House debates

Tuesday, 2 July 2019


Treasury Laws Amendment (Tax Relief So Working Australians Keep More Of Their Money) Bill 2019; Consideration in Detail

7:33 pm

Photo of Jim ChalmersJim Chalmers (Rankin, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Treasurer) Share this | | Hansard source

I move amendments (1) and (2) on sheet 1 together as circulated in my name:

(1)   Schedule 2, page 5 (before line 4), before item 1, insert:

1A Clause 1 of Part I of Schedule 7 (table dealing with tax rates for resident taxpayers for the 2018-19, 2019-20, 2020-21 or 2021-22 year of income)

Repeal the table (including the note), substitute:

[tax rates]

(2)   Schedule 2, page 6 (before line 1), before item 3, insert:

2A Clause 1 of Part III of Schedule 7 (table dealing with tax rates for working holiday makers for the 2018-19, 2019-20, 2020-21 or 2021-22 year of income)

Repeal the table, substitute:

If anyone in the broader Australian community is wondering how this third-term government found itself with the slowest growth in a decade and interest rates cut to one per cent, which is a third of what they were during the global financial crisis, with productivity going backwards, with weak household consumption, with weak household spending, and with stagnant wages, which are growing at an eighth of the pace of company profits, they need only listen to the contributions from those opposite over the past hour or so. They are so focused on what Labor is doing and what Labor is saying that they have left themselves absolutely no time to do their actual job, and it shows in the outcomes we are getting. The data being put out on an almost daily basis points to a floundering economy, which points to the fact that middle Australia is struggling. Every day we are reminded by the contributions—if you can call them that—of those opposite that they have absolutely no plan to turn things around.

The amendments before the House are about trying to get the place going again, about recognising that the economy has deteriorated. It has deteriorated even since the election. We've got some very poor economic data. The bank has had to cut rates twice in two meetings, down to extraordinary record lows. What the amendment recognises is that we need to do something about it. We have put these proposals to the government before now, and again now, because we do think that something needs to change. We can't have a situation where the Treasurer looks at the data that I've just run through and thinks that everything is hunky-dory. It's not. The economy is struggling on his and the government's watch, and something needs to be done about it. We owe it to the Australian people to put our heads together to try and work out what can be responsibly done to try and get the place moving again.

Labor have said all along that we support stage 1 of the tax cuts. They are, in my view, a no-brainer. We need to get those into the economy as soon as possible. It was promised that they would be in the economy yesterday. Unfortunately, the Treasurer and the Prime Minister broke that promise. They are not flowing through the economy. One of the reasons why we facilitated this debate tonight and why we'll do the right thing to facilitate debate later in the week in the Senate is that the economy is crying out for tax relief. Stage 1 is important in that regard. These amendments say that if the economy's slowing and the government doesn't have a plan to do anything about it, what can we on this side reasonably propose? What we've proposed in a responsible way, in good faith, is: why don't we take a portion of the tax cuts that would otherwise come into being in 2022, if the government passes its package, and bring them forward into the current financial year, which began this week? The net impact, the consequence, of that would be that every single Australian worker would get a tax cut this year. Under this government, some people will get a tax cut this year, some in 2022 and some in 2024. We are saying the economy is soft enough for us to consider a new way forward. That's why we are proposing what we are proposing in the amendments before the House right now.

I want to say one last point about the government's language around aspiration. The government wants to pretend that these tax cuts on the never-never are about aspiration. No government which actually understands aspiration would be cutting the wages of those who work on weekends. If there's something that really speaks to aspiration in this country, it is people who are prepared to work on Sundays to do a bit better for the people they love, to put food on the table. The idea of the government cutting penalty rates at the same time as it is talking about aspiration is in lots of ways, to be frank about it, sickening. Aspiration isn't a marketing term that you learn about from a focus group report; you have to be serious about it. You have to spend time with real people in real communities to understand it. What we are proposing here is to do something to get everybody a tax cut in this economy, to help boost it. People understand that their wages are stagnant, that the link between hard work and reward for that hard work has been severed by this government. We need to do something about it. We need to do something about the slowing economy. We've proposed a way forward here in these amendments. The government so far has been too pig-headed to pick them up and run with them. It's not too late for them to do the right thing and vote for them.

