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Wednesday, 9 December 1998
Page: 1761

Mr LIEBERMAN (7:27 PM) —I am very proud to be associated with this legislation introducing a new tax system for Australia. It is long overdue and it is most important that we get it through. Having heard the member for Cunningham, it is no wonder that the Australian people have rejected Labor as their government for the next three years.

Mr Hockey —Comprehensively!

Mr LIEBERMAN —Absolutely comprehensively! We have an authority from the people of Australia, after a difficult and tough election campaign, to proceed with the new tax system, which was clearly set out for the people of Australia to examine and debate amongst themselves and to vote accordingly. Is it any wonder that the electorate of the member for Cunningham voted in the way they did—having heard his speech, the lack of depth, the scare campaign associated with it and the rhetoric but without any proper analysis of what the proposals were? Is it any wonder?

What the member for Cunningham does not realise is that, since the election, there has been a ratification—an overwhelming development—by the Australian people that they want this government to be able to proceed with the legislation on the tax reform, the health rebate and all associated things. I suggest that the Australian people will exact a very strong penalty against the Labor Party and other members of the parliament—in the Senate and the House of Representatives—who attempt to frustrate the government's urgent mission to introduce this long overdue tax reform.

All the members in this House know that more than 70 per cent of Australians want tax reform, and they want it done properly and comprehensively. Let me just encapsulate a few principles. The coalition will be reducing personal income tax rates for most Australians and particularly for the low income and middle income people of Australia. The Labor Party, and others associated with the Labor Party, are going to try to stop that—let us make that clear.

The second point is that the coalition will remove forever the wholesale sales tax, with all of its quirks, anomalies, nonsense and inequity. The Labor Party and those associated with it will fight to retain and continue to impose those anomalies and that stupid tax on the Australian people. That is clear. We know also that they want to stop the rebate on private insurance, which will have disastrous consequences.

Debate interrupted; adjournment proposed and negatived.

Mr LIEBERMAN —We know that the consequences for Australia's health system, both the private and the public sector, will be diabolical without that tax reform, and it will be on Labor's head. This debate is a very exciting one that clearly defines what the various parties are about and lets the Australian people see the consequences of one or the other prevailing. That is good in a democracy. It is a great thing to see the sharp points of the debate emerging now.

The legislation sweeps away an outdated, inefficient tax system that does not serve the nation fairly; and members know in their hearts that I am right in saying that. It will reduce the tax rates for average earners in Australia and do away with the marginal income tax rate of 43c, which Labor has imposed on Australians, plus a Medicare levy of 1.5c. Average earners deserve better, and we will give it to them.

The legislation removes other taxes, such as the wholesale sales tax that I have referred to. Under the new Commonwealth-state arrangements, we are removing conveyancing duties in states on business property; stamp duties on marketable properties; debits taxes on bank accounts; stamp duties on leases, mortgages, bonds, debentures and other loan securities as well as on cheques, bills of exchange, and promissory notes; and the bed taxes that apply in some states. The abolition of the wholesale sales tax and other taxes, and the reduction in fuel excise, particularly for diesel fuel, are going to have a tremendous effect.

I want to spend the last couple of minutes of my contribution speaking of the regions of Australia that I live and work in. I want to thank the electors of the electorate of Indi, who came up with the result of giving an overwhelming endorsement to the coalition's proposals. It was a difficult debate with a lot of scare campaigning. I am proud of them; I am proud of the way they sorted it out.

Mr Slipper —What is your margin?

Mr LIEBERMAN —I am now at about 62 per cent two-party preferred. I am very humbled by that, because it was a very difficult campaign, with nine opponents all putting me virtually last and all playing together in the game of spoiling, of stopping Australia from going ahead. My region of Australia is one of the major exporters of value added food from Australia into other regions. We have a great future, with more to do, more to give, and more to help Australia with jobs and economic growth.

The tax reform package is going to reduce taxes on business and on businesses that export from this country. Surely no member of parliament can argue against that principle or the urgent need to achieve that. We must grow our exports because that will strengthen our economy and create real, permanent jobs—especially for our young people. So the fundamentals are all outlined there. Quite frankly, the Labor Party has made a disastrous decision to oppose this legislation regardless of the merit of the arguments. Their leader, Mr Beazley, has put them in a position that they will regret for a very long time.

There has been some hand-wringing about the House of Representatives debate being subject to time limits. I will say this: I have been in parliament and politics for a fair while now, as members know. Hand-wringing does not have any justification. Occasionally guillotining does, in a parliamentary system. But here we have the Labor Party, which said on the record, `We will oppose this. Regardless of the Australian people's decision in the election, we will continue to oppose it. We will stop it at all costs.' That is really the people on the other side wringing their hands. This is not a genuine debate from their point of view. They are here to spoil, to stop and hinder and not in any way to have a decent debate in a democracy about the merits of the tax system.

That is what we face as we go into the parliamentary break and 1999 with the debate in the Senate and the various inquiries that will unfold. Let me assure the House that people like those who live in Indi, whether they vote Liberal or not, expect the Senate to respect their views and to get out of the way of reforms that will strengthen the economy and create jobs, especially for our young people. We have a responsibility to do that. We have a responsibility to help our farmers, small businesses and manufacturers with their exports. No-one can deny that.

You guys over there will go to the Christmas break from this parliament with that on your conscience, knowing full well that you have decided, regardless of the merit of the argument, to oppose and to try to defeat. That is what you have done. As you go into your Christmas holiday basking in whatever you will do with your families—I hope that you have a rest and time to reflect—just remember what you have committed yourselves to doing in your parliamentary career, and that is, hindering the strengthening of Australia's economy, stopping exports and stopping the creation of new permanent jobs. That is your legacy. I wish you a merry Christmas, but I hope you know that what you have committed to is exactly what I just said.