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Thursday, 19 March 1987
Page: 1015

Senator BOSWELL(5.55) —When I was speaking on the Taxation Laws Amendment Bill (No. 5) 1986 before lunch I said that it was going to remove $140m from the business sector and transfer it to the Government. We have just heard an eloquent speech by Senator Cooney as to how the Australian Labor Party is going to solve the problems of not only the farmers but also the underprivileged and small business, and that it was truly going to be an egalitarian party that represented all sections of the community. The ink is hardly dry on his speech and I have risen to speak to another Bill, the main essence of which is to take $140m from the business community and place it in the Government's coffers. I would never attack Senator Cooney because I like him as a person but his speech indicates that he has no understanding of business.

Between the time that I was speaking on this Bill this morning and the resumption of the debate I researched the Australian Labor Party's small business policy. I was interested to see that one of the resolutions in it is that a Labor Government would legislate for optional quarterly provisional tax payments. Here is another Labor Party promise that will be broken. If this Bill passes the Senate, as I believe it will, we are now faced with the prospect of the Labor Party pushing on to the business community compulsory, not optional, quarterly payments of provisional tax. Even Senator Cooney must be disappointed to again find smashed another of the planks of the Labor Party platform. I often wonder about the Labor Party's policies. I cannot imagine why anyone would want to pay quarterly provisional tax. As provisional tax stands now, people get nine months' free tax and pay three months in advance. Whoever wrote this policy just does not understand anything about business. I am glad to see that Senator Cooney is nodding in agreement. I do not want to attack the Labor Party's small business policy but I do not think it stands on its own feet at all.

The people who will mainly be affected by this increase in provisional tax are the people who have already suffered. They pay capital gains tax and fringe benefits tax. This has cost Australian business $600m. The Government has abolished entertainment expenses, which has cost the restaurant industry $350m. We again find that it is a small section of the community which is becoming the target of this Government. The Government has put a fine toothcomb through every benefit that primary producers received and it has taken away every benefit that it is possible to take away from them. It is now targeting the business area. Let us look at what some of the Western countries do for small business. Those countries are not inflicting a further tax bill on small business every three months, taking capital out of business and inflicting on it a continuation of forms-more red tape-to be completed every quarter instead of every 12 months. People subject to the tax will have to visit their accountants not just once a year but four times a year. They will have to provide their returns, their cheque books and their profit and loss accounts. I suggest that a person does not visit an accountant without paying much under $100. So that is another $400 of profit that will be removed from small business and business people.

I would have thought that a party which claims to represent all sections of the community, as Senator Cooney claimed the Australian Labor Party does, would have made more of an effort to understand what is going on. I believe that many of the Labor Party's problems, when it comes down to the wire, stem not from vindictiveness but from pure, simple ignorance. It does not understand business. It is does not understand it, it should seek assistance from those who do, or go to a consultant. For some misguided reason that I have never been able to understand, a few people in business vote for the Labor Party. I suggest that the Labor Party should round up those people and ask them about their problems. Then it might be able to formulate some policies that apply to the business sector. At the moment, the Labor Party is so far from base that it does not understand.

The United Kingdom Government charges business a company tax at the rate of 25 per cent, Canada charges company tax at the rate of only 15 per cent. Senator Cooney's egalitarian Labor Party, the party which looks after all sections of the community, has increased company tax 3c-from 46c to 49c in the dollar-when every other country in the world has tried to encourage business and the private sector and has tried to lift its economy and employment by helping small business. The Senate would be well aware that the United States of America was led out of its economic recession by a small business recovery. What we are getting is the complete reverse.

All small business has been affected by the Hawke Government's tax policies. One of the things that are worrying me is the report of the Hancock Committee of Review into Australian Industrial Relations Law and Systems. I do not want to get diverted on to the Hancock report. However, the Government is trying to push everyone into the net of the pay as you earn tax system. Last year, it tried the fishermen. I stood up in the Senate and pointed out how stupid it was to try to tax deck-hands under a PAYE scheme. Deck-hands can work for three weeks and not make a cent; yet they can go out for a day and make $3,000 or $4,000. They may be restricted to the port because of bad weather or machinery breakdown. Yet they can go out for six or eight weeks and not go into port. The Government did not understand that. The Minister for Industry, Technology and Commerce, Senator Button, was in the chamber at the time and he said that he would take the matter on board. I think that he did something about it, and I give full credit to him for doing so.

