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Wednesday, 9 October 1985
Page: 902

Senator MacGIBBON —My question is addressed to Senator Ryan and relates to today's full page newspaper advertisements featuring Senator Ryan and Mr Keating. Did Senator Ryan give her approval for the use of her photograph and name in this advertisement? Does Senator Ryan agree with the message in the advertisement about the inequities of the Labor Government's current sales tax policies? If she does agree with the message, how does she reconcile that position with the Cabinet decision and the principles of Cabinet solidarity and collective responsibility? Will she resign as a matter of new-found principle? Secondly, if she does not agree with the advertisement, is she not showing gross hypocrisy, in the face of her repeated cries for equal rights for women, by supporting a system which discriminates against products used by-indeed, arguably essential for-women?

Senator RYAN —I think that the answer to all parts of Senator MacGibbon's question is no. I have seen the advertisement. Certainly I was not consulted about the use of my photograph and I presume that the Treasurer was not either. There are a number of very confusing implications in the way the advertisement is set out. For example, the implication is that all of the items on the left hand column under Mr Keating were used only by men. They were items such as soap-

Senator Puplick —Dog shampoo.

Senator RYAN —I must take advantage of Senator MacGibbon's question to assure the Senate and anyone else listening that the Treasurer does not use dog shampoo. It is the case that soap, which is used presumably by both sexes, is taxed at 20 per cent. Personal deodorant, which I hope is used by both sexes, is taxed at 30 per cent. I think that I was accused by implication of using, on a gender segregated basis, baby oil and baby lotion, but I presume that some men occasionally use baby oil after a day at the beach.

An important error in the advertisement, which I will take advantage of Senator MacGibbon's question to correct, is that sunscreens were included in the advertisement as a 20 per cent tax item. In fact, sunscreens are exempt from tax, which is very important, especially for those of us from Celtic backgrounds. The whole thing was a dreadfully confused attack on the Government's tax package.

I point out that in the rationalisation exercise, which I am the first to admit was not carried out to perfection, the wholesale tax on cosmetics was reduced so that it is now 30 per cent instead of 32 1/2 per cent. There were many benefits for women in the overall tax package. For example, the attack on poverty traps will be of great assistance to supporting mothers, who will now be able to earn more money without losing their pension. The reduction of taxation on middle income earners will be of benefit to women in that group.

Those who have lost out from the tax package-the exploiters of the business lunch and so on, to whom Senator Walsh has devoted some attention in today's Question Time and other Question Times-are not members of a group in which women feature prominently. So overall the taxation package was a very good one for women. The reduction of taxation on all items used by women, even though it is not as low as some of us might have liked to see, means that it is a very good package for women.

Senator MacGIBBON —I have a supplementary question. The Minister has given some confusing replies, but I will ignore the one where she said no to two conflicting questions of mine. What were the imperfections in the tax package brought down by the Government to which the Minister alluded in her answer?

Senator RYAN —I think that Senator MacGibbon must have misheard me. What I said was that we have rationalised the chaotic wholesale tax regime which we inherited, but we have not rationalised it entirely. We have made reductions in the 32 1/2 per cent items. We changed some items, put some items into the 20 per cent category that were previously in the 32 1/2 per cent category and so on. We have rationalised the system considerably but there are still different rates and people can still ask questions about why some items are in one category rather than another.

We could not completely rationalise the system because we still need to raise revenue from wholesale taxation. We had to balance the need to raise revenue with the desire to rationalise. The need to raise revenue meant we could not take some items out of the 32 1/2 per cent category and put them in a lower category. We need the revenue to do very important things like attacking poverty traps.