Residential Park Rents Goods and Services Tax
Debate resumed from an earlier hour.
Mr ORKOPOULOS (Swansea) [7.30 p.m.]: With 11 days to go before it is imposed, the Howard-Anderson Liberal-National Party goods and services tax [GST] on caravans must go. In 11 days up to 50,000 New South Wales people who live permanently in residential parks will have to pay an extra 5.5 per cent on the rent for the ground on which their homes stand. The Liberal-National Party is saying to people who pay rent on private property, which in 11 days time will increase by 2 per cent, that if they live in a residential home park they will cop a 5.5 per cent increase. Mr Howard says that the GST package is fair, and that it will not change.
A secret report prepared by Econotec and commissioned by Federal Treasury has contradicted this declaration by our Prime Minister. The Government, of course, rejects the amendment moved by the honourable member for Davidson as a typical mangy stunt to divert attention from the New South Wales Liberal Party, which is hopelessly divided. National Party members really want to vote with the Government, because they do not believe the assurances of the Liberals that everyone will be happy and grateful to them for slugging everything that moves with a GST.
Along with other conference delegates, 11 National Party members voted, apparently unanimously, for a motion similar to the one we are now debating. I suppose, for the sake of Coalition unity, they will support a Liberal amendment. For how along will they blindly follow the hapless and hopeless Liberal Party? For it is the Tories who have imposed a discriminatory GST on the mostly retired folk who have chosen to live in mobile home parks. In this House on an earlier occasion I read a letter I received from Wyong Shire Council outlining its unanimous resolution. I shall read that letter again:
I am happy to say that the Federal Opposition will move an amendment in the Senate—which, hopefully, will be supported by the Democrats—to exempt in full the GST on residential park rents, as announced in the media tonight. The Tory speakers in this debate had not even bothered to respond to the concerns raised by Labor Party and National Party members. This discriminatory caravan tax must be defeated. I will ensure that residents in mobile home parks on the Central Coast, especially in the Federal electorate of Robertson, know who is responsible for this disgraceful beating up on vulnerable people.
Council is concerned that under GST legislation residential rents are not subject to any GST however, caravan parks and mobile home/relocatable villages and parks are classed as commercial accommodation and are therefore subject to GST for rental purposes. Concessional treatment is given to long term commercial accommodation rental under GST legislation, however they are still effectively subject to a GST levy of 5.5%.
Residents of parks and the relevant associations believe this is both discriminatory and unfair as there is no justifiable reason to charge GST, while exempting a person renting a residential home. Further, many residents have made substantial capital investment in their relocatable homes or caravans, and see the levying of the GST as inequitable, and regressive. The imposition of the GST may make it impossible for them to realise their capital investment, as demand will be substantially reduced.
Mr WEBB (Monaro) [7.34 p.m.]: This is a serious debate. Unfortunately, members on the other side of the House have missed the point. If they had the concerns that those on this side of the House have they would make representations to their Federal colleagues, as we have done. The implications of the GST are Federal issues. It is all very well to make a song and dance in this House about it but we ought to remember that the State Government is in fact the beneficiary of the GST. I urge members on the other side of the House who have been very vocal today to lobby their side of government, rather than attack this side of the House. It is their so-called Leader of the Federal Opposition who shrugged and said, "I can't do it either, I cannot fix it". That is an interesting and important point.
At the end of last week and on the weekend I attended the National Party conference and Federal convention which moved unanimously to request the Federal Government to amend the GST legislation to remove the anomaly whereby permanent-stay caravan park residents would see rentals rise while their neighbours in flats and apartments, maybe just next door, remained GST free. I fully supported that motion. In my electorate of Monaro many people choose to reside in caravan parks at Eden, along the far south coast and up the coast, and I have received representations also from people at Batemans Bay. In Queanbeyan and Canberra people live in long-stay permanent residencies in caravan parks. They abhor the thought of having to pay GST on their rentals because their neighbours who choose to live in flats and apartments will not pay that fee. Originally the Federal Government chose to exempt rentals—
Mr Crittenden: You might have to cross the floor on this.
Mr WEBB: We do not have to cross the floor because we have already said that we oppose that concept. We supported the National Party convention resolution to exempt caravan park occupants from the GST. There has been no about-face by me or my colleagues. We stand firm in representing our constituents, including the many thousands of permanent residents of caravan parks not only in my electorate but across the State. Many of these people are in lower socioeconomic groups and need our help. I call on the State Government to solve the problems members of our community are facing through lack of affordable rental accommodation.
In Queanbeyan and Canberra, and I am sure across the State, there is a severe lack of affordable accommodation. Many people in lower socioeconomic groups have to live in caravan accommodation and relocatable homes because that is what suits their circumstances. They should not have to pay a GST. The National Party fully supports their objections. Members on the other side of the House do not seem to understand that the GST is a Federal issue and that this State is the recipient of those payments. The motion has been put in an inept way, so inept that at least two of the paragraphs in the original motion have been removed. I treat the fourth part of the motion with the contempt it deserves—cattle do not pay GST. We have all seen how Country Labor treated the dairy industry deregulation. [Time expired.]
Mr ACTING-SPEAKER (Mr Lynch): Order! The honourable member for Monaro will resume his seat. If he again behaves in the manner in which he has just conducted himself I will direct that he be removed from the Chamber.
Mr BARTLETT (Port Stephens) [7.39 p.m.]: On 5 April I brought this matter to the attention of the House in the form of a private member's statement. It was subsequently followed by a resolution on 11 April. A number of my constituents spoke to me before 5 April about this issue. The Federal Government cannot change the goods and services tax [GST] on residential park residents—although everyone agrees it should be changed—because of all the other GST anomalies, such as a GST on fresh crab at the markets but not on fish. If the Federal Government changed this anomaly, it would be expected to change other anomalies. The detail of the GST makes this tax as complicated as the existing sales tax regime which the Federal Government is trying to get rid of. There are about 1,500 van sites in the Great Lakes and Port Stephens area. Many park residents in that area reside in caravan parks because it is affordable accommodation. I am talking about people who either own or are paying off a $70,000 home and pay about $65 per week for the privilege of leaving their home in a rental park. Most of these people live on a pension of $8,500 a year.
