House debates

Wednesday, 28 March 2018

Matters of Public Importance


3:17 pm

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

I have received a letter from the honourable Leader of the Opposition proposing that a definite matter of public importance be submitted to the House for discussion, namely:

The Government looking after big business and millionaires instead of ordinary Australians.

I call upon those honourable members who approve of the proposed discussion to rise in their places.

More than the number of members required by the standing orders having risen in their places—

3:18 pm

Photo of Bill ShortenBill Shorten (Maribyrnong, Australian Labor Party, Leader of the Opposition) Share this | | Hansard source

For the opposition, attending question time is the triumph of hope over experience. We very rarely get answers from the government, but today we did get an answer. It was elusive. It was only one answer hidden in the thicket of government nonreplies, but the Prime Minister today has made it very clear that he will take his corporate tax cuts to the next election. Whilst I do not agree with his position, I do acknowledge that he answered the question. I just want to advise him and his representatives in this government that we are up for the next election being a referendum on whether this nation should give $65 billion to large corporations or whether we should be a nation that prioritises the needs of middle-class and working-class Australians. We will have this fight on the Turnbull government's corporate tax cuts.

At the next election there will be two very different visions offered for the future of this nation to the people of Australia. The government's agenda is very clear: a $65 billion handout to multinationals, to big banks and to large corporations and raising the taxes for working Australians who earn less than $87,000 a year. Labor, by contrast, will offer the following vision to the Australian people: lower taxes for families, higher wages for workers, and better schools and hospitals for all Australians. We stand for the fair go. That's the choice. That's the contest, and the contest starts now. Let me make something very clear: Labor will go to the next election promising to repeal the Prime Minister's multibillion dollar handout for big business, if it passes the Senate.

Let us not hear any more from the government about being 'the party for lower taxes', because the government actually have two pieces of tax legislation in the Senate. They've got their tax giveaway for their friends at the top end of town, but they have another piece of legislation. It's a tax increase for nurses and teachers, police officers, childcare workers and mechanics; a tax increase of $300 for someone who earns $60,000; a tax increase of $350 for someone earning $70,000. This Prime Minister wants to punish working Australians. Labor just chooses to protect them.

Politics is all about priorities. The government wants the parliament to sign a cheque for $65 billion out of the nation's ATM, and it has to be paid for. This government loves to misquote Labor. Whenever Labor have supported changes in corporate taxation, we've replaced that revenue with other revenue. We hear this Prime Minister cherrypick our arguments: dishonest then, dishonest now, dishonest into the future. The reality is this government has pretended to the Australian people that it can take $65 billion out of the budget and there is nothing to be explained. It doesn't explain where the money is coming from. But we have a problem in this country. Our hospitals are still too crowded. Waiting lists for surgery are too long. Schools are not appropriately funded. TAFEs are still closing. Child care is still too expensive and too hard to find. Cities, suburbs and regions are crying out for new roads and ports, rail and bridges and airports, and a first-rate NBN. Older Australians are still waiting in greater numbers than ever for aged-care packages, and the wages for Australian workers are simply too low.

What will we have at the end of Mr Turnbull's $65 billion tax giveaway? Nothing. We could be using that money to repair the budget and pay down the debt. We could be using it to invest in the future of our economy, in the luck we make ourselves, in our people, in education, in skills, in training and in apprenticeships. You do not deliver a prosperous middle class and working class in this country by throwing money at big banks. You do it by investing in new industries, skilling up workers and helping adults retrain for the jobs of the future. You do it by supporting a decent wage, including penalty rates for people who will be working on the upcoming public holidays this Easter. This is the Labor way: new industries, skilled workers, productive businesses and higher wages.

Labor has a strategy for growth. We have proposed the Australian investment guarantee. We will support businesses to immediately deduct an extra 20 per cent of their investments in eligible depreciable assets. This means trucks and utes for tradies, and machinery, plant and equipment for productivity-boosting innovation in industry, and also depreciable intangible assets for purchases like software upgrades. We want to actually invest scarce taxpayer money on the direct promise that companies invest back in productivity. This government wants to give away $65 billion with no promises and no strings attached. We are happy to help companies invest in job creation, in productivity growth and better wages, but we want to see something for the taxpayer support they receive.

Then we look at what this government wants to do with $65 billion. Sixty cents in every dollar of this government's $65 billion giveaway will go straight overseas. This wasn't a socialist think tank—it wasn't the Australia Institute, the 'Cuban Institute' or the 'North Korean Institute'—it was analysis from the former chief economist at Goldman Sachs. Sixty cents in every dollar—$39 billion taxpayer dollars—will go straight to multinational profits and overseas. I understand that the Prime Minister has always been a fan of sending money offshore, but I don't want him to do it with taxpayers' dollars! This is not a plan for Australian jobs or Australian wages. This is corporate welfare for multinational firms. This is foreign aid for foreign multinationals.

Of course, our friends at the big Australian banks never go missing when there's Mr Turnbull in town. Some of the Australian businesses who will receive a benefit from this $65 billion of Australian taxpayer support will be the banks—Commonwealth Bank, Westpac, ANZ and NAB. This tax giveaway is a multibillion dollar bankers' bonus.

