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Wednesday, 18 September 1985
Page: 681

Senator BROWNHILL —Is the Minister for Industry, Technology and Commerce aware that in the 18 years to 1984 employment in the service sector, including restaurants, increased by 46 per cent? What estimate has been made of the effect of abolishing claims for entertainment expenses on employment in the restaurant industry? Does the Minister agree that any new capital gains and/or fringe benefits taxation is likely to cause major job losses in the service industries?

Senator BUTTON —I am not aware that employment in the services sector has increased by 46 per cent in the last 18 years to 1984. It seems to me to be a statistic of marginal relevance, taken in isolation, but if Senator Brownhill is concerned to display his erudition in relation to those useless statistics, I am quite happy for him to do so. The point of the question is whether employment in restaurants has increased over recent years. I do not know; I am sure it has. I am asked whether the Government has made an estimate of the possible detrimental effects of any elements in the tax package on restaurants and the services industry generally. The answer to that question, in general, is no.

Senator Boswell —Absolute rubbish!

Senator BUTTON —If you are concerned, Mr President, to shorten Question Time, you could get Senator Brownhill to get the answer from Senator Boswell next to him. Of course there will be impacts in a differential way on various industries and businesses if changes are made in the taxation system; that is inevitable. If one wants to have a taxation system in this country which props up particular areas of privilege and particular areas of special benefit at the expense of the broader community, the pay as you earn taxpayers, at the expense of people who pay their taxes, that is a moral, social and political judgment for the Opposition to make. I am sure that we will hear the answer when the Opposition finally gets together some tax policy. I remind Senator Brownhill that the President of his Party described fringe benefits as a disease which had mushroomed in the past 10 years.

Senator Boswell —He is the President of his Party.

Senator BUTTON —I did not know that Senator Brownhill was president of some parochial branch of the Liberal Party. I congratulate him.

Senator Chaney —The National Party, you clot!

Senator BUTTON —Is he the National Party President? I am sorry; Senator Brownhill gets his advice from Senator Boswell next to him. The President of Senator Chaney's party has described fringe benefits as a disease. It will be interesting to hear those who would justify many of the fringe benefits we have had in this country. I think Senator Brownhill might direct that sort of question to some of his colleagues in his Party as well and give consideration to it. I do not think that the impacts of the proposed tax regime will be very great in a broad context. Of course, as I have said, the changes will have different impacts on different sections of the community.