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Wednesday, 2 March 2016
Page: 1629


Senator CAMERON (New South Wales) (15:47): I move:

That the Senate take note of the answers given by the Minister for Finance (Senator Cormann) and the Attorney-General (Senator Brandis) to questions without notice asked by Senators Dastyari and Cameron today relating to tax policy.

What a performance we witnessed today in question time! Two of the government's so-called leading lights were trying to run away from simple economic questions as fast as they possibly could. When Senator Brandis was on his feet he was asked, 'Do we have a revenue problem?' He was asked, 'Is negative gearing still on the table?' We asked, 'Are superannuation tax concessions still on the table in the government's tax policy process?' He would not go near those questions. What did he do? What answers did he give? In typical Senator Brandis style, he gave this pompous response. He tried to denigrate people who were asking him a question. He tried to patronise me because I was asking a reasonable question. He behaved in a condescending manner. That is not all that Senator Brandis does in here, but that is typical of the way Senator Brandis responds to questions. And it is pretty typical of the absolute arrogance of this government, a government that cannot be trusted. It demonstrated in its first budget that it cannot be trusted.

Then we had the other leading light of the government in this place, Senator Cormann. Senator Cormann just goes into this robotic rote. Words just fly out from Senator Cormann; they do not mean a lot. There is just a constant wall of noise coming from Senator Cormann. If you look at the questions that Senator Dastyari asked of Senator Cormann he was asking about the interview that he did on Sky yesterday in relation to negative gearing. I picked up the transcript of Senator Cormann's responses to David Speers in the interview on Sky yesterday. Eight times Mr Speers asked whether he agreed with the former Prime Minister Tony Abbott when he argued in the party room that there should be no changes to negative gearing rules. If anyone ever wants to see an absolutely terrible interview, they should look at the interview that Senator Cormann did yesterday. He was in a position where he just did not want to support the Treasurer of the country and the Treasurer who he works with. Somebody said yesterday, 'He probably doesn't like the new Treasurer because he doesn't smoke fat Havana cigars like the former Treasurer and Senator Cormann do.' Senator Cormann just would not go near those questions. All his answers were robotic rubbish. They were just spewing out from Senator Cormann every time he was asked a question.

The reality is that this government actually want to introduce a GST increase. The position they are in now is that a GST increase was going to be their election policy. Increase the GST, attack penalty rates for ordinary workers and diminish the standard of living for workers around this country—that was the policy of this government. Yet they could not get a GST increase up because they did a bit of polling and discovered that a GST increase was not very popular.

So what did this new Prime Minister do? Malcolm Turnbull, the new Prime Minister, was going to be different. He did exactly the same as the former Prime Minister, Tony Abbott, did—that is, he reverted to sloganising. This is an opposition—I mean 'government'—that has no economic policy and a government with absolutely no way forward for the workers of this country. (Time expired)