Wednesday, 12 September 2018
Treasury Laws Amendment (Accelerated Depreciation for Small Business Entities) Bill 2018; In Committee
It is no surprise that neither the Labor Party nor the LNP will be supporting this amendment, because we know that they are fully owned—lock, stock and smoking barrel—by the fossil fuel industry in this country. They both receive massive donations from fossil fuel companies. This amendment would encourage and incentivise small businesses to invest into infrastructure and assets that would result in an energy-efficiency dividend for small businesses, which would bring Australia's emissions profile down as well as improve the bottom line of small businesses. It would also encourage and incentivise small businesses to reduce their use of fossil fuels and to fuel-switch from gas to electricity. So it's no surprise at all that what we're getting from those political parties that accept large corporate donations is, once again, backing in of the fossil fuel sector and voting against an amendment that would ultimately deliver a more energy-efficient country, a more energy-efficient small business sector, and a country and a small business sector that would actually reduce their greenhouse emissions. Senator Seselja's been rewriting history once again in here this morning in regard to what happened in Tasmania. I had to put him over my knee last night when he tried to do that, and I'm going to do the same thing to him again this morning. I didn't hear everything he said, because I've just come from a meeting of the Legal and Constitutional Affairs Legislation Committee, but my friend and colleague Senator Whish-Wilson informs me that Senator Seselja's been at it again. Despite being schooled last night, he's going to have to be schooled again this morning.
Firstly, I want to make it clear that, in fact, the period of government between 2010 and 2014 in Tasmania was government for grown-ups. It was a government that Liberal leader and current Tasmanian Premier, the Hon. Will Hodgman, could have actually participated in, if he'd had a bit of spine, backbone and courage. Of course, on election night in Tasmania in 2010, Mr Hodgman got up and made a victory speech, and a fine victory speech it was, too. There was only one problem with it. Ten seats out of 25 doesn't give you a majority. In fact, he hadn't won; he'd lost. We all remember that speech, and Senator Bushby, I'm sure, remembers that speech as well. He might even have been there. I don't know. I was there when Mr Hodgman gave that speech, and I was having a good old giggle at it because I knew that 10 out of 25 does not equal 50 per cent. I knew that, but Mr Hodgman didn't know that, and he thought he could walk into government with 10 seats in a 25-seat lower house in Tasmania. History proved me right and proved him abjectly wrong and exposed his lack of understanding of basic mathematics.
What did happen, ultimately, is the Greens and Labor got together and engaged in a government for grown-ups. What that government for grown-ups did was massively put the budget back on track. It engaged in taking on the forestry issue in Tasmania, something that successive majority governments had consigned to the too-hard basket for decades. And do you know what? We actually landed that issue—something that had split our community apart and resulted in violence in our community and resulted in arrests, including my arrest back in the 1980s for protesting at Farmhouse Creek. Other people were arrested there and in other places. We were arrested defending our magnificent, globally unique forests, defending the carbon in those forests to ensure that it wasn't emitted and would contribute to the disruption of the climate that we are seeing today, and defending those forests on behalf of the people who actually own them, which is the Australian and Tasmanian people, not the governments of the day. Governments of the day are only ever temporary trustees of any public asset. We did it to stop the transfer of wealth from public to private, because, of course, for many decades in Tasmania, the more trees you chopped down, the more money you lost. That still applies today, with a massively subsidised and, in fact, mendicant forest industry in Tasmania.
In landing the Tasmanian forest agreement, in getting it through parliament—albeit in an imperfect way, because the upper house took the chainsaw to it when they had the opportunity—what that government did was deliver hundreds of millions in investment into Tasmania, thanks to the federal government. That's hundreds of millions of dollars of investment that the Liberal Party is now running around trying to claim credit for. That's hundreds of millions of dollars that set Tasmania up for the future, with investment into tourism, investment into everything from cut flowers to berry production, and investment into transitioning the Tasmanian economy out of an overreliance on the old 'dig it up, chop it down' mentality that the Liberal Party love so much and into an economy that could thrive and prosper in the 21st century. When you look at Tasmania now, you see—and it's generally accepted—that our economy is moving forward in a more beneficial way not only for Tasmania but also compared to the rest of the country. And what's the major reason that is happening? It's that shot in the arm that was given to small businesses, tourism operators and primary producers in Tasmania, thanks to the hundreds of millions of dollars that flowed in through the Tasmanian Forest Agreement that the Liberal Party opposed. Senator Seselja has again displayed his extreme level of ignorance with regard to anything Tasmanian. I would have thought that Senator Bushby might have known a bit better, but clearly not. He should have advised his colleague Senator Seselja about the facts of the matter. I place on the record that I'm proud of the role the Greens played in that government. We delivered stable government. We addressed the primary challenges facing the state at the time.
The CHAIR: Senator McKim, I draw your attention to the amendment. You started off talking about the amendment. You have come close, and I appreciate that it's a wide-ranging debate, but perhaps you could focus more on the amendment before the Senate.
I am, I believe, speaking in the main about small business, and, obviously, this amendment is with regard to providing more incentives for small business to become more sustainable. But just to complete the thought that I was engaged in: that period of government was government for grown-ups. It was a government that the Tasmanian people voted for comprehensively at the 2010 election, it was a government that took on all of the hard issues that had been left in the too-hard basket by majority governments of both political stripes in the past, and it was a government that, as I said, could have involved the Liberal Party, had Mr Hodgman had the backbone and courage to take it on. But instead, he had to sit there for four years on the opposition benches and impotently gnash his teeth every time the Labor-Greens government conducted itself in a way with which he disagreed. All of this was within the context of very difficult economic times for the whole country and particularly for Tasmania, the most export-exposed economy in the country, with a very high exchange rate between the US dollar and the Australian dollar.
It is very disappointing that neither the Labor Party nor the Liberal Party are prepared to support this amendment, but, as I said earlier, it is not surprising at all, because this is an amendment that is beneficial to small business, and we know that the Liberal and Labor parties are the parties of the big corporates, big business and the top end of town. The small business community, I might add, support the Greens' move for this scheme with a higher expenditure limit for renewable assets. That's important to place on the record, and has been placed on the record by Mr Peter Strong from COSBOA. As I said, it's disappointing but not surprising that the major parties in this place—who accept those tens of millions every year in corporate donations—are not prepared to support an amendment that would not only help small business but also help bring Australia's emissions profile down.