Thursday, 4 July 2019
Treasury Laws Amendment (Tax Relief So Working Australians Keep More Of Their Money) Bill 2019; Second Reading
These tax cuts put money back into people's pockets. That's what it comes down to. It's not perfect. It's not a total shocker either. It's going to help, but it's not going to help everyone. I've spoken to the government, and I've told them my concerns about the Treasury Laws Amendment (Tax Relief So Working Australians Keep More Of Their Money) Bill 2019. I've told them that tax cuts don't help people who aren't able to find a job in the first place or people who are sleeping in their cars or in their tents in Tasmania. I've told them that, if you really care about taking the foot off the throat of people who are doing it tough, you can't ignore those people doing it toughest of all.
Tasmanians have a higher proportion of historic public housing debt than anywhere else, and we have thousands of people who need housing. The list is growing every year, and every year we get a cheque to start to chip away at that list of people who need our help. Instead of putting that money to good use, we split it and send half of it straight back to Canberra. Half of our social housing budget is sent back to Canberra. We have a housing crisis in Tasmania, and we're fighting it with one hand behind our backs. It's not good enough. It's so unfair. It's time we called time on this debt.
People raise their eyebrows at the budget cost of these tax cuts. Tell me what you think about the human cost of telling a homeless single mum that she has nowhere to sleep tonight because Canberra needs that housing money more than she does. I'm not saying everything about this bill is perfect, and I'm not saying that it's going to fix every problem people are experiencing. I'm just saying that if you ask me to choose between helping someone and helping nobody, I know what I'm going to choose every single time—just as sure as day follows night.
The tax cuts we're dealing with should be dealt with on their own merits, not on the deals or sweeteners that come attached. I'm not going to vote away my integrity for anything, because it's all I've got in this place. I'm voting with the government on this bill for what it does, because, on balance, we need something more than what we're seeing out there. I didn't rush into making this decision. I heard the arguments from all sides. I've heard the argument that this tax cut will mean cuts to services. Let's remember that every tax cut reduces the amount of money available to be spent by governments, not just the ones you don't like. Just about everybody in parliament is in favour of two of the three stages of the tax cuts except the Greens, who apparently think people earning $1,000 a week should be paying more tax, not less. When I follow the logic, if everyone here agrees, we should have some service cuts to go along with our tax cuts. What we're really debating is how deep those cuts should go. I don't believe that that's what we're debating, though, and I reckon nobody else here thinks that either, which shows that there's something broken about that logic.
In the meantime, the economy is really struggling. Tasmania's small businesses are practically dragging customers off the streets and into their stores. Those customers don't have money in their pockets either, because the jobs aren't there. I don't have to imagine what $1,000 would do for those struggling businesses and those struggling families and I don't have to imagine what a struggling economy would look like six years from now, because, from where I'm looking, the economy is struggling now. Come see my neck of the woods in Tasmania, and I'll show you why this bill matters so much. People need this tax cut out there, and they need it yesterday.
I've been told that we shouldn't lock in tax cuts years from now because we don't know what the economy will look like then. Can I just say that I hear all the time that people hate the way politicians never do anything or have a vision about the long-term future of this country. Now we've got a chance to do something beyond the short term, and everyone's saying that because we don't know what the world will be like in five years time we shouldn't do anything until we get there. If the economy gets worse between now and then, as this has, it takes a week to change the tax rates. If, in six years time, the economy can't handle a huge tax cut, then people expect their politicians to say so, be up-front and be honest. If the risk is too big to justify, people will understand rolling it back or putting it on hold for the time being.
The only way you can think that the worst bits of this tax bill are permanent is if you believe that nobody in this place can do the right thing and the responsible thing. I'm not prepared to give up on the possibility that parliament can show a little bit of guts and do the right thing when the time is right. I'm not prepared to walk away from tax cuts for low-income workers starting next week simply because we don't know if we'll be able to afford tax cuts for everybody else five years from now. If we can't afford it then, we don't go ahead; it is that simple. But I'll tell you what we can't afford to do either: we can't afford to leave people out to dry by blocking every part of this tax cut. People in Tasmania need this money to make ends meet. While all of this bill is being voted on today, not all of it is coming into effect today. In reality, it's more like something now or nothing now—something for those people struggling on low incomes, who are staring down another year without a pay rise for the blue-collar worker. That's something that makes a huge difference to me, I can assure you.