|Title||QUESTIONS WITHOUT NOTICE
|Source||House of Reps
|Interjector||Swan, Wayne, MP
|Questioner||Tollner, David, MP
|Responder||Howard, John, MP
|Context||Questions Without Notice
Mr TOLLNER (2:01 PM) âMy question is also addressed to the Prime Minister. Is the Prime Minister aware of criticisms being made in relation to wealth distribution in Australia? Are these criticisms justified?
Mr HOWARD (Prime Minister) âI am aware of criticisms that have been made, especially by the Leader of the Opposition since he assumed that position, to the effect that this government has not ensured that the prosperity that this nation has undeniably enjoyed over the last decade has been fairly spread throughout the community. He has even employed that strange word âbrutopiaâ to describe the policy approach that this government has taken. In Laborâs Family Watch Task Force report, which was released on 7 May 2007, this is what the Labor Party had to say, and this is what should be examined against the reality:
... the interaction between welfare and the family payments systems is punishingâ
punishing, would you believe â
middle and low income earners ...
It went on to say:
The Howard Government has delivered ad-hoc tax and family payment adjustments without addressing crippling effective tax rates for low and middle income families.
Mr Swan interjectingâ
The SPEAKER âOrder! The member for Lilley is reminded of standing order 62.
Mr HOWARD âIt goes on:
Far from being ârelaxed and comfortableâ after a decade of the Howard Government, Australian families are increasingly anxious about their household finances.
The whole basis of the Leader of the Oppositionâs attack on this government is that Australia has become a rich manâs paradise and that the poor men and women of this country have suffered adversely over the last 10 years.
The figures released by the ABS yesterday are a stunning repudiation of everything that the Leader of the Opposition has said on this subject. The figures released yesterday provide conclusive proof that the government changes to the tax and income support arrangements are highly progressive, and they are targeted to low-income earners. The figures show that only the top 40 per cent of households pay net tax after cash and in-kind benefits have been taken into account. That is the direct opposite of brutopia. That is a direct repudiation of everything that the Leader of the Opposition and those around him have said. The ABS reports the following conclusions in relation to household incomes in 2003-04: low-income households receive more social benefits in cash and social transfers in kind and pay less taxes than high-income households. It goes on to say that the lowest income household received 44.5 per cent of social benefits in cash, whereas the top 20 per cent of income earners received only 1.7 per cent of social assistance benefits. The payment of taxesâit goes onâon income, and to a lesser extent taxes on production, increases with income. Households in the lowest income groups paid 1.3 per cent of total taxes on income, while households in the highest income groups pay 58.2 per cent.
These are not my figures; they are not the Liberal Partyâs figures; they are the figures of the independent Bureau of Statistics. These figures are a comprehensive vindication of the fairness of the tax and welfare policies of the government over the last 11 years. They demonstrate that this has been a fair government, that this is a government that has looked after the battlers of this country, that this is a government that has seen to it that the great wealth of Australia over the last decade has been evenly distributedâindeed, it has been more than evenly distributed; it has been disproportionately distributed to assist those in the lower income brackets. When you add these figures to the facts that we now have a 33-year low in unemployment, we now have real wages rising at more than 20 per cent over the last 13 years, we have the lowest level of industrial disputes ever, we have paid off a $96 billion debt, we have an economy that is the envy of most of the industrialised world, it represents a picture which is a total repudiation of everything that the Leader of the Opposition has stood for since he assumed that position.