Tuesday, 2 September 2014
Minerals Resource Rent Tax Repeal and Other Measures Bill 2014; Reference to Committee
Pursuant to standing order 115(2)(a), I move:
That the Minerals Resource Rent Tax Repeal and Other Measures Bill 2014 be referred to the Economics Legislation Committee for consideration and report by 23 October 2014.
I have a whole range of reasons for this motion. Most importantly, however, it is so we can understand what filthy deal has been done. So far we here in parliament are learning more from tweets than we are from the chamber, the minister involved and the PUP Senators who have once again been mugged and conned by this government.
This is a government that promised no surprises. This is a government which is a shambles. I saw the Treasurer in the chamber just before shaking hands. After his debacle at his party room meeting this morning, when the Prime Minister of Australia, the Minister for Foreign Affairs and the senior Western Australia minister slapped him down for attacking Colin Barnett, we can understand why he is so desperate to get any sort of win over any piece of legislation.
This chamber deserves and is entitled to understand exactly what these measures do. There may have been a few nice cups of tea between Senator Lazarus and Mr Hockey, but that does not suffice as parliamentary debate. He may have been so willing to give you whatever it is that you think you have got, Senator Lazarus, but it is incumbent upon you to come into this chamber and explain to the Australian public, in more than a two- or three-minute speech, what you think the impacts here are. You have to justify and explain to the seven million to eight million Australians receiving superannuation why they are now getting less superannuation because of PUP. PUP needs to explain why that is the case.
Senator Lazarus interjected before. He said that they want the money now. If they want the money now, why are you repealing the low-income superannuation contribution? Why are you repealing the income support bonus? Why are you repealing the schoolkids bonus? You are trying to pretend that you are keeping them for a while, but you say yourself that the Australian public needs the money now. You know who the last person was who said something like that when it came to superannuation? His name was Norm Gallagher. Norm Gallagher opposed superannuation payments in the 1980s because, he said, 'The workers need them now.' So you are up there with Norm Gallagher with your vision and your understanding of superannuation.
Australia's superannuation scheme is considered worldwide to be a gold star superannuation scheme that ensures that Australians do not need to live in poverty and do not need government contributions into the future in order to live. All around the world people look at our superannuation system and give it a big tick. But we have the Norm Gallagher approach from Senator Lazarus, who says, 'No, the people need the money now'—and then he cuts a whole bunch of benefits to ordinary Australians. The hypocrisy of this position genuinely needs to be explained. To support the gag and to do the deal on the amendments is one thing, but to vote against sending this to committee is an entirely different standard.
Senator Xenophon has quoted Senator Minchin, but that does not matter to PUP. You go into your party room and allegedly have disputes. Maybe you even compare notes with Mr Hockey about what it is like to have a fight in your party room on a given day. I do not know what is behind this. But these amendments deserve to be scrutinised. They do not deserve to be shoved through the Senate as if it were a sausage machine. There is no difference if you are supporting these amendments. You should not be afraid to have these amendments put through a Senate committee so that the parliament and the people of Australia can absolutely understand. What are you afraid of in PUP? Why are you afraid of scrutiny? Why do you want to put these amendments through this morning? Why cannot they go, as per this motion I have moved, to a Senate committee?
Apparently the Prime Minister has already booked the blue room and Mr Hockey is desperate for a win this morning to cover his debacle of a performance in the party room. You, PUP, are going to be complicit in covering up what Mr Hockey has been up to this morning. Why cannot this chamber have an examination of these amendments for a few weeks?
I support Senator Conroy's motion to refer the Minerals Resource Rent Tax Repeal and Other Measures Bill to a committee. It is absolutely imperative that there is an opportunity to scrutinise what this deal actually does. I can tell you this: what it does is cast a real blow to every working Australian's superannuation, because it is saying: 'Big miners, get out there and pop your champagne corks. Clive Palmer has just delivered for himself and for you—for Rio Tinto, for BHP, for all of them—a mega windfall gain.' If ever there was a conflict of interest, it is this one.
How is it possible that you can have a coal billionaire voting down a mining tax? His friends in the mining industry get off scot-free, and who pays? They have frozen the superannuation entitlements of ordinary working Australians for seven years so that over there in the corporate boardrooms of the mining industry they can drink their champagne. I bet they sit here and think what a great effort it was all those years ago, when they negotiated the mining tax, that they ran an advertising campaign and got it watered down. Then today Clive Palmer delivers for them. This is the Mr Palmer who is trying to open up a mega coalmine in the Galilee Basin in Queensland—the Waratah coalmine—driving climate change. But do we care? No, apparently the Palmer United Party is very happy to abandon carbon pricing—another windfall gain.
This is exactly what the Australian people were concerned about—the prospect of a mining billionaire coming in here and changing the law to facilitate a benefit to the big miners at the expense of ordinary working Australians. That is an absolute disgrace. As for trying to pitch this as some kind of win, all they are doing is delaying the abolition of the benefits that are here, whether in terms of the schoolkids bonus or anything else. It is just delaying abolition. The Greens are saying that we should be raising money from the big miners in order to put it into health and education and benefits.
