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Tuesday, 23 September 2008
Page: 29

Senator IAN MACDONALD (8:51 PM) —I thank Senator Fielding for that, but he really did not answer my question. I indicated to you that I thought your arrangement with tourism operators was appropriate.

The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN (Senator Carol Brown)—Are you continuing, Senator Macdonald?

Senator IAN MACDONALD —I am asking Senator Fielding a question.

Senator Fielding interjecting—

Senator IAN MACDONALD —The rules of the Senate do not allow me to talk to you directly, Senator Fielding, but I am asking you a serious question. I appreciate your comments regarding tourist operators. I for one support that, and I am sure the tourist operators up my way will be very pleased, so thank you for that. I also support you on the primary producers. That is good. Well, it is as good as far as it goes. You said they can buy one every year for 10 years. Senator Fielding, I am just trying to indicate to you that vehicles do not last long there, and Victoria is different to Queensland, Western Australia or the Northern Territory. Every day of the week they go through potholes and bulldust, and they go through slush when the floods come. They even go under water with the—

Senator Sterle —It’s called a snorkel.

Senator IAN MACDONALD —Thank you—snorkels on them. They do not last 10 years. The Toyotas, Nissans, Fords and so on are great vehicles but they do not last. As I said, I have just been to a property where they grow cattle, fodder crops and other things, and there would be a dozen vehicles there. So you would only be giving an exemption to some. That is the difficulty of making these sorts of deals. Senator Abetz’s amendment was so much better because under $90,000 you would look after the tourism operator, the farmers, the vet and everyone else and you would get the 10 Lamborghinis that are sold in Australia every year, the Bentleys and so on.

You ask about giving exemptions to the vet, the plumber and the fencing contractor, as well as the roo-shooter and others that Senator Boswell mentioned, and say that, if you gave the exemption to them, you would not get any money for the government. Hang on, the government have a $22 billion surplus thanks to Peter Costello and the country is in pretty good nick. Why pick on the vet, the roo-shooter and the mechanic to pay the government $550 million when they do not really need it? You are picking on some people. You are not picking on the people who live in the cities who can walk their kids to school. You are picking on the people in remote Australia who do not have an alternative.

I attribute good faith to you, Senator Fielding. You are right in saying that we support whatever concessions you have been able to negotiate with the government. That is good, and it is better than what the Labor Party have done. They have no interest whatsoever in people outside the capital cities. They do not seem to have much interest in the manufacturing workers either, but that is their business more than mine. I am concerned about people in country Australia who do it tough and who always end up paying more. Sure, when we were in government we gave them a little bit back. Remember that we had a Regional Partnerships program? That used to try to even the balance for people in country areas, but that is all gone now.

Senator Sterle —Shame the Nats rorted it!

Senator Conroy interjecting—

Senator IAN MACDONALD —The Labor government wanted to save money, so who did they attack? They attacked the country people yet again. With respect to Minister Conroy and Senator Sterle behind him, things are pretty good in Perth and Melbourne, but they are not quite so hot in the country areas. You knock off Regional Partnerships and you put this luxury tax not on the Lamborghini drivers, who are all mates of the Labor Party in the capital cities these days, but on country people yet again. How fair is that? I do not want to name them here, but we know a lot of millionaires who support the Labor Party, people who supply planes to Labor Party operatives to jet around the world. We could talk about a couple of Labor Party politicians who are the sorts of people who should be paying luxury taxes not just for cars but for their Rolex watches, jewellery and those sorts of things as well.

Senator Conroy —I don’t even have a watch!

Senator IAN MACDONALD —I do not think you are one of the millionaires, Senator Conroy. But there are a couple of your colleagues who, if you are looking at luxury taxes—

The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN (Senator Carol Brown)—Senator Macdonald, please direct your remarks through the chair.

Senator IAN MACDONALD —Thank you, Madam Chair. If the Labor Party were interested in taxing luxury goods then why not have it on jewellery, gold records and those sorts of things? There could be a luxury tax on some of the fine wines that are around. These are the sorts of things that we read about—I do not know about this, but I cannot wait for Mr Costa’s book—in some of the deals between the Labor Party and the very wealthy in this country. If you want to raise some money, let’s have a luxury tax that actually addresses luxury items. Let’s not put the luxury tax on vehicles that are essential for the people in the country who are doing it tough. The people that this tax will mostly affect are not the Lamborghini drivers, who are mates of the Labor Party, or the jet owners. Do we have a luxury tax on jets, by the way?

Senator Abetz —No, we don’t.

