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Thursday, 14 May 1987
Page: 3260

Dr THEOPHANOUS(8.07) —A few minutes ago the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Howard) attempted to present to this House his response to the statement by the Treasurer (Mr Keating). That response contained a mish-mash of intellectually incoherent statements, contradictory assertions, and no solutions to this nation's economic problems. That is relevant to this legislation because, earlier today, that process had commenced in the debate on this legislation. Earlier today we had the absurd picture of the shadow Treasurer, the honourable member for Mackellar (Mr Carlton), pretending that the legislation would be a burden on the business community. This legislation is the biggest handout to the business community by any government for many years. And what do we have? We have honourable members opposite coming into this House and saying: `We will go along with it, but what about all the other burdens on business?'. The fact of the matter is that this is the single most important reform in support of the business sector that one could conceivably imagine. Earlier, the honourable member for Mayo (Mr Downer) referred to the Fraser Government's pathetic attempts to reform the imputation system. The Fraser Government failed totally in that respect. So we have in this House the spectre of the Opposition, rather than applauding the legislation and seeing it for what it is-namely, an important handout to the business community, a handout which is supposed and intended to stimulate incentive and investment, which the Opposition is constantly calling on us to do, without giving any ideas as to how we are supposed to do it--

Mr Beale —Didn't you listen to Mr Howard tonight?

Dr THEOPHANOUS —I listened to the Leader of the Opposition tonight and I did not hear a single new idea to promote investment. If the honourable member for Deakin (Mr Beale) thinks that the nation will be fooled into thinking that there is a single answer in the speech of the Leader of the Opposition to the problems affecting investment in this country, he is fooling only one person-himself. This will be proved when we win back the seat of Deakin at the next election. If I were honourable member for Deakin then, after the Leader of the Opposition's speech this evening, I would not worry about being a Minister: I would be worried about whether I would get back to this House. The fact is that the Opposition is totally intellectually incoherent. Not only is it divided between the wets and the dries, but it is intellectually incoherent when it comes to offering a single solution to the problems of the nation or a solution to fundamental problems such as how we will get increased investment in industrial development in this country.

Earlier in the debate honourable members opposite complained about the capital gains tax and the fringe benefits tax. They do not consider all the benefits that will flow from this package of legislation. The fact is that the wealthy income group in this country will benefit dramatically from the imputation package. However, members opposite do not consider that. What do they care about? It is not enough for them that the wealthier people will get the benefits of the imputation package; they want to take away the capital gains tax and the fringe benefits tax so that in fact that sector of the economy will have no burdens on it at all; it will not even pay its share of taxation. That is what the Opposition advocates. The fact is that the Government proceeds on a different basis-the basis of a scientific analysis of what is needed to stimulate investment in this country. We do not proceed on the basis of airy fairy ideological New Right formulas which, if implemented in this country, would devastate the nation. As the Treasurer said, the Leader of the Opposition had a test to pass tonight and he failed it totally.

Mr Hand —No solutions at all.

Dr THEOPHANOUS —As the honourable member for Melbourne says, not only did he offer no solutions, but he did not in any way dissociate himself from the formulas, philosophies and solutions of the New Right. On the contrary, what he did assert was more of the same garbage that we have had from the New Right. If the Leader of the Opposition thinks that by offering those sorts of solutions he will unite his own Party he is dreaming. After tonight, his Party will be more divided than ever. If he thinks that by offering in this House solutions and ideas that come from extremists outside the House, such as the Monash so-called think-tank of Professor Porter and other representatives of the New Right, he is dreaming.

Mr Blunt —I rise on a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. I understand that the House is debating tax legislation in a cognate debate. I fail to see the relevance of the rantings of the honourable member for Calwell about political philosophy.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Leo McLeay) —Order! The honourable member for Calwell has been dealing with a number of matters that come within the ambit of the Bill, but he has strayed off it a little. He might come back to the Bill.

Dr THEOPHANOUS —I shall be happy to come back to the Bill, Mr Deputy Speaker, and to point out its benefits in terms of increasing investment. Let us be honest and straight about this matter. It is being suggested that this Bill is some kind of burden on business rather than a huge benefit to business-a $300m gift to business-and that it is not enough, that we have to take away the capital gains tax and the fringe benefits tax, too. It is suggested that people in the top echelon, who will benefit dramatically from this legislation, ought to have extra benefits and not pay any tax at all. If the honourable member for Deakin had his way, I suppose that anyone who earned more than $50,000 would not pay tax at all, and everyone under $50,000 would pay it. That will probably be the next demand from the New Right to be brought before this House. The imputation package is designed to transfer the burden and to ensure that there is greater investment where it is needed-in manufacturing industry in particular and in export orientated industries.

My time is limited, so in conclusion I want to make it perfectly clear that the imputation package represents a huge gift to the business community, and we expect it to use it sensibly, to take advantage of this situation and to invest in new industries--

Mr Hand —Job creation.

Dr THEOPHANOUS —And job creation, as the honourable member for Melbourne says. That is the Government's expectation. If in fact this does not come about, we will be looking at further ways and means of ensuring that that investment takes place, because, as the Treasurer has said, we are determined to turn round the situation in this country and recreate the industrialisation that was destroyed in the years of the Fraser Government and under the leadership, especially in relation to the Treasury, of the current Leader of the Opposition, who, today, tried to pretend that he had had nothing to do with that. He tried to pretend today that he had nothing to do with that period and the wholesale destruction of jobs that ensure. We support this legislation from a scientific point of view because we believe it will help to increase investment. If investment is not increased, we will look at other ways and means of ensuring that the benefits-

Mr Beale —How?

Dr THEOPHANOUS —The honourable member asks: `How?'. We have a hundred different means. Each member on this side of the House has more ideas than the totality of honourable members opposite. Today, the Opposition in Question Time could not even come up with seven questions--

Mr Blunt —I raise a point of order. I fail to see how the conduct of the House at Question Time today has any relevance to any of these tax Bills.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER —I think that the honourable member for Calwell might come back to the matter before the House and that the honourable member for Deakin might cease provoking him.

Dr THEOPHANOUS —Mr Deputy Speaker, I was responding to an interjection from the honourable member for Deakin. The Opposition today could not come up with seven questions in relation to the May economic statement, one of the most important statements to be made in the House. In the end, members on this side had to ask questions.

This legislation is important. It will be judged by the business community and people generally as important in ensuring investment. We look forward to that investment taking place. We will monitor the situation to ensure it does take place, and we will consider introducing further measures should they become necessary. This Government is managing the economy scientifically in an endeavour to achieve this turnaround, rather than working on the basis of the ideological claptrap of the New Right, as supported by honourable members opposite on the front bench.