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Thursday, 21 August 2003
Page: 19217

Mr FARMER (2:17 PM) —Mr Speaker, my question is addressed to the Treasurer. Would the Treasurer please advise the House of tax initiatives aimed at increasing trade and investment and jobs in Australia? Are there any alternative policy approaches which may benefit the people of Macarthur and, indeed, all Australians?

Mr COSTELLO (Treasurer) —I thank the honourable member for Macarthur for his question and for the work that he does for the people of Macarthur. It is good to have good representation out there in the western suburbs of Sydney from a good member. Today I signed, with the British High Commissioner, Sir Alastair Goodlad, a new Australia-United Kingdom double taxation treaty. This follows on from the successful renegotiation of the Australia-United States double taxation agreement. It acts according to the recommendation that was given to the government by the Ralph Review of Business Taxation to modernise our tax treatment network. It reduces withholding taxes on interest, royalties and dividends. It gives Australian businesses that are expanding overseas a better opportunity to grow their markets—to find new markets and new profit centres so that they can bring income back to Australia. It will also help British companies that want to come and invest here in Australia—Britain being the second largest investor in Australia. We have to recognise that in the modern world, as our companies want to go and become world size, we have to give them a fair go out there growing job opportunities for Australians. I commend the Australia-UK double tax agreement to the parliament and to the Joint Committee of Public Accounts and Audit—I know the member for Curtin, as chair of the committee, will be looking at it shortly—for their consideration.

This is part of this government's proposals to cut tax, to reduce tax on business and to create jobs. What is the benefit of a successful business sector in this country? It is this: since the government has been elected, one million new jobs have been created in the Australian economy. You cannot create new jobs without having successful businesses. There is no employee without an employer. Unless you have a business that can make a profit, there is not a person who can actually offer a job—and we want to offer jobs to people in Macarthur and elsewhere.

One thing we know of the Labor Party, of course, is the Labor Party wants taxes in this country to be higher. I have remarked already on the ominous silence we get when we raise the question of stamp duty in this parliament—not a whimper over stamp duty from the Australian Labor Party. I have alerted the House to the heinous campaign of the ACTU, which is complaining that tax is too low in this country and that we are the sixth lowest-taxing country in the OECD. I have alerted the House to the fact that they want to put up a Medicare surcharge. But do you know that the Australian Labor Party has announced a tax increase of $470 million on the mining sector in Australia? That is an increase of 2c a litre on every mining company that operates in Australia. So who is going to lose out? Those people who work in mining companies—the kinds of people that the Labor Party used to pretend it looked after: people who were miners, who went down the mines and wanted to know that they had a job at the end of the day. And yet we find the federal Labor Party is proposing to increase tax in this country. What does the member for Hunter say about that? The Hunter used to be a proud mining area. We say to the miners of the Hunter, `This member no longer represents you.' He does not represent the miners of the Hunter anymore—$470 million in diesel fuel rebates.

Mr Speaker, I can inform the House that not all Labor is as stupid as federal Labor. The mining minister in the Tasmanian government was asked today about how his concern for the mining industry sits with federal Labor's policy to reduce the diesel fuel rebate by 10 per cent. In the Tasmanian parliament today, Mr Lennon said—and I commend him to his comrades, the minister for mining down in Tasmania:

On the issue of the Diesel Fuel Rebate let there be no doubt at all the Tasmanian government does not support the position being advanced by Federal Labor on this issue.

One-nil Tasmanian Labor over federal Labor.