Senate debates

Tuesday, 26 June 2018

Matters of Public Importance

Income Tax

4:32 pm

Photo of Scott RyanScott Ryan (President) Share this | | Hansard source

I inform the Senate that at 8.30 am today two proposals were received in accordance with standing order 75. The question of which proposal would be submitted to the Senate was determined by lot. As a result, I inform the Senate that the following letter has been received from Senator Collins:

Pursuant to standing order 75, I propose that the following matter of public importance be submitted to the Senate for discussion:

Putting health and education ahead of a $7,000 a year tax cut for investment bankers and a $17 billion tax cut for the banks they work for.

Is the proposal supported?

More than the number of senators required by the standing orders having risen in their places—

I understand that informal arrangements have been made to allocate specific time to each of the speakers in today's debate. With the concurrence of the Senate I shall ask the clerks to set the clock accordingly.

4:33 pm

Photo of Murray WattMurray Watt (Queensland, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

This debate is about something that we've been talking about very often over the course of this sitting week and last sitting week, and that is the government's outrageous proposals to give further tax cuts to the wealthiest people in our community and to big banks and big business in general. I think it's well known by now the kinds of figures we've been talking about, because we have talked about them quite a lot over the last week or two.

Let's just revisit what occurred in this chamber last week, where we had a gaggle of coalition senators, supported by One Nation and Centre Alliance senators and a few other Independents, who ganged up to give themselves a $7,000 tax cut while they were willing to give only a measly few hundred dollars to low- and middle-income earners. There's the hypocrisy of government and One Nation senators in doing that. I particularly want to single out the National Party senators and One Nation senators, who do come down here to Canberra and claim that they represent some of the poorest people in our community, particularly in rural and regional areas. Yet what they did last week was take instructions yet again from Liberal Party representatives, who represent some of the wealthiest parts of the country, and effectively handed over their votes and their own constituents' taxes and services to fund a massive tax cut for themselves, among other wealthy business owners.

As this motion states, the other effect of that debate last week and the legislation put through last week was that government senators, with One Nation senators and others, also provided a $7,000-a-year tax cut not only for themselves but for merchant bankers and investment bankers—the kinds of people who don't need that sort of assistance from this government. We all know that the way that's being funded is by continuing to cut funding to regional and rural services: hospitals, schools, TAFEs, apprenticeships, roads and transport. They're the kinds of things that this government is cutting, all to pay for $7,000-a-year tax cuts for investment bankers and the members of parliament who voted for these tax cuts.

We have another opportunity this week for National Party senators and One Nation party senators to demonstrate who they really stand for. Are they really on the side of battlers, as they claim when they're back in their electorates, or are they actually on the side of the billionaires who will benefit from these tax cuts? We know that, at some point in this week, a debate is going to come on, finally, for whether we should be providing another massive tax cut for the biggest businesses in Australia, including $17 billion for the banks.

We've seen from Senator Hanson flip-flopping around for months now on whether she will support these company tax cuts. I've lost count of the number of times that Senator Hanson has changed her position. She was originally going to vote against these tax cuts for big business, then she was voting for them. Then she was back to voting against them, then she was voting for them. She had another chat with Twiggy Forrest and she was voting for them, and then she went back to Queensland and told people that she was voting against them.

It's 4.37 pm on Tuesday, 26 June, and the current One Nation position is to vote against these company tax cuts. But you have to wonder why it is that yesterday, when Senator Hanson and Senator Georgiou were presented with an opportunity to bring on the debate to stop these company tax cuts from going ahead, they dogged it. Yet again, they voted with the government senators because that's just what they do. They don't use their own minds. They don't think about what people in Queensland or people in Western Australia think about company tax cuts. All they do is run up to Senator Cormann and his colleagues and say, 'Where do I put up my hand? Tell me what to do and I'll do it for you,' and, yet again, they sell out the battlers they say they represent.

At some point this week, they are going to be tested. At some point this week, the colour of their money is going to be tested and we will see, once and for all, whether they are for the big banks and big business or whether they actually do want to get behind better services for regional and rural Australians, not to mention people in electorates like Longman. We all know there's going to be a by-election in Longman in the coming weeks, as there will be in Braddon and other seats around Australia. As I've said to this chamber before, with the doorknocking I've been doing in Longman—I don't know whether Senator Hanson has had an opportunity to get out and doorknock in Longman; I know she's been in the electorate, but whether she's actually spoken to any voters on their doorsteps is another matter—there are not many people out there crying for big tax cuts for the big banks. Instead, they want to see this money put into their local hospitals and their local schools, and into giving pensioners and other working people a fair go. Let's hope they come through when the vote's on.

4:38 pm

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

I rise today to speak on the matter of public importance introduced to this place by our colleague from Victoria, Senator Collins. She wishes us to discuss 'putting health and education ahead of a $7,000 a year tax cut for investment bankers and a $17 billion tax cut for the banks they work for'. What a pleasure it is to receive the opportunity to stand in this chamber and speak of the government's record and priorities. The Turnbull government is, in fact, the only side of politics that will fully fund the essential services that all Australians rely on. Only a growing economy that fuels growth and job creation, combined with prudent fiscal management, reining in the profligacy of Labor governments past, will ensure that essential services like education, Medicare, hospitals and the NDIS can be guaranteed.

