House debates

Thursday, 30 March 2017

Matters of Public Importance

Turnbull Government

3:44 pm

Photo of Tony SmithTony Smith (Speaker) Share this | | Hansard source

I have received a letter from the honourable Leader of the Opposition proposing that a definite matter of public importance be submitted to the House for discussion, namely:

The Government looking after the big end of town and hurting ordinary Australians.

I call upon those honourable members who approve of the proposed discussion to rise in their places.

More than the number of members required by the standing orders having risen in their places—

Photo of Bill ShortenBill Shorten (Maribyrnong, Australian Labor Party, Leader of the Opposition) Share this | | Hansard source

As this parliament rises after two weeks of sitting, the last sitting before the next budget, we have learned, and Australians have learned, several things about the Turnbull government. We have learned that the Turnbull government do not support a decent increase in the minimum wage. We have learned that they support unilateral cuts to penalty rates. We have learned that they support cuts to people's take-home wages, their pay packet, the way that people get by. We have learned that they do support a $50 billion tax giveaway to big business and that they do support a tax reduction for millionaires. What we have learned and what Australians have learned is that the government have no idea about how ordinary Australians live their lives.

We have also learned something else: they are obsessed with Labor and with me. Every question time these days, the Prime Minister reminds me of that famous Ronald Reagan quote about Jimmy Carter in the 1980 debate, where Ronald Reagan said about Carter, 'There you go again.' There the member for Wentworth goes again, talking about Labor, talking about unions and talking about me. But Australians have worked out the government and this Prime Minister. They know that the louder he shouts, the more pressure he is under. They have learned that the more he yells, the worse it gets. They have learned that the government wish to shout down their critics, not focus on the issues of everyday Australians.

In the last eight question times, in the last two weeks, the government have referred to and spoken about Labor more than 400 times, they have spoken about me more than 250 times, and, other than one mention about the European Union, they have attacked unions on 150 occasions. Let me say this to the government and the Prime Minister: the more you talk about me, the more you show you have no vision or idea about the future of this country. You are not interested in the needs, the dreams, the hopes and the desires of ordinary Australians and the manner in which they are constructing their lives.

Let me also put on the record that I am proud of the Labor Party's record of standing up for workers. I am proud of the union movement's contribution to standing up for workers. I am proud of what I have done in standing up for workers. We will never accept lectures about outcomes for workers from people who have never negotiated on behalf of workers. I have never got stuck behind a fleet of Liberal government limos on the way to a picket line or to support people who have been sacked or unfairly dismissed. I have never tripped over a Liberal politician on the way to visit the bed of a sick worker. I have never tripped over a Liberal on the way to fighting for better wage increases, better deals and better job security for workers.

These are the people who argue against defending penalty rates. The government are the people who argue against increasing the minimum wage in a decent fashion. They vote against increasing compulsory superannuation, and they deeply oppose the role of unions to organise and collectively bargain. When did it become wrong in this country for unions and employers to negotiate with each other for win-win outcomes for workers and their businesses? One of the things this nation needs is increased productivity. It needs better-paid, secure jobs for its workforce, and it needs profitable businesses. Unions and employers negotiating in the interests of people is what this movement that I am proud to lead always stands for. It is right down the line of what people outside parliament think should occur.

For the Prime Minister and his cronies on the front bench to attack Labor and the unions for negotiating good outcomes for employees and good outcomes for business makes no economic sense whatsoever. It is a most strange line of attack from the government. Why do they do it? We know why they do it. It is because this is the last line of defence for a desperate Prime Minister in survival mode. We know what his backbench privately say. They have to tar Labor and smear Labor because, when that fails—as it inevitably will—this Prime Minister will fall, as he should.

Opposition members: Hear, hear!

He is terrified of his backbench. What an unpleasant Sunday evening it must be as they wait and scan for the latest poll or whatever. The point about this nation is that you do not govern from week to week or from fortnight to fortnight. You set your directions, you go the distance and you stand up for what you believe, like my united team do. What a joke it was yesterday when the Prime Minister, puffed up with his righteous indignation, said, 'I've stood up for the battlers, and I've stood up for the big end of town.' We buy the second part of it; I get that. But how can the Prime Minister say he is standing up for battlers when he is prepared to stand by and see the penalty rates of nearly 700,000 people covered by awards cut? How can you say you are standing up for battlers when you cut pensions? How can you say you are standing up for battlers when families on $60,000 have their family benefits reduced? How can you say you are standing up for battlers when you freeze the Medicare payments going to the patients, when you do nothing to stand up for our Medicare system?

You judge a Prime Minister in office by what they do, by the choices they make. This Prime Minister always chooses the big end of town. Only this Prime Minister could have dreamed up giving millionaires a tax cut by getting rid of the deficit levy when he has tripled the deficit. Only this Prime Minister could have an unfunded corporate tax giveaway of $50 billion, which will see $7½ billion go to the banks' profits and bottom lines. Only this Prime Minister will fight so hard against trade unions but fight tooth and nail to stop a banking royal commission—and that commission will come. This is a government that chooses the big end of town over working families every day.

Just when I thought the government could no longer surprise me, I scanned their minimum wage case submission—and I lost half an hour of my life I will never get back! It is 85 pages—25,000 words—and there is not a single argument, not a single line, to argue for a decent increase in the minimum wage. Yesterday, the Prime Minister was so proud that he could reel off the weekly minimum wage rate. What he does not understand is that he may know the price of the minimum wage but he does not know the value of the minimum wage. He knows the cost, but he does not understand the meaning it has in the lives of everyday Australians. It is a disgraceful submission—and I am not surprised that the cabinet ticked it off, because it has got the hallmarks of the Turnbull government. But they have a line: 'Low-paid workers are more likely to be young, female, single and without children.' This is the government's message: 'Do not be young; do not be a woman; do not be single; do not be low-paid.' As to the fact that many low-paid people are young, are women and do come from low-income households, we in Labor do not see that as a reason against the minimum wage increasing; we see it as a reason to increase the minimum wage.

