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Wednesday, 19 June 1996
Page: 1817

Senator FAULKNER —My question is addressed to the Assistant Treasurer. Minister, I refer you to your answer on Monday to a question from Senator Conroy about the application of sales tax to red-plated vehicles. Can you explain to the Senate how a motor trader can possibly know before it is sold whether a motor vehicle will be used partly or wholly for private purposes. Will you guarantee that no small business will have to pay sales tax or penalties because of the uncertainty which continues to prevail due to your government's incompetence on this matter?

Senator SHORT —I answered this question earlier today. I said, and I repeat—if the opposition needs it repeated yet again—that this wholesale sales tax will apply to general purpose road vehicles provided wholly or partly for private use as part of remuneration by Commonwealth, state, territory and local governments to take effect from 11 June. I also refer him to the sentence in the Treasurer's statement last Friday, to which he seemed to take exception earlier today, namely that further details will be announced as soon as possible. The point that he has now raised in his question is an important point. I fully accept that.

Senator Faulkner —Thank you very much.

Senator SHORT —It is a pleasant change, I would have to say. It is an important point. It is a relevant question. It is one of those details that will be the subject of announcement in the very near future.

Senator FAULKNER —I ask Senator Short: do you at least acknowledge that there is a lot of uncertainty out there amongst not only motor traders but also professional tax advisers? It is not true, as you claimed earlier in question time today, that everyone understands the changes. The Financial Review , for example, has carried a report about a partner in Arthur Andersen who has been deluged with calls from people who are confused about the changes. Do you at least accept that there is uncertainty and that that uncertainty is as a direct consequence of your government's bungled attempt at handling the Premiers Conference and your government's failure to provide details of these changes?

Senator SHORT —I do not accept the assumption in the supplementary question that there is a lot of uncertainty out there. But what I do accept, and what the government and the Treasurer accept, is that there is a need for the final details to be announced, released and implemented as soon as possible, and that is precisely what the Treasurer announced last Friday. That is not long ago. It is five days ago. The final details will be announced very shortly, which, I agree with you, is necessary.

Senator Faulkner —You agree with me. You didn't agree with me a minute ago.

Senator SHORT —I agreed with you. For once in my life I did agree with you because you asked a sensible question. I am telling you that the necessary details will be announced very shortly.