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Wednesday, 9 October 1996
Page: 3779


Senator SHERRY —My question is to the Assistant Treasurer. You have repeatedly defined `a surcharge' as a surcharge. Do you accept the ABS classification of `a tax' as compulsory levies imposed by government to raise revenue? Further, it says `there is usually no clear and direct link between payment of taxes and the provision of goods and services'. You also stated in answer to a question on notice from me that your government does not intend to change the classification adopted by the previous government in regard to taxes which was based on this ABS definition. In light of this, why did you not provide this definition of a tax when I repeatedly asked for one during the estimates committees?


Senator Bob Collins —Read the Hansard .


Senator SHORT —Read the Hansard , very well. I was going to suggest that Senator Sherry might read the page after page after page of Hansard greens that we had on this matter. We went for hours on this subject in estimates.


Senator Faulkner —They were pink, but you were green.


Senator Robert Ray —It has been 16 years since you were the member for Ballarat.


The PRESIDENT —Order!


Senator SHORT —We went page after page and hour after hour on this subject in estimates. All I can say to Senator Sherry is that, after all that beating around the tree over and over again, you failed to understand. As a result of that, in two or three minutes I am not going to be able to change your view or your understanding of it. I might ask Senator Sherry, through you, Madam President, what he thinks a surcharge is.


Senator SHERRY —We certainly were not helped by your answer. Minister, why are you prepared to sacrifice any pretence as a credible economic spokesman merely to protect the government's credibility and its claims that it has not increased taxes or introduced new taxes when it clearly has?


Senator SHORT —For Senator Sherry to talk about credibility on economic matters would have to be the greatest oxymoron of all time. I have nothing more to add to my previous answer or to the two hours, I think it was, that we spent on this in estimates.

Honourable senators interjecting—


The PRESIDENT —Order! I will call Senator Lees to ask the next question when there is sufficient silence for her to hear her name. Senator Lees.