This royal commission of the banks, which this Prime Minister and Treasurer mocked, attacked, ridiculed and sneered at—and with their fingernail marks on the concrete were dragged to having—every day reveals worse conduct. What we have seen already is simply shocking. What is the government's response? They want to give the same banks billions of dollars of taxpayers' money, money which could be spent looking after the hospitals and schools of Australia.

There is nothing in this proposal guaranteeing wage increases for working Australians. Nothing. On the government's own numbers this $65 billion corporate largesse from the taxpayers of Australia to the big end of town is predicted to produce a 1.1 per cent increase in wages growth in 20 years time. That's $2 a working day, $10 a week, in 2037. Has anyone who dreamed up this corporate tax giveaway had a serious conversation with working Australians about the family budgets that they are dealing with every week?

How on earth could this government dream up a scheme which gives away so much money to large companies for so little result and, indeed—to be fair to big business—they haven't even bothered pretending that they're going to do anything for the government in return. I knew that the Treasurer and the Prime Minister weren't bright, but I never imagined that they were so out of touch that even their friends would not do anything for the $65 billion. Never has a conservative government worked so hard to spend so much money for so little result.

Of course, it's not just Labor saying this. What we saw, to justify the case—this clarion economic strategy of this beleaguered, one-trick-pony government—is that the government are running around with a two-lined letter from big business, 'Give us the money and we promise we will seriously consider thinking about an investigation into an inquiry into the potential to do something about wages one day.' This is only one step up from those email scams. Not as many typos, but the picture's the same. You know: 'Dear so-and-so, congratulations and hello my very good friend. Your long-lost relative, the prince of Nigeria, has died and left you everything. Just send money and we will release the funds.'

But it gets worse. Today we've learnt more about this piece of corporate spam, that the commitment to the Senate wasn't the original; it was the sequel. It was the executive director's cut: I know the Prime Minister drives a hard bargain:. 'Hello Percy; hello Murgatroyd. I need you to back me up here.' 'Yes, what do you want?' 'Commitment to jobs.' 'No, you can't have that.' 'Commitment to wages?' 'No, you can't have that.' 'Commitment to not offshoring?' 'Absolutely not!' 'We want you to commit to tax.' 'Oh, my goodness, old chap. What is going on here?' I'll tell you one thing: we want to be internationally competitive but not on corporate tax— (Time expired)

3:28 pm

Photo of Michael SukkarMichael Sukkar (Deakin, Liberal Party, Assistant Minister to the Treasurer) Share this | | Hansard source

This MPI talks about millionaires instead of ordinary Australians. Are the 875,000 retirees who will have to pay the Leader of the Opposition and the shadow Treasurer's retirees' tax all millionaires? We've heard a succession of examples in the House today of self-funded retirees on ordinary incomes, on low incomes, who are going to have to suffer if this man, the Leader of the Opposition, is elected—him reaching his hand into their pocket and denying them credit for tax already paid.

Now everyone in this chamber, I assume, puts in a tax return. Some people here, and, certainly, millions of Australians, expect a small tax refund when they lodge their tax returns. What the Labor Party is now proposing is that 875,000 retirees—people who have paid tax their whole lives, people who have built this country to make it what it is and people who have put small sums of money aside to provide for themselves or to provide for a loved one in their retirement—are now going to have the Labor Party saying, 'You do not keep your tax refund.' Tax paid on your behalf, everyone else gets credit for; you don't. It is theft. It is theft masked in very flowery words.

Looking at the words of the shadow Treasurer just a fortnight ago in announcing this measure, when challenged, he said that this is a well-targeted measure and that Labor's reforms are carefully designed. He said Labor's reforms are properly designed and Labor's reforms are sensible. Then he got out and said: 'The government will run a scare campaign. We know that. This is a very well-designed policy.' What did we see yesterday? We saw the Labor Party admit this is a rotten, rotten policy. Changing it on the run, it's now so-called providing protection to 300,000 pensioners—protection from their own policy!—but, sadly, they are not going to protect 875,000 additional Australians who are now going to have their money stolen by the Labor Party.

Despite this backflip, there is incessant talk from the Leader of the Opposition and his team about millionaires. Let's have a look at some of these so-called millionaires who are going to have their tax refund stolen by the Labor Party. We heard about a few of them in question time. We've got Alan from Bunbury, who has an income of $40,000 a year. I challenge any of those on the other side to live off $40,000 a year. Alan has a small share portfolio—a very, very modest share portfolio—and of his $40,000 of income, 25 per cent of that, or $10,000 out of the $40,000, is represented by this refund of tax paid on his behalf. So the Labor Party is saying to Alan in Bunbury, 'No, we're going to take $10,000 off you and you can live off $30,000.' Are these the millionaires the Labor Party are referring to? Are these the millionaires the Leader of the Opposition was just speaking about?

