Senate debates

Wednesday, 7 September 2022

Matters of Urgency

Taxation

4:03 pm

Photo of Matt O'SullivanMatt O'Sullivan (WA, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I inform the Senate that, at 8.30 am today, 33 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 was received from Senator Thorpe:

Pursuant to standing order 75, I give notice that today I propose to move "That, in the opinion of the Senate, the following is a matter of urgency:

The Stage 3 tax cuts will cost $244 billion over the next ten years, and give billionaires, CEOs and politicians a $9,000 tax cut, while people on the minimum wage get nothing. Repealing these unfair and unjust tax cuts could fund immediate cost of living relief and make people's lives better by putting dental and mental healthcare into Medicare, building affordable housing, and making childcare free."

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 times 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.

4:04 pm

Photo of Lidia ThorpeLidia Thorpe (Victoria, Australian Greens) Share this | | Hansard source

I move:

That, in the opinion of the Senate, the following is a matter of urgency:

The Stage 3 tax cuts will cost $244 billion over the next ten years, and give billionaires, CEOs and politicians a $9,000 tax cut, while people on the minimum wage get nothing. Repealing these unfair and unjust tax cuts could fund immediate cost of living relief and make people's lives better by putting dental and mental healthcare into Medicare, building affordable housing, and making childcare free.

Last week, the Prime Minister announced that the Labor government will not be repealing the obscene stage 3 tax cuts. Over the next 10 years, these will strip $244 billion out of the budget. You will all be aware by now how these cuts are benefiting the most-wealthy people in this country—usually the ones who are responsible for the stolen wealth, but that's another story. This means that men will get $1 more than women receive. However, there has been little consideration of how these tax cuts will impact on First Nations people. As always, my people will benefit the least.

Across the country, everyday people are struggling to make ends meet in the most simple ways. People are struggling to pay rent, pay for food and pay for health care. Too often, those impacted the most by cost-of-living pressures are First Nations people. In the 'lucky country', the average personal income for First Nations people is around $35,000, compared with just under $50,000 for the rest of the population. That's 29 per cent lower. That will have lifelong impacts on my people's lives. With the proposed tax cuts, First Nations people will be paying, on average, $95 less tax in 2024-25, compared with $430 less tax paid by non First Nations people. This means that First Nations people will receive about $1 for every $4 others get from stage 3 tax cuts. First Nations people will see the least benefit and be the hardest hit by this tax reform.

These tax cuts will only worsen income inequality between First Nations people and the rest of the population. If the government allows these tax cuts to go ahead, it is choosing to give handouts to the stolen-wealth billionaires instead of funding crucial services that our people are calling out for. The $244 billion could be redirected towards funding community controlled health, housing and legal services. That could pull thousands of people in this country, particularly First Nations people, out of poverty. If this Labor government is truly committed to closing the gap, they will scrap these tax cuts and put the money back into providing proper housing, proper health care and good education for First Nations people in this country.

We know that stolen wealth is also an issue in this country, and many, many people—many white people, many of the colonisers—actually benefited from stealing these lands. In fact, they still benefit today because of generations and generations of wealth creation for their families. I'm sure you know that story. But it's time to pay the rent and it's time to acknowledge that you're on stolen land.

4:08 pm

Photo of Jess WalshJess Walsh (Victoria, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I rise to speak on the urgency motion before the Senate today regarding the stage 3 tax cuts. During the election campaign we made a commitment that we would provide certainty and clarity around tax to Australian working families, and our position on the legislated stage 3 income tax cuts has not changed since the election, because, after an incredibly difficult few years for our country and the world, certainty is what Australians deserve. The legislated stage 3 tax cuts are not due to commence for another two years, so they won't do anything to address the near-term economic challenges that we face, including with the growing inflation challenge that we have right now. Instead, our government's priority, when it comes to tax reform, is ensuring that multinationals pay their fair share of tax here in Australia. Our priority is cracking down on the waste and the rorts that have contributed to the $1 trillion of debt left to us by those opposite with absolutely nothing to show for it. There is a $1 trillion debt and nothing to show for it. We, the Albanese government, need to repair the budget mess left by those on the other side, so we can get on with delivering the meaningful investments that maximise economic impact and meet community needs.

Australians are paying the price right now for a decade of missed opportunities and absolutely messed-up priorities under the coalition government. The $1 trillion debt, high and rising inflation, rising interest rates and a cost-of-living crisis—these are the consequences of a decade of complete economic mismanagement by those opposite. Australians understand that we didn't create these challenges, but they elected us to take responsibility for fixing them—for addressing them. And we are.