Recently I received information that some caravan park owners will pass on costs and increase the charge to caravan owners by $3 plus the GST component. Those pensioners then have the problem of the 10 per cent GST on other purchases. All those pensioners are given in return is a 4 per cent increase in their pension. That 4 per cent increase disappears for residents of mobile home parks. Other people renting other types of accommodation still have that 4 per cent to spend on increases due to the 10 per cent GST. Park residents feel discriminated against, and they are complaining about the situation in large numbers. Unbelievably, the GST consumer and business line is dispensing conflicting information. People are now keeping records of the information they are being given by the GST hotline because they are getting conflicting information from the government body that is implementing this tax in the caravan parks. The situation is unjust. After my private member's statement on 5 April and the debate in this House on 11 April, on Monday 17 April 600 park residents held a meeting at the Central Coast Leagues Club. Their resolution stated:
This issue is not going to go away, as the National Party found out at its conference. At a meeting on 22 May in Port Stephens, the New South Wales and Port Stephens President of the Park Residents Association stated:
This meeting of residential parks condemns the proposed 5.5% GST on permanent residents as discriminatory, unjust and inequitable.
Discriminatory because Australia-wide, it targets only those home owners who live permanently, and rent a piece of ground, in a residential park.
Unjust because most of these home owners are pensioners, unemployed and low income earners.
Inequitable because proposed compensatory benefits will apply to all pensioners while those pensioners in residential parks will suffer an additional 5.5% GST without appropriate compensation.
Mr FRASER (Coffs Harbour) [7.44 p.m.]: I move:
This country has never witnessed such an ill-conceived, ill-considered, discriminatory attack on the quality of life of its senior and other disadvantaged citizens …
We have seen absolute hypocrisy from the Government. It will benefit from the GST by receiving the 5.5 per cent. Last Saturday or Sunday, members of the Australian Labor Party, such as the Hon. Janelle Saffin, were in the electorate of Tweed with park residents. The National Party has already called for action on this issue. We supported the motion the last time it was before the House. The honourable member for Wyong knows that my previous point of order was ruled in order. The video is there for him to watch. We supported the motion, and he has lied and misled the House and the people of New South Wales. The Government has failed to support the homeless in New South Wales. It has run a line that the GST is the cause of all these dastardly things. We are probably talking about a $5 increase, which I do not agree with. I have said so in the media, well before Government members spoke against it.
That the amendment be amended by leaving out all words after the words “this House” with a view to inserting instead the following:
"recognises that, as 100% of the GST revenue is distributed to State governments, the New South Wales Government commit to refunding the full 5.5% to caravan park residents."
Mr Crittenden: That is rubbish.
Mr FRASER: It is the truth. I do not mislead the House, like the honourable member for Wyong tried to today or the Minister for Fair Trading has done in the past. Park residents are not only battlers; they are also people who have decided to retire to the North Coast or the Central Coast, buy a mobile home and live there for the lifestyle. They spend $100,000 or $150,000 on a mobile home and have someone else look after their lawn. They are self-funded retirees, who go fishing and play bowls. They do not want to pay an increased rent. I believe that the Federal Government gave an assurance prior to the last election that no-one would be disadvantaged by increased rents. Mr Howard has increased the rent of people living in caravan parks. I cannot support that, and I will not. I stated clearly and loudly at the National Party conference last weekend that I did not support it.
The conference stated unanimously that we do not support a GST on caravan parks. Walt is sitting in the gallery listening—he writes all the spin on this for the Labor Party. He has got it wrong, and he got it wrong before because he told lies. What he issued in the media for the Minister for Fair Trading was a lie. The records of this House will prove that the Coalition did not vote against the motion last time. In fact, we supported it. We voted for the amendment. The amendment that I have moved tonight recognises that, if Mr Howard is going to be bloody-minded and introduce this GST on park residents, the State Government will benefit. It will get the 5.5 per cent. My amendment calls on the honourable member for Tweed—Napping Neville—the honourable member for Murray-Darling and the honourable member for Wyong to support my amendment that Mr Egan and Mr Carr return that 5.5 per cent to caravan park residents. I challenge the honourable member for Wyong to support my amendment. I challenge him to go to his Treasurer and his Premier and say, "If Mr Howard brings this in—"
Mr Crittenden: This is a Federal issue and it needs to be resolved federally.
Mr FRASER: Honourable members opposite are nothing more than a Federal Opposition. Instead of being a State Government they are a Federal Opposition. They have an absolute obligation to support my amendment, to go to Mr Carr and Mr Egan and say, "The 5.5 per cent that you are getting out of the GST on caravan parks, if Howard continues on this line, should be returned by you to the people." That is the challenge tonight. That is my amendment. I challenge honourable members opposite to back it. [Time expired.]
Mr NEWELL (Tweed) [7.49 p.m.]: I appreciate the concern of the honourable member for Wyong and the concerns of other honourable members for residents in their electorates who will be severely affected by the impost of the GST on caravan parks and mobile home parks. I wish to express further the concerns of honourable members on this side of the House for what will happen from 1 July when residents in mobile home parks and caravan parks are subject to a GST of some 5.5 per cent. I make the distinction between caravan parks and mobile home parks for the benefit of honourable members on the other side of the House who do not quite understand that it is not just about residents in caravan parks. My electorate has some 20 caravan parks and mobile home parks. Honourable members from other electorates know the difference. Unfortunately, Federal National Party and Liberal Party members, in particular, do not seem to understand that mobile home parks are a designated and recognised form of living, particularly along the eastern coast of Australia.
The hundreds of people who live in mobile home parks are not caravan park dwellers; they choose to live in mobile home parks, which is an accepted lifestyle choice. The 20-odd caravan parks and mobile home parks in the Federal electorate of Richmond, not so much in the electorate of Tweed, are home to some 6,000 residents. It is a very important constituency. Last weekend, when the Federal and State National Party members attended their national conference at Twin Towns in Tweed Heads, they had the concerns of their electorates at heart. After the honourable member for Wyong, other honourable members and I raised our concerns in this House last year about the impost of the GST on residents of caravan parks and mobile homes, the National Party rejected our approaches. We have been fighting against it for some time because we are concerned about the impact of the GST on their living standards and their quality of life. Last weekend the concerns of those who attended the National Party conference at Tweed Heads were not about the people in caravan parks—
Mr Fraser: Where were you when the dairy farmers were out there? Where were you?
