Wednesday, 2 December 2015
Matters of Public Importance
Goods and Services Tax
I rise to speak on the motion. I am very proud of a government that has a holistic approach to tax reform. I am very proud of a government that actually considers all the evidence before it before it makes decisions. I remember in previous governments there was a media release here and a media release there. The chock backlog of legislation that has not even got through the Senate from that previous government beggars belief. Do not worry, bank the savings and plan the budget on the media release, but they never get the legislation through. That is the reality of how the opposition approaches the economic management of our nation.
When Senator Cameron stands up and says, 'The government cannot be trusted,' I would say the reality is that we have an opposition in denial. They are denying that today growth is going well, exports are up, our economic plan is working and Australians are more confident. Businesses are is more confident, and do you know what happens when businesses are more confident? They employ more people and more people have jobs. When a person has a job, they can provide for their families and they can provide for themselves rather than have the state or the Commonwealth government providing for them. Then, government can do what it should be doing, which is ensuring that those very poor and those that are unable to care for themselves, the severely disadvantaged and the disabled, have a safety net that we can afford. To sit here and listen to those opposite who think that money grows on trees and that this Senate can continue to accept all the spends and reject all the saves is just an opposition in denial.
When I think about what state governments have to fund, I want them to be able to fund excellent state primary and secondary schools. I want them to be able to provide the young people of this country with excellent state education. I want people to have a very positive and safe experience in our state public hospitals. That requires the state governments to have a revenue source with which to do that. To sit here and think that they have the possibility to do that is actually missing the point.
I am straying from my theme of 'denial'. The opposition are in denial about the role of economic growth and its relationship to job creation, and denial about our place as a nation in this very, very competitive world. They are also in denial about the relationship between government debt and deficit and the provision of services. They are in denial about their own record on tax reform, and it is a record that we are really proud not to follow. It is about spending a lot of money and getting some really good thinkers around a table to conduct a tax reform of this nation but ignoring the fact that we are in the Federation. They ignore the fact that the GST is within the tax mix. 'You can look at this, you can look at that, but you cannot look over there,' which is a shocking way to approach taxation reform in this country. We will not be following it, because we are not afraid of great ideas. We are not afraid of bad ideas. We are not afraid of ideas.
I thought it was going to be the year of big ideas. It might be the year of big ideas for Bill Shorten, but it is absolutely not the year of new ideas. They are so bereft of any idea that they have opened up the Keating playbook. They are thinking, 'What are we going to do? We've got "Mr 15 Per Cent" here. What are we going to do? When did we last have a leader that we could actually back?' Nobody has any credibility on the other side with backing either former Prime Minister Rudd or former Prime Minister Gillard, because somebody had their knives out for one of them at any one point. So going back to Keating. How did he actually win that unwinnable election? It was through a scare campaign, an absolute scare campaign, against the ideas of the coalition opposition at the time. What we have is a very frightened opposition. They are very fearful, and they are not putting forward any big ideas or new ideas. They are returning to the politics of old, of fear, mistrust and fragmentation.
We as a government are not going to stand for it. We have a positive vision for our nation, going forward into the 21st century, where science is the heart of our economic policy and will drive the transformations we need to make to be a 21st-century economy. Those young Australians who graduate in about 15 years time will be graduating into jobs that we have no idea will even exist right now. To be returning to the early nineties for your policy ideas just shows how behind the times you are.
As a National Party senator, I get offended when those opposite choose to say that I do not care about the poor, or that I do not care that people are losing their jobs. Absolutely I care, and I can guarantee to you that everybody on this side of the Senate cares about the welfare of the Australian citizenry. It is why we all came to this place. We want them to be the very best that they can be. We want them to hold jobs and to contribute their creative talents, wherever that may be. We want them to win a gold medal at the Olympics, or not. We want them to live in a society where they can be all that they can and should be and be safe. That means we need to have an economy that can provide them with that expectation. I do not back away from wanting to live in a society with a very strong safety net for those who are unable to do so. Do not come in here and say to me that I do not care about poor people. If you cared about poor people and their disposable incomes, you would not have come out with the tax on tobacco.
Senator Polley interjecting—
Seriously—you want me to show you the stats on the proportion of smokers who are poor and addicted? You will take out of their pocket money that they could use to feed their children. I think it is an absolute joke. It shows how out of touch you actually are.
We are very excited to be taking a holistic approach to our tax reform agenda to ensure that our tax policy going forward will be one that allows us to take advantage of all the opportunities that this century will offer and assist us with overcoming the challenges of the 21st century, ensuring that our society has the skills, education and jobs to take us forward.
In the brief time I have left: the GST is about the states, and the Labor premiers have been very clear in their remarks.