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Monday, 21 May 2012
Page: 4745

Goods and Services Tax

Mr WILKIE (Denison) (14:21): My question is to the Treasurer. In light of the Leader of the Opposition's inconsistent and ambiguous comments regarding Tasmania and GST, do you agree that Tasmania currently receives its fair share of GST and do you promise the GST fiscal equalisation process will not be changed in any way that will see Tasmania's share of GST reduced?

Mr SWAN (LilleyDeputy Prime Minister and Treasurer) (14:21): I thank the member for what is a very important question. Horizontal fiscal equalisation—that is, the method where the stronger states in Australia have supported the smaller, economically-weaker states—has been in place throughout all of our history and used to be a point of bipartisan agreement in Australian politics between the Labor Party on this side and the Liberal Party on that side. It has been there for a very good reason: it is so that we do not end up with those big disparities that you see in countries in Europe, that we all grow together, that we do not grow apart. That is what we have had this in place for over 100 years and it is why we have had bipartisan agreement on it until recently, until this wrecking ball Leader of the Opposition has put his wrecking ball through what has been a long-established method of ensuring that, wherever you lived in Australia, you would get comparable services to anybody else wherever they lived. That is what HFE is all about.

The Leader of the Opposition went down to Tasmania and blew the whistle. He said, 'We're going to cut you adrift.' That is what he said, and all of the other, Tasmanian Liberal members were scattering for the hills. 'He's here! He's here! He's going to cut us adrift!' And then he went to South Australia and did the same, and he got driven out of South Australia as well. The truth is we are having an independent review of the formula, as we should. We said we would do it. We had a request from the Western Australian Premier to do it. That review has produced an interim report. The final report is not too far off. I welcome a very significant debate in this House about how we support all Australians no matter where they live, but the Leader of the Opposition does not. He has wrecked consensus on some of the most basic matters of economics. He is now wrecking consensus on something that goes to the core of the social and economic stability of this country. When we have that report out, it is going to be very interesting to see what all the Liberals from South Australia and all the Liberals from Tasmania do when he tries to fudge his response like he has tried to fudge everything else.