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Thursday, 30 September 1993
Page: 1527

Senator McMULLAN (Minister for the Arts and Administrative Services) (3.19 p.m.) —I will not delay the Senate long in response to what is essentially a publicity stunt by Senator Tambling, but I thought we ought to at least qualify the publicity stunt. I am not saying that he is not entitled to do this. The Senate has been used as a publicity stunt since Federation and I imagine that it will continue to happen. I am not trying to be too high and mighty about it. We have all done it and he is entitled to do it too. But Senator Tambling knows now—if he did not know before, he was informed by me in answer to the question—the detail of the answer which Senator Collins had given and which indicated the state of the government's consideration of this matter, and there is not anything to add.

Senator Tambling —Three weeks ago.

Senator McMULLAN —Three weeks may be a long time in Senator Tambling's life; it is not actually long in the life of the process of dealing with important matters of public policy. We would not mind a guarantee that those opposite would pass some tax bills in the next three weeks.

Senator Watson —Give them to us.

Senator McMULLAN —Those opposite have them all.

Senator Tambling —When you are doing this to us.

Senator McMULLAN —I understand that those opposite are saying that they want not to pass them. That is exactly the underlying rationale that Malcolm Fraser so correctly pinpointed was grossly irresponsible—and those opposite have just articulated it and I am very pleased; I have been waiting for someone to do it.

  I would just make a couple of other points before concluding. One of the things about which great play was made, I think in the supplementary question, was the extent to which my original answer did not cover everything because Senator Collins did not refer to Nabalco in his first answer—although now, of course, it is apparent he did. So let us just put that in context.

Senator Tambling —He acknowledged that it was there but he did not actually say anything about Nabalco.

Senator McMULLAN —It is simply a display of Senator Tambling's ignorance about this matter. He should have consulted the Hansard before he came in to be boringly repetitious.

  The only other point I want to make is that we do get a constant stream of people—and it would be very unusual if we did not—coming in concerned about the impact of tax increases on their particular business. In all the time I have been in public life, no-one has ever come to me to say, `Thank you very much for the significant improvement, for the reduction in taxes'—the fact that the corporate tax rate has gone down from 39 per cent to 33 per cent, for example, which has a significant effect on every company running a profitable business in Australia. None of them like to factor that into their equation. When they ask themselves, `Is the overall package of tax changes that has taken place fair and reasonable to me?', none of them choose to respond to that. I just want to put that qualification on the record.

  But Senator Tambling is entitled to get up and make his point. Even though he knew there would be nothing new to add, it might get him a column inch in a paper in the Northern Territory. If that is the case, it might not be a wonderful contribution to the level of public debate in Australia but it is not a unique thing which he has done, and he is entitled to do it.