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Wednesday, 25 May 2005
Page: 63


Mr RIPOLL (1:42 PM) —I rise to speak on the Tax Laws Amendment (Personal Income Tax Reduction) Bill 2005. It is a real pleasure to speak on this bill. I am not frightened to talk about the budget, the tax cuts and the measures that are contained within it, though the government would say that the Labor Party have somehow got something to be frightened of or that we are doing something wrong. But let me assure you, Mr Deputy Speaker and everybody listening, that we are not. We are not actually trying to block, frustrate or delay tax cuts; we are trying to improve tax cuts. We are trying to give people a fairer slice of the tax cuts pie. In fact, we are not diminishing the overall package at all. We are keeping the overall package intact. We think if there is going to be $22 billion worth of tax cuts then let it be. Let those tax cuts go through. We are challenging the government. We are saying to the government: ‘Why don’t you pass the tax cuts of $22 billion, but let’s do it just a little bit more fairly.’ So the debate is not about whether we are opposed to tax cuts, because we are not. It is not about whether or not the government is going to get its tax cuts through. It is about who gets to share in those tax cuts and at what rate.

I think budgets are an important indicator of what governments are about. In each budget, a government sets out its financial plans, its money plans and what it wants to do with its surpluses, debts and a range of things. This budget is a telling one and, as we have just heard from the member for Fraser, a budget of lost opportunities. The last two budgets had incredible giveaways that are putting financial pressure back on our economy.

People out in the street are sophisticated enough to understand this, and I think that this is the point that the government have missed. They think that just by going out there with a very simplistic, almost arrogant, view to the community and just by dangling a very small carrot in front of people’s faces they will get people to fawn on them and fall at their feet. This is the expectation of this government. This is how arrogant they have become. People are a lot smarter than that. They have worked out that this is not a fair budget for them, that there could be a fairer budget out there.

There are a number of polls around the place, and I will talk about those in a moment. Budgets do tell us a lot about governments and people and they tell us in particular a lot about this Treasurer. This budget is a reflection on who Peter Costello, the Treasurer of Australia, really is. It is amazing that for the first budget after an election we actually get an election budget. It sounds unusual. We do not expect a budget of this kind and magnitude or with this large a tax cut—and we are talking about a substantial amount of money. If you take it all into account it is about $24 billion of taxpayers’ money.

It is an election budget all right, partly for 2007, but it is an internal election budget. This is a budget about the internal election within the Liberal Party for its own leadership. It is a budget for Peter Costello to win over the hearts and hip pockets of his own backbench. This budget is not so much about giving ordinary Australians, the vast majority of Australians, a decent tax cut for their hard-earned dollars. This is not for the ones that are driving the economy—the small business people, the contractors, the labourers, the transport industry workers, the drivers, the ones that are actually delivering the rivers of revenue to this mob, to Peter Costello. What do they get back in return? Just a miniscule carrot.

But at the other end are the three per cent of Australians who will really benefit. I have checked this figure and had it confirmed: only three per cent of Australians will get some sort of real tax relief. I use the term ‘tax relief’ carefully in this debate because we get a tiny bit of tax relief at the top end but we certainly get no tax reform. There is no institutional tax reform, which is what this country needs. We need a budget that will reflect a changing economy, that will actually reflect the aspirations of working Australians.

We did not get that. This budget reflected the personal ambition of the Treasurer and the Treasurer alone. This is his budget for his future. It is about his ambition, his leadership ambition, and it is about satisfying the needs of a backbench on the Liberal-National side that are upset about a number of things. But they just do not have enough money in their back pockets. This budget delivers to the top three per cent—all these empty seats that you see here. That side there will get the three per cent.

I am not going to hide from it: we will benefit from this too. But we are doing something about it. We are coming into this place and saying that there is a better way. Let us take the $24 billion and slice it up more fairly. We understand that people on high incomes deserve a tax cut because they have been taxed to the hilt by this mob for too many years. We do not want to take money from them but there is a better way to redistribute those funds. You take a little bit less from the top and you redistribute down to people on middle and lower incomes. The net effect is that you maintain the budget as it stands but you give people a fairer go. You actually deliver not small tax relief but substantial tax reform. This is what this government should be about. It should be focused on the main game, on delivering some economic reform that will continue the growth that we have experienced in this country for the past 15 years—not that this government did anything to deliver that.

