Wednesday, 22 August 2018
Treasury Laws Amendment (Enterprise Tax Plan No. 2) Bill 2017; In Committee
These amendments moved by the government will essentially make it impossible for the banks to take advantage of the tax cuts. I just wish to speak briefly on my position regarding that. As a general principle, it is not at all good policy to regulate banks or any sectors of the industry via tax policy. The idea that you can discipline the banks or somehow teach them a lesson about their misbehaviour, as exposed in the royal commission, via tax policy is extremely bad policy. It is an extremely bad idea. Nonetheless, it is not quite as bad as the idea that a company with over $500 million in turnover should also be denied the advantage of lower taxes. That policy, which emanated, I gather, from Senator Hinch, is cockeyed—like many ideas that emanate from Senator Hinch—and I certainly can't be supporting that under any circumstances. That would be a tax on success. It would be signalling to companies: 'Don't get too big, otherwise we will punish you.'
On the other hand, while the idea of exempting the banks from the tax reduction is a bad policy, I am willing to support it. I am willing to support it on the basis that the banks are big enough and capable enough of looking after themselves. The difference between the rate of taxes that the banks pay and the rate that other large businesses pay would only kick in in about 2026. I can envisage a situation where the banks are facing that scenario of paying 30 per cent tax, while all other companies are paying 25 per cent tax, and the banks would say: 'We can't sustain this. This is not acceptable.' So one bank one week would say, 'All right; that's 2,000 people who are now going to be made redundant.' That would gather quite a lot of headlines, and people would say: 'That's pretty bad. Maybe we've made a mistake.' Then a week later another bank might retrench 2,000 people. By that stage, people would be saying, 'That's really quite bad. I don't think we can continue with that.' And, if a third bank then says, 'Okay. We've got 2,000 people who we don't need either because of this high tax rate,' even if it was a Labor government in coalition with the Greens and they were inviting us to celebrate the socialist nirvana, they would find it politically unacceptable to be witnessing redundancies at that sort of rate.
I guarantee any government would back down and say, 'Okay, you can also have the tax cut.' On the basis that the banks are capable of looking after themselves—and I've just suggested one way in which they could look after themselves—I am prepared to accept that amendment from the government and vote for it. However, I signal that I absolutely will not be supporting the other amendment, which we'll be considering later today, which is to have a threshold for the tax reductions of $500 million in turnover—that is totally unacceptable.
I want to get a few comments on record in relation to these amendments. Firstly, the Greens have made it obvious from the start that we will be opposing any corporate tax cuts in this place. We have campaigned very strongly for tax cuts for small business in Australia. We took a policy to the 2013 election for tax cuts for businesses with a turnover of less than $2 million. We were proud to be part of the vote in this chamber that actually saw that happen. We did get tax cuts for hardworking, struggling Australian small businesses. That's something that we led on and we're proud that we actually legislated on. But we've made it very clear that we won't be supporting tax cuts for any business over $10 million, and our position hasn't changed.
The fact that we have two amendments before us today will not change our position. We will not be voting for either amendment to exclude the banks or to make tax cuts over $500 million, for the simple reason that we won't be doing anything to encourage the passing of these bills through the Senate.
Let me say on the banks, no-one has worked harder in this place than the Greens to hold the banks in this country to account. We were the ones who started a campaign for a royal commission in 2014. We pushed that hard. It took us a few years, but we got the Labor Party on board going into the 2016 election. We put a parliamentary commission of inquiry bill, which became the Trojan horse in this place, to actually get the numbers to force the Prime Minister's hand. We worked with The Nationals, we worked with One Nation, we worked with the crossbench, I worked with the Katter's Australian Party, I worked with everybody to get this in place, and that royal commission has done a great job so far. There's still a long way to go, and we're hoping for some substantive changes to the banking sector.
There's no problem at all with us stinging the banks for more revenue. We campaigned since 2010 for a levy on the big banks. We got a levy on the banks in this government, and I'm proud that another achievement the Greens have been leading on has been passed into law. It wasn't big enough. We'd like to see it at least another 20 basis points to account for the too-big-to-fail implicit and explicit guarantees that we've seen in this country since the GFC to pay the Australian people back for some of the insurance that they've provided to the banks that have allowed the banks to earn super normal profits—excessive returns on capital and massive CEO bonuses. We'd like to see more money given back to the Australian people, and we think it's a consistent approach to increase that bank levy, at least 20 basis points, and raise revenue off the banks. While, in principle, we might support excluding the banks from having tax cuts, we're sticking with raising the bank levy as the best place to go.
