Flat White

Parliament should stay sitting until its work is done

28 November 2016

4:10 PM

28 November 2016

4:10 PM

Parliament Sits As Warren Truss And Andrew Robb Announce Retirement From PoliticsWhere is Professor Triggs when you want her? How could the Turnbull government be so mean and petty and also, so lacking in elementary common sense over its backpackers’ tax?

If that’s not enough, Senator Xenophon’s rash threat of horse-trading over the bill to re-establish the Australian Building and Construction Commission is surely a breach of the principles of representative democracy. In the meantime, Senator Pauline Hanson, through her sheer professionalism and impeccable propriety, has demonstrated how unwise Malcolm Turnbull was to say her return to parliament would be unwelcome.

But having just ganged up with Labor to impose additional taxes on self-funded retirees and make superannuation unattractive, it’s not surprising the Prime Minister would have been so misguided as to have made such an outrageous statement about a prospective Senator who has performed so well in the new Parliament.

It’s worth reading One Nation Senator Malcolm Roberts’ speech last week on the government’s superannuation tax bill to see why Pauline Hanson’s party is emerging as the true voice of sensible conservatism in this parliament. And as it goes into its last week before rising for two months, there hasn’t been the time to get rid of the completely unacceptable gold passes of retired politicians. Delaying this is consistent with the way the Turnbull government has so meticulously protected the ultra-generous politicians’ superannuation schemes while at the same time undermining the superannuation plans of hard-working Australians.

Here is the case of real discrimination which the Human Rights Commission should be investigating. The Turnbull government plans to impose a special tax on the sole basis that the workers are foreign backpackers. Now taxpayers do not pay any tax on the first $18,201 earned in any year. So why should it be different for foreign backpackers?

Our farmers are desperate to have them for the harvest. If they don’t the fruit will rot on the ground. The reason why we need the foreign backpackers is only because the politicians, to buy votes, have over the years given incentives to young healthy Australians to take the dole rather than do such hard work as picking the harvest.

Under legislation proposed when Joe Hockey was Treasurer, the government will from January 1 take almost one third of the backpackers’ small incomes, notwithstanding the obvious fact that they spend most of this travelling around Australia and thus helping the tourist industry.

Joe Hockey did this on the advice from Treasury that the government would net about half $1 billion of easy money from this tax. But nobody with any common sense would believe this, which says a lot for the politicians and the bureaucrats. The backpackers will obviously go to other countries with sensible politicians where tax rates are fairer.

When the farmers pointed this blindingly obvious fact out, and it became clear that the government would not only get virtually nothing but would also destroy the harvest, they ”compromised”. Instead of taking a third, the Turnbull government decided on taking almost a fifth. Miserably, they decided they’d also confiscate almost all of the young backpackers’ superannuation−an unconscionable 95 percent. That’s what you would have expected from Fidel Castro.

Senator Jackie Lambie wanted the tax reduced to one tenth, as does Labor. Senator Hanson has saved the government’s bacon by negotiating a compromise rate of 15 percent. But the backpackers will still be subject to a discriminatory tax, which is where the Human Rights Commission should be demonstrating that it is concerned about serious cases of discrimination.

Apart from the backpackers discriminatory tax, the Senate is to decide on the bill to re-establish the Australian Building and Construction Commission. This Abbot government bill was a trigger for the ill- timed July double dissolution election. Senator Xenophon is threatening not to support or to delay this until he gets his way with the bill changing to the water flows in the Murray Darling. Pauline Hanson has pointed out that her party will not engage in such horse-trading, but will decide on each bill on its merits. Senator Xenophon should follow her approach to voting.

In the meantime, House MP Terri Butler has apologised to one of the victims of the section 18 C action over that notorious incident in the indigenous computer room at the Queensland University of Technology. So she should; what she said on the ABC’s Q&A was completely unjustified. It is surprising that she was not corrected on the evening, or at least warned. Although the victim has not sued the ABC, the ABC should profusely apologise for broadcasting her unjustified statement.

Rather than bloating their CO2 footprints in national and international travel, the politicians should obviously sit longer to do their job properly.

Postscript — On Thursday afternoon 1 December, just before the parliament rose for the year, the Greens leader Senator Richard Di Natale announced the Coalition and his party had agreed to a backpacker tax at  15 per cent, reducing the  superannuation tax rate to 65 per cent and an extra grant of $100 million over four years into the Landcare program. This was adopted by the Parliament. DF.


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