Then, of course, we saw this notoriously feminist government run an argument which I have not seen in a long time. What they said was that, actually, people on the minimum wage are all secretly hiding in rich households! They almost implied, somehow, that they are gaming the system—like a nice offshore bank account—and that somehow it is a strategy to be poor, because you are actually secretly rich. Well, that is not the case. This is a Prime Minister who once famously said to Jon Faine: 'What you've got to do if you want to sort out housing affordability is get rich parents.' But today we have seen this government say to working women: 'If you want to be rich, just marry rich people.' This is not a strategy for wages or economic justice in this country.

On the way into this chamber today, I met Margarita. Oh, and our great barrister Prime Minister says: 'Well, if this happens and that happens then maybe Margarita won't get a pay cut.' What the Prime Minister does not understand about low-wage workers and people on awards is that they do not have individual bargaining power. Why should Margarita have to negotiate to keep her penalty rate? Why does she have to front up to her employer and say, 'I know the award has gone down, but please can you keep me at the higher rate'? Why do people who have a minimum wage and a penalty rate as a right have to renegotiate for something that was already theirs to begin with?

When we take on this government on the penalty rates issue—and we will take them on every day—every day this bunch of blackguarding smear merchants attack the Labor Party, attack the unions and attack me. Play your best shot, because once you have played it and you have failed, your Prime Minister will be out and this government will soon follow him to the electoral pages of history, with very little to show for it, other than standing up for the big end of town. We stand up for ordinary people.

3:54 pm

Photo of Michael McCormackMichael McCormack (Riverina, National Party, Minister for Small Business) Share this | | Hansard source

I would advise the opposition leader to go and have a Bex and a lie down, because we have just heard 10 minutes of yelling—angry; rattled. Member for Maribyrnong: fair dinkum! I mean, anyone watching would be wondering what on earth they just listened to. They would be wondering: 'What on earth was he talking about?' All he did was rant and rave for 10 minutes. Ordinary Australians are people the opposition leader would have you believe he is sticking up for—ordinary Australians; mums and dads; those who work hard to get ahead—

Opposition Members:

Opposition members interjecting

Photo of Mark CoultonMark Coulton (Parkes, Deputy-Speaker) Share this | | Hansard source

Could members on my left, please, if you are leaving, leave quietly, and if you are staying, remain quiet.

Photo of Michael McCormackMichael McCormack (Riverina, National Party, Minister for Small Business) Share this | | Hansard source

Or they could just go and have another yelling session with the opposition leader. As I was saying, the member for Maribyrnong, this opposition leader, reckons he is the champion of ordinary Australians—unless, of course, they run a small business. The Leader of the Opposition said a lot today about how he, apparently, cares. But he left out one critical sector which drives one of the greatest contributions to the Australian economy. Just as he does every day, he forgot those ordinary, everyday Australians in small business—those ordinary Australians who run 2.1 million small businesses and employ almost five million ordinary, everyday Australians.

Every day in this country, ordinary Australians wake up and they go to work in small businesses, building the economy and creating jobs. Every day, those ordinary Australians take risks. We heard the Prime Minister in question time today talk about those risk-takers. He talked about their enterprise. He talked about the need for investment. He talked about small businesses. But we never hear too much from the opposition leader about small businesses. Every day this government is backing those small businesses. Those opposite have no plan for ordinary Australians, because there is one key thing about our economy they simply do not understand—

Photo of Brian MitchellBrian Mitchell (Lyons, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Do you support pay cuts or not?

Photo of Mark CoultonMark Coulton (Parkes, Deputy-Speaker) Share this | | Hansard source

The member for Lyons is out of his place and is disorderly; he will be removed if he continues.

Photo of Michael McCormackMichael McCormack (Riverina, National Party, Minister for Small Business) Share this | | Hansard source

It is business not government which creates jobs. Our economy needs more people in work. It needs cities and towns, big and small, with opportunities for jobs and investment, whether it is metropolitan Australia, the outer suburbs, or regional, rural or remote Australia. The answer is small business. That is something that this government understands. We back small business because we know what it is like to run one. We back small business because we know what it is like to employ people. We back small business because we know that that is the sector which will make this economy grow.

Today, of all days—the second-last sitting day; it was to be the last, but we are coming back tomorrow—we want to deliver those ordinary Australians in small business a tax cut. Those opposite could make it really simple. They could have got on board with our plan. They could have got on board with our policies. But oh no! Typical obstructionists: they stood in the way—a roadblock to, a handbrake on, small business and the tax cut that they tell me that they desperately, seriously need, want, deserve, demand and expect.

Long before I spoke in here of the need for tax cuts in small business, I understood the issue personally. Unlike so many of those who sit on the opposition benches, to me a plan for small business is not theory. It is not something I have used as a pawn in my lifelong game of politics. It is not something on which I have written a book; it is something I have actually experienced. I ran my own small business—a family-run publishing company in Wagga Wagga—for eight years. And those opposite might like to know that, before that, I worked on a newspaper where I was actually a member of a union for 21 years. So I understand the balance. But those opposite get all too consumed with unionism. They get all too consumed with taking the little backhanded pays.

