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Thursday, 10 October 1985
Page: 982


Senator PETER BAUME —My question, which is directed to the Minister for Finance, relates to the proposed tax on fringe benefits and to the Government's decision to limit exemptions from that tax to religious bodies only. Is the Minister aware that the non-cash fringe benefits tax will be payable by welfare agencies in relation to some benefits that cannot be considered either as tax minimisation or as tax avoidance. I give the Minister as examples accommodation provided to house parents, who may be getting salaries of $12,500, who are providing live-in care for people with disabilities; accommodation provided to staff members on 24-hour call; and small mini-buses used to pick up the disabled which are taken home by drivers who make the pick-ups on their way to work. As payment of this new tax by welfare agencies can be made only at the cost of cutting back on services to the needy, will the Government amend its proposal and overcome this anomaly-yet another anomaly-in the tax package which will hurt the most needy groups in the community?


Senator WALSH —I am touched at the new-found concern in the Liberal Party of Australia for the welfare of the needy. Senator Peter Baume referred to what he called an anomaly. I think one of the problems that the Opposition has, and one of the reasons why it had such a disastrous record in economic management, is that it seems to be incapable of taking an overview. The Opposition sees the responsibility of government as responding to each individual pressure group as it appears and accommodating the wishes of each individual pressure group. Consequently, we have the Opposition fiercely defending the free lunches, the free car and any vested interest that cares to put its case to it. It is because the Opposition behaved in that way in government that ultimately, at the end of its disastrous seven-year term, we had double digit inflation, double digit unemployment, a contracting economy and 180,000 jobs destroyed in just one year. By contrast, of course, almost half a million new jobs have been created since this Government came to office. That is by way of general observation.

Senator Peter Baume asserted that, in a number of quite specific cases, the employing organisations-he gave the hypothetical example of welfare agencies-would be liable to taxation. Frankly, I do not know whether or not they would be taxed in those situations but I will seek a definitive response from the Australian Taxation Office via the Treasurer.