Senate debates

Thursday, 10 May 2012


Selection of Bills Committee; Report

11:53 am

Photo of Mitch FifieldMitch Fifield (Victoria, Liberal Party, Manager of Opposition Business in the Senate) Share this | Hansard source

I move:

That the following words be added to the end of the motion—

"and in respect of the Family Assistance and Other Legislation Amendment (Schoolkids Bonus Budget Measures) Bill 2012, the bill be referred immediately to the Economics Legislation Committee for inquiry and report by 19 June 2012."

The opposition are seeking to amend the motion moved for the adoption of the Selection of Bills Committee report, because we put forward the quite sensible proposition to the Selection of Bills Committee that this piece of legislation be referred to the Economics Committee for inquiry. We did that because this legislation has been rushed and the government has put in place a guillotine to deal with this legislation. The government seeks to deny this chamber its rights and prerogatives to properly examine this legislation. The government is doing this for a number of reasons, the first of which is that this legislation, if brought forward, if rushed through and if passed over the next few days, would enable the current government to manufacture a budget surplus. The government is attempting to re-badge the education tax rebate as an education schoolkids bonus and to no longer require that receipts be provided to demonstrate that the funds were spent on education. The government needs to do this to bring forward expenditure from next financial year to this financial year, so that it has the capacity to manufacture a surplus. It is a phoney surplus, a bogus surplus, but it is the first reason the government is seeking to have this legislation passed with undue haste.

The other reason the government is seeking to have this legislation passed with such haste is to provide yet a further cover for the effects of the carbon tax. This is to be a sugar hit for households to help numb the pain of the carbon tax. If the government were being honest and upfront, it would change the title of this legislation to the carbon tax sugar hit bonus for households—at least we would have some truth in the title of the legislation.

The third reason the government has sought to rush this legislation and to deny the Senate Economics Committee the opportunity to examine it is that when Labor is presented with two competing priorities—one being political expediency and self-interest and the other being parliamentary scrutiny and accountability—the government will always defaults towards self-interest and partisan interest. That always wins out over the rights and responsibilities of this chamber to provide appropriate scrutiny.

We have three reasons why the government is seeking to do this: one, it wants to help manufacture a fraud of a surplus; two, it wants to provide a sugar hit for households to distract from and ameliorate the effects of the carbon tax; and three, the government yet again is seeking to deny this chamber the capacity to perform its functions properly and to provide appropriate scrutiny.

The opposition refuse to be complicit in helping the government achieve any of those three objectives. It is my prediction that there may be another party in this chamber who will join with the government to vote against the amendment I have moved. That causes me great distress, because the Greens used to be paragons of parliamentary virtue back in the early days of Senator Bob Brown. We had hoped for better things from Senator Milne but she, sadly, is continuing in the footsteps of Senator Brown. We fully expect the Greens will combine with the government to vote against this legislation. They should not, but if they do they should be ashamed.


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