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Wednesday, 24 October 1984
Page: 2322

Senator CHANEY —My question to the Leader of the Government in the Senate follows the question he has just answered, or rather debated. I ask the Minister to confirm that yesterday he admitted that the Australian Labor Party indexed excises and guaranteed their twice yearly rise. I remind him that yesterday he was not prepared to say there would be no shift to indirect taxation if Labor is re-elected. I ask again: Is the Minister prepared to give a firm undertaking that if Labor is re-elected it will not raise indirect taxes and will not seek to raise a greater proportion of its revenue through indirect taxes?

Senator BUTTON —I am happy to provide an answer once again to Senator Chaney. I confirm that the Government has indexed certain excise rates. One of the reasons we did that is that excise duties over the years have been subject to fluctuations and speculations at Budget time. Under previous governments in this country there have been impositions of new excise duties or increases in excise duties on an ad hoc basis at every Budget, which is totally confusing to industry. This caused all sorts of speculations at Budget time. Yes, we indexed two excises. At the same time I simply make the point that we have reduced the inflation rate in this country.

I want also to deal with the question Senator Chaney asked concerning whether the Government would give an undertaking that there will be no introduction of or increase in indirect taxes if the Labor Government is returned to power at the next election. I answer that question in the same way as I did yesterday. The Government's concern about indirect taxation is the regressive effects it is likely to have in respect of the whole tax structure and also the inflationary effects. If the Opposition does not mind, we have a view on that issue. Those things are undesirable and, of course, related to general questions of economic management-something which the Liberal Party really did not have much success at . As I said yesterday, those questions will be considered in the context of a general and comprehensive taxation review designed to produce greater equity in the Australian taxation system.

Senator CHANEY —I ask a supplementary question, Mr President. The clear meaning of that answer is that the Government is leaving it open to itself, if re- elected, to raise indirect taxes if that is what is in its mind at the conclusion of any review. In other words, the Minister is not prepared to deny that possibility or say that it will not occur under Labor.