Thursday, 1 December 2016
Income Tax Rates Amendment (Working Holiday Maker Reform) Bill 2016 (No. 2); Consideration of Senate Message
That the requested amendments be not made.
The government has been working assiduously now for some time to ensure that we can legislate the measures to provide certainty for the taxation arrangements in relation to backpackers. We gave a commitment to this measure at the last election. As I noted in the House today, those opposite made the same commitment at the last election, that following the election we would work to come to an arrangement which would see the backpacker tax issue resolved by the end of the year, and on this last day of the sitting year this government has honoured the pledge we made at the election. We put forward 19 per cent to ensure that we could have these measures resolved in a budget-neutral way. And in the spirit of compromise, to honour our commitment and for this government to continue to get on with doing the job, we have been able to conclude an arrangement with senators in the other place to ensure that the taxation arrangements for backpackers will be set at 15 per cent. And what I said outside of this place is the government will not be returning these measures back to the Senate until we can be assured that the 15 per cent rate will be passed in the other place. I table a letter which gives that very assurance that the 15 per cent rate will be supported in the other place. I table that letter for the convenience of the House.
I am happy to tell them who it is from, and I am happy to take the interjection. The government has been able to secure an agreement, not only with the members of the One Nation party on this issue, not only with the members of the NXT party on this issue but we have also, once again, been able to achieve an agreement with the Greens.
Opposition members interjecting—
And it reminds me that on 2 December last year we were also able to achieve an agreement with the Greens when those opposite engaged in another wrecking job, that time on multinational tax avoidance. This time last year they did not want to vote for the government to make sure multinationals paid their fair share of tax. So we worked with the other place to get an outcome while they voted for multinationals to avoid tax.
Ms Plibersek interjecting—
On this occasion, those opposite wanted foreign workers to pay an even lower rate of tax than Australians were on average paying and backpackers coming from Europe to pay a lower rate of tax than what would be paid by those seasonal workers from the Pacific. Their belligerence has been rebuffed by the Senate today in the senators agreeing with the government before this message could leave this place to go to the other place to ensure that the matter could be dealt with. The government, once again, has been able to get this thing done in the 45th Parliament. We got things done—you are going to interject, are you?
The government have been able to get things done, once again, in the 45th Parliament. We have passed the income tax cuts for middle-income Australians. We have been able to pass more than $20 billion in measures and this will take it to $21 billion when this passes the other place. We have been able to pass the ABCC and ensure the Building and Construction Commission comes back on the watch and deals with the militant union thugs that those opposite call 'the side of the angels'. We have been able to pass the registered organisations act. Since our re-election, this government have been getting the job done and those opposite have proved once again that it is all politics.
On this the last sitting day of the term, the House is being given a very special opportunity to see the special mix of arrogance and incompetence that this Treasurer holds and to see the dysfunction at the heart of this government. The Treasurer has just announced a deal. He tabled a letter on Treasurer's letterhead. The letter on Treasurer's letterhead is signed by Senator Di Natale of the Greens. The Treasurer just gave us a stirring address. He talked about the ABCC; he talked about many things. He did not mention the fiscal impact of the deal he has just done. He did not mention the impact on the budget. He did not mention what it will cost the budget. I feel obliged to inform the House that this Treasurer has done a deal which gets a higher tax rate and makes less money for the budget. That is what this Treasurer has committed to do. Guess what? It gets better: the government could have accepted an offer for a 10½ per cent tax rate. They said: 'No, that'd be too expensive. That'd cost too much.' So we offered another compromise. In the spirit of compromise, we offered 13 per cent. But, no, that was going to cost too much. So what the Treasurer has done is he has done a deal with the Greens to water down the measure on superannuation and to spend $100 million extra on Landcare, which will cost the budget more money than doing a deal on 13 per cent would have done or doing a deal on 10½ per cent would have done. It takes a very special mixture of arrogance and incompetence.
I served in parliament when Peter Costello was Treasurer. I have seen arrogance in a Treasurer. But what I have not seen is this mixture of arrogance and incompetence in a Treasurer. This Treasurer is so full of himself, so refusing to accept reality. The Australian people are entitled to ask: how much do they have to pay for this Treasurer's arrogance? How much is his pride worth if the Australian people have to tolerate a deal which has a headline rate much higher than New Zealand's, which will mean that we remain uncompetitive? But he was so determined not to give in. He is a big tough guy. He is so determined not to give in to this side of the House that he does a deal with the Greens, which is worse for the budget than a deal with us would have been. This is what this incompetence has led us to.
This is the coalition of the unwilling. We have One Nation; next, the Greens, the Liberals and the Nationals; and what do you get as a result? You get a worse budget deficit. That is what you get with this coalition of the unwilling. Congratulations, Treasurer. Congratulations on doing this deal. You have managed to do a worse deal for the taxpayers, a worse deal for farmers, a worse deal for the tourism sector and that is how you finish the year of achievement. We are more than happy for you to keep ongoing, because more of this sort of achievement, more of this sort of incompetence, more of this sort of arrogance will see this government's reputation worsen even more. You might not have thought it was even possible, but we will see this government's reputation sink even further. If this is the big idea, the big initiative to save this Prime Minister's leadership, we will have more of it. I do not think it is going to work. I think the deputy leader of the Liberal Party is quite happy with this deal, because I think when she takes over the Prime Minister and the Treasurer will be sitting up the back. I suspect that is what is going to happen. And so they should, with this special mixture of arrogance and incompetence which the Australian people have not seen before.