Our economic plan is a direct and deliberate response to the challenges facing the economy, including the rising cost of living that is hurting so many Australians today. We are getting on with the job, and we are delivering on our commitments. We are delivering on a better future for all Australians. We committed to rebuilding our economy with stronger wages and more secure work, and we are doing that. One of the very first acts of our government was to successfully argue for a minimum wage increase for our lowest-paid workers. That was an outcome which helped around 2.8 million Australians. And we followed that with a submission to the Fair Work Commission that unequivocally supports a wage increase for aged-care workers, for the tens of thousands of aged-care workers who do essential work every day but are completely undervalued with absolutely no action from those on the opposition benches.

We brought employers, unions and the community sector together at the Jobs and Skills Summit to discuss how we can get wages moving, how we can lift living standards and how we can improve productivity, which was nothing short of sluggish under the previous government. And, in so doing, we've ended up with a positive plan, bringing unions and employers together with the government. In so doing, we've ended the decade of division and delay from those opposite. We are delivering concrete outcomes from our Jobs and Skills Summit. We're delivering consensus on the need to improve the bargaining system and get wages moving again, as well as allowing age pensioners to work and earn more before it affects their pensions.

We committed to investing in Australian skills, in Australian jobs, in Australian manufacturing, and, as the new government, we are doing it. We've secured a $1 billion national skills agreement with the states and the territories. We're delivering 180,000 fee-free TAFE places in 2023, with 15,000 set aside for aged care to meet the workforce challenges that we've been left with by a decade of inaction from the previous government. We're working hard to deliver on our commitment to invest in advanced manufacturing.

We committed to backing clean energy and ending the climate wars, and we are doing it. We have reset Australia's commitment to climate on the world stage, sending a huge signal, an important signal, to the rest of the world that Australia is at the table and that Australia will do our part in the race towards net zero. We're working, just this week, right here, right now, to legislate our target of a 43 per cent reduction in emissions by 2030. Part of that is ensuring our government is accountable to these targets and providing the certainty—which the Australian people want—that we will actually deliver against those targets.

As part of our response to the climate crisis, we're making electric vehicles cheaper with our Treasury Laws Amendment (Electric Car Discount) Bill 2022, which we hope the opposition will support, and our National Electric Vehicle Strategy. We are securing Australia's future by delivering our Powering Australia plan. We are making the largest ever upgrade to our energy grid and driving down power prices for households and small businesses after a decade of complete inaction by those on the other side.

We also committed to easing cost-of-living pressures for Australian families. We are doing that too. We are getting on with the commitments that we made, and we are delivering them. Our budget in October will include our plans for cheaper child care, which will make a huge difference to the household budgets of millions of Australians. Next year, 96 per cent of Australian families will benefit from cheaper early learning. They will benefit from quality, affordable early childhood education under the plans that our government took to the election, which we are ready to implement right now.

We are also removing the penalty for parents taking on extra hours or extra days of work. That was a huge priority that came out of the Jobs and Skills Summit. We know that one of the biggest things we can do as a nation to improve workforce participation is encourage more carers of small children into the workforce—that's usually women—so providing quality, affordable and accessible early education is critical to our nation's economic future.

Today we've introduced legislation to reduce the cost of essential medicines. This is the first time any government has reduced the PBS co-payment. That is going to mean that essential medicines people are accessing on the PBS will cost around $30 less per month, a saving of around $300 a year for the average person who is relying on those PBS medicines. We're helping to ensure that fewer people have to miss filling a script because they can't afford it. The stories of people having to do that are extraordinary. We don't want people to have to choose between taking painkilling medication or taking another medication they need to address their underlying condition. That should not be happening in Australia, and we are getting on with fixing that problem.

There is no denying that the last few years have been difficult. We know that Australians are doing it incredibly tough. We don't need economic forecasts to tell us that, because we are listening to Australians every day. What Australians want is certainty from their government on the way forward. They want a government that does what it said it would do. That is the Albanese government. They want a government that will stick to its word and deliver on its commitments. It's exactly what we're doing.

The legacy of those opposite is a decade of mistakes and missed opportunities, a decade of waste and rorts, a decade of division and delay. They had no plans past the last election. They had no vision for anyone's future but their own. In May, Australians sent a strong and clear message. They wanted change. They wanted a government they could trust, a government who would bring the country together, not divide it, and a government with a plan to address the challenges that families and businesses are facing right now. That's exactly what we are delivering.

