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Wednesday, 21 October 1970

Mr SPEAKER -Order! The honourable member for Adelaide has already spoken in this debate.

Mr Kevin Cairns (LILLEY, QUEENSLAND) - More progressive? The honourable member for Melbourne Ports may recollect those Bills. He has apparently read a speech I made on that occasion. I pointed out that the amendment he really meant to move was that the income taxation measures were not sufficiently progressive. He has shifted his ground. Occasionally a little knowledge dawns upon all of us. One would presume from this, for example, that regressive taxes are anathema to the Party opposite. Let me make this clear. I have said previously that in those parts of Australia where the Party opposite has significant power - this applies to many local authorities - the most regressive taxes, in the form of rates, are levied at the highest level by local authorities controlled by the Australian Labor Party. Where that Party has the opportunity to exercise power, it raises the money in the most regressive manner possible. While in this Federal sphere, where they have neither power nor responsibility, honourable members opposite speak in a vacuum, in areas where Labor has significant power it has shown a love and affection for regressive taxes.

Mr Hurford - Where?

Mr Kevin Cairns (LILLEY, QUEENSLAND) - Have a look at the local authorities in both New South Wales and Queensland. Have a look at the local authorities that have raised their rates more over the last 5 or. 6 years than any others. Honourable members will find that without exception they are Labor controlled local authorities. This situation applies in Sydney, in the area represented by the honourable member for Werriwa and in Queensland and in significant local authority areas. 1 will give another example of regressiveness. Earlier this week, cost of living figures based on the consumer price index were published with respect to the various capital cities. The capital city in which the rise was greater than in any other was Brisbane. But why was it greater? What kind of a tax was it that caused this rise in the cost of living to be greater there than anywhere else in Australia? lt was in fact the fare component of the cost of living adjustment. The fare component is itself a regressive tax judged on any basis whatsoever. But the fare component is levied in Brisbane by a Labor local authority.

Mr Hurford - Where was the lowest increase? It was in Adelaide where' a Labor Government holds office.

Mr Kevin Cairns (LILLEY, QUEENSLAND) - Well, there we are. Experience varies in different areas - not always due to Labor policies.

Mr SPEAKER -Order! I suggest that the honourable member for Adelaide ceases interjecting.

Mr Kevin Cairns (LILLEY, QUEENSLAND) - There is one other matter to which I should like to refer. It was mentioned that the Labor Party has been consistently opposed to this tax in the States in which it has authority or in which it is a signilficant Opposition. The most significant State, as far a this tax is concerned, is Queensland because it was proposed to increase the tax by 400 per cent or 500 per cent in Queensland. The actual increase depends on how one makes one's calculations. It was precisely in that State that the Labor Party agreed without opposition and without amendment that the tax should be increased by 400 per cent or 500 per cent. So one can never in these matters as in other matters blame the Opposition for consistency. One has to admire the fact that it obviously regards flexibility as the supreme virtue in terms of economic considerations.

It was said also that the Budget is now being destroyed because approximately $50m will be involved in payments to the States. We are told that the Budget will be destroyed as a result of this measure. That is just not correct. When compared with the total revenue raisings of the Comm-wealth, $50m is a very small amount of money. It will not affect the Budget significantly. Other variables can affect a Budget more than $50m. We know that fact. Let me say this: The accusation concerning irresponsibility of the Budget has been made by a Party which has opposed nearly all the revenue raising components of the Budget itself. Let that Party reflect on what its attitude has been to the sales tax measures and to the excise measures. Let it reflect on what its attitude has been not to revenue raising components but to decreased revenue raising components such as the income tax measures. The Opposition has either opposed or criticised every one of the significant measures whose purpose was to alter revenue and expenditure accounts related to this Budget. Yet the Opposition accuses the Government of irresponsibility concerning the Budget. 1 do not think it understands what the word means.

Mr Crean - Why did the Prime Minister say that the refusal of Victoria to pay payroll tax would affect the Commonwealth Budget?

Mr Kevin Cairns (LILLEY, QUEENSLAND) - Well, the payroll tax can be quite a significant part of the total revenue of the Commonwealth.

Mr Crean - $9m only from Victoria.

Mr Kevin Cairns (LILLEY, QUEENSLAND) - But, as the honourable member for Melbourne Ports would understand, a principle exists not only on itself but is capable of expansion into even a Frankenstein monster. He should know that. He has participated in party proceedings for sufficiently long enough to appreciate that point.

The final point which I think is appropriate is this: The honourable member for Adelaide seemed to be concerned that a Party represented in the Senate would gain some credit from this measure. He referred many, many times to Senator Gair and to the Australian Democratic Labor Party. Let him take up himself his fight with these people. I can only reflect while he was talking about this matter that he regretted that the Democratic Labor Party had sufficient influence apparently to make with the Government some arrangements which were of advantage to some of the people of Australia. That reflection itself does not concern the DLP - that is their problem - but it reflects the ultimate impotence of the Opposition to effect meaningfully policies that are operated in this country. Tt is reflection of its impotence more than the impotence of anybody else. ft had been my intention to speak for 8 or 9 minutes only. I will recapitulate the general principles involved in the contribution by the honourable member for Adelaide. I mention that I did not hear the speech made by the honourable member for Melbourne Ports. The honourable member for Adelaide said that no taxation is acceptable. Taxation that is regressive certainly is unacceptable. The Opposition has shown that it has an affection for that kind of taxation which it has implemented in those parts of the country where it has power and in fact in the State of Australia where this tax was to be increased more than any other the Labor Party welcomed the tax without opposition, without comment. Yet the Opposition charges anyone who would pass the tax as being irresponsible. It is charging sections of its own Party.

The comments with respect to the Budget have been made in a vacuum - and I would suggest in a mental vacuum also. Those who would say this ought to reflect what has been their attitude in respect of the measures which have applied in the Budget. They would have shot it through with inconsistencies. They have attempted to do that from the day the Budget was announced. They have opposed all the significant revenue raising parts of the Budget and the effects of destroying those would be upon their own heads. Finally, I would say that their fights with other more significant political parties are a reflection more of their impotence than their responsibility.

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