What about Colin? We've got another person here. Colin is a self-funded retiree. He said: 'We don't want to receive any pension from the government. We have a small portfolio invested in Australian shares.' The franking credits—the tax refund—represents 30 per cent of his income. They will have $12,000 ripped out of their pocket every year due to the retirees tax put forward by the Labor Party. Is Colin, with 30 per cent of his income now stolen by the Labor Party, a millionaire?

What about Graham? Graham said: 'My wife and I worked for over 40 years, diligently saving and placing funds into our super account to enable us to be self-funded when we retired. Now you and your Labor Party are proposing to change the rules if elected. Your proposal to take franking credits from our share portfolio will reduce our annual income—an income of under $40,000—by 20 to 25 per cent.' Are Graham and his wife the millionaires that the Labor Party keep incessantly talking about?

The Labor Party might think this humiliating backdown has somehow salvaged this policy, but this policy is rotten to the core. What we saw yesterday in their humiliating backdown of what was called a well-calibrated, well-targeted policy just a fortnight ago, is just the first cut. There are 875,000 decent, hardworking Australians who have paid taxes their whole lives, who have contributed to this country and who have set aside, in most cases, small sums of money or small parcels of shares to provide for themselves or a loved one in the future. They are going to be hit hardest. They're not going to let the Labor Party get away with it. And we're not going to let the Labor Party get away with it.

Every day you will hear examples of people like Colin, Graham or, for example, Campbell's mother, who we heard about today from the Treasurer. Campbell's mother is in an aged-care facility, is 91, has a small share portfolio and uses her tax refund to partly fund her nursing home fees. Is Campbell's mother, at 91, one of the so-called fat cat wealthy investor millionaires that the Labor Party keep incessantly talking about? Of course she's not.

This is why, between now and the next election, we will lay bare the Labor Party plan. The Labor Party plan is very simple, and I will give them some credit: they're at least naked in their ambition about it. The Labor Party want to create a big bucket of money that they take from hardworking retirees, 875,000 retirees, so they can go and splash it around the electorate to their favoured groups. 'So what do we do? We go and hit the easy targets.' That's what Labor said. 'Let's go and hit the easy targets, those retirees who have paid tax their whole life.'

The other part of this humiliating backdown from the Labor Party, attacking so-called millionaires, is that they said, 'We're protecting pensioners.' We all know the irony of pensioners requiring protection from their own policy, because 875,000 other people certainly aren't protected, but that was a lie as well, because if you're a pensioner from tomorrow, with a self-managed super fund, guess what: Labor's going to take your tax refund too. So after tomorrow we'll be back to square one: pensioners, low-income self-funded retirees and those with a self-managed super fund are in the gun from the Labor Party, just so the Labor Party can go and spend that on some favoured groups come election time, because they are addicted to spending and they cannot say no to any group who comes to them for money. So what do you do? You go and attack the people who are the easy targets.

Well, I've got a message for the Labor Party. I don't think those 875,000 low-income self-funded retirees are going to allow themselves to be an easy target. They are going to fight hard against this grossly unfair tax grab. This is the first cut to try and salvage this disastrous policy, this very well-calibrated policy—well, it was very well calibrated two weeks ago. It is going to suffer another cut, because this is rotten to the core. This policy is rotten to the core, and 875,000 Australians are not going to allow the Labor Party to get away with it.

We'll have one example after another of people like Colin, like Graham and like Campbell's mother—or what about Anthony, who said, 'I've got an income of $32,000, which will be reduced by $5,000'? The shadow Treasurer says, 'Anthony, on $32,000, you are a fat cat millionaire, and we want to take $5,000 off you.' Well, I can tell you: Anthony and his wife are not going to allow the shadow Treasurer to get away with this.

Yesterday's humiliating backdown is just the first cut. This cannot be salvaged, and we're going to assure all of those 875,000 Australians that the only way to protect themselves against the shadow Treasurer is to vote for the coalition at the next election. (Time expired)

3:38 pm

Photo of Tanya PlibersekTanya Plibersek (Sydney, Australian Labor Party, Deputy Leader of the Opposition) Share this | | Hansard source

It's interesting, isn't it, that the member for Deakin doesn't want to talk at all about the $65 billion of big business tax cuts that his Prime Minister recommitted to today. I think it's really a tale of two letters, Mr Deputy Speaker. One is the letter that the Business Council of Australia finally sent to the Senate last week, which contains all of two sentences:

We believe that a reduction in the corporate tax rate, as proposed through the Government's enterprise tax plan, is urgent and vital to keep Australia competitive.

If the Senate passes this important legislation we, as some of the nation's largest employers, commit to invest more in Australia which will lead to employing more Australians and therefore stronger wage growth as the tax cut takes effect.

It does not say, 'We will increase wages'—nothing as simple as that, no.

The interesting letter is the letter that the Business Council of Australia members refused to sign, which actually is a very good letter. It's quite a detailed letter that sets the economic context and then says: 'Our commitment, the whole point of the Enterprise Tax Plan, is to create new and better jobs in Australia. Therefore the Business Council of Australia members offer the following commitment: if the Senate passes the Enterprise Tax Plan in full, we will (1) create more Australian jobs in the cities, towns, suburbs and bush.'

