Senate debates

Tuesday, 7 February 2023


Treasury Laws Amendment (2022 Measures No. 5) Bill 2022; Second Reading

12:03 pm

Photo of Dean SmithDean Smith (WA, Liberal Party, Shadow Assistant Minister for Competition, Charities and Treasury) Share this | | Hansard source

My remarks are going to be somewhat less climactic! I rise this afternoon to speak on the Treasury Laws Amendment (2022 Measures No. 5) Bill 2022. Of course, the opposition will be supporting this bill. It is largely procedural in nature and it's the well-established custom and tradition of this parliament that applications for deductible gift recipient status that are agreed by the House are also agreed by the Senate.

This bill implements decisions taken by the previous coalition government to grant or extend deductible gift recipient status to a number of organisations, including the Melbourne Business School, the Leaders Institute of South Australia, St Patrick's Cathedral Melbourne Restoration Fund, the Jewish Education Foundation, the Australian Education Research Organisation, Australians for Indigenous Constitutional Recognition and the Sydney Chevra Kadisha. The bill also grants the status to Australians for Indigenous Constitutional Recognition, limited, as I previously noted, as set out in the government's 2022-23 October budget. I also note that the Mt Eliza Graduate School of Business and Government has ceased its operations and activities, therefore its DGR status has been removed in this bill.

The opposition's support for the provisions in this bill should not be confused with support for the way this bill has been progressed. Indeed, the existence of this bill stands as a monument to the new Labor government's inability to manage its legislative agenda so early in its term and despite having, or perhaps never having, a particularly wide or deep or ambitious agenda to drive down cost-of-living pressures or improve productivity across the economy. Put simply, this bill should actually not have existed.

Those who have watched the passage of this bill closely will note that the inclusion of just a single schedule in this bill looks exactly the same as the schedule included in the Treasury Laws Amendment (2022 Measures No. 4) Bill 2022. The Treasury laws No. 4 bill is currently before a Senate economic legislation committee. The bill before the Senate today amplifies a significant legislative failure by the government. This particular schedule had originally been incorporated into the government's Treasury laws bill No. 4, which meant the progress of these DGR matters would have been delayed as a result of the parliament's consideration through the Senate economics committee legislation of the Treasury laws amendment bill No. 4, which are due to report on 3 March. So, instead, in order to progress the DGR status for these worthy organisations, the government was forced to create a new Treasury bill. The new government's new economics team is clearly operating on training wheels. In the last parliamentary sitting week of last year, we got a valuable insight into how the new government seeks to treat the crossbench in the form of Senator McKim's interactions with the Minister for Financial Services, the Hon. Stephen Jones. But I'm sure my colleagues on this side can further illuminate on that experience and those observations.

The most important matter in the first few moments of the new parliament, the first sitting day of this new parliament, is that we are going from concern to crisis in the Australian economy. Just last week we heard that the Reserve Bank of Australia, the independent bank, in response to a question from a senator, said that 800,000 loans would shift from fixed rates to variable rates in this calendar year of 2023. Just think about that. In addition to that, the Parliamentary Library has suggested that in some months of this year the number of fixed loan rates shifting to variable rates could be as large as 55,000.

We heard last week that the Australian Energy Regulator predicts—expects—there to be 75,000 households currently on energy hardship programs. The Australian Energy Council said it expected there to be an extra 10,000 households on energy hardship programs. But, more than that, the inflationary pressure, the cost-of-living pressure, being felt across the Australian economy and being felt across Australian households is also starting to impact the charity and not-for-profit sector. Late in December last year, just before Christmas, the Australian Council of Social Services was forced to release a report which talked about growing pressures on Australian charities as a result of inflationary pressures in the economy and because of the surge in demand that the charity and not-for-profit sector is now starting to experience as people try, and unfortunately fail, to meet those cost-of-living pressures. The Australian Council of Social Services says that there is a surge in demand for services, that wait lists are now getting larger and, in fact, some people in need are not being able to be serviced by community sector providers at all.

If that weren't bad enough, last week at the cost-of-living Senate inquiry we heard from the charities and not-for-profit sector themselves about how their sector is suffering from fatigue and exhaustion. That's a very fair comment, when you think about the fact that the Australian charities and not-for-profit sector has been at the forefront of dealing with natural disasters in our country—not one, but many—and stepped up and supported Australian households and local communities during the pandemic. Without any reprieve they're now being forced to respond, as they always do, to the cost-of-living challenges being experienced by Australian households—from concern to crisis.

