February 4, 2016
Transcript - #2016003, 2016

Interview with Marius Benson, ABC Newsradio Breakfast

SUBJECTS: GST, taxation, tax reform, consultation

SANDY ALOISI:

There are reports today of widespread opposition in Government ranks to any move to increase the GST. Up to half the Government backbench is reportedly against the change which is now being considered as part of an overall review of tax.

For a Government perspective on the consumption tax battle, Marius Benson is speaking here to the Assistant Minister to the Treasurer, Alex Hawke.

MARIUS BENSON:

Alex Hawke, obviously the return to Canberra has brought a message of "please don't put up the GST" from many electorates. Is that what you've heard from your own electorate?

ALEX HAWKE:

Well I think people in my own electorate are very alive to the fact that we have a very significant budget deficit, we have a lot of debt at the moment, and if we want to fund all of these things that we think are good things to do into the future, we're going to have to look at the tax system. And that's why the Government's got a system in place and there's a discussion, a national conversation around the country about how can we change the tax mix to get the right settings so we have economic growth and more money to be able to spend on the things we think are necessary.

MARIUS BENSON:

There's been a lot of ringing around of backbenchers and there's a clear sense of things that a lot don't want an increase to the GST as part of any tax change. Do you get that sense from the backbench itself?

ALEX HAWKE:

Well look, when I discuss with colleagues and people in the community, and also here in Canberra, the Government hasn't made any decision to increase the GST, that's the first point to make. The Government is looking at all of the options and people are right to have their own inputs on those options. I don't think anybody in the country, whether it's the Prime Minister or the Treasurer or anyone else supports the GST rising in isolation.

Of course, what the Government's looking at are what are the settings in the entire tax system that can be altered to ensure that we have growth in the economy.

I think that conversation's ongoing and people are able to reflect their views honestly down here, I think that's what's occurring.

MARIUS BENSON:

One suggestion in reports today is that the Government plans to bring forward the possible schedule for the release of the tax reform package, maybe to bring it out at the end of this month. Do you think it is going to be released early, at the end of this month?

ALEX HAWKE:

Look this conversation's ongoing, there's no conversation about bringing anything forward that I'm aware of. Obviously we're going through a genuine process of consultation with the Australian people, with members of parliament, with the business community, with all effected groups, the not for profit sectors, just discussing the options in tax reform and that's ongoing.

MARIUS BENSON:

Ongoing is pretty indefinite. Can you be more definite?

ALEX HAWKE:

Well absolutely, we've got a Budget to deliver in May and we've got an election later in the year as the Prime Minister signalled. And of course all Australians will be informed first about what the Government's intentions are, and they'll have the ability to make a judgment about what the Government's putting forward to the election.

MARIUS BENSON:

And that will be released obviously before the election but anything more definite than that?

ALEX HAWKE:

Well look, the conversation's ongoing. I don't get the sense that people are ready to make a judgment, I think the discussions about high-end levels of income tax, high levels of company tax, what the GST could bring from the States, you're hearing a lot from the states about what their needs are in health and education and other areas. Those discussions are ongoing.

MARIUS BENSON:

I'll leave it there, Alex Hawke thanks very much.

ALEX HAWKE:

Thank you, Marius.