House debates

Thursday, 5 May 2016

Motions

Prime Minister; Censure

2:54 pm

Photo of Chris BowenChris Bowen (McMahon, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Treasurer) Share this | | Hansard source

I seek leave to move the following motion:

That the House;

(1 )notes:

(a) in Question Time yesterday, the Government refused to outline the 10-year cost of the centrepiece of its Budget, its 10-year tax cut for big business;

(b) in an extraordinary interview on national television today, the Prime Minister declined on 18 separate occasions to tell Australians how much his 10-year tax cut for big business will cost, with the Prime Minister also stating 'the Treasury has not identified the dollar cost of this particular item'; and

(c) in Question Time today, the Prime Minister repeatedly refused to provide the Parliament and the Australian people with the cost of the centrepiece of his Budget;

(2) further notes, if the Prime Minister does not know the cost of the centrepiece of his Budget, he is incompetent, or, if he does know, he is being untruthful; and

(3) censures the Prime Minister for hiding the true cost and fundamental unfairness of his centrepiece 10-year tax cut for big business.

Photo of Christopher PyneChristopher Pyne (Sturt, Liberal Party, Leader of the House) Share this | | Hansard source

Mr Speaker, given the shadow Treasurer has not asked the Treasurer one question about the budget, we will give leave for this debate.

Photo of Chris BowenChris Bowen (McMahon, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Treasurer) Share this | | Hansard source

I move the motion. The only question before the Australian people is: is this government incompetent or is it dishonest? It is quickly becoming apparent that it is managing to do both. It has managed to be incompetent and dishonest about its budget. Its centrepiece measure is a fraud—its centrepiece measure is a fraud on the Australian people—and the Prime Minister is being dishonest about the reasons that he will not be honest about the cost. The Prime Minister is not only covering up the cost of the centrepiece of his budget; he is covering up the reasons why. He should learn the lessons of history. As Richard Nixon learnt, it is always the cover-up that gets you. The Prime Minister seems to have forgotten that point.

The Prime Minister is being tricky with the Australian people, and he is being dishonest as he goes about his incompetence. We learnt today the Prime Minister is going to lock in the cost of his tax cuts over 10 years, but he will not even tell the parliament or the people what the cost is. He seriously seeks to come into this House and put legislation before the Australian people, and he will not tell the parliament or the people the cost of his plans. This is the height of arrogance and incompetence. No wonder the Australian people think this bloke is out of touch—because he is. He thinks that $55 billion is a small amount of money, apparently. He does not realise that the Australian people think that maybe that money could be spent on schools and hospitals. It could be spent on budget repair. But, no, the Prime Minister has to also be dishonest about why.

He said in question time today that budgets never include a 10-year cost in dollars—that that never happens. He has forgotten he was a cabinet minister in a government with a budget that did. When the member for Warringah cut $80 billion out of health and education, at least he had the guts to be honest about it. At least he had the courage to tell the Australian people what he had done. The member for Warringah would have told us the 10-year cost, because we know he has form. When he was cutting schools and hospitals, he managed to tell the Australian people. At least the former member for North Sydney managed to be honest with the Australian people as he was going about his incompetence. This Prime Minister is so bad he has managed to be dishonest and incompetent all at once.

The Prime Minister has been found out. He thought he could bring in a 10-year plan, a 10-year cut to the company tax rate, but not explain what it costs over 10 years. You just cannot do that. The Prime Minister lectures us—lectures the parliament, lectures the Australian people—about living within our means. 'We've got to live within our means,' he says. But he decides to change the means. He decides to reduce the corporate tax rate and reduce the means of funding schools and hospitals, and he just cannot be honest about it.

What a budget. What a budget. And what a launch for an election campaign! The Prime Minister is off to see the Governor-General in the next couple of days, and he launches his election campaign by not being honest with the Australian people—and not even being honest about the reasons he is being dishonest with the Australian people. He could just come clean, stand at the dispatch box and reveal the cost.

He says the Treasury has modelled it. We were not sure whether he had been incompetent. Now he says in question time today that Treasury has done the work—that Treasury has done the modelling. Well, stand up and tell us what the number is. Defend your decisions. You have decided to give away money; won't you tell us how much and defend it before the Australian people? Why won't you stand before the Australian people and say, 'You have a choice on 2 July. You can vote for Malcolm Turnbull, and I will give billions of dollars away for a corporate tax cut, or you can vote for Bill Shorten, and he will invest in schools and hospitals, and budget repair which is fair.' That is what he should do, but he will not. He will not tell the Australian people how much it costs and he will not be honest about why.

Can you imagine around the cabinet table, around the ERC table, the Prime Minister, the Treasurer and the ERC saying: 'I think we'll get away with this one. I think we'll do a 10-year plan. They'll never notice it is a 10-year plan. They won't ask us what the 10-year cost is. It's a no-brainer. Of course we will get away with it.' That is what they would have said—'They'll never get onto us; they'll never notice it's a 10-year plan.' Then they forgot they had written into the budget that it was a 10-year plan. The budget says it is a 10-year plan. The Prime Minister says budgets do not include 10-year plans, but his budget does. It says it in there. I can tell you on which pages. He said on national television this morning there is a page where it outlines the cost. He is wrong. There is not. It shows a balance over the years, and—guess what?—if the Treasury can predict the balance then they know what the cost is. It is very simple. If the Prime Minister knows the answer he should tell the Australian people the answer. If he does not know, he is incompetent—but we now know he knows.

