Nov 29, 2016

Passenger Movement Charge Amendment Bill (No. 2) 2016 – Second Reading

Mr ALBANESE (Grayndler) (16:59): I seek leave to move the following motion:

That so much of the standing orders be suspended as would prevent the Member for Grayndler from moving immediately—That:

(1) government business order of the day No. 2, Passenger Movement Charge Amendment Bill (No. 2) 2016 be discharged; and

(2) the reintroduction of a bill relating to the Passenger Movement Charge not be permitted unless it does not contravene well established Parliamentary practice by purporting to bind future Parliaments.

Leave not granted.

Mr ALBANESE: I move:

That so much of the standing orders be suspended as would prevent the Member for Grayndler from moving immediately—That:

(1) government business order of the day No. 2, Passenger Movement Charge Amendment Bill (No. 2) 2016 be discharged; and

(2) the reintroduction of a bill relating to the Passenger Movement Charge not be permitted unless it does not contravene well established Parliamentary practice by purporting to bind future Parliaments.

Mr Speaker, the motion that I am seeking to suspend standing orders in order to move here today is consistent with your statement to the House earlier this morning, where you pointed out the fact that it is within the parameters of this parliament to make laws at any time. Indeed, the passenger movement charge increase of $5 that is provided for by the bill that is before the House does just that. Given the fact that the government itself promised, prior to the 2 July election, that there would be no increase in the passenger movement charge, it is, frankly, absurd that this parliament would consider legislation that purports to bind not just this parliament but the next parliament as well, for the next five years, to not have an increase in the passenger movement charge.

The fact is this: an increase in the passenger movement charge bears no relation to the issue of the appropriate level of taxation for backpackers who work in Australia. That is why, earlier today, we moved to separate the bills. It is also the case that the increase in the passenger movement charge was not part of the original package that was part of the May 2015 budget. Over 16 months later, in September 2016, the government announced further changes to the package and randomly added this $5 increase to the passenger movement charge to fund other, unrelated policy decisions. The increase in the passenger movement charge was done without any consultation with the sectors affected, including airlines, cruise ship companies, tourism operators and peak tourism organisations.

This legislation that is before the parliament today not only seeks to break the promise that was made just months ago, prior to the July election; it also seeks to bind governments, not just up until the next election but during the next term. The sole reason for that happening is that last Thursday—the government having lost the vote on the passenger movement charge increase in the Senate last Wednesday night—when the One Nation senators walked onto the floor of the Senate, they were handed an amendment which was written for them by the government in their name, and they were told that they could move that amendment to the legislation that was before the Senate last Thursday. They then received advice from the clerks, who were also caught on the hop in the Senate with this last-minute, policy-on-the-run proposition. The clerks ruled that it could not be moved in the Senate. Then the legislation came across here. The government were in a farcical position whereby they only had the numbers for a majority for the passenger movement charge increase by, essentially, telling the senators a falsehood—that somehow they could make a decision today that would bind the next budget, the one after that, the one after that, the one after that and the one after that, regardless of who was in government.

I accept the explanation that Senator Hanson of One Nation gave before the Senate last Thursday in response to Senator Wong, where said that she was inexperienced. She was indeed. But once bitten, twice shy with this mob, because they got them to vote for a breaking of a promise, and they broke the promise to those crossbench senators on the very same day. We then had a farcical situation whereby they came in here and moved legislation, with not just the passenger movement charge but the supposed five-year freeze in it. That is why standing orders should be suspended, Mr Speaker, because, as you pointed out earlier today, it is simply not possible for this parliament to bind future parliaments. Any future increase in the passenger movement charge will occur exactly the way that this one is—a government coming in here, having the numbers in the House of Representatives and then trying to secure the numbers in the Senate.

The policy just did not exist until the 2 July election. It existed beyond that because, after this election, unlike the one before, the government actually appointed a tourism minister. The tourism minister actually got a dixer in one of the first weeks of sitting. The member for Moncrieff, Mr Ciobo, the Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment, rose in the parliament and said that increases in the passenger movement charge would choke ‘the golden goose that is Australia’s tourism industry’. That is what he had to say—not in the distant past but right here in this parliament, in this chamber. Then the government have the hide to move legislation that allegedly binds future governments. It is an absolute absurdity.

The government, having not consulted on the passenger movement charge before it was introduced; having promised to not do it; having reaffirmed that on the floor of the House of Representatives, saying it was bad policy, in the first and only dixer taken on tourism since they came to office in 2013; having lost the vote in the Senate last Wednesday night; and having recommitted the vote on the Thursday morning on the basis of a falsehood told to the crossbenchers, then came in here this week, yesterday, and moved this legislation, trying to ram through the parliament changes to the passenger movement charge, with a nonsense alleged five-year freeze.

That is why standing orders should be suspended and why we should, frankly, decline to give this bill a second reading. We should decline to consider this bill. It should be discharged by resolution of this House and it should be discharged until such time as the government can actually put up legislation that it itself is not laughing at behind closed doors, that it itself is not running around going: ‘We conned those crossbench senators. We were short votes in the Senate. We lost the vote on the Wednesday night but put it forward and we conned them by telling them that it was a good idea.’ But this follows of course the absurdity of the backpacker tax, which followed the same thing: not thought out, no economic modelling, no consultation, a shemozzle and a change—32.5 down to 19 down to 15. Who knows where the government will actually end up on this position.

It was careless of some of the crossbench senators to trust those opposite. But I do say this, having some experience at running a minority parliament: you can only lie to people once. You can only do it once. And that is why, when you are dealing with people who are crossbenchers, you have to treat them with respect and treat them with the dignity they deserve as elected members of parliament. What this legislation purports to do is, quite frankly, absurd.

What is very clear from this government is it is incapable of running this parliament. And if you cannot run the parliament, you cannot run the country. With the backpacker tax fiasco and the passenger movement charge fiasco, they have shown that they are incapable of running the country. Here we have tourism, an industry that employs more than one million Australians, an industry that contributes $107 billion to the economy, an industry where every dollar spent on tourism generates another 92c in other parts of the economy and an industry that deserves support not this attack with no notice and no consultation that we have seen from the government. That is why standing orders should be suspended and that is why we should discharge this legislation.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: Is the motion seconded?

Contact Anthony

(02) 9564 3588 Electorate Office

Email: A.Albanese.MP@aph.gov.au

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