House debates

Thursday, 21 June 2018



10:15 am

Photo of Mr Tony BurkeMr Tony Burke (Watson, Australian Labor Party, Manager of Opposition Business (House)) Share this | | Hansard source

I move:

That so much of the standing and sessional orders be suspended as would prevent the Manager of Opposition Business from moving the following motion immediately:

That the House

(1) notes that

  (a) gross debt has grown to a record half a trillion dollars under this government;

  (b) last night, in an act of gross incompetence, this government teamed up with Senator Pauline Hanson's One Nation to vote to support a bill which abolished all income tax rates from 2024. This is the latest act from a government consumed by chaos and incompetence which has outsourced all economic policy to Pauline Hanson's One Nation;

  (c) for years One Nation has advocated flat tax. Last night the government adopted this policy and set the rate at zero;

  (d) the government has also dealt with bracket creep by abolishing every single tax bracket; and

  (e) the bill which was supported last night at the third reading stage by the government and One Nation will open up a budget black hole of $240 billion every single year once implemented; and

(2) condemns this government for its gross economic incompetence.

Those opposite have now completely outsourced the economic policy of this nation to Pauline Hanson's One Nation party. We'll hear in question time today from the Treasurer and he'll say, 'Labor voted for this, Labor voted for that,' but he won't say what the government voted for last night. What he won't acknowledge is that last night every single one of their senators voted that from 2024 there will be no income tax at all, none—$240 billion wiped off the Commonwealth revenue sheet! They could now get from half a trillion to a trillion dollars in gross debt in just two years. The Treasurer has found a way of doing that in just two years. No wonder they wanted to shut down debate today!

Have we ever seen a situation before where, for what is meant to be the centrepiece of their budget strategy, they won't even allow a single speech from the shadow Treasurer—not one speech? A government that's confident of its credentials doesn't need to shut down debate. A government that's not humiliated by teaming up with Senator Pauline Hanson doesn't need to shut down debate. Those opposite decided that they won't let working Australians have a tax cut unless they personally get one too. That's what Senator Hanson did, that's what the Treasurer did and that's what the Prime Minister did. They wouldn't let the workers get a tax cut unless they got one too. That's the sort of government that needs to shut down debate. But a government that's confident of the economy, a government that's confident of what it's doing, doesn't need to do what it did in this House today.

For years we've heard One Nation argue this ridiculous position of flat tax, and we've heard the government talk about needing to get rid of bracket creep. But who would have thought that, last night, those opposite would've gone: 'Bingo! We've worked it out—let's just abolish tax; let's just abolish it all! That will work. That will be the option.' And every single one of them voted for it last night. So, today, when we've got the bill and we're giving the reasons to the Senate and telling them what they did, the government wants to hide the fact that what it did last night was the most extraordinary example of fiscal recklessness we will ever see.

We've had people in this House come up with harebrained schemes before. We've had people on the crossbench in the Senate at different points come up with really wild ideas. But no-one has ever done what Liberal and National party senators did last night with One Nation. Nobody before has ever said the answer is to abolish all taxation, all these tax brackets.

Government Members:

Government members interjecting

Photo of Mr Tony BurkeMr Tony Burke (Watson, Australian Labor Party, Manager of Opposition Business (House)) Share this | | Hansard source

They say it's been a disincentive. So what's the ultimate incentive? The ultimate incentive, from their end, is to abolish all taxation. There is a bit of a problem with that. The first problem—

Government members interjecting

You then make a choice. Do you abolish all the services that it was going to fund, or do you just let debt go all the way up? What's the government's answer to that? They have found a way to do both. Remember all the talk of debt and deficit before they came to office? Remember that they voted to abolish the debt cap? And where has that got us? Half a trillion dollars in gross debt. And now they have found a way to add an extra half a trillion dollars to it every two years. The level of incompetence from this Treasurer was marked from the time he got the job. When he got the job, he brought in a $107 million hole in legislation. He has been coming into this place without a shred of anything other than anger. Who needs argument, who needs rationality, when you can get really cranky? Who needs to put any sort of rational argument together when you have that one mode? Turn the switch, and then it is anger.

What doesn't come over on the microphone when people watch question time at home—we feel for them, but there are some people who do it!—is all the interjections when the Treasurer gets up. They say, 'Mate, why don't you use anger this time? Why don't you get a little bit cranky this time?'—because that's the only mode he's got. The evidence is that he believes in getting debt and deficit higher than the nation has ever seen before. If he wants to do something about bracket creep, the answer he has come up with is not just to abolish one bracket but to abolish the lot.

