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Tuesday, 15 July 2014
Page: 4985

Senator O'NEILL (New South Wales) (17:31): I rise in continuation on the Minerals Resource Rent Tax Repeal and Other Measures Bill 2013 [No. 2]. I commenced my remarks earlier today by saying that we are reminded—particularly after hearing a speech like we have just heard—of the privilege of being in this place every time we get to speak. On many occasions I do commence my remarks by saying what a pleasure it is to speak. But I am finding that, day after day, as I rise to speak to the suite of legislation that has been put before us by the government, I am disgusted by what seems to be a dystopian view of Australia that those opposite are determined to inflict on us. I was at a point in my speech this morning where I was speaking about the coalition revealing their values and their belief set. It seems to me, with this piece of legislation that we are debating today, that they believe that the destitute should actually be destitute and that those who are the most disadvantaged should be that way—as if, through some fault of their own, they deserve to be down there; and while they are down there they will give them a good kicking as well. This is not the vision of Australia that I believe in and it is not the vision of Australia that will lead us to a better place, a grander vision of Australia.

Those opposite are dependent on their friends in high places, and they are paying them back with piece after piece of legislation that they are pushing through this place. This piece really shows that the multinational corporations are in their gaze; it shows that they believe that they should have a generous welfare cheque to give to the multinationals at the very same time as they rip away opportunities and much-needed dollars from families and small businesses as they repeal this piece of legislation.

The decisions made by this government in its short time in office read like a shopping list of inequity. Cuts to low- and middle-income earners abound. We see in contrast largesse to those who need it least, and that is shameful, absolutely shameful. Through this legislation the coalition is gifting multinational corporations billions of dollars in revenue—revenue which we, the people of Australia, who own the minerals, will no longer benefit from. This government is determined to deliver the wealth of our land, that we sing about every time we sing the national anthem, into the pockets of multinationals while ripping away opportunities and support for ordinary Australians right around this country. To put it simply, the coalition is robbing everyday Australians. The fact that they can actually manage to give money back to multinational corporations really reveals the lie that they have peddled about a budget emergency. If there were genuinely a budget emergency there is no way they could afford to give money back to the multinationals; yet that is what this bill determines will happen in our country.

In a way it would be funny, if it were not so tragic. They say one thing and their actions belie another. In giving to those who have the most and taking away from those who have the least, and in seeking to recoup the people's money through this legislation, the coalition has moved to attack the incomes of Australian workers, families and small businesses—all to provide a kickback to their big business, multinational corporate mates. It is an unedifying act from a truly unedifying regime. One has to wonder how coalition members of parliament can live with themselves every day, having to justify and explain away the cruelty of the retrograde policies that they are imposing on the Australian people. It is not only the repeal of the MRRT that defies logic—a tax that serves to redress the imbalance in taxation rates paid by the mining sector compared to overall corporate rates; it is the initiatives they are seeking to kill off under the guise—and I mean a disguise, a pretence—of this MRRT repeal which Australian s should be really angered by.

I want to refer to comments put on the record by my colleague Senator Bilyk this afternoon in her speech, when she made it very, very clear just how hypocritical and how determined this government is to hide the reality. This legislation removes the schoolkids bonus, which was not even brought in under the MRRT; it was family tax legislation that brought that in. Yet this government is seeking to hide, removing that from families across this nation under this big banner of the MRRT legislation. Ripping away the schoolkids bonus from low- and middle-income families, imposing a tax on the superannuation of low-paid workers, and removing much needed tax breaks for small businesses—that is what this legislation is doing. That is what this government is seeking to do. These are cruel measures and a another sting in the tail following the incredible raft of unfair elements in the budget of broken promises.

The Treasurer, the member for North Sydney, reveals how cynical and deceptive this government continue to be. His claims that the repeal of the MRRT is going to contribute to repairing some of the fiscal damage they continue to claim was inflicted by the previous government simply belies the fact that the MRRT was actually raising money, as taxes tend to do. Their policy response has been to inflict fiscal damage on the finances of every Australian family.

Where might you ask is this money that they are clawing back being directed? True to form, the Abbott regime is gifting this money to multinational corporations and paying very wealthy people $50,000 to have a baby, and cutting taxes not of the low paid or the moderately paid but of the wealthiest superannuation account holders in the country. These extravagant measures will cost tens of billions of dollars. While they are doing that, they have the unconscionable temerity to cry poor. What is really happening on the other side is not a poverty agenda but a determination to increase the inequity in Australia. Like Robin Hood in reverse, the Abbott coalition has launched a full frontal attack on Australian parents, ripping away the schoolkids bonus—a policy which has no connection to the MRRT, none. Repealing it will actually cut assistance to 1.3 million low- and middle-income families.

The impact of that will see the average Australian family with two children $,1230 worse off each year and $15,000 worse off over the period of schooling two children. We hear them bleating day and night about the $550 that they pretend will be going back into the pockets of Australians. I will be waiting and so will Australians right across this nation be waiting to see that $550. It will not materialise, and there is abundance reportage in the papers in the last couple of days about how inaccurate that number is. Why should we expect any truth from this government that provide daily a litany of lies?