This is very simple—we are giving the Prime Minister an opportunity. We gave him one this morning; we moved a motion in the House inviting the Prime Minister to come in and clean the situation up. He had the opportunity to do that this morning but he did not. We are giving him the opportunity now. He had the opportunity 18 times on national television this morning. You are about to go to an election, Prime Minister, on a budget that is fundamentally dishonest, that is flawed in its conception—but you could at least tell the Australian people what the cost is. The Prime Minister is treating the Australian people with contempt. He had this all planned out for weeks; we know that. He went out into the Prime Minister's courtyard with his cunning plan, and he called us back for three weeks—that went well; two days later we were all on the plane home. He had it all mapped out for the 2 July election. He was going to bring down a budget and the budget was going to be the launching pad for an election—'Malcolm Turnbull in his rightful place as Prime Minister of Australia after all these years,' he thought to himself, and he was going to use the budget as the launching pad.

There was one little problem with that plan: his budget was a dishonest document. His budget was a flawed document. His budget tells us all about his priorities when it comes to tax—who gets a tax cut; who does not. Nobody under $80,000 a year gets a tax cut and somebody on $1 million a year gets a $16,750-a-year tax cut. He is so desperate to give big business a tax cut that he has decided to define small business as any business up to a turnover of $1 billion. That is how desperate he is. With all these priorities, all these grand plans and all these plans of attack, he has decided not to tell the truth about it. He has decided not to tell the truth to the Australian people. The Australian people can take the truth. The Australian people want the truth. The Australian people demand the truth from this Prime Minister. This is not the new economic leadership we were promised when he knifed the member for Warringah. This is not what his backbench was expecting. Wasn't the backbench excited during question time today? Weren't they—the members from Tasmania and the members for the Central Coast of New South Wales—just leaping out of their seats in excitement about the coming election? They were looking forward so much to going for re-election on a platform of redefining small business as any business under $1 billion.

Mr Pasin interjecting

Mr Nikolic interjecting

Photo of Tony SmithTony Smith (Speaker) Share this | | Hansard source

The members for Barker and Bass will cease interjecting.

Photo of Chris BowenChris Bowen (McMahon, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Treasurer) Share this | | Hansard source

Giving big business a tax cut is their big re-election pitch to the Australian people. Almost $17,000 worth of tax cuts to somebody on $1 million a year—that is their big pitch for re-election. Well, good luck with that—but tell the truth about it as you go. The Prime Minister was kind enough during question time to mention that I have written a book about treasurers. I have, and none of them had a budget as bad as this one, none of them had a budget fall apart as quickly as this one has and none of them tried such dishonesty as the government has with this one. None of them did that, Labor or Liberal.

This is a government based on a fundamental premise of being dishonest with the Australian people, a fundamental premise of not telling the Australian people the truth. We say this carefully because we know it is the case. We know it is a serious charge to level, but there is no other conclusion you can reach. The Prime Minister knows the cost—he told us today he knows what the cost is. He got the briefing in the Expenditure Review Committee. The Treasury did the work. He knows what it is. If you know what it is, Prime Minister, tell the Australian people what it is. You managed to tell us what the impact of cutting schools and hospitals was in 2014. You were in the cabinet. The Prime Minister sat around in the cabinet as they approved the budget with a 10-year cost in it. The Prime Minister lectures us that schools and hospitals should be funded over 10 years and that we need a 10-year funding plan. They make erroneous claims about the National Disability Insurance Scheme, but they say it should be funded over 10 years. We agree, and that is what we do: we funded our plans over 10 years. The same test applies to this Prime Minister. He thinks he is above all. He thinks he is the smartest person in Australia. He might be the smartest person in Australia—I cast no judgement—but he is still required to be honest with the Australian people. He is still required to tell the truth.

Mr Pasin interjecting

Photo of Tony SmithTony Smith (Speaker) Share this | | Hansard source

The member for Barker is warned!

Photo of Chris BowenChris Bowen (McMahon, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Treasurer) Share this | | Hansard source

The Prime Minister is required to be honest with the Australian people as he seeks their trust and a mandate, and if he cannot be he does not deserve that trust. He does not deserve that mandate. The Prime Minister does not deserve the term in his own right that he so desperately craves. The member for Warringah knows it.

Those people on the backbench who are not supporters of the Prime Minister know it. Aren't they excited about this budget—the Abbott forces over there. They are so excited about the budget. Aren't they saying: 'Well, that went well. Glad we changed the Prime Minister. That went really well. That was worth all the grief to change Prime Minister.' All this new economic leadership. The Prime Minister, we know, does not have the courage of his convictions. The Prime Minister, we know, wanted to increase the GST and then thought it was too hard. He announced the greatest reform to Federation at the Penrith oration. That lasted to the next day. Now his big conviction is a corporate tax cut and he does not have the courage to tell us how much it costs. It is pretty basic.