The Albanese Labor government were elected with a clear and ambitious plan to build a stronger, more equal Australia. That's what we're doing. We're keeping our promises and working hard to deliver the better future Australians deserve.

4:18 pm

Photo of Matthew CanavanMatthew Canavan (Queensland, Liberal National Party) Share this | | Hansard source

What we need as a country right now is to grow our economy—to increase the size of the pie, so to speak—because that is the best way to manage the enormous public debt that we now have, thanks first to the excessive spending of the Rudd-Gillard years and then because of our necessary response to a global pandemic over the last couple of years.

We now have a public debt approaching, and soon to be above, $1 trillion. The best way to help manage that, to deal with that, is to grow our economy. By doing so, we'll have more tax revenue and more wealth to manage that debt. We now have a debt to national income, or GDP, ratio at a level we haven't seen since the years after World War II. The way we came back from that crushing level of debt IN the years after World War II, after defeating the evil of fascism, was to grow our economy. The fifties and sixties was a period of massive economic change and growth in this country that we had not ever seen. It came on the back of the world opening up after the war and the Menzies government of the time keeping an open and vibrant economy. We need to learn those lessons here, after a global pandemic which has not been as devastating as that war, but which has left the similar consequences of large public debt. We have to keep an open economy. We have to get our tax rates down and be competitive so that people will invest, work and thrive in this country and make more wealth for all of us.

The reality right now is that our tax systems are not competitive with those of the rest of the world, especially our personal income tax system. We have a high corporate tax rate, but what's often forgotten or not commented upon is that we have a franking credits system that does not double-tax corporate profits, so the actual impact of the corporate tax rate of 30 per cent is not as high as it might seem on a direct comparison with overseas countries, because, when you get dividends, you can also usually get franked credits. If the company has paid taxes on those, you won't pay the top marginal rate; you'll pay the difference between the marginal rate and the corporate rate.

But there's no such equalising factor for those earning income from labour. The workers of this country get slugged at a rate that is much higher than that of the rest of the world. Our top rate of 45 per cent—it's really 47 per cent when you add the Medicare levy—cutting in at $180,000 a year is one of the highest rates in the developed world, and it cuts in at a level of income that is much lower than that at which it cuts in in many other countries in the rest of the world. I will give a few examples. At 45 per cent, the top rate in the United Kingdom is about the same as ours, but it doesn't cut in until someone earns 150,000 pounds. That's over A$260,000. In the United States, the top rate is just 37 per cent, a full 10 percentage points lower than Australia's. Even in New Zealand, their top rate is just 39 per cent.

So we're way out of whack with many comparable countries that we would be competing with for talent, especially in a world where borders have opened up and people can move. We also have high tax rates below that level for middle-income people. What the stage 3 tax cuts are all about is making sure that middle-income people can have the aspiration to become higher-income people, become wealthier and provide a better future for their children, because these tax cuts, the so-called stage 3 tax cuts that come in in 2024-25, will actually provide a tax saving for any Australian who earns over $45,000 a year. That is a lot of people. That's a lot of Australians. In fact, 95 per cent of Australian taxpayers will benefit from these tax cuts in a few years time.

We hear a lot of rhetoric about these tax cuts being for the rich and benefiting those who are well-to-do. Well, we've got to look at the whole series of tax cuts here. These tax cuts will get rid of one whole tax bracket and make our system much simpler and easier for people. The 37c tax bracket will go. The tax rate will be at least 30c in the dollar for anyone earning over $45,000. The top rate will then only kick in at $200,000, which will remain the same. That is a big tax cut for middle Australia.

The stage 3 tax cuts are a tax cut for middle Australia. Those Australians smack dab in the middle class earn income of somewhere between that $45,000 a year and $200,000 a year. That is middle Australia. Some of those people at the higher end are very lucky and do very well, but all of them probably have worked hard in their life to get to that level, and they deserve reward for effort. We want to encourage future Australians to continue that effort, so these tax cuts come at the right time and in the right place for our country.

If we continue to have higher tax rates than the rest of the world, that will punish effort. It will mean that people will think twice about starting a business. Why would you go and work a bit harder to try to get ahead so you can maybe put your kids through school or do something when the tax office is going to take so much of what you earn?

The other point to make here is that already the average tax rate in this country sits at just over 30c or so in the dollar. That's not the marginal rates but the average rates that people pay. When you think about it, that means that, when most people start work on a Monday, all of Monday is for the tax office. Every bit of work they do on the Monday is for this place. That's for money to come down here to Canberra. About half of Tuesday, too, for the average taxpayer is also on the Canberra clock, just working for the government down here. It's not until after smoko on Tuesday afternoon that you actually get to work for yourself. What we're saying is that maybe we should move that point from lunchtime to morning tea, from big lunch to little lunch, so you can earn a little bit more for yourself and take it home for your family to help them and give them a better future.

