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Friday, 28 June 2013
Page: 4450

Senator FAWCETT (South Australia) (11:53): I, too, rise to speak to these tax bills. As Senator Xenophon has very clearly articulated, the people of Australia should be deeply concerned by the process, the substance and the promise of what these bills mean for Australia. Senator Xenophon and my colleagues have highlighted the process. We have seen, this week, 55 bills rammed through by the Greens-Labor alliance. In the whole three years when the Howard government controlled the Senate there were 32. In the time that the Greens-Labor alliance has controlled this place there have been well over 200.

For those who are listening to this broadcast, the consequence of this process being applied is that due diligence is not performed

The committee stage, which is the stage where—unlike in second reading debates both in the House and here—senators can go through legislation line by line and question the minister time and again to expose unintended consequences, is absent. So this house of review, which is meant to ensure states' rights and to make sure that legislation has due diligence applied, has been cut out of the process by this government in its dying days. The substance of the bills is broad, and it should be deeply concerning to people that there is no due diligence being applied.

Looking at schedule 1 of the Tax Laws Amendment (2013 Measures No. 2) Bill, which appears to be a minor issue in terms of the monthly PAYG instalments, that was not introduced for any good policy reason. That was not introduced to try and support small business or make things more effective. That was introduced because the government hoped to claw back money over the forward estimates in their failed attempt to deliver a budget surplus. So pure politics drove that. Pure politics has made life harder for small business. Small business is what generates jobs in this country.

We have seen that approach by the government—driven by short-term, poll-driven politics—not only result in them changing prime ministers twice but impact on small business, jobs and things like defence. We have seen exactly the same approach in the Department of Defence at estimates. The department have admitted on the public record that the government's drive for a budget surplus has caused them to make decisions that are not in the national interest.

This is not a government that can be trusted for Australia's future, either for our children in terms of jobs, for the economy, for national security or even for things like the incentives—things that theoretically should be good. Here one of the schedules is 'Incentives for designated infrastructure projects' to try and encourage private investment. In principle that sounds like a good thing, but the coalition has concerns about the extent of the discretion that is being given to the coordinator of infrastructure. We only have to look at the 'Bob Brown memorial trust' that was set up by this government—where they make arbitrary, ideological decisions as to where taxpayers' money will be allocated as opposed to scientifically based decisions with a good business case—for us to say, 'We have concerns.'

But the process that has been adopted by this Labor-Green alliance has cut out the opportunity for us to take the government to task on this line by line and to move amendments, as Senator Xenophon has highlighted. The fact that they are putting this through on the very last day of the sitting of this parliament, when the House of Representatives have already risen and gone, means that, even if we were given the opportunity to do due diligence and have a committee stage, there would be no point because no amendments would get up. So the Australian public will have to wear more wasted taxpayers' money, more bureaucracy and more things that will threaten equity and fairness in this nation.

We are coming into a period where the Australian people need to make a choice. There are lots of other measures here I could talk about in the bills, but in the one minute and 50 seconds I have remaining to talk about this it is important to talk about the impact of taxation. Taxation is about the government saying, 'We need a revenue base and we need to have spending for the public,' and we all understand that. But the thing that the public must choose when they choose a future government is who will spend that money wisely. They only have to look back over the last two groups of governments to understand the choice they have.

Going back to the Howard government, in 2007-08 there was a $19.8 billion surplus. In this year's budget there is an $18 billion deficit. Under the Howard government, in 2007-08 there was $44.8 billion in the bank. That is savings. That is what we teach our children to try to do. Under this government, there is $178 billion in debt, and they are on their way to $340 billion of national debt. Under the Howard government the banks and others were paying us interest—$1 billion a year in earnings. Under this government, there is $7.8 billion in interest payments alone. Imagine what that could do for building infrastructure, for giving incentives for jobs, for building a future for our children. When the people of Australia decide on the next government, remember these figures because they are the true indication of who you can trust with Australia's economy; who you can trust to set fair, equitable and effective tax rules; but, most importantly, who you can trust to be the adults who will spend your hard-earned taxpayer dollars wisely and effectively. (Time expired)

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT ( Senator Crossin ): Order! The time allotted for the remaining stages of the bill has expired. The question is that these bills be now read a second time.

Question agreed to.

Bills read a second time.

The PRESIDENT: The question in respect to the Tax Laws Amendment (2013 Measures No. 1) Bill 2013 is that schedule 3 stand as printed.

Opposition ' s circulated amendment—

(2) Schedule 3, page 11 (lines 1 to 10), TO BE OPPOSED.

The PRESIDENT: In respect of Tax Laws Amendment (2013 Measures No. 1) Bill 2013, the question before the chair is that opposition amendment (1) on revised sheet 7416, as circulated, be agreed to.

Opposition ' s circulated amendment—

(1) Clause 2, page 2 (table item 4), omit the table item.

Question negatived.

The PRESIDENT: The question now is that schedule 5 stand as printed.

Opposition ' s circulated amendment—

(2) Schedule 5, page 56 (line 1) to page 62 (line 11), TO BE OPPOSED.

The PRESIDENT: The question is that amendment (1) on sheet 7388 revised as circulated by the opposition be agreed to. It is consequential on the previous decision.

Opposition ' s circulated amendment—

(1) Clause 2, page 2 (table item 10), omit "5", substitute "6".

Question negatived.

Bills agreed to.

Bills reported without amendments; report adopted.