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Wednesday, 12 October 2011
Page: 11734


Mr TONY SMITH (Casey) (16:01): I rise to speak on the statement made by the Treasurer yesterday in the House of Representatives on taxation. In doing so, I join with the shadow Treasurer, who responded in the House of Representatives to the Treasurer's statement yesterday. Of course, the Treasurer's statement followed last week's tax forum. It is very important that it be called a 'tax forum' because the Treasurer, Mr Swan, was very determined it not be called a 'tax summit'. The last time there was a tax summit was back in the 1980s. The road to this tax forum says so much about this government and so much about the Treasurer's grasp of economics and his true interest in tax reform, which is of course next to zero. When it comes to tax rises, this Treasurer's track record shows that is where his interest really lies.

This Treasurer has occupied that post since the election of Prime Minister Rudd back in November 2007. At that time he did not exhibit any interest in tax reform whatsoever. In fact, in the 2007 election the only tax policy the current Treasurer had was to copy the income tax cuts announced by the previous Treasurer, Peter Costello, and the previous Prime Minister, John Howard. We all remember that when those tax cuts were announced in the first week of the election campaign they were greeted with determined silence by the now Treasurer, who waited a week before saying he would copy them lock, stock and barrel except for some planned cuts to the top rate, which he said would be an aspiration for another day.

Then he got to his first budget, which of course followed the you-beaut 2020 Summit held in this place, where reams of butchers paper were sacrificed to a whole host of ideas for the new government to give it some sort of direction. One of the ideas out of that 2020 summit was the Henry tax review. That preceded over many, many months. When it was finally completed it was handed to the Treasurer, and he held it like it was some kind of dangerous device—for six months. It was going to be released 'as soon as practicable', he said at the end of 2009. But it took almost six months—in fact it was dropped about 10 days before the budget. I think it was the Sunday before the Sunday of the budget. Of course, it was released at that point when the Treasurer announced he liked one idea, which of course was the infamous mining tax. The road to this forum began after the election, at the insistence of the member for Lyne. There was going to be a tax summit by 30 June at the latest, and the tax summit was then shrunk to a tax forum. Many commentators wondered what the difference between a tax summit and a tax forum was, but luckily the Treasurer, Wayne Swan, was on hand to explain the difference. When asked by a journalist what the difference was, he said that a forum included about 150 people while a summit was a pretty tiny forum. The mind reels, but at least the forum, which occurred at the insistence of the member for Lyne, was delayed until last week and, of course, was shrunk in duration. Forty-eight hours is a generous interpretation. There were two days of talking and at the end of it another promise by the Treasurer of something he thought he would like to do in the future—

Mr Van Manen: Another aspiration—

Mr TONY SMITH: As you said, back in 2007, if he could. When it comes to tax reform, this government are interested only in tax rises. After they announced that they would agree to have their tax forum, of course, they announced their carbon tax. That was not allowed to be discussed, nor was the mining tax. The Australian public are a wake-up to this Treasurer and this government. Whenever they mention tax, they are always thinking of tax rises. The Australian public know it. The Treasurer's statement of bluff in the House yesterday will do nothing to dissuade them of that view, nor will the forum which he agreed to under sufferance to satisfy an Independent to give them government.