I did mention yesterday very quickly, it does seem incongruous that we have a $500 billion cut-off for a large ADI in this legislation, whereas, in the bank levy legislation, we levied that on the big banks at $100 billion. I'm not quite sure why this arbitrary figure has been chosen at $500 billion. It excludes Macquarie Bank, for example, which is very disappointing. I'd like to see them also forgo their tax cut if that was to come into law.
On the issue of tax transparency, once again I'm very proud to have been part of a party and a charge that was led by Senator Milne when she was here into tax transparency and tax justice, a very far-reaching Senate inquiry into this issue that we initiated. We worked very hard, once again, across party lines to get legislation passed in this place, including the MAAL bill and a number of things around tax transparency to actually make corporations pay their fair share. I don't think any of us in this building—and I certainly don't think any of the stakeholders we talked to or the Australian Taxation Office, which is still fighting to get money off big corporations—would agree that they're still paying their fair share of tax, because they're not. So how is cutting tax on companies that still aren't paying their fair share of tax a fair thing to do? We should be keeping up the fight. That should be our focus. We've been very clear about that in this debate. Our focus should be on getting money off these corporations in the first place. We'll continue to ask questions at estimates of the ATO about how they're going in their campaign to get tax justice through the courts and other measures. This needs to be the key focus of this chamber.
We have completely disputed the evidence that somehow a race to the bottom on cutting tax is going to improve our economy. I've heard Senator Cormann talk about this ad nauseam in the last 24 hours. The evidence is not there in the US. There have been a number of people criticise and debate the Treasury modelling that has been put out or other government modelling that the government has shown. I asked Senator Cormann yesterday what would be the cost to the economy of excluding the banks, under the assumption that somehow this tax cut is going to grow revenue and cause economic growth. Of course, that wasn't even in the explanatory memorandum. That modelling hasn't been done. This is a pipedream.
This country needs to raise revenue. We can actually increase economic activity in other ways. At the last election we as a party put together a comprehensive plan for a government owned infrastructure bank and a financing mechanism to drive an infrastructure revolution in this country, which would create jobs and growth and set this country up for the next century. All this stuff is a blueprint and a plan to press reset for this country. The government have completely ignored that. They have completely squibbed infrastructure spending in this country, just like they have squibbed so many other things.
I say to Senator Cormann, through you, Chair, that now is not the time to be voting on tax cuts for big corporations. The government are very likely to change in the next week and completely change their focus. Senator Cormann, you can laugh, but history tells us that this is very likely to be the case. This policy has no evidentiary basis. It is built on ideology. It is built on the donations by large corporations to the Liberal Party. We are debating this at this sensitive time because the Liberal Party want to be seen to be in this place fighting for their big backers. That's their lifeline in this place. Without those donations, they can't function effectively and run big election campaigns to continue to get re-elected.
This tax bill has been dead from the start. It has never had support. Senator Cormann yesterday came in here and said that it's inevitable that this Senate will one day pass big corporate tax cuts. I say to Senator Cormann: there may be situations where I could see that happening—when we don't have a shortage of revenue in this country; when we don't have a government attacking the poor and vulnerable in Australia, trying to take money off those who desperately need it and our social safety net; when we are able to raise Newstart to help those on the poverty line live a better life and actually reinvest that money in our people; when we are not cutting funds to schools and hospitals; and when we don't have the same ideologically driven approach to attacking the vulnerable in this country. That might be a time when we can consider cutting corporate taxes, but now is not the time. There's so much more that we can do to increase economic growth in this country. We have made enough speeches and been on the record. I'll finish by saying that we won't be supporting these amendments.
The CHAIR: The question is that the amendments moved by Senator Cormann be agreed to.
The committee divided. [09:48]
I want to make sure everybody understands what just happened. The Labor Party just voted to keep tax cuts for the big banks inside the Ten Year Enterprise Tax Plan. The Labor Party just voted in favour of tax cuts for the big banks. The Labor Party just voted against carving the big banks out of our Ten Year Enterprise Tax Plan. That is what just happened. The Labor Party, One Nation, Centre Alliance, Senator Storer and the Greens all voted for tax cuts for the big banks. That is what the Australian people need to understand. Only the Liberal and National parties, Senator Anning, Senator Burston, Senator Leyonhjelm and Senator Hinch—
Opposition senators interjecting—
The CHAIR: Order! The minister has the right to be heard in silence.
