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Thursday, 11 March 1999
Page: 2757


Senator CONROY —My question is to Senator Kemp, the Assistant Treasurer. Is the minister aware of comments by Mr Greg Hayes, the small business spokesperson for the Australian Society of Certified Practising Accountants, who said that the government had been brainwashed into believing that trusts could be treated like companies without there being any significant dislocation to the small business sector? Does the government agree with Mr Hayes's statement that there will be significant dislocation to small businesses? Further, does the government support Mr Hayes's suggestion that trusts with a trading level or assets below a certain threshold should remain untaxed at the entity level?


Senator KEMP (Assistant Treasurer) —I thank Senator Conroy for that question. The whole thrust of our tax reform package is to create a competitive tax system which will help build the Australian economy and help small business, big business and medium-sized business to prosper.


Senator Conroy —Ron doesn't believe you.


Senator KEMP —They do believe us, Senator, because they all supported tax reforms. They do believe us. We happened to win the election and you happened to lose the election. We went to the election on tax reform. The other thing is, and you may correct me if I am wrong, Senator, that the Labor Party supported our position on trusts.


Senator Conroy —Does the National Party? Does Winnie?


Senator KEMP —Let me make this point. This is another extraordinary question. I do not know who gives you these questions, Senator. The Labor Party spokesman, Senator Conroy, stood up and asked a question about a policy which the Labor Party endorsed. The Labor Party endorsed our policy on trusts.


Senator Conroy —What's this got to do with the question?


Senator KEMP —I think it is an extraordinary thing that you seem to have backflipped on the policy which you went to the election on. I think that is odd. You may not think that is odd, but it does seem extraordinary. We think the tax reform package we have brought down will be of major advantage to small business. We think that small business, along with medium- and big-sized business, will certainly benefit from our tax reform package. One of the driving forces was to ensure that we would create the circumstances and the competitive tax system by which small business could profit. It is an extraordinary thing that these are the spokespersons of the trade union movement. If the Labor Party stands for one thing it is to get trade union bosses into parliament. That is the only discernible role that the Labor Party has, and Senator Conroy is one of those former trade union bosses.


Senator Conroy —And proud of it.


Senator KEMP —And he is proud of it. Okay, you are proud of it.


Senator Faulkner —You really are a snob, aren't you? You really are a snob.


Senator KEMP —Oh, dear!


The PRESIDENT —Order! Senator Kemp, I invite you to ignore the interjections and proceed.


Senator KEMP —I must confess, Madam President, that I was stunned by the wit of Senator Faulkner there.

The point I am making is that Senator Conroy, a spokesman for the trade union party in Australia, the Labor Party, pretends to speak for small business. This is the bloke who just in the last few days rejected the government's proposals on unfair dismissals. That is what you did. This was a proposal which would have helped small business and would have helped the creation of jobs. But, Senator, you stood up and you defeated that, and now you have the cheek to stand up and ask me about our policy on trusts, a policy which you supported at the last election. It was actually a bipartisan policy.


Senator Conroy —What about the National Party?


Senator KEMP —What a great wit. Senator Conroy, if I can give you a word of advice: do not take questions drafted by Senator Cook.


Senator CONROY —Madam President, I ask a supplementary question. Minister, can you outline to small business owners who operate trusts how they will benefit from paying tax up-front? Can you assure them that their concerns are in fact misplaced?


Senator KEMP (Assistant Treasurer) —Let me assure you, Senator Conroy, the Australian parliament and through the Australian parliament the people that small businesses are one of the many winners out of our tax reform. What we want you to do, Senator Conroy, is to allow this government to keep its promises; make this government keep its promises. We will bring in tax reform and we will deliver.


Senator Conroy —How about you answer the question.


Senator KEMP —Senator Conroy, you are worried about taxes on small business. Your policy is to stop arguably the largest tax cut in Australian history that we wish to deliver to the Australian people. That is what your policy is, Senator Cook.