The Australian Greens Leader, Senator Christine Milne, addresses the Senate as the Abbott Government seeks to suspend standing orders to join forces with coal-mining billionaire Clive Palmer to repeal the Mining Tax.
Senator MILNE (Tasmania-Leader of the Australian Greens): Yesterday, I tried to suspend standing orders to have a debate in this parliament about a decision to commit Australian troops on a military intervention in Iraq. And that was not deemed to be a reason to suspend standing orders. The most important issue that you will ever deal with is whether or not you send young Australians into harm's way. But, today, we come in here and the government, as a result of a deal that they have done with the Palmer United Party, is seeking to suspend standing orders-and, not only that, ram the whole thing through in an hour without even having circulated the amendments.
They had the courtesy to tell the Labor Party that they were going to do it. They did not even have the courtesy to tell us they were even going to bother doing it. Within one hour, they want to come in here, circulate amendments, just bang them on the desk and say, 'It does not matter what you think about it, we have done the deal, we have the numbers, we can ram it through.' And there has been no opportunity for us to see what this is going to do to people around Australia with regard to the schoolchildren's bonus, superannuation contribution for lower income people, and the family tax benefit.
What does it all mean? Most particularly, it gives Clive Palmer what he wanted-that is, it gets rid of the mining tax for the big miners so that maximum profits can go to the big miners. Who are the losers? The losers are the people around Australia who thought that they might get some support with their superannuation-people on low income who wanted the ability to build their superannuation for their retirement.
With regard to superannuation, we are told all the time that people have to contribute to their retirement, yet this legislation will mean an inevitable delay in going from the nine per cent to the 12 per cent. And that is not fair. It is not fair that Gina Rinehart can maximise her profits and that the other big miners can maximise their profits but that these things are going.
The Greens have said all along that the issue here is that we need to raise revenue in this country so that we can provide for and help people with superannuation, so that we can provide the health and education services we need, so that we can invest in our universities and so that we can invest in the future. That is why the Greens have said: 'Fix the mining tax so that we can return $39 billion over the forward estimates. If you get into this and fix the mining tax we can make a great deal of money for the country.' Instead of that, the government is letting the big miners off the hook.
We should not be surprised that somebody who has so invested in the resource based industries and in the mining industry would want to facilitate an end to the mining tax. That is wrong for this country. We should be expecting companies that make mega profits to invest in the best interests of the future, which is in health and education.
Finally, we are seeing here a contempt for the Senate. I cannot remember when we had something brought into the chamber and were told we had one hour, with amendments dropped on the desk with no attempt to explain or understand what they mean. That is why this is a wrong way to go.
If the Palmer United Party and the government were so confident that this is a good deal they would have dealt with it in the appropriate way, we would have had a chance to look at these amendment and we would have had a chance to make the case, yet again, for an increase in the mining tax by fixing the mining tax and ending the loopholes that the big companies sorted out for themselves.
After all, the reason the mining tax is not returning the money that it should to the community, for the resources that the community owns, is because Xstrata, BHP and Rio Tinto ran rings around Wayne Swan and the former Prime Minister Julia Gillard. That is why we do not have the money. The companies got what they wanted: not paying the tax. The former government got what it wanted: a deal on a mining tax. But the community lost. Now is our opportunity to give the community a win, keep the mining tax, fix the mining tax and maintain the efforts we had to support low income earners with their superannuation contributions.