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Tuesday, 10 November 2015
Page: 8120

Senator BILYK (TasmaniaDeputy Opposition Whip in the Senate) (15:26): Once again we have seen a question time where the government absolutely failed to give accurate answers to the opposition's very reasonable questions, especially questions on the GST. There were three quite clear questions to Senator Cormann: did he stand by his commitment that, from 2013, the GST would not change if elected to government on 7 September; did he stand by his commitment that, under the coalition, there would be no cuts to hospitals, schools, defence or pensions and no increase in the GST; and was Mr Pyne correct when he told a group of coalition MPs yesterday that the Turnbull government will not be taking an increase to the GST to the next election? Of course, in all the answers we got, we just got obfuscation. We could not get a clear answer. We saw the minister dodge and hedge, absolutely determined not to give a clear answer, not only to this chamber but to the Australian people. It is clear that this government is planning to attempt to increase the GST. If I had any doubts, Senator Lindgren's contribution just before probably took away those doubts. It is pretty clear from what she said that the GST will be broadened. In fact, if I were a betting woman, I would probably put some money on it, judging by those comments.

Senator Gallacher: I'll have a bet.

Senator BILYK: Thank you, Senator Gallacher, but I do not think we are allowed to have bets in here. See me outside, but I think we would be betting on the same thing. Time and time again, what do we see from this government? We see changes by this government that impact those on lower incomes significantly more than those on higher incomes. That is what the problem is with broadening the GST, especially if it relates to food. One of the big concerns I have is that, if you add the GST to all the foodstuffs, lower income people, firstly, will spend more of their income on surviving and just being able to eat and, secondly, because it is often cheaper, will probably have to resort to buying junk food. If fresh food has the tax on it, it will not encourage people to buy fresh food.

The chief executive officer of ACOSS, Cassandra Goldie, told the 7.30 Report that the modelling showed that this was definitely a regressive tax and would disproportionately impact the budgets of low- and middle-income earners who spend more of their overall income on living costs. Of course, food is included in that, as are such things as electricity and going to the doctor. Everything will have a much bigger impact on those that earn the least. Dr Goldie also stated that all the money raised by the tax may have to be spent compensating those affected by the increase in the GST rate, anyway.

A new 15 per cent tax on shopping and fresh food will also cause problems for small businesses, because it will create more red tape. This blows the government's rhetoric on reducing red tape completely out of the water. I wonder whether small businesses are going to be lined up to become the government's unpaid tax collectors. I look at those small supermarkets—not the two major ones, or the three major ones as is the case in a lot of states, but the smaller, corner-shop types that we still have in Tasmania—and I think: is this going to be a whole lot more red tape for those businesses? We hear, time and time again, from the government that they are reducing red tape. We have these great repeal days that there is a lot of fanfare about. They want hats and whistles and balloons because they take a comma out of an old act.

I do not know if the government know what they are doing with regard to GST, because there appear to be a number of backbenchers who are quite concerned about increasing the GST and broadening the rate. We have heard from a number of those over the last two weeks. (Time expired)

Question agreed to.