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Monday, 22 September 2008
Page: 5278


Senator JOYCE (Leader of the Nationals in the Senate) (9:36 PM) —I stand in support of what Senator Abetz has said and also in support of amendments (1) to (3) on sheet 5590, which are the amendments moved by my colleague Senator Williams and Senator Abetz. It is quite obvious that those of us in everyday Australia do not want to have to walk into our local hotel, into our local club at night, line everybody up and say, ‘Are you a primary producer or are you not?’ So on one side of the room we will have all the shearers, the fencers, the contract harvesters, the tractor drivers—all those people who work on rural land, who own a Toyota or an HSV or a vehicle that gives them some sense of comfort in their life—and we will say to them, ‘By reason of an amendment that has come out of the Senate we deem you people to be not worthy of being exempted from this increase in the luxury car tax. We believe that you deserve an eight per cent penalty because you dare to be a shearer, because you dare to be a fencer, because you dare to be a contract tractor driver, because you dare to be a harvester. But you, on the other side, because you own some rural land, do not.’ I admit I am one, so I thank you very much for this amendment tonight, because it is an amendment for me. I am one. I would get the benefit from the amendment, but the people who work at my place would not. How bizarre is that? Where did that fount of wisdom come from? This is the sort of ridiculous concept we have.

We have road-tested this issue. It is quite simple. You say to people, ‘What do you want?’ They say, ‘I want my diesel LandCruiser that I use to drive my kids around—with the bull bar and the airbags and which deals with wildlife impacts. Sometimes I run into stock and I want to be able to get home safely, even if it’s wrecked. I want to get home alive.’ I say, ‘How much is that going to cost?’ They say, ‘Oh well, the 70 or 80 grand mark.’ I then say, ‘So if we made everything under that exempt would you be happy?’ They say, ‘Yeah. We think the whole thing is ridiculous, we think the whole thing is anathema, but if you are going to push me out of a plane at least push me out with that parachute.’ It is something that is so simple that we can sell.

But we have copped this peculiar thing where now we are going to have to sit back and say, ‘Sorry, I don’t think within the amendment you are defined as a tourist operator, and I will quote to you what a tourist operator is. Please sit down and grab yourself a cup of coffee because this will take half an hour.’ Or we will have to say, ‘I don’t know whether you really are a primary producer. You might be a primary producer, you may not, but if you are a primary producer you are going to have to claim a rebate.’ This is the sort of Kafkaesque type of approach to policy which is ridiculous in its obscurum per obscurius approach.

What is more, we can go down to the people of South Australia and Victoria and say, ‘Congratulations. Today your government put a reason to put you out of business. Today your government decided that they don’t want Caprices, they don’t want HSVs, they don’t want Statesmans. Those jobs can move overseas. This is the government of the day helping you out! They are putting you are out of work.’ This is definitely an impetus to buy another vehicle from another country. This is how it will be seen: as an attack on working family jobs and something that divides communities down the middle in a way that I thought we had left behind. People in regional areas have to go through the same afflictions, whether or not they happen to be lucky enough and blessed enough to own a piece of land. They still drive on the same roads, so help me. It is not that you are elevated into the heavens to be transported across the land by the conviction of gods because you happen to be a shearer. You have to drive on the roads like everybody else. You have to actually drive on the roads like everybody else if you happen to be a fencing contractor. You have to drive on the roads like everybody else if you happen to be the windmill mechanic, if you are putting new pots in windmills. You have to drive on the roads like everybody else if you are a contract muleser. But under this law you are not entitled to the exemption. Why? Because the powers that be have decided that one group in society is entitled to a certain deduction pertaining to a vital part of everybody’s life—that is, their right to transport—and that another group in society is not. This is partisan. No, this is parochialism to drive a wedge into a community.

I am happy to take people on a Friday night of their choosing to the pub of their choosing in a regional town and see how they go explaining it. It would be interesting to watch how they would define the worth of one person over the worth of another. It would be interesting to note that Barnaby Joyce would get an exemption but—I am thinking of the guys back home—Mr Kennedy would not. Why? Because as a mechanic he would not be entitled to one. Only Barnaby Joyce would get one of those because he owns rural land and Mr Kennedy does not. That is a pretty incredible indictment on how we do business in this place. They both live in St George, but apparently that is irrelevant. We have to get to a point where we have something that people can understand.

