Christine Milne

I move:

At the end of the motion, add:

but the Senate calls on the government to:

(a)   extend the provisions of the levy beyond the 2016-17 financial year, making the levy permanent; and

(b)   guarantee that no tax cuts will be made, or promised, for the top income tax bracket, prior to the 2016 election.

In other words, no tax cut, or promise of one, is permitted before the 2016 election. That would test the mettle of this. If you are serious about a permanent change for those who earn more than $180,000, you would have no concerns at all about supporting this amendment. I call on both the government and the Labor Party to support this amendment. We are not going to let the government off the hook with their temporary levy. We are not going to stand by and watch what is going to happen-that is, everybody else suffers while the rich get ready to organise themselves to not pay it, to minimise their income, and get ready for the tax cut in 2016.

At a recent Senate hearing Senator Cormann said:

We are very conscious of the fact that high-income earners already do a lot of the heavy lifting when it comes to contributing to Commonwealth revenue. But in the context of this budget we decided and judged that it was necessary to ask everyone across the community to make a contribution, including asking high-income earners to make an additional effort on top of the significant effort that they are already making.

But the Grattan Institute made it clear that 'it does not share the pain very effectively as it will only have a short-term impact on high-income earners; and, by contrast, the spending cuts will have a disproportionately large effect on lower income earners and they are permanent'. And Saul Eslake made the point that 'it will encourage at least some higher income households to take more active steps to engage in tax minimisation or avoidance activities, including by making greater use of the myriad provisions in the income tax system which offer preferential or concessional treatment for particular types of income, forms of business organisation or categories of investment vehicles'. Exactly as I have said. If ever there was a con job on the Australian people, this is it. I am surprised that the Labor Party are falling into it. By buying into the idea that you need a temporary budget repair levy, they are buying into the idea that they somehow left the budget in a state where it needed to be repaired. I reject that absolutely.

But what I do accept is that we need to be able to raise the revenue to pay for the services that we want to deliver. That is exactly why the Greens have stood up throughout this whole budget process and said this is the way you could raise the money and, at the same time, address the issue of inequality when it comes to income and wealth. That is why we have said that, if we fix the mining tax and remove fossil fuel subsidies for the mining industry, the government would find itself an extra $48 billion in revenue over the forward estimates-fixing the mining tax and removing fossil fuel subsidies for the mining industry. Compare that to the $3.1 billion that this temporary budget repair levy is expected to raise over the forward estimates. So why wouldn't you end fossil fuel subsidies to the big miners and improve our response to global warming? Ask yourself the question: 'Why are established businesses that are making superprofits getting a corporate welfare handout?' Really, why is this occurring? They have been in business for a long time and they are making a lot of money. It makes no sense whatsoever to do that.

We also know that current spending is sitting in line with historical levels. We are one of the lowest taxing countries in the OECD. Our debt levels are manageable and they are far below the global averages. Economists are unanimous in their assessment of Australia's economy as fundamentally healthy. However, many of them warn against large and unnecessary budget cuts due to the effect that this could have on the wider economy-and we are already seeing it with reduced consumer and business confidence. Go out there and look at the number of sales that are on earlier than expected. People are really concerned. The people who are going to be impacted most are saying, 'We simply can't afford to consider buying some of the things we might have considered previously.' They are taking a real review of their own personal situations. The Greens are certainly not going to support a measure that will be doing nothing to redistribute wealth or prevent tax evasion due to its temporary nature.

The cuts to the most vulnerable in our society will have long-lasting, permanent impacts, and that is why the Greens will fight against all of the measures that penalise those most in need. We will block the attacks on universal health care and vote against the $7 GP co-payment. We will block the cruel changes to the living and studying allowances for young people and students. We will block the unfair and regressive user-pays model proposed for our universities. We will do everything we can to stop the destruction of our clean energy package, which has delivered help to so many to reduce their energy bills and ecological footprint. And, of course, we will block everything that attacks those who are seeking a job-that is all they are trying to do-many of whom have already done training but live in areas where there are no jobs available.

I think it is cruel indeed for the government to talk to people in north-west Tasmania, for example, where there is a very high level of unemployment and the number of unskilled jobs has fallen, and say, 'You can just do temporary fruit picking somewhere, or you can move to the mainland.' How? On what? How do you move to the mainland? First of all you have to get there, and, when you get there, where are you going to live on no money at all? How are you going to be able to present yourself to secure a job? It shows that the government is completely out of touch with the day-to-day reality for people living in north-west Tasmania, north Adelaide or right around Australia.

People are looking at one another and saying, 'How will we cope?' If you have not got a family who can support you, you are in serious trouble. We are going to be looking at poverty and homelessness on a level that we have not yet seen. It is already bad enough, but it is going to get worse because of this budget. We are not going to buy into tricks that try to pretend that somehow there is an equitable burden shared. As John Hewson recently said:

The budget proposed in simple terms a cut of some 12% to 15% in the disposable income of the lower-income groups, single-income families, families with children, but only less than 1% cut in disposable incomes for those on higher incomes.

