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Thursday, 13 September 2018
Page: 6296


Senator CAMERON (New South Wales) (10:57): This is a continuation of my contribution to the black economy discussion, as part of the Treasury Laws Amendment (Black Economy Taskforce Measures No. 1) Bill 2018 that's before us. This bill, as I indicated in my previous contribution, reflects two of the Black Economy Taskforce measures: electronic sales suppression tools and third-party reporting. These are issues that are becoming more important because of the expansion of the so-called gig economy, where working people are becoming more and more subjected to bad conditions outside of the award system or any agreement system, and the expansion of contracting to try to build a barrier between the employer and the employee so that the employer can simply say that the employer is not responsible for the workers who are doing the work to make the employer's business profitable. These are issues that have been concerning Labor for some time.

The issue of contractor tax compliance in the building and cleaning industry is really important. I'm involved in an inquiry into the cleaning contractors in the retail sector, where major companies like Woolworths—making billions of dollars of profit year on year from the Australian community—won't employ cleaners directly. Those cleaners are then subjected to contractors' pyramid subcontracting. Many of these migrant workers are being forced to work for $7 an hour under the guise that they are being trained. This is reprehensible conduct. The problem is that we have a government that are so divided that they can't focus on the issues for working people or the community in this country. They are so focused on their internal hatred of each other that issues like this do not receive the appropriate attention that they should.

The expansion of the taxable payments reporting system is a good thing. The measures before the chamber will see about $132 million of payments coming in over the forward estimates, with about $56 million of them going back to the states. But what we've seen in relation to the government's incompetence is that there was a $230 million discrepancy in the data that was provided for this bill because Treasury did not up upload the proper data into their analysis.

We take the view that this is a start. The Black Economy Taskforce looked at a massive range of issues. We agree that this is a start, and we will support this bill. I indicate that Labor will also be supporting the amendments from Senator Whish-Wilson and the Greens. We don't believe that enough has been done by government on the anti-money-laundering and counter-terrorism-financing area. More needs to be done in that area. But when you're too busy carving each other up, when you're too busy knifing your own leader, when you're too busy displaying your hatred for each other in the public arena day in and day out and when you're too busy bullying female coalition members to try to get the numbers to knock off a certain Prime Minister, is it any wonder that the important issues for this country don't get dealt with appropriately? That's exactly what we have. Is it any wonder that the now leader of this divided, decaying, decrepit government called his own members muppets? Of course they're muppets. We have the muppets sitting across here too busy fighting each other to deal with the issues.

What we need in this country is a government that can actually address the issues for workers in areas all over the country. If the black economy is working in cash-in-hand payments, employers who do the right thing cannot continue to be competitive. If there's underreporting of income, legitimate companies are put under pressure because they can't compete with the companies that are ripping off the tax department. If companies don't have proper records, or poor or false records, then these are issues that should be addressed by any government worth its salt. These are issues that have been raised in the Black Economy Taskforce. Phoenixing is when a contractor gets a contract with a company that goes bust the next day, and then the same people are sitting in the same building, at the same desk, under another name and ripping workers off. It's just not good enough. Sham contracting is forcing workers to take out ABNs when they are not businesses. There's underpayment and exploitation of workers. We had Senator Molan defending Woolworths at estimates the last time I was there. We had coalition senators defending multibillion dollar companies against cleaners. I think it says everything about this coalition. They are too busy defending their mates. They are too busy fighting each other to actually make this a better country. That's the problem we have.

ABN fraud and abuse are rampant, and this is one of the issues that was raised in the Black Economy Taskforce. Using interposed entities to avoid tax was also raised. These are all issues that we see reported in the Black Economy Taskforce, but what do we get? We get a couple of recommendations. One of the recommendations that the Black Economy Taskforce made was that this government should work with the trade union movement to try and deal with and identify some of the rorts that are taking place. But can you imagine this government working with the trade union movement? They are too busy funding the ABCC and the Registered Organisations Commission. They are too busy putting their own people, putting their mates, into these so-called independent bodies to attack the trade union movement. This government are a disgrace, an absolute disgrace.

