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Wednesday, 1 April 1987
Page: 1913


Mr GEAR(6.46) —It would not surprise anybody in this chamber that when people from the Opposition speak on Appropriation Bills and have an opportunity to talk about their taxation policy we do not hear anything about it. Instead, as the honourable member for Curtin (Mr Rocher) showed, we get carping criticisms about what this Government supposedly is or is not doing. The honourable member brought up a couple of points I would like to take up. He talked about the amount of tax revenue this country spends as a percentage of gross domestic product. For the honourable member's illumination, I have the latest figures for the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. The revenue statistics for the OECD countries show the amounts of tax revenue spent as a percentage of GDP. Of the 23 OECD countries, Australia comes in eighteenth.


Mr Rocher —After Sweden.


Mr GEAR —Sweden is first. It spends the highest percentage. Around 50 per cent of its GDP is spent by the Government. The country with the lowest figure is Turkey. If what the honourable member was saying was that the measure of economic well-being was the percentage of tax revenue spent by the government one would imagine that Turkey would be leading the economic charge, but that is not the case. I do not know what point the honourable member was trying to make but whatever it was it is not borne out by the statistics here: Australia is doing very much better than Turkey and so is Sweden. Therefore, these figures show that the percentage of tax revenue actually spent plays very little part in the economic well-being of a country. In the case of Sweden, one could point to the fact that its high taxing policies have actually produced an economy which is better suited to the economic conditions of today than are Australia's.

The honourable member for Curtin also talked about the Waste Watch Committee. This bunch of mental midgets who go around perusing documents to find grants as low as $400 to criticise-they have done that-would be better off directed to coming up with a taxation policy. The Opposition does not have one. We do not know what the Opposition is going to do on tax; in fact, it does not know itself. The Opposition is mortified at the thought of telling us about a taxation policy. The Opposition has four members on the so-called Waste Watch Committee perusing documents to see not how this Government but agencies such as the Australia Council spend money. It is arms length funding; it is not done by the Government. They are the things Opposition members criticise. That is what they are doing. Instead of actually buckling down to the things that really matter such as coming up with a taxation policy they are off in a little dungeon somewhere looking over these documents trying to get a bit of publicity out of it. I have no doubt that it is a great publicity stunt. We had one last week. Those of us who took an interest noticed that the day the Waste Watch Committee announced its awards was the day the Australia Card Bill was introduced into this chamber for the second time. Two Waste Watch Committee members raced from the announcement of that award, where they criticised the grant of $11,000, I think, to this chamber to vote against a measure that would net $880m.

Let us see where the real waste is. Let me just detail a few of the things that the members of the Waste Watch Committee have voted against. They have voted against the bottom of the harbour legislation that this Government introduced four times to try to get it through both Houses. It was rejected in the Senate four times. That legislation would have netted $600m. The Waste Watch Committee criticises grants of $400 but it is quite happy to vote against legislation which would net $600m. It voted against the cherry pickers superannuation schemes legislation. People with a social conscience should look at the ways employers manipulated those funds to rob employees of their just entitlements. That represented $25m we tried to get back. Again, it was voted against by members of the Waste Watch Committee. It voted against the fringe benefits tax and substantiation-worth $900m. People who take their lunches to work in brown paper bags were subsidising their more affluent fellow Australians. It voted against the denial of entertainment expenses, the old boozy lunches. That was worth $320m.

It voted against the capital gains tax, worth $25m. It voted against negative gearing, worth $100m. It voted against the assets test. It would rather give pensions back to the millionaires. The assets test is worth $160m. As I have said, it voted against the Australia Card, worth $880m. The Waste Watch Committee voted against every one of those proposals. Yet it has the hide to put out Press releases criticising grants as low as $400. I leave it to you, Mr Deputy Speaker, to work out for yourself who are the real wasters on the parliamentary scene. Members of the Waste Watch Committee, who have rejected these proposals, which I calculated to be worth $3,010m, are the real wasters. They have voted against every meaningful measure this Government has tried to introduce. No doubt next week-or this week if it happens-when the Australia Card legislation is voted on in the Senate the other half of the Waste Watch Committee will vote against it there. Members of the Waste Watch Committee are, as I said, nothing more than mental midgets who peruse documents in the hope that some lazy journalists will publish the findings they come up with.


Ms Jakobsen —No lazy journalist would.


