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Monday, 29 February 2016
Page: 1323


Senator CAMERON (New South Wales) (16:13): Thank you, Mr Deputy President. I am pleased to speak on this debate. I want to bring the Senate's attention back to what Prime Minister Turnbull said when he was sticking the knife into the then Prime Minister, Tony Abbott. He said:

Ultimately, the Prime Minister has not been capable of providing the economic leadership our nation needs.

…   …   …

… we need a different style of leadership.

We need a style of leadership … that respects the people's intelligence, that explains these complex issues and then sets out the course of action we believe we should take …

We need to respect the intelligence of the Australian people.

…   …   …

We need to restore traditional Cabinet government. There must be an end to policy on the run and captain's calls.

That was Prime Minister Turnbull on 14 September 2015. For a time, we did get a change of style, but not much else—and nothing on the issue of taxation. Never has a government been so ill prepared for an election on the issue of taxation as the Turnbull government is. We know that, according to the Turnbull government, according to the Treasurer, there were no discussions on changes to the taxation system while the former Prime Minister, Tony Abbott, was in power. So nothing has been being done on taxation—absolutely nothing. We have seen no economic leadership—absolutely no economic leadership.

How can Prime Minister Turnbull talk about respecting people's intelligence, when he attacks the Labor Party's sensible proposals on negative gearing and capital gains tax, saying they will smash housing prices? That was a scare campaign that really did not get off the ground. It was a scare campaign that was torpedoed by the Assistant Treasurer, Kelly O'Dwyer, who the other week said that Labor's policy will increase the cost of houses for all Australians. So, on the one hand, you have the Prime Minister saying our policy will smash housing prices and, on the other hand, you have a cabinet minister saying it will increase the cost of housing. That does not add up, and this is what happens when you do not have a well-thought-through policy, this is what happens when you resort to scare campaigns and this is what happens when you are not delivering on the promises you made when you became Prime Minister.

The style of leadership changed, but the policies did not change. Did we see a respect for people's intelligence? No, we did not. We got another scare campaign. Instead of a three-word slogan, we got a four-word slogan. That is all we got from Prime Minister Turnbull. Did Prime Minister Turnbull, as he said he was going to do , when he put the knife into former prime minister Tony Abbott, actually explain the complex issues? No, there was not a word of explanation. He did not go near any of the complex issues and try to explain them. He just ran a scare campaign. I do not know if he has restored traditional cabinet government, but, if he has, it is not a very effective cabinet government, the Prime Minister and Assistant Treasurer Kelly O'Dwyer could not get their lines right about whether house prices would be smashed or go up.

Prime Minister Turnbull did say he was going to end captain's calls, but he made a couple of captain's calls during question time responses that that the back bench scratching their heads and left the extreme right of the Liberal Party out in rebellion against any changes to the capital gains tax system and any changes to negative gearing. And yet this is a policy that is in place. This negative gearing policy costs the budget between $3 billion and $6 billion, depending on how it is calculated.

What we as the Labor opposition have managed to do is kill the biggest attack ever on families in this country; that was an increase to the GST. The coalition just ran away from the argument. We did not get an argument that there would be a respecting of people's intelligence. We did not get an empty policy on the run. They just cut and ran from the GST. The coalition cut and run. They did that because they have to accept what we have been arguing for some time—that the GST hurt those who were the poorest in the country the most. Yet we have this issue of negative gearing when we have a housing crisis in this country; when young families cannot afford to get into housing—they just cannot actually get a deposit to get into housing—because the costs are so high; when homelessness is a huge problem in this country; and when health and education are being hammered, with $80 billion taken out of the health and education budgets by the Abbott government's first budget in 2014-15, that budget that Labor stood against, saying, 'We are not prepared to have ordinary families absolutely decimated under that budget.'

What that was designed to do was initiate a debate on tax, where the debate would focus on the GST and the state governments, because they would be starved of money for health and education and they would be forced to argue for a GST. Well, that worked until the fact came out that the GST was an unsustainable attack on ordinary families.

I go back to negative gearing. Apart from the conflicting views we have had from the Prime Minister and the Assistant Treasurer, leading economists such as Chris Richardson, Saul Eslake and John Daley have endorsed Labor's policy. Chris Richardson said that the policy 'has the potential to help provide better outcomes for all Australians'.

I know that out in the western suburbs of Sydney, where I spend a lot of time, a tarted up fibro, ex-housing-commission home is $930,000—on the outskirts of Parramatta! How does this line up with housing affordability? It is an absolute disgrace. It is about $1.3 million, $1.4 million to get a newer home in the western suburbs of Sydney. How does this make housing affordable? What we have said is that you cannot just look after the white-shoe brigade; you cannot just look after the rich investors; you cannot simply look after those that fill the election coffers of the coalition. You have to look after ordinary Australians so that they get a fair go against the investors with four, five, six or seven homes and up to 30-odd houses in their property portfolios.

When you can go down to the bank and get a million-dollar mortgage, as some young professionals can, how does that fit with a blue-collar worker with one income trying to get a house anywhere in the Sydney basin? It just is impossible. One of the problems has been negative gearing, and it is a problem that this government has had absolutely no courage to deal with. It has reverted back to sloganeering. It has not looked at the economics. It has not accepted that we need a decent tax policy and that we need to help young people get into houses in this country. (Time expired)