The education reforms introduced by the coalition to this place—reforms that deliver record funding to schools year on year and that the Labor Party voted against—are in fact game changing. The coalition's Quality Schools reform delivers an additional $23.5 billion on top of the 2016 budget for Australian schools over the next decade. We'll ensure that the investment is distributed according to need, as originally envisaged by David Gonski's review of school funding in 2011. The coalition reforms ensure that students with the same need and within the same sector attract the same support from the Commonwealth government, regardless of where they live. These are real, committed dollars, needs based and fully funded.

The coalition has guaranteed Medicare and the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme with legislation. They are guaranteed in legislation. It has established the Medicare Guarantee Fund to ensure the ongoing funding of these essential activities. Over 86 per cent of GP visits were bulk-billed last year—21 million more than in Labor's last year. Hospital funding is now at record levels, increasing from $13.3 billion in 2013-14 to a record $22.7 billion in 2020-21—that's a 70 per cent increase. After this date, with the coalition's new national hospitals agreement, the government has committed to an additional $30.2 billion in public hospital funding for 2020-21 to 2024-25, taking the overall investment during this period to $130.2 billion. This means more hospital services, more doctors and more nurses, with increased funding year on year for every state and territory.

For the 13 million Australians who rely on private health insurance, the coalition has taken steps to lower premium rises and to make private health insurance more affordable and easier to understand. Our No Jab, No Pay policy resulted in 210 extra children immunised in its first year, and 12 to 13-year-olds will now be immunised for HPV. To help the one-in-five Australians who have mental health problems, the coalition government has increased mental health funding to around $4.3 billion this year. The 2018 budget also includes $1.4 billion for new and amended listings to the PBS, including medicines to treat spinal muscular atrophy, breast cancer and relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis. That is guaranteed. That is where the coalition's priorities lie. Of course, the coalition government is the only side of politics that can guarantee a fully-funded NDIS without more or punitive taxes.

That's what economic management and fiscal responsibility can do: more and better guaranteed essential services for all Australians without the burden of higher taxes. The electorates know it. They can feel it in their hip pockets. They can see it in the numbers of job ads. They can hear it when they talk to their friends, their neighbours and their workmates.

It's only Labor who have not so much a tin ear but have turned a blind eye to these facts. They are in denial. They are doing this because they're starting to doubt themselves. They're starting to doubt their own policies. Why aren't they resonating with Australian workers anymore? How could Labor be, potentially, the first party ever to lose a by-election to a government? What an awful, sick feeling that must be. Labor are starting to doubt their own rhetoric. Why do they sound so bitter? 'Why do we sound so bitter and envious of anybody that's had a go and done well? What base element of our nature is it that makes us want to slash the sickle of socialism through every tall poppy in the country?'

Most of all, Deputy President, you're starting to doubt your leader. We can see why you would do that. It's so easy to do. After all, it wasn't all that long ago that Mr Shorten himself believed in company taxes. We've heard the quotes over and over again in this chamber, from Mr Shorten himself, from Mr Bowen, from Mr Leigh, from Mr Hawke and from Mr Keating. There are a number of Labor ministers, past and present, who believe in the power of company tax cuts to reinvigorate an economy and help businesses grow, invest and employ.

Indeed, the seeds of doubt in Labor's political strategy have been sown for some time. And now they have moved inexorably beyond green shoots, well into discontent and the triffids of dissent and disloyalty. While Mr Shorten spent the weekend spewing forth invective at the members of the crossbench who supported leaving more money in Australians' hip pockets, the member for Grayndler was extolling the virtues of cooperation between companies, government and business. This is to his credit, that there is one respectable member of the Australian Labor Party who understands the business community's vital role in society.

Mr Albanese's Whitlam Oration implored his Labor colleagues:

… to engage constructively with business large and small.

He reminded his colleagues:

We respect and celebrate the importance of individual enterprise and the efforts and importance of the business community.

I'm not exactly sure who the member for Grayndler meant when he said 'we' in that sentence. Far from respecting the efforts and the enterprise of the business community, Mr Shorten continues to paint those hardworking business owners as pariahs. He has all but declared that should he become Prime Minister he will wage a war on business. Of course, we've seen that nowhere more effectively than today: the mistrust was amplified and justified today, topped off by the announcement that Mr Shorten will repeal the company tax cuts. He will roll back company tax cuts, and that decision did not go to caucus. It didn't go to shadow cabinet or to the Expenditure Review Committee. It was a captain's call. No wonder Labor are worried.

The opposition's hatred of banks is so convenient, yet so misguided. Of course, it is largely theatrical. Surely, Labor must know that the banks to which they refer are already Australia's four biggest payers of corporate tax—and this is well before the bank levy. Moreover, the banks employ more than 170,000 employees—170,000! The average bank teller earns $48,000, the average personal banker earns $55,000 and the average mortgage broker earns $59,000. This is not the top end of town and yet this is who Labor will punish. There are 170,000 of them, and Labor treats them like greedy crooks. Well, shame on them!

