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Debate on the Omnicuts Bill

Speeches in Parliament
Richard Di Natale 2 Sep 2016

I think it is really important to understand what is going on here. What is going on here is that we have a piece of legislation that is going to result in a saving of $6 billion; it is an incredibly complex piece of legislation. For the benefit of the new senators, who have not even had the opportunity to look at this legislation in detail, the legislation involves the abolition of Medicare-funded dental care for young children—something that was negotiated as a result of the 2010 parliament. Medicare-funded dental care to the tune of $1,000 for young children: gone, under this budget savings measure.

It involves the abolition of the clean energy supplement—something that will hit and target the most vulnerable people in the Australian community. That is something that, again, some of the new senators in this chamber may not be aware of—a billion dollars taken out of the Australian Renewable Energy Agency. It involves slashed funding for education. There is a budget measure in here that says: if you are on a disability support pension and you have a mental illness, you will have that support removed as a result of you being prosecuted for having committed a crime because you suffer from a mental illness.

This is a wide-ranging, far-reaching piece of legislation that deserves scrutiny from the crossbench and from the Senate. It is remarkable.

I understand why the coalition would want to see this rushed through the parliament—$6 billion worth of savings; money taken away from renewable energy; money taken away from the most vulnerable people in the Australian community. The Labor Party, who with the Greens helped establish the Australian Renewable Energy Agency, are now prepared to see it gutted. For the Australian Labor Party to take away legislation negotiated with the Greens to provide some support through the clean energy supplement to the most vulnerable people in the Australian community, that will be gone. And, of course, with the abolition of the child dental benefits scheme, there will be no more Medicare-funded dental care for young children.

All this has been done under the cloak of secrecy and done in a week so that we do not have the opportunity for this Senate to interrogate why it is that we as a parliament should be seeking to achieve budget savings on the back of these regressive measures, and measures that take us backwards when it comes to addressing dangerous climate change. This is remarkable.

I call on the Labor Party to ensure that we have the scrutiny that this legislation deserves. This is an ominous sign. While the Labor Party have not said yet whether they will support these measures, the fact that they want them rushed through this Senate and dealt with as a matter of urgency says to me that they were going to join in with the coalition to slash funding for renewable energy and to take money out of the pockets of the most vulnerable people in this community. At a time when we have growing out-of-pocket healthcare costs, they are going to take $1,000 of Medicare-funded dental care from the over 3½ million Australians who are eligible to receive it.

So we urge and we plead with you: reconsider. Give this legislation the scrutiny it deserves. Have some respect for the new crossbenchers so they can properly do their job and interrogate the huge list of savings measures listed in this legislation—$6 billion.

If you want to balance the budget, there are many other areas where we can do that. Let's take away some of the support that is given in the form of cheap fuel to mining companies. Let's make sure that we deal with negative gearing—and we agree with the Labor Party who indeed have supported our position on negative gearing. Let's ensure that we do not have property investors who are effectively getting subsidies while we see both the major parties wanting to take money away from the most vulnerable people in the community, slash publicly funded dental care and slash funding for the Australian Renewable Energy Agency.

Reconsider your position. Let's extend the time line for this inquiry and let's ensure that this Senate does its job. What we do not need is a rubber stamp from the Labor Party to the coalition allowing them to pass through these regressive and unsustainable measures.

Senator LAMBIE

I just want to say a few things here as a crossbencher. I would have hoped that you people over there would have learnt your lesson by now. Things were going to be different this time around, weren't they? Okay, you have got new crossbenchers in this Senate. You have shoved us a great big white folder. How do you think they are feeling right now?

Give them the time to settle in. Give them the time to learn the ropes—and I want more time on this as well. Don't just go shoving this folder down my throat either. This is not the way we were going to move forward. Right now we are on what? Day 3. Show a bit of integrity and show some bloody respect, because we do not have the staff. We do not have the manning that you have. We want more time. Thank you.