When you outsource your economic policy to Pauline Hanson's One Nation, be careful what you wish for. What happened last night is no accident. One Nation would have thought it was terrific, and the Liberal and National parties would have thought it's now just what they do. The way they have behaved this term has changed fundamentally since One Nation returned to the federal parliament. Before One Nation was in the parliament, can we remember a minister for immigration saying it was a mistake to let people into this country based on their race and religion? Once One Nation were here, that happened. Before the election, did we hear anything from those opposite about needing a university-level English test for citizenship? No. But One Nation arrived and, all of a sudden, that happened too. And last night we saw that it is not just their immigration policies; it is not just their citizenship policies: the government have now gone the full way and are adopting the economic policies of the One Nation party.

Those opposite can be really proud, because no other government has managed to achieve what they have achieved. We are half a trillion dollars in debt now and another half a trillion dollars of gross debt will be added every two years. If we are worried about going too hard on the top end of town, they fixed that last night. It doesn't matter how much you earn; what they voted for last night is not one cent of income tax from 1 July 2024.

Labor stood up in the Senate and moved a consequential amendment to fix this. We thought: it is probably reasonable that income tax exists; it is probably not an outrageous position! But what did they do? They said, 'We know what Labor's up to!' Immediately upon hearing that, they said: 'Quick, Senator Hanson. We're with you. We'll stop them. We'll make sure income tax doesn't continue beyond 2024'—and they voted to prevent it. So that was what we had in front of the parliament. Procedurally the government did everything they could to try to make sure this wasn't revealed when their own backbench was present. They went to lengths I haven't seen in the parliament before to make sure that people were unaware of what bill had reached this House. The bill that had reached this House was Pauline Hanson's One Nation Party to a T. It was a policy, before this House only minutes ago, that abolished all income tax revenue; that set the rate at zero; that added half a trillion dollars to debt every two years. I wish we had a Treasurer who at least had the courage to acknowledge that what happened in the Senate last night was a little bit silly—but no. No, he will respond in the only way he knows. Beware the anger, because there is no-one running the economy.

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

Is the motion seconded?

10:25 am

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

It is, Mr Speaker. I second the motion. It is a big day for the Turnbull government. It is a big day for this Treasurer. The government are doing what they do best: they are engaging in recklessness and engaging in unfairness, and they're not very competent as they go about it. This is a government which insists on its will. Last night the Senate carried legislation which provides income tax relief for all Australians from 1 July—a good thing. But the Senate said, 'Enough is enough; no stage 3. We're taking stage 3 out. We say we're not supporting legislation which has $42 billion in costs, which grows at 12 per cent a year and which then goes entirely to the top 20 per cent of income earners. The Senate said, 'No. Enough is enough.' And the government say, 'We insist.' And not only do they insist, but they are incompetent as they go about it.

As the Manager of Opposition Business said, they voted for zero tax rates from 2024. That's what they did, with One Nation. The Labor Party and I pay tribute to the Greens for voting with us to protect tax in Australia—more economically responsible than the government of the day, the Liberals and the National Party, who said, 'That's okay.' No wonder the Treasurer wants the amendments disagreed to; he's realised what his senators have done in abolishing income tax. We know that this government is irresponsible, we know that this government doesn't want to fund essential services into the future and we know that it wants to give away this tax base for Australia's future.

This is a Treasurer who says, 'This is so urgent. It is so urgent that we pass these tax cuts for 2024.' Well, the fact of the matter is that 1 July 2024 is 72 months away. It is two parliaments away. It is 12 budget and mid-year economic statements away. This Treasurer, more than anybody else, should know that a lot can change between budget statements. It was the last budget statement where he was telling us that we needed a $44 billion tax rise, that anybody who opposed it was un-Australian and that anybody who opposed it was irresponsible. Now, in between that budget statement and the following budget, we've gone from a $44 billion tax rise to a $140 billion tax cut—a $184 billion turnaround—but this Treasurer seems to magically know what he can afford in 2024. I'll tell you why he knows it: because he knows who it is going to. It's going to Australia's high-income earners, and that's his No. 1 priority. He has the gall, he has the hide, to go to the Senate crossbench and say, 'I will hold a gun at the head of tax relief for low- and middle-income earners.' It is moderate tax relief, $10 a week, but this Treasurer is willing to hold a gun to the head and say, 'I will not let that tax relief pass unless you give me the reckless policy of stage 3.' They even got stage 2 through, but that's not enough for them. Oh, no. They want the lot. This Treasurer wants the lot. I don't think this Treasurer will be in the House in 2024, let alone be the Treasurer of Australia. He is determined to deliver it now. I'm not sure that this Prime Minister will be here in seven weeks, let alone seven years. But they are determined to deliver this, because this says it all about their priorities. They are a government who are prepared to vote against Labor's better, fairer tax cuts but insist on their own.