Mr NEWELL: This debate is about the GST. We will have the other debate later on; I am more than happy to respond to that. Last year the National Party, with all its sincerity, could not have cared less about this matter. But it has suddenly realised that half a dozen seats, including the Federal seat of Richmond in which Larry Anthony is facing the death knock and will be chucked out of at the next Federal election, are under threat. The National Party had the temerity to pass the following motion:
I, and I am sure other members of this House, could not agree more. The press release from the National Party stated, "For further information, contact Prue Phillips" whose name is on the press release. The motion was moved by Peter Mason on behalf of the Tweed Heads Branch of the National Party. The press release stated further:
The Conference calls for the anomaly in the GST treatment of long term residents of relocatable homes and caravan parks to be removed on the grounds that those residents should be treated on the same basis as other residential rentals.
Where is our National Party Leader in New South Wales? Honourable members on the other side of the House are moving amendments to oppose the motion moved by the honourable member for Wyong. National Party members stood up in their conference and voted for the motion, yet they oppose the motion moved in this House by the honourable member for Wyong. [Time expired.]
The Conference agreed the resolution should be referred to National Party leaders to pursue in their respective States.
Mr BLACK (Murray-Darling) [7.54 p.m.]: I support my coalition colleague in city Labor, the honourable member for Wyong. But let me start by establishing the credibility of Country Labor in this matter. Country Labor was the first organisation to raise this matter in this Chamber. Country Labor supported the Minister for Fair Trading when he moved the motion earlier today, about which we have heard denials this evening. Country Labor was the first organisation to point out that not only would 5.5 per cent apply to residents in caravan parks but 4.7 per cent would apply to the rent paid by borders, not the 2 per cent that was referred to earlier in this Chamber by honourable members opposite. That fact was confirmed on television this evening in a report that the Federal Government has been sitting on for three months.
I wish to refer to matters raised by the National Party in this Chamber about the National Party State Conference held last Friday, Saturday and Sunday at Tweed Heads, followed by its Federal Convention. The National Party Federal Convention was addressed by the Federal Leader of the National Party and the title of his address was "The National Party Leading the Way in the New Century". That is great stuff, but the new century does not start for another six months! In his speech George Souris, the Leader of the New South Wales National Party, referred to Country Labor 12 times. In fact, being my modest self on behalf of Country Labor, he referred to Country Labor more often than he referred to the Carr Labor Government. However, his seminal contribution to the conference was:
What does he really mean? Let us analyse what happened after the conference. On Sunday a glorious headline appeared in the Sunday Telegraph: "Nats risk oblivion in coalition". It is a great headline directly opposite another headline: "The huge headache". Under the headline "Nats risk oblivion in coalition" the Sunday Telegraph states:
From this point forward we must dedicate our efforts to regaining the confidence and support of our constituency.
One of the headlines on the front page of today's Sydney Morning Herald is, "Cabinet lashings for Nats as caravan park GST stays". The Leader of the Federal National Party, John Anderson, is up at Tweed Heads, out comes the leather gear, John Howard gives him the lashing and says, "Not on." In the meantime we have Caravan George, who has not been sighted in the debate today—like someone else called George whose second name was Custer. He has all the caravans in a ring! The same will happen to Caravan George as happened to George Custer because Country Labor is coming over the top! Goodbye George, goodbye for good!
The politics of its coalition with the Liberals are slowly destroying the National Party.
The realities imposed by Cabinet solidarity, and the cold imperatives of economic rationalism so enthusiastically embraced by the Howard government, have seen the Nationals fighting One Nation to their right and, more threateningly, Country Labor for the centre in the bush.
Today's Sydney Morning Herald has a great editorial entitled, "Nationals with nowhere to go". But what do they say in the bush about National Party members? Another headline from a bush paper states, "Lifeline for bush", which is a statement according to John Anderson. Beneath that article is another article under the heading "Nationals face rural revolt". One of the three issues raised in that article is the caravan park residents issue. Another newspaper heading states "Nationals' offer 'a few crumbs'"—the ridiculous offer that is dead in the water. The offer of $90 million to caravan parks across 295 different regions works out to be $80,000 for a place like Broken Hill. The salvation of Broken Hill predicated on $80,000—what a load of nonsense! Give these caravan park people a fair go. Some of them are living happily at Moama in my electorate. They are good people. They do not deserve this garbage from John Anderson. [Time expired.]
Mr PICCOLI (Murrumbidgee) [8.59 p.m.]: What an interesting contribution by the honourable member for Murray-Darling. I cannot believe anybody in country New South Wales would deny the value of a $90 million contribution. It must not be forgotten that that is in addition to the $500-odd million announced in the Federal budget for health, and in addition to road funding and everything else, yet the honourable member for Murray-Darling comes in here and says he does not want the $90 million. I will add that to what the honourable member for Northern Tablelands said in the Northern Star about the Government not wanting $90 million. What does it want from the Federal Government? It was $90 million this week, $500 million a few weeks ago; what else does it want? Members opposite keep saying, "Please spend more money on country Australia and country New South Wales." Another $90 million was added, and that is pretty good, but according to the blokes on the other side that is not quite good enough.
Let us examine the Labor Party's record on housing as we debate this motion about caravan park residents. Home loans over $100,000 in 1987 attracted an interest rate of 16 per cent per annum. Members opposite talk about doing things for battlers and home owners; perhaps the reason so many people live permanently in caravan parks is the outrageous interest rates we had to suffer whilst Paul Keating and Bob Hawke led this country. Government members talk about 5 per cent per annum goods and services tax [GST] being imposed on caravan park residents, but we should consider the 16 per cent per annum interest rate that was imposed on all home loan borrowers across Australia. That interest rate was not limited to caravan park residents. How many people did the Labor Party in those dark years of the Hawke Government force out of their homes and into bankruptcy? How many people had to sell their houses?