At 2.30 pm today the RBA will make its latest rate decision. I hope that that rate decision is going to be no change. Of course, I'm not and no-one in the Senate chamber is privy to what that rate change will be, and we'll have to wait until 2.30 to find out. I'm not a betting person, but those of you who are betting people would probably want to bet on the fact that there will be a rate rise and it will either be 25 basis points or 50 basis points, the ninth consecutive interest rate rise. Let's think about that: it's the ninth consecutive interest rate rise, and that is going to hurt Australian households who are already struggling with inflationary pressures and who are already struggling with energy cost increases.

What is the government's plan? Day 1, a new parliamentary year, what is the government's plan to provide energy relief, to provide relief to Australian households and to put downward pressure on those inflation rates and on interest-rate rises? What is the plan? Silence. Again, what is the plan? Again, silence. This new Labor government is imperilling the prosperity, the hard work, the effort of Australian households, and Australians will start to ask themselves: 'Why does this new Labor government make my family poorer? Why is Anthony Albanese making my family poorer? Why is the Treasurer, Mr Jim Chalmers, making my family poorer? Why is the new Labor government making it harder for the charities and not-for-profit sector in our country to meet this surge in demand for services? Why? Where is the plan?'

The government will say it's got a plan, but you have to wait until May. I can't tell you how many further interest rate increases there will be from today until May. I can't tell you how many of those 800,000 fixed-rate loans transferring to variable-rate loans in 2023 will be transferring in February, in March, in April and in May. That change in mortgage repayments represents real hurt and a real crisis for Australian households, no matter where they live across this country—crickets from the government. Some in the government might say, 'The Treasurer has written a 6,000-word essay.' I don't know whether Senator Pratt has had the time to read it and I don't know whether Senator McAllister has had the time to read it. I don't know what their view is. None of us in this place would argue against the importance of ideas, but we all know how time-poor we are and how important it is to keep ourselves focused on the real challenges of doing our job in the here and now. I suspect that many Australians, when they hear that there is no plan from Mr Chalmers for cost-of-living relief, when there is no plan from the Labor government on how to better to support charities and not-for-profits, I think the conclusion that they might come to is that 6,000-word essay was a luxury, was largesse, was indulgent.

The economy has gone from concern to crisis. Australian households will be starting this year with trepidation, taking their kids to school with trepidation. I'll be very interested to see what happens in May, where the government chooses to put that much-needed relief. I'm someone who says, 'I would like to see that plan sooner rather than later.'

12:15 pm

Photo of Janet RiceJanet Rice (Victoria, Australian Greens) Share this | | Hansard source

I rise to speak on the Treasury Laws Amendment (2022 Measures No. 5) Bill 2022. The Australian Greens will be supporting this bill. It extends deductible gift recipient status to a number of organisations. I want to place on record our position. We think requiring an act of parliament for each organisation to receive DGR status shows that the system is not working as it should be. Many organisations would seek DGR status but they don't have the lobbying power to get themselves placed on this bill or on the ones before it. We need to have a transparent, fair, independent process for enabling DGR status that doesn't leave organisations focusing on a difficult bureaucratic process and doing lots of lobbying to get themselves on this list rather than on the important work that they're doing for the community. That's not to say that we don't support the organisations that are getting DGR status. In fact, we think that a lot more organisations should. We just need to have a better process. The current process is not working, it is arbitrary and it is open to being politicised.

However, I do want to thank the assistant minister and his office for the positive approach that they've taken to the charities portfolio, including the appointment of the new ACNC commissioner. It's an important sector, and we really value the fact that the minister and his office are working to consult with the sector to begin to address some of the really important issues that the sector is facing. We particularly welcome the appointment of Sue Woodward AM following a merit based process to the appointment as commissioner. Her appointment has been widely welcomed by the sector, and we are very glad to see someone of her calibre in this role.