I think it is very important for the Austrian people to understand that the Labor Party in the Senate today voted in favour of tax cuts for the big banks. To the eternal credit of Senator Hinch, who has been consistent with his publicly stated position all the way through, he voted in favour of this amendment put forward by the government. To the eternal credit of Senator Leyonhjelm, who I know had policy reservations for good reasons in relation to this particular amendment, because he saw the bigger picture he voted for better opportunities for working Australians to get ahead by helping businesses around Australia be internationally competitive and so supporting our economy, supporting jobs and supporting opportunities for families to get ahead. He voted for this amendment. Senator Burston and Senator Anning are senators who are men of their word, and they voted in favour of this particular amendment. Of course, all of the Liberal Party and National Party senators in this chamber voted in favour of carving out the big banks from these corporate tax cuts, because we thought it was so important to secure a lower globally more competitive business tax rate for all of the other businesses around Australia that employ millions of Australians. Those who voted on this side of the chamber care about the opportunity for working families to get ahead, because we understand that their future job opportunities, future job security, future career prospects and future wage increases depend on the future viability, competitiveness and profitability of the businesses that employ them. That is why we voted in support of this amendment.
The Labor Party has lost all credibility. Mr Shorten actually knows that a lower globally more competitive business tax rate is in our national interest. Mr Shorten knows that a lower globally more competitive business tax rate will actually be in the best interests of workers—none other than Dr Ken Henry, as Treasury secretary to Treasurer Swan, said so, none other than Mr Shorten himself said so, and none other than Mr Bowen said so, until we decided to put this proposal into a budget. The only reason the Labor Party is opposed to business tax cuts now is that they believe that is going to be the pathway for Bill Shorten into the Lodge.
My message to the Australian people is: if Bill Shorten is elected Prime Minister on his antibusiness, anti-opportunity politics-of-envy socialist high-taxing agenda it will hurt the economy, it will cost jobs and it will hurt working families around Australia, who will end up with less opportunity to get ahead. We will continue to fight for the best interests of working families around Australia. The Labor Party can continue to play politics. They voted, just now, in favour of tax cuts for the big banks. It shows how completely bereft you are of any credibility and any integrity. It is absolutely unbelievable. After the campaign that Mr Shorten has been running in Longman and everywhere else around Australia, the latest Bill Shorten lie is that he's opposed to tax cuts for the big banks.
Let me say this again very clearly and very slowly: every Labor senator in this chamber just voted in favour of tax cuts for the big banks. So you are now in favour of tax cuts for the big banks, instead of more money for hospitals, more money for schools. That is the position of the Labor Party. You are absolutely all over the place. Nobody can trust a single word that Bill Shorten has to say on anything. He lied about 'Mediscare'. He lied about the citizenship status of his own MPs and, of course, he lies when he says—
The CHAIR: Minister, resume your seat. I do remind you it is unparliamentary, firstly, to refer to those in the other place by their first names and, secondly, to directly accuse someone of being a liar. I would ask you to withdraw those comments.
I withdraw. Mr Shorten clearly misled the Australian people in relation to 'Mediscare', he clearly misled the Australian people in relation to the rolled-gold guarantee that he gave to the Australian people that there was 'nothing to see here' in terms of the citizenship status of his MPs, and he misled the Australian people when he said he actually cared about jobs. If Mr Shorten cared about jobs, he would help ensure that businesses around Australia have the best possible opportunity to be viable, competitive and profitable into the future.
Today, the Labor Party has failed a test of character. With the Labor Party having campaigned, supposedly, against tax cuts for the big banks, every single Labor senator today voted in favour of tax cuts for the big banks. The people of Australia can form their own judgements.
We know it's not been a good week for the coalition, but this really puts the icing on the cake. This is a leader in this place who has actually argued for tax cuts for the banks, has argued against a royal commission into the banks and has supported the banks all the way along. And now this government is in so much trouble and in terminal decline. We understand that Senator Cormann is committed. This is Senator Cormann's signature economic policy down the drain, like this government is down the drain. This is a bad week for the Australian public because this government is collapsing, and we need a government that can actually get decent economic policies, decent financial policies and look after working people. And that performance we've just seen from Senator Cormann demonstrates how much trouble this government is in.
It is only a few weeks ago that Ross Greenwood said to Senator Cormann:
The question is, really, if the public does not, with a Royal Commission on, like the idea of handing out big tax cuts to banks and others, why on earth would the Government persist with this?
What did Senator Cormann say? What did the Leader of the Government in the Senate say? He said, 'Because it's the right thing to do.' Talk about wibble-wobble. He said:
Because it is the right thing to do by working families around Australia. If we put businesses in Australia at a competitive disadvantage with businesses in other parts of the world by imposing significantly higher—
then that puts workers here in Australia at a competitive disadvantage with workers in other parts of the world.
So it was the right thing to do; then it was changed. This is a government that just cannot keep a policy for two hours. After two hours, their policies are changing, like the front bench is changing. We don't even know who's on the front bench in this government. We don't know what—
You're here! How long are you going to be here, Senator Cormann? The question is: when is Senator Cormann going to join his great mate, Peter Dutton? When is he going to join him? And when is the end of this government going to actually happen? I hear that it's today. I hear that it's on again today. What we really should be doing is concentrating on the issues that are important for working people, not handing $80 billion to the big end of town while working people in this country need access to decent health systems and decent education systems. We want to rebuild the TAFE system in this country. That's where the money should be going—looking after working families, not $80 billion to the big end of town.
