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Tuesday, 8 December 1998
Page: 1590

Mr CADMAN (5:42 PM) —The comments we have just heard were typical of the campaigning by the Australian Labor Party, which consisted of misrepresentation and lies. The Liberal and National parties were brilliantly led by John Howard and Tim Fischer to a stunning election victory, having proposed a complete change to the tax system in Australia. This change was opposed by the Australian Labor Party, a party which, after 13 years in office, seems to be arguing for a continuation of a personal tax regime which will see the average Aussie paying the highest rate of taxation within the next couple of years. The average Australian is moving, through bracket creep, to a successively higher and higher rate of taxation. Within a short period, the average Australian—not those from the big end of town, not the people referred to by the member for Lilley, but the average Aussie—will be paying the highest rate of taxation.

If the Australian Labor Party thinks that it is protecting the battlers and the people who are having a hard time by standing up against the goods and services tax and the change we must have in taxation, it is completely wrong. What it is seeking to do is to continue a system which is punishing people who want to work hard. It is punishing people who want to take that second job, who want to work overtime, who want to improve their lot by taking a promotion. The Australian Labor Party is seeking to continue the regime that punishes those people who need the extra income, those households which have two partners who work, those households which have people holding down three or four jobs. The Australian Labor Party wants to continue to punish, by way of high personal income tax, those people on average earnings.

That is not the view of the current government. The current government believes that people on average earnings should not pay more than 30c in the dollar for their tax. It believes that anybody earning from $20,000 to $50,000 a year should not pay more than 30c in the dollar. The government is saying that it is allowing people to take the second job, to earn overtime and to take a promotion, and they should gain the benefit of that advancement in their pocket. They should not be punished by continuation of the current regime.

The Australian Labor Party also is arguing for the continuation of the wholesale sales tax. There is not one suggestion coming forward of a constructive nature. This debate is about obstruction, delay and muck-up of an idea—a policy—which will move Australia ahead. And what does the Australian Labor Party want to do? It wants to stall and delay.

Mr O'Connor —You are with the fairies at the bottom of the garden.

Mr CADMAN —Chum, if you think it is so bad, why don't you let it go through and let it become a mess and a disaster? In that way, you will win the next election without any trouble whatsoever. I put to the House that, if the Australian Labor Party thought it was really bad, they would let this go through without a whimper. The fact is the obstruction and delay, the committees and all of the carry-on are just put in place by the Australian Labor Party to obstruct and delay a reform that is vital and necessary for this nation—a change which will deliver tax cuts of $40 or $50 a week to average families. That is the advantage for the Australian family—$40 or $50 a week. The total cut in personal taxation is $13 billion. There is a package of $2.4 billion to assist families. But the Australian Labor Party, together with its obstruction of the health bills in the Senate which will give rebates of 30 per cent to people who are insured, wants to delay and obstruct this. Part of the reason that it wants to do so is to make the government appear ineffective.

I would remind the Australian Labor Party that, as a result of its policy obstruction and delay prior to the last election, we saw the turning of people to a party that neither of us accept—that is to the One Nation Party. Your delay—making this place appear ineffective, making the Senate appear irrelevant—was one of the reasons why the people throughout Australia voted for the One Nation Party. We both reject that proposition. Let me put it to you again: if the Australian Labor Party thinks this is such bad policy for the people of Australia, it should let it through; let it through and let us destroy ourselves. But, no, you are smiling because you know that you will not accept—

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Jenkins) —Order! The honourable member will refer his remarks through the chair.

Mr CADMAN —Mr Deputy Speaker, you are perfectly right. On an earlier occasion I reminded the House of that.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER —I am now smiling at that point, but no other point.

Mr CADMAN —You are smiling yourself. I know, Mr Deputy Speaker, you would not hold a proposition that delay or obstruction is a sensible or a pleasant thing. It is a dangerous thing in two terms: it will prevent change that is necessary in Australia and it will encourage people to disregard the main parties in Australia and vote for splinter parties who promise nothing but mayhem.

The panic and hysteria expressed by the Australian Labor Party here in this chamber warn the Australian people of how concerned they are that we should be successful as a government in bringing this in. The louder they talk, the more noise they make, the less substance often there is to their arguments. That is what is going on here today. That is what is going on through the whole debate.

The Prime Minister gave five goals to the government in looking at tax reform. Those goals were to reduce the level of personal income tax, to consider an indirect tax—a consumption tax—to compensate people who are affected by a change in the taxation system, and to look at the relationships of funding and finances between the state and the Commonwealth. The government delivered on that package. These bills that we are debating today are historic bills. There is a wad of them of about four or five inches thick that cover every aspect of the government's commitment prior to the election.