More than anything, I know what it is like to take a risk. That risk-taking spirit is why the government has a focus on small business, because it is not a small ask of anyone to take a risk and start a business. It is not a small ask. But there are millions of ordinary Australians who do, and there are millions more who will do just that if they are given half a chance. We are here to champion them. We are here to be their advocate.

Mr Hart interjecting

I can't hear you; you're too far up the back! Today in Australia, no matter your location, your income or your background, the spark of an idea and the energy to work hard can start an international sensation—and it happens. I have seen it. I have been to forums where there were hardworking women who had an idea around the kitchen table. They focus-grouped it, and now they are globally exporting all manner of things. Today in Australia, there is an ability for those people in small business to take the risk and to back themselves, and we want to back them as well. We want to back their vision, but those opposite stand in the way.

The best support for an ordinary Australian is a job. We heard the Prime Minister say it today: almost five million jobs in Australia come from small business. Whether it is in the electorate of Lyons or the electorate of McEwen, those people want to be backed. They want to create the opportunity for their kids and their kids' kids, and for them to understand that their parents had a go. I am on a nationwide small business roadshow at the moment. I went to the electorates of the member for Mackellar and the member for Brisbane—he had 150 people turn up. He understands small business—a great retailer. He gets what we are trying to do; I just wish those opposite did. I have met with some wonderful, ordinary, everyday Australians who understand why they need a tax cut. I met them in Brisbane, and I am looking forward to going to Western Australia to visit the electorate of the member for Durack. One of the people I met along the way was Andrew from Nomadic Cafe in High Street, Berwick, with the member for Latrobe. He is a good member. When we were talking about our tax plan and our tax cut for small business Andrew said that that would be 'awesome'. He is an inspiration. He has this coffee shop. He could not understand why Labor and those opposite are standing in the way. He just could not get it. He is absolutely right. Ours is a plan backed by small businesses. Here is what some of them say, in their own words:

Defining small enterprises as those with turnover under $2 million a year is seriously out of step with the rest of the world and significantly limits Australia's potential.

That was said by John Pollaers, who the Australian Advanced Manufacturing Council chairman. Another said:

I'm confused why they're doing it. The $10 million threshold picks up so many small businesses, and it's like they want us to stay small. At the moment, I'm not sure what Labor are doing with small business.

That was from Peter Strong, the chief executive of the Council of Small Business Australia. And another:

The idea that the definition of a small business should be limited to those with a $2 million turnover is quite frankly outdated; there are many mum-and-dad operated small businesses around the country that are turning over well in excess of that figure, but they are by no means a 'big' business.

That is from Kate Carnell, who is the Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman.

Photo of Rob MitchellRob Mitchell (McEwen, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

An independent voice!

Photo of Michael McCormackMichael McCormack (Riverina, National Party, Minister for Small Business) Share this | | Hansard source

At least she knows how to run a small business. At least she knows what it takes to back herself. At least she knows what it is like to take a risk. I do not know whether you have taken too many risks, but you are probably picking it out of a few businesses with your union mates. And that is the problem with those opposite: they do not want to get on board with our tax plan. Oh, here we go! The member for McEwen—this will be good.

Photo of Mark CoultonMark Coulton (Parkes, Deputy-Speaker) Share this | | Hansard source

The minister will resume his seat. The member for McEwen on a point of order?

Photo of Rob MitchellRob Mitchell (McEwen, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Perhaps the minister, in his outrageous, spittle-filled rant, might want to actually refer through the chair, as he is supposed to.

Photo of Mark CoultonMark Coulton (Parkes, Deputy-Speaker) Share this | | Hansard source

The member for McEwen may raise the point. The minister will refer his comments through the chair.

Photo of Michael McCormackMichael McCormack (Riverina, National Party, Minister for Small Business) Share this | | Hansard source

James Pearson, Chief Executive of the Australian Chamber of Commerce, said:

We look to our government and our Parliament to show leadership and make it easier, not harder, for business to get on with the job.

Andrew Conway, Chief Executive Officer of the Institute of Public Accountants, said:

Despite Labor’s opposition, we support the government proceeding with the bill and continue pragmatic negotiations to ensure it passes.

So, all of those people know that when small business is strong so too is our economy. This is something those opposite used to understand, but they now simply stand in the way. I do not get why they want to stand in the way, but I would love to see them come on board on this day of days, when they could actually get on board. I look forward to seeing the tax plan pass through parliament tomorrow. When the opposition leader, the same man who just railed against tax cuts, actually had to make decisions and actually had to stand for something—when the Labor Party was in government—he said:

Any student of Australian business and economic history since the mid-80s knows that part of Australia's success was derived through the reduction in the company tax rate. We need to be able to make life easier for Australian business, which employs two in every three Australians.

He said that. It is actually four out of five, but we will forgive him for that. When he was in government, the member for Maribyrnong also spoke about 'reducing the corporate tax rate, seeing more capital flow into our domestic economy, which will then flow onto workers in the form of higher wages, thereby improving standards of living'. That is what the member for Maribyrnong said when he was in government. I do not know why he does not back us now. After all, he does have 12,951 small businesses in his electorate. It is time he backed them, and it is time he backed the 2.1 million small businesses across the nation.

4:04 pm

Photo of Tanya PlibersekTanya Plibersek (Sydney, Australian Labor Party, Deputy Leader of the Opposition) Share this | | Hansard source

Labor has a vision for a strong economy and a fair society—an Australia that is safe and prosperous with an economy that is growing strongly, generating quality, well-paid jobs, and an Australia where that economic growth is shared. The Liberals do not share that vision. Their vision is very different. Their vision is tax cuts for the rich that, maybe, trickle down to the rest of us. Their vision is for a $50 billion tax cut that goes to the biggest businesses, including the four big banks, including overseas shareholders, but that does not drive economic growth in this country. Their vision is for a $16,400 tax cut for someone on a million bucks a year and a wage cut for ordinary workers.