Under Labor's better, fairer tax cuts, I'll tell you who is better off: 73 per cent of taxpayers in New South Wales; 74 per cent of taxpayers in Victoria; 75 per cent of taxpayers in Queensland; 71 per cent of taxpayers in Western Australia—you might have heard of the voters of Perth and Fremantle, although you're not turning up; 76 per cent of taxpayers in South Australia; 77 per cent of taxpayers in Tasmania—many Tasmanians will have the chance to have a say about this in a few weeks; 75 per cent of taxpayers in the ACT; and 76 per cent of taxpayers in the Northern Territory. All those taxpayers will be better off under Labor's tax plan, and they don't need that tax relief held hostage so that this Treasurer can engage in his fiscal recklessness.

History will not judge this government well. History will not judge this Treasurer well. When tax cuts are baked into the budget numbers, this Treasurer's incompetence, recklessness and addiction to unfairness will be judged by history.

10:30 am

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

They're not happy, are they? They're not happy. I'll tell you what they're not happy about. They're not happy that a million jobs have been created since this government was first elected in 2013. They're not happy that the unemployment rate is falling. They're not happy that we've turned the corner and we've wrestled Labor's runaway debt to the ground and we're turning that debt around. When we came to office it was running at 30 per cent a year. They're not happy that 3.1 per cent is now the growth rate of the Australian economy. They're not happy about that. They're not happy that the deficit has halved in the last couple of years and that it'll come back into surplus in 2019-20, a year earlier than had been projected. They're not happy the AAA credit rating has been retained when, all the way through, over the last few years, the shadow Treasurer, in particular, has been seeking to goad ratings agencies into downgrading Australia's credit rating. They're not happy that the jobs and growth that the Turnbull government pledged at the last election are being delivered, and are being delivered in spades.

The Turnbull government has a plan for a stronger economy, and it's a plan that is working. That is demonstrated in the more than 10 per cent growth in non-mining investment in the most recent national accounts. This is five times the historical average, turning around the investment story in this country. Do you know how that happens? It happens because of lower taxes and understanding that, when businesses and individuals are given the opportunity to keep and invest their own funds, it gives them hope, it gives them aspiration, it gives them incentive and it gives them purpose. That is what leads to the results that we're seeing in our economy today.

Our plan for a stronger economy is working. The plan for a stronger economy was set out in the budget, a strong document which sets out a strong plan to deliver the growth that we pledged and the jobs that follow from it. That plan has five key points that I set out in this budget. The first of those was lower taxes—lower taxes for personal income tax and lower taxes for businesses to ensure they remain competitive. Having lower taxes relieves the pressure on households, but it also empowers those households. The plan that has been voted on in this place today is a plan that the Labor Party voted for in full when it first came into the House, and now they've voted against it. They voted for it; they voted against it; they voted on at least two other options in the last few weeks.

You cannot trust a party that cannot keep its line straight when it comes to tax. Who knows what the Labor Party believes on taxes?

Photo of Kelly O'DwyerKelly O'Dwyer (Higgins, Liberal Party, Minister for Revenue and Financial Services) Share this | | Hansard source

Higher taxes!

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

I haven't got the faintest idea what they believe on taxes, except for one thing—as the Minister for Revenue and Financial Services reminds us—which is that they should be higher. It's pretty simple: under Labor, the taxes are going on; under the coalition, the taxes are coming off. That's what it is—tax on under Labor; tax off under the coalition. That's the simple contrast. Before the budget, I made it very clear that the contrast and the choice that will exist for the Australian people before the election is: do they want to pay more under Labor? Do they want to pay more in more taxes? Do they want to pay more in higher electricity prices with their reckless renewable energy targets and their reckless emissions reduction standards?

Do they want to pay more for electricity? Do they want to pay more for private health insurance? They will pay more and more and more under Labor—for one simple reason: Labor cannot control their spending. They have no capability of controlling their spending.

