Parliamentary speeches

Treasury Laws Amendment (2020 Measures No. 1) Bill

March 04, 2020

I'm pleased to make a few brief remarks on the bill, particularly in support of the amendment moved by the shadow Assistant Treasurer, the member for Whitlam. The amendment really goes to the heart of a really important debate. It's important on two levels. It's obviously important in terms of its economic impact, in terms of supporting our superannuation system and supporting the retirement incomes of Australian workers. But as the member for Whitlam made clear in his contribution, it also goes fundamentally to the question of trust—the question of trust which has been eroded in this place. The second reading amendment gives members opposite an opportunity to vote in this place in accordance with the promises they made to the Australian people at the last election.

I am pleased that this bill has been brought on for debate, and I hope it was brought on following the debate that we had in this place over the proposal that this debate be postponed. Of course the debate should not have been postponed. Of course we should have brought it on. We have seen in this chamber this week a very, very thin legislative agenda, even by the standards of this government. This is a government without a plan and fundamentally a government without a program. The parliament is sitting four out of five weeks at the moment, yet the legislative agenda barely would suffice for one sitting week. This is a government with no plan for the Australian economy, which is evidenced by how slowly this has moved.

That is why it was so concerning that it was proposed that this bill, this modest but not insignificant reform, was not to be proceeded with. It was really concerning to members on this side. We heard a very effective contribution from the Manager of Opposition Business, who put very clearly before the House that we should have this debate now. I'm pleased that the minister formerly at the table was persuaded by that contribution.

There are 13 billion reasons why we should have this debate now. All of us in this place know that we have to take our obligations to secure revenue to fund the business of government very seriously. I'm very pleased that the shadow Assistant Treasurer is here, because he has been leading this debate in this place. For seven years this government has been asleep at the wheel. When the former government was in power, the former member for Lindsay, the former Assistant Treasurer, led the way and continues to lead the way internationally on these critical questions, making sure that we take seriously those companies that are not contributing to Australia and that are abusing their social licence to operate without contributing to our Commonwealth.

We know there are significant revenue pressures. We on this side of the House know that there are things that government could and should be doing. These require revenue and they also require us to look very seriously at those who are not paying the tax that they should be paying. If the minister thinks that's not the case, he will have an opportunity to contribute to this debate. Again, there are 13 billion reasons why we should be proceeding with this legislation now—$13 billion that should come into our revenue, that should be put to good use.

Fundamentally this is a moral question, at two levels. In terms of the bill itself, it is moving one step further towards cracking down on tax avoidance. That's a good thing. It's a good moral thing as well as a good economic thing. But also, in terms of the second reading amendment, this gives government members an opportunity to be true to the commitments they made to their electorates at the last election. I urge every government member to support the second reading amendment and progress the legislation.