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

You get the chance to tell us what your position is today on all these measures, Senator Abetz. You have an invitation, and I hope you do not hide behind process. I hope you do not use the coward’s answer. You can tell us what position the coalition has on each of these bills, because quite frankly if you have a position we can have the vote and get on with it. If your answer is that you have no position and you need to think about it some more, that shows the political cowardice which you stand accused of. You do not have a policy, you do not have a coherent position, you cannot agree among yourselves.

I understand you walked out of your shadow cabinet meeting today after deciding to knock off another measure. The opposition are going to move a disallowance to our dentists reforms. There was no mention of that in Senator Ellison’s contribution today. The election commitments that the Labor Party made are apparently going to be disallowed in the Senate because they decided they could. They have got about eight days left of their Senate majority and they are going to wreck that measure as well. Why? Do they have an alternative that they have any hope of putting in place? No. They are doing it just because they can spoil and be vandals, not because they have a constructive alternative or any policy outcome capable of being achieved. By seeking to undermine these measures, they are going to delay and vandalise the budget to prevent the government from delivering on its election commitments and from governing in an economically conservative way.

Despite what Senator Ellison indicated, some of these measures will cost the Australian taxpayer. The delay will cost us millions of dollars. There will be consequences and a loss of revenue from this delay. There will be $220-odd million that the Australian government will not be able to collect as a result of the opposition’s actions. We will nail the opposition with the price of this. They are going to vandalise the budget by using their numbers to prevent the collection of that revenue. Their leisurely consideration will come at a cost, at last count, of about $220 million to Australian taxpayers. But the position changes so quickly so I cannot be authoritative on this; it was $300 million earlier in the week but it is now down to $220 million. With the dentistry measures they are going to oppose, it may have gone up again.

I do not know what their position on the bill is. All I know is what their position on process and procedure is. If you ask them where they stand on any of the great issues in Australian politics, they cannot tell you. They are all over the place. I look forward to the opposition senators contributing to the debate because we will then hopefully know where they stand on the condensate bill, on same-sex relationships, on the Commonwealth electoral amendment to make political donations more transparent, and on the increase in the luxury car tax. Are they going to support the luxury car tax increase or are they going to oppose it? I have no idea; they are hiding behind process—they are unable to say and need to look at it longer. They have had six weeks, including estimates. They have had ample opportunity.

These are not questions of broad public policy. These are small amendments to existing taxation revenue measures.


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