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Wednesday, 9 December 1998
Page: 1714


Mr CREAN —I direct my question to the Treasurer. Has the Treasurer seen reported comments by Woolworths chairman, John Dahlsen, that Woolworths wants the GST to appear as a separate item on dockets rather than be hidden in the price of each item? Treasurer, why does your legislation on the new 10 per cent tax on almost everything allow the GST to be hidden? Why won't you put in place a mechanism so that people know the exact GST component and when a purchase is GST free and when it is not?


Mr COSTELLO (Treasurer) —The government has taken the view, as I told the House last year, that people should know the price that they have to pay at the checkout, and that will be the price that the goods are advertised at. With regard to a price inclusive of taxes, why was it that the Australian Labor Party's wholesale sales tax was hidden in every item in every good? Why was it that the Australian Labor Party never told you that when you went to buy your toothpaste you paid 22 per cent tax?


Mr Crean —Mr Speaker, I raise a point of order. It goes to relevance; that is, the question went to the comments of the Woolworths chairman that they wanted the GST to be dis closed. This has got nothing to do with the wholesale sales tax. The Treasurer should explain why he is hiding the GST in every purchase that every person will make.


Mr SPEAKER —The member for Hotham will resume his seat. The Treasurer has had barely 30 seconds to answer the question or be relevant to it; and I call him.


Mr COSTELLO —The government has one rate across all goods and services which everybody knows about. There is nothing hidden; it is 10 per cent. Everybody knows about it.


Mr Bevis —On what?


Mr COSTELLO —It is across the board, the point that you have been making, genius, in this House of Representatives. But what did the Labor Party do with the wholesale sales tax? They hid it in every price. They still go on with it, Mr Speaker. Did the Australian Labor Party say that there is 22 per cent on your toothpaste? Did the Australian Labor Party say that there is 22 per cent on your paper? Did the Australian Labor Party say that there is 22 per cent on your biros?


Mr Beazley —What did the Liberal Party do with the wholesale sales tax?


Mr COSTELLO —Mr Speaker, he always yells the loudest when he is the wrongest. He hates it. He sits there and he tries to knock us off our game because he is trying to cover up a 22 per cent hidden tax.


Mr Crean —Mr Speaker, I raise a point of order, and it goes to relevance again. It is obvious for the second time that the Treasurer is avoiding the question of the call by the chairman of Woolworths, the second largest retailer in this country, for disclosure of the GST.


Mr SPEAKER —I have heard the point of order and I will rule on it. I have listened to the Treasurer. The Treasurer is making a comparison between wholesale sales tax and the way in which it is displayed and the proposed GST and the way in which it will be displayed. So I cannot deem that as irrelevant. In fact, the Treasurer is being relevant, and I call him.


Mr COSTELLO —Mr Speaker, not only is it up front, because everybody knows it is 10 per cent, but they know it is a uniform rate. The beauty of Labor's wholesale sales tax was that you could have 12, 22, 32, 41, 45 or 47 per cent. Nobody actually knew what it was, it varied and it was hidden, which gave the Australian Labor Party the opportunity to take the 10 per cent rate to 12 per cent, the 20 per cent rate to 22 per cent and the 30 per cent rate to 32 per cent, hidden, without one dollar of compensation.

We on this side of the House are proud that we are going to sweep away Labor's wholesale sales tax. We are going to make this open and transparent. We are going to make a new tax system for a new century. This is the party of the future; that is the party of the past.