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Wednesday, 2 December 2015
Page: 9690

Senator IAN MACDONALD (Queensland) (16:42): For anyone listening to this debate, I do not think it needs me to emphasise the complete lack of any conviction or truth in the arguments put forward by the Australian Labor Party. There is only one politician I have ever heard talking about a 15 per cent increase in the GST—that is, the Labor Party Premier of South Australia. The Labor Party Premier of South Australia is the only person I have ever heard talk about a 15 per cent increase in the GST. All of those pious words, that lettuce-leaf attack from the Labor Party in this debate, supported by their Green allies, is simply a straw man. It is something that they have made up and something they are trying to scare the Australian public with.

I entered this debate in rather a unique fashion. I think I am the only senator in this chamber who was there when the original GST debate was had and when the GST was implemented. I remember the same arguments from the ALP at the time: how awful it was, how terrible it was, how it was going to destroy everybody and hurt all those on low incomes. Subsequently, they came to government and did they do one thing at all to get rid of the GST? We knew that would be the case. We said to them back in the original debate, 'If you think this tax reform is so bad, give us an undertaking that you will reject and repeal the GST should you ever become the government.' Well, they did become the government, more to Australia's shame and pity, and did they do anything about removing the GST? Of course they did not. All of the arguments you hear from the Australian Labor Party senators—I have heard them all before. They are all so disingenuous, so mischievous and such a real lie as to the present position as not to warrant any relevance at all. I am sure the public of Australia understand that.

I am sorry: there is one other person that has mentioned 15 per cent in the GST, I beg your pardon, and that is me. I have made it clear that, having made a promise back in the 1998 legislation, I would never be part of a parliament that voted for an increase in the GST; I would be voting against it, if the Labor Party or anyone else ever brought up a proposal for an increase in the GST.

I remember well the 1998 election campaign: we went to the election telling the Australian public we were going to introduce a 10 per cent GST. At the time, the Labor Party, the media and the ABC all said: 'You'll introduce it at 10 per cent. You'll do what New Zealand has done. You'll increase it to 12½ per cent then 15.' John Howard and I and everyone else in the government at the time signed in blood that we would never increase it beyond 10 per cent, and I intend to discharge that commitment I made to my electors at the time.

I have said that I would go back to the original proposal that the people of Australia voted for when we had the courage to take that proposal to the election—that is, it was to be a broad based GST at 10 per cent with appropriate compensations for lower-income groups. We had to change that to get it through the Senate at the time, but I would go back to it. That is what the Australian people in that election agreed with, and I would go back to the broad based GST at 10 per cent.

I remind any listeners, because the Labor Party try to confuse the issue: with an increase in the GST, the money goes directly to the states. The federal government, the then Howard government, the Turnbull government, if they were looking at a broad based 10 per cent—any increase in revenue does not go to the federal government; it goes to the state governments, half of which, regrettably, are controlled by the Labor Party. And would the Labor Party give back any additional funds they might have, if there was a broad based GST? Of course they would not.

I repeat: the only person to have called for an increase to 15 per cent is a Labor Party politician—the Premier of South Australia. Yet you have the hypocrisy of senators from the Labor Party coming in here with all this bleating and bleeding. Why don't they go and talk to Mr Weatherill, if they are so concerned about it, because he is the only person who has spoken about an increase in the GST to 15 per cent?

The Labor Party, and we know you cannot believe them—we had a proposal for a 10 per cent GST and we actually took it to the Australian public, who endorsed our proposal—before the 2007 election promised the Australian people they would never, ever introduce a carbon tax. It was a solemn promise, a week out from the election, two days out from the election, 24 hours out from the election—a promise repeated and repeated by the leader and the Treasurer of the Labor Party: we will not introduce a carbon tax. What was the very first thing they did? Introduce a carbon tax.

The contrast between the Liberal and National parties, and the Labor Party could not be more stark: on our side, if we have a proposal, we take it to the Australian people, who in our case, endorsed it; in the Labor Party's case, they lied to the Australian people that they would not introduce a carbon tax and then, as soon as they were elected, came in and did the opposite.

We do have plans. Australia needs taxation reform. We are involved in a broadscale discussion on that now. That must happen, if Australia is to move forward, but we will do it honestly.