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Wednesday, 21 March 2012
Page: 2384


Senator CORMANN (Western Australia) (09:52): Courtesy of the Labor Party and the Greens, debate on this important piece of legislation will be gagged at 10 o'clock this morning. Courtesy of the Greens' suspension of standing orders this morning, we will have 7½ minutes to debate this whole bill about indirect taxation. I can well understand that neither the Labor Party nor the Greens want to spend too much time in the Senate talking about indirect taxation, because they are high-spending and high-taxing parties. I say to the people of Queensland, to whom Senator Brown was trying to send some vague message: if you want to vote against the carbon tax and if you want to vote against death duties, you should support Campbell Newman and the LNP in Queensland.

The Indirect Tax Laws Amendment (Assessment) Bill 2012 is about going down the path of self-assessment by extending the self-assessment arrangements to indirect taxation. It follows a Board of Taxation review into the administration of the GST, which made a series of recommendations for the harmonisation of the self-assessment system across a range of indirect taxes—including the GST, luxury car tax, wine equalisation tax and fuel tax credits. The bill also allows the commissioner to make a determination allowing taxpayers to correct errors in their assessments of GST and fuel tax assessments in the subsequent assessment year.

The coalition support this bill. However, what the coalition do not support is the high-spending and high-taxing agenda from this Labor-Greens administration. It is this Labor-Greens administration which has given us 20 new or increased taxes. Remember the increase in the alcopops tax? Remember the increase in the luxury car tax? Remember the new condensate tax, the $2½ billion tax grab at the expense of the North West Shelf gas project in my home state of Western Australia? Remember the flood tax? Wherever there is a tax to be increased, the Labor Party and the Greens will find it. Of course, since then we have had the carbon tax and the mining tax. If Labor are re-elected at the next election, no doubt there will be another 20 new tax grabs. And guess what? Having introduced 20 new or increased taxes, they still cannot balance the books. This Labor-Greens administration—which is desperate to limit debate on this bill to 7½ minutes—despite 20 new or increased taxes, many of them indirect taxes, still cannot balance the books.

Despite all of that, under this government we have had $167 billion of accumulated deficits. Despite 20 new or increased taxes from this Labor-Greens administration and despite inheriting a $22 billion surplus and a $70 billion net asset position for the Commonwealth, they have been able to turn that around to $167 billion of accumulated deficits, and are now heading for $133 billion of government net debt.

After the last election, the Labor Party and the Greens signed an agreement to form government. It was a highly publicised agreement; it is what gave us the carbon tax. The Greens want us to expand the mining tax. The Greens want to go down the path of death duties. The people of Queensland should be very aware of what will come their way if the Greens are successful in any way at the next election. There is really only one message to be sent to Queensland on Saturday—that is, a message against the high-spending, high-taxing and fiscally reckless agenda of Labor-Greens administrations around the country.

Ever since the Labor Party and the Greens signed an agreement to form government, our fiscal situation in Australia has gone from bad to worse. Before the election in the FIFO statement that had to be released by Treasury and Finance, we were told that the deficit this financial year would be about $10.4 billion. By the time the Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook came along in December 2010, three months later, that had gone up to $12.3 billion. So in just three or four months, it had blown out by more nearly $2 billion. But guess what? By the time of the budget in May 2011, we were told that the deficit this financial year would be $22.6 billion. That means that from the time of the election to the time of the budget, which was less than a year, the budget deficit had blown out by more than $12 billion. What happened after that—because, as you know, the gov­ernment then releases a Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook in December 2011? Do you know what the deficit now is for this financial year? It is $37.1 billion. The deficit has blown out by more than $26 billion since Treasury and Finance released the pre-election fiscal outlook.

That is why this government is such a high-taxing government. This is why this government has had to go for 20 new or increased taxes. Even though it comes up with one ad hoc tax grab after another, it still cannot balance the books. This is a government that does not know how to live within its means. This is a government that forever casts around for new ad hoc tax grabs. This is a government that tells us that it will give us root and branch tax reform to make our tax system simpler and fairer, and all it does is just whack on another tax. Rather than going through a proper process to make our tax system more efficient, to make our economy more competitive and to improve our productivity, this government just always chases more cash so it can use it for its reckless and wasteful spending here out of Canberra. This is a terrible government. This is a government that has seriously mismanaged our public finances.

People across Australia instinctively know that whenever the Labor Party get hold of the treasury benches they stuff up our public finances. People across Australia instinctively know that whenever the Labor Party have been in government—and it is even worse when they are in government with the Greens—it takes the coalition to come back to restore good financial management, to put the budget back into balance and to not only pay off Labor's debt but deliver income tax cut after income tax cut.

It is quite disgraceful that the Labor Party and the Greens would conspire to gag debate on this very important piece of legislation and then, on the day when we were always just going to have half an hour to debate this bill, the Greens jump up to cut down that part of the debate that was available, to the point where this legislation will now only have 7½ minutes for debate. Clearly, the Labor Party and the Greens hate the scrutiny that comes when we talk about taxes. They do not want people to know what their secret tax agenda is.

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT: Order! The time for the debate has expired. The question is that this bill be now read a second time.

Question agreed to.

Bill read a second time.