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Wednesday, 2 March 2016
Page: 1604

Revenue


Senator CAMERON (New South Wales) (14:09): My question is to the Minister representing the Prime Minister, Senator Brandis. I refer to the former Prime Minister, Mr Abbott's statement yesterday saying, 'We don’t have a revenue problem.' Does the Turnbull government have a revenue problem?


Senator BRANDIS (QueenslandAttorney-General, Vice-President of the Executive Council and Leader of the Government in the Senate) (14:10): Senator Cameron, as all Australians know the Australian Labor Party cannot bring itself to acknowledge that, at the time you were elected to government in 2007 at the end of the Howard government, you inherited the best financial conditions and the best set of public accounts of any incoming government in Australian history. But over six years—

The PRESIDENT: Pause the clock. Order, Minister. Senator Cameron, a point of order.

Senator Cameron: Mr President, a point of order on relevance. The question was clear and concise: does the Turnbull government have a revenue problem? The minister should address the question.

The PRESIDENT: Thank you, Senator Cameron. I will remind the minister of the question. Attorney-General.

Senator BRANDIS: Thank you, Mr President. I am just trying to contextualise it for you, Senator Cameron. Over six years of a Labor government Australia went from the best financial position it has ever been in and the best set of public accounts it has ever enjoyed to an unprecedented level of debt and deficit, and that is what this government has been grappling with under the prime ministerships of Mr Tony Abbott and Mr Malcolm Turnbull.

The PRESIDENT: Order! Pause the clock. Senator Cameron, a point of order.

Senator Cameron: Mr President, again, a point of order on relevance. We are now halfway through the time allocated for the answer. That was a simple question: does the Turnbull government have a revenue problem? The minister has not gone anywhere near that question. You have reminded him and he should go in the question.

The PRESIDENT: Thank you, Senator Cameron. The Attorney-General did indicate that he was contextualising his question or the answer to the question. I am listening carefully. It does relate to finance and it does relate to revenue. Attorney-General.

Senator BRANDIS: So that is the context, Senator. When we came into power and Mr Hockey was the Treasurer, and now under Mr Morrison as the Treasurer, we have to attack the budget deficit and the structural deficit in the economy, and that has both revenue and spending implications.

Opposition senators interjecting—

Senator BRANDIS: Mr President, I can barely hear myself speak. Senator Cameron, that has revenue implications and it has spending implications. We have tried to tackle government spending.

Senator Wong and Senator Macdonald interjecting—

The PRESIDENT: Order! A point of order, Senator Cameron. Senator Wong and Senator Macdonald, both.

Senator Cameron: Mr President, I rise on a point of order. I did not ask how hard the government was trying; I asked a simple question: does the Turnbull government have a revenue problem? The minister has still not answered that question.

The PRESIDENT: The Attorney-General did refer to the revenue in his answer since your last point of order. Attorney-General.

Senator BRANDIS: You seem, Senator Cameron, to be unable to grasp, which is perhaps one of the problems with Labor economic management, that these things are related to one another, Senator Cameron. Revenue and spending are related to one another, Senator Cameron. So as a result of the decisions made by the Abbott and Turnbull governments, government spending is now significantly less than it otherwise would have been. (Time expired).

The PRESIDENT: Before I call Senator Cameron, the level of noise is unacceptable on both sides of the chamber and particularly those close to the Speaker.
















Senator CAMERON (New South Wales) (14:13): Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. Do changes to negative gearing remain on the table as part of the Turnbull government's tax policy process?


Senator BRANDIS (QueenslandAttorney-General, Vice-President of the Executive Council and Leader of the Government in the Senate) (14:14): If I may finish my answer to your first question, Senator.

The PRESIDENT: No, Attorney-General, you need to address the question that has been asked.

Senator BRANDIS: I will address the question, and in doing so I will complete my answer to the first question and address the supplementary question.

Senator Wong: Mr President, on a point of order: this leader of the government is flouting the standard orders and flouting your indication. He did not come close to the question about whether or not the Turnbull government has a revenue problem. He now again is showing contempt, frankly, for the standing orders and for question time. I ask him to return to the question.

The PRESIDENT: Thank you, Senator Wong. The Attorney-General was just referring to the question, but the Attorney-General knows he has to answer the supplementary question.

