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Thursday, 9 May 1985
Page: 1955

Mr BRAITHWAITE —Is the Minister for Social Security aware of the studies conducted under the Orani model at Melbourne University which show that a rise in indirect tax will mean a decline in real gross domestic product of more than 3 per cent? What are the implications for welfare beneficiaries? Is his concern for these beneficiaries the sole basis of his opposition to a broadly based indirect tax?

Mr HOWE —I can understand why the honourable member is not asking any more questions about the assets test. He has done so on three or four occasions and neither he nor the Opposition has made any progress. Essentially, they have made no progress because they are not prepared to debate within their parties serious issues and to develop serious policy positions. That has been remarkably evident in successive days in debate on the assets test. The assets test is about the achievement of a fair distribution of very limited resources.

Mr Braithwaite —I take a point of order, Madam Acting Speaker. I did not ask about the assets test.

Madam ACTING SPEAKER —Order! There is no point of order. The Minister is answering the question.

Mr HOWE —In government, hard decisions are necessary. The difference between the Government Party and the Opposition parties is that, when we face difficult decisions, we allow open, democratic and serious debate within our party room and within the community. The issues of taxation and taxation reform raises quite fundamental questions not only for the future of taxation and the distribution of wealth but also for social security beneficiaries for a very long time in the future.

It is true that I have made various remarks in terms of that debate. But the fundamental point that I made in my speech last Sunday is that it is not a case of one particular measure being important when one addresses the relationship between taxation and social security; it is the fundamental direction, the question of redistribution overall, the question of gains and benefits not in relation to any particular measure but to the overall result that is achieved. That is an extraordinarily difficult issue which the Government faces. The Government is doing so in a way that I believe is responsible and extraordinarily open. I wonder why it is that the Opposition appears to be too scared to expose its arguments within the context of the taxation summit.