The Government is now trying to push every sub-contractor, bricklayer, painter, plumber and builder into the PAYE net. It continues to tighten the noose around small business. It has been doing that for four years, and it has just about reached the end of the rope. I would not care if the Government called a double dissolution tomorrow on the Australia Card legislation. I would welcome it. It would love to go out there and fight on the Government's economic policies. I would say that the Labor Party would be reduced to a very small party in the Senate and the House of Representatives.

Senator Crichton-Browne —What date would you like?

Senator BOSWELL —I do not care when the election is held. I am ready to go out and take the Government's policies to the people. I would fight any election on what the Government has done to small business and the rural community, and I would be certain to come in a winner. The Government has pushed people right to the edge of the precipice. Not only has the Government adopted economic policies which have been a disaster and have resulted in 22 per cent interest rates and high inflation, but also it has restricted everyone. It has taken the incentive out of small business; it has taken incentives away from the rural community, and it has taken the work ethic away from every person who has been able to and wanted to get up have a go. It has broken their hearts, so now they just sit there and say; `What on earth is the use of going out there and trying to produce, trying to make money and trying to pay tax?' People have just about thrown in the towel. They are waiting for a change of government at which time they will change their their attitude.

When the legislation is considered in the overall context of the Government's economic policy, one sees that it is a relatively mild form of attack. Nevertheless, it is still another nail in the coffin of the business community. One of the details that we should consider at the moment is that the Labor Party is increasing the costs on business, on retailers, by making them conform with sales tax, withholding tax and prescribed payments tax. Now the Government intends to make members of the business community go into their accountants four times a year, which will cost extra money. The Government has the temerity to say that it is the greedy manufacturers, the greedy primary producers and the greedy retailers who are putting prices up. That is the greatest hypocritical statement that I have come across. It is the Government that has put prices up by inflicting all these taxes on people. Then it says to the Australian public: `It is not our fault. We have not done a thing. It is the greedy manufacturers, the greedy retailers'. The Government has even put a tax on the kitchen sink. Sales tax has gone up 20 per cent. The Government has even taxed lavatory pans. That is how basic it can go. The Government has taxed kitchen sinks, lavatory pans, tools, milk and flavoured milk. It has even taxed bird seed. Yet it say that it is the greedy retailers and the rotten manufacturers who are putting prices up. It is absolutely diabolical for the Government to do that. I do not think that it understands. Small business people have phoned me saying: `The Government is blaming us, but everything we do receives a tax on it'. The Government has increased import duties, sales tax and company tax. It has introduced a fringe benefits tax. Yet it blames the one sector of the community that is trying to make money. The Government does not realise what it is doing.

Senator Peter Baume —They are creating wealth too.

Senator BOSWELL —Of course they are, and the Government should be encouraging them to do so. The Government, as with its economic policies, blames everyone except itself. Senator Cooney said a few minutes ago that the reason the Australian economy is down and interest rates are high is that commodity prices are falling. Australia is not looking for excuses; it is looking for results. If those opposite cannot provide the results, they ought to make way for someone else who can. They blame overseas commodity prices, the European Economic Community, America, retailers and manufacturers-everyone except themselves. When are they going to admit that if they are not part of the solution they are part of the problem? When they admit that Australia can start to return to some sort of economic viability.

Why did they not address the problem of monopolies when Coles was bought out by Myers? That sort of thing creates price increases because it reduces competition in the market-place. When 70 per cent of retailing is done through Coles, Myers and Woolworths it puts tremendous stress on the manufacturers because they have nowhere else to reach the market if they do not go through the major retailers. The major retailers are demanding such large discounts that there is no profit in manufacturing industry. Those are the issues the Government has to address to get prices down. Senator Button made a mealy-mouthed statement that monopolies are not in the best interest of Australia but he is not prepared to do anything about the problem. Government senators cannot continue to blame everyone else in Australia. That is what they have done for the last four years and it just will not wash.

I have strayed from the terms of the Bills somewhat. This legislation will inevitably add to the costs of the business community. It might help the accountancy profession, although it has so much work that it cannot handle it, because of the number of other taxes this Government has inflicted on the business community. I suppose this involves only $140m and is a fairly mild attack by the Government on the small business sector. It will not do much more damage, I suppose. It is just one more nail in the coffin. The business sector of Australia is hanging on praying for an early election so that it can cast its vote against this Government.