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Thursday, 3 December 2015
Page: 9887

Senator DASTYARI (New South Wales) (18:00): I want to begin by—and I have got a few questions at the end of this—acknowledging a couple of the contributions that have been made. I want to acknowledge the contribution of Senator Bernardi. I do not hold the same view at all on the issue of tax transparency that Senator Bernardi holds. I acknowledge that Senator Bernardi has always come to this with a point of principle that I disagree with and, unlike others in this chamber, he has maintained that point of principle.

I also note the contribution of Senator Muir in this debate, which I think has been nothing but constructive and positive. I think, Senator Muir, your amendments are fantastic. The reality is: the major politics of this country for many years did not tackle a lot of these issues, because they were put in the too-hard basket. Frankly, I think that is a responsibility that lies across all the major parties.

I acknowledge that we did some good things when we were in power. There were several pieces of significant legislation, but I believe that the last Labor government could have and should have gone further in some of it, and perhaps having crossbench senators such as you here at that point in time would have pressured us to do so. We are better off for having you in this chamber.

It is more amazing as this day goes by that we keep realising who has actually been duped throughout this process. It is almost everybody, Mr Chairman. The people who have been duped are: the federal cabinet, because the process, the decision and the deal were not taken to the cabinet; the Liberal Party room, who had already met, discussed this issue and reached a position, were not told about this secret deal; and the crossbench senators, who had worked with the Greens—and the Greens had played a great role, great rhetoric, on this issue over a long period of time. As I have said many times before, of the many legacies that Senator Milne left in this place highlighting this issue over many years, this is something she should be rightly very proud of.

Senator Whish-Wilson: One you were very happy to take over.

Senator DASTYARI: Senator Milne was a fantastic senator and an amazing person.

Senator Cormann: Did you vote for her?

Senator DASTYARI: I never had the opportunity to. After what they have done today, I will never vote green again. The crossbench senators had been working with the government. Let's be clear: after the last round and the legislation got passed by the Senate—the tough measures, the right measures, these good amendments, the amendments the Greens at the time felt were good amendments, that we had all supported together—Senator Di Natale made it very, very clear that he was going to be insisting and their party's position was going to be insisting; and, if that position was going to change, then he would not leave everyone else hanging on a rock.

That wasn't the case. Senator Di Natale informed me and others after they had reached agreement. Let's be very clear—

Senator Di Natale: You were trying to do a deal last night!

Senator DASTYARI: That is a lie, Senator Di Natale.

The CHAIRMAN: Senator Dastyari, please resume your seat. The Senate will come to order. As I have made the point on a number of occasions already, we are in committee. There is no limitation to the number of contributions people can make, but only one senator should be making a contribution at any one time. Senator Dastyari, you have the call.

Senator Whish-Wilson: On a point of order: Senator Dastyari just accused Senator Di Natale of lying, and I think he needs to withdraw that.

Senator DASTYARI: I withdraw.

The CHAIRMAN: I don't think he did actually use those words. Nonetheless, Senator Dastyari has withdrawn, so thank you.

Senator DASTYARI: This issue of tax transparency—let's just be clear about the role of the Labor Party in this, because I think it warrants it. Yes, the Treasurer of Australia, Mr Scott Morrison, did ask the Labor Party whether or not we were prepared to negotiate on this matter. We made our position very clear: we said we would not negotiate on any point of principle or policy and, after we had been notified of that—and you know this, Senator Whish-Wilson—I made sure that you were aware of that. I said to you that they had been talking to us and that we had rejected it. We were not going to negotiate on watering down—we call it the Bradbury amendment; other people call it the 'kidnapping' bill—the piece of legislation that we all know we are talking about here. It goes by many different names but, effectively, it was the $100 million disclosure bill, which may become a $200 million disclosure bill.

The duplicity and hypocrisy that has gone on in this place and in this chamber on this piece of legislation is outrageous. I believe there was a point of principle here that had we—and we should have—stood firm for a better deal and a better outcome, we would not be exempting right now the number of companies, the 500 or 600 companies, that are now going to be exempted.

I just want to let Senator Di Natale know of some of the companies that it appears he has let off the hook. There is Pacific Petroleum. There is the NSW Business Chamber. There is the Victoria Racing Club. There is Ego Pharmaceuticals. There is Meat & Livestock Australia. They are privately owned companies which sit somewhere between $100 million and $200 million and which now will not be under any pressure.

Let us be clear: the leverage to get a better deal was making sure that the government's measures that the government itself desperately wanted were actually using that. On this idea that we are now somehow going to get a future better deal: no, the leverage is gone. The government's position has actually been consistent on this front. I do not begrudge the government. If I could get these kinds of deals out of the Greens, I would be doing it all the time. Unlike the government, I would be taking it to my party room and I would be taking it through a proper party process. It is unbelievable that, in the world of Malcolm Turnbull and this whole good-government process, all of a sudden we find out that they are not taking these matters to the party room and they are not taking these matters to cabinet, but I imagine that is an internal matter for the Liberal Party. They can discuss it over cake in the monkeypod room.

It takes one night for the Greens to go limp. It takes one night for them to fold completely on this matter. One night with Scotty, one night with the Treasurer, and the world is their oyster. It takes one night, and Senator Di Natale will fold on every matter. It has not even been a one-night stand. They could not even get past question time together. You cannot even call it a one-night stand. There are three parties involved. There are the Greens. There are the Nats. There are the Libs. I think in the Greens party they call that group love! But they do not even make it through a day. They cannot even make it through a day.

