Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
 Download Current HansardDownload Current Hansard    View Or Save XMLView/Save XML

Previous Fragment    Next Fragment
Wednesday, 16 February 2000
Page: 11880

Senator FERGUSON (3:10 PM) —The subjects the opposition choose to take note of answers on never cease to amaze me. Yesterday I was quite surprised by the issue Senator Faulkner raised. Today we have Senator O'Brien raising the issue of the GST. Yesterday the opposition were flat out on the National Textiles case with question after question. Today there is not one. National Textiles and all the issues that were raised yesterday have been blown out of the water in one day. Today it is the GST. Senator O'Brien raises the issue of the GST as it relates to farmers. Senator O'Brien, I do not know how big your farm is or how much experience you have had with people who are involved in the farming industry, but let me tell you that the National Farmers Federation fully endorses the GST package that was put in place by this government. It has been shown, not by our figures but by the research and modelling of the National Farmers Federation, that the average farmer in Australia is going to be something like $6,000 or $7,000 a year better off under the GST tax reform proposals than they are under the current wholesale sales tax system.

Senator O'Brien raised the issue that they will have to pay the GST up front but of course they will get it back later. Let me tell you that, in the package that is being brought forward, most of the farmers that I know actually get their income not on a slow, week by week basis but in bulk at any one time—for instance, at harvest time for grain or when wool or any other commodity is sold. In fact, there is a tremendous benefit for them under the GST system because they will be collecting GST under that system, and most of the people in my own area receive their harvest payments in early January and will not have to refund the GST that they have collected until 21 April in that same quarter. They have the advantage of having this extra money that they can use during that three-month period, and it more than offsets any GST that they would have paid on inputs.

If Senator O'Brien wants to come here and represent the views of farmers and those who are involved in primary industries throughout Australia and talk about the effect that the GST is going to have on their enterprises, their income and their cost of production, he needs to go back to the National Farmers Federation and say, `Do you still support the whole program? Do you still support the GST package in total?' They do, Senator O'Brien. The one thing that the primary producers of Australia have to fear is having a Labor government. We had the Leader of the Opposition, Mr Beazley, saying on 8 February that, when Labor get into government, they will start rolling back the GST. I think that, if we started talking about rolling back the GST, farmers would really have to worry about what would be left of the tax reform process which has been put in place and which they support wholeheartedly and have supported wholeheartedly since it was first mooted back in 1993. As a matter of fact, if you want to choose the greatest supporters, you choose farmers—you choose people who sell cattle and you choose people who are involved in all primary industries. They are the very people who, over that whole period of time, have been the strongest supporters of tax reform because, as you know, Senator O'Brien, many of them are involved in exports. For the exporters of this country, the taking away of the burden of the wholesale sales tax system is going to make life much easier. It is going to make it possible for them to make larger profits than they have in the past under the old system with wholesale sales tax.

The only thing the farming community has to fear is the election of a Labor government which might start to roll back the GST, although in earlier days Mr Beazley did say that the simple fact of the matter is that business will have spent millions putting this tax into place and getting systems to conform with it. So, even though they could not turn back the clock and reinstate any other form of taxation system, they are now starting to talk about rolling it back. If a Labor government were to roll back the GST system, I would be very interested to see just where it would get the revenue to replace that which it would lose in the roll back.