But sadly, when it comes to the Treasury portfolio more broadly, there is a gaping hole that hasn't been addressed. This bill is a Treasury laws amendment bill. If you're thinking about what the priority should be in Treasury laws amendment, it is, of course, the previous government's—the Morrison government—inflationary tax cuts, which will mean that the benefits of those stage 3 tax cuts go to the ultra-wealthy, they go to the billionaires, they go to the people who have already have so much in our society and that is the at the cost of the people that really need to be having money spent on them. I mean, every time the Treasurer gives an update, it seems that the budget impact of the Morrison government's tax cuts has grown. A recent figure was $243 billion, and no doubt the final impact is going to be worse than that. They were the previous government's tax cuts. For the life of me, I do not know why the current government that professes to be a progressive government is just rolling on with these incredibly regressive tax cuts. That is the priority amendment that needs to be made to our Treasury laws—to scrap the stage 3 tax cuts—because that $243 billion, rather than providing a tax cut to the people who do need it, who do value it, will be used for investments to enable people who don't need it to have their next overseas holiday, to perhaps do some lovely renovations on one of their seven houses that they already have. Those tax cuts, that $243 billion, could go to all sorts of things which would benefit ordinary Australians, in particular, to raise the rate of JobSeeker and other income support above the poverty line. That is what would make a real difference to people's lives. That is the No. 1 amendment that we should be making to our Treasury laws. And this really matters, because it is clear that this government is making a choice to amend our laws in one way but not in another way. It is making a political choice. The poverty that people are living in is a political choice, and that's particularly clear when we're debating this tax legislation.

The other element of this tax—yes, we're talking about charities. The impact of people living in poverty has a massive impact on the charity sector. I'm currently chairing a Senate inquiry into poverty in Australia, and we are hearing heartbreaking and absolutely awful stories of what people are going through living in poverty. There are all sorts of people living in poverty in Australia, but the ones who are suffering the most are those who are living on income support, who cannot afford to put a roof over their heads, to put food on the table, to pay for the medicines that they need to address their health issues. They are having to choose to go hungry or to pay for their medication. They end up having to choose between how long they can cope with having their rent in arrears and when they are going to have to decide, no, they can't live in that house. They are having to cope with landlords putting up the rent, with being made homeless because they just can't afford the rent on a house anywhere in our capital cities.

When you're in the position of living in poverty and you're homeless and it's impossible to get your life back on track, it's the charities that are left picking up the pieces. Every charity that has appeared before our inquiry so far—including Anglicare, ACOSS, UnitingCare—every one of them has implored us to increase the rate of income support. So rather than spending $243 billion on tax cuts for the ultra wealthy, spend that money on increasing income support. The decisions of the former Morrison government made it really clear that poverty is a political choice and it matters to people's lives.

Given we are talking about tax legislation today, given we are talking about support for charities, given that we know that it is the charities who are picking up the pieces and given that we know that poverty is a political choice, I do want to take the opportunity to share some of the experiences of people who have spoken with me. One constituent told me about their experience on income support: 'As a young person on JobSeeker, I consistently struggled to find secure accommodation or healthy food, and was never able to save for essential big expenses like shoes or a licence. I wasn't having daily coffees. I wasn't eating at restaurants. Yes, I feel fortunate to have been born in Australia and to be eligible for social security at all. However, it shouldn't be such a degrading, time- and energy-consuming process to get the very bare minimum for survival. Everything from claiming support to keeping it for any period is a stressful and dehumanising ordeal. It's worse for those trying to claim disability.' That person goes on to say: 'We're one of wealthiest countries in the world and our government has chosen to roll back support for students, the homeless, the disabled, the elderly, the inexperienced about to enter or return to the workforce, single parents. All of these groups have substantial obstacles put in their way by our current welfare system and its draconian limitations.'

Poverty is a political choice. We are in a cost-of-living crisis. Rent's skyrocketing; food prices are soaring; it's more expensive than ever to see a doctor. So when we're talking about tax reform, it's very clear where our priorities should lie. We should be increasing income support rather than giving handouts to the ultra wealthy. We should be spending that money on putting dental and mental care into Medicare. We should be building more affordable housing—a million affordable homes to get people off the public housing waiting list. We could make child care free! We could make a real difference in people's lives, rather than contributing to people like Gina Rinehart and Clive Palmer and enabling them to pay for their third private jet.

In 2019, when the Morrison government was ramming these changes through, I remember Labor senators in this place made points about how dangerous these changes were. They acknowledged the importance of the political decisions that were being made in this very chamber. Senator Gallagher said at the time: 'The job of the government is to say where that money is coming from, how those tax cuts will be paid for and whether there's a commitment from the government not to slash essential services to the Australian community in order to pay for them.' Senator Wong said at the time:

These are massive numbers with far-reaching consequences for health and for education, and actually for the sort of society we want for Australia, and we have absolutely no way, and the government has no way, of forecasting in 2019 how it can pay for $95 billion worth of tax cuts in 2024-25. The reality is that the government is actually locking in tax cuts without identifying the spending cuts which are required to fund them. That's the hard reality: it's locking in tax cuts without identifying the spending cuts which it will have to identify in order to pay for them.