This morning we heard a train wreck of an interview from the Minister for Industrial Relations and, incidentally, the Minister for Women. When asked about the government's own submission on the minimum wage, she could not answer a question about what was in her own submission, where it said that low-paid workers tend to be young, female and single. She could not answer how many, what proportion or what numbers were being talked about. Her own submission to the Fair Work Commission said:

Increasing the national minimum wage is not an efficient way to address relative living standards. Low-paid employees are often found in high income households.

As if my wage should depend on my parents' wage or on my husband's wage.

We are going back to medieval times when we say that a woman's wage should depend on what her husband earns or what her parents earn. It is an outrage, especially at a time when this government also supports cuts to penalty rates. We had Margarita up in the gallery before, and I met with her earlier today. She told me her story—how she came here in the early eighties and from 1996 onwards she was working in the hotel industry—as a widow trying to raise her young children. The youngest one was three years old.

She was having to work Sundays and be away from her family, because that extra 50 bucks a week made all the difference to her family and being able to put decent food on the table and a roof over the heads of her children and being able to get shoes and school books and all of the things a family needs. She could not live without those Sunday penalty rates. And this government says that she does not deserve those penalty rates and that 700,000 workers like her do not deserve those penalty rates for being away from their children on weekends. Her son asked her recently, 'Mum, why were you never there when I was eight years old?' She replied, 'Son, I was working to put food on the table and a roof over your head,' and he hugged her and said, 'Mum, you did a great job.' Can you imagine what it is like to be asked by your children why you were never there on a Sunday. Her daughter said to her, 'You are a grandmother now.'

Photo of Craig LaundyCraig Laundy (Reid, Liberal Party, Assistant Minister for Industry, Innovation and Science) Share this | | Hansard source

I worked Sundays for most of my life.

Photo of Tanya PlibersekTanya Plibersek (Sydney, Australian Labor Party, Deputy Leader of the Opposition) Share this | | Hansard source

Oh, the member for Reid says that he worked Sundays all his life. How much did you get paid for working Sundays? I will tell you: it was not the minimum wage, was it? It was not $17.70 to work on Sundays for you, was it, son? No, you did pretty well out of working on Sundays, didn't you? But you do not want to pay your workers for working on Sunday.

Mr Laundy interjecting

Photo of Mark CoultonMark Coulton (Parkes, Deputy-Speaker) Share this | | Hansard source

The member for Sydney will direct her comments through the chair. The member for Reid will sit quietly. The member for Sydney has the call.

Photo of Tanya PlibersekTanya Plibersek (Sydney, Australian Labor Party, Deputy Leader of the Opposition) Share this | | Hansard source

That is exactly what is wrong with the Liberal Party. We had the Prime Minister saying earlier in question time, 'Oh, Margarita, I understand your pain,' and we heard the immigration minister saying yesterday, 'The Prime Minister, he started with nothing and he built up his wealth over the years.' Started with nothing? In a log cabin at Vaucluse—he really started with nothing! When this government says that they understand your pain, the simple fact is that they do not, because they are populated with people like the member for Reid and this Prime Minister, who do not get what it is like to earn $17.70 an hour and to be told you are going to get paid less per working on a Sunday—the difference between putting food on the table and a roof over the heads of your children. They are pretending that they understand what that is like. This government are so out of touch and that is why their solution is cuts to big business— (Time expired)

4:09 pm

Trevor Evans (Brisbane, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I think the member for Sydney needs to hear that many small business owners, including members of my own family, have worked for extended periods for less than the equivalent of the minimum wage. Labor have had a bad day here today and they have had a bad week. The one little problem with Labor trying to bring together all these disparate issues into one silly line in one silly MPI with one misleading theme is that on any of these topics the easiest way to undermine them is simply to point out what they themselves were saying a short while ago. On energy, on wage decisions and on tax they are damned by their own quotes, sometimes from only a couple of months ago, if not a couple of years.

This topic today is actually the perfect showcase for us to demonstrate issue by issue the sheer hypocrisy of today's Labor Party, which, I have to say, seem on occasion to be a shadow of their former selves. They say one thing out on the streets and they do the opposite here.

Mr Swan interjecting

I will get to you, Member for Lilley. I had to hold my tongue earlier this week in the Federation Chamber when I heard the former Treasurer, the member for Lilley, trying to explain why he was voting against tax cuts for medium and small businesses around Brisbane. Small businesses, he was saying, just needed to see higher demand. What he meant by that was demand driven, ultimately, by government spending. In other words, Labor believes that small businesses would be much better off today and tomorrow if only Labor were at the helm blowing all of the money. It was a Keynesian inspired delusion of the highest order, and it completely ignored the real problem of competitiveness in Australian businesses, which is the real underlying issue of so many of these topics we are talking about in the House today, because, of course, you do reach a point where Labor runs out of other people's money.

The highlights for me was when the member for Lilley actually invoked the concept of trickle-down economics. The irony appeared to escape him that he was simultaneously talking about how he wanted to sit, as Labor, on top of the economy raining borrowed money down from above, turning on the fire hose of borrowed money, spilling bucket loads of other people's money, but accusing others of trickle-down—versus our approach, this government's enterprise tax plan, aiming to let millions of small businesses each keep a little bit of what is ultimately their own money, which will drive economic growth and jobs from the base of the economy up. Letting small businesses keep a bit more of their own money is the opposite of trickle-down. Small businesses, after all, are the very base of our economy, not the top of it.

