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Monday, 22 September 2008
Page: 5267

Senator BOSWELL (8:30 PM) —The Tax Laws Amendment (Luxury Car Tax) Bill 2008 is a very important bill for the National Party. It is one that I do not believe that the government or the Independents have really thought hard about—what it is going to achieve. Senator Fielding has moved amendments that would exclude farmers and tourism operators from the increased tax, but he has overlooked the fact that there are many, many other people in rural Australia who find four-wheel drives not a luxury but an absolute necessity when living out in remote areas. I suggest to you, Senator Fielding, that some of the people you may have forgotten are people in Aboriginal communities, who always use four-wheel drives. If you ever go to the communities, you will be met at the airport by a Toyota or a Nissan or another four-wheel drive.

Over the weekend I received a letter from the boating industry, saying:

Like farmers and tourist operators, boat manufacturers and distributors rely on the use of large four-wheel drives in the course of their day-to-day operations in order to tow boats in accordance with the law on towing ratios—e.g. a 3.5-tonne boat must be towed by a Toyota LandCruiser or a vehicle of equal power. These vehicles cost in excess of $57,000. There are 1500 boating industry association members across the nation who will be affected by the luxury car tax …

They go on to say:

There are 850,000 registered boats in Australia that are towable.

All these people are going to be hit by the increased sales tax. Then, if you look at the caravan industry, there are similar problems there. Four-wheel drive vehicles are absolutely essential to carrying on the business of caravan and boat distributors. So, although I appreciate the exemption amendment that Senator Fielding has moved, it is not only farmers and tourism operators. There are many, many other people in the western areas that have to have a four-wheel drive to actually live in those areas.

Some time ago, when the Labor Party was previously in power, the National Party experienced a series of car accidents involving its members. Unfortunately, the wives of two National Party members were killed in car accidents in the west: Bruce Cowan’s wife and Noel Hicks’s wife. Tim Fischer, the former Deputy Prime Minister, had a car accident in which two people were killed. John Anderson’s wife rolled a car seven times and was very fortunate to be able to get out with their children. The then Labor Party realised that if you were going to travel out west and do great distances on poor roads then it was essential to be in a car of some substance. That is why the then Labor Party, to their credit, offered people with vast electorates a four-wheel-drive vehicle. They did it not because they thought it would be flash for members of parliament to drive four-wheel drives but because it was absolutely essential that those members had the type of car that would give them some protection.

I say to the Labor Party: if it was good enough for members of parliament to have this allowance for four-wheel drives over $57,000 then why isn’t it for doctors, nurses, stock and station agents, contractors and wheat harvesters, for example, who all use four-wheel drives to travel vast distances? Why are they excluded? Why are they excluded from a safety measure? Those people do not use these cars because they want to be flash or just to have a four-wheel-drive vehicle; they use them because there is no other way that they can safely travel such areas. So I cannot see why the Labor government, after making a declaration that some members of parliament needed four-wheel drives to get around their electorates, would exclude other people who need these four-wheel drives as much as those members of parliament.

There are so many people out there that do require these four-wheel drives for safety reasons—and we are going to exclude them with this bill. We are going to put a tax of 33 per cent on $57,000 cars. They are not flash cars, but once you have to add a bullbar and a few other extras to them they will come in at over $90,000. I just think it is essential that these people who live out in the western areas are not deprived of such vehicles. Their needs are as great as the farmers’; their needs are as great as the tourism industry’s.

For the life of me I cannot see why Senator Bob Brown cannot see that. I cannot see why he would persecute people in the western areas when he, in his amendments, has excluded Audis, Alfa Romeos, BMWs, Jaguars and Saabs. These are flash, expensive cars. They do not offer any protection for people who live in remote areas. How can the Greens, who are always appealing for pensioners and others who are in need, exclude Audis, Alfa Romeos, BMWs, Jaguars and Saabs? It sends out the absolute wrong message.

The Greens do not add the extra tax to those cars and yet they add a 33 per cent tax on the workhorse of Australia—the four-wheel drives used by people such as the kangaroo shooters, Aboriginal communities and other people out west who must have these cars. I suspect the Flying Doctor Service would have four-wheel drives—they certainly have four-wheel drives but I wonder if they too pay taxes on them. These are the people you are picking up. These are the needy people that you should be helping, not the BMW, Audi and Alfa Romeo drivers. I never see them out there. In towns like Longreach or Roma or west of that, Audis and BMWs are probably there but I do not recall ever seeing them. But lined up in the streets are the Nissan Patrols and the Toyotas—car after car—and they do not all belong to farmers or graziers. They belong to the people who live there, whether it be the local hardware store owner, the local stock and station agent or the butcher. They have got to have those cars. Why are we discriminating against those people? Why are the Greens discriminating against Aborigines, the Flying Doctor Service and the councils—although I do not think the councils pay tax, but I am not sure of that? All those people use those cars.