I've been here a few years now, and I don't think we spend their money all that well. If we support this motion—

I don't think you're going to do any better, Senator Chisholm. I think it's a disease in this place. A lot of the money that comes here gets wasted. A lot of your money, that work you do on the Monday and on the Tuesday morning, doesn't always generate the public services that some people like to claim down here. Maybe, if we do have an issue with affording the stage 3 tax cuts, of having to deal at least temporarily with a bit of lower tax revenue, we could look at what is spent here in Canberra and the bureaucracy to make sure that your money, your hard work, is actually providing value for the Australian people. Every Australian family does that. If, after these tax cuts—I'm hoping to god they get through—middle Australia gets a little more money to take home, I know they'll spend it very carefully. They'll think about where that money should go and how it should help their children and their families. I'm not so sure we always do that here. That's why we can afford these tax cuts. These tax cuts will make for a stronger Australia if they go through.

4:26 pm

Photo of David PocockDavid Pocock (ACT, Independent) Share this | | Hansard source

People want a fair tax system. They recognise that paying tax in Australia allows us to have the quality of life that we have. Paying tax allows us to have the services that we have. Don't be conned by Senator Canavan that taxes simply come to Canberra. Taxes are paying for Medicare. Taxes are providing funds for aged care so that our elderly can actually live in dignity. Taxes are providing a world-class medical system here in Australia.

We've heard so much from the Labor government over the last 108 days about the failures of the Liberal-National government. Everything is their fault. They've inherited a total mess worse than they possibly thought. They didn't create any of these challenges, but they're going to fix them—which is great. You can't say that and, at the same time, stand by bad policy when it comes to stage 3 tax cuts. We're in a cost-of-living crisis. Yes, some people on lower wages will get some tax back. If you're a registered nurse on $72,000 a year, you'll have an extra 681 bucks in your pocket. But if you're a politician here, like Senator Canavan, on $211,000, you're getting $9,000 back. I don't see the fairness in that. I think at this time Australians would recognise that this is not the way that we want to go. This is not how we should be spending our money given the challenges that we face.

We hear from the Labor government that they can't afford to increase shared paid parental leave. That has consensus coming out of their Jobs and Skills Summit. There simply isn't the money. Well, here's $243 billion that we're going to give back, mostly to wealthy Australians, mostly to men, rather than actually spending it on things that Australians want, actually spending it on addressing the crisis that we face, the cost-of-living crisis. We've got people here in Canberra who we're now calling the working homeless. It is shameful for a country like Australia to still be considering these tax cuts when so many people are doing it tough. The Labor government should be ashamed of this decision.

When you're the new government, it is unconscionable to stand by bad policy that may have been justifiable years ago when it was legislated. Sure, there may have been an argument for it, but a lot has happened since then. We have had bushfires, a two-year global pandemic, geopolitical conflict—Russia invading Ukraine—energy prices going through the roof, rising inflation, cost-of-living pressures putting so many everyday Australians under strain, and the Labor government wants to give $243 billion to the wealthiest Australians, mostly men. It is, frankly, ridiculous, and the pressure is only going to mount. I urge you to use your political capital. We hear a lot about how popular the new Labor government is. Use that. Be decisive. This is not going away. This will come into effect just before the next election. I will be interested to see how that plays out, given how tough so many Australians are doing it.

4:30 pm

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

It is nice to see you, Mr Acting Deputy President O'Sullivan. It is always good to know when the clock starts ticking because that is the opportunity to make some remarks about this very important matter. When it comes to the philosophy here, it is very clear that there are different views about the role of the state and the role of money within our society and economy. Personally, my view has always been that the state has no money of its own. It must go and levy that from its citizens. That is what we do to provide services and the like, and we have done it over the last few years on a scale that has not been seen for some decades, as a result of this economic shock and health crisis.

Philosophically, we are committed to the idea that people's money is their own and we should only seek to levy their incomes, salaries and wages to pay for services that are required and nothing more. The stage 3 tax cuts, as they are called—in hindsight I think it was a mistake to have broken them down into three stages; it should have been done in one go—are effectively saying, 'Look, we are going to simplify the five brackets down to four and ensure that middle-income earners in particular are able to work an extra shift or do some extra work and not be penalised.'

