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ABSTAINED – Business — Rearrangement

Simon Birmingham

by leave—I move:

1) the Senate notes that:

a) during Question Time today, Prime Minister Albanese said "what the Senate can do with the support of the Liberals and the Greens is to vote for these tax cuts and vote for them today"; and

b) the Government has not put forward a proposal to ensure the Treasury Laws Amendment (Cost of Living Tax Cuts) Bill 2024 and Treasury Laws Amendment (Cost of Living—Medicare Levy) Bill 2024 are passed today; and

2) on Tuesday, 27 February 2024, the hours of meeting be 12 pm till adjournment and the routine of business from 7.30 pm be consideration of the bills;

3) divisions may take place after 6.30 pm for the purposes of the bills only; and

4) following consideration of the bills being completed, the Senate return to its routine of business.

Katy Gallagher

I am happy at any time of the day to debate tax cuts and Labor's tax plan, which will deliver greater tax cuts to millions of Australians, significantly more than under the previous plan. I would note that the opposition have been shamed into this today because of the way that they've been conducting this debate. I have been seeking a commitment from the opposition to deal with this bill this week since Sunday—it actually may have been before Sunday—and I haven't been given that commitment. I've been given, 'We want to deal with it, we won't delay it and we won't have many speakers.' Shock, horror, we've had lots of speakers. All of the commitments that we've had from the opposition haven't been delivered upon. I've sought to engage with the Manager of Opposition Business, and I again sought commitments from them this morning about how to deal with this bill this week, allowing all of their colleagues and others to speak and then the committee stage to deal with the bill. I still haven't got a response. Then there's this motion today because the Prime Minister has, quite rightly, called them out on seeking to delay this bill.

That's what's been happening. I was told you would have few speakers. You've had about 15. That is not a few speakers.

Simon Birmingham

No, we haven't.

Katy Gallagher

Over yesterday and today, there have been a number of speakers. You have not had a few speakers.

Simon Birmingham

You and the Greens have had more than us.

Bridget McKenzie

They're holding it up.

Katy Gallagher

I accept that a number of Greens have spoken on the bill, and we have had a few speakers. Anyway, the commitment that was given has not been delivered upon, and now you've been shamed into it because you're worried that you're going to be seen to be standing in the way of the tax cuts, because we're running out of time.

Simon Birmingham

For what?

Katy Gallagher

We're running out of time to pass the bills. We wanted it done this week. The commitment we were given was that you weren't going to stand in the way, and now you appear to be standing in the way—

Simon Birmingham

When is this going to make a difference to people getting their cuts?

Katy Gallagher

Madam President, I'm being constantly interrupted. Senator Birmingham had the opportunity to speak for 15 minutes to his motion. He chose not to speak to it. He now seeks to use my time.

Sue Lines

Minister, please resume your seat. The minister has quite rightly drawn my attention to the interruptions. They are disorderly and disrespectful. Minister, please continue.

Katy Gallagher

This motion's been circulated today after the Prime Minister has, quite rightly, called out the tactics of the Liberal Party, who, whilst wanting to support the tax cuts—Labor's tax cuts—want to delay them at the same time. Now this motion's come here to upend the program and the business that it has been agreed to consider this afternoon. We will support the motion, but we are considering amendments to it. I wasn't given the courtesy of having a look at this motion with enough time to consider our position, so we will be wanting to move a couple of amendments. We don't see any reason why we can't go straight to this tax bill. If it's so urgent, why can't we start it now and put the question at seven o'clock this evening? People are working—

Jane Hume

Family-friendly hours.

Katy Gallagher

That's right, Senator Hume—family friendly. Your motion is open-ended. I am actually seeking to move a family-friendly amendment. Under our amendment to Senator Birmingham's motion, we would go straight to this bill now, a priority bill that you have now indicated your support for dealing with, and then we would finish consideration of the bill at seven o'clock this evening, allowing those family-friendly conditions that you've been speaking of.

Simon Birmingham

We're happy to assist.

Katy Gallagher

Well, there is no reason, if we go to these bills now—and I foreshadow that amendment, and I will seek to have that circulated; I'm not sure of the procedure of that, in terms of having it written so people can consider it. The amendment the government will be moving to this motion will be to ensure that we go to these bills straight after the conclusion of this debate; that final questions be put at seven o'clock; that divisions may take place after 6.30 for the purposes of those bills only; and that, presumably, once those divisions are finished, the Senate can adjourn. I think that's a reasonable position, having been given a lack of courtesy in having this motion dumped on us in about two minutes.

I have engaged with your Manager of Opposition Business a couple of times on these bills, to get an indication of how you wanted to handle these bills. I have been unable to get confirmation on that. I followed up this morning—I think it was this morning—on how the opposition would like to deal with these bills, seeking a commitment that we were dealing with it today, drawing to the Senate's attention the fact that we have Closing the Gap statements tomorrow and that on Thursday we have a joint sitting of the parliament. I wanted to make sure we had time to deal with these bills this week.

