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Wednesday, 16 March 2016
Page: 2141

Senator GALLACHER (South Australia) (16:27): What a disgraceful performance that was. The simple questions before the Senate were: are we going to get a budget on the 10th; are we going to have look at a tax policy; and will we get time to debate the tax policy before the election? Senate Seselja gets a bomb and throws it over there, starts a bushfire down the road and says, 'Look over there. Do not look at the budget. Do not look at the really serious implications before the country. Do not let's debate the budget before the election. Let's start a fire somewhere else and hope the fire engines all run that way.' What an absolute disgrace.

We know that there is a very serious period before the Australian electorate, and we need to know exactly what is going on. I want it put on the record again: revenue for 2015 and 2016 is expected to be $405.4 billion, an increase of 5.5 per cent on the estimated revenue of 2014-15. And we know that expenses in 2015-16 are expected to be $434.5 billion, an increase of 3.4 per cent on the estimated expenses for 2014-15. We do have a picture that we are spending more than we are earning, and all we are saying is that this government should come clean about how it is going to address that. Senator Macdonald makes the point, 'I have been here 25 years. You wait till the budget and you will find out the day after.' I have also been here a short amount of time and I have learned this: things that are floated are backgrounded and put in the media. We know that the Treasurer allegedly, as reported in the media, has ruled out tax cuts. We know that a short while ago he was saying that bracket creep was a job destroyer and a growth risk, and we know that there are economic commentators well versed in the skill of estimating the drag on GDP that bracket creep may cause.

So it is fair enough; we know that the Manager of Opposition Business as late as today has said that there will be a tax policy out there. The only problem is that they do not seem to know which one they are going to bring out! They take one step forward and one step back: negative gearing is going to put house prices up and then it is going to put house prices down. They have no clear strategy or idea. Their only strategy is akin to what Senator Seselja's performance was—to talk about something which is totally irrelevant to what is before the Australian people.

Now, there has been a royal commission into alleged union corruption. There will be findings in all of that and that will be dealt with appropriately. That is an appropriate line of inquiry and it will take its course in the public domain. But the question before the chair today was about having a budget on 10 May. We know that there has been backgrounding that the House of Representatives can be recalled and they can put a budget through. We could be recalled to 3 May or we could be recalled a week early. It is a simple question: is the budget on 10 May? We do not really know; we will find out—

Senator Scullion: We'll let you know.

Senator GALLACHER: Yes. The next thing is: will we get a tax plan before that? 'We'll let you know.' Then, 'Will we get time to debate it before an election'—a really important question.

Senator Williams: Yeah—of course you will!

Senator GALLACHER: What? Half a day? Will we be recalled?

Senator Carol Brown: Will we have estimates?

Senator GALLACHER: Will we have estimates? Brilliant! Yes! Post every budget there are the estimates, where we actually have the paperwork which is a metre high and we try to burrow through it to find out what is going on. And when we do find out it is not always borne out. We know now, if we go back to Senator Carr's question, that one of the most fundamental things to Australia's growth and prosperity—the research and development conducted by CSIRO—has been diminished.

We know of 10 things that they have invented over the last 40 years or there about, from wi-fi to Aerogard. We know that there was a considerable sum of money repatriated to Australia as a result of the wi-fi technology and that has gone towards enhancing their facilities. As a member of the Public Works Committee I have been briefed across all of that. But it is an absolute disgrace that when we have scientists who are measuring the ice cap and doing critical work in the Antarctic, and who can show us maps of what the results will do to places in West Australia which are currently growing wheat and which will no longer be able to grow wheat, that the critical science has been abandoned by this government and it was not obvious in the budget. So we need to be able to look at a budget, pull it to pieces and ask the questions. Senator Wong simply asked if that were going to happen. We did not expect a fire to be lit on the CFMEU work.