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Tuesday, 17 September 1985
Page: 618


Senator ARCHER —I remind the Minister representing the Prime Minister that the criterion of broad community support-the Prime Minister's ninth principle on tax reform-was used to excuse the backdown on the shift to a broad-based consumption tax. Is the Minister aware of a survey of 5,000 businesses conducted by the New South Wales Chamber of Commerce, which found 92 per cent opposition to capital gains tax and 89 per cent opposition to fringe benefits taxation? On the basis of the ninth principle, how can the Government possibly justify proceeding with taxes which obviously have so little community support?


Senator BUTTON —I suppose that if the same people had been asked whether they wanted a reduction in marginal tax rates, more than 92 per cent of them would have agreed. I suspect that the answer from 100 per cent of them would have been yes. If a number of other questions had been asked about the proposed tax changes which have been mooted in the Press-they are sort of marginally accurate-there would have been totally different responses. People can jump up and down on pogo sticks on the basis that a capital gains tax is reprehensible in all circumstances and something which should not be tolerated. They do not know what the proposed capital gains tax will be. I suggest they--


Senator MacGibbon —Try a fresh Budget, Senator. You could not do any worse.


The PRESIDENT —Order! I ask the Minister to ignore the interjection.


Senator BUTTON —I could not hear Senator MacGibbon's interjection, Mr President. As a matter of fact, I would not have regarded it as important anyway. In regard to the material to which Senator Archer refers, the Government is not unaware of various attitudes held by particular groups in the community. A number of groups in the community will be offended by any change in the taxation regime. A number will be offended if they can no longer have free lunches. Many people will be upset. If honourable senators opposite want to represent those people and go into the next election advocating greater and longer free lunches, they may do so and we shall see how they get on politically. As I have said, many people will be offended and I do not regard the question, which is cleverly put together in some ways by uniting two totally different concepts--


Senator Chaney —Does principle 9 apply?


Senator BUTTON —I am asked whether principle 9 applies.


Senator Chaney —What does it apply to?


Senator BUTTON —Principle 9 refers to community support and it does not refer to `community' in the narrow sense which Senator Archer is seeking to put together; namely, a sort of ratbag constituency of a wide range of disparate groups that the Opposition hopes to appeal to. We are concerned about the wider community. If the word `community' is used in a very narrow sense, communities all over Australia can be picked up which will be dissatisfied with any tax change. Above all, honourable senators opposite ought to remember that there is a wider community in Australia which is completely disenchanted with the present taxation regime in this country and it has been complaining about it for years. It has been complaining about high marginal rates and certain aspects of business taxes for years. If we change those areas of taxation, we will be doing something that honourable senators opposite did not have the guts to do in eight years in government.