House debates

Tuesday, 13 February 2024


Treasury Laws Amendment (Cost of Living Tax Cuts) Bill 2024, Treasury Laws Amendment (Cost of Living — Medicare Levy) Bill 2024; Second Reading

4:53 pm

Photo of Sam BirrellSam Birrell (Nicholls, National Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Deputy Speaker Vasta, Nicholls is a great electorate. You're always welcome there, as I said to the Speaker last night.

This is like a riveting movie that's just had a bit of a 24-hour intermission, but I look forward to continuing on. As I was saying last night, much has been said about the government tax cuts. I've seen ministers rise up there and say that people were getting zero under the coalition and they're getting a various range of tax cuts under those opposite. It ignores the fact that there was a low- and middle-income tax offset that was giving $1,500 to lower- and middle-income earners. They got a rude shock when they went to get their tax returns last year and found out that the low- and middle-income tax offset was no longer there. Now, we're talking about what measures could have been undertaken by the government, and keeping the low- and middle-income tax offset would have actually given most of the taxpayers more money and kept the integrity of the stage 3 tax cuts and the attempt to get bracket creep under control. So there were options, and obviously the one they chose was the complete change of the tax reform, breaking an election promise.

The coalition is committed to lower, simpler and fairer taxes, which is why we will not oppose the reduction in the tax rate. But the Prime Minister's broken promise means that delivering the stage 3 tax reforms as they were intended and legislated is now impossible. These were stage 3 tax reforms that, I might remind people, came on top of stage 1 and 2—that's been forgotten—and that were voted for, agreed to and promised several times by the then opposition in the lead-up to the election. The coalition is committed to going to the next election with a tax reform package—we have to look at tax reform again—that is in keeping with the intent of the stage 3 tax reforms. We remain committed to fighting bracket creep and enshrining aspiration. Our package will be fully costed and ready to implement. It will deliver lower, simpler and fairer taxes, fight bracket creep, reward hard work and support a strong economy where every Australian can get ahead.

Australians are finding it really difficult to get ahead at the moment because of the cost-of-living crisis. The purchasing power of an Australian earning a gross salary of $85,000 has fallen more than $7,600 since Labor came to office, so their purchasing power has been smashed, but the ministers are jumping up saying: 'Here's 800 bucks. Aren't I a hero?' For an average income, that is a loss of just under $8,000, and it's swallowed up by rising mortgage payments, falling real wages and increasing taxes. An earner on this annual wage would receive just $804 more under Labour's policy, or $15.46 a week. That's not even including the low- and middle-income tax scheme that I discussed earlier. Over time, the bracket creep this policy entrenches will increase taxes by $28 billion on more than four million Australians, so the sugar hit is now but the long-term tax take for the government, out of Australians' pockets, is significant.

The cost-of-living crisis is real, and the government's got to do more than just offer a tax cut. The cost-of-living crisis is caused by policies that do not promote productivity, business success and profitability and that keep inflation at an extremely high rate. Some of those policies are around energy. The government's failed to introduce policies that would enable it to keep its promised $275 reduction in energy bills.

The cost of groceries is going up in the supermarket. I come from an agricultural region and an agricultural electorate, and I can tell you why groceries are going up: it's because the policies of the Labor government, particularly around IR, biosecurity and water, are making it extremely difficult to run agricultural businesses and invest in agriculture, because of the uncertainty of the future. That's going to put incredible pressure on what we all need, which is food. As I explained, the industrial relations policies are a direct attack on productivity, and lower productivity leads to higher inflation.

The first thing I said last night when I started this speech about this issue was that there were three issues that I wanted to cover. The first is integrity in politics, the second is meaningful tax reform and the third is the cost-of-living crisis. On integrity in politics, as I said, before the election the Prime Minister promised the $275 reduction in energy prices, no change to super tax, cheaper mortgages and no change to the stage 3 tax cuts. All of those promises have been broken. If we're serious about integrity in politics, you've got to go to the election meaning what you say, and you need to do what you said during the campaign if you're lucky enough to get elected. That hasn't happened here. We're not having a conversation about meaningful tax reform. We're having a conversation about redistribution and giving people a bit of a sugar hit to try and help a cost-of-living crisis that the government is exacerbating.

When the tax cut sugar hit wears off and any benefit is swallowed up by more bad policy decisions, the wage earners are going to face this terrible reality. They're facing it now. They're worse off. And they don't appreciate being lectured by government ministers during question time telling them how wonderful we are for looking after them by giving them an $800 tax cut, when, overall, they're incredibly worse off due to inflation, interest rates, cost of living and the failure to extend the low- and middle-income tax offset. The government is taxing for its future, not Australia's future. It's taxing for Dunkley, not for the future of Australian productivity. Keating understood that, Hawke understood that and Howard and Costello understood that. It's about time we got back to meaningful tax reform, and I urge the government to focus on that and try and lift productivity and the economic conditions. That will then improve the living standards in Australia, which have been falling since they came to government.

5:01 pm

Photo of Lisa ChestersLisa Chesters (Bendigo, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I rise to speak in favour of the Treasury Laws Amendment (Cost of Living Tax Cuts) Bill 2024 that is before us and against the proposed amendments. In doing so, I want to address a couple of misnomers that have been put around and address some of the facts about bracket creep, about cost-of-living pressures and about the alleged broken promises. First of all, I was here when the original stage 3 tax cuts were legislated.

Photo of Sam BirrellSam Birrell (Nicholls, National Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Did you vote for them?

Photo of Lisa ChestersLisa Chesters (Bendigo, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I did vote for them, but I was very unhappy to vote for them. Anyone who goes back through Hansard would read that and see that, not just in my speech but also in the many 90-second statements that I made after that. My criticism of the government of the day was that they very much bullied, I believe, the rest of the chamber into supporting them. We tried to split the legislation and we tried to change the legislation so that the stage 3 tax cuts were fairer because we knew, like we know today, that it was unfair that only one group of taxpayers got the bulk benefit of stage 3.

The previous speaker mentioned that stage 1 was legislated. Yes, it was, but it was temporary. If the previous government had been genuine about giving low- to middle-income earners genuine tax relief, they would have made that offset permanent at that time, but they didn't; they made it temporary. They legislated that it was temporary, and then it ran out last year. So, while they try to put the blame on us, they weren't really interested in low- and middle- income earners. They let that lapse. They never legislated it. It was temporary in their reforms. We were left with a situation, and it got through. We tried to amend it in the Senate and we tried to amend it in the House when we had stage 3. Fast forward to where we are today, the economic circumstances have changed. We know that there are cost-of-living pressures, and we know that people are doing it tough. We also know from the data that those on the lowest of incomes are the ones that are struggling. That is why I'm so proud to be part of a Labor Party government that said, 'We need to do what is responsible; we need to amend stage 3 and we need to make sure that everybody gets a tax cut on 1 July.'

What we are saying to those opposite is that not only are you getting a very generous tax cut but your staff are also getting a tax cut. Rather than getting upwards of $9,000, why don't you share it with your electorate office. That's what we're saying because everybody is feeling the cost-of-living pressures. Everybody is feeling those pressures, and that is why we have changed it so every Australian taxpayer gets a tax cut. That is the proposal. That is the core of what this is. It is saying, 'Share the tax cut and the tax relief with everybody.' Can I just address the furphy that has been put out that this does not deal with bracket creep. The previous stage 3 way of dealing with bracket creep was to abolish a bracket. That's not dealing with bracket creep; that's effectively trying to flatten our tax structure. That is about saying that everybody earning from $45,000 to $200,000 pays the same marginal tax rate. That isn't in the spirit of our progressive tax system. That isn't dealing with bracket creep; that abolishes a bracket.

What I respect and applaud in this proposal that is before the House is that it genuinely deals with bracket creep in a fair and transparent way and really supports those on low to middle incomes. It is lowering the tax rate for people earning from $18,200 to $45,000 from 19 per cent to 16 per cent. In the current stage 3 that was legislated by the previous government, they got nothing. Those opposite were saying, 'Oh, you should have done something about it.' Well, we are, in this plan. We are reducing the marginal rate. We're not making it temporary. We're going to permanently reduce their rate from 19 to 16. That is dealing with bracket creep. What we're also doing is lifting the top of the next tier above $45,000. Prior to stage 3 coming in, it was $120,000. We're raising it to $135,000 before you tip into the next bracket. Again, that is dealing with bracket creep—not abolishing the bracket, but doing the sensible and fair thing by lifting the top of that bracket. The next bracket goes from $135,000 up to $190,000. Again, we are lifting the bracket—not abolishing it or collapsing our tax system into virtually a flat system but actually restoring the integrity of the progressive tax system that we have in this country and dealing with bracket creep in a fair way.

Above that is the bracket which we, the parliamentarians in this place, sit in, along with about two per cent of taxpayers. We still get a generous tax cut. I had my local paper say, 'Well, what do you say to the 8,000 people in your electorate who earn more than $180,000 and are not going to get as much?' I said, 'You know, they're still going to get a decent, fair and generous cut.' It's still about $4,500. But I'm asking them to think about the people in their community, including the aged-care workers caring for their parents, the early childhood educators caring for their children, the nurses in the hospitals, and the primary and secondary school teachers. If they're on that kind of income, they're likely to have a cleaner and a gardener. I ask them to think about people cleaning their homes and cutting their lawns. I'm asking those in my community to think of their neighbours and about the person selling them their coffee or their groceries. That is what is so vital about the plan that's before us: it delivers tax relief to all workers, regardless of their occupation. Regardless of what income they are on, everybody gets a benefit from this tax cut.

The other furphy out there is this idea that, if you are on a income of less than $180,000, you don't have aspirations. It is such nonsense. It is snobbery. I think about all the very hardworking community sector workers in my electorate, the people who didn't go for a high-flying corporate job—of which there aren't too many in my electorate, I should say—but instead studied social work at university or are working in disability support work. I think about our social workers, the men and women who are working on the front line of our housing crisis or in the community not-for-profit sector. I think about our financial counsellors and the aspirations that they have, not just for their own careers but for our community. I am so relieved, and I can look them in the face now knowing that on 1 July they're going to share in this tax cut and get a decent tax cut too, because they deserve it. They work super hard, full time. They have such a critical job to do at the moment. They deserve a tax cut. Under those opposite, they would have got nil or little. What we're saying to them is: we recognise your worth and the value of your work, and we are giving you support in these tax cuts.

The other part that is so critical about the tax reforms before us is that they relieve a little bit of the pressure off our small businesses. They know that their workers are going to get some tax relief from 1 July. It helps keep their good workers in the jobs they have if they know that they get a little bit of tax relief. They know that their workers are going to get that little bit extra in their pocket every pay cycle coming through. That pressure is being relieved in the workplace, where people, particularly those on low and middle incomes, are a bit worried.

My electorate is a regional electorate, and we've seen from the data that the regional electorates will do overwhelmingly better under this reform. Why? Our incomes are smaller. By population, spread across our region, the average income is less. The other group that we know will do exceptionally well under this reform, and for whom fairness is being returned, is young people—people starting out their careers or working in insecure part-time casual jobs. Whether they're studying at university or building their career, young people are on smaller incomes and will benefit overwhelmingly from our fairer tax plan.

So rural Australia will be better off under this plan, women will be better off under this plan and younger workers will be better off under this plan. The people who hold up our community and work super hard to make sure it continues to function, including our truckies, cleaners, retail workers, hospitality workers, nurses and teachers—all those people who we said were the heroes of the pandemic—will get a fair tax cut under this reform, as will the community sector workers I talked about. There's a reason why during question time we can go to every member of our frontbench and ask them a question about how the workers in their sector will do, because every taxpayer will benefit under this.

I'm not surprised that those opposite are turning their noses up. I'd say it's a little bit of self-interest. Yes, we're asking you to share your tax cut with people in your community—with your own staff, your neighbours, the person who sells you coffee or groceries, the person who cares for your parents in aged care and the person who might care for or teach your children. That's what makes our country stronger. Yes, we acknowledge that the economic circumstances have changed, and that's why we have changed stage 3—and in the nick of time. We need to get this through the parliament so it's in place for 1 July.

