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Wednesday, 9 December 1998
Page: 1701

Mr BROUGH (12:54 PM) —My children started to get over the boogieman but, after having to listen to that diatribe by the member for Perth, the boogieman is back to get us. That is what happened right throughout the election campaign. He stood up here and said, `We are going to have an increase in inflation, an increase in interest rates and an increase in unemployment, but we are going to have no increase in growth.' There is only one party in this country in the last two decades that has managed to deliver that—and consistently—and that is the Labor Party with 17½ per cent interest rates for housing and over 25 per cent for most of the businesses in my electorate. No wonder they were doing it tough. No wonder they wonder what is going to happen in the future if you mob manage to get your hands back onto the till. If that happens Australian business will be going down the tube yet again.

They stand up here in some pious fashion and try to claim that something that they achieved 15 years ago—which they were duly given credit for—is somehow the reason why the Australian economy is doing so well today. It must hurt them awfully to sit over there and hear about five per cent growth. They see unemployment coming down, they see interest rates getting further cut, they see Australians with a greater sense of security than they have had in recent years. What must that do for them after they have just been defeated at the polls on the back of the biggest scare campaign that Australia has seen since 1993? It was pretty hard to believe they could outdo themselves, but they achieved it.

They contradict themselves. I cannot help but comment about the member for Perth standing there and saying, `We introduced bank deregulation and that is why the Australian economy is so good today.' Where was it three, four, five, six years ago? Where was it when we had the recession we had to have? Was that because of bank deregulation? The reason that the Australian economy is strong today is that we have taken sound economic decisions.

I am pleased to see that I have such a captive audience willing to listen today. Fellows, do listen: take on board what we are saying, and perhaps in the future you will change your point of view. Back in the 1980s when you recognised that a GST was the way to go, you put out documents, using federal government money, saying that a GST would provide the safety net, that it was going to be a fairer tax, that it would stop avoidance and clamp down on the cash economy. What has changed? What has changed in the last decade? What has changed is that you do not have the political backbone with which to support the policies you recognise will help Australia into the future.

The bottom line is this: when you ask someone from New Zealand, our near neighbour, whether they like the GST, what do they answer? No. If you were to ask them, `Do you like income tax?' what would they say? No. If you ask people in Australia whether they like the wholesale sales tax system, for a starter they would not be able to tell you what the heck it is because they do not know that it is an insidious tax put on that no-one can see.

The bottom line is that no-one likes taxes—I do not and those opposite do not—but we recognise that taxes equal income, that taxes are the single source of income for the government. So, if you turn this question around to the person from New Zealand and you say to this Kiwi, `Tell me, would you prefer to have the GST there now or the system there previously?' to a man they will say that they will take the GST they currently have. It is horses for courses. It is a better system that has delivered better results for the New Zealand economy and for the people of New Zealand. It goes back to the bottom line—nobody actually enjoys the experience of paying taxes.

Tax equals income, as I said. Expenditure equals services: pensions, health, social security, defence, education—all the things which makes ours a just society. Without taxes and income we cannot supply the services. The Labor Party recognised, throughout their last 10 years in government, that the current tax system simply was not going to provide sufficient income to help provide the services that we demand as a compassionate society.

That was shown when they started to increase not only the rates but the range of products in the wholesale sales tax system. In 1983, agricultural machinery, matches, implements for agricultural equipment, preparations for materials used in the agricultural industries were some of the ones affected. Machinery, implements, apparatus and refrigerating agents used other than in the fruit growing industry were all increased from zero per cent to 22 per cent wholesale sales tax. The average consumer out there did not know about it. They were not asked to decide whether it was something they wanted to vote for or against. It was done in this place, probably quite late at night, and without the knowledge of the average Australian.

When people go along to the shops and find that prices have gone up, they do not blame the government; they blame the shopkeeper because he is trying to rip them off, he is taking a bigger profit. That poor beggar has had his margins come down more and more over the last 15 years. He has had to absorb that, and he has had to absorb the increases from zero to 22 per cent, zero to 12 per cent, 10 to 12 per cent and, in some cases like toys, toy jewellery, from zero to 32 per cent.

Is this what the Labor Party calls `good economic policy'? How could it include things such as household disinfectants, swimming pool liners, tractors and ride-on mowers? Ride-on mowers are used by many small businesses in my area which are trying to make a go of it. What did the former government do? It slugged them with an increased tax. It put fuel excise up. All the time the taxes went up. I return to the key point: even the Labor Party recognises that we, as a just society, must have a tax base that can supply the services that we need in this economy.

