Senate debates

Monday, 19 June 2017

Bills

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

10:35 am

Photo of David LeyonhjelmDavid Leyonhjelm (NSW, Liberal Democratic Party) Share this | Hansard source

It does not matter whether you vote for Labor or the Liberals; either way, you get a government that sets impossible hurdles to employing the unemployed, you get a government that buries businesses in red tape, you get a government that raises the cost of living and you get a government that just loves to tax. When the GST was first introduced, Commonwealth tax, including the GST, was equivalent to $12,000 per person in current prices. Now it is $14,000 per person. But that is not enough for the Liberal-Labor unity ticket. With the bill before us today, the Treasury Laws Amendment (GST Low Value Goods) Bill 2017, the Liberals are extending the reach of GST to imports that are valued at less than $1,000, facilitated by platforms such as eBay and Amazon. And while Labor want to delay this extension, they still support the bill.

As well as raise revenue, the bill will bury platforms like eBay and Amazon in a mountain of red tape. How much red tape is anyone's guess. Unlike the dozens of tax bills that have been waved through this place since I have been here, this bill includes no regulation impact statement and hence has no estimate of the red tape burden being piled on. This is extraordinary. At the exact time that we need a regulatory impact statement, the regulatory impact statement goes missing. A cynic would suspect there is something to hide.

It is hard to imagine how eBay could possibly collect GST. Suppose Yankee John Doe is selling a product on eBay and Aussie Joe Bloggs is interested. Does eBay tell Yankee John Doe that he will receive only 10 elevenths of the winning bid if the winning bidder happens to be Australian? Or does eBay tell Aussie Joe Bloggs that if he puts in the winning bid he will have to pay 10 per cent more? And how is eBay to know whether what is being sold by Yankee John Doe is new or second-hand? Or do we just assume eBay takes a 10 per cent hit every time someone sells something to an Australian? Perhaps eBay should sell to Australians only goods that cost more than $1,000, so Border Force will be responsible for collecting the GST and not eBay.

Given this complexity, some platforms might just refuse to facilitate sales to Australians while those that have no presence in Australia will almost certainly just ignore Australian tax law. The ATO will not be able to do anything about it—and of course those platforms are not likely to bother with payment protection or other safeguards against scams. Either way, the Australian consumer loses. Even if the commencement of the bill is delayed—and I will support the motion to delay it—it would be the height of irresponsibility for the Liberals and Labor to wave into law this radical new approach to the GST, given the absence of any information on the resulting red tape burden and the costs for Australian consumers. To coin a phrase from a Senate colleague, please explain.

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