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Wednesday, 27 March 1985
Page: 971


Mr HODGMAN(11.07) —Today the conspiracy of silence, which has been in place since before the last Federal election, was shattered. The Treasurer of Australia (Mr Keating) convicts himself out of his own mouth when he proclaims, with an arrogance unprecedented in this Parliament, that he and the Government have a blank cheque. From this day forth the Treasurer of Australia will be known as 'Blank Cheque' Keating. In his exuberance today he let the cat out of the bag. This is, of course, the Treasurer who conspired with the Prime Minister (Mr Hawke) and other Ministers last year to deceive the people of Australia by clamming-up and not letting the cat out of the bag in relation to capital gains tax, death duties, estate duties and gift taxes. I say in passing that it is extraordinary that the real Treasurer of Australia, the Minister for Social Security (Mr Howe), has not been in the chamber participating in this debate.

The honourable member for Blaxland is the Treasurer who promised to lift the tax burden off all Australians. We can look at his record. Income tax receipts in his first Budget year of 1983-84 went up 8 per cent. In 1984-85 they increased by 23 per cent. Mr Deputy Chairman, you are looking at a situation, therefore-with your economic background you would be well aware of this-of a rip-off of 31 per cent in just 18 months. If ever I have seen a classic example of the conversion of Saul to Paul in reverse, it has happened today. Mr Chairman, you might recall that Saul of Tarsus was on the road to Damascus when, with a blinding flash of lightning, he was converted. Today we have seen this Paul reconverted to Saul and from this day on his name is Saul, not Paul.

I owe the House one apology. In a recent debate I referred to the Treasurer in terms which I now wish to withdraw. I called him the world's only two-faced ferret. I was directed to the Oxford Dictionary, and found, that a ferret is defined as: 'A half-tamed variety of the common polecat'. I think my description was most unfair to common polecats. The Treasurer has but a few months to go before the medal presented to him last year is taken back. He has no right to defame and traduce in this Parliament the former Treasurer of Australia, the honourable member for Bennelong (Mr Howard). He was a Treasurer of honour and integrity. He was genuine in what he said to the people of Australia and he told the people of Australia the truth.

This Treasurer is living on borrowed time. I think it is going to be a race to see whether the people of Australia get him first, the Opposition gets him first or those from the socialist Left who occupy Moscow corner in this House get him first. We do not know who is the real Treasurer of Australia. The Minister for Social Security, in a very socialistic tirade in Canberra last week, spelt out what I think the Treasurer has had privately in his mind for a long time. I warn the people of Australia that when this Government talks about capital gains it is not talking about peanuts. In the Treasurer's office and in his Department there is a document which has been floating around since December last year and which considers the implications of a capital gains tax applied at the rate of 46c in the dollar. So when the Treasurer talks in muffled terms at the tax summit about a capital gains tax and mutters that it could be imposed at a rate something like that in the United States of America of 20c in the dollar, let the business community of Australia know that what he has in his mind is 46c in the dollar because it fits in so nicely with the company rate of taxation.

In conclusion, I refer to retrospectivity. If ever there is a government addicted to retrospectivity, and to putting its hand back to touch not just the living but also to touch the dead, not just to deal with things on top of the earth but also to deal with things eight feet under the earth, I warn the people of Australia that it is this Government. It is committed not only to tax them in the present and in the future-as the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Peacock) calls it, the 'pay as you die' scheme-but also to make history by being the first government in Australia to make it compulsory to pay retrospectively after a person dies. The hands of the Taxation Commissioner, under the direction of the Treasurer, will be into the graves of Australians who have passed from this earth before the Treasurer has had the courage to tell the people of Australia the truth. If he were to tell them what was in his evil mind about capital gains, gift duties, estate duties and death duties he would be now sitting on this side of the chamber. He will be sitting again on this side of the chamber immediately after the next Federal election.