Senate debates

Wednesday, 14 February 2018

Questions without Notice: Take Note of Answers


3:19 pm

Photo of Chris KetterChris Ketter (Queensland, Australian Labor Party) Share this | Hansard source

It just shows you how desperate the government is, for Senator Seselja to put up a straw man imputing that we're suggesting taxes should be levied on revenue rather than profit. That is just a measure of the desperation of the arguments here.

For me, it was disappointing to not hear anything of substance from the finance minister in question time in relation to this particular issue. In our questioning, we have raised very substantial issues of public policy, which are raised today in the very good ABC article authored by Emma Alberici. Some extremely important issues are raised, and what do we see from Senator Cormann? We see insults, derogatory epithets hurled at the Leader of the Opposition, and the suggestion that future government revenue is going to be impacted if we don't bring about these irresponsible tax cuts.

Let's look at the facts as they stand. There are some extremely valid points. I was hoping that the government might come up with some compelling evidence that justifies the tax cuts, which some would argue are somewhat reckless in our current fiscal situation. One would have thought that with the amount of money involved—$65 billion—there could be some compelling evidence put forward to justify them. But, no, nothing of that nature was put forward. In fact, the government's arguments are based on ideology and wishful thinking, not on the evidence that's before us.

Let's have a look at this. This is a government that does support the top end of town. They have abolished the budget repair levy, ignored our calls for tax transparency in closing debt deduction loopholes, ruled out negative gearing and capital gains tax reform, run a protection racket for the big banks whilst ripping off everyday Australians, and they're trying to raise personal income tax across the board, by stealth, through the Medicare levy—and Senator Watt has called them out on that issue.

At the same time, we are seeing wages growth at historical lows. The inconvenient truth is that, at the same time, we have company profits that have risen to levels not seen since the early 2000s, and we've seen business investment at historically high levels over the past decade. If the system was working, and if we were to put more money in the hands of companies, then you would have thought that wages growth would have been impacted by that. But we're not seeing that. We are seeing that the model is broken. To go down the track of huge and reckless company tax cuts for the big end of town, for multinationals, for the big banks, is quite a reckless approach. We are also seeing penalty rates being cut for thousands of already low-paid workers—often disadvantaged workers. The workforce is becoming more casualised, as Senator Watt has highlighted, affecting job security. The cost of living is going up with medical expenses, private health insurance, energy bills, groceries and education.

Under the coalition's watch, the budget is going from bad to worse. We saw in the MYEFO late last year that the $23.6 billion deficit remains eight times larger than the $2.8 billion deficit in the Liberals' first horror budget of 2014. Net debt has blown out by $80 billion, to $343 billion, since 2014. Economic growth is down, on the back of families struggling to pay their bills, and the Liberals' return to surplus continues to rely on the tax hike for middle Australia delivered in this year's budget.

The No. 1 priority for this government seems to be giving their big business mates a tax cut to the tune of $65 billion. Well, perhaps that's not quite true—perhaps their top priority at the moment is figuring out how to get the Deputy Prime Minister to resign—but let's say it is one of their top priorities. Why is it necessary for us to deliver huge company tax cuts for the big end of town when, at the same time, one in five of Australia's biggest companies have paid no tax for at least the past three years? The IMF report, which is quite interesting to see—and I have highlighted this fact—points to the negative impact of the US tax cut package on growth and says that it's projected to lower growth for a few years from 2022 onwards, according to the IMF World Economic Outlook. Labor will continue to lead the charge in cracking down on corporate tax cuts. We don't need tax cuts for multinational multimillionaires. (Time expired)


No comments