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Monday, 4 May 1987
Page: 2483

Mr TICKNER —My question is addressed to the Prime Minister. What is the Government's attitude to proposals to abolish the fringe benefits tax and the capital gains tax?

Mr HAWKE —I thank the honourable member for his question, which assumes some significance in terms of what we can understand to be the policy of the Liberal Party of Australia. We know that the Leader of the Liberal Party has promised that his long awaited tax policy will include-as we understand it from the most recent reports-the abolition of the fringe benefits tax, the capital gains tax and tax on lump sum superannuation. It will promise flatter income tax scales, income splitting and a whole range of other tax promises which have been toted up over the years. The previous shadow Minister, Senator Messner, who, so it was said, had responsibility in this area, told us in his February newsletter that the Liberal tax policy had already been constructed. His actual words were:

It's under wraps at this time.

That was the statement of the Liberal Party's policy position on taxation in February-the policy had been constructed and it was under wraps. Of course, we do not have Senator Messner any more; we now have the honourable member for Deakin.

Government members-Oh!

Mr HAWKE —Well, we have him for a while, but his is one of the seats that we will win at the next election. The community generally is in some state of confusion as to whether the Liberal Party has a policy or not because the Federal Treasurer of the Liberal Party of Australia-and honourable members know who he is, Mr John Elliott-has the impression that a policy already exists. I remind the House what Mr Elliott said, and this was reported in the--

Mr Tuckey —I rise on a point of order, Madam Speaker. I draw the House's attention to standing order 145. The question related to Government policy yet we have not heard of anything other than Opposition policy. Because the Prime Minister has no good news for the Australian people he follows this course of action.

Madam SPEAKER —Order! The Prime Minister will answer the question.

Mr HAWKE —That is precisely what he is doing. What the Federal Treasurer of the Liberal Party had to say was reported in the Weekend Australian of 18 and 19 April. He said:

The point is that the Liberal Party ought to get out and enunciate its tax policy. It is-

not `it might be'-

a damn good policy. Now if you have a damn good policy, my own view is that you ought to have it out up front and defend it.

The Federal Treasurer of the Liberal Party repeated his call this weekend because this is what he said:

I do think the Liberal Party should get their tax policy out. My view is if the world at large, the electorate, saw the Liberal Party's policy then they would be very pleased and I think--

Mr Cadman —I rise on a point of order, Madam Speaker. You called the Prime Minister back to the question. I ask you to ask him to be relevant to the question.

Madam SPEAKER —The Prime Minister will answer the question, please.

Mr HAWKE —What we have to say about this area of tax policy must reflect what we understand the Opposition to be saying. In that sense, in our enunciation of policy we want to have a clear view of what the Opposition is saying. It becomes interesting to see the response of the Leader of the Opposition to a call by his own Federal Treasurer on this matter. The other day I told the House that the Leader of the Opposition had said on 24 April that the Opposition had a policy on tax. His words were:

We have a policy on tax, the only thing that is missing is the numbers.

He has gone further than that. I refer the House to what he said in an interview with Niki Savva in the Sun on 1 May. That report said:

Mr Howard rejected Mr Elliott's claim that he knew what was in the policy.

This is what the Leader of the Liberal Party has to say about the Federal Treasurer of the Liberal Party on the question of tax policy. The very words--

Mr Spender —On a point of order, Madam Speaker, I remind you that the question addressed to the Prime Minister concerned his attitude to the fringe benefits and capital gains taxes. I know that there are difficulties about the use of the word `relevance' in Standing Orders, but it seems that the Standing Orders are becoming more and more difficult for the Prime Minister to understand.

Madam SPEAKER —The Chair has always given more indulgence to party leaders than to anyone else. However, I do ask the Prime Minister to get on with his answer in regard to his own Party's policy.

Mr HAWKE —To conclude what the Leader of the Opposition had to say on this question of policy in reference to Mr Elliott he said:

I think he's just spinning a yarn. The policy has not been settled and there's no such thing as a policy to see.

So in regard to the position of the Government's policy on this question that I have been asked, we are in the position of enunciating the clear view that we will adhere to the abolition of the fringe benefits tax, the capital gains tax and all those things that we have introduced. They will stay in place. The difficulty that we have in fully enunciating our total position and the tack that we will put in the community is the fact that at this stage the Leader of the Opposition is saying that there is no such thing as an Opposition tax policy. It is little wonder that he no longer has the confidence of the Federal Treasurer of his own Party, and it is little wonder also that his Party generally and the electorate have no confidence in him. As I said in this House last year-it caused some amusement to the Leader of the Opposition-we will go to the next election making tax a central issue. Our capacity to make tax a central issue will be completed when the Leader of the Opposition has finally got his instructions from Sir Joh Bjelke-Petersen to see whether he will be allowed in any shape or form to have the broad-based consumption tax which is so dear to his heart.