This is just one of the many measures that our government is taking to help tackle the cost of living and the pressures people are feeling. What is most important about this reform is that we know from the Reserve Bank that it's not going to have an impact on inflation and is not going to force inflation up. What is also critical about this reform, and where I want to commend the Treasurer and the Prime Minister, is that they've got the timing right, the politics right and the policy right. That's why so many Australians get it.

As to this idea that it's a broken promise, just keep saying that, because out there in the community all people hear is: 'The Prime Minister is going to get less of a tax cut and he's going to share it with me. That's a pretty good bloke. I don't mind that.' That's what we're saying. A responsible Prime Minister and government said: 'The economic circumstances have changed. We need to share this because lots of others need that support.' That is generosity, fairness and the right economic plan, and people out in the community recognise that. That's why they're saying that they agree with this. Regardless of how they vote or their political colour, people across the board recognise that this is a good deal. I know this from the people who've spoken to me in my community, including self-funded retirees saying how great this is for their grandkids and how it's really going to help their grandkids pay for their rent or pay for their car or get themselves up and going. There is concern about how young people get a start. They see this as a real boost for young people. Similarly, for people who are working really hard and saying, 'I just can't work any harder, yet I can't meet my bills,' this will help them get that little bit further.

Knowing that on 1 July everyone in my community is going to get a little bit extra in their pocket to help pay their bills is a good thing. Around 88 per cent of the taxpayers in my electorate will receive a bigger and fairer tax cut because of these changes. The average tax cut across my electorate will be about $1,400 from 1 July. That's around 66,000 taxpayers in my electorate who will receive a tax break. Every single taxpayer in my electorate will get one. That is the power of this change. And not just in my electorate, but in all electorates.

You cannot get past the fact that this delivers for everybody. It is the right thing to do. I'd encourage those opposite to stop being so negative about it. You're voting for it, so embrace it. You're being really disingenuous going back to your electorates and saying: 'Yes; I voted for it. I'm glad you're getting a little bit extra, but I didn't really like it. I didn't really support it. We're going to go back and do more.' Don't. Just be proud to be here in this parliament and support good economic policy that delivers fairness, restores integrity to our tax system and makes sure that every taxpayer gets some tax relief on 1 July.

5:16 pm

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

Labor's answer to the cost-of-living crisis is to give every politician a $4,500 a year tax cut while asking middle-income earners to accept an extra $15 a week—$4,500 a year for every politician and billionaire and wealthy person in this country, while asking average Australians to put up with one-third of that. Three times as much of the tax cut is going to those at the top than to those in the middle.

Eighty billion dollars is how much Labor is spending on giving tax cuts to politicians, billionaires and the wealthiest in the middle of a cost-of-living crisis. Eighty billion dollars would pretty much pay to get dental into Medicare so that everyone in the country—not just the politicians and the wealthy few, but everyone in the country—could get the health care they need because you'd be able to go the dentist and use your Medicare card.

Many people are skipping on essentials like getting the care they need, like getting the medical care they need, like going to the dentist, because they simply can't afford it. So Labor had a choice on how best to spend over $300 billion. And do you know what they did? They took $80 billion of it and they didn't use it to put dental into Medicare or to wipe student debt or to help people who are doing it tough, who get nothing because they're on JobSeeker. No; Labor have chosen to spend $80 billion on giving tax cuts to politicians and billionaires.

Under Labor's package, the wealthiest 20 per cent of society get 50 per cent of the money in their revised stage 3 cuts. I'll just say that again: the wealthiest 20 per cent get 50 per cent of the more than $300 billion cost of this legislation. The poorest 20 per cent get 0.4 per cent of the money. That's Labor's idea of fairness. And they justify it by saying, 'It's not as bad as what the previous mob did.' Well, by this stage of the game the Australian population, in the middle of Labor's housing and rental crisis and a massive cost-of-living crisis, is entitled to expect a bit more of the government than to be a little bit less crap than the last mob. Right? If you're going to come back and look at how to deal with a cost-of-living crisis and Labor's housing and rental crisis, then do something that will actually make a huge difference for people.

An extra $15 a week for middle-income earners is what Labor is asking people to be satisfied with, but average rents have gone up nearly $100 a week under Labor's housing and rental crisis, and average mortgages have gone up nearly $200 a week. And so Labor can find $4,500 a year for politician, but only an $15 a week for people whose rent has gone up by $100 or whose mortgage has gone up by $200. That is not fairness; that is asking people to continue to suffer through a cost-of-living crisis instead of taking the reins and saying, 'We're going to deal with it.'

With over $300 billion, imagine the things that you could do. You could put dental into Medicare, make child care free and wipe student debt—things that would last for people and wouldn't be swallowed up by another unfair rent rise from the landlord, because Labor backs unlimited rent rises. It wouldn't be swallowed up by mortgages continuing to go through the roof, because house prices are going up, because Labor won't unwind negative gearing or capital gains tax concessions. There are many people who will say, 'Yes, a bit of money is welcome,' but wouldn't it be better to take action on soaring rents, house prices and mortgages? Wouldn't it be better to do that? Wouldn't it be better to get dental into Medicare instead of giving Clive Palmer and Gina Rinehart a $4½ thousand a year tax cut? Labor still has not made the case about why the top tax bracket deserve a $4½ thousand a year tax cut at all. People at the top are doing okay. It is people on the low and middle incomes who are struggling, and that is where the help should go.

There are a lot of people in Labor's package who get nothing. If you're on income support, your rent and the cost of groceries have gone up, but you don't get a cent out of this $300-odd billion, if that's what you're totally relying on.

Photo of Jerome LaxaleJerome Laxale (Bennelong, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

There's rent assistance.

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

And they interject and say, 'What about Commonwealth rent assistance?' If you're part of the huge number of people in private rental who don't get rent assistance, you've got nothing. That's Labor's answer to the rental crisis. They back unlimited rent increases.

Photo of Jerome LaxaleJerome Laxale (Bennelong, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

We've pushed it up.

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

They've increased Commonwealth rent assistance by about one per cent for some people, and rents have gone up about 10 times as much as they've increased Commonwealth rent assistance.

Government members interjecting

Photo of Ross VastaRoss Vasta (Bonner, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Order! The member for Melbourne has the call.

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

Labor is simply too gutless to take on the big corporations and property developers, and, as a result, rents are going up, the cost of living is going up, and renters are being pushed to the brink. Renters and first homebuyers are losing out in auctions to property investors. Every weekend, in every neighbourhood, on nature strips right around the country, hopeful renters tap out as wealthy property investors push prices into the stratosphere, well beyond what people on normal incomes can afford. Property investors win, because they've got one weird trick: they get massive tax handouts from the Labor government. That's right—not only do property investors make eye-watering sums from rental incomes through soaring rents, they also get tax handouts from Labor. That's public money from the government that they get to put in their pockets. Meanwhile, renters are dealing with unlimited rent increases and struggling to save for a first home. When renters try to buy their first home, they're getting outbid by these property investors.

Let me tell you something about this tax trick: it's not available to renters. It's not available to everyday people. It's available to only property investors. Seventy-five per cent of Labor politicians in this place are property investors. Sixty-four per cent of coalition politicians are property investors. They get the tax handouts if they negatively gear. When Labor and the Liberals vote against the Greens to keep negative gearing and capital gains tax handouts—

Government members interjecting

Photo of Ross VastaRoss Vasta (Bonner, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Order! The member for Melbourne has the call.

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

they're voting for their own tax handouts. They're voting for their own personal cash cow property portfolios. Gore Vidal once said:

There is only one party in the United States, the Property Party … and it has two right wings: Republican and Democrat.

While Labor and the Liberals hold hands and defend these tax handouts for property investors, the same could be said here in Australia. We have the party of property moguls here in Australia, and the Greens are taking them on. Negative gearing hands billions of dollars to property investors and locks renters and first homebuyers out. The Greens will not stand by and allow Labor to make this rental and housing crisis worse. The system is stacked against renters and first homebuyers, but we can fix it. We know pressure works, and the Greens will use our power in this parliament to keep fighting.

Labor shifted on the stage 3 tax cuts because pressure was brought to bear and they finally could not admit any more that it was unfair. If Labor can shift on stage 3 tax cuts, they can shift on negative gearing and on the massive tax handouts that go to property investors. All that these tax handouts—billions of dollars of public money every year—do is push house prices out of reach of renters and first-time buyers. Renters turn up to auctions to bid and they bid with what they can afford but next to them is a wealthy property investor getting a tax handout from the Labor government who can just keep bidding and bidding. At the end of the day, if developers bid too much, they write it off as a tax loss and get a tax handout from the government. Then, a few years later, as another continuation of the rort, they get to sell the property and they only pay half the tax on it; they get another tax handout at that stage as well. That's why here in this country Australia some people are struggling to buy their first home, but Labor is giving tax handouts to people who have five to buy their sixth, seventh and eighth. All that does is push housing prices out of reach of people and push up rents, and the housing prices continue to get worse.

We have an opportunity here in this parliament to fix the housing and rental crisis to stop billions of dollars of handouts being given to property investors that lock millions of renters out of the chance of owning their own homes. We can say, 'Stop giving tax cuts to politicians and billionaires and instead use that money to do things like fund a rent freeze or to build more public housing or get dental into Medicare or make child care free.' With a bit of guts in this place, we could stop all the billions of dollars that are going to the property moguls, billionaires and the big corporations and use it to make everyday people's lives better.

So, Labor, if you can shift on stage 3 tax cuts then do the right thing and shift on negative gearing and capital gains tax as well. Because, otherwise, generations are going to be locked out of having a home. Parents are worried not only about their kids ever being able to own a home but now also about being able to rent near where you work or study.

Labor just does not get how bad the housing and rental crisis is. They come to this parliament with band-aid solutions. Band-aids won't fix the bullet holes that are in our housing and our rental systems, that are pushing affordable homes out of the reach of generations. It's happening across the age spectrum—young people, old people. Under this government, you can find yourself, even after doing all the right things—going to TAFE, going to university, studying, working hard, saving, everything that is asked of you—still unable to afford a home.

Grocery prices keep going up and the government don't rein them in. Electricity prices keep going up, the corporations make billions of dollars of profits, but they won't tax them and make them pay their fair share. Our society is going down the road to becoming a US style unequal society, where you can do the right thing, do everything that is asked of you, and still not have enough to make ends meet. That is wrong because we are a wealthy country and, in a wealthy country like ours, everybody should be able to afford a house. You shouldn't have to win a lottery to afford a home, as Labor's plan wants you to do.

Labor comes in with a plan that says they will help 0.2 per cent of first home buyers with a small help for their deposit and the other 99.8 per cent will just watch house prices going up. In a wealthy country like Australia, you shouldn't have to win a lottery to have an affordable home. Everyone should be able to afford food. Everybody should be able to afford a roof over their head. You shouldn't have to skip meals or skip going to the dentist or skip going to the doctor because you are struggling to pay the rent or the mortgage, while billionaires and big corporations laugh all the way to the bank.

It's time that this parliament started acting in the public interest and not for the private interests of the property investors in this place who sit on huge property portfolios that most people in this country will never, ever see.

It is time we started putting the public first. This bill says that politicians and billionaires should get tax cuts three times the size of those given to everyday people. Well, the Greens think there's a different way. If we're going to spend $300-odd billion, do it in a way that lifts people out of poverty; do it in a way that doesn't put the politicians and billionaires first but puts everyday people first. It is time to start putting the public interest, not vested interests, first.

5:30 pm

Photo of Jerome LaxaleJerome Laxale (Bennelong, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

There's no denying that cost-of-living pressures have been at the forefront of people's minds across my electorate of Bennelong and across Australia as a whole. From families struggling to make ends meet to individuals who are feeling the pinch of rising prices of everyday essentials, cost-of-living pressures have hurt household budgets.

Our government was elected to clean up the mess left by those opposite and to deliver genuine cost-of-living relief to all Australians. With Labor's cost-of-living tax cuts, we are doing just that. We are a government that recognises that people are doing it tough. That's why, since day one, the No. 1 priority of this government has been to address pressing challenges of inflation and to deliver cost-of-living relief. It's what we were elected to do. We know that many people are doing it tough. That's why in the last budget we delivered $23 billion of targeted relief whilst implementing fiscal policy that did not add to the burden of inflation. From electricity bill relief to making essential medicines more affordable, from reducing the costs of accessing medical care to expanding parental leave and making child care more affordable, our government is committed to delivering genuine relief to everyday Australians.

