Senate debates

Monday, 19 June 2017


Major Bank Levy Bill 2017, Treasury Laws Amendment (Major Bank Levy) Bill 2017; Second Reading

7:50 pm

Photo of Cory BernardiCory Bernardi (SA, Australian Conservatives) Share this | Hansard source

I hear the interjections. I understand there have been calls for inquiries as to why insider trading takes place and all that, and I am not defending that, but the simple fact was it obviously did leak and then it was compounded by the announcement on the day itself. Following the day itself billions and billions of dollars were wiped off the share price of banks, because that share price is a product of their profits. That capital is gone. Who owned it? Sure, there were some internationals. According to your own team, or Mr Leigh, it is some sort of conspiracy and the Bilderberg Group, through the National Bank nominees or someone, owns 90 per cent of Australia's corporates. That proves how naive and foolish they are on the other side. But the fact is that a lot of these bank shares are owned by self-funded retirees, super funds and other individual investors, who have all suffered immeasurably already as a result of this bank tax. It is going to transmute itself into lower dividends until the banks can claw it back from consumers.

We have a government policy which will probably achieve less revenue than it stated and set out to. There is nothing unusual about that. We know Treasury produce a number of figures, and the governments choose the ones they think most suit their agenda. But more importantly, it promotes a very dangerous principle. In this case it is, 'If you are too successful, the government is going to come for you.' If you are unsuccessful—let me give you another example—like wind farms or solar thermal plants or whatever, and your technology does not stack up, the government will throw money into it. They bag and penalise the winners to subsidise the losers. That is inane, it is foolish and it is probably why we have a circumstance where this country is over $500 billion in debt through the governance of the last 10 years. There is no sign of that changing; in fact they have given up. They are saying, 'We'll take more money out of the economy,' and that means the economy itself will be diminished as a result, because money that flows from private industry or individuals into government coffers does not produce the same results as it would if it were left in private hands.

If you have any doubt about that, think about it for a moment. The banks cumulatively make a significant amount of money: the NAB makes $3 billion, Westpac about the same, the Commonwealth makes about $5 billion, Macquarie makes a couple of billion in a good year, and so on. All of those profits, or all their revenues, in actual fact pale in comparison with the revenues of government, yet this government with its $400-odd billion worth of revenue every year taken from taxpayers—an ever-diminishing number of taxpayers, might I add—still cannot eke out a profit every year. In fact, it spends $50 billion, $40 billion or whatever it is in any particular year more than it takes—I will not even say earns—from taxpayers. That demonstrates how poor the public system is. The government system is less accountable, less robust and does not generate jobs. It is a weight, a yoke, around the neck of the Australian people. It is doing too much and it does not do it well. We would be much better served allowing companies, through lower taxation, to invest in this country, to develop new industries, to provide new jobs and allow individuals to keep more of their own money.

I thought these things were taken for granted on the government side of the chamber, but the coalition seems to have jumped the shark, in Happy Days parlance. They have become increasingly desperate for acceptance in the marketplace and they think imitation is not only the sincerest form of flattery but that it will somehow make them more popular, so they have chosen to imitate the Labor-Greens alliance. I find it extraordinary. You will never be able to out-tax the Labor-Greens alliance. You will never be able to outspend the Labor-Greens alliance. You will never be able to out-class-warfare the Labor-Greens alliance. Yet that is precisely what they are trying to do. There is one minister in this place who says that the coalition has become the party of slightly fewer new taxes or the party of slightly lower taxes than the other. There is no meaningful or substantive difference any more—it is Tweedledum and Tweedledee—and business as usual is not serving this country nor this parliament as it should.

I stand here taking a principled position. It is very easy to beat the banks up and say that they should give us more money. It would be popular to people out there, superficially, just as it is popular for governments to target anything that people overwhelmingly think is somehow unfair or manifestly wrong. But we are next. Are we just going to wait for someone to make a successful business and then go after them and say, 'You are making too much money and we are going to take it from you.' We should be celebrating people making money in this country. Yes, they should be paying their fair amount of tax and, yes, they should be doing their fair share of corporate lifting, but you do not chase them for additional taxes simply because you are unable or unwilling to make the decisions that are necessary.

If you really want to target it, why not look at the extraordinarily profitable superannuation administration sector. They say they are not-for-profits but they make a pile of money administering a government mandated savings scheme in which the government at the same time has successfully undermined any faith or integrity. It has enriched union bosses and it provides a job for people like Mr Shorten, before he gets into parliament to supplement their union egos and union salaries. Why not target something like that? It is a reasonable question. I do not particularly support it, because I think the principle is wrong. But once you overturn this rock and look underneath it how many more rocks are you going to look at and turn over?

I say: shame on the government for imposing this tax and shame on those who are going to support it. But at least in a principled or clinically pure manner we know the tax and spenders on the other side have always advocated in this space. There has never been enough money for them. There have never been enough wasteful programs for them to enact. But I am disheartened, and the Australian people should be disheartened, that that infection has crept over to, and taken over, the government benches. I will be voting against this bill.


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