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Thursday, 12 November 2015
Page: 8480

Senator GALLACHER (South Australia) (15:20): I rise to take note of answers—and, in particular, on the subject of the GST. In September 2013 that lot over there were elected to govern. We have Senator Macdonald saying that there has been no increase in the GST discussed in the party room and that, to his knowledge, there has been no increase in the GST discussed in the cabinet. Yet, over there, somehow or other, there is now a debate on the GST. We never brought it up; it never came from the Labor Party. Now they are trotting out all of the Labor premiers who, they say, want an increase in the GST. I remind the other side of Prime Minister Keating's comment: 'Never get in the way of a bucketful of money and a heap of premiers. If they figure there is a bucketful of money to spend, they will be for it.' I know Premier Weatherill, the great Premier of South Australia—

A government senator interjecting

Senator GALLACHER: You cannot take anything away from his contribution in South Australia. He is doing an eminently good job. But his view on the GST is not the federal Labor Party's view on the GST. For that lot over there who were elected to govern and who choose to govern by quoting Labor premiers and ex-Labor premiers who are commentators on Sky News and portray that as policy is completely beyond me. Where is Malcolm Turnbull on the GST? Why does he not have the fortitude, the agility, the nimbleness or the innovative wherewithal to start the agenda? Where is he? We hear things like: 'I'll make sure it is fair, whatever happens, but don't let me be caught talking about it, just in case the focus groups do not like it, just in case it is not electorally popular. But I'll have this debate; the debate will happen.' In all seriousness, the Australian Council of Social Services commissioned the National Centre for Social and Economic Modelling, and that is where all of this stuff needs to be put into perspective. An increase in the GST has a much bigger impact on low- and modest-income households and the Labor Party makes no apology for being in their corner—no apology for representing the people who will be impacted the most by an increase or a broadening of the GST. That is where we live, that is our heartland and we will stay there.

There may well be attempts to portray fairness and compensation, but, at the end of the day, if you want to increase the GST it has to be to increase revenue. Why would you take the pain just to be cost-neutral? Why would you do that? How can it be cost-neutral for those on fixed incomes, for self-funded retirees or for pensioners? How could it be cost-neutral for them? It can only be on average cost-neutral. Individuals will always be disadvantaged. Who has not had a water bill—the minister for water is on the other side of the chamber—in recent times that has not gone up? Who has a water bill that has remained the same? There are the pensioners who are now not able to use as much water in their gardens, and you are going to put more GST on water, fresh food and education. What if it were broadened to include all of those things? We know that it would be regressive, with people on lower incomes paying proportionally more of their incomes on those essentials. We know that for a fact.

Where is the Prime Minister out there leading the debate? He is not leading the debate. Someone is talking to the media. It does not get on the front page of The Australian without it coming from somewhere. We all know what the media contract is: 'I'll leak you some information in return for a good story about the government,' and that is what is happening every day.

Senator Brandis: Is that the way the Labor Party operates, is it?

Senator GALLACHER: That is the way the Liberal Party operates. We see it today with superannuation. Out they go; their media contract is working: leak it out sideways and then bag up a couple of Labor Premiers and some commentators and say, 'They're in support of it. Why aren't you?' We are not in support of it because it is regressive. It will impact harder on poorer people and they will pay a greater proportionate share of it. It is a regressive tax which will be resisted.