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Wednesday, 2 March 2016
Page: 1633

Senator LINES (Western Australia) (16:07): I too rise to take note of answers given to questions by Senator Cormann and Senator Brandis today. Before I do so, one of the issues that that Turnbull government has is the references it uses. Remember when the Prime Minister Mr Turnbull invoked the Thelma and Louise reference, it was obvious that he had not seen the end of that movie; clearly he needs to go back and watch it again. And now we have Senator Fawcett invoking the Titanic—does he not know that it sank?

The problem with this Turnbull government—it is all over the place when it comes to tax. What we have seen today from Senator Cormann and Senator Brandis is nothing short of disgraceful. As I have been saying this week, I have been following the backbenchers because that is where the real truth lies. We know that the backbenchers told Mr Turnbull, 'You're not to do anything on negative gearing.'

Let's look for a moment at Senator Cormann's performance—if you can call it that. It was a shocking response, but it was not as bad as his performance when he was interviewed on Sky News by David Speers. I would have thought that Sky News and the Turnbull government were on side and that they might throw them a few free kicks. I think David Speers actually did, but Senator Cormann failed to take hold of those free kicks. He was asked eight times about excesses in negative gearing. Senator Cormann's history is that he has outlasted two Treasurers—either he is very smart or he has been cut out of the loop—and I think it is the latter. After being asked eight times about excesses in negative gearing, he finally came up with the answer of 'It is not really my portfolio.'

For a government that wants to deregulate and break down silos, we have the finance minister locking himself away. Either that or perhaps he is embarrassed and does not know the answers. We have had two Treasurers talk about negative gearing. In fact in his valedictory speech, Mr Hockey said:

Negative gearing should be skewed towards new housing so that there is an incentive to add to the housing stock rather than an incentive to speculate on existing property.

No wonder Senator Cormann is trying to hide—trying to be the new man missing in action—because he does not want any reporter to raise the question with him of 'Mr Hockey said this. What about you?' Then there is the famous Kochie interview with Mr Morrison where he was asked whether it goes too far, and Mr Morrison said, 'Well, there are excesses.' Kochie asked again, 'Does it need to be reformed?' Mr Morrison said, 'There are excesses.' Here we have had two Treasurers talk about the excesses in the GST, but it is as if that just passed Senator Cormann by. It is as if he did not hear it, but it is out there. He was asked eight times and the best he could come up with was: 'It is not my area, because I live in a vacuum, I live in a silo and I am going to be the next finance minister missing in action.'

I can only conclude from the answer to Senator Dastyari's second question that Senator Cormann is not involved in those discussions, because he cannot answer a basic question. The reality is that the spending has blown out and we will be up to $½ trillion by 2018-19. Despite the government trying to pretend it has a good health card, that is not what the economists out there are saying. This government is leading us nowhere; it has no plan. When the government was asked by one of the crossbenchers about the tax white paper, they suddenly all look down at their tables and shuffled their papers. I can only conclude that perhaps Mr Hockey took it to Washington with him, that it has cigar ash and coffee stains and that it is sitting in the bottom of his bag somewhere— (Time expired)

Question agreed to.