The opposition leader's wish is to have a class warfare election, where he pits one Australian against the other. Well, what disrespect and what disdain he must have for those he wishes to govern. But it applies equally to all of those opposite. Don't they feel grubby when they hear the lies they're told that they have to peddle? Don't they feel the shame when they're sent out time and time again, like some luckless boxer into the ring, with talking points which are fully loaded with personal insults—or worse, dripping with sneering derision towards hardworking Australians whose only crime is to have made good?

Labor may make hollow promises of more money for this and increased billions for that, but redistributing the wealth of others rather than growing the wealth for all is intellectually lazy and irresponsible in the extreme. It's no secret that Labor has no plan to grow the economy, no plan to increase wages and no plan to create jobs. Moreover, Labor has no shame. Where is the pride in the party it once was? Mr Shorten will lead this opposition from nowhere to obscurity because it has defenestrated its history, it has defenestrated its values and its credibility, and now it has thrown away its relevance to ordinary, aspirational Australians. It mystifies me!

4:48 pm

Photo of Nick McKimNick McKim (Tasmania, Australian Greens) Share this | | Hansard source

It felt like the thesaurus got a bit of a workout when that speech was being drafted!

Having helped themselves to a massive personal tax cut last week, the Liberals are now trying to look after their big corporate mates and donors by giving them a whopping great tax cut this week. Let's be really clear about what's actually at stake here. Fundamentally, what are we discussing and debating when we talk about corporate tax cuts?

What is at stake here is the question of what kind of country we want to be and what kind of society we want in Australia. Do we want to be the kind of country where people look after each other? The Greens say, resoundingly, 'Yes, that is the kind of country we should be.' When we ask ourselves, 'Do we want quality public services, quality hospitals, quality schools, quality public transport and quality social security nets for those doing it tough?' the Australian Greens answer, resoundingly, 'Yes'.

When we ask ourselves, 'Do we want the big corporates, who donate so massively to both the Liberal and National parties in this place, to pay a reasonable return to our society on the huge profits they are making?' the Australian Greens resoundingly answer, 'Yes'. Or do we want what the Liberals are proposing—to cut these corporations free of the very basic obligations that many of them are actually failing to meet right now? Do we want to hand over more power to the corporate boardrooms, bought by the corporate donations that are corrupting our democracy? The Australian Greens answer, 'No'. Do we want to leave vulnerable people out in the cold, like the homeless people in my home city of Hobart, who are camping out at showgrounds now because they can't find a house—and many of these people are working full-time and they can't find a house because the Liberal government in Tasmania has not taken strong enough action and invested enough money into social and affordable housing? When we ask ourselves, 'Do we want to leave vulnerable people out in the cold?' the Australian Greens answer, 'No'. Those are the questions that are currently before this parliament.

The Liberal Party made their choice many years ago and their decisions are hurting us all and they are devastating the environment. The Liberal Party have been instrumental in taking power away from people and putting it into the hands of the corporate boardrooms and their corporate masters, who buy and sell the Liberal Party with their massive corporate donations. The big corporates buy the Liberal Party in donations and, in turn, the Liberal Party come in here and cut the taxes of the big corporations so that the top end of town can put more money into their own pockets. That's exactly what will happen if these corporate tax cuts are passed.

The people of Braddon, in my home state of Tasmania, know all about it—my word they do! There are corporations on the north-west coast that have cut jobs in Braddon and have cut the working conditions of thousands of people in the north-west of Tasmania—the very same big corporates that the Liberal Party wants to give a giant tax cut to. Meanwhile, if you're one of the people sacked by these corporations, you get nothing but disdain and contempt from the Liberal Party. Newstart hasn't been raised in more than 20 years—nearly a full generation—and the minimum wage in this country is far, far too low. Instead of acting on those things, the government tries to recover debts from people who either don't have enough money to pay them or who, in many cases, did nothing wrong and incurred no debt in the first place. It's enough to make you sick, and the people of Braddon have had enough—and the Australian Greens will stand with them.

We're the only party campaigning in Braddon to raise Newstart. We're the only party campaigning in Braddon to make sure that the minimum wage in this country is set at a minimum of 60 per cent of the median income. We'll stand with them. We'll stand for a better society in Australia—the kind of society that demands that the big corporates pay what they owe; a society that looks after the sick as well as the healthy, the old, the young, the poor, people working on the minimum wage and those people who cannot find work. To those people, particularly those people in Braddon, I say: the Australian Greens and our fantastic candidate Jarrod Edwards have got your back.