We are happy to have the debate; we are happy to have the argument; we are happy to put our case about our priorities and the government's priorities. We are happy to explain why we think our priorities are more important, why investing in our schools is more important, why investing in hospitals is more important, why returning to budget balance is more important and why retaining and protecting the AAA credit rating is more important than the Prime Minister's thought bubble of a corporate tax cut. We are happy to have that debate. I will be debating the Treasurer, if he turns up, three or four times during the election campaign. Bring it on. Let's have the debate. But you have to come with the facts as well as policies. They have finally come up with an economic plan, but it has fallen apart.

I said yesterday in the House that at least the budget—I give it that—has gone better than most of the Turnbull government plans. It lasted to day 2. It turns out that I spoke too soon. It has collapsed on day 2, just on the basic fundamentals of knowing what it costs. How can you say to the Australian people, 'These are our priorities, but we can't tell you, we won't tell you, we refuse to tell you how much it costs'? That is what the Prime Minister says. He is going to the election on this platform: 'I don't trust you. I don't trust the Australian people.' He says the election is about trust and he is right. He does not trust the Australian people enough to tell them the truth. He does not trust them to tell them what the cost of his plan is. It is amazing that a Prime Minister would go to an election on the fundamental platform of not telling the truth to the Australian people. That is what this Prime Minister is doing. We are happy to have this debate; we are happy to debate government economic policies. Now you have come up with one, finally. After you have been rolled so many times, you finally have your act together and had a plan, and it has just fallen apart because you thought you could get away with it. The Prime Minister thought he was such a good explainer, of course. The world's greatest debater. 'I'll get away,' he thought, 'with a 10-year tax-cut plan without explaining what the cost is. Of course I'll be able to do it. I am, of course, Malcolm Turnbull. It's self-evident that I'll get away with it.' Well, he does not get away with it.

Photo of Tony SmithTony Smith (Speaker) Share this | | Hansard source

The member for McMahon will refer to members by their correct titles.

Photo of Chris BowenChris Bowen (McMahon, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Treasurer) Share this | | Hansard source

He is required to conduct himself with fundamental honesty in the great office that he holds, but the Prime Minister is showing that he does not deserve the great office he holds, because the Prime Minister who holds this great office has one integral responsibility: to tell the Australian people the truth. Everything else flows from that. All his responsibilities flow from that one fundamental responsibility to the Australian people: to be honest with them and tell them the truth. If the Prime Minister cannot tell the Australian people the truth, then he does not deserve the office he holds. If he cannot go to an election on the basis of fundamental honesty, then he does not deserve to win that election.

The Prime Minister may think it is more important to give a tax cut to big business than to invest in schools. The Prime Minister may think it is more important to give big business a tax cut than to invest in hospitals. The Prime Minister may think it is more important to give big business a tax cut than to invest in support for Australia's families. If he thinks that, he should tell the Australian people that. If he thinks that, he should be honest with the Australian people about that. And he should tell them how much his plan costs. We know he knows the cost. We know it is billions and billions of dollars. And we know why he does not want to tell them. It is because he actually fundamentally does not think he could win the argument. He does not think he could win the argument that investing in schools and hospitals is less important than a big business tax cut.

Prime Minister, it is time to fess up to the Australian people. It is time to fess up that you do not want to tell them the truth. It is time to finally look the Australian people in the eye and say, 'This is what I believe; I believe in spending tens of billions of dollars on a corporate tax, and I'll tell you how much it costs.' If you will not do that, you do not deserve to win this election and you do not deserve a mandate—

Photo of Christopher PyneChristopher Pyne (Sturt, Liberal Party, Leader of the House) Share this | | Hansard source

Mr Speaker, given that the shadow Treasurer is yet to make a substantive point, I move:

That the member for McMahon be given a five-minute extension of time.

Question agreed to.

Photo of Tony SmithTony Smith (Speaker) Share this | | Hansard source

The member for McMahon for five minutes.

Government members interjecting

Members on my right! The member for McMahon has the call.

Mr Dutton interjecting

The Minister for Immigration will cease interjecting.

Photo of Chris BowenChris Bowen (McMahon, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Treasurer) Share this | | Hansard source

I tell you what this government have not done: they have not made a fundamental point which justifies their re-election. That is what the Turnbull government have not done. This government have not made a fundamental point that justifies a mandate from the Australian people. If you have the courage to seek a mandate from the Australian people for a corporate tax cut, then tell them the truth about it. If you have the courage to go to the Australian people and say, 'These are my plans and this is what they will cost,' then you should go ahead and do it. You go and call that election, Prime Minister. Go down to Government House tonight and call that election. We welcome it. We welcome it very much. We will be saying in every electorate conference across the country and at every press conference we hold: 'This is a Prime Minister who does not trust you. This is a Prime Minister who will not tell you the truth. This is a Prime Minister who thinks a corporate tax cut is a good idea.' Well, good luck to him, but we fundamentally disagree with him.