7:39 pm

Photo of Josh FrydenbergJosh Frydenberg (Kooyong, Liberal Party, Treasurer) Share this | | Hansard source

We oppose these hastily cobbled together amendments that create some veneer of credibility for the Labor Party after they took to the Australian people $387 billion of higher taxes. They have the gall to come into this place and start talking about pump-priming the economy and providing tax relief for Australians. You can't take this mob seriously. Six weeks ago, they were going to hit retirees, renters, homeowners, family businesses and people with superannuation with higher taxes. Remember that worker up in North Queensland who confronted the then Leader of the Opposition, Bill Shorten, during the election and said, 'What are you doing for us on $200,000+?' The then Leader of the Opposition didn't have the courage to tell him that he was giving him a tax increase if Labor were to get into office.

The member for Rankin talks about aspiration. What Labor was going to do was tax those who aspired to earn more, tax those who wanted to take responsibility for their retirement. Our plan was laid out clearly in the budget, and it has both short-term relief, with up to $1,080 for those earning up to $126,000, and long-term structural reform, where we are going to reduce the rate of tax from 32½c down to 30c in the dollar for those earning between $45,000 and $200,000—one big, flat, simpler tax bracket. That will encourage aspiration.

These amendments from those opposite have been cobbled together at the last minute and are all about giving them a veneer of credibility when they know their credibility has been in tatters since the election. We do know that under our plan the progressive nature of the tax system will be maintained. We do know that under our plan more money will go into the pockets of hardworking Australians. We do know under our plan that household consumption will be boosted, that overall economic activity will be a boosted and that we can continue Australia's success of 28 consecutive years of economic growth. While those opposite want to talk down the economy at every opportunity, we say on this side of the House that, yes, there are serious challenges. There are challenges in the housing market, there are challenges as a result of drought and there are challenges in the global economic outlook. But at the same time we have a AAA credit rating, we have net debt to GDP of around 20 per cent and we have also created over 1.3 million new jobs, including 40,000 new jobs over the last month.

The Labor Party have torn themselves to pieces over the last few weeks having different positions every day—whether it's because they can't commit in 2024-25, even though they have long-term spending commitments and tax hikes. You heard from the member for Hunter that the Labor Party should not block these tax cuts.

Photo of Peter KhalilPeter Khalil (Wills, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

The most sensible thing he's ever said!

Photo of Josh FrydenbergJosh Frydenberg (Kooyong, Liberal Party, Treasurer) Share this | | Hansard source

Then you have the member for Wills say that you shouldn't be blocking these tax cuts from opposition. Now the Labor Party is saying, 'We need to wait and see what the crossbenchers do in the Senate because we can only vote for this legislation if we can't oppose it as a result of what the crossbenchers do.'

We oppose these amendments from the Labor Party because we took our plan to the Australian people—we laid it out in the budget, and it was central to our campaign—and it was endorsed on 18 May. Our plan will lead to more money in the pockets of hardworking families, low- and middle-income earners. The Labor Party will always be the party of higher taxes.

7:44 pm

Photo of Adam BandtAdam Bandt (Melbourne, Australian Greens) Share this | | Hansard source

This government is on a mission to end progressive taxation and dismantle the welfare state. That much was obvious from the Treasurer's contribution just then, talking about the glory days that they see in their neoliberal fantasy land, where everyone will be swearing on Milton Friedman as they come into this place, where there's only going to be one tax rate—that's what they'd love, if they could get there—and where someone who's a CEO of a corporation pays the same amount of tax as someone who is on the minimum wage. That's where they want us to get to, and we know the consequences of that. The more you attack revenue, the less money there is for services that make Australia more equal.

