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Monday, 20 September 1999
Page: 9928

Mr CADMAN —My question is addressed to the Treasurer. What steps has the government taken to build on the historic tax reforms endorsed at the last election? What consultation has occurred on business tax reform?

Mr COSTELLO (Treasurer) —I thank the honourable member for his question. I can indicate that we have been kicking goals on business taxation all weekend, unlike a certain football team, the name of which the Acting Leader of the Opposition interposes. It was a fine performance from the Essendon football club throughout the year, although unfortunately they lost on the weekend. I congratulate them for a fine year.

Prior to the election last year, when the government announced that it would reform the indirect and personal income tax system, Commonwealth-state relations and family allowances, we indicated that in addition we would seek to reform business taxation in this country. The government appointed three leading Australian businessmen—Mr John Ralph, Mr Rick Allott and Mr Bob Joss—to review the business taxation system and to make recommendations on its simplification and improvement and on how it could be reformed to enhance economic objectives.

The report has been with the government since, I believe, the end of July, for most of August and for the first part of September. The government has given the report very serious consideration. The commission received 370 submissions, conducted 42 focus group meetings, held 16 public seminars, gave 51 presentations and met with 151 organisations and individuals. They listened to what business had to say and in many cases actually road tested reform proposals. The government has completed its consideration in relation to the Ralph report and expects to be in a position to make an initial response and release the report tomorrow.

From the government's point of view, we have to look at this tax reform, like all tax reform, from an overall perspective. Just as reforming the indirect tax system had huge national benefits and had to be looked at as a whole, so too reforming the business taxation system should be focused on national benefits rather than individual industries. We have to make sure that we have a business taxation system which will enhance economic objectives, which is robust and which still makes a contribution to the revenue to fund those social services which we all hold dear.

It is important that Australia continue the momentum for tax reform. We have begun the great historic tax reform on the indirect and personal income tax front, to complete it in relation to business tax, to simplify it, to get lower rates and to harmonise to economic objectives—objectives which will set this country up well for the future and which will make a major contribution to its economic benefits.