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Wednesday, 1 December 2004
Page: 134

Senator GREIG (6:39 PM) —It is difficult to know, Senator Evans, where to draw the line, though, isn't it? The government also went to the election saying that they wanted to sell Telstra and to progress unfair dismissal laws.

Senator Chris Evans —I never claimed consistency; I never made any claim for consistency.

Senator GREIG —Fair enough. Minister, you asked where I would find this amount of approximately a billion dollars. I recall that only three years ago—it was not the recent election but the election before—when the really hot-button issue of the day was petrol prices, for some reason the Prime Minister felt it necessary to intervene and pour a billion dollars into the economy to bring the price of petrol down by 1c across the nation. I found that obscene and unnecessary, and I note with some curiosity that, although petrol prices have significantly increased around Australia in recent weeks to a level higher than they were three years ago, there is not the same public outcry. I think the politics behind that is fascinating.

Another area where we Democrats would advocate the finding of money is the abolition of the government rebate for private health care coverage. We would be very keenly supportive of that. We would also advocate to the government that it really ought to seriously think about taxing family trusts as it does companies. We find it unacceptable that many wealthy families continue to hide taxable income through those structures. You will find in excess of a billion dollars there, so it is a question of priorities.

We remain committed to the proposals that we have presented. I clearly have not won the argument on the day but I am pleased that we have had the opportunity to tease them out a bit. I think part of the problem, some of the inconsistencies that Senator Evans spoke of, was more to do with the unseemly haste with which the original legislation went through the parliament when we were perhaps expecting an early election. That raft of bills that went through in a hugely unscrutinised way caused, I think, many of the hiccups that are contained within this legislation.

Question negatived.