What you haven't heard from the government in any of the speeches we've had today—in the Governor-General's speech or any of the other speeches—is about those people who are struggling on Newstart who are living in poverty at the moment. The only way to assist them to get out of poverty at the moment is (a) to create more real jobs, which this government seems unable to do, and underemployment is at a crisis rate, and (b) to lift the level of Newstart so that people aren't living in poverty while they're waiting to find a job. To do that, you need money. You need money to be able to do that. That money comes from taxes. As I said in my second reading debate contribution, the best way to put more money in people's pockets and increase the revenue base of the government to provide services is lifting wages. That's what we need to do in this country at the moment. What we shouldn't be doing, given what we know very clearly the government's agenda is, is helping it to fast-track part of its plan—and that's what this amendment does.

I understand that there are largely political motivations for the opposition moving this amendment, but I would urge them to be very careful, because some day—hopefully, very soon, especially in a finely balanced parliament—this government will, hopefully, be out on its ear and there will be a change of government. When that happens, there will need to be revenue to do things such as lifting the rate of Newstart. The more we engage in this tax cut arms race and say we are going to vote to bring forward even part of the government's plan, the less money there is in the kitty. I don't know exactly what this will cost, but based on the PBO costings so far it wouldn't be unreasonable to assume that there will need to be in the order of $5 billion to $6 billion a year to deal with stage 2.

We shouldn't be having tax cuts for high-income earners at all, let alone bringing them forward. What I think needs to be understood is that, as much as this amendment and stage 2 are framed around low- and middle-income earners, what the government is doing in its bill and what the opposition is doing in its amendment to try and bring this forward is fundamentally changing all the marginal tax rates. So people who are earning $200,000, $300,000 or $1 million dollars are going to get a benefit from this amendment. In fact, the proportion of the population that are going to get the full benefit from this amendment that the opposition is moving are those on the highest incomes. It's not an amendment that will help reduce inequality. It's not an amendment targeted at low-income earners. So, for reasons very different to the government's, the Greens cannot support this amendment, because what it actually does is take a very bad thing that government is doing and bring it forward so it will happen earlier. We should, instead, be saying that we want services and wage rises instead of tax cuts and, if we can find a way of providing assistance that's targeted—for example, by increasing the low-income tax offset so it's properly targeted at low-income earners—so that you don't need to change all the marginal rates and you don't provide flow-on benefits for people earning $200,000, $300,000 or $400,000 a year, then let's look at that.

I'll be supporting the next opposition amendment to get rid of stage 3, because that's a good amendment and it's consistent with maintaining, as much as we possibly can, progressive tax in Australia. But I would urge the opposition to have a bit of a rethink about this idea of saying, 'The best way to deal with the government is to match them and bring their plans forward.' That's not the best way. That is just going to make a bad situation worse. If we want to deal with the economic challenges that have been laid out by the opposition and by the government, let's work on a plan to lift wages and let's work on a plan to lift Newstart. Let's not engage in a tax cut arms race.

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

The question is that the amendments moved by the member for Rankin—amendments (1) and (2) on sheet 1, as circulated—be agreed to.

The House divided. [19:53]

(The Speaker—Hon. Tony Smith)

The division was unavailable at the time of publishing.

Question negatived.

