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Wednesday, 7 September 1983
Page: 517

Mr HOWARD(6.32) —I say just two things. Firstly, the Opposition accepts and supports the amendments put forward. Obviously, those affected in the swimming pool area welcome the fact that the sales tax rate will be 7 1/2 per cent rather than 20 per cent. I think it is worth pointing out to the Committee that this change produces a further anomaly; that is, that the upmarket swimming pools will remain exempt from the tax but the downmarket pool manufacturers will pay tax at 7 1/2 per cent, which is an interesting anomaly for an egalitarian government to introduce. But I do not want to sound carping on this matter because the area of anomalies in sales tax law is very difficult. I am not surprised that the Treasurer (Mr Keating) has found it necessary to make some changes. I thought that the original revenue estimates were a little hairy. That equally is not surprising. I do not make any criticism of that because these areas are extremely hard to estimate.

Sales tax anomalies are always in the eyes of the beholder. As fast as one alters one anomaly one is bound to create another. Of course, the only real solution to the elimination of anomalies in the sales tax law is to have a totally comprehensive, broadly based, consumption tax at a neutral rate, perhaps excluding things such as food. If one had a nice uniform rate of tax on everything else one would eliminate all of the anomalies, and we would not have all of these problems occurring each year irrespective of who brings in the Budget.

Mr Cohen —As long as you exclude clothing.

Mr HOWARD —The Minister for Home Affairs and Environment says, 'as long as you exclude clothing'. I have news for him. I cannot have a unity ticket with him on that. However, the Opposition accepts the changes although they produce the further rather interesting anomaly that certain forms of swimming pools, particularly those that can loosely be called 'upmarket', will remain exempt.

The final comment I make relates to the presentation of the revenue figures in the indirect taxation area. If I may say so, I think that some of the confusion about estimates may have arisen from the Government's lumping certain revenue yields from excise changes together. For example, the Government did lump together revenue yields from the changes relating to fuel oils and grape spirit. I think that has occurred in a number of other areas and may have led to some of the confusion in this area. But the Opposition accepts and welcomes the amendments. I for one certainly understand the difficulties that are involved in estimating some of these areas. I do not seek to derive any point from the fact that there has been some revision inside an overall balance so far as the revenue estimates are concerned.

Amendments agreed to.

Bill, as amended, agreed to.

Bill reported with amendments; report-by leave-adopted.