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Thursday, 24 March 2011
Page: 1781

Senator STEPHENS (3:26 PM) —I too rise to take note of answers to questions this afternoon. Picking up on Senator Cormann’s contribution, it is quite interesting that it took until the last 30 seconds of that contribution to come around to the MRRT, simply because the opposition is opposing for opposition’s sake. It is very frustrating to think that nothing this government could propose would the opposition recognise as being some kind of decent way forward and part of a reform agenda. We are very proud of our reform agenda. After 11½ years of a government that was prepared to milk the mining industry for all it is worth but not invest in the future of Australia, what have we got now? We have an agreement on the recommendations from the Argus committee about the MRRT, the minerals resource rent tax. It is going to deliver some significant issues for us.

As Senator Sherry outlined for us all today, it is going to make a significant difference. First of all, we are going to see some tax cuts for the first time. It is going to make a difference for working Australians. Almost 6½ million taxpayers are going to benefit from the simpler standard deductions that will be part of the agreement on the MRRT. That represents $47 billion in tax cuts. It is a tax cut for a person on $50,000 a year of about $1,750 a year.

We are going to reduce company tax. Again, the opposition are not prepared to support a reduction in company taxes, yet they purport to be a low-tax party. We are extending the superannuation contribution cap. We are abolishing the superannuation contribution tax. We are increasing the cap on the age at which people can contribute to their superannuation from 73 to 75. We are introducing a small business write-off measure of $5,000 a year, supporting small businesses at a time when they need it as much as everyone. We have such a strong strategy of investment. We have the infrastructure investment fund of more than $6 billion, which will particularly support investment in infrastructure in Western Australia and Queensland, the big mining states. These are critical investments that should have been part of the previous government’s approach to supporting our mining industry but never were. It is going to make such a significant difference for us.

But what do we do? We look at the opposition which, having spent years squandering the opportunities, now want to block any sense of reform. They do not want reform here. They do not want reform in our taxation system, which is cumbersome, punitive and unfair. They do not want reform. They do not want to support the mining industry, which seeks clarity and comparable treatment. They do not want to support the manufacturing industry in Australia.

Unlike Senator Ronaldson’s suggestion that the manufacturing industry in Australia is against a price on carbon, many industries see this as a real opportunity, industries such as Origin Energy. They really understand that this is an opportunity for innovation and a new low-carbon, green economy that is going to produce some great initiatives and opportunities for work.

Let us get real about what this opposition are all about—opposition for opposition’s sake. The opposition are not about being constructive. They do not want to see us have a broader debate around taxation. They only want to play politics with the process. They do not really want to confront the issues that are ahead of us. In that respect, it means that they are always going to be obstructionist in any way they can.

We need to put a price on carbon for the big polluters to change their behaviour. We know we need to do this. Everybody understands that. The processes which will put that in place will ensure that this is not carried just by consumers; it will be for everybody.