The PRESIDENT

I will just let the Senate know exactly where we are. Senator Bushby moved a motion to adopt the Selection of Bills Committee report. Senator Dastyari has moved an amendment to that motion. Senator Fifield has moved an amendment to Senator Dastyari's motion. Senator Dastyari has asked if the motion could be split into two questions. So the question now before the chair is that the amendment moved by Senator Fifield to Senator Dastyari's amendment—the first part; that is, paragraph 1—be agreed to.

I will go through this again. The question before the chair is that paragraph 1 of the amendment moved by Senator Fifield to Senator Dastyari's amendment be agreed to. I am happy to take any points of clarification. I will take Senator Leyonhjelm first.

Senator LEYONHJELM

I understand Senator Fifield's amendment is simply to delete paragraph one—isn't that right?

The PRESIDENT

Yes, but the question is to omit paragraph 1. Senator Dastyari—and it is his right to do so—has requested that I split the question. Senator Fifield's amendment has two elements: paragraph 1, which is to be omitted according to Senator Fifield's amendment; and paragraph 2 is a date change from 13 October to 10 October this year. I will put that question next.

Is everyone clear on the question now before the chair? The question now is that paragraph 1 of Senator Dastyari's amendment be omitted.

Question negatived.

The PRESIDENT

The question now is that paragraph 2 of Senator Dastyari's amendment be amended to reflect the date change from 13 October until 10 October this year.

Question agreed to.

The PRESIDENT

Senator Siewert, you foreshadowed you also wanted to amend Senator Dastyari's amendment. My understanding is your amendment is to add at the end of Senator Dastyari's amendment a paragraph, which has been circulated.

Senator SIEWERT

I move the following amendment to the amendment moved by Senator Dastyari:

At the end of the amendment, add, "and,

(1) in respect of the provisions of the Budget Saving (Omnibus) Bill 2016, the Economics Legislation Committee report by 10 October 2016.

The PRESIDENT

Thank you. Just for complete clarity: Senator Dastyari's amendment has been amended by the result of the previous vote, so we are now adding, to the end of the amended version of Senator Dastyari's amendment, the amendment by Senator Siewert. Is everyone clear?

Senator FIFIELD

I move the following amendment to Senator Siewert's proposed amendment:

Omit 10 October 2016 and substitute 13 September 2016.

The PRESIDENT

The question is that the amendment moved by Senator Fifield to change the date in the amendment moved by Senator Siewert from 10 October 2016 to 13 September 2016 be agreed to.

The PRESIDENT

The question now is that the amended motion of Senator Siewert's motion to now amend Senator Dastyari's motion be agreed to. Do I need to go through it again, or is everyone clear on where we are?

Senator IAN MACDONALD

Mr President, could you please read what the actual motion is that we are voting on?

The PRESIDENT

I will go through it again: the original question was that Senator Bushby's Selection of Bills Committee report be adopted. There was an amendment moved by Senator Dastyari, then there was an amendment to Senator Dastyari's amendment by Senator Fifield, which has been resolved, that amended Senator Dastyari's amendment. Then Senator Siewert moved a further amendment to Senator Dastyari's amendment and we have just voted, previously, on the amendment by Senator Fifield to change a date in Senator Siewert's amendment. That amendment has now been amended.

That amendment now is seeking to amend Senator Dastyari's amendment. So, in effect, Senator Siewert is seeking to add a paragraph to the end of Senator Dastyari's amendment, and that has been amended by a date change. It is very simple. It reads: 'In respect of the provisions of the Budget Saving (Omnibus) Bill 2016, the Economics Legislation Committee report by 13 September 2016.' That is now going to be added, if the resolution is carried, to Senator Dastyari's amendment to the original motion.

Question agreed to.

The PRESIDENT

We now have a completed amendment by Senator Dastyari. The question is that that amendment, as amended, be agreed to.

Question agreed to.

The PRESIDENT

We now have an amendment by Senator Dastyari that will now amend Senator Bushby's original motion. The question is that amendment be agreed to.

Question agreed to.

The PRESIDENT

The question is now that the original motion, as amended, be agreed to.

Question agreed to.

Motion, as amended, agreed to.

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