Straight from the Senate - Issue 10

5.00pm | March 03, 2017



1. This week we put the Government’s economic performance under the spotlight in a rigorous estimates session. 

The Treasury Secretary, John Fraser, was asked about the impact of the decision to cut penalty rates on workers and jobs. To our surprise he was unable to answer and said he did not have an opinion on the issue. At a time when wages growth is at record lows and economists are warning of the dangers of rising household debt, it’s extraordinary that the Treasury is not investigating how the Fair Work Commission’s decision to cut penalty rates will affect the economy. 

2. Making - and staying - friends with salad.

Back in 1999 John Howard promised that salads and fresh foods would always be free from GST. We’ve learned recently that the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) is undertaking a review of how the GST applies to salads so I asked them about this in Estimates. We had a little bit of fun with it, but there is a serious issue at stake. Labor will never support changes to the GST that will make fresh food more expensive. 


1. Today in Senate Estimates I joined Senators Pat Dodson and Malarndirri McCarthy in questioning the Government on indigenous affairs, including the Indigenous Advancement Strategy (IAS). A recent audit of the IAS found that “the department did not effectively implement the strategy”. During today’s hearing the Minister conceded that years after the program commenced, and after damning reports from a Senate Inquiry and the Audit Office, he still has not signed off on an evaluation framework for the program. This is not good enough; the Turnbull Government can and must do better for Indigenous Australians.

2. Linda Burney, Shadow Minister for Human Services, yesterday referred the Minister for Human Services Alan Tudge to the Australian Federal Police. Minister Burney is acting on shocking reports that Minister Tudge sent confidential personal details of a former Centrelink customer to journalists.  Personal details provided to Centrelink should not be relayed to the media to silence critics. The Government urgently needs to clean up its Centrelink mismanagement and rob-debt debacle. 


This week in Senate Estimates I asked John Fraser whether the Department of Treasury had performed analysis on the critical area of energy policy, including the cost of new coal-fired power stations. 

It was shock to learn that the answer is no.  Mr Fraser told the committee that the issue of energy “has crept up on us”. This is ridiculous. Its like being crept up on by a glacier. Treasury officials later admitted that they have “done no work specifically on the Australian gas market” and that they only began to investigate energy policy in depth “three months ago”. We desperately need real energy policy but this Government is failing to act. It’s time to take this seriously. 

In Labor,
Jenny McAllister