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Tuesday, 26 August 1980
Page: 681


Mr KEATING (BLAXLAND, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I refer the Prime Minister to the Government's crippling campaign to extract an extra $6 per week tax on the subsidised rental value of the homes of Central Queensland miners. Also, I refer the Prime Minister to the statement by the Treasurer on 8 August that tax is not payable on a subsidised rental if a taxpayer has a permanent residence elsewhere. I ask the Prime Minister whether the Treasurer's statement of 8 August was correct when he said that the Prime Minister was not liable for taxation on the subsidised accommodation at the Lodge because the Victorian property, Nareen, is the Prime Minister's permanent home? Is it not a fact that the dwelling at Nareen is owned by Fraser Properties Pty Ltd, a private company, and not by the Prime Minister, J. M. Fraser the taxpayer? On what basis did the Treasurer make the claim that the residence at Nareen in ownership terms is the Prime Minister's permanent home?


Mr MALCOLM FRASER - Nareen is obviously my permanent home and has been since 1944.


Mr Young - It will be after the next election.


Mr MALCOLM FRASER - I expect it to remain so for quite some time even if, after the next election, I will not be able to spend as much time there as I often would like. The question of whether tax should be paid on the accommodation at the Prime Minister's Lodge is something which, I am sure, the Commissioner of Taxation has examined, especially in the light of the current arguments on this subject. I think it ought to be noted that all members of parliament, when they are in Canberra, get a travel allowance for being in Canberra to meet whatever accommodation arrangements they might want to make. They also receive that allowance when they are in Sydney or other places. I obviously use the Lodge in Canberra a great deal; so when I am in Canberra that travel allowance is not paid to me. I very occasionally use Kirribilli House in Sydney and if I happen to be staying there, that travel allowance is not paid to me.


Mr Hayden - You haven't said who owns the Nareen property yet.


Mr MALCOLM FRASER - I have answered the question about Nareen very plainly. The Prime Minister's Lodge is obviously provided to me and has been provided to all Prime Ministers because of the needs of the office. If that accommodation were to be taxed on the basis that the honourable gentleman is indicating, it would make just as much sense to tax the travel allowance which honourable members get paid when they are in Canberra.

I thank the honourable gentleman for the question he has put to me because I would like to say that the taxation of miners' subsidised housing is, I think, misunderstood in significant parts of the country. There is a very real principle involved in this issue. The overwhelming majority of taxpayers are paid their total remuneration by way of salary - in dollars. Be they wharf labourers or other people working in Melbourne or Sydney, overwhelmingly their remuneration comes to them in cash and they have to make their own arrangements for houses, rental accommodation or whatever. That is paid for out of their income from which tax has been paid. There are other people in the Australian community - the miners are one example - who have a house provided to them and that, therefore, is a supplement to the wages that are normally paid. Overwhelmingly, those people pay something on account of that subsidised housing by way of additional tax because it is obviously a very definite supplement to their total remuneration. If that provision were not in the Income Tax Assessment Act, there would clearly be a great movement right across Australia for people to be provided with subsidised housing because, if such a supplement were not subject to tax, it would obviously be a great inducement to move in this direction and to give people untaxed additions to their normal salaries. That, of course, would establish a very difficult situation and one which would lead to great inequities between taxpayers, those who were not able to live in subsidised housing being the ones who would be very hard done by under those circumstances. The great majority of wage and salary earners would be in that position.


Mr Keating - Mr Speaker, I take a point of order. I do not wish to delay the Prime Minister unduly but the purpose of the question was to establish the basis of ownership of the residence Nareen - whether J. M. Fraser owns it or a property company owns it and whether the Prime Minister pays a rental to that company or an adequate commercial rent - to establish the basis of the tax avoidance on the Lodge.


Mr SPEAKER - The honourable gentleman will resume his seat. The answer given by the Prime Minister is relevant to the question asked which was clearly based upon certain events relating to miners' housing in Queensland. I rule the answer relevant and therefore in order. I call the Prime Minister.


Mr MALCOLM FRASER - Thank you, Mr Speaker. Clearly, the Government is concerned about equity between different classes of taxpayers and it is particularly concerned to maintain a position of fairness for all those taxpayers, who I believe are the great majority, who have to provide their own homes totally out of their own income.

It is worth noting, I think, that the miners in this area of Australia are in almost a unique situation. Because of the rental they were paying for their houses and because they had not caught the attention of the Commissioner of Taxation for a number of years, they were in a privileged position that was not shared by any other group in the Australian community that I am aware of. So, the proposition that the Treasurer has put is one which is based very much on preserving equity between taxpayers. It should not be thought that the miners are fighting a battle for the great majority of taxpayers who may be in subsidised housing across the rural areas of Australia because that is just not the case. The great majority of those taxpayers in subsidised housing across the remoter parts of this country already pay some tax on account of their subsidised housing. It is the miners at Blackwater who are not doing so.


Mr Keating - A point of order!


Mr MALCOLM FRASER - This is the situation that has arisen in relation to it.


Mr SPEAKER - I call the honourable member for Blaxland on a point of order. But I say to the honourable gentleman that, if it is a repetition of the past point of order, it is out of order.


Mr Keating - Mr Speaker, in terms of relevance, all I want to know is whether the Prime Minister owns his own house?


Mr SPEAKER - The honourable gentleman will resume his seat. There is no point of order. I call the Prime Minister.


Mr MALCOLM FRASER - I think it is worth noting also that there has been a great deal of reporting about what I may or may not have said a year or more ago to some miners at Blackwater. If honourable gentlemen look at the totality of those Press reports that came out as a result of that meeting - I do not think at this point I want to weary the House about the details of those Press reports - they will see that it is perfectly clear that the reporters who reported that particular meeting, with the exception of one, were under the very clear impression that I had given no guarantee to the miners that they would not be paying any tax. I refer to one report on 15 June 1979 in the Mackay Daily Mercury when the combined mining unions spokesman, Mr Bill Coffey, said:

We feel there is a possibility our people are going to be lumbered with some kind of tax increases ... Mr Fraser never said outright that tax would be wiped out altogether.







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