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Wednesday, 6 May 1987
Page: 2692


Mr MILDREN —Being mindful of this Government's proven record on taxation reform, I ask the Treasurer whether he will inform the House of any alternative comprehensive tax reform proposals which have been proposed to the Government by any section of the community.


Mr KEATING —When this Government won office again after the last election the policy which the Prime Minister had put to the electorate was that we would have a national summit meeting on taxation reform. Many organisations were invited to attend that summit meeting and to put scenarios for the tax system, which, of course, were costed by both the Treasury and by the Economic Planning Advisory Council. Quite a number of very comprehensive tax reform proposals were put at that summit by many organisations in this country. After that summit, the Government brought down its tax reform package in September 1985. There were 20 very large changes to the tax system, all of which are now legislated, bar the Australia Card which, of course, was shamefully defeated at the hands of the Opposition parties in the Senate.

September 1985 was the time when the present Leader of the Opposition was elected to the office of Leader of the Opposition. At the time, because he was fresh in the office, he announced a few guiding principles on taxation and promised more hard detail some time later. But in saying that, he said he would reject all of our fairness measures-that is, the taxing of non-cash fringe benefits, the capital gains tax, the stopping of entertainment deductions and negative gearing. However, 18 months after the Government's package was released, we know less today about John Howard's tax policy than we knew then.


Madam SPEAKER —Order! The Treasurer will use the correct title.


Mr KEATING —We know less today about the tax policy of the honourable member for Bennelong than we knew then. Of course, we witnessed last year the fumbling and stumbling around the entertainment and FBT issue. The Leader of the Opposition pretended he would tax these areas. There was a phoney debate about section 26 (e), which we all know could never have been applied. We finished 1986 no better off in terms of knowing where he stood on taxation. On 12 February, on the AM program, he stated:

The details of that policy are going to be released a lot sooner than many people imagine.

It is now May; that was said in February. Mr Elliott, the Federal Treasurer of the Liberal Party, said:

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


Mr Spender —Madam Speaker, on a point of order: In 1973 a question was asked about statements of high-ranking members of the Liberal Party. That was ruled out of order on the basis that the Minister was not responsible for what a high-ranking member of the Liberal Party said. What the Treasurer seeks to do is to get a general dorothy dix question put to him, and by having that dorothy dix question put to him--

Government members interjecting-


Mr Spender —There would be no dispute about that proposition. After having that dorothy dix question put to him, he then starts to examine matters that, on any view of relevance, have nothing to do with his portfolio. I would ask you to warn--


Madam SPEAKER —The Chair is listening carefully to the Treasurer.


Mr Spender —Thank you. I would ask you to keep that in mind, Madam Speaker.


Mr KEATING —Madam Speaker--


Mr Cunningham —Madam Speaker, I raise a point of order. I ask that the honourable member for North Sydney withdraw that aspersion on the honourable member on this side who asked that question.


Madam SPEAKER —I did not hear anything wrong with what the honourable member for North Sydney had to say.


Mr KEATING —Mr Elliott has told us that there is a policy which he calls a good policy. On the Schildberger program last week the Leader of the Opposition said:

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

He was implying that the policy has been put together. Elliott has obviously seen it. The Leader of the Opposition said he has it, but he does not have the numbers. What we want to know in the public interest is: Where is it? Where is this secret tax policy? What is the Leader of the Opposition afraid of? What is contained in this tax policy that has made him so afraid that he keeps it hidden and under wraps? What is contained in his tax policy? He wants to try to wait until the next election and, about two weeks from the poll, unwrap this grab bag for the rich and try to sneak under the line. Let me tell him this: We will squash him on the way. If he thinks he can have a secret tax policy which he keeps to himself, which contains handouts for the rich, and then try to sneak his way to a poll, we will squash him like a bug before he gets to the line.

We have heard lots of incantations from the other side of the House about policy, honesty and integrity. What about some leadership from the honourable member for Bennelong? What about a tax policy? What about letting the public and the Parliament know what the policies are on that side of the House? He has had the job for 18 months. The Government has had a public tax debate. The Government arranged for all of the interest groups to meet in this chamber and put their views. It published a White Paper and a tax statement. It has legislated on all of the information. It has had public debates. What is the Leader of the Opposition, with his secret tax policy, afraid of? John Elliott says that it is good. The Leader of the Opposition says that he has one, but the numbers are missing. What about putting some of the numbers together with some integrity and bringing the integrity and the numbers to the table?

I said yesterday, and I will say now, that the Government sits again for the economic test on 13 May, but on 14 May the Leader of the Opposition sits for the economic test. On the night of 14 May, the day after the Government's test, we will want to know about the fiscal numbers of the tax policies of the honourable member for Bennelong. We will want to know how he will fund the $16 billion of commitments he has made. We will want to know how those many people who rely on outlays would survive in a nation under the leadership of the honourable member for Bennelong, who says he has the policies but who is afraid at this stage to bring them publicly to the fore.