I couldn't have said it better, Senator Wong. We agree with those points—except that that $95 billion is now $234 billion. We think that, fundamentally, if we're talking about Treasury law amendments, there is one amendment that needs to be made which would make a huge difference in people's lives.

I'll finish by moving my second reading amendment to this bill, because this should be the priority. I move:

At the end of the motion, add ", but the Senate calls on the Government to abandon the inflationary Morrison Government stage 3 tax cuts for billionaires and the ultrawealthy, and instead raise income support payments above the poverty line".

This is a treasury laws amendment bill. That is the most important amendment that we should be making to our treasury laws. That should be the government's priority. It is a choice of government, because poverty is a political choice.

12:26 pm

Photo of Paul ScarrPaul Scarr (Queensland, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Thank you, Senator Henderson, for that prompt. I hope those in the gallery admire the ability of senators in this place to draw upon all sorts of issues in relation to pieces of legislation. This piece of legislation, in fact, deals with a very, very discrete issue—that is, whether or not the relevant schedule of the act providing for gift deductibility for charities should be enlarged to include six additional organisations: the Australian Education Research Organisation Ltd; the Jewish Education Foundation (Vic) Ltd, and I'll have something more to say in that respect; the Melbourne Business School Ltd; the Australians for Indigenous Constitutional Recognition Ltd; the Leader's Institute of South Australia Inc.; St Patrick's Cathedral Melbourne Restoration Fund. This legislation also seeks to extend the deductible gift status of the Sydney Chevra Kadisha and the Australian Women Donors Network.

That's what this bill, the Treasury Laws Amendment (2022 Measures No. 5) Bill 202, actually deals with. Having said that, I do associate myself entirely, absolutely and completely with the remarks of my good friend Senator Dean Smith. And I do associate myself with one of Senator Rice's remarks—only one, I'm afraid, but one!—that is, one does wonder why it is that this sort of process has to be done through legislation, when so much in this place is done through regulation. And one wonders why this can't be done by way of a disallowable instrument. So, if anyone had particular concerns with respect to deductibility with respect to gifts made to a charity, why couldn't that be raised during a disallowance procedure as opposed to having to consider each and every one of these, no doubt worthy, organisations?

I want to make some comments with respect to what I believe is an important issue arising from the inclusion of the Jewish Education Foundation (Vic) Ltd. When I was reflecting on this and I saw that they had been included, I did some research with respect to that foundation. I congratulate all members of that foundation on the important work they do to make a Jewish education more accessible to members of the Jewish community. I think that should be applauded. From my perspective, it underlines the important place of religious schools in our community and the fact that those schools, that community of faith, need to be respected and supported in every way. I do commend all those associated with the Jewish Education Foundation (Vic) Ltd. I am so impressed by what they're doing in that space to make Jewish education more affordable for members of the Jewish community—in particular, children.

Also, this is my first opportunity to rise in this house to speak following the release by the Executive Council of Australian Jewry of its Report on antisemitism in Australia 2022. We need to deeply, deeply reflect upon the outcomes of this report, including with respect to the education sector. I've referred to the Jewish Education Foundation (Vic) Ltd and its efforts to provide Jewish children with an opportunity to have a Jewish education. In that context, the results of this report—which covers the period 1 October 2021 to 30 September 2022 and which was researched, written and compiled by Julie Nathan, Research Director of the Executive Council of Australian Jewry—makes extraordinarily disturbing reading; it makes very, very disturbing reading. I've quoted from previous annual reports by the council in this place, and I want to take this opportunity to quote from this report. The executive summary states:

During the twelve-month period, from 1 October 2021 to 30 September 2022, there were 478 antisemitic incidents logged by volunteer Community Security Groups (CSGs), official Jewish state roof bodies, and the ECAJ. In the previous 12-month period, ending 30 September 2021, these same bodies logged 447 incidents.

So, in 12 months, there was an increase in the number of what are horrific antisemitic incidents. I will give some examples, which I shouldn't have to give in this day and age. There were 478 incidents this year and 447 last year. The executive summary continues:

Accordingly, there was an increase of 6.9% in the overall number of reported antisemitic incidents compared to the previous year (2021), which had a 35% increase over the number of recorded incidents in 2020.