We are pleased that our plan for lower taxes—and, in particular, personal income taxes—has today gained the support of this House, and we look forward to it having the support of the other chamber today. That will be not only a message from this parliament that the budget, which is a strong plan for a stronger economy, is passing this parliament but also a message to Australians all around the country that there's tax relief for all Australians. This is tax relief that is provided for by a strong economy—not by taxing some more, but by ensuring that all will receive that relief. We believe that every Australian, no matter what job they have or income they pay, should get tax relief, because they're all putting in.

It is true in this country, under our progressive system as we designed it and as we endorse, that those on higher incomes pay higher rates of tax, but, as the studies showed yesterday, the households that are in the top 20 per cent of income in this country pay more than 50 per cent of the taxes in this country—actually, it's closer to 60 per cent. That's how it is, because those who've done better and have greater means are ensuring that the benefits of hospitals, schools, pension payments, welfare payments and all of these can be provided for. That is largely done by them, and the burden of taxation is carried largely by those who do better—and they do so, pleasingly, in this country on the basis that they know that that's the fair society in which they live. But there's got to be a limit. There has to be incentive; otherwise, it's the image of that snake eating itself from the tail—

Opposition members interjecting

Those opposite jest at this, but what they don't understand is that if you tax your economy too hard and too high it eats the economy. The shadow Treasurer used to believe this. He used to have as a mentor Paul Keating, who used to talk to him of aspiration and speaking to that aspiration.

Photo of Kelly O'DwyerKelly O'Dwyer (Higgins, Liberal Party, Minister for Revenue and Financial Services) Share this | | Hansard source

Not anymore.

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

Not anymore. He's mystified by aspiration as much as the member for Sydney is. I've been wondering: why has the shadow Treasurer gone from supporting competitive tax rates for businesses to opposing them? Why has he gone from supporting personal income taxes based on aspiration to opposing them? Let's not make any mistake today: the Labor Party today is voting to cut in half a personal income tax plan that will deliver more than $140 billion in tax relief to Australians right across the country—to everybody paying tax. They want to cut that in half. That's what they're doing: they're taking a $140 billion plan and turning it into a $70 billion tax relief measure. That's what they're doing: they're cutting tax relief in half with this measure.

What has caused this massive change from the shadow Treasurer? He's clearly got another mentor. That mentor must be the member for Sydney. The other week he was going out there and repeating that ridiculous line that, somehow, in the tax system you have pink forms and blue forms when it comes to introducing income tax! He was embarrassed to repeat it, but he dutifully went out there making an absolute embarrassment of himself—and he knows he did. It was absolutely incredible that he could drag himself to be so humiliated, to put such a ludicrous argument out in the public debate. So we know who the shadow Treasurer's new mentor is: it's the member for Sydney, the professor of economics and tax policy known so well around the country—and let's not forget geography.

We're backing business to create more jobs. There is record jobs growth under the Turnbull government. The stronger economy is guaranteeing the essentials that Australians rely on. Those sitting up in Longman today, those sitting down in Braddon and those sitting out in Mayo, where the Liberal and National parties are with our candidates, know this—

Photo of Mr Tony BurkeMr Tony Burke (Watson, Australian Labor Party, Manager of Opposition Business (House)) Share this | | Hansard source

What about WA?

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

And in WA, for sure, because it's important for them, too, that they understand this. They need to understand that, when you hear a Labor Party member say, 'We're going to do this on hospitals,' or, 'We're going to do this on education,' or, 'We're going to do this on disabilities,' or, 'We're going to do this', it means nothing unless you have a plan for a stronger economy. You cannot take Labor's promises to the bank, because when Labor gets into power there's nothing in the bank, because they cannot manage the budget and they cannot run a stronger economy. It's just not in their DNA. What's in their DNA is spend, spend and spend, which means tax, tax and tax—more than $200 billion in higher taxes, which they've added $70 billion to today by opposing this measure.

How high does it go? When is too much tax too much for the Labor Party? The answer is never. The sky's the limit. The shadow Treasurer used to believe in a tax cut. In fact, he said we would be judged on if taxes rose above 23.7 per cent. Gone is the tax cap, because he is unable to control the spending of his colleagues. If he were to ever sit in the Treasurer's chair, the budget would go into disrepair, because he hasn't got the strength to manage it. We are living within our means as a government. We are creating the stronger economy that Australians need and that guarantees the essentials that Australians rely on. Our record speaks for itself. (Time expired)

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

The time allotted for this debate has concluded. The question is that the motion moved by the Manager of Opposition Business be agreed to.