4:53 pm

Photo of Deborah O'NeillDeborah O'Neill (NSW, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Assistant Minister for Innovation) Share this | | Hansard source

I rise to put on the record for anybody who wasn't watching in the last week a really clear indication of what this government thinks is much more important than the health and education of the people of this nation—and that is giving a $7,000 a year tax cut to investment bankers and taking a $17 billion tax cut away from schools and giving that instead to the big banks. You can see an amazing contrast between the priorities of those who are on the government benches and Labor, who believe that it is not just this generation that should benefit from investing in education but that those who follow on from us should also benefit. Young people in this country should be assured that they are able to get a decent education in any primary school across the country, at any early childhood education centre and at any TAFE. No area of the education sector is safe from the attacks of this government.

Governing is all about priorities—and this government has got all of its priorities wrong. Labor will never support the hugely expensive tax cuts of an arrogant and out-of-touch government. The priority that is driving the agenda of the parliament this week—tax cuts for big business—follows terrible legislation passed last week that will see people who are earning $200,000 get a $7,000 tax cut. They are not knocking on the doors of this place saying, 'Give me a cheque for $7,000 because I can't make ends meet.'

People are coming to this parliament daily—and government members, if they were to tell the truth, would let you know this is the case—saying they cannot access the basic services they need. I met someone at a function last weekend who told me a teenager who is currently seeking treatment for cancer at Penrith hospital has had his treatment delayed because of cuts to that hospital. And it is not just cuts to Penrith hospital and that family; cuts to our health system are being implemented by this government daily, while they are out there spinning a pack of lies to the rest of the community about how they care about hardworking Australians. Well, the facts simply belie what they are telling the Australian people.

I will talk about a couple of hospitals. Broken Hill is a great area of New South Wales. We have a fantastic candidate running in the seat of Parkes, Jack Ayoub, who will be trying to represent that community and help people understand what Labor has to offer. But I can tell you what Labor will not be doing, and that is: endorsing what this government has done. The Far West hospital in Parkes and Broken Hill is subject to a cut of $1.15 million between 2017 and 2020. That is money that hospital can ill afford to lose. Local families in that community and the regions that surround it need that hospital to function. They have concerns about lead levels for young children in that community. They have major concerns about suicide. They have high-risk occupations where they need the capacity of emergency response—and this government is taking $1.15 million from that hospital while they want to give $17 billion to the big banks and pay $7,000, in a tax cut, to somebody on $200,000. It simply doesn't make sense if you believe in an equitable country.

In western New South Wales, between 2017 and 2020, this government will take $2.84 million out of Dubbo hospital. Yet they show up here, they smile and they keep telling people: 'We're looking after you. We've got your back. We'll look after your children. You can entrust the future to us.' Well, we certainly cannot do that. And they are doing that in seats that they hold. In the Treasurer's seat of Cook in south-eastern Sydney, the Sutherland Hospital is subject to $2.38 million worth of cuts.

I have been to headspace centres, the wonderful youth mental health centres across the country—35 of them, in fact, including two in the Sutherland area in the seat of Cook. And I can tell you: there is great concern among the people working with young people in headspace centres about the capacity of the Sutherland Hospital to respond to young people in a mental health crisis and their families. Yet knowing that, and living in that community, Mr Morrison, the Treasurer of this country, has taken $2.83 million off them—and all to cobble together some money so that they can spend it on giving $7,000 to people in that electorate and around the country who are already earning $200,000. Let me tell you: you can earn an awful lot of money but, if your child has a mental health crisis, you need a hospital that is properly funded and you need headspace centres that are properly funded, because you are a vulnerable family. Money will not protect you from sickness. Money will not protect you from cancer coming to your family. Money will not protect you from the need for those basic services. Labor supports the provision of those services and we will support that every day over arbitrary, unnecessary and excessive tax cuts to the top end of town. I don't need another $7,000. I'd rather see that go to my local hospital, because a lot of people will rely on their hospital, and their $7,000, cobbled together with somebody else's $7,000, might just be enough to provide them with the treatment they need for their son or daughter, and that's the difference between Labor and Liberal.

I want to make a couple of remarks around the cuts that have impacted education in this country under this government. I go first to the seat of Farrer, to apprentices trying to access services, trying to access the learning they want to undertake. In the duty electorate that I look after, the seat of Farrer, represented by Minister Ley, our candidate, Kieran Dabsch, sees a community where there has been a 42 per cent decline in apprenticeships between 2013 and 2017. There are 1,691 fewer apprentices in the seat of Hume where Labor's candidate, Aoife Champion, is already out on the ground, under this government, which is cobbling together money as it pulls away services from TAFE to fund $7,000 tax discounts for very wealthy people.

In the seat of Parkes, where Labor's candidate, Jack Ayoub, is already out campaigning, there was a 47 per cent reduction in the number of apprenticeships between September 2013 and September 2017. That's 1,765 people, predominantly young people, in the seat of Parkes who have not had the opportunity to learn the skills in order to get a job and move ahead because of cuts by this government. In the seat of Robertson, where I live on the Central Coast, there are 840 young people, who have a champion in Anne Charlton—Labor's candidate for that seat—whose lives could have been transformed in that period between 2013 and 2017, but they have lost their chance to get an apprenticeship and training because of this government's cuts to education and because of its abrogation of its responsibilities to TAFE. That is the sort of government that we have.

