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Friday, 19 October 1984
Page: 2072

Senator WALTERS —I remind the Minister for Social Security of his view expressed in Labor Essays as follows:

To be consistent, those who argue for a pensions assets test should also argue for personal income tax to be supplemented by a substantial tax on personal assets-in other words, a wealth tax.

Does he see the statements of recent days by the Prime Minister and the Minister for Industry and Commerce as pointing to the sort of logical extension to which he referred? Does he believe that the wealth tax he foresaw following the assets test should have the same reach into people's assets as the assets test itself?

Senator GRIMES —I am very pleased that Senator Walters is reading Labor Essays. I thought there were probably not enough pictures in it for her. I think it is important that people read things like Labor Essays. Everyone here should read the latest copy of the Liberal Party's viewpoint and what Senator Chaney and Mr Macphee had to say about assets tests, capital gains tests and things like that. My personal view of what sort of taxes or otherwise this country should have is of very little importance, I am afraid. I am the Minister for Social Security. I will undoubtedly be able to express my view in the Cabinet after the Government conducts a comprehensive review of the taxation system, which it is going to do. That review, when it is completed, will, as Senator Button has said, suggest, we hope, a fairer and more equitable tax system. If it does not do that no one will accept it.

The contents of any fair and equitable tax system will be judged by the Government and I believe should be judged by the Parliament after we have had a proper review, which has been badly needed in this country. That essay in Labor Essays referred to the possibility of taxes on capital. I do not believe the term 'wealth tax' was used, but I will read the essay again as it is a fair while since I read it. As to the details of any such tax, if any such tax were introduced, that would depend very much on expert opinion after close analysis of it.

I repeat what Senator Button said: We will have a comprehensive review of the taxation system. I do not think anyone denies that that is necessary. We have not discussed or considered any form of changes in taxation because we do not want to pre-empt that review. We want the Parliament and the country to have a proper look at it.

Senator WALTERS —Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. Can the Minister say whether his views expressed in the Labor Essays are on the agenda for the review?

Senator GRIMES —I think any views I have will be way down on any agenda of the review of the taxation system in this country. I find it interesting and amusing , quite frankly, that when a government wishes to have a review of a taxation system to provide a more equitable taxation system, the chief critics come from the Opposition, which contains people like a former Attorney-General who kept the prosecution papers for a tax avoidance case in the bottom drawer of his desk for months and months and did nothing about it; people who would not even bring themselves to vote for the meagre, toothless anti-tax evasion legislation which the previous Government introduced; people who quite clearly over the years have defended the tax evaders and tax avoiders in this country, who have put an enormous burden on the ordinary taxpayers, the pay as you earn taxpayers. We want to stop that.

We will not be stopped by those members of the Opposition who combine the moral standards of Lucrezia Borgia with the ethical standards of Caligula. We will not be stopped by people who misrepresent the situation in the way that Opposition members do. We will not be stopped by people whose record in this area is appalling; a record to maintain the inequities in the system and not a record to correct the inequities and bring some justice into the taxation system.