Cuts to company tax rates are exhibit 1 when it comes to Labor's hypocrisy. For decades, actually, Labor used to come in here and back tax cuts for businesses. It was the long-standing aspiration of Labor leaders, heading back the generations—

Photo of Melissa PriceMelissa Price (Durack, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

They have written books about it.

Trevor Evans (Brisbane, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

They have indeed written books about it. In fact, in the last five years or so four of Labor's shadow ministry—the opposition leader, the member for Rankin, the member for McMahon and the member for Fenner—talked about the need to cut taxes. They spoke about it on at least 18 separate occasions that I can find. It really does cause you to lament the current state of Labor. Exhibit 2, I would say, is Labor's hypocrisy this week on child care. How, I wonder, will Labor explain to low- and middle-income families out there why they voted against reducing childcare costs for the most needy and deserving in our society?

Exhibit 3 is Labor's hypocrisy on multinational tax avoidance. This government has passed the first tranche of multinational tax avoidance laws already, and over the past year those laws have clawed back $2 billion, and counting, from multinational companies—taxes that would otherwise have fallen unfairly on the shoulders of local and small businesses. But Labor did not support those multinational tax avoidance laws when they had the chance. Small businesses, our strong focus, are so many and varied that they are difficult for centralised decision-makers to engage with. Small businesses exemplify reward for effort; they refuse or are unable to accept one-size-fits-all solutions. One of the two major parties in this country—Labor—cannot help but think first about big union and big business deals.

4:15 pm

Photo of Wayne SwanWayne Swan (Lilley, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

The politically inspired inequality of the Liberals is poisoning our society, and the power of big money is crowding out our democracy. Exhibit A of that is an unfunded $50 billion corporate tax cut, where the Treasury modelling shows it will not have the power and the influence over jobs and growth that the government claims it will. Common sense tells you that it will not either. Exhibit A here is really tax policy more broadly. Really what the $50 billion corporate tax cut is about is furthering wealth concentration in our society. When you combine their approach on tax with their approach on wages, what you are seeing is that the Liberals will try to shift the profit share up and the wage share down. But what that does is increase inequality. More and more people at the top have more and more wealth and more and more money, and more and more people in the middle and further down have less money and they consume less, and that is a basic Keynesian fact. We have a set of policies in place which are actually going to constrain growth; they are a handbrake on growth.

But we have a Prime Minister who believes that inequality is good for us. The whole range of their policies across tax and industrial relations are designed to make our society more unfair, but they will also make it in the long run less prosperous, because we know you cannot build a prosperous economy and a fair society if a shrinking share of the income in that economy is going to working people. That is why we in the Labor Party argue the point here very strongly. The logical way to grow our economy is not through massive tax cuts which will simply be funnelled back to shareholders and not invested in our economy. Exhibit A here is the $7.4 billion going to the four big banks. Their own economists said in the papers during the week that the money would not be spent on further investment and new jobs.

The effective tax rate paid by companies in Australia is something like 24 per cent or less. If we are not getting the investment with an effective tax rate of 24—six points below the nominal rate—how can we expect to get more investment through a tax cut? If one-third of all companies in the country are paying no tax, what is a tax cut going to do for them? The truth is that people will invest in an economy where there is strong demand, where there are good economic institutions, where innovation is happening and, yes, where it is competitive. But competitiveness is more than tax rates; it is your preparedness to invest in your capital and in your workforce. One of the reasons why our economy is one of the strongest in the world is that over a long period of time we have got the balance right. But now, sadly, we are becoming a much more unequal society and we are becoming that unequal society because of the politically inspired inequality being forced on Australia by those opposite.

We had a perfect example of that. We had seven CEOs out here yesterday making a plea for their self-interest and for the government: 'Please pass this $50 billion unfunded corporate tax cut. By the way, we happen to believe that a deregulated industrial relations system is a good thing and we happen to believe that lower wages are a good thing.' The combined salaries of the CEOs here yesterday totalled $65 million. Is it any wonder that the business community and this government are on the nose with working Australians when these people are standing there, on salaries of $5 million, $7 million and $12 million each, recommending that we cut the guts out of health and education with a $50 billion unfunded corporate tax cut in the name of jobs and growth? It is surely absurd.

We are becoming much more unequal and we are becoming that way because of government policy. The truth is that in Australia we increasingly have an overpaid and overpowered corporate elite. We now have an economy run by the rich for the rich, and the rest can get stuffed. That is actually where this government has got to. We have to have a suite of policies which reward everyone in the economy, labour and capital. If we continue with this trickle-down agenda, we will fracture our society, we will polarise our society and we may preside over the corpse of democracy in this country.

4:20 pm

Photo of Craig KellyCraig Kelly (Hughes, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

What a very disappointing speech we just heard. It was very disappointing. We have heard the former Treasurer of this nation rant a disgraceful incitement of class warfare. There could be nothing more irresponsible than the billions of dollars of debt that you left this country! There are some young kids up there watching at the moment. I hope they understand that, in years to come, when they wonder why they are paying higher taxes, it is because of the debt from when that man was Treasurer in this nation. He ran up billions and billions of dollars of debt. We in this nation now have to pay $1 billion a month in interest because of the recklessness, the waste and the mismanagement of when that man who just spoke was Treasurer. He talks about 'Keynesian facts'. We should write that down—that is one we will always remember. Keynesian facts—that simply says it all! Look at the wording of this motion, talking about looking after the big end of town; no-one looks after the big end of town more than the Labor Party. The way they govern is with big unions, big business and big government all together, all three of them.