It's in the detail that we see how different the value sets are between the government and a Labor government, if it came into being. I want to put on the record: if a Shorten Labor government were elected, we propose that we would conduct an inquiry into Australia's post-secondary education system—how VET, TAFE and uni intersect. We would scrap up-front fees for 100,000 TAFE students who choose to learn the skills that Australia needs and invest $100 million in modernising TAFE facilities around the country. God knows that needs to happen after the wholesale destruction of TAFE undertaken by Liberal governments across this country, and the leading of that charge by this federal government. We would guarantee that at least two out of three Commonwealth training dollars would go to TAFE. We would ensure that one in every 10 jobs on Commonwealth-priority projects was filled by Australian apprentices. There is a very big difference: $17 billion for the banks or for further education and health. There is a difference between Labor and Liberal. We need a Labor government for this country.

5:03 pm

Photo of Amanda StokerAmanda Stoker (Queensland, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Well, where would the Labor Party be without the banks? Today I read in The Australian a full list of the many millions of dollars worth of property owned by the luminaries of the Labor Party—multiple properties for multiple MPs. But you know what? It's not a problem for me. In fact, I like to see that kind of aspiration, that kind of planning for one's financial future, that kind of effort to get one and one's family ahead. It's fascinating reading because of the sheer hypocrisy of the Labor Party coming in here and attempting to crush the personal aspirations of others, of fighting working Australians who demonstrate all of the traits that built this country and made it strong—a desire to get ahead, make sensible investment decisions, make sacrifices, save, prepare a nest egg for their retirement.

I could be describing the characteristics of Liberal and National Party voters, but these are members of the Labor Party. All, no doubt, are well leveraged with bank loans. But the very bank loans they depend on come from the people they come in here and rant and rave against day after day. They complain on a personal level, because of their competitive position, if there's an increase in fees or charges from banks, but they're happy to sabotage the needs and wants of Australians in their own interests to sandbag their personal political positions to try and get some advantage in here. They're quite happy to grandfather the proposed changes to negative gearing to suit their own personal interests but keep other Australians off that ladder of opportunity that once mattered to the Labor Party. They have now rebranded themselves as the party of envy, the killjoys of other people's aspirations.

I still believe Australia is an aspirational country. Both its history and its present ring with aspiration. But we've got, in the opposition, a bunch of knockers. They don't even represent their own tradition. The genesis of the Labor Party was in the improvement of the lives of hardworking shearers in the sheds, giving them a hand to become a greater contributor to Australian society. But now it's all just a big attempt to divide this nation with the politics of envy. But I'm an optimist. I believe that most of the Labor Party don't agree with this strategy of being relentlessly negative without considering the merits of each policy. So ruthless is their desire to win government that we've seen that Mr Shorten will take any position that he thinks will further that possibility. I've seen the flip-flops year after year, whether by Mr Bowen, Mr Shorten or Mr Leigh. All of them have said that cutting corporate tax is a policy that will bring great benefit to the Australian people. But, then again, if you only stand for your own political interests, really, you value nothing.

Photo of Gavin MarshallGavin Marshall (Victoria, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Senator Stoker, would you just resume your seat. Senator Gallacher, on a point of order?

Photo of Alex GallacherAlex Gallacher (SA, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I've listened carefully to the contribution from Senator Stoker. I refer to the standing order about senators not reading speeches and I ask you to consider that in relation to her contribution.

Photo of Gavin MarshallGavin Marshall (Victoria, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Yes, thank you, Senator Gallacher. Senator Stoker, there is a standing order against reading speeches; however, I'm sure you're just using copious notes, so feel free to continue.

Photo of Amanda StokerAmanda Stoker (Queensland, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Thank you, Mr Acting Deputy President. I'm happy to accommodate the needs—

Senator O'Sullivan interjecting

How about this? We'll focus on a few facts and figures that demonstrate that, in this matter of public interest, we have nothing more than an exercise in divisiveness. The truth is that the strong economy that tax cuts for individuals and for corporations delivers empowers this government to deliver essential services. That's the good news here. When we cut corporate taxes, we increase investment, we increase job creation, we tighten the labour market, we raise wages and we increase the welfare and the wealth of all Australians. In doing so, we have more Australians contributing to revenue.

This allows us to make great investments like spending 53 per cent more in Longman than was the case under the previous Labor government. Don't believe the Labor lies you'll see on the leaflets being peddled around Longman. Funding for Caboolture Hospital and the health district around there is up 53 per cent. Yet over and over we hear Labor lies about funding of hospitals in Longman. It's shameful. We heard more of this class-envy nonsense today from Mr Shorten. We heard that there will be a repeal of the tax cuts that were delivered to small and medium-size businesses with a turnover of between $10 million and $50 million. There's even going to be a reconsideration of the cutting of taxes to businesses with a turnover of just $2 million, without a shred of consultation with the party room. I know I'd be very frustrated if that was how my party was run.

