Senate debates

Monday, 19 June 2017

Bills

Treasury Laws Amendment (GST Low Value Goods) Bill 2017; Second Reading

10:05 am

Photo of Ian MacdonaldIan Macdonald (Queensland, Liberal Party) Share this | Hansard source

This is a bill whose time has at last come. The Treasury Laws Amendment (GST Low Value Goods) Bill 2017 is a bill that I believe should have been introduced many, many years ago, to ensure that imported goods under $1,000 had the same tax on them as those same goods would have had if they were sold by an Australian retailer within Australia. For too long, our small businesspeople in Australia and the retailers in our country have had to put up with this very unfair competition; that is, they could sell a good—an item of clothing or some other well-used good in Australia—but they would always start 10 per cent behind the price that a foreign dispatcher of that same good could charge. Over the years, so many constituents who are in small business would complain to me about how our fellow Australians would go into their shop, have a look around, see the particular good they wanted and the statistics of that particular good, then walk out of the shop, go home, and order it online from overseas for at least 10 per cent less than my constituents in Queensland could charge.

To a degree, this is an issue that has impacted upon small businesspeople, particularly in Australia, for a long period of time. In our wisdom, the parliament in the past decided that goods over $1,000 in value would be subject to the GST, but we gave this exemption for lower value goods mainly, I suspect, because it was always thought to be too hard to collect money on hundreds of thousands—perhaps even millions—of goods that were acquired by Australians from overseas retailers at relatively low values. I can understand the concern that the Treasury and the public service would have had with that, but I come at this from the position of my constituents and the people who support our party—small business people—who have been unfairly disadvantaged for a long period of time now. I am delighted that this bill is at last going to address that. I tell somewhat humorously that the first person who raised this with me, three or four years ago now, was a local businessman in Townsville who had a number of businesses, but one of them was an adult shop. He came to me and he said that people were no longer using his shop because they could get the same goods much cheaper from overseas because he had to comply with Australian moral laws, but, more importantly, he had to comply with the GST laws. His sale items were always 10 per cent more than those of his competitors who were overseas, who could ship the goods in. According to him and others of my constituents who have raised it with me, within three or four days the goods would be at the residence of the buyer. In his business, that was another attraction. I only mention that because that was a graphic example of why reform was needed in this area.

I will briefly refer to Senator Waters' speech, in which she addressed a particular item on which she is introducing a second reading amendment. It would be good if we could remove the GST from everything. Australians would generally love that, but unfortunately the state governments—who get all of the revenue from the GST—would not be very keen on that. That is because the GST is the main revenue of the states. I say to Senator Waters: if she has an important issue there, I would think the first port of call for her would be to see the states and to see—

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