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Monday, 4 June 2001
Page: 27134

Mrs GASH (2:35 PM) —My question is addressed to the Minister for Small Business. Would the minister advise the House of the impact of proposed changes to Australia's tax system on small business and taxpayers?

Mr IAN MACFARLANE (Minister for Small Business) —I thank the member for Gilmore for her question. I have travelled to the electorate of Gilmore and spoken to small businesses there, and they are certainly very complimentary in their praise of the member for Gilmore. Small business in Gilmore should, as should small business everywhere, be congratulated for bedding down this new tax. What I am hearing in Gilmore and in other electorates is that the GST and the BAS are starting to become less and less of an issue.

That is not good news for the Labor Party, because they are trying to beat up a little storm on this. What I hear from small business is that they want certainty. They want to know where they are going to be in 12 months time. What I hear from small business is that they are concerned about roll-back and about the conflicting statements they hear on roll-back. I would be concerned as well if I were in small business. First of all, we had the shadow minister for small business, the member for Hunter, talking on roll-back earlier this year, on 23 March. When asked, `What will roll-back specifically mean for small business?' he responded:

Well, roll-back can come with a cost and without a cost. Not all roll-back is necessarily expensive but we think still some changes can be made ...

When he was pulled into order on this, he then was asked by Chris Lewis, who is a very agreeable bloke, on the Valley Life program on 2 April:

Roll-back can come at a cost or without a cost—is this true?

The member for Hunter said:

Roll-back for small business can come at a cost or without a cost for government. I was making a point that we've a few ideas up our sleeve, some of which will come at a cost to government.

The member for Hunter even repeated that claim in this House:

... roll-back may come at a cost to government, which, of course, is obvious ...

It is obvious: roll-back will come at a cost to government. Then last week he tried to excuse himself from these comments by saying—this time in Rockhampton; he certainly gets around on radio—this:

The government likes to imply that roll-back means a further cost to government; that is not the case.

But he said it in this House. The only element of truth in what the member for Hunter keeps saying is that roll-back will come at a cost to small business and it will come at a cost to taxpayers. It is time the member for Hunter, in his fits of candour, convinced his leadership to abandon a policy that is bad for government, bad for taxpayers and bad for Australia.