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Monday, 23 February 1987
Page: 438


Senator SHEIL(4.30) —Senator Richardson has told us quite a bit about a few problems of the past and has perhaps given us a few policies for the future. This debate is about the failure of the Hawke Labor Government to take action to fix the problems which Australia's families have today. Senator Peter Baume gave a sparkling tour de force of those problems. He proved conclusively, backed up by the irrefutable figures Senator Newman put out, that this Government has not taken such action. I will take a different tack in the debate. I think I can prove not only that the Government is not taking action to fix the problems, but also that the Government is the cause of the problems.

Recently a number of mothers were surveyed and asked what kinds of difficulties were facing their families today. In almost 99 per cent of cases they complained that it was taxes of one form or another which were causing their problems. One lady said that the problem was that she was paying taxes upon taxes upon taxes. She got a lot of derisive laughter from people such as Senator Giles, but what she was saying was perfectly true. Just the other day I looked to see which taxes were placed on what, and I was staggered to see that there were 50 taxes on a loaf of bread. In a double-sized loaf of bread only two slices are not taxed.


Senator Richardson —It would be more than that in Queensland.


Senator SHEIL —It would not; Queensland is the low tax State. Two-thirds of the cost of a glass of beer is taken up in excise or tax. The fees which people are charged by architects, doctors, lawyers and engineers are all geared to high taxes. In fact, one of the great benefits of the flat rate of tax would be that fees would probably come down quite considerably because they would not be geared to the high rate of tax. High pay as you earn taxes are built into the production of a loaf of bread all the way along the line, from planting the grain and harvesting the wheat to milling it and turning it into flour and then bread thereby increasing the costs. To decrease the costs, all we would have to do is reduce taxes, which would be an enormous benefit to families.

Families cannot even plan ahead because of economic hardship and turmoil and the uncertainty of their future. I have been a doctor for over 30 years and I have seen most of the worries in the world, but the worst worry of all is lack of money. That causes people such insecurity that they develop complex psychological problems and patterns. Lack of money is the basis of quite a few of those problems.

Senator Richardson apparently did not hear the Leader of the Government in the Senate, Senator Button, today when, in answering a question, he said: `Yes, certainly we have to tighten our belts. We are in a tough spot; the Government has run into a sticky patch'. He seemed to think that some families were worse off-that the rich children were getting worse off but the poorer children were getting better off. That is a convoluted way of thinking about the problem. It is a continuation of the idea that if one weakens the strong one can strengthen the weak. That socialist theory has been discredited for many years. Typical socialist states such as China and Russia destroy family life. Families cannot have any allegiances to anything but the state. Religion is destroyed, so people cannot have an allegiance to that. I blame the situation in this country on the socialist Government we have today. It is just one step along the way to destroying family life.

Two of the most important purchases that people make in their lives are a house and a car. Families make a great commitment to those purchases and spend 40 years paying off their house.


Senator Walters —Look at what has happened to them.


Senator SHEIL —Look at what has happened, as Senator Walters said. I would not like to be starting off now as a young married man, with the costs that are lumbered on people and the debt burden they have to take on their backs to try to make a go of it. The fact that the Government has got rid of negative gearing and has brought in capital gains taxes, the assets test and all of those sorts of things has decreased the amount of rental housing available. Houses are for sale everywhere but nobody can afford to buy them because of high interest rates.

In past months the price of cars has almost doubled. People cannot afford to buy them and pay them off. If people do buy a car, they have to pay the enormous petrol tax lumbered on them. All those costs are lumbered on families which need a home and transport to take the children to all their different engagements. Parents become more or less glorified chauffeurs as the kids grow up, as they have to take them to all their sporting engagements. We should think of the costs. In a family of three children, one of whom plays hockey, one of whom plays tennis and one of whom plays football, the father has to buy a tennis racquet, hockey stick, football boots, tennis shoes and uniforms. One could pretty well bet that those things are not made in Australia today; they will be imported.

Looking at our position relative to our trading partners, their inflation rate is down to one per cent or 2 per cent whilst Australia's consumer price index is up to 10 per cent, which is four or five times higher than that of our trading partners. All the parts that come in--


Senator Peter Baume —It doesn't seem to worry the Labor Party.


Senator SHEIL —No, it does not seem to worry it. Nearly all of our whitegoods are not manufactured in Australia. Most of the important parts, the engines, which are high cost items, are manufactured overseas. People need household appliances. If mothers are forced by economic circumstances to go out to work to get money, they need those things in the house, and they are priced right out of their range.

Medical insurance has been mentioned. It is quite right to say that people, and families in particular, are disadvantaged by the Medicare system we have today. There is no incentive for people to have private insurance, and Medicare is an absolutely second rate service. The rebates are geared to the standard fee, but the standard fee has no connection with reality. That fee was a figment of the imagination of somebody in the Government. The rebates are geared to the standard fee, but the fee is not connected with proper doctors' fees, which in turn are geared to high taxes, so people are disadvantaged. We have only to look at what is happening medically in Australia today. Thousands of hospital beds are closed, there are long waiting lists and people cannot get in to see specialists. People cannot have operations done when it suits them; they have to go on a waiting list which is years long. All of that sort of thing is disadvantaging patients.


Senator Walters —Waiting lists in the children's wards.


Senator SHEIL —Yes, children are waiting for important surgical operations to relieve suffering. Even with all the good will in the world, if the Government pays benefits to people such as single mothers, the unemployed or other disadvantaged people, the Government in effect is subsidising that disability. It is subsidising single mothers, so we will get more of them. If the Government pays higher unemployment benefits, we will get more unemployed people. If the Government pays benefits to homeless people, we will get more homeless people, particularly poor people, who will send their kids out in order to qualify for the benefit.


Senator Zakharov —That's an outrageous insult to the Australian people.


Senator SHEIL —It is before our eyes for us to see. The Government has altered the whole attitude of the people and has made them benefit conscious. People have a welfare mentality; they will not go out to work while we have the high taxes that we have at the moment. The more money people earn, the more tax they pay, so they get to a point where they will not work any more. Throughout the country we see that some people will not work overtime because of the high taxes. We have to introduce incentives and a flat rate of tax would do that. We would have an immediate boom in the country if we reduced taxes. If the Government wants to have a happy country with happy families it should reduce taxes, not increase them.


Senator Tate —Senator Peter Baume does not agree with flat tax.


Senator SHEIL —A lot of people do not agree with it. Senator Baume believes in a flatter tax; he is coming towards the view of a flat tax. I do not want to go through the argument about the cost of education again as that has been adequately covered this afternoon. We have sustained the argument quite clearly that the Government has failed to take any effective action-it may have taken some action of which we have not seen the results. None of the action has been effective in stopping the downhill slide. The J-curve is still around the silver lining of the cloud and nobody knows when we will see anything of it. We have been threatened with a banana republic. We have been told that we have to tighten our belts. When the belts are tightened it is the families who suffer disproportionately. This is what is happening in Australia today and the Government is doing nothing about it. It is a disappointment to us. It will act badly for the Government, but in the meantime the people will suffer further. The people who will suffer most will be families. They are our most precious commodity. Some parties put the individual first and some put the family first; we happen to put the family first as the basic unit of our society. People should be fostered and given a chance to get governments out of their pockets, off their backs and out of their hair.