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Wednesday, 16 February 2000
Page: 11872

Senator CROWLEY (2:28 PM) —My question is to Senator Herron representing the minister for health. Can the minister explain why both personal lubricants and condoms are GST free but spermicides are not?

Senator HERRON (Minister for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Affairs) —I certainly can. As I said yesterday in relation to tampons, this is a tax package that carries across the whole spectrum of reform. If Senator Crowley had listened to the report of the International Monetary Fund today, she would know that they specifically instanced the fact that we are attacking fiscal policy and tax reform in this country in addition to the way we have tackled inflation and promoted strong growth, labour market reform, repayment of overseas debt and lowering of interest rates. So it is a package of economic reform. The Labor Party did not do this. In 13 years they dug that hole where we inherited a $10½ billion deficit. By attacking reform, we get down to the detail—

Honourable senators interjecting

The PRESIDENT —Order! There is far too much noise in the chamber.

Senator HERRON —When we get down to the detail—

The PRESIDENT —Senator Herron, you should not proceed until I bring the Senate to attention.

Senator HERRON —It is all right I am happy to read it to the other side if they wish.

Honourable senators interjecting

The PRESIDENT —Order! The Senate is not behaving in an orderly fashion. Senator Herron.

Senator HERRON —I was just winding up, Madam President. The economic reforms that we are instituting have turned this country around totally from what we inherited a short four years ago. As part of that, there is fiscal reform. As part of that, there is a new tax package and system—$12 billion of tax cuts that will get into the pockets of ordinary people. As part of it, Senator Crowley should understand there will be a few items that will go up. We are getting rid of the wholesale sales tax that the Labor Party had. I understand that under wholesale sales tax toilet paper had 22 per cent on it, if we are getting down to the fundamentals of these things. I think it is important that we do, because Senator Crowley is picking through items now—

Senator Faulkner —What about answering the question?

Senator HERRON —I am, Senator Faulkner. She is picking through the items and not looking at the big picture. This is the problem with the Labor Party: they cannot see the big picture. They pick on little items where there is a little bit of a change. I refer Senator Crowley to something that has just been handed to me. For example, was Senator Crowley aware that Pine O Cleen disinfectant will go down 15c? Was she aware that Pal dog food will go down? Was she aware that Mortein fly spray will go down 20c; that Schweppes lemonade will go down 10c? Peters vanilla ice cream will go down 59c, Senator Crowley. Pantene shampoo will go down 36c. A whole basket of goods will go down. I see from the headline `Sun-Herald survey shows that GST will cut the shopping bill'—which I am happy to show the other side—that the GST will cut the shopping bill.

We could pick over various issues, and I am happy to respond. I will read the rest of the list for Senator Crowley's benefit. I do not think spermicidal jellies are in it but they may well be. I do not know what their price is, obviously; I have never been a consumer of them. Lipton teabags at $2.13 go down a couple of cents. Berri orange juice goes down 18c. Under the Labor Party, with wholesale sales tax, there was a 22 per cent tax. Senator Crowley did not mention those prices when she went over other items with a fine toothcomb. This is a bonanza for the taxpayer—$12 billion of tax cuts. If they wish to spend something on spermicidal jellies, which is their right, so be it. I am happy for them to do so. But I must say that, when we have zero population growth and have been through it for the last 25 years, it is hardly something that I would be advocating when we have a rapidly ageing population. Look on your side. It is a pity those products were around; we might have had a younger group of people over the other side. Senator Crowley can pick up all these issues. I am happy to take them aboard. (Time expired)

Senator Faulkner —Oh, sit down, you old goat!

The PRESIDENT —Order! The behaviour in the chamber is totally unacceptable.

Senator Herron —That was a slur by Senator Faulkner on everybody over 65 in this country. That is a generic term, Madam President. I object to it on behalf of everyone else over 65 in this country.

The PRESIDENT —I think it would be better if we got on with question time.

Senator Kemp —I raise a point of order, Madam President. Senator Faulkner made an insulting comment to Senator Crowley, and I suggest he be asked to withdraw that.

Senator Abetz —He called her an old goat.

The PRESIDENT —Order! There are far too many people interjecting. I think that if Senator Faulkner has insulted Senator Crowley, it is perhaps a matter they can discuss after question time.

Senator Faulkner —I addressed no remarks to Senator Crowley.

Senator CROWLEY —Madam President, I ask a supplementary question. For people considering the cost of these items I do not think an IMF report about tax reform is really the first thing on their minds. I ask you again, Minister: can you explain why personal lubricants and condoms are GST free and spermicides are not, and what is the public health benefit in granting a GST exemption for personal lubricants while at the same time imposing a GST on spermicides?

Senator HERRON (Minister for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Affairs) —I would be happy to draw to Senator Crowley's notice that beauty products are cheaper under the GST.

The PRESIDENT —Senator Herron, you should not be holding up newspapers

Senator Faulkner —Answer the question.

Senator HERRON —The answer to the question is that there are some products that go up and some that come down. Wholesale sales tax comes off and tax goes up on others. It should be obvious to all those on the other side, particularly in relation to spermicidal jellies.