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Thursday, 21 June 2018
Page: 3563


Senator DI NATALE (VictoriaLeader of the Australian Greens) (11:15): I seek leave to speak for 15 minutes.

The CHAIR: Is leave granted?

Senator Cormann: Leave is granted for five minutes.

The CHAIR: Leave is granted for five minutes.

Senator DI NATALE: Hang on. You granted leave to the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate for 15 minutes. Be consistent here. You said you would grant leave to party leaders for 15 minutes. Be consistent. You said you would grant leave to party leaders for 15 minutes—

The CHAIR: Senator Di Natale, please resume your seat. Leave of five minutes has been granted. It's up to you whether you want to speak or not.

Senator DI NATALE: What a disgraceful, shameful act. What a dark day for the Senate here in Australia. Regardless of what you think of this piece of legislation, we should be at least entitled to have an opportunity, firstly, to interrogate it and to debate it—

Senator Ian Macdonald interjecting

Senator Wong: Chair, I rise on a point of order. I ignored Senator Macdonald's persistent interjections on me. I ignored them. He interjected on me for almost the entirety of my speech.

Senator Ian Macdonald interjecting

Senator Wong: Now he is interjecting again.

Senator Ian Macdonald interjecting

Senator Wong: And again.

The CHAIR: Senator Wong—

Senator Wong: My point of order is that I will be asking you to use the standing orders to deal with Senator Macdonald if he does not desist from persistent interjections.

The CHAIR: I have reminded senators on a number of occasions to respect the speakers. It's not normally my habit to call out particular senators, but if there are constant interjections I shall do that. Senator Di Natale has the right, as all senators do, to be heard in silence.

Senator DI NATALE: Yesterday we were denied the opportunity through the committee stage to ask substantive questions on this piece of legislation. Today we have seen the debate be gagged. This is the first time since I have been in this place I have seen a gag on a suspension. It's just disgraceful. Now we've been given the opportunity to speak for five minutes. This is $140 billion being ripped out of essential public services and the government want to ram it through the Senate. The bottom line here is that this is a package that does nothing for low-income earners. The bottom 40 per cent of income earners will get no benefit from this bill. The bottom 40 per cent will get no benefit from stage 1, 2 or 3 of this bill. This is a package that will flow to the top 60 per cent. If you look at stage 3, 95 per cent of the benefit will go to the top 20 per cent of workers.

This is the new definition of what a 'battler' is in Australia, according to One Nation. You are a battler in Australia if you are in the top 20 per cent of income earners apparently. If you are a banker, a CEO or someone on $500,000 or a million bucks, you get a tax cut. Senator Wong is right that $7,000 goes into the back pocket of these people as a result of stage 3, but the combined impact of the entire package is worth over $11,000. Every politician in this place will get an $11,000 tax cut. Bankers will get an $11,000 tax cut. CEOs and executives in industries, in big multinationals, will get an $11,000 tax cut. If you are a nurse, childcare worker or teacher, you will get a few hundred bucks in your back pocket.

The bottom line is that we face a choice here in Australia right now. This is one of the most significant pieces of legislation to ever pass through the Australian parliament. This is worth $140 billion. It fundamentally rewrites the fabric of Australian society. We cannot continue to afford to invest in all of the foundations of a decent society—decent health care, education and infrastructure, increasing Newstart and protecting our environment—if we strip $140 billion of revenue in a prescription to turbocharge inequality here in Australia.

This is what the government's already done. It's taken half a billion dollars from ARENA, over $300 million from the ABC and nearly $60 million in legal aid funding. Freezing Medicare cost nearly $3 billion. It's cut family tax benefit supplements, 4,000 jobs from the ATO, jobs from ASIC and jobs from the CSIRO. It has made huge cuts to the environment department at a time when we are losing biodiversity at a rate far greater than at any other time on earth. R&D tax offsets: $600 million gone. Local government grants: $900 million gone. There have been cuts to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander affairs. This government has presided over a litany of cuts.

Can you imagine what will happen if we strip another $140 billion of revenue from those essential services? Can you imagine what we are going to be faced with in the coming years when it comes to the cuts that we've already seen from this government?

And of course you've got Senator Hanson over there. Let me quote to you what Senator Hanson said. She said, 'I am not getting a tax cut.' She said:

The tax cuts are going to be up to $200,000. I'm a very fortunate Australian to be earning more than $200,000. I am paying … 45c in the dollar on that. I'm not getting tax relief.

Well, Senator Hanson should come into this chamber and apologise for misleading the Senate. Senator Hanson gets over $11,000 as a result of her support for this legislation.

And over there we have Centre Alliance, who are selling out South Australians. For every dollar that goes into the back pocket of wealthy South Australians, $1.40 gets taken out in vital public services in South Australia.

This is one of the most shameful, disgraceful days that I've seen in my time in this Senate, with $140 billion ripped out of public revenue—taken out of our public hospitals; many people will need to languish for longer on waiting lists. There will be more up-front costs in public schools. Infrastructure that desperately needs investment isn't going to get it—and all because you want to ram this bill through without any scrutiny. (Time expired)

The CHAIR: A point of order, Senator Macdonald?

Senator Cameron: My point of order is in relation to the decision to stop leaders having a capacity to speak for more than five minutes. Could the Leader of the Government in the Senate explain why it's only five minutes on such an important issue.

The CHAIR: Thank you, Senator Macdonald; that is not a point of order. Senator Macdonald?

Senator Ian Macdonald: You've grossly insulted me by calling Senator Cameron Senator Macdonald.

The CHAIR: I beg your pardon. My apologies. Senator Collins?

Senator Jacinta Collins: This is actually an important point of order, rather than the time wasting that's happening on the government side. The Leader of the Government in the Senate indicated earlier across the chamber that the nature of his arrangement was not certain things. I would like him to clarify for all of us what the actual arrangement is. Rather than us having to debate each time one party leader gets up to try and speak, let the leader of the government tell us what the deal is.

The CHAIR: Senator Collins, please resume your seat. That's not a point of order. Senator Storer.

Senator Storer: Madam—

Senator Jacinta Collins: Sorry, Madam Chair—

The CHAIR: I beg your pardon, Senator Storer; please resume your seat. Senator Collins?

Senator Jacinta Collins: How can it not be a point of order to clarify what procedure is before us at the moment? That makes no sense at all.

The CHAIR: Senator Wong?

Senator Wong: Obviously, this is—

An honourable senator interjecting

Senator Wong: I'm making a suggestion to the chamber.

An honourable senator interjecting

Senator Wong: No, well—

The CHAIR: I remind the chamber that we are in Committee of the Whole.

Senator Wong: We are in committee.

Opposition senators interjecting

The CHAIR: Order! Senator Wong?

Senator Wong: There is obviously some confusion because the procedure the chamber is now undertaking or utilising is a procedure that is entirely contained within Senator Cormann's head, as discussed with Senator Patrick, and, even as we have been conducting debate, the procedure has changed.

Initially we had an argument where I was denied my request for leave for 15 minutes unless I gave an agreement that this be concluded by a certain time. I refused to give that agreement. I was then given five minutes, and then, after the five minutes concluded, I was given an additional 10 minutes.

I do think it is incumbent on the government, given that they have agreed that party leaders speak, to explain what the procedure actually is. In particular, why is it that the Leader of the Australian Greens, who is a party leader—a party that I oppose regularly, but—

The CHAIR: Senator Wong, please resume your seat. Thank you. The Senate has determined how this matter will proceed, and there is to be no debate on the points. However, senators are entitled to the right to seek leave, and I think that's where we are up to with Senator Storer.