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Tuesday, 14 March 2000
Page: 12707

Senator CONROY (3:02 PM) — I move:

That the Senate take note of the answers given by the Assistant Treasurer (Senator Kemp), to questions without notice asked today, relating to the goods and services tax.

Once again, Senator Kemp's answers today have demonstrated why the GST is as unpopular as it is. We have a minister who does not understand the issues, a minister who does not understand the application of the GST. It is no wonder that ordinary Australians do not understand the GST in this country. We have seen this minister unable to answer question after question after question—and here he is, once again, running away out of the chamber. He does not want to face up to the fact that he has been exposed again. He is exposed time after time after time in this place. His only answer, whenever he gets into trouble at the moment, is to say, `The ACCC has got $10 million worth of fines; we will sic it on to any business that dares to question our interpretations and our promises.'

Right now we have the beer companies and the hoteliers saying, `But we were promised that beer prices in pubs would go up by only two per cent.' That is what the government told them, that is what the Prime Minister said—beer prices up by two per cent. That was the promise, and what is the reality? The government now admits once again that beer prices will go up by nearly nine per cent. We see this time after time after time. The government continues to pretend that prices that it told Australians it would compensate them for will go up by only 1.9 per cent. But each time the government gets exposed in each industry. The government told us that the cost of air travel would go up by about two to three per cent. That is what the government told us. But what happened? The ACCC signed off on a seven per cent increase in airfares. The government is now admitting that it is nine per cent for the price of a beer across the bar in a pub.

What we see is the ACCC trying to be used as a political football by this government. The ACCC says, `It's all right, we've got 18 million Australians who will help us police the beer price, the price rises in this country.' Then you say to the ACCC, `Well, have you done any work, have you done any estimates on what the price rise will be?' The ACCC says, `Oh well, we've commissioned a few studies.' So you say, `Well, will you release them; will you let the consumers have a look at them so the consumers can see what the ACCC says is a fair increase in this industry?' And the ACCC says, `Oh no, well, we're not sure about that; we can't possibly put those figures out'—because we all know that this government has got something to hide and the ACCC, if it releases its figures, will expose this government.

This government has refused to do any modelling in any industry on any price of any good since it did the dirty deal with the Democrats. Since the Murray-Lees GST compromise was done, this government has not done any modelling. The ACCC is the only group to have done even the remotest of modelling. But the ACCC has admitted, `No, well, while modelling, we haven't asked them to model on the first year prices.' That is right. It may actually occur to some ordinary Australians that, when they go into shops on 2 July this year, they will be paying a price on 2 July. They are not interested in the government's fiction about how they will be on 2 July of the year 2001, because they are the only estimates that this government and even the ACCC have been prepared to do. So we have seen them continually say, `We will have Australians help us police prices.'

What has happened? We say, `Well, can we have price tags? Can shops put price tags with the goods and services tax in shops now?' and we are told no. This government demanded that the dual price tag system be taken off. You are not allowed to have the dual price tag system till 1 June. Why is that? Why cannot ordinary Australians have a look right now at price rises that are proposed? Why won't this government agree to let shops now display their before and after prices? You have to ask yourself, `What does this government have to hide? Why has this government three times defeated displaying the GST on price tags, displaying it on the cash register dockets?'

Senator Ian Campbell —You hypocrite!

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT —Order! The level of noise in the chamber is far too high.

Senator Ian Campbell —He is a hypocrite and he should be made to sit down.

Senator CONROY —Why is Senator Campbell, who has got a lot to say in this debate right now, not going to take to his feet in the debate? He just wants to try to shout me down because he wants to shout down every Australian who knows that the price rises they are starting to see in the shops right now are GST induced, and this government is running scared from them. We have got petrol prices. Again, from the NRMA today, petrol prices will go up under this GST. (Time expired)