Sunday, 17 October 2010

Speech in Parliament - Australia’s Future Tax System Review - 18 October 2010

TONY SMITH (Casey) (10.55 am)—It is my pleasure to rise in support of this important motionand to second it. As the shadow Treasurer said during his contribution, in this new parliament, with this new era of openness, there is no issue that cries out for the application of openness more than the Henry review of taxation.

This tax reform journey of the government’s began two-and-a-half years ago almost to the day. It began at the 2020 summit, which recommended, amongst other things, a comprehensive review of Australia’s taxation system.

In the 2008 budget, just a month after the summit, the Treasurer announced the review. In his announcement, he spoke of the spirit of the 2020 summit. What followed from there were 19 months of bravado from the Treasurer, claiming that there had not been tax reform since World War II. As the shadow Treasurer pointed out, throughout the 19 months when the Treasurer claimed that he had embarked on the most comprehensive tax reform in Australia’s history, he simultaneously started putting up taxes across the board. But, during the period after the announcement and the conduct of the review, the Treasurer spoke frequently in public forums and in this House about the need to have a great tax conversation.

The motion put forward by the shadow Treasurer and I today calls for the release of the modelling, the working documents and all of the material that will inform that discussion. That is the purpose behind the motion. The reason the Treasurer, the Assistant Treasurer and, indeed, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasurer are not here for this debate today is that they do not want to stand in this House and argue against openness and the release of information that will inform a proper tax debate. They want to continue to do what they have done—what the Treasurer has done—since he was handed the Henry review papers last December.

I mentioned the 19 months of bravado during which the Treasurer said the Henry review was coming. As the shadow Treasurer said, the review considered countless submissions, it cost $10 million, it reviewed 1,500 submissions and, finally, two days before Christmas last year the Treasurer was handed the report. He promised to release that report, and the government’s initial response, very early in the new year. What followed was more than four months of silence—19 months of bravado followed by four months of silence. Then, when the review was finally released, there was one thumping mining tax. The great discussion the Treasurer wanted to have was shut down immediately.

We are in a new parliament. The government says there is a new paradigm, a new era of openness. All of the material that will inform what the Treasurer himself said should be the most comprehensive debate on and consideration of taxation since World War II should be release so that the public can see it, so can all of those who want to participate in the tax summit can see it and so that all members of parliament can see it. As the shadow Treasurer said, the review cost $10 million and took almost two years of consideration by five experts. The modelling papers and working papers that will inform that debate should be released. In their heart of hearts the government knows this is right. The Treasurer had the opportunity today to come into this parliament today and stand at the dispatch box and say that the government would happily comply with this motion. The fact that they have failed to do that shows that their words of openness are as hollow as their words on every other subject.

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