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Tuesday, 17 September 1985
Page: 617

Senator CHANEY —My question is addressed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate, representing the Prime Minister. Does he recall hearing the Prime Minister say at the Sydney Opera House on 16 February 1983:

And here let me make one point so that even our opponents can understand it; and let me make it beyond all their powers of misrepresentation and distortion. There will be no new capital gains tax.

Does the Minister agree that the Government went to the Australian people on the clear undertaking not to impose a new capital gains tax? Is the Government still bound by that undertaking?

Senator BUTTON —I recall words of that genre being used by the Prime Minister, when he was Leader of the Opposition, at a meeting at the Opera House on 16 February 1983. I remind Senator Chaney that since then there has been a wide-ranging debate about taxation issues, including the taxation summit, the publication of a White Paper on taxation issues, and a whole range of matters which put the whole tax debate in a new perspective. If Senator Chaney seeks particular mileage out of this question, I can revisit history for him for a little while about previous Liberal governments and, of course, I can talk about the present Opposition which, insofar as it has any identifiable position on anything, has changed it on a number of occasions and I suspect is about to change it again on such fundamental issues as the assets test.

The people of Australia wait with bated breath as the Opposition tries to formulate a policy on a wide range of issues which, I say with the utmost certainty, must, if Mr Howard is to be said to be a leader with any degree of economic rationality, abandon policies adopted in the last 12 months. The Opposition must abandon them if there is to be any rational approach to the needs of this economy. So, yes, I recall the words. I think they must be seen in the sort of context that I have mentioned; that is, in the context of the first Hawke Government. Members of the Opposition are now confronted with the second Hawke Government and, in two or three years time, they will be confronted with the third Hawke Government. That is the great difficulty that they have to get over.