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Thursday, 16 February 2017
Page: 1179


Senator WHISH-WILSON (Tasmania) (14:12): Like a dog, my question is to Senator Cormann representing the Treasurer—

Honourable senators interjecting

Senator WHISH-WILSON: I did jump the gun there.

Senator Cormann: On a point of order, I think the senator should refer to me by my proper title.

The PRESIDENT: Thank you, Senator Cormann. I think Senator Whish-Wilson has taken note of the point of order.

Senator WHISH-WILSON: Like a dog that returns to his vomit is a fool who repeats his folly. That is from the Book of Proverbs 26:11. Senator Cormann, why does your government insist on managing the economy in this country by consistently returning to its cruel 2014 budget measures, taking money away from disadvantaged Australians? When are you going to get it and raise some revenue in this country to pay for social security nets and enact serious economic reform?

Senator CORMANN (Western AustraliaMinister for Finance and Deputy Leader of the Government in the Senate) (14:13): Indeed the Turnbull government is totally focused on increasing revenue to ensure we can fund a very generous social safety net and the best way to do it is by growing the economy more strongly. If only the socialists and the Greens were not standing in the way of things like important investment in productivity-enhancing infrastructure like the $1.2 billion investment in the Perth Freight Link, the economy would be in much better shape right now. Thousands of Western Australian construction workers would be working now on the Perth Freight Link if it had not been for the activities Senator Ludlam and his cohort trying to frustrate the initiatives of democratically elected governments in Western Australia and in Australia trying to ensure that we have got the most efficient and most productive trading infrastructure possible.

The Turnbull government unashamedly pursues a pro-growth, pro-jobs agenda, because that, among other things—such as helping families across Australia to get ahead, as well as making sure that we can continue to lift living standards across Australia—delivers a revenue dividend for the budget. Pursuing Labor-Greens policies of higher taxes, budget deficits and more debt—which is deferred taxation—and, of course, frustrating free trade agreements and frustrating infrastructure investment makes it harder for business to be successful. It makes it harder for business to employ more Australians. It makes it harder for the budget to be able to receive more revenue. If Senator Whish-Wilson is so keen on more revenue for the government he should be supporting the pro-growth policies of the Turnbull government so that we can make bigger investments into a sustainably funded, affordable and important social safety net. (Time expired)

The PRESIDENT: Senator Whish-Wilson, a supplementary question.

Senator WHISH-WILSON (Tasmania) (14:16): Senator Cormann, your government has raised giving income tax back to the states and then it backtracked. You have raised changing the distribution of the GST, then you backtracked. You raised a bank deposit levy, then you backtracked. Are changes to the capital gains tax on or off the table? Can you give a clear answer to the Australian people today?

Senator CORMANN (Western AustraliaMinister for Finance and Deputy Leader of the Government in the Senate) (14:16): I gave a very explicit answer at the doors this morning. The story on the front page of The Australian Financial Review is wrong. There is no such proposal before the government. The policy of the government is that we are not reducing the capital gains tax this time. We are not supporting Labor's disastrous higher tax policies on capital gains tax and negative gearing. Our national economic plan for jobs and growth is reflected in the budget and I urge all senators to continue to support it.

The PRESIDENT: Senator Whish-Wilson, a final supplementary question.

Senator WHISH-WILSON (Tasmania) (14:17): Thank you, Senator Cormann. Even the Business Council of Australia recognised reducing the capital gains tax concession. When are you going to tackle the big issue of our time—inequality—and the very acute housing affordability crisis in this country? If you do not reduce the capital gains tax concession and negative gearing, what is your plan for tackling this crisis of housing affordability in Australia?

Senator CORMANN (Western AustraliaMinister for Finance and Deputy Leader of the Government in the Senate) (14:17): Obviously, our plans are reflected in the budget and I have referred Senator Whish-Wilson to that before. It is true that the Treasurer is doing some further work in relation to these matters and we will have some more to say on that in the near future. In the meantime, I commend to Senator Whish-Wilson Proverbs 17:28:

Even fools are thought wise if they keep silent, and discerning if they hold their tongues.