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Tuesday, 26 May 1987
Page: 3342

Mr IAN CAMERON(8.00) —I am pleased to resume the debate after the dinner break. This Sales Tax Laws Amendment Bill represents another horrific increase in taxation that this Labor Government has brought upon us. The Government seems intent on having an early election. I note that the Minister for Sport, Recreation and Tourism (Mr Brown) has just arrived-and just in time, because otherwise we would have called for a quorum. I challenge the Prime Minister (Mr Hawke)-in the House today he threatened to call an early election-to take us to the polls, and the sooner the better. The people can decide who should be governing this country, whether it be the high tax party-the Labor Party-or the National Party and the Liberal Party, which are prepared to reduce taxation and government involvement in private enterprise in this country. They are prepared to smash taxes and get Australia back on the rails, to get it going again.

I know that the Minister for Sport, Recreation and Tourism is doing a good job in tourism; he is the sort of person who would support these sorts of ideas. But what do we we see? We see this Government introducing new taxation measures that will affect people who wish to bring into the country a few little duty free goods when they return from overseas trips. Once in a lifetime they go overseas. They save up for 30 years, they travel overseas, and they want to do a bit of shopping. But what do we see the Labor Government introducing? It is imposing higher duties on the average Australian. People want to get into a jumbo jet and do a bit of touring, but what do we see? When they come back, they can bring in goods to the value of only $400. What would $400 buy? It would not buy one transistor radio at today's prices. What a disgrace! The limit has been reduced from $1,000 to $400.

Australia Post, Telecom Australia, Aussat Pty Ltd, Qantas Airways Ltd, the Australian Wool Corporation, the Australian Honey Board, the Australian Meat and Livestock Corporation, the Australian Wheat Board, the Australian Tobacco Board and the Australian Wine and Brandy Corporation-all these government instrumentalities will now have to pay sales tax. Is it not ludicrous that governments impose sales tax on their own corporations? That is the ridiculous situation that this Government has got us into. The Government is indirectly collecting taxes through its own corporations. The Government puts out its tentacles into the community to raise taxes. Telecom and Australia Post are two of the instrumentalities that will be hit hardest.

In addition, there will be an increase in duty on the importation of goods by tourists coming into Australia. I point out that there are actually no duty free shops in Australia, because it is not duty that we pay on goods but sales tax. It is high time that both sides considered changing the names of those shops. I often question so-called duty free shop proprietors about the fact that no duty is paid and that they receive an exemption from sales tax. It is interesting to see that the only member of the Government in the House at present is the Minister for Sport, Recreation and Tourism, who is sitting at his desk.

Mr McGauran —There are no others.

Mr IAN CAMERON —No other Labor member is prepared to come into the House and support this new taxation measure that the Government has introduced, yet those opposite want us to campaign and to go to the polls. Not one member opposite is in here supporting this measure. It is absolutely ridiculous!

I also wish to offer some praise. On Sunday I was fortunate enough to attend with my family an open day at the new Brisbane Airport. I must say that the planners, the workers and those involved in building that enormous structure should be congratulated. I suggest that the Brisbane international airport be moved to the new domestic terminal, because there will be plenty of room at one end to operate the international terminal for, I foresee, at least the next 20 years. The airport is a huge building and will cater for many years for the domestic needs of people in and around Brisbane.

Mr Gear —That is because the Minister--

Mr IAN CAMERON —I am not saying it was the Minister; the airport was started under the Fraser Government. I do not know for how long this Government has been in office. The airport took seven or eight years to build, so obviously it was the Liberal-National Party Government that decided that Brisbane needed a new airport. Brisbane needed something better than the igloos that are presently there. We have been pushing for a new international--

Madam SPEAKER —Order! I am reluctant to interrupt the honourable member, but I bring him back to the Sales Tax Laws Amendment Bill. I cannot find a reference to the Brisbane Airport in that Bill.

Mr IAN CAMERON —I agree with your ruling, Madam Speaker, but I point out that the Bill covers the duty on goods that are brought into Australia through international airports.

Madam SPEAKER —It is a long bow that the honourable member is drawing from duty on goods to Brisbane Airport.

Mr IAN CAMERON —Madam Speaker, you know that I always draw a long bow, but I usually hit the target, and that is the important thing to remember. One must have a strong right arm. As long as the bow comes back and one hits the target in the end, that is the main thing. I am pretty good at getting the numbers.

Madam SPEAKER —The Chair would not like to have to consider a point of order on the grounds of irrelevancy.

Mr IAN CAMERON —Madam Speaker, I will continue by referring to Telecom. This Government has imposed more horrendous indirect taxes on Telecom. The Government is continuing to use the corporations that have been established over many years. Once upon a time Australia Post and the telecommunications service of this country were paid for entirely from Consolidated Revenue. Since then all these corporations--

Mr Gear —Do you want to go back to that?