What do these amendments do? It would have kept Goldman Sachs in there. Why do we want Goldman Sachs in there? You've got the answer to that. You've only to got to look at the linkages between Goldman Sachs and this government. This is a government that really is dead. This government is dead. What we need is a government that can actually look after the best interests of Australians. The performance that Senator Cormann just put on demonstrates how bad this government is and how desperate it is. They're at each other's throats. We don't even know who's on the front bench. We don't even know if Senator Cormann will be there this afternoon. This is the correct decision. The big dummy spit that we've just seen from you, Senator Cormann, does you absolutely no justice. And I suppose you're sitting there looking at your phone now, seeing where the numbers are. They're falling away from Prime Minister Turnbull. We know that. We know this government is in such a bad state.
What Labor and Bill Shorten in government will focus on is health, education, the TAFE system and making sure that we look after working families in this country, that workers in this country can bargain with their employers and that we stop wage stagnation. These are the issues that are important for working people in this country, not your internal disputes, not your fights, not your squabbles and arguments that have destroyed this government. We understand how important unity is. What we stand for is a unified government, a unified Labor Party that can deal with the issues, not handing $80 billion of taxpayers' money to the big end of town on some crazy ideological theory that trickle-down economics will work. You guys have lost the plot. You opposed the banking Royal Commission. You want to cuddle up to Goldman Sachs. You want to cuddle up to all those big businesses that hand over money to you guys for your election campaign. I think you're going to be about a million and a half dollars down, because I don't think this Prime Minister, when he has been knifed completely, will be handing any money over to the coalition.
This is a desperate government. This is a government that has gone. This is a government that shouldn't be there any longer. We need a change of government in this country, because the performance we've seen at the highest levels of this government is that they've lost the plot. They've lost the plot completely. This was the best decision today for the Australian public, the best decision economically, the best decision so that when we are in government we can continue to look after the working people in this country and make sure that the big end of town pay their fair share of taxes and that they make a contribution to building a better society in this country, not a divided society. We've got a divided society under you lot. We've got a divided government. We've got a government incapable of governing. And the performance that Senator Cormann just put on demonstrates how desperate and how bad they are.
Senator Cormann deserves his moment in the sun. He did today. When it comes to performances, Senator Cameron, you just voted in favour of the banks getting a tax cut if this bill goes through. I know it was a tactical deal, but you were there blustering away in your Scottish brogue at Senator Cormann—
An honourable senator interjecting—
Excuse me. Amendments were put forward by the government to exclude the banks, something I have been suggesting in this chamber and elsewhere since March of this year. The government today, through Senator Cormann, put forward amendments that would exclude the big four banks, the robber banks—whom you and the Greens oppose—and stop them getting the tax cuts if this bill goes through. Senator Cameron, you and Labor voted in favour of the banks getting tax cuts. You can dress it up as you like, but that's what you did this morning. That's what Senator Wong did. That's what Centre Alliance did. That's what the Greens did. One Nation have voted in favour of the banks getting a tax cut. I know it's tactical, but, on the record, you voted this morning in favour of the big banks getting tax cuts.
When the bill comes up, I will vote against it too, but at least the government's being consistent on my suggestion that they cut out the banks, the robber banks who've been stealing money from people for years. Yes, the government did oppose a royal commission. The royal commission, thanks to the Greens and Labor, was a great idea. With what they're pushing out there now and what the banks are being exposed for, they deserve to be punished over it. They are paying a levy. But, in terms of this morning's effort, put it on the record: the Labor Party, the Greens, One Nation and Centre Alliance voted in favour of the big banks getting a tax cut.
I'm hoping that, having rolled back on the banks, the government will now take the second half of my suggestion—that we should restrict the tax cut now to companies with turnovers of up to $500 million. If they want to give it to the other companies—to Goldman Sachs, as you mentioned, to Qantas, to Rio Tinto, to BHP—if they want to do that, if they think that's such a great idea, they should take it to the federal election. If they get re-elected when the election comes up, either tomorrow or next year—if the people vote in favour of the government and they get re-elected—I will look again at increasing the tax cuts for other companies. But that's down the track. In the meantime, I suggest that we go for the $500 million and then take it to the election if it's such a great idea.
That's why I say that I was sitting here quite surprised. Why the heck didn't Labor vote to knock back the banks this time round and then cross the floor again when it comes to the final vote? You're not being pushed into anything. For months you've said you don't want them to get the tax cuts. The Greens have said they don't want them to get the tax cuts. And yet you are now on the record as saying that the banks should not be excluded. There was an amendment that was quite specific that the four major banks should not get the tax cuts, and you voted in favour of the banks.
