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Tuesday, 26 August 1997
Page: 6854


Mr GARETH EVANS —My question is again to the Treasurer. Is he aware of the recently published calculation of the National Tax and Accountants Association that, with a 15 per cent GST, the minimum additional tax that would be paid by an average family for services alone would be between $800 and $1,200 a year? Does he concede that, under a GST or anything like it, an ordinary family would be hit with a tax slug of 10c, 15c, 20c or more in the dollar every time they had a car repaired, a washing machine fixed, a toilet unblocked or any other household service performed? Under these circumstances, how can the Treasurer even contemplate introducing the tax that he has previously described as `snake oil'?


Mr COSTELLO —We heard that kind of scaremongering in the period from 1990 to 1993. The kindest thing I can say for you is that you are only four years behind. What would the Labor Party do? We have had the High Court strike down business franchise fees which were raised by states—we have incredible complications in relation to that; we have state governments that are saying `leadership on tax reforms'; we have a situation where, in a couple of years time, the average earner in Australia is going to be on the top margin of the income tax rate—and the Australian Labor Party says, `You know what we should do? Nothing.' That is what they say—nothing. You are the party of reaction.

I just want to illustrate this. Once upon a time you used to pride yourself on being a bit of a leader. But what is the leader reduced to? He is running around with these little Keating-type questions in the parliament, years after the event, looking for a horse that has bolted, trying to play out a campaign from memory. It was not even yours, you learned it in your sleep from Paul Keating. You know, and the whole of Australia knows, he did the wrong thing. He went to the Australian people—do you remember?—and he said, `There's no need for indirect tax reform because I can reduce income tax rates without tax reform.' And he put it into l-a-w before the election, didn't he? It was the biggest fraud that the Australian public has ever had perpetrated on it.

And what are you trying to do? You are trying to slip around again. But, as the Leader of the Opposition said yesterday, the truth is this: deep down, desperately, they are hoping that this government can reform the tax system, and they want to slide in and capture the benefits.


Mr O'Connor —So?


Mr COSTELLO —You want us to get the Australian accounts out of a $10 billion deficit and into surplus and then slide in and try to spend it. You never took a decision; there was no leadership. We fought our battles to try to fix these things, and now you are going to try to slide back in.

The Deputy Leader of the Opposition just asked about services. On 13 May 1997 on the 3RW drive program, Gareth Evans said:

Well, there are some problems in the tax system, and I think we are all well aware of them. In particular, the fact that the service part of the economy is not, I suppose, pulling its weight.

That was before the Leader of the Opposition sat on him. When the tax reform debate came up, the Deputy Leader of the Opposition said something very sensible. He said, `Look, if this country can engage in tax reform and we can put together something that is going to help business and the wage earners of this country, it is something that we would be prepared to look at.' That is what he said.

It took all of about three hours before the Leader of the Opposition sat on him, squashed him, put him out of the debate, because the Leader of the Opposition does not have the courage to engage in this particular debate. As I have said before, the unfortunate thing for the Deputy Leader of the Opposition is that 99 times out of 100 he gets it wrong, and the one time he got it right he was taken out of the play.