But we know that household budgets are still tight, that global economic pressures continue to impact the Australian economy and that people need more support. When Morrison's stage 3 tax cuts were legislated five years ago the world was a very different place: 2019 was before a global pandemic; it was before persistent inflation, of which the highest quarter on record happened under the former government; 2019 was before higher interest rates, which we also know started under the former government; and 2019 was well before two global conflicts and the continued post-pandemic supply chain shocks that we still face today. Our economy in 2024 is vastly different to the economy of 2019.

When economic circumstances change, economic policy must also change. This should not be a controversial statement. It should be how good governments respond to the challenges of the time. Our cost-of-living tax cuts represent good economic policy that respond to the economic challenges of today. But they aren't just about cost of living. They are about restoring fairness to the tax system to serve the interests of middle Australia in a better way at a time they need it most. While the Morrison plan was to give a tax cut to only some, Labor's plan is to give a cut to every taxpayer. Reshaping this plan will mean that 11.5 million taxpayers will receive a bigger tax cut. That means that 5.8 million women will receive a bigger tax cut. In Bennelong alone, every single one of our 92,000 taxpayers will receive cost-of-living relief through a tax cut, and 74,000 people in Bennelong will be better off than under the Liberals.

A nurse who is earning around $90,000 a year will receive a tax cut of $1,929. That's $804 a year better off under Labor's plan. A software engineer earning $140,000 a year will get a tax cut of $3,729. That's $500 more a year than under the Morrison plan. And a part-time office assistant who is earning $45,000 a year will get a tax cut of $804, whereas under the Liberals they would have got zero—zip, nothing. Where Australian households are looking at how to make every dollar count, Labor's cost-of-living tax cuts will provide help at a really tough time.

But the benefits of these cuts extend far beyond just the individual. Our plan restores the progressive nature of our tax system. Our country's social safety net has been built on a backbone of progressive income tax, and the Liberals wanted to smash that. They wanted someone on $45,000 a year to pay the same rate of tax as someone on $200,000 a year. Their plan is and always has been unfair. Labor's plan is better and fairer. It will ensure that every taxpayer receives a tax cut. By dropping two tax rates and lifting two tax thresholds, we are ensuring that every Australian taxpayer receives a benefit. This is about addressing cost-of-living pressures in a way that is equitable and sustainable.

We are putting more money back into the pockets of working Australians. We are the government that wants every Australian worker to earn more and to keep more of what they earn. Contrast that to the Liberals and Nationals, who want you to work longer for less. Contrast our clarity over this policy to the Liberals and Nationals, who have tied themselves in knots over their response to our better and fairer cost-of-living tax cut changes. First, the Liberals said they would oppose the policy. Then they said they'd roll it back. Then the alternative Treasurer of this country, the member for Hume, on the same day he indicated he would support it, called it Marxism. Of course, the Leader of the Opposition said that there should be an election on this issue. Then he, too, said he would support it.

I will gladly take our economic record to the next election and defend to the hilt these better and fairer tax cuts. Prior to the last election the shadow Treasurer came to Bennelong, campaigning alongside the Liberal's hand-picked parachute candidate. So, at the next election, I challenge the shadow Treasurer to come back to Bennelong again, alongside the next Liberal out-of-town parachute candidate, and explain why the Liberals have attacked Labor's cost-of-living tax cuts. Come and explain why the Liberals didn't want to deliver bigger tax cuts for 81 per cent of taxpayers in Bennelong. Come and explain why the Liberals didn't want a part-time worker on $45,000 a year to get a tax cut, as they will under Labor's plan. I know that, whatever it is they'll be selling, it won't be what our community have been asking for.

Bennelong asked me to fight for changes to block Morrison's tax cuts, and they asked for more help with cost-of-living pressures. On behalf of them, I fought for the changes we see here today in this legislation. So, on behalf of Bennelong, I thank the Treasurer, the Prime Minister, the cabinet and the entire Labor caucus for listening to us. There is, of course, much more work to do but, with our cost-of-living support and with these cost-of-living tax cuts, we are showing that we are a government that wants you to earn more and to keep more of what you earn. I commend this bill to the House.

5:38 pm

Photo of Darren ChesterDarren Chester (Gippsland, National Party, Shadow Minister for Regional Education) Share this | | Hansard source

We all remember that the Prime Minister came to office promising honesty and transparency. These are the words he used: my word is my bond. In the last few weeks the people of Australia have seen just how much this Prime Minister's word is actually worth. The legislation before us today is proof that, when the Prime Minister says, 'My word is my bond,' he doesn't actually mean it. He doesn't mean he's actually going to keep his word.

It's important to reflect on how we got to where we are today with the stage 3 tax cuts. How did we get to this point? Much of the media coverage over the last couple of weeks has quite conveniently missed a very important point: you only get to stage 3 of the tax cuts after you have had stage 1 and stage 2 of the legislated stage 1, stage 2 and stage 3 tax cuts.

The coalition, when in government, was committed, and remains committed, to delivering lower, fairer and simpler taxes to the Australian people. We believe Australians work hard for their money, and they get to keep as much as we possibly can let them keep, while we still provide the services and critical infrastructure the government needs to provide on behalf of the population. So we do believe in lower, fairer and simpler taxes in this nation. The irony is while in opposition the Labor Party agreed with us. The Labor Party agreed with stage 1, stage 2 and stage 3 tax cuts. In fact they agreed with us all the way up until the day they didn't. It is quite extraordinary set of circumstances.

Photo of Sam RaeSam Rae (Hawke, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Do you agree with us, Darren?

Photo of Darren ChesterDarren Chester (Gippsland, National Party, Shadow Minister for Regional Education) Share this | | Hansard source

My good friend the member for Hawke, we had a little chat on TV yesterday together. We can revisit the whole conversation, but we will get to that as the evening proceeds. We are teetering, in this place, on the very edge of credibility when the Prime Minister and the Treasurer come to the dispatch box and say to the Australian people, 'You know what? We had no plans to change stage 3. It wasn't even our idea. It was Treasury, the department, that initiated the whole thing last December. Up until then we were going to go ahead with stage 1, stage 2 and stage 3. It wasn't even our idea.' What they're saying to us is that the secretary of the Treasury, on his own volition, went on a little multibillion-dollar frolic last December, pooled all the resources of his department and came up with a new idea for stage 3 tax cuts without telling the Treasurer and without telling the Prime Minister. We are teetering on the very edge of credibility.

As someone who has had the great fortune of being a minister on a couple of occasions I can assure you the secretary of the department does not go out on a multibillion-dollar frolic on their own without first checking the temperature of the minister for the portfolio. It is beyond credibility that the secretary of the Department of Treasury would cook up this whole change to the tax system without even once saying, 'Hey Treasurer, what you think about this? Prime Minister, what do you reckon?'—'No, I'll just go and do this all by myself. I'll tie up hundreds of staff in thousands of hours of work on a new policy area involving billions of dollars, but don't tell the Treasurer. Shh, it's a secret. It's a little Christmas present for Jimbo. Don't tell anyone. Don't pass it on.' If I were to describe my attitude to the Treasurer and the Prime Minister coming to the dispatch box and saying that the Treasury initiated the whole thing, I'd say I'm a little bit sceptical—just a little bit sceptical.

I'm going to commentate for a moment, which is a dangerous thing for a politician to do, and reflect on the decision of the Prime Minister over the Christmas break to decide that, while his word is his bond, it doesn't really mean anything in this case. I'd suggest that not all gamblers can be found at the casino. The Prime Minister has taken the biggest gamble I've seen any leader make in this place in the past 15 years. The gamble the Prime Minister has been prepared to take is that in trashing his own word, trashing his own integrity and trashing his own honesty he thinks the Australian people are going to forget about it because they're getting a little bit more in their pockets. They're going to be so kind to the Prime Minister that, even though they've been misled, deceived, told mistruths, for $15 a week—that $15 worth of pizza might be half a family sized pizza per week—for the price of half a family sized pizza per week, they're going to forgive him for breaking his word. That's a hell of a gamble for a Prime Minister to take when the next election will be very much about, 'Whom do you trust?'

I've heard those opposite speaking today, and I'll be interested to hear more of the debate tonight. If those opposite are so confident, are so passionate and are so determined that they are right, that their stage 3 tax cuts are better than the ones already legislated, why didn't they tell the Australian people? Why didn't they tell the Australian people at the last election? Why try and win the election based on a lie, based on deception? Why not tell the truth at the election and let the Australian people make their own choice? Funnily enough, that's how democracy works. You go to the Australian people, you go to your electorate and you go to the people in your community, you present your policies and present your ideas, you're upfront with them and then they get to cast their vote. If those opposite are suddenly so confident that their approach was the right approach all along, why didn't they take it to the Australian people and let them vote on it?

If we do accept the explanation of the Prime Minister and the Treasurer that this whole idea was the idea of the bureaucrats at Treasury, why should we believe the Prime Minister and the Treasurer when they stand at the dispatch box now and say: 'We're not going to touch negative gearing. Oh, no, we're not going to touch a tax on the family home.' If they didn't know about Treasury changing the entire stage 3 tax system, how would they know if the Treasury is out there doing it again? They could be out there cooking up more tax reform: negative gearing, tax on the family home, capital gains—who knows? If the Prime Minister's word is his bond and this was his policy until it wasn't and he didn't know about Treasury doing the last bit of work, how would he know? Who is actually running Treasury? Who is running the finances of this government? Is it the Treasurer, is it the Prime Minister, or is it the bureaucrats, who apparently go off on multibillion dollar frolics and only tell the Prime Minister and the Treasurer when it suits them and when it's convenient?

So, when it's convenient, maybe the Treasury will tell us whether they are working on negative gearing or on capital gains tax on the family home. Those opposite wouldn't know. They weren't even told last time, so how would they know what Treasury's cooking up next. As I said, it is on the very edge of credibility to suggest for even a moment that the Treasurer and the Prime Minister didn't know about these changes.

I will make one other point in terms of the failings of this government when it comes to regional Australia. It has been in government for almost two years. In that time, the taxes gathered by this government have not led to a single major infrastructure project being planned, funded or delivered in my seat of Gippsland. If you see a bulldozer, a grader, a crane or an excavator on a major project anywhere in Gippsland today, I can assure you of one thing: this government had absolutely nothing to do with it. Gippslanders need a fairer share of their taxes being returned to our community and our region for the services and infrastructure we need.

I want to raise one project tonight which I am anxious for the minister for infrastructure and transport to take some interest in. I presented the case to her in the past. It is the Traralgon bypass on the Princes Highway. The Traralgon bypass is a project that's been talked about for the best part of 30 years. I accept it's primarily a state government responsibility to get the project moving, but it will be the federal government that has to provide up to 80 per cent of the funding for that project. It will deliver major social, economic and environmental benefits to my community, reduce congestion in Traralgon and also improve road safety. The Traralgon bypass is the highest priority transport infrastructure project east of Melbourne today. Under the previous government, we were successful in securing 80 per cent of the funding for the Traralgon to Sale duplication project, with 20 per cent of the funding coming from the state government. What concerns me when we talk about the application of our taxes for the benefit of the Australian people is that the minister for transport has indicated that, under the infrastructure review she has undertaken, she is abandoning the 80-20 funding split for regional projects. If you abandon the 80-20 funding split for regional projects, there is not a hope the Victorian government will come on board and fund these projects fifty-fifty. There's just not a hope, so we need to see major projects in regional areas still being able to access 80 per cent of their funding from the Commonwealth and 20 per cent from the states.

The previous government allocated a billion dollars of Australian taxpayers' money for the Princes Highway corridor works from Sydney to Adelaide. I have repeatedly sought advice from the minister as to whether taxes which are gathered from Gippslanders will ever make it back onto the roads of Gippsland. I've repeatedly sought the advice of the minister as to what's left of Victoria's share of that $300 million. What's left and how can we prioritise action in my community?

As the government forms its budget, we need to see a commitment to fully design and develop the business case to give us some certainty on the route regarding the Traralgon bypass. We need to stop talking about it and we need to actually get on with the job of building projects like that with Australian taxpayers' money. Australians deserve better, and they certainly expect more, than a Prime Minister who says one thing before the election and does the complete opposite after the election. The Prime Minister repeatedly said, up to 100 times, that he had no plans to change the stage 3 tax cuts.