On that note, I think it might be time for me to move the amendments on sheet 8439, which say that these tax cuts for companies should be restricted to companies with turnovers up to $500 million. Last year the government agreed to this. I don't believe in a two-tier system. If Labor get to government at the next election, they're going to punish the small-business people by taking away their tax cuts that have already been legislated. They want companies with more than $2 million not to get those tax cuts. They may edge up towards $10 million. I think that's on Senator Wong's—
I won't go on anymore. People have talked about this enough. We all know where we all stand. I seek leave to move the amendments on sheet 8439.
I move amendments (1), (7) and (9) to (27) on sheet 8439:
(1) Clause 2, pages 2 and 3 (table), omit the table, substitute:
(7) Schedule 1, item 41, page 13 (lines 12 to 25), omit subitems (4) to (8).
(9) Schedule 3, page 19 (line 4), omit the heading.
(10) Schedule 3, item 1, page 19 (lines 5 to 15), omit the item.
(11) Schedule 3, item 2, page 19 (line 19), after "Company A", insert "(which is a base rate entity)".
(12) Schedule 3, item 3, page 20 (line 12), after "Company E", insert "(which is a base rate entity)".
(13) Schedule 3, page 20 (after line 23), after item 3, insert:
3A Subsection 36 -55 ( 2 ) (example)
After "company E", insert "(which is a base rate entity)".
(14) Schedule 3, items 6 and 7, page 20 (line 28) to page 21 (line 8), omit the items.
(15) Schedule 3, item 8, page 21 (line 11), after "company", insert "(which is a base rate entity)".
(16) Schedule 3, item 9, page 22 (line 5), after "Company A", insert "(which is a base rate entity)".
(17) Schedule 3, item 10, page 22 (line 30), after "Company E", insert "(which is a base rate entity)".
(18) Schedule 3, items 13 and 14, page 23 (lines 13 to 16), omit the items.
(19) Schedule 3, item 15, page 23 (line 19), after "company", insert "(which is a base rate entity)".
(20) Schedule 3, item 16, page 24 (line 5), after "Company A", insert "(which is a base rate entity)".
(21) Schedule 3, item 17, page 24 (line 30), after "Company E", insert "(which is a base rate entity)".
(22) Schedule 3, items 20 and 21, page 25 (lines 13 to 16), omit the items.
(23) Schedule 3, item 22, page 25 (line 19), after "company", insert "(which is a base rate entity)".
(24) Schedule 3, item 23, page 26 (line 5), after "Company A", insert "(which is a base rate entity)".
(25) Schedule 3, item 24, page 26 (line 30), after "Company E", insert "(which is a base rate entity)".
(26) Schedule 3, items 27 and 28, page 27 (lines 13 to 16), omit the items.
(27) Schedule 3, item 29, page 27 (line 19), after "company", insert "(which is a base rate entity)".
I oppose parts 4 to 8 of schedule 1 and schedules 2 and 4 in the following terms:
(2) Schedule 1, Part 4, page 7 (lines 1 to 4), to be opposed.
(3) Schedule 1, Part 5, page 8 (line 1) to page 9 (line 20), to be opposed.
(4) Schedule 1, Part 6, page 10 (lines 1 to 18), to be opposed.
(5) Schedule 1, Part 7, page 11 (lines 1 to 18), to be opposed.
(6) Schedule 1, Part 8, page 12 (lines 1 to 18), to be opposed.
(8) Schedule 2, page 14 (line 1) to page 18 (line 4), to be opposed.
(28) Schedule 4, page 28 (line 1) to page 29 (line 9), to be opposed.
I thank Senator Hinch for his contribution and for his support of our previous set of amendments. The government will not be able to support those amendments. Senator Hinch talks about going to an election. Well, we went to an election in 2016, with our Ten Year Enterprise Tax Plan, proposing to lower the business tax rate for all businesses to 25 per cent over the 10-year period to 2026-27.
We understand the politics in relation to the banks, in particular in the context of the royal commission inquiry currently underway, but we maintain that it's critically important for our future economic security, our future economic prosperity and the job opportunities of millions of Australians today and into the future that we ensure that businesses here in Australia are competitive with businesses in other parts of the world. Imposing significantly higher taxes here than in other parts of the world puts businesses here and their workers at a competitive disadvantage with businesses overseas and their workers. You're right; that argument has been prosecuted for some time. But, as Bill Shorten eloquently argued when he was the Assistant Treasurer—he was right then—if you put in such a cap, which will become a permanent cap the way you are proposing to do it, at $500 million, you are providing a perverse incentive for business to downsize in order to stabilise the cap. The effect of your amendment is that, if a business which already has a track record of success approaches the $500 million threshold, it would be exposed to a five per cent increase in tax on 100 per cent of its profits as soon as its turnover goes above $500 million. That provides an incentive for bigger businesses either to become smaller businesses or for businesses below $500 million in turnover to remain below $500 million in turnover.
