Tuesday, 1 December 2015
Treasury Legislation Amendment (Repeal Day 2015) Bill 2015; Second Reading
I rise to speak on the Treasury Legislation Amendment (Repeal Day 2015) Bill 2015, and in doing so wish to commend the work being done by the member for Eden Monaro, which follows on from the excellent work of his predecessors in that role, the members for Pearce and Kooyong.
The government's regulatory reform agenda has been a resounding success. We have exceeded our red tape target by finding around $4½ billion over two years, compared with our target of $3 billion over three years. That is good news—good news for the parliament and good news for the nation. We have improved systems for regulatory decision making. All cabinet submissions are now accompanied, of course, by an analysis of the regulatory cost and benefit, and we have changed the way that we approach regulation. This reform is not just fluff or time to fill in parliament—we are actually getting on with the job of making it easier for business to do what it does best, the farmers to do what they need to do on behalf of the nation and, indeed, for the nation's economy to tick on nicely.
It is the right time to update and expand the regulatory reform agenda, and that is what we are doing with this Treasury legislation bill. It needs to support flexibility in our economy. The new Prime Minister, the member for Wentworth, has said there has never been a more exciting time to be an Australian. I would add that there has never been a more exciting time to be a regional Australian. We have the preferential trade agreements negotiated by the trade minister with South Korea, with Japan and with China, and he is in talks at the moment with India and we now have the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement, and I can inform the House that people in the Riverina are excited about the prospect of those arrangements bringing to them the ability to increase their export reach. Certainly that is the case with the wine producers in the Murrumbidgee Irrigation Area. One out of every four glasses of Australian produced wine come out of Griffith alone, let alone the entire Murrumbidgee Irrigation Area. I note, Mr Deputy Speaker Broadbent, that you act as though that is tremendous information, and it is true—it says so on the billboard as you drive into Griffith. There is a big billboard that gives that exact fact, and there is a little asterisk on the billboard, I am sure, that indicates that it is indeed a fact.
The wine producers of Griffith are hard workers. It is land that no-one else wanted. The explorer Oxley said no-one would ever try to turn that land into an agricultural environment, but they have. They have done it because they have been able to utilise water to its maximum advantage. That is facilitated by government getting out of the way of farmers and letting them do what they do best, and that is what we have been able to do. I see the member for Canberra—I know that she will enjoy a wine over the festive season, and hopefully it will be one from Griffith. On 5 August, not too long ago, we heard there was to be a $263.5 million boost for on-farm irrigation in southern New South Wales to improve on-farm irrigation efficiency and return water savings to the local environment. That is a tremendous boost for the farmers in my region, for those wonderful wine growers.
This reform agenda is good government. What was not good government was what occurred under Labor with their foreign investment regime. I was pleased that the new Treasurer, the member for Cook, stepped in over the sale of S. Kidman & Co. landholdings. I have a joint media release from the shadow Treasurer, the member for McMahon, and the redoubtable shadow minister for agriculture, fisheries and forestry, shadow minister for rural affairs, spokesperson for Country Caucus, whatever that means, and member for Hunter. Their joint media release says:
Labor is concerned that the national party has run a self interested intervention in this matter.
Never mind that in the media release 'national party' has a lower case 'n' and a lower case 'p'. Anyone will know that that is a proper noun and there should be an upper case 'N' and an upper case 'P' for National Party—it is the name of the party. I am not so pedantic that I am too worried about that, but I think what should be in capital letters is national interest—and Labor failed the national interest test every time when it came to foreign investment. The member for McMahon had the opportunity to show that he cared about the national interest when Archer Daniels Midland's bid for GrainCorp came across his desk back in 2013. What did he do? Nothing. He sat on his hands and left it as a booby-trap for when Labor lost power, hoping it would cause a wedge issue between the Nationals and the Liberals. But it did not, because the Liberals understood that it was against the national interest that ADM take over GrainCorp, take over the entire grain industry on the east coast. They understood, as the National Party of course did, that the grain industry does not need to be controlled by a boardroom in Illinois in the United States of America. We passed the test. Labor has never passed the test when it comes to the Foreign Investment Review Board save for the potential sale of the Australian Stock Exchange to Singapore. The member for Lilley did not care, the member for McMahon did not care, and then when we get on board with the national interest and block the sale of S. Kidman & Co., what do we get? We get this pathetically written media release from the members for McMahon and Hunter talking about who said what to whom, whether the member for New England, the Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources, might have talked to the member for Cook, the Treasurer—Labor seems fixated with who says what about whatever subject. In question time over the last fortnight they have been fixated with who said what to whom and when. Ask some real questions about agriculture, ask some real questions about innovation, find out about the rollout of broadband, but do not keep coming in here and talking about an issue from four prime ministers ago. It is boring, quite frankly.
This regulatory reform agenda is focusing on productivity—indeed it is, because the member for Eden-Monaro, the Assistant Minister for Productivity, says so. He is getting on board with what the members for Kooyong and Pearce did with the red-tape repeal day. He is doing a fine job. He says in his media release—and this is a media release worth reading, member for Canberra:
A significant measure will make it easier for terminally ill people to get access to superannuation money.
That is good, and I know the member for Canberra would agree with that. He goes on:
We have improved our systems for regulatory decision-making and begun to change the culture of decision-makers and regulators to one that recognises the burden that is imposed both by the regulations and by the way it is administered.
We have introduced legislation that will repeal 3,600 spent and redundant Acts and over 10,000 legislative instruments from the Commonwealth books.
That will trickle down, filter down, into small business and into making sure that the red tape burden is lifted and that, dare I say it, the green tape regulatory burden is lifted.
But what do we hear from the other side when it comes to talking about business? I have never seen a business that they did not want to form a picket line out the front of. All they want to do is to impose an even larger carbon tax upon those businesses that did it very tough under Labor. Thankfully confidence is back into the economy. Thankfully investment is back into the economy. And thankfully people, just prior to Christmas, in that very busy retail period, have the optimism to go out and to spend up, which is good. But I tell you what: if Labor gets back into government we are going to see the carbon tax return—but not just any old carbon tax; this is the Tyrannosaurus rex of carbon taxes. It is going to be a monster, crunching and munching—as the Treasurer has indicated—the economy and business alike.
We kept our promise to the people of Australia—and that is why we were elected at the last election—by repealing, abolishing, getting rid of and eradicating that unnecessary carbon tax. It did nothing for the environment, but it certainly hurt businesses. It certainly hurt families every time they hit the switch on the power point for air conditioning, and for heating during winter. They knew that the coalition were the responsible people who would lift this unnecessary burden from their household budgets. They knew that we were the responsible people who would lift that unnecessary burden from their groceries bills. And we did just that. They also knew that the mining tax was nothing but a crippling burden on the mining industry.