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Monday, 9 November 2015
Page: 7978

Senator DI NATALE (VictoriaLeader of the Australian Greens) (16:16): It is remarkable that here we are with a government that spent years campaigning against a great big new tax on everything—which is what it called the price on pollution—and the same government is planning to genuinely introduce a great big new tax on everything by introducing an increase to the GST.

Hypocrisy in this place is the currency of this government, but it is just remarkable that we could have a party that has claimed so explicitly—touring the country, fluoro vests, out at pie factories, out at truck stops—that a price on pollution would wipe towns off the map and, here they are, planning to introduce a GST, which would have a far greater impact than the price on pollution did. In fact, we had some modelling done by the Parliamentary Library, which suggested that with the price on pollution—a price on carbon of $28 a tonne—we could raise as much revenue as an increase in the GST of 2½ per cent or, if we were to exclude the things that are currently exempted from the GST, have the same effect. We would raise the same amount of revenue. But the big difference is this: the impact on households from a GST would be, at least, three times greater than a price on pollution. A price on pollution delivers the double dividend of bringing in revenue but, most importantly, goes some way to addressing the great challenge of this generation: the challenge of tackling global warming.

One thing I do appreciate is that finally—after years of this government suggesting that the problem with the budget was on the spending side of the ledger—their campaign to increase the GST is an acknowledgement that we also have a revenue issue. It only took them two years to come to that decision, but better late than never. The Treasurer let the cat out of the bag because he said, 'We want to see an increase in the GST but we do not think there should be an overall increase in the tax take, and what that means is cuts to income tax.' The same thing was said in the previous contribution to this debate—that we should increase the GST so we can cut income tax.

That is not tax reform. That is just shifting the tax take from those people on high incomes to those people who can least afford it. That is not tax reform; that is just tax shifting. It is unfair for a government to propose cutting income taxes for those people on high incomes and to introduce a GST, which we know would have its greatest impact on those people who can least afford it—all at a time when there is growing inequality in Australia society, where the gap between the haves and the have-nots is growing and is greater than at any time in Australian history.

This government loves it and big business loves it. Big business loves it because it is a tax that everybody else pays that they do not need to pay. That is why they like it. What we need to do is ensure that we start tackling the real tax reform issues that lie ahead of us. For example, why not end those huge tax breaks that go through the superannuation system and favour people on super-high incomes? Why not address negative gearing and capital gains tax reform? They are responsible for, at least in part, an overheated property market, and reforms would bring in $10 billion of revenue over the forward estimates. Why not end subsidies to the fossil fuel industry? Why should Gina Rinehart pay less for her tax than an ordinary punter who has to fill up at the bowser?

They are the sorts of reform challenges we as a nation should be embarking on. Instead, we have a government that wants to shift the burden onto those people who can least afford it. Bring it on, because I am sure the Australian community will join with those of us who understand that the challenge is to make this country fairer, rather than increasing the gap between the haves and the have-nots. This is about the sort of society we want. Do we want an Australia that is committed to its egalitarian traditions? Do we want an Australia that can fund health care and schools, or do we want to favour our mates at the big end of town and squib the real challenges that lie ahead of us?