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Tuesday, 23 September 2008
Page: 29

Senator MILNE (7:57 PM) —The Greens will be supporting Senator Xenophon on this. I am very surprised by Senator Abetz, because the opposition remains confident, I assume, that it is going to win the next election, by which time this is perfect because it will revert to the CPI just as Senator Abetz wants it to. In the event that were to happen, I trust we would not be back in here trying to change it; it will default to exactly what he just argued for, so it is a perfect situation that I thought the opposition would clearly support.

As Senator Xenophon rightly says, the amendment says basically that the government has got four years to address this issue of the indexation and do it through the Henry tax review, look at the whole thing. If we get the kind of tax review that I think most people are hoping for—a big picture and quite a sweeping change to the tax system—then four years hence hopefully the luxury car tax is gone and instead we have, as the Greens have suggested, a phased-in fuel efficiency tax across the whole fleet and so on.

Senator Boswell —We’ll all be riding pushbikes.

Senator MILNE —If Senator Boswell is riding a pushbike in four years then I think we will have had a transformative effect on the Australian community. It is the agenda of the Greens to seek a transformation to a low carbon economy, and if in four years we actually got to the point where Senator Boswell had taken to his bike we will have had a very rapid transition to the low carbon economy. What is more, I argue all the time, it would be better for us all and if that were the case I would be on my bike as well. So there we are.

Anyway, we support Senator Xenophon’s intent here because it really is about not interfering with the forward estimates but putting in place an accountability mechanism to say, ‘Come back in four years time with whatever you have thought about this in the light of all the changes.’ If it is all still as it is now in four years time, it is a matter of arguing then that it ought not to default to the CPI and that it should stay with the current form of indexation. That is an argument that would need to be put and supported in the parliament four years hence. I suspect that by then this debate will probably be largely irrelevant, but it does put the government on notice that there is an accountability mechanism, and I think that is a good idea.