GST on Caravan Parks discriminates against lowest income earners

surfrider_caravan_park.jpgMr STEPHEN JONES (Throsby) (12:06): In 1957 an Illawarra resident by the name of Eric Cleary built a caravan park named the Surfrider Caravan Park in the Illawarra for the sole purpose of providing housing for low-income people. He would be turning in his grave if he saw this ruling, which, as the member for Shortland has advised us, was published in October this year. I congratulate the member for Shortland for taking the first opportunity available to her to bring this motion before the House. In the 55 years since the Surfrider Caravan Park was established, it has continued to serve its valuable purpose of providing low-cost housing to low-income people in the Illawarra. In fact, it is still owned and operated by Mr Cleary's wife, Ada.

I have a number of caravan parks in my electorate: the Windang Beach Tourist Park; the Lake Windemere Caravan Park, at Windang; the South Pacific Park Village, at Windang; Jettys by the Lake, again at Windang; the Moss Vale Village Caravan Park; and the Mittagong Caravan Park. Most, if not all, of these would have permanent residents. Most, if not all of them, would have weekend renters, people who have a site that they use as a weekender. And, because of the shortage of rental accommodation in my electorate, most, if not all, caravan parks are also a home for emergency accommodation or last-resort housing for many, many people.

For these residents, every cent counts. They were concerned, with the introduction of the GST, that they would be hit with additional costs and in that respect had some relief that movable home sites were finally treated as exempt from the operation of the GST. Indeed, we all recall, in the recent election, the coalition, led by Tony Abbott, giving a rock-solid guarantee that there would be no extension of the GST—no increase of the GST. That was only a few weeks ago. And now we discover that this is about to be reversed.

We have an opportunity to do something about it. In fact, members opposite have an opportunity to do something about it. They have an opportunity to go into their party room and say to their Treasurer and to their Prime Minister, 'This must not happen.'

The lowest income earners in my electorate cannot afford the burden of being slugged with the GST on their rental accommodation. This is discrimination, because, if these people were lucky enough to be able to access rental accommodation anywhere else, in any of the suburbs that I have mentioned, they would not be paying GST. Quite simply, this draft ruling represents discrimination against people who are permanent residents in caravan parks. The effect of this ruling is to discriminate against the people who can afford it the least, some of the most disadvantaged, some of the people with the lowest incomes in our community.

I have already been contacted by my constituents, who are concerned about these changes—constituents including Marie McCormick of Surfrider Caravan Park—and I welcome the first opportunity I have had to come into this House and raise their concerns. Many at Surfrider are there because they cannot afford normal rent in the tight rental market. They have been priced out of the mainstream housing market. On their fixed incomes, most of them get barely $800 a fortnight. Marie currently pays about $110 a week, $220 a fortnight, for her two-bedroom demountable home. Under the new GST laws, this would amount to more than $20 extra rent per fortnight—on a fixed income. That may not sound like a lot to you. It may not sound like a lot to the member for Fisher. But it is a lot to the people who are on a fixed income, a low income, who are living in these places.

So I call upon those opposite. I note that the member for Fisher, who has been away from us for a while, has called on us not to introduce politics into this matter. I have to say that that is a bit like getting a lecture from Ronnie Biggs on fare evasion—isn't it, Deputy Speaker. This is the guy who introduced some of the most base politics into the last election campaign and stands on the same side of the chamber as those who took every opportunity available to them in the last parliament to bring politics into every single matter. I call upon the member for Fisher and all of those opposite to do their darndest to ensure that this draft ruling never makes law. (Time expired)

Debate adjourned.