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Tuesday, 28 April 1987
Page: 2080

Mr ALDRED(3.35) —We on this side of the House have listened with great interest to a number of the points made by the Minister for Social Security (Mr Howe). At no stage did he address any of the specifics that relate to this matter of public importance. He did not address in any detail the situation of Australian families today or how that relates, in fact, to the coming May expenditure statement. Of course, the Minister brought out the old furphy about the terrible mess that this Government inherited, how it picked up a huge deficit and how it has been trying to put it right ever since. We know perfectly well that the figures that the Government talked about in relation to that deficit were forward estimate figures and not the deficit that was finally brought down.

I would like to turn more particularly to the actual record of those years and the record of the Labor Government as it relates to its own spending pattern since it was elected in March 1983. If one looks at the entire period of the last Liberal Government from 1975 to 1983 and at the average rate of growth in real terms in Federal spending per annum, one finds that during those eight years the rate of growth was only 2.1 per cent. Compare that figure with the rate of growth under this Government. It has now been in office for four years. It can make no more excuses about anything. The average rate of growth in Federal spending in real terms per annum under this Government during the four years it has been in office has been 4 per cent. That is twice the rate of growth in real terms in Federal spending that existed under the last Liberal Government.

This Government is running out of excuses, particularly when one looks at its record. I would go further and say that it is running out of time because the sorts of decisions it is trying to arrive at in relation to the May expenditure statement are the sorts of decisions it should have been trying to arrive at in the Budget of 1984 or 1985. That was the time to try to reel back the very heavy and excessive expenditure of its first year or two in office. I think the Government has now left it too late. The May expenditure statement and the Budget of this year are not going to change anything. The heavy spending in those early years and the overall higher rate of spending of this Government have had to be paid for by a number of taxation measures which we have seen since this Government came to office, including the superannuation lump sum tax, the quite stupid fringe benefits tax, the unjust capital gains tax, plus of course, the inflationary creep that we have seen in relation to the tax scales. Australian families have ended up paying for this.

This can be seen quite clearly when we look at the figures that are available in relation to the annual income and the various taxation and other expenses of the average taxpayer in Australia today. When this Hawke Government was first elected in March 1983 the gross annual income of a full time adult male worker was $19,307. By December 1986 that figure had become $25,476. When we set against that the various taxation imposts that have been imposed on that single income earner and his family and also the effect of inflation we find that his real disposable income in that period-March 1983 to December 1986-went from $21,655 to $20,036 per annum. So there has been a marked fall in real disposable income for a full time adult male worker-that is, a single income earner with a family. There are a number of reasons for that. We have seen a very substantial rise in the amount of pay as you earn tax during that period. In March 1983 for an average single income earner with a family it was $4,414 and by December 1986 it became $6,371. We then add the Medicare levy of $318, as it existed in December last year, and we see that gross tax in that period has gone from $4,414 to $6,689. When we set against that some of the other things that have or have not been done we can see why the Australian family is so badly off today.

During the whole of the time that this Go-vernment has been in office the dependent spouse rebate has not been changed; it has remained at $1,030. The concessional expenditure rebate has been dispensed with and, of course, because of Medicare we have seen the end of the health insurance rebate. If we then look at what has happened to the family allowance during that period we find that for a full time adult male worker, it has stayed at an average of $664 per annum from March 1983 to December 1986. In that same period we have seen hospital insurance premiums for that same person go from $386 per annum in March 1983 to $445 per annum. When we add to that the effect of inflation it is no wonder that there has been a marked deterioration in the position of the single income earner and the average family in Australia today. That is directly a result of the increased taxes that this Government has brought down to pay for its heavy expenditure programs, particularly in those years. It is also the result of a number of its taxation measures, particularly its failure to adjust the dependent spouse rebate. The family is so badly off today because the Government has not adjusted the family allowance and has allowed pay as you earn taxation to creep up.

Another reason the family is so badly off today is that the very prosperity of our economy has been weakened by the imposts that have been placed upon business. We have to look only at the bankruptcy statistics that have been put down by the--

Mr Howe —Mr Deputy Speaker, I raise a point of order. Let me just read to you the terms of the matter of public importance to remind you what we are debating. It states:

The urgent necessity to take measures in addition to a tough mini-Budget to prevent a further decline in the living standards of the Australian family.

Mr Deputy Speaker, I put it to you quite seriously that neither the honourable member for Mackellar nor the honourable member who is currently speaking has addressed the matter. I have not heard a single measure advocated and that would seem to me to indicate that we are really getting irrelevant speeches. I ask you to ask honourable members to make their remarks relevant.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Leo McLeay) —Order! A debate on a matter of public importance is usually wide ranging. Members often digress a little from the matter that is before the Chair. The Minister does have a point, though. During the progress of the debate honourable members should attack at least a little of the matter that is before the Chair.

Mr Carlton —The point of order was a nonsense. The Minister was just wasting time.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER —I am sure that the honourable member for Bruce will bear that in mind and the honourable member for Mackellar need not bother to tell me what my job is. I call the honourable member for Bruce.

Mr ALDRED —It is interesting to note that the Minister is so sensitive to some statistics that have been produced today in this debate. I turn also to the effect that this Government's tax measures have had on business. If we take the latest statistics on bankruptcies, administration orders, arrangements, assignments and compositions, we see that in 1983-84 the total number of bankruptcies was 5,501. By 1985-86 that figure had moved to 6,408 and, for the first three-quarters of 1986-87, it had moved to 6,187. If we annualise that we get a figure of 8,249 bankruptcies. That is a further reason why the position of Australian families has deteriorated so much. It also reflects the very weakened state of the economy and the fact that small and medium businesses are suffering very severely under the actions of this Government. That is why this May expenditure statement, no matter what it does, will be too late to save this Government and it will be too late for Australian families. This Government can do nothing now to get itself out of the hot water that it has put itself into. I suggest that if this Government had done some of the things that it is proposing to do now a couple of years ago, this country, Australian families, Australian businesses, and the prosperity of this nation would not be in the shambles they are in now.