Senate debates

Wednesday, 24 June 2015


Excise Tariff Amendment (Fuel Indexation) Bill 2015, Customs Tariff Amendment (Fuel Indexation) Bill 2015, Fuel Indexation (Road Funding) Special Account Bill 2015, Fuel Indexation (Road Funding) Bill 2015; Second Reading

10:12 am

Photo of Cory BernardiCory Bernardi (SA, Liberal Party) Share this | Hansard source

In following Senator Moore, I am going to express my principled opposition to increasing tax and, in particular, this tax. However, I do need to comment that my principled opposition to this is because I do not believe Australians should be paying more tax. During the contribution by Senator Moore, I noticed that while she said she is opposed to this tax, Labor are going to be supporting it and voting for it. There is no commitment from the Labor Party—not a skerrick of commitment from the Labor Party—to abolish this additional tax, so they cannot credibly come in here and take this pious view—'We don't like it, but we're going to support it because we really don't like new taxes'—and yet continue to advocate for new taxes again and again and again.

Labor have embraced, I must say, what is this Orwellian newspeak, where they talk about budget savings. But do you know what budget savings are under the Labor Party? They are actually new taxes. They are costs for consumers in this country; they are new taxes for taxpayers. They are not savings; they are expenses. Australian people are heartily sick of this double-dealing and distortion of words, by the twisting of things in saying, 'We're saving the budget, we're saving money', when you are actually putting an additional penalty on the Australian consumer.

They have this rhetoric about roads and how they have had this road to Damascus moment, this epiphany, and that there is some sort of trickery. The government, to their credit—they are clever—used a legislative framework, which is entirely permissible, to bring this to a head. The framework did not go to the parliament—it is going to be voted on now—but the government are perfectly entitled to do that; it is within their realm to do it. It was not trickery, it was not anything else; it was a legislative instrument, Senator Moore. The fact that they have called your bluff on this, and the Labor Party's bluff on this, says more about the Labor Party than it does about the government. The government is in the business of pursuing its agenda. I have a principled opposition to increasing taxes, but that is not the point. The Labor Party have no principles. They have absolutely no principles in this respect. The Labor Party are saying that they have had this road to Damascus moment, because all of a sudden this funding is going to go into roads. It is going to go into roads for the next couple of years. Let's not hear the pious lectures about stimulating rural economies or anything like that, because that is not what it is about as far as Labor are concerned. Labor are only interested in getting more and more taxes, otherwise they would commit to abolishing this should they ever get back into government. But they will not, of course.

If we in this country are serious about tax reform, serious about acting in the national interest, we will have a radical rethink about how taxes are applied. Ronald Reagan was right about how governments approach things. They never have enough money. If something is continuing to function, you tax it and tax it and tax it until you cannot tax it any more. It is not sustainable. We already pay far too much tax in this country. We need to have a radical rethink about how government can move into the 21st century from its taxation base. That means simplifying it, ensuring that today's governments—I do not mean in any sense the immediate government—the current crop of political people, do not continue to go ahead mortgaging our children's futures and asking them to repay the debt so that we can enjoy a standard of living today. It is not fair, it is immoral and it is not sustainable. That is the radical rethink that we have to come to terms with.

How can we do it? We have to get past the tired old means of giving people money or allowing them to earn it, taking it from them and then giving it back again. It is not necessary. What is necessary is that there be some sort of constitutional limit on the ability of government to borrow, quite frankly. There need to be spending limits. In six years under the previous government, we saw a net position of $60 billion of surplus funds—hard-won over 10 or 12 years, saved by coalition governments—turn into a $260 billion debt. That is outrageous in six years—$260 billion of debt and a debt trajectory that would have seen nearly two-thirds of a trillion dollars, $667 billion, in debt going forward, if we followed Labor's plans. That is Labor's way of managing the economy. Let me tell you, it is simply unsustainable. It is something that we will rue for decades to come.

I understand that the government needs to redress the imbalance in the budget, and this measure today is a small way of doing it. I understand that the government has do this because it cannot get real savings measures through the parliament. I go back to that. A savings measure in this place is not a new tax—that is an expense for the Australian people. So let's stop this Orwellian newspeak. Let's stop redefining words, saying that a saving for government is a new tax for the individual. Governments do not have any money in their own right. What they have is taxpayers' funds, and it is incumbent upon them to spend those wisely, appropriately and efficiently and to be effective in delivering outcomes. We need to have a serious look at the role of government and the role of Federation in this country and at how we best maintain a tax base that is both fair and equitable and that is going to limit the insatiable appetite of government to do more, to try more, to fail more, to spend more. That is what we need in this country. I commend this government for producing a tax white paper for discussion so that we can have a Federation white paper, because they are important components of how we can get through this.

I say on the record that I am opposed to this—not for the reasons that the Greens will be opposed to it or anyone else will be opposed to it, but because I do not believe we need new taxes in this country. We should be cutting taxes in the interests of every Australian.


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