Mr Black: I bet I have Murray-Darling orange juice in this place before you get your orange juice here.
Mr PICCOLI: I will get to orange juice later, and to your hypocrisy on that issue!
Mr Newell: Have you got anything to say on this motion?
Mr PICCOLI: Absolutely. I am speaking about what the Labor Party did to home owners. How many farmers were sent to bankruptcy by the 22 per cent interest rate which, if it was a day late, increased to something like 26 per cent? How many farmers has Labor sent into bankruptcy? How many small businesses did it send into bankruptcy? How many home owners had to sell their homes or units because of the interest rates they were forced to suffer?
Mr Crittenden: Point of order: I acknowledge that the honourable member is a new member of this place, but I ask him to start talking about the issue before the House—the GST on residential park residents that will commence on 1 July. Perhaps he could also tell us the truth about HomeFund and the involvement of the former honourable member for Wagga Wagga.
Mr DEPUTY-SPEAKER: Order! I uphold the point of order. The honourable member for Murrumbidgee will return to the leave of the motion.
Mr PICCOLI: I am speaking to the amendment moved by the honourable member for Coffs Harbour. Without doubt, the GST issue with respect to caravan parks is significant, but it is significant also to talk about what will happen at the Federal election. The State Government is behaving in this debate as a de facto Federal Government, so we should examine what it will do when it is in place. The honourable member for Murray-Darling said it was unfair for caravan park residents to be forced to pay an additional 5 per cent, but what happened with producers of orange juice? The whole point of the GST is to make it a fair tax burden on everybody. When Keating and Hawke were in power sales tax on orange juice was 36 per cent! Why? What did that do to sales of fresh orange juice? Members opposite defended the citrus industry, which I support them in doing, but their hypocrisy knows no bounds or comparison. A large sector of the southern electorate is involved in the citrus industry.
Mr LYNCH (Liverpool) [8.04 p.m.]: I support the motion moved by the honourable member for Wyong. I congratulate him on placing it before the House. The contribution of the honourable member for Murrumbidgee ranks as one of the most bizarre presentations I have heard in this place, and certainly I have heard some bizarre speeches over the past few years! However, that one almost takes the cake! I thought we were here to talk about the impact of the goods and services tax [GST] on caravan park residents. The last speaker seems to have spent most of his time talking about home ownership. The whole point of this debate was that people could not afford home ownership and could not get into the private rental market. They are the sort of people we should be talking about.
This is a classic example of the class bias of the lunatics on the other side of the House. We want to talk about people who cannot afford to get into the private rental market. All members opposite want to do is respond about issues of home ownership. The whole point is that in the society in which we live there are people who cannot afford to get into the private rental market. What makes things worse is that the Opposition comes up with this absolute hypocrisy about homelessness and the fact that this Government does not do enough about that. The single most important thing the State Government can do in dealing with homelessness is to drive down the cost of the private rental market through Department of Housing constructions. We cannot do that because of your mates in Canberra.
Your mates in Canberra have ripped the guts out of the capital construction budget for the Department of Housing. If members opposite want to talk about homelessness, let us do that. The people who provide the money for that program are in Canberra. We have the most class-based Federal Government since Stanley Bruce paraded around looking after his rich mates and forgetting the hardship of people who cannot afford to get into the private rental market. That is exactly what your mates have done and you have the hide to raise this issue here! It is absolutely extraordinary. Another issue that the honourable member for Murrumbidgee talked about, which was quite bizarre, was orange juice. I have heard of comparing apples with oranges and comparing lemons with oranges, but I have not heard of comparing caravan parks with oranges. As I said, his presentation was one of the most bizarre I have heard in a long time.
Mr Fraser: I eat oranges as well. Didn't you know that?
Mr LYNCH: In response to the honourable member for Coffs Harbour, Marie Antoinette once said, "Let them eat cake" when they could not get bread. She lost her head. Those opposite now say, "They cannot afford to pay the GST in caravan parks, let them have oranges!" That is extraordinary stuff! The issue before us highlights the fundamental inequity of the GST. It is inequitable in treating renters in one fashion and permanent caravan park residents in another—treating them adversely and far worse than renters. Morally that is just simply wrong; politically and philosophically it is perhaps typical of the current Federal Government and its lackeys on the other side of the House.
The people who for the most part live permanently in caravan parks are the poorest, the weakest and the least powerful in our community. They need people who are prepared to stand up for them and look after them. They do not need a Federal Government that is prepared to whack a 5 per cent GST on their rent when it is not prepared to put a 5 per cent GST on those who rent premises in the eastern suburbs of Sydney and pay $1,000 or $1,500 a week for the pleasure of doing so.
Forty per cent of those who live in caravan parks permanently are over 60 years of age, 73 per cent do no paid work, and 53 per cent earn less than $300 a week. They are the least able to afford an impost on their rent. They are the least able to afford a GST. They are the least able to afford the 5 per cent increase. Yet they are expected to pay it. Anyone who owns a house or is able to get into the private rental market is not expected to pay the GST on accommodation costs. It is an appalling and extraordinary inequity and is unfair. Much of the debate so far has been from people who represent regional and rural areas. There are clearly quite legitimate issues for them to raise in that context.
However, it will also be remembered that a significant number of people in western Sydney live in caravan parks. They will be ripped off and attacked by the Federal conservative Government in the same way as those living in rural and regional areas. Some 238 permanent residents of caravan parks live in the Liverpool local government area. They will have a 5 per cent increase in their rent because of what the Federal Government is doing to them. Working on an average rental of $100, they will each pay an extra $234 a year. That means that in my area about $62,000 will be ripped out for GST by the Federal Government from caravan park owners when nothing is being taken from those in the rich areas of Sydney who are paying rent. That is clearly iniquitous and it is typical of the class-based bias of the Federal Government.
