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Wednesday, 26 May 2010
Page: 4225


Dr EMERSON (Minister for Small Business, Independent Contractors and the Service Economy, Minister Assisting the Finance Minister on Deregulation and Minister for Competition Policy and Consumer Affairs) (5:09 PM) —I will see the shadow small business minister’s Winston Churchill quote and raise him a quote. The first quote from Winston Churchill is:

There is nothing more exhilarating than to be shot at without result.

He came in here and was going to shoot all these bullets—and he completely missed. There is the Winston Churchill quote number 1. Winston also went on to say:

Men stumble over the truth from time to time, but most pick themselves up and hurry off as if nothing happened.

What you have just launched is another chapter in a scare campaign, a chaotic, shambolic scare campaign undermined by your own members of parliament, most particularly of course by your good close friend Senator Barnaby Joyce—and I will have plenty to say about that.

You asked about commentary. I will give you some commentary from the small-business community. This is from the Council of Small Business of Australia, which said:

The idea that the tax cuts might be cut out before they even come into effect is very concerning.

…            …            …

The tax cuts and depreciation bonus for small businesses announced by the government is a good step forward on tax reform.

So you have got the Council of Small Business of Australia saying that they are very worried about the coalition opposing the Resource Super Profits Tax. Why? It is because the Resource Super Profits Tax would generate revenue to fund the small-business tax breaks that we are offering.

Not one word was spoken about the small-business tax break in the form of instant write-off of assets valued at up to $5,000. These are any assets valued up to $5,000, not falsely, as the coalition claims, only for companies, but for every one of Australia’s 2.4 million small businesses. This is a tax break for partnerships. It is a tax break for sole traders. It is a tax break for small business companies, and it is a tax break denied by the coalition. They say they are the party of small business. What a joke! There was not one mention of the fact that Tony Abbott, the opposition leader, and his colleagues in the coalition, would deny small business the tax break that COSBOA is saying that they really want.

It is not just COSBOA. The Australian Newsagents Federation said that it has expressed concern ‘that small businesses may lose the urgently needed tax relief that has been recently announced by the Federal Government’. They went on:

The Government’s plan to cut the small business tax rate from 30 per cent to 28 per cent and allow small businesses to instantly deduct the full costs of assets valued at up to $5000 is important to community newsagents and all small businesses.

There you have the Australian Newsagents Federation calling on the coalition, pleading with the coalition, to pass the Resource Super Profits Tax so that all newsagents can benefit from those tax reductions. We know that in terms of the head start on the company tax rate reduction for small businesses that 720,000 small businesses would receive that. That is a lot of small businesses. But all 2.4 million small businesses would receive the instant write-off.

The supreme irony of this is that in the week of ‘gaffethons’ that we have seen from the coalition, the opposition leader passed the parcel to the shadow treasurer, and the shadow treasurer passed the parcel to the shadow finance minister, who wanted to pass the parcel to his staff member, who said, ‘No, not me, pal. Just get out of here—pull out!’ In that process the coalition managed to remove the one tax cut policy that it had for small business, and that is the carry-back of losses, which was coalition policy. But it was sacrificed on the altar of expediency in that shambolic process of pass the parcel through to the staff member of the member for Goldstein. The fact is, small businesses would be great beneficiaries from the tax reform package that the Rudd government is offering, and what is standing in the way of small businesses getting much-needed tax relief is of course the coalition.

The coalition stood in the way when the Labor government wanted to provide an economy stimulus package to support our tradies and small businesses. The coalition opposed it; they voted against it. They did not believe our small businesses deserved a break during the deepest global recession since the Great Depression. No, they believed that small businesses should just go broke—let the market decide; let the market determine. They voted against that stimulus package. They voted against our tradies and our small businesses then. They voted against the greatest school modernisation program in Australia’s history, which is being built by our tradespeople, our trades men and women in this country. What have the opposition said about that? It is the end of trade training centres. Well, who builds the trade training centres? Our tradies do, and they will have plenty to say about the coalition’s plans for trade training centres in every part of Australia.

The impact of the tax reform package on small business can also be said to be related to investment by the large mining companies in Australia. So let us have a look at the analysts’ consensus recommendations from the E*Trade website on 24 May. In relation to BHP, five analysts reported that they all have strong buy recommendations for BHP. For Rio, four analysts reported, three with a strong buy recommendation and one with a hold. For Fortescue, five analysts reported, three with a strong buy recommendation and two with a hold. For Woodside, four analysts reported, three with a strong buy reported and one with a hold. So there you have the analysts saying, ‘Invest in the Australian mining industry—invest in BHP, invest in Rio, invest in Fortescue, invest in Woodside.’ We know that the member for Dickson, Pig Iron Pete, absolutely agrees with investing in BHP because Pig Iron Pete did exactly that. He showed good judgment. Two days after the release of the tax policy of the Rudd government, the member for Dickson bought BHP shares.


Mr Baldwin —Mr Deputy Speaker, on a point of order: I draw your attention to the comments by the Speaker yesterday when the minister used that same comment and the Speaker ordered him to withdraw. He has just repeated that comment.


The DEPUTY SPEAKER (Hon. Peter Slipper)—Is the minister prepared to assist the House?


Dr EMERSON —I withdraw. In question time this week, the opposition were asking questions about the impact of the PRRT, the petroleum resource rent tax, on exploration and development in this country. They were challenging the government’s assertion that the petroleum resource rent tax has been consistent with high levels of exploration and development in this country, asking what Australia has exported in PRRT areas and what projects are actually producing in PRRT areas, as if there were none. As if? The member for Corio is here. Bass Strait is just a little south of Geelong?


Mr Marles —South-east.


