Senate debates

Tuesday, 27 September 2022

Questions without Notice: Take Note of Answers


3:57 pm

Photo of Andrew BraggAndrew Bragg (NSW, Liberal Party) Share this | Hansard source

It's a real pleasure to be able to make some comments on this matter coming out of question time. Of course, question time is generally, in my view, one of the greatest wastes of public funds, because it's a theatre. It is a pretty contrived process, and all these additional questions and whatnot are pretty low-rent stuff, aren't they? But it is important that we in this chamber do our best to hold the government to account, and it is a pretty weak government. It has very few policies, and it already wants to crab-walk away from its promises on the economy.

There's a pretty important philosophical difference of views between the major parties, and that is that on this side we believe that the government has no money on its own. The money that it is able to spend it levies from the people and from organisations like corporations which are required to pay tax under the tax laws. The lower taxes are, the greater the chance is that you will have private investment. Private investment is what is required to create opportunities and employment in this country, and what we're now seeing is the spectre of higher taxes being flagged and dripped out through the financial press in the lead-up to this budget. We've already seen the Treasurer giving very lukewarm support to stage 3 tax cuts, which is very interesting and illuminating, you'd have to say, but perhaps not surprising, because I'm sure that the government actually don't believe in the stage 3 tax cuts, because they've never really been committed to aspiration.

The point of the stage 3 tax cuts is really to do two things. The first is to reward middle-income earners by ensuring that they are not pushed into higher tax brackets. It might suit the budgetary and fiscal strategy of the government of the day to have higher tax collection because of bracket creep. But cutting taxes for middle-income earners by removing these tax brackets and thereby delivering the removal, effectively, of bracket creep means that people can actually keep more money that they've earned. So, if you do another shift or you do some more hours or you do something else in relation to paid employment, you keep the money, not Canberra. I would have thought that that's a pretty reasonable proposition. For middle-income earners—on 60, 70 or 80 grand a year—that is what they will be facing. They would have faced higher taxes due to new tax thresholds, which we've abolished. The tax thresholds have been abolished as a result of the stage 3 tax cuts.

But the other point—and I know it's not fashionable—is that we actually do want to be a competitive economy. We want to attract high wage earners into this country, because we have massive skills shortages. You want to have a song and dance and have a skills summit and talk about how you want to improve our economic capacity. But every person who runs a company in this country will tell you that in the short term some of the skills can't be delivered from the domestic stock. So, we need to bring people in, and we have a very uncompetitive tax system. At a very low level of income, the highest possible tax threshold kicks in. It is very uncompetitive when compared with the systems of Singapore, Japan and countries that we are competing with right now in our time zone or close to our time zone. So, if you want to reward middle-income earners and you want to be a competitive, dynamic economy, then you need to retain the stage 3 tax cuts.

Of course, the other spectre we're now looking at is the return of the dreaded franking credits tax, whereby, as Senator Canavan has set out quite eloquently, people will be facing double taxation. They've already paid taxation. The companies have paid taxation. And now they'll be looking at the return of a new tax in retirement which has not been taken to any election. So, although I'm not a huge fan of question time, it's very important that we use question time to ensure that we don't foist new taxes on the Australian people. We don't want to see new income taxes or higher income taxes, and we certainly don't want a see new retirement taxes or savings taxes.


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