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Thursday, 25 September 2008
Page: 5596


Senator ABETZ (9:59 AM) —The opposition retains its ongoing opposition to this legislation. This legislation is nothing other than a blatant tax grab. It was introduced into this place on the basis that it was a measure to fight inflation, yet the Senate’s own Standing Committee on Economics, dominated by Labor senators, found that it would in fact be inflationary. So we have a situation where the Rudd Labor spins says, ‘We need this as a measure to fight inflation,’ yet Labor senators and every economist around the place says it is inflationary. For those who are interested, it is at paragraph 2.19 of that report.

In their desperate attempt to get this legislation through, the Labor Party with the Independent senators and the Greens put together a mishmash of amendments which now means we have one of the most socially unequal pieces of legislation to pass through this place. The inequity of the amendments is gross. I would, in fact, describe it as obscene. Just consider some of the amendments that the Labor Party, the Greens and the crossbenchers supported. The city doctor driving his turbocharged Mercedes will be completely exempted from the luxury car tax now—courtesy of the Greens, courtesy of the Labor Party and the crossbenchers. But the country doctor who needs a LandCruiser will be paying the full 33 per cent—courtesy of Labor, the Greens and the crossbenchers—yet they claim they support the need for rural doctors. One thing might have been to give a tax break to a rural doctor on his or her LandCruiser rather than giving a tax break to the city doctor on his or her turbocharged Mercedes.

But if we are into social equality, Senator Doug Cameron and those who say they always fight for the worker might tell us why in regional Australia the squatter ought to get the tax break but the shearer does not, and that was what Senator Fielding’s amendment meant. And Labor voted for it, the Greens voted for it, Senator Xenophon voted for it. So now we have the squatter getting the tax break, but the shearer and the plumber and the contractor and everybody else in rural and regional Australia do not. That is what happens when you make these sorts of obscene deals with each other and vote for each other’s amendments without understanding what the outcome will be.

The outcomes are now becoming very obvious, because as a result of Labor amendments, the Green amendments and the crossbenchers’ amendments we have a situation now where, courtesy of the Australian, we are told that a fellow who bought a BMW in Brisbane, Eric Makiol, found good news in the fine print because his BMW 5 series diesel sedan which costs $81,233 will now be $5,000 cheaper. And just to make sure, do you know what he has done? He has delayed the delivery of the vehicle to ensure that he gets the $5,000 tax break.

The Labor Party must be so proud of themselves. The Greens must be so proud of themselves giving a 33 per cent reduction in tax to Sydney doctors on their turbocharged Mercedes, obliterating the luxury car tax for the city doctors but enforcing a 33 per cent luxury car tax on the rural doctor that needs a LandCruiser. What a great social policy! You ought to be proud of it. You ought to be going back to your branch meetings and saying: ‘Guess what I did this week in the Senate? I voted to ensure that city doctors got this tax break at the expense of country doctors. I’m so proud of myself that the squatters got the tax break but the shearer hasn’t.’ That is what the Labor Party, the Greens and the crossbenchers have done.

I make this appeal especially to Senators Xenophon and Fielding. It is not too late for them to come into this chamber and vote against this nonsense, this obscenity. Indeed, the Greens themselves in their desperate bid to cobble together this mishmash have now voted for a tax deduction for those people who cut down old-growth forests—and I actually support this element of theirs. I dare them to go to their next Greens meeting, or when they sip their cafe lattes or whatever they might have, and say to their supporters, ‘We are very proud because this week in the Senate we voted for a tax deduction for those people who cut down old-growth forests.’ Because that is what they did as part of the amendments that they supported. I am not sure that the Greens understand that that is what they did, but that is what they have done.

To my friends Senator Xenophon and Senator Fielding, senators from South Australia and Victoria, the heart of the Australian motor vehicle manufacturing sector, make no mistake about this—I address their empty chairs, and I understand that they are not here because they have other important matters to deal with and I am not critical of that, hoping that they might be listening in their rooms, because it is not too late for them to change their vote and to stop this obscenity. Even if my arguments about the city doctor’s turbocharged Mercedes being fully tax-exempted but the country doctor’s LandCruiser being fully taxed does not convince them, I hope they are concerned for the 34,000 people that work in the Australian motor vehicle manufacturing sector and that that might at least strike a chord with them.