It seems strange to the Australian Labor Party that a government would actually want to fulfil its policies. That is something you are going to have to get used to as a party. Something the Australian people are going to expect more and more as years go by is that governments will actually live up to their commitments. Gone are the days, I would contend, when you can do the half-smart stuff that denotes the Australian Labor Party: tell a few lies, skate into office, then change your mind. Those days, thank goodness, are gone. We have governments now in Australia that will live up to their commitments.

It does not matter whether it is a change in the structure of the personal taxation system; whether it is the removal of that ramshackle wholesale sales tax that the Australian Labor Party wants to cling to, together with high personal taxation; whether it is a change in the personal tax scales, change to the fringe benefits tax and the introduction of a goods and services tax as a special bill—it does not matter whether it is part of this total package or not, the Australian Labor Party is opposed to it.

This is a reform that is needed in Australia, it is a reform that is historic, it is a reform that will change the outlook of Australian people, because the Australian people will have more of their own money in their pockets, the costs of doing business will fall and people will gain advantage themselves by this process. Those who will be disadvantaged by this process will not be those who are elderly or those on fixed income. The government has covered that situation in this legislation with a guarantee that, no matter what the change in the cost of living, there is that 1½ per cent margin of compensation for everybody in those categories—a 1½ per cent margin of compensation in addition to any cost increases or price increases that the goods and services tax may impose on those people.

This is not a tax change that seeks to take extra money out of the pockets of families or the hard-up. This is a tax change that will bring about lower costs, will create more employment and will get away from the huge impost that we are moving towards of high personal income tax, which is unaffordable for families.

The government has covered, in this legislation, the three basic areas of the goods and services tax, tax cuts and compensation, and the transitional issues where there is a need for us to move gradually into the changed tax regime. It covers, under the goods and services tax, the sale of businesses, duty free stores, grouping provisions for companies that trade as groups, moving in and out of the system of reporting, the changing of return periods, tax invoices, second-hand goods, taxis and non-deductible expenses. All the details are here. This is the delivery of a tax system that will bring about incentive and change in Australia.

The areas covered in the bill include the exempt areas—the areas where activities are GST free: health and education, religious services, the arrangement between commercial and non-commercial activities of charities, and the other areas where the government promised before the election that consideration would be given to the needs of people and the simple commencement of a goods and services tax. Medical services are free, hospital services are free, residential care is free and so are community home care, disability services, medical appliances and aids, drugs and medicines. So the health services are more than adequately covered in the provisions before the House today.

Hospital services are adequately covered. Nursing homes include those listed under the quality care principles established as a working basis between the Commonwealth and the states. Home services, HACC funded services, are all covered by this legislation. And the medicines and drugs that were raised as matters of niggling intervention by members of the opposition at question time are all covered. The problem is that the opposition needs to apply itself to the process of reform and change in Australia. Its vision is non-existent—it is too low, it offers no incentive, no vision for the people of Australia.

The legislation covers educational matters—the types of schools, kindergartens, pre- and primary schools, private for-profit schools, and recognised special education centres. They are all protected and covered in this legislation.

As the government moves ahead to bring this legislation into being, the people of Australia will benefit. I will just run through some of those benefits. We are going to get rid of the crazy idea of taxing goods based on some whim expressed by a bureaucrat here in Canberra. It does not matter whether it is baby powder being taxed at 22 per cent, or greeting cards. Why 22 per cent? Who would know. Is it a luxury in somebody's eyes? I would not think a greeting card to somebody with a wedding anniversary or a 90th birthday is a luxury, but somebody has decided that. I would not think that using baby powder is a luxury process, but somebody has decided that.

We are going to throw out all that stuff. We are going to bring in a simple, low-level tax on all services and all goods, a tax that will be recovered by the business community and we will compensate those who are disabled or who are elderly.

The changes that are proposed will also allow huge reductions in personal income tax, particularly for those people with families. If the member at the table is thinking that this a process that he would not like to go along with, I would like to see him go down to Corio or to the electorate of my friend, the Government Whip, and say, `We want to keep high taxes on you guys. We want to keep this ramshackle wholesale sales tax.'

It is not a positive campaign that the Australian Labor Party is running at the moment. They are not saying they want to keep these taxes, which is the implication of their argument, they are saying that everything the government is doing is wrong.

Let me put it to you my friend, and to you, Mr Deputy Speaker, that if you honestly think these programs are so bad and wrong for Australia you will let them go through and you will let us destroy ourselves. But the trouble is you know we are right and you will not back us; you want only to obstruct and delay.