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Tuesday, 9 May 2000
Page: 16063

Mr ANDREW THOMSON (4:04 PM) —This MPI has been proposed today by the member for Wills, who shares the same surname as I do. We have shared some time abroad. I have known two members for Wills since I was elected to this place. The first former member, Mr Cleary, is difficult to describe. You might perhaps think of David Suzuki in a steroid rage to get some idea of what he was like from time to time here in the chamber. He had some views that were profoundly opposed to private enterprise generally. The time I have spent privately with the current member for Wills on these overseas trips has been pleasant. I have found him to be a straightforward sort of fellow. But I must say that once back in Canberra he takes on another sort of appearance. The sorts of things he says remind you not of that hale fellow you would have a drink with in Manila or Tokyo but almost of someone resembling a minor terrorist in the way he goes about attacking some of our public officials and, indeed, in his attempts from time to time here—I think by some sort of agreement with those in the industrial wing of the Labor movement—to sabotage the implementation of a very important tax reform.

That is what really lies behind this MPI. There is a deliberate campaign to inflict as much damage as possible on one of the four vital organs of Australia's civilised society. If you think of the four real pillars of a civilised country, you have the parliament, which debates and passes laws; you have the courts, where people seek justice; you have the defence forces, which seek to ensure the nation's security; and, finally, you have the Taxation Office, not on its own a particularly popular institution but a very important one for ensuring that our society remains stable. When the system that the tax office is asked to administer is inefficient, complicated, leads to a lot of litigation and is gradually raising less and less revenue from growing sectors of the economy, it is necessary to reform it, and that is what this government has done.

I might say it is not the first time it has been attempted. Cast your minds back to the early eighties, when a Labor Treasurer tried to introduce a consumption tax for the very reasons that this government has done so. By coincidence, it was another member for Wills who sabotaged that effort. It was indeed Prime Minister Hawke, who together with his colleagues, his mates in the trade union movement, knocked it off late one night. So there you have an example of the trade union movement seeking to injure the national interest by conspiracy with their parliamentary wing for political gain. If they are willing to do it to the tax office, then you have to ask yourself what they will do next when they have a disagreement about a policy. Would they sabotage Australia's defence forces and put in peril the security of Australians to achieve a political aim? Perhaps they do so to create the false impression that there is some sort of turmoil about the government's policy, all for a political aim. That is what they are doing with the tax office. This is the industrial wing and the parliamentary wing of the Labor Party acting in concert. That is the nature of this party that occupies the opposition benches: it is a creature of the trade union movement. And we know about their internal processes, don't we? Their elections are secretive, corrupt and often involve violence. This has been exposed particularly in unions in the communications sector around Sydney in the last few years, and all credit to Paul Sheehan for so exposing.

There is nothing wrong with trade unions per se. Indeed, the member for Wills and I share a good friend who is the secretary of a trade union, the same union that the member for Wills is a member of himself—the Australian Workers Union. Our friend, like the many others who hold that position, is a thoroughly decent person. There is nothing wrong with serving in office in a properly run trade union and seeking legitimate industrial objectives under the laws of this nation, but there is something very profoundly wrong with conspiring to injure the national interest by disrupting the operations of the Taxation Office. That is what they are about: this is quite clearly sabotage by a party that not only is unwilling to repeal the tax about which it complains so bitterly but even is arguing the case that the existing system is somehow okay—it is not broken.

We remember, in the debates when we were introducing the bills in the last year or two, some of the examples of the existing wholesale sales tax system. I remember the member for Boothby, in an edifying speech, describing items in the schedules of the wholesale sales tax: spats, jabots—very tory those, aren't they, but, no, part of Labor's tax system. There were other things: player piano rolls—this is a list of the increases in these tax rates that were so fraudulently perpetrated upon the Australian people for which no compensation was given back in 1993—and `Australian produced food for birds kept as domestic pets'. I assume that, if one keeps a bird not as a domestic pet but perhaps as some sort of decoration, this would not be subject to—dear, oh dear!—21 per cent tax. That is on birdseed. That is appalling. This is the tax system that is supposedly not broken. `Refrigeration agents for use other than in fruit growing industry for preserving, ripening or storing fruit': presumably, if you buy refrigeration agents and they are just simply to keep yourself cool in the summer, you do not pay 21 per cent tax on them. These are examples of the system which the opposition claim is so good that they make a great fuss and try to sabotage the implementation of the GST, acting in concert with their colleagues there, abusing power as they are so prone to do.

The Labor Party's abuses of power are very well known both in olden times and in recent times: Centenary House, spy flights over Tasmania—do you recall them?—the Marshall Islands, sports rorts, and the list goes on and on. Even if you go back to the early seventies, we had elements of the Whitlam government trying to borrow money from Iraq to fund the national budget. Indeed, these days you have only to trip down to the Opera House and see what the Labor Party's own in-house playwright, David Williamson, says about the party. I tell you what: he has nailed you fellows to the wall and I have not heard any of you complaining about what he says in that play.

To get back to some more basic things, this policy is about ensuring that we have a stable revenue base for the future so that Australia's hospitals, police and, indirectly, our greatest and most vital national need—that is, the bill for defending this country, which is only going to grow in the future—are properly provided for. As part of that, we have an enormous sum of tax cuts being delivered back to middle and low income earners and a reasonable attempt at price monitoring as part of the introduction—something that no other country that has introduced this tax has tried. This is the sort of thing that the Labor Party will pick at like a pack of hungry chooks.

Today they are trying to get into Minister Hockey about the regime of price exploitation and section 75 of the Trade Practices Act. The nexus there which they conveniently ignore in all these questions concerns price rises over 10 per cent as a result of the GST, and it is well covered in this legislation and it was well debated when it went through this House. But really the best price monitors of all are the forces of competition, market forces. You have only to go back to the largest scale competition reforms, those done under Fred Hilmer. This was a Labor Party initiative and it is to be congratulated on that. It is something that we supported at the time. The forces of competition were good enough for the Labor Party then, so why are they suddenly not good enough now? Of course, they will be good enough. People have a brain in their heads, they can see they are being ripped off, they shop around and they choose the best value. That is how the market works and may it ever flourish. I cannot see why they are here complaining about it later on. As for roll-back, suddenly the Labor Party have gone about the implementation of the GST as their chief item of complaint rather than having this notion of roll-back. One minute they were going to surf into office, wax up the board—like Midget Farrelly—and roll back all that sort of thing. (Time expired)

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Jenkins)—Order! The discussion has concluded.