Mr OAKESHOTT (Port Macquarie) [8.09 p.m.]: I am pleased that the House is in heated agreement about the importance of caravan park residents in New South Wales. Indeed, as everyone knows, the New South Wales National Party conference at Tweed Heads last weekend unanimously supported action being taken about this issue. I am pleased that the Government has acknowledged that there is a problem in Australia in regard to inequities facing caravan park residents. I am pleased that today the Australian Democrats have announced that they will try to negotiate from their position in the Senate on this issue. I would hope that the difficulties in sorting the issue out can be resolved.
Federal Cabinet is two weeks away from implementing the GST, which has been on the agenda for two or three years. It is disappointing that this issue has raised its head in the political arena only two weeks away from implementation of the GST. Why was this motion not moved a long time ago? I would hope that the Government, the Democrats and everyone involved in politics would recognise the difficulties faced by caravan park owners. I hope that the issue will be dealt with by the Federal Government in the near future. I doubt that it will be within the next two weeks before the implementation of the GST. I hope that once it has been implemented the Federal Government will fully assess the impact. Everyone agrees on the impact it will have and, if it does have that impact, I would hope that the Federal Government will do something about it. As I said, we heatedly agree in this debate. I will be very interested to learn where the State Government stands on the amendment. Will Labor members agree with Coalition members? The State Government will get the benefits of the GST.
Mr Orkopoulos: We are fighting against the GST.
Mr OAKESHOTT: So this is a broader campaign against the GST, is it?
Mr Orkopoulos: No. We are fighting against the GST on the residents.
Mr OAKESHOTT: Does the State Government accept the point that it collects the tax benefits from the GST?
Mr Orkopoulos: No.
Mr OAKESHOTT: You do not accept that? Members of the Government will have to go back and read the tax package that is being introduced. There seems to be a fundamental problem in their understanding of what the GST is all about. The benefits will come back to all the States. Let us talk about the State budget that was delivered a few weeks ago. Was there not a rainy day fund of $800 million tucked in there somewhere? What a great budget that was for Government members. The State Government should put its money where its mouth is. Is this the rainy day that the Government has been talking about? If Government members are not the ideological hypocrites that they are calling everyone else, then this is their rainy day. Are they not sticking up for caravan park residents any more? Why not? Here is another opportunity. Today the Treasurer announced a $143 million hole in the Olympic budget. He has managed to put that money into the black hole of the Olympics. The GST issue affects caravan park residents up and down the coast of New South Wales. Where is the Treasurer now? The onus is on the State Government to deliver the money to the residents of New South Wales.
Mr PRICE (Maitland) [8.14 p.m.]: I support the motion and express my continuing concern over the application of the 5.5 per cent GST to mobile homes and permanent caravan sites because the Federal Government considers them commercial premises for the purposes of taxation. Sydney is probably the dearest town in Australia for rented accommodation. People will pay up to $1,000 a week rent with no GST. Yet pensioners, living in very modest accommodation on permanent sites in caravan parks and mobile homes, who are on the bottom end of the income scale, mostly in receipt of social service benefits, are struggling to pay their rents as it is. Now they will be hit with an extra 5.5 per cent as a result of the GST. Oakwood Village is one of the places in my electorate that will be hit. Gilliston Heights is a few kilometres from Maitland. It is a beautiful little residential site but one that will be severely disadvantaged as a result of the application of the GST.
The National Party huffed and puffed at its conference at the weekend, endeavouring to imply that it can change the Federal Government's attitude through Cabinet activity. That is an absolute furphy. The only offer National Party members received from the Federal Government is to police the application of the GST through the close monitoring of park arrangements to ensure that tenants are being treated fairly. That is to be supervised by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission. What a limp-handed way of dealing with it! It is an absolute shame to a once-great party that even its Federal leader is unable to have an impact on the decision of Cabinet in the best interests of the people of the northern New South Wales community in mobile homes and caravans.
It also shows the capacity of the National Party to vary Federal Coalition decisions. It is an absolute disaster. It is a slap in the face to the Coalition partner. It is obvious that the Nationals in New South Wales not only have zero impact; they are unable to negotiate on behalf of their constituents. One has only to look at some of the statements made over the weekend. I quote from Media Monitors. Commentator Fiona Reynolds spoke to the honourable member for Ballina and the honourable member for Coffs Harbour. The honourable member for Ballina said, "Let these guys, and these men and women, burn at the stake for the next month and a half." What an appalling statement to make! The honourable member for Coffs Harbour said, "It could lose us Cowper. I would suggest it would give us no chance in Paterson because of the Port Stephens area where there's a lot of people living in mobile homes." That is very accurate. I am amazed at the hostile way in which the Opposition is debating this matter. Obviously, it wants the tax removed and does not want to seek any compromise. At the conference John Anderson said:
If what has happened since is a demonstration of the impact of the leadership of the National Party acting on a unanimous resolution of its own conference, the National Party is doomed and does not stand a chance. Those of us who have been members of this House for some time know Lynne Beck, one of the local mayors, who is always most sincere in what she says. She stated:
There is a process, and I'm not going to be steam-rolled. I'm not going to have judgments cast by those who would seek to make sport or difficulty out of this. We will handle it in the proper, true, tried and tested way.
When one reads in today's newspapers about what has happened since, it is a fairly lousy demonstration of solidarity. The National Party has not made the grade anywhere down the line and what has happened is an indictment of that once-great party. The National Party has no other option but to support Labor and the Democrats in the Senate when the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate moves, on behalf of the Australian Labor Party and pensioners, to legislatively delete that tax from the program.
And the message must go to … Mr Anderson, I hope, is listening to it somewhere, and we must go to Mr Howard and say you've bent over backwards for the Democrats, how about giving the National Party and Larry Anthony a go.
Mr HARTCHER (Gosford) [8.19 p.m.]: This motion is yet another motion moved by the honourable member for Wyong as part of his attempt to build up his profile on the Central Coast. The debate has been embarrassing for the honourable member for Wyong because, first, he could not get the facts right in the motion, which had to be corrected by the Speaker. He was then unable to present his argument and the Government had to suspend standing orders to give him extra time. That is a commentary on the role of the honourable member for Wyong, but it is no surprise to those who know and love him. The Coalition strongly supports caravan park residents in this State. It is interested to ensure that they receive a fair go and that they get justice. I am pleased to acknowledge that the proprietors of four of the major caravan parks in my electorate have indicated that they will not pass on any of the GST to their residents but will absorb it.
