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Thursday, 12 November 2015
Page: 8481


Senator RUSTON (South AustraliaAssistant Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources) (15:25): It is with great pleasure that I rise today to speak about some of the ridiculous comments that have come from the other side in taking note following question time today, although I must say that I was pleased that Senator Gallacher decided to talk about something that is of great interest to the Australian public, and that is the debate about what our tax regime needs to look like into the future. Before I go to that, I would like to make a couple of comments about the contribution that was made by Senator Cameron. It was quite distressing to have to listen to the ridiculous obsession about petty, unnecessary, outdated politics when, as I said, it would have been quite good for us to be able to talk about the issues that are really important to the Australian economy and to the Australian people. I would love to have a debate about the real issues that matter. If you look at the real issues that matter, the one that Senator Gallacher raised about the taxation debate is certainly one of them.

I have to say that the level of desperation in the comments that were made by Senator Cameron were almost palpable. He referred to simmering tensions being white-hot tensions in the Liberal ranks. I can say that, in the 3½ years since I have been in this parliament, I have never felt a more cohesive and coordinated and good and healthy relationship existing, not just amongst members of the Liberal Party in this place but also amongst our very good and close friends and colleagues in the National Party. We are working together. My mother had a saying—it is not just Senator Smith's mother who told him things—and it was: I think the man doth protest too much. Maybe he was just reflecting some of the tensions that are possibly occurring within the Labor Party at the moment and he thought it was a really good idea to try to point the finger at us because we are doing quite well. Whilst we all know that you do not ever take too much notice of the polls, because the only poll that really counts is the one on election day, perhaps Senator Cameron's comments were a reflection of the fact that the polls have been looking so extraordinarily good for us and so extraordinarily bad for the Labor Party. Possibly the kind of rubbish that he went on about in taking note today is the reason the Australian public are getting heartily sick of the comments and actions of the opposition.

I go to Senator Gallacher's comments in relation to the tax debate. I believe that the coalition also believes that the Australian public is quite grown-up enough to have a debate about tax reform. I cannot remember seeing anywhere that anybody said the GST was going to be raised to 15 per cent or 20 per cent, or that there would be any rise in the GST. We are merely putting on the table a series of options so that the Australian public and the people who have an important role to play in this debate have the opportunity to be able to talk about the best, most effective and most efficient tax regime for Australia to go forward and for our economy to grow, so that we make sure that we minimise the amount of intrusion that we put into the economy and we can have a prosperous economy into the future. For us not to have this debate is a retrograde step. If we do not have the debate about tax reform, we are missing a great opportunity. There is a lovely term that we often hear from the other side and from the Greens: adaptive management. It is about making sure that we constantly look at things to make sure that we are doing the best in applying, implementing and changing so that we get the best possible outcomes for Australia.

Senator Gallacher said that there had been comments that nothing had been discussed in the party room or that nothing had been discussed in cabinet in relation to this. I am not sure where everybody over there has been living for the last 12 months, but I have heard so many times that a taxation white paper is about to be delivered about discussing the options of reform in the taxation space. To say that there is no tax debate on the agenda is completely ludicrous.

Senator Lines: It's a GST debate.

Senator RUSTON: The GST is but one component of a broader debate about taxation reform in this country.

We need to take a bit more of a grown-up approach, instead of the stupid, scaremongering, childish behaviour that we get from those opposite—and particularly from Senator Lines, who has been interjecting. The GST is just one element of Australia's tax regime. It is a very easy one to try and scare the public with—like saying we want to increase tax rates and the like. It is very easy to scaremonger. It is not just us who are saying that it is time for the debate; the public wants one too. (Time expired)