Mr FITZGIBBON (Hunter) (13:51):  Many of my colleagues today have been talking about the way a flat tax like a goods and services tax hits hardest in middle- to low-income families. That is very true. I want to talk this afternoon about another disproportionate adverse impact, and that is the effect on those living in rural and regional Australia. Something like eight of the 10 poorest electorates in this country can be found in rural and regional Australia.

A recent PwC report found that the gap between the haves and have-nots in the cities and the haves and have-nots in country areas is growing disproportionately again in rural areas

But the key point is that everything we consume in rural and regional Australia involves additional transport costs. This GST will add to those transport taxes. For people in the bush this becomes a tax upon a tax.

When John Howard introduced the GST, he reduced the excise on fuel to offset this effect. Is this government going to reduce the excise further again? In fact, when John Howard introduced the GST, he abolished the wholesale sales tax. What is this government going to do to compensate people generally in this country but particularly those who live in rural and regional Australia? This will have adverse effects right through the bush, including in health services. It is a bad idea and those opposite representing rural seats should reject it.

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