I want to go to the area of superannuation again, because it is critical. Why is it fair that those in the public service, those in politics, including those in the Palmer United Party, sit here and get 15 per cent superannuation going into retirement but that working people are still stuck on nine per cent superannuation? We are saying that for seven years you can be frozen at that level; for seven years you can put up with that so that BHP can pop the champagne corks and so that Gina Rinehart can say, 'Now I've got more profits, I can push the abolition of the minimum wage and do you in even further.' That is where this is going.
This country has become a plutocracy. Democracy has gone out the window. This is a plutocracy—a government for the wealthy by the wealthy. We now have a deal in here with a coalmining billionaire abolishing tax on coal profits to benefit the big end of town, for whom the Abbott government governs at the expense of ordinary people. That is an absolute disgrace. Then to have it dumped in here as a deal and expect us to deal with it in this short time is completely wrong. We need the opportunity to scrutinise this. That is why it should be going to the committee, as has been proposed, and as we are now debating.
Whilst there will be big smiles in the Liberal Party rooms and big smiles around the mining tables—big smiles for the Palmer United Party because the leader of the party has just locked in mega profits for himself so that he will never have to pay the mining tax—let's make it very clear that this is a conflict of interest. If anyone in a boardroom were in the same position they would be forced to leave the meeting. We have got to a ridiculous stage in this parliament, in this country, where you can come in here and vote for your own financial self-interest in such a mega way. It is wrong. That is why so many Australians are becoming disillusioned with the parliamentary process, because they look at this parliament and say that it is not these parliamentarians making the decisions; it is big money at the big end of town. (Time expired)
Thank you, Mr Acting Deputy President. I find it interesting that the minister wants to jump up and have a debate when he is truncating debate, and he has had the debate in the office of the Treasurer, the cups of tea—
Mr Acting Deputy President, I raise a point of order. I was clearly in full line of sight, and Senator Cormann was on his feet seconds before the Leader of the Opposition. Review the tape. He was on his feet three seconds before the Leader of the Opposition.
Mr Acting Deputy President, on the point of order, what a ridiculous submission Senator Edwards just made: 'Review the tape.' We could all take five minutes to go back and have a look at the tape. It is a ridiculous point of order. Senator Edwards is embarrassed by the coalition's position on this bill and seeks to take a superfluous point of order. It is completely ridiculous. It is a point of order that should fail. It is a point of order that really highlights the coalition's position with respect to this bill. Their position is that they want to ram legislation through the Senate. When you look back at what they have said in the past about this conduct, you see that Senator Edwards is just supporting this position.
I rise to support the motion moved by Senator Conroy, and I do so because I think the eight million Australians whose superannuation will now be frozen for seven years are probably entitled to know a bit about it before this Senate votes on it—because that is what this bill does. That is what this dirty deal, which was thrown on the table just a few minutes after the Senate came to order, does. This deal asks us to vote on it straightaway. That is what this deal does. Amidst all the colour and movement and all the procedural shenanigans—the Treasurer and Mr Palmer were in here a few moments ago to watch the deal being delivered—there is a fundamental single proposition here. One thing Australians need to know is that this government and the crossbenchers—Senator Day, Senator Leyonhjelm and PUP—have agreed to freeze your superannuation for seven years. That is the one thing Australians need to know. What I would say is: I don't recall that policy before the election. Does anybody remember Mr Abbott giving that commitment?
Opposition senators interjecting—No!
In fact, I remember Mr Abbott giving a commitment that there will be no adverse changes to superannuation. I think the millions of Australians who have been subjected to this deal, without any opportunity to talk to the people who are trading their money away, without any opportunity to talk to these senators and to hold them accountable for the money that they are trading away, would probably think that having their superannuation frozen for seven or eight years is probably an adverse change.
You know what: it is the change that dare not speak its name. It is the change the government actually does not want to expose to scrutiny. This is so recent a dirty deal, so secret a dirty deal, that what they are putting to the chamber now is different to what they rammed through the House of Representatives yesterday. I tell you what: this is not calm and methodical government, is it? It is government by deal-making and government by Mr Palmer. That is what it is: government by deal-making behind closed doors and government by Mr Palmer. He is making you break an election commitment: no adverse changes to superannuation. And you do not even have the spine to actually expose this deal to some scrutiny, to actually talk to Australians, because it is their superannuation savings you have traded away in order to get a political win.
The contempt with which this government clearly hold the Australian people has been on display every day since they were elected and certainly in the budget and subsequently. Day after day after day they break their promises and then they even have the temerity to tell Australians: 'Oh, we're actually not breaking our promises. We're actually not. I know that looks like a cut to health. I know that looks like a cut to education. I know it looks like a cut to the pension. But it's not, really. We're keeping our promises.' This should go to a committee for inquiry, because I think millions of Australian are entitled to know what the rest of this deal is.
