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Thursday, 19 February 1987
Page: 352

Mr DUBOIS —Can the Prime Minister inform the House of the effects of the Government's tax reforms on Australian working families?

Mr HAWKE —I thank the honourable member for his question. The Government's tax reform has eased the tax burden on Australian working families by obliging the wealthy in this country, for the first time, to pay their fair share of tax. Much to the consternation of those opposite, we have eliminated the free lunches, the tax free company Mercedes, and the entertainment rorts. All the things that we have done have eased the burden on the lower and middle income people in this country.

We are providing from 1 July this year tax relief for Australian working families that will amount to more than $10 a week for a worker on average earnings. That is our track record on taxation. From July this year there will be a top rate of 49c in the dollar, against the rate of 60c which applied when the failed Treasurer walked out of office. Our track record is clear; it is progressive; and, in economic terms, it makes sense. As I said last year, we will go to the next election not only content but also wanting to make tax an issue.

In a political debate on this issue, one has one's side, but one is entitled to ask: `Where is the alternative tax policy?'. I will refresh the memory of honourable members about the little contributions we have had along the way by those on the other side of the House. The shadow Treasurer heralded it-

Mr Gear —Which one?

Mr HAWKE —The fellow over there. He is desperately concerned that another member will resign soon and allow Professor Hewson to come in. Professor Hewson is the shadow Treasurer of the honourable member for Kooyong. Therefore, the current shadow Treasurer is very worried as to how long he will stay there. He heralded the tax policy on 12 November when he was questioned by Richard Carleton. Mr Carleton said:

We don't know how long we've got to wait for it from you yet.

The shadow Treasurer said:

Well, not too long because there probably will be an election in March, the way they're going.

He said that the Government was going so badly that there would probably be an election in March. The only reason that anyone in this country is speculating about a possible election in March this year is not because of what is happening on this side of the House; it is because of the chaos on the other side. He continued:

In those circumstances, they'd have their policy by March.

What happened then? The Leader of the Opposition came into the debate and, on 12 February, assured us that the details of the policy would be released a lot sooner than many people imagined. What he said is very interesting in light of what is happening today. He said:

The details of that policy are going to be released a lot sooner than many people imagine. I know it's an important part of the debate, but you talk about Joh. Joh hasn't told us where the money is coming from.

I wonder whether, after yesterday's performance by the Treasurer, the Leader of the Opposition will tell us how his $14 billion credibility gap will be filled. There it was on 12 February. We got a bit more.

Mr Carlton —There was nothing in that quote. What is your next one?

Mr HAWKE —There is nothing in any of your quotes, my friend; you are exactly right. Senator Messner, the shadow Minister for finance and taxation, told us in his February newsletter that the policy had been constructed. He recited six points and said:

These six points summarise the fundamental principles that form the foundations upon which the tax policy has been constructed.

There it was from the shadow Minister. Of course, the whole thing has been thrown back into the melting pot because the Leader of the Opposition, who said that a consumption tax was a central element of his tax policy, has been torpedoed by the Leader of the National Party in Queensland. Sir Joh Bjelke-Petersen has said that a consumption tax is not on. Those people in that corner of the House are saying the same thing, are they not? It is not on, is it, Ian? Come on, Ian! A consumption tax is not on, is it?

Mr Ian Cameron —No.

Mr HAWKE —There you are. Thank you, Ian. So there we have it. Is it any wonder that Sir Joh Bjelke-Petersen yesterday called the Leader of the Opposition a silly little boy? He said that the Leader of the Opposition will not listen to the wise men in cockies corner; that is where fiscal rectitude resides. Ian is right; it is not on.

It is quite clear that the chickens of the Leader of the Opposition are coming home to roost. I wonder whether he has the decency to look the honourable member for Kooyong in the eye and remind the honourable member for Kooyong of the gratuitous advice that he, the honourable member for Bennelong, gave to the honourable member for Kooyong when he was the Leader of the Opposition. Honourable members will remember the document which the honourable member for Bennelong leaked on his then Leader. He told-he lectured-the honourable member for Kooyong:

We will be extremely vulnerable if Labor can successfully put the tag of `where's the money coming from' on our election offerings.

He said:

I do not believe the costings issue can be avoided.

Mr Griffiths —Who wrote that?

Mr HAWKE —The honourable member for Bennelong wrote it. He was not short of advice when he was trying to undermine the honour- able member for Kooyong, his Leader. He said: `You can't have this shallow approach. You've got to be honest; you've got to say where the money is coming from.' I suggest to the honourable member for Kooyong that he get the missive out and send it back to him, and he will probably hasten the day that he is seeking so earnestly, the day when he comes back here-a day which I might say I am also earnestly looking forward to.