Why couldn't they put that in the final letter? Why is it that this didn't make the cut for the final letter? We know that this tax cut won't lead to new jobs, and the Business Council of Australia are not prepared to say that they will create new jobs. In social security, we've got mutual obligation. The government gives you something; you do something in return for that. You do volunteer work. You look for work. There is no mutual obligation when it comes to a $65 billion big-business tax cut. In fact, the promise that they've given is about as convincing as the commitments contestants make on Married at First Sight.

The next commitment that the Business Council were asked to sign up to was the commitment that they'll invest in more Australian projects and ideas, especially in remote and rural Australia. Were they prepared to sign up to that one? No, they were not prepared to sign up to that one. And how pathetically weak is One Nation that they were prepared to back the big-business tax cuts in return for 1,000 apprenticeships in the bush? There are 148,000 fewer apprentices across Australia right now than when we were in government, and One Nation's prepared to give away $65 billion in big-business tax cuts for 1,000 apprentices in the bush. It's incredible, too, isn't that, the National Australia Bank recorded a profit of $6.5 billion last year. Has that led to extra jobs? No, they actually cut 6,000 jobs.

So here we've got the Business Council of Australia not prepared to create more jobs. They're not prepared to invest in more Australian projects and ideas. Were they prepared to commit to being in a stronger position to avoid the offshoring of jobs? No, that one didn't make the cut either. They couldn't commit to less offshoring of Australian jobs. Could they commit to increasing wages when the conditions are right? They weren't even asked to commit to flat-out increasing wages—no. They can't even commit to increasing wages when the conditions are right. I'll tell you what: profits have grown 32 per cent over the last two years, and how much have wages grown in that time? They've grown by four per cent in the same time. You've got a 32 per cent increase in profits and wages are not even really keeping up with inflation. When will the conditions be right if a 32 per cent increase in profitability is not the right time to increase wages? You've got the Secretary to the Treasury, John Fraser, saying that he is worried about the severing of the link between increased profitability, increased productivity and increased wages. When will conditions be right?

Fifth, big business were asked to 'pay our tax and show our commitment by signing the ATO's tax transparency standard'. These people can't even commit to paying their tax. That didn't make the final cut of the letter they signed up to. I guess that it is no wonder because, in 2015, when we did tax transparency legislation, they fought us every step of the way and the Liberals and the Greens combined to vote against tax transparency. It's no wonder that they couldn't sign this letter, because they don't want to do any of this stuff.

3:43 pm

Photo of Ted O'BrienTed O'Brien (Fairfax, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

The Leader of the Opposition made a very grand speech today, and he's painted the picture of a vision for two different Australias. Under a vision of a future with a Labor government, it is the everyday Australian being poorer. In a future under the coalition, it is everyday Australians being richer. In a future under Labor, small businesses are closing down. In a future under the coalition, small businesses are growing. In a future under Labor, job security is weak. In a future under the coalition, job security is strong. He talks of two visions, and the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, who just gave her speech, was talking about, I think, two letters. I think the problem is that there are two worlds that the Labor Party are living in: the real world and the fake world. It's like when the little boy who is being naughty throwing stones at cars from the school playground suddenly smashes a window and is the first one in there to the teacher and saying, 'Sir, I saw somebody throwing stones at cars.' I think the psychologists call it something like psychological projection, where one decides to blame others for undertaking the unfortunate actions of oneself. Someone who is really rude might go around saying to everybody, 'Everyone else is rude.' This is exactly the strategy of the opposition because the Leader of the Opposition has stood up today and stated his future vision for this country—and he'll take it to the election—it is one of less tax, yet this is the party that is, in fact, opposed to lowering taxes.

This coalition government is in the business of lowering taxes. The opposition is doing everything to oppose it. The opposition believes in increasing taxes. Why does Labor wish to have higher taxes? Because they wish to take money out of the pockets of individuals to suck it in to the vortex of big government because they know if they can make Australians poorer and if they can make Australians less secure, they're going to be more reliant on big government. That is precisely what the opposition believes in: it's all about big government so you punish hardworking individuals, you rip into their pockets and take out the money, and you make their jobs insecure so they will turn around and be reliant on big government and, therefore, the Labor Party.

Then the Leader of the Opposition carries on saying he wants to protect people with hospitals and schools. So tell me this: why would the Labor Party ensure that teachers and nurses have to pay more money due to their taxes? How is that looking after teachers? How is that looking after nurses? Why should young families pay more money to buy a property—a family home—because of Labor's negative gearing policy? Why should young families be punished by Labor's taxes? Why shouldn't there be the right to deduct costs for managing one's own taxes? Again, it's everyday workers' money that will be stripped away by the Labor Party. We will have young entrepreneurs who will be forced to pay higher income taxes. We will have farmers who'll be slugged with higher capital gains taxes. Why? Because they want to suck it into the vortex of big government—that's all the Labor Party does.