We are prepared to be honest with the Australian people. We are prepared to lay out our plans, as the Leader of the Opposition has been setting the political agenda in Australia for two years. This Leader of the Opposition has been announcing policies. This Leader of the Opposition has been talking about high-income superannuation and announcing policies, not coming up with a retrospective thought bubble at five minutes to midnight. He has been leading the debate. This Leader of the Opposition has been leading the debate on multinational tax. This Leader of the Opposition has been leading the debate when it comes to budget repair which is fair. This Leader of the Opposition has been leading the debate on school and investment. This Leader of the Opposition has been leading the debate on hospitals.

You have been in his wake. This Prime Minister is playing desperate catch-up in the wake of the Leader of the Opposition. You have been exposed and now you have been exposed again as somebody who will not tell the truth. This Prime Minister's been exposed as somebody who treats the Australian people with contempt. This Prime Minister has been exposed today and he will be exposed on 2 July. We welcome an election. We welcome an election based on your budget. We welcome an election based on our alternative policies, because we have had the courage to put our policies out there, to explain them, to back them and to campaign on them across the country.

This Prime Minister has shown in the last 48 hours that he is simply not up to the task of being Prime Minister. And this Treasurer is not up to the task of the being finance minister of a G20 economy. It is time for this Prime Minister and this Treasurer to be replaced, but not in another party room coup; not with the Abbott forces circling around planning their return—

Photo of Tony SmithTony Smith (Speaker) Share this | | Hansard source

The member for McMahon will refer to members by their correct titles.

Photo of Chris BowenChris Bowen (McMahon, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Treasurer) Share this | | Hansard source

This Prime Minister and this Treasurer deserve to be replaced on 2 July by an alternative team who have been outlining their policies, an alternative team which does have an alternative vision for Australia, an alternative team which has the courage to explain why we should be elected and which has the courage to explain our policies and just how we will fund them. That is the alternative facing the Australian people. On 2 July, the Australian people will go to schools and halls across the country knowing that their Prime Minister does not trust them and knowing that their Prime Minister is not prepared to tell the truth.

The Prime Minister can fix this now. He can stand at the dispatch box now. He can table the Treasury modelling. He has plenty of notes and paper there. Somewhere in those notes there is some modelling. Somewhere in those notes is a cost. Somewhere in those notes is a figure. Why doesn't he get up and table it? Why doesn't he get up and tell the Australian people the truth? Why won't he justify his actions? Why won't he support his budget?

A Prime Minister and a Treasurer who bring down a budget are now hiding from it 48 hours later. Never has that been seen before. Never has a Prime Minister and a Treasurer been so ashamed of their policies that they are not prepared to defend them. Never has a Prime Minister and a Treasurer been so embarrassed about the cost of one of their measures that they have gone to such lengths to hide it. Never before has a budget gone into the witness protection program—individual members have, but never before has a budget been hidden in a safe house, not to be spoken of. Never before has a budget been such an embarrassment to a Prime Minister and a Treasurer that they will go to such lengths to avoid scrutiny. Never before has a budget been such an embarrassment that the Prime Minister will go on national television and refuse to answer a question about it 18 times in one interview. Never before has a Prime Minister been so exposed as not being up to the job. The member for Wentworth is not up to the job. The member for Wentworth is not fit to be a Prime Minister. I tell you what: the member for Maribyrnong is. And on 2 July the member for Maribyrnong will seek and receive a mandate from the Australian people based on honesty, based on policies and based on courage.

Opposition members interjecting

Photo of Tony SmithTony Smith (Speaker) Share this | | Hansard source

Members on my left!

Mr Ewen Jones interjecting

The member for Herbert! Obviously, the level of interjections is far too high. I have warned a number of people. I am going to lower the temperature instantly. The members for Barker and Griffith have been warned and have interjected continually through the member for McMahon's contribution. They will both leave under 94(a).

The member s for Barker and Griffith then left the chamber.

I call for a seconder of the motion.

Photo of Mr Tony BurkeMr Tony Burke (Watson, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Minister for Finance) Share this | | Hansard source

I second the motion and reserve my right to speak.

3:16 pm

Photo of Malcolm TurnbullMalcolm Turnbull (Wentworth, Liberal Party, Prime Minister) Share this | | Hansard source

I move:

That all words after "that" be omitted with a view to substituting the following words: "This House welcomes and supports the Governments economic plan for jobs and growth."

Photo of Mr Tony BurkeMr Tony Burke (Watson, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Minister for Finance) Share this | | Hansard source

Mr Speaker, on a point of order. I think that counts as a direct negative and therefore is out of order.

Mr Nikolic interjecting

Photo of Tony SmithTony Smith (Speaker) Share this | | Hansard source

The member for Bass will cease interjecting. The Clerk and I have had a chance to review the motion. The motion is in order and there is ample precedent. The Prime Minister has the call.

Photo of Malcolm TurnbullMalcolm Turnbull (Wentworth, Liberal Party, Prime Minister) Share this | | Hansard source

Thank you, Mr Speaker. In 2016 Australians face opportunities of a kind they have never seen before. We live in an age of extraordinary economic change. We live in an age when the pace and the scale of economic change is utterly unprecedented. The challenge for this government, the challenge for every member of this House, is: how do we ensure that Australians are able to take advantage of those opportunities?