Nothing is sacred in the effort to divide this nation—to try to make people turn against one another—based on some formulation of envy. The truth that cuts through all this class rhetoric is that, even with the benefit of the coalition's tax cuts delivered last week, the top four per cent of earners today pay 30 per cent of tax now, but under the coalition's plan, fully implemented, they will pay 36 per cent of tax revenue. In fact, the burden on those who earn more will only increase. That reflects the fact that we not only have to cut taxes for all across the board in order to unlock the economic potential of this country but are doing it in a way that recognises the fact that there are many people on small and medium-size incomes who are doing it tough. While a person who earns $30,000 will pay around $2,200 in tax, which is about seven per cent of their income, someone earning $200,000 will pay $67,000 in tax, or around 34 per cent of their income. Any way you dice that up, the person who's earning $200,000 is paying their share. They're paying about five times the amount of tax being paid by the person on $30,000.

It's all well and good for the opposition to come in here and talk about this magic number of $7,000. But the truth is that you need to be paying a certain amount of tax in order to even make a cut of that nature possible. We can't give a $7,000 tax cut to those earning $30,000, because they pay only $2,200. We have so equitably distributed the tax cuts in this measure that it can only be in the interests of all Australians and of the Australian economy as a whole that we continue to press on and deliver more for all Australians, including essential services.

5:12 pm

Photo of Pauline HansonPauline Hanson (Queensland, Pauline Hanson's One Nation Party) Share this | | Hansard source

It's quite interesting to listen to some of the debate here on the floor of the chamber today. Last Wednesday, 20 June, I set out the reasons I supported personal tax cuts. Let me repeat that: personal tax cuts. It was because I wanted to see all hardworking Australians receive tax relief into the future, and it's going to be a rebate for the next four years for them. It's quite interesting that Labor did not want to give their voters—their supporters—this tax cut. My colleague Senator Georgiou and I actually considered a number of issues. We looked carefully at different occupations and the number of individuals who would or would not benefit from each stage of the personal tax cuts. I reminded Labor that tens of thousands of electricians, plumbers, nurses, secondary school teachers, mechanics and welders earn more than $90,000 and would miss out on a permanent tax cut if Labor opposed stage 2. I don't know why they weren't advised properly about this. They did not want to give these people tax relief or tax cuts.

In today's MPI debate, Labor were once again twisting and changing this to justify their position. What they're putting across to the Australian people is wrong. They're saying that it's only going to be the big end of town, the investment bankers, that will benefit from this $7,000 tax cut. But they're not looking at those people who earn up to the $200,000 who are going to get tax relief. I say now: Australians need it. They are doing it tough, they really are. But they want to cut back on them getting any incentives whatsoever.

It was wonderful here: Senator O'Neill was saying that she doesn't want the $7,000 and that she's going to donate it to a hospital. I'd like to see that happen. I remember last year in the chamber here, when there was a vote that we do not accept our pay rises until the budget is in surplus. Guess what? On this side of the chamber, only six people voted for it. One Nation was there. Where was everyone else? Over there! Where was Labor? There, on the other side of the chamber. They weren't interested; they voted themselves pay rises. The hypocrisy of the whole lot of them makes me, and Australians, fed up. So don't deny other Australians tax relief or rebates when you want to take your own pay packets!

I've donated my $4,000 to the Young Veterans at Caboolture. I've actually donated money to on Meals on Wheels and I've donated to veterans' associations, and that's worth a lot more than the $7,000 that you say is the tax cut that I'm giving to myself. Those tax cuts, up to that amount of money, don't come in until 2024-25. The whole fact is, who's to say that I'm going to be here to get the tax cuts? It's all right for you to dish it out but you're not prepared to take it back.

What did Labor do? The day following my speech supporting personal tax cuts, Labor commenced a rabid campaign against me in an attempt to cover the massive blunder they had made by not supporting tax cuts for their heartland workers. Labor robocalled Longman voters with the message that I had voted for the big end of town, which was understood by callers to my office to mean that I had already voted in respect of the government's proposal to give all companies tax cuts. They did not tell the truth to the people. It was nothing to do with the company tax cuts, and I have made that quite clear. One Nation will not be supporting company tax cuts. So I haven't flip-flopped. I said no originally, then I said yes. Then I have said no, and I've stuck to it.

Do you know what's wrong, Mr Acting Deputy President Marshall? Bill Shorten wanted company tax cuts years ago. But Bill Shorten has changed his opinion now and said he won't give them, and so have a lot of the others on the other side. I have taken a well-managed approach to this. I will look at legislation and if I decide it's wrong I'm not going to apologise for backing down and saying it's wrong.

5:17 pm

Photo of Chris KetterChris Ketter (Queensland, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I rise to join this debate in relation to putting health and education ahead of the tax cuts.

Just firstly, I will address Senator Hanson's contribution. I think it's really important to note that, once again, she may be slightly confused about the Labor position. It's quite clear that Labor has indicated it would support stage 1 of the Personal Income Tax Plan. We wanted to split the bill. In fact, the tax cuts that we wanted to introduce were actually double those that the government is proposing. We understand that households are under pressure, and the relief that we want to provide is far more immediate and more significant than what the government is proposing. But what we don't want to do is to provide relief to the big end of town, where it's not needed and where it won't provide the stimulus to the economy that is actually required at this point in time.

