Senate debates

Tuesday, 17 June 2008

Same-Sex Relationships (Equal Treatment in Commonwealth Laws — Superannuation) Bill 2008; Tax Laws Amendment (Medicare Levy Surcharge Thresholds) Bill 2008; National Health Amendment (Pharmaceutical and Other Benefits — Cost Recovery) Bill 2008; Tax Laws Amendment (Luxury Car Tax) Bill 2008; a New Tax System (Luxury Car Tax Imposition — General) Amendment Bill 2008; a New Tax System (Luxury Car Tax Imposition — Customs) Amendment Bill 2008; a New Tax System (Luxury Car Tax Imposition — Excise) Amendment Bill 2008; Excise Legislation Amendment (Condensate) Bill 2008; Excise Tariff Amendment (Condensate) Bill 2008; National Fuelwatch (Empowering Consumers) Bill 2008; National Fuelwatch (Empowering Consumers) (Consequential Amendments) Bill 2008; Tax Laws Amendment (2008 Measures No. 3) Bill 2008; Commonwealth Electoral Amendment (Political Donations and Other Measures) Bill 2008

Referral to Committees

4:08 pm

Photo of Chris EvansChris Evans (WA, Australian Labor Party, Leader of the Government in the Senate) Share this | Hansard source

I think anyone listening to that contribution would realise that the Liberal opposition is dissembling. There is no coherence at all about its position. This is a very important debate because it is about whether the elected government of this country is allowed to deliver its budget, whether it is allowed to deliver its election commitments and whether it is allowed to deliver the surplus that underpins its attack on inflation and rising interest rates. This is fundamental to the government’s budget. It is fundamental to what we were elected to do only six months ago.

What we have seen today is an opposition who are prepared to say: ‘We lost the election but we are not going to allow you to govern the country. We are not going to allow you to deliver your budget. We are not going to allow you to deliver your election commitments.’ They concede that these are election commitments but they say: ‘We know better. We don’t accept the view of the people. We don’t accept the election result. Most of us, as former ministers now in opposition, think we should still be allowed to determine the size, shape and nature of the Australian budget.’ Unfortunately for them, the budget is drawn up by the government. The first Rudd Labor government is remarkable for the fact that this was the first budget in many years that delivered on election commitments made by the government. It also delivered on our commitment to fiscally conservative policy to try to keep pressure on interest rates. That is fundamentally undermined by a debate in which the coalition, in their dying days as a majority in this chamber, say they are going to use their power to destroy the budget strategy, to prevent the government introducing the revenue measures that were going to help fund the surplus. That is their arrogance—that they think it is permissible for them to try to destroy the financial and economic strategy of the government by looking to defer and delay revenue measures that underpin that strategy and underpin the $22 billion surplus that is fundamental to that strategy.

This is economic vandalism. It is economic vandalism because it serves no purpose. It does not achieve anything. The opposition are not actually saying: ‘We oppose these measures. We are going to defeat them.’ They are saying: ‘We are going to delay and defer. We are going to act as vandals. We do not have a point of principle here.’ They are not making the argument against the measures; they are making the argument that they ought to delay and defer, because they can inflict vandalism on the government’s budget. They hope to gain some short-term political advantage from that.

When they were asked today about the measure to remove the excise on condensate and were accused of achieving what they would by their position—which is to destroy a revenue measure that will return $177 million to the Commonwealth during the period for which they delay it—they said: ‘But we are not opposed to the measure; we just want to defer and delay.’ They do not have a position. Like everything else the Liberal opposition reflects at the moment, they are confused, lost and have no position or principle. What they are going to do is delay—and rob Australian taxpayers of $177 million that would help fund the economic strategy of the government—so they can consider the issues. They have had six weeks to consider the issues. This budget process is the same as every other. The government brought down the budget on 13 May. The opposition have had six weeks to consider their position and still they have not got a position. Still they hide behind process. Still they say: ‘We don’t necessarily oppose it; we just need to think about it longer. We just need to consider it more.’ They do not have a position other than that of vandals and other than that of hiding behind process in order to prevent the government achieving its economic strategy as contained in the budget.

Where they thought there was political pressure, where they thought they were under the pump, they have given in and said: ‘We’ll consider those bills quickly. We’ll consider the bills that deal with FTBB and the baby bonus.’ Because they have decided they do not have the political courage to oppose those, they are going to consider them quickly.


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