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Thursday, 16 February 2017
Page: 1361


Mr SHORTEN (MaribyrnongLeader of the Opposition) (15:25): Australians are demanding more of their parliament and more of their politicians, but this week they would have been severely disappointed by the actions of this out-of-touch, desperate and divided government. This is a government who have no agenda and no authority, and all they seek to do is respond by promoting one flawed economic proposition. They will do anything to Australians in order to pass a $50 billion corporate tax giveaway. We have seen this week every day greater and greater energy by this government to take middle- and working-class Australians hostage in their actions to pay for an unfunded $50 billion corporate tax cut.

On Monday they said that the only way that people can ever get childcare reform is if pensioners lose $14 a fortnight, if families lose $750 a year. The only way they think that you can get childcare reform is by telling young unemployed people that they have to go a month without receiving any money whatsoever. It is a flawed strategy which pits one group of Australians against another group of Australians, but, watching the sensitivity of the Prime Minister's grotesque defence of preferencing One Nation, we see they have no problem with pitting one group of Australians against another. We heard the Prime Minister describe One Nation: 'all parties do it'. No, Prime Minister; not all parties preference the sort of candidates One Nation is running.

On Tuesday, not content with taking family payments, pensioners and young unemployed people and pitting them against people who want to see improvements in child care, the Treasurer, that marvel of conservative engineering, came out and said, 'The only way that you can have the National Disability Insurance Scheme funded is if you vote to cut pensioners, if you vote to cut young unemployed people, if you vote to go after family payments.'

Then on Wednesday, not content with their attack on child care on Monday, with their attack on the National Disability Insurance Scheme Tuesday, this increasingly desperate government let the cat out of the bag. The Treasurer and the government said that, if Labor does not give in to the blackmail of the government and vote for unfair cuts harming vulnerable Australians, the government will increase the taxes of all Australians. I never thought I would hear any government threaten the Australian people that they will all have to increase their taxes unless they go along with harmful cuts to the less well off in our society.

But the real poverty of the government's conservative proposition was seen again today. They cannot even maintain a position. Today in the morning and yesterday they said that they were looking at capital gains tax reform, and in the afternoon, after the Minister for Finance slam-dