Thursday, 4 July 2019
Questions without Notice
My question is to the Minister representing the Prime Minister, Senator Cormann. I refer to breaking reports from The Australian that Centre Alliance has received a written guarantee outlining the Morrison government's gas policy. Does the written guarantee provide a guarantee that the price of gas will be reduced to $7 a gigajoule, as promised this morning by Senator Patrick? If so, will the minister be up-front with the Senate and undertake to table a copy of the written guarantee in this place?
I think it's always prudent not to believe everything you read in the newspaper. I would refer you to my consistent statements in recent weeks. I have always made the point that of course we're prepared to engage constructively with those non-government senators who want to engage with us in relation to policy issues of concern to them and their constituents. It's a matter of public record that Senator Canavan and I sat down in Perth with Senator Patrick and we went into some detail in explaining the policy positions that we've adopted in the past to help bring down the price of gas in Australia—
On relevance, Mr President: we've let Senator Cormann go for some time, but he hasn't addressed this statement from Senator Patrick that there is a written guarantee. That's what we want to know about and that's what we want him to table.
I'm listening very carefully to the minister. I cannot instruct him on how to answer a question or the content of it, so long as he's being directly relevant to a question or its terms. I believe that at this stage Senator Cormann is being directly relevant.
It's a matter of public record that we have engaged constructively with Centre Alliance senators in relation to the government's long-standing commitment to bring down the price of electricity and to continue to bring down the price of gas in the domestic market.
I'm not even allowed to answer the question. Today is a day for the Senate to deal with income tax cuts. Of course, the government will continue to work with all senators prepared to engage with us constructively on other policy matters. As the government makes relevant decisions, the relevant announcements will be made.
I will make this supplementary question very simple for Senator Cormann: is there a written guarantee that gas prices will fall, as has been promised by Senator Patrick?
Again, I'll let Senator Patrick talk for himself. The only guarantee the government is providing is that we will deliver income tax relief for millions of Australians and we will continue to work in good faith and constructively to pursue the government's longstanding—
As I've indicated to the Senate, the government is very grateful that Senators Patrick, Lambie, Griff and Bernardi are supporting our plan for lower income taxes for all working Australians, as endorsed by the Australian people at the last election, and we will continue to work in good faith and constructively with non-government senators who want to engage with us around measures to bring down the cost of electricity and to boost supplies of gas into our domestic market.
We can only assume that the answer is no, based on Senator Cormann's previous answers, but Senator Cormann has ruled out doing any special deals in order to legislate the government's tax package. Given it's clear that the minister has in fact done special deals, isn't it clear that his word is worth just as much as his guaranteed support for former Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull?
I can confirm that there are absolutely no special deals. What we have said consistently is that we would work with non-government senators in relation to public policy issues and we are seeking to secure alignment with non-government senators around important public policy priorities. Indeed, the government has a longstanding policy priority to deliver lower electricity prices and lower gas prices. We will continue to work with senators in relation to these matters, but these decisions have to stand on their own merit. They've got to be taken on their own merit and they will continue to be taken on their own merit.