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Tuesday, 27 March 2001
Page: 25779

Mr RIPOLL (10:27 PM) —This evening I wish to discuss the government's covert clawback of the GST. The term `clawback' is accurate to explain the government's current attempt to repair its reputation among the electorate as a mean-spirited administration. While clawback has been given many guises by this government, it is an overwhelming acknowledgment that many Australians are hurting under Howard's GST. Unfortunately, the warning signs have been ignored by the government for many months. Whether it is at the bowsers, the ATMs or the supermarket checkouts, many Australians know that they are not better off under Costello's or Howard's GST, or this government. Conciliatory concessions such as the waiver of the February CPI increase on petrol excise did not compensate for the government's ignorance of how everyday people live every day. However, I feel I am being generous in using the term `ignorant' when discussing the government's introduction of the GST. Many elements of the GST have been deliberate and underhanded, impacting on a majority, but crippling individuals. The particular deceit that I want to highlight this evening is the one that was raised yesterday by the shadow Treasurer—the GST rebate recently awarded to TPI veterans when purchasing a motorcycle as their chosen form of transport.

I think most of us know that what the Howard government gives with one hand is taken easily with the other and, as in so many instances, the veterans of Australia were a target group under the GST. They were targeted because the government deliberately excluded motorcycle owner veterans from a sales tax exemption. They were targeted because the loss of sales tax exemption for TPI veterans who choose to purchase a motorcycle over another form of motor vehicle was the result of supplementary changes to the definition of motor vehicle under the GST—that is, the government had to go out of its way to exclude these people particularly. They were targeted because when the definition of motor vehicle as GST exempt was queried, the question entered the bureaucratic loop between the ATO, the Department of Veterans' Affairs and the minister for several months before TPI veterans were able to clarify that they were actually being taken for a ride—pardon the pun.

An observation of mine of the Howard government is that certain portfolios and backbenchers are held to ransom by the egos and ambitions of particular headkickers. How else do you explain the blatant disrespect shown to our veterans by the removal of an entitlement that the minister himself advised this House yesterday every Australian government since 1948 had granted to our totally and permanently incapacitated veterans? In true dogged fashion, rather than acknowledge that their policy judgment was flawed and rectify the anomaly immediately, the Howard government is forcing TPI veterans to wait for their GST rebate until the Veterans' Entitlement Act is accordingly amended through the parliament. The sales tax exemption that TPI veterans have been entitled to since 1948, which this government denied TPI veterans under the GST, has to the best of my knowledge never been defined by the Veterans' Entitlements Act.

Mr Hardgrave —Why?

Mr RIPOLL —`Why?' the member for Moreton might ask. I will tell him why. After ripping the life out of our higher education sector, destabilising workers' rights, undermining our social welfare network that protected the less advantaged, punishing the aged, giving Australia the Howard legacy of the GST and, finally, losing their safest seat in Queensland, this government still believes it has a mandate to shaft the minorities, to bluff the punters and treat them all as fools. Arrogance and a cunning ignorance sustain the Howard government and Costello status quo, and the Australian people will punish them when it comes to the next election.

To truly appreciate the thought process behind the deliberate and calculated move to exclude TPI veterans from an entitlement that they have had since 1948, you must understand the blundering backflip that the Minister for Veterans' Affairs made when he had to once again embarrassingly admit his government had got it wrong. This GST roll-back—let me say it again, GST roll-back—is another example of a government in policy panic mode. It is a government now distinguished by its $2.6 billion rush to introduce the Ryan fuel rebate in a panic attempt at saving its own thin skin in Ryan, where 20 per cent of the total Queensland Liberal Party membership actually reside. It is a government further distinguished by its disgraceful and bumbling attempt to save a few measly bucks by taking away benefits from our veteran community.

Well might we say that this government will be judged and judged harshly. The member for Moreton might scoff and think it is funny to attack the T&PI veterans of this country when you deliberately went out of your way to exclude them—you had to take a deliberate act of parliament to exclude them—and you should be ashamed of your actions. (Time expired)