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Wednesday, 20 October 1999
Page: 11959


Mr EMERSON (1:19 PM) —The Minister for Financial Services and Regulation said that business does not want any more complications. This bundle of papers is the so-called streamlined new tax for the new century—here it is. The member for Lowe is in mortal danger if I happen to drop this because we have done an official weigh-in and this legislation, this streamlined new tax for the new century, weighs 4.4 kilograms. Up until this legislation came in, it weighed 4.2 kilograms. But if you add in the explanatory memorandum and the legislation itself, we are now up to 4.4 kilograms. And they complain about the 1930s ramshackle Botswana style wholesale sales tax. I have had an opportunity to read the Botswana sales tax and I can tell you that it is a lot simpler than this. This is it—the streamlined new tax for the new century and the minister says, `Oh, business doesn't want more complications.' They are going to get a headache. They are going to have to take Panadol just to read this legislation, to comprehend it.

Just this morning I was talking to a chemist. In this legislation there are new rules for chemists: pharmaceuticals are GST free if they are pain relief products available in smaller packet sizes with a single active ingredient. Panadol does have a single active ingredient but Panadeine does not. So if you have a really big headache, if you are a business person reading this legislation and you have a really big headache, and you need some Panadeine and not some Panadol, you will pay GST. But if it is only a small headache and you need only Panadol, you will not pay GST. How ridiculous! This government is out of control.

The total number of amendments that the government is making to the streamlined new tax for the new century is 756. It has already made 302 amendments and in the legislation that we have been debating there are 454 amendments. That is right—454 amendments. This legislation is creating more and more anomalies, not solving them. I will point to some of the ridiculous provisions in this legislation: `Beverages must be for human consumption.' Are we getting into tax avoidance if you buy some milk, take it home and give it to the cat? Are we going to have the ACCC and the price monitors coming to our home saying, `That beverage was not for human consumption; you have just breached the law'? This is the nightmare on main street.

I have already talked about the Panadeine and Panadol fiasco. I will talk now about the payment of taxes, fees and charges. This is a very interesting amendment because they have added in the words: `any tax, fee or charge will be consideration for a taxable supply'. What that means is that any state government charge or any tax or fee is going to be subject itself to GST unless the government announces that it is not.

In my home state of Queensland, here are some of the fees: motor vehicle registration fee, fire levy fee, transport and traffic fees, other fees and levies, including land title fees, court fees, workplace registration fees and registration of business names fees. All of those will be subject to the GST. They say it is not a tax on a tax, but it is a tax on a tax unless the Treasurer deems that it is not a tax on a tax.

What happens to those fees, charges and taxes that apply now but go through past 1 July next year? State governments should be applying GST to those because, as it stands, none of those fees and charges is exempt, nor are local council fees and charges—for exam ple, fees to hire swimming pools, community halls or sporting fields. When people want to hire a sporting field, they will pay a GST on it. The government says this is a fair tax. It is a ridiculous tax and it should be thrown out completely.

What about the application for a building approval? If someone wants to put an extension on their home, they have to apply to a local council for a building approval and that will be subject to the GST because the Treasurer has not ruled it out. What a ridiculous piece of legislation this is. It defies belief that this government could come in here and say, `We have a streamlined new tax for a new century,' that weighs 4.4 kilos, involves a total of 756 amendments and measures, by the way, 16 centimetres high. So there you are: a streamlined new tax for a new century! (Time expired)