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Wednesday, 9 October 1991
Page: 1557

Mr SNOWDON (-Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Transport and Communications)(4.16 p.m.) —-I would be pleased if the honourable member for Fadden (Mr Jull) and the honourable member for Gippsland (Mr McGauran) came to my electorate and explained the goods and services tax.

Mr Simmons —-And to mine.

Mr SNOWDON —-And the honourable member's. All the Labor backbenchers, especially those in the bush, would love the two honourable members to go to their electorates. They have demonstrated their complete incapacity to understand the issues. Not only that, but they keep saying, `We are going to do this and we are going to do that'. Tell us what the Opposition is going to do. Put it on the table.

Mr McGauran —-Industrial relations tariffs--they are all on the table--fiscal policy, monetary policy.

Mr SNOWDON —-Why does the Opposition not acknowledge the reforms that this Government has made? I will take the honourable member back to what the Treasurer (Mr Kerin) said at Question Time today. He said:

One of the proudest claims of this Government is that we fixed up a tax system which. . . was in disrepair and disrepute. Australia's tax system was an institutionalised and administrative cesspit, and the payment of tax was an optional extra for the spivs and the vipers who were allowed to take decent Australians to the cleaners.

That is what this Government inherited. What did it do to reform the taxation system? The honourable member did not address the issue of reform. He has not spoken about reforming the taxation system that this Government has implemented. He did not mention, for example, that the top personal marginal tax rate in 1983 was 60 per cent and that in 1991 it is 47 per cent. He has not bothered to mention that the bottom personal tax rate in 1983 was 30 per cent and that currently it is 21 per cent. He did not bother to mention that company tax has been reduced from 46 per cent to 39 per cent, and he did not bother to explain why the effective company tax rate in 1983 was 78.4 per cent. The honourable member has not bothered to look.

Let us examine the erroneous propositions that have been put forward in this matter of public importance today. Let us examine the status of taxation in this country compared with that in the OECD. The most recent OECD annual report on revenue statistics shows that in 1989 Australia had the equal second lowest ratio, with the United States of total tax revenue to GDP in the OECD. Since 1985 Australia's ranking has fallen from the sixth lowest. What does that tell those opposite about the tax take in this country? What does that tell them about what this Government is doing about taxation reform? Let us not have these sorts of simplistic assertions which bear no relationship to fact--the fictional diatribe, the rhetoric, that come from the lips of the Opposition.

Let us also examine briefly those reforms that this Government has introduced in the area of taxation. We have introduced the capital gains tax, which the Opposition would abolish. We have introduced fringe benefits tax, which no doubt those opposite would also like to abolish. We have abolished the entertainment expenses, and we have introduced dividend imputation, a resource rent tax, substantiation requirements and foreign income taxation reform.

There has been no comment by the honourable member on those reforms and their impact on the Australian economy, because he does not understand them. No-one in the Opposition has been able to address those issues, save to say by implication, if not explicitly in some cases, that what those opposite are about is shovelling money back into the pockets of the rich, shovelling money into the pockets of the spivs and greasers whom they protected when they were in government in 1983 and in the periods before then. We know what those opposite are about and it is patently obvious to the Australian community.

The Minister for the Arts, Tourism and Territories (Mr Simmons) talked about the impact on the tourism industry. He said that he thought the Opposition had not clearly stated its view on the impact of the consumption tax on the tourism industry.

I have to say that I got a bit of information --I got the nod--from the Leader of the National Party, the honourable member for Farrer (Mr Tim Fischer). He told us all. The Leader of the National Party indicated very clearly on the ABC Country Hour program on 16 August 1990 that a consumption tax would apply to international tourism. He said the tax:

. . . would be broadly based. It even applies to the international tourist visiting restaurants up and down the coast of Australia.

That is what the Opposition wants to do to the tourist industry. Let me just state, as the Minister for Tourism has said, what the tourism industry is saying about this. Of course, the tourism industry does not want it. I might also say there is disarray within the ranks of the conservative parties.

Mr McGauran —-Are you going to quote Terry Metherell?

