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Wednesday, 23 November 2011
Page: 9299

Senator BOB BROWN (TasmaniaLeader of the Australian Greens) (09:42): The opposition is in raucous mode today, because it lost its attempt to block legislation in the House of Representatives last night which will have an $11 billion benefit for the Australian people. It must be said that Australia is indeed the lucky country in that we have a mineral wealth that makes us, according to the United Nations, the wealthiest country on Earth, per capita, in terms of natural resources. It has been a very strong Greens point of view that those natural resources should be shared as far as possible by the Australian people. The coalition wants that money to flow to the already wealthy, unrestrained. What the Gillard government has done here is legislate to bring back some of the money to undoubtedly be able to fund health, education, security—

Senator Ian Macdonald: Unemploy­ment benefits.

Senator BOB BROWN: Senator Macdonald says unemployment benefits, but he would have you see the mining companies not paying their dues. Instead, 60 or 70 per cent plus of the profits being made by these corporations would flow overseas.

Opposition senators interjecting

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT: Order! Those on my left.

Senator BOB BROWN: We have listened to the opposition senators in silence.

Senator Ian Macdonald: Why didn't you tax them with the flood levy?

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT: Order! Senator Macdonald.

Senator Ronaldson interjecting

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT: Senator Ronaldson, order!

Senator BOB BROWN: Senator Ronaldson is talking about grubbiness, for goodness sake.

Senator Ronaldson: You are a hypocrite.

Senator BOB BROWN: Then we have members of the opposition saying 'hypocrites' and continuing to interject. Isn't it interesting how the conservatives are the law breakers when it comes to the standards of this place. But there you go.

The issue at stake here is the welfare of the Australian people. When Independents Windsor and Oakeshott got a huge advantage for rural Australia through environmental assessments—which will now proceed—funded from outside this package, we thought that was a real win. In House of Representatives the member for Denison was able to negotiate lifting the applicability of this tax from companies with a $50 million profit to those with a $75 million profit. This meant that $20 million a year would be taken out of the revenue raised, which is a loss equivalent to two or three hundred nurses or teachers—a real loss on the ground for average Australians. We simply said to the government that we want that money to be made up. We want this to be revenue neutral.

The opposition did nothing about that for the Australian people. They would see public schools further de-funded. They would see more closures of hospital wards. They would fail to do anything to help public transport, pensioners or people on extraordinarily low unemployment benefits, in an age of high employment, and without help to people in rural and regional Australia, because the National Party is the friend of the big miners before it is the friend of farmers. We have seen that writ large in this debate.

We have been able to work out a formulation with the government that will ensure that schools and hospitals do get their dues. The government has said that it does not want the details of this arrangement announced for some days, until closer to the mid-year statement on the economy. We argued about that. We wanted to release the details last night. It is up to the government to release the details and when it does—

Senator Abetz: You are the government.

Senator BOB BROWN: Whatever Senator Abetz might say, he has failed the people of Tasmania and Australia on this matter. Being critical is no substitute for getting action. The Greens have got the action while he bellows from his—

Senator Abetz: I rise on a point of order. I would like to point out that Senator Bob Brown has only 15 seconds remaining on the clock to tell the chamber what is in the secret deal he has struck with the Prime Minister.

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT: There is no point of order. Senator Brown has the call.

Senator BOB BROWN: There is $100 million there that Senator Abetz opposes the Australian people getting. That I can tell you. This is a good arrangement. It is much better than the $70 billion black hole that Senator Abetz and his colleagues have engineered in their accounting to the Australian people. (Time expired)