Senator BRANDIS: I am referring to the supplementary question, Senator Cameron, and in doing so I will finish what I was saying in relation to the primary question. The real problem this country has is a debt problem. It is it a debt problem which was inherited from you. Now, Senator Cameron, in relation to the question of negative gearing—

Senator Cameron: Mr President, I raise a point of order on relevance. The question, again, was quite unequivocal and clear. I did not ask for a review of his failure to answer the first question. The question I asked was simple: does negative gearing remain on the table as part of the Turnbull government's tax policy process? Again, we are halfway through the answer, and the minister is ignoring the question.

The PRESIDENT: Thank you, Senator Cameron. If I could just make a general observation in relation to questions and answers—

Honourable senators interjecting

The PRESIDENT: Order, on my left and right! I would just make a general observation. I think it is a little bit unrealistic to expect ministers to jump instantly to the answer; that is the first point. But ministers can, in answering the question, put some contextualisation around the question, as the Attorney-General did in the previous answer. However, I will be listening carefully to ministers to ensure that they do come to the subject matter of the question.

Senator BRANDIS: Turning to the question of negative gearing, which of course bears directly on the question of revenue—it bears directly on the subject matter of your primary question, Senator Cameron—the only political party in this country that has published a policy to change negative-gearing arrangements is the Australian Labor Party, and what the Australian Labor Party wants to do is crash the value of the principal asset of most Australians by taking a third of buyers— (Time expired)











Senator CAMERON (New South Wales) (14:16): Mr President, I ask a further supplementary question. Do changes to superannuation tax concessions remain on the table as part of the Turnbull government's tax policy process?


Senator BRANDIS (QueenslandAttorney-General, Vice-President of the Executive Council and Leader of the Government in the Senate) (14:17): Senator Cameron, the only political party which has announced a policy of changes in that area as well has been the Australian Labor Party—the Australian Labor Party. And, as a result of the policies which you have announced, what we face—

Senator Cameron: Mr President, I rise on a point of order, again on relevance. I can understand why the coalition cannot answer a question on tax policy—

The PRESIDENT: To your point of order.

Senator Cameron: because they do not have one.

The PRESIDENT: To your point of order, Senator Cameron.

Senator Cameron: The point of order is clear. I simply asked: were superannuation tax concessions still on the table and part of the government's tax policy process?

Senator Bernardi: Mr President, on the point of order: this is not a point of order. This is a debating point and you should have sat him down.

The PRESIDENT: Thank you, Senator Bernardi. In relation to the point of order, the Attorney-General did answer the question directly by saying that the only party, which would by inference exclude the Liberal Party, that has a change—

Senator Wong interjecting

Senator Cameron interjecting

The PRESIDENT: That is exactly what he said. That would exclude the government from having a change of policy. So the Attorney-General has been completely directly relevant.

Senator BRANDIS: The only political party that is going to the next election with a policy to increase taxes and, in one particular respect—because of your negative gearing policy—to crash the value of the principal asset of most Australians by taking a third of the buyers out of the market is the Australian Labor Party. What you do not seem to understand, Senator Cameron, is that it is possible to have—

Senator Cameron: Mr President, on a point of order, again on relevance—

The PRESIDENT: I am sorry, Senator Cameron. The minister has been relevant to the question. There is no point of order.

Senator Cameron: Well, you have not heard—

The PRESIDENT: Senator Cameron, there is no point of order. Resume your seat.

Senator Cameron interjecting

The PRESIDENT: You said 'direct relevance', and the minister has been directly relevant.

Senator Wong: Mr President, on the point of order: given your ruling, I draw your attention to the fact that the content of the supplementary question is superannuation, not negative gearing.

The PRESIDENT: But a minister can enhance their answers, as they have done forever in this chamber and all the time I have been here. The minister answered the question directly. There is no point of order.

Senator BRANDIS: You do not seem to be able to come to terms, Senator Cameron, with the fact that one side of politics in this country is able to have a mature, grown-up debate about tax policy without playing foolish rule in, rule out games— (Time expired)

Senator Ian Macdonald: Mr President, I rise on a point of order: I am sitting close to Senator Brandis, but I can hardly hear him because leader of the opposition keeps shouting consistently and constantly. I cannot hear. Please, Mr President, would you bring her to order.

Senator Cameron: Go to Australian Hearing before they close it down!

The PRESIDENT: Could I remind all senators of the need to be silent during the questions and the answers. That is all senators, on both sides.

Senator Cameron interjecting

The PRESIDENT: Including you, Senator Cameron.