Mr GEAR —As my colleague says, no lazy journalist would-not here, certainly. I am talking about people like John Laws who will run this sort of drivel on their radio stations without checking the facts. The $400 grant the Waste Watch Committee criticised was for a peace march in Perth. I will demonstrate the duplicity of the Opposition. The Waste Watch Committee, which was lauded by the honourable member for Curtin and by other Opposition members as a committee that is doing something meaningful for the Opposition, criticised a $400 grant for a peace march in Perth. I notice that up in the gallery are some young people. The honourable member for Tangney (Mr Shack), in his very cynical document concerning how the Liberal Party should try to induce young people to vote for it, said that young people take a particular interest in peace issues and that, therefore, when one is talking to young people-as I am now-one should not criticise a $400 grant for a peace march. So the Liberal Party in one forum said that the $400 grant was a waste of money but in another said: `Do not let the young people find out about it because they will agree that the Government should give $400 to help organise the peace march'. The Liberal Party knows that young people take the issues of peace very seriously, as does this Government. What absolute duplicity on the part of the Liberal Party not to admit to young people that it criticised a $400 grant for a peace march. One cannot say anything more for the so-called Waste Watch Committee than that the honourable member for Tangney, at least, was perceptive enough to say that one should not mention some of the things the Committee criticised in front of young people.

I go back to what I said. The Opposition does not have a taxation policy. Its members cannot debate anything to do with taxation because there are four or more different factions within the Opposition. There are the Nat Nats. There are the Queensland Nats. There are the wets, the dries, the damps and the squibs. All factions are covered on the other side of the House. They cannot get together. The wets and the dries are incompatible. The Nat Nats and the Queensland Nats cannot get together. They do not know where they are going on taxation. Yet they lock themselves up in a closet and peruse documents in the hope of getting some cheap publicity.


Ms Jakobsen —And then they are leaked.


Mr GEAR —As the honourable member says, then they are leaked. It is the in-fighting which produces this closet.


Ms Jakobsen —It is a water closet.


Mr GEAR —It is a water closet. We get leaks that the Opposition would not increase pensions. Let me consider some of the things the Opposition would do in regard to prices. It would abolish the Prices Surveillance Authority, the one effective mechanism we have for keeping a lid on prices, the watchdog on manufacturers and retailers. The Authority is doing a very effective job yet the Opposition would abolish it. But it would not only do that. According to the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Howard)-one has to take him at his word-the Opposition would introduce an 8 per cent consumption tax. An 8 per cent consumption tax would lift prices and inflation by about 8 per cent.

But if that is not bad enough, having abolished the Prices Surveillance Authority and lifted prices by 8 per cent, the Opposition would freeze wages. So prices would go up by 8 per cent and a lid would be put on wages. We know from the leaked document which the honourable member for Cowan (Ms Jakobsen) talked about that the Opposition would stop pension increases. One of the things this Government has done has been to make sure that pensioners do not suffer because of the devaluation of the Australian dollar. We have given pensioners full consumer price index increases and maintained their purchasing power. As the previous speaker on this side of the House, the honourable member for Scullin (Mr Jenkins), has said, we have increased the real value of pensions by 6 per cent since we have been in office.

What would the Liberal Party do? It would stop pension increases because it has to get that $16,000m from somewhere. So it would take it out on the pensioners. We would have an attack on the living standards of Australians. The Liberal Party stands for deceiving the young, putting the boot into the pensioners, keeping down the wages of the working people of Australia, abolishing the Prices Surveillance Authority and slapping on an 8 per cent consumption tax. They are the sorts of things the Opposition is not talking about. Honourable members opposite come up with a gobbledegook of statistics which they hope will somehow cloud the issues. I heard part of the speech by the honourable member for Mackellar (Mr Carlton) this morning. It was not a very good speech. He referred to the big blow-out in spending in 1982-83 which he put down to the fact that there was a recession at the time, as I remember it. What he did not say was that the former Government was trying to buy votes. It was the famous-or infamous, depending on how one looks at it-family Budget, the biggest blow-out of all time. There were big television and newspaper advertisements saying: `The Family Budget: Vote for Malcolm Fraser in 1983'. All I can say to the honourable member for Mackellar-the Whip is giving me the wind-up-is that the Opposition, when in government, did not fool the people back in 1982-83. It is not fooling the people now. As the Prime Minister (Mr Hawke) has said today, we are not going to take the Opposition to the polls now. But at the end of the year the Opposition will again not fool the people. It will get the hiding that it deserves.

Motion (by Mr Humphreys) agreed to:

That the question be now put.

Question put:

That the words proposed to be omitted (Mr Carlton's amendment) stand part of the question.