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Tuesday, 8 May 2018
Page: 2550


Senator WHISH-WILSON (Tasmania) (15:32): I move:

That the Senate take note of the answer given by the Minister for Communications (Senator Fifield) to a question without notice asked by Senator Whish-Wilson today relating to resources taxation.

I want to take note of answers, or at least what passed as answers, to my questions today. While we're on the subject of tax rorts and fixing a rigged system, why not focus on the petroleum resource rent tax? This tax was designed decades ago to tax the superprofits of companies accessing resources owned by the Australian people. It is a tax royalties system that's well beyond its use-by date. It is a highly complex tax system that was designed for the extraction of petroleum, not for the value-added upstream LNG production that we've seen in this country—the biggest natural resources boom in this country's history.

What have some of the biggest, wealthiest, most powerful corporations in the world paid the Australian people for access to our oil, gas and condensate? Nothing. They have paid absolutely nothing under this regime. $240 billion is a lot of money. That's 12 fundings for the full Gonski. How many more NDISs? How much funding for hospitals, for health care, for universal access or for social safety nets? These companies have clocked up $240 billion in tax credits under this system. It means they won't have to pay tax for decades, if ever, for the resources they've extracted from underneath the oceans off the shelves of our nation. What's worse is that this tax system is incentivising the marginal extraction of hydrocarbons. Oil and gas are hydrocarbons that this planet doesn't need. Ironically, it's this tax system that is the tail wagging the dog. Look at South Australia: deep water, high-risk oil and gas exploration. If we didn't have the petroleum resource rent tax, none of these companies would be considering such a proposition. We are actually encouraging the extraction of marginal resources through this tax system at a time when the planet desperately needs to be moving away from fossil fuels towards renewable energy. This is the biggest rort in our tax system—in a system that's totally rigged towards the powerful vested interests that call the shots in this place. By 'powerful vested interests' I mean some of the biggest donors to big political parties in this place—big business and big politics in bed with each other for their own self-interest.

I started my question to Senator Fifield today by saying I believe that politics is at a low ebb in this country—and not just this country but other countries as well. We need to ask ourselves why so many voters are feeling disenfranchised, disengaged and completely disinterested in politics. It is because they see politicians and political parties as self-interested and not interested in them. Budget day is one of the most important days in this parliament. It's a chance for the government and all political parties to put up their plan and vision for this nation, to show what their priorities are. I can tell you what the priorities of the Greens are today and every other day in this place: to fix a rigged system and deliver for the Australian people. Right across our economic policies, that is what we strive to do.

I was serious when I said to Senator Fifield today that we were chuffed when, last budget day, the government finally put a levy on the banks. That's something we've campaigned on for nearly a decade. It wasn't big enough or anywhere near what we wanted; nevertheless, it went some way towards paying for the 'too big to fail' guarantee—an implicit and explicit guarantee—that has been in place now since the GFC. Today we put up a simple policy, fully costed by the PBO, to put in place a 10 per cent Commonwealth royalty, a floor price, so that these big, powerful corporations have to pay some money today and not have an indefinitely deferred tax liability for the future. It's a simple solution that other countries have adopted. But we won't adopt it, because no-one in this place has the spine to take on big oil and gas—except for the Greens. We'll keep pushing and it will happen one day.

Question agreed to.