House debates

Wednesday, 16 March 2016


Turnbull Government

3:01 pm

Photo of Malcolm TurnbullMalcolm Turnbull (Wentworth, Liberal Party, Prime Minister) Share this | Hansard source

in saying that the Senate voting system was absolutely undemocratic because it enabled the gaining of group voting tickets to deliver perverse outcomes or undemocratic outcomes, where people who had received a tiny number of primary votes appeared, through elaborate use of preference swapping, to be elected as senators. The Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters said that that had to go, that it was undemocratic. There was wide community support for that. The member for Brand, who is not in the chamber at the moment, was perhaps the most eloquent advocate of that reform. Then, at the last minute, when my government took that reform out of the too-hard basket and sought to implement it, sought to legislate it, what did Labor do? Labor did the backflip. Talk about dysfunction and chaos. Labor were the greatest advocates of it and then they became the greatest opponents. Now, of course, it is progressing through the Senate, but that is a vital reform to the single most important institution in our country.

For years there has been a diminution, a decline, in confidence in the way that consumer and competition laws operate. Small business, in particular, has felt that section 46, the misuse of market power provision, has failed. There have been many attempts, as honourable members know, to patch it up, after one disappointing court case after another. The clear choice was, as set out by Professor Harper in his review, to move to an approach that sought to protect the competitive process—competition as a whole—and sought to do so by focusing on the effects of conduct by people with substantial market power. That, of course, is consistent with the approach that is taken to protecting competition in Europe and, indeed, in the United States.

Now, of course, the Labor Party—no friend to small business—absolutely opposed any reform of that kind. They said, 'No, section 46 should stay in exactly the same form as it is.' We have taken that hard problem out of the too-hard basket. We have consulted carefully and considered it carefully and we have announced our decision. That is governing. That is making hard decisions. Each of those three cases that I just mentioned—Senate reform, media law reform and section 46—are long-overdue reforms which the Labor Party would not engage with. They did not have the courage, the conviction or the policy commitment to do anything about it, and we have, on all those three fronts. That, together with our other measures, is supporting strong economic growth.

The honourable member talks about tax. I have said more than enough today—I do not think I need to repeat it—about the opposition's negative gearing policy. But let me remind honourable members of this: one of the most important elements in the tax system is to ensure that taxpayers pay their tax and, above all, to ensure that multinational corporations pay their tax, because they have access to advice and structures which smaller companies—and, of course, citizens—in Australia do not have.

When the Treasurer brought forward the multinational tax avoidance bill—a bill that had the consequence of dramatically shrinking the ability of multinationals to dodge tax—it was in line with the OECD's base erosion and profit shifting agenda, so it was entirely coordinated with that of the other developed economies in the OECD. Where did Labor stand on that? What was their policy? They voted against it. The Treasurer was able to negotiate the support of the Greens in the Senate to ensure that it was carried. So the Greens stood up for holding multinational taxpayers to account and the Labor Party wanted to let them off the hook. The Labor Party's hypocrisy on tax is outrageous. Their only tax proposals to date have been to let multinationals off the hook and to slug individuals who want to take a risk, want to invest and want to have a go. Labor stand there, blocking the path to entrepreneurship. (Time expired)


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