As I said earlier, the coalition is committed to lower, simpler and fairer taxes, which is why will not oppose the reduction in the 19c tax rate to 16c. But the Prime Minister's broken promise means that delivering the stage 3 tax reforms, which had been legislated and supported by those opposite, is now simply impossible. We are committed to go to the next election with a tax reform package that is in keeping with the stage 3 tax reforms. Unlike those opposite, we remain committed to fighting bracket creep—that thief in the night that takes more Australian taxpayer dollars than any other form of government legislation and sneaks up on Australians, takes more money out of their pockets and no-one knows about it—and we are committed to enshrining aspiration.

We on this side of the House believe—and those opposite used to believe—that strong leaders actually keep their promises even when it is hard to do so. We will take a policy to the next election which delivers lower, simpler and fairer taxes. We will fight bracket creep and we will reward hardworking Australians. What we won't do is what we have seen here in this place over the last couple of weeks. We won't go to the Australian people as a small target and hide the truth simply to win an election, as the Prime Minister did when, all along, he intended to break a promise. That is not how our democracy is meant to function. That is not how the Australian people expect their leaders to behave.

I say to those opposite: if you are such strong believers in honesty and transparency, why didn't you have the decency to go to your electorates and argue your case for this tax package before the election? Why did you commit this extraordinary deceit upon the Australian people? When will those opposite tell the truth about their plans to attack negative gearing and to attack the family home with increased taxes? If we couldn't believe you on stage 3 legislated tax cuts, why would be believe you when it comes negative gearing and the family home?

5:52 pm

Photo of David SmithDavid Smith (Bean, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I rise to speak in favour of the substantive bill. It has not always been particularly clear during the course of this debate what the position is of those opposite. If you actually went on the content of their speeches, you would assume that maybe they will oppose the bill. In the case of the previous speaker, we had what seemed to be a mixture of speculative fiction and a bit of a frolic down country roads, which didn't seem to be entirely relevant.

Photo of Sam RaeSam Rae (Hawke, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Lots of potholes.

Photo of David SmithDavid Smith (Bean, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Yes, lots of potholes; that's true. We even get them down in Tuggeranong as well.

If the substantive bill passes, from 1 July this year, the Albanese Labor government will deliver a tax cut for every taxpayer in my electorate of Bean and across the country. That is what we will deliver. That's what the outcome will be with the passage of this bill.

This government understands that the post-COVID global economy is not what we thought it would be five years ago. Taxpayers in Bean have endured a multifaceted cost-of-living crisis, and I believe they deserve a tax cut. When the member for Cook's tax plan was legislated five years ago, it did not factor in a global pandemic, a global inflation spike, successive interest rate rises and greater global uncertainty and it did not do enough to help those who have been put under the most pressure by the changing circumstances. When the circumstances change, changing policy is the responsible thing to do.

No matter who you are, this Albanese Labor government will make sure you pay less tax. We understand that family budgets are under pressure right now. Taking that pressure off family budgets is our No. 1 priority. In the ACT, 79 per cent of taxpayers will be better off, and locally in my electorate of Bean, the best part of the ACT, as well as Norfolk Island, 83 per cent of taxpayers will benefit from these changes.

Of these taxpayers, I think of the hardworking retail worker at South.Point shopping centre in Tuggeranong, who, after deciding to increase their hours, now earns $30,000. Under the previous tax package, this retail worker would have paid $1,942 in income tax. Under our plan, they'll now receive a tax cut of $354. In addition to getting this tax cut, that retail worker will also benefit by $172 from the increase to the Medicare levy low-income threshold. I also think of the primary school teacher in Bean working at St Clare of Assisi Primary School in Lanyon, earning $85,000 per year. That teacher will get a tax cut of $1,800 per year come 1 July. And I think of the electrician working on construction sites across Denman Prospect in the Molonglo Valley, earning $110,000 per year. They'll now get a tax cut of more than $2,400 a year. And I think of the software engineer working at Services Australia—and pity the software engineers working at Services Australia, with all the work they have to do because of the messes that they're cleaning up!—just next to my electorate office in Greenway, down in Tuggeranong, on more than $140,000. They will now get a tax cut of $3,700. And I think of the nurse working at Uniting Aged Care in Gordon, who'll now get an additional $1,500 tax cut, in addition to the great work of this government in increasing minimum pay right cross aged care last year.

I think of the family in the Molonglo Valley on an average household income of around $130,000, with one partner working in the Public Service and earning $80,000 per year and the other working with a local business and earning $50,000 per year. Their combined tax cut will be over $2,600, which is about $50 a week and $1,600 more than they would have got under the old plan. Practically, this tax relief means fuel for the car or more money for household bills. For many others it may simply mean that these good residents of Bean will have that extra bit of breathing room in their weekly budget.

The Treasurer made clear last week when he introduced this legislation that these tax cuts are about supporting the hardworking people who make our economy and our country strong. They are about supporting people who work hard so that they can provide for their loved ones and get ahead. They are about doing more than just acknowledging that people are under pressure. They are about recognising that aspiration in this country is not and should not be limited to people who are already doing pretty well. Middle Australia is aspirational Australia, where people work hard to give their kids a better chance. Labor believes that whether you earn 40 grand, 140 grand or 240 grand you deserve a tax cut on 1 July, and that's what we'll be delivering on 1 July this year.

But the opposition have given up on being a credible alternative government. The Liberals and Nationals have made it clear that they do not want these tax cuts for middle Australia. You've heard it through most of their speeches. But, to be fair, they think they are middle Australia. So, it's not a surprise that they see anything below that as undeserving of tax cuts. The member for Fraser immediately denounced support for middle Australia and committed to repealing it. They have consistently, over the last 12 months, responded to cost-of-living measures with one word: 'No'. They've given up pretending to care about delivering responsible cost-of-living support for families in Bean and right across the country.

While those opposite are working out who plays who in the next series of Nemesis, we on this side of the parliament have rolled out electricity bill relief, cheaper child care, increased rent assistance and cheaper medicines. We've boosted income support payments. We've provided thousands of fee-free TAFE places in this region and around the country. We're building more affordable homes. We're expanding paid parental leave. We're creating jobs and we're getting wages moving again in workplaces where workers are finally getting their rights back into the right balance again. Now, to add to that, we will be the party in government to add providing every Australian with a tax cut to that growing list of cost-of-living measures.

Under Labor, more people are working and more people are earning more. And under our plan, more people will keep more of what they earn. I stand here proud to be part of a government that is delivering real cost-of-living relief to families in my community. We're happy to respond when the circumstances demand it, providing support to every community right across the country. I commend this bill to the House.

6:00 pm

Photo of Sophie ScampsSophie Scamps (Mackellar, Independent) Share this | | Hansard source

Overwhelmingly, economists, civil society and academics have expressed support for the changes to the stage 3 tax cuts that were legislated by the former coalition government over five years ago. And it's not only experts that support the changes. A Newspoll found that 62 per cent of Australians also believe that the government did the right thing in reworking the tax cuts. The strong support for the changes, as illustrated by these statistics, is certainly interesting in view of the wider integrity issue that surrounded the Albanese government's decision to alter the tax cuts, despite promises to pass it on both before the election and since.

Changing the stage 3 tax cuts did raise a serious ethical conundrum for the government. They had to weigh up whether to go back on an election promise or relentlessly pursue a set of reforms that were no longer appropriate in the much-altered economic context compared to when the tax reforms were devised five years ago, prior to the pandemic. To proceed with the stage 3 tax cuts unaltered would have been to turn a blind eye to the millions of Australians across the country who are struggling right now to simply make ends meet.

In considering the ethical conundrum the PM faced, it is worth reflecting on the depth of the current cost-of-living crisis in this country. According to Dr Ana Gamarra Rondinel from the Faculty of Business and Economics at the University of Melbourne, just before Christmas around 56 per cent of Australians were only just making ends meet or were failing to manage that at all. Over 40 per cent of single parents and people aged between 18 and 24 were reporting high levels of food insecurity. And 12 per cent of women were both eating less and skipping meals to save money.

These cost-of-living pressures often compound to reinforce intergenerational poverty, making it harder for people to climb out of hardship. A study last March into poverty in Australia, conducted by the Australian Council of Social Services and the University of New South Wales, found that 12.5 per cent of Australians live in poverty, including 17 per cent of children; 60 per cent of households reliant on JobSeeker live in poverty; 53 per cent of public housing tenants live in poverty; 34 per cent of sole parents live in poverty; and 25 per cent of people with a disability live in poverty. And this study was conducted before the cost-of-living crisis really hit. Inequality is a growing and serious problem in this country, and the longer we take to address it, the wider the gap and the more entrenched it will become.

So what benefits do the tax changes bring? The crux for me is that people with taxable incomes of less than $146,000, or nearly 90 per cent of all taxpayers, will either get the same or a larger tax cut under the new plan. At the same time, the 10 per cent of people who earn over $200,000 a year will get smaller tax cuts than under the original stage 3, but, importantly, they will still get a significant tax cut. Their tax cuts start at around $4,500 a year and increase proportionately above $200,000.

These are the overall figures, but it's also important to dig a little deeper. The majority of people who earn under $75,000 are women, but women only make up 30 per cent of the people who earn over $170,000 a year. This means that, under the government's changes, women will earn an average tax cut of $1,650, compared with $1,280 under the original plan. Women are better off. Importantly, Treasury modelling also shows that the changes will not impact the inflation outlook. The changes will deliver an adjustment to the distribution of the benefits so that they are better spread across a broader segment of the population, so that every income earner in Australia receives a tax cut this time around, so that those who need the most receive more and, simply put, so that it is fairer.

Since the changes were announced by the government, I have consulted extensively with my electorate of Mackellar. I conducted my own electorate-wide survey and, as always, was impressed by the level of thought and reflection of the respondents. The key takeaways of my survey were these: 47 per cent of respondents who live in Mackellar considered that they would be better off under the original design of the stage 3 tax cuts; however, 76 per cent thought that the redesign was necessary in light of the current cost-of-living crisis, and only seven per cent of respondents to this survey thought that the government should have honoured its promise regardless of the economic circumstances. Further polling conducted last week independent of my office on behalf of the Australia Institute showed that 63 per cent of those surveyed in Mackellar support the redesign and 31 per cent oppose it.

It seems that a clear majority of people both across Australia and from within my electorate of Mackellar support the redesign of the stage 3 tax cuts because it makes them fairer. However, it must be noted that these tax cut changes are only the start of the work that the government should do to alleviate the cost-of-living pressures for the most vulnerable Australians. This is because nearly one-third of Australians will receive no benefit from the changes. One-third of Australian households don't pay tax at all. I'm talking about retirees, people with disability, carers and the unemployed. Obviously, this group of Australians is amongst the most vulnerable in our country, and they are the ones who are doing it toughest of all.

With the budget coming up in the next few months, I urge the government to do what it can to extend a helping hand to the one-third of Australians who need these stage 3 tax cuts the most but will get nothing from them. In short, the cost-of-living crisis needs to be urgently addressed for the millions of Australians who will not benefit from the stage 3 tax cuts, the millions of Australians struggling to get by on government benefits and the millions of Australians living in poverty. In my prebudget submission to the Treasurer, I called for several measures which would help this group of people. These include providing a further increase in rental assistance for recipients of government support, ensuring the ACCC's inquiry into price-gouging by supermarkets is properly funded so it's thorough and impactful, increasing the Medicare rebate to reduce out-of-pocket costs for patients, and ensuring the fall in wholesale energy prices due to the increasing renewable energy input is passed on to consumers and not gobbled up as profit by energy providers.

In the longer term, as my crossbench colleague, the member for Wentworth, has been advocating for since her election, a broader tax reform debate must be put squarely on the table in order to drive greater productivity in the future and to address growing intergenerational inequality in this country. In recent decades, both the major parties have only tinkered around the edges of tax reform, each side fearful of being wedged by the other and, so, stuck playing short-term politics on tax reform. But broader tax reform is required so that we may prosper into the future and so as to address a number of critical issues that our country and our citizens are facing.

