House debates

Tuesday, 13 February 2024


Treasury Laws Amendment (Cost of Living Tax Cuts) Bill 2024, Treasury Laws Amendment (Cost of Living — Medicare Levy) Bill 2024; Second Reading

4:53 pm

Photo of Sam BirrellSam Birrell (Nicholls, National Party) Share this | Hansard source

Deputy Speaker Vasta, Nicholls is a great electorate. You're always welcome there, as I said to the Speaker last night.

This is like a riveting movie that's just had a bit of a 24-hour intermission, but I look forward to continuing on. As I was saying last night, much has been said about the government tax cuts. I've seen ministers rise up there and say that people were getting zero under the coalition and they're getting a various range of tax cuts under those opposite. It ignores the fact that there was a low- and middle-income tax offset that was giving $1,500 to lower- and middle-income earners. They got a rude shock when they went to get their tax returns last year and found out that the low- and middle-income tax offset was no longer there. Now, we're talking about what measures could have been undertaken by the government, and keeping the low- and middle-income tax offset would have actually given most of the taxpayers more money and kept the integrity of the stage 3 tax cuts and the attempt to get bracket creep under control. So there were options, and obviously the one they chose was the complete change of the tax reform, breaking an election promise.

The coalition is committed to lower, simpler and fairer taxes, which is why we will not oppose the reduction in the tax rate. But the Prime Minister's broken promise means that delivering the stage 3 tax reforms as they were intended and legislated is now impossible. These were stage 3 tax reforms that, I might remind people, came on top of stage 1 and 2—that's been forgotten—and that were voted for, agreed to and promised several times by the then opposition in the lead-up to the election. The coalition is committed to going to the next election with a tax reform package—we have to look at tax reform again—that is in keeping with the intent of the stage 3 tax reforms. We remain committed to fighting bracket creep and enshrining aspiration. Our package will be fully costed and ready to implement. It will deliver lower, simpler and fairer taxes, fight bracket creep, reward hard work and support a strong economy where every Australian can get ahead.

Australians are finding it really difficult to get ahead at the moment because of the cost-of-living crisis. The purchasing power of an Australian earning a gross salary of $85,000 has fallen more than $7,600 since Labor came to office, so their purchasing power has been smashed, but the ministers are jumping up saying: 'Here's 800 bucks. Aren't I a hero?' For an average income, that is a loss of just under $8,000, and it's swallowed up by rising mortgage payments, falling real wages and increasing taxes. An earner on this annual wage would receive just $804 more under Labour's policy, or $15.46 a week. That's not even including the low- and middle-income tax scheme that I discussed earlier. Over time, the bracket creep this policy entrenches will increase taxes by $28 billion on more than four million Australians, so the sugar hit is now but the long-term tax take for the government, out of Australians' pockets, is significant.

The cost-of-living crisis is real, and the government's got to do more than just offer a tax cut. The cost-of-living crisis is caused by policies that do not promote productivity, business success and profitability and that keep inflation at an extremely high rate. Some of those policies are around energy. The government's failed to introduce policies that would enable it to keep its promised $275 reduction in energy bills.

The cost of groceries is going up in the supermarket. I come from an agricultural region and an agricultural electorate, and I can tell you why groceries are going up: it's because the policies of the Labor government, particularly around IR, biosecurity and water, are making it extremely difficult to run agricultural businesses and invest in agriculture, because of the uncertainty of the future. That's going to put incredible pressure on what we all need, which is food. As I explained, the industrial relations policies are a direct attack on productivity, and lower productivity leads to higher inflation.

The first thing I said last night when I started this speech about this issue was that there were three issues that I wanted to cover. The first is integrity in politics, the second is meaningful tax reform and the third is the cost-of-living crisis. On integrity in politics, as I said, before the election the Prime Minister promised the $275 reduction in energy prices, no change to super tax, cheaper mortgages and no change to the stage 3 tax cuts. All of those promises have been broken. If we're serious about integrity in politics, you've got to go to the election meaning what you say, and you need to do what you said during the campaign if you're lucky enough to get elected. That hasn't happened here. We're not having a conversation about meaningful tax reform. We're having a conversation about redistribution and giving people a bit of a sugar hit to try and help a cost-of-living crisis that the government is exacerbating.

When the tax cut sugar hit wears off and any benefit is swallowed up by more bad policy decisions, the wage earners are going to face this terrible reality. They're facing it now. They're worse off. And they don't appreciate being lectured by government ministers during question time telling them how wonderful we are for looking after them by giving them an $800 tax cut, when, overall, they're incredibly worse off due to inflation, interest rates, cost of living and the failure to extend the low- and middle-income tax offset. The government is taxing for its future, not Australia's future. It's taxing for Dunkley, not for the future of Australian productivity. Keating understood that, Hawke understood that and Howard and Costello understood that. It's about time we got back to meaningful tax reform, and I urge the government to focus on that and try and lift productivity and the economic conditions. That will then improve the living standards in Australia, which have been falling since they came to government.


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