There is another reason why this increased tax should not be applied to the cars priced around $57,000. We read in the paper, time and time again, how the car industry in Australia is battling. It is being hit by cheap imports flooding into Australia. It has got to the stage now that the car industry is very, very shaky. And now we are going to increase the tax on 11,000—or 10 to 12 per cent—of the cars that are made in Australia. That will make them less competitive, it will make them harder to sell and it will cost jobs, particularly in the car industry. While we are losing jobs in the Australian car industry, we are giving a tick to the Alfa Romeos, the Audis, the Jaguars and the BMWs.

The Greens are not noted for their support for the big end of town. They say that they represent the people from the small end of town. I ask Senator Brown why he is protecting the big end of town—the millionaires who have $300,000 cars—when the people who make the Australian cars are holding on by their fingernails.

We are debating the 11,000 Australian-made cars that are going to have an increased tax on them. And I do not know why Senator Milne, who is also a battler for the smaller person, would support the millionaires with the Audis and Alfas. They drive cars worth $300,000, and you are supporting them, Senator Milne. But you are not supporting the people who are making Australian cars, who are being hit very hard by imports. I fail to understand why this is the case.

The National Party, through Senator Williams, is going to move an amendment for cars over $90,000, which is about where the average Land Rover or Nissan Patrol, with a few add-ons such as bull bars and things like that, is priced. We are not trying to protect multimillion dollar cars. We will vote against this legislation, but we are not trying to protect the cars that are very expensive. We are saying to the Senate, ‘For goodness sake, we have a problem with the car industry in Australia.’ We need an Australian car industry and the last thing we need is an increased tax on the Australian car industry, which employs so many workers in Adelaide and Victoria, with a flow-on effect to the accessory and parts manufacturers. This is crazy stuff. I do not know why the Labor Party would have done it. On one hand they try to do some social engineering on the car industry by giving grants to Toyota for a hybrid car and on the other hand they are trying to pull the rug out from under the car industry. They are giving with one hand and taking away with the other.

The result of that is that they are depriving rural and regional Australia of its workhorse. No-one seems to realise that. Through you, Mr Acting Deputy President, I would like to know by what rationale Senator Brown can reduce the tax on the millionaire type car but ping the battlers in rural and regional Australia. If he has any explanation, I would be very glad to hear it.

Senator Bob Brown —Now?

Senator BOSWELL —You will have your chance after, Senator Brown. If you can turn that pig’s ear into a silk purse, I will be very surprised. If you cannot explain your way out of it, no-one can explain their way out of it.

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Marshall)—Senator Boswell, please address your remarks through the chair.

Senator BOSWELL —I am being challenged, Mr Acting Deputy President.

Senator Barnett —Baited.

Senator BOSWELL —I am being baited and challenged. We all remember Senator George Campbell. He came down here breathing fire and brimstone—he was going to do everything. But he was not tough enough, as Senator Barnaby Joyce has said; he went soft. So they sent Senator Doug Cameron down, and wasn’t he going to play merry hell! Wasn’t he going to stir the Senate up! Wasn’t he going to come in here and protect the car workers! Well, he has been like a damp squib. He has not even raised his voice. I say to Senator Doug Cameron: the Senate will find you out. You cannot run; you cannot hide. In the end, the Senate finds you out—and it has not taken very long for the Senate to find Senator Doug Cameron out. I do not know whether he said anything in caucus; I do not know whether he stood up for the car industry, but he certainly has not stood up in this public place. He has been like a damp squib.

As Senator Joyce pointed out, Senator Cameron is on the Left. The Left do not get much of a say—they get a bit of a bone thrown at them on social issues, to do a bit of social engineering here and there. But the Right have command of all of the big issues. Senator Doug Cameron ought to think about either changing his faction or standing up in the Senate.

I cannot understand this. To me it is just a no-brainer. The government made a decision 10 or 12 years ago—probably 13 years ago—that four-wheel drives were essential for members of parliament. Every member of parliament with a big electorate drives one, because he has to, whether he be Labor, National Party or Liberal. So, if it is good enough for members of parliament, why isn’t it good enough for every other citizen? If we say members of parliament have to have four-wheel drives because it is dangerous without one and people are being killed, what is the difference? Why should we be a different class from the rest of the people who live out in rural and regional Australia?

If Senator Brown can explain to me why the Audis and the big end of town—the $300,000 cars—should have a reduced amount of sales tax and the workhorses should get pinged, I would be very interested to hear about it. I am sure the people in rural and regional Australia—and there are a few of them who vote out there; a few misguided teachers and so forth—

Senator Bob Brown —This will put the taxes you’re defending into rural schools and hospitals. You’re not going to have the money for that.

Senator BOSWELL —We will look after the rural schools and hospitals. Just let us protect the people’s lives and their families’ lives and their kids’ lives when they are driving to school on these rough roads. You are depriving those people of safety and I find it very difficult to understand. I find it difficult to understand the Labor Party’s position on this social issue—or on the economic issue. This will destroy jobs in the car industry, which is doing it really tough at the moment.