Fed: Govt will consider cigarette tax as part of Henry review
14 May 2009 9:51 PM
CANBERRA, May 14 AAP - The Rudd government may consider Malcolm Turnbull's idea to increase the cost of cigarettes - but only after its Henry review on taxation reports back.
Assistant Treasurer Chris Bowen criticised the opposition leader for failing to support any of Labor's savings measures and for opposing its plan to means test the 30 per cent private health insurance rebate.
"Tonight from Mr Turnbull we got 30 minutes of negativity and a plan for two committees," he told reporters.
The opposition is offering to replace the forecast $1.9 billion in savings that would come from paring back access to the private health insurance rebate with a 12.5 per cent increase in the tobacco excise - a tax of three cents per cigarette.
But Mr Bowen said Mr Turnbull's idea couldn't be taken seriously.
And he challenged him to consider supporting the alcopops tax if he believed in raising taxes as a health measure.
"If he wants to be taken seriously on that, get behind the government's alcopops measures, only then can he be taken seriously," Mr Bowen said.
When pressed on whether the government would consider the cigarette tax proposal, Mr Bowen said all taxes were being considered as part of the Henry review.
"We will consider this in light of all recommendations to the Henry review," he said.
"We certainly think there's a place for a discussion about the role of tax in health measures ... that's why we are open to the idea, if the Henry review recommends it, of changes to the tax regime of cigarettes."
Mr Bowen said the coalition hadn't offered up any serious alternatives to reduce the deficit.
"Mr Turnbull has been banging on about debt for weeks, he's been saying that debt should be lower, he's been saying the deficit should be lower but he didn't nominate a figure tonight," he said.
"Not only that, he didn't nominate a plan to get a lower figure, in fact he left the door open for a higher figure.
"He indicated a lack of support ... for Labor's savings measures and he proposed new spending measures."