Australia is at a crossroads, and we can either become a more equal society or a less equal society, the choice is with us. I think it is extremely important that Australians understand this crossroads that we are at, and this is a matter of public importance. I say that because I believe that the government is putting us in a position where their fiscal recklessness is endangering the underpinnings of our fair and equitable society.

Health and education are fundamental to the support that we provide to people. It's fundamental to aspiration. If you put those things at risk, then you are ultimately putting the stability of our society at risk. Why do I say those things are at risk? Because I believe, and as credible economic commentators have said, that stage 2 and stage 3 of the personal income tax cuts are particularly unsustainable and fiscally irresponsible. You don't have to believe me when I say that; go to the Grattan Institute submission to the Senate Economics Legislation Committee inquiry into the Personal Income Tax Plan. I think most people would accept that the Grattan Institute is not exactly a cheer squad for the Labor Party, but it has come to a position where it says it is concerned about the Personal Income Tax Plan, particularly stage 3. Mr Daley, when he gave evidence to our inquiry, said:

Six or seven years is a very long time and, economically, the chances of a significant economic downturn over the next six or seven years are pretty large—that's the law of averages historically.

He went on to say:

Inherently, the full package is going to cost the budget, on our estimates, a little over $22 billion in 2027-28.

That was based on the PBO estimates. He added it was going to cost 'about $24 billion in the following year', which is 2028-29. He then said:

It does mean that the Commonwealth budget will inherently have less flexibility in a significant downturn. And it's also an issue that Australia is going to probably go into the next economic downturn with much less of a buffer than it went into the last one.

This is the Grattan Institute. As I said, they're not exactly a cheer squad for the Labor Party, but they have expressed their serious concerns about whether or not these tax cuts are sustainable in the longer term. Most Australians understand that when you legislate significant changes down the track—we know stage 3 is the fastest-growing part of the tax plan, growing at 12 per cent per annum—and when you legislate for significant tax expenditure down the track that is going to grow at that sort of pace, then you are taking a gamble with Australia's future. At risk here is support for our health and education and other fundamental services that we rely on.

It's now, more than ever, that Australians need the protection that only a Labor government can provide. Right now our schools are under attack from this arrogant, out-of-touch Prime Minister, who is prioritising tax breaks to the top end of town over funding to our schools. With his Liberal-National colleagues, he is ripping $17 billion out of schools across the country. Is it a coincidence that this figure is exactly the same amount of money that he wants to provide to his mates in big business through tax breaks to the big banks? These are the same mates that this Prime Minister has shielded for so long, running a protection racket for the banks for 601 days before ultimately being dragged, kicking and screaming, into announcing a royal commission into the banks—once they gave him permission to do so.

How does this Prime Minister justify his protection of the banks? How can he possibly be advocating for billions and billions of dollars in tax handouts to the banks while we're in the middle of a royal commission that's uncovering such abhorrent behaviour? Here are just a couple of the headlines we have seen recently. The Financial Review reported yesterday about how ANZ forced 162 farmers from their land after expanding into agribusiness without adequate preparation or safeguards. On 31 May, we saw a Sydney Morning Herald article reporting revelations that NAB took proceeds from a customer's home sale, which they weren't entitled to, to pay down a small business loan. On 30 April, ABC News, along with many other outlets, reported the resignation of AMP's chairman in the wake of the shocking fee-for-no-service scandal—a dodgy practice also employed by the big banks. It's not just AMP that has to answer for this, but I haven't got all day and so I won't dwell on that issue. On 21 March, the AFR reported evidence that Westpac relied on verification of customer income and expenditure details by car dealers for car loans. Let's not forget the doctoring of kids' Dollarmite accounts by Commonwealth Bank staff who were under pressure to meet incentive targets. This is the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the behaviours being exposed by the royal commission, so how can we possibly reward the very same institutions with a tax cut?

When it comes to the education system, we believe that it has transformative power. I've said this in the chamber before, but I want to give a few examples of what these cuts mean in real terms to some of the schools in my duty electorates. I mention Maranoa, where we see that Warwick State High School will lose $770,000, Warwick West State School will lose $440,000 and Warwick Central State School will lose $240,000. Let's go to Flynn, currently held by Mr O'Dowd, a National MP. Gladstone State High School will lose $1.35 million over two years. Toolooa State High School will lose $870,000. Gladstone Central State School will lose $300,000. Gladstone West State School will lose $570,000. Closer to my home in Brisbane, looking at the outer suburbs, in Petrie and Dickson, held by Liberal MPs Mr Howarth and Mr Dutton respectively, Pine Rivers State High School has had $1.06 million ripped out of the budget, North Lakes State College will lose $2½ million and Dakabin State High School will lose $730,000.

I want to go through what these cuts mean in the Longman electorate, which is very topical. I have had the opportunity on a couple of occasions to go doorknocking with our outstanding candidate Susan Lamb in the seat of Longman. You don't have to talk too hard to the average voters of Longman to understand how out of touch this Prime Minister is and how out of touch this government are in terms of what their priorities are, which are twisted and so far removed from the day-to-day lives of the good people of Longman. In Longman state schools, we see the LNP cutting over $18 million over the next two years. If I had time, I would go through those.

