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Wednesday, 1 November 2000
Page: 21853

Ms GAMBARO (2:33 PM) —My question is addressed to the Minister for Financial Services and Regulation. Would the minister inform the House of any reports concerning the possibility of rising prices of particular goods and services as a result of the new tax system? Can the minister tell the House how these prices actually performed after the introduction of the new tax system?

Mr HOCKEY (Minister for Financial Services and Regulation) —I thank the member for Petrie, who has a keen interest in these matters. The ACCC released a very comprehensive review of the price impact of the new tax system. That involved the collection of data from around 10,000 retail outlets in 115 cities across Australia, including 90 towns in regional Australia. The important part of the survey is that it covers the period from May this year to August this year. It covers a very important period, obviously, during the introduction of the new tax system. It is a comprehensive survey and I took the opportunity before question time to check out whether the Labor Party had done any surveys of prices during that period.

The most comprehensive survey that the Labor Party did—this is, of course, apart from the contribution of the member for Melbourne—was the Lilley price watch, which everyone might remember. I went to the site and there was comprehensive data from August last year, October last year, November last year, December last year, February this year, March this year and April this year—and then it stopped. I thought there might have been something wrong with the mouse or something wrong with the Internet—but, no, it seemed pretty comprehensive. I would table the survey but it says `copyright Wayne Swan 2000'; it cannot be reproduced without the express approval of the author. I can only presume that all the surveyors had gone off to the electoral inquiry in Queensland, so he did not have anyone to get any data that could have been useful to the Labor Party. If it was not that, I ask the question: why did the Labor Party stop surveying prices after April? Might it be related to the fact that the prices did not match up to their rhetoric? Might it be that they lied to the Australian people about the GST before 1 July? Could it be that roll-back ate up the Lilley price watch? We can only speculate.

What became clear when we did a little bit more research was that the rhetoric of the Labor Party did not match reality. Funny that, isn't it? The words of the Labor Party before 1 July did not actually match what happened after 1 July. There was a very obvious case in relation to car prices. I went back over some words. The member for Kingston told radio 5DN in December last year that `people have been told erroneously that the prices of new vehicles'—after July 1 next year—will fall `by several thousand dollars'. Erroneously! The member for Fraser said in a press release on 8 May that it was a myth that cars would be cheaper under the GST. He said it was simply not true that cars would be cheaper after the introduction of the GST. The comprehensive reports from the ACCC state that, in relation to cars, `There has been a general price cut of six per cent for new cars' since the introduction of the GST. I think it is about time the Labor Party apologised to Australian consumers for all its rhetoric and all its scaremongering before 1 July. We wait to hear the details of roll-back.