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
It distresses me that on this bill, the Excise Tariff Amendment (Fuel Indexation) Bill 2015, I might be seen voting with the Greens political party, but my opposition to this bill is now 12 months old. I made it quite clear 12 months ago, when these measures were first talked about, that I would be opposing this aspect of the government's repair job.
I, as much as anyone, understand the difficult job our government has had in trying to repair Labor's financial mess. As everyone knows, if something were not done about it, the debt owed by the Australian taxpayer would have increased to something like $700 billion in a very short period of time. Already we are paying something like $1 million a day in interest on money that the previous Labor government borrowed. That is $1 million each and every day that is not going to hospitals, schools and roads. It really shows just how completely incompetent the Labor Party was, and I know our government had that very difficult job in last year's budget to try and arrest that decline. Last year and over the past year, I opposed certain elements of last year's budget, most of which, I am pleased to say, have now been addressed. While some people did not like the approach I took to some of the initiatives in last year's budget, I am, as I say, pleased that nearly all of the concerns that I complained about and argued about have been understood and, in one form or another, adopted by the government. By contrast with last year's budget, I think this year's budget is a credit to Mr Hockey, Senator Cormann and, indeed, the government as a whole. It has set the country on the right path.
But I am opposed to this bill and I said so last year. I indicated publicly last year that I would vote against this measure, but the government in its wisdom last year found a lawful mechanism whereby it could introduce the excise, as I understand it, as a customs regulation that did not need to come before this parliament. But it was said by the government at the time that in using this mechanism under the Customs Act, as I understand it, it did have to come before parliament within 12 months for parliamentary approval. I indicated 12 months ago that, when that did happen, I would be voting against this, and I intend to honour the commitment that I made to myself and, more importantly, to the people that I represent in this country.
I will be opposing it for a different reason to Senator Bernardi, who has long held a view, which he so articulately represented today. I have a different view to him but have reached the same conclusion—that I oppose this excise increase. I will be voting against the bill, certainly, on very, very different grounds to those enunciated by the Labor Party and which I am sure will be even further discussed by the next speaker from the Greens political party. The Greens political party oppose this because they do not have any regard for people who live outside the privileged capital cities, which have a tram system, a suburban train system and a public bus system on every corner. That is all the Greens are concerned about. They want more money for public transport—that is great, but there is not much public transport in Croydon or Normanton or Julia Creek or even Mount Isa. This is why the Greens, on this subject and on so many others, are completely wrong.
In fact, whilst opposing this bill I congratulate the government and thank them from the bottom of my heart that the additional money that will be raised by this facility will, as I understand it, go into a hypothecated fund for road construction over the future and will provide funds for road building around our nation even in excess of the moneys that have been announced by the government today. I give the government every credit for that and I congratulate them on it. In that sense, I completely oppose the reasoning of the Greens political party and support the government in where the money is going. Some might say I am having a bob each way in this debate, but I am a realist. I understand that the Labor Party is voting with the government and that my voice, opposed to this, will be not particularly relevant. So the money will flow and, acknowledging that, I am delighted with the government's commitment, which I think the Labor Party supported, which means a lot more money will go into roads around the country. Indeed, I understand that Senator Cormann has already indicated on behalf of the government that an additional $1.1 billion from this excise money will go into Roads to Recovery.