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Thursday, 18 April 1991
Page: 2973

Mr GEAR —My question is also directed to the Treasurer. Can the Treasurer inform the House of the economic rationale for levelling the tax playing field through the removal of tax concessions, and what are the Government's intentions in this matter?

Mr KEATING —The rationale is that national resources savings, scarce national savings, go to the most productive places in the economy. The notion of a flat field is a notion of a flat field at home. None of us believes that there is a flat field abroad, but if we are in the position where we are not placing our resources in the best places in our own domestic economy, then of course we are doing ourselves a disservice.

The tariff preference and tax preference, which have otherwise dragged national savings from one place to another, and put them in places which have not optimised investment in Australia, have been part of our problem over the last 30 or 40 years. That is why we removed, amongst other things, the exemption on goldmining income. It was taking investment into goldmining where it might otherwise have been in national terms more optimal, optimising, in other parts of the economy. That is why the Government removed the gold tax exemption.

But the fact of the matter is that this has been a big issue in Australian public life. If we go back to 1985 when the honourable member for Bennelong was leader of the Liberal Party, we find the Kalgoorlie Miner saying:

Liberal tax threat stuns gold men. The goldmining industry has been stunned by shadow Treasurer John Howard's statement that the next Liberal Government will consider introducing a tax on gold. The President of the Kalgoorlie South division of the Liberal Party, Mr Krepp, dismissed Mr Howard's comments which run against current Party policy. `Mr Howard has a crack at the industry every year', Krepp said. ` It is . . .

That is, Krepp says:

`It is his hardy annual. Every time he meets members of the other mining industries he tells them that a gold tax would be considered'.

This is part of the ambience of the time. Then there is another report in the West Australian in August 1985:

The Western Australian Liberal Party is in a quandary over the Liberal Party's policy on the gold tax. The State Liberal leader, Mr Hassell, has fought strongly against the Hawke Government's proposed gold tax. He is worried by the possibility that his Party would introduce a gold tax. Yesterday he asked the Federal Liberal leader, Mr Peacock, to explain fully remarks made by his Party spokesman on treasury matters, Mr Howard. Mr Howard is reported to have said that he could not guarantee that a future Liberal government would not introduce a gold tax. `I strongly urge that such uncertainty be clarified', said Hassell.

Then in the same paper on 10 August 1985, two days later, it says:

The Leader of the Opposition, Mr Peacock, yesterday reaffirmed the Party's commitment not to introduce a gold tax.

So here he is-two days earlier we have Hassell having a go at him, two days later Peacock has moved straight back into line; he has reaffirmed there will be no gold tax. The statement stems from a plea for the clarification by the WA Opposition Leader, Mr Hassell. The WA branch of the Party was left in a quandary over the Federal Party's policy after Mr Howard had said what he had to say. Then, in the Australian:

Peacock reaffirms Party's opposition to a gold tax.

That is on the same day, 10 August. He says:

`It is now clear for all to see that the Federal Liberal Party's policy is in line with my views on the matter', said Hassell.

We then jump two years to the lovely Senator Panizza-who apparently is in the gallery today although I do not know him, so I cannot recognise him. But he had this to say in his maiden speech:

I wish to thank the Liberal Party of Western Australia for the opportunity for me to realise the ambition I have had since I was a 20-year-old to be elected to this chamber.

Well, the honourable senator has come in to hear what we say about them. We have, these days, a lot to say about them-particularly Western Australian senators. He said:

At that election the Western Australian team consisted of Durack, Senator Chaney, Senator Crichton-Browne, Senator Knowles, Dr Alan Eggleston and young Cam Tingley and me.

This was obviously called the gold ticket. He continued:

I am an old boy of the college in Perth, the Aquinas, which has turned out many good politicians. There were three old boys in the Liberal Senate team-Chaney, Durack and me.

Also the lovely Laurie Connell went to this school, so I am told. Then he goes on to say this:

There have been noises in this place and others that a gold tax should be--

Mr Chaney —Wrong again.

Mr KEATING —Well, we can't be perfect, can we? He said:

There have been noises in this place and others that a gold tax should be introduced.

But listen to this one:

No one would dare impose such a tax.

So says Senator Panizza. Then there is another article, headed `All that Glitters'.

`Are we killing the goose that has been laying a very valuable egg', Senator John Panizza asked today.

Yes, but laying the egg for whom? Obviously not the nation-only the people from whom those opposite received election funding. In the last adjournment debate for 1990 the honourable senator drew attention to the state of the gold industry in Australia. Then we find that the debate goes on into 1988, and by then what has happened is that Mr Peacock has gone, Mr Howard is leader-the honourable member for Bennelong-and the Federal Opposition, it is reported:

. . . will fight the Government's plan for a gold tax despite leader John Howard's recent support for it on economic grounds.

