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Thursday, 30 April 1987
Page: 2359

Dr THEOPHANOUS(10.39) — I wish to continue and support some of the comments made by the honourable member for Jagajaga (Mr Staples) in calling for an inquiry into the distribution of wealth. I wish to say something about the matter at this stage because although there is not sufficient information, there are some things we can say about the increase in wealth in Australia for the wealthiest section of the population-the rich upper class. We can say something about that if we look at what has happened on the stock exchanges of Australia and the way in which wealth is owned and distributed in relation to the stock exchanges, we will see some fascinating results in terms of who is benefiting at present.

Mr Cadman —Yes, Norm Gallagher.

Dr THEOPHANOUS —The honourable member opposite calls out the name of a union leader. I will tell him who is benefiting at pre-sent-people such as Mr Elliott, who has the gall to suggest that he will take his enterprises away from Australia because he may have to pay a little more tax. He does not look at all the capital gains and huge increase in wealth which has accrued for him and his friends in the last few years.

Let me point out the facts. In 1983 the stock exchange wealth was $53,142m. By 1986 it had risen to $130,945m. In other words, there was an increase during the period of the Hawke Government in the value of stocks and shares of 150 per cent. Those members opposite who suggest that businesses have not been doing well under the Hawke Government ought to look at these facts and see who has been benefiting. When people such as Mr Elliott say that they will have to pay a little more tax so they might as well think about leaving Australia, they ought to be ashamed of themselves; they are traitors to this country; and they certainly are not making a fair judgment on the basis of the wealth which they have accumulated over this period.

It is incumbent on us to take on board certain facts. If we look at who owns the stocks and shares, we see certain important facts that have been uncovered by sociologists and economists. Less than 9 per cent of Australians own stocks and shares on the stock exchange. The staggering situation is that less than 4 per cent own 50 per cent of the wealth. Less than 4 per cent own 50 per cent of that $130 billion. They are the staggering facts. One has to ask: What ought to be done about this in this context? When we have the likes of the New Right putting out its pro-paganda and saying that the poor, the pensioners and people in the lowest echelons ought to be making sacrifices, how about some sacrifices from these wealthy people? How about some sacrifices from that 4 per cent who own 50 per cent of this $130 billion?

Honourable members opposite, especially those on the dry front bench who have done away with any social conscience and who merely want to support not only the rich but also the richest section of the population, ought to think again. The Australian people would never encourage policies which are intended to support that rich upper grouping. I will be speaking about this again and again this year. I say that it is time that that group of people made some sacrifice for the general welfare and we ought to be thinking about ways and means of redistributing this wealth to the general population.