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Thursday, 12 November 2015
Page: 8479

Senator SMITH (Western AustraliaDeputy Government Whip in the Senate) (15:14): That would have to be the longest take note I have heard from Senator Cameron in my time in the Senate. I would like to start by putting on the record that I am a very, very strong coalitionist—a very, very strong coalitionist. That is a very big statement coming from a Western Australian Liberal, but, as I have said to my colleagues, the coalition is a very, very strong force in Australian politics, particularly because it gives conservatively-minded regional Australians two choices about who might represent them: the Liberal Party or the National Party. So I just wanted to say that I am a very, very strong coalitionist.

Senator Cameron had a unique opportunity available to him today. He could have talked about a number of issues. Opposition senators used the time in question time to talk about the National Broadband Network; they used the time to talk about the tax discussion that we are having; and they used the opportunity to talk about some contamination issues that are happening across northern New South Wales associated with RAAF base Williamtown. But, no, in this take note they did not want to talk about policy; they wanted to talk about scuttlebutt. They wanted personality discussions about what may or may not have happened with regard to the change of leadership. But I am not interested in that, and I dare say that many Australians are not interested. What I am interested in talking about is the tax discussion that we have been having over the last week or so in this country. It is a very, very important discussion, and lots of people have contributed to the debate so far—not just senators and members of the House of Representatives and the government but also people across the Australian community who identify with the Australian Labor Party.

I want to share with you what Labor parliamentarians and, indeed, some Labor past and present premiers have been saying about the tax discussion and debate. There is, for most of us in this country—the business community and those who want to have an informed and intelligent debate about the future of our country—an agreement that these things are worthy of discussion. But those people who sit on the other side who call themselves Labor senators want to put their heads in the sand and they do not want to debate some of the challenges that are facing our country. Instead, they want to stick to personalities over policy.

I think it is worth putting on the record what some Labor premiers have said in recent times about the importance of a debate, a discussion, around the GST. What does Labor South Australian Premier Jay Weatherill have to say? He said on Adelaide radio that we need all of these things on the table. In reference to the tax debate he said:

We do need all of these things on the table. I think there is a sensible discussion about this. I will be encouraging all of my colleagues to talk about it.

That is what the South Australian Labor Premier said about the tax debate. What did the former Labor Premier of New South Wales, Kristina Keneally, say? In the Sydney Morning Herald, just this week, she said:

The GST is obviously part of that mix, though Labor shouldn't give in to a simplistic view that increasing consumption tax fixes everything.

That is a very, very true statement.

An opposition senator interjecting

Senator SMITH: I will come to my own comments around tax in a moment. What did the former West Australian Premier, Geoff Gallop, have to say? Earlier this week he said that he has been on the record for some time talking about the need to increase the GST, and said, 'I think the time has come to take that step.' What did Peter Beattie, the former Queensland Premier, have to say? He said:

This extra five per cent has to go to health and education

the five per cent being, of course, the suggested or discussed option that might be available to people in terms of raising the GST—

I will have trouble supporting an increase beyond 10 per cent unless it goes to service delivery for the states.

The point is that in this country people are debating the important issue of tax reform, but Labor senators want to ignore the debate and want to talk down opportunities for reform.

It is clear: you cannot have jobs growth and you cannot have economic growth without tackling the important issue of tax reform. I would like to add my bit to the debate—a part of the debate that has been missed so far. The best way to generate jobs and to generate economic growth is to reform GST distribution. GST distribution must be part of any overall solution, any part of tax reform, if Australia is to proceed. I have written to the Prime Minister expressing my views on that, but that is a debate for another time. (Time expired)