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Wednesday, 2 December 2015
Page: 9693


Senator LINES (Western Australia) (16:54): At least those opposite are consistent. The Turnbull government is at least consistent. It is going after the poor, the disadvantaged and those on benefits and pensions in the Australian community. They are consistent in doing that while completely ignoring the big end of town who put the big donations into the Liberal Party and the National Party to fund their election campaigns, and ignoring multinational tax evasion that goes on completely unabated. They are trying to create transparency around Mr Turnbull's companies and others that were on the secret list before it got published, yet they are hell-bent on making poor Australians and Australians on low incomes pay a big, fat, new tax—a massive five per cent increase in the GST that will go onto absolutely everything.

It just demonstrates how out of touch the Turnbull government are. They simply do not appreciate that those on low incomes or fixed incomes spend all of their income on day-to-day living expenses: food, rent, health, pharmaceuticals, school costs and so on. It takes up all of their pay or all of their benefit in a way that it does not for those on higher incomes—and particularly for politicians in this place. Those opposite, who go on and on, saying, 'Let's put everything on the table,' but focus on a GST, have no idea what it is like to walk in the shoes of someone on a low income. We have cleaners in Parliament House this week taking strike action against the government because of their failure to make sure that those cleaners get a decent wage increase. But before that they ripped money out of their pockets.

We have seen that every move this government has made is designed to really hit Australians doing it tough. This proposal is definitely on the table—it is not ruled out; it is definitely on the table; it was shopped around well and truly by Mr Abbott before he lost the prime ministership. We have not had Mr Turnbull come out and say, 'It is not off the table.' We have not had that categorical denial. We had Mr Turnbull on the radio in Adelaide saying that his view is that changes to the GST should be on the table. Of course, what would Mr Turnbull have in common with a low-income earner, a cleaner cleaning his office? Absolutely nothing. He probably has not noticed that they are not here this week. Well, I have, and I stand with those Parliament House cleaners. They deserve a decent pay rise and they certainly do not deserve a big, fat, whopping GST applied to every single thing they do.

The other group that I met with today are seafarers from the MV Portland. Again, there has been not a single word from those opposite about the plight of those seafarers who have been sacked by Alcoa. They have worked on Australian seas for 25 years with not one day lost to industrial action, and what has Alcoa done? With one flick of the pen they have sacked them. And guess what. They are going to be replaced by foreign workers earning $2 an hour. Do those opposite care? No, they do not. I met a seafarer today who has been at sea the 20 years. He has now lost his job. Do they care? No.

They bleat on every day about how they are creating jobs and how they are making Australians better off. They are not making seafarers better off and they are not making cleaners better off. On top of denying them wage increases and sacking them and letting Alcoa sack Australian seafarers and doing nothing about it, they want to impose a big, fat, new tax of 15 per cent on every single thing that those workers buy. It is not on. It is time that the Turnbull government acted in the interests of all Australians, not just those at the big end of town. It is time that we had some multinational tax transparency in this country. It is time that multinationals and those who earn a very big income—a much bigger income than a cleaner on 20 bucks an hour—started paying their fair share, started actually contributing. But, no.

No wonder some of the states are calling for a GST—the Turnbull government is starving them of funds. There are the massive cuts to education, which were not signed off by the Australian public. There are the massive cuts to health, which were not signed off by the Australian government. All of those funds have been taken away from state governments. Whether they are Liberal governments or Labor governments, they are all in the same boat, and they are desperate to provide those services. Yet we have, day in and day out, the Turnbull government absolutely refusing to categorically state that they will not introduce a big, fat new GST of 15 per cent on everything. A GST on food, on health, on education, on pharmaceuticals and on school goods to be paid by cleaners on 20 bucks an hour and paid by Australian seafarers from Victoria, who those opposite have no concern for, who have been sacked by Alcoa and will be replaced by workers on $2 an hour. Where is their concern? It is completely missing. Those seafarers are in the parliament. If you would like to meet with them, just talk to me. They will tell you what an increase of the GST to 15 per cent will do to them, as they face the unemployment queue. It is a disgrace. They should absolutely rule out a GST increase once and for all, but they will not do it.