Everybody understands that it was the hard, tough reforms and decisions made under the Hawke and Keating governments that delivered the growth. The growth was in place before this mob got elected and its continued growth is based on what we did—the hard financial system reforms, all the skills reforms, all the reforms that we put into place to ensure that the economy would continue to grow. Guess what. Those reforms are ending. While the Howard-Costello government have basked in the glory of the reforms that were put in place by Labor they have done nothing during that good economic time to ensure that the next 15 years—whether they are in government or not—will see continued growth.

Let us be real about this: you do not put in place reforms to suit yourself; you put in place reforms to suit the national economy and every worker in this country. That is what it should be about. They are not doing that. They have wasted the nine years they have had in this place. They are coming up to a decade, and people need to start taking this in context. Every time you hear a government member or minister stand up they are always harking back to the past and to what Labor did. But they have had 10 years now—how many more years do they want before they can get it right? They have had a decade now to come up with the reforms.

For example, we have got a crisis with health professionals. Everyone tells me that it is not easy to fix. That is true, because it takes up to seven years to train a doctor and it can take up to 10 years to train a specialist. But they have had 10 years, so we should have an abundance of health professionals. We should not need to import doctors from overseas; we should have them trained. We should be training Australians today for the future. But that is not what we are getting from this government. We are getting missed opportunity after missed opportunity. It is all about ensuring their own ambitions and futures. This budget tells a lot about the government and it certainly tells us a lot about certain people. It has told us a lot about the man Peter Costello, the Treasurer, and what his priorities are. You can pick up any paper anywhere and you will soon find plenty of articles that talk about the missed opportunities and things that they could have done with this huge amount of money.

There are a lot of surveys out there at the moment. Plenty of newspapers and credible polling agencies have gone out and asked people what they would rather have: six bucks in their back pockets or better roads and better infrastructure. It is about fifty-fifty out there. It is pretty incredible that people are opting not to get a $6 tax cut but would prefer to have some better infrastructure. They are actually thinking along that line, and that bodes well for the whole range of people.

I want to comment on a couple of things that are local for me and for Queensland as well. The government have a view that somehow they are right on this, that just by saying that they are going to give a tax cut of $6 means that people ought to be happy. But they do not tell you the full story of who gets it and who misses out. If the government were to adopt our tax package and our tax amendments the average Australian would get $12—double—and that is maintaining the cost to the budget of $24 billion.

So who actually misses out on getting that extra money that would make it a lot fairer? In my electorate of Oxley it is about 92 per cent of taxpayers. Ninety-two per cent of taxpayers in Oxley will actually miss out through this government’s budget. They are not going to get the extra $6 a week; they are just going to get the paltry $6 to start with. The message is clear from the government side. That mob want to give themselves a tax cut of $65 a week—they want an extra $65 in their back pockets—but they are only prepared to give the other 90 per cent of Australians $6 a week. They think they are worth 10 times more than the rest of you—the rest of everybody out there. It is okay for them. They want to give themselves a full banquet and a bottle of expensive wine and they expect the rest of Australia just to get by on a schooner of beer or a couple of stubbies, because that is what this budget does. It says they value their own side 10 times more than they value every other Australian.

Let me go through a few other electorates. I want to know how government members are going to deal with a couple of issues, because this is not so much about what we are going to do to put pressure on the government about this budget but about what the members on the other side of the chamber are going to do. Let us look at Ipswich and what the member for Blair is going to do when he goes back to his electorate and has to face his electors, look them in the eye and tell them that 90 per cent of them are going to miss out on the extra tax cuts that they would get if the government passed Labor’s amendments. Ninety per cent of his electors are going to miss out. I do not know how he is going to have the gall or the guts to come into this place, vote our package down and say to those 90 per cent of his electors that they are not worth those tax cuts because, simply, he wants to put the money in his own back pocket. That is the message he is giving everybody out there. In order for the member for Blair to keep his $65 a week, he has to deny it from your pocket. But if he took a little bit out of his $65 and redistributed it down you would get $12. He would get a little bit more, but you would get more too—you would get double; he would just get a little bit more. I want to know how he is going to come into this place, vote against Labor’s package, vote against a fairer tax package for the same cost to the budget, and then walk into his electorate and tell them that they are not worth getting anything.