Let us look at a couple of examples. Who can remember the Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal? Remember that one? It was a creation from the glory years of the Gillard-Rudd governments. Let's go through what Labor's Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal did—talk about looking after the big end of town!

What they did is force all small, independent truck drivers to charge a higher rate for their service than the big end of town, to drive the small guy out of business. When we tried to fix that, the Labor Party stood against it, because they wanted to look after their mates in the big end of town at the expense of the small, hardworking truck drivers in this nation. What a disgrace that was. We will always remember that.

Photo of Craig KellyCraig Kelly (Hughes, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Another example is the grubby union deal that was done with Coles. Even the Fair Work Commission, stacked with Labor Party appointees, found that that failed the better off overall test. It took a young guy working for Coles to take them on in the courts to show what a crooked and dodgy deal that was. Let us look at a couple of the other dodgy deals showing how Labor look after their mates in the big end of town. Let us take some of the dodgy deals they have done on Sunday penalty rates. KFC is one of the largest multinational corporations. They get to employ staff on a Sunday for $21.19, but the small business that competes against them is forced to pay $29.

Honourable members interjecting

Photo of Mark CoultonMark Coulton (Parkes, Deputy-Speaker) Share this | | Hansard source

Order! The member for Hughes will resume his seat. There is a general warning in this House. I have let the discussion flow and it has got out of hand. Everyone is warned. I call the member for Hughes.

Photo of Craig KellyCraig Kelly (Hughes, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I was going through some of the dodgy deals where the Labor Party and their union mates looks after the big end of town at the expense of small business and at the expense of workers. There is another example. Dan Murphy's, part of the Woolworths Group, have a market capitalisation of $34 billion. Labor looked after them. On a Sunday their workers get paid $30. In comparison, a small liquor merchant, a small business, has to pay $37. That is another dodgy deal—looking after their mates in the big end of town. Why do they do this?

Mr Laundy interjecting

Photo of Mark CoultonMark Coulton (Parkes, Deputy-Speaker) Share this | | Hansard source

The member for Reid will leave under 94(a).

The member for Reid then left the chamber.

Photo of Craig KellyCraig Kelly (Hughes, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

They want to line up the workers. They know it is easier for the big end of town to line up the workers so they can shanghai them into the trade union, which means they can get a lifeline into their pay packets, sucking away part of their pay as union dues, which then feeds into the Labor Party machine.

It is the coalition that looks after the small business community. When it comes to looking after the workers, one of the biggest expenses for workers in this country is electricity prices. Every part of Labor Party policy is to drive up the cost of electricity prices for the average worker in this country. You lot are a disgrace. You should drop this class warfare act you are going on with, because it is totally against the interests of our country. It is against the interests of our nation. It is about time you lot woke up to yourselves.

4:25 pm

Susan Templeman (Macquarie, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

If you had to sum up what this government is in one sentence, the words, 'The government is looking after the big end of town and hurting ordinary Australians' is a pretty good description. It encapsulates so much of what is wrong. Wages are going backwards while company profits are surging. Let us look at the Bureau of Statistics data: a 20 per cent surge in profits in the last quarter, while wages fell—

Photo of Craig KellyCraig Kelly (Hughes, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Why is that?

Susan Templeman (Macquarie, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I am going to tell you why it is.

Photo of Mark CoultonMark Coulton (Parkes, Deputy-Speaker) Share this | | Hansard source

Member for Hughes, the warning I issued earlier goes for you as well.

Susan Templeman (Macquarie, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Wages fell by 0.5 per cent. Yet the government is hell-bent on giving big business an unfunded $50 billion tax cut. Where is the wages surge? In the mining sector, profit is up 50 per cent in the December quarter; in construction, profit is up 32 per cent; and in professional services, profit is up 31 per cent. 'What is behind it?' those on the other side ask? Well, a combination of weaker wages growth, people working fewer hours, and higher underemployment. So companies are thriving, and the workers are paying for it. Customers are paying for it too—ordinary Australians, banking customers.

Research from the interest rate comparison website Mozo shows the big banks increased their margins above the cash rate across virtually every retail bank product last year, while at the same time the RBA cut rates by 50 basis points, from two per cent to 1.5 per cent. So ordinary Australians are paying higher interest rates to help the banks create higher profits. And still the Liberal government is desperate to give the same companies a $50 billion tax cut. Forget any delusions that somehow ordinary Australians will benefit from some so-called trickle-down effect—not if they are investors, because, thanks to franking credits, Australian residents who own shares in companies are effectively taxed only once, at their personal income tax rate, and most profit from big business is not reinvested; it is paid to shareholders, so it will not help local investment. What is more, a third of the tax cut that this mob wants to give will flow offshore. A fat lot of good that is going to do the average Aussie! This government puts big companies ahead of small and medium businesses every single time.

I grew up in small business. I ran a small business for 30 years. I have spent a lot of time talking to other small businesses. Many of the small businesses in my electorate of Macquarie are unincorporated. They are sole traders. Some are micro-businesses paying tax at their personal rate. Ninety-eight per cent of small businesses will not benefit from this big business tax cut. It is not going to help their cash flow and it is not going to help demand. In fact, all it is going to do is lead to the big companies having more money in their pockets. And, as always, it is the workers who are going to pay the price. There are plenty of Australians who are being hurt by this government.

In the same breath as pushing this tax cut, I am stunned to hear this government not wanting to lift the minimum wage, to give anyone a decent wage rise. In its minimum wage submission, the government makes it clear it simply is not interested in there being a decent wage rise for those low-income earners on $17.17 an hour. The government say the minimum wage and award classification are only part of a safety net of workplace relations policies, public services and transfer payments. But, bit by bit, those are the very things they are stripping away.

