Senate debates

Tuesday, 18 March 2014


Minerals Resource Rent Tax Repeal and Other Measures Bill 2013; Second Reading

6:40 pm

Photo of Carol BrownCarol Brown (Tasmania, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Parliamentary Secretary for Families and Payments) Share this | Hansard source

I rise to speak against the Abbott government's legislation to repeal the minerals resource rent tax. Just to start with, I would like to take up some of the comments that Senator Smith made in his contribution here tonight. As it was, the contribution was largely wrapped up, again, with slur and personal attacks, but that is something we have come to expect in this chamber from many of those on the other side. However, he did talk about a class war. If there is a class war, I think that what the contribution from Senator Smith showed—if anything—is that the coalition is, has been and always will be for the big end of town.

What I would say, and what the Labor Party has been saying, in terms of the minerals resource rent tax is that all Australians should share in the spoils of our natural resources, not just the big mining companies. The actions of those opposite fly in the face of decent, fair-minded values. Those are the values of sharing—sharing this nation's resources and the benefits that come from them with all Australians. The profits that come from extracting our natural resources should be spread throughout the Australian public. That is what Labor was doing with the minerals resource rent tax.

But, as we know, on a Friday last year and through the faceless mode of a press release, the coalition announced that they would tear down the MRRT and would take with it a variety of government payments, support bonuses and tax breaks that benefit Australians. These are Labor initiatives that were making life easier and more profitable for families, school children, retirees and businesses. But Mr Abbott wants to make sure that the biggest companies pay less tax, while small businesses and the lowest paid workers pay more tax. I will repeat that: the big companies pay less tax and the small businesses and lowest paid workers pay more tax.

Mr Abbott's government wants to axe the low-income superannuation contribution retrospectively, increasing superannuation taxes for one in three Australians by up to $500 a year. If anybody knows someone who actually accesses the low-income superannuation contribution, they will know that those people are doing it tough. They are not high earners and any help assists them greatly in making ends meet. So I would suggest to Senator Smith that he meet some of these workers that he is 'supporting' by ripping away the low-income superannuation contribution.

The bill also acts as an increase to the instant asset tax write-off, leaving 2.7 million Australian small businesses worse off through higher taxes and it will leave 110 businesses worse off by getting rid of the lost carry-back tax incentives. On top of this, the schoolkids bonus—and we have heard contributions from this side of the chamber about that—is going to be axed, even though it has nothing to do with the MRRT. It does not matter how many times the government insists it is connected; it is not. It knows it is not and it is just a con on Australian families.

The superannuation guarantee will also be stalled, by two years, as Mr Abbott dillydallies. He refuses to think of the future and only proceeds with this approach, scrapping the MRRT and lining the pockets of the big mining companies. These mining companies are profiting from the natural resources that belong to all Australians. The Labor Party is not arguing that the mining companies should not make a profit, simply that the money should benefit all Australians. All Australians own these natural resources and all Australians should benefit from the profits that they develop. To axe programs, initiatives and payments that help spread the benefit of our vast natural resources, to help the bottom line of big mining companies, is simply not good enough.

I will now touch on the schoolkids bonus in more detail. The coalition's bill, the repeal legislation that we have before us, will leave more than 1.2 million Australian families worse off when it comes to meeting the education expenses of their children. It is cruel, it is sneaky and it will hurt struggling families. Not only is this government ripping off Australian families; it is also trying to fool them about the reasons for doing so. Mr Abbott's government is claiming the schoolkids bonus was paid for by the minerals resource rent tax. It was not. We know it was not and the government knows it was not. The schoolkids bonus replaced the education tax refund. It had nothing to do with the minerals resource rent tax package, and those opposite know it.

Mr Abbott and his Treasurer, Mr Hockey, are trying to fool Australian families by repealing the schoolkids bonus as part of the repeal of the MRRT. This repeal will be a big hit to families: $410 per year for each child in primary school and $820 per year for each child in high school. This is money for books, technology, uniforms, new shoes and excursions that will now have to come from somewhere else. If it does not come from somewhere else, children will miss out. It is a kick in the guts for hardworking families putting their children through school. Scrapping the schoolkids bonus means the average Australian family with two kids will be $1,230 worse off every year and $15,000 worse off over the whole of their child's education.

And why aren't these families receiving the money? Because those opposite, under Mr Abbott and Mr Hockey, have decided it is better to give a tax break, a kickback, to big mining companies than to help out everyday Australians. That means that every one of those 1.2 million families will be worse off when it comes to the schoolkids bonus. Australian families deserve to know why Mr Hockey is making life harder for Australian families. Those opposite continue to put the myth out there that the schoolkids bonus is somehow linked to the minerals resource rent tax. Again I stress that the schoolkids bonus replaced the education tax refund. It was nothing to do with the minerals resource rent tax.

My home state is Tasmania. I am glad Senator Bushby is here to listen to my contribution. I am sure he knows that almost 32,000 Tasmanian families are set to suffer if the schoolkids bonus goes. That is 57,700 Tasmanian primary and high-school students who will go without the payment. It is just like those workers that get some benefit from low-income superannuation. Senator Bushby would know that it is not easy and it is costly for these Tasmanian families to put children through school. There are many expenses involved for children to go to school and to be able to participate fully in school activities. All children need to be able to get a full and enjoyable education.

Debate interrupted.


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