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Monday, 25 June 2018
Page: 3721


Senator DI NATALE (VictoriaLeader of the Australian Greens) (12:33): I rise to support the suspension, because it's absolutely critical that we recognise what we have at stake here. We have at stake one of the biggest, most extreme changes to our corporate tax structure ever proposed by any parliament in Australia. This is a change to the corporate tax regime that would take $85 billion from our schools, from our hospitals, from Newstart. It would mean that we've got less money to protect our environment at a time when we're losing biodiversity at a far greater rate than any other time in human history.

We have an opportunity here to debate this in a way that is thorough and orderly, as Minister Cormann said. But let's not repeat what happened last week when it came to the debate around income tax cuts. If Minister Cormann believes that that, in some way, was a thorough and orderly process, he's sadly mistaken. Last week we had one of the most significant changes to income tax ever in this country rammed through the parliament with no debate. We had gags supported by members of the crossbench, by Centre Alliance and the One Nation party. We had gags of suspension motions last week. That's not thorough. That's not orderly. We need to make sure we don't ever see a repeat of what we saw last week. Here's an opportunity, through the week, to debate corporate tax—not to have it lobbed in at a minute to midnight so that we have something rammed through the parliament in the early hours of the morning without it having been given the scrutiny it deserves—without members of the crossbench or opposition having been given the opportunity to move amendments to the proposed changes and to thoroughly scrutinise what's put before us.

We know from international experience that when corporate tax cuts of this magnitude have been introduced all they do is serve to line the pockets of CEOs and improve value for shareholders. They do nothing for ordinary working people. For example, we know that if you want to lift wages you don't cut income tax: you raise the minimum wage. This is why we're supporting a legislative increase to the minimum wage.

We've had 14 hours of debate on this package. That's right and as it should be. In this chamber we are discussing some of the most significant tax legislation ever put before an Australian parliament. We are saying let's bring this debate forward, let's have it through the week and let's scrutinise what deals may be done to secure the support of the crossbench senators. We still don't know what deal was done last week by Minister Cormann and Pauline Hanson's One Nation party in order to secure its support for income tax cuts. We don't know whether that deal extends to areas beyond the legislation that was being debated, because we didn't have time to scrutinise what was required to get the support of One Nation in order to get that package over the line. We can't repeat the mistakes that were made last week. That was a very dark day for this chamber.

We have an opportunity to do this properly. Senator Cormann said he wants to do this in an orderly way, but there's nothing orderly about what happened last week. There's nothing orderly about lobbing this in at the last minute and forcing the Senate to vote on something in the early hours of the morning without them having been given the opportunity to thoroughly scrutinise any changes or deals that may have been made. So we will be supporting the suspension. We hope that if the minister is keen to see the Senate do its job, that if the minister, as he says, is currently working with the crossbench to get their support—and they've indicated they're not prepared to give it—let's hear what the arguments are. And let's not be presented with legislation in the early hours of the morning, effectively, to hold a gun to the Senate's head.