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Tuesday, 24 May 2005
Page: 3

Mr CAUSLEY (2:11 PM) —My question is directed to the Treasurer. Would the Treasurer provide details of how the budget provides tax relief for all Australians? Are there any alternative policies?

Mr COSTELLO (Treasurer) —I thank the honourable member for Page for his question. I can tell him that this side of the House support tax cuts for all Australians commencing on 1 July this year. In particular, we will do that by cutting the 17 per cent marginal rate to 15 per cent. I made the point yesterday that the Labor Party opposes that and that it opposes any tax cut on 1 July. The member for Lilley took great objection to that and he scurried around and produced one of his press releases, which I, at least, read—I do not want those press releases to feel entirely lonely and orphaned! He took great objection to this. He said, ‘Oh, that’s not right. Labor’s proposal would see tax cuts on 1 July 2005.’ Do you know what they were? They were the government’s tax cuts from the last budget. I might have missed the last election, but I thought the Labor Party went to the last election saying that they were no good because they did not apply to people on under $52,000. Now they are an integral part of the Labor Party’s tax policy.

The second thing he said was that Labor’s plan gives you a $12 tax cut on 1 January 2006. As I said yesterday, if you are on $20,000, you do not get a $12-a-week tax cut. Of course you do not get a $12-a-week tax cut on $20,000. Again, it was completely false. The third thing he said—and get a load of this—was that senior Australians would benefit from Labor’s tax plan. I said yesterday that, because Labor are against cutting the lowest marginal rate, senior Australians would not get the benefit. The member for Lilley went out and said, ‘No, no, they will. Senior Australians will get the benefit because’—and get a load of this—‘senior Australians will be eligible for Labor’s welfare to work bonus.’ Can’t you see the Leader of the Opposition going through old age homes and, when people ask him, ‘Where’s my tax cut?’ him saying, ‘Well, if you only move off welfare into work, madam, you will be eligible for Labor’s welfare to work bonus’? This was a tax policy cobbled together out of nothing to try to relieve the Leader of the Opposition’s self-inflicted wounds. It changes on a daily basis.

That bill implementing the tax cuts will go through this parliament. If it does not go through this Senate, it will go through the Senate that takes its place on 1 July. The bill will be dated to take effect from 1 July. It will become law, even if it has to be passed by the new Senate; but, in order for people to get their tax cuts on 1 July, the withholding schedules, which have been prepared by the Commissioner of Taxation, must clear both houses of this parliament. Either house can disallow those withholding schedules. If the Senate should disallow the withholding schedules, that means that employers cannot operate the new withholding schedules from 1 July and people will not get their tax cut on 1 July.

The critical question for the Leader of the Opposition now becomes: will he be disallowing those withholding schedules, which will be tabled in the Senate when the Senate sits in about 2½ weeks time? Will he be disallowing them and throwing 850,000 businesses into confusion, denying people their tax cut, or will he allow those withholding schedules to go through? According to AAP the Labor caucus discussed this issue in their meeting. Bear in mind that the Labor Party is taking this great stand against tax cuts so that the Leader of the Opposition can show how strong he is on the issue. Here is the AAP report on what the caucus intends to do about the withholding schedules:

A party spokeswoman said that the Labor Party would oppose the bill—

that is, the tax cuts—

in the House of Representatives and the Senate. But it will not make a decision on disallowing proposed tax schedules. “We have determined through caucus today to not determine a position on the disallowance.

This is the resolute Australian Labor Party: ‘We have resolutely determined today not to determine a position on this particular issue’! There are 850,000 businesses in Australia that need to know what to do on 1 July. I call on the Labor Party to determine to determine to have a determined position, determinately in favour of tax cuts! Get out of the way and let the tax cuts through.