Ms Allan: How noble!
Mr HARTCHER: As the honourable member for Wentworthville so rightly says, they are very noble. I thank her for her interjection. They are noble, and I congratulate them on that decision. They work well with their residents and with the Federal member, Jim Lloyd, who has taken a magnificent stand on behalf of permanent caravan park residents. No wonder the Australian Labor Party [ALP] held the seat of Robertson for some 28 years. Jim won it convincingly in 1996, held it again so well in 1998 and will hold it again in 2001. He works hard and is committed to residents of the Central Coast, especially those who reside in permanent caravan parks. The real interest, though, is the role of the State Government in this matter. The honourable member for Wyong has sought to use this issue for his own political purposes. That is no surprise. The State Government has in its armoury the power to rectify this problem, if it so desires, rather than seek to politicise it and play on people's fears.
The State Government will receive every cent of the GST and if it wants to rebate that money to caravan park residents, it need only pass the appropriate legislation. The remedy is in the hands of the honourable member for Wyong and the State Government. I invite the honourable member for Wyong to introduce a private member's bill in this House which will ensure that the money received from caravan park residents will go straight back to them in the form of a rebate. Having organised the numbers to take over from Harry Moore in 1991 the honourable member for Wyong pledged to introduce a private member's bill to look after caravan park residents. That was his solemn pledge. We have not seen the bill. When the honourable member for Wyong finally gets around to honouring that promise he made in 1991, he might include in the bill a commitment to ensure that people get the money from the GST in the form of a rebate. It is in his hands.
The honourable member for Wyong has done nothing for caravan park residents other than ruthlessly use them and seek to exploit them. He is a past master at that. Some people may say that is politics but few people would say it is good government. The real issue is why the State Government is not looking after these people it claims to represent and protect and why it will not give any indication to this House that it will rebate the money to them. The honourable member for Wyong has not lived up to the expectations of his electorate. I say that more in sorrow than in anger. He has had many opportunities to do something for his electorate, yet he moves a motion in this House only on Federal issues. He never moves motions about State issues affecting Wyong such as railway services, development problems, lack of services, law and order problems and Wyong hospital. Those matters are never addressed by the honourable member for Wyong, but he knows how to exploit an issue and he does that very well. I congratulate him. He exploits people and issues well but he will not do anything to help people who are in his charge. [Time expired.]
Ms ALLAN (Wentworthville) [8.24 p.m.]: I thank the honourable member for Wyong for giving me the opportunity to participate in this debate. I was disappointed that he was not in a position to complete his speech and I look forward to his speech in reply. Unlike some other speakers, the honourable member for Wyong has been closely associated with the interests and aspirations of people living in caravan parks for as long as he has been a member of this Parliament. This has been a fascinating debate. A number of leadership aspirants from the other side of the Chamber have rushed to the podium to put on record their apparent concern for the welfare of people living in caravan parks in this State. I was intrigued by the contributions from members of the National Party who spoke in the debate. They were obviously making a desperate attempt to reconcile their base political interest with the apparent needs of people in their respective electorates.
I was most impressed with the honourable member for Port Macquarie, who has obviously just had a very neat hair cut in preparation for the extra media attention that was focused on the Coalition today. He attempted to take the battle to the Government on this important issue. It would have been a different story at the National Party conference. We have read about concerns expressed over the weekend by National Party members. However, looking at the media pictures of today's National Party meeting in Canberra it is interesting to see how compliant and docile the members of the National Party are, when over the weekend they were apparently tigers of the Tweed when they had a motion before them from their rank and file, who are justifiably irate about this proposal to place the GST on caravan dwellers.
I was intrigued by the humble contribution from the honourable member for Ballina. One of the newer Government members, the honourable member for Miranda, complimented the honourable member for Ballina on his frankness and candour in the debate. Perhaps because I have been here over a decade I refuse to be that generous. The honourable member for Ballina and I became members of this House the same day. He is frank, but he is certainly not showing his normal candour on this issue. He should have the courage not only to express his concern about GST hardships that will be placed on caravan dwellers on the far North Coast of New South Wales but to take the fight to his own people outside Parliament. There has been some amazing hypocrisy—
Mr Fraser: Point of order: Government members have quoted from press clippings throughout this debate. I draw the attention of the honourable member for Wentworthville to those clippings, which show that the honourable member for Ballina was against this tax all the time.
Mr ACTING-SPEAKER (Mr Lynch): Order! There is no point of order.
Ms ALLAN: Members can see how sensitive National Party members are about this issue. Labor members have been accused of manipulating caravan park dwellers for political purposes. I saw the reference in yesterday's edition of the Sydney Morning Herald to the activities of certain members of the Federal caucus and the Hon. Janelle Saffin. People in the Labor Party have been concerned about the interests of caravan park dwellers for many years. Two of my uncles reside in caravan parks on the New South Wales Coast. One is at Banora Point caravan park, which is in the electorate of the honourable member for Tweed, who has already participated in the debate and the other is at a caravan park at Brighton-Le-Sands, which is in the electorate of the honourable member for Rockdale. Both of my uncles—one is aged 80 and the other is 74—have chosen to live in those establishments because they were the only economical alternatives open to them when they had to move from their houses. One uncle was retrenched from the Pagewood General Motors Holden depot and the other is a retired nurseryman.
People choose to live in caravan parks because it suits their economic needs and aspirations. They do not live there because they have lots of money to throw around, and can therefore afford to pay higher rents. If the GST is applied to caravan park rents it will be an unnecessary burden on permanent residents. I am delighted to hear that this evening in Canberra the Federal Leader of the Opposition said that he will roll back the proposed extra cost. I am also pleased that Senator Meg Lees, who was instrumental in ensuring that the GST package was carried through the Senate, has said that she will review the proceedings. I welcome her current enthusiasm for this issue.
