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Tuesday, 7 February 2012
Page: 18


Senator ARBIB (New South WalesAssistant Treasurer, Minister for Small Business, Minister for Sport and Manager of Government Business in the Senate) (12:51): I think all senators on this side of the chamber and all Australians hoped that, after the break, coalition senators would come back with a different attitude to their jobs, because over the past 12 months all we have heard is no. All we have heard is no to every reform the Labor government has tried to put in place to secure the future of Australia, to help families and to make this country a better place to live in. That is exactly what this legislation is about. It is about ensuring that Australians get a fair share, a fair deal and a fair return from the mining boom. We know that the coalition did very little with the first mining boom. In fact, during that period of rapid growth of the mining sector investment in education went down, invest­ment in health went down and investment in infrastructure was static. This Labor govern­ment wants to ensure that Australians get the benefits of this mining boom. The big beneficiaries of the MRRT will be workers, who will get a superannuation increase from nine per cent to 12 per cent. The big beneficiaries will be small businesses, which will get a $6,500 accelerated depreciation asset allowance on the assets they purchase. The big winners will be the people of Australia, who will see greater funds going into infrastructure, which will increase the productivity of this nation. That is what this debate is about.

Today we are again seeing an attempt by coalition senators to defer these bills and to continually debate these bills to ensure that we run out of time to implement the legislation and ensure that Australia benefits. We saw this time and time again last year, when every day the coalition would take up as much time as possible, introducing MPIs and speaking on most procedural matters, often with virtually open-ended debates. That means there was less time for the chamber's vital legislative review functions. Instead, committees have been working flat out to cover all issues in their hearings. The government is also providing extensive briefings to parties on legislation. These bills are currently before the Senate economics committee. Most of the work of examining the bills is taking place in that committee now. Senator Cormann and Senator Fifield are pursuing a quite deliberate strategy. They know that their approach to chamber management forces our hand at the end of sittings and means that the government must consider gagging or guillotining debates. That is not something we wish to do. That is not a strategy that Labor senators wish to pursue, but it is a policy that coalition senators are forcing us to follow.

On the issue of the point of the Information Commissioner, I can assure the Senate that the government is continuing to talk to parties who are genuinely interested in developing a mechanism to arbitrate over orders for the production of documents. This contrasts with those opposite, who, when they were in government, took absolutely no notice of orders for the production of documents. Those opposite claim that the government is not taking seriously the requirement for accountability. That is not the case. The government has overhauled freedom of information legislation and is working to establish a mechanism to arbitrate on returns to orders.

This legislation is in the country's interest. These resources, these minerals and these metals are owned not by the mining compa­nies but by Australians—every Australian. We get one chance to ensure that we get a fair share, a fair return, from those resources. Australians are relying on this parliament to ensure we secure our future to ensure that Australians get the very best infrastructure, the very best incomes and the very best superannuation and help for the thousands of small businesses that operate so successfully in this country.