The first of these is Australia's overreliance on income tax as our primary source of revenue. This must be addressed. Why? It is because personal income tax dampens productivity. Also, very importantly, if we do actually look ahead, beyond the next election cycle, as Australia's population ages, a smaller and smaller proportion of income earners will be responsible for carrying the ever-growing burden of Commonwealth costs. We are already facing burgeoning budgetary demands in many areas, such as defence, health, the NDIS, the energy system transition, aged care and disaster recovery following unnatural weather events of increasing frequency. It would be extremely short-sighted to imagine that a declining proportion of our population will be able to adequately shoulder these rapidly increasing costs.

Multinational tax and the petroleum resource rent tax are two of the most important areas where reform is required. It's good to see that the issue of multinationals paying no tax in Australia is finally being addressed. This is long overdue, as overseas companies have made a practice of shifting profits overseas to low-tax havens to avoid paying tax in Australia. But the paltry state of the petroleum resource rent tax that is collected for offshore oil and gas projects in this country must also be addressed. Australia's PRRT is amongst the most generous to industry in the world. The government's timid changes to the PRRT in the May 2023 budget were disappointing to say the least. The increase was a minuscule $600,000 each year for four years.

Let's compare Australia's PRRT to what is happening in other countries around the world. Qatar is a country that exports an amount of gas similar to the amount exported by Australia, yet Qatar collects 20 times the amount of revenue from it that Australia does. Then there's Norway. Norway has been taxing the export profits of its oil and gas industry at 78 per cent since 1996—and, no, despite the fearmongering it did not dampen investment in that country in that sector. With this revenue, the Norwegian government has built a public sovereign wealth fund which is now worth over $2 trillion, or $1.5 million for every Norwegian family of four. The Norwegian Ministry of Finance estimates that total government revenue from oil and gas will be $194 billion in 2023 alone.

On the other hand, here in Australia, over the past 30 years oil and gas tax revenues have been whittled away to almost nothing, as the industry has successfully lobbied governments to water down the PRRT multiple times. In 1992 the amount the government received from the PRRT was 19 per cent of the total oil and gas sector revenue. By 2020 it had dropped to just one per cent. In 1996 corporate tax paid by the sector was 16 per cent of total revenue. By 2020 corporate tax had dropped to just two per cent of total revenue. To quote an economist who is the director of the Australia Institute, the Australian government 'collects more revenue from HECS fees than it gets from the petroleum resource rent tax'. Thank you, children. You're the backbone of our economy.

Then, of course, there's the $11 billion that flows each year as subsidies to the fossil fuel industry. In the face of the Commonwealth government having to pay out billions in the future to clean up after climate-driven weather disasters, these anachronistic subsidies should be abolished and invested elsewhere, such as into growing advanced manufacturing capacity for green technologies in our country that will see our country prosper into the future and not be left behind as the rest of the world is transitioning away from fossil fuels.

Tax reform must also address intergenerational inequality in this country. There is a concerning trend of homeownership being concentrated in the hands of fewer and fewer people. When it comes to how much of an annual salary it takes to buy a home, gen Z has it worst. On average, gen Z must pay up to 11 times their annual salary for the total cost of a home mortgage and 139 per cent of their average annual salary for a 20 per cent deposit. Compare that to how it was between 1959 and 1989. During this time, people had to fork out just four times their average annual salary to pay their mortgages and 35 per cent of their annual salary for a deposit. And let's not forget stamp duty. In 1985 new homeowners paid an average of $1,360 in stamp duty. In 2020 the average amount of stamp duty on a home was $23,600. That's 17.3 times higher than it was in 1985, despite the average house value increasing only 7.4 times in comparison.

While the changes to the stage 3 tax cuts are fairer and respond to the current cost-of-living crisis, there is much more that needs to be done to address growing poverty and intergenerational inequality in this country and also to grow productivity. There needs to be a serious debate in this country about broader tax reform that sets our country up for a more prosperous and fairer future.

6:15 pm

Photo of Ged KearneyGed Kearney (Cooper, Australian Labor Party, Assistant Minister for Health and Aged Care) Share this | | Hansard source

The Albanese Labor government has been working for all Australians since the very first day we came into government on 22 May 2022. We've been working hard across all portfolios, from the member for Watson introducing game-changing legislation to ensure that gig workers can get a fair day's wage to the member for Franklin making record investments in housing so all Australians can live with a roof over their head. And there's the work of my own portfolio of health, where the minister has ensured that bulk-billing is no longer in freefall and is making sure that women can get access to the health care they need.

Since day 1, our No. 1 priority has been addressing the cost-of-living pressures and inflation. Yes—the Albanese Labor government is responding to the real, everyday concerns of Australian people, because we are a government that listens. We're a government that listens when people told us they were concerned about the cost of living as they were buying Christmas presents for their kids last year. We're a government that listened when pensioners and students said they were struggling to find a bulk-billed health service. We're a government that listened when parents were saying they struggled to buy school lunches as prices at the supermarkets kept going up. And we're a government that listened when people told us their weekly budgets were just not going as far as they used to.

Labor is a government that listens and responds. We started by delivering $23 billion in targeted relief to help address all of those concerns, and we did this without adding to inflation. We've made medicines cheaper by allowing people to buy two scripts for the cost of one. We've made it easier and cheaper to see a doctor, making the biggest investment in bulk-billing in Medicare's history. We've provided energy bill relief through rebates and capping the prices of resources. We made child care cheaper. We expanded paid parental leave. We're building more social and affordable homes and making the biggest increase in rent assistance in 30 years. Despite the global pressures at play right now, we've maintained a primary focus on the cost of living, keeping people well, getting wages moving, creating jobs and building a stronger economy for all Australians. That is the Labor way.

That is why Labor's tax plan is so important. The plan is responding to the concerns of every single Australian, not just a select few, as was proposed by the former government. Tax cuts are part of a major suite of cost-of-living policies that we know are making a huge difference to people's lives. The changes were a direct response to the concerns of Australians, showing they have a Prime Minister that listens, responds and will do the right thing, even if that thing is hard. He's done the right thing by families, by all workers—young workers, middle-aged workers, older workers—and for women, including single women, who are often forgotten when it comes to fiscal policy and who struggle in a world designed for dual-income households.

You know, Deputy Speaker, I have dedicated a lot of my working life, as you have, to fighting for the rights of others. As a former president of the ACTU, fighting for workers was a priority, and it's why I was proud to see that the ACTU have come out in support of Labor's tax plan. They know that workers will be better off. In fact, the average weekly wage-earner will be nearly $1,500 better off. This is targeted, practical cost-of-living relief. We want people to earn more and to keep more of what they earn. This isn't about politics; it's about doing what's right for the right reasons.

There's a particular part of Labor's tax plan that I wanted to highlight. Unlike those opposite, Labor knows that the gender pay gap is real. Labor knows that women in highly feminised industries need cost-of-living relief, and it's why, under Labor's plan, 98 per cent of those women employed in highly feminised industries will get a better deal. That means teachers, nurses, childcare workers, cleaners and aged- and disability-care workers will all be better off under Labor's plan. Hardworking women who may have returned to work part time while they juggle the duties of caring for children will be better off under Labor's tax plan. Hardworking women, often in low- and middle-income jobs, deserve more to assist them to make ends meet. Single women and single mothers will fare better. Under our tax plan, women, on average, will get a tax cut of $1,649 each year. Some people, maybe those opposite, will not think this is a lot, but Labor knows that this will genuinely make a difference at a time when action is needed the most. When I asked my daughter, a 36-year-old teacher with two kids, what she knew about the new tax cuts—I often ask my kids, as bellwethers on how policies are going—her answer was simple. She said: 'Mum, this is about me. It will help me.' That made me so happy.

Labor is committed to achieving true gender equality, to promoting better working conditions and outcomes for women and to closing the gender pay gap. The changes from what those opposite wanted, with no regard for low- and middle-income earners, are a welcome addition to all that we are doing for the women of Australia. In my own portfolio, Labor is working to shine a spotlight on women's health. The health and wellbeing of women and girls is something I'm incredibly passionate about and will continue to advocate for in this building. As a nurse for more than 20 years, as a woman, as a grandmother and now as Assistant Minister for Health and Aged Care, I have seen firsthand the difficulties women face with their healthcare needs. Poor care means time out of the workforce, less career advancement or sometimes having to give up work altogether. Loss of income is a reality for many women because we are letting them down healthcare-wise.

Ensuring Australians receive the care and support they need regardless of their class, race or cultural background is a high priority for this Labor government—for all Labor governments. We are fortunate in this country to have a world-class health system supported by so many wonderful nurses, doctors and other health professionals, but it needs a reboot when it comes to addressing women's and girls' health issues. I'm pleased to say that this government has already begun that reboot. We've invested more than $65 million in targeted support for the health and wellbeing of Australia's women and girls. We have Australia's first endometriosis and pelvic pain clinics, and they're opening across all states and territories. There are 22 clinics nationally. We're subsidising the freezing of embryos for women with cancer and other health issues. We have established the National Women's Health Advisory Council, which I'm very proud to chair. It will give me particular advice about how we can improve the health system for women. We have added hour-long consults to the MBS so that doctors can spend the time they need with women to sort out often complex health issues. This is keeping women healthy. This is improving their lives. This means they can contribute to the economy and, indeed, their own budgets and bottom lines.

All of these things complement the savings women will enjoy from the new tax plan. Childcare workers, very low paid workers, will enjoy around an extra $1,000. This will change their lives. Those who rely on child care can add the extra income they will get from Labor's tax plan to the savings they've made because we introduced cheaper child care. Aged-care workers got a 15 per cent pay rise, and they now will enjoy a tax cut of around $1,000. Nurses, who we know from research work, on average, a fortnight of unpaid overtime every year, will definitely welcome the $1,500 to $2,000 extra they will get in their pocket due to Labor's tax plan. Nurses, who work damn hard all the time, will definitely appreciate this. Teachers, like my kids, now feel seen, feel heard and actually feel cared about by a government that is offering them an income bonus of around $2,000 thanks to this tax plan.

I haven't even mentioned the savings that disability workers, shop assistants, hospitality workers and other low-paid workers will garner from our tax plan, but you can rest assured that they now know they have a government, a Labor government, that has listened, has responded and has taken action to make their lives better. This is a Labor government that works for all Australians.

6:25 pm

Photo of Michael McCormackMichael McCormack (Riverina, National Party, Shadow Minister for International Development and the Pacific) Share this | | Hansard source

Keeping faith with voters, with the public, is important and it comes down to a matter of trust. At the moment, political trust is at a very big low, unfortunately. I appreciate what other members, those opposite, have said about giving Australians a tax cut. We hear that; we understand that on this side of the House. We are parties—the Liberals and Nationals—of giving people tax breaks because we understand how the economy works. We understand how important it is, particularly in a time of a cost-of-living crisis, how vital it is for people to be able to have more disposable income, for people to take home more of the money that they earn.

I think that line that Labor keeps using—taking home more of the money they earn—was actually pinched from the coalition's last set of talking points when we were in government, because that is what we stand for and that is what we delivered. It's what we delivered. Indeed, I know when I was the small business minister, the tax rates went to their lowest point since before World War II. Through successive treasurers, we have argued for lower taxes. We have delivered lower taxes. I am proud to be giving a speech alongside the member for Hume, a very good friend of mine and the shadow Treasurer, who, like me, comes to this place and wonders why the Labor members don't talk about the stage 1 and stage 2 tax cuts. I appreciate we are in the stage 3 discussion now, but stages 1 and 2 helped lower and middle-income earners—families, workers.

If you have a look at the Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman's website—and I urge all small businesses to utilise that because it is a very good place at which to get information when running your small business—it shows that the number of businesses between zero and 19 employees is a little bit over 2½ million. The total number when you take in the medium-size businesses up to 199 employees is 64,500. If you include large businesses with 200-plus employees, of which there are 4,900, they amount to 2,589,873 businesses. That is a lot of businesses. Those businesses, particularly those small businesses, are helping to run the economy, helping to make Australia's balance of payments, helping to pay the bills to keep the nation's lights on. Although, I should mention that at the moment Victoria is going through a terrible state with power outages. I think that is just the start of worse things to come as we have this crazy push to go away from traditional power sources, but that's another point altogether.

