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QUESTIONS WITHOUT NOTICE: Taxation, Energy – 22 August 2018

Senator REYNOLDS (Western Australia) (15:54): I’ve got to say that I’ve been deeply saddened and distressed by actions over the last couple of days on my side of politics. And it equally saddens me to hear the childishness, delight and hubris from those opposite on the current leadership issues that my side of politics, my party, is facing. As those opposite well know, leadership challenges are no laughing matter for any of us here, and they are certainly not an issue in this day and age for one side of politics or the other—as Senator Polley well knows. These coups, divisions and dissensions not only do damage internally within our own party but do damage to us all. Every time we have these disputes focusing on ourselves, they serve only to damage all of us in this place and all of us in the other place. We can see that year after year in the public opinion polls and surveys on attitudes to politicians and politics. People in our democracy are getting increasingly cynical and disillusioned with us all. These leadership challenges and internal dissensions, which have affected all parties—certainly the major parties in this place—damage us all. They always arise, I think, from a combination of personal interests, egos, grudges and scores to settle. Rarely are they about the national interest. I firmly believe that divided teams never result in better outcomes for Australia.

Again, while I’ve been very distressed by what’s happened in my own party, I’m equally distressed to hear the comments of those opposite in question time and just now during motions to take note of answers, and that’s particularly so when you have a look at what else has happened in this chamber. We’ve just heard Senator Polley speak out-and-out untruths about government policy. We hear this all the time. Again Senator Polley was talking about the government’s record in health—talking about health cuts. She and all of those opposite know that that is not true, yet time and time again they and their ‘super PACs’, like GetUp! and other organisations out in the community, keep repeating the same lies over and over and over again. They do this for political purposes, for elections, and they’re doing it by scaring the most vulnerable in the community, as we saw with ‘Mediscare’. To rebut what Senator Polley said, the government will in fact invest $130.2 billion in public hospitals, an increase of over $30.2 billion, with record funding for every state and territory over the forward estimates. Anybody opening up the budget papers will see that what those opposite are asserting over and over and over again is not true.

It was also very saddening to see what happened to the Enterprise Tax Plan in this place today, especially as Julia Gillard, Bill Shorten and many other leading Labor politicians have said for many years that we need corporate tax cuts to remain competitive with our competitors overseas and that we need them in order to keep growing jobs and the economy. Those on that side of the chamber know that full well, but, again, they have exploited things they know and believe for very crass political purposes, which is clearly not in the national interest.

Today we saw that hypocrisy in full flight. Today Labor and the Greens and several crossbench senators voted for higher company tax rates for businesses. They voted to keep company tax stuck at internationally uncompetitive rates. Our Australian businesses and millions of Australian workers will now be stuck with the second-highest company tax rate in the developed world by 2020. Shame on you all. Those who you purport to represent, the workers of Australia, will be the only ones who suffer. And on that point, I’ve got to say that I am very proud of this government, particularly of Senator Cormann, who diligently and faithfully sought to implement the enterprise tax policy.

We did secure passage of the first stage of company tax cuts in May last year. That, at least, provides competitive tax rates to companies with turnovers of up to $50 million. But what those opposite don’t understand is that we want those companies to actually reach the $50 million turnover and to keep growing. That is the tragedy of the position of those opposite and also the hypocrisy. (Time expired)

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