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Wednesday, 19 November 1986
Page: 2507


Senator CHANEY (Leader of the Opposition)(5.05) —in reply-As usual, we have had an interesting debate on the fringe benefits tax, with the Australian Labor Party refusing to face up to facts. I suppose that Senator Barney Cooney, who has just resumed his seat, was typical of the whole debate from the Labor point of view. He echoed the sort of nonsense we heard from Senator Maguire. He said that the Labor senators were going to guarantee the tax cuts. The sad fact is that, if Mr Keating and the Government deliver the tax cuts in December and July next year, the average family man on average weekly earnings will still be paying more of his income in income tax than he was paying when this Government came to power. His marginal tax rate will be higher, and his total tax rate will be higher. This Government is taking in tax the most substantial share of the whole gross domestic product taken by any government in our history.

Senator Maguire, who led for the Government in this debate, talked about the tax package and said that the fringe benefits tax can be defended as part of the tax package. That was very much the point Senator Cooney made. He said that this apparently indefensible tax is defensible if one looks at all the other tax changes the Government is making. All I can say in response to that in the brief time I have is that there is no taxpayer in Australia who does not understand that the tax burden under Labor has become heavier and that even if he gets the tax cuts that are promised he will still be paying heavier taxes than he was paying 3 1/2 or four years ago.

It is all part of a confidence trick. A grossly complex tax is being imposed on charitable institutions, university colleges, school boarding houses, national trusts, youth hostels, youth workers and all sorts of people who are not engaged in tax rip-offs. All sorts of taxes are being imposed on the remote area industries of this country. As I said in opening this debate, 80 per cent of the fringe benefits tax being paid by Mount Isa Mines Ltd relates to benefits being paid to blue-collar workers employed by that company. The speakers in favour of this motion have put before the Senate a series of examples illustrating that it is the ordinary activities of business, commerce and charity which are being struck by this tax.

The fact that the Government is trying to use the politics of envy to justify what it is doing is really reprehensible, but I suppose that we will see a lot of that between now and the next election. I simply warn Government senators that they are up against the sad reality that this tax is not a theory to the people of Australia any more; it is a practical, working burden. They know what the fringe benefits tax is like. They know the injustices it is wreaking on the Australian community. They will reject this Government, in part because of this tax imposition. What we stand for is lower taxes. We stand for less complex taxing. With our commitment to lower government expenditure, we will be able to deliver that. There is a difficult taxation situation under the Hawke Government because the Hawke Government is the biggest spending government in Australia's history. It is the biggest taxing government in Australia's history. In the view of the Opposition, the fringe benefits tax should be thrown out. We urge the passage of this motion.

Question put:

That the motion (Senator Chaney's) be agreed to.