Tuesday, 22 November 2011
Matters of Public Importance
I think this debate demonstrates the clear difference between the Labor Party and the coalition, because the Labor Party is standing up for eight million Australians, standing up for small business, standing up for decent infrastructure in this country and standing up for the right of all Australians to get a fair go out of the mining boom. And what about the coalition? Over there, they are defending their mates in the mining industry, defending those who are funding the coalition, defending those who are flying coalition senators around the world, over to India, to attend Bollywood weddings. That is the difference between us. We care about the future of this country. We care about making sure that industry pays its fair share. And we care about delivering a decent society in this country. All you care about is trying to make sure that you get more and more funding from the businesspeople that you defend day in, day out. And why are you defending them? You are defending them to make sure that they do not pay a reasonable amount of tax. It is outrageous for you to come here and talk about the Gillard government's continued secrecy and lack of accountability on revenue assumptions and costs regarding its mining tax.
You had all day today to develop some questions for question time on this issue that you are making all the noise about today. What did you do? You did not ask a question of a minister on this issue—not one question. Then you come here with your fake outrage and say this is a huge issue, but there was not one question in question time. You come here and run all the arguments in support of some of the richest people in this country, some of the people who are making huge profits, huge personal fortunes, out of Australia's mineral resources—not their mineral resources but our mineral resources. You come here and you defend them. Why do the Liberal and National parties defend them? Because they are your election bankers. They are the people who are putting the money into the coalition to bankroll your election campaign, so you come here and put the Australian public second to your funding from your rich business mates.
You talk about accountability and assumptions regarding the mining tax. Let me tell you about accountability in the coalition. The coalition under Malcolm Turnbull called for the establishment of a Parliamentary Budget Office—remember that? Malcolm Turnbull as Leader of the Opposition said we should have a Parliamentary Budget Office because he wanted accountability. He wanted access to assumptions and costs. So what happened? A parliamentary inquiry into the Parliamentary Budget Office was established, and I was on that parliamentary inquiry. There was a joint position arising out of the parliamentary budget inquiry that we should establish a Parliamentary Budget Office to make sure that there was accountability on revenue and assumptions so that the public knew what the financial position was of promises that were made by the coalition, by the Labor Party, by the Greens and by the Independents during an election campaign. A unanimous position was adopted by that parliamentary inquiry. What happened? The recommendations went up and immediately the coalition said, 'Uh-oh, no way. We are not going to be accountable. It might have been a good idea from Malcolm Turnbull, but we don't want to be accountable during the election campaign.'
And why would the coalition want to be accountable during the election campaign? In the last election campaign, the Treasury found a $10.6 billion hole in the promises that they were making and then they blamed some leak in Treasury as to why they would not submit their promises for scrutiny by the Treasury. This is the same Treasury that served John Howard and Peter Costello; the same Treasury that serves this Labor government. They said, 'No, we're not putting our election promises to the Treasury or to the department of finance because we don't trust them'—the same people who for 11½ years provided advice to John Howard and Peter Costello.
What did the coalition do? They were so upfront about accountability on revenue and assumptions that they got some accounting firm in Western Australia to cook the books to try and make it look as if they had a reasonable position on their election promises. But, as to the most experienced people in the country on analysing government funding, government programs and government promises—the two groups are the Treasury and the department of finance—they would not go near them.
So do not come here talking about accountability and do not come here talking about openness, because you have rejected the Parliamentary Budget Office. If you are truthful and you want to stand up with some credibility, when the bill comes to the Senate you stand up and make the same speeches about accountability, support the Parliamentary Budget Office and submit your shonky costings to the Parliamentary Budget Office at the next election. The reason you do not support the Parliamentary Budget Office is that you have no concern about accountability—absolutely no concern. You want to mislead the Australian public on your economic costs. You want to mislead the public on where you are going with your promises.
Why would you want to submit again to the Parliamentary Budget Office? You have admitted that you have a $70 billion black hole—$70 billion that you have to find before you can actually deliver reasonable policies to the Australian public at the next election. By the time you fund all the crazy promises that have been made, we know what is going to happen: you are going to have to slash 12,000 jobs in the Public Service and the services for ordinary Australians will disappear. You want to cut the health system, the education system and the welfare system, because that is what you will have to do to fund your $70 billion black hole. That is a reality. So do not come talking to us about assumptions in costs, accountability and secrecy. You are the ones who want to keep the secrets. You are the ones who do not want to be accountable. You are the ones who will not put your election promises to the Parliamentary Budget Office.
Let us go back to the issue of why the coalition would want to run away from that approach. Take Twiggy Forrest. I think Twiggy Forrest should be renamed—he should be Twiggy No Tax, because he is not paying any tax. He is a billionaire. Andrew Forrest's net worth privately, off the back of our mineral resources and for one individual, is $6.2 billion. He is a major supporter and a major bankroller of the coalition. Why would they argue for more tax for him when they put themselves before the national interest? That is the position that the coalition are taking. Then there is Gina Rinehart—net worth $9 billion. Gina Rinehart has been out there on the picket line, with her Armani gear on and pearls flying around, at the mass meeting of the millionaires. The Rolls-Royce revolutionaries are out there saying they do not want to pay more tax: 'I'm worth $9 billion but I don't want to pay more tax!' They had their mass meeting and the Rolls-Royces were queuing up for three kilometres down the main street of Perth. That is not like any mass meeting I have seen. The security guards were out there—it was all on!
Gina Rinehart has $9 billion. Clive Palmer, with $5.05 billion, is again a major Liberal supporter. Why would the coalition want to make him pay more tax? When he does not pay tax to help the Australian public he is shoving it into the coffers of the coalition for their election campaign. That is what this lot are all about. Do not get muddled up by any arguments about modelling or about secrecy—there is no secret to what this is about. It is not about modelling; it is about making sure that at the next election their election coffers are full of money donated by Twiggy 'No Tax' Forrest, Gina Rinehart and Clive Palmer. That is what they want to do, so do not come here lecturing us about what should happen to tax.
The difference between the Labor Party and the coalition is that we want people to get a fair go out of our natural resources. This is an opportunity for Australians to get something out of the mining boom and stop lining the pockets of the billionaires. There is $80 billion worth of investment in the mining industry over the next few years. I heard Senator Eggleston talk about how the mining industry will desert us and go overseas. I know one area they want to go to, and that is Zambia. In Zambia the government had to plead with the mining companies to get them to pay any corporate tax. The only tax the mining companies were paying in Zambia was the tax on what the workers earned. The workers earned their wages and paid their tax and that was the only tax the mining industry paid in Zambia. That is what the coalition would like, because then they would have a really big bank balance to go to the next election on. They come here and support their corporate mates: the small miners like Twiggy No Tax. What a joke! Personally, he is worth more money than a lot of our industries in Australia, yet the coalition do not want his company to pay any more tax—although it is not more tax because he has not paid any tax.
We want a fair go for Australians. That is the difference between the coalition and the Labor Party. We want the richest people in this country who are exploiting our mineral resources to pay a fair share of tax. We want the billionaires to pay a bit of tax to help build the schools, the infrastructure, the hospitals and the education system of the future. We want workers in Australia to get a decent retirement, not just billionaires like No Tax Twiggy and Gina Rinehart. They should stop flying Senator Joyce and Julie Bishop overseas to India in a private jet. Put that money back into Australia and stop looking after the coalition. That is my message to the billionaires in the mining industry.