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Thursday, 6 April 2000
Page: 15434


Mr CREAN (1:33 PM) —by leave—I move opposition amendments (1), (2), (4) and (5):

(1) Schedule 1, page 3 (after line 7), insert:

1A Section 75AT, insert:

taxable supply has the same meaning as in A New Tax System (Goods and Services Tax) Act 1999.

(2) Schedule 1, page 3 (after line 7), add:

1B After Subsection 75AU(2) add:

(3) To assist in minimising price exploitation, when a corporation provides a consumer with a receipt or docket issued in respect of a taxable supply the receipt or docket must separately include:

(a) the price of the goods or services excluding the GST;

(b) the amount of the GST; and

(c) the total price including the GST.

(4) Schedule 1, page 6 (after line 5), insert:

8A Section 75AT of Part 2 of the Schedule, insert:

taxable supply has the same meaning as in A New Tax System (Goods and Services Tax) Act 1999.

(5) Schedule 1, page 6 (after line 5), add:

8B After subsection 75AU(2) of Part 2 of the Schedule add:

(3) To assist in minimising price exploitation, when a corporation provides a consumer with a receipt or docket issued in respect of a taxable supply the receipt or docket must separately include:

(a) the price of the goods or services excluding the GST;

(b) the amount of the GST; and

(c) the total price including the GST.

These are the amendments that the people on the other side of the House should be supporting because these are the amendments that require disclosure of this GST on people's receipts. If they are prepared to vote for this tax, why are they prepared to keep it hidden? Why will they not insist on the receipts being disclosed and showing the amount of GST in question?

This government has made great play of the fact that it wants to impose a huge new penalty on businesses for misleading conduct in relation to the GST. The hypocrisy is borne out when they resist every attempt to help in identifying that exploitation by giving ordinary consumers the ability to know what they are being charged. People regularly go into our shops and supermarkets knowing what they pay on items. What they do not know is what amount of GST will be hidden in these items when the new tax comes in on 1 July. These retailers should be required to put that amount of tax on so that consumers can make the judgment as to whether they are being ripped off or not and so that consumers can actually notify the ACCC if they think they are being exploited.

I will give the minister one very good example as to why this works. It goes to the question of the Zurich Insurance Company, a company which the ACCC eventually ordered to pay back a significant sum of money to policy holders. The reason the Zurich Insurance Company case emerged is because we had been raising the issue in the parliament about the way in which insurance companies generally could charge in advance of the GST coming in when they were issuing the notices for the next 12 months. We were arguing, generally speaking, that insurance companies were charging in advance of when they should have. We were told by the government that that was not true.

The reason the Zurich Insurance Company faced a penalty is that it put the GST amount on the notice that it issued. It did not have to but it did it. We are saying that the government should insist that all companies responsible for charging the GST—and that is just about everyone—should put the amount of the GST on their receipts.

It is ridiculous to assert that the ACCC be given power, it is ridiculous to assert that it will be the body, the watchdog, overlooking to see that there is no exploitation of this GST, if it is not prepared to insist on information, the detail of the tax, being made available to consumers. What sort of Competition and Consumer Commission is it and what sort of a government is it that backs it when they are denying consumers the very mechanism by which they can determine whether or not they are being ripped off with the GST?

This is not the first time we have moved this amendment in this parliament. We believe it is an issue fundamental to the transparency of the government's new tax. We have said that if this tax is brought in, at least have the decency to put it on receipts. Every time we have moved this amendment in this chamber—and that has been on some four or five occasions now—this government have voted it down. So proud are they of this new tax, they want to hide it. So proud are those members in marginal seats in the government and confident that they can get this tax through their electorates, they want to keep it hidden from their constituents.

We will be campaigning before its introduction and after it. We will be campaigning in the marginal seats—the Richmonds, the McEwens, the Ballarats, the Eden-Monaros. All around the country we will be campaigning against government incumbents and asking the simple question of consumers as they go into supermarkets: `Why is this government hiding this tax on receipts as you purchase goods? If Peter Costello has his hand in your pocket taking 10 per cent out every time you make a purchase, why isn't it being identified on the receipts? What have they got to hide?'

It is not a simple proposition of saying that this applies to everything and everyone knows the amount because it is one-eleventh of the total purchase. It is not true. You have introduced so many exemptions, concessions and alterations to the tax that you cannot clearly state what the GST amount is. That is why it has to be disclosed. That is what this amendment does. That is what this government has to be held accountable for and that is why this amendment should be supported on this occasion.