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Tuesday, 22 May 2007
Page: 3

Mr KEENAN (2:13 PM) —My question is addressed to the Treasurer. Would the Treasurer inform the House of the importance of a good tax policy to Australia’s economic performance? Is the Treasurer aware of any alternative policies?

Mr COSTELLO (Treasurer) —I thank the honourable member for Stirling for his question. I can inform him that tax policy is absolutely critical for Australia’s economic performance. It is tax policy that will either enable business to be profitable and reinvest and create jobs or will hamper business from doing that. It is tax policy which will either raise the necessary services for health and education or will fail to do that. That is why this government has reformed Australia’s taxation system, getting rid of wholesale sales tax, bank account debits tax, financial institutions duty, stamp duty on shares, stamp duties on marketable securities and bed taxes; cutting company tax; cutting capital gains tax; cutting every set of income tax rates; and lifting thresholds. All of those things have been absolutely critical for Australia’s economic performance over the last 10 years or so. I must say it is why I am surprised that apparently the opposition is not going to have a tax policy at the next election. A tax policy is not an optional extra in a political campaign. It is fundamental. It is the basis of how you pay for all of your services.

Mr Howard —It’s like a cricket team without a wicketkeeper.

Mr COSTELLO —It is like a cricket team without a wicketkeeper. It is not like a sunroof on your Commodore: it does not come as one of the options. It is like the steering wheel. It is like the engine. A political party without a tax policy is like a soloist turning up to go on It Takes Two on a Tuesday night. It cannot be done. It is lonely. It is missing something. I was asked whether I am aware of other tax policies. Well, one thing you can say about Mark Latham is that he took a tax policy to the last election: Labor’s tax and better family payment plan, from Mark Latham, Simon Crean and Wayne Swan. I had to get this out and dust it down, and reading it reminded me of the good times. It took me right back to the last election campaign, when Labor had a tax policy. Their tax policy, you will recall, was to abolish the $600 per child per annum payment for every child. I had forgotten the lengths that they went to, including producing weekly tables showing how people would be better off, with the weekly tables leaving out the annual $600 payment. They said that, because it was annual, it did not go in the weekly tables. When you took it out, the abolition of that $600 payment did not show as a comparison between the coalition and the Labor Party. You had to get up to page 30 or something in order to find out that they had actually omitted to put that payment in their weekly tables, and that is why I say that you need to read the fine print in relation to the Labor Party and its tax policy. Who will ever forget when Mark Latham went to the then shadow minister for family and community services on the night before the policy release? I will read from one of my favourite works of literature—The Latham Diaries:

The night before the policy release, I asked Swan how we deal with the $600 annual payment. He replied: ‘Just say that it’s not real money, that it’s eaten away ... and the indexation swindle’

As far as I am aware, that is the only standing Labor tax policy. It has not been withdrawn, and it will not be superseded. If you wonder to yourself why Labor will not be taking a tax policy to the next election, it is because that shoddy piece of work was the policy they took to the last election. If you had had the humiliation that the member for Lilley had in relation to that policy you would not want to take a tax policy to the next election either. I say to the people of Australia: the fine print of Labor’s last policy was to take money away from families. The fact that they will not come up with a tax policy means that they are at it again. You cannot trust them. They will not be doing what is in the interests of the Australian people.