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Thursday, 22 September 1983
Page: 1166


Mr PEACOCK —My question is directed to the Prime Minister. In the light of the Prime Minister's statement to the House yesterday that 'the major requirement of the business community is the maximum possible degree of certainty', and as he has been unable to get that and give it in regard to uranium development, will he once and for all end the speculation over a new capital gains tax so actively promoted by the Leader of the Government in the Senate, or should we prepare ourselves for yet another broken promise?


Mr HAWKE —With respect to the specific part of the Leader of the Opposition's question I say quite directly that there is no proposal presently before the Cabinet to introduce a capital gains tax. Having said that, let me make it quite clear that this Government, as distinct from its predecessor, is very strongly committed to reforming the tax system. In only six months in office we have already taken major steps. Let me remind honourable members opposite of those major steps. We are strengthening section 26A of the Income Tax Assessment Act which taxes speculative profits to overcome the technical deficiencies which have been used to avoid tax which should properly be attracted under that section. I also remind honourable members opposite that we are reintroducing amendments to the bottom of the harbour legislation which, if the Senate co- operates, will collect much of the personal tax avoided in such schemes. We have also announced major changes in the taxation of superannuation lump sums. In addition, we have removed and are removing a number of unwarranted tax concessions, including some that have been very susceptible to tax avoidance.

There are limits, however, to the pace of change in the tax system and I do not want to speculate on changes that may be made in the future. We have recognised that the overwhelming majority of taxpayers in Australia want a fair and equitable system under which people will know their obligations under the law and under which not only will they meet their obligations but also all other Australians will meet their obligations. We have very sensibly met the overwhelming desire of the people in this regard by taking action in the Economic Planning Advisory Council which, I remind you, Mr Speaker, is constituted of representatives of all the important sectors of the Australian community-business large and small, trade unions, consumer organisations, local government and State governments. We have said there that we will examine the revenue base. As a first step, at the first meeting of EPAC we made arrangements to bring together all the reports of past years that have been undertaken in regard to the Australian tax base. I believe that everyone in Australia, with the exception of some honourable members on the other side of the House, will welcome the action of the Government in this regard. We are not trying to impose a view. We are saying that this clearly is a matter of fundamental public, economic and social importance and that the sensible and responsible way to attack this matter is to consult with this broadly representative body-not to seek to impose views upon it-to get the benefit of its accumulated wisdom and experience. Out of that process we will do what the previous Government failed in seven years to do; that is, to move towards an efficient, equitable, fair and sensible taxation base in this country.