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Monday, 7 December 1998
Page: 1534

Mrs DE-ANNE KELLY (9:45 PM) —I rise to speak on the A New Tax System (Goods and Services Tax) Bill 1998 and cognate bills. These bills cover the full gamut of tax changes. I am a country person and I go on form. Looking across the divide here, I do not have a great deal of enthusiasm for the form. I would like to talk about form because in the bush form tells it all. How you performed is a good indication of how you are going to perform in the future, so let us take a little trip back through time.

I would like to go back to before the 1996 election. I was a candidate, and I won my seat then for the first time and, like a good country girl, I remember form. When you buy a racehorse, you remember form. When you buy a bull, you remember form. And when you buy a dud, you remember form, I can tell you.

Mr Melham interjecting

Mrs DE-ANNE KELLY —I know a dud when I see one! Let us have a look at form. This is what I told my electorate before the 1998 election.

Mr Hockey —That is why you did so well.

Mrs DE-ANNE KELLY —I thank the minister. We did so well because we had a plan. I would like to talk about form, because form makes the difference. When the coalition asked for the people's votes before the 1996 election, people could still remember the circumstances then. The Australian people have a good memory, God bless them! I would like to go over some of the form.

Labor left us with a budget deficit of $10 billion. I will remind you of some of the terms we have learnt in the last three years. `Black hole' was an astronomical term—it was not something that referred to the economy. Six per cent interest rates were something grandad used to talk about. Labor has taught us a lot about those terms in the last few years. Before the 1996 election, we were left with a budget deficit—a black hole—of $10 billion.

Mr Melham —Speak to the bill.

Mrs DE-ANNE KELLY —He hasn't got much form, Mr Deputy Speaker, you are right.

Mr Hockey —He's got no form.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Hollis) —The honourable member for Banks and the minister will be quiet.

Mrs DE-ANNE KELLY —We are going to take him for a little ride down memory lane tonight. The coalition took the government to a budget surplus in 1998-99—the first surplus in a decade. Before the 1996 election, Labor left us with interest rates of up to 22 per cent, and I remember them well. We have now had five cuts in official interest rates. We are back to the Beatles, blue suede shoes and bell-bottoms in terms of interest rates—10.5 per cent down to 6.7 per cent, and falling. Like Labor's popularity, they are falling, falling, falling.

Before the 1996 election, Labor gave us an unemployment rate of 11.2 per cent—the highest since the Depression. In the last six years of Labor, only 16,000 full-time jobs were created. What a miserable performance. What form? Would you buy a racehorse like that? No, you would not. We now have 8.1 per cent unemployment, and it is falling—like Labor's popularity.

Since we took government, 300,000 new jobs have been created—209,200 since August 1997. Labor gave us $10 billion in increased taxes—an increase in the wholesale sales tax, and the l-a-w law tax cuts. Let's look at the form, because that is what counts when you buy a dud. That is what the Australian people did not buy—a dud. They bought us. Labor neglected vocational education and training and let the apprenticeship system get run down.

I remind the member for Banks that apprenticeships and traineeships in 1996-97 were 100,400. In the last years of Labor government there were only 63,600. In 1996-97, there were 87,000 new places, with $433 million spent on that area in 1998-99. Labor had a new schools policy that was basically a no schools policy. Do you remember that? Two new schools opened in Dawson—terrific! Labor gave us a private health system that was so run down that in 1983, 65 per cent of Australians had private health insurance and by 1995 it had dropped by half.

Labor gave us an unsustainable budget in which the Medicare benefits bill was greater than the budget of Western Australia. The PBS budget was greater than the budget of Tasmania. We have maintained Medicare, we have put Medicare easy claim facilities into rural towns so you can claim in your little bush town. We are introducing a 30 per cent rebate on private health insurance.

Mr Melham interjecting

Mr Hockey interjecting

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER —The honourable member for Banks should remain silent, as should the minister at the table. You have both been constantly interjecting. The member for Dawson does not want any help. She wants to be heard in silence, so listen to her.

Mrs DE-ANNE KELLY —Thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker, I appreciate your intervention. There was $30 billion in the last budget for private hospitals. Labor was soft on social security fraud, and now we are saving $28 million a week. Tough, isn't it? Form is what counts. When I buy something, I look at form—whether I buy a bull or a racehorse, I look at form, and the Australian people are great people for looking at form.

There is an old Chinese curse which says, `May you live in interesting times.' Unfortunately, we do live in interesting times. Australia has been greatly insulated from the difficulties we all face. The National Institute of Economic and Industry Research has warned that Australia will be pulled into the Asian slump. It is not the time, and it certainly was not the time, to let an irresponsible, big spending Labor government take over the economic leadership of Australia. Thank goodness the Australian people agreed with that.

