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Thursday, 25 September 2008
Page: 5611

Senator SIEWERT (11:14 AM) —I rise to speak on the Excise Legislation Amendment (Condensate) Bill 2008 and Excise Tariff Amendment (Condensate) Bill 2008. It is just laughable to hear the opposition so stridently supporting corporate welfare. If I have this right, we gave this exemption as a subsidy to help an infant industry get up and running 30 years ago, and it is still going—so if you give a bit of support to an industry to get it up and running you can never take it away? What a load of rubbish! Are we always going to be handing out corporate welfare to industries that can well afford to support themselves? A profit of a billion dollars in six months was made by Woodside, the very company that we are now supposed to be continuing to subsidise—a billion dollars of profit in six months! Do not make me weep! At the same that we are talking about trying to get $30 a week extra for pensioners, Woodside have made a billion dollars of profit in six months. It does not match up to me. When are they going to wake up and smell the roses and realise that the community will not support that level of subsidy anymore? Look at what is happening in America at the moment. We have a financial crisis driven by greed—big corporates wanting more and more and more. The community over there is sick of it and the community over here is sick of it.

I just heard Senator Johnston talking about the swing to the Liberals at the recent Western Australian election. The Greens also did extremely well and received a big swing, which for me is a further indication that people are sick of corporate greed and the ‘me first’ approach and want to see some fairness back in the system. We have the big corporates, Woodside et al, saying, ‘We’ll pass it on to the consumer.’ I think consumers will see through that when they look at the profits these companies are making. ‘Oh, yeah, but we can’t afford this excise, so we’re going to make you pay.’ Why can’t they afford it? They made a billion dollars in six months. With the North West Shelf venture we are talking about BP, Chevron, Shell, BHP, Mitsubishi and Woodside. I do not think any of those companies are poor. In 2006 Woodside made record profits, and this year it has made a billion dollars in six months. Do not come to the Australian community and cry poor and say that this is going to hurt the consumers when you have been getting a subsidy, designed to get an infant industry up and running, inappropriately for 30 years—and now they want to keep it going? Let us keep them on the subsidy teat so they can make record profits again! Then, when the government talks about actually ending that subsidy, they cry poor and say, ‘You’re going to pay because we’re not going to take a cut in profits’—a level of profit they should not be earning because they have been getting a subsidy for years. How can we help other, new industries—for example, renewable energy industries—get up and running when we are still subsidising megacorporates? That subsidy was supposed to get them up and running and then end. How can we start supporting the fledgling, genuine, renewable energy industries to get up and running if we are still subsidising the megacorporate industries that are making record profits? It does not add up to me.

Woodside, at the same time they are crying poor, is behind Pluto, which is destroying the Burrup Peninsula and the world’s best rock art. Woodside prevented national heritage listing of its particular piece of the Burrup so that it could not get accused of destroying a national heritage site. Whether there is a national heritage listing on that area or not, it is still a natural heritage treasure—and Woodside is still moving and destroying that rock art. Here the coalition are, arguing to provide a subsidy to a company that is going in and destroying our national heritage. Woodside has for years been opposing recognition of the Burrup Peninsula and its internationally important rock art on the national heritage list. This is the very same company that, along with other companies, wants to go into the Kimberley. So now we are going to subsidise them to go into the Kimberley. I think they are big enough now to be able to survive on their own two feet without corporate welfare from the public purse. That has been going on for far too long. That money should be directed into genuinely helping the mums and dads and the pensioners of Australia. You cannot argue on the one hand for a rise in the pension and then on the other hand say, ‘Oh, we’re still going to support corporate subsidy and corporate welfare.’

Senator Cormann —You want to push up the price of gas for pensioners?

Senator SIEWERT —I will take that interjection. The point there is that Woodside should not be so greedy. Greed is what is driving and has driven the financial crisis they are facing in America. Finally people are waking up and realising that it is totally inappropriate to drive that greed. Greed, greed, greed. Well, people have had enough. They have absolutely had enough. Where do you get off arguing for corporate welfare and arguing for pensioners at the same time? It is always industry first, isn’t it? When it comes down to it, it is always industry first.

Senator Cormann —It’s people first.

Senator SIEWERT —It is not people first; it is industry first. That is the policy position being taken here, when you see a profit of a billion dollars in six months. In this day and age, in anybody’s language that is a significant amount of money. We do not need to be subsidising that anymore. They need to be paying their fair share. Everybody always understood it was to get an infant industry up and running. Now there are other things that Australia needs to be doing. We need to be getting behind a renewable energy industry and supporting that much more. We need to be genuinely supporting the mums and dads and the pensioners who are in need and getting away from this corporate handout to organisations that can well and truly stand on their own two feet.

I have not heard that BP, Chevron, Shell, BHP, Mitsubishi or Woodside are struggling at all. All we are doing is trying to prop up major companies instead of supporting families and pensioners. The opposition bring their bleeding heart in here and talk about pensioners—finally they have woken up to the fact that pensioners are doing it tough. They were in government for 11 years and did not manage to help them. Now all of a sudden they are in opposition and maybe they have time to actually look around at the people who are suffering in Australia. All pensioners in Australia, not just age pensioners, are suffering and, after 11 years, all of a sudden it has dawned on the opposition that these people are struggling. ‘But we’re not going to support any of the measures that actually raise some revenue because we don’t like tax either. We want to support big business and we want to support pensioners. Which one are we going to go for?’

Are we actually going to make sure that the corporates pay their fair share for the resources that they are making money out of so that Australia gets its fair share? This was a subsidy in the first place, so what they are arguing is that any support for infant industries has to stay forever and we are never going to take it from them. Once they become megabig, they are so big that we are going to keep supporting them anyway. It does not make sense to me.

It is about time that we started making sure that we have enough in our consolidated revenue that we can genuinely look after those in Australia that need it most. I do not think the likes of Woodside need that subsidy. It is corporate subsidy, it is corporate welfare and we do not need it anymore. We have got to get away from ‘big is better’ and ‘greed at all costs’ because it is bringing down the American financial institutions. The Americans are sick of it, and I will tell you what: Australians are certainly sick of it.

I also stood in a polling booth in the recent WA state election, and I have never had as many come and get Greens how-to-votes from me and say, ‘Things have got to change.’ So wake up and smell the roses. It is time to get the corporates off the corporate teat and start delivering for those that are genuinely doing it tough in this country.