Mr SNOWDON —-No, I am not. I will quote the Chief Minister of the Northern Territory. The Leader of the Opposition in the Northern Territory Parliament asked the Northern Territory Chief Minister this question on 8 October:

Does he endorse his Minister for Tourism's call for consumption tax exemptions on the international tourist industry and, if so, what is he doing about it?

Let me give his response:

Mr Speaker, I do support the honourable member's call. The principle of a goods and services tax is what we should be taxing people when they pay money out, not when they receive moneys as occurred with the income tax system. . .

Then he says later on:

I support the Minister's call and that of the Australian tourist industry who, I understand, have made representations to the Leader of the Opposition suggesting that tourist packages that are sold overseas or to overseas people visiting Australia should be exempt from tax.

Mr Simmons —-What about domestic tourism?

Mr SNOWDON —-Let us go to the question of domestic tourism, as the Minister suggests. As is implicit in his answer, the Chief Minister of the Northern Territory is concerned about export dollars coming into Australia as a result of a tourism influx from overseas. But what is the Opposition saying about the domestic tourism industry? The domestic tourism industry is an import competing industry because, if one puts up the price of domestic inputs or domestic tourist travel, one is inviting Australia's domestic tourists to travel overseas, thereby taking the money with them. This is important.

What is the Opposition's response to that? It says, `We are going to tax the tourism industry'. Who will that affect? It will affect, as the Minister for Tourism has said, people on the Gold Coast and people in the far north-west of Western Australia, people in Queensland and people in the Northern Territory, including the people where I live, in Alice Springs, who rely heavily on tourism. They will all be affected. It is not a concern to the Opposition. The Leader of the National Party, God bless his soul, has let it be revealed to all that the tourism industry will suffer the full impost of this GST.

Mr McGauran —-You will have to wait.

Mr SNOWDON —-I have to wait. Why does the Opposition not tell us? Why is it not put on the table?

Mr McGauran —-We won't be bullied or dictated to by you.

Mr SNOWDON —-Why do the members of the Opposition not tell us? Why do they not come clean with what they are going to do--that is, screw the people of Australia?

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Hon. J.D.M. Dobie) —-Order! The honourable member for Gippsland and the Minister will cease interjecting.

Mr SNOWDON —-It is about time they came clean and revealed to the people of Australia what they intend to do to them. What are they are saying to them? They are saying they are going to change personal income tax. What are they going to do--introduce a flat tax?

Mr McGauran —-You wait. You will be very impressed.

Mr SNOWDON —-What we know is that the Northern Territory Chief Minister and the Northern Territory Minister for Tourism have both said that they oppose the Opposition's impost of a GST on the tourism industry as it affects international tourism. But those poor dummies have yet to realise that a tax on domestic tourism is an impost on an import competing industry. It is not important to the Opposition. The Chief Minister of the Northern Territory is not smart enough to realise what has happened. Nor, I might say, is the Minister for Tourism.

But people should not worry; it gets worse. The bloke who has been referred to by my senatorial colleague as a `drop-kick', the bloke who, as a CLP candidate, is opposing me in the next Federal election, has come out supporting in the strongest possible way the imposition of a goods and services tax on the tourism industry. We have the Leader of the National Party saying there will be a goods and services tax on the tourism industry, and that is opposed by the Northern Territory Chief Minister and the Minister for Tourism in the Northern Territory, yet supported by the CLP candidate for the House of Representatives. What is there to say about that, brother?

Mr Duffy —-What about Wilsons Promontory in the electorate of the honourable member for Gippsland?

Mr SNOWDON —-Yes, of course. I have to say it is no wonder they have problems with this `drop-kick', as my senatorial colleague referred to him.

Mr McGauran —-You are not talking about me?

Mr SNOWDON —-The honourable member is it. I have to say that when this matter was raised in the Northern Territory it was very clear that everyone, including the people in the tourism industry, could see what the impact would be on that industry. The industry could see it was going to be devastating because, as the honourable gentleman should know, and I hope he does, the Northern Territory is the mecca for international tourists in this country, as it ought to be. I live at the centre of the tourism universe in Australia, Alice Springs. It will be detrimentally affected by this stupid imposition of a goods and services tax on the tourism industry. (Time expired)

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Hon. J.D.M. Dobie) —-The time for discussion of this matter is concluded.