Mr Champion interjecting

Photo of Tony SmithTony Smith (Speaker) Share this | | Hansard source

The member for Wakefield has already been warned.

Photo of Malcolm TurnbullMalcolm Turnbull (Wentworth, Liberal Party, Prime Minister) Share this | | Hansard source

How do we ensure that, at a time when we see the slowdown of the mining and construction boom, we maintain strong economic growth, strong growth in employment? How do we ensure that our children and our grandchildren have the great opportunities that await them if their government leads them with wisdom and with an economic plan that is designed to ensure that they achieve the greatness that awaits this nation in the 21st century? Every element of our economic plan is pulling in that direction of growth and jobs. We began with our Innovation and Science Agenda. We recognise at a time of rapid technological change that Australians need to be more innovative, more productive, more competitive. So, we have set out in our innovation agenda real incentives for Australians to invest in start-up companies, for our best scientists and researchers to collaborate with business and industry to ensure that we are at the cutting edge of technology.

We need to ensure that our defence forces have the 21st century capabilities they need to protect us in the years ahead. But we also need to ensure that every dollar that we can spend in Australia on Australian technology, on Australian advanced manufacturing, is spent here. So, we have set out a defence industry investment plan that will drive thousands of jobs in Australia directly and thousands more in the industries and the businesses that will spin off that high-tech advanced manufacturing base that we are creating.

Growth in our region is, as I said, unprecedented, in scale, in its size and in its pace. Forty years ago, China was barely part of the global economy; now it is, by many measures, the world's largest single economy. We have opened up the doors to those huge markets with free trade agreements with Korea, with Japan and, of course, with China. We are seeing across Australia, therefore, the response to that with more jobs, particularly in the services industries, in education, in tourism and, of course, in soft commodities, particularly from agriculture. Enormous opportunities have been generated, and that is why we had 300,000 new jobs created last year and three per cent real growth. That is why we had 26,000 jobs created last month. We have to continue with this agenda for economic growth. We cannot afford to risk it by changing tack in the way the Labor Party would propose.

In the budget on Tuesday night, the Treasurer set out the other elements of this national economic plan, including an enterprise tax cut plan over 10 years which will see our company tax rates become far more competitive with other countries around the world and in our region. In particular, it will benefit small companies—smaller businesses with turnovers up to $10 million, rising to $25 million, $50 million and $100 million in the earlier years. We know that those smaller companies that turn over up to $10 million employ 3.4 million Australians, and we know that reducing company tax to make it more competitive will result in more investment, more employment and more jobs. It drives economic growth and will add, over the long term, one per cent to GDP. Of course, it adds GDP to our economy every year, but it adds real growth over that period—as, indeed, the shadow minister who spoke so heatedly a moment ago has acknowledged in his own remarks and his own books in the past. We know that this will drive growth.

We also need to ensure that our tax system is sustainable over the long term, so we have made the tough decisions with respect to superannuation by scaling back very generous tax concessions to Australians on very high incomes and Australians with high levels of wealth, so that the superannuation system is more sustainable, fairer and, above all, more flexible. As I said earlier, in question time, it will be more flexible for women in particular who find themselves out of the workforce with family. When they come back, they will have the flexibility to catch up with concessional contributions if they are able to do so. Of course, people who are self-employed will be able to contribute to super in the way that they should be able to. Indeed, it will be more flexible for people over 65.

We have also set out to ensure that young Australians who are unemployed have a pathway to get into the workforce. The best way to ensure a young person is employable is for them to be employed. We need to give them the preparation—to give them the internship that gets them into the habit of getting up, turning up to work punctually, working with other people and getting the confidence to become more employable in the years ahead. These are enormous changes—life-changing policies that will transform the future of up to 120,000 young Australians in the years ahead. This is our commitment to ensuring that this works for every Australian right across the board.

What we are also doing here in the budget is ensuring that we live within our means. This is vitally important—bringing the budget back to balance. We have to ensure that we are able to slow the deficit, bring the deficit down, bring debt down and relieve that massive burden of debt and deficit that was left on future generations by the six misguided years of Labor government. We cannot forget that the Labor Party inherited a government which had cash at the bank and left Australia with a government mired in debt and with a huge structural deficit. All of our policies are determined, calculated and designed to drive growth and jobs. That is what they will deliver. What the Labor Party are proposing, on the other hand, is one measure after another that will stand in the way of enterprise. We all agree we need more investment in Australia. Who could argue with that? Well, apparently the Labor Party do, because they want to increase the tax on investment by 50 per cent—they want to increase capital gains tax by 50 per cent. That can have only one consequence: there will be less investment. And if there is less investment, there will be fewer jobs.

