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A New Tax System
June 28, 1999
Australian Competition and Consumer Commission Appointment
June 30, 1999
A New Tax System
June 28, 1999
Australian Competition and Consumer Commission Appointment
June 30, 1999

Tax, Company Tax

Transcript No. 99/48


Hon Peter Costello MP

Radio National with Fran Kelly

Tuesday, 29 June 1999

7.35 am


SUBJECT: Tax, Company Tax


It was a very happy Treasurer Peter Costello that danced into this studio last night,

although he swears he wasn’t breaking out the champagne just yet.


We’ve still got another day to put the legislation formally through the House of

Reps and then we’ll start working on implementation issues, and it will take us all

of 12 months to do that. But the great news is this is the biggest tax reform in 99 years.

We’ll have a new system of indirect tax. We’ll abolish wholesale sales tax.

There’ll be income tax cuts for every taxpayer on 1 July. There’ll be increased

family allowances. There’ll be a new system of Commonwealth-State financial

relations. And the hard yards, these have been really hard yards and people have tried in

the past, and it’s a great credit to John Howard, to the Government, to the

Coalition, to all those that were prepared to try, that they have risked everything and

brought off tax reform in Australia.


Now that it has passed are you happy for it to be Peter Costello’s GST, or would

you rather it was John Howard’s GST?


It’s always been the Government’s tax reform. And when John Howard and I

launched the policy I said it was the Government’s tax reform. I don’t think

either of us has worked on anything as hard in our lives. For me this was every single day

for two years. And for John it’s been a campaign, I think probably for 20 years. And

if tax reform were easy Fran, somebody would’ve done it by now. And I pay tribute to

Paul Keating, he tried in 1985, I pay tribute to John Hewson who tried in 1993 and the

great news is on 1 July 2000, the beginning of the second century for the Australian

Federation, we’ll have a new tax system, that’s the way it ought to be.


And will consumers get their tax cuts at the same time they start paying the GST on

goods and services that they’ve never paid tax on before?


Yeah, 1 July 2000. And everybody’s got more money in their pocket because the

Government’s going to raise tax as you spend, not as you earn. And that’s only

right because we want to encourage people to work and to save. And we’ve had a

terrible tax system, penalising savers and rewarding spenders, well now we’re

redressing the balance a bit. We’re going to tax more as you spend and you’ll

save more of the money that you earn in your weekly pay packet.


Well, Labor’s already started planning how it will exploit this new tax package,

well the GST part of it anyway, to their advantage come the next election. Do you think it

will be an issue at the next election?


Well, I think Labor’s got to be honest and they ought to go to the next election

with a policy of introducing wholesale sales tax. Let’s make no mistake about this.

For the last two years they’ve been campaigning for wholesale sales tax. You always

hear half of their equation, which is we’re against GST. The other half is, because

we’re in favour of wholesale sales tax, a $17 billion tax. Now, I’ve said

before, the Australian Labor Party, Botswana and Swaziland are committed to wholesale

sales tax. If Beazley’s honest he would run to the next election with a policy to

abolish GST and introduce wholesale sales tax. You can’t just go to elections

abolishing taxes, he’s got to say what he’s reintroducing and it must be

wholesales sales tax.


Well, what about your nightmare on Main Street. I know you’ve been around this a

lot too but in an effort to make it less nightmarish do you support the notion of

different categories of small business retailers in particular, having their GST liability

averaged out at a rate lower than 10 per cent to make that whole compliance exercise



Well, it amounts to the same thing. Let’s suppose 70 per cent of your sales has to

bear a 10 per cent GST. It’s the same thing as 7 per cent on 100 per cent of your



So is it a good idea?


Well, if the Tax Commissioner wants to issue guidelines that could make it work, he has

the power to do it . . .


Is it up to the Tax Commissioner . . .


. . . and . . .


. . . or can the Cabinet make that decision?


Well, I’ve made sure that there is the scope to do that. It’s done in the

income tax area, quite commonly in the income tax area, the Tax Commissioner says if you

want to claim a work related expense up to X you don’t have to substantiate it. If

somebody wants to assess on that basis and the Tax Commissioner issues guidelines,

that’s a matter that will be looked at. But, the people that would need that are just

a very small group. It’s the group of people that are selling mixed foods. Your green

grocer . . .


Like your local deli?


. . . if you’re a green grocer it’s not a problem because all of your fruit

and vegies are GST free. If you’re a butcher it’s not a problem, if you’re

an accountant, if you’re a lawyer, if you’re a bike shop, if you’re a

clothes shop, if you’re a department store, if you’re a furniture store, they

don’t have that problem. There’s only one area in which this problem now arises,

in the food area. And you don’t want to overstate the problem. It doesn’t arise

for restaurants, it doesn’t arise for takeaways, your milkbar or your small deli

that’s selling takeaway food and fresh foods, maybe the Tax Commissioner will be able

to issue those guidelines. But you know we’ve got 12 months to look at all these



And just one final question, Treasurer. On to business tax, I suppose for you, no rest

for the wicked. Now that Meg Lees has said a 30 per cent company tax rate is too expensive

and she doesn’t think incentives like accelerated depreciation should be traded off

to pay for it, have you given up hope of achieving that lower rate?


Two points. One is I’m not sure she said that, she issued a clarifying point after

she was reported to that extent. And the second point I’d make is, a lot of people

said we’d never reform the indirect tax, and the income tax, and the

Commonwealth-State taxation arrangements and we will. I haven’t given up on business

tax. Oh no. While there’s reform to be done we’re always in there pitching for



Peter Costello, thank you.