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Thursday, 11 May 2000
Page: 16307

Mr CREAN (2:23 PM) —My question again is to the Treasurer. I refer to his speech last night, in which he claimed that the tax cuts were not compensation for the GST and that they would have happened anyway without the GST. Treasurer, do you recall telling Glenn Milne on 13 August 1998—the day you released your tax package:

Look, the tax package is an integrated whole. You can't have bits of it. You reform the indirect tax system, which gives you the chance to drop income tax rates.

Treasurer, why didn't you tell the Australian people during the election what you are telling them now: that they could have had tax cuts without the GST?

Mr COSTELLO (Treasurer) —As usual, it is a farrago of confusion and misrepresentation from the member for Hotham. What I said last night, and I will repeat it, is that Australians deserved income tax cuts. One of the main reasons why they deserved them was that the last time they were promised them they were not paid for one day and one dollar.

Mr Crean —That's rubbish.

Mr COSTELLO —`That's rubbish,' he says. They were not paid for one day and one dollar—the famous l-a-w. Once the Keating government was elected, they were not paid for one day and one dollar. What the public got instead was an increase in wholesale sales tax. I will go back—it is the first time I have heard it: apparently, according to the member for Hotham, the l-a-w tax cuts were paid. Apparently they were paid after the 1993 election. That is a most extraordinary proposition. We have been labouring here since 1993 under the assumption that the Labor Party never paid its income tax cuts after the 1993 election. We have all been wrong, and the only person who knew it was the member for Hotham. What an astounding proposition!

Mr Crean —Mr Speaker, I rise on a point of order which goes to relevance. Were there tax cuts paid in 1993 or not by a Labor government?

Mr SPEAKER —The Deputy Leader of the Opposition will resume his seat. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition has now raised two frivolous points of order.

Mr Crean —He's lying.

Mr SPEAKER —The Deputy Leader of the Opposition must know that that sort of behaviour has always been unacceptable. I have no choice but to warn him.

Mr McGauran —Mr Speaker, on a point of order: we clearly heard the member for Hotham accuse the Treasurer of lying, and we ask that it be withdrawn.

Mr SPEAKER —As I heard the shadow Treasurer, he used the words, `He is lying.' If that is the case, I ask him to withdraw those words.

Mr Crean —Mr Speaker, the Treasurer asserts there were no tax cuts paid in 1993. There were.

Mr SPEAKER —The Deputy Leader of the Opposition will resume his seat.

Mr Crean —I withdraw the word `lying' and say that he has misled the Australian public—

Mr SPEAKER —The Deputy Leader of the Opposition has already been warned. He is now defying the chair. He has made a withdrawal, but he knows that, as is the practice of the chair under successive governments, the withdrawal must be unconditional. I ask him to withdraw unconditionally.

Mr Crean —I have done what the Prime Minister has done and substituted other words.

Mr SPEAKER —The Deputy Leader of the Opposition must withdraw unconditionally or I will be forced to deal with him.

Mr Crean —Mr Speaker, in deference to this position, and because I want to stay in this chamber, I withdraw unequivocally. But this is inconsistent.

Mr SPEAKER —The member for Dobell!

Mr Lee —You let him do it all the time.

Mr SPEAKER —The member for Dobell is warned! Never in this parliament, no matter who the occupier of the chair has been, have we been in a situation in which it is tolerable for members to answer back the occupier of the chair. I have exercised a great deal of tolerance in the cases of a number of members on both frontbenches, I must say. The member for Dobell is warned. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition has in fact been asked to withdraw unconditionally. That is not a requirement that has been invented in the last 18 months; it is a requirement already recorded in House of Representatives Practice. I have asked the Deputy Leader of the Opposition to do just that. If I were to exercise the authority vested in me, he knows that he ought not still be in the chamber. I ask him therefore, for the last time, to rise and withdraw unconditionally.

Mr McMullan —Mr Speaker, I distinctly heard him say—and everybody else in any close proximity to the Deputy Leader of the Opposition would have distinctly heard him say—`I withdraw unconditionally'. He then said what we all heard and agree with that all he had done previously was exactly what you have allowed the Prime Minister to do. That is a fact which I think he is entitled to state. But he did, in deference to you, Mr Speaker, withdraw unconditionally. What we should do is just get on with question time.

Mr SPEAKER —For as long as I have been in this chamber, an unconditional withdrawal has required people to say just that: `I withdraw unconditionally'. In the case of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, they were the words he used. He then added an addendum. By any standard, the Deputy Leader of the Opposition has gone further than any occupier of the chair would tolerate. But I have not taken action; I have required him to stand and withdraw unconditionally. If he does that, the matter is behind us.

Mr Crean —I do and I have.

Mr SPEAKER —I thank the Deputy Leader of the Opposition. I call the Treasurer.

Mr COSTELLO —Mr Speaker, as I was saying, the Australian public deserved income tax cuts because the last time they were promised them was prior to the 1993 election. I say `promised'—but, of course, the then Labor Party boasted that they were l-a-w. After the 1993 election the tax cuts were taken away and not paid for a day or a dollar. I think that has been totally agreed in Australian politics, apart from the new novel proposition that has been put here for the first time by the member for Hotham this afternoon. The government's income tax cuts, which will come into place—

Mr O'Keefe —Mr Speaker, I take a point of order under standing order 85 which relates to the use of tedious repetition and the fact that the Speaker, when having his attention drawn to claims that are not only tedious and repetitious but also false—and this has been done month after month—can in fact direct a member to discontinue his or her speech. I would ask you to do that in relation to the Treasurer.

Mr SPEAKER —The Treasurer was asked a question about tax cuts and whether or not the tax cuts were of themselves compensation for the GST. Any question about tax cuts means that, clearly, there are other areas of the budget that are affected. The Treasurer is relevant and I call him.

Mr COSTELLO —That is why Australians deserve income tax cuts. The great news is that in 51 days time the largest income tax cuts in Australian history are going to become reality. On 1 July every Australian taxpayer gets an income tax cut. If you happen to be a middle income earner you can currently be on 43c in the dollar and your rate will be cut to 30c. Australians deserved income tax cuts anyway because of that shameful episode by Labor in 1993, and we took the opportunity to reform the indirect tax system as well and the business tax system. As a consequence of reforming the indirect tax system by broadening the base with a lower rate, with a goods and services tax, we were able to give far greater income tax relief than would otherwise have been the case. That is because the goods and services tax is broad based and not a declining share of the budget.

The goods and services tax is the revenue that goes to the state governments which will enable them to build their hospitals, their schools and their roads in the future. It will grow in accord with the economy. It will make sure that those basic services are rendered. As a result, the taxpayers of Australia will get sensible spending. They will get great income tax cuts. They will have a new Australian taxation system. The good news is: although it was fought every step of the way, although the Labor Party voted against every step that was necessary to get there, the Labor Party campaign was defeated. We now know that the Labor Party, after fighting every step of the way, intends to try to slip into office and take advantage of it. But this was the side of politics that took the decisions, that made the hard yards, that had the vision, and this is the side of politics that has delivered income tax cuts.