We can talk about TAFE and universities as well. We're seeing $270 million in new cuts to TAFE, and the MYEFO froze funding for university places. These are cuts that Australia cannot afford. When it comes to health, there are hundreds of millions of dollars coming out of hospitals across the country. Caboolture Hospital will lose $2.9 million. Redcliffe Hospital will lose $4.2 million. Prince Charles Hospital at Chermside will lose $7.7 million. Royal Brisbane and Women's Hospital will lose $14.3 million. Lady Cilento Children's Hospital will lose $6.5 million. These are examples of the twisted priorities of this government. As I said, Australia is at a crossroads. We need a federal Labor government to take us in the right direction.

5:27 pm

Photo of Ian MacdonaldIan Macdonald (Queensland, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I thought that this was a debate about health and education, but I heard Labor speakers, particularly Senator O'Neill, talking totally about tax. I find it surprising that Senator O'Neill would. I thought, perhaps, that if she were going to talk about tax she would talk about Labor's proposal for negative gearing, because she would know all about that.

Senator O'Neill spent most of her time attacking the big end of town, the very wealthy, but then we look at today's front page of The Australian and find that Senator O'Neill is part of the big end of town. She not only owns her own house but has five investment properties. Talk about big end of town! You see it in the Labor Party all the time. Their hypocrisy is breathtaking. Senator O'Neill, I have no objection to you having investment properties, and I know you've probably worked hard for them, but don't blame others for the faults of yourself and people in your position. Senator O'Neill, I'm very pleased to see that one of your investment properties is up my way, in the wonderful Cairns suburb of Yorkeys Knob. Only the wealthy can buy there.

I repeat what is now part of the Australian lexicon: Labor lies. Regrettably, you've just heard a lot of the Labor lies from my good friend Senator Ketter. He said that the Caboolture Hospital lost money, which is an outright, outrageous, direct untruth. The Caboolture Hospital is documented to be receiving more money than it has received in the past.

Similarly, talking about the electorate of Longman, because of the government's childcare policy there are 7,100 families in the electorate of Longman—part of the one million families across the country—who will get a benefit from the government's new childcare policy.

Senator Ketter says certain schools are going to lose money. I challenge him, and any one of those schools, to show what they are getting today and what they will get under the coalition government's new reforms, where all of those schools that Senator Ketter mentioned will receive more funding than they're getting at the moment.

I'm delighted that Senator Ketter mentioned Longman, because I'm so proud of our candidate there, 'Big Trev Ruthenberg'. 'Big Trev' is a man of the people. He understands the people there. I know that my colleague Senator O'Sullivan has been with him for quite some time. I've been up there. He understands. He listens to people. He doesn't go around telling lies. He has exposed the Labor allegation about the Caboolture Hospital for the lie that it is. The Caboolture Hospital is now getting more money than it has ever got before. Where Senator Ketter gets his fantasy tales from I have no idea.

I think what Senator Ketter and many Labor people do is say what Labor promises they're going to deliver to these people—I don't know when, as they're not in government, or how they're going to deliver these increases—and then work back from there. But if you go on the actual facts of what hospitals in Longman are getting today and what it will be under our proposals it will be much more than they've received ever in the past. The same goes for child care—

Senator O'Sullivan interjecting

They are panicking, Senator O'Sullivan, you are quite correct. They know that in Trevor Ruthenberg the people of Longman have an outstanding candidate—one who's honest, who will listen to them and who hasn't denied the people of Caboolture.

She's been working in that seat and taking her pay for months—even years—when she knew she wasn't entitled to that pay. She knew from the very first time this citizenship issue arose that she was not eligible to sit in the Australian parliament and yet she continued to stay there, taking a handout, taking the taxpayers' money for wages and election support and taking allowances when she knew she wasn't entitled to them—

Senator O'Sullivan interjecting

Again, as my friend and colleague Senator O'Sullivan said, she did this with the full knowledge of the Leader of the Opposition, Mr Bill Shorten. Mr Shorten went around Australia promising everybody that all of his team, including the member for Longman, were hunky-dory. No problem with the citizenship of this person and yet the member for Longman herself knew that she was not entitled to be receiving her pay cheque, she was not entitled to the allowances she was getting and she was not entitled to be down here pretending to represent the people of Longman.

With 'Big Trev Ruthenberg', that will change. He is an absolutely outstanding candidate—a man of the people. A man who's proved his worth to his community with the charitable works he's done all of his life and with the way he has helped people—real people—without thought of reward for himself. He is the sort of person that the people of Caboolture, of Bribie Island and of every other part of Longman need to represent them honestly and fairly in the federal parliament. I look forward to the day when he is sworn in to do exactly that.

Photo of Cory BernardiCory Bernardi (SA, Australian Conservatives) Share this | | Hansard source

Order! The time for the discussion has expired.