There is one exception—and let's give them credit—where the Labor Party actually did not try to take a higher tax revenue. You know what it was? They opposed the tax avoidance legislation for multinationals. Seven billion dollars a year is forecast but, no, they don't want to take it off multinationals; they want it to take it off mums and dads. They want to ruin the lives of individual Australians because they believe, by making them poorer and by making them weaker, they're going to turn to big government, and that's where Labor has its sweet spot. We will stand by lower taxes and we will absolutely fight Labor every inch of the way.

3:48 pm

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

I'm delighted to hear the member for Fairfax announce on behalf of the Liberal and National parties they're there for lower taxes. I'm delighted to hear they are going to stand for workers against higher taxes. And, therefore, I assume the honourable member is going to cross the floor and vote against the increase in income taxes that his government is proposing on every Australian earning more than $21,000. It's very Churchillian. They're going to take the money out of the pockets of individuals. Yes, they are. They want higher taxes on Australians who earn between $21,000 and $87,000 a year—teachers and nurses.

This side of the House stands for lower taxes and that side of the House stands for taxing them more. The Prime Minister told the House today how much he admires childcare workers. Perhaps he could show that admiration by not taxing them more. Put aside their very legitimate industrial relations concerns, maybe he could start with not taxing them more.

This week says it all about the values of this coalition government. There are 694 days since the last federal budget, and the next sitting day will be budget day. It says it all about this government that they've spent all their time trying to get a $65 billion corporate tax cut through the other House, at the same time as proposing a $44 billion tax rise on Australians—working Australians earning between $21,000 and $87,000 a year. A childcare worker earning $45,000 a year, not a generous sum, they want to tax $225 a year. With a deficit of $23 billion what they want to do is give away a corporate tax cut and tax Australians more, working Australians. So we'll have no lectures about tax from this mob over here. They don't believe in lower tax; they believe in different tax. They believe in taxing working Australians more and they believe in taxing business less. That's what they believe in.

The other thing is those opposite love a good scare campaign. The Prime Minister's never happier than when he can launch a scare campaign. He's not very good at it—he's no Tony Abbott—but he still likes to try. The other thing they've done is launch their defence of the dividend imputation refundability policy. What they believe in is a system that no other country in the world has. What they believe in is a system in which people who own shares and who have paid no income tax should be paid a refund even though they haven't paid that tax. That's their big driving philosophy. That's what they believe. They believe that the budget emergency is so bad, that the debt and deficit disaster is so bad, that we should spend $6 billion a year sending refunds to people who haven't paid tax.

Let us deal once and for all with this double taxation nonsense. The government says it's double taxation. They would be right if the Labor Party were proposing to tax dividends. If we were proposing to say, 'If you receive $10,000 or $20,000 worth of dividends, we will tax you at your marginal rate or we'll tax you at some special rate,' but that is not what is being proposed. Take the government's theory to its natural conclusion. Let's just live in a world for a moment where the shares in Australia are all owned by people over 65 who pay no tax and who have tax-free superannuation. The company paid—those companies that do pay tax—its tax rate and then distributed its dividends to its shareholders, retirees. Then, under this government's model, they sent a refund for all that tax paid to the shareholders. How much money would be raised from Australia's companies? Zero. It's their model of taxation in Australia—absolutely no tax paid under their model.

Not only is Australia the only country in the world with fully refundable dividend imputation, most tax concessions are not refundable. If you're a tradie you can claim your expenses and you can reduce your taxable income, but once you're down to zero you don't get negative income tax. You don't get sent a cheque by the government. Malcolm Turnbull will defend the right of some of Australia's wealthiest investors to the death to get their tax refunds even if they haven't paid tax. Is he going to extend the same right to Australia's workers, to Australia's tradies? I don't think so. I'm not going to hold my breath for that to happen, because this Prime Minister knows whose side he's on, we'll give him that. We know whose side he's on. And we know whose side we're on and we're on the side of fairness in the tax system. We don't mind a fight when it comes to fairness and we'll fight this right up to the election. (Time expired)

3:53 pm

Photo of Andrew GeeAndrew Gee (Calare, National Party) Share this | | Hansard source

How ironic it is that those opposite would have the gall to move this matter of public importance about ordinary Australians at the very moment that they're seeking to rip off the tax refunds of ordinary Australian retirees. It's breathtaking. The gall and the front of those opposite to bring this into this House today is absolutely breathtaking. There are 875,000 retirees who are going to affected by their tax grab. We are talking about tens of billions of dollars, about $56 billion, that they are trying to grab from the retirees of Australia.

The thing about it is, and you'd know from your own electorate, Deputy Speaker Hogan, that these are hardworking Australians who've spent their lives helping to build our nation, and helping to build our region and our communities. They have proceeded to do that with an expectation that the rules are the rules and that they would be able to retire on a certain amount of income, and all of that now has been snatched away from them by this extraordinary tax grab by those opposite. And you saw how badly planned the whole fiasco was when they've announced that they're backtracking on 300,000-odd pensioners. It's a flip flop. The people out there, the retirees, know that those opposite can't be trusted and they will be wondering what's next: what tax refund are they coming for next; how are they going to get their hands on my wallet next; and am I going to be able to retire beyond one, two, three, four or five years?

