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Tuesday, 15 February 2000
Page: 11753

Senator CALVERT (3:29 AM) —I was not down to speak on this issue but obviously there is nobody else on this side who can. What has happened today just reaffirms my opinion of what was going to happen this session. Here we are on the first day back in parliament since last December, and out there a lot of things are worrying people, a lot of important issues are running—inflation, unemployment, interest rates, drugs, illegal immigrants coming into the country—and what do we have here today? We have the proposed GST on tampons getting another run. It has been running around the media for a couple of weeks. They had a demonstration outside Senator Abetz's office the other day. I can understand some people getting upset about one small thing like this but, for goodness sake, let us get the big picture in perspective. The fact of the matter is that the decisions on tampons were made after the Tax Consultative Committee gave advice to the government on what would have a goods and services tax and what would not. And the more exemptions you have, the more complicated issues get. The opposition should know that, because they had all these different taxes and rates on the wholesale sales tax. They should know how unwieldy it becomes once you start exempting goods and putting different rates of tax on items.

So if the broad based GST is going to deliver benefits to all Australians, it has to be as broad based as possible. The minute you start exempting some items above others, you create problems. The Australian newspaper summed it up in their editorial—that is how seriously they took it. They said that this proposed tax may cost women something like $4 per annum. The fact that most working families will be $47 a week better off under the broad based tax system that the government is going to bring in on 1 July seems to be forgotten in this whole argument—as is the fact that the current wholesale sales taxes will be removed from all food items and food will be cheaper. You have to look at the overall picture of things rather than just pick out one minor thing.

I guess from now until July every day we are going to have more scares on this. There will be some nitpicking thing that the opposition will be picking on. The Leader of the Opposition, Kim Beazley, has already said on the record that he told his caucus at the end of last year that Labor would surf to victory on the back of the GST. They are going to keep nitpicking about this GST right through, and they expect to win an election on it. The fact that they have to provide some policies for the people of Australia seems to be forgotten. We have not seen one policy out of the opposition yet. As far as tax goes, I think Senator Sherry said last year:

I'm certainly not privy to advance copies of any tax policy, it does not exist at the present time.

There we have it. They do not have any tax policy. When Senator Peter Cook, one of the senior opposition members, was talking about tax he said:

We believe the tax system needs repair and updating. Routine maintenance and a bit of renovation are however what should occur to keep the Australian tax system to the principles of equity, simplicity, transparency, efficiency and progressivity.

So Senator Cook obviously reckons the tax system needs doing up. Of course, Premier Bob Carr in New South Wales said:

From my side of politics, the GST would only be acceptable with the most comprehensive guarantees and safety nets. Whether you're talking about a GST or not, tax reform is on the agenda.

That was as far as back as 1997. I do not hear any Labor premiers around Australia complaining about the GST, because we all know that the broad based GST is going to the states; it is going to give them what they have wanted for years and years, that is, a growth tax. It will benefit the states, and it is going to benefit the people of Australia. Because it is a broad based tax, more people pay it and there will be tax cuts of $12 billion. What happened to the tax cuts that the Keating government promised us? They just dissipated into thin air. The l-a-w $14 billion tax cuts that they promised us ended up as a $10 billion deficit that we picked up when we came into government. So there you have it: on the one hand, no policies from the Labor Party—(Time expired)

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT —Order! The time for the debate has expired.

Question resolved in the affirmative.