Documents - Consideration

Senator IAN MACDONALD (Queensland) (16:59): I am glad Senator Whish-Wilson raised this issue. It is an important issue. If his interpretation of the Auditor-General's report is correct then it is something the government should very closely look into, and I am sure the government will. I would be very interested to read the government's response to the Auditor-General's report. Senators may recall that, after years of doing nothing and six years of the Rudd-Gillard-Rudd Labor government, supported entirely by the Greens political party, there was no move at all to try to get foreign companies to pay the tax that they should pay in Australia. There was not one skerrick of movement from the Labor-Greens administration in six years. Fortunately, the government changed, and we had treasurers who seriously looked into these issues, who took a lead role in the G20 meeting in Brisbane and who started work on this on a worldwide basis—work that will help in not only Australia but many other developing countries experiencing the same sorts of problems. I give all credit to Mr Hockey, who was then the Treasurer, for the work he did in getting foreign multinational companies to pay their fair share of tax. The Greens and the Labor Party talked about it a lot but did not do one thing to address the problem. So I look forward to the government's response to the Auditor-General's report.

I also want to comment on Senator Whish-Wilson's throwaway line: Mr Morrison is just trying to get a few tens of millions of dollars—actually, it is hundreds of millions of dollars—from the foreign workers, the backpackers. I could never understand why Senator Whish-Wilson, Senator Lambie and the Labor Party seem to think that foreign workers should pay less tax than Australian workers. The great workers' party, the Australian Labor Party, want to charge backpackers 10½ per cent and Australians much more than that. We know that, at the 19 per cent rate proposed by the government, backpackers will still get a better deal working in Australia than they would get anywhere else.

Senator Whish-Wilson's throwaway line is that Mr Morrison wants to get a few tens of millions of dollars. As I said, it is hundreds of millions of dollars. You know why we need that? You know why we need to look at the budget bottom line, Senator Whish-Wilson? It is because you supported the Labor Party, who ran up a debt approaching $700 billion, which means Australian taxpayers are paying something like $30 million a day in interest on money borrowed by the Labor-Greens government to fund their outrageously lavish projects in that six years of the Rudd-Gillard-Rudd government. When you say it is about trying to recoup a few tens of thousands dollars, we have to do that because—these figures just roll off everyone's tongue, even mine these days—it comes down to money that Australian taxpayers have to pay. They have to pay $30 million a day—$300 million a week—in interest on the money that was borrowed by the Labor-Greens government in those horrible six years.

That is why we have to try to address the budget problem. It is not just a problem of governments. I always say to people who ask me to get the government to give them some money: 'The government doesn't have any money. It just uses your money—taxpayers' money.' When we talk about paying $30 million a day in interest, it is not the government's money, it is the taxpayers of Australia who have to fork out that. Imagine what we could do with $300 million a week in new hospitals, new roads and new schools if we were not paying off the interest on Labor's debt to foreign lenders. While this is an important report, my final judgement will wait until I see the government response.

Question agreed to.

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