Monday, 5 February 2018
Questions without Notice
My question is to the Minister representing the Prime Minister, Senator Cormann—and could I also add my congratulations to your elevation to leader of the Senate. On Sunday, when asked why wage growth is as low as two per cent when company profits have grown 20 per cent, the Prime Minister said, 'I don't accept the validity of that description.' What does the Prime Minister think is invalid—the Australian Bureau of Statistics' measure of growth at two per cent or its measure of company profit growth at 20 per cent?
I thank Senator Cameron. I watched that same interview, and the journalist quite strangely put the proposition to the Prime Minister that there had been no wages growth. That was of course patently false. We have had wages growth of two per cent—above inflation, above CPI—and the Prime Minister made the accurate point that as you continue to have growth, as you continue to have a situation where a business is more successful and more profitable and has to compete for workers in the Australian economy, then obviously the laws of supply and demand mean that wages will increase by more.
You've got to remember, we inherited the situation where the unemployment rate was heading to in excess of 6¼ per cent, to the point where the shadow Treasurer said, in his Press Club speech after we won the election, that one of the three measures of economic success for this government would be whether we could keep the unemployment rate below 6.25 per cent. Guess what: it's at 5.5 per cent. And part of the reason why we've been able to keep the unemployment rate comparably low is because of flexibility in the labour market. That means that wages have grown by less than they have in the past. The alternative would've been a higher unemployment rate, but we are—
Mr President, a point of order on relevance—I did ask specifically about the Australian Bureau of Statistics' measure of wage growth at two per cent or whether it was the measure of company profit growth at 20 per cent. The minister has not gone near those issues.
Thank you very much, Mr President. I was directly addressing the question. Wages have been growing, and we expect them to grow by more in the years ahead—in particular, if the Senate supports the government's proposal to reduce business taxes for all businesses to 25 per cent, because it will help incentivise businesses to invest more in their productivity. It will help ensure that more profitable and more successful businesses can hire more Australians and pay them better wages. And as more profitable businesses have to compete for fewer and fewer workers in the Australian economy, as excess labour in the market reduces, of course wages pressure will increase. I'm sure that is something that Senator Cameron, as a former union leader, understands very well. I'm certain Senator Cameron understands very well that if you have less supply of labour and more demand then prices will go up. (Time expired)
Well, wages growth has actually been increasing, so I don't accept the premise of the question. And the other point I would make is the same as the one I made in response to Senator Collins, and that is that taxes under the coalition will always be lower than under the Labor Party. People across Australia know that if Labor were to come back—
Senator Wong interjecting—
Well, Labor went into the last election promising more than $160 billion in additional taxes, and even then the budget was worse off. They went to the last election promising higher taxes and a bigger deficit. How do you do that? By more spending. So, we don't take any lessons from the Labor Party when it comes to tax policy. Our commitment is to keep taxes as low as possible, to make sure that they are raised in the most efficient, least-distorting and appropriately equitable way, because the Australian people expect us to raise only as much as necessary—as little as possible, as much as necessary—and to raise it in the best possible way to ensure that businesses across Australia can be successful and hire more Australians. (Time expired)
Why is the Prime Minister giving big business a $65 billion tax cut while company profits have grown by 20 per cent? Isn't it clear that under the Turnbull government working- and middle-class Australians will always lose out to the interests of big business?
Repeating a lie again and again doesn't make it the truth. There is no $65 billion tax cut for big business—as Senator Cameron would well know, because he was in the chamber when we voted on it. Nearly half of the 10-year enterprise tax plan will add to small and medium-size businesses, and that has already been legislated by this Senate. Small and medium-size businesses across Australia are waiting to see whether Labor will jack up taxes on them and the people they employ, or what their position is going to be. Right now in relation to half of this there's actually no Labor Party position, as far as I'm aware. So Senator Cameron should really desist from misleading the Senate and misleading, through the Senate, the Australian people there. There is no $65 billion tax cut for big business.