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Thursday, 2 April 1987
Page: 1744


Senator BOSWELL(3.45) —It is well known now that the Australia Card Bill 1986 [No. 2] should be pulled off the list, and we should be able to get back to debating the problems of the nation. The Minister for Health (Dr Blewett) told us earlier this year that he would amend the legislation and try to present it to the Senate for further debate to see whether he could get the Australia Card through the Senate. But what happened? The Government believed it could win an election and we were faced with the cynical operation of this card being put up to be debated again. When the Prime Minister (Mr Hawke) saw the research that was coming through to his office, he wimped out and decided that he was not prepared to go for an early election. He hoped that he could put off the inevitable until later in the year when he would face the polls and ultimately be defeated. So we are going through this very cynical exercise of debating this Bill that even the Australian Labor Party does not want.


Senator Crowley —Speak for yourself, Ron.


Senator BOSWELL —I am speaking for Senator Georges and Senator Bolkus--


Senator Cook —Senator Georges is not a member of the Labor Party.


Senator BOSWELL —Yes, he saw the light. After 18 years he finally saw the light. He stood up for what he believed in and resigned from the Labor Party. Everyone in Queensland admires Senator Georges, not because of his stand on many issues, but certainly because he has a character and is prepared to stand up for what he believes-unlike a number of other people over there.


Senator Button —When Joh tells you to leave you will walk out of the coalition. Old brownboots!


Senator BOSWELL —Senator Button, please do not interject on me, because I want to discuss this Bill. Like much of the Government legislation that has been put before this House in the last four years of government, this Bill will make tremendous impositions on the business and farming sectors. It is proof that the Government has no understanding of or sympathy for the business or farming communities. We have had nothing but one ambush after another on the productive sector of this country. We have seen an all-out assault on many fronts-fringe benefits taxes, all other types of taxes, capital gains taxes, death duties.


Senator Button —What death duties?


Senator BOSWELL —Senator Button does not know how the capital gains tax works; I tell him that it has an inbuilt death duty. It is something about which he has not been completely honest. He has not gone out and told the really honest story about the capital gains tax. But he knows as well as I do that the capital gains tax has an inbuilt death duty. Both the abolition of negative gearing and the abolition of tax deductibility for entertainment expenses are counter-productive and unjustified, and run a tax on business. We have seen the introduction of the prescribed payments system and the railroading of sub-contractors and the self-employed into the totally inappropriate pay as you earn scheme. We have seen increased company taxes. And the list goes on and on. All these taxes and impositions have meant more form filling and more unproductive time spent ploughing through paper work; and many businesses have had to put on additional staff members just to fill out the paper work the Government requires.

Now we have this Australia Card, which hopefully, and thankfully, will be defeated. If it were passed, all telephone selling, all dealing with brokers and stock and station agents would end. Under the Australia Card telephone selling would become obsolete. The grazier and isolated person would not be able to do business over the telephone. He would have to meet his stock and station agent. As Senator Brownhill mentioned, there are 48,000 wheat growers in Australia. The Wheat Board has seven offices. This Government has neglected the farmers who have provided the wealth of this nation for so many years. Their farms and implements are being repossessed and their standard of living is being taken away from them. This unsympathetic Government will now make them go to the office of the Wheat Board in one of the seven capital cities and present their credentials to the Wheat Board. It will cost them quite a sum of money to make the additional journeys into the capital cities. Various partnerships and companies are also represented. This will be a tremendously involved process and an administrative nightmare. All sorts of burdens will be imposed on farmers. The same applies to the 80,000 wool growers. They normally carry out their business honestly by telephone. Now they will also be required to travel long distances to present their cards personally to the wool broking firms.

Senator Button and other members of the Australian Labor Party have thrown their net so wide that they have caught all Australians. They work on the presumption that everyone in Australia is a cheat, so they are trying to bring in this draconian legislation which will catch every person in Australia, despite the fact that 99.99 per cent of Australians are decent, honest, law respecting citizens. This fact does not seem to cut any ice with the Australian Labor Party. The Confederation of Australian Industry has claimed--


Senator Crowley —Mr Acting Deputy President, I raise a point of order. Clearly, the honourable senator is reading his speech. I also draw to your attention standing order 421 which requires honourable senators not to be tediously repetitious. I suggest that under either of those rulings, you could call the honourable senator to order.