By being placed into a higher income bracket, people might be paying 32.5 cents in the dollar rather than 30 cents in the dollar if these tax cuts were repealed. That's what we're talking about here. We're talking about a proposition to repeal tax cuts, which would result in a tax increase. It would result in a tax increase to, yes, higher income earners and it would also result in a significant tax increase to middle-income earners. People who are earning $60,000 to $70,000 would pay additional taxation because they would be pushed into a higher tax bracket. We would be going back five tax brackets, which would not be in their interest. We want to have an economy where people want to work additional shifts and take on more hours if they want to.

I know it's not fashionable to look at the issues facing the higher end of the tax spectrum, but the reality is that the people who were here last week at the Jobs and Skills Summit were talking about the issues facing Australian business. Legitimately they have raised the issue of access to skills. We are at a point in our history where we are competing for capital and we are competing for skilled labour. If you look at our closest competitors, their top tax rate cuts in, in the case of Singapore, at $335,000 and in the case of Japan at $417,000—so, almost double our threshold, which is quite low compared with those of our competitors. If we are serious about his nation's competitive position and serious about attracting skilled people to take on roles in this country, when Australian businesses are saying they can't get access to these skilled people, then why would we want to put lead and our own saddlebags and have an even more uncompetitive situation in relation to taxation?

Sure, I know that that part of the argument may not be particularly fashionable, but it is the truth—that $200,000 is a relatively low threshold relative to the thresholds of our competitors. We can imagine ourselves as some locked-away, protected, subsidised economy, as we were in the 1970s and 1980s—and you can look at the history books and see how that went—or we can be realistic and honest about the challenges the nation faces in relation to skilled workers. That is the truth. The middle-income earners would face a tax increase by being dragged into a higher bracket and it would be harder to attract higher-income earners, which are needed to fill the skills gaps that we heard about last week at the talkfest. We heard the Treasurer today talk about his 36 concrete recommendations. Well, if you go and listen to the business people, they will say that access to skills is one of the most important things.

It is true that the government cannot be held responsible for every single problem in the economy. Given that they have been in office for a relatively short period of time, it would be ridiculous to claim that all the ills should be put at their feet. But over the medium to long term you have to try to get the fundamental position right, and that is that we need to be a dynamic economy whereby we have a competitive tax system and a flexible labour market which allows our businesses to be competitive.

The RBA has just decided that it will raise interest rates. That will make it difficult for people who have large mortgages, and, representing New South Wales, I am very aware that there are people with large Sydney mortgages who will be finding this recent uptick in interest rates very difficult. I'm pleased the government is reviewing the RBA. I would say, whilst not making any personal criticism of him, that the RBA governor has made statements in the past that didn't need to be made, that set market expectations in a way that I think has made things more difficult than they should have been. Sometimes it's better to say fewer things. Sometimes fewer words are better. And I do think there are a lot of people now who will struggle to make their mortgage repayments. Commonwealth Bank data shows that 30 to 35 per cent of people in the capital cities have a very threadbare position when it comes to paying back their mortgages. So, ultimately, we don't want to make things any harder than they will be.

One thing that would make it harder for people would be to increase taxation, because by increasing taxation we'll be saying to the rest of the world, 'We're not interested in new investment; we're not interested in having a dynamic and competitive economy,' and therefore there will be fewer jobs; there will be fewer high-paying jobs. And of course one of the things that's within the government's preserve is tax policy, and there is no case to remove the tax cuts that are designed to improve the investment profile of the country. Any removal of those tax cuts will be a tax increase.

4:39 pm

Photo of Larissa WatersLarissa Waters (Queensland, Australian Greens) Share this | | Hansard source

I think we're in a parallel universe, because the people of Australia just voted to change the government, yet the new government is keeping the policies of the last government. People understand that a budget and governing are about choices, and they hear it loud and clear when the Prime Minister talks about how choices are being made. What this government is doing is choosing to keep the stage 3 tax cuts. They are actively choosing to give $244 billion over 10 years to people that are CEOs, billionaires and politicians. All of those folk are going to get about a $9,000 tax cut every year.

We're in a cost-of-living crisis. I don't think anyone disagrees with that. Why of all things would you be giving tax cuts to the rich when people are struggling to meet their daily cost-of-living challenges? Budgets are about choices. The Australian people did vote for a new government. Why are you keeping the policies of the last one? They weren't right then and they're even less right now. It is the most ill-timed policy decision that you could possibly make, and I think it is a betrayal of everyone who voted Labor that you are going to keep the stage 3 tax cuts. They are now your stage 3 tax cuts, I'm afraid. These are now Labor's stage 3 tax cuts for the wealthy. At the same time, the new government is saying the country is too poor to make child care free, the country is too poor to fix homelessness and the country is too poor to make Medicare include dental and mental health. I'm sorry, but that is just heartbreaking nonsense.