We get this problem where they get so engrossed in attacking working people's representatives, attacking the people who actually increase wages and conditions for workers, that they just lose the plot. That's why we've got two recommendations in this bill when there should be a number, a raft of recommendations, coming through. The gig economy, contractors doing the wrong thing and businesses operating on a basis that undermines legitimate companies should all be dealt with. But this government, the muppets, the muppet show that this government is, just can't get their act together to deal with the issues. That's why there is no stability in the government. The government is absolutely unstable.

In the period 2013 to 2018 the Labor Party has had one leader and one deputy leader. What have we had with the coalition? We've had Prime Minister Abbott and Deputy Prime Minister Truss. We've had Prime Minister Turnbull and Deputy Prime Minister Truss. We've had Prime Minister Turnbull and Deputy Prime Minister Joyce. We've had Prime Minister Turnbull and Deputy Prime Minister McCormack. Now we've got Prime Minister Morrison and Deputy Prime Minister McCormack. Is it any wonder that in that period of five years this government could not get its act together in a whole range of areas? They are an absolute disgrace. They are a government that just can't get their act together—

Senator Watt: A rabble—

Senator CAMERON: I've just been reminded that they are an absolute rabble of a government—

Senator Brockman interjecting

Senator CAMERON: No wonder you're laughing, because you know it's true. You know that you are a rabble of a government. The coalition is an absolute rabble. The National Party is a rabble. The Liberals are a rabble. The Liberal rabble doesn't like the National rabble and the National rabble doesn't like the Liberal rabble, and the Liberal rabble don't like each other. That's the bottom line with this mob. They are too busy attacking each other like a bunch of schoolkids to actually bring a bill here that deals with the rip-offs of taxation in this country, deals with the black economy and provides more tax, so that you can invest in schools, invest in health, invest in the community and invest in infrastructure. This government is so bad, so disjointed and so insecure that none of these big issues get dealt with.

It's about time that the people of Australia get an opportunity to make a decision about this rabble of a government. The sooner we get to an election the better. The sooner people can make a judgement about this new Prime Minister—who was at the heart of all of those changes in government and who defended the attacks on the Australian community in that first Abbott budget, attacking pensioners, reducing pensions, reducing the capacity for families to put food on the table and attacking young people who couldn't get a job—the better. The sooner that people understand that this new Prime Minister, Prime Minister Morrison, was at the heart of every one of the attacks on working families in this country the better.

Was this new Prime Minister, when he was Treasurer, prepared to deal with black economy issues? No. Was he prepared to deal with the banks, which are ripping workers off, ripping families off, ripping pensioners off and ripping disabled Australians off? No, he was not. On 26 occasions, he stood up and said, 'We should not have a banking royal commission.' Now that he is Prime Minister, he has changed his mind.

We know what this government will do. They will do the same as the John Howard and Peter Costello government did. When they're in trouble, they will throw money at every interest group to try to get a vote. We know the argument that they are good economic managers is an absolute myth. The eras when this country behaved in an economically incompetent manner were under Bob Menzies and under John Howard. They are the times when things went really bad. When the money just keeps pouring in, they throw the money out and don't build for the future. They don't build the infrastructure, build the education systems or build the health system. It's a demonstration of the incompetence of this government.

We want a future for our kids. We want a healthy future for our kids. We want an environment that our kids can look forward to in the future. We want to say that they will have the same benefits we had—that is, of a decent environment—but those opposite are too busy carving each other up on environmental issues. They now simply say it's all about reducing electricity prices. Well, it's not simply about reducing electricity prices; it is about maintaining a future for our kids and grandkids. This incompetent government should go, and this bill demonstrates that they don't have the capacity to deal with the issues effectively.