The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Jessop) —There is no point of order.


Senator BOSWELL —Thank you, Mr Acting Deputy President.


Senator Button —It is the only way you can be sure which Party you are in by reading your speech, isn't it?


Senator BOSWELL —I would not worry about our side of the House. I think Senator Button has enough to do to control the four or five factions on his side. When the Government brought down this Australia Card legislation, it shunted Senator Bolkus off to Bulgaria or somewhere and Senator Georges left. It has tremendous trouble in its own ranks without trying to divide us. Senator Button should worry about his own affairs and we will look after our own interests.

The Government never considered for one moment the costs that it would impose on the Australian business community. The Confederation of Australian Industry has claimed that it will cost business $377m a year. That will ultimately mean a loss of jobs and less profit. So the card will have an effect which is completely contrary to what it was designed to do. Neither Senator Button nor his Government has been prepared to come clean and tell us what the card will cost. I would have thought that any responsible government would have done some sort of study on the cost to the private sector. Perhaps this Government is not concerned enough to take into consideration how much this will add to the costs of the Australian business sector and primary industry. Estimates that have been worked out by some prominent business organisations have shown that it will add $2,000m in costs in the private sector over the next 10 years.


Senator Button —You had better tell us who they are because we might think that comes out of--


Senator BOSWELL —The Confederation of Australian Industry is one of them.


Senator Button —No, it is not. That is not true. You are misleading the Parliament.


Senator BOSWELL —I would be eternally grateful, as would the Australian business community, if the Government would tell us what the Australia Card will cost in the private sector.


Senator Button —You will get a pimple on your tongue if you go on giving those figures.


Senator BOSWELL —The Government admits it will cost the public sector $1,000m over the next 10 years and it will have to employ 2,000 extra public servants.


Senator Crowley —Those are government figures. Now tell us the truth. Tell us the rest.


Senator BOSWELL —I say to Senator Crowley that this card has been considered by a joint select committee. The majority report recommended that the ID card would have no effect on social welfare fraud, taxation fraud, organised crime-and I forget what the other one was.


Senator Giles —Immigration.


Senator BOSWELL —Immigration. I thank the honourable senator for her help. It has been proven by a number of people, including Mr Costigan, that the card will not do what it was designed to do. Mr Costigan said that it would not stop organised crime; in fact, it would help organised crime. So on anyone's criteria the card will not prove to be useful. Yet the Government, in a cynical exercise, has brought the legislation forward again, knowing full well it does not have the numbers, knowing full well that the Australian Democrats will not support it, knowing full well that Senator Georges and Senator Siddons would not support it, and knowing full well that its own members would have to be whipped into the House to vote for it; if they did not do so, their endorsements would be on the line. So we are now debating this legislation when we should be debating other matters that are of more importance to the country.

We find, as the debate is drawing to a close, that the Government is trying to save a little bit of face and is going through the exercise of talking the matter out. As long as the Government is prepared to try to save face, we in the Opposition will point out to the people of Australia that it is nothing more than a cynical exercise to try to get a trigger for a double dissolution. We are debating the Australia Card legislation, even though the Government knows it does not have the numbers.


Senator Townley —A waste of time.


Senator BOSWELL —Of course, it is an utter waste of time. The Government knows that the legislation would not be implemented until 1989-90. That is the first full year in which the card would come into force. Here we are in April 1987, two years away from that time, debating a card that everyone knows will not be enforced, which will not do the job, which will not stop organised crime, welfare fraud, immigration fraud--


Senator Button —Tax avoidance. What about that?


Senator BOSWELL —And tax avoidance. The Government has placed the Senate in a stupid situation. It is playing the Australian people for a bunch of fools. The Australian people know that the Government has only re-introduced this legislation because it wants a double dissolution trigger. When it had the choice of calling a double dissolution, it wimped out. It was not prepared to go to the people of Australia because of its poor record. I do not blame the Government for not being prepared to go to the people of Australia, because 600 homes in Logan City were repossessed last month as the people could not meet their repayments, and the ordinary Australian citizens are burdened by interest rates that they cannot meet. So the Government has tried to buy a bit of time. It has until March 1988 to enjoy the benefits of the treasury bench. As soon as the Government is prepared to go to an election the inevitable will happen; the Australian people will throw it out unceremoniously from the Government benches in the Senate and the House of Representatives.