Uncertainty now reigns supreme in Australia's retiree community. I think it's an extraordinarily shabby way to treat Australia's retirees, and those opposite should be ashamed of bringing this sort of MPI about ordinary Australians into the national parliament at the same time they're ripping off tens of billions of dollars of retirees' tax refunds. It's a shameful episode.

What this government is doing for ordinary Australians is probably the best thing you can do: besides not touching their tax refunds, we're actually giving them jobs. The jobs growth that this government has overseen has been extraordinary: more than 1,100 new jobs a day—and this is 900 more jobs than the economy created under Labor each day. This is an extraordinary achievement. In the last year, the total number of jobs created was 420,700 compared with Labor's last year of government of only 88,900. On this side of the aisle, we believe in jobs and lower taxation; on that side, it's all about tax grabs—what tax can we impose next; where can we get more money to spend?

We know how they're going to spend it. We know about their economic management. Who could forget the pink batts; who could forget that shameful episode—an episode which actually cost lives. Look at them all over there laughing about it. It cost lives. The Building the Education Revolution—who could forget how they handled that one? Overinflated school halls and classrooms; out-of-town builders getting all the work.

People know that this government is the one that is delivering jobs. We've got an unemployment rate of 5.6 per cent—in Calare, it's 3.9 per cent. Since the coalition was elected in September 2013, the economy has created almost one million jobs—997,800—which is an increase of 8.7 per cent. Total employment and total full-time unemployment—and that's an important one—are at record highs. The current rate of jobs growth remains high at 3.5 per cent over the year and is more than double the decade average of 1.6 per cent—and they've all gone quiet, because they know the figures don't lie. They know this is a significant achievement and one which they never attained. They talk a big game, but all they're ever about is grabbing tax and finding out who they can rip off next. You saw that with their disgraceful display in which they hadn't thought out their policy and suddenly had to flip flop: are we going to take the tax refunds from pensioners or are we not? Nevertheless, 875,000 retirees are going to suffer. We've been hearing about them in this House all week.

We believe in lower tax. We believe that everyone should pay their fair share, which is why we have extended the multinational anti-avoidance law that's been announced today. This makes sure that these entities are not dodging tax and are paying their fair share. This is another way that this government is driving the economy and economic growth. We're about growth and jobs; you people are about taxing and taking money from retirees— (Time expired)

3:58 pm

Photo of Jenny MacklinJenny Macklin (Jagajaga, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Minister for Disability and Carers (House)) Share this | | Hansard source

It is extraordinary to follow the member for Calare, who's plainly forgotten that he voted to axe the energy supplement that will see two million Australians, including 400,000 age pensioners, lose their energy supplement. If you are a married couple, that means $550 out of your budget, and this member for Calare and every other National Party member and every Liberal has voted for that cut. Every single budget that this lot have brought down since 2014 has contained a cut to the pension—every single one. You're addicted to cutting the pension. You're absolutely addicted.

Back in 2014, we had some real specials; some absolute specials. Talk about policy consistency—

Photo of Kevin HoganKevin Hogan (Page, National Party) Share this | | Hansard source

A point of order, Member for Corangamite?

Photo of Sarah HendersonSarah Henderson (Corangamite, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Mr Deputy Speaker, I would ask that the member direct her comments through the chair.

Photo of Kevin HoganKevin Hogan (Page, National Party) Share this | | Hansard source

The member for Jagajaga will continue.

Photo of Jenny MacklinJenny Macklin (Jagajaga, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Minister for Disability and Carers (House)) Share this | | Hansard source

It is just an extraordinary display by this government that in every single budget they have tried to cut the pension. And here we have today the government, in the Senate, trying to give big business a $65 billion tax cut while, at the same time, they have legislation in the parliament to cut the pension—to cut the pension this year just like they had legislation in the parliament to cut the pension last year, the year before that and the one before that. We all remember that it was this Liberal-National government that sought to cut pension indexation that would have taken $23 billion out of the pockets of pensioners—$23 billion! That's what would have happened if Labor hadn't protected pensioners. Labor has had to protect pensioners every single year after this lot's budget. We have had to vote down the cuts to pensioners that each and every one of you have voted for.

Of course, it was this government that took $1 billion out of pensioner concessions. That was done by this government with just a stroke of the pen. It axed the $900 seniors supplement. Of course, it was this government that came in here and changed the assets test arrangement. That actually knocked 90,000 pensioners off the pension. It took them off the pension altogether. There were 330,000 pensioners hurt by that decision by this government, which, of course, all the Liberal and National Party members voted for. All of them voted for it.

I know there are some National Party members who don't agree with this policy. I don't know about the member for Calare. He might get up and tell us whether or not he agrees that the pension age should go to 70. Does the member for Calare agree with that? I know there are other members of the National Party who don't agree with that. Funnily enough, the government never bring this legislation into the parliament; they just keep the cut in the budget—so in fact their deficit numbers are all wrong. But what this would mean is that hundreds of thousands of Australians would not have access to the pension until they were 70. Anyone born after 1958 would be affected by that decision, which the government has already made—it's in the budget—and 375,000 Australians would have to wait longer for the pension.