8:01 pm

Photo of Jim ChalmersJim Chalmers (Rankin, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Treasurer) Share this | | Hansard source

I move opposition amendments (1) and (2) on sheet 2, as circulated in my name:

(1)    Schedule 2, item 2, page 5 (starting at line 11), omit the item, substitute:

2 Clause 1 of Part I of Schedule 7 (table dealing with tax rates for resident taxpayers for the 2024-25 year of income or a later year of income)

Repeal the table, substitute:

(2)    Schedule 2, item 4, page 6 (starting at line 8), omit the item, substitute:

4 Clause 1 of Part III of Schedule 7 (table dealing with tax rates for working holiday makers for the 2024-25 year of income or a later year of income)

Repeal the table, substitute:

What the government has just done is vote against a tax cut for every Australian worker this term. This so-called party of lower taxes just came over to this side of the House to vote with the Greens to prevent the bringing forward of part of stage 2, which would have given every Australian worker a tax cut from this week. At a time when the economy is floundering and middle Australia is struggling, they voted with the Greens against bringing forward their own tax cut. They say it's a great idea in 2022. They say it's a horrible idea in 2019, when the economy of 2019 has slowed so dramatically on their watch and needs so much help right now from those opposite and isn't getting it.

What the government is doing here more broadly is holding hostage to a tax cut in five years time the tax relief that the economy needs now to try to get the place moving again. And so what this second set of amendments does is attempt to pull out of the bill stage 3of the government's tax cuts. The reason we are seeking to do that and seeking the support of the parliament to do that is that, from a government which has got all of the big economic calls wrong and has routinely and repeatedly got the economy wrong, we've now got this floundering economy. They want us to believe that they know what the show will look like in five years time. They want us to believe that they know what the economy will look like and what the budget will look like in five years time. They don't know what the place will look like in five minutes time the way that they are going. So this amendment seeks to bring out that part of the income tax package—to bring out stage 3. They can consider it at some future point, but it shouldn't get in the way of us as a parliament passing stages 1 and 2 this week and bringing forward part of stage 2, as the member for Lalor points out.

If those opposite don't want to take our word for what's going on with stage 3 of the tax cut, I draw the House's attention to the detailed analysis that was done by the Grattan Institute. If you read the Grattan Institute analysis, you will see they say that stages 1 and 2 are good ideas, that they give the economy a boost and give people a bit of tax relief—that's important. The Grattan Institute are right to point that out. But what they say about stage 3 is that stage 3 of the tax plan needlessly reduces fiscal flexibility. That is an important point. Stage 3 mainly benefits high-income earners—a point made by the Grattan Institute. The other point they made is that it will make Australia's income tax system less progressive. So what the Grattan Institute says about stage 3—and this really accords with our own thinking about stage 3 and why we are attempting to pull it out of the bill which will pass the House of Representatives tonight—is:

Locking in such substantial tax cuts in 2024-25 carries plenty of downside risk in Australia's current highly uncertain economic environment. The economy is softening, the budget position is uncertain, and calls for the Government to use fiscal policy to stimulate the economy are growing. Tax cuts in 2024-25 are likely to come well after stimulus is needed.

We couldn't have put it better ourselves. That is precisely why we need to pull stage 3 out of this bill.

As everybody here knows, we will enthusiastically support stage 1 and stage 2. We think part of stage 2 should come forward. The government voted against that. Remarkably, the government of lower taxes voted against a tax cut a few moments ago. We need to get stages 1 and 2 through this parliament this week. Stage 3 doesn't come in until 261 weeks from now. There's absolutely no reason for the parliament to pass those tax cuts that come in in five years time. What we're seeking to do is to come to a reasonable and responsible conclusion, that it's not the right thing to do to commit $95 billion five years out when those opposite don't have a clue about what the economy or the budget will look like at that point.

That's the core of our amendment that we're moving now. We're seeking the support of the parliament. We'll seek it here. We'll seek it in the Senate as well after tonight, because it is important that we do the right and responsible thing: stimulus into the economy now, stages 1 and part of stage 2. Stage 3 can be debated at a future point, at some point in the next five years, in the next 261 weeks, before this comes in. They should stop holding tax cuts now hostage for tax cuts in five years time.