What we need to do through our tax system and through our policy settings generally is ensure that smaller businesses have the right incentive to become bigger businesses so that, as they grow and expand and pursue further opportunities to sell more of their products and services here and overseas, they hire more Australians than they otherwise would. As they hire more Australians than they otherwise would, the competition for workers across the Australian economy increases and that drives up wages. The additional capital investment that we attract on the back of a lower globally more competitive business tax rate helps drive productivity improvements which in turn also help to finance—help business to afford—the wage increases that we all want to secure. So, for all of these reasons, the government will not be able to support these amendments.
I just want to go to a couple of things here. Let's deal with this rant from Senator Hinch. Senator Hinch, it's got nothing to do with my accent; this is about policy. It's got nothing to do with where I come from. It's about policy and it's bad policy, and that's exactly what we are voting against here. We are voting against an $80 billion handout to the big end of town, to companies, some of them, that may not pay tax anyway. And the nonsense that we hear from Senator Cormann simply continues that argument—the argument that, if you provide tax cuts to big business, then workers will get a wage increase. It didn't happen in Canada; it didn't happen in the United States; it won't happen here. The only way workers will get a decent wage here is if we get decent industrial laws and workers can bargain effectively. That's the bottom line here.
This government are simply about looking after their mates in the big end of town. That's why they refused to have a banking royal commission. That's why they defended the banks constantly and for a long time. That is just not a proposition that the community are prepared to accept. If you want to defend, Senator Hinch—through the chair—the coalition on their key issues, you should just join the Liberal Party. You vote with them constantly. On all the key issues, you vote with the Liberal Party. You are not an independent on these issues; you are simply parroting the lines from the coalition. Just join them. Stand next time as a senator for the Liberal Party if you can get in. They are always looking for blokes. They don't do much with women so they will be okay with another bloke in there.
This is not a proposition we are prepared to agree to. We don't want Goldman Sachs to get a tax cut. We don't want the banks to get a tax cut. We don't want to give the private health funds a tax cut. We don't want to increase the executive salaries in this country, because we think the executive salaries are out of whack as it is. All this will do is fatten the wallets of the executives in this country. There will be no trickle-down to ordinary working people, absolutely no trickle-down. We take the view that there are other priorities that we, as the Labor Party, want to address—that is, to get proper funding into public schools, to make sure that we rebuild the TAFE system in this country so that we can become globally competitive in our manufacturing sector and to make sure that the health system can look after people when they need it. Yet this government wanted to hand $80 billion over to the big end of town.
We don't want to do that. We don't want to support what you are doing as a supplicant to the Liberal Party, simply pushing the line for them, trying to help them out. We don't want to do that either. We want to make sure that money in this country is spent on the priorities that are needed to build a decent society. And those priorities are the health system, the education system, looking after those that have fallen on hard times, making sure that workers can bargain effectively in this country, making sure that we deal with climate change and making sure that we deal with energy policy—energy policy that is pulling this mob apart, that has seen the demise of this government. Let's not kid ourselves—this government's gone; this government's finished. That's only epitomised by the former Minister for Home Affairs, out again this morning, from the back bench, saying that the company tax rates are dead; he will not support them.
What it looks like at the moment is that Senator Cormann's great mate, Mr Dutton, could be the next leader of the Liberal Party. Who knows what that's going to lead to. Already we're hearing that we could end up in a situation where some Nationals would split from the Liberal Party and deny supply. That would probably be a good thing. But, really, I take the view that if Malcolm Turnbull had any courage, any backbone, then what he would be doing is actually going to an election now: 'Don't have the humiliation of the extreme right—Senator Cormann's mates—knocking you off. Why don't you just go to an election now and give the public a choice about who they think should be doing the right thing?' And probably, Senator Hinch, you should actually ask whether you can stand on the Liberal Party ticket at the same time.
I take the view that there is such chaos. We've got a government which cannot do what a government should do, and that is govern. They're just not governing. They're too busy carving each other up. If you look at it this morning, not a Liberal or Nationals member have their head out of their mobile phones. They're seeing who is resigning next, where the numbers are going now and when is the next party room meeting to knock off the sitting Prime Minister. That's what's going on. This government has got no economic credibility. Senator Cormann has got no economic credibility as a minister, because his good mate, who's probably going to be the next leader, doesn't agree with his signature policy.
