Senate debates

Thursday, 15 September 2016


Budget Savings (Omnibus) Bill 2016; Second Reading

1:13 pm

Photo of Peter Whish-WilsonPeter Whish-Wilson (Tasmania, Australian Greens) Share this | Hansard source

I will take that interjection, Senator McAllister. Why is it that the Labor Party think cutting nearly $2 billion from the Australian Renewable Energy Agency, a funding that they agreed to when they were in government in negotiation with the Greens, is a good thing for climate action? Eight hundred million dollars is not the same as $2 billion. And guess what? We called climate experts to our negotiations. We called climate experts to come before the crossbenchers and the senators who actually wanted to hear evidence on this bill and we heard very clearly that researchers, those who we rely on to drive innovation and entrepreneurial activity in this country, are going to lose their grants thanks to the Labor Party.

My colleague Adam Bandt, the member for Melbourne in the other place, spent an hour last night talking to the Treasurer and the Assistant Treasurer, trying to work out where they are going to take the money from to cover the $800 million that has been taken out of ARENA. He did not get any answer so we will certainly be asking those questions of Senator Cormann tonight. Why has the Labor Party not got an answer for this? I certainly hope it does. What else are you going to cut or have you agreed to in a dirty deal behind closed doors with the government? May I say: dirty deals done dirt-cheap for the Renewable Energy Agency and for climate action in this country.

We have the proposition from the Greens that we tackle inequality, that we put up other measures to raise revenue. On that note, on behalf of the Australian Greens I move a second reading amendment:

Leave out all words after "That", insert:

"this bill be withdrawn and redrafted to provide for budget savings to be made in the areas of fuel tax credits, mandatory data retention, compulsory income management, and abolishing the Wind Farm Commissioner and reinvesting private health insurance rebates into the public health system; rather than those proposed which have a disproportionate impact on lower to middle income households, students, researchers, innovative companies and building clean energy infrastructure."

Fuel tax credits give subsidies to polluters. My colleague Senator Ludlam would be happy to talk about mandatory data retention today. We have always opposed compulsory income management. And let's not forget the wind farm commissioner that we got up in the last parliament in another dirty deal done to have the crossbenchers support. My colleague Senator Hanson-Young is going to be talking about the nearly $500 million to $600 million that the Labor Party have agreed to support the Liberal-National government on cutting from higher education. It is interesting how we have not heard anything from these two parties about the cuts to higher education in this country. Research grants are now being taken away from the nearly 100 scientists who are working on research projects through the Australian Renewable Energy Agency's innovative companies and taken away from building clean energy infrastructure, which we absolutely need in this country.

We can bring economic reform into this country by tackling negative gearing, by tackling capital gains concessions, by abolishing the diesel fuel rebate—there is nearly $40 billion in cuts. We can have a real crack at progressive super reform. It is fascinating that, again, today, this government has released the details of its super package. Is it a coincidence that, on the day that we have the omnibus bill in the Senate, we have the income tax amendment bill going through the lower house and we have the government releasing its super details. Have Labor done a deal with the government on all three pieces of legislation? It is going to be very fascinating to see.

We give nearly $30 billion a year in concessions in superannuation in this country, and this government is proposing a package to save $3 billion out of $30 billion—that is 10 per cent. We know that a number of wealthy Australians have been using their superannuation system to not pay tax—to use it as a wealth management tool and avoid paying tax. We need superannuation; it is very important. And we need some incentives for people with compulsory saving. I absolutely grant that. But we know that the wealthiest in this country have, for too long, been rorting the system to avoid paying tax. So the Greens want to see a progressive superannuation system in this country.

But why are we fiddling around the edges? It is a missed opportunity not to have real crack at this right now. As it is today, this is a missed opportunity. We are going down the road of targeting fiscal repair by savaging clean energy action in this country, ripping money out of higher education, ripping money out of welfare and social services—as Senator Siewert is going to go through; and she is certainly going to be putting the proposition to the Labor Party that they have not put the interests of low-income Australians first. We could do all three. We could actually reduce debt, raise revenue and stimulate sustainable economic growth in this country, we could bring in reform that tackles inequality and, at the same time, we could take action on the climate.

Lastly, while we walked out of here yesterday during Senator Hanson's speech, the one thing I did agree with her on was that she said this parliament should be doing more on infrastructure spending. I am very pleased to hear that even Senator Hanson is talking about the need for this government to get off its hands and invest a decent amount of money in infrastructure spending.


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