The Labor Party claims to be concerned about housing affordability. What they propose is a ban on negative gearing which will have the consequence that no Australian who lives by the sweat of his or her brow will be able to offset an investment loss against their personal income—it might be a salary, a wage or a professional income. What that will mean is that someone on average earnings or less—as is the case with 70 per cent of the people who lodge returns with negative gearing—in the future will not be able to purchase an investment property and offset a net rental loss against their income. This will take thousands of people out of the investment market. It will ensure that rents will go up. They have to go up because investors will have to seek a higher after-tax return. The availability of rental properties will decline, because the pool of investors will be gone and when investors sell they will have to sell to owner occupiers.

When you pull so many people out of the market the price of housing will crash. Not so long ago in the House I made the point that, all other things being equal, if you reduce the demand and the pool of buyers by a third, values and prices will fall. I recall the member for Isaacs cried out, 'You are making that up.' This is just the law of supply and demand. Every measure we have set out will drive growth and jobs—every single one: trade, innovation, investment and backing enterprise. Everything Labor has proposed stands in the way of jobs, stands in the way of enterprise, stands in the way of growth.

Photo of Tony SmithTony Smith (Speaker) Share this | | Hansard source

The original question was that the motion be agreed to. To this the honourable the Prime Minister has moved an amendment. If it suits the House, I will state the question in the form that the amendment be agreed to. The question now is that the amendment be agreed to.

3:26 pm

Photo of Mr Tony BurkeMr Tony Burke (Watson, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Minister for Finance) Share this | | Hansard source

I was going to move an extension of time for the Prime Minister, but I thought his backbench would have killed me. They are back there, sitting there like house bricks—without the animation or the enthusiasm. The reason they are feeling that way over there is that they know full well that ultimately the Prime Minister has not been capable of providing the economic leadership our nation needs. That is exactly where we have ended up. There is no longer a point to this Prime Minister; there is no longer a point to this government. How out of touch would you have to be to think you could get away with this? You might think, 'There are some budget measures I will not be questioned on. There are some I might not need to know the cost of.' But it is a fair bet that you ought to know the centrepiece—a fair bet. Of all the measures for which you might think, 'Maybe there is a figure I should carry in my head,' surely the centrepiece of the budget is not a bad starting point.

I loved hearing the Treasurer complain today, 'Why aren't you directing more questions to me?' It is because yesterday every time we asked, 'What is the cost,' he would not say. We thought that maybe they had not modelled it. We thought maybe they had been so incompetent that they never even checked what the cost would be. Maybe they are so hopeless at their job that it never occurred to them, when they were giving money to the big end of town, to even bother to check a little detail like what the cost to the budget would be. But it turns out, from the answers the Prime Minister has given today, they did know. They knew full well. They know the answer to this question, and they think they can get through from today all the way to 2 July and keep it a secret from the Australian people.

They have made the choice to prioritise the big end of town over families, over schools and over the health system with Medicare. They think they can get away with costing their cuts over 10 years and with spending the beginning of this week talking relentlessly about 10-year projections; they reckon they can get all the way to 2 July and not touch at all—out of all their measures—their budget centrepiece. The problem is they do not want to talk about their budget centrepiece at all anymore. The amendment that was moved by the Prime Minister does not mention the budget centrepiece. It is as though it is gone. The amendment is to take all references to that tax cut out of the motion. That is what the Prime Minister has moved. Not only has he moved it in his own handwriting; he has then added that they will not just support it—he has written the little addition: 'and welcomes'. It is an emotional thankyou, as we get rid of any reference to the centrepiece of his own budget.

When the Prime Minister was describing the centrepiece of his own budget, he deliberately did not tell the full story not only of the cost but of the measure itself. He talked about small businesses growing. 'Here are the figures', he said, 'to $10 million, to $25 million, to $50 million, to $100 million' and then he stopped there. But the budget plan does not stop there at all. Sure, right now, and last year under the Abbott government, we had the establishment of a bipartisan basis of the small business tax rate. We have bipartisan agreement that the small business tax rate should be lowered, but what they want to do is change the definition of small business every year—and it does not stop where the Prime Minister stopped.

Over the next seven years, we end up with eligibility for the small business tax rate going to businesses worth $1 billion. I have to say, in the history of this nation, there has only ever been one Prime Minister who would regard that as a small business! It has only ever happened once and it has happened here. The budget documents that we have been presented with this time around are extraordinary. My favourite is 'Making multinationals pay tax on what they earn in Australia' and it has a little picture of a map of Australia and a picture of an island tax haven. They have actually put it in their own budget documents. I do not know what that island might be. I do not know what is presented in there—and I expect a public servant will pay very dearly for the graphic design at some point in time.

Budgets are about choices and when they say, 'Why should we have to tell you what the 10-year projection is?' the answer is simple: they have told us what their 10-year cuts will be. They told us from the start what the 10-year cuts would be to hospitals and what the 10-year cuts would be to schools. We know what the 10-year projections are on the cuts that they give to families. We know that this is in the context of a budget where they put off all their talk of child care. Remember at the hearing that workplace participation was going to be the key—all pushed off in this budget, all gone. That is gone because choices have been made. The choices that they have made are fundamentally different to the choices that a Labor government would make.

