Tuesday, 14 August 2012
Questions without Notice
I thank Senator Cormann for the question. I do not know how I have managed for the last six weeks without questions from Senator Cormann, but I struggled through! In terms of the MRRT, as you know, Mr President, I previously advised Senator Cormann that the forward estimate projections for the MRRT revenue are $13.4 billion. That was a revision down from the previous—
Mr President, I rise on a point of order. It goes to the requirement for the minister to be directly relevant to the question. I asked the minister a very specific question, which was: how much has the government collected in MRRT revenue in the month of July? There is only one answer to that question that can be directly relevant, and that is a dollar figure in relation to the revenue collected in the month of July. If the minister does not know the answer, she should just say so.
As I was going on to say, in the last budget we updated and revised the MRRT revenue to $13.4 billion over the forward estimates. As Senator Cormann well knows from questions in this place and in Senate estimates, the government acknowledges that the revenue take from the MRRT obviously depends on a range of factors such as commodity prices, exchange rates and production volumes. By virtue of being a profit based tax, it is obviously more volatile than other types of revenue.
In terms of the quantum, the senator knows that I release monthly statements of the budget. Those are released every month from the preceding month, and he can consider those statements when they are released and made public, as is usually the case. I make this point about the position that Senator Cormann asserts.
Mr President, I raise a point of order on direct relevance. The minister has just told us that she is not going to provide the figure which is the subject of the question. She is now making comment on what she calls the 'position' Senator Cormann asserts. Senator Cormann asserts no position. He merely makes an inquiry which the minister has told us that she is not able to respond to today. Nothing more can be relevant—directly or indirectly.
Thank you, Mr President. You can't have it both ways. You cannot say, 'The mining tax doesn't collect any revenue but will also simultaneously kill the mining industry.' That is the hypocrisy of the other side.
Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. Why is the government not in a position to provide the information I sought in relation to MRRT revenue collected by the government in the month of July when the Prime Minister made a solemn promise to the then Leader of the Australian Greens, Bob Brown, when refusing to release information about MRRT revenue assumptions and estimates like commodity price, production, volume and other assumptions. She made a promise, less than five months ago, to publish monthly updates on revenue collections from the MRRT. Why are you not in a position to do so today?
Through you, Mr President, I will say this to Senator Cormann about the figures—and I will go back and check this because I do not have a comprehensive brief on the July position: my recollection, and it is only a recollection, is that we were anticipating quarterly instalments on the MRRT. If that is the case, you would not anticipate the first set of instalments to be paid until October. But, as I said, I will check that because I do not have a comprehensive brief on this issue. But I remind you again that we update our budget figures at each budget update and the mid-year review, and that is more than can be said for any costing that you have ever been involved in.
Mr President, I seek leave to table a copy of the Prime Minister's letter to then Senator Brown on 18 March 2012, in which she made the promise that she would publish monthly updates on revenue collections from the MRRT.
Mr President, I ask a further supplementary question. If the government cannot even stick to a promise the Prime Minister made to her alliance partner, the Greens, how can anyone else in Australia trust any of the Prime Minister's promises?
Coming from a man who knows he has to find at least $70 billion of cuts to services that Australians need, and we can see in the Victorian Liberal government and in the Newman government in Queensland precisely the approach that Senator Cormann will want to take—cutting frontline services, cutting jobs, cutting education—just what Liberals always do when they are confronted with a budget black hole, and that is what they have.
We know that, for all of the chest-beating by those on the other side, that economic team has never come up with a costing that added up. Not once. They go to catering companies and accounting firms who are found to have acted unprofessionally. Not once have their costings added up. And the consequence is: they will have to do far worse than what Premier Baillieu and Premier Newman are already inflicting on their populations.