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Thursday, 28 June 2018
Page: 4367


Senator KENEALLY (New South Wales) (15:35): I'm so honoured that Senator Macdonald is going to stay in the chamber and listen to me. Thank you so much. I can dispense with these issues rather quickly. He cites a time when we were debating company tax. Who was opposing it at that time? The coalition opposed it. That's right. So let's just get that on the record right there. They opposed it, they opposed it, they opposed it. Secondly, the scale of multinational tax avoidance is now much clearer than it was back in 2011, and Labor has taken strong steps to address that. Thirdly, I'll tell you what's different between 2011 and now: the debt run up by this coalition government—half a trillion dollars. Remember when we used to have a debt and deficit emergency, when Tony Abbott was running around as though it was somehow important to solve the debt and deficit problems? Well, this government has run up the debt, crashed through half a trillion dollars. That's the ceiling they've got to be proud of.

That's the problem we have right now: the $200 billion in tax giveaways from this government—their corporate tax cut and their personal income tax cuts. They wanted to give money to multinationals and millionaires and take money off pensioners, students and working people. They came in here and voted against a personal income tax cut that was double what they were offering for working people—and they've got the hide to come in here and make an argument about corporate tax cuts! No wonder Senator Macdonald has left the chamber: he is ashamed to be part of a government that has run up the debt, that has run up the deficit, when they came to office saying they were going to get the budget under control. In fact, they have sent it spiralling out of control.

What is their prescription now for a budget that is in perilous circumstances, whereby in a best-case scenario, under their projections, we will get to a sliver of surplus? We will not be paying down debt for years. We put the budget in a very precarious position under their plan by going for a big corporate tax cut and a big tax cut for millionaires—the big end of town. Of course that is who the Business Council of Australia is representing when they run this fake, phony, grassroots campaign, commonly called astroturf. Astroturf, of course, is fake grass. An astroturf campaign is a fake, phony grassroots campaign. The Business Council of Australia have form on this. They ran their For the Common Good campaign in the South Australian state election. If you went to the For the Common Good website, if you went to their Facebook page, you would not see any Business Council of Australia logo or identification. You'd have to dig right down into the fine print, find Centre Ground, find them there, work out who their directors were. By the way, their directors included Andrew Bragg, a former Liberal Party director, now hired by the Business Council of Australia as an executive director. He is a director of Centre Ground, and Centre Ground is a wholly owned subsidiary of the Business Council of Australia.

The South Australian election was on 17 March. When did the Business Council of Australia disclose its ownership of Centre Ground? When did they own up to the fact that they were really behind the For the Common Good campaign? It was on 27 March. That is not transparent. That is not being up-front. That is running a shifty, underground campaign through a front group, trying to pretend that somehow there is a groundswell of support from the Australian community for corporate tax cuts.

This is not a grassroots campaign. This is a campaign being run by the business elite of Australia masquerading as something out there 'for the common good'. Well, now they're out there running this For the Common Good campaign in Queensland and in Tasmania. Surprise, surprise: we have by-elections in these two states, and they're out there trying to pretend there is a groundswell of support in these states for an $80 billion tax giveaway to big business. If you were a resident in one of these states and happened to wander onto social media, Facebook or Instagram and saw an ad that they were running on YouTube, you'd be very hard-pressed to know that this was actually a political message coming from the Business Council of Australia—the mates, the campaigning arm, of the Liberal Party. For the Common Good are out there raising $26 million from their corporate members to run this fake, phoney grassroots campaign. Well, this is not for the common good. An $80 billion tax giveaway to big business is not for the common good; it is not good for working people. The only good that the For the Common Good campaign is serving is the good of the Liberal Party.

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT: Thank you, Senator Keneally. I remind senators it's not appropriate to reflect on senators, whether they are in or out of the chamber.

Question agreed to.