8:05 pm

Photo of Stephen JonesStephen Jones (Whitlam, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Assistant Treasurer) Share this | | Hansard source

I want to take the unusual step, in starting, of congratulating the members of parliament who've returned here to the government side of the benches, because the fact of the matter is that they are some of the most surprised people in Australia that they were returned to government. We know this, because, if you want to see a government that is divided, that has lost its way and that doesn't have an economic agenda, have a look at stage 3 of the tax cuts. Have a look at stage 3 of the tax cuts, because the truth is—and every single one of those members of the frontbench knows it's absolutely true—that this is legislation that they never thought they were going to have to implement. They thought that they were being very, very tricky by loading into the budget a whole bunch of time bombs that were going to blow up on somebody else. They were going to blow up on somebody else's watch. The truth is this: stage 3 of these tax cuts is one part politics and one-part reckless but no part good economic management. It's $95 billion and it's unfunded.

I want to direct some comments to the new members of parliament over there, because at some stage over the next three years they are going to have constituents coming in to their offices. They are going to have constituents coming in to them to complain about the government's approach to deeming rates. They're going to be saying, 'How come, when I go to my bank and I want to invest in a term deposit, the best that I can get is somewhere between one and 1½ per cent, but when it comes to tax time the government assumes that I am getting a deeming rate of 3.25 per cent?' You are going to have to say to them: 'Well, I'm very sorry. We'd like to do something about that, but the fact is we've decided to give $95 billion away in unfunded tax cuts.'

At some stage over the next three years, you're going to have people coming in who are clients of the NDIS. They're going to be after equipment. They're going to be after assistance, whether it's caring assistance or other facilities. They're going to be getting news from the NDIS that their needs are unfunded. They're going to come to you to ask, 'What is the government going to do about it?' and you're going to have to say: 'I'm very sorry. We'd like to do something about your legitimate needs, but we've given $95 billion away in unfunded tax cuts.' At some stage over the next three years—no, at some stage over the next three months you're going to get an elderly person or one of their carers come in to your office. They're going to say: 'We need assistance with an aged-care package. We've had an ACAT assessment and we've been told that we are entitled to a very high level of aged care'—maybe they're on level 3 or 4—'but we've been told that there are no aged-care packages available.' What's more, I believe that there are 110,000 people on a national waiting list. I can see the blood draining out of the faces of those opposite today because they know this is right. They've probably already had these constituents coming to them saying, 'I've been assessed as needing an aged-care place but I can't get one'. You are going to say to them, 'I'd love to do something about those aged-care places, but our priority was an unfunded $95 billion tax cut.' That's one part politics and one part reckless, but no part sound economic management.

What the country needs today is what Labor put forward and what the government has just voted against: fiscal stimulus. We have the Reserve Bank Board and the Reserve Bank Governor saying, 'We've done all we can with monetary policy. We are giving money away. At one per cent we are at historic low rates for the price of money. There is nothing more we can do.' They are saying to the government, 'Over to you, guys.' We need fiscal stimulus. We know that you guys went to the last election without an economic plan. We have provided you with a positive alternative, one that you should have voted for. Instead, you have voted against tax cuts for the majority of Australians and you have voted against the only economic plan going.

I've heard a bunch of people on that side say, 'We have got a mandate.' There are 151 members in this place and we all went to our constituents and we all have a mandate to vote responsibly and vote in the national interest. If the members on that side were doing the right thing by the economy and by their constituents they would have voted for the last amendment and they'll vote for this amendment. (Time expired).

8:11 pm

Photo of Andrew LeighAndrew Leigh (Fenner, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Assistant Minister for Treasury) Share this | | Hansard source

The debate in this House comes down to one simple proposition. We on this side of the House are arguing for tax cuts for everyone now. The coalition are arguing for inequitable tax cuts in five years time. And which of those arguments should prevail depends on one simple question: is the Australian economy weak or is it strong? A few facts: inflation is now virtually non-existent, new building approvals are drying up, new car sales are falling, unemployment is rising—our unemployment rate is now one percentage point higher than it is in Britain, the United States, Germany and New Zealand—real wages have been flatlining for six years and household savings are low. The Productivity Commission says productivity growth is 'mediocre' and notes that in farming, mining, construction, transport and retail labour productivity has been falling.