What they have done here is that they have sold out for a cheap, quickie deal done dirty on the table of the Treasurer. You should be appalled. The fact that you are prepared to sell out tax transparency under some desperate, pathetic desire to try to claw some kind of economic relevance—and let us be clear about what Senator Di Natale has actually said. The position, he said, is this: 'If the government tell us they're not going to pass something in the lower house, we can't possibly stand firm and try to fight for things here in the Senate.' That is their position. That is the principle. The principle is: 'We will be dictated to. We will be dictated to by what the government tell us they are prepared to do and not do.' What a pathetically weak party to be doing that! What is the point of principle? What is the point of principle in that matter? What is the point of principle there?

The senator goes on. His position is this: 'But we got something! But we got something!' Well, as Adele would have said, you could have had it all. You could have had it all, Senator Di Natale. If it took you more than one night, if it took more than one night to get you, you could have had it all. And that is what you have gone ahead and done on a quick deal.

Senator Whish-Wilson: You're just jealous you didn't get it!

Senator DASTYARI: Oh, no. No, no, no.

Senator Conroy interjecting

Senator DASTYARI: That is right! No, unlike you, Senator Whish-Wilson, tonight I will not need to bathe in kerosene. Unlike you, I will not need to be bathing in kerosene tonight!

The CHAIRMAN: Senator Dastyari, just resume your seat for a minute. I think it is time that we maybe just review where we are at the present time. I would ask senators to be considering the comments that they make in the chamber. Senator Dastyari, you have the call.

Senator Heffernan interjecting

The CHAIRMAN: Sit back down, Senator Dastyari. Really, Senator Heffernan, that advice also applies to you.

Senator Heffernan interjecting

The CHAIRMAN: I do not care. The advice applies to you.

Senator DASTYARI: I just want to say that it is not as if the Greens have been penniless. I want to note that I believe that Graeme Wood no longer owns Wotif. I believe that Graeme Wood has actually sold Wotif. That is my understanding. It is funny to note, though, that that is a firm that has $149.69 million revenue turnover—the largest ever donor to the Liberal Party.

An honourable senator: The Greens.

Senator DASTYARI: The Greens, sorry. It is the largest single donation that has ever been given to a political party by an individual, as I understand it. But they are the types of companies, the types of private companies, the types of individuals, who will now have their disclosure requirements lowered.

I want to draw everyone's attention and the Senate's attention to the importance of tax transparency, the importance of staying firm, the importance of not selling out. You do not need to take my word for it. You can take Senator Richard Di Natale's words in the additional comments he provided, signed by him.

Senator Di Natale interjecting

Senator DASTYARI: Oh, the words were fantastic; it is the actions that were dirty! Your words are always sweet. You are a great speaker. It is all eloquent. It is well written. You have some fantastic staff. People like Jay and Fraser, who actually stand up and believe in these issues, have done a great job writing this for you. The fact is: you have walked into this place, and tonight you are going to be selling all of it out. You are selling out the principles of transparency that you went for so strongly in your own statement. I am not going to have time to read all of this into the Hansard. I am not going to be using the opportunity afforded to me tonight to do so. But I do urge anyone who is listening who is interested in this issue—and I assume there is at least one person out there—to go onto the website and have a look at the additional comments and compare what Senator Di Natale has said on points of principle and how he has behaved.

At the heart of the argument that has been made by the Australian Greens is a lie. There is a lie at the heart of the argument because at the heart of the argument they are putting is that, firstly, any deal is better than no deal, which is a straw man, a false argument that does not stand the test of reality. It is a false argument that has been made. Let us be clear. They say, 'Oh, if we didn't do this, it was all going to fall over.' No. What is actually the fact is this. The government needed and wanted to get their legislation through. This was Joe Hockey's legacy legislation. On one night, with a brief meeting, in a secret room in the Treasurer's office, without key members of your own team present, you fold; you roll over; you are desperate to do it; you are in love with the idea of being some kind of a doormat.

You are going to give the Nationals a run for their money. The way the Nationals are going at the moment, they are going to be double or triple the size of you by the time they have finished, with these Libs defecting. You are learning from their experience about how to be a doormat. You have actually folded and you have given up, and, rather than using the leverage to get the best possible deal on tax transparency, at the first opportunity, the first deal you got, the first chance to fold, you folded. You folded as quickly as you could. You gave up instantaneously. You did not put up any kind of a fight. You did not put up any kind of a principle. You did not say: 'Hang on. How do we get the best possible deal? How do we get the best possible outcome? How do we stand firm for the principles that we have been standing firm on, not just by ourselves but with crossbench senators, with Labor senators, with cross-party, with community groups, with trade unions and with activists?' You said, 'No, the first deal we get, the first chance, we're so desperate to appease a conservative, right-wing government we will fold.' And fold you did, and quickly. It is disappointing, and it is disgusting.

In concluding—because I am very conscious of time—I am going to say something very briefly about Senator Whish-Wilson. I have to say I am utterly, utterly disappointed in the position that Senator Whish-Wilson has taken in this. I will never know the truth of this, but I do not believe this is the type of decision or the type of selling-out move that someone like Senator Whish-Wilson would otherwise do. He is a person of principle and a person of integrity. He is a person I have had the opportunity to work with very closely through the Senate economics committee process. He is someone I hold in the highest regard, and, frankly, I have to say, Senator Whish Wilson, you are a lot better than this.

Senator Whish-Wilson: Mr Chairman, I rise on a point of order.

The CHAIRMAN: I do need to give the minister priority.