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Tuesday, 12 May 1987
Page: 2971

Mr RONALD EDWARDS —I direct my question to the Prime Minister and it concerns the financial situation that we will be addressing tomorrow night in the May statement. Can the Prime Minister inform the House of the effects of introducing the Australia Card system in this country?

Mr HAWKE —Obviously the Government had indicated its view about the necessity for an Australia Card as the most effective instrument to deal, on the one hand, with welfare fraud and, on the other hand, with tax evasion. That is not only a view we hold but a view which clearly the present Leader of the Opposition embraced to a considerable extent when he was Treasurer, because when he was Treasurer he had a number of inquiries undertaken in relation to the concept of an Australia Card. Indeed, once out of government he also expressed the view that he could see merit in the concept of an Australia Card. That is not surprising because, quite clearly, it is the most effective way of dealing with social security fraud and with tax evasion in the black economy.

Our best calculations from official sources suggest that, were the Australia Card fully operational, it would bring revenue to the Commonwealth of about $880m per annum-or about $2.4m a day. It is a tragedy that Opposition members and senators have refused, not only to this Government but to the people of Australia, that most effective instrument to beat social welfare fraud and, in particular, tax evasion in the black economy. But that is typical of the sort of ideological approach referred to by my colleague the Minister for Health in his answer in regard to the proposals to abandon Medicare. What permeates the ideology of the Opposition is that everything possible must be done to protect the rich, the privileged and the rorters and to impose a greater burden on the ordinary, honest taxpayers of this country. That will be another one of the many nails that will go into the coffins of the five Opposition parties when we go to the election in the relatively near future. They will have to answer to the people of Australia for continuing to protect the welfare cheats and tax frauds.