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Thursday, 21 August 1980
Page: 580

Mr KERIN (WERRIWA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - My question is directed to the Treasurer. Is it a fact that, if the Government is successful in winning its battle against the central Queensland coal miners on the housing tax issue, the Government will move to tax the housing of all people living in other remote mining locations, and the rented or found housing of people employed in the rural sector and of all public servants serving in remote areas?

Mr HOWARD (BENNELONG, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Treasurer) - I thank the honourable member for Werriwa for asking that question. It gives me the opportunity to put straight a few things that obviously need to be put straight, certainly in view of some of the comments that have been made by the other side. This is an important issue and I am sure that the Opposition will want to know the facts. The first point I want to make clear is that the Government is not engaged in any particular campaign or crackdown, nor indeed is the Commissioner of Taxation, in respect of subsidised housing or other kinds of benefits which are affected by the operation of section 26 (e) of the Income Tax Assessment Act. One of the more incorrect things that have been alleged on behalf of the miners of central Queensland is that in some way they are being picked on and discriminated against. The fact of the matter is that thousands of Australians who live in various parts of the country occupy subsidised housing. The difference between them and the central Queensland miners is that those other Australians either pay rents which are closer to the market value of the premises they occupy or pay some taxation on the subsidised element of the housing which is provided.

I remind the House that what is involved in the central Queensland mining dispute is an unwillingness by the miners to accept that it is fair to pay some tax in a situation where, in the great majority of cases, they are living in premises which have been occupied since 1 967 at a rental of $5 a week. The effect of what has been offered by the Government is that they will be allowed a 64 per cent discount on a conservative market value of the properties. To suggest in those circumstances, where the average wage of the people involved is $25,000 a year, that in some way the Government is picking on the miners of central Queensland is absolute nonsense.

The solution advocated by the Leader of the Opposition is to lift the section altogether. The net effect of that alternative offered by the Leader of the Opposition would be to open a significant avenue for large scale minimisation of taxation liabilities by people who normally and overwhelmingly are better able to afford to pay tax than is the average wage earner of the Australian community. For a person who claims to be concerned about the real disposable income of the ordinary wage earner of Australia, the remedy and antidote of the Leader of the Opposition is a very strange proposal indeed.

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