Senate debates

Tuesday, 18 September 2018


Liberal Democrats

7:34 pm

Photo of David LeyonhjelmDavid Leyonhjelm (NSW, Liberal Democratic Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Recently Senators Hanson and Hinch argued on morning television about their achievements. It was much ado about nothing. That's not the case with the Liberal Democrats. We have clear principles, so we know what we want, and, occasionally, we get it. Let me run through a few of our achievements.

The Liberal Democrats stopped the government from giving ASIO agents legal protection if they torture people. In 2014, the national security legislation bill gave ASIO agents legal indemnity if they break the law. However, they were not permitted to engage in conduct that caused death or serious injury, involved a sexual offence or caused serious loss of or damage to property. Missing from that was torture. When I first raised this, I was ridiculed by the then Attorney-General, George Brandis, but I kept at it. I gained support in legal circles and eventually won. ASIO agents are now not permitted to torture.

I have also saved journalists from jail time. I wrote to the then Attorney-General, George Brandis, pointing out an inconsistency in the law affecting journalists, which threatened to put them in jail for simply doing their job. Journalists faced two years imprisonment for reporting on Australian Federal Police controlled operations. This penalty applied even if the journalist was reporting on police misconduct or corruption, if reporting did nothing to prejudice a police operation, if the police operation was over years ago, if the journalist's report did nothing to endanger anyone's health or safety and if the information the journalist reported was already public. I pointed out that this treatment of journalists reporting on police operations was inconsistent with the treatment of journalists reporting on ASIO operations. The Attorney-General ultimately agreed with me, and earlier this year the law was changed. So now journalists face no conviction and no jail time if they report on operations, provided they are not reckless about any risk to police operations or anyone's health or safety. This simply would not have happened without the Liberal Democrats.

As well as scoring goals on civil liberties, the Liberal Democrats have scored goals on tax. When a series of Assistant Treasurers sought my vote on various issues, I raised with each of them the need to make personal contributions to superannuation tax deductibility for all taxpayers, including those who are self-employed for part of the year. This would cut tax by a billion dollars over the first three years. The government eventually agreed. This billion-dollar tax cut simply would not have happened without the Liberal Democrats.

I convinced the government to remove childcare subsidies from families earning more than $350,000 a year. This is saving taxpayers $100 million over three years.

The Liberal Democrats have also held back the tide of red tape. For instance, I delayed the commencement of a burdensome law dictating in nauseating detail how contracts with small business must be written. Without the Liberal Democrats, we would have had more of these lawyers' picnics that do nothing but ramp up the costs of doing business.

The Liberal Democrats have also whittled away at government restrictions on everyday Australians. For instance, I broadened the circumstances in which you can withdraw your own superannuation under the government's First Home Super Saver Scheme.

I could go on, but my time is running out. I will outline further concrete achievements of the Liberal Democrats on another occasion. Of course, more needs to be done. Taxes and government spending remain too high, and red tape and nanny-state regulations continue to put a straightjacket on Australians going about their business. With more Liberal Democrats elected to the Senate, we can achieve more.