So, year to year, from 2020 to 2021, there was an increase of 35 per cent, and then in the subsequent year there was an increase of 6.9 per cent. Why is this happening? Why is this happening in our country?

I want to give some examples in the education space. I spoke about the Victorian foundation providing assistance to Jewish children to go to Jewish schools. This is what is happening in our community in this regard. I will quote some of the examples. There are pages and pages and pages of them. The report states:

    …   …   …

      …   …   …

        …   …   …

          And so it goes on. Further:

            expletive 'Jews'—

              …   …   …

                expletive 'you Jews'—

                  …   …   …

                    And so it goes on. Further:

                      Expletive, expletive, expletive. That was in St Kilda, Melbourne on 1 December 2021.

                      I think we need to know about this. I think we need to reflect on it. I don't enjoy reading these examples, but I think our Jewish community and students going to Jewish schools need to know that we in this place are horrified that this is happening in our community. On page 45, there are further examples in the context of what is happening in schools and the manifestation of anti-Semitism against students. I want to read one particular example:

                        And so it goes on.

                        Earlier last month, I attended the building of a new mosque in the wonderful Queensland city of Toowoomba. The previous mosque had been the subject of two arson attempts. The first caused serious damage; the second burnt the mosque to the ground. The people of Toowoomba rallied around their Muslim community, their Muslim brothers and sisters, and have helped in the rebuilding of that mosque, demonstrating the very best of Australian values.

                        Whether it is our Jewish community or our Muslim community, we in this place as well as those in civic society and all Australians need to support our religious communities, including our Jewish community and our Muslim community, when they are subject to hatred and vitriol, which goes against every single thing we stand for in this place. I, for one, will be making a contribution in what I consider to be an appropriate way to show my solidarity with the people of the Jewish education community and to say to them: you have the support of the senators in this place, and these manifestations of vile, anti-Semitic conduct do not represent the Australia that we believe in; they are not reflective of the views of the vast majority of Australians. When these incidents occur, whether they are vile, anti-Semitic incidents directed at our Jewish community or the burning down of a mosque in Toowoomba, in my home state of Queensland, which is being rebuilt with the support of the vast majority of the community, we need to call out this behaviour and say that we stand with communities that are subject to this persecution and these awful, vile acts of racial hatred. With that, I commend the bill to the Senate.

                        12:38 pm

                        Photo of Andrew BraggAndrew Bragg (NSW, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

                        The reason we are having this debate today in the Senate about the Treasury Laws Amendment (2022 Measures No. 5) Bill 2022 is that the government has mismanaged the parliament and has had to spin a schedule from the Treasury Laws Amendment (2022 Measures No. 4) Bill 2022 into this bill in order to pass it through parliament—this week, I imagine. The TLAB 4 bill was quite an ambitious bill with lots of different component. Not many of the components were related to one other, but that is how these bills roll; I understand that. The digital currency taxation component of that bill has been cherry-picked by the government as part of its hotchpotch approach to regulating digital assets. The government doesn't think that regulating the industries of today—not even of tomorrow—is a priority. It's more important to work through the list of grievances from your favourite vested interests at the class-action law firms, the unions, the super funds et cetera. As a result of that, the government for vested interests has put Australia into the slow lane when it comes to key industry and economic policy.

                        This in relation to digital assets is one example. People will recall in the last calendar year there was a major collapse of a cryptocurrency organisation called FTX. Of course, the solution to a lot of these issues is having strong gatekeepers and having a decent licensing framework and a system of consumer protections in place so that, if a consumer decides to invest in a cryptocurrency market, there are capital requirements and key personnel tests—a set of regulations designed to protect consumers if things go wrong. Progressing the agenda would protect consumers but also advance investment into Australia, because, of course, this is a race for regulation. I believe that the countries that put the most regulation in place on digital assets, perversely, will be able to capture the most investment because there is a need for certainty here in relation to digital assets.

                        But what we see from this government, the government for vested interests, is an agenda with a hotchpotch tax approach on digital assets, trying to define bitcoin as a property asset, and a token mapping exercise released by Minister Jones last week. You see nothing on regulating the gatekeepers and nothing to protect consumers. As I've said before in this place, there will be more collapses in this area. There will be more cryptocurrencies and more digital asset businesses that cause consumers harm when they go under, and all of these failures will be on the head of the government, because the government only reacts to its favourite vested interests.

