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Wednesday, 14 November 2018
Page: 8052


Senator WHISH-WILSON (Tasmania) (09:35): In my last remaining minutes, I'll go back and summarise my speech from last night. I started my speech talking about the adventures of Bunyip Bluegum and the very famous Australian literary classic The Magic Pudding. I talked about the allure and seduction of the magic pudding: how Bunyip Bluegum couldn't go past a pudding that needed constant eating. It was a cheeky, mischievous pudding that invited everyone to consume it constantly. I talked about how the adventure led to pudding thieves and a chase across the Australian bush trying to keep the pudding away from pudding thieves, and how this reflected the GST debate in this country in recent years.

I would like to say again that the Greens will be supporting the Treasury Laws Amendment (Making Sure Every State and Territory Gets Their Fair Share of GST) Bill 2018, but we want to be very clear that this GST legislation that we have before us is like a magic pudding—miraculously, more money is going to solve the problem and keep the pudding growing. The money to keep the pudding constantly replenished has to come from somewhere. We know this Liberal government has an atrocious track record of taking money from Australia's most vulnerable people. We just saw this week a 25 per cent cut to Foodbank announced by a Liberal minister. Luckily, our Prime Minister intervened after three days of public debate, including the National Farmers Federation wading into this debate. They're prepared to cut aid for fresh food to Australians, even at a time of relative fiscal ease. Can you imagine what's going to happen in five or 10 years time when they need to top up the GST magic pudding and they don't have the money?

We saw in 2013 zombie budget cuts to just about every aspect of our social security net—even to GP co-payments—the age of entitlement and ex-Treasurer Mr Joe Hockey smoking cigars with Senator Cormann, who's in the chamber today. I'll never forget that, and I don't think anyone in this chamber or the Australian public will ever forget that. There are two critical issues: where the money is going to come from and the fact that we need to maintain constant vigilance as to where in consolidated revenue those funds will come from. They have to come from somewhere.

The second point—and Senator Dean Smith is in the chamber now—is that I wholeheartedly agree that this should be the start of a much bigger debate about tax reform in this country and the role that the Commonwealth government plays in that. Like Senator Smith, I also agree that the Commonwealth government should play a bigger role in the taxation debate versus the states. I gave my views last night, and I'll give them again in conclusion. If we want to be talking about tax reform, let's talk about proper reforms to the petroleum resource rent tax. I note that the CEO of Woodside—Senator Cormann and Senator Smith, being Western Australian senators, would be familiar with him—talked about locking in the government's recent weak reforms to the PRRT. I'm not surprised that he wants to lock those in, because we need to go a lot further. We need to go a lot further than just changing the uplift rates on the PRRT. We need to actually put a 10 per cent floor on annual royalty from these projects that can be offset against future PRRT liabilities. The Greens will be announcing and releasing our costings on this shortly. We believe that is a much more equitable and fair way to roll out the PRRT into the future.

We'll also be releasing details, going into the next federal election—which I understand will be very soon—on significant tax reform around new resource rent taxes, especially mining resource rent taxes, super profit taxes. They're the kinds of things we believe the Commonwealth government should be leading on. We do need tax reform in this country, I agree with Senator Smith. Why have we walked away from super profit taxes on the mining industry, for example? There are a number of other reforms we would like to see. We would like to see carbon pricing, another national reform that was enacted by this government, that the Commonwealth government led on. We need to have a price on carbon if we're going to tackle emissions. It's not a silver bullet, I agree, but it's an absolutely necessary component for action on reducing emissions, even if we're going to meet our Paris targets, which may not be enough.

So we need to have the debate in here about the role of the Commonwealth and the federal parliament in looking at a price on carbon. And there's so much more. I welcome the debate on tax reform at the federal government level. We will be supporting this. We are very cautious about where this money's going to come from. We will be vigilant, to make sure that it's not taken off Australia's most vulnerable people by whichever party is in power in the next term of government or the term after that, when the GST magic pudding has to be topped up. We'll be watching very closely for who the pudding thieves are going to be. We have our suspicions right here, right now, who they are. The Greens will play a role in parliament in keeping a future government, be it Labor or Liberal, honest on tax reform and federal government tax reform in Australia.