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Monday, 22 October 1984
Page: 2103

Senator CHANEY —My question is addressed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate and follows his answer to Senator Messner's supplementary question.

Senator Grimes —How many questions are you going to ask?

Senator CHANEY —I thank Government senators for their help. I note the refusal of the Leader of the Government to provide any further details of the exemptions announced by the Prime Minister in Perth last week. I refer to the words of the Leader of the Government in this place a few minutes ago, namely:

The Prime Minister has indicated what matters he would regard as relevant if those circumstances arose. They are matters which, of course, are widely regarded as appropriate exemptions in all other countries.

I ask the Leader of the Government: Is there a firm, unequivocal commitment, not from the Prime Minister personally but from the Government, as to its future intentions with respect to capital taxation? Is it a firm matter of Government policy that there will be exemptions with respect to the family home and exemptions or offsets for capital losses, or are they, as suggested in the words I have just quoted, merely matters which the Prime Minister regards as relevant and as matters to be considered in the review which the Government intends to have?

Senator BUTTON —There is not a firm Government view in respect of exemptions which would apply if, as a result of a comprehensive review of the taxation system in this country, there were a recommendation which came to the Government that existing capital gains taxes be strengthened in the manner I referred to earlier. There cannot be any such firm Government view because there is no firm Government view that capital taxes of any kind should be introduced. There is a firm Government view that a comprehensive review of the taxation system should take place and that the Government should act on the basis of recommendations arising from that review. As I have said on a number of occasions at Question Time, if capital taxes are the subject of a recommendation of that review they will be considered by the Government. All the Prime Minister has indicated, in common with the views expressed or the policies operating in a wide range of other countries, is that if such a recommendation were made to the Government there would be exemptions in respect of it, one of which would be the family home. On a number of occasions Government spokesmen have indicated their concern about any consideration of capital taxes in the context of a comprehensive review of the taxation system as being fundamentally to stop tax avoidance finally in this country. That may be unpalatable to the Opposition, but the Government is bent on that course. That fundamental question is not an issue which goes to the sorts of questions I have been asked here today about possible exemptions in the light of a possible capital gains tax arising from a comprehensive review of the taxation system.

Senator CHANEY —I ask a supplementary question. I want no possibility for confusion, Mr President. I simply ask the Leader of the Government: Is he saying that there are no firm and final decisions on any exemptions which might apply in respect of a capital tax?

Senator BUTTON —I have said on numerous occasions in this chamber that the Government has not considered and has no plans for the introduction of any new taxes. What the Government has said--

Senator Sir John Carrick —The Prime Minister has said it will exempt private homes, so it must have some plans.

Senator BUTTON —With the greatest respect, that is a conclusion bordering on the idiotic. The only person in Australia who has said that this Government, if re- elected, would introduce capital taxes of the kind that have been referred to is Mr Andrew Peacock, the discredited Leader of the Opposition in this country. He is the only person who has said that, and maybe the parrots in the Senate will parrot what he said. He is the only person who said that that will follow like the night the day, to paraphrase Mr Peacock's comment, which is becoming boring and repetitious in this election campaign. He assures us what will follow like the night the day but can assure of nothing else in respect of his own policies. He is the only person who has said that, if this Government is re-elected, capital taxes of the kind referred to will be introduced in this country. What we have said is that we will have a review of the taxation system and, arising from that review, if capital taxes of one kind or another are proposed, there will be exemptions, as there are everywhere else. The Prime Minister has made it clear that from the point of view of this Government if the comprehensive review of the taxation system recommended capital taxes of one kind or another, that recommendation would not be accepted unless there were an exemption in respect of the matters which he has specified.