Wednesday, 3 April 2019
Questions without Notice
My question is to the Minister representing the Prime Minister, Senator Cormann. Can the minister confirm that under Mr Morrison's budget last night millions of working Australians earning less than $40,000 will miss out on a bigger tax cut while bankers and CEOs will receive a tax cut of $11,000 a year?
No, I cannot confirm that. You should not believe something just because the shadow Treasurer says so. This government, in our second major income tax relief package for hardworking families, has again prioritised low- to middle-income earners as well as continuing to address bracket creep, as well as continuing to simplify our tax system with a view to incentivising and rewarding hardworking Australians. This is very important.
The good senator asked me about the tax burden at the lower income end. Somebody on $30,000 a year gets a 10.6 per cent tax cut as a result of the income tax relief package that this government has put forward, whereas somebody on $200,000 gets a 0.2 per cent tax cut. Somebody on $30,000 a year will be paying $2,142 in tax whereas somebody on $200,000 will pay $67,000 in tax—$2,142 versus $67,097. The point is, our tax system is highly progressive and, once our plan has been legislated in full, the top five per cent of income earners in Australia will continue to pay one-third of the income tax revenue generated in Australia.
We on this side of the chamber understand that it is entirely appropriate and economically important to incentivise, encourage and reward aspiration. Of course, it is entirely appropriate and important for the future economic success of all Australians, including and in particular low- and middle-income earners, to ensure all Australians have the right incentive to work— (Time expired)
Senator Ciccone, I welcome you to this chamber and I wish you a very successful career for many years to come—hopefully for quite a bit longer on the opposition benches. What I would advise you very genuinely is, when you're handed questions by your tactics committee, perhaps try and listen to the answer to the primary question before you just read out the first supplementary that you are handed, because the premise of the question is entirely wrong. If you had listened to my answer to the primary question, you would know that the premise of the question is entirely wrong, because Australians at the lower income end are getting higher tax cuts on the percentage that—
'Oh percentages', says Senator Wong; yes, indeed. Let me repeat it: somebody on $30,000 a year gets a 10.6 per cent tax cut under our government, whereas somebody on $200,000 a year gets a 0.2 per cent tax cut. (Time expired)
Honourable senators interjecting—
That is just a bit of student political rhetoric that I completely reject. This Liberal-National government is a government that is focused on the best interests of all Australians. We are focused on making sure that all Australians have the best possible opportunity to get ahead. We want to ensure all Australians have the best possible opportunity to lift their living standards. We understand that the way to do this is through a stronger economy, and that is why we continue to pursue our national economic plan, which has been successful in delivering a stronger economy. What is the alternative? The alternative is the high-taxing, antibusiness, class warfare agenda of the Leader of the Opposition which will make the economy weaker, which will make the country weaker and which will make all Australians poorer.
Do you know what? Socialism has been tried in other places around the world before. And do you know what it does? It makes everyone poor, including and in particular low-income earners. If you want to help lift low-income earners, if you want to give the opportunity for low-income earners to become high-income earners, we need a stronger economy. (Time expired)
My question is to Senator Canavan, representing the Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources. I ask the minister: how are our government's strong economic management and the budget plan providing for the resources to invest in new market opportunities for our farmers and our agricultural products?
I thank Senator Macdonald for that question and recognise his great support and passion for the North Queensland agricultural industry in particular and the great sugar industry around the Burdekin, where Senator Macdonald hails from. Senator Macdonald is right to highlight the fact that this government understands that, for our farming sector to do better and for our farmers to be able to provide for their families and stay on the land, they need to be able to sell their products. They've got to have markets to sell the products to. They've got to have growing markets to get more money to stay competitive and also to make sure they keep the bank happy and the wife happy and the family happy and all those things happy. That's what they need. That's why, as a government, over the last six years we have signed new trade agreements with Japan, with China, with Korea, through the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreements and with Indonesia more recently—all massive markets for our farming produce. Those agreements have helped agricultural producers make more money.
I'm going to raise one particular highlight—one particular individual circumstance that is well known to Senator Macdonald: 2PH Farms down at Emerald and the Pressler family. I know Senator Macdonald, through his career, has helped them significantly through different issues, such as viruses and what have you, but they've also benefited significantly from this government's conclusion of particularly the Chinese free trade agreement, which has allowed great Central Queensland citrus products to go into the growing market of China. It has allowed that business to expand. It employs hundreds of people in Emerald and is contributing to the Central Queensland economy of that area, all thanks to the fact that we're getting more markets open.
That's why in the budget last night we also further announced $30 million to enhance Australia's agricultural trade. This will help farmers overcome some of the non-tariff barriers that exist. Most of the tariff barriers are gone or are being removed, but sometimes it's hard to get products classified and approved through customs in different countries. This funding will help farmers navigate that process, open up more markets and get more income and provide more jobs in regional communities.
I thank the minister for that. Thank you for mentioning 2PH, which is a great Australian company doing great things in the export area. But, Minister, not all of our farmers, just at this moment, are doing quite as well, because of droughts and floods, particularly in the north and north-west of our state. So I ask the minister: how is the government supporting those farmers facing hardships through drought and floods?
I recognise the fact that Senator Macdonald represents some of the areas that have been impacted the hardest by drought, including around Townsville and having visited Giru a few weeks ago and seen the impact on the cane fields there, which was not as devastating as we saw in the gulf areas with the cattle industry but still a big impact for those farmers. That's why we announced more than $6 billion of drought funding in the budget last night and over $3 billion in flood relief. That includes the immediate $75,000 grants we provided to farmers impacted by this flood. That's three times the normal level, given the significance of this event. In recent weeks, we've announced that we'll make available up to $400,000 in grants to graziers to restock their land so that we can get these properties, particularly those in the gulf that have lost thousands of cattle, possibly up to half a million cattle, back on their feet. We've provided $5 million to CWA, the Country Women's Association, to provide assistance to those in drought, and we're also offering concessional loans. There are a lot of other things in the budget to help. We're doing all we can to get people back on their feet after these devastating floods and droughts.
Again I thank the minister for that and appreciate his advice about how we've helped farmers in need. But we're a government, I know, that looks to the future, and I ask the minister: how is the government securing the future of our farmers and, through them, of our nation as a whole?
What we have is a positive vision for the future of farming in this country. What we want to see is us grow as a farming country from the $60-odd billion we produce today to $100 billion in years to come. We want to increase the number of people we feed from about 75 million people now—over double and nearly triple our own population—to over 100 million people around the world. The way you do that is you build dams. You have to store water. The way you do that is to allow people to develop land. Sometimes they have to clear trees to put in new crops—to grow food that is good for the world, not just for us. Over there on that side, they don't want any of that. They don't want to build dams, they certainly don't want to let farmers manage their own lands and they are insulting our farming communities in this country by adopting Greens-Left policies that are going to lock up the land and not let our country progress to growing more food and developing more local economies in our country.