These are all your policies that will hurt the pension. I could go on for hours about the cuts to the pension this government actually has in the budget it's trying to get through this parliament, which would hurt hundreds of thousands of Australians. Of course, one of the other things that this government refuses to do—that so many pensioners are calling on it to change—is to fix the deeming rates. Interest rates keep going down. For three years this government has refused to adjust the deeming rates. That is pure theft from pensioners on the part of this government, and that just sums this government up. (Time expired)

Honourable members interjecting

Photo of Kevin HoganKevin Hogan (Page, National Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I will make the point to all members that it is disorderly to interrupt and doubly so if you're not in your correct seat. If anyone makes a sound and they are not in their correct seat, they will be removed under 94(a).

4:03 pm

Photo of Sarah HendersonSarah Henderson (Corangamite, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

It's regrettable that the member for Jagajaga has so fundamentally distorted this situation with pensioners. Perhaps one of the Labor Party's greatest shames, when they were in government, was when they callously moved 80,000 single parents from the single parent pension onto Newstart. Even Kevin Rudd, the former Prime Minister, said that that was a day of great shame. The most vulnerable, mainly women but some men, in our community were savagely attacked by the Labor Party, and Kevin Rudd said sorry. What a shame that the member for Jagajaga has no sense of regret about that whatsoever.

The Labor Party also increased the pension age from 65 to 67, so there is an enormous amount of hypocrisy. We joined with the Greens to pass a pension increase to the most vulnerable of pensioners. And, yes, there was an adjustment in the threshold to people on the part-pension, because we didn't feel it was appropriate that if you had assets of $1.2 million a part-pension was payable. We brought some fairness back into the system, and now that's just under $900,000. That is still a very significant amount of money. Many pensioners would love to have that amount of money in their bank account. When we made that adjustment, which was based on fairness, we also increased the pension to $170,000 of the most vulnerable low-income pensioners, and the Labor Party rejected that legislation.

This reflects how little they really care about pensioners. We've seen that in spades with this shocking attempt to grab the cash, tax refunds, from pensioners and self-funded retirees. The Leader of the Opposition has bungled his own tax backflip. He can't even execute a backflip with any sense of clarity. He's now admitted that this is going to be a $3.3 billion or more tax on retirees every single year, if he gets his way. This is not just a shocking attack on the self-funded retirees around our nation, it is a shocking attack on pensioners. There is no pension guarantee. Anyone receiving a pension will still see their super fund lose its franking credits—potentially, costing pensioners thousands of dollars a year. The member for Maribyrnong, the Leader of the Opposition, and Labor do not care about pensioners. They do not care about self-funded retirees. This, frankly, is a shocking mess of a policy.

Our government's focus is on building a strong economy and standing up for those who most need our help. That's why we will fight this policy every step of the way. Very proudly, we have absolutely attacked multinational tax avoidance. Again, we have to join with the Greens to do so. This will include a range of legislation to ensure that multinationals pay their fair share of tax. As a result of this legislation, the ATO has identified 38 large companies and expects that some $7 billion in income will be returned to the Australian tax base.

Our focus is on driving jobs for all Australians: increasing job opportunities; driving business investment; driving confidence. We are absolutely determined to pass our company tax cuts so that all companies, big and small, can share in this prosperity. This is, of course, a policy that Labor previously agreed to and supported. The member for Lilley, sitting opposite me, in 2010 banked $600 million in his budget, with a one per cent cut in the company tax rate, delivering $450, on average, to all workers for the year, and he bragged about how well that was for the economy. The member for Lilley has never explained that. He sits there shaking his head. What the member for Lilley doesn't understand is the absolute hypocrisy— (Time expired)

4:08 pm

Photo of Brendan O'ConnorBrendan O'Connor (Gorton, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations) Share this | | Hansard source

I rise to support this matter of importance because it's absolutely vital that the people of Australia understand that their Prime Minister is so out of touch that he wants to give an unfunded, unconditional $65 billion to the big end of town and, at the same time, impose taxes on 80 per cent of the workforce. This is a Prime Minister who is so out of touch: former merchant banker, never met a worker in his life that he'd have a concern for. He thinks it's reasonable—at a time when there is wage stagnation in this country, when we have the lowest wage growth in a generation—to provide $65,000 billion to corporations without conditions, without being funded, without being explained.

We know how it's going to be funded if it gets through. We know what's going to happen here. As we already know because they've already announced it, the government is going to impose taxes on all workers on between $21,000 and $87,000 a year. Every worker earning between $21,000 and $87,000 a year will be getting a tax increase as a result of this government. At the same time, if you earn $1 million a year, you get a $16,000 tax break. What sort of equity is that? What sort of equity and fairness is that?

