June 21, 2018









Senator CHISHOLM (Queensland) (15:04): I move:

That the Senate take note of the answers given by the Minister for Finance (Senator Cormann) to questions without notice asked by Senators Keneally and Chisholm today relating to the Treasury Laws Amendment (Personal Income Tax Plan) Bill 2018.

What we saw from those attempted answers by Senator Cormann was basically evidence of the protection racket that he is running for the crossbench. The reason he needs to do that is that they are not willing to come in here and defend themselves and the way they have voted on these tax cuts. They're unfunded. They're unfair. It is really disappointing in the behaviour of the crossbench over the last 24 hours that they have not been willing to defend themselves for the outrageous behaviour that we've seen in this chamber.

We saw Senator Georgiou show up for the last five minutes of question time and Senator Griff show up for the last five minutes. But, when they had the opportunity earlier today to defend themselves for the way they've voted in the last 24 hours, they were silent. We took the opportunity to ask Senator Cormann to confirm what we know about how unfair these tax cuts are and how unfunded they are, and he would not defend the unfairness and the long-term damage that they will do to the Australian economy. But it's worth focusing on the remarkable performance of the crossbench over the last 24 hours, particularly that of Senator Hanson and the Centre Alliance.

But Senator Hinch, the self-styled justice warrior, shouldn't escape his blame for this either. There wasn't much justice for those who were opposed to these tax cuts. He likes to say that he's for defending freedom and defending people's ability to speak their mind. Well, he didn't display that courtesy to us over the last 24 hours. He sat there and voted with the government at every opportunity we had. That was a shameful performance by Senator Hinch and one that we will absolutely hold him to account for.

What we saw from the Centre Alliance and from Senator Hanson was the crossbench shuffle. Over the last couple of weeks, they would say one thing and then they would say, 'Oh, maybe we're not in favour; maybe we are,' but when push came to shove they did exactly what the government wanted. I'd love to set up a poker game with Senator Hinch and Senator Hanson's team and the Centre Alliance next week, because they got absolutely played off a break, and they did everything that this government wanted them to do. It was an absolutely shameful performance.

We highlighted this in the chamber today during question time. We will absolutely back up Penny Wong, the Labor Senate leader; we will back up federal Labor leader Bill Shorten and the shadow Treasurer, Chris Bowen; and we will absolutely fight these every day from now to the election, particularly in the Longman by-election and the other by-elections around the states as well.

What's important is that we go to the substance of it. I think it's really important that we understand in a crystal clear way what Senator Hanson and her team have signed up to. It was really alarming to hear what Senator Hanson said. I really don't think she fully comprehended the consequences of her decision in this chamber over the last 24 hours, when at a press conference she said: 'This is a great day.' Pauline Hanson was ecstatic in regard to her deal with the government. I think that just shows you how out of touch Senator Hanson and her team are about the consequences that this will have.

Let's be clear about what those are and the damage that it will do, particularly to those people that Senator Hanson purports to represent. We know that that's often just rhetoric on her part, but we actually see, with the decision that she's made in regard to this, the damage that it will do. Senator Hanson voted with the government to give herself a $7,000 a year tax cut. Senator Hanson supported the stage 3 income tax cuts, which go exclusively to the top 20 per cent of income earners, while 75 per cent get no benefit at all.

In regard to Longman—and this is topical; we know that there's a by-election imminent there—only 700 taxpayers in Longman will see the full benefit of Senator Hanson's decision to support stage 3, while 10,000 taxpayers in Wentworth will see the full benefit. Do you need a better example? Is there a more crystal clear example of how unfair what they voted for is? It is 700 people in Longman versus 10,000 in Wentworth. This is what they voted for. Senator Hanson and Senator Georgiou provided the two votes that the government needed. This is so unfair to the people of Longman. What a picture that makes about fairness: 700 people in Longman versus 10,000 in Wentworth. Also, to add to that, they voted against Labor's plan that would have almost doubled the tax cut for 63,000 taxpayers in Longman. So we see that, when it comes to Senator Hanson's priorities, they are: dealing with the government and abandoning those people who rely on her support the most.