                        There aren't many strong organisations that are recommending these changes; therefore, they fall on deaf ears. It is a bit like the point Senator Rice made about how difficult it can be to get a DGR listing. You shouldn't have to be a rich and famous person to get a DGR claim assessed. You shouldn't have to have an individual listing. The average person—of course, no-one's average, but the typical person—does not have access to ministers, ministerial offices or departments to make their case.

                        As this TLAB No. 5, which was cut out of TLAB No. 4, continues on, TLAB No. 4 sits on the books waiting to be considered again by the parliament. The other thing that's in TLAB No. 4 is the proposed financial reporting changes for super funds. This takes us back to another favourite issue from the last calendar year. One of the first acts of the government was to strip transparency from members of super funds so they couldn't see when their money was being sent off to unions. When you are the government for vested interests over on that side of the Senate and you're only interested in the small rent-seeking issues put forward by small-minded people and you don't take the national interest into account, of course it makes sense that the first issue that you take on will be removing transparency from punters so they can't see if their money has been sent off to finance a campaign at the CFMMEU or some other union.

                        Helpfully—very helpfully, I have to say—we have to thank the Electoral Commission for releasing new information, new data, last week which shows that there are tens of millions of dollars each year being sent from super funds to unions, and the unions have to declare this on the AEC's website because they are captured under the reporting obligations in the electoral laws. We now know that in the case of one fund, a tiny fund called First Super, it paid 2.5 million bucks to the CFMEU out of members' money. They decided it was okay to take $2.5 million of their members' retirement savings and give it to the CFMEU as a gift or something. We know that because of the AEC disclosures, but we don't know whether members are able to access that information. We know that information is being cut out of the disclosures that go to the punters because, of course, Minister Jones made it his first order to cut out that level of transparency.

                        I note that this week—again very helpfully—the Senate will have an opportunity to consider whether it will disallow this regulation that was made by Minister Jones to prevent the people of Australia from seeing whether their super funds are taking their retirement savings and sending them to related parties for political and other purposes. I believe the Senate made a mistake last year in not knocking out that regulation. I hope that we will see a different result this week, so that the regulation made by Minister Jones will be knocked out and we will revert to the regulations made by the coalition government in the last parliament. If that regulation had been in place now then members would have been able to see everything that the AEC told us last week. That would have made a difference because, as this chamber knows well, most people don't have time to wade through AEC disclosures to find these pieces of information. Many members do look at their annual member statements because they are interested in their super balances—after all, it is their money—so stripping out that information was very detrimental, and we look forward to the Senate reconsidering this matter later this week.

                        I agree with Senator Scarr and Senator Rice that it is too hard to get a DGR listing. For the sake of transparency, I believe that it is good that we are listing the Australians for Indigenous Constitutional Recognition, although that should have been made in the last parliament. I made some attempts to get that to happen, but I wasn't successful, so I'm pleased that it is happening now. It's also fair and reasonable that a no case should be listed. Some very good people are associated with AICR, including Rachel Perkins who is continuing a now multigenerational effort by her family to address some of the issues on the position of Indigenous people in this country, which concerns many Australians. Those of us who took the opportunity to watch her recent program on the Australian wars were reminded that just half a generation ago people in our schools were not taught a balanced version of Australian history. When I was taught the history of Australia in Victoria, where I lived back then, it was more about the history of Victoria and there was no emphasis on the dreadful policies of the 'Black Line' in Tasmania and the grotesque policies that should be known to all Australians. I take this opportunity to commend Rachel Perkins on her work, and look forward to the efforts of the AICR, which is due to receive deductible gift recipient status.

                        I restate my point from before that it is only fair that the no case should be put forward. I would say it is premature for most people to flag whether they will be voting for or against this proposal because, at this stage, we don't have a final proposal from the government. I won't take up any more time in the Senate, and I thank you for the opportunity to make a few random comments about things that I think are important but not necessarily connected, just as a TLA bill has random things that are not necessarily connected.