Taking away the schoolkids bonus from families, $410 for each child in primary school and $820 for young people in secondary school, is going to not only impact on those families and the children and their opportunities to explore learning in a range of ways, guided and enabled by their parents, but also take millions and millions of dollars out of local economies. In a regional economy like the Central Coast, removing the schoolkids bonus will take $20 million out of the local economy. That will have a significant impact—the flow-on effect of policy made on the run, policy made with a miserly vision of this country, policy that fails to take into account the reality of small business.

Not only are families going to be hit by this cut; small businesses affected by the cut to the schoolkids bonus are also going to be hit in another adverse way by what this bill seeks to repeal—that is, the repeal of the small business instant asset write-off. Under Labor, there was a $6½ thousand instant asset write-off. I know those on the other side yell and shout, and make grand though inaccurate claims that this side of the parliament do not understand small business. I very much understand small business. Like many of my colleagues, I grew up in a small business family. All my family are engaged in small business. My husband runs a small business, though I am too busy doing this day job now to be a participant in that. I know what a depreciation schedule is. I know the paperwork that is involved with implementing the GST. I know what it means when you have $6½ thousand that you can apply as an instant asset write-off. I know that Labor's promise to put $10,000 as an instant asset write-off would have been a huge advantage to families right across this nation. For families in New South Wales that are running small businesses and employing young people, and giving them a start, it would have been an instant asset assistance to them that would enable them to keep their businesses running.

What do we have from this government that pretends day in and day out to be the friend of small business? We have a cut not just from $6,000 to maybe $5,000, $4,000 or $3,000, but a cut that puts the instant asset write-off down to $1,000. So much for assisting the cash flow of small businesses across the nation. That is what this legislation is seeking to do: to take away Labor's support of $6½ thousand for small businesses—and the promise to put it at $10,000 at the last election—and to put it down to a measly $1,000, while those opposite continue to prop up multinational companies.

There was a slogan that was run by many of the business chambers around Australia in the lead-up to the last election and it was 'Small business too big to ignore'—but it is not big enough for this government to pay attention to. They will pay plenty of lip-service, but when the rubber hits the road these guys opposite do not know how to support small business. They are no friend of small business. Their actions reveal their true beliefs, that they can take away from those who are smaller and give to those who are bigger and take away from those who are poorer and give to those who are richer. That is what we are seeing here day in and day out, and that is why it is such a challenge to come into this place and watch these good things that were established under the former Labor government being peeled away—and so often for no reason other than an intent to destroy the legacy of a Labor government that had a grander vision for this country than that miserly group on the other side who are talking this country down. No-one would have come to Australia and invested here and lived the kind of life that Australians have lived if they had followed this mob on the other side. But we are stuck with them now. And what we are stuck with them doing day in and day out is taking away and taking away, and this piece of legislation absolutely reveals it.

What we see in this piece of legislation is an effective action plan for raising taxes on Australian small businesses so that the government can cut taxes for multinational big businesses. When you consider the value and wealth that small business provides to our local communities, particularly in regions across our nation, they are the big employers. Small businesses are the job creators of our community. This government simply does not understand what it is doing by putting this sort of legislation in place.

To top it all off, this bill seeks to abolish the income support bonus, a tax-free payment for over-50s on the Newstart allowance to help them when they might have an unforeseen medical cost or perhaps need to replace a fridge or repair their car. It is a modest payment of $210 extra each year for singles and $350 extra each year for couples, but this lot over there are taking it away. Another safety net for the vulnerable is being removed. The abolition of this payment is opposed by the National Seniors organisation. We have also just seen the failure of a motion to disallow the FoFA regulations. What we saw there was a government continuing to ignore daily the advice of almost every consumer group in the country, including National Seniors. So I say to any seniors who might be listening: this government is no friend of the seniors of Australia. Look at your bank balances. Look at what they are taking away from you every single day. Look at the litany of broken promises. They promised you are lot before the election but, day after day, they are ripping away the protections. They are ripping away modest assistance and continuing to reveal an arrogance and indifference to the people they promised to support. I guess we could call it an engagement by this government in reverse class warfare.

Repealing the MRRT is a retrograde policy in so many ways, and I will not even have sufficient time to fully explore what they are doing by taking away the low-income superannuation contribution. Instead of looking after the 3.6 million workers, 2.1 million of whom are women, mainly mothers working part time in their careers for whom an additional $500 of super each year would be of substantial benefit as they save for retirement, what we see is the government taking away that assistance from the most disadvantaged. Instead, what they choose to do is support tax cuts for the superannuation of the 16,000 people who are Australia's most wealthy superannuants.

My speech has, I hope, explored the range of ways in which this government is determined to take away opportunity from Australia; to sneakily, negatively and miserly view Australia's potential by taking away funding from families for health, education and welfare, from pensioners and students, from superannuants, from children who are going to school. In so many ways this is a government that reveals its very worst beliefs every day.