If you axe those stage 3 tax cuts, PBO costings show that you could in fact end homelessness, make child care free and put dental and mental health care into Medicare. Those are the sorts of things that will provide real cost-of-living relief to people and provide services which they deserve to be able to rely on and access free of charge.

On child care, we've got a thousand childcare centres striking today because they are begging for better pay and conditions. So we could also make child care free for parents. But we should be paying those workers more. You could do that with the $244 billion over 10 years—pay women more. Give a legislated increase above CPI to feminised industries.

We heard a lot of talk at the jobs summit last week about women's workforce participation. There's a great idea—pay woman more. Then they won't have to strike out the front of Parliament House, desperately pleading for pay and conditions that reflect the calibre of their work and the importance of their work in raising the next generation. Free child care would cost $9 billion a year. That's a lot of money, but that would ensure women can get back into the workforce; importantly, it would ensure that kids get the best early childhood education that they deserve, that would set them up for a bright future; and, of course, it would reduce not only the gender pay gap but the unfair distribution of unpaid domestic labour in the home.

This government has got a real choice to make. Are they going to be 'Morrison lite', or are they actually going to dump a bad policy and help people? It shouldn't be that much of a conundrum to decide whether to give $244 billion to the rich or to make child care free, fix homelessness and put dental and mental health care into Medicare.

4:43 pm

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

If the Senate is talking about tax and the cost of living, we cannot ignore the most regressive tax on the poor and the vulnerable. Parliament is considering it now—$244 billion over 10 years barely registers compared to the trillions of dollars in economic mayhem that climate change and related energy policies are already inflicting, will continue inflicting and are making worse. Make no mistake; climate change and related energy policies are a brutal, highly regressive tax on the poor and the vulnerable.

Trying to tax carbon dioxide means trying to tax every single thing we do as humans, including breathing. That's why the United Nations and the World Economic Forum are pushing these burdens. They want to control every single thing we do. For these policies, the poor will always proportionally pay the highest price—by far, the highest price. Rich, inner-city elites can afford to buy a brand-new electric vehicle. The poor cannot. The rich can afford the outlay to install solar, which they get back with subsidies that the poor pay for through higher electricity charges. The poor cannot. The rich will be able to afford it when power bills go up, and, despite promises about the wind and solar pipedream, power bills are skyrocketing and will skyrocket. The poor cannot afford it, and, while life gets harder and more expensive for the poor, billions of dollars are being poured into the doomed wind and solar pipedreams.

Companies receiving government subsidies to build wind and solar complexes are giant multinational companies, quite often associated with the Chinese Communist Party and run for the benefit of the billionaire CEOs, billionaire owners. Climate change policies are like a reverse Robin Hood, taking taxes from the poor and giving to the rich, thanks to the Greens, the Liberal Party, the Labor Party and the Nationals. People on the minimum wage will suffer as life gets more expensive—much, much more expensive. As more intermittent and unreliable wind and solar is forced into the grid and reliable baseload power is prematurely forced out, power bills will go ever higher. As productive farming land is locked up for carbon dioxide credits that the Nationals, Liberals, Labor and the Greens want, groceries will get more expensive.

So, let's talk briefly about the carbon dioxide credit rort. If a producer of carbon dioxide pays for enough trees to supposedly offset carbon dioxide, it will get the green tick of approval and continue producing carbon dioxide. It's a tax, a hypocritical and destructive tax, about everything in life, because the end user, the customer, the people, will pay. The credits don't stop anything. They just say companies can do it as long as we, the people, pay a tree fee. Of course, that includes a fee to the companies and the government and the United Nations for their apparent services in managing this system—a tax. There are many more examples, and no-one should be in any doubt: climate change policies and related energy policies try to change the entire country, the entire economy. These changes will restrict almost everything—everything—making life more expensive. The rich will be able to afford it. The poor will not. Climate policies are a highly regressive tax on the poor.

