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Tuesday, 1 December 2015
Page: 9412


Senator McALLISTER (New South Wales) (15:23): If I was confused at the end of question time about the government's position on the GST, I am afraid I am no more enlightened at this point because I have heard from the other side that there are no plans. I have also heard that everything is on the table. I have heard that perhaps the GST should be on the table. I have heard from Senator Nash that what is required is a balanced, mature, sensible and responsible conversation about tax and I have heard perhaps similar sentiments from others, as they move to have an entirely unbalanced, entirely silly conversation about the sensible measures proposed by the Labor Party to reasonably deal with the very real threat of climate change and the sensible measures proposed by us to rein in smoking rates and to start to address the very horrible costs, both personnel and economic, that smoking inflicts on families in this nation.

The only thing that senators opposite do not want to talk about is the GST because we all know that the GST is on the table. The Prime Minister has told us that everything is on the table, that the GST should be on the table, and we know that people opposite do not want to talk about it because an increase in the GST is not in any way in the interests of Australian people. The Australian people do not want GST extended to fresh fruit and vegetables and to products like Tasmanian apples and Tasmanian salmon. The Australian people do not want and nor is it in their interests for the GST to be extended to health services or to education services. Nor is it in the interests of the Australian people for the GST to be increased from the current 10 per cent to 15 per cent. All of these things are on the table because, despite the denials from those opposite or sometimes the endorsement that everything is on the table, it is very clear that at the heart of the government's agenda on taxation is a reduction in corporate tax at the expense of ordinary people by increasing the GST they currently pay. For those people that will mean that every single time they walk into a supermarket, every time they walk into a shop to get the gear ready for a return to school, every time you go shopping for Christmas presents, every time they go to see a medical officer, changes to the GST of the kind imagined and hoped for by those opposite will be very bad news for Australian families. We can understand it at that visceral level. We can imagine what it means to households but, thanks to ACOSS, we also have the modelling which tells us what it will mean at a national level. The ACOSS modelling tells us that, even in its current form, the GST is regressive, raising almost twice the share of GST from the lowest 20 per cent of household incomes compared to the top 20 per cent. Although high-income earners pay more in dollar terms, the GST has a much bigger impact on low-income households because they have much less income to spend.

So what would happen if we changed the GST along the lines advocated by those opposite? Extending the GST to fresh food would cost an additional two per cent of income for the lowest 20 per cent of households but only the 0.6 per cent of income for those with the highest income. How shameful! This is a measure which absolutely targets the living standards of the lowest 20 per cent of households.

Senator Conroy: That is the plan, though.

Senator McALLISTER: What would happen, Senator Conroy, if we extended the GST to health? It would cost an additional 1.6 per cent of income for the lowest 20 per cent of households but only 0.6 per cent for the highest 20 per cent. And what would happen overall if all these changes were put into place? We would see the lowest 20 per cent paying 4.6 per cent more of their income in tax compared to just 1.7 per cent for the top 20 per cent. This tells us that this is deliberately designed to increase inequality in this country. It is a tax that reaches into the families who people on this side of the chamber will never ever abandoned because we did not come here to increase inequality, we did not come here to punish low-income families and middle-income families and we did not come here to support the GST. So people on the other side of the chamber can vacillate about whether it is on or off the table, but we know that, if it comes before this chamber, senators on this side will be voting against it.

Question agreed to.