Senate debates

Wednesday, 14 February 2018

Questions without Notice: Take Note of Answers


3:25 pm

Photo of Jane HumeJane Hume (Victoria, Liberal Party) Share this | Hansard source

The professional homogeneity of those opposite is certainly on display today, and I think we can all agree that the problem with professional homogeneity is that is translates into uncritical groupthink worthy of dairy cows. I have never heard of such economic rubbish in my life. Clearly those opposite have never run a business, they've never owned a business, they've never employed another person, they've never put their house on the line and they've never lost sleep at night wondering how they were going to pay the wages of others tomorrow. What we see opposite is either an extraordinary display of economic ignorance or complete disingenuousness. It's got to be one of the two.

For those opposite to come in here and say that these enormous companies pay no tax and, therefore, there is no reason to lower company tax rates is the height of ignorance. Let's have a look at some of the companies that do pay corporate tax. The big four banks are extraordinarily large corporate tax players. The Commonwealth Bank pays $3.3 billion, Westpac pays $3 billion, NAB pays $2.4 billion and ANZ pays $2 billion. Those four companies alone employ over 200,000 Australians. Telstra paid $1.7 billion in corporate tax—and they employ 36,000 Australians. Rio Tinto paid $23 billion and they employ 26,000 Australians. Wesfarmers paid $931 billion and they employ 200,000 Australians. Woolworths paid $497 million and they employ 200,000 Australians. In fact, the top 10 company taxpayers in this country paid a quarter of all company taxes collected in the last 12 months, and they are responsible for an enormous proportion of employment in Australia.

So how could anybody with any economic nous, anybody with the ability to connect the dots from A to B, possibly suggest that a company tax cut would not benefit Australian workers? It is a completely false, ignorant and, as I said, potentially disingenuous statement. We say 'disingenuous' for a very good reason. It was not that long ago that their own leader, the Leader of the Opposition, Bill Shorten, said that 'reducing the corporate tax rate sees more capital flowing into our domestic economy, which will then flow onto workers in the form of higher wages, therefore improving standards of living'. This is your leader that said this. It wasn't our leader; this was your leader. Yet somehow you've managed to flip-flop, somehow you've managed to change your minds. I can only think it is political expediency, potentially in the seat of Batman, that has driven you to do so.

Similarly, the shadow Treasurer, Chris Bowen, has also previously stated—and I love this quote—that 'it is a Labor thing to have the ambition of reducing company tax, because it promotes investment, creates jobs and drives growth'. This is your shadow Treasurer saying this, not ours. Yet you now have the audacity to walk into the chamber and accuse us of the economics of the top end of town. How extraordinary—particularly when we've seen the company tax cuts delivered to 3.2 million small and medium businesses last year actually taking effect. The verdict is in. That company tax cut has already given small and medium sized enterprises the flexibility to grow their business and to create more and better paid jobs. The results couldn't be clearer.

As my colleague Senator Seselja said 400,000 new jobs were created just in the last 12 months alone, and 300,000 of them are full time. We have had 15 months of consecutive jobs growth—that is the longest consecutive run of jobs growth on record. In January alone, 178,000 jobs were advertised. That's up 6.2 per cent, and the strongest monthly increase in eight years. These results are irrefutable. Despite an economy that's been disrupted by the transition from a mining boom, the laws of demand and supply are still the same: more jobs create better-paying jobs. Company tax cuts are an imperative.


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