4:47 pm

Photo of James McGrathJames McGrath (Queensland, Liberal National Party, Shadow Assistant Minister to the Leader of the Opposition) Share this | | Hansard source

Put simply, Greens are bad, tax cuts are good. Cutting taxes is good for your family, it's good for Australia. Indeed, it is our patriotic duty as Australians to fly our flag, cut our taxes and have a barbecue, because I don't know about you, Mr Acting Deputy President O'Sullivan, I want Australians to have more money into their back pocket. I want Australians to decide how they spend their money, so I want to cut taxes. I came into this place to cut taxes because we believe in freedom. We believe in the right and the might of the individual to decide how they spend their money, and what we're seeing is the Greens coming into this place because they think they know better than Australians.

The Greens want to tax Australians more. They want to tax Australian business and Australian families because the Greens love taxes. Well, I love cutting taxes, so the more taxes we can cut the better Australia will be, and the freer Australians will be. The Greens have come in here and, because they are a pack of lairs, they are saying that this is a tax cut for billionaires. Well, they are a bunch of liars, the Greens party, because guess what?

Photo of Matt O'SullivanMatt O'Sullivan (WA, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Senator McGrath, I ask you to withdraw.

Photo of James McGrathJames McGrath (Queensland, Liberal National Party, Shadow Assistant Minister to the Leader of the Opposition) Share this | | Hansard source

I wasn't reflecting on any individual. I just said the Greens were a pack of liars.

Photo of Matt O'SullivanMatt O'Sullivan (WA, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Senator McGrath, I ask you to withdraw. I have been advised that it would be against—

Photo of James McGrathJames McGrath (Queensland, Liberal National Party, Shadow Assistant Minister to the Leader of the Opposition) Share this | | Hansard source

I will withdraw, Mr Acting Deputy President, but let me put it to you: the Greens and people who sit with the colour green—the teal towards the dark green—they wouldn't know truth if it fell on them from a high place. If these stage 3 tax cuts are repealed, it means a teacher who earns a $70,000 a year would lose $620, a nurse earning $90,000 a year would lose $870 and a diesel fitter—diesel, it's a scary word for the Greens because they don't like diesel—earning $100,000 a year would lose more than $1,370 a year. The tax cuts are all about middle Australia. The Greens come here—these whinging, whining, pathetic people—with their extensive property portfolios. Did you know the member from Ryan has four homes? How many of those homes do you think are out for social housing? I say to the Greens who love taking the money but don't like sharing it that they are a bunch of hypocrites.

Here is the other fallacy being spread by the fairies at the bottom of the garden. They're saying that those who earn more don't pay their fair share. How wrong is that? When the stage 3 is fully implemented, an individual with a taxable income of $200,000, who earns 4.4 times more than an individual with a taxable income of $45,000, will pay 10 times more tax. This is why we come into politics, ladies and gentlemen. We come into politics because we believe in freedom. We come into politics because we want individuals, businesses and families to grow. The best way for Australians to grow is for them to have more money in their back pockets. This is why these tax cuts, when they are implemented, are so good for Australia.

Mr Acting Deputy President, I am going to let you in on a secret, and the secret is that I suspect that the jelly backs on the other side of the chamber will do a deal. They will do a deal with the Greens—

Photo of Paul ScarrPaul Scarr (Queensland, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Power sharing.

Photo of James McGrathJames McGrath (Queensland, Liberal National Party, Shadow Assistant Minister to the Leader of the Opposition) Share this | | Hansard source

and it will be a power-sharing deal, as a Senator Scarr pointed out. They will do a deal and these tax cuts will be no more. They will do a deal. Listen to the language of people like the Minister for Finance, who is sitting over there. They are not strident in their defence of these tax cuts. They are using the wishy-washy language of the Labor Party. So do not be surprised by this breaking news that these tax cuts will not proceed, because of the weakness of that side. How wrong is that for those of us who believe in freedom and believe in cutting taxes because we want you to have more money in your back pocket?

4:51 pm

David Shoebridge (NSW, Australian Greens) Share this | | Hansard source

This government's priorities are cooked. Labor is giving a $244 billion tax cut largely to the wealthy and to billionaires, but less than $2 a day to people on JobSeeker. Does that sound fair? These tax cuts are grotesque and they are self-serving. Members in this parliament are proposing to give themselves a $9,000-plus tax cut and billionaires a $9,000-a-year tax cut. No wonder the coalition senators are here supporting it: '$9,000 sounds nice, thanks very much!'

Meanwhile, I met nurses just last week who are being forced to work 41 shifts in 28 days because there is not enough money in our public hospital system. I have met students who are sick from the black mould toxicity in the substandard housing that they are struggling to pay rent for, and it's still costing 50 per cent of their income. And we have Labor and the coalition saying they want to give billionaires and politicians a $9,000 tax cut. It's disgraceful.

