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Tuesday, 11 September 1984
Page: 771

Senator CROWLEY —Is the Minister representing the Treasurer aware of some of the remarkable claims made by the Opposition yesterday in the debates on the assets test and the matter of public importance that the Government's Budget has dramatically disadvantaged many Australians? Can the Minister say how many people will benefit from the tax cuts in the Budget, in particular, all those who stand to benefit by up to $7.60 a week?

Senator WALSH —As I mentioned in a previous answer, low income taxpayers-by definition those people earning less than $240 a week-will receive a reduction in tax payable of almost 17 per cent. Senator Crowley expressed a particular interest in the number of taxpayers who would receive the maximum tax reduction of $7.60 a week; that is, people earning between $240 and $538 a week. The latest estimates from the Australian Taxation Office are that about 3.6 million taxpayers will fall into the category which will receive the maximum tax cut of $7.60 a week, which represents approximately 55 per cent of the total number of taxpayers. So 55 per cent will receive the maximum tax cut of $7.60 a week; that is, 3.6 million people. Those with incomes below $240 a week will receive a tax cut of 17 per cent on the amount of tax they had previously paid, because the lowest rate has been reduced from 30c in the dollar to 25c in the dollar.

The Government, of course, would like to have done more, but for a variety of reasons it could not do so. One of the reasons was that our planned crackdown on tax evasion has been aborted on several occasions in the Senate. My attention has been drawn today to an excellent pamphlet issued by Senators Elstob, Foreman , Bolkus, Maguire and Crowley which sets out the way in which the Senate has torpedoed the sequence of attempts by this Government to recover from tax cheats a total of $570m. If I may, however, be pardoned for making one small criticism of that pamphlet, it mentions that the Opposition in its entirety is responsible for torpedoing the Government's attempts to recover that amount of money from tax cheats. It mentions that three Australian Democrat senators are also equally responsible, with the official Opposition, for torpedoing those attempts. But it does not mention that Senator Harradine is equally culpable, with the Opposition in total and 60 per cent of the Democrats, in torpedoing the Government's attempts to recover that $570m from tax cheats. I think that is a particularly significant omission because the Democrats at least voted in exactly the same way when the previous Government was in office as they did when this Government came to office on what they saw as the principle of retrospectivity. Senator Harradine, when the previous Government was in office and his vote was not crucial, voted for retrospective tax legislation. When his vote was crucial as to whether the Bills would be passed, he voted against it.

While some people may genuinely hold the view that retrospective legislation is not justified-although I note that the overwhelming majority of Liberal and National Party senators, like Senator Harradine, have voted in different ways, depending on whether this Government or the previous Government was in power; they are subject to some party discipline-I find it extraordinary that somebody like Senator Harradine, who is not subject to any party discipline, could have switched his vote in that way, depending on whether it was critical--

Senator Button —He lacks self-discipline.

Senator WALSH —It has been suggested that he lacks self-discipline. That may well be so. If his vote is critical--

The PRESIDENT —Order! The Minister is getting a long way away from the question.

Senator WALSH —Yes. I table the pamphlet to which I referred.