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Tuesday, 11 September 2018
Page: 6096


Senator CAMERON (New South Wales) (19:11): Labor will not be supporting this amendment. We support the principle of giving assistance to industry to lower exposure to energy costs. That's why a Shorten Labor government will boost investment and create new jobs with the Australian Investment Guarantee and provide targeted tax relief for businesses that invest in Australia and Australians. Under the Australian Investment Guarantee, all Australian businesses will be able to immediately deduct 20 per cent of investment in eligible depreciable assets over $20,000, including assets that lower energy use and improve energy efficiency. From small businesses upgrading refrigeration systems to the largest manufacturers upgrading smelters, Australian businesses will receive permanent targeted tax support to modernise and to cut their energy bills. Unlike this amendment, the AIG is about providing real support, as independently costed by the PBO, and will deliver tangible benefits to Australian businesses that invest in their energy efficiency.

I might take just a couple of minutes to deal with some of the nonsense that we hear from the government benches—the government benches that their own leader describes as the muppets. We heard from them that there was this guerrilla war on small business. Well, I would draw your attention to a recent article by Robert Gottliebsen—certainly not some Labor supporter. Robert Gottliebsen said that everyone should thank Chris Bowen for setting up an appeal process for tax on small businesses and that he should be thanked for being the Treasurer who took on the opposition Treasurer and who took small business into the Treasury portfolio.

Compare that position with what the muppets on the other side of the chamber have determined. They have given small business to a discredited and disgraced minister in Senator Cash—a minister who misleads the Senate, a minister who uses her offices to attack her political opponents, a minister who would attack young women in the Leader of the Opposition's office. That is the calibre of the person—a discredited minister, a disgraced minister that the coalition has put into the portfolio of small business. She should not be in the Senate, never mind in the cabinet of this government. But the standards are not very high—not in the Abbott government, then the Turnbull government and now the Morrison government. Standards have never been very high, so to put Senator Cash in there is quite understandable from a government whose own Prime Minister describes them as muppets.

I thought Senator Dean Smith would actually make a more considered contribution to the debate. I think it just shows how desperate this coalition is—this government in terminal decline. It talks about a guerrilla war on small business. Well, if there were a guerrilla war on small business, the shadow Treasurer would not have taken business on in his portfolio area. He would not be defending small business when it comes to the misuse of taxation powers against small business. Senator Dean Smith gets up and says it's an attack on small business when we look at reforming trusts. Trusts should not be used in this country to minimise and avoid tax. Trusts should be used for a legitimate purpose. We are not prepared to have trusts misused to avoid tax that should be legitimately paid in this country.

Also, I just can't believe that any coalition member would be standing up and talking about energy policy after the disaster of the NEG—you know, spending months and who knows how much money developing the NEG, getting it through their own party room twice and then letting the muppets, the extremists, in the coalition destroy what business was saying was an approach that should be adopted to allow certainty for business to invest in renewable energy. How dare this rabble of a government lecture Labor about any of these issues. And we make no bones about supporting penalty rates for workers, whether they're in small business, in medium business or in big business.

Maybe, for once, the National Party would stand up for their constituents. The National Party does not look after their communities, communities in which there are workers who have some of the lowest wages in the country. They are not standing up for regional communities and not standing up for rural communities. But at least you pointed out the chaos in your coalition partners over the last period of time.

And it's legitimate for workers to have the power to take industrial action. It is an ILO convention that this government and this country has signed off on. It's legitimate for workers to be able to bargain and progress their rights. And this nonsense we have heard about Sir Robert Menzies—having to go back to Sir Robert Menzies as the basis of trying to resurrect the Liberal Party in this country shows how desperate they are. It shows that they have actually reached the bottom of the barrel. I could go on about the time in government of Sir Robert Menzies, about deficit after deficit that Sir Robert Menzies brought to this country, about the lack of economic sustainability that his policies brought to this country. It was Labor that had to bring Robert Menzies and the Liberal Party out of their economic stupor. They were absolutely pathetic. When you look at what has been proposed by this government and at what has been said about deficits by this government, well, you condemn Sir Robert Menzies out of your own mouth, because he was one of the worst Prime Ministers in this country for deficits and one of the worst economic managers in this country.

Progress reported.