House debates

Wednesday, 28 March 2018

Matters of Public Importance


3:38 pm

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

It's interesting, isn't it, that the member for Deakin doesn't want to talk at all about the $65 billion of big business tax cuts that his Prime Minister recommitted to today. I think it's really a tale of two letters, Mr Deputy Speaker. One is the letter that the Business Council of Australia finally sent to the Senate last week, which contains all of two sentences:

We believe that a reduction in the corporate tax rate, as proposed through the Government's enterprise tax plan, is urgent and vital to keep Australia competitive.

If the Senate passes this important legislation we, as some of the nation's largest employers, commit to invest more in Australia which will lead to employing more Australians and therefore stronger wage growth as the tax cut takes effect.

It does not say, 'We will increase wages'—nothing as simple as that, no.

The interesting letter is the letter that the Business Council of Australia members refused to sign, which actually is a very good letter. It's quite a detailed letter that sets the economic context and then says: 'Our commitment, the whole point of the Enterprise Tax Plan, is to create new and better jobs in Australia. Therefore the Business Council of Australia members offer the following commitment: if the Senate passes the Enterprise Tax Plan in full, we will (1) create more Australian jobs in the cities, towns, suburbs and bush.'

Why couldn't they put that in the final letter? Why is it that this didn't make the cut for the final letter? We know that this tax cut won't lead to new jobs, and the Business Council of Australia are not prepared to say that they will create new jobs. In social security, we've got mutual obligation. The government gives you something; you do something in return for that. You do volunteer work. You look for work. There is no mutual obligation when it comes to a $65 billion big-business tax cut. In fact, the promise that they've given is about as convincing as the commitments contestants make on Married at First Sight.

The next commitment that the Business Council were asked to sign up to was the commitment that they'll invest in more Australian projects and ideas, especially in remote and rural Australia. Were they prepared to sign up to that one? No, they were not prepared to sign up to that one. And how pathetically weak is One Nation that they were prepared to back the big-business tax cuts in return for 1,000 apprenticeships in the bush? There are 148,000 fewer apprentices across Australia right now than when we were in government, and One Nation's prepared to give away $65 billion in big-business tax cuts for 1,000 apprentices in the bush. It's incredible, too, isn't that, the National Australia Bank recorded a profit of $6.5 billion last year. Has that led to extra jobs? No, they actually cut 6,000 jobs.

So here we've got the Business Council of Australia not prepared to create more jobs. They're not prepared to invest in more Australian projects and ideas. Were they prepared to commit to being in a stronger position to avoid the offshoring of jobs? No, that one didn't make the cut either. They couldn't commit to less offshoring of Australian jobs. Could they commit to increasing wages when the conditions are right? They weren't even asked to commit to flat-out increasing wages—no. They can't even commit to increasing wages when the conditions are right. I'll tell you what: profits have grown 32 per cent over the last two years, and how much have wages grown in that time? They've grown by four per cent in the same time. You've got a 32 per cent increase in profits and wages are not even really keeping up with inflation. When will the conditions be right if a 32 per cent increase in profitability is not the right time to increase wages? You've got the Secretary to the Treasury, John Fraser, saying that he is worried about the severing of the link between increased profitability, increased productivity and increased wages. When will conditions be right?

Fifth, big business were asked to 'pay our tax and show our commitment by signing the ATO's tax transparency standard'. These people can't even commit to paying their tax. That didn't make the final cut of the letter they signed up to. I guess that it is no wonder because, in 2015, when we did tax transparency legislation, they fought us every step of the way and the Liberals and the Greens combined to vote against tax transparency. It's no wonder that they couldn't sign this letter, because they don't want to do any of this stuff.


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