Matters of Public Importance - Abbott Government - 1/10/2014

Senator IAN MACDONALD (Queensland) (18:03):  What a pleasure to follow Senator Ketter in this debate. From the sounds of his measured, moderate contribution to this debate, I look forward to more debates. Senator Ketter, the time when the Labor Party could lecture anyone on budget superiority, on budget certainty, on budget balancing will be the day hell freezes over. For the Labor Party to try to lecture anyone on budget matters is just so amusing that I really cannot take you as being serious. You have no doubt been left with the motion and you have done your best to prosecute it.

Mr Rudd, you might remember—long before your time so I do not blame you for overlooking these things—had the 2020 Summit.

Senator O'Sullivan:  Was that Rudd 1 or Rudd 2?

Senator IAN MACDONALD:  This was Rudd 1. There were all these fine ideals about tax reform and a huge very expensive two- or three-day talkfest. We had the Henry tax review as a result of it. The Henry tax review took hundreds of days and hundreds of thousands of dollars and came up with a set of suggestions. The then Labor government completely ignored all but one or two of them. The only one it picked up it seemed was an abortion of the MRRT. That then turned out to be such a mess that in the end every Australian understood that it was a useless tax that was costing more to collect than it was actually collecting.

You will remember Mr Swan promising every year that he would get a surplus. It never appeared. Nobody ever expected it would. I think not even Mr Rudd or Ms Gillard themselves ever believed his or her Treasurer when he indicated he was going to bring in a surplus. So, as I say, let the Labor Party lecturing on tax is a non sequitur. I could go through a whole series of examples but time does not permit that and they are all well known.

Your motion talks about attacking the living standards of pensioners, students and young jobseekers. The biggest attack on the living standards of pensioners, students and jobseekers was paying $33 million each and every day to foreign lenders on money that the Labor government had borrowed. That in itself adds to the cost of living. It means that living standards that could be paid for with that $33 million a day were not being paid and it meant that we had to introduce the difficult and very stringent budget that we see today.

This concern about international tax is something that we on this side have been looking at for some time. And I pay credit to my colleague Senator Bill Heffernan, who, for years, has been talking about the way big multinational companies do not pay their fair share of tax and about how they enter into schemes where the tax, if any, is paid overseas in countries which have a lower tax rate than Australia.

Before I hear further pious words of the Greens and the Labor Party, could I ask either of them why they did not support my motion a couple of months ago for the Paid Parental Leave scheme to be deferred until later and for the money being collected from companies to fund that scheme to be put into addressing the bottom line of the budget? Did the Greens give any support to that? I heard them rabbiting on in question time today about the tax that multinationals pay. But when they had the opportunity to do something about it a couple of months ago in this chamber they were absolutely dead silent. They would not even cross the floor to help me in supporting the proposal that the additional tax collected from companies be diverted to paying off Labor's budget black hole.

Again, as is typical with the Greens, it is all hypocrisy: say one thing, do another. It is so typical of the Greens. They are all about free speech and yet when an issue comes up and an inquiry is undertaken by this chamber—improperly set out, I would suggest, and one that I am sure will nevertheless be overturned in the High Court—how many of the 33 government senators do the Greens give the opportunity to to participate in that inquiry? Just one. How many from the Labor Party, with 25 senators? Two. And how many from PUP, with three senators? One. And the chairman, on a big salary. This is the Greens hypocrisy. It just demonstrates, time and time again, why you cannot believe, trust or even try to negotiate with the Greens.

In relation to that Queensland motion, Greens' leader Senator Milne was out of the chamber and the rest of the Greens agreed to include the Labor Party in that particular inquiry. I could not believe my ears. I thought that all the things I had been saying about the Greens for 24 years had been wrong. But I was right. You simply cannot believe the Greens. Senator Milne came back to lead the Greens political party. The sensible compromise that had been negotiated by the Greens Whip and a couple of sensible people in the Greens political party was overthrown by the leader and the leader went back to take out her absolutely pathological hatred of anyone who is not on the Left side of politics.

So whether it is on this matter of multinational tax integrity or whether it is on a matter of inquiring into other governments or preventing senators from having their say, the Greens are just full of hypocrisy. Not only do they vote to set up this committee, which does not stand any test of fairness or propriety but, more than that, the Greens cut off debate.

When Labor was in government and the Greens were their lackeys, supporting them all the way, we had so many guillotines and gags on debate that we lost count. But we thought that, with the change of government, perhaps there will not be quite so many gags, guillotines and restriction of debate moved by the government and  there has not been. I think it has only happened once, as opposed to 400 or 500 times under the Labor-Greens regime. But today we have Labor and the Greens, again, joining together for another couple of gags. And this is the Greens political party, which will go out there and tell all their followers, 'We're all in favour of free speech and accountability.' Have a look at this dodgy committee which has just been set up! Accountability? With two Labor members, one Green, one Palmer United and just one government senator. Accountability simply goes out of the door when it applies to the Greens political party. The idea of everyone having their say, everyone having the ability to play their part in this chamber and fully discuss matters, again, goes out of the door when the Greens political party join with Labor to curtail debate.

In the few seconds left to me, can I just congratulate Joe Hockey, a fabulous Treasurer. He has done an excruciatingly good job in trying to correct Labor's mess. I remind anyone who might be listening to this debate that Labor, in six short years, left a debt approaching $600 billion for every Australian, paying their share of $33 million each and every day—I repeat, each and every day—to pay off Labor's debt to foreign lenders. That is the sort of tax mess that Mr Hockey has had to address. He is doing a wonderful job and I wish him every support in his ongoing job of fixing Labor's mess. (Time expired)

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