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Monday, 24 May 1999
Page: 5159

Senator CHAPMAN (3:17 PM) —What utter humbug and hypocrisy we are hearing yet again from the Labor Party with regard to the government's tax reform package. They are now condemning the government for giving consideration to some changes to its proposed package. They are actually condemning the government for consulting with the Democrats about the final nature of this package in an effort to pass it through the Senate. We know that consultation is something that the Labor Party know absolutely nothing about. During their 13 years in government there is example after example of their failure to consult with the community about the sorts of changes which they made during that period.

The Labor Party's hypocrisy is demonstrated by the fact that they have the capacity to pass this tax package in its original form. They can vote with the government and pass this package as proposed by the government. But, of course, they refuse to do that because their only interest is in being spoilers. They are not interested in improving the Australian economy and tax structure; they are simply interested in being spoilers—opposition for the sake of opposition. That is what the Labor Party is about. They are not at all interested in policy. Indeed, they are a policy free zone, as we know only too well.

The Labor Party want a continuation of the ramshackle tax system that we have in operation now—the ramshackle tax system that they had during their 13 years in government and did absolutely nothing about. They want a continuation of the wholesale sales tax structure—an inefficient and outdated structure that was put in place in the 1930s. It was a tax structure for the 1930s economy and for 1930s consumption patterns. The wholesale sales tax is totally irrelevant to an Australia moving into the 21st century with growth in the importance of services both in the economy and in consumption patterns. Labor on tax are caught in a time warp. They are caught in the 1930s. They do not want any change to the structure that has been in place since then. However, Labor's think tank has come up with the brilliant idea to impose de facto death duties.

Senator Conroy interjecting

Senator Ferguson interjecting

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT —Order! Senator Conroy and Senator Ferguson, if you wish to have a conversation could you please sit next to one another or go outside and not do it across the chamber at top note.

Senator CHAPMAN —The change that Labor's think tank wants to introduce is a de facto death duty. That has been recommended only in the last few days. It again shows how out of date they are: death duties were abolished more than two decades ago by the Fraser Liberal government as a result of growing community outrage about that unsatisfactory form of tax.

The reason they are caught in this time warp is that they practise the politics of envy. It simply demonstrates that Labor are a party of the past. Their attitude to workplace relations shows that they are in a time warp and out of date. They want us to return to a workplace relations system that was in operation in the 19th century. They want to reverse the reforms and the changes that this government has made to workplace relations to set Australia up for the 21st century. The Labor Party on policy issues are nothing more than a dinosaur. They cannot extricate themselves from the 19th century or from the politics of envy—a type of politics which is quite irrelevant to Australia as it enters the 21st century.

Tax reform is essential and urgent for Australia. Our current tax system is out of date and urgently needs change. Our tax reform package is about getting rid of wholesale sales tax and replacing it with a goods and services tax and also getting rid of a number of indirect state taxes that hinder business activity and jobs growth. Part of the reform also involves changing the interface between tax and our welfare system. The current structure—the structure that Labor had when they were in office and which we want to reform—causes poverty traps and provides disincentives for people to take up opportunities to reduce their welfare dependence. Commonwealth-state financial relations have become a mess. The tax reform package will also reform that area and provide the states with a guaranteed source of revenue as the economy grows to fulfil their responsibilities.

I note that Senator Cook referred to a letter from Roxburgh Securities. I note that it was signed off by Mr Ken Helsby. Senator Cook was lauding this letter that he had received. I saw it myself. What Mr Helsby wants is to cut government spending in half. Does Labor support that? (Time expired)