Govt’s procedural mistake is unprecedented in the history of Federation: Labor

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FINANCIAL Services Minister Kelly O’Dwyer has defended her procedural blunder after accidentally supporting Labor’s amendment to a bill calling on the Coalition to explain why it failed to close tax loopholes.

Ms O’Dwyer endorsed Labor’s amendment to a bill calling on the Coalition to “explain why it has failed to close tax loopholes and increase transparency in Australia” last night in the House of Representatives.

Labor MP Jim Rankin grilled Ms O’Dwyer over the bill blunder in Question Time, asking whether she agreed the Coalition had failed to close tax loopholes or whether she endorsed Labor as a result of being “so incompetent that she pays no attention when revenue decisions are being made”.

Ms O’Dwyer hit back, saying she understood why Mr Rankin was “very sensitive on this point” and should be embarrassed about “the depth that the Labor Party has sunk to”.

She accused Labor of playing “adolescent games”, adding the Government was proud of its progress on multinational tax avoidance.

“They had six years over there to do something about this. Six years. But they sat on their hands,” Ms O’Dwyer said.

But the roasting didn’t stop there.

The Financial Services Minister was caught off-guard by a complicated question from Labor’s Chris Bowen, who asked her to clarify what the change will be to the tax treatment of affected dividends after the bill was passed.
Mr Bowen also highlighted the fact Ms O’Dwyer wasn’t there when the bill was passed.

Ms O’Dwyer did not answer the question directly, instead waffling about the new tax treaty with Germany. She was asked to either directly answer the question or wind up her answer.
“I’m happy to conclude my question,” Ms O’Dwyer said to a chorus of booing from Labor members.
Labor’s Jim Chalmers then took up the baton, asking a pointed question about what other “spectacular policy achievements” Ms O’Dwyer had planned in her “brilliant” career.
“Given the Minister for Revenue can’t answer basic questions about her legislation, contradicts the Prime Minister on house prices and negative gearing and was the original architect of the Census disaster, can the Minister please a very interested House about what other spectacular policy achievements lie ahead, or is this the high point of your brilliant career?” he said.
Opposition Leader Bill Shorten continued the attack on the Coalition, asking: “What exactly does a minister have to do to get the sack in your government?”
“Is the fact you can’t move on any of these people, the fact they’re still here because your leadership is so unstable?” Mr Shorten asked.
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said he wouldn’t begrudge Mr Shorten his “small pleasures”, which he same came in the form of some games in the house and a “pious amendment”.
“The honourable member’s question reminds many of us how scant and sparse are the pleasures of Opposition,” he said.
“We won’t begrudge him his small pleasures but we will get on with the job of governing for all Australians.”
During a doorstop this morning, Ms O’Dwyer admitted she’d made a procedural mistake but said the bill had since been passed.
“It had no impact on the passing of the Bill and it’s very, very clear that Labor wants to focus on game playing rather than focusing on their record and on a positive message,” Ms O’Dwyer said.
“These adolescent games keep getting played by Labor in the Parliament. There was a procedural mistake, it had no impact on the passing of the Bill.”

Labor’s manager of opposition business, Tony Burke, told Sky News this morning the mistake was “unprecedented in the history of Federation”.

Mr Burke slammed the Coalition, saying it was not the first time similar blunders had occurred after just 10 days of the new parliament sitting.

“The day that they lost control of the floor of the house because a whole lot of them went home, we’ve had the Treasurer bring in a bill with more than a $100 million black hole in the middle of it, we had the day when the Senate ran out of legislation and started telling themselves little stories,” Mr Burke told Sky News.

“This time we had ministers not paying attention — they hadn’t gone home, they were there.

“The best you can say it they had no idea what was happening in the Parliament of Australia when they were in there.”

Mr Burke said it’s possible Ms O’Dwyer and Justice Minister Michael Keenan, who was also in the room, were “off in their own other dream world”.

“This is about multinational tax avoidance. The two people who should be in charge of the policy area, who should have some vague passing interest in it, were sufficiently either in their own other dream world or just completely ignoring the proceedings,” he said.

Labor MP and former treasurer Wayne Swan told ABC Radio National the “chaos” in government affected their approach to policy and procedure. The record has since been amended.

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