On workplace relations, they are undermining penalty rates for 700,000 people in the hope that it will flow through to every single award in every single sector. They have policies like freezing the Medicare rebate. There are little things that they think they will get away with, like freezing the amount of money the unemployed or pensioners or carers can earn before they start to lose some of their pension. In public services, there is the cut in health and the cut in education, refusing to fund things properly. Everywhere they can, they cut, cut, cut. Transfer payments are another area. These are things that help to make this a more equal society. They are a safety net. With family tax benefits, all they want to do is freeze them. And they would do more if they thought they could get away with it.

Low-paid workers who will benefit most from a rise in the minimum wage are going to be young, female and single. You only need to look at the other side to see where their priorities are. If you are a family, you are hurting because of freezes on family payments. If you are young, you are hurting because you cannot afford a house. If you get a pension, you are hurting. Every single thing that those opposite do is about hurting ordinary Australians.

4:30 pm

Julia Banks (Chisholm, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I rise today to talk about the critical importance of the tax plan—the company tax cuts to all large and small businesses across Australia. Firstly, I must say that those on the other side really are clutching at straws. They simply do not recognise and understand that the company tax cuts benefit all businesses and, therefore, all Australians. To be fair to those on the other side, very few of them, including the Leader of the Opposition, have actually worked in business. Most are trade union professionals or political hacks who really have not worked in business. They have never had a real job. They have never really employed people themselves. They have never been enterprising and developed businesses.

Anne Aly (Cowan, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Are you kidding me? That is an absolute insult!

Photo of Tony SmithTony Smith (Speaker) Share this | | Hansard source

The member for Cowan will cease interjecting. The Deputy Speaker has issued a general warning.

Dr Aly interjecting

Well, I know. I do not think the member for Cowan knows—the television I watch when I am not in the chamber.

Julia Banks (Chisholm, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

To be fair to those on the other side, very few of them, including the Leader of the Opposition, have actually worked in business. Most are trade union professionals or political hacks who really have not worked in business. They have not had a real job. They have not really employed people themselves. They have not been enterprising and developed businesses which underpin the growth of Australia. The simply do not understand why the tax plan is good for all business and all Australians. Moreover, they really do not respect the intelligence of Australian people in their pure misrepresentations and falsehoods that these company tax cuts are a handout for big business.

For businesses large or small—and to put it in simple terms for the benefit of those on the other side—I say this: during my entire working life before I came to this place, I worked in both small and large businesses. I worked largely in manufacturing business that make products which we buy from our supermarket shelves every day. These businesses employ and continue to employ thousands of Australians around the country—be that in retail shops, in the factories, in the head offices or out in the field in sales. Moreover, across Chisholm are thousands and thousands of people who get up every day to work in small businesses—be that to open their shops, cook food in their restaurants and cafes or sell consumer products to their customers. Those on the other side do not seem to understand that businesses employ thousands and thousands of Australians. The vast majority of Australians work in the private sector—unlike those on the other side—for companies large or small, or their own business. Every day, Australians all over the country get up in the morning to go to work—be that working on the production line, travelling in a car as a sales rep, sometimes very large distances because of the sheer size of this great land, working in administrative areas or as middle managers, junior managers and senior managers, or to work in their small businesses. They all understand that when companies sit down to map out their plan and consider whether they are going to continue to operate in this country, open a new factory or create new products, if it is cheaper to operate somewhere, what do they do?

Photo of Angus TaylorAngus Taylor (Hume, Liberal Party, Assistant Minister for Cities and Digital Transformation) Share this | | Hansard source

They go somewhere else.

Julia Banks (Chisholm, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

They go somewhere else. And what happens here? Factories and workplaces in Australia will shut down and businesses will take their work somewhere else. And guess what that means? No jobs for Australians. Anyone who has ever worked in business, or who works in business, understands this. Whether they work on the production line or in the office, they all feel the pain when businesses take their business elsewhere.

The Turnbull government's tax plan is a measured and constructive plan designed to drive jobs, growth and investment throughout Australia. Cutting the company tax rate to 25 per cent by 2026-27 and easing the tax burden on small businesses are central parts of the plan to keep the factories here, the offices here and the sales here. And that means to keep the jobs here. Fundamentally, these Turnbull government reforms will drive employment and wage growth, which will support ordinary Australians and Australian households. Australian workers will benefit from greater business investment and be able to become more productive.

Former Prime Ministers and Treasurers in this place, across both sides of politics, have advocated a cut in company tax because they know that a competitive tax system is necessary to drive economic growth, lift wages and create new jobs. It is about time that those on the other side stopped their antibusiness sentiment, stopped their politicking approach and agreed to the implementation of a plan that will benefit all Australians, create jobs for Australians and create a future for generations of Australians to come.

4:35 pm

Anne Stanley (Werriwa, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I rise to speak about the continuing hypocrisy of this government's attacks on the lowest paid and most vulnerable in my electorate, whilst helping out big business and the highest earners. A lot of people in my electorate and across the country are still waiting for the 'jobs and growth' that they were promised at the last election. So where is it? And they may well ask. While they feel the pain of continuing cuts, unemployment, record-low wages growth and the highest levels of inequality that we have seen in 75 years, they switch on the news and see a government telling ordinary Australians that it is really interested in their problems, on one hand, but in reality it is either helping the big end of town or focussing on itself. It is the height of arrogance.

People in my area see a government that is attacking working conditions and reducing the take-home pay of one in seven workers. They see a government that has continued to prevaricate on issues like housing affordability, a government that continues to undermine the fundamentals of affordable health care in this country and a government whose ministers, when asked about the solution to many of these problems, seem to think the answer is that this is what ordinary Australians deserve and it is really easy to get a good-paying job. Statements like this exemplify this government's arrogance.