We are not going to hand money to big business to fatten executive salaries and do share buy-backs in this country, as has happened in Canada and the US, when we need to spend money on health, we need to spend money on education and we need to spend money on the VET system. We want a competitive economy, an economy that can actually compete with the rest of the world. That's what the focus should be on: a decent society with a strong economy. This government has got no capacity to deliver that—absolutely none. We don't even know who's going to be on the front bench. Even if we wanted to negotiate, who would we negotiate with?
Would we negotiate with Senator Cormann, with Malcolm Turnbull or with Peter Dutton? Nobody's got a clue what's going on. I think it speaks volumes that the majority in the Senate do understand that the Australian public don't want this to happen.
For Senator Hinch to stand up here and say that all Labor is doing is giving a free kick to the banks is absolute nonsense. We have been consistent in our position. We don't want the $80 billion tax cuts. Senator Hinch has been on one side, then the other side, supporting, then not supporting, saying, 'I'll do $10 billion,' then, 'I'll do $50 billion,' and then, 'I'll do $500 billion.' Who knows where Senator Hinch is going to go? You would fit in with the Liberal Party really well, because you don't know what you're doing. You've completely lost the plot and you'd fit in there pretty well. I'm sure they'd even take you on, because they're so desperate. But it would be desperation, I think, to take you on.
But this is not about personalities. This is about policies and the future of this country. The future of this country means that we have to set our priorities. Our priorities are health, education and infrastructure, and making sure we don't hand $80 billion to the big end of town and that we don't get conned. We would never be conned by the coalition, unlike some on the crossbench, who have been conned. Earlier in the piece, One Nation were going to back this because they were going to get 1,000 apprenticeships in regional Australia. We want apprenticeships in regional Australia, but you don't do it by doing a deal with the government to get an extra 1,000 apprenticeships, and then sell out health, education, infrastructure and the functioning of government. You don't do that.
We have the view that to be competitive we have to have the skills in place. We don't have the skills. We have the view that for people to actually engage in the country you need to be able to get a roof over your head. The problem we have here is that this government has cut $500 million out of support for Indigenous people around the country. They did that in 2014, under Senator Cormann. They have not renewed any support for Indigenous housing, except in the Northern Territory. It's crazy. Under Senator Cormann and this government, we've gone from the position of an austerity budget, which would have cut pensions by $80 a week over a decade. He ticked off on that. They would have made young people in this country who can't get a job survive for six months with no income. They came after family tax benefits. That austerity budget was an absolute disgrace, yet Senator Cormann thought it was so good. This economic theory, his political antenna, was that it was so good that you crack the champagne with the then Treasurer and you get out the Havana cigar and celebrate an austerity budget. We don't thing that's the right thing to do. Then the desperation kicked in—this has been a government of desperation from day one. When the desperation kicked in and they changed leader, with Malcolm Turnbull becoming the Prime Minister, we had increases to the GST. That was going to be the economic policy of the government. Then they were going to hand taxation rights to the states. I think both of them lasted about a week. Their last position was trickle-down economics—hand money to your mates at Goldman Sachs, hand money to the big banks and hand tax cuts to the private health funds, and everybody's going to be better off. It doesn't work. The theory's a bad theory, and it's only the ideologues and the extremists in the Liberal Party that think this can work. Look at what happened in the US. Look at what happened in Canada. It didn't deliver more wages. It didn't deliver more jobs. The analysis I've seen in Canada, where they gave tax cuts to the big end of town, was that actual employment increase was less in the companies that got the tax cuts at the big end than anywhere else in the country. So the theory has been disproved, not by another theory but by practical observation about what happens in the rest of the world.
Senator Cormann, to his credit, has been in here pushing his ideological obsession. He just pushes it and pushes it and argues for it—credit to him. But I just think it's the wrong thing to do, Labor think it's the wrong thing to do, the majority of this Senate think it's the wrong thing to do and now the majority of your own party think it's the wrong thing to do. You talk about wibble-wobble. Well, let me tell you: the wibble-wobble is so much that, if this government were a pushbike, you'd be on your side now with the wheels spinning. The wobble is so big that it is irrecoverable. This government is finished. This government has no economic credibility and no social credibility. You are disunited. You don't care about what's happening to working people in this country. You only care about your economic theories. You are an absolute disgrace.
Senator Hinch, you shouldn't be backing them in. You should be doing the same as I'm doing now: calling for an election so the public can make a decision on these issues. You should stop fiddling around with this government trying to get a fix for them. You should do the right thing by the Australian public and support what we're doing.