                        12:49 pm

                        Photo of Matthew CanavanMatthew Canavan (Queensland, Liberal National Party) Share this | | Hansard source

                        I don't seek to add too much to the Senate's time. I want to highlight that this Treasury Laws Amendment (2022 Measures No. 5) Bill 2022 provides tax deductible status to a group called Australians for Indigenous Constitutional Recognition. A media release last week said: 'Australians for Indigenous Constitutional Recognition is a key fundraising and organising vehicle in the campaign for a constitutional recognition through a voice to parliament.' So, effectively, this bill provides tax deductible status for the group campaigning for the yes side of the voice debate. I am not against that. I welcome supporting groups that are contributing to our political debate but I do want to highlight a glaring inconsistency here, that there is no equivalent tax deductible status being given to a group to advocate for the no side of this campaign.

                        If you are listening to this you might be getting the very stark feeling that somehow the government, our betters in society, are stacking the dice against the no campaign. There's a lot of people who are desperate to see this yes vote. Our Constitution will be changed along race based lines. This is another example of the playing field being tilted in favour of the yes case in a way that is completely inconsistent with our past democratic practices and is seeking to influence and change our Constitution in a non-democratic way. I realise a lot of people don't know what the voice is yet; most still think it is a reality TV show. If you don't know what it is, just remember that your betters, the politicians, are really, really keen to have it. In my experience, if a politician is really, really keen to get something, it's probably not good for you. It's probably not going to be best for our society and our community, because my experience down here in Canberra is they often don't put your interests first.

                        While this bill does not provide an equal playing field for the yes and no case, I have great faith in the common sense and appropriate cynicism about authority that Australians represent. They will not have the wool pulled over their eyes; they will see this what it is for. It is a blatant attempt to support one side of a political debate and not another. It should not stand in our democracy, and I am hopeful the Australian people will make sure it doesn't later this year.

                        12:52 pm

                        Photo of Jenny McAllisterJenny McAllister (NSW, Australian Labor Party, Assistant Minister for Climate Change and Energy) Share this | | Hansard source

                        cALLISTER (—) (): As Senator Bragg observed about his own contribution, it has been a wide-ranging debate which has canvassed a range of issues, few of which are directly connected to the substance of the bill before us. To that extent, it's not my intention to range quite as widely as all of my Senate colleagues but I did want to make just one comment. Senator Scarr, of course, today took the opportunity to elevate some of the recently published research about an increase in reported incidents of anti-Semitism and racism. He sought to make some comments here about our shared obligation and responsibility to combat these behaviours and to combat the beliefs that enable them and support them. Because words matter. Words, as Senator Scarr's earlier contribution demonstrate for us, can lead to action, to give permission to people who believe it's okay to bully, intimidate, harass and vilify people on the basis of their faith or on the basis of their race. It is completely unacceptable. Racism and anti-Semitism are completely unacceptable. I hope that everyone in this chamber would share that view and understand our mutual responsibility to combat it.

                        To return to the matters before the Senate, the bill before us, the Treasury Laws Amendment (2022 Measures No. 5) Bill 2022, amends the Income Tax Assessment Act to include the Australian Education Research Organisation Limited, the Jewish Education Foundation, Melbourne Business School Limited, Australians for Indigenous Constitutional Recognition, the Leaders Institute of South Australia and St Patrick's Cathedral Melbourne Restoration Fund on the list of deductible gift recipients. It extends the current listing for Sydney Chevra Kadisha and Australian Women Donors Network, and it removes the listing for Mount Eliza Graduate School of Business and Government Limited.

                        People here and people listening understand that deductible gift recipient status allows members of the public to receive income tax deductions for the donations that they make to these organisations. In contemplating this legislation, and I hope providing support for it, the parliament and the Australian government are supporting these organisations in their provision of valuable community services by granting them deductible gift status. I commend the bill to the Senate.

                        Photo of Claire ChandlerClaire Chandler (Tasmania, Liberal Party, Shadow Assistant Minister for Foreign Affairs) Share this | | Hansard source

                        The question is that the second reading amendment moved by Senator Rice be agreed to.

                        A division having been called and the bells being rung—

                        Photo of Jenny McAllisterJenny McAllister (NSW, Australian Labor Party, Assistant Minister for Climate Change and Energy) Share this | | Hansard source

                        My apologies, Acting Deputy President. I misheard the question. I thought that we were voting on the substance of the bill, not on the amendment. I wish to indicate that Labor will be opposing this.

                        Photo of Claire ChandlerClaire Chandler (Tasmania, Liberal Party, Shadow Assistant Minister for Foreign Affairs) Share this | | Hansard source

                        Is a division still required?

                        An honourable senator: Yes.

                        I still have an indication from senators that a division is still required, so we will continue the division, but thank you for indicating that, Senator McAllister.