This year, for the first time on record, the amount of capital per worker went backwards. We've got fewer new start-ups now than we had in the early 2000s. Real GDP per person has been falling for the last nine months. We are in the longest per capita recession since the early 1980s.

A survey of 20 leading economists, at the start of the week, estimated a 29 per cent chance of Australia falling into a full recession in the next two years. Gold prices are at record highs and bond yields are at record lows—two key signs of trouble in the economy. Today, the Reserve Bank cut interest rates to historic lows, an extraordinary two rate cuts in two successive months.

When the budget was brought down it forecast 2.75 per cent growth in consumer spending. On Monday, 20 of Australia's leading economists were asked how many of them supported that forecast. How many of those 20 economists didn't believe the government's forecast? I'll give you a hint, that answer rhymes with plenty. Twenty out of 20 didn't believe the government's consumer spending forecasts. The economy is weak; it needs stimulus now.

There are equity arguments against stage 3. Thirty-one per cent of it goes to the three per cent of taxpayers who earn over $180,000. It would reduce the share of tax paid by the top one per cent—they've had a pretty good few decades. Two-thirds of the benefits go to men. According to the Grattan Institute it would make our tax system less progressive than at any other time since the 1950s. It would make our tax system less progressive than the OECD average, compared to the current situation where we have a more progressive income tax scale than the OECD average.

Then there is the opportunity cost. This stage 3 is based on heroic growth forecasts and unprecedented assumptions about spending growth restraint. It assumes 1.3 per cent real growth in spending, a lower rate of spending growth than we have seen in any government going back a generation. As the member for Whitlam has said, we have to ask those opposite: what are you going to cut in order to pay for stage 3? It's $85 billion. Are you going to be cutting schools? Are you going to be cutting hospitals? Are you going to be cutting aged care? Are you going to be cutting social programs? There is an opportunity cost to this. No-one believes the government's heroic growth forecasts. No-one believes that they are just going to cap spending with not a single new social program under their assumptions.

Yes, there is an opportunity cost argument against stage 3, but the main argument against the $85 billion stage 3 is a fiscal one. When you are in an ocean liner and heading to oceans with icebergs, do you really want to start selling off the lifeboats to pay for upgrading the first-class cabin? Do you really want to be saying, 'We are going to throw overboard our best chance of dealing with a financial crisis,' in order to lock in large, expensive tax cuts? Under Labor, more people will get a tax cut sooner. The coalition have just voted against tax cuts. As the member for Rankin pointed out, they have voted, with the Greens, against every taxpayer getting a tax cut now.

Our approach is a fair approach, and it's an approach that addresses the weakness in the global economy. The Australian economy is too weak for the proposals the government is putting before the House.

8:16 pm

Photo of Josh FrydenbergJosh Frydenberg (Kooyong, Liberal Party, Treasurer) Share this | | Hansard source

We don't agree with these amendments, because we on this side of the House believe in lower taxes. Labor is only putting forward this amendment because they believe in higher taxes. Let's understand exactly what Labor is saying. They are saying to the millions of Australians who earn between $45,000 and $280,000 that they don't want to give them a tax cut.

They have in the shadow Treasurer, the member for Rankin, somebody who has never seen a tax increase that he doesn't like. He was a big fan of the mining tax, he was a big fan of the carbon tax and he was the co-architect, with the member for McMahon, of $387 billion of higher taxes. Those were taxes that would hit retirees, taxes that would hit superannuants, taxes that would hit family businesses and taxes that would hit income earners like the blue collar workers who the then Leader of the Opposition met in North Queensland during the election campaign.