I also want to get on record a quick response to Senator Cormann's statement and Senator Hinch's statement that somehow the Greens and Labor had supported tax cuts to the banks. I think there are many of us in this chamber that lament the state of politics in this country and how everything's dumbed down, with the emphasis on the word 'dumb'. But, for those who are following this debate, I made it very clear in my last statement that we oppose both these amendments because these amendments are designed to help enable the passage of the entire package of the bill. They're designed to split off a couple of crossbenchers on some kind of deal that's been done and give the government the numbers to pass the entire package of tax cuts to big corporations in this country
The Greens have been very clear: we oppose tax cuts to big corporations, including big multinationals. We oppose tax cuts that will be used, as the evidence in the US shows us, to buy back shares. And what do share buybacks do? They push up the price of shares, which is great for CEOs, because that means they get bigger bonuses, and their options are often in the money, and that means big packages and happy days. It's not so good for the workers. There's very little evidence that that money has been passed on to workers or that it's been used to hire more workers, which is this government's proposition on what tax cuts will do.
We've been very clear: we don't want to give more money to electricity companies that have been gouging customers in this country, or the big oil and gas companies that we've talked about in this place in recent days that aren't even paying tax, the Chevrons and ExxonMobils of the world who have got hundreds of billions of dollars in tax credits clocked up through the petroleum resource rent tax, which is a complete rort. We don't want to be giving any big business in this country a tax cut when we desperately need revenue to pay for our social security, to pay for our safety net and to invest in our communities and our country's future. We believe that money should be going to investing in infrastructure and other ways of building the industries of the future—a real plan for a sustainable jobs and growth. We don't believe in hundreds of billions of dollars being wasted on defence industry rorts, pork-barrelling in marginal electorates for this government for the next election. We don't believe in turning Australia into a top 10 global arms dealer as a way of generating money. We have been very clear about what our propositions are for the Australian people for a future for all of us—a future for the whole country that actually looks after the planet and looks after communities.
I wanted to make it very clear today that this amendment that Senator Hinch has now put up is another amendment that is designed to get the deal done, designed to give the government the numbers. Fine, if Senator Hinch is happy to be giving tax cuts at a $500 million threshold. The Greens have been very clear that we are happy to give tax cuts to small business. We've led on that issue. We've supported it. It has been passed. Small business are the ones in this country that desperately need a hand. We don't believe that giving handouts to big business is the right thing to be doing. I think the Australian people agree with us. That's been very clear. I think we absolutely should be holding the government to account in this place, this house of review, which is the Senate. I think we should be taking these propositions to the next election and that's the message from the Australian Greens.
I thank the senator for his career advice—thank you, Senator Cameron. I will not be joining the Liberal Party. I have supported it on many occasions. I think I have supported the government in 62 per cent of the votes, and often that has happened with Labor Party amendments, which you have crafted and I've agreed with you to get it through.
I have voted with the government on the exclusion of the banks. It's not a position I have wibble-wobbled over or gone up and down and over and back over. For six months, Senator Cameron, I have held the position, having gone to $50 million turnover last year. I suggested back in March on Sky News that the government should go to $500 million and I would support them. The only change I've made is that I've said: 'If you want to give the tax cut to smaller companies a bit earlier, I'll go along with you on that. Apart from that, I will not.' The amendments put forward by Senator Cormann would exclude the banks and I believe in that. I was happy to vote with them. I will vote against the total bill. I will vote against total tax cuts and the government knows that. I've told them that. I've made no deals with them. I've made no side issues, no side bills, at all. I've told them how far I would go and that is to $500 million.
I know my amendment will fail. I've done the best that I can. That is in the interests of the Australian people, because companies do need company tax cuts. In Britain, in the UK, in Canada, in Europe and in Singapore they have 17 or 19 per cent company tax. It's 20 per cent here and 21 per cent there. But I do agree with you, Senator Cameron, that much of the cuts in the United States under the Trump presidency, as I said yesterday, have gone to share buybacks, increased dividends and very high salaries for the executives. I agree with you on that. I will be voting against the bill. I recommend my amendment but I suspect—or know—it's going to lose.
Thank you, Senator Hinch. For the benefit of the chamber, the division was cancelled and the question, which was that parts 4 to 8 of schedule 1 and schedules 2 and 4 stand as printed, was resolved in the affirmative. There was no division. There is another set of amendments to deal with. Those are consequential amendments, so we won't be putting those to the chamber.
The CHAIR: The question is that the bill stand as printed.
I am. The Senate has just voted against a motion that the bill stand as printed. Given that was somewhat unusual, although I think it has occurred before, it might be useful for the chair to advise the Senate what the status of the next vote signifies so senators can be clear what they're voting on and whether there will, in fact, be a third reading.
The CHAIR: Thank you, Senator Wong. The next part that we would vote on is that the bill be reported. We do need to report out of committee that the bill standing as printed has been rejected. That would then mean that, subsequently, there would be no third reading. So I'm going to put that. The question is that the bill be reported.