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Monday, 30 August 1993
Page: 477

Senator KEMP (3.12 p.m.) —by leave—I move:

  That the Senate take note of the answer given by the Minister for the Arts and Administrative Services (Senator McMullan), in response to a question without notice asked by Senator Minchin on this day, relating to the 1993-94 Budget measures concerning taxation on the wine industry.

I rise to express my great concern about the effect on jobs in the wine industry as a result of the government's decision to lift wine taxes by 55 per cent.

  Last week I took the opportunity to accompany Senator Troeth on a visit to central Victoria and to speak to some 12 winegrowers in that area. The message which came through to me—I am sure it has come through to the government and hopefully to government backbenchers who hold seats in winegrowing areas—was that this tax will have a very serious effect on jobs in rural Victoria and indeed in winegrowing areas throughout Australia. It will have a very serious effect on investment in the wine industry and no doubt will affect the investment potential in that industry.

  The point I would like to make is that the government went to the election with a promise not to raise taxes. Throughout every electorate, particularly throughout every marginal electorate, Labor members of parliament ceaselessly repeated that promise. Nowhere was that clearer than in the seat of McEwen in Victoria, which has extensive winegrowing areas. That was a seat narrowly won by Mr Cleeland by some 300 votes. It was very clear from speaking to the winegrowers in that electorate that they were certainly under the impression, as indeed I am sure all members of the electorate were, that the Labor Party was not going to increase taxes, particularly taxes which savagely affect rural Victoria. The two key taxes that have been raised are the fuel tax and the wine tax.

  I bring to the Senate's attention a comment that was made by Senator McMullan some years ago, before he entered this chamber. I think it raises an issue which I urge Labor backbenchers in winegrowing areas to remember. They had a mandate not to lift taxes. Senator McMullan, in speaking to a Fabian conference some years ago—I am glad he is in the chamber—said:

If I can use an innocent example, because it occurs in a safe Conservative electorate,—

this was some years ago—

if the Labor Party had won the electorate based on the Barossa Valley and we were introducing the wine tax, why would it be the end of the Labor Party if the member for the Barossa Valley crossed the floor, saying I'm going to vote against the wine tax. In the current circumstances it would be carried with a majority of 14 instead of 16. There wouldn't be any doubt—

this is the important point—

that the local Labor Party members would support what that person did and I don't understand why the Party would rock on its foundations.

That is precisely the message which I believe Labor backbenchers in winegrowing areas must deal with because they have a very clear mandate to maintain the promises they made to their particular electorates. Those promises, as I said, were not to raise taxes and now we have the dilemma that these backbenchers are going to be asked to vote for the rises in taxes, particularly the fuel tax and the wine tax.

  I put it to the Senate that Senator McMullan's piece of advice, given some years ago, is one that those Labor members of parliament should bear in mind. I put it to the Senate that this wine tax can be overturned if two or three Labor backbenchers in winegrowing areas stand up and say that they are not going to have a bar of this broken promise. One of those people is certainly Mr Cleeland in the Victorian seat of McEwen. Another would certainly be Mrs Silvia Smith in the seat of Bass which, as Senator Sherry will be able to tell us, has extensive winegrowing areas and which was won by 42 votes. Another is the marginal seat of Lyons where there are also extensive winegrowing interests.

  Mr President, I put it to you and I put it to Senator McMullan that this will affect jobs. This is a classic broken promise by the Prime Minister (Mr Keating). The mandate for those Labor backbenchers of parliament is to stand up for their particular electorates. If they do that, this wine tax can be defeated. (Time expired)