Senator Lazarus got up and said: 'We're keeping things. They get the money now. That's what they need.' What the Palmer United Party have done, despite the fact that they went out so hard on the schoolkids bonus, the income support bonus and the low-income superannuation contribution—I hate to break it to you—is that they are still voting for repeal. They are still voting to cut those things, just a few years later. Senator Lazarus, if I have got it wrong, you stand up and tell me, because I have just looked at the explanatory memorandum and it talks about the date of repeal of those things. So it is a couple more years on repeal but you are still voting to repeal it. You have got a deal where you froze the superannuation of millions of Australians and you are voting to cut the things you said that you would defend. Well, I would like to know and I suspect many Australians would like to know: what else was part of this deal? So far it does not sound like a very good deal. It sounds like a deal that a lot of working people who voted for Palmer United, who voted for senators on the crossbench, would probably reckon is a pretty bad deal.
It will not surprise the chamber to hear me say that the government will not support the proposed amendment from the Labor Party. It is just another delaying tactic by the Labor Party in a desperate attempt to keep in place a failed tax which has hurt the economy, which has hurt investment in the mining industry and which has hurt the capacity for Australia to create more jobs so that people across Australia can get ahead. This mining tax repeal bill has now been debated for 33½ hours. This is now three hours more than the previous government spent on the whole debate putting the mining tax in place in the first place, with all of the associated measures attached to it.
I thank the Senate for their support today in helping to facilitate the efficient passage of this legislation, because it will help us build a stronger, more prosperous economy. It will help us create more jobs, because—guess what?—a strong mining industry, despite Labor's and the Greens' attacks on the mining industry, a strong mining industry is good for Australia, is good for the Australian economy and is an important part of generating more jobs so that young people across Australia can have more opportunity to get ahead.
The agreement that the government has reached with crossbench senators, led by the leader of the Palmer United Party, Mr Palmer, does secure the retention of the schoolkids bonus until after the next election. We have been quite transparent about the fact that it secures the retention of the schoolkids bonus on a means tested basis until 31 December 2016. Of course, at that time, after the Australian people have spoken, it will be up to the next parliament and to the next government that is elected at the next election to determine how to proceed from there on in. The Labor Party are free to go to the next election promising that they will keep the schoolkids bonus beyond 31 December 2016, that they will keep the low-income super contribution beyond 30 June 2017 and that they will keep the low-income support bonus beyond 31 December 2016. The Labor Party are free to do this, and the Labor Party are free to say in the lead-up to the next election that, if elected, they will reintroduce the mining tax.
I am sure that Senator Lines in Western Australia will go and campaign for that particular policy. Let me make a few comments in relation to compulsory super increases—something which is clearly not understood by the Labor Party today but which is very clearly understood by Senator Lazarus and the Palmer United Party—and that is that increases in compulsory super do not come out of thin air. They come out of people's own pockets. They come out of people's wages.
Opposition senators interjecting—
You know what, don't take my word for it, because this is what Mr Shorten, the Leader of the Opposition, himself used to say when he was the Minister for Financial Services and Superannuation. All of a sudden they have all gone quiet!
I table a series of quotes from then Minister Shorten, where he very clearly says that superannuation guarantee increases come out of wages. The agreement that we have reached with the Palmer United Party, the Liberal Democrat, the Australian Motoring Enthusiast Party and Family First—in the division just now it was supported by the Democratic Labour Party too—is a good agreement, because it achieves the right balance
As we come to the end of this debate, I can see that the Leader of the Opposition, who has rammed many bills through this parliament with the support of the Greens, is getting increasingly desperate. She cannot accept that the government has worked positively and constructively with crossbench senators to find common ground. We have sought in good faith to work constructively and positively with senators in the national interest to find the right balance between making sure that we get rid of the mining tax while keeping certain benefits in place until after the next election. Then in the judgement of a series of senators—
Mr Acting Deputy President, I rise on a point of order. Senator Cormann is misleading the Australian public who are listening to this debate. This is not maintaining superannuation; it is ripping it away.
I can see that Senator Cameron and others do not like to hear the truth. We have reached an agreement with a majority of senators that will see the repeal of the mining tax, that will see the maintenance of the low-income super contribution to 30 June 2017, that will see the maintenance of the schoolkids bonus on a means-tested basis until 31 December 2016, that will see the maintenance of the low-income support bonus until 31 December 2016, and that will leave workers across Australia with more of their own money pre-retirement, given that we will not be increasing compulsory super again until 1 July 2021. I have tabled various statements made by the now Leader of the Opposition when he was in government where he made it very clear—(Time expired)
I have never heard so much hypocrisy in my life. You have to expect hypocrisy from the coalition. The coalition's hand will be in every worker's pocket and in every worker's superannuation account for years. That is an unacceptable position.
Prior to putting the question, I want to clarify that there has been a typographical error on one of the sheets. The actual amendment sheet is GT108, so the one that has been circulated has GT108. The question is that the amendments on sheet GT108, circulated by the government, be agreed to.