All three of Australia’s car manufacturers are against this luxury car tax. And, what is more, they are specifically opposed to the amendments that have gone through this chamber, because as a result of these amendments 25 models of imported vehicles will be completely exempted from the luxury car tax and not a single Australian made vehicle will be. How do they face those families who work in the Australian motor vehicle sector and say: ‘This week we did a proud thing by you. We did our very best for you. We ensured that the turbocharged Mercedes would no longer have any tax on it but the Holden Statesman will be lumbered with a full 33 percent tax’?

Not only are there these great social inequities in this legislation but it will be very damaging to the Australian motor vehicle manufacturing sector. It will hurt the Australian car industry. It is going to hurt innovation. We heard during the debate that the bases on which the luxury car tax and then the increases in the threshold are determined that any add-on to a motor vehicle is seen as a luxury. So we had the ludicrous proposition during the debate of Senator Doug Cameron talking about air conditioning in motor vehicles. Well, hello! If you have a LandCruiser in outback Australia, in the shade, it will get to 40 degrees plus. He thinks air conditioning is a luxury; he should get in touch with the real world. Those things are no longer considered a luxury; they are a necessity. The message the government are now sending to motor vehicle manufacturers is: if you innovate, if you make your car safer, if you make your car better, we will tax you for doing so, but we will completely exempt from the luxury car tax a range of 25 vehicles coming in from overseas. The luxury car tax is a disincentive to innovation.

It is very interesting that, in the totality of this debate, the Labor Party simply and blindly see this as a finance, taxation, Treasury matter, and they have Senator Conroy dealing with it. On this side, we believe that it is a vital industry issue. That is why, as shadow minister for industry, I have been leading the debate on behalf of the opposition. We see the whole picture. We see the impact on industry. We see the impact on the jobs of Australian workers. That is why I do not mind admitting that I get a bit impassioned about this matter. I am concerned about those workers. I am concerned about the Australian car industry. But did we see the Minister for Innovation, Industry, Science and Research, who allegedly champions the Australian motor vehicle sector, enter this debate in any way, shape or form? No, there was not a word from him, and that is indicative of the way the Rudd Labor government does business.

I make this final appeal to Senator Xenophon and Senator Fielding in particular. When you go home to your states this weekend, when you have a coffee, a beer or a glass of water, whatever it might be, with friends and constituents, how will you tell them that you voted against the interests of the Australian car industry, that you voted for amendments that will support 25 imported vehicles but will give no benefit to any Australian made car? How are you going to tell them that the city doctor gets a full tax exemption on his or her turbocharged Mercedes Benz but that the rural doctor who needs a LandCruiser will be paying a full 33 per cent tax? How will you tell people that you believe in social equity when the squatter gets a tax deduction on his or her four-wheel drive—usually a bloke, I understand—but that the shearer, the plumber, the worker does not get the benefit of any tax deduction? How proud will you feel when you go back to your constituents?

This legislation is a mishmash of amendments which are socially inequitable. It is obscene and, what is more, the only rationale that the Labor Party gave to us for this measure was that it was needed to fight inflation. Yet their own Labor dominated Senate Standing Committee on Economics have told this chamber, in paragraph 2.19 of their report, that it will be inflationary.

So what is the good of this legislation? It is inflationary. It will hurt the Australian automotive sector and Australian workers. It is a tax on innovation. It is socially inequitable. What are the grounds that Senators Xenophon and Fielding find within their minds to justify a vote for this legislation? At all times, we as an opposition have been opposed to this tax increase, this tax slug, this inflationary tax grab. We remain opposed to it, even on the third reading, and we will be seeking a division when the question is put.

Question put:

That this bill be now read a third time.