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Wednesday, 2 March 2016
Page: 1631

Senator GALLACHER (South Australia) (15:57): I intend to return to the matter that was in front of the Senate, not wander off on a frolic like Senator Edwards. The question was: do we have a revenue problem? You can make up your own mind about that. Revenue for 2015-16 is expected to be $405.4 billion—an increase of 5.5 per cent on the estimated revenue of 2014-15. Total expenses of 2015-16 are expected to be $434.5 billion—an increase of 3.4 per cent on the estimated expenses in 2014-15. Looking broadly at the actual figures from the Parliamentary Library, we spend more than we get in. I suppose the question is: what do you do about that? That is where those people on the other side are incredibly confused. We have the Hon. Malcolm Turnbull saying that negative gearing changes will drive housing prices down. We have the Hon. Kelly O'Dwyer saying that negative gearing changes will drive house prices up. We have Senator Cormann saying that the excesses alluded to by the Treasurer are nothing to do with him because his is an expenditure-driven portfolio; it is not an income-driven portfolio. The Treasurer and the Assistant Treasurer deal with taxation measures, and he deals with expenditure measures.

You cannot keep straddling a barbed wire fence without doing some injuries. It is impossible. Sooner or later, you are going to get injured. The government cannot have it both ways. It is bad going up, and it is bad going down. There are excesses in negative gearing; that is what the Treasurer said. The finance minister is saying: 'It's nothing to do with me. There's nothing to see here. Look the other way. I'm an expenditure man.'

Very clearly, they need to get their act together. We know where the income comes from. The evidence is there. PAYE taxpayers contribute $194.3 billion; 47.8 per cent of the revenue comes from people who go to work and pay their taxes. We know that company and resource rent taxes contribute $71.2 billion; 17.6 per cent of revenue comes in that way. We know that sales tax contributes $61.6 billion, 15.2 per cent of revenue. So, if you add all those up, there are only a few places you can go to get some more revenue in the light of commodity prices being at their lowest point for this cycle.

We know that negative gearing is one of those areas that has been spoken about. The Labor Party has very clearly put in the public domain a clear, forward-thinking strategy, grandfathered, out there for all to see, and the coalition are completely at odds with each other. We read each day about a ginger group of backbenchers who are against negative gearing. We know the Treasurer is saying that there are excesses. 'Excesses' means it probably needs to be curtailed; there probably needs to be some policy there. The Minister for Finance walks away from that argument. The Assistant Treasurer says that it is going to put prices up, and the Prime Minister says that it is going to put prices down. They are all at sea on their tax policy. We are being governed by a group of individuals who are warring in their own ranks. It is not good for the country. It is not even good for the Liberal Party—not that I would want them to be in a more favourable position. Their internal fighting is appalling. The lack of policy enunciation and their lack of forward thinking this close to a budget is nothing short of astounding.

The fact that they cannot get their party room over the line on anything does not bode well for this country. We see Senator Cormann virtually refusing to back his role in the government, refusing to put on the table some clear thoughts about negative gearing or whatever else. He is a member of the Expenditure Review Committee. He should be able to elucidate what the Treasury is thinking. He denied it was his role. He said: 'I'm an expenditure man. That is the Assistant Treasurer's and the Treasurer's job.' He waffled his way through the questions of the interviewer and walked away. (Time expired)