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Monday, 29 May 2000
Page: 16406

Mr LATHAM (2:33 PM) —My question is addressed to the Minister for Community Services. Minister, isn't it a fact that the government is spending more than $360 million to sell its GST? Wouldn't that money have provided Commonwealth child-care funding for nearly 16,000 children from low income families? Minister, shouldn't this $360 million be spent on providing child care for Australia's families instead of on GST advertising?

Mr SPEAKER —The member for Werriwa will come to his question.

Mr LATHAM —I have finished.

Mr SPEAKER —I call the Minister for Community Services. The Prime Minister.

Mr HOWARD (Prime Minister) —No, I am going to take this one. I could not restrain myself from saying something about this rather extraordinary proposition that is being advanced in a series of questions by the opposition that in some way the figure of some $360 million is in order to promote, as they call it, in some PR fashion the new taxation system. I want to make it very plain on behalf of the government that we do not apologise at all for spending money to explain a new taxation system. We do not apologise at all. To start with, of the $360 million, $134 million was to provide information on the new GST, the Australian business number and the pay-as-you-go systems.

Mr Costello —Some of which Labor supports.

Mr HOWARD —As the Treasurer interrupts, many of those measures have the support of the Australian Labor Party. There is $200 million provided for the GST Start-up Office, including $150 million for organisation delivered assistance. More than 120 organisations have received funds from this scheme, including the Australian Council of Trade Unions, and they did not send it back; the Australian Catholic Social Welfare Commission; the Australian Taxi Association; and the Tourism Council of Australia. A further $12 million is for the ACCC education program. Over the past few months, there has been a constant pattern of Labor Party propaganda against the GST that there is not enough detail out there and that the government has not explained it to the Australian public.

Mr Crean —Well, you haven't.

Mr HOWARD —We haven't, he says now. When attempts are made by the government to explain in detail how this new taxation system will operate, the government is very strongly attacked. Everyone knows that this is the biggest single change to the Australian taxation system undertaken by any government since Federation. In those circumstances, we have an obligation to explain to the Australian public how the new system works. You have absolutely no right to foist on the Australian public a taxation system involving these changes—the biggest change to our indirect taxation system, a huge change to the business taxation system, the biggest ever personal income tax changes, massive changes to the way business operates—

Mr Latham —Mr Speaker, I have a point of order.

Mr SPEAKER —The Prime Minister will resume his seat.

Mr Latham —On the question of relevance, this is child care for the minister, Larry Anthony.

Mr SPEAKER —The member for Werriwa will find that he will be heard when I have recognised him. The member for Werriwa will resume his seat. The member for Werriwa has the call.

Mr Latham —Mr Speaker, I raise a point of order on the question of relevance. This is child care for the minister, Larry Anthony. I want to know about child-care spending—

Mr SPEAKER —The member for Werriwa will resume his seat!

Mr HOWARD —I can assure the member for Werriwa that there is a lot of information in the campaign about the new child-care benefits; I can assure him. But, in looking at some of the allegations that have been made against the government in relation to this matter, I came across a quote as follows:

For some time the Government has been conducting a public information campaign on various aspects of the tax reform package. Consistent with that duty to keep the public informed about changes in the tax system and administration, the Australian Taxation Office has already produced television, radio, newspaper and printed material and other items ...

That was uttered in October 1986 by the then Treasurer of Australia—

Mr SPEAKER —The member for Dobell!

Mr HOWARD —who had introduced changes to the taxation system that were absolutely minute compared with these changes. He had been rolled by his Prime Minister on the subject of major change to the Australian taxation system. He had wanted to do then that which we have now had the political courage to do 12 years later.

It is entirely appropriate that, with a change of this magnitude, public funds be employed to explain the detail of the changes. Nothing the Labor Party has said on the subject alters that fundamental truth.