Date:3.33 PM TUESDAY, 24 November 1998
Member:Donaldson, Hon Bruce
Smith, Hon Greg
Page:3933 / 1

Government is formed in the House of Representatives. I am sorry that the democratically elected Government is being frustrated by a Senate that is becoming a mini-Government in its own right. It is not the role of the Senate to set policy. That is the role of the democratically elected Government, which goes to the people in an election to get a mandate for its policy. That is what government is all about. The Australian Labor Party should remember that, because one day it may get back into government - although the way it is going, we probably will not see that in our lifetime - and if the opposition parties then turn around and say, "Sorry, you do not have a mandate", the ALP will whinge and carry on -

Hon N.D. Griffiths: Is that what you are doing?

Hon B.K. DONALDSON: No. I am just pointing out the facts, so that people will know who should be blamed for stopping progress in this nation. We have also seen that occur in this House, unfortunately. It is about time the opposition members of this House, who are Western Australian members of Parliament, had the gumption to represent the people of Western Australia, who stand to gain a great deal from a GST.

HON GREG SMITH (Mining and Pastoral) [3.51 pm]: It gives me great pleasure to support this motion, because no other region in Australia will benefit more from the Federal Government's proposed tax changes than the Mining and Pastoral Region. It is very unfortunate that these proposed changes are being blocked by members of the Federal Opposition, who seem to think that because they are in opposition, they are compelled not to support those proposed changes.

Hon N.D. Griffiths: Why not write to them instead of wasting our time with this motion?

The PRESIDENT: Order! This is a limited-time debate, and I do not need any interjections.

Hon GREG SMITH: It was made very clear during the federal election that the people in my electorate support this proposed taxation package, because we won the seat with a Liberal member, with that tax reform policy. That package must go through the Federal Parliament holus-bolus and not be chipped away at the edges. The proposed removal of the fringe benefits tax from housing for the mining industry will be one of the most significant steps forward for the mining and pastoral area since the atrocious FBT was introduced. That tax has destroyed numerous towns and local communities, because people are now flying in and flying out rather than accommodating their families in the area.

The PRESIDENT: Order! If the Leader of the Opposition and the leader of the Government want to have a discussion, would they move outside. I am trying to listen to Hon Greg Smith.

Hon GREG SMITH: Thank you, Mr President. It would do Hon Tom Stephens good to listen, because he might then understand a bit about taxation reform. If the opposition parties in the Senate - the Democrats, the Greens and the ALP - amend this package so that the GST will not apply to food, I fear that the money forgone will be raised from another area, perhaps by retaining the FBT on housing in mining areas. The package has been formulated to give tax reform to Australians across the board, regardless of where they live and how much they earn.

One excellent feature of the package is the proposed reduction in the cost of fuel for road transport. That will make a significant difference to the cost of production, and also to the cost of living in Western Australia, particularly in places like Kununurra, Carnarvon and Karratha, because the majority of the goods that come into this State come by road. Arnotts biscuits, for example, are manufactured in Queensland. They are then put on a truck in Queensland, which travels down the eastern seaboard, across the Nullarbor, and up the coast as far as Karratha. If the cost of diesel for road transport were reduced by 27 a litre to the people who use that fuel, that would reduce the cost of operating a road train by between $2 000 and $3 000 a week, because a road train uses about seven litres of fuel a kilometre. I am concerned that if the opposition parties in Canberra start tinkering around the edges and saying that revenue cannot be collected from certain areas, the people in the bush will miss out again. They always seem to be the sacrificial lambs -

Hon N.D. Griffiths: Under you they are.

Hon GREG SMITH: They were the sacrificial lambs under Labor for 10 years before we came into government. This proposed taxation package is an attempt to rectify some of the disparities that exist in the bush.

The federal coalition knows that it cannot give people tax cuts without collecting additional revenue from other sources. Therefore, it is proposing to broaden the taxation base by taxing consumption rather than production. The problem with our taxation system is that we have been taxing the people who are producing in this country rather than the people who are consuming. The people who are trying to export competitively overseas must compete on world markets when huge imposts are being placed upon their business. The proposed taxation cuts will provide significant benefits for the mining and pastoral area. Most of the people who work in places like Kalgoorlie, Karratha and Tom Price earn between $50 000 and $60 000 a year. The greatest free kick that the coalition parties received during the election campaign was in the federal seat of Kalgoorlie, when Kim Beazley released his tax package, because he said, "Anyone who earns $50 000 a year is wealthy, and anyone who drives a Toorak tractor should pay more tax." People who live in places like Karratha need to earn at least $50 000 a year just to live. However, Beazley was saying to those people, "If you earn $50 000 a year, you do not need any help. We will keep taxing you at 48 in the dollar."