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Wednesday, 27 March 1985
Page: 969


Mr RONALD EDWARDS(10.54) —It is extraordinary to hear the Opposition in this place make two claims-one about tax reform and the other about responsible economic management. As the Treasurer (Mr Keating) said, the present Opposition had its opportunity in regard to tax reform and missed it. The substantial point to be made about tax reform is that when the Opposition did have that opportunity, when it got that big tax grab from the petroleum import parity pricing system and it had control of both chambers, it let it go. Substantially the reason for this was that the Opposition was not persistent enough. Another reason was the relationship between the Liberal Party and the National Party of Australia. Prime Minister Fraser leant on his mates, the agrarian socialists in the National Party, who said: 'For goodness sake, do not try to bring responsible economic management to this place because we want to be able to dip our hand in whenever we want to feed our electorates.' That has been the long term tradition and that is why the honourable member for Bennelong (Mr Howard) could not bring about responsible economic management. In effect, the agrarian socialists of the National Party always had a word in Malcolm Fraser's ear and were able to steer responsible economic management back to their particular goal. That was the capacity of honourable members opposite for tax reform. They did not bring it about.

It is also interesting to observe the dates of application of this legislation. We were seeking to have it apply from 1 July 1980 and the amendment introduced from the other place proposes 11 May 1982. Instead of getting $10m, as my colleague the honourable member for Charlton (Mr Robert Brown) said, we are getting only half a million dollars. We are losing $9.5m. That is a typical example of the Liberals closing the door after the horse has bolted. Such is the track record of the previous Government on tax reform. It always did something when it was too late.

In this case again honourable members opposite are denying us the opportunity to collect money for the Australian taxpayers. They have not yet learned that the Australian taxpayers are still angry about the previous Government's failure as a responsible tax manager and a responsible economic manager. Honourable members opposite have not learned that lesson, and they will stay on the other side of the chamber until they learn it. Ordinary Australian taxpayers are still angry about the previous Government's inability to manage the tax system, and they will remember that for a long time. They also have not forgotten the fact that honourable members opposite were economic vandals when they were in government. We are still clearing up the wreckage that they left. It is an absolute disgrace. They should not try to tell us how to manage the tax system or the economy. They have only to look back three or four years to see their failures. They are everywhere to be seen and the Australian community has not forgotten them. The point to be made with respect to this legislation is that, through the other place, honourable members opposite are again denying the Australian taxpayers the collection of revenue that we as the Government are seeking to collect on their behalf.

It is interesting to note that later today the Treasurer (Mr Keating) will be introducing two measures-the Taxation (Unpaid Company Tax) Assessment Amendment Bill and the Dividend Recoupment Tax Bill. Similar Bills have been before the Parliament before, and in the other place the Opposition chose to knock them off. We will again see how good it is, whether it is fair dinkum about collecting tax. I think we can anticipate the position that Opposition members will choose. Being the cowards they are, they will knock if off in the other place. My colleague the honourable member for Charlton has already said that one of the reasons why the Australian Democrats paid a high price in the election was the fact that they went soft on taxation. They are still behaving like a bunch of wimps in regard to taxation. Until they come good and show a bit of courage in this Parliament they will be judged by the Australian electorate, as will be the Liberal Party and the National Party.

To sum up, the position is very clear. We are seeking to do something substantial on tax reform. As far as we are concerned, the Australian community has our trust. We have a clear direction with respect to tax reform. It is better to have a blank cheque than a besmirched record, and the sort of record that the Opposition has is a very dirty one indeed.