House debates

Wednesday, 28 March 2018

Matters of Public Importance


3:18 pm

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

For the opposition, attending question time is the triumph of hope over experience. We very rarely get answers from the government, but today we did get an answer. It was elusive. It was only one answer hidden in the thicket of government nonreplies, but the Prime Minister today has made it very clear that he will take his corporate tax cuts to the next election. Whilst I do not agree with his position, I do acknowledge that he answered the question. I just want to advise him and his representatives in this government that we are up for the next election being a referendum on whether this nation should give $65 billion to large corporations or whether we should be a nation that prioritises the needs of middle-class and working-class Australians. We will have this fight on the Turnbull government's corporate tax cuts.

At the next election there will be two very different visions offered for the future of this nation to the people of Australia. The government's agenda is very clear: a $65 billion handout to multinationals, to big banks and to large corporations and raising the taxes for working Australians who earn less than $87,000 a year. Labor, by contrast, will offer the following vision to the Australian people: lower taxes for families, higher wages for workers, and better schools and hospitals for all Australians. We stand for the fair go. That's the choice. That's the contest, and the contest starts now. Let me make something very clear: Labor will go to the next election promising to repeal the Prime Minister's multibillion dollar handout for big business, if it passes the Senate.

Let us not hear any more from the government about being 'the party for lower taxes', because the government actually have two pieces of tax legislation in the Senate. They've got their tax giveaway for their friends at the top end of town, but they have another piece of legislation. It's a tax increase for nurses and teachers, police officers, childcare workers and mechanics; a tax increase of $300 for someone who earns $60,000; a tax increase of $350 for someone earning $70,000. This Prime Minister wants to punish working Australians. Labor just chooses to protect them.

Politics is all about priorities. The government wants the parliament to sign a cheque for $65 billion out of the nation's ATM, and it has to be paid for. This government loves to misquote Labor. Whenever Labor have supported changes in corporate taxation, we've replaced that revenue with other revenue. We hear this Prime Minister cherrypick our arguments: dishonest then, dishonest now, dishonest into the future. The reality is this government has pretended to the Australian people that it can take $65 billion out of the budget and there is nothing to be explained. It doesn't explain where the money is coming from. But we have a problem in this country. Our hospitals are still too crowded. Waiting lists for surgery are too long. Schools are not appropriately funded. TAFEs are still closing. Child care is still too expensive and too hard to find. Cities, suburbs and regions are crying out for new roads and ports, rail and bridges and airports, and a first-rate NBN. Older Australians are still waiting in greater numbers than ever for aged-care packages, and the wages for Australian workers are simply too low.

What will we have at the end of Mr Turnbull's $65 billion tax giveaway? Nothing. We could be using that money to repair the budget and pay down the debt. We could be using it to invest in the future of our economy, in the luck we make ourselves, in our people, in education, in skills, in training and in apprenticeships. You do not deliver a prosperous middle class and working class in this country by throwing money at big banks. You do it by investing in new industries, skilling up workers and helping adults retrain for the jobs of the future. You do it by supporting a decent wage, including penalty rates for people who will be working on the upcoming public holidays this Easter. This is the Labor way: new industries, skilled workers, productive businesses and higher wages.

Labor has a strategy for growth. We have proposed the Australian investment guarantee. We will support businesses to immediately deduct an extra 20 per cent of their investments in eligible depreciable assets. This means trucks and utes for tradies, and machinery, plant and equipment for productivity-boosting innovation in industry, and also depreciable intangible assets for purchases like software upgrades. We want to actually invest scarce taxpayer money on the direct promise that companies invest back in productivity. This government wants to give away $65 billion with no promises and no strings attached. We are happy to help companies invest in job creation, in productivity growth and better wages, but we want to see something for the taxpayer support they receive.

Then we look at what this government wants to do with $65 billion. Sixty cents in every dollar of this government's $65 billion giveaway will go straight overseas. This wasn't a socialist think tank—it wasn't the Australia Institute, the 'Cuban Institute' or the 'North Korean Institute'—it was analysis from the former chief economist at Goldman Sachs. Sixty cents in every dollar—$39 billion taxpayer dollars—will go straight to multinational profits and overseas. I understand that the Prime Minister has always been a fan of sending money offshore, but I don't want him to do it with taxpayers' dollars! This is not a plan for Australian jobs or Australian wages. This is corporate welfare for multinational firms. This is foreign aid for foreign multinationals.

Of course, our friends at the big Australian banks never go missing when there's Mr Turnbull in town. Some of the Australian businesses who will receive a benefit from this $65 billion of Australian taxpayer support will be the banks—Commonwealth Bank, Westpac, ANZ and NAB. This tax giveaway is a multibillion dollar bankers' bonus.

This royal commission of the banks, which this Prime Minister and Treasurer mocked, attacked, ridiculed and sneered at—and with their fingernail marks on the concrete were dragged to having—every day reveals worse conduct. What we have seen already is simply shocking. What is the government's response? They want to give the same banks billions of dollars of taxpayers' money, money which could be spent looking after the hospitals and schools of Australia.

There is nothing in this proposal guaranteeing wage increases for working Australians. Nothing. On the government's own numbers this $65 billion corporate largesse from the taxpayers of Australia to the big end of town is predicted to produce a 1.1 per cent increase in wages growth in 20 years time. That's $2 a working day, $10 a week, in 2037. Has anyone who dreamed up this corporate tax giveaway had a serious conversation with working Australians about the family budgets that they are dealing with every week?

How on earth could this government dream up a scheme which gives away so much money to large companies for so little result and, indeed—to be fair to big business—they haven't even bothered pretending that they're going to do anything for the government in return. I knew that the Treasurer and the Prime Minister weren't bright, but I never imagined that they were so out of touch that even their friends would not do anything for the $65 billion. Never has a conservative government worked so hard to spend so much money for so little result.

Of course, it's not just Labor saying this. What we saw, to justify the case—this clarion economic strategy of this beleaguered, one-trick-pony government—is that the government are running around with a two-lined letter from big business, 'Give us the money and we promise we will seriously consider thinking about an investigation into an inquiry into the potential to do something about wages one day.' This is only one step up from those email scams. Not as many typos, but the picture's the same. You know: 'Dear so-and-so, congratulations and hello my very good friend. Your long-lost relative, the prince of Nigeria, has died and left you everything. Just send money and we will release the funds.'

But it gets worse. Today we've learnt more about this piece of corporate spam, that the commitment to the Senate wasn't the original; it was the sequel. It was the executive director's cut: I know the Prime Minister drives a hard bargain:. 'Hello Percy; hello Murgatroyd. I need you to back me up here.' 'Yes, what do you want?' 'Commitment to jobs.' 'No, you can't have that.' 'Commitment to wages?' 'No, you can't have that.' 'Commitment to not offshoring?' 'Absolutely not!' 'We want you to commit to tax.' 'Oh, my goodness, old chap. What is going on here?' I'll tell you one thing: we want to be internationally competitive but not on corporate tax— (Time expired)


No comments