We, on this side of the House, are doing everything we can to lower the overall tax burden. That's why we, on this side of the House, have a tax-to-GDP cap of 23.9 per cent. Today, it's 23.3 per cent. If the Labor Party got to implement their tax increases in full, their tax to GDP would have been 25.9 per cent. Labor would have been the highest taxing government in Australia's history.

For many people who were voting in the election on May 18, they knew that they would get tax cuts with the coalition and tax increases with the Labor Party. That was what was behind their decision. The Labor Party, having lost the election, have not learned anything. The Labor Party, having had their new Leader of the Opposition and shadow Treasurer embark on a listening tour across the country, have not heard anything. They haven't learned anything, and they haven't heard anything. What we have seen from the Labor Party is a continuation of their previous position in favour of higher taxes.

We, on this side of the House, put to the Australian people very clearly, at the budget and at the election, a plan for short-term relief and long-term reform. That's short-term relief that will see Australians who earn up to $126,000 get up to $1,080 in their pockets. If you're a teacher or a tradie—each earning $60,000—you will get $2,160 in your pocket when you put in your next tax return, if this legislation gets through the parliament. Now, that is very significant tax relief. Overall it's equivalent to two 25-basis-point rate cuts, and the Reserve Bank governor has said that this will boost household incomes, will boost economic activity and will be good for the economy.

The Labor Party have been tearing themselves apart in public view over their position or non-position on these tax cuts. The member for Wills and the frontbencher the member for Hunter have told everyone who is prepared to listen that they are in favour of the government's tax package in full. Then we heard Senator Katy Gallagher, in a train wreck of an interview, saying that she couldn't even make a decision as to Labor's position on this until she saw what the crossbenchers did. That level of uncertainty and that level of disbelief in lower taxes is not something you get from those on this side of the House. We believe in lower taxes. We have a plan for lower taxes. It's before the parliament today and it should be passed in full. (Time expired)

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

The question is that amendments (1) and (2) on sheet 2 as circulated, moved by the member for Rankin, be agreed to.

The House divided. [20:25]

(The Speaker—Hon. Tony Smith)

The division was unavailable at the time of publishing.

Question negatived.

8:31 pm

Photo of Anthony AlbaneseAnthony Albanese (Grayndler, Australian Labor Party, Leader of the Opposition) Share this | | Hansard source

I move the amendment:

That the short title of the bill be amended to read:

Treasury Laws Amendment (Tax Relief So Working Australians Keep More Of Their Money But Not For A Really Long Time) Bill 2019.

We've heard from those opposite that they're actually interested in tax cuts, but what we've seen from the amendments that were moved by the shadow Treasurer were tax cuts being brought forward and voted against by those opposite. I wasn't surprised that the member for Melbourne voted against it, because that's consistent with the Greens' position. What just occurred on the floor of this parliament was the new alliance between the coalition and the Greens to stop tax cuts being brought forward for every worker in Australia. Then we had another debate about stage 3, and that's what this amendment goes to. They say they want tax relief for working Australians, but they don't want it this term. They don't even really want it next term. Maybe they'll want it in the term after.

It's not like there are any signals out there saying there are problems with the economy. Interest rates are down to one per cent.

An honourable member: It's free money!

It's free! Inflation is 1.3 per cent. Growth is 1.8 per cent on an annual basis. We have low consumption. We have wages that were cut yesterday for 700,000 Australians. We have productivity growth that's gone backwards for four quarters in a row. We have debt which has doubled on their watch. And do you know what they'll say? They'll say, 'Well, what we have is, of course, Labor's fault.' The shadow Treasurer writes op-eds that say—oh, the Treasurer; that's right. But the point is that it's really easy to confuse them, because they act like they're in opposition. You know, the days of opposition are where you provide critiques, because that's your job—to hold them to account. But this mob, who are the government, act like they're the opposition day after day.

