Wednesday, 20 June 2018
Consideration of Legislation
This is why we are in such dangerous territory. As Senator O'Neill says, they are making it up as they go, and we should not cooperate.
Let me again run through why there is no urgency here so that it's clear in the minds of senators. If the government agreed to have step 2 removed from this bill, leaving the parliament to vote only on step 1, we'd vote for that today. There's no problem. We would vote on that today. That's been Labor's position from the start. Stage 1 is the only area where there is such urgency. In relation to step 1 itself, the low- and middle-income tax offset, being a rebate, doesn't take effect until 1 July 2019, so that can be voted on anytime next financial year. The government can provide notice. The government can provide certainty. There's no real issue about certainty, and the government knows that. There is no urgency in relation to step 1. The change to the threshold can retrospectively be changed by the tax commissioner. There is no urgency.
Let's consider the argument put by the government about certainty. I interjected when Senator Birmingham was talking about certainty, because he knows and I know that there is very little certainty in three of his core funding areas. Early childhood education: where's the certainty there? They can't even get sufficient families to register in the system. It's going to be an enormous mess next month when it becomes so clear that there are so many families missing out on their support for child care. School education: I have said time and time again that schools cannot plan their funding for next year. This is an enormous problem. This is a bigger issue of certainty than what is proposed with this tax issue. Higher education: the higher education bill is the third bill after this one. There is enormous uncertainty for higher education institutions about what circumstances will operate next year. They don't know how many future higher education places they can offer Australian students. These are the issues that lack certainty.
There is no credibility at all to suggest that certainty is the justification for this stunt. This stunt is an enormous dummy spit because the government lost stage 3. Step 3 of their tax plan has been rejected by this chamber in the committee consideration so far, and this is a dummy spit by the Leader of the Government in the Senate because this chamber acted. Don't remove your capacity to continue to act just because the Leader of the Government in the Senate is throwing a dummy spit or having a big sook.
Let me say again: Labor supports step 1. We would vote on that today if it would be facilitated, but of course it won't, because they're holding Australians to ransom for tax benefits for the top 20 per cent. Step 2 doesn't come into effect until 1 July 2022, 48 months away. Step 3 doesn't come into effect until 1 July 2024, 72 months away.