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Thursday, 28 March 1985
Page: 1092


Mr TICKNER(1.53) —My object in participating in this debate is to make a contribution towards redressing the balance of political debate in Australia and to combat the propaganda of the proponents of free-market ideology. This ideology is increasingly permeating conservative Liberal and National Party decision-making throughout Australia and is traditionally associated with the rhetoric-we will get to the National Party in a minute-but not the practice of the conservative parties in Australia. That conservative ideology has as its basic premise the economic law of the jungle, the survival of the fittest. Thus, if individuals in society end up living in poverty or on the unemployment scrap-heap, the conservatives say it is that individual's fault. I believe that this is a dangerous and unjust creed to preach and one which has clearly as its end target an attack on the public sector and government expenditure which, in turn, is a crucial factor in determining the quality of life of all Australians. The public sector is not only a support to it is an-


Mr Goodluck —You have been reading too many books.


Mr TICKNER —It is an affliction that the honourable member for Franklin will never suffer from. The public sector is not only a support to and a condition necessary for the development of the Australian economy; its activities are also necessary for the personal development and freedom of the Australian people. Those who condone an inefficient and bureaucratic public sector will get no support from me because I regard it as essential that the public sector be a pace-setter in efficient administrative practices and public accountability.

In the current debate on taxation reform the views of the so-called Liberal Party dries are increasingly reflected in the public comments of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Peacock) who, as we all know, has to pander to that section of the Party to maintain his tenuous hold on the Liberal Party leadership. The views of those members of the Liberal and National parties assert that the overall level of taxation in Australia is too high and, related to that, that the size of the public sector in Australia is too large and has also to be reduced. They are the exponents and champions of the elitist creed which is best described in the phrase 'private affluence and public squalor'. Both the assertions they promote have no basis in fact and are clever emotive tools of those hard line free market theorists in the Liberal Party who are attempting to build public support for their ideology.

To lay the first point to rest, when a comparison is made between Australia and other Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development countries, it can be readily seen that Australia is not amongst the highest taxed countries. In fact, the exact opposite is true. The taxation level in Australia falls well below the OECD average. The last comprehensive OECD survey of trends in tax levels showed that while total tax receipts in Australia rose from 22.6 per cent of GDP in 1955 to 30.8 per cent in 1980 it was a much lower increase than was evident in other Western industrialised countries. We are still below the OECD average for 1980 of 35.8 per cent. In case that is not clear to honourable members opposite, let me spell it out. Those people who claim that the size of the taxation cake in Australia is too high do not tell the people of Australia that the following countries had a higher overall level of taxation expressed as a percentage of GDP than Australia in the last year for which figures are available: Austria, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Sweden and the United Kingdom. All those countries had a lower overall tax level than Australia.

I particularly wish to highlight the fact that although the overall level of taxation in Australia is lower than in most OECD countries, the proportion collected through personal income taxes is considerably higher. The problem is not that the overall level of taxation is too high but that those who can least afford it have been hardest hit by the tax slug. Whereas individuals paid 32.9 per cent of total tax receipts in 1955, rising to 44.3 per cent in 1979, the share paid by corporations fell from 15.9 per cent in 1959 to only 10.3 per cent in 1979. Thus by world standards Australia collects a very high proportion of its total revenue from personal income tax. On a comparative basis, of the OECD countries Australia has the second highest proportion of overall income taxes to total taxes. This unjust tax burden on the average Australian wage and salary earner and on families, including families in my electorate of Hughes, is something that this Government is determined to correct; something that honourable members opposite did nothing about over all their sorry decades in government.

The present taxation system represents an intolerable and grossly unfair state of affairs. The richest sector of the economy is paying proportionately less of the overall tax burden while the majority-the lower and middle income earners-are expected by the Liberal and National parties to pay proportionally more. We reject that creed. Behind all of this Liberal Party ethos lies the scandal of the tax avoidance industry. It thrived under the previous Government and still the Opposition seeks to protect it.

Mr Speaker, I return to the central thrust of my contribution. I condemn the free market advocacy of a reduced public sector. It is appropriate to examine in this regard Australia's level of government outlays as a proportion of GDP as compared to OECD countries. That is what we do not see the conservatives doing.


Mr SPEAKER —Order! It being 2 p.m., the debate is interrupted in accordance with sessional order 101A. The honourable member will have leave to continue his speech when the debate is resumed.