Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
 Download Current HansardDownload Current Hansard    View Or Save XMLView/Save XML

Previous Fragment    Next Fragment
Tuesday, 9 February 1999
Page: 2262

Mr ROSS CAMERON (10:54 PM) —I want to acknowledge the support of my colleagues who have joined me for this important contribution to the national debate. It was my great honour to represent this parliament in Japan for a tour hosted by the Japan Centre for International Exchange during the break, and I want to acknowledge the tremendous hospitality and generosity of that organisation. The tour brought into very clear focus for me the whole question of tax reform and the inspired leadership role that is being provided by this government which is allowing us to take a place of great esteem and leadership in the international community.

I refer in particular to the great pleasure it was for me to attend a town meeting at a school in the prefecture of Tottori with my host, Mr Shigeru Ishiba, who is a member of the Diet, representing Tottori. As he addressed a group of about 200 of his compatriots, I felt a sense of deja vu and looked back to the last election. He explained to the gathered throng that Japan faced a crisis of demographics with a rapidly ageing population, a declining birthrate, increased life expectancy and the most rapidly ageing population in the world. In translation Mr Ishiba explained in Japanese to the 200 or so gathered in that school that Japan's tax system was simply groaning under the weight of these demographic changes.

He said in particular that Japan's reliance on direct income tax and its neglect of building a broad based consumption tax system was going to create a fiscal crisis for Japan early in the next century, in the first decade of it. He urged on his constituents the need to move away from Japan's reliance on direct income tax towards what he recommended—a 10 per cent broad based goods and services tax. Then it was my great pleasure, at Mr Ishiba's invitation, to address the crowd and to be able to report what one nation in the Asia-Pacific region was doing to address precisely the same problems.

When I had the opportunity in the following week to visit Washington DC, I spent a considerable amount of time with Congressman Steve Largent, who is a Republican from Oklahoma. Congressman Largent was one of the sponsors of a bill which, members will be interested to know, was entitled the Tax Code Termination Bill. It was introduced into the US House of Representatives last year. The logic of the bill was that the entire US tax code would be repealed a year after the next presidential election. The entire tax code would be wiped out in one bill.

I asked Congressman Largent what the need was for that drastic reform and he said he wanted to turn the next presidential election into a referendum on various models of tax reform. He said there was a crying need for tax reform in the United States political system but it lacked the will and the leadership to tackle the problem, so the only way they could conceive of doing it was through this fairly drastic measure of wiping out the whole code and turning the next presidential race into a referendum on tax reform.

That bill was introduced into the House of Representatives. It was passed in the House and was narrowly defeated in the Senate. It is about to be reintroduced under a different title, with slight modifications. Congressman Largent turned to me and said, `Where did you muster the resolve and the leadership to

take a bold program of tax reform to the electorate in this open, transparent way? I'm not aware of any nation in the world, any government in the world, which has had the guts, the foresight, or the sort of leadership which has obviously been demonstrated down there in the Antipodes.'

So can I report back to this House what a great pleasure it was for me, in a rare moment of leaving the boundaries of my electorate of Parramatta, to have an opportunity to visit our colleagues in the Pacific—in Japan and in the United States. I can report how my chest puffed out with that extra bit of pride with that sense of being able to stand in front of the political leadership of the world, of the two most powerful economies in the world, in the knowledge that here in Australia John Winston Howard was providing the kind of leadership which both Japan and the United States desperately wanted. We can stand proud on this side of the House. I urge the Senate to take up the challenge to respond to our leadership and our vision. Do something for the Australian people and support the goods and services tax.