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Tuesday, 1 December 2015
Page: 9388

Goods and Services Tax


Senator URQUHART (TasmaniaDeputy Opposition Whip in the Senate) (14:00): My question is to the Minister for Tourism and International Education, Senator Colbeck. I refer to the minister's statement this time last week that, 'There is no proposal from the government on the table to change the GST.' I also refer to the Prime Minister's statement that, 'Changes to the GST should be on the table.' Who is correct—the junior minister for tourism or the Prime Minister?


Senator COLBECK (TasmaniaMinister for Tourism and International Education and Minister Assisting the Minister for Trade and Investment) (14:00): I thank Senator Urquhart for the question. I do not think there is actually any conflict between what is being said. In fact, the only proposal that I am immediately aware of for an increase in the GST comes from the Premier of South Australia. If the Prime Minister is asking for people to put a proposal on the table, that is fine. I think that is his purview. What I said quite clearly last week was that the government has no proposal on the table for an increase in the GST. The only person that I know that has a proposal on the table for an increase in the GST is the Premier of South Australia. There has been discussion from the Premier of New South Wales about changes to the GST; other state premiers have said that they do not want to see an increase in the GST, including our Tasmanian Premier, Will Hodgman.

I do not actually see that there is any conflict between what I said last week when I said the government does not have any proposal on the table for a change to the GST, because we do not; we actually do not. If the Prime Minister wants to say that there should be proposals on the table—and there are proposals on the table put on there by the Premier of South Australia—we have a process where we are prepared to consider everything being on the table. We are not shying away from that. We did not do what the Labor Party did in opposition, when they had a root and branch review of the tax system but they forgot the trunk. We are prepared to say we are looking at the entire tax system. We are not squibbing it, like the Labor Party did. We are actually prepared to consider, properly, the tax system—how it might be improved so that we have an economy that continues to grow strongly, an economy that is sound and is fair for all Australians. I do not see that there is any conflict in what I said or in what the Prime Minister said at all.


Senator URQUHART (TasmaniaDeputy Opposition Whip in the Senate) (14:02): Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. Will the minister rule out extending the GST on fresh Tasmanian salmon, a key tourism drawcard for his home state?


Senator COLBECK (TasmaniaMinister for Tourism and International Education and Minister Assisting the Minister for Trade and Investment) (14:03): As I said in my previous answer and as I said last week, the government has no proposal on the table to increase the GST. If the Labor Party wants to try and run a scare campaign, I think—and I said this last week—that is for them to do. I notice that they are not talking about GST or a 15 per cent GST rate anymore, because they do not want to mention the term '15 per cent' anymore. I cannot for any reason understand why they would be afraid of '15 per cent'! But the government has no proposal on the table to increase the level of the GST. My answer from last week remains in exactly the same way that it does this week. So the Labor Party seem to be proposing they might go through the entire economy proposing different numbers or suggestions. (Time expired)


Senator URQUHART (TasmaniaDeputy Opposition Whip in the Senate) (14:04): Mr President, I ask a further supplementary question. Will the minister rule out extending the GST to Tasmanian apples, another tourism drawcard for his home state, the Apple Isle?


Senator COLBECK (TasmaniaMinister for Tourism and International Education and Minister Assisting the Minister for Trade and Investment) (14:04): The Labor Party are obviously very, very slow learners. The government, as I said last week and as I have repeated a number of times again today, have no proposal on the table to increase the GST. The only proposal on the table to increase the GST comes from the South Australian Labor Premier, who wants a 15 per cent GST; that was Premier Weatherill's suggestion. So we have no proposals on the table to increase the GST on anything. So, to save the Labor Party from this endless roll through the economy of what might be or what might not be, depending on whatever scare campaign they want to run at a particular point in time: the government has no proposal on the table to increase the GST.