If the view of the opposition is that we need to deal with these bills today, let's get on with it, let's get cracking with it and let's allow what would be a good three hours and 15 minutes to deal with three second reading amendments and two substantive amendments in committee. That should be more than enough time to deal with these bills today, and we will get the job done. This is the position of the government and we look forward to the support from those opposite, if they are prepared to deal with it. This would be the chamber working together to get it done with the fastest arrangements possible.

I don't seek to delay the chamber but I foreshadowed an amendment; we'll have that circulated as soon as we can. I'm happy to let other speakers put their position. But, if we are going to upend the program to deal with these bills, let's get on and deal with it now. There is no reason to sit late tonight. We can deal with it in plenty of time. We are very happy to deal with the committee stage and deal with it quickly. Before 1.30 we finished the second reading debate—the debate was summed up by the acting minister—and we can move straight to the committee stage. Unless those opposite are seeking to filibuster through the committee stage and delay the passage of these bills, I can't see any reason—they don't even have amendments; the amendments are from the crossbench. We can deal with those very quickly, and have these bills passed and sent back to the House of Representatives as soon as possible.

Jane Hume

The extraordinary irony of this is that the Labor government are so desperate to ram their tax cuts, Labor's tax cuts, through the Senate because they say it's urgent, because they say they're running out of time. Yet the tax cuts don't actually kick in until 1 July. Why are they running out of time? I'll give you one guess, and it starts with the letter 'd'; it's the Dunkley by-election on Saturday. That's the reason why Labor is so keen to ram these changes through.

They have accused the opposition of standing in the way. How ironic! This is legislation based on a mistruth that they told by telling the Australian public, over 100 times after the election and numerous times before, and even 10 times since they changed their mind, that they were going to stick with the stage 3 tax cuts. But that disappeared with the ultimate mistruth told by both the Prime Minister and the Treasurer. They commissioned Treasury to look at stage 3 tax cuts on 10 December last year.

And then, after that time, they told the Australian public that they had no plans to change that, that they were not reconsidering changes. Now it's urgent, even though the cuts don't actually kick in until 1 July. There is no urgency to this.

The opposition's position has been clear: we will not stand in the way of tax cuts for ordinary Australians; we will not stand in the way of tax cuts that will reduce the 19c in the dollar range down to 16c. We won't stand in the way of that, but that doesn't mean we condone the mistruth—that was told more than 100 times by the Prime Minister, more than 100 times by the Treasurer—that got us to where we are today. We are not standing in the way of that tax cut. Quite the opposite. In fact, when the statistics bear out how this legislation has played out in this chamber, you will see that the opposition only had nine speakers on the list. That is less than one-third of us.

We feel pretty passionately about tax cuts on this side of the chamber. Tax cuts are part of our DNA, not part of yours. You don't join the Labor Party to cut taxes. You do join the Labor Party, however, to reverse decisions of the coalition that were genuine reforms. They were real reforms that attacked pernicious bracket creep that robs your future prosperity. That's why stage 1, stage 2 and stage 3 of those tax cuts were put in place by a coalition government. This mob over here had every intention of reversing those tax cuts from day one, and now they're trying to spin it to you that Labor are the party of tax cuts. 'They're here for ordinary Australians.' That is absolute nonsense. Not only is it nonsense, but they're trying to sell it to you with $40 million for an advertising campaign on the same day that they announced $14 million for Foodbank! If they were genuine about cost-of-living relief, why would you give $14 million to Foodbank but $40 million to an advertising agency to sell their mistruth?

Nine speakers from the coalition—nine only—and yet this shameless Prime Minister has had the audacity to say it is the coalition holding up tax breaks—hardly! In fact, there have been eight speakers from the Greens, there have been four from the crossbench and there have been four from the government, desperately trying to convince themselves that tax cuts are all part of being a member of the Labor Party. What nonsense. They squirm in their seats every time they talk about it.

They would love to have given handouts like lollies, but they know it would have been inflationary. They have been sitting there looking at the coalition tax cuts that were genuine reform. They've been doing it for months. They've been doing it since before the election when they looked you in the eye and said, 'We won't change that.' They've been looking at it since the election, and more than 100 times they looked you in the eye and said: 'We have no plans to change that. Our plans haven't changed.' Then they looked you in the eye more than 10 times after they'd commissioned the work to do it and said, 'We're not reconsidering our position.' This is a shameless government that is now delivering Labor tax cuts on the basis of a mistruth. There is no doubt about that. And now they're perpetuating that mistruth by saying that the coalition are trying to hold it up. What nonsense.

Nine coalition speakers, eight from the Greens, four from the crossbench and four from Labor themselves. When they tell you that we're trying to hold up a tax cut, don't believe it for a second. Check the facts because, quite frankly, this Prime Minister's integrity is nowhere to be seen. He has sold it to you—

Sue Lines

Senator Hume, withdraw.

Long debate text truncated.


Date and time: 4:08 PM on 2024-02-27
Senator Pocock's vote: Abstained
Total number of "aye" votes: 20
Total number of "no" votes: 39
Total number of abstentions: 17

Adapted from information made available by