks Australian inflation down', the Opposition said that there should be no wage increases. That is what the Opposition said.

Now the honourable member is asking me a question about taxation. We know where he stands on taxation. He stands with the politics of greed. That is where he stands on taxation. He stands to hand tax cuts to the rich at the expense of the poor and the working class. That is where he stands. He now stands to sabotage the whole climate of restraint that this Government has created through its wages and budgetary policies. The principal saboteur, the man with the fistful of cheap dollars, is the honour- able member for Bennelong. He is the man who says `Give the rich-the white-shoe millionaires who have spent years paying less than their fair share of tax-a 40 per cent tax rate', but have we heard in the proposals of the Leader of the Opposition of any tax changes for the people who earn under $20,000? Have we heard of any tax changes for the people who earn under $30,000? No way. If a person earns above $35,000, that person is entitled to a 40 per cent tax rate, and it is paid for by the rest of us. That is what the Opposition is into. The whole fabric of restraint which the Government has built up-getting the work force and the Australian Council of Trade Unions to accept income restraint for four years, cutting transfer payments and basically controlling and reducing the Commonwealth Budget deficit-the Opposition would put at risk basically to go back to another fistful of dollars. It would blow the Budget deficits apart and even the foundation stone on which that handful of greed sat, the consumption tax, we now find today has gone up in thin air because it has been vetoed by the National Party of Australia and by Sir Joh Bjelke-Petersen.

The Leader of the Opposition stands now without any fiscal policy, with $7.8 billion of tax and outlays promises and without any wages policy-and he is asking about the disposable income of Australian families. This Government is the only government that has given families substantial tax cuts which are paid for by making the urgers pay their way with the abolition of the fringe benefits and negative gearing and the substantiation of entertainment allowances and capital gains. The tax cuts are paid for by those things, yet the Opposition says `Let's give them back the free lunches. Let's give them back their free Mercedes and their negative gearing on their properties. Let's give them back all the profits in the stock exchanges by wiping out the capital gains tax, but let's have some crocodile tears for the low income earners.' The Opposition pushed the low income earners on to the unemployment scrapheap; it ran them into the ground with its high tax policies by letting the tax cheats off for seven years. We brought them to book and we have given Australia the fairest tax system it has ever had in the history of the Income Tax Assessment Act.

When it comes to credibility with Australian families, as my colleague the Minister for Social Security said, honourable members should look at the record of this Government, at the Opposition's record and rhetoric, its constant complaints about wage increases, its advocacy of a wage freeze and the fact that it never gave any tax relief in all the years it was in government.