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Thursday, 7 November 1985
Page: 1737


Senator MacGIBBON —Is the Minister for Finance aware that Queensland's oldest restaurant, the Camellia, holder of restaurant licence No. 5, will close its doors on Saturday night? Is the Minister aware that this is solely the result of the tax changes brought in by the Government, which have caused a 47 per cent drop in trade in this formerly very successful venture? Now comes the important part of the question. In view of the fact that at no time has either the Treasurer or any other member of the Government blamed restauranteurs or their employees for tax evasion, why is the current legislation so unjustly directed to removing the livelihood of innocent people?


Senator WALSH —I was not aware that the Camellia will be closing allegedly because the free lunch has been abolished. I know another restaurant very close to here which I am told is full most of the time lately. There is no perceptible difference at all in its patronage. It has, however, brought down its prices significantly. I do not know whether the Camellia has tried that remedy. If the Camellia did try that remedy and still did not get any customers I can only assume that the food was so crook nobody would go there if they actually had to pay for it. I am also aware of a restaurant proprietor in St Kilda, whose name I fear I have forgotten--


Senator Button —Slattery.


Senator WALSH —Was it? He was reported in the Melbourne Herald one day last week as saying that, surprisingly, his luncheon trade on a Sunday had dropped off by 30 per cent. The proprietor was quoted as having said that he can only assume that businessmen were taking their families out to Sunday lunch on the company credit card. That is not my statement; that is what the proprietor of a restaurant said.

I have noted also that the Leader of the Opposition, in a speech delivered in Adelaide yesterday, in respect of this question expressed the view that `there is no excuse to arbitrarily disallow one category of expenditure simply on the grounds that it is too hard for the Australian Taxation Office to separate the legitimate from the illegitimate'. He was explicitly conceding, of course, that to some degree the business lunch was being rorted. However, he claims that some of it was legitimate. Nobody that I know of in the Government has ever denied that some of that expenditure could quite legitimately be counted as expenditure incurred in the earning of income.

There is, however, another area of expenditure unequivocally incurred in the earning of income; that is, expenditure on travel to work which is not deductible from taxable income, which never has been deductible from taxable income and which Mr Howard in his five years as Treasurer at no stage ever suggested should be deductible from taxable income. So I suggest to the Leader of the Opposition and to Senator MacGibbon that, if they are going to apply what they call a principle in what they themselves admit is a very flawed situation-that is, where the Opposition Leader explicitly acknowledges that some, at least, of the expenditure incurred on the business lunch was illegitimate as a tax deduction-they ought to re-examine the consistency with which they apply and misapply these alleged principles.