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Wednesday, 23 June 1999
Page: 7196

Mr O'CONNOR —My question is to the Treasurer. Treasurer, have you seen the response of the National Farmers Federation President, Ian Donges, to the Howard-Democrat GST package and its impact on farmers, particularly horticultural and egg producers? I quote:

The effect of the deal . . . will be to force affected farmers to make a permanent loan to the government . . .

. . . the deal . . . will also mean unnecessarily complicated compliance problems . . .

We estimate that the compliance costs will increase three-fold for those farmers [affected].

Treasurer, why have you agreed to a deal that will impose further and unnecessary GST compliance costs on hard-pressed Australian farmers?

Mr COSTELLO (Treasurer) —I have seen the news release and the news release in fact says, as I recall, that the NFF has supported the introduction of a broad based consumption tax for the past 10 years. I think the point that Mr Donges is making is that those farmers who are in the GST-free area will not get the benefits of cash flow that those farmers who are in the GST-applicable area do. If you are in the GST-applicable area, as you know, you collect GST and you hold it for a quarter before remitting it. What Mr Donges is saying is that those farmers, such as horticulturalists, who are in the GST-free area will not get the benefit of that cash flow. They will not be holding GST. I think that is the point that he is making.

Let me turn that around the other way. If the Labor Party had its way, there would be no farmer getting the benefit of GST cash flow. Mr Speaker, do you see how the argument runs? The Labor Party stands up and says, `We are upset that there are some farmers that won't get the benefit of the GST.' That is its position. It is like the member up here who says, `What about the transporters? Only some of them are getting 20c a litre.' The Leader of the Opposition says, `They are only getting a growth tax without food; that's terrible.' The shadow minister for whatever he is the shadow minister for says, `Horticulturalists won't get the benefit of the GST cash flow advantage that the pastoralists, wheat farmers, all of the other broadacre farmers and everybody else will.' If you really wanted people to get the benefit of the cash flow advantage, you would be supporting the government's position. It is absolutely illegitimate for the Australian Labor Party to say that it is against any cash flow for any farmer because it is against GST and then get up and complain about an exemption. It is like diesel. The Labor Party says, `We are against any cash back for any transporter,' and then wants to claim that there are some people missing out. It is like the growth tax: it is an absolutely illegitimate argument. I am sure that those farmers who are on the opposition frontbench will explain that to the shadow minister.

Honourable members interjecting

Mr SPEAKER —There has been an exchange across the parliament that is quite unnecessary. The member for Parkes is waiting for the call. He is waiting only because he is not being assisted by parliamentarians on either side.