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Monday, 15 November 2010
Page: 2195


Mr HOCKEY (1:28 PM) —I am happy to debate what will be adjourned. This legislation has been on the Notice Paper for some period of time. We flagged in the election campaign that we wanted to have a receipt sent to taxpayers so that they would properly be informed, firstly, of how much tax they had paid, secondly, where that money had been allocated for particular purposes, such as health, or education or social security and so on and, thirdly, the amount of net debt that they as an individual taxpayer may be obliged to repay.

From our perspective it is all well and good to talk about transparency and accountability, but the two times we tried to have transparency and accountability in relation to the taxation system of Australia the Labor Party sought to close us down. The first time was when we sought the release of documentation on the Henry tax review. We flagged clearly during the election campaign that we wanted to see the release of all the information. The Secretary of the Treasury sought legal advice that said that this chamber did not have the power to order the release of information—a Solicitor-General opinion that is questionable at best but obviously bought the interests of some of the Independents, and they chose on that occasion to oppose letting the sunlight in.

We are not talking about letting the sunlight in on over $300 billion of revenue; we are talking about letting the sunlight in for individuals whether they pay $10,000, $20,000 or $30, 000, or whatever the case may be, of income tax a year. They have a right to know exactly to the dollar on a proportional basis how much tax they pay and where that tax goes—it is limited to personal income tax, I accept that. It is based on an allocation of the proportional nature of government expenditure as against income tax itself. It obviously does not take into account other taxes. But it is not about the total tax revenue; it is about where the money is spent.

It is all well and good for the Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasury to seek to adjourn a debate on a bill that has been sitting on the Notice Paper. This Labor Party says it wants to get on with the job of governing. For crying out loud, here is a chance to govern. Here is a chance to send every Australian taxpayer a receipt for the amount of money they pay in tax and explain to them, quite properly, where every dollar of tax will be going on individual programs. Normally, if someone sends you something, you send a thank-you note. Normally, if someone sends you a gift, you send a thank-you. Even though the payment of tax is required, it is a gift by individuals. Look at all the solemn faces of those from the ATO and from Treasury over in the officials’ box. I know you all work so hard, but let me say that the tax you administer is indeed a gift from the taxpayers and it is a damn good idea to say individually to taxpayers: ‘Thank you for sending me $20,000 of your hard-earned income. Thank you for working up to half the year—the first six months of a financial year—for the Australian government.’ That is roughly where it ends up when people have to pay nearly half their income in tax; they spend the first six months of the year working for the government.

A mate of mine has a date in his calendar—some time in December—where he says that from then on he can start working for himself and his family. I call it the ‘for me and my family day’—the day when I start earning money that goes to my family rather than to the Australian government. Kerry Packer said something like: ‘Of course, I’d minimise my tax. Why would I pay more tax than I should? Look at the way the buggers are spending it.’ You might remember that, Deputy Speaker, having been in the parliament at that time when Kerry Packer appeared before what would probably have been the communications committee of the House of Representatives. They still occasionally run that footage of Kerry Packer. He was right: why would you give the buggers anymore money than they quite properly deserve?

If we are going to let the sunlight in, if we are going to have proper processes in this House, why not give every Australian taxpayer a receipt? The receipt would start off, ‘Thank you for paying this much tax this year and, by the way, this is where we sent your tax.’ It would cover everything, including the different classes of pensions. I think a lot of Australians want to know that and they could rightly be pleased that a certain amount of their income tax had gone to pay for disability pensions, Medicare, the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme, defence to protect their families or education to help educate their children or someone else’s children. I think Australians want to know that, I really do. It is all part of transparency. In particular, it will make people appreciate that when government’s spend money, it is taxpayers’ money. It does not come from a money tree. I carry around in my wallet a $5 billion banknote issued by the central bank of Zimbabwe, who could teach the Americans, the British and the Europeans a bit about printing money. The Zimbabweans have been doing it for some period of time. What most concerns me is that that banknote is quite a modest sum, that $5 billion. One of my staff has hanging above her desk a $1 trillion banknote. The numbers are so large they are meaningless.

People want to know what they are contributing individually. When we talk in this place about billions and trillions, and any variations, Australians say, ‘That is a huge figure’—and it is—‘but it is hard to contextualise given that we have an economy of over $1.3 trillion.’ But people know what it means to them. Even today I was given information that suggests that, on average, if you took all bank fees paid in Australia and averaged them out across households, each household pays more than $5,000 in bank fees.

This is why this matter should not be adjourned, because this government have had it on the Notice Paper—and we have flagged it—for some extended period of time. The government have formed a little war council here in the chamber, including the member for Hunter. I feel for the member for Hunter.


The DEPUTY SPEAKER (Hon. Peter Slipper)—The member for North Sydney should wind up as quickly as possible because, under the standing orders, this is not a matter which ought to have been permitted to be debated. I think the honourable member has—


Mr HOCKEY —I was instructed that it was able to be debated.


The DEPUTY SPEAKER —The honourable member has already spoken. I was not in the chair at the time the honourable member was given the call, but if the honourable member could wind up as quickly as possible that would facilitate the business of the House.


Mr HOCKEY —I feel for your position, Mr Deputy Speaker, although it is, I understand, a separate motion to the actual motion that was before the chair, which was the continuation of the debate.


The DEPUTY SPEAKER —The motion before the chair is that the debate be adjourned.


Mr HOCKEY —Well there was a motion before that that I spoke on, so this is a separate motion and I have not previously spoken on the motion that the debate be adjourned.


The DEPUTY SPEAKER —As I said, if the member for North Sydney could facilitate the business of the House and finish expeditiously—


Mr HOCKEY —I am happy to facilitate, Mr Deputy Speaker, but it just illustrates the fact that the government does not know what it is doing. It did not have a second speaker. The Parliamentary Secretary for Trade, in the chamber, had to get up and, indeed, she struggled to talk about a bill that she did not understand. I would welcome—


The DEPUTY SPEAKER —I think the honourable member for North Sydney has made his point and he should at this point resume his seat.


Mr HOCKEY —On what basis, Mr Deputy Speaker?


The DEPUTY SPEAKER —On the basis that under the standing orders this debate ought not to be proceeding. This is not a matter upon which, under the standing orders, a debate is permitted.


Mr Albanese —Joe, this is a procedural matter. You can’t speak on it.


The DEPUTY SPEAKER —If you could finish up expeditiously. I think you have made your point.


Mr HOCKEY —I am happy to do so. I am disappointed that the debate is not proceeding. I say that again. It is embarrassing for the government that they have had to adjourn, but we look forward to expeditiously dealing with the tax receipt issue and pointing out the fact that this government should not be running away from greater transparency in the delivery of taxation services.

Question put:

That the motion (Mr Bradbury’s) be agreed to.