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Monday, 29 February 2016
Page: 1332

Senator McEWEN (South AustraliaOpposition Whip in the Senate) (16:57): I am pleased to be able to speak to this motion moved by Senator Moore about the Prime Minister, Mr Turnbull, and his government and their collective failure to be up-front about tax plans that are going to affect every Australian. In the lead-up to an election, you would have thought they would have something a bit more coherent and a bit more concrete when it comes to the taxation system in Australia, but so far we are yet to see it.

I was pleased to note that earlier today in the chamber we did pass a tax bill in this place. That was a bit of a novelty. That was passed with bipartisan support and was intended to provide some certainty—in particular, to small business, because as we know it is small business, which is the biggest employer in Australia and has the biggest share of the economic pie, that is most at risk from the failure of this government to develop any coherent economic or tax policy.

Since Mr Turnbull seized the prime ministership from Mr Abbott, Australians have been told repeatedly that everything is on the table with regard to tax. But it is a pretty untidy table because we have not been told what exactly is on the table. We have not been told how long anything that has been put on the table is going to stay on the table and we have not been told when there is going to be a real tax policy put on the table. Is anything that is proposed in the tax sphere by this government going to remain on the table for longer than the next Press Club statement or longer than the time until the next question time when we hear conflicting responses from government ministers, or will it be there until the next faux pas from some coalition frontbencher criticising or contradicting other government ministers.

The Prime Minister and the Treasurer, who you would have thought would have been intimately involved in this process of developing a tax policy for this country, have not been able to come to a coherent plan on tax. They have offered nothing but conflicting messages and poor salesmanship, and now they have resorted to the Abbott strategy of scaremongering about Labor's impressive tax policy that we are rolling out, in particular with regard to negative gearing and capital gains tax, taxing multinationals as they should be taxed and all the other things that we have put on the table and are leaving on the table so that the Australian people know what Labor stand for when it comes to tax. What we stand for is a fair tax system. We would not have a clue what this government stands for when it comes to tax, except looking after the big end of town.

I was talking about Mr Turnbull and Mr Morrison. Now it seems that they are barely able to talk to each other. The Prime Minister and the Treasurer in the lead-up to a federal election need to have a tax policy, but where is Mr Morrison? After the catastrophic slideshow at the National Press Club earlier in the month, Mr Morrison seems to have disappeared from the scene. We hear that the Prime Minister has outsourced development of tax policy for his government to his head of department. You would have thought by now the government would have a tax policy, but no. We hear—and it has been affirmed by some backbenchers—that there is a review of tax policy underway by Mr Parkinson. It is disturbing in the lead-up to an election that we are at this stage of developing a tax policy. But we are used to this flip-flopping.

I think I heard a senator speaking previously talking about that with regard to tax, because of course there was the whole GST saga. At one point there was going to be an increase in the GST. Then there was not going to be an increase in the GST. Then there was maybe going to be an increase in the GST. Then there was a definite no about an increase in the GST. Then Minister Cash from this place through a curveball when she appeared on Sky News and contradicted the Prime Minister by saying that the government could not rule out an increase in the GST. Well, that was not very comforting for small business or Australians, I can tell you. We had the same thing with regard to negative gearing from the Assistant Treasurer just last week, contradicting her Prime Minister. These things do not instil confidence in the people of Australia.

We need a coherent tax policy. Labor have one. I am proud of it. We will be rolling out more of it, too. The difference between Labor and this government is that we know what needs to be done for Australia. We need a fair tax system. That is what I and my Labor colleagues will be working towards.