What we are seeing with this debate on the Treasury Laws Amendment (Cost of Living Tax Cuts) Bill 2024 and all the associated arguments with it is a betrayal. It is an absolute outright betrayal by those opposite, particularly the Prime Minister, on Australian voters. Because prior to the election and even after the election, even up to when Treasury decided to model these figures, he and those opposite said that stage 3 tax cuts were enshrined in legislation. They were in law.

Photo of Angus TaylorAngus Taylor (Hume, Liberal Party, Shadow Treasurer) Share this | | Hansard source

They did.

Photo of Michael McCormackMichael McCormack (Riverina, National Party, Shadow Minister for International Development and the Pacific) Share this | | Hansard source

They did, I hear the shadow Treasurer say. They were law. They weren't going to be changed; they weren't going to be altered. They were part of what Labor said: 'Trust us. Vote for us. All will be well. All will be right. You can count on us.' Well, the Australian public now know that they cannot count on Labor. They can't count on Labor when it comes to stage 3 tax cuts.

They can't count on Labor when it comes to much of anything. What we have seen from this Labor government since it came to power in May 2022 is a change to the Murray-Darling Basin, where productive water is going to be taken away from farmers and given to the environment. That's going to cause less food to be grown, that's going to cause local grocery prices to go up and that's going to cause imported food to come into this country at a higher rate than what was otherwise the case. What we've seen is Labor put in place a truckie tax. What we've seen is Labor put in place a biosecurity tax just this week, where Australian farmers are expected to pay for the biosecurity of imported products from overseas. I mean, in what parallel universe would that otherwise occur? It wouldn't happen in any other country. You wouldn't see Australian products going to any other country and their farmers being expected to pay for our food coming in and the biosecurity thereof. It's just ridiculous.

Those opposite declared before the 2022 poll that they would do politics differently. 'Trust us,' they said, 'we'll be more transparent. We'll be more accountable.' Well, it hasn't occurred. It hasn't materialised. The Prime Minister has backflipped on a key election promise, and if he's prepared to backflip on this, what else is he prepared to do? What else is to come? What else is Treasury modelling, as we speak, to hurt the Australian public, to hurt Australian investors, to hurt Australian families and to hurt Australian small businesses? I know it sounds glib and trite, but small businesses are the backbone of the economy. They are, and they're not getting any joy from this government. They're not getting any hope from Labor.

Photo of Angus TaylorAngus Taylor (Hume, Liberal Party, Shadow Treasurer) Share this | | Hansard source

But they won't hurt union officials.

Photo of Michael McCormackMichael McCormack (Riverina, National Party, Shadow Minister for International Development and the Pacific) Share this | | Hansard source

They won't hurt union officials, shadow Treasurer. We've just heard how, newsflash, the ACTU has agreed with these tax laws. Who would've thought? Who would've thought that?

Now, after the news broke that Labor would betray its commitment to stage 3 tax cuts I had contact with Matthew Higginson. He's from the town of Coolamon, and I know the shadow Treasurer knows that little town very well, just 40 kilometres from Wagga Wagga. Mr Higginson is a father of seven, soon to be eight—congratulations on that score. He works full time. He's the sole breadwinner for his family—not unusual in the bush. On top of the kids, he also provides financial support for his 75-year-old father, Michael, who lives with him. He says he doesn't receive any family tax benefits or any other financial subsidy or support from the government. That's what he says. He's got a mortgage worth half a million dollars. He was quite prepared to share this with me and quite prepared to share it publicly. He was looking forward to the stage 3 tax cuts to provide him some breathing space against inflation, out of control on Labor's watch, and Labor's cost-of-living crisis—and it is Labor's cost-of-living crisis because it has occurred on Labor's watch.

Matthew is one of the earners between $146,000 and $200,000, who those opposite decided do not deserve the tax break that was previously legislated, previously agreed upon, previously all shared policy. He's one that was promised. People such as Matthew are not ultrawealthy. They're not. All he wants to do is provide for his growing family and pay his dues. He gets that. It's so tough when those opposite are actively setting out to make his life more expensive. People such as Matthew across the country now know that Labor's word means absolutely nothing—absolutely diddly squat. Why should anyone trust the Labor government when they can so blatantly fib and so blatantly breach trust and faith with Australians? Just be up front. That's what Matthew and others want. Just tell us what you're going to do.

It also comes back to the fact that you don't ever believe what Labor say they're going to do. You have to just watch and wait and see what they actually do when they get elected. We all know it's the same old story—say one thing before the election; do completely the opposite after it. This betrayal reminds me of Labor's election commitment to reduce power prices by $275. Hands up all of those who've seen that $275 price reduction in their power bills. I thought so. They're all very busy, looking down at their talking points provided by the Labor dirt unit on their phones. They're probably looking at how many emails they're getting from disillusioned constituents. No-one has seen their power prices come down. They did come down on our watch. In the last two financial years—

It's not rubbish at all, Minister. In the last two financial years of the coalition government, household electricity prices came down—

Honourable members interjecting

We've got a couple of speakers here: one at the dispatch box and one next to me. But the facts are the same: it was by 8 per cent, and for businesses it was by 10 to 12 per cent. See, we know the figures. We know the figures because our constituents are telling us: 'Yes; power prices did come down under you. Why are they so high under Labor?' They want to know why. They want to know why there's been that breach of faith, that breach of promise, that breach of trust.

Honourable members interjecting

Photo of Scott BuchholzScott Buchholz (Wright, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Honourable members!

Photo of Angus TaylorAngus Taylor (Hume, Liberal Party, Shadow Treasurer) Share this | | Hansard source

Get some facts checked! She's fact-free.

Photo of Scott BuchholzScott Buchholz (Wright, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I'm nearly calling a point of order on you, member for Hume. You started it.

Photo of Michael McCormackMichael McCormack (Riverina, National Party, Shadow Minister for International Development and the Pacific) Share this | | Hansard source

He's passionate, you see? He's absolutely passionate. So he should be, because he is the shadow Treasurer, and he looks opposite and sees the member for Rankin, who ain't no Paul Keating, let me tell you. He's certainly no Paul Keating, and he's certainly not of that ilk where Labor treasurers actually understood—like Michael Eagan, the former New South Wales Treasurer and the longest-serving state Treasurer in New South Wales history who died just the other day, and God rest his soul. They understood reality, Michael Egan and Paul Keating. They actually did get how people are feeling, because they were in touch with their constituents. This mob aren't. Certainly, the member for Rankin is not.

Let's just have a look at 18 months of Labor and what has actually gone up in that time. With the cost of food, there's been a 9 per cent increase, and the cost of housing is up 12 per cent—that's if you can afford a house. It is so hard. We heard how the Minister for Housing, the member for Franklin, had a program under her watch to build—I don't know, was it a million houses? Then it became—who knows?—tens of thousands. I don't think we'll ever see a house built. When I raised the issue about the Victorian state Labor government shutting down the timber industry, she interjected on me during a matter of public importance or a speech. I was making an earnest point, and she said, 'What's timber got to do with housing?' or thereabouts. Really? That's what houses are built out of. Anyway, I digress. The cost of insurance is up 22 per cent. The cost of electricity is up 20 per cent. Just don't mention that in front of Victorians at the moment who are in darkness. The cost of gas is up 27 per cent. Those opposite don't want gas anyway; they want it eliminated.

The Treasurer comes to the dispatch box during his last budget speech and talks about 'the things we sell overseas'. He can't talk about agriculture or coal or iron ore or gas. He can't dare mention those forbidden words—coal and iron ore and gas. 'The things we sell overseas,' he says. He was the first Treasurer in 25 years not to mention the word 'infrastructure' in his budget speech. That's just shameful. But no wonder he didn't mention it, because just prior to the election—a couple of weeks beforehand—Labor put in place a 90-day review into all of the infrastructure that was being built under the Liberals and Nationals. How long do you reckon that 90-day review took?

I shouldn't start the member for Hume off again, because I won't get another word in edgeways. It was more than 200 days. But that's pretty good for Labor, really, when you think about it—from 90 for 200. That's pretty close for Labor. This isn't pretty close. This is an outrage. Whilst we appreciate that people do need tax breaks, it just goes to show that Labor fibbed again.

6:40 pm

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

More people working, more people earning more, more people keeping more of what they earn. That's what's happening with Labor's bigger, better, fairer tax cuts. These tax cuts are better for workers, better for women and better for labour supply. Despite all the hand-wringing from those opposite, in their guts, the Liberal and National parties will back these cuts. They'll do so because they know that 84 per cent of taxpayers will be better off. They know that the average taxpayer is getting double the tax cut under this plan.

All Australian taxpayers will get a tax cut on 1 July, and the top tax threshold will come down for the first time since Labor was last in office. Labor's bigger, better, fairer tax cuts are going to ensure that everyone gets a tax cut. Previously, those earning under $45,000—apprentices, childcare workers, hairdressers—were going to miss out. Now they too will get a tax cut. Treasury estimates that this will have a big impact on labour supply, twice the impact on labour supply as the previous plan. Our tax cuts will boost labour supply by nearly a million hours a week, the equivalent of 25,000 full-time jobs. Our tax cuts are better for women, with 90 per cent of taxpaying women getting a bigger tax cut under our plan. That means teachers, nurses, aged and disability carers and early childhood educators.

Treasury has been clear that our changes are broadly revenue neutral and won't add to inflation. Our changes will reduce inequality and they'll increase opportunity. We are engaging in serious tax reform. We're dropping two rates and lifting two thresholds. We're addressing bracket creep, and we're not just addressing bracket creep at the top; we're addressing bracket creep for low- and middle-income workers as well. Aspiration doesn't depend on your bank balance. There's this false notion out there that, somehow, aspiration has an income cut-off and there's only aspiration above that threshold. But we in the Labor Party know that aspirational families can be found in every postcode in Australia, in every community in Australia. That's why in every one of those communities, every taxpayer will get a tax cut. Under our plan, barristers still get a tax cut, but baristas get one too. Under our plan, CEOs still get a tax cut, but cleaners get one too. Under our plan, surgeons still get a tax cut, but security guards get one too. Tax reform doesn't have to just benefit billionaires, it can benefit battlers too. That's exactly what Labor's bigger, better, fairer tax cuts will do.

6:43 pm

Photo of Nola MarinoNola Marino (Forrest, Liberal Party, Shadow Assistant Minister for Education) Share this | | Hansard source

Many people in my electorate of Forrest and around Australia have been struggling with the cost of living, and still are. Not only are emergency relief groups reporting significant increases in the number of people needing help; they're also reporting providing help to people who have never needed it before. This has been the case for the last 18 months, and I think the Prime Minister must have had a sudden insight, or brainwave, or epiphany maybe over Christmas. Perhaps this was when he was actually in Australia, as opposed to overseas or on Toto 1. We are somehow expected to believe that, suddenly, after 18 months of distraction and mismanagement of the economy, the PM belatedly realised that there are millions of Australians struggling with the cost of living.

But let's be honest here. This decision is only about the Prime Minister's job and the Dunkley by-election. There is no doubt that Labor has mismanaged the economy and that Australians are worse off as a result—higher interest rates, high inflation, high cost of living and increased spending of an additional $209 billion since Labor came to government.

But we also know the Prime Minister chose this option instead of one of the other options provided by Treasury, alternative options that would not have broken Labor's election promises or pitted one Australian against another in a dreadful class warfare act, taking from one group of taxpayers to give to another. To the people who were promised tax cuts through legislation, Labor is actually saying, ' You don't deserve those legislated tax cuts.'

This decision actively disincentivises Australians who want to or need to earn and retain more of their income to provide for their families. Removing that 37 per cent tax bracket incentivises workers, no matter where they start, to keep upskilling, investing in opportunities or simply taking on the extra shifts to increase their incomes to meet their commitments and, as I say, support their families.

This comes at the same time that people are already paying more tax to the government. Personal income tax receipts have risen by a record 27 per cent, with the lost LMITO and bracket creep combined. Labor is trying to sell its changes as overall tax cuts, but Labor is actively entrenching bracket creep. This may be a short-term sugar hit that we see in this legislation; however, Treasury have said that this legislation will actually see an increase in taxes of $1.3 billion over the next four years and $28 billion over the next decade. One point eight million households and taxpayers will be worse off, and they are the ones who will not receive those legislated stage 3 tax cuts. Four million households will be worse off over the medium term. In fact, this is going to affect many young people as they improve their incomes, even those that are not yet in the workforce itself.

