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Thursday, 10 December 1998
Page: 1838


Mr CREAN (11:58 AM) —I have a number of amendments. We are required to move them sequentially as a result of the government bungling the way they have brought forward this package. To give some indication as to the duplicity of this government, the night before yesterday we had an agreement about times for this debate that would have enabled more time for us to speak. That was broken within 24 hours unilaterally by them insisting upon a new order of business being introduced at 9.30 a.m. today.

We have the position where there are nine of these bills before the House, three of them we support or, depending on what happens with one of our second reading amendments, four we could support. Because the government is requiring us to vote for them in a block in one motion, we are forced to oppose them. I made approaches through the office of the Leader of the House to try and get procedurally a separation out of those four bills. I think it is important to demonstrate that there can be agreement on both sides of the House about sensible tax reform, and we do support three of these bills and maybe a fourth bill subject to the debate.

However, they are not letting us vote with them. They are not letting us demonstrate support for their position. Why won't they do it? Why are they so hung up on the stupidity of this procedure that they will not allow us to do it? This highlights the frustration the opposition has with the way this government manages the affairs of the House, particularly on such an important package of measures as this.

There is a package of nine bills here. I will do what I can in the time that I have left—only 10 minutes—to go through the six amendments, because I understand that the Speaker requires them to be read in. I am not sure whether time permits me to do that, but I will do my best. The first of these bills is the A New Tax System (Goods and Services Tax Imposition—Excise) Bill 1998 . This bill imposes a new 10 per cent tax on almost everything. On behalf of the opposition, I move the amendment to A New Tax System (Goods and Services Tax Imposition—Excise) Bill 1998 :

That all words after "That" be omitted with a view to substituting the following words:

"the House:

(1) condemns the Government specifically for its proposed excise imposition and for seeking to impose a GST on Australian families which will inevitably rise over time as it has risen in almost every country in which a GST has been introduced; and

(2) condemns the Government for attempting to deceive the Australian people that there is a constitutionally valid mechanism which will ensure that the GST rate will not rise over time".

The next bill is A New Tax System (Goods and Services Tax Imposition—Customs) Bill 1998 . This bill makes it a custom to pay 10 per cent on almost everything every time you fork out money from the cradle to the grave, turning a new 10 per cent tax into a new custom in this country, but not telling people the amount.


Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Nehl) —I am loath to interrupt the honourable member for Hotham, but the chair would have no objection if you wished to move your amendments in the terms circulated if that would suit your convenience.


Mr CREAN —That is very kind of you, Mr Deputy Speaker. I will go through them, because I think the amendments are important in themselves, but if I run out of time in the minuscule time that is available to us, I will adopt your course of action. In relation to the A New Tax System (Goods and Services Tax Imposition—Customs) Bill 1998 , which makes it a custom to pay 10 per cent, I move the following amendment:

That all words after "That" be omitted with a view to substituting the following words:

"the House:

(1) condemns the Government specifically for its proposed customs imposition and for seeking to impose a GST on Australian families which will inevitably rise over time as it has risen in almost every country in which a GST has been introduced; and

(2) condemns the Government for attempting to deceive the Australian people that there is a constitutionally valid mechanism which will ensure that the GST rate will not rise over time".

The third bill is the A New Tax System (Goods and Services Tax Imposition—General) Bill 1998 . This bill puts a huge new imposition on the Australian public and on Australian families. It imposes a 10 per cent tax on almost everything they buy. Every time they buy a good or a service, the government will have its hand in their pockets taking out one-eleventh. That is what this bill imposes on the Australian public. I move the amendment to the A New Tax System (Goods and Services Tax Imposition—General) Bill 1998 :

That all words after "That" be omitted with a view to substituting the following words:

"the House:

(1) condemns the Government specifically for its proposed tax imposition proposal and for seeking to impose a GST on Australian families which will inevitably rise over time as it has risen in almost every country in which a GST has been introduced; and

(2) condemns the Government for attempting to deceive the Australian people that there is a constitutionally valid mechanism which will ensure that the GST rate will not rise over time".

The next bill is A New Tax System (Goods and Services Tax Administration) Bill 1998 . This bill imposes a huge administrative burden on at least 1.4 million small businesses and family businesses, turning them into government tax collectors and burdening them with an administrative nightmare. That is what this bill does. I move the amendment to A New Tax System (Goods and Services Tax Administration) Bill 1998 :

That all words after "That" be omitted with a view to substituting the following words:

"the House:

(1) condemns the Government for seeking to impose a huge new unnecessary taxation compliance burden on Australian small business which will involve, inter alia, large start-up costs, significant ongoing costs, an erosion of the competitive position of small business relative to big business which are not nearly compensated for by the claimed cashflow effects of the GST; and

(2) condemns the Government for introducing legislation which is very complex which adds to the complexity of the tax system, rather than simplifying the system".

The next bill that I propose to move an amendment on is the A New Tax System (Goods and Services Tax Transition) Bill 1998 . This bill involves Australia making a huge transition from being the strongest economy in the world; an economy which is served by a taxation system which was developed, changed and reviewed by successive Labor governments over 13 years, producing an economy in which we fundamentally changed the structures, the approach and the strength of the nation with low inflation. We did it with a tax system that, from time to time, needed review and repair, but we made those reviews and repairs without a GST.

We are now being asked to make a transition from being the strongest economy in the world—no system is `broke' here. The IMF says that this economy has performed well over the past seven years, and Labor was in power for two-thirds of those years. This government inherited a system that even it could not muck up in a hurry. This bill will commence the process of mucking it up. This bill is unfair; this tax is unfair. It is bad for the economy; it is bad for jobs. I move the amendment to the A New Tax System (Goods and Services Tax Transition) Bill 1998 :

That all words after "That" be omitted with a view to substituting the following words:

"the House condemns the Government for imposing complex, anomaly-ridden transitional arrangements concerning the GST on Australian business which will inevitably involve competitive distortions and costly compliance burdens".

I have only one amendment in relation to the next group of four bills—A New Tax System (Fringe Benefits Reporting) Bill 1998 , A New Tax System (Medicare Levy Surcharge—Fringe Benefits) Bill 1998 , A New Tax System (Australian Business Number) Bill 1998 , and A New Tax System (Australian Business Number Consequential Amendments) Bill 1998 —and that is an amendment to A New Tax System (Australian Business Number) Bill 1998 . I move the amendment to A New Tax System (Australian Business Number) Bill 1998 :

That all words after "That" be omitted with a view to substituting the following words:

"whilst not declining to give the Bill a second reading, the House:

(1) condemns the Government for not going far enough in its tax package in cracking down on tax avoidance;

(2) calls on the Government to tighten the legislation and administration of the Prescribed Payments System (PPS) system to ensure that only genuine self-employed people are within the PPS system; and

(3) condemns the Government's failure to introduce legislation abolishing provisional tax".

Our complaint here is simply that this bill does not go far enough. We agree with it as far as it goes, but we believe it should go further. As I said at the opening of the debate on this particular group of bills, there is a lot in common between both sides of this House on what is needed for taxation reform. We should have been entering into sensible debate and dialogue to get agreement on how we can repair the current system. We think that it can be repaired; we think it can be reviewed. We think it can be done sensibly and all of it without introducing a GST. This government has given no opportunity for such a debate in this chamber. (Time expired)


Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Nehl) —Are the amendments seconded?