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Thursday, 5 December 1985
Page: 3005

Senator VIGOR(12.41) —I intend to support the Opposition's amendment. Undoubtedly, as Senator Walsh has said, there have been a number of misuses of entertainment provisions in the past, yet I believe that it is not the small businessman who has been misusing this provision. Small business in Australia works very hard against great disadvantages and, in particular, the high interest rates it must pay on its capital operating finance. There is no margin for rorts in small business. Where there are rorts the problems can be solved by giving the Australian Taxation Office the right to require substantiation of claims for these types of expenses. I support the Opposition's amendment because it moves towards that basis.

There was the chance earlier that my colleagues might have supported me. I supported this stance within my party room and feel that I cannot go forward now into the Committee and support the legislation, which frankly I believe will not work. The Government is actually creating new taxes which further increase the financial pressure on Australian small business and also the pressure to cheat. Exactly the same arguments as Senator Walsh made against the amendment hold against the clause the Government has proposed. The alternative to business submitting to the provisions of this clause when it finds its competitive edge eroded is to join the underground economy and to pay cash for things. I believe that the Government will lose much more money through that type of rort than it will through the one which it claims currently exists. Any tax which pushes honest Australians with initiative into dishonest practices is a bad tax. This is really a very important problem for Australia. If we are going to force small individuals into the cash economy we will have real problems.

I wish to come back to the problem of the Government citing figures at us to try to justify its case. It has been doing that to the Democrats party room and my colleagues believe in those figures. I must say that I do not. Today Senator Walsh called into question figures I have obtained from the Parliamentary Library and from personal research within the industry. I have, in fact, checked the figures that Senator Walsh put up against me and said did not illustrate my point. The Bureau of Statistics says, under the category for sales and stocks of Australian wine and brandy, that overall sales for July to October 1985-86 total 110.8 million litres and for July to October 1984-85, 111.5 million litres. I am informed that they are the latest figures available, unless Senator Walsh in his position of Minister for Finance or somebody else has later figures, which I would be delighted to have. There is a decline of less than one per cent in that period. However the tax was obtained for only about one-tenth of the total period covered by those figures. I conclude these remarks by saying that I believe the Government presents rubbery figures in this particular case, and I will be continuing my remarks on that subject.

Progress reported.