House debates

Tuesday, 12 February 2019

Bills

Treasury Laws Amendment (2017 Enterprise Incentives No. 1) Bill 2017; Consideration of Senate Message

12:04 pm

Photo of Andrew LeighAndrew Leigh (Fenner, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Assistant Treasurer) Share this | Hansard source

Labor is pleased that the government has seen sense in removing schedule 2 from the Treasury Laws Amendment (2017 Enterprise Incentives No. 1) Bill 2017. Schedule 2 of this bill gave taxpayers the choice to self-assess the effective life of certain intangible depreciating assets. Labor said, when the bill came before the House, that we would support schedule 1 but not schedule 2. We said that we could see some modest policy argument for it in good fiscal times. If the rivers of gold that flowed in the Howard and Costello years were still flowing, then it might be possible to make fiscally profligate decisions such as this. But we were then told that the measure would cost the budget $80 million over the forward estimates, and we could not in good conscience support that. Our reason for that is simple: net government debt now is around $350 billion, which is almost $14,000 for every person in Australia.

That contrasts with when the coalition won office, when net debt was just $175 billion. Gross debt now exceeds half a trillion dollars—five times as large as when then opposition leader Malcolm Turnbull launched his debt truck back in 2009. If they were being honest about the state of government debt in the country, they should be commissioning a debt road train to replace their debt truck. We found out, when the government announced it last year, that the government was dropping schedule 2. The government said:

Given the lack of parliamentary support the Government has decided not to proceed with this measure …

When the government, in the Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook, on 17 December 2018, announced that it wouldn't proceed with schedule 2, it told us something else remarkable. The government told us that the cost of schedule 2 was not $80 million, as this House had been informed, but was a whopping $425 million. That's how much this unnecessary tax concession would have cost the budget if Labor had not stood in its way.

So, again, Labor has demonstrated ourselves to be the party of prudent and responsible economic management. At a time when net debt has been doubled by the Abbott-Turnbull-Morrison government, it is Labor that is standing against the extension of fiscally reckless loopholes in our tax system. We support the amended bill. It was Labor's idea that the bill be amended in this way. And we simply thank our lucky stars that this tax loophole, originally $80 million and now costed at $425 million, has been avoided.

Question agreed to.

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