Tonight they voted against bringing forward tax cuts, and the whole justification for all of this is that they have a plan for 2024-25. They say that will help consumer demand right now. They say that will help wages. They say that will boost economic growth. They say that will boost employment. But, of course, none of it will. It's a bit like the road the member for Dickson promised—Linkfield Road. It's due to commence in 2026-27. That will fix urban congestion! That was in direct mail, right next to, 'If you vote for us, you will get a tax cut in 2024-25.' It was in the direct mail.

Photo of Peter DuttonPeter Dutton (Dickson, Liberal Party, Minister for Home Affairs) Share this | | Hansard source

We won!

Photo of Anthony AlbaneseAnthony Albanese (Grayndler, Australian Labor Party, Leader of the Opposition) Share this | | Hansard source

I know they won. The question is: do they know they won? That's the question, because they don't act like the government. A government has to put national economic responsibility at its core, and they don't do it. What they do is make everything about politics. They actually say that, if our amendments get up, they'll vote against their own tax plan—the whole thing. They'll block it all. So if amendments get up saying that dealing with what is due to happen in 2024-25 will be deferred for a future date—like a fortnight, when parliament comes back—they're going to vote against the whole thing. They're going to say to workers, 'You don't get a tax cut today because we have a plan for 2025.' That is their actual position. This title shows how childish and pathetic they are, which is why we've moved this amendment, which I commend to the House, because it is more accurate than the current title of the bill.

8:36 pm

Photo of Josh FrydenbergJosh Frydenberg (Kooyong, Liberal Party, Treasurer) Share this | | Hansard source

We oppose this amendment because we won't join the Labor Party in mocking Australians. We won't join the Labor Party in making light of the fact that hardworking Australians are counting on this parliament to pass our tax package in full. The Leader of the Opposition is following the losing strategy of the member for Maribyrnong and supporting higher taxes, because it's in the Labor Party's DNA to see higher taxes. The shadow cabinet today, under this Leader of the Opposition, is pretty much the same shadow cabinet that supported—wait for it!—$387 billion of higher taxes. Those were higher taxes and policies that would have hit over a million retirees. They would have seen renters pay more. They would have seen homeowners see their home be worth less. People who saved for their superannuation faced higher taxes.

Ms Kearney interjecting

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

The member for Cooper is warned!

Photo of Josh FrydenbergJosh Frydenberg (Kooyong, Liberal Party, Treasurer) Share this | | Hansard source

Income earners and family businesses would also have been hit with higher taxes. Those are still the Labor Party's policies, because the Labor Party was, is and will always be the party of higher taxes.

Mr Fitzgibbon interjecting

The Leader of the Opposition can't even keep his own members in line, because where was a speech on this bill from the member for Hunter? Where was the member for Hunter? We know what the member for Hunter thinks. He was in the paper supporting our tax package.

Photo of Anthony AlbaneseAnthony Albanese (Grayndler, Australian Labor Party, Leader of the Opposition) Share this | | Hansard source

Mr Deputy Speaker, I have a point of order. If you approach the opposition to restrict debate, don't then complain that everyone doesn't get to speak.

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

I call the Treasurer.

Photo of Josh FrydenbergJosh Frydenberg (Kooyong, Liberal Party, Treasurer) Share this | | Hansard source

We have had numerous speakers from the opposition, and the member for Hunter was nowhere to be seen and the member for Wills was nowhere to be seen.

This is a serious matter. This parliament is debating a package of tax cuts that was at the heart of our budget, that was at the heart of our election campaign and that was endorsed by the Australian people on 18 May.

The Leader of the Opposition has learnt nothing from their election defeat and has heard nothing on his listening tour. He was facing a big test, the first test, in this parliament—would he support the government's tax cuts, which were endorsed by the Australian people?—and he failed. He failed badly.

We oppose this amendment, because we support lower taxes for all Australians.

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

The question is that the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition be agreed to.

The House divided. [20:44]

(The Speaker—Hon. Tony Smith)

The division was unavailable at the time of publishing.

Question negatived.

Bill agreed to.