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Wednesday, 5 April 2000
Page: 15337


Mr BAIRD (7:25 PM) —I rise tonight to support A New Tax System (Trade Practices Amendment) Bill 2000. What a sorry row of opposition comments we have had tonight. The member for Hunter said that this is all about populism. Does that mean that we in this House should just ignore what people say? We should be here looking at the concerns of people, being concerned about the issues that confront them, looking at the GST in its implementation and the way in which some people may wish to exploit it, looking after consumers' interests to make sure that, when they are confronted with prices which are not in line with reality where the opportunity has been taken to use this GST to move their prices up substantially, this provides an opportunity to keep that whole process in check. This bill is particularly important because it implements legislation which provides penalties, provides a significant obstruction, to those members of the business community who are not going to do the right thing, who simply want to exploit this particular situation.

The member for Hunter said that this bill has horrendous implications for small business throughout Australia. What horrendous implications? If they do the right thing, they have absolutely no reason for concern. Of course we well remember the shadow Treasurer coming into this House in his exercise of gimmickry, holding up children's pyjamas and saying, `Look at this. Look at the two tags. This is Woolworths. They are going to exploit the situation. Doom and gloom is upon us.' It took only a day before the Managing Director of Woolworths, Roger Corbett, came out and said, `This is nonsense. We expect that prices will not increase anywhere like 10 per cent; it would be a much lesser amount.' Across the board, the increase will be something of the order of two per cent or less in terms of the actual price that we believe they will need to charge, because of the savings, because of the removal of wholesale sales tax. It is quite clear that right across the board the community will experience these savings in terms of the wholesale sales tax, whether it is 12 per cent, 18 per cent, 22 per cent or 32 per cent that is currently being paid in wholesale sales tax.

It is important that this legislation provides a real incentive to small business and larger business alike to get their house in order, to look at how their costs are going to be reduced because of the removal of wholesale sales tax and to look at what price they will need to charge to compensate for GST. And, as we know, in terms of the grocery areas, the increase in prices is expected to be about 1½ per cent across the board. There will not be all this scaremongering that the opposition goes on with, that it will be 10 per cent or more across the board. The New South Wales government wants to charge 15 per cent or 16 per cent extra for fares and tolls and blame everybody—the sky is falling; the GST is coming. The reality is that this legislation is going to prevent the exploitation of consumers. This legislation is going to maximise the opportunities for small business across Australia to make sure that unfair exploitation does not occur.

Debate interrupted.