Senate debates

Monday, 19 June 2017

Bills

Major Bank Levy Bill 2017, Treasury Laws Amendment (Major Bank Levy) Bill 2017; Second Reading

7:50 pm

Photo of Cory BernardiCory Bernardi (SA, Australian Conservatives) Share this | Hansard source

Here we go again! Already today the Senate has dealt with one great big new consumer tax, which of course put the price up for things that consumers need and have been buying from overseas. Now we have a great big new bank tax. You can tell from my opening that I am opposed to it. I am hoping you can detect that I am opposed to it. I do want to pick up on one thing that Senator Macdonald said, which is that those in this chamber who decry the fact that the banks are very profitable have lost sight of the fact that there is only one thing worse than a profitable bank, and that is an unprofitable one. Do we really want a banking industry that does not make money? The effects and impacts of that can be seen in America, where the banking industry, by its own design and fault, cost the taxpayers over there, I guess, a trillion dollars or more. The executives got very rich; the banks were recapitalised; the government has not benefited from it and the consumers have not benefited from it. So I think it is entirely reasonable for a bank to make profits. They deal in lots of money and they deal in a very important space. They make a lot of money, quite frankly, but they also pay their fair share of tax like every other corporate in this country.

What is next? This is where you have to apply principle to these things They make too much money in the banks, so you want to add a super profits tax on them, just like Labor did with a mining tax. Do you remember, Mr Acting Deputy President Sterle, that your colleagues on the other side introduced a mining tax, which was to capitalise on the super profits from the mining industry. Of course it never raised the money, and the expenditure is still with us today. It is the only tax that ever actually lost money, I suspect. That is its rather remarkable record, and it is little wonder that those on that side of the chamber are supporting the bill before us today.

However, I am amazed—incredulous, quite frankly—that the once-proud Liberal Party, of which I used to be a very proud member, has been reduced to chasing billions of dollars from industries and targeting specific industries because they cannot buttress their budget bottom line in any other way. I have given suggestions previously about how they could save money, but instead they have chosen the tax and spend way. What is next? Coles and Woolworths have been very, very profitable for a very long time in this country. Why not have a supermarket tax? Why not go down to Wesfarmers, a very profitable company, and whack an extra super profits tax on that. Or the fuel companies that happen to be making money, or the gambling companies. You can keep going and going and going. But about 60 per cent of corporate tax is paid by about 0.1 per cent of the companies in this country. They are paying a massive amount already, but because it is popular and because very few people in this place will stand up and defend the principle attached to this—it is not because I like the banks, it is not because I think they are doing a great job by the consumers—they are making as much money as they possibly can, but it does not mean that we should be slugging them another $6 billion or thereabouts, which they will claim as a tax deduction, to prop up the government. The government has enough money already. This tax is going to hurt individuals, as it always does. The corporates will claim it as a tax deduction, so you will not get your $6 billion—it will probably end up being around $4 billion or thereabouts—but customers will invariably be asked to make up the shortfall. It might come in a centre transaction, tweaking of an interest rate here and there or putting a new fee onto something, but the banks will do that because their job is to act in the interests of their shareholders. For those in this place who are naively or blithely unaware of what happens in the reality of markets, the moment—in fact, before this bank tax was even announced, the share price of the banks fell considerably.

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