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Thursday, 13 May 1999
Page: 4940

Senator MARGETTS (10:03 AM) —The amendment that has been separated from the rest of the Democrats' food exemption amendments is obviously an important issue to many people. It was a major source of debate within the committee inquiries, and a number of people gave very considered evidence in relation to its impact. I know it is an issue of concern to many retailers because of the whole issue of a goods and services tax. Of course, this is not something that has been put on them by the crossbenchers of the Senate; the goods and services tax is something that is being shoved through by the government.

The issue of compliance is not something that in general is being put on them by the minor parties. The reality is that the Greens (WA) have always believed that consumption taxes of any kind should have the ability to be varied, depending on whether they are necessities of life you are talking about, depending on whether they are environmentally harmful goods and services or areas of activity, and depending on whether they are areas of activity that one should be encouraging in the 1990s leading on to the 21st century. In that sense, there might be some problems initially in the implementation of any differentiated tax, but the reality is that the problem has not been created by the Senate, by the crossbenchers, or by the Democrats; the problem has been created by an unfair tax which the Senate is trying to mitigate. I indicate that the Greens (WA) will support the principle of exempting food should—and we hope it will not—a GST be forced upon Australia. On that basis I will accept and vote for the amendment.