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Wednesday, 22 November 1978
Page: 3215

Mr Donald Cameron (FADDEN, QUEENSLAND) - One of the most incredible things to witness in this Parliament is the way that honourable members who were previously seated on this side can so quickly forget events of the past when they take their seats on the other side. It was only on 6 November that the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Hayden), when in Broadbeach, Queensland, at the Building Workers Industrial Union conference, said:

A Labor government would not have raised the cost of beer, cigarettes, clothing, footwear and petrol in the recent Budget.

It was only tonight that the honourable member for Adelaide (Mr Hurford) repeated those sentiments. Yet in 1975, the last year of the Labor Administration, it gave the price of beer a boot along once again, by adding more excise. The Labor Government again kicked up the excise on tobacco. It was also during its administration that it gave the hike to the price of petroleum products. Well may the member for Adelaide drink water in the comfort of the fact that he has regained his seat and does not have to face the comments from this side of the House once again. Well may he gain comfort in conversation with the Clerks of this Parliament to seek guidance as to what steps he may take in the next moment, but there is no escaping the fact that the Labor Party, when in government, not only turned on the taps of the rum kegs but booted everything along and even made the price of a postage stamp jump like a kangaroo. Little wonder that he holds his right hand to his brow, suppressing the beat -

Mr Chapman - It is his left hand now.

Mr Donald Cameron (FADDEN, QUEENSLAND) - I am reminded he has swapped hands. Whilst supporting the Government on these necessary moves, I make certain comments which should be borne in mind for the future. I am pleased to see that the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs (Mr Fife) is at the table, because I do not believe him to be an insensitive Minister or that some of the measures which have been undertaken are completely at the behest of his Department; rather are they instructional changes at the hands of Treasury. It is to Treasury which I direct the following comments. When Treasury decides that it is time for a hike in excise on beer, spirits, et cetera, it indicates little appreciation or understanding of the effect that such a movement has on the market. I do not refer simply to the downturn in consumption but rather to the effect on the small businessman and, in some cases, the not so small businessman whose business is involved in the marketing of these products.

Whilst the Government's increase in excise on spirits is a nominal figure, the effect on that actual bottle on the shelf on the day prior to the introduction of the Budget compared to the day after the introduction of the Budget is vast. For instance, I cite the example of rum which prior to the Budget marketed at a figure of approximately $6.95 and now sells at a price in excess of $11. Yet successive Treasurers are advised not to relent in any way on the demand that those who wholesale spirits must pass over the collection of excise within seven days. Far removed is Canberra from the real markets of Australia because the facts of life are that in the real business world people pay their accounts within a period of 30 to 60 days. Not only do we increase the excise but indirectly and unannounced in the Budget is the demand that those who supply the product to the retailers must pay the extra amount of money still within seven days. It means that we have businesses scurrying off to banks and lending institutions for the purpose of acquiring extra credit That is but one way whereby a Budget or an announcement which increases the excise has an effect on the consuming public and the wholesaler. I do make a plea to the Minister at the table, whilst I readily concede that a government, the tax collector or the customs collector never loses, that for a change they adorn themselves with the cloak of humanity and understanding and realise that for the small business man and for the not so small business man life is not so assured as the business world is a struggle.

Frequently, measures introduced by government have ramifications far beyond the understanding and comprehension of people living here in the gold lined coffin which represents the nation's capital. Life is not so easy away from the Austraiian Capital Territory. I know small business men who at this very moment are in great difficulty simply as a result of trying to meet the demands of government that they make their payments within seven days. I make a strong plea to the Minister at the table that he really take this into consideration and realise that with the high cost of servicing borrowed money this can make the difference between a business that is viable and a business that goes to the wall. It is ironic that the South Australian who spoke before me made but passing comment on the future of the rum industry in Queensland. It would seem almost as if someone in his party room stood up and said: 'Chris, do not forget to mention rum when you make your speech '.

I make mention of the Beenleigh Rum Distillery in my electorate because for far too long now Australians have adored a product with the marketable and acceptable name of Bacardi, a magic word, which has meant that millions upon millions of dollars have poured out of this country to Brazil. Yet in Queensland we have the facilities, quality control and development to produce a product which would more than satisfy the needs of the rum consuming community of this country. Governments of all political colours have continued to forget the existence of a most acceptable local product, whether it be Beenleigh or Bundaberg rum, as both producers have the capacity and the product to fulfil the needs of Australians. Whilst my friends, the honourable member for Wakefield (Mr Giles) and the honourable member for Kingston (Mr Chapman) become upset- is that the right word?

Mr Chapman - Concerned.

Mr Donald Cameron (FADDEN, QUEENSLAND) - ... disturbed at what is happening to brandy, I simply mention in passing that a more sympathetic attitude to the promotion of Australian rum would ensure the cessation of the outflow of millions of Austraiian dollars on imported rum.

In conclusion, I make reference to the excise increase on petroleum products. I truly understand and accept that, if Australia is to continue to have the advantage of prices for petroleum products lower than the average throughout the world, we must expand our search for oil. I accept that without any qualification whatsoever.

Mr Giles - Castor oil.

Mr Donald Cameron (FADDEN, QUEENSLAND) - Well may the honourable member for Wakefield need a dose. Whilst I say that, I express the view that the Government has a definite obligation continually to explain to the Australian public what we are all about and why the price of petroleum products must be increased- basically to increase the search. In referring to this aspect, I wish to make reference to the amount of money allocated in the August Budget to the national energy conservation publicity campaign and the $5.7m to encourage coal research, and other expenditure. All this money is being spent in the name of energy. Yet, for the life of me, I do not understand why we continue to impose sales tax on solar appliances. Items such as pool heating are taxed at 1 5 per cent and appliances for industrial uses are taxed at 15 per cent. Household heating appliances are taxed at 2Vi per cent and replacement components are taxed at 15 per cent.

I see the Deputy Government Whip within feet of me. Knowing the power he possesses, I will not push my luck too far. I simply say that I find it totally inconsistent that we still apply sales tax to solar appliances, yet we continue to raise money from other taxes in the name of searching for alternatives and to curb the use of fuels. I know that the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs who is at the table is listening closely to what I am saying. I hope that the next time he is at a Cabinet meeting he will awaken that group of wise men to the inconsistencies which exist.

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