This could only be from a Prime Minister that's so out of touch, that's comfortable in the boardroom but awkward like a fish out of water in offices, depots and factories because he has no understanding, no empathy and no concern for working people in this country. That is the reality. It must be the reality because the only thing he seeks to do is to rob from workers and look after his mates—rob from workers by way of increasing their taxes, and at the same time provide an unconditional, unfunded $65 billion in taxes. What we heard today in question time, of course, was that there are no conditions—no commitment to wage growth, no commitment to employment growth, no commitment to stop offshoring, not one intention to do what is needed to look after working people in this nation. No wonder the Australian people have turned their back on this Prime Minister. He turned his back on them. He turned his back on them, and we saw it first, of course, when he chose to oppose the opposition's private member's motion to stop the cut to penalty rates.

This Easter is the first Easter since the penalty rate cuts were brought in on 1 July last year. We will have retail and hospitality workers going to work on public holidays and on Sunday and receiving real wage decreases. Of course, next July they have further cuts in real wages to look forward to. And in July 2020 they have further cuts to occur as a result of that penalty rate decision. I don't know if people notice—certainly they wouldn't notice on the other side of the chamber—but hairdressers and beauticians are also going to get penalty rate cuts if the application before the Fair Work Commission is successful. That application was made last week.

We have one application after another to attack working people at a time that wage growth is stagnant. Profits are up, wages are flatlining, and what is the answer from the Prime Minister? 'Well, we've got profits up, wages low; let's give a tax cut to big business.' That's all they contemplated. That's the only policy they have. As the Leader of the Opposition said, they are a one-trick pony, this government. They have one policy. As the Leader of the Opposition has made very, very clear, we're up for this fight. We're happy to have this fight from this day forward and every day until the next election, because we know the Australian people do not believe in unfairness and widening inequality in this country.

We are seeing too many people missing out in this country. We do not need lectures from the government in relation to pensioners. They want to increase the pension age to 70 for working people if this country. Can you imagine nurses, construction workers—workers who actually work physically—working until they are 70 before they are even entitled to the pension? It would increase to the highest number in the entire world: 70 before you receive a pension. And yet this government wants to lecture us on pensioners? This government's unfair, the Prime Minister's out of touch and we can't wait till the next election.

4:14 pm

Photo of Andrew WallaceAndrew Wallace (Fisher, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Mr Deputy Speaker Hogan, I join with everyone that's congratulated you in the past on your recent elevation to high office.

It's a great shame that those opposite now are abandoning their posts because they know that they are about to cop a shellacking. I'm very pleased to see that my friend the member for Fairfax is in the chamber with me, because this is a very important discussion that we're having this afternoon. It's important to bring this down to a local level. I'm sure the same situation applies in Fairfax as it does in Fisher—that is, in two federal seats on the Sunshine Coast. There are 741 people in Fisher alone that have been helped off welfare and put into work, including 181 young people, through this government's jobactive wage subsidies. The other side don't like to talk about that, do they? Another great thing on the Sunshine Coast is the record low unemployment: 5.1 per cent. I just seek to remind those opposite that success leaves clues. You can't argue with numbers like 5.1 per cent. I wonder if those opposite could say something similar about an employment rate under the previous Labor government.

There is $266 million extra for schools in Fisher. I love it when they come up with these MPIs because it's just a free kick. There is $1.6 billion in extra funding for the Bruce Highway, member for Fairfax. There are millions for a business case which the member for Fairfax was instrumental in organising for the funding of the North Coast Connect rail project, a fast rail project from Maroochydore and Nambour to Brisbane. What have the Romans ever done for us? What has the Turnbull government ever done for us? The answer is $1.6 billion for roads and fast rail.

These are groundbreaking projects that will change the lives of hardworking Australians—hardworking people living in Fisher, living in Fairfax and living in Wide Bay. I don't know about Fairfax, but I don't have too many big businesses operating in Fisher. I don't think there are too many big businesses operating in Fairfax. Perhaps we can change that. The other side are always keen to turn a big business into a small business, but on our side of the fence we have absolutely laser-like focus on looking after our small businesses on the Sunshine Coast.

There is $5 million for the Thompson Institute. They talk about ordinary Australians. Ordinary Australians will receive some fantastic mental health care through the Thompson Institute—people who suffer from dementia; people who are at very, very low points in their lives and need help, particularly in relation to suicide prevention; and youth with mental health issues. We all want to care for the mental health of our young people. There is $5 million for the new Sunshine Coast community sporting hub in Kawana. This government cares for ordinary Australians. It puts its money where its mouth is. There is $3 million for upgrades to the Events Centre in Caloundra. The list continues to go on.

Another great example is a commercialisation grant of $1 million that was provided by the federal government for a Caloundra business by the name of HeliMods. HeliMods will take this power stretcher loader to the world and it will revolutionise people being loaded into emergency services helicopters. I know that Will is heading off to the US in a couple of weeks time to try and sell this concept—it's like selling ice to the Eskimos—to the US National Guard. This is something that will revolutionise the transport of very sick and injured people. A million dollars as just been announced in relation to homelessness programs in Fisher alone.

Those opposite talk about ordinary Australians. The Turnbull government gives a damn about ordinary Australians. It always has and always will. (Time expired)

Photo of Kevin HoganKevin Hogan (Page, National Party) Share this | | Hansard source

The discussion is now concluded.