Dr EMERSON —Does the opposition know there are big oil and gas fields there? You should go there. They produce a lot of oil and a lot gas. Under what? The PRRT, which applies to Bass Strait. And there are projects elsewhere in Victoria and off Western Australia that are producing under the PRRT. I can claim this, that the majority of the following projects are PRRT producing projects—that is, they are operating under that regime: Laminaria, Thylacine, Basker-Manta-Gummy in Bass Strait—a big place—Minerva, Patricia Baleen, Taroom, Yolla, Athena, Cliff Head, Einfield, Vincent, Griffin, John Brookes, Mutineer-Exeter, Reindeer, Stag, Wandoo and Woollybutt. There are more, but a majority of those at least are producing under the PRRT regime. And what did we get 25 years ago? The same mantra, the same scare campaign: it is going to drive exploration out; it is going to be bad for our small businesses that work with and service the major petroleum companies in this country; it is going to be bad for anyone who is servicing a small business, servicing BHP, servicing Esso; it is going to be the end of exploration in this country.

So we have heard it all before. And then the opposition comes into this parliament to create the impression that there are no currently producing projects under the PRRT regime. That is completely false. Have they ever heard of the Gorgon gas project? It was given the go-ahead under the PRRT regime. Yet this opposition says that a profits based tax will smash the mining industry. Well, why didn’t the profits based tax smash Gorgon? Why didn’t the profits based tax smash the Pluto project? Why didn’t that happen? They said 25 years ago that that was what would happen.

The member for Tangney when he was on the doors said he was misquoted, but what he actually said was that he did not accept that the Australian people own the minerals of this country. He said the state governments own them, not the Australian people. This is the sort of philosophical divide with which we must deal. Members of the coalition do not even accept the proposition that the Australian people own the minerals. They say, ‘It’s the states and the mining companies who own the minerals and there is no right for the Commonwealth to tax them at all.’

The opposition are a shambles, with a shambolic, chaotic scare campaign because they have three different views on three different days. The first view was expressed by someone who is very famous now, and has become even more famous in the last day and a half, and that is the Deputy Leader of the Opposition. When she was asked two days ago about whether mining companies are paying their fair share of tax she said, ‘I believe that they are paying a fair amount of tax.’ The next day Senator Barnaby Joyce was asked specifically about the deputy opposition leader’s comment that they are paying a fair share of tax and he said:

No, not at all—we can have a sensible negotiation … To say there is not the capacity to change the tax is not right.

Boom! There goes the case. There goes the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, blown up again by Senator Barnaby Joyce. He went on to say:

I’m prepared for people to look at the mining sector to pay more tax.

Boom! There we go again. Then he says:

Let’s go through the proper negotiation.

Boom! Another one. The old depth charges are coming in left, right and centre, blowing the deputy opposition leader out of the water. We know why, of course—because he had a very stinky nasty blue with the member for Goldstein, who had said of one of our ministers that he had ‘done a Barnaby’. Barnaby Joyce had a lot to say about that. He made rather derogatory comments of the member for Goldstein and finished by saying, ‘Bugger him!’ So unity is a myth on the coalition side.

Today, to cap it all off, we got the final word, because the opposition leader wanted to clarify the chaotic, confused scare campaign as to whether the mining industry pays a fair amount of tax or whether the mining industry could pay more tax. Do you know what he said? He said:

Any fair-minded analysis of the evidence would suggest that mining companies … are paying more than their fare share of tax.

So what is the offer? It is a tax cut to the mining industry from the opposition leader. He is saying now that they are paying more than their fair share of tax.


Mr Fletcher interjecting


The DEPUTY SPEAKER (Hon. Peter Slipper)—Order! The member for Bradfield will not interject from outside his seat. It is extremely disorderly.


Dr EMERSON —So we have three positions. First they are paying just enough. Then they are paying too much. And now the opposition leader comes in and says: ‘I’ll clear it up. The answer is that they’re paying more than their fair share of tax. They’re being treated unfairly and they shouldn’t have to pay all that tax.’ Well, of course he would say that.

Part of this scare campaign relates to prices. We heard the shadow small business minister, when I interjected asking, ‘Will it increase the price of Mars bars?’ saying, ‘Yes, it will.’ This is the Mars bar effect. We have just heard of it today—the Mars bar effect of the Resource Super Profits Tax. Get your Mars bars now, hoard your Mars bars, before the Resource Super Profits Tax because up will go the price of Mars bars! Quick—get out there and buy Picnics, Mars bars, Redskins, Cobbers, Mint Leaves—


Mr Neumann interjecting


The DEPUTY SPEAKER —The honourable member for Blair will remain silent. He is not in his chair.


Dr EMERSON —Get them now because the price of lollies is going to go up under the Resource Super Profits Tax —it is going to put up everything! The latest claim is that it is going to put up electricity prices.

The report from KPMG Econtech completely refutes that. The opposition talk about reading reports—read the one from KPMG Econtech which shows that the price effect will be that prices will go down. How is that going to help small business? Read the report. Have a look on page 36, which shows the policy impact of the whole tax package on various items: food, -0.1 per cent; clothing and footwear, 1.3 per cent down; housing, 1.1 per cent down; household contents and service, 1.1 per cent down; health, 0.6 per cent down; transportation, 1.7 per cent down; communication, 1.4 per cent down; recreation, 1.3 per cent down; education, 0.3 per cent down; and financial and insurance services, down. Prices are going down, not up, so forget about your silly Mars bar scare campaign. It is just a joke—it is just a farce. That is because you are just a joke—you are just a farce. Winston Churchill was right. I am very relieved that you came in here firing bullets and missed everyone. (Time expired)