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Thursday, 27 May 1993
Page: 1416


Senator COULTER (9.32 a.m.) —This, indeed, is a very urgent matter. As Senator Kernot has pointed out, the Government is already in the process of framing its Budget. It is doing that against a background of massive and still increasing unemployment, of failure to address the important industrial development issues of this country. There were two notices of motion this morning from the Opposition supporting the Auditor-General in his trenchant criticism of the Government. The dissimulation of the Opposition is absolutely incredible in that it can go on with this duplicity as it has done this morning. It is indeed an urgent matter, and I pick up on a couple of the points which Senator Ray made. This is not a Bill which would impose taxation. This is a Bill which deals with a Bill which imposed, in itself, removal of taxation. So it does not fall within those provisions of the Constitution which make it illegal for such a Bill to originate in the Senate. So much for Senator Ray's remarks.

  Turning to what Senator Hill has said, it is absolutely clear on all the records that Australia is a low tax country. Compared with all the OECD countries, only Turkey has a lower rate of tax. For Senator Hill to be arguing that we need to reduce taxation to make this country work better is nonsense. It flies in the face of all the evidence. Most of the other OECD countries are doing better than Australia with much higher levels of taxation. So the logic simply does not lie on the side of Senator Hill. In relation to his other argument about keeping the bastards honest, if this Government were to pass legislation, or to promise to pass legislation, which we believed was not in the best interests of this country, we have a responsibility to vote against that—


Senator Ian Macdonald —They have a mandate for it from the people.


Senator COULTER —As we did, Senator Macdonald, last year. He voted for the tax cuts—


Senator Ian Macdonald —They have a mandate for it.


Senator COULTER —We voted against the tax cuts. We have taken a very consistent position. We believe that at this time it is morally indefensible to be giving tax cuts and cutting out so many important government services. We have a mandate from those people who voted for us and that is the view we are expressing in this place. We have a responsibility to put that point of view. It is rather interesting that when Bill Clinton specifically went against the same sorts of promises he made in his presidential election campaign, he has been praised, not only by most of the American economic writers but also by most of the Australian economic writers, for specifically rejecting the tax cuts and moving to address the very severe economic problems that that country also has. Interestingly, just this morning, in the Sydney Morning Herald we read:

The Democrats deserve fullest praise for their sense of responsibility. The Coalition deserves rather less for its slowness to get the same point. And the Government deserves nothing but scorn for its irresponsibility in promising unaffordable tax cuts in the first place and condemnation now for its blindness in persisting with a promise that, realistically, it cannot keep.

This is an issue that Senator Kernot has brought out very convincingly in a whole series of questions in the last couple of weeks in this chamber. Keeping the bastards honest means addressing the important issues which this country faces, and it also means keeping the Government on track in addressing those issues. It does not mean slavishly falling in line with promises that we believe would be disastrous for this country; would damage this country still further; and would not address the very serious problems of industrial reconstruction and massive unemployment. We believe that this matter is an urgent matter. We believe that the Bill should be dealt with immediately and should be passed by this chamber forthwith.