Senator IAN MACDONALD —There are some very wealthy businessmen who fly Labor Party operatives round the country. Have we got a luxury tax on them? Or are we going to tax the mum out in country Australia who drives her kids to school and back every day? Senator Fielding, I know that you are not part of this. You are trying to do the right thing. But ask yourself: why isn’t the Labor Party taxing the real luxury items? Why isn’t the Labor Party putting a tax on the real luxury goods in this country and not the essential goods, which are four-wheel drives with a bullbar, some spotlights, a winch and air conditioning to deal with 40-degree temperatures?

Sure, Senator Fielding, I appreciate what you have done for the tourist operators, and I appreciate what you have done for one vehicle up in the north. But the primary producer is using his vehicle on the farm and the carer who takes the kids to school has to have the other one, and they will pay the luxury car tax on that. Why? On your own admission, Senator Fielding, you do not want to destroy the government’s budget tax measures; you want to make sure that they get their revenue—and that is a creditable thought on your behalf. But why don’t we tax the real luxury items, not the essential items? Tax the jets, tax the Rolex watches, tax the jewellery, tax the gold record collection—tax those things that really can be said to be luxury items. Please do not tax an essential means of transport for people who live in remote and country areas of Australia.

I did not want to spend this much time but Senator Conroy has baited me to get annoyed and quite emotional about the fact that this is a luxury tax on a necessity. But you are not taxing real luxury items, which you could easily do. Why that is one could only imagine. But, please, Senator Fielding, if we are going to do this, can’t you take the exemption out a little wider. I do not know how you would do it. Do you say two exemptions for a farming family? If you have two, what about three? What about four? This is why Sen Abetz’s amendment was so very sensible. Perhaps Senator Abetz was a bit generous. Perhaps, Senator Fielding, if you were inclined, you could move an amendment along the lines of Senator Abetz’s, but rather than it being $90,000 make it $80,000. I do not know; I do not have the figures. That would make it more equitable. That would mean that on a farming property not only would dad—presumably; I do not want to be sexist here—who goes out and uses the vehicle on the farm for primary production matters, get it not as a luxury car but also mum, who has to go and do the groceries and take the kids to school, would get it, a typical family arrangement. Or it could be the roo-shooter, whose sole means of livelihood requires him to have a pretty good four-wheel drive vehicle, not one of the cheap ones that will fall to bits in half a year but a fairly substantial vehicle. However, for the roo-shooter, it is a case of, ‘Sorry about that; you pay luxury car tax.’ And never mind the vet, the animal doctor! And what about the people’s doctor? If you get around in these sorts of places, you also need a four-wheel drive—and you do not want a cheap one that will disintegrate with the first kangaroo you hit and you find yourself back in hospital. You want a decent four-wheel drive with a bullbar, air conditioning and a spotlight. I heard one of the Labor people say, ‘Air conditioning—what a luxury item that is!’ I challenge you, Senator Conroy—I know you are a Transport Workers Union guy; you probably drove trucks all over Australia, right up on the Darwin run up to Kununurra.

Senator Sterle interjecting—

Senator IAN MACDONALD —You have done that, have you? Would you ever drive a truck without an air conditioner? Tell me that.

Senator Sterle —Yes, my first four didn’t have air conditioning.

Senator IAN MACDONALD —What about your last 20—did they have air conditioners? Don’t talk to me; I guarantee that if you are a truck driver it is a long time since you have driven in a cab that was not air conditioned—and neither should you. I am surprised that any union man would suggest that people should not drive air-conditioned trucks when they are going from Cairns to Karumba to Darwin to Kununurra to Broome. They are essentials, not a luxury. A Rolex watch is a luxury, a jet plane is a luxury, jewellery is a luxury—all those things are luxuries. Air conditioning in a four-wheel drive is not a luxury. Senator Fielding, this is the trouble: where do you draw the line? In all good faith, you said, ‘Yes, let’s exclude primary producers one vehicle.’ I can understand that but once you start saying, ‘If you have one, that’s okay but if you have two’—as I said earlier, it is a bit like the uranium policy: if uranium comes from three mines, it is good uranium; if it comes from a fourth, it is bad uranium. It is a bit like a vehicle. One primary production vehicle is good—

Senator Conroy —It’s a bit like 25 per cent good and 33 per cent bad.

Senator IAN MACDONALD —But why are you doing this if it is such a small amount, Senator Conroy?

Senator Conroy interjecting—

Senator IAN MACDONALD —That was your argument by interjection.

Senator Conroy —It was not.

Senator IAN MACDONALD —Perhaps you will tell us what the argument was. All I am saying, Senator Fielding, is that your sentiments are correct, and I support them and appreciate what you have been able to achieve. I just think that somewhere along the line the government has been able to convince you that this is the way to do it. I am saying that what you are attempting to do is good but it could be done in a better way. We thought about this too. What is the best way to do it? Senator Abetz picked $90,000. Perhaps you might think that is too much, but let us have a look at other ways that we may achieve the results you are trying to achieve. (Time expired)