We start seeing it come through then. Then there is a question put to the then Senator Chaney by Michael Maher-I am not sure of the reference-on The World Today, 9 November 1988:

Was Mr Howard rolled by the joint parties on the issue of gold tax? No, not at all.

Then we find, in the last couple of days, we have the honourable member for Bennelong saying to Mr O'Dougherty:

Well, Western Australians were quite crucial to the decision to change your leadership?

Howard: Yes, I know that.

O'Dougherty: I can only rephrase the question. Is it possible that business figures in Western Australia who were donating to the Liberal Party had a say in your downfall?

Howard: Oh look, I don't-look, I have no idea. Why don't you go and ask the relevant people?

O'Dougherty: All right, perhaps we will do that.

Then on the ABC last night we have Senator Chaney saying:

Oh, that's a bit of Keating nonsense.

Then Middleton says:

But people close to John Howard-

cop this one-

claim quite the opposite. They say they have no doubt that in 1989 opposition within shadow cabinet to a gold tax was used to make life difficult for the then Opposition leader, the theme the Government has taken up with gusto.

While the honourable member for Bennelong is not going to mark himself by saying this, people close to him have; so they have gone and said there is no doubt that part of the reason for his removal was his attitude on the gold tax. In the meantime we have:

`I am the man to lead', says Chaney.

Red Fred-now Dead Fred. And then we keep coming back to this very, very interesting piece by Peter Rees, again on 14 October 1989, where he outlines it all, and we have this extraordinary claim that everyone has a distortion which suits them-Senator Chaney's claim. All of the gold ticket people, including the honourable member for Tangney, the honourable member for O'Connor, and the honourable member for Pearce, and the senators-some in the gallery-were about changing the leadership of the Liberal Party because Mr Howard was too expensive a person to the gold industry to be maintained as leader of the Liberal Party.

Mr Fife —Oh, rubbish! That is just rubbish.

Mr KEATING —I mean, the message had gone out on you, John-they had put a contract on you, old boy. They had put a contract on you-the goldies had put a contract on you, and, what's more, they made it. It only came unstuck when Cro-Magnon got out there bragging about it on television.

Mr SPEAKER —Order! The Treasurer will refer to honourable members by their title.

Mr KEATING —It is a deadly serious matter when the policies of the Commonwealth can be voted against in this House and in the Senate to remove the taxation--

Government members-What about Sinkers? Come back, Sinkers!

Mr SPEAKER —Order! Members of the Government will cease interjecting.

Mr TIM FISCHER —Mr Speaker, I take a point of order. I might add that the Treasurer conveniently forgets about the coup against Bill Hayden.

Mr SPEAKER —Order! The Leader of the National Party will get to his point of order.

Mr TIM FISCHER —But I take the point of order under standing order 145, that an answer should be--

Government members interjecting-

Mr TIM FISCHER —An answer shall be relevant to the question.

Government members interjecting-

Mr SPEAKER —Order! Members of the Government will cease interjecting. The Minister for Land Transport!

Mr TIM FISCHER —You, Sir, have on a number of occasions interpreted your Standing Orders and in fact told Ministers to conclude the answers to their questions and sat them down. This time the Treasurer has been going for over 10 minutes. We have had a very few questions in 50 minutes of Question Time. I ask you, Mr Speaker, to carry out that direction again.

Mr SPEAKER —Order! The Treasurer is answering the question.

Mr KEATING —I will draw to a close, Mr Speaker. On this the honourable member for Bennelong had good instincts. I mean, he is not all bad; he had good instincts on this. He knew that it was a ramp and a rort; that income on all minerals was taxed, and that it was indefensible. Party posturing notwithstanding, he was prepared to get up and support such a thing, to be basically rolled over by the honourable member for Kooyong, with the support of these people from Western Australia.

It was a serious incident in our national affairs. What we discover now is that it was basically done for money, for the support which the old gold industry and the new gold industry had been giving to the Western Australian Liberal Party to maintain the distortion-that is, the favourite and favoured distortion of the honourable member for Pearce. This is, as I said, in the broadest sense of the word rather than in a specific and a personal cash sense, corruption of our national affairs.

Mr Sinclair —Mr Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I have heard the rantings and ravings of the Treasurer, but I would suggest to you that there are restraints within our Standing Orders. If I can remind you, standing order 76 says:

All imputations of improper motives and all personal reflections on Members shall be considered highly disorderly.

I suggest to you, Mr Speaker, that if the Treasurer wishes to pursue the line he is now pursuing there is a course open to him: he can do it by substantive motion. If not, allegations of corruption and allegations of pecuniary interests and other malpractice, I put to you, Mr Speaker, are quite contrary to the way in which any Minister should behave during Question Time. I suggest that for that reason, if for no other, you sit him down.