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Thursday, 17 February 2000
Page: 13777

Mr BEAZLEY (Leader of the Opposition) (2:07 PM) —Apropos the question that was just asked of the Prime Minister, is it not a fact that you simply intend to use the GST and rolling it forward to eliminate Commonwealth responsibilities for special purpose payments? Isn't that why the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance and Administration, in debate a couple of days ago said this, and are you aware of it:

Of course you need a reduction in specific purpose payments and there will be a removal of Commonwealth funding of some health, some education and community services because we are passing the GST revenue through to the states.

So under your proposition is it not the case that the states get the GST money and then you rip it right off them in their special purpose payments? Who's the hypocrite now?

Mr SPEAKER —Before I call the Prime Minister, I point out to the Leader of the Opposition that I was in fact denied the latter part of the question. I trust it was in order, because he was not directing it to me. I call the Prime Minister.

Mr HOWARD (Prime Minister) —Mr Speaker, that little—what should I call it?—question or outburst or explosion might have had a scintilla of credibility if the person who was responsible for the outburst had not unfortunately predicted on 16 June 1999, when being interviewed by Geoff Parry, that in fact the GST was not going to raise as much revenue as we were suggesting. You cannot have it both ways. In that question you cannot run around and say that it is not, and then start suggesting that it will not raise as much revenue. What he was alleging when he was interviewed by Geoff Parry was that we would be suggesting that the states could keep the indirect taxes that are going to be abolished with the proceeds of the GST. You cannot have it both ways. You cannot allege in June 1999 that it is not going to raise as much money as you have predicted and then allege in February of the year 2000 that it is going to raise so much more money that we are going to use that as an excuse to cut back funding in other areas.

We have an intergovernmental agreement in relation to specific purpose payments. This is something the Leader of the Opposition cannot escape from, and his frontbench know it. His frontbench are already unnerved by this campaign being run by him and the Deputy Leader of the Opposition. They are going around to every interest group that has got a complaint and saying, `If you vote for us, we will roll the tax back.' Every time they ask a question in this House on behalf of an interest group, they are really saying in code to that interest group, `If you vote Labor, we will take the tax off the thing that you have complained about.' In the end there is some accountability on taxation reform. We have been honest enough to say to the Australian people that this country needs taxation reform. We have fought an election on taxation reform and this taxation reform is going to give to the states of Australia the highest level for increasing provision for education, health and police that this country has ever seen. Every time the Leader of the Opposition talks about rolling something back or exempting something, what he is really doing is blowing a hole in funding for government schools, for government hospitals, for police services and all the other services that have to be provided by the states.

The good news for those states is that Lindsay Tanner, Michael Lee, Wayne Swanthe virtuous trio on this issueand all the other people have blown the whistle on this attempt by the Leader of the Opposition and the Deputy Leader of the Opposition to blow away the greatest thing that any federal government has done for the finances of the Australian states since the end of World War II. We intend to remind the Australian people and the states of this great deal in the months that lie ahead in this very interesting debate.