What does the ALP oppose when it opposes this bill? I ask those opposite: are you opposing the reduction of costs to the agricultural industry? Do you oppose the reduction of the fuel excise, particularly for the transport industry? Perhaps it is making health less expensive that you oppose, or maybe education. Do you oppose making child care less expensive? Do you oppose reducing the costs to our exporters, which are part of a growth industry in Australia and are creating more jobs? Perhaps you are opposed to cutting taxes and ensuring that 81 per cent of us pay less than 30 per cent in taxes.

Do you find this range of things so abhorrent that you have to oppose them? Do you oppose simplifying the costs for business? Or perhaps you oppose the fact that high income earners—every one of us in this place falls into the category—will now have to pay if they use a valet service, a restaurant, a masseur or buy some luxury item, which nobody in my electorate, by and large, can afford to do. We do not have a lot of restaurants in the electorate of Longman. We are not a high income area. But the fact is that those people will be the very ones that will benefit the most from tax reform because they will have the growth in their pay packet. We will return to them the power of deciding for themselves what they will do with their money.

Under Labor it is quite simple: people work for 40 hours, the government takes nearly 50c away from them and then they can decide what they do with the rest. We are saying to people, `Have the money. You earned it. You decide whether you want to save the money and have a responsible attitude towards it, whether you want to spend it on items or whether you want to provide for the health, education and wellbeing of your family.' That is choice. That is something that everybody in this place should support. But those opposite are obviously condemned by their actions because they are not interested in such an exercise.

Mr Deputy Speaker, looking through the documentation put out by the government during the election, I have to say that not once did any member of the opposition or any member of the community ever dispute what was said about the cost savings to industry. Therefore, I have to ask myself why those opposite would decide, other than for political expediency, to take such a strong line on this. Why would they not be interested in cost savings to the petroleum and coal industry of 4.3 per cent? Why would they not be interested in cafes, restaurants and those providing accommodation reducing their costs by 2.8 per cent? Is not hospitality one of the biggest employers in Australia? For the dairy industry that I have in Maleny the rate will be 2.7 per cent; for bakery products it will be 3½ per cent; for the gas supply it will be 3½ per cent—of course, large industries are major users of gas—and for the transport industry it will be up around the seven per cent mark.

Why are you opposed to a system of taxation which ensures that those who can most afford it will pay more of a percentage and those who are less able will benefit? Why are you opposed to a system which ensures the services that a compassionate society demands that we supply can be provided into the future? They will not be able to be supplied under the wholesale sales tax system as it currently stands. You have put forward a pathetic argument that somehow the rich are going to do better out of this. The top 20 per cent of taxpayers currently contribute nearly 60 per cent of the total tax-take. The bottom 20 per cent of taxpayers contribute two per cent.

Mr Laurie Ferguson interjecting

Mr BROUGH —Two per cent, Laurie. So how much less do you want them to pay? Can you explain that to us?

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Andrews) —Order! I invite the honourable member for Longman to make his remarks through the chair and to direct his references to members by their electorate.

Mr BROUGH —I take your comments on board, Mr Deputy Speaker. In winding up, it is quite obvious to me why the Labor Party are opposing this measure. They will oppose it at every stage. It is not because they do not believe in it: quite obviously they do; they showed that in 1985 and 1986 and they continue to believe in it today. The bottom line is that their greatest fear is that the legislation will get through the parliament because they know it will work. When it does work and it does provide a growth in income base, it will result in continued growth of the economy. When it results in more jobs, when it empowers Australian wage-earners, when it improves their standard of living and when it ensures that welfare recipients and those most in need have the sustenance, the money and the services to be able to have quality of life in Australia, they recognise that it spells doom for the Labor Party for the next decade.

It is no wonder they oppose the overhauling and the updating of the Australian taxation system. They are condemned for their actions and they will be condemned by the people of the electorate for the pathetic decision regarding health rebates, which has them all squirming in their seats day after day as the member for Jagajaga takes them down some ideological path. They will also be condemned by the people in the electorate who will ask, `Why was I afraid of something? Why did they tell me so many lies when now in the light of day I find my quality of life has improved and I have job security, low inflation, low interest rates and more money in my pocket with which to make a decision.' I commend the legislation to the House.