Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
 Download Current HansardDownload Current Hansard    View Or Save XMLView/Save XML

Previous Fragment    Next Fragment
Monday, 14 March 2005
Page: 43

Senator WEBBER (3:27 PM) —There is an old saying along the lines of ‘another day, another dollar’. Unfortunately, with this government, and particularly with Minister Minchin in recent times, I think it would be more appropriate to say ‘another day, another excuse’. Last week we heard, over and over again, about how the OECD report on the taxation burden of Australians was inaccurate because it included state payroll taxes. Answer after answer, over and over again, that was what the minister said. Last week was yet another example of this government seeking to distract the Australian people from one of their failings—this time by blaming an OECD report. For this government, it is a case of, ‘If you don’t like the conclusion, then the data must be flawed.’ It is always someone else’s fault.

If the reality is that Australia was only one of two countries that had a tax burden increase, then run out with the smoke and mirrors and claim that the report was no good. It is the report’s fault, not the government’s fault. They are absolutely without any shame on the opposite side. They will say anything and do anything to avoid having to accept responsibility for their own mess. We have seen this pattern of behaviour over and over again in recent times, and it is a very sad state of affairs. Every time there is evidence to suggest that the government is responsible for something, they come out and attempt to distract the Australian people.

The simple fact in this case is this: the OECD report reached the conclusion that Australia was one of only two countries that had seen the tax burden increase between 1996, when this government came to power, and 2004. That is not something you can blame anyone else for. The minister, however, came in to this place and said that the OECD report was misleading because the OECD measure included state payroll tax in 2004 and in no other year. Therefore, the entire report was wrong, according to him. The minister told the Senate that the report was a dud because in one out of the eight years it had included state payroll tax. Now we know that the reality is that the OECD report clearly showed that payroll tax was not included in their definition of the income tax burden faced by Australians. So what do we have? Simply put, either through commission or omission—and I am not sure which he would like to admit to—this minister has misled the Senate through the interpretation he put on this very important OECD report.

The minister made a claim and repeated it over and over again—a claim that has since been demonstrated to be incorrect. Therefore, he should probably come back in here and do the proper thing and actually fess up, like most people have to do. But we know that Howard ministers do not have to do that. They do not have to worry about that measure of accountability. The Howard government’s standard operating procedure is: deny, deny, deny. When anything—particularly in terms of economic policies—is pointed out to be wrong or inaccurate or what have you, you deny the government’s role and you blame everyone else. You make disparaging comments about the validity of reports, the data used or even the authors of those reports. Regardless of the issue, this government follows the same process over and over again. They use every trick in the book whenever they do not want to accept responsibility for their own actions.

However, they are always on the front foot when it comes to claiming credit, as Senator Watson has pointed out. They go missing in action whenever the news is bad, yet they are busy pushing each other out of the way to be first to the microphone whenever the news is good. That is not fundamentally good economic policy. The minister should come in here and confess that the OECD report did not say what he claimed it said regarding last year. He should get on with accepting that this is the highest taxing government in Australia’s history and come up with a reasonable policy to ease the burden on everyday, honest, tax-paying, hardworking Australians.