Wednesday, 11 November 2015
Questions without Notice
Goods and Services Tax
My question is to the minister representing the Treasurer, Senator Brandis. I refer to comments by Senator Bernardi, who has said that any increase of the GST to 15 per cent cannot be 'a revenue grab' which gives the revenue to the states. Does the minister agree?
Senator Polley, as you know, we are having a conversation in this country at the moment about options for tax reform. It is an issue, I might say, that was entirely squibbed by the Australian Labor Party when you were in government. Who can forget the Henry tax review? The Henry tax review with its 138 recommendations was kept in a locked box until the last moment. Do you know how many of those 138 recommendations were acted upon by the Rudd government? One out of 138. And do you know what, Senator Polley, it was the worst of them—the MRRT. We have had a master class from your side of politics about how not to do tax reform. What we are doing is encouraging a national conversation about jobs and growth, of which tax policy is a very important feature. Of course different views are going to be expressed about different aspects of tax policy, and one of those things is the GST, and one aspect of that is about the rate of the GST. Different people have expressed different views about the rate of the GST. Most of the people calling for increases in the GST are in a posse of premiers, former and current.
Mr President, I rise on a point of order going to direct relevance. The question was about whether the minister agrees with Senator Bernardi's comments about a revenue grab. I would like to have some reference to that question.
I will tell you what I agree with Senator Bernardi about, Senator Polley. I agree that Senator Bernardi has a right to contribute to the discussion, just as Premier Jay Weatherill, who is calling for an increase in the rate of the GST, has a right to have his views heard in the course of the discussion. But there is no proposal coming from the Turnbull government to increase the GST.
Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. I refer to the Liberal Premier of New South Wales, Mike Baird, who has called for the GST to rise to 15 per cent to fund health spending. Is this the government's position?
No, it is not. Mr Baird is expressing views, and one of those views is that there should be an increase in the GST. We welcome the expression of Mr Baird's view, just as we welcome the expression, as I mentioned a moment ago, of a like view by the Labor Premier of South Australia, Mr Jay Weatherill, who is also calling for an increase in the GST, as we welcome the expression of a like view by the Liberal Premier of Western Australia, who has called for an increase in the rate of the GST, as we welcome the view of the former Labor Premier of Queensland, Mr Peter Beattie, who has called for an increase in the rate of the GST. We welcome the expression of those views, just as we welcome the expression of the view of Senator Bernardi to the contrary effect, because we are having a public discussion. But the Turnbull government is not proposing an increase in the rate of the GST.
Mr President, I ask a further supplementary question. What exactly will the Turnbull government's 15 per cent GST pay for? Will it pay for state funding for health and education, tax cuts or compensation? Isn't it true that lower income Australians will have to pay more, whatever the outcome?
Government senators interjecting—
I do not think you can have been listening to my answers to your first and second questions. I have just told you and let me say it again: the Turnbull government is not proposing an increase to the rate of the GST. There is no proposal from the Turnbull government to increase the GST to 15 per cent or to any other particular rate, but what we are doing is encouraging a national discussion about this. We believe that the Australian people are smart enough to welcome a serious public discussion about tax policy, something that was never vouchsafed to them when you were in government. We believe that the Australian people are smart enough to have an intelligent discussion about tax rates, something that they never had the opportunity to do when your side of politics was in power. We welcome the music of different views. We welcome the music of a variety of views, but we ourselves are not proposing an increase in the rate of the GST. (Time expired)