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Wednesday, 14 November 2018
Page: 8054

Senator WATT (Queensland) (09:41): I rise to make a short contribution on the Treasury Laws Amendment (Making Sure Every State and Territory Gets Their Fair Share of GST) Bill 2018. I want to make it clear at the outset that, like other Labor senators, I will be supporting this bill. The main reason, though, that I want to make a contribution is to highlight some very concerning remarks that were made in the debate on this bill by Pauline Hanson's One Nation senator from Western Australia, Senator Peter Georgiou. I was very disturbed yesterday when I heard Senator Georgiou's remarks. We all know, in Queensland, that Senator Hanson and her party colleagues have a long history of saying they are prepared to sell out Queensland when it comes to GST funding. It would appear that, despite many rebuffs by the public and election defeats for Senator Hanson, she and her colleagues are still at it, trying to take GST funding off Queensland.

The comments Senator Georgiou made yesterday that I want to refer to include the following:

It's time to get real. Instead of trying to keep everyone happy, the government should announce that the distribution of GST will move to a per capita basis over a five-year time frame …

What would it mean for GST to move to a per capita basis, whether it be over a five-year time frame or anything else? For starters, the Productivity Commission, the federal government's own body, had a good look at this earlier in the debate about GST funding. They calculated that moving to a per capita system of distributing GST funds among the states would result in a cut of $1.2 billion per annum to Queensland in GST funding. That's $1.2 billion less that Queensland would have to spend on hospitals, on schools, on roads and on all sorts of other public services that Queenslanders depend upon.

I've been waiting for Senator Hanson, throughout this debate, to come in and contradict the remarks made by her colleague, Senator Georgiou, but as yet she has failed to appear. She has been conspicuously silent in this debate while her own colleague, Senator Georgiou, has been willing to get up and bash Queensland yet again over GST funding. From her silence on this matter, we can only interpret that she must agree with Senator Georgiou that Western Australia and other states should benefit in GST funding at the expense of Queensland.

My suspicion that Senator Hanson is supportive of this position from Senator Georgiou is backed up by previous remarks that she has made on GST funding. Senator Hanson has a long history of making comments that indicate she is prepared to reduce GST funding to Queensland to benefit other states. Who can forget the comments Senator Hanson made in January 2017, prior to the Western Australian state election, when she appeared in an interview on Perth radio station 6PR. She was asked: 'Will you, Senator Hanson, help us in Western Australia in this fight, and would you be willing to see the GST share of your home state, Queensland, reduced so that Western Australia can get a better deal?' Her response: 'Of course I will; no problem.' And it wasn't long after that that she denied ever having said that, but there it is in black and white.

That's not the only time, though, that she's made these kinds of comments. On 22 June this year, in Queensland's The Courier Mail, Senator Hanson was quoted as saying that she would be willing to push for a fair and just share of the GST carve-up for WA even at the expense of Queensland. She said:

As a senator in this place, and you're making decisions on the floor of Parliament, you have to step outside your State as well, and you've got to look at what is fair and balanced … I'm the leader of a national party. You've got to look at what is fair and just, right across, for all Australians. And I will still stand by that.

She backed it up with further comments to The Courier Mail on 4 July this year saying:

… many Queenslanders would be happy to lose a few cents in GST revenue to increase funds to states like Western Australia.

Well I'm sorry, Senator Hanson, but moving to the per capita system that you and your colleagues have supported consistently doesn't mean that Queensland loses a few cents; it means that Queensland loses $1.2 billion per year, money that could be spent on essential public services right around Queensland.

I've been very vocal in the time I've been here about Senator Hanson having repeatedly sold out battlers on a range of issues. She's voted to cut penalty rates; she's voted to cut pensions; she's voted to cut funding for schools, hospitals and apprenticeships. And it's no surprise she does that because we all know she votes with the government, with the Liberals, 90 per cent of the time. What these comments that continue to come out from One Nation senators show is that not only are Senator Hanson and her colleagues prepared to sell out battlers but they're actually prepared to sell out every single Queenslander. They're prepared to sell out every Queensland man, every Queensland woman, every Queensland boy and every Queensland girl. They're prepared to sell out every nurse in Queensland, every teacher in Queensland, every motorist in Queensland and every pensioner in Queensland.

Senator Hanson should know better than anyone that Queensland is Australia's most decentralised state. It is an extremely expensive state in which to provide services. It's not just about providing services in inner city Melbourne or inner city Sydney; you've got to provide services in Brisbane, Rockhampton, Cairns, the Torres Strait and western Queensland—very remote places that are expensive to service but that deserve high-quality services from their state and federal governments. And, in order to do that, they require a fair share of GST funding, not to lose $1.2 billion a year, which is what Senator Hanson continues to advocate for.

This might well be Senator Hanson's greatest sellout yet. There's a long line of them, whether it be penalty rates being cut or whether it be supporting cuts to schools, hospital funding and pensions. But this one—supporting cuts to GST funding of $1.2 billion per year to Queensland—may well be Senator Hanson's greatest sellout yet. It's about as big a sellout as you can get in Queensland. I don't think it would even be a bigger sellout if 'The King' Wally Lewis actually put on a blue New South Wales jersey. That's how bad this is.

She is turning her back on Queenslanders yet again. I, for one, am sick of hearing Senator Hanson say one thing when she's travelling around Queensland—that she's sticking up for battlers and that she's down here in Canberra fighting for Queenslanders—and seeing her every time she comes down here line up with the Liberals to vote for cuts to the things that battlers need right throughout Queensland. And here she and her colleagues are again calling for Queensland to lose $1.2 billion a year in GST funding.

I think it's important that Senator Hanson finally come out today and express her position on this bill. Does she support what her colleague is saying—moving towards a per capita system of distributing GST—or is she actually prepared to do her job as a senator for Queensland and fight for the benefit of Queensland; fight for the extra $1.2 billion a year in GST funding that her colleague wants to take off Queenslanders? The time for hiding is over, Senator Hanson. Come and state what your position is. Do you support changes to the GST system which would rip off Queenslanders or not?