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Thursday, 26 June 2008
Page: 3519

Senator KEMP (2:06 PM) —My question is to Senator Conroy, the Minister representing the Treasurer. My question concerns the GST—a tax, I understand, Senator Conroy is very familiar with. In fact Senator Conroy would recall his earlier views on the GST were stated so often in this chamber, when he said it was ‘un-Australian’ and would have a ‘devastating impact’ on small business, working families and pensioners. My question to Senator Conroy is: has he changed his views on the GST and, in particular, would he explain why the GST is not included in the Henry review of taxation?

Senator CONROY (Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy) —Could I take this opportunity to wish Senator Kemp all the best in his—well, ‘retirement’ would not be the right word. No Carlton supporter will ever be able to retire. In terms of the government’s view on the GST, that will be part of the revenue of the Commonwealth. In the last period we never indicated that there would be any roll-back and our position has been quite consistent on it—quite consistent over the last time. In the past, we have had a roll-back policy, as you well know.

Senator Ian Macdonald —Remember roll-back?

Senator CONROY —I do remember it. I remember it well. But there has been no suggestion whatsoever that we would be considering any of those issues. That is the very reason we are not going to include it in the Henry review. Henry has a very wide remit, but he is not going to be considering these matters. It is as simple as that.

Senator KEMP —Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. If I wanted a non-answer, I would have asked Senator Wong! Senator Conroy, I wonder if I could try you on this issue. It is one of those quasi-technical issues which you enjoy so much. Senator Conroy, could you inform the Senate whether the GST and capital gains tax will be levied on emission permits?

Senator CONROY (Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy) —Thank you, and I appreciate Senator Kemp’s final questions. We will be putting out a green paper. You will be welcome to pore over it, Senator Kemp, and I look forward to you perhaps even appearing before the committee.

Senator Kemp —I rise on a point of order. I have always sought in this chamber to have very precise answers to these questions. I am shocked at the inability of Labor senators to answer questions on the GST—absolutely shocked! But, Senator Conroy, look, this is the last time. For that sake, could you have another go?

The PRESIDENT —Order! I do not think there was a point of order, Senator Kemp.

Senator CONROY —I have often said that I try to model my capacity to answer questions on Senator Kemp. I do not think I will ever be as good as him at avoiding an answer. I will never be as good, no matter how long I stay in this chamber. But there will be an emissions trading green paper which will cover all of these issues. It will be an excellent green paper. I am sure that you will welcome it once you have worked out what your party’s position is on it this week. What is the coalition’s position on these issues? You said ‘yes’ before the election; now you are saying ‘no’.

Senator Kemp —I rise on a point of order. I asked him what the government’s position was on this issue and whether the capital gains tax and GST will be levied on emission permits. That was the question.

The PRESIDENT —Senator Kemp, I think that Senator Conroy has concluded his answer.

Senator CONROY —I just conclude by wishing Senator Kemp all the best. I look forward to seeing you at a Carton v Collingwood match.