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Thursday, 5 December 1985
Page: 3001


Senator ROBERT RAY(12.22) —It is not surprising that we on the Government side will oppose Senator Messner's amendment because it would have the effect of virtually negating the whole Bill. I wish first of all to direct my remarks to the comments made by Senator Michael Baume who said that the whole blame for this clause and this Bill has to lie with the Australian Democrats. I want to share some of that blame. I am quite happy to do so. I am quite happy to say that in the factories and the hotels of this country the average person thinks that this is the greatest bit of legislation introduced. Those people who pull a pie and sauce out of a brown paper bag or have their fish and chips and vinegar, and pay for it themselves, think this legislation is terrific. They do not have quite the communication powers of the people who oppose this Bill and they do not have quite the lobby groups and pressure groups to put pressure on the weak individuals opposite to make them respond. I take full blame and full credit for this Bill-I am happy to do so-and, I am happy to say, so do a majority of Australians.

The fact is that in regard to taxation the Australian Labor Party has been willing to take some tough options. We have not been willing to take all of them-I admit that-but we are willing to take some. Honourable senators opposite are willing to vote for tax cuts and for all sorts of benefits to the community, but they are not willing to support one new tax. If they are, let them say it here today. They oppose the capital gains tax and all sorts of new taxes, but they are very happy to see us give billions of dollars in tax cuts. How do they intend to balance the books? There has been only one occasion in this Parliament when the Liberal Party of Australia has said `We will show some guts over taxation'-that was in 1982-and what happened? The Party was in deep political trouble with bottom of the harbour schemes. Some-not all-honourable senators opposite voted for retrospective legislation. Some of them showed the guts to do that; then they showed no consistency from that point on. They will no longer support retrospective legislation. We have consistent members on this side of the chamber. We on our side have always voted for retrospective legislation. Some of the Democrats have always opposed it. They have always been consistent, but not the Liberal Party. The only time those opposite made a tough decision on tax was when they were in deep electoral trouble in 1982. Political amnesia has taken over since then.

Opposition senators must know that the entertainment area is the fastest growing tax dodging area in this country. That is the problem. It is not only today's problem. It was the rate of growth of that problem that was going to blow out future Budgets. It is an area that just had to be clamped down upon. I think one point is forgotten by those opposite when they continually bleat about the effects of this legislation on the entertainment industry, particularly restaurants. Once the tax cuts come in, there will be a major increase in disposable income, and much of that disposable income will find its way into restaurants. It is clear from household surveys and other factors that when people get a higher income they tend to spend it on entertainment, restaurants and eating-all those sorts of areas. With the devaluation of the dollar and increased tourism to this country, people will again get a boost in this area. It is unsustainable to have an industry in this country that is reputedly solely based on some sort of a tax dodge. That being the case, if this clause goes down, this Bill will go down and many of the tax cuts that we are about to hand out in future years will go down.

I want to end on one note. Senator Messner has pointed to one Democrat senator and talked about courage. I am not going to comment on his assessment of courage with regard to that individual, but where is the courage in the Opposition? Why does it not come out and tell us what its tax policies are going to be? In government it never showed any courage at all in relation to taxation, and those opposite know it. Every time Mr Howard came up with a tough decision-I will give him some credit; he rolled a lot into Cabinet, apparently-he was rolled straight back out. Honourable senators opposite should have a look at their own side before they talk about courage.