What a disgrace.

The Greens want to make sure that the big miners, the bankers and the polluters pay their fair share first. We can raise $79.2 billion in revenue and avoid all of these cruel budget measures and this ideological attack-because that is what it is. It is not about a budget measure; it is an ideological attack by a group of people who have the view that the current safety net needs to go. It is as simple as that. It is an attack on our social contract. That is the fundamental position that you are coming from, and we see you coming from that area very clearly. It is about having a dog-eat-dog world and a divided society. If anyone had any doubts about that, we heard the Treasurer say, 'People are having to pay tax and work for a month in order to keep these people on welfare.' That was a divide-and-rule tactic, saying, 'Why should you have to look after them?'

I want to say that all of us could find ourselves sick, all of us could find ourselves disabled and any of us could find ourselves unemployed. The same applies to our entire families, to the people we know and to communities, and Australia has a sense that we do care about one another. We do understand that at some point any of us could find ourselves in that position, and, as a community, we want to think that we would look after each other. That is where we are coming from, and that is the exact opposite of where the government is coming from. That is why we have said: apply a public insurance levy on the four big banks that are too big to fail, which is $11 billion; impose the $2 levy on thermal coal exports, $929 million; go back to the proper mining tax, $35.58 billion; and so on.

I want to finish with a quote from American Senator Elizabeth Warren. She said:

People have hearts, they have kids, they get jobs, they get sick, they cry, they dance. They live, they love, and they die. And that matters. That matters because we don't run this country for corporations, we run it for people.

The Greens say that we do run this country for people, and 'for people' means getting rid of inequality and stopping this legislation. (Time expired)

Votes Not passed by a large majority

Nobody rebelled against their party.

Party Votes
Australian Greens (100% turnout) 9 Yes 0 No
Richard Di Natale Victoria Yes
Sarah Hanson-Young SA Yes
Scott Ludlam WA Yes
Christine Milne Tasmania Yes
Lee Rhiannon NSW Yes
Rachel Siewert WA Yes
Larissa Waters Queensland Yes
Peter Whish-Wilson Tasmania Yes
Penny Wright SA Yes
Australian Labor Party (87% turnout) 0 Yes 26 No
Catryna Bilyk Tasmania No
Mark Bishop WA No
Carol Brown Tasmania No
Kim Carr Victoria No
Jacinta Collins Victoria No
Stephen Conroy Victoria No
Sam Dastyari NSW No
Don Farrell SA No
John Faulkner NSW No
Mark Furner Queensland No
Alex Gallacher SA No
Sue Lines WA No
Joe Ludwig Queensland No
Kate Lundy ACT No
Anne McEwen SA No
Jan McLucas Queensland No
Claire Moore Queensland No
Nova Peris NT No
Louise Pratt WA No
Lisa Singh Tasmania No
Ursula Stephens NSW No
Glenn Sterle WA No
Lin Thorp Tasmania No
Mehmet Tillem Victoria No
Anne Urquhart Tasmania No
Penny Wong SA No
Doug Cameron NSW Absent
Gavin Marshall Victoria Absent
Deborah O'Neill NSW Absent
Helen Polley Tasmania Absent
Nigel Scullion NT Country Liberal Party No
John Madigan Victoria Democratic Labor Party No
Stephen Parry Tasmania Deputy President Absent
Nick Xenophon SA Independent Yes
Liberal Party (93% turnout) 0 Yes 25 No
Eric Abetz Tasmania No
Christopher Back WA No
Simon Birmingham SA No
Sue Boyce Queensland No
George Brandis Queensland No
David Bushby Tasmania No
Michaelia Cash WA No
Richard Colbeck Tasmania No
Mathias Cormann WA No
Sean Edwards SA No
Alan Eggleston WA No
David Fawcett SA No
Concetta Fierravanti-Wells NSW No
Mitch Fifield Victoria No
Bill Heffernan NSW No
David Johnston WA No
Helen Kroger Victoria No
Ian Macdonald Queensland No
Brett Mason Queensland No
Marise Payne NSW No
Michael Ronaldson Victoria No
Anne Ruston SA No
Zed Seselja ACT No
Arthur Sinodinos NSW No
Dean Smith WA No
Cory Bernardi SA Absent
Scott Ryan Victoria Absent
National Party (80% turnout) 0 Yes 4 No
Bridget McKenzie Victoria No
Fiona Nash NSW No
Barry O'Sullivan Queensland No
John Williams NSW No
Ron Boswell Queensland Absent
Nick Xenophon SA Nick Xenophon Team Absent
John Hogg Queensland President No
Totals (89% turnout) 10 Yes – 58 No