If it is as we were told, 'Well, maybe, it is $55 billion'—as though it is small change between friends—if it is that, that is bigger than the entirety of the education cuts; in the order of the cuts to hospitals. The money we are talking about here is not like it is just a free kick in spare change to business. This government have decided who they will help and who they will hurt. While they wanted to say, 'It's some sort of class war,' it is not that. It simply runs against the grain of an old-fashioned concept of Australian fairness. That is it. It is not like the benefit is going to the top half of Australia versus the bottom half of Australia; it is going to about the top two per cent of Australia and the rest of Australia, at best, gets $6 a week—and that is only if you are somebody who does not have a family.

Even at the top of that $87,000 area, where they have a shift in the name of bracket creep, if you are a single parent on $87,000 a year with two high school kids, even after you have had that tax benefit, you are still $4½ thousand behind. That is the choice that has been made. I am sure they are out there thinking, 'But I've got my $6 a week'! That is the choice that has been made. That is before they get to the reality of someone who brings in $1 million in a year being $17,000 better off.

The concept of saying, 'Would we like taxes to be lower?' does not answer the question when you also have to say, 'Is the price of that an attack on every family in Australia?' Is the price that you are going to gut what we were told before the election, which was a bipartisan approach on school funding? We were told before the election that pensions would not be changed and then we saw a government come in here, budget after budget, and try in every different way to cut the pension. That money that is being cut from them is the same money that will now go to billion dollar companies under their plan. That is exactly why they do not want to say the number out loud.

Well, it does not take much for people to be able to say that they know the priorities of those opposite. We know, and the Australian people know, that the government was given a choice, and they chose the top end of town over the vast majority of Australia. That is the choice they made. And the price of that is that if you are a pensioner you get cut; if you are a family you get cut; if you are sick, Medicare goes backwards, hospitals go backwards. If you believe in jobs and growth, no-one delivers jobs and growth by cutting education, cutting infrastructure and making the internet slower. No country in the world would try to do that. But that is the prescription that is offered by those opposite.

What we have today is not the opposition choosing some corner of the budget to debate. We have gone directly to the budget centrepiece, and the Prime Minister believes that he can get away—even though he knows how much it will cost—with not letting the rest of Australia know how much it will cost. They know the cost of the cuts. They know that the price of the cuts is this benefit to the big end of town, the redefinition of small business, all the way up to companies with a $1 billion turnover. It is about choices, and the choices those opposite make are against the vast majority of Australians. Labor stands proudly against them.

3:36 pm

Photo of Scott MorrisonScott Morrison (Cook, Liberal Party, Treasurer) Share this | | Hansard source

I am very pleased to be speaking in favour of a motion for our national economic plan for jobs and growth. As I said in the House earlier, this is a plan that consists of six points: an innovation and science program for start-up businesses; a defence plan for local high-tech manufacturing and technology that does not just benefit the shipyards, obviously in Adelaide in Perth, but the defence supply chain all around the country, supporting high-tech jobs for the future for decades; export trade deals to generate new business opportunities; tax cuts and incentives for small business and hardworking families, which I will return to in a second; a sustainable budget with crackdowns on tax avoidance and loopholes—things that those opposite voted against when they had the chance to support them in the parliament, and they decided not to—and of course guaranteed funding for health, education and roads, money that is made available by providing the savings that are necessary to spend in these areas so that we can give the genuine commitments, such as he genuine commitment of $1.2 billion extra for schools, which will see schools funding increase by 26 per cent over the next four years, and for public schools by a third over the course of the budget and forward estimates, and, as the health minister will know, some $2.9 billion extra for health spending. It has been agreed with the states, signed together with the states and meeting those commitments.

The House may know, if they have read the budget papers, that now 53 per cent of all schools funding, all education funding at a state level, when you include the transfer payments of the Commonwealth, is actually met by the Commonwealth. The Commonwealth, under this government, is more than a partner when it comes to supporting education and schools funding by the states, because we account for more than half of those contributions. And we do that because we invest in the things that drive our economy as we move through this transition from the resources and investment boom to a more diversified and stronger economy with more jobs. And central to that plan is to ensure that we are providing the incentive for businesses, particularly small and medium businesses, to be able to go out there and keep doing what they are doing. These are the businesses that are taking more people on, particularly more young people. They are typically Australian owned businesses that will invest back into their business to get the jobs and growth that we are looking for in this budget.

So we have made the decision, as part of our enterprise tax plan, to drop the corporate rate for small and medium businesses to 27½ per cent over the budget and forward estimates. This is an important program that will back them in to keep doing the things they would do. I would have thought that those on the other side of the House would have supported those initiatives, because they certainly have in the past.

The shadow Treasurer is no longer in the chamber for his own debate.

Opposition Members:

Opposition members interjecting

Photo of Scott MorrisonScott Morrison (Cook, Liberal Party, Treasurer) Share this | | Hansard source

Oh, he is over there. He has moved seats. I am happy to acknowledge his presence, because I can remind him of what he said in that great, lengthy tome Hearts and Minds, where he said—

Dr Leigh interjecting

Photo of Tony SmithTony Smith (Speaker) Share this | | Hansard source

The member for Fraser will cease interjecting.

