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Monday, 27 June 1994
Page: 1987

Senator HILL —My question is directed to the Minister representing the Prime Minister. I remind the minister that before the last election Mr Keating promised no new taxes. He quickly broke that promise and scrapped the l-a-w law income tax cuts. Now his Treasurer, Mr Willis, is refusing to rule out further tax increases. I ask the minister: what value is a promise from his government when it so easily disregards that promise when the election is over? For the benefit of small businesses and families trying to recover from Mr Keating's recession, will he now tell all Australians when taxes are going to rise, which taxes are going up and to what extent?

Senator GARETH EVANS —The Leader of the Opposition in the Senate would have heard the Prime Minister respond to this question; I have very little to add to what he said. The situation is that we have put in place the receipt side of a policy that will generate an outstanding fiscal result—better than for just about any other country in the world—by 1996-97, and one that is perceived to be responsible and appropriate for Australia's economic circumstances. We have a fiscal policy that is travelling well, accompanied by a monetary policy in balance with it, and which makes perfect sense in achieving those longer term objectives. Accordingly, given all known and reasonably anticipatable circumstances, there is no basis for contemplating any change on the fiscal side of the equation.

  At the same time, as the Treasurer has made clear—there is nothing new in any of this—it is not appropriate to be ruling in or out absolutely all speculation or all anticipated outcomes about particular use of different arms of policy at some time in the future should the circumstances that I have described change. What the government has said, and what it absolutely continues to stand by in all circumstances, is that we will not increase the overall burden of taxation. We have said that on innumerable occasions. We have absolutely honoured that commitment and we will continue to do so.

Senator HILL —Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. The minister does not seem to understand that small business in particular has to plan for the future. Last week we were told by him that interest rates would not go up. By the weekend, interest rates had gone up.

Senator Cook —You don't speak for small business.

Senator HILL —There are more people on this side with a right to speak for small business than on Senator Cook's side. He does not have a small business person over there. Small business has been misled before by this Prime Minister. Why, if everything is going according to plan, is the Treasurer, Mr Willis, refusing to rule out further tax increases?

Senator GARETH EVANS —Small business would be interested in hearing from the opposition how it is going to fund the $8 billion hole which, as has been amply demonstrated already, will result from the series of absolutely incomprehensible and simultaneously irresponsible statements made by a series of opposition spokesmen—Mr Downer, Mr Costello, Mr Howard, Mr Abbott, Senator Minchin, Mr Peacock, Mr Reith in the area of defence, and the late and unlamented Mr Scott in the area of regional infrastructure.

  On all of those fronts, if we add up the kind of expenditure commitments or taxation relief commitments that have been articulated by the opposition in just the last few weeks, we come up with an impossibly opportunistic, vulgar, populist bid for support through multiple constituencies, but with a total climate of fiscal irresponsibility associated with it. Those opposite have already had an $8 billion hole identified in their policy credibility. For them to stand up and suggest there is any similar ground for concern about the carefully constructed fiscal policy that we have identified, they are talking through their collective hat. (Time expired)