I acknowledge that this whole idea of the concept of luxury is anathema. It is a peculiarity which has just started to grow. The people who agree to this and the people who vote for this are the harbingers of what happens next. They will lay down the doormat for the luxury tax on fridges and for the luxury tax on TVs for those people who will be the arbiter elegantiarum on all things in our life. They will deem: ‘That is the right shirt to wear; that one should have a luxury tax. You are entitled to that piece of jewellery; you are not entitled to that piece. You are entitled to that fridge; you are not entitled to that one. You can have that stove, but not that one.’ Why? ‘Because we are jealous of you, basically, and we just want to divide you up and collect a bit of money on the way through as we start driving wedges into society.’

What is the purpose of doing that? Why would you do it? Where does all this go? What is the rationale to this: to turn up to the motor vehicle industry—and I thought that Senator Carr would understand this—and overnight say, ‘Wham bam, here it is, tax that’? Of course, they will make the logical decision and say, ‘Oh well, we will vote with our feet. We will develop a plant in China. We will develop another plant in the United States. But we’re not going over there, because those people are half crazy. They have just developed a 33 per cent tax because we dare to think outside the box, because we dare to be a little bit different, because we dare to develop their car manufacturing industry in their country. We are going to move somewhere else.’

I mean, surely people can see where this will go next—read the tea leaves about where this issue will end up next. The working families in these car manufacturing plants will stand up and say, ‘We would have had a future. The company would have further developed our plant. We would have kept our jobs. But one of the straws that broke the camel’s back was your tax.’ Then they will have a reason to take that on board in discerning who they should vote for. It is as simple as that. There are ways around this. There are ideas on the table that would allow us to deal with this. There have been propositions made by many people who have said that there are ways we can mitigate the effects of this. I really do think they should be strongly considered.

There is still time in this debate to strongly consider the effects of what we have before us and to make those moves to say, ‘Let us start with the safety principle first. Let us start by erring on the side of safety, and if we think we have been a little bit too safe—even if you disagree with me—then let us wind it down a bit.’ The amendment before us has been ably put up by Senator Williams, my colleague from Inverell. Being from Inverell, I think he would have a rough idea what it is all about. Being a person who has actually run a business, a person who has actually been a shearer and a person who has actually worked with his hands, I do not know whether Senator Williams would actually get this exemption—because he is not fortunate enough to own a block of land; he is not endowed with quite enough. He will have to stand on the side of the hotel for those who do not get the deduction. Those people are not going to be endowed with this benefit from the government, but others will.

But there is still the capacity now in this chamber for people to think about this and to take on board this amendment put up by Senator Williams and Senator Abetz and to make sure that this amendment is passed. Even though the concept of a luxury car tax, I think, is absolutely ridiculous in the extreme, it is a case of if you are going to be pushed out of a plane then it is better to be pushed out of the plane with a parachute. If people do not do this, then we will get down to the peculiarities of other amendments which start dividing up whole communities.

I would really like to know, at a later stage, if this is rejected: what is the moral position that says a farmer who owns land is a better person than a person who works on a farm who does not own land? I want to know: what is the philosophy, the guiding principle, that says this person, who looks exactly like that person, is entitled to a deduction that that person is not? If you add up the hours of the day that these people—the shearers, the vets, the Australia Post workers, the contract mulesers, contract crutchers, contract markers, and contract musterers—are spending on the land then you will probably find that they are spending far more of their lives on the land than the person who owns the land. Yet one group gets the deduction and one group does not.

It is the obligation of those who propose amendments that suggest that one person is entitled to this amendment and one person is not, to clearly lay down the moral position as to why this is so—why it is that these two groups are different groups of people who need to be differentiated in the way this government approaches them. It is an anachronism that should end up in the Hansard so we can all take it home and explain it to our constituents. I will be honest with you: I will absolutely make hay while the sun shines on this one. I will take this to every corner of my state and hit it around for all it is worth. If there is one thing I have picked up it is that I know what people respond to. It is things like this; this is the sort of thing that results in calls, because it will just annoy the living daylights out of people. It annoys the living daylights out of people when they feel that the government for unnecessary reasons is reaching into their pockets.

Progress reported.