COALITION RORTS, ATTACKS ON PROXY ADVISERS AND JOBKEEPER
HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
MONDAY, 21 JUNE 2021
*** CHECK AGAINST DELIVERY ***
I'm sure those opposite wish that they had one of those little Men in Black memory wiping devices, because then they could wipe away the debt truck, which their party proudly unveiled with a figure of $315 billion that they were criticising Labor as having taken on to deal with the global financial crisis. Under this budget, debt will go to one trillion dollars. The party that promised the budget would be back in surplus in their first year and in every year after that have failed to deliver a single surplus in eight years, and never will deliver a surplus.
This is a budget which is weighed down with rorts and waste.
There are 21 funds either created or topped up in this budget, including $250 million more for the Building Better Regions Fund, in which 89 per cent of projects went to coalition seats. There is a $55 million top-up for the Community Development Grants Program, where 68 per cent of projects approved between the 2019 election and mid-January this year went to Coalition seats. And, of course, we can't forget the Safer Communities Fund, in which 91 per cent of the funding went to government-held, Independent or marginal Labor seats. Then there's the sports rorts affair. If I focused on that, it would take the remainder of my time.
The government is also in this budget continuing a range of ideological agendas. There is the attack on proxy advisers, which are firms who provide advice to investors. You'd think that those opposite would be in favour of free speech and the freedom of proxy advisers, but in fact they want proxy advisers to provide their advice to firms five days in advance. Asked in Senate estimates where these ideas came from, Treasury assistant secretary Tom Dickson said:
… we looked at overseas developments and we drew particularly on what was occurring in the UK and the US, as well as in other jurisdictions.
Unfortunately, under the Biden administration the United States have changed their position on proxy advisers. SEC Chairman Gary Gensler has told the SEC enforcement team to ignore rules introduced by the Trump administration in 2019 and 2020 that would force US proxy advisers to disclose their recommendations to investors before they are made and to give listed companies their research before their clients receive it. As Dean Paatsch of Ownership Matters has put it:
The problem when you're importing Trumpian thought bubbles is when those bubbles burst you're really left with nothing.
There is also a measure which Labor has supported in the budget, relating to junior minerals exploration. This is a measure which looks to increase the incentives for junior minerals investors, and I'd like to reiterate to the House Labor's view on this measure. The former shadow minister for resources Gary Gray told parliament on 24 February 2015, in relation to a bill on this matter that was then before the House, 'The opposition supports this bill,' but he went on to talk about the importance of the work of Geoscience Australia in driving exploration in areas such as the Carrapateena resource, a copper-gold formation near the Woomera Prohibited Area, in 2006. He pointed out that that exploration wasn't done for a tax break; it was done for the prize because of the international commodity price cycle and because of an understanding of geology. Gary Gray reiterated frequently to the House the importance of Geoscience Australia. It was in the light of that that, when the bill last came before the House, Labor amended the bill successfully, requiring the minister to publish an annual impact assessment of the junior minerals exploration incentive. I look forward to seeing the detail of that impact assessment. Labor also believes that transparency is critical, and we pushed on the government the need to disclose which small exploration companies received the benefit of that.
Then there is JobKeeper, the rort that keeps on giving, which has seen some $15 billion to $20 billion of taxpayer money going to firms with rising profits. Public universities were shut out of JobKeeper, yet we've now learned that some $17 million went to Bond University, a private university that managed to increase its profits during the pandemic.