Thursday, 24 November 2016
Passenger Movement Charge Amendment Bill 2016; Third Reading
That this bill be now read a third time.
The government is grateful to the Senate for having dealt with this bill by way of recommittal to ensure that the true will of the Senate is reflected. I can confirm for the Senate that the government had previously agreed to a request by One Nation senators to ensure that the passenger movement charge, after being increased to $60, would not be increased for a further five years thereafter. It is the intention of the government to amend the bill to that effect in the House of Representatives. The advice that we have is that we are not able to move such an amendment in the Senate. I place on the record, in Hansard, the government's commitment, consistent with the agreement we have reached with One Nation senators, that we will move an amendment to the Passenger Movement Charge Amendment Bill 2016 to insert, after $60 in schedule 1, part 1, the following words: 'and does not increase for five years thereafter'.
Well there we have it, ladies and gentlemen—that is the deal, the deal that was just handed to Senator Culleton and Senator Hanson as they were walking into the chamber to make sure they did the right thing on the recommittal. What I would say to One Nation is: understand this—you have been conned, because you cannot bind a future parliament. If another government, or this government, comes in at another time and says they need to change the passenger movement charge, they just make that amendment and take the five-year so-called freeze out. It is just a bunch of words that have no effect on the capacity of a future parliament to change the passenger movement charge.
I would say to One Nation, let us remember that this government went to the last election with a commitment not to increase the passenger movement charge. That is how much this commitment is worth—we had an election promise to the Australian people that you would not change the rate but that has been brushed away, so how easy do you reckon it would be, if this government were still in after the next election, for them to walk away from that commitment? They walked away from an election commitment to the Australian people; they have done a deal with you because they have egg on their face and they want to get the bill voted on, wanted to get a deal. They have given you a deal at the last minute but it is worthless, because any future parliament can simply make a change.
Do you mean like the one you made before the last election that you would not change the passenger movement charge? What a joke! You have egg all over your face, both in the content of your policy and in the procedural chaos that we have seen today. This is a stunt. Labor will oppose this amendment, but I would say this: we can have a long debate about the lack of sensible process around the legislation, and we have amendments being floated around between senators and the government that most of the Senate have not seen—
Government senators interjecting—
Democracy? You were not even able to move it last time. They could not even work it out, in time, to have a vote in the Senate. We have seen Senator Cash sprinting to Senator Culleton's office, desperate to get his vote, to make sure he turned up for this vote. We have seen the unseemly huddle over there of two cabinet ministers trying to get a deal on the floor of the Senate because they were worried about a loss after the loss last night.
Leaving aside all that chaos, this is no way to run a government. This is chaos, this is dysfunction, this is division, and the things the Australian people want us to focus on—jobs, living standards, education, health; the things that matter to Australians out there—are being ignored by this government as they focus on desperately trying to cover up the chaos and the dysfunction that has now come to characterise the Turnbull government.
I need to respond to this because this is political grandstanding at its best. Let me make it quite clear that I delivered a speech yesterday to the tourism and transport committee and I made my position quite clear that I would support this change to $60—that was the change, and I made that commitment yesterday. After I attended that meeting, I then went back to my office. Someone from the tourism committee came up to my office and asked me if I would have an amendment moved to this bill so it would not be increased anymore for the next five years. They said it would assure their industry and there would not be any problems. I cannot see any problem with that whatsoever. That gives them assurances in the tourism industry. Senator Wong says, 'Ministers are huddling around One Nation.' Well, it is all right for Brendan O'Connor to come to my office. Albanese turned up at my office today handing in his card. It is all right to criticise everyone else. I will also say in this chamber that I have come here with three new senators. All of us have new staff and we are trying to learn the ropes. I have sat here beside other crossbenchers and other members, and they say, 'We understand.' It took us at least six months plus to understand the workings of this chamber. I have appreciated—and I can speak for my senators—all the help that we have received from, mainly, the coalition—
Opposition senators interjecting—
I know you want to have a say—and also some of the crossbenchers. If anyone knows or understands me, I will not be bought. I will vote on what I believe is right for the country and its people—just as I backed Jacqui Lambie's 10½ per cent backpacker tax. So do not ever criticise me by saying that I do deals. My deal is only done for the people of this nation, and I wish a lot of you people would not do your deals, because there are a lot of deals that go on in this place. That is why the public have lost confidence in this House and members of parliament, because you cannot be true to yourselves and the people that you represent.
It is wonderful to hear about the new coalition that is emerging right now. We have a new coalition: it is the grand coalition of the Liberal Party, then National Party and One Nation. That is great news. I just want to put it on the record. I understand that there are a number of politicians who were in and out of Senator Hanson's door. I just want to put it on the record that the Greens were not one of them.
What we have here is a piece of legislation with an amendment that is absolutely meaningless. You might as well have an amendment that said, 'We want world peace.' Any government at any time could have said—at some point in the future, make no mistake, we will have either this government or a future government come in and put an amendment to the meaningless deal that was negotiated with the One Nation party to say we are going to increase the passenger movement charge. You have been dudded. You have been absolutely dudded You have been played, but it is good to see. You are now right out of the mould of the National Party. You are in this coalition and you have become another doormat.
Perhaps I could cap this off in the last couple of minutes. It seems funny, but it is a very serious matter. This has been blatantly about raising revenue for the government—whacking tourists, whacking backpackers because of Mr Scott Morrison's obsession. This is about $500 million. Let me say to you today, Senator Hanson, that you have learnt a very important lesson. You are one of two things in this place: you are either a predator or you are prey. Today you are prey. You are a cheap date. You have sold out backpackers, you have sold out the tourism industry today.
This was all about Mr Scott Morrison's obsession with penny-pinching—going after industries without tackling real reform in this country. We can raise revenue to fix the budget; we can raise revenue to make Australia a good place for people, especially with the safety net that we require. This is not the way to raise money. This is not good for the tourism industry. I was also at that forum yesterday, Senator Hanson. No National Party staffer or Senator Cormann staffer or anyone else approached me about doing a deal. This is not a good precedent to be setting, to be selling out the tourism industry because of the obsession of a Treasurer with penny pinching.