Mr GAUDRY (Newcastle—Parliamentary Secretary) [8.29 p.m.]: This debate has been driven by two principles. On this side of the House, we espouse the principle of assisting those who are disadvantaged and of speaking out against an iniquitous tax that will be distributed unfairly across the poorer sections of the electorate. As the honourable member for Wentworthville said, many disadvantaged people live in caravan parks across the community, particularly in coastal New South Wales. More than 40 per cent of residential park residents are over 60 years of age, 73 per cent of them are not in paid employment, and 53 per cent earn less than $300 a week. If we were to assay the population of New South Wales, we could not find a group of people more in need of advocacy and support in the face of this undoubtedly iniquitous tax. The tax will not be distributed fairly: others in rental accommodation will not suffer the impact of it. The Federal Government is happy to impose a 5.5 per cent goods and services tax [GST] increase on people in this disadvantaged position.
People are taking up the cause of caravan park residents out of principle and concern about that iniquitous tax. They are attempting to persuade the Federal Government to withdraw its tax plans before 1 July. I congratulate the 11 members of the National Party who at the weekend conference made it clear to their national leader, John Anderson, that that should occur. I listened to the speech made by the honourable member for Ballina, who has credibility in relation to this matter. He outlined the steps that were taken with regard to caravan parks when he was involved in government. However, no member of this place has more credibility in relation to this matter than the honourable member for Wyong. From the moment he came into this House, he has spoken on behalf of caravan park residents and driven many of the legislative changes that have occurred since the Government has been in office. That is the principled position.
There is undoubtedly another driving force in this debate, which was evident at the National Party conference at the weekend. National Party members are aware of the many people who live in caravan parks in susceptible National Party electorates up and down the coast. At that conference, they put down the 5.5 per cent GST clearly and unanimously and called upon their Federal leader, John Anderson, to return to Cabinet and tell the Prime Minister John Howard that tax should not continue. The National Party stood up to be counted and joined Country Labor and the Labor Party in taking that important step. I am fairly sure that the honourable member for Oxley was of that view. Yet, in his contribution of 11 April, he did not think the tax was unfair. He said:
By the time of the conference, the honourable member had changed his opinion—and I hope he made that clear in the Chamber today. I imagine he will vote with the Government on the motion before the House. Whether one opposes the tax for reasons of principle or pure political pragmatism—the National Party realises that it is in danger of losing seats over this issue—the fact is that this tax is iniquitous. It is detrimental to the most disadvantaged groups in our community and it should be eliminated by the Commonwealth Government from its proposed GST package.
However, it is now clear that permanent park residents will be much better off under the Commonwealth Government's comprehensive tax package.
Mr TORBAY (Northern Tablelands) [8.34 p.m.]: Rather than engaging in the political point scoring that has been going on, backwards and forwards, on this issue, I intend to take a tack similar to that taken by the community. The people who protested at the recent National Party conference got it right. If we look past the many political issues, those people were simply saying that the goods and services tax [GST] will have an impact on them that the Prime Minister denied. We should focus the debate on that point, rather than on whether the Premier rushed to sign and accept the GST revenue. We must put such issues aside. During the dairy deregulation debate, Opposition members told Labor, "It's your bill; you're in government". The GST belongs to the Federal Government and the Prime Minister clearly said that the GST would be equitable. That is not the case.
If we look at this issue in the sober light of day, we must acknowledge that permanent residents of caravan parks were misled. There is no doubt about that. There is a good case for excluding those residents from the GST. The hypocrisy on this issue is staggering. Like most honourable members, I watched with interest the events that unfolded at the National Party conference. I saw the sad and solemn expressions on the faces of National Party members of Parliament when they faced the people whom this tax will affect adversely. National members said, "We support you and we will work hard to make sure that the Prime Minister listens". They promised to persuade the Federal Leader of the National Party—who had to be forced—to go to the Prime Minister and make representations on behalf of those people. What happened? It is very clear that the National Party rolled over. Tonight on the television news National Party members who supported the park residents at the conference said that they had a guarantee and assurance that the situation would be monitored very closely.
It is no wonder that people lose faith in governments, because governments lose sight of the issues. People believe what governments say in the first instance. I do not blame people for losing faith in politicians, because we were not going to have a GST in the first place. All political parties have broken various promises and I am not here to advocate for one side or another. However, on the GST the Federal Government has misled not only park residents but many people. Politically, this issue has sharp teeth and we will see one issue after another unfold, because people voted for tax reform but they did not vote for the GST. That was a political deal. We do not know what is in and what is out. Depending on the political issues of the day, problems will continue to arise. No-one had measured the impact of the GST.
I cannot believe the comments made by the honourable member for Oxley and others indicating that we have more important matters to discuss. That is not what they said to park residents at the conference, and I have evidence to support that. If we are to keep faith with the people, we have to do what we say we are going to do. That is my message to the Prime Minister. I do not know where John Anderson, the Federal Leader of the National Party, sits on this. He seems to have a different view depending on whomever he is speaking to. Like the hypocrisy surrounding debate on the deregulation bill, members on this side of the House, the National Party members in particular, will not escape this issue. They can put up all the contrary arguments they like, but when it came to the vote they voted for the GST, and they will have to wear it at a future election.
Ms ANDREWS (Peats) [8.39 p.m.]: Debate in this House on the GST to date, particularly tonight, clearly defines the difference between the philosophy of an Australian Labor Party government and a Coalition government comprising members of the Liberal and National parties. We on this side of the House rightly believe that the decision to impose a 5.5 per cent GST on residential park residents is discriminatory and totally uncalled for. The Federal Government remains stubborn on this, despite the announcements in May this year announcing changes to the GST on livestock, when it stated that the changes were "to make the system fair and bring benefits to all Australians". Why cannot a similar change be made in the GST to exempt residential park residents?
There is no consistency among Coalition members of Parliament in either the Federal or State arenas. They cannot, or do not want to, acknowledge that approximately 50,000 people living permanently in 950 residential parks across the State are being discriminated against. Of that number, 12,000 people reside permanently in residential parks in the Central Coast, Hunter, Upper Hunter and mid North Coast. They will be forced to pay $2.81 million per annum by way of GST; and that is only the 5.5 per cent component applicable to rental of land on which their relocatable, mobile homes or caravans are located. What about all the other goods and services on which the 10 per cent GST will apply from 1 July?
