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Senator Bacik speaking on Taxation and Stem Cells

27 February 2009

Order of Business

Senator Ivana Bacik: It is a bit rich to hear those on the Government side of the House lecturing those on this side on the need for bipartisanship, unity and solidarity. My understanding is there have been many offers from this side of co-operation but those have not been taken up by the Government. It is most inappropriate of the Government not to try to achieve with the main Opposition parties a common understanding of what is needed to build an economic recovery. The real problem is that we are in the dark on this side with regard to the Government's plans. Most of those on the Government side are also in the dark as to its plans.

The one in ten figure demonstrates that the country as a whole is waiting to hear the Government's plans for economic recovery. We have not been given a package of measures. The reason we saw more than 100,000 people protest last weekend is because the Government's measures are piecemeal. All we are getting is a little tinkering at the edges but no real change.

I ask the Leader for a debate on taxation. Senators Norris and Alex White are right about the need for a rolling debate on the economy. In effect, the Order of Business has become the rolling debate on the economy. However, what we really need is a debate on taxation. The former Taoiseach, Garret FitzGerald, has said that in the past Governments used to make changes in the taxation area. Our Government appears to be afraid of speaking the word “taxation”. It has been ingrained and influenced by the Progressive Democrats for so long on the need for a low tax culture that it is afraid to say “taxes”. Therefore, it will impose levies.

I want an early debate on taxation. I want the Minister of Finance, not a Minister of State, to come to the House to explain to Members why the Commission on Taxation will not report until September. The commission has said it is bringing its report forward by a number of weeks, but that is not good enough. We need a decision from the Government on taxation and to hear when the Minister proposes to make changes in taxes. He said yesterday that he will not make changes this year, but he told a committee he might do so. People are in the dark. We will see even more of a crisis in confidence unless people are given some certainty and indication of what is proposed to get us out of economic depression.

It is always amusing to hear self-confessed experts on embryology speak about the need for a debate on stem cell research. I am very happy to have a debate on this issue. When we had a debate on this issue previously, I brought in a recognised international expert to speak to us and enlighten us on the science behind stem cell research and the reason so many scientists want to explore embryonic stem cell research. We need such well-informed debate and I fully support it.