Like much of Western Sydney, my community saw through this government at the last election. They were not fooled by the three-word slogans and arcane trickle-down promises. They sent a clear message that they had had it with the arrogance that they had seen in 2013. Of course, it would be too much to think that these people on the other side would have listened. Instead, this government remains determined to reduce services that our most vulnerable rely on, like schools, pensions and health, while also directly attacking wages by cutting penalty rates to our lowest-paid workers. People are being sold short by this government, and they know it. These pressures are being felt every day in households in my area. People work hard to put food on their table and send their kids to school, spending long hours in distant commutes and missing out on the simple joys of spending time with them. Yet this government is increasing that pressure. It thinks that it is reasonable to expect them to lose more of their precious time at home. Families are already being hurt, and this government is now seeking to make it worse.

The consolation that struggling families will be given for their pain is the knowledge that a tax cut in the order of $50 billion is going to the top end of town. This government thinks it is reasonable to make life worse for so many in my electorate and reward the big banks, who have been consistently caught out in scandal after scandal, with bad investment advice and nonpayment of life insurance. I do not think a single parent trying to put their children through school, or a TAFE student who relies on penalty rates, would agree—for example, in 2017, results for the CBA show a half-yearly profit of $4,895 million, an increase of six per cent on the previous year. Similarly, ANZ and Westpac are up by eight per cent when compared to previous results. Yet these are all the same banks that have raised their home-loan interest rates outside the Reserve Bank decision and that have credit card interest rates that have been widely cited as being well above anything that would pass a pub test.

What will a tax cut like this do for families, pensioners and the unemployed in my electorate? Nothing. Just bigger profit margins for the banks and big business and a higher return for their shareholders. What it will not do is put food on the table, pay for school books, help people get to work or make housing any less expensive. What it will do is exacerbate inequality, accelerating the already widening income gap. Quite simply, ordinary Australians are being made worse off so that this government can help their mates at the top end of town.

To make matters worse, if my constituents do not have any money left over after they pay their bills, school fees, rent or mortgage and other essential living expenses, the lower wages resulting from the cut in penalty rates will mean that the economy is not going to get any better. Businesses both large and small are not going to grow if we have nothing extra to spend. Money does not trickle down, as the Treasurer would have you believe. We have to support the people who need it because that is what a compassionate society does.

4:40 pm

Photo of Melissa PriceMelissa Price (Durack, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

When I read today's matter of public importance, I thought I was reading an old MPI from the Labor government. The work this Liberal-led government has done to improve ordinary Australian lives is very clear. So what are we doing? We have heard today that we are working towards getting the federal budget back into surplus to pay off the debt that, as we have heard numerous times, those opposite created and expanded, which, as at February, is costing each and every working Australian an amount of $27,166.

As of the 2016-17 MYEFO, this shows that, despite the new global economic headwinds and the revenue writedowns, the country's budget trajectory continues to improve over the forward estimates because of the work we continue to do to control growth. The savings the federal government has made for Australians have been profound, and, overall, government expenditure over the current forward estimates is now $18.5 billion, lower than anticipated at budget time. Of course, it could be more if those opposite cared about reducing the debt and ensuring that the debt was not a noose around the neck of future generations. In addition to budget repair, we have assisted ordinary Australians and their families enormously, with the creation of 534,400 new jobs since this government was elected in 2013. With significant job creation on the federal government's watch, employment is continuing to grow.

As I have just outlined, the Liberal-led government is backing hardworking Australians with more jobs and less debt, unlike those opposite, who left every man, woman and child in this country paralysed with debt. But as we know, that is the Labor way. Labor strangled Australians through higher taxes and more taxes, as well as creating an incredibly negative economic climate where the jobless queues grew by around 196,000 under their management.

To give a local perspective with respect to Durack, what I do know is that, over the last 3½ years, services and infrastructure have improved. In the southern part of the electorate, the Wheatbelt has undergone enormous development. One example is the New Norcia bypass construction. New Norcia, some 130 kilometres north of Perth, is a popular tourist destination, as it is Australia's only monastic town. The New Norcia bypass project will allow heavy vehicles the opportunity to bypass this historic precinct, which will both help preserve the town's many historic buildings and allow for future development of the town.

Only last year I attended the opening of the revitalised West End precinct in Geraldton, which was developed with the help of this federal government. This precinct is a great chapter in the development of Geraldton's foreshore and the city's future. It will help boost tourism and be another space where local families can spend their time.

I do note that this MPI is all about the big end of town. I think those opposite know a thing or two about the big end of town. One of the most disturbing developments from the Heydon royal commission—and we have heard a bit about this over the last week—was the payments made to AWU Victoria, the member for Maribyrnong and Leader of the Opposition's very own union. This is the man who is styling himself as the alternative leader of this country. The man who leads those opposite thinks that he could possibly one day be the representative of Australia on the world stage. As the man who has orchestrated the taking of secret payments from Cleanevent, he has sold out the workers he claims to represent. That is what I call getting in bed with the big end of town. These are the people from Cleanevent. They are hardworking people who work in the most difficult of conditions. That does not look like he is backing the small man on the street; that just looks like he is in bed with big business.

That is why we are introducing legislation to ban the secret payments between business and unions, and we are requiring disclosure of the illegitimate payments. This is a simple and efficient measure, as recommended by the Heydon royal commission, to make unions more accountable and also more accessible, and I sincerely hope that those opposite will support this. So it is pretty clear, from this week, who is supporting the big end of town. We on this side are backing small business and looking after the workers of Australia.