To add salt to the wound, residents who are pensioners and eligible for the Federal Government's less than generous compensation package will receive only a 4 per cent increase in their pension. A real joke! That will not come anywhere near to compensating them for the increases they will encounter in day-to-day living because of the introduction of the GST. It is a most unfair tax. In the Gosford City Council area there are over 1,620 residential park dwellings. I am sure the residents of those dwellings are very disappointed at the failure by their Federal representative, the member for Robertson, to convince the Prime Minister, John Howard, to reverse the Federal Government's stand on a 5.5 per cent GST on residential park dwellings.
At Ettalong Beach there is a residential park, and I know its residents will be required to pay the 5.5 per cent GST on their mobile dwellings. A public meeting held on this controversy in April this year at the Central Coast Leagues Club was attended by more than 500 permanent residents of residential parks. At that meeting the Federal member for Robertson defended the tax. It is worthwhile noting that a spokeswoman for the National Association of Tenants Organisations is quoted as saying that the 5.5 per cent GST on residential park dwellings will hurt the most disadvantaged, those people who pay a large proportion of their income on rent. Sadly, that is the case. But is it not always the same with a Coalition government in office? The disadvantaged suffer while the rich grow richer.
The average weekly rent per dwelling applicable to residential parks on the Central Coast is $90. Each year the Federal Coalition Government will be punishing permanent residential park residents to the tune of $234. How fair is that, when over 2,500 people renting exclusive Sydney properties will not be required to pay any GST on their very high weekly rents? We all know that a 5.5 per cent GST will be imposed on permanent residents of relocatable or mobile homes or caravans because the Federal Coalition Government has classified residential parks as commercial residential premises. Try to convince mobile home residents of that fact! They regard their dwelling as a permanent place of abode or, more importantly, their home.
It will be interesting to see how Coalition members vote tonight on this motion, particularly in view of the fiery debates that the National Party members had at their weekend State conference—it was almost like a State Labor conference. Taking into account the comments of the honourable member for Ballina and the honourable member for Coffs Harbour that the GST on residential park dwellings should be removed, they obviously agree with members on this side of the House that the tax is unjust. In the Federal sphere 30 New South Wales Coalition members of Parliament voted in support of the GST on residential parks. One of the 30 was the Federal member for Robertson. The Federal member should be quite concerned that many of his constituents will be unfairly penalised as from 1 July simply because they are long-term residents of residential parks. I commend the motion to the House.
Mr CRITTENDEN (Wyong—Parliamentary Secretary) [8.44 p.m.], in reply: It is predictable that tonight we have heard the same run of Opposition speakers that are often heard in this place. The first three speakers from the Opposition side were the honourable member for Davidson, the honourable member for Wakehurst and the honourable member for Bega. The honourable member for Davidson put up a pedestrian, nonsensical amendment to the motion. The National Party did not do what it did on 11 April when it simply voted against the motion of the Minister for Fair Trading. This time, through the honourable member for Coffs Harbour, it decided to put up an amendment. But the result was still the same: it is still trying to have a bit each way in the debate.
Members of the National Party are still saying that it is all right to go to a National Party conference in Tweed Heads and vote unanimously to support people who live in residential parks so that the GST is not imposed on them. Yet, in this Chamber they are still the lap-dogs of the Liberal Party; they are still doing the same things they have always done. They simply follow the Liberal Party down the same boring track, ignoring their constituents, ignoring people in regional and rural New South Wales. Their behaviour is an indictment of the National Party—a party that has existed for 80 years. They are apologists for big business and are not interested in dealing with issues that concern people in their electorates. After the Liberals, we heard from the honourable members for Ballina, Oxley, Monaro, Coffs Harbour and Port Macquarie, and finally from the Liberal member for Gosford.
Mr Fraser: And the honourable member for Murrumbidgee.
Mr CRITTENDEN: His contribution was so laughable it hardly deserves mentioning. Members of the National Party in this State are no different to John Anderson in Canberra, who will not stand up to his Prime Minister and say, "This is not on in regional New South Wales". There has been a great deal of talk in this debate about point scoring. About 50,000 people in this State who live in residential park accommodation are suffering fear and anxiety. When John Howard was elected he said he wanted people to feel warm and comfortable. The people living in mobile home parks are not feeling comfortable or secure at the moment. They are faced with a GST impost of 5.5 per cent. In many cases they will be forced to severely cut back on their basic living needs.
Sadly, the National Party, a political party, can unanimously carry a motion as it did at the conference last weekend, yet it cannot come to grips with supporting the motion before the House. Some members in this place are not concerned about a substantial proportion of constituents in their electorates. The real indictment is that we have not heard from the Leader of the Opposition. She squeaked home today. If four members had changed their minds she would have lost. Her electorate covers the Federal electorate of Bennelong, which is the seat of the Prime Minister. She has not come into the House to debate this issue, which affects 50,000 families in this State. The conference resolution of the National Party, which was referred to by the honourable member for Tweed, stated:
Where are the Leader of the National Party, the Deputy Leader of the National Party—in whose electorate a substantial proportion of people live in residential parks—the honourable member for Burrinjuck and the honourable member for Lachlan? The honourable member for Ballina was genuine in his contribution. However, I would like to clarify one point. The 1994 amendments did not do much at all. By 1995 it was obvious there were substantial problems. The amendment moved by the honourable member for Coffs Harbour is a joke. The Federal Government administers the GST. These people should not have to suffer the fear and anxiety that they are experiencing at the moment. They deserve better. The amendment moved by the honourable member for Coffs Harbour should be rejected.
The conference agreed the resolution should be referred to all National Party leaders to pursue in their respective States.
Question—That the amendment of the amendment be agreed to—put.
The House divided.
Mr D. L. Page
Mr R. W. Turner
Mr R. H. L. Smith
Mrs Lo Po'
Mr E. T. Page
Mr W. D. Smith
Question resolved in the negative.
|Mrs Chikarovksi||Mr Gibson|
Mr J. H. Turner
Amendment of amendment negatived.
Motion agreed to.