This parliament should be fighting for the many, not the few, but right now this government is dishing out favours to billionaires and big corporations. They talk about a living crisis. They say they're standing with workers, but on the really big decisions—the ones that are the $244 billion-dollar decisions, which are make or break on fairness—they say they can't do anything about it, that they agreed to it a few years ago and they're just stuck. Well, here is a message to the Labor government: you are now in government. You are not stuck with the coalition's rotten tax agenda. Have the courage to stand up and reverse these tax cuts.

Cancelling these tax cuts means that we can get dental and mental care into Medicare. Think about the changes that would make to have dental in Medicare. It is outrageous that in this country one of the key indicators of your class and your wealth is the state of your teeth. The only reason that is, and the only reason that will be next year and the year after, is that Labor doesn't have the courage to reverse these outrageous billionaire focused tax cuts.

We can make child care free, and we can pay early childhood educators and all teachers a fair wage, but we can't do that while we had out $244 billion in tax cuts to billionaires and politicians and those who already have enough. This parliament should be standing alongside those early childhood educators who are out there today, taking action for better pay and conditions so they can look after our kids and our grandkids. That's what they want to do. And I give a shoutout to the United Workers Union and every single childcare worker. Stand strong! The Greens are with you and we'll keep fighting for you until we reverse these tax cuts and give you the pay and conditions you deserve. Childcare educators are striking today, and they are calling for this parliament to put children before profit.

That's what Labor needs to do: put people before profit. Put nurses, midwives and healthcare workers before profit. Put teachers and students before profit. Put First Nations people across this country before profit. That's who this parliament should be for—not the billionaires, who don't need another tax break. It should be for the millions of Australians who are desperate for help while their wages are stuck and expenses are skyrocketing. This parliament should be standing up for young people, for people on Centrelink, for people with disabilities, for First Nations people, for people without a home, for people renting and unable to even think about owning a home in this country.

But these people will be worse off under Labor's tax cut. This parliament should be for every single one of you who needs our help. To all of you I say this: the Greens believe this parliament should be for you and will keep fighting to make good on that promise. (Time expired)

4:56 pm

Barbara Pocock (SA, Australian Greens) Share this | | Hansard source

Australia has a proud history of a progressive tax system. The stage 3 tax cuts are a watershed in relation to that history. They represent a turning away, and we know that we will never get back what we are going to give away with this reform, if it proceeds. We need to hang onto a proud Australian tradition, which is a tax system that looks after the bottom and fairly distributes the resources to the services that every Australian needs. These tax increases will give, as we all know—as I hope every Australian knows—$9,000 to billionaires and $9,000 to everyone in this place, but nothing for those on minimum wage, nothing for the working poor, who the other Senator Pocock spoke about, and nothing for the workers at the front of this parliament today who every day turn up for a job that pays them just over $20 an hour.

I think a lot about the care economy. I think about the economy that delivers care for our children, care for people with disability, care for our older citizens. All of us in this place, over our lifetime, depend on that care, and we all know that in depending on that care we need to look after it fairly. We need to make sure that those workers who are helping to look after our kids, grandchildren, parents or other friends with disability are properly rewarded and supported. We have a care economy in this country which is starved. It is thinned out. It is underpaid. It is overworked. It is disrespected. The stage 3 tax cuts are a doorway to making a historic intervention to fix that economy, which will be good for the future of our country and the citizens of this country.

As an economist, I know that when things change, when economic circumstances change, we have to change strategy. Only a fool doesn't do that. This policy was wrong at the time it was shaped. Labor knew it, and Labor opposed it. It is totally wrong now in such different economic circumstances. We are in an inequality crisis. The top of Australia has run away from the bottom. We can measure it in housing. We can measure in the quality of care. We can measure it in our health care. We can measure it, as my colleague says, in the quality of our teeth. And we can certainly measure it in a cost-of-living crisis which is leaving so many Australians under such pressure.

Today I met with Sam, a worker at Port Lincoln in South Australia, who came to the parliament to talk about his life as a carer for a household of people with disability. Sam works for $23 an hour. He's been doing the same job for 4½ years as a casual. He feels disrespected, he feels underpaid, he feels exhausted and he loves the people he cares for. He says, 'I love the guys I care for.' He is working for love, and he is not paid enough money. It is vitally important that we stop the stage 3 tax cuts and turn to the parts of our economy that are so desperate for our attention, for our resources and for our care. We must not pass the stage 3 tax cuts.

Photo of Sue LinesSue Lines (President) Share this | | Hansard source

Thank you, Senator Pocock. We will come back to this debate.