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Let's debate the benefits of a goods and service tax

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The Shadow Treasurer, Mr Peter Reith, welcomes the opportunity to meet the National Director of the Australian Taxpayers' Association in a television debate over the benefits of a goods and services tax.

The "7.30 Report" has kindly offered a venue for a television debate on the goods and services tax, and I am looking forward to it.

Mr Risstrom has been extremely critical of the Coalition's plans for taxation reform in print and on radio for several days, and a lot of his criticism has been inaccurate.

I am keen to set the record straight, and I thank the ABC for the opportunity.

Mr Risstrom is particularly sensitive to the suggestion that he's shoulder-to-shoulder with the Prime Minister in running a scare campaign over the goods and services tax.

But if he makes loud assertions about the supposed disadvantages of a goods and services tax that don't stand up in fact— just like the Prime Minister has been doing--he must expect people to draw some link between them.

In South Australia last week representatives of the Taxpayers' Association told me that two State branches of the organisation actually supported a consumption tax.

But that isn't what Eric Risstrom is telling everybody.

The record needs to be set straight on two other fronts where Mr Risstrom is confused.

Firstly, I haven't asked anybody to write a consumption tax policy.

Somebody may have asked Mr Risstrom to put on paper exactly where the Taxpayers' Association stood on a goods and services tax.

But to describe this as an invitation to write a policy is a terrible distortion of the truth.

Furthermore, I have never laid down any conditions under which I would debate Mr Risstrom.

I rang Mr Risstrom on Monday to draw several inaccuracies in an article he'd written for The Age newspaper to his attention, and we had a casual discussion about a debate.

I said I was happy to debate the issue, but I suggested it was a political issue, and it would be more appropriate for me, as Shadow Treasurer, to debate someone who is in the political arena; and for Mr Risstrom to debate someone from outside who represents another lobby group that's in favour of a GST.

Again, the interpretation that Mr Risstrom has placed on that conversation is a distortion of the truth.

All I can say is that Mr Risstrom is extremely sensitive to the suggestion he's running a scare campaign against the Coalition's plans for tax reform...very sensitive indeed.

16 July 1991 Canberra

Contact: David Turnbull (06) 2774277 D95/91

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