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Wednesday, 16 February 2000
Page: 11868

Senator QUIRKE (2:11 PM) —My question is also to the Assistant Treasurer, Senator Kemp. Can the minister confirm that neither the Minister for Financial Services and Regulation nor the Treasurer followed up on Mr Hockey's claim on 15 January that he had directed the ACCC on the issue of GST rounding up? Isn't it the case that directions to the ACCC must be made under section 29 of the Trade Practices Act and that the ACCC has received no such direction?

Senator KEMP (Assistant Treasurer) —Again, these questions were traversed at some length at Senate estimates, and one wonders why we have to put up with such lengthy questions at Senate estimates when the same questions are asked today.

Senator KEMP —Senator Ray, you will get an answer if you keep quiet. I am making a general point to the Senate. On this particular issue, Senator Quirke—you were undoubtedly busy elsewhere—when you were given that question by Senator Cook or by Senator Ray, you should have asked, `Was this covered extensively in Senate estimates?' And if it was covered extensively in Senate estimates, you should have asked, `Why do I need to ask the question today?' The ACCC understood that the guidelines were very general and required, in a number of areas, a clarification on issues of government policy. What Mr Hockey did was to reaffirm previously stated government policy, which was only generally expressed in the guidelines and needed to be clarified. I think you will find that it was not a specific written direction by Mr Hockey and, if my memory serves me correctly, I think that was stated at the Senate estimates.

Senator QUIRKE —I ask a supplementary question. How does the minister explain the fact that the GST pricing guidelines, which Mr Hockey purported to direct the ACCC about, have yet to be finalised?

Senator KEMP (Assistant Treasurer) —Again, this was very extensively discussed—

Opposition senators interjecting

The PRESIDENT —Order! The level of sledging and shouting across the chamber is totally disorderly and unbecoming to the Senate.

The PRESIDENT —Senator Bolkus, I am drawing the attention of senators to their behaviour.

Senator KEMP —Thank you, Madam President. I point out to the senator that, again, this was another issue which we probably spent half an hour to an hour on at Senate estimates. The answer that was given at Senate estimates is that there was some consultation occurring on guidelines and it was expected that they would be released in the very near future. That is what was stated at the Senate estimates and that is what I state today.