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'Don’t tell me I channel Pauline Hanson': Wong, Cormann in fiery exchange over tax cuts

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Labor’s Penny Wong blasted her Coalition counterpart for his "offensive" suggestion she was "channeling" One Nation.

Labor’s Penny Wong has blasted finance minister Mathias Cormann in a heated exchange during Senate Estimates, as she questioned the minister over the government’s attempts to secure One Nation’s support for its company tax cuts.

One Nation leader Pauline Hanson suddenly withdrew her support for the company tax cuts on Tuesday, robbing the Turnbull government of her three crucial votes on the Senate crossbench.

Senator Wong was grilling Senator Cormann – who is the government’s chief negotiator in the Senate – on which One Nation demands the Coalition might agree to.

“I’m asking you to release the full details of the agreement you reached with One Nation, so that Australians can understand and scruntise what you were prepared to do,” Senator Wong said.

After she listed several One Nation demands, including changes to the Petroleum Resource Rent Tax, Senator Cormann said: “I know that you always like channeling Senator Hanson”.

Senator Wong replied:

“That's a little offensive. She thinks people like me were swamping Australia, actually.”

“Don’t tell me I channel Pauline Hanson. I find that personally offensive. I can tell you what happened to me and my family and people like us, when she stood up in the Parliament, possibly before you [Senator Cormann] were here, saying Australia was in danger of being swamped by Asians,” she said.

“I will never do anything other than fight her. Bad call Mathias.”

Senator Cormann said he “did not want to cause offense” but said he considered it his responsibility to negotiate with all senators, including One Nation.

As the argument became heated, Senator Cormann accused his counterpart of “confected outrage”.

Senator Wong hit back: “It’s not confected. It is not confected.”

“You’re the ones in bed with her,” she said, before quickly withdrawing the remark.

Senator Cormann said the government was “not prepared” to compulsorily acquire a coal-fired power station, as One Nation has suggested.

He said the government would continue negotiating with One Nation in private, saying he took a similar approach in his dealings with Labor politicians.

Senator Hanson’s backflip on company tax cuts represents a major setback for the government, which has been trying to legislate a reduction to Australia’s corporate tax rate for all companies from 30 percent to 25 percent since it was elected in 2016.

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