Mr IAN CAMERON —Yes, I would like to, because we paid an awful lot less tax in those days than we pay at present. With taxes at about 25 or 28 per cent of gross domestic product-and that is now up to 45 per cent-we could finance those bodies 100 per cent from Consolidated Revenue. We now see the Government using corporations that have been established for a number of years-Telecom, Australia Post and all the other corporations to which I have referred-to raise more income. I must say that the so-called May mini-Budget was an absolute farce, because it represents nothing but an approximate $3.5 billion increase in taxation. We have seen the State Premiers, after the Premiers Conference on Monday, return to their respective States to raise another $1 billion.

Mr Hand —What is Bjelke-Joh doing?

Mr IAN CAMERON —He will have to do the same thing; the honourable member should not worry about that. He will have to go back and raise taxes in Queensland because of the policies that this Government in Canberra is imposing. That is what the Premiers have to do; it applies not only to Sir Joh but to every Labor State. How honourable members opposite think they can go to an election in July and win is beyond my thinking. They will not do it, because the States will have to turn around and collect another $1 billion in tax because of the mismanagement of the economy.

Honourable members opposite say that this Bill, which represents part of the May statement, will reduce the deficit by $4 billion. That is a lot of hogwash! It will not do that at all. These Bills represent new taxes totalling approximately half a billion dollars, which all Australians will have to pay. I am here to represent the electors of Maranoa and to express the concerns of my constituents and of many other electors from districts such as Farrer, Gippsland and other rural areas that still have not been provided with STD telephones. The Government has increased Telecom's taxation by $81m; loan repayments that Telecom must make to the Government have been increased by $81m. Sales tax will be applied to a level of $360m. Telecom will have to increase its charges for telephone calls and rents. Even worse, it has to cut back on its capital expenditure. These are the areas which affect electorates such as Maranoa in Queensland, where an STD program is in operation, but where many people do not have any telephone at all. Yet this Government has seen fit to impose charges which will restrict the capital works of Telecom Australia. It will have to go out and borrow more funds in order to keep this program going. Even the Treasurer (Mr Keating) has told Telecom that it cannot do this and that its borrowings will be restricted. Of course, the STD program has been decreased quite markedly. Although the present program will continue, the completion time for the new program, which both governments promised would be completed by 1990, when everybody would have an STD telephone, has been extended by this Government. I think that that is a disgrace.

The telephones are a matter on which I would like the Government to go to the polls. If it thinks that it can defer this program for two, three or four years, it has no hope of winning Maranoa. I do not care when those opposite go to the polls; they have no hope of winning Maranoa. How could the Government win at the next election when, having made promises to the people in relation to the telecommunications system of Australia, which is operated by a monopoly, the people now find that they have to wait another two, three or four years to get an STD telephone? I believe that that is a disgrace.

Telecom is doing a good job in my electorate. It has STD in certain areas such as the Bungunya and Talwood areas, which recently received the service. The first digital concentrator program opened in the northern end of my electorate around Springsure. Those telephones are working very well and I believe that Telecom should be congratulated. The digital concentrator system, which was developed in Australia, is a very good system and is being manufactured and exported to other parts of the world. On the whole, I think that Telecom does an excellent job. Obviously, there is room for improvement in some areas and it is the intention of the National Party of Australia to put out to contract some of the cable laying and other work performed by Telecom. I do not think that it hurts to privatise some of the sectors.

Mr Cobb —A bit of competition.

Mr IAN CAMERON —A bit of competition. Telecom is now one of the biggest employers of personnel in Australia. I suppose that Telecom and Broken Hill Proprietary Co. Ltd would rank on the same level. In 1975 a three-minute call from Brisbane to Melbourne cost $2.70 and in 1987 that same three-minute call from Brisbane to Melbourne cost $1.80. I think that is a very good indication of how Telecom has managed to keep its costs under control. Government, and in particular this Government, is using Telecom as a tentacle for increased taxes in this country. This year the Australian Labor Party intends to raise $1 billion from Telecom through taxation. This will be achieved by the sorts of measures that I have mentioned. In addition Telecom has to pay the Government $600m in interest on loans, and other changes in the mini-Budget or May economic statement raise the figure the Government will receive from Telecom to $1 billion.

These are the sorts of indirect tax measures which this Government continues to impose. It is the highest taxing and highest borrowing government that this nation has ever seen. It is beyond my imagination how it thinks that it can go to the polls in July and win. I believe that when it goes to the polls-we would welcome an election, and the sooner the better-it will be defeated. There is no way that it will win the coming election. If it continues to impose the sort of taxes which are contained in this legislation it will lose.