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Wednesday, 28 June 2000
Page: 18497

Ms ELLIS (6:26 PM) —This is quite an amazing debate in which to be participating because the issues that we are raising here today, the important issues we are discussing, are not new. Many of the speakers before me have paid attention to that and I want to reiterate that point. We on this side of the House have been raising the inequity of these decisions affecting long-term tenants of caravan parks and boarding houses due to the effect of the GST. We have been raising these issues for 18 months or more and, I have to say quite sadly, have been ridiculed badly by the people opposite for all of that time. We have been labelled as scaremongering and frightening the poor people in the community when, in actual fact, what we have been doing is highlighting the very problem that we are talking about here today. So much for that ridicule. The government now believes, apparently, that the issue is of some significance; it really has come to the point where the bill that it has brought to the House is a result of the concern that we have all been claiming and speaking about for all of those 18 months. I want to take the time to pay tribute to our shadow minister, the member for Lilley, and also to the member for Grayndler, who have tenaciously shown their belief in this issue for so many months despite the accusations from the opposite side of the parliament that they were doing nothing more than stirring up the scaremongering storm.

What a situation you have with the new tax system. A piece of legislation comes into this place, is voted on, the tax system legislation has enormous implications for many, many people throughout our community—in fact the overwhelming majority of people are going to feel the implications of this new tax system—we go ahead and point out the inequities in that new tax system, a report is commissioned by the government—after all the legislation has been passed—to see whether in fact there may be a problem and when that report is received the findings are kept under wraps. This is after everybody has been told, as the government say, `Trust us—we're the government. We are here to help you. We have a new wonderful tax system that everybody is going to think is the best thing ever, not just better than sliced bread but better than anything, and it is all going to be okay.' Then, of course, we saw the commissioned report—the report having come out and been held under wraps—and what does it say? It actually says that the projections by the government in relation to the effect of GST on rents, particularly those of caravan park tenants and those in boarding houses, and all that we have been saying is not quite true; the report says it is going to be worse than what we have been saying. The reality that we are facing here is that the government continually call for all of us to have regard for the national interest. They say it may be problematic for some people in the community, that the impact may have a slightly detrimental effect on them, but really the national interest is so big and so important that they should not worry about the detail.

We have seen confusion over food. We have seen the cost of schooling question. We have seen the cost of the large list of health products that are going to be affected. We have seen the fiasco about petrol in the last few weeks. We know very well the problems that are going to occur in the private rental market. We have seen confusion throughout so many levels of our community, and yet we are told again and again, `Don't worry about the detail; the national interest is what is important.' The government and the Prime Minister simply have to understand that the detail does matter. It does matter to the tenant or the person in a boarding house. It does matter to the family that is attempting to maintain sporting activities for the kids outside school. It does matter to the small business person who is attempting to continue to survive against the amazing tide of paperwork and bureaucracy associated with this so-called simpler tax system. And it matters incredibly to the people who have set up their homes in a caravan park as permanent long-term residents. The detail does matter. It is wrong for the Prime Minister to say to individuals in our community, `Put that aside and think about the national interest,' when, as the Leader of the Opposition very clearly pointed out today, we are yet to see proof that the national interest will be enhanced by this whole new tax system. I find it quite sad and I am concerned for the future when I hear that the detail is an irrelevancy to the individuals we all represent. We represent these people, and it does matter to them.

In moving against this bill today, we have been accused of voting against the very people that we are supposedly helping. That is just vacuous nonsense. We have been defending those people; for months and months, in the middle of ridicule and accusations of scaremongering, we have been pointing out the inequities and the basic unfairness that the tax system is going to impose on them. You cannot say that because we are standing up here today we are somehow being hypocritical about our position and that we are not defending the people affected by this bill. This bill is an insult to those who are going to be affected by the imposition of the GST on their lifestyle in a long-term caravan park or in a boarding house, and I find it an insult to be told that for some reason I am moving against those very people today.

Taking the risk of sounding quite cynical, I believe that this is all being done because of a sudden focus on this issue. The National Party conference a few short weeks ago gave the government its first opportunity to see without its bifocals. It has seen the reality; it has seen that this may be a problem. Members of the coalition partner party stood up at their national conference and said that they simply must address this problem. The cynic in me says, `Maybe all that we've said is still being disregarded. This issue is only now being attended to because of political expediency.' The government thinks, `We've got to somehow calm down the nervous Nellies on our back bench and in our coalition partner party to somehow get through the next few weeks of the GST.' I stand very strongly by the comments that we have been making. I stand very strongly by the amendments we are moving to this bill.

I represent the electorate of Canberra. Some people may not realise that I have a number of constituents who live in long-term caravan parks, albeit a smaller number than in other areas. The Canberra South Motor Park is one place that comes to mind. I have spoken to those people in recent weeks and months, and I know how they feel. Even though they may be smaller in number than the 11,000, 14,000 or 6,000 residents in other members' electorates, they are no less important. I have concern for them, and today I have the opportunity to represent them here, to stand up and say on their behalf, `Enough is enough.' The government is bringing down a piece of legislation which is going to give basically no financial recompense to these people. I think a single person sharing the rent will get 11c a day. This rent assistance will only help in a minuscule way. You could count the amount of money that is going to be of assistance to some of these people in cent pieces if they still existed. I very strongly support our amendment. I maintain my rage on behalf of my constituents and all others affected by this government's decision to continue blindly down the path of the GST the way they have done. For the sake of the people we represent, I hope that the government sees more clearly without its bifocals and that it suddenly starts to realise the reality of the impact of its deeds.