The coalition will always support lower taxes. Like my colleagues, I respect and value the Australians who work and pay the taxes that fund so many of the government-delivered services and programs that people rely on. But Labor have deliberately broken a promise they repeatedly made to the Australian people. The Prime Minister looks shifty in this instance. It was a promise made around 100 times—before, during and after the election. Australians now know they cannot trust anything that comes out of the mouths of the Prime Minister, the Treasurer or any Labor member or senator.

The Prime Minister's now immortal words, 'My word is my bond,' translated actually mean—and they know it—'I will do and say whatever I need to to get elected and change it later.' The same can be said of the Prime Minister's pre-election promise:

… one of the things that people have a right to believe, is that when a politician makes a commitment before an election, they keep it and I intend to do just that.

He also said, 'We're not going to interfere with the legislated tax cuts which are there.' No-one will forget what is clearly a demonstrated, calculated and deliberate deceit—the deliberate misleading of the Australian people by the Prime Minister.

'Trust', Prime Minister—you used this word constantly during the election campaign. Well, you've lost the trust of the Australian people and you've proven to them that you lack integrity. While there are some people who will benefit from this broken promise, a broken promise is a broken promise. Prime Minister, your word is no longer your bond. Every time the Prime Minister or Treasurer says, 'We have not changed our position,' or 'We are not considering or planning any changes,' the Australian people will know, and they do know, that they cannot trust you. Australians know that this is just the start. What's next? What's the next broken promise? Will it be capital gains? Will it be negative gearing? Will it be inheritance taxes? Will it be changes to family trusts? The list is endless. But we do know that nothing is off the table, and every time the Prime Minister, the Treasurer or Labor members say the words, 'We're not considering it,' or 'We have no plans,' those are Labor's code words for, 'Watch this space.'

But the greatest cost of this legislation is the critical lost opportunity for actual tax reform such as was contained in the existing legislated stage 3 tax cuts—tax reform that would have actively encouraged and rewarded aspirational Australians. They would have been encouraged to have a red-hot go, whether in small business or in employment or career opportunities. That tax reform would have encouraged every hardworking, taxpaying Australian earning between $45,000 and $200,000, because the 37c-in-the-dollar tax bracket would have been removed. For people doing overtime or taking on extra shifts, there would have been no booby-trap in that pay packet through that bracket creep. This would have been genuine tax reform, a genuine incentive for hardworking, aspirational Australians—and I encourage every one of them. It would have addressed the disincentive of bracket creep that they face. For workers who would have been able to keep more of their own money, the money they have earned through their own efforts, bracket creep is now still the biggest problem thanks to Labor. Why work harder and longer to earn more, just to give it to Labor to waste or hand to someone else?

Even worse, it's a great brake on productivity. We are further away from a tax system that is fit for purpose right now and into the future, for those who work hard, train or study, or move on to better paying roles in their chosen jobs or careers; the people who want to start and grow their own business; or, for instance, the many talented tradies who are in such short supply. These are the people who are prepared to take the risk, invest their own money, start their own small business and build it up. We see those young people so often in the small-business awards, and I say, 'Hallelujah,' to them. They may have to mortgage their house, their car and perhaps their kids to have a go, but have a go they do.

I take my hat off to every small-business owner in my electorate. Small businesses employ our locals. Small businesses support the sporting clubs and local emergency services. Small-business owners are often the people doing that same work voluntarily. They are often the volunteers in our communities. They support our local jobs by creating local jobs in our regional communities. They are the people who often give our young people their very first job in a small business. They also can be those wonderful people who give more mature, older people their last job. This is critical in our economy and our small communities. That helps drive productivity and leads to real higher wages for their workers. I want to see more young people able to get ahead.

However, the PBO's SMART model shows that Australians aged from 25 to 55 will be worse off on average as a result of Labor's legislation. The first two stages of the income tax changes that we made went to lower-income earners. Twelve million Australians benefited from stages 1 and 2 of the coalition tax reforms, and that delivered over $40 billion in tax relief to low- and middle-income earners. People on $70,000 have each kept more than $9,000 of their income as a result, and 10 million Australians earning below $120,000 received tax relief through the low- and middle-income tax offset, that cost-of-living offset that was so critical to them. It included 8.2 million people earning below $90,000.

We know Labor that promised at least 97 times that they would reduce electricity prices by $275. They repeatedly promised that they would lower electricity prices, and they haven't. The Prime Minister won't even mention that figure. The Prime Minister also promised cheaper mortgages, but that hasn't happened either. When I talk to and listen to people in my electorate, I find that the ones who have a mortgage are really struggling at this time, having to change what they do in their family and in their life because of the cost of interest rates on their mortgages.

As someone who's spent a significant amount of time warning people of all ages about the dangers of online scams, I want to finish with a very accurate analogy drawn by the member for Berowra in his contribution. He spoke about the scams that Australians face every day, where online scammers make promises to deliver or do something or actively pretend to be someone they're not. Throughout the scam, the scammer keeps reassuring their victim that there's nothing to fear, that there's no problem and that all the victim has to do is simply trust the scammer. In this instance, the Prime Minister is the scammer. And that is what this legislation is about. It is about Labor's dreadful scam and deliberate deception of the Australian people for the Prime Minister's short-term gain.

As I said, the coalition will always support lower taxes, but we will take a tax reform package to the next election that will deliver lower, simpler and fairer taxes to help fight bracket creep to enable and encourage and foster aspirational Australians to keep more of their own money. I know that the policies in this tax space and others will actually have a major impact on regional and remote parts of Australia.

I've been farming in this country with my husband and family for 50 years. I'm a very mature-aged person. However, given the changes that Labor has made repeatedly and their policy decisions, I have never seen rural and regional Australia under as much pressure as we are now, for so many reasons, or small and medium businesses. Having a small business has always been tough, but right now it's tougher for so many than it's ever been. I just want to encourage all those small- and family-business people who may be watching or listening tonight. We actually value and respect every single thing you do.

There is a dairy farmer in my electorate who has been constantly under pressure from various means. He produces enough milk every year to feed 60,000 people. He said to me, 'The layer upon layer that we're noticing—the changes to industrial relations—one thing after another from this government.' He said to me, 'We produce the best-quality milk in Australia. We produce the best-quality food and fibre for Australians and others around the world. At some point, wouldn't you think that one of the things the government could do is just say thank you to those people?'

6:57 pm

Photo of Libby CokerLibby Coker (Corangamite, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Today we witnessed the absurdity of an opposition leader who vocally opposes Labor's tax cuts but plans to vote for them. What a cruel joke! On 1 July this year, every Australian taxpayer will get a tax cut. For an Australian worker on an average wage, this means $1,500 more in their pocket each year—a yearly boost that would not have been received under the former coalition government's plan. These tax cuts are aimed squarely at people who work hard to make a difference for themselves and their families. Our Labor government wants Australians to earn more and to keep more of what they earn. This reform also responds to cost-of-living pressures facing Australians right now, and that's why I stand today to support the Treasury Laws Amendment (Cost of Living Tax Cuts) Bill 2024.

This tax reform will provide cost-of-living relief for 13.6 million taxpayers across the nation. This is a plan for middle Australia that delivers for every Australian taxpayer, right up and down the income ladder, from Portarlington in my electorate to Port Hedland, from Leopold in my electorate to Launceston, and from Torquay in my electorate to Townsville. This tax reform means that 90 per cent of women will now receive a bigger tax cut. More than 95 per cent of nurses, teachers and truckies will now get a bigger tax cut. Health workers, childcare workers and hospitality workers will now receive a tax cut. Taxpayers earning less than $45,000 will now receive a tax cut. And this will significantly boost the take-home pay of Australians working in some of the most low-paid jobs across the nation. Factory workers in Grovedale to retail workers in Armstrong Creek are all supported under our plan.

But the opposition leader and the coalition seem uneasy about embracing this much-needed reform. Rather, the opposition leader wants hardworking Australians on call 24 hours a day. He opposes higher wages. He votes against help with your power bill. He votes against cheaper medicines. He votes against affordable housing and penalty rates. And his stance wavers like a reed in the wind. While he reluctantly says he is supporting Labor's tax cuts, he argues against them endlessly. Australians do deserve better. They deserve a leader who gets the job done in the best interests of all Australians.

These tax cuts are the right decision at the right time. They do put money in the pockets of hardworking Australians without impacting inflation. Labor is making the right decisions for the right reasons, and that's why the Leader of the Opposition is voting for those decisions. Many local people have said the same to me. They have welcomed this tax reform, they have written to me over the past month, and they've come to me at markets and at street stalls and said: 'Thank you. You are listening to us and our need for relief from costs.' Those costs are really putting them under pressure. They recognise that, for a family on an average household income of around $130,000, with one partner earning $80,000 and the other $50,000, their combined tax cut will now be over $2,600, which is about $50 a week and $1,600 more than they would have received under the coalition's plan.

This reform adds to our record investment in Medicare, the boosted, cheaper Child Care Subsidy and electricity price relief. These are important initiatives, and they will not add to inflationary pressures while laying the foundations for a stronger and more resilient economy. Labor governments have always understood this. Former Labor prime minister Gough Whitlam said in the late seventies:

The task before us is … to give our young people, our unemployed, our small business people, our migrants a new hope—hope for decent jobs, hope in their future and the future of their country.

This remains our task, and it remains Labor's commitment to all communities across the nation. In essence, our plan responds to his call for hope for a better future.

The Albanese government's tax reform delivers a better, more progressive tax system, addressing bracket creep more evenly. Our plan returns bracket creep for all taxpayers and does more to reduce the impact on those most burdened by it. By dropping two tax rates and lifting two thresholds, we are providing almost $360 billion in help with the cost of living, and, as a result, the average taxpayer will pay $21,635 less in their income in tax over the next decade. Treasury estimates our changes will increase labour supply by around 930,000 hours per week. This is more than double the labour supply impact of the former coalition government's plan. As our Treasurer has made clear, the most recent inflation figures show a welcome moderation. It's still too high, but it is moderating. Treasury is clear: our tax plan will not impact their forecasts for inflation.

In closing, I know families in my electorate of Corangamite and across the country are being hit hard by the cost of living, and that's why our Albanese government's No. 1 priority is to deliver cost-of-living relief. This is a bill that will support all Australians. It will help manage inflation and benefit Australian families. It supports small business by increasing labour supply and, importantly, it will benefit all women, many of them in jobs where they are paid less than the average. I'm proud that it will have a great impact for women. I'm very proud to support our government's approach to reducing cost-of-living pressures whilst also managing inflation. I do urge all those on the crossbench and in the Senate to support these bills. Let's embrace cost-of-living relief, and let's embrace this tax reform. It makes absolute sense. I commend the bill to the House.

7:04 pm

Photo of Tony PasinTony Pasin (Barker, Liberal Party, Shadow Assistant Minister for Infrastructure and Transport) Share this | | Hansard source

The people of Barker pride themselves on a lot of things. But if I was being completely frank I'd say that mine is an honest electorate. It's a place where a person's word is their bond. The Prime Minister's decision to break his word and his bond on the stage 3 tax cuts, I'm sad to say, joins a long list of broken promises, including those around lower electricity prices, cheaper mortgages, and the commitment to keep his hands off superannuation and franking credits.

At a local level, constituents in my electorate were encouraged by the Prime Minister's commitment of a $275 reduction in electricity bills. But it will come as no surprise that they're still waiting for that $275 reduction. Families in Kingston in the south-east of South Australia, in my electorate, in the lead-up to the last federal election were promised $1.8 million to help fund the establishment of a purpose-built childcare facility. It was a commitment we had made and one that, happily, those opposite, during the election, matched. I say 'happily' because at the point that the commitment was made we were going to see a redeveloped childcare facility in Kingston irrespective of the election outcome. As someone who's outcomes focused, I thought that was a particularly good thing. But unfortunately that is also an unfulfilled commitment at this stage. Despite it being more than 14 months since the election and close to two years since the original commitment, that $1.8 million election promise is yet to materialise.

