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Monday, 23 August 1999
Page: 7522

Senator BROWN (4:12 PM) —Let me record my disapproval of that, because the Senate ought to know what these arrangements are. The government has been drawing up this legislation for two years now. It ought to be in a position to tell the Senate what the period of grace for local government is going to be, what form of revenues it is going to expect the states and territories to withhold from local government and what it is going to do if a local government defaults to the point where it cannot continue to provide services under this arrangement.

The analogy I was making with small business was not a flow-on. It was that I predict a large number of small businesses will go to the wall because they default on payment of GST, because they have not equipped themselves to be able to pay when the tax man or woman comes knocking on the door.

I want to be assured that there is set in place here a process where, particularly smaller, local governments are going to be made safe from failure of their revenue flow simply because they were not aware of the impact of the GST on their revenues. We ought to know that. It is pretty fundamental. Local government is very often given last consideration in the ranks of government in matters like this. The minister says that this is currently being negotiated with local government. With which local governments? I presume that means with local government representative bodies around the country. But it would be very good of him if he could explain to the Senate in just what way local government is being assured that everybody in local government is going to be fully aware and cognisant of the ramifications of GST payments, the impact on revenue at local government level and the need for timetabling to be able to pay the GST.

I presume it is going to be on a quarterly basis. Is it going to be on a quarterly basis or an annual basis? Is this going to be built into annual budgets? I just want my concern about this registered. I think the government is not acting wisely, and I do not think the Senate is acting wisely in having to accept something as important as this without being given the detail.