Senate debates

Monday, 19 June 2017


Treasury Laws Amendment (GST Low Value Goods) Bill 2017; Second Reading

11:07 am

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

He has been gagged by his side, has he? It is a bit rich—pardon the pun—for Senator Smith and all Western Australian senators to come in here and whinge that they been hard done by, when since Federation they have been looked after by wealthier states. If anyone had a reason to have a whinge it would probably be New South Wales, one of the wealthier states.

I have taken my great-grandfather's diary and walked his steps in the Somme and the battlefields of World War I, and I know that Tasmanian regiments fought for our federation alongside Western Australian regiments and other soldiers from different states. This is what federation is about. It is about the wealthier states supporting the poorer states at the right time when it is needed. That is why we are a federation. They would roll in their graves if they knew that Western Australia was being so greedy. The point I was making before, before I got distracted by Senator Smith, was that Western Australia had this mining boom. It hurt my state. That exchange rate—call it Dutch disease, whatever you want—impacted Tasmania quite severely. It really did hurt our agricultural exports. But we were not out there complaining and demanding money from Western Australia, which was reaping the benefits of the mining boom. It should have been better invested, may I say—

Senator Smith interjecting—

Senator Smith, if you want more revenue, here is my suggestion: fix the bloody petroleum resource rent tax, the PRRT. Fix it! That $238 billion of tax credits that we have given, predominantly off the coast of Western Australia, to some of the largest and wealthiest petroleum companies in the world—$238 billion and counting. Every dollar they spend on exploration or operational expenditure they get to uptick at rates of 15 per cent plus the bond rate, or five per cent plus the bond rate for operational expenditure. They can even claim the clean-up costs of oil spills. $238 billion of tax credits that they can write off against future income. Even if you tweak those numbers slightly, you will be able to raise tens of billions of dollars, which I am sure would help Western Australia and the rest of it. All it takes is a little bit of political courage to take on the big end of town. Do not try and take on my state and take money off Tasmania. We are doing very well at the moment, thank you very much. Our economy is doing quite nicely, because we have sailed through the difficult period when Western Australia made it very difficult for us, thanks to the high exchange rate, and we are now emerging from it. It is times like this that we can look and say, 'The system works; the system works very nicely, thank you very much.' And it has worked since our forefathers fought next to each other for our Federation in those overseas conflicts. That is why we are a Federation. The whole principle that was set up is the principle of equity. It is designed to transfer revenues between states—with the Commonwealth taking responsibility for that—to try to remove inequality around our country. That is what it was set up to do. It just happens to be your luck, Senator Smith, that your state—and Western Australia is my state too, in many ways—through the luck of the draw happened to inherit some of the richest mineral wealth in the world, underneath the ground and underneath the soil.


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