House debates

Monday, 11 September 2023

Private Members' Business

Taxation: Corporate Profits

10:14 am

Photo of Max Chandler-MatherMax Chandler-Mather (Griffith, Australian Greens) Share this | Hansard source

I move:

That this House:

(1) notes the Government's failure to reign in excessive profits from corporations which are hurting everyday people by driving inflation and worsening the cost of living crisis; and

(2) calls on the Government to tax super profits and make the big corporations pay their fair share of tax so that everyone can have a better life.

There are 1.5 million mortgage holders at risk of mortgage stress. There are 62 per cent of renters in rental stress. But, in the same year in which we've been in one of the worst housing crises we have seen in generations, the Commonwealth Bank has recorded a record $10 billion in profit. There are people going to the supermarket right now making tough choices between feeding their kids and paying the rent; they're finding their grocery bills going up every week. But, at the same time that that is happening, Coles and Woolworths have just recorded record profits. In fact, Coles has just recorded a $1.1 billion profit and Woolworths a $1.62 billion profit. Their profits are going up at the same time as people's household costs, financial stress and cost of living are going up.

We have a political and economic system so entirely stacked against ordinary people that we can have Coles and Woolworths come out and talk about how they're going to crack down on more theft occurring at supermarkets while, at the same time, they are robbing millions of Australians blind, abusing their market power and driving up costs, while we have a government—a Labor government—unwilling to hold them to account. I mean, the gall of these massive corporations—making massive profits, then turning it around and saying: 'We don't understand why theft is going up'! Well, what happens when a single mum is at the supermarket and knows that if she can steal a carton of milk then she'll be able to make sure that her kids get a good feed the next day? And all of a sudden, society and the media are focusing on that and not focusing on the fact that these corporations are robbing Australians blind.

Now, there is entirely a solution that the government could pursue. Indeed, we've had it costed by the Parliamentary Budget Office. The government could introduce a super-profits tax on these corporations. They could make clear to the Commonwealth Bank, to Coles, to Woolworths and to the gas corporations, who are robbing us blind: 'Enough is enough. Every time you earn a super profit, every time you price-gouge Australians, then that will be taxed and we will raise tens of billions of dollars that we can put back towards giving relief to renters and giving relief to mortgage holders. We can use that money to incentivise a freeze and cap on rent increases. We can use it to bring dental into Medicare. We can use it to raise the pension and other government payments above the poverty line, to ensure everyone in this country lives a good life.'

Perhaps the cruellest irony is that, every time inflation has gone up over the last 24 months, the Reserve Bank has solemnly said to Australians: 'The way to deal with the inflation crisis is to raise interest rates.' All that has done is to put pain on mortgage holders, on renters and on ordinary people doing it tough, and it has done nothing to address the real cause of the inflation crisis, which is massive corporate super-profits. Does anyone seriously believe that it's workers and wages that are causing the inflation crisis? A lot of economists now have made it very clear that what is causing the inflation crisis, what is causing the cost of living crisis, is companies like Coles and Woolworths abusing their duopoly power and driving up the cost of living, driving up prices and driving up profits. Then the only solution that our government has had, really, has been to rely on the Reserve Bank to jack up interest rates, which has only put people in more financial stress and more pain and punished the people who have nothing to do with this, while allowing banks like the Commonwealth Bank to drive up their profits even more. That's how rigged this system is against ordinary people.

Now, we do have solutions: a freeze and cap on rent increases; taxing super-profits, to make sure those corporations are disincentivised from driving up their prices because they'll know that if they do then we'll just tax that and use that money to do things like bringing dental into Medicare; building public and affordable housing; and fully funding our public education system, so the public schools aren't forced to charge exorbitant student fees—things that have been done before in countries around the world.

Not only that, but also we could, for instance, scrap student debt. That's the other deep irony—the cruel feedback mechanism that is screwing people over: every time Coles, Woolworths and the Commonwealth Bank drive up their prices, thus driving up inflation and the rate of CPI, when student debt is indexed, that debt goes up even further. Indeed, we've got a situation where, while gas corporations are making record profits, the government's so-called gas tax is going to raise only $2.5 billion over the next four years, at the same time as the government is about to make $5 billion from indexing student debt.

We have a political and economic system entirely stacked against ordinary people and a government unwilling to take on Coles, Woolworths, the Commonwealth Bank and the other multinational corporations currently screwing Australians over. And I think a lot of people are fed up with it.


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