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Friday, 7 September 1984
Page: 638

Senator MACKLIN(10.03) —Amendment No. 3 deals with making sales tax deductible the various agents in cosmetics for screening solar ultraviolet rays. I raised this matter last year, and I wish to raise it again specifically as a Queensland senator, because of the major problem of melanomas in Queensland. Unfortunately, because of the climate, Queensland has a great problem with various kinds of skin cancers. The Federal and Queensland governments spend a considerable amount of money each year through various health education programs , seeking to educate the public about the effects of the sun, particularly in the coming summer months. The community faces a considerable cost in dealing with this issue through not only preventative programs but also the treatment of melanomas that could have been prevented.

Senator Peter Baume —It is solar hyperkeratoses, squamous cell carcinomata and basal cell carcinomata-the whole lot. Why just confine it to melanoma?

Senator MACKLIN —Most decidedly. Senator Peter Baume may wish to speak later. We are looking at a range of problems which lay senators probably know as skin cancers.

I was concerned about this problem last year when I made a move on this matter and, after speaking to pharmacists in Queensland, my concern has not gone away. There have been significant moves in the sale of various items. It is not possible to attribute those moves totally to the imposition of the sales tax. I do not seek to do so and I certainly could not prove that to be the case. However, I do believe that there is a market effect in that these are price differentials between various cosmetics. Manufacturers are very clear on this: The manufacturing of cosmetics which contain such substances does increase their base cost. Hence, I think it would probably flow fairly naturally that their retain cost to the consumer would rise.

The point I made last year is still valid. Apart from the obvious ploy that was being undertaken by some manufacturers-I do not think it was necessarily a ploy; I think it was a loophole in the legislation-night creams that had various substances in them for screening out solar rays but were still sales tax deductible. I challenged the Government last year, and I do so again, to name other products which fall within that range. I think the suggestion is clear. There are no other products for which there is no need for tax deductibility because there is no need for the item to appear on the Schedule.

The various make-up bases which contain a solar ultraviolet screening agent are very important for the prevention and lessening of the incidence of melanoma. The matter is not simply one of whether we will concern ourselves with cosmetics . In my State, and to a lesser extent in other States, it is a matter of life and death. The number of people who have died from this disease has risen quite alarmingly over the years. If we are undertaking a variety of education programs we should not at the same time put a disincentive on manufacturers for including such screening agents in their products thus disadvantaging people who use those various cosmetic preparations. This applies, of course, not only to females but also to males. A number of other types of lotions are available and are sometimes used for skin cleansing and the like.

It seems a relatively small matter but again it is these types of matters which suggest that we in Australia are still hooked on a cure approach to health and not a preventive approach. I freely admit that the problem with the preventive approach is that we have to expend money to prevent problems but when those problems do not occur it tends to look as though it is not a good way of spending money. This is the problem one faces when one tries to prevent anything -for example, accidents. If one looks at the cost differential between prevention and cure one must always opt for the expenditure of money in the prevention area because that is so much cheaper than when one is dealing with the cure. This is a retrograde step from the point of view of how people operate in the community, and where they tend to gain these types of preparations, other than sun screen lotions. This would be one such area.

The next matter I wish to address relates item 123A of the First Schedule. It was raised last year and the Government expressed its willingness to look at it. However, I believe very little has been done since then. Hence we wish to raise the point again to see what progress the Government has made in this area. Last year the Government expressed its sympathy for those people who are moderately deaf in respect of devices connected with television and the like. We suggested that the onus should be put on the person who is moderately deaf to gain a certificate in order to obtain a sales tax exemption for the purchase of the necessary device. I seek advice from the relevant Minister as to what progress has been made in this area and whether the various associations which are still campaigning on this matter are satisfied with the progress the Government is making.

The last item to which I refer relates to the insertion of a proposed new item 123B in the Schedule. The matter has been the subject of a private member's Bill . I raise this because it is a matter on which I have received lots of representations and it is one about which I am concerned. I do not refer to those devices that are specifically designed for handicapped people but rather to those devices which can be purchased on the ordinary market and may be adapted in one way or another for handicapped people. I will give the example of a computer. A constituent came to me to discuss the problem of his young son who was born with his hands attached to his shoulders. He had the use of his hands but obviously he would be handicapped in a variety of ways, particularly when he went to kindergarten and primary school and when he wrote. His father sought assistance from the University of Queensland and was able to work with it to develop a divided computer keyboard for a small computer which enables the child to draw and write. That child will be able to go through an ordinary school and engage in the ordinary activities that children engage in. In this case, because of the kindness of the private firms which cut their profit margin to nothing, that person was able to purchase that computer. The firms took no profit; they gave the computer to that family at cost to compensate for the fact that the Government imposed a sales tax on that item.

I do not expect this to be an open slather situation; I merely put the proposition that there is a simple way of dealing with it. The Government already has the mechanisms in place. Upon receiving a certificate from an acceptable person-it may be a physiotherapist or the local doctor-the sales tax exemption application is processed through the normal system. The Department of Social Security probably already has files on most handicapped people. It would take very little to ascertain the bona fides of such an application for a particular item. Thus, a variation could be made to the sales tax which is normally paid. This is a far better way of going about it than including a range of goods in this category. I am not talking about specific goods relating to disabled people. I am refering to goods which can be purchased by anyone in the community, which are used by anyone in the community, and which have special application and are of special assistance to those people who are handicapped.

I do not believe anyone in the community wants us to impose sales tax on such items. The amounts involved are relatively small but they are large to those families. They may not be important to honourable senators who had a disabled child but they would be extremely important to people on low incomes with a handicapped child because cost would be the deciding factor as to whether they could purchase particular goods for the benefit of the children and their children's possibilities in life. It is a small matter; it is a matter which I have raised and one which I hope the Government has been looking at since the legislation was introduced. I raise it again now to see whether the Government has made any advance in this area and can offer any hope, particularly to low income families who would find it difficult to purchase any goods covered under this item.