It's not only broken promises that make this government untrustworthy. It's also their lack of transparency. Prior to the 2022 election, people in the Riverland, in my electorate, didn't believe that those opposite would return to a policy of water buybacks. Why? Because those opposite weren't open and honest about that. When I warned the people of the Riverland that that was exactly what those opposite had in store for them, I was accused by those opposite—or at least the candidate on behalf of the Australian Labor Party—of 'resorting to fearmongering'. Yet even now that we know that buybacks are being implemented there's no transparency about how much those opposite are willing to pay for that water or indeed where the water is going to come from. In the south-east of my electorate, along the beautiful Limestone Coast, the local lobster fishermen weren't told that while they would be still hurting from the loss of key international markets Labor would swoop in and propose a job-destroying, industry-destroying proposal for a Southern Ocean offshore wind farm in their fertile fishing grounds. Yet that's exactly where we are—and not a mention of it before the last election.

Equally, farmers across my electorate weren't told that they'd be slugged with a $50 million a year biosecurity protection levy—a levy on Australian farmers to protect them from the actions of those they compete against who are importing product to this country. And Sturt Highway road users, rejoicing in the news that we would finally see the establishment of a Truro bypass around that township to increase the productivity and safety of the Sturt Highway—a major transport route between Adelaide and interstate and indeed up to Sydney—would not have thought it possible that the federal government would retract funding for such an important piece of infrastructure. Over $220 million was committed to this Truro freight route. Yet that's exactly what Labor has done—a project that has been talked about for probably close to the entirety of my adult life, a project that took 10 years to get to Infrastructure Australia's priority list and then, after 10 years on the priority list, was gone in a moment.

I'd have a lot more respect for those opposite if prior to the election they'd said to the road users of the Sturt Highway, 'If you vote for us, just understand that the Sturt Highway will not see a bypass around the community of Truro.' I'd have more respect for those opposite if they'd said to the cray fishermen on the Limestone Coast, 'Just understand a vote for us is a vote for a gargantuan offshore wind complex in your fertile fishing ground which will effectively prohibit you from fishing in a 5,000 square kilometre area.' I'd have more respect for those opposite if they'd been clear and upfront about the biosecurity levy that would be imposed on Australian farmers. I'd have more respect for those opposite—indeed, I think my electorate would—if they'd said to the people of Kingston, 'We acknowledge the commitment made by the coalition government for $1.8 million towards a childcare facility and we'll do our very best to match that,' but that's not what the commitment was. I think they'd have a lot more respect for the Prime Minister if he had said, 'We will do everything within our power to put downward pressure on electricity prices,' instead of saying that they could expect a $275 reduction.

The stark reality, friends, is that our Prime Minister has his priorities, unfortunately. They're not priorities about addressing the cost of living. It's not about road safety. It's not about business confidence or food security. Sadly, my observation of the first period of the Albanese prime ministership is that we have a Prime Minister whose only priority is maintaining the office of Prime Minister. This is a government that has quickly become arrogant, complacent, economically incompetent and untrustworthy.

In recent days and weeks, the Prime Minister has revelled in regaling this place—particularly during question time—with the ABC docuseries Nemesis. It caused me to reflect on the Prime Minister lying in bed listening to or watching that program. He might have been lying on the couch in the Lodge, doing that—

The DEPUTY SPEAKER interjecting

I mean physically lying, of course. I'm not making any other assertion. The point I want to make to the Prime Minister—in his absence from the chamber—is that your time will come. The reality is that there'll be a similar documentary about the Albanese years, and I reasonably anticipate that there will be a number of frontbenchers interviewed around this critical decision to break his word and his promise on the stage 3 tax cuts.

We all know why this has happened. It's got nothing to do with cost-of-living pressures, because if cost-of-living pressures were the No. 1 priority of those opposite they wouldn't have spent close to half a billion dollars and 12 months of this nation's energy and enthusiasm on an ill-fated attempt to recast the Australian Constitution with a Voice to Parliament. Really this change has been about a Prime Minister who's desperately concerned about the Dunkley by-election. That's the truth. The Dunkley by-election is a real-time measure for the Prime Minister regarding his performance. I expect that, littered amongst the thinkers on the backbench, there are a whole bunch of people who are acutely aware of their margins. They'll be looking at whatever movement there is in the electoral pendulum in Dunkley. The Prime Minister knows that and he doesn't want a significant swing against him in that seat because that will cause consternation. The reality is that when we go to the Dunkley by-election and there's a swing against the government and the Prime Minister subsequently sees that his great policy white knight, these changes to stage 3 tax cuts, don't deliver him the Newspoll bump or improvement he's looking for, he will sadly be left holding the baby. He won't have any support from those who've suggested it's a good thing to do right now. They'll be lining up, one after another, to answer the questions of whoever is assigned this role within the ABC, or whatever other outlet, to say, 'You know, we always thought it was a bad strategy long term.' And of course it's a bad strategy long term, because everything's about trust.

I began my contribution by saying that my electorate is a place where your word is still your bond to the honest folk of Barker. Now, I don't think Barker is unique in that regard. There are 150 other electorates in this place for which each and every member of parliament could say exactly the same thing. Because, as Australians, deep down we say what we mean and we do what we say. Deep down Australians want leaders who say what they mean and do what they say. That's why trust is everything. And that's why, with respect, this decision to rip up the trust statement between the now Prime Minister of Australia and the voting public across this nation is crazy brave. They won't forget that he was so quick to commit to a me-too approach on the then coalition's tax policy—not just before the election, but after the election—and yet so quick to rip it up for the short-term sugar hit that he's hoping to achieve at the Dunkley by-election.

As I've made clear, this joins quite a legacy of broken promises. There are broken promises on the national scale—the commitment to lower electricity bills, lower mortgages, cheaper cost of living, higher real wages, no taxes on retirees, no taxes on transport operators and, as I mentioned, taxes on farmers. But there are also breaches of faith with the Australian people at very local levels across electorates. I've given some examples from my electorate. These are failures for which the people of my electorate will ultimately punish those opposite. But I expect that if I were to ask members around the chamber, particularly on the crossbench and on the opposition benches, if there are similar local breaches of faith, I'd find them.

The reality is, that's before we even talk about what's coming next. And we know what's coming next. Despite the Treasurer's consternation and his attempts to deny it, the plan for wholesale wealth redistribution in this country, via reforms to the Australian tax system, will continue unabated. And I've got some really bad news for the people who might be listening to this broadcast, and particularly those in Barker: it won't be long, whether their hand is forced by their coalition partners in the Greens or otherwise, and they'll be coming after negative gearing and they'll be coming after concessions to capital gains tax. They can't resist it. We often talk about political DNA in this place, but, ultimately, deep inside the political DNA of those opposite is always a big-taxing, big-spending government. The only way you can be a big-taxing, big-spending government is if you go after people who have the wealth in this nation.

7:19 pm

Photo of Sharon ClaydonSharon Claydon (Newcastle, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

It is always interesting to come after the member for Barker. For all that faux outrage, the member for Barker is going to be sitting here, voting for these tax cuts when the vote comes through, just like all other members opposite because the truth is they know this plan was not fair. It would not have done what it was intended to do. This Labor plan for stage 3 tax cuts is now going to deliver a tax cut to every single Australian taxpayer. No-one misses out. We are not backing winners and losers here. It is a fair and equitable distribution of people's tax dollars to help them with extreme cost-of-living pressures that many people find themselves under today. So I rise to speak in support of the Albanese Labor government's cost-of-living tax cuts.

Tax time, I am pleased to say, is fast approaching. I am delighted that, on 1 July this year, the Albanese Labor government will be delivering a tax cut for every single Australian taxpayer—that is, 13.6 million people. Not only that, 84 per cent of Australian taxpayers will get a bigger tax cut as a result of the government's proposal now. That is 11.5 million people who stand to be better off under this revamped stage 3 tax cut. An average income earner is set to benefit by $29 a week, which is more than double what they would have received under the old Morrison stage 3 policy.

The Labor government understands that people are doing it tough right now, and I have heard first-hand from my constituents that they are struggling to make ends meet. I would also like to put on record that I have had constituents approach me and say, 'You know what, in these new revamped tax cuts, I am going to get less than I was going to get under Mr Morrison's old scheme.' But then they look you straight in the eye and say, 'It is okay. What you have done is a fairer and more equal distribution.' They support that, and I am really pleased that my community is so caring of each other that they want to make sure everyone stands to benefit.

As I said, we are crystal clear that every taxpayer needs and deserves a meaningful tax cut, not just those people in higher tax brackets. That is what this plan is about. Everybody needs assistance now. Under the former Morrison government's plans, millions of young people, workers, part-timers, casuals were going to miss out. I tell you what, it is women who would have benefited least of all from those old stage 3 tax cuts.

Tackling cost of living, I will come back to that. It is definitely worth teasing out a little bit for this chamber. Tackling cost-of-living pressures is Labor's No. 1 priority and that is why we are working to not just cut taxes but also to boost wages, bring inflation under control, and drive fairer prices for Australian consumers. So our proposal is reform work but it is also relief. We want to see Australians earning more money and we want to see them keeping more of what they earn.

In my electorate of Newcastle, nurses, teachers, police, truckies are amongst those who are most likely to benefit, with more than 95 per cent of those taxpayers getting a bigger tax cut. In Newcastle, that means 655 truck drivers will be better off; 248 police officers will take advantage of these tax cuts; 2,571 registered nurses are going to see a benefit. And goodness me, who would deny those nurses are tax cut now? But there are another 3,403 school teachers who are going to have a bit more money in their hip pockets come 1 July. These are good changes that will have real benefit for workers and families that need it most.

Now, we on this side of the House know full well that government policies are never gender-neutral. When it comes to distributing the benefits and burdens of tax and spending, they have different impacts for men and women. That is why the Albanese Labor government has applied a gender-impact lens over the changes to all these measures to ensure the significant benefit from these tax cuts will go to women. Women are the very people who stood to lose most of all from Mr Morrison's former stage 3 tax cuts. We have done that gendered analysis, because that's what good governments do. We try and make sure that the way in which we distribute the spend that is gained from people's tax burdens is equitable. When it's not, you've got to be able to counter that inequity.

The Treasury modelling found that women comprised the majority of individuals earning less than $75,000. Can we let that fact sink in for those in this chamber now. It is predominantly women who are earning less than $75,000 a year. When it comes to looking at the people who are earning more than $128,000, less than 30 per cent of Australian women fit into that category. We know from a lot of experience what that means in our communities. But the Albanese Labor government's revamped stage 3 tax cuts mean that the average tax cut for women will climb from what was going to be $1,278 to $1,649. That's a lift of $371 compared with the Morrison government's old plan. From 1 July, the Albanese Labor government will deliver a tax cut for all women who pay tax in Australia. That is 6.5 million women taxpayers who will receive an average tax cut of $1,649. That also means a bigger tax cut for 90 per cent of Australian women taxpayers. That's how many are set to receive an additional tax cut of $770 on average compared to the Morrison government's plan. I know that, when members opposite go back to their constituencies, it's little wonder they will come and vote for this at the end of the day. Imagine going back, looking at all the women in your electorates and saying: 'You know what? You're not worth a tax cut. We don't believe that you deserve recompense now or to get a share of the relief that is being provided to workers and households.'

Gender-responsive budgeting, of course, was a practice pioneered by the very first Labor woman to serve in a cabinet, Susan Ryan. She did so when the Hawke government handed down its 1984-85 budget. That was the application of the gendered-responsive budgeting process. We led the world in gender-responsive budgeting. And I've got to say—from that moment with Susan Ryan in 1984 right through to 2013, the federal government, regardless of which party was in power, produced a women's budget statement every single year to assess the impact that the new budget and taxation measures had on women. Shamefully, the Liberal government scrapped this practice when Tony Abbott was elected Prime Minister and appointed himself Minister for Women back in 2014. As chair of Labor's Status of Women Committee, I am proud that Labor has produced a women's budget statement from opposition each and every year to undertake this analysis. Now that we're in government, we continue this analysis, and equity for women is at the very centre of everything we do. Our job is to make sure that taxing and spending actually support women's equality.

That's exactly what we're doing with these tax reforms. Australian women deserve that level of public commitment and accountability. I've been listening to the debates of those before me who are concerned about whether the Prime Minister's word is at stake here. It's a good question; we want to see trust in politics. But I tell you what: when you change your position based on very good evidence—

Debate interrupted.