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Tariffs, taxes and Mr Costello

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Media Release Hon Gareth Evans QC MR Deputy Leader of the Opposition and Shadow Treasurer


The Treasurer, Mr Costello, continues to refuse to admit that he was wrong in claiming during the election campaign that tariffs were not taxes.

In answer today to the question,

"Is or isn't a tariff a tax?"

Mr Costello replied (again),

"A tariff is a tariff." \ _ _

He is forced tormaintain this non sense because the new 3 per cent duty on imported goods is quite clearly a new tax on consumers - and a direct breach of the Coalition's Policy Launch promise that there will be "no new taxes and no increases in existing taxation". i

Mr Costello should tell that to the families who will now pay another $25 for a 51cm television set, $15 more for a basic video recorder, $10 to $30 for a micrqjvave, and an equivalent slug on up to 17,000 other imported consumer goods, ranging from juice extractors to dolls clothes.

Mr Costello's colleague Mr Moore knows the Treasurer is talking nonsense. On Friday 12 April, he was reported in the Sydney Morning Herald as saying it was "totally correct" to say the removal of tariff concessions orders was an extra tax on business.

Mr Costello claimed today that Cabinet's decision on the tariff concession scheme had led to a 40 per cent reduction in the impact on business of our proposed measures.

Maybe - but ordinary Australian families are now forced to pick up the tab.

9 May 1996

Contact: Margot Marshall (ph) 06 277 4045

Attached is a list o f authoritative sources which define a tariff as tax.



1. Every standard economics text and dictionary, e.g.

D J Thomas A Dictionary o f Commerce: "A range of taxes (customs duties) on imported goods. The tax is paid to the government by the importer and the effect is to raise the price of foreign goods to the home consumer."

Reuters Glossary o f International Economics and Financial Terms, p48, as "Customs duty or border tax levied on imports."

The Australian Economics Dictionary fo r Students 2nd Edition by John Becroft: "An indirect tax levied by the federal government on certain imported goods as a certain percentage of the prices, just like sales tax."

2. The Australian Bureau of Statistics e.g. Government Finance Statistics Australia: Concepts, Sources and Methods (1994): ,



Customs Duties on Imports: covers taxes levied on specified goods j^or ranges of goods) imported into Australia for home consumption. r

Treasury Budget Papers e.g. Budget Paper No. 1, 1995-96, p4-20, describing "Customs Duty-Imports" as a cbmponent of "Total Indirect Tax".

At least five High Court decisions:

Dixon J, Vacuum Oil Co Pty Ltd (1934) 51 CLR 108 at 12^

Latham C.J., Elliot v Commonwealth (1936) 54 CLR 657 at 667

Fullagar J, Dennis Hotels Pty Ltd v Victoria (1961) 104 CLR 529 at 554

Menzies J, Carmody v FC Lovelock Pty Ltd (1970) 123 CLR 1 at 12

Gibbs J, Carmody v FC Lovelock Pty Ltd (1970) 123 CLR 1 at 26