I want to tell you another little story. We are going to go back even further than 1996—to 15 May 1936. I would like to share with you the set of instructions the first airline stewardesses had when passengers boarded planes. These are little rippers and I could not believe them when I read them. These are the instructions stewardesses were given: `Keep the clock and altimeter wound up; carry a railroad timetable in case the plane is grounded; warn the passengers against throwing their cigars and cigarettes out the windows; keep an eye on passengers when they go to the toilet to be sure they do not go out the emergency exit.' That would be a bit of a disaster. I feel sorry for the passenger who went out the emergency exit when he was trying to go to the bathroom.

This is really extremely funny. We read that and we absolutely laugh. It is a little bit of old history. But, do you know what? We still have the same tax system they had then and it is equally funny. Do not go out the emergency exit in the tax system because you will absolutely be finished. We have the same tax system. It is absolutely laughable. And that lot over there are going to vote for it. They are going to vote for a tax system as old as the system that those airline stewardesses had to deal with in the aircraft. It is just amazing. Are you going to vote for it? Yes, you are.

Mr Melham —Those were the good old days!

Mrs DE-ANNE KELLY —Those were the good old days! It is really quite amusing, isn't it? It shows you a lot about form. We have come a long way. Fortunately, we have a coalition government. It is funny to read those old rules and laugh over them, and it is funny to look over to the other side of the House and laugh over them. But the reality is that there is a moral imperative here.

For a start I want to talk about the moral imperative in my electorate, because we have a lot of working people in Dawson. Back in the 1950s you had to be earning 19 times the average weekly earnings to be paying the highest marginal tax rate. Admittedly, that was a higher rate than it has been to date. In other words, you could put a bit aside, you could raise your family and you could have a go. You cannot now. In the next few years somebody on average weekly earnings—about $38,000 to $42,000 a year—struggling to raise a family and make their contribution will be paying the highest marginal tax rate.

That is absolutely unacceptable. Any government of any persuasion that allows people on average weekly earnings to bear the brunt of taxation in this country has no moral vision. You cannot allow that to go on, and this government will not allow that to happen.

The second great moral imperative that faces a responsible government is the situation with our exporters. The world is getting harder, there is no doubt about that. Regardless of whether one thinks that globalisation is a good or a bad thing, the fact is that it is the exporters in a country like Australia that are going to pull us through. They have an unacceptable level of taxation on them. There is only one way to remove that level of taxation and enable them to compete and that is to put in some form of goods and services tax. The coalition government is going to do that. It is going to take $4.5 billion in costs off the backs of our exporters—3½ per cent of their costs.

Times are pretty tough in the sugar industry. They are going to be very tough in the next few years. We have had a lot of rain on our sugar, and prices are falling. It is a very hard time and our exporters in the sugar industry certainly do not need any additional government costs.

So there are two moral imperatives: being fair to those who are the backbone of this country, the workers, and giving our exporters, who are going to create the future for our children, an opportunity to shed some costs and take their shackles off.

I want to talk about the Labor Party particularly. During the election the Labor Party in my electorate offered a gain but no pain tax reduction system. Superficially, it sounded attractive. I will be honest with you, Mr Deputy Speaker: for a while I was a bit concerned. Fortunately, people in Dawson have a lot of commonsense and they realised that there is no such thing in life as gain but no pain. The reality is that if you want to save something for your family you have to go through some serious saving. If your children want to pass an exam they have to go through some serious study. If you want to lose a few pounds you have to go through some serious exercise.

People in Australia realise that there really is no formula for a gain but no pain. If you are really serious about bettering your family, your community or your country you have to go through some gain with pain. And that is exactly what the coalition proposed—a big change to the tax system but one which, in the end, gave a gain to all Australians, whether they were average families, pensioners, exporters or small business people.

I would like to go briefly through some of the advantages of the proposed tax system. For the first time, 81 per cent of Australians will be paying less than 30 cents in the dollar personal income tax. What a tremendous change for everybody. We are looking at $10 billion worth of taxes off the back of small business. We are cutting tax returns to one page, four times a year.

I want to see what the Labor Party is going to do about fuel because they keep talking about rural and regional Australia. But the reality is that we are going to take $3.5 billion off fuel excise. That means that costs are going to come off products transported into Dawson, including fresh food from the south. It means that everything that comes into our electorate is going to cost less in terms of transport. It means that the Bowen mangoes, the melons and the raw sugar that we export from our electorate are going to cost less.

It is a tremendous change. For the tourism operators, every one of the big tourism cats that goes out to the reef is going to save on average about $186,000 a year in fuel excise. It is a tremendous change for tourism and for small business. For our pensioners and for those self-funded retirees, there is a safety net to ensure that those who have contributed to this country are able to be insulated, quite properly, against any detrimental effects.

This is a package for the future. It is a package for those who are looking at a future for our country. When you look at something, look at its form. Look at the Labor Party's form and look at the form of the coalition. We have delivered on every commitment that we have made. We have a plan for the future. Look at the form, and when you look at the form you will not buy a dud. The Australian people did not buy a dud. What they want is a change for the future. I thoroughly endorse the full number of bills here in the new tax system. I always say to the Australian people: do not buy a dud, go with those who have the form. The coalition has the form.