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

5:30 pm

Photo of Jerome LaxaleJerome Laxale (Bennelong, Australian Labor Party) Share this | Hansard source

There's no denying that cost-of-living pressures have been at the forefront of people's minds across my electorate of Bennelong and across Australia as a whole. From families struggling to make ends meet to individuals who are feeling the pinch of rising prices of everyday essentials, cost-of-living pressures have hurt household budgets.

Our government was elected to clean up the mess left by those opposite and to deliver genuine cost-of-living relief to all Australians. With Labor's cost-of-living tax cuts, we are doing just that. We are a government that recognises that people are doing it tough. That's why, since day one, the No. 1 priority of this government has been to address pressing challenges of inflation and to deliver cost-of-living relief. It's what we were elected to do. We know that many people are doing it tough. That's why in the last budget we delivered $23 billion of targeted relief whilst implementing fiscal policy that did not add to the burden of inflation. From electricity bill relief to making essential medicines more affordable, from reducing the costs of accessing medical care to expanding parental leave and making child care more affordable, our government is committed to delivering genuine relief to everyday Australians.

But we know that household budgets are still tight, that global economic pressures continue to impact the Australian economy and that people need more support. When Morrison's stage 3 tax cuts were legislated five years ago the world was a very different place: 2019 was before a global pandemic; it was before persistent inflation, of which the highest quarter on record happened under the former government; 2019 was before higher interest rates, which we also know started under the former government; and 2019 was well before two global conflicts and the continued post-pandemic supply chain shocks that we still face today. Our economy in 2024 is vastly different to the economy of 2019.

When economic circumstances change, economic policy must also change. This should not be a controversial statement. It should be how good governments respond to the challenges of the time. Our cost-of-living tax cuts represent good economic policy that respond to the economic challenges of today. But they aren't just about cost of living. They are about restoring fairness to the tax system to serve the interests of middle Australia in a better way at a time they need it most. While the Morrison plan was to give a tax cut to only some, Labor's plan is to give a cut to every taxpayer. Reshaping this plan will mean that 11.5 million taxpayers will receive a bigger tax cut. That means that 5.8 million women will receive a bigger tax cut. In Bennelong alone, every single one of our 92,000 taxpayers will receive cost-of-living relief through a tax cut, and 74,000 people in Bennelong will be better off than under the Liberals.

A nurse who is earning around $90,000 a year will receive a tax cut of $1,929. That's $804 a year better off under Labor's plan. A software engineer earning $140,000 a year will get a tax cut of $3,729. That's $500 more a year than under the Morrison plan. And a part-time office assistant who is earning $45,000 a year will get a tax cut of $804, whereas under the Liberals they would have got zero—zip, nothing. Where Australian households are looking at how to make every dollar count, Labor's cost-of-living tax cuts will provide help at a really tough time.

But the benefits of these cuts extend far beyond just the individual. Our plan restores the progressive nature of our tax system. Our country's social safety net has been built on a backbone of progressive income tax, and the Liberals wanted to smash that. They wanted someone on $45,000 a year to pay the same rate of tax as someone on $200,000 a year. Their plan is and always has been unfair. Labor's plan is better and fairer. It will ensure that every taxpayer receives a tax cut. By dropping two tax rates and lifting two tax thresholds, we are ensuring that every Australian taxpayer receives a benefit. This is about addressing cost-of-living pressures in a way that is equitable and sustainable.

We are putting more money back into the pockets of working Australians. We are the government that wants every Australian worker to earn more and to keep more of what they earn. Contrast that to the Liberals and Nationals, who want you to work longer for less. Contrast our clarity over this policy to the Liberals and Nationals, who have tied themselves in knots over their response to our better and fairer cost-of-living tax cut changes. First, the Liberals said they would oppose the policy. Then they said they'd roll it back. Then the alternative Treasurer of this country, the member for Hume, on the same day he indicated he would support it, called it Marxism. Of course, the Leader of the Opposition said that there should be an election on this issue. Then he, too, said he would support it.

I will gladly take our economic record to the next election and defend to the hilt these better and fairer tax cuts. Prior to the last election the shadow Treasurer came to Bennelong, campaigning alongside the Liberal's hand-picked parachute candidate. So, at the next election, I challenge the shadow Treasurer to come back to Bennelong again, alongside the next Liberal out-of-town parachute candidate, and explain why the Liberals have attacked Labor's cost-of-living tax cuts. Come and explain why the Liberals didn't want to deliver bigger tax cuts for 81 per cent of taxpayers in Bennelong. Come and explain why the Liberals didn't want a part-time worker on $45,000 a year to get a tax cut, as they will under Labor's plan. I know that, whatever it is they'll be selling, it won't be what our community have been asking for.

Bennelong asked me to fight for changes to block Morrison's tax cuts, and they asked for more help with cost-of-living pressures. On behalf of them, I fought for the changes we see here today in this legislation. So, on behalf of Bennelong, I thank the Treasurer, the Prime Minister, the cabinet and the entire Labor caucus for listening to us. There is, of course, much more work to do but, with our cost-of-living support and with these cost-of-living tax cuts, we are showing that we are a government that wants you to earn more and to keep more of what you earn. I commend this bill to the House.


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