Photo of Scott MorrisonScott Morrison (Cook, Liberal Party, Treasurer) Share this | | Hansard source

and he reminded us of his great mentor, the former Treasurer and Prime Minister Mr Keating—that 'Keating knew that the corporate tax rate needed to be cut'. That is what he said. He went on to say:

At 30 per cent, our company tax rate is now above the OECD average … it is how the rate compares to that of our competitors that counts.

This is the bit I really like. He said:

… it's a Labor thing to have the ambition of reducing company tax …

It is apparently a 'thing'. Is it your thing anymore, shadow Treasurer—through you, Mr Speaker? Is it a Labor thing still to want to reduce company tax?

Others have certainly said so. I go to the Leader of the Opposition in an editorial in TheAustralian in 2005, as the Prime Minister reminded us, where he said: 'The top marginal income tax thresholds should be raised to create a fair, productive and competitive tax system. It should be remembered that reducing the top marginal rate is part of the solution.' He also said, 'All the income tax brackets and terms of tax should be lowered, and that obviously includes the top rate.' These are his views. He said, when he was the Assistant Treasurer, 'The government recognises that higher taxation reduces incentives to work, save and invest.'

But I can go no further than the budget that was brought down by the member for Lilley when he was Treasurer. In that budget, in 2010-11, he actually proposed to reduce the company tax rate.

A government member: Is that right?

He did! He proposed to reduce the company tax rate. Do you know how he was funding the reduction in the company tax rate?

A government member: The mining tax.

The mining tax. That tax was going to fund his company tax cut. I admire him for saying he wanted to reduce the company tax rate; it is just that he came up with a tax that did not raise any money to actually pay for that. What he said in those budget documents was that:

… in conjunction with the introduction of the Resource Super Profits Tax

the member for Lilley remembers all this very fondly—

      Ms Plibersek interjecting

      The member for Sydney says, 'We said how we could pay for it.' How they paid for it was with the mining tax! She seems to think this is an excellent point to make in the middle of this debate. They proposed a company tax rate that they could not afford because they came up with tax measures that did not work. That is the big difference.

      Tonight the Leader of the Opposition will come to this dispatch box and he will need to explain to the Australian people what he plans to do and what he plans to spend. That is the reckoner when he comes to the dispatch box tonight. This is only over the next budget and four-year forward estimates period. That is what it is when you have to produce a budget. We know they have a $20 billion black hole in their excise estimate, but over the budget and forward estimates it is actually $3.2 billion. So I will be happy if he can come to the dispatch box tonight and explain where he is going to find the missing revenue that is supposed to be going to support school funding.

      There is $20.16 billion in savings and revenue measures the government has proposed that the Labor opposition are now blocking. They must reveal tonight which of those measures they are going to stop blocking and support, otherwise that is additional expenditure on top of the budget and forward estimates that they will have to find the savings and revenue for.

      Secondly, there is $44.39 billion of spending that Labor says we must restore from the bank savings. Some of those were referred to by the member for Watson when he came to the dispatch box and pounded away. Through the Leader of the Opposition, he has to tell the Australian people tonight how many of the things that they say are the wrong savings—the wrong savings which they apparently oppose, including changes to the pension eligibility in last year's budget—they will no longer oppose. Every one that they say they are going to continue to oppose is additional expenditure. It is $44.39 billion over the budget and forward estimates.

      Then there is $11.79 billion in spending proposals that they have put forward since the last budget which are additional to what is in the budget and forward estimates. That comes to $76.34 billion over the budget and forward estimates. That is a starting line in the red. When the Leader of the Opposition comes to the dispatch box tonight, that is what he has to make up.

      What he has announced so far is $12 billion over the budget and forward estimates in increased taxes. They like to call them savings. They are not savings; they are increased taxes. And they are increasing taxes by $12.09 billion on top of what is there. That is how they are going to pay for those—with $1.86 billion only of savings. So there is $76.34 billion in additional expenditure but just nothing—$13 billion to $14 billion worth of increased taxes and savings measures—to pay for it. That is just over four years—forget 10. Over four years they have a budget black hole of $62.39 billion before the Leader of the Opposition comes to that dispatch box tonight. That is before they even start talking.

      We know that, when the Leader of the Opposition comes here tonight, as long as you see his lips moving he will be spending more. That means he will be taxing you more. That means he will be putting up debt and he will be putting up the deficit, because the reason they tax more is that they cannot control their expenditure. That is the problem: they cannot control their expenditure. So every time you hear him announce something new, you will pay for it. You will pay for it over and over again. I am glad they have raised the issue of costings today, because, as I have just outlined, they are starting $62.4 billion behind. That is equivalent over the budget and forward estimates to about one per cent of GDP. That means that, if they went forward with that plan, they would be bigger spenders than Rudd. (Time expired)

      Photo of Tony SmithTony Smith (Speaker) Share this | | Hansard source

      The question is that the amendment be agreed to.

      The question is that the motion, as amended, be agreed to.

      3:57 pm

      Photo of Malcolm TurnbullMalcolm Turnbull (Wentworth, Liberal Party, Prime Minister) Share this | | Hansard source

      I ask that further questions be placed on the Notice Paper.