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Tuesday, 5 November 1985
Page: 1517

Senator BROWNHILL —Has the Minister representing the Treasurer noted the estimate by the Australian Workers Union in Queensland that about 1,000 of its members in that State alone could lose their jobs in the restaurant and catering industry if the Government proceeds with the planned abolition of tax deductibility for business entertainment expenses? Putting aside the Minister's answers to previous questions on this matter, will the Government reconsider its position on entertainment expenses and modify the proposal as urged by the Opposition, the Western Australian Premier, Mr Burke, and Mr Errol Hodder, secretary of the Queensland AWU?

Senator WALSH —No, I was not aware of that wild guess to which Senator Brownhill referred. I am, however, aware of the report appearing in the Sunday Times which is published in Perth. The 3 November issue showed that a survey by the Australian Tourism Industry Training Committee shows that several thousand trained staff, including 100 chefs, are needed by major new accommodation projects already under way in Western Australia. Waiters and chefs at Perth hotels and tourist developments are needed so desperately that the hospitality industry fears that it will be seriously embarrassed before the start of the America's Cup. The director of training with the Australian Tourism Industry Training Committee, Mr Ferrier, also said that there is a shortage of chefs Australia-wide which is so desperate that `we may have to look for them overseas'.

Of course, I am aware of a number of wild and exaggerated claims. The highest that I know of I think came from Mr Hodgman, among others, and that is that 80,000 jobs will be lost in the industry because the free lunch has been abolished. The total employment in the industry is believed to be of the order of 76,000. So we have a job loss of 105 per cent because the free lunch has been ended! I am also aware that the industry propagandists have, fortunately, largely discredited themselves. Apart from the forecast that job losses would exceed total employment in the industry, in Adelaide the proprietor of a topless restaurant was wheeled up to put the free lunch lobby's case, followed by a topless waitress who, I believe, was covered on this occasion. She was asked whether she had heard businessmen at these free lunches discussing business deals and sewing up millions of dollars worth of business. She replied that the only things she ever heard them talking about were football, horse racing and sex.

Senator Haines —In that order?

Senator WALSH —I am not sure whether it was in that order. I have noted that the present Leader of the Opposition-that is, the discredited former Treasurer-has stated as a point of principle that all expenses incurred necessarily in the earning of income should be deductible from taxable income. There is no doubt that the overwhelming majority of people necessarily incur expense associated with the earning of income by travelling to work. Despite that lofty principle, I know that at no time during his five years as Treasurer did the present Leader of the Opposition advocate that that particular expense, necessarily and unequivocally incurred in the earning of income, should be deducted from taxable income. So his adherence to the alleged principle is, to say the least, highly selective.

One can also calculate from some of the other claims by the industry propagandists that deals greater than the total private sector contribution to GDP are made over the business lunch. There was a Mr Khoo in Perth, for example, who rang my office and incidentally was so rude and irrational that my secretary, who is a very patient and tolerant person-some would say that she would have to be since she has been my secretary for 11 years-hung up on him. Mr Khoo was later quoted in the West Australian newspaper as saying that multimillion dollar deals were wrapped up at the business lunch, implying at every business lunch. There are, according to other figures supplied by the industry propagandists, something like 800,000 business lunches conducted a week-I have forgotten the precise figure. If multimillion is taken to mean $3m at all the business lunches which are allegedly held, according to figures supplied by the industry, and if four people attend each business lunch and each wraps up a multimillion dollar deal, the amount of business wrapped up at the business lunch exceeds the total private sector contribution to gross domestic product.

That demonstrates the sort of absurd propaganda which is being circulated by a noisy minority of selfish people who want to continue bludging on the rest of the taxpayers by having free lunches, and free boozy lunches. In its own advertisements Business against Non-Deductibility, which operates under the acronym BAND, refers to enormous damage being done to the wineries and the breweries as a result of the abolition of the free lunch. I do not dispute that a great deal of alcohol is consumed at these so-called business lunches and, to the extent that indulgence in the business lunch is reduced, instead of tycoons coming back to the office at 4 o`clock on a Friday afternoon half full, they might come back at 2 o'clock, sober, and do some work.

Senator BROWNHILL —I wish to ask a supplementary question. As the Minister has expressed so many opinions reflecting other points of view, will he please state his position on the opinions expressed by Premier Burke of Western Australia and Mr Errol Hodder?

Senator WALSH —I think that it is implicit in everything I have said.