I want to know how the member for Moreton is going to go into his electorate and tell about 90 per cent of his constituents that they are not worth as much as he is worth—that he is worth 10 times what they are worth. He could give them $12 right now. The member for Moreton could walk into this place and support Labor’s package. He could take a little bit out of his $65 a week tax cut—it is not going to hurt him, it is not going to kill him, but it will make a huge difference to everybody else. I want to know how he is going to explain that to his electorate, how he is going to walk in here and vote against tax cuts, because that is what he is doing here: he is going to vote against tax cuts.

It is not just the member for Moreton and the member for Blair. The member for Ryan has a slightly wealthier electorate, but about 80 to 85 per cent of constituents in his electorate are going to miss out on the tax cuts because he is going to vote against them. This mob are actually going to vote against tax cuts. They do not want to give you an extra $6 in your pocket to make it $12 a week; they want to keep their $65. That is what this whole debate is about: whether this mob wants $65 a week in their back pockets or whether the rest of Australia gets $12. I know what decision I would be making. I would be saying, ‘I can sacrifice a little bit out of my $65 and I’ll give it to the people in my electorate.’ That is what they should be doing.

Government members interjecting—


Mr RIPOLL —You are going to hear this from this mob. As soon as they get a bit uncomfortable and the seat gets a little bit hot they start getting a little bit loud. They have worked out that they now have to go and explain to their constituents how they are actually going to prevent them from getting more in tax cuts for the same dollar amount.

The same goes for the member for Longman. How is he going to explain to his constituents, more than 90 per cent of whom he is going to deny a tax cut to? He is happy to keep his $65 a week but not to give it to the rest of his constituents. It is absolutely appalling; it is something that should not happen. It is something that we can fix and we will fix. Let us not worry about constitutional problems; let us not worry about the process. It is really easy from here on. We are going to move the amendments; you guys can support them. You get to keep your tax cuts; you get to keep the budget as it stands, dollar for dollar. It is exactly your package, exactly what you have proposed, except for one critical part—and this is the important part. It is the part where we all dig into our pockets, take a little bit of our $65 a week and give it to the rest of Australia. That is a much better idea.

The people of Australia are not going to be fooled in this debate. I have no problem with walking into my electorate and explaining to them how you guys voted against them getting a higher tax cut, some genuine tax reform and some genuine tax relief for the people who actually deserve it. You do not deserve $65 a week. I want to see one of you guys on the government side say you deserve your $65 more than somebody out there in one of your constituencies deserves $12. Can you explain it? Are you going to go out there and tell your constituents that they do not deserve their $12 because you want to keep your $65? That is all it comes down to and that is what it comes down to every time.

Peter Costello has delivered a budget to keep you mob quiet. He is making sure he shores up some support for when the leadership challenge comes on. It is a budget all about his ambitions. It has got nothing to do with the rest of Australia. It has got nothing to do with trying to grow the economy. We are trying to do something real. It has got nothing to do with infrastructure, because you have not dealt with infrastructure properly. You have not looked at all the big-ticket items. You have not looked at the things that are necessary to make this economy continue to grow. You inherited growth and you do not know how to keep it going.

More importantly than anything, this budget set three crucial tests. It set three tests that you can absolutely bank on. The first one is: will more Australians actually get a better benefit and a better deal in terms of tax reform from this government? The government failed miserably on the first test and they will not do anything about it in this place. The second test is: are they doing anything about genuine reform in infrastructure and about Australia’s future? The answer is nothing. They have failed the second test. The third test is: will they provide some real incentive for hard-working Australians? They failed No. 3. Three strikes and you are out, because you have done nothing for ordinary people.


The SPEAKER —Order! I remind the member for Oxley that the use of the word ‘you’ is to be discouraged.


Mr RIPOLL —Thank you, Mr Speaker. Government members have done nothing about providing incentive for ordinary working Australians. What they have done is that they have said, ‘If you’re wealthy, you need incentive and you need more money so that you can continue to work.’ But if you are a middle-income earner or a low-income earner, what they have said is: ‘To give you incentive, we’re going to take money off you.’ That is their ideology—it is about giving more to people at the top end as incentive, but at the bottom end they give you less. Just remember this: you can get $12 as a tax cut and not $6 if only the Liberal Party and the National Party would dig into their own pockets, cut down their $65 tax cut and give you a little bit of theirs. But they are not going to do it because they want to keep their tax cut. They think they are worth more than you are. In fact, they think that so much that they think they are worth 10 times more than you are.


The SPEAKER —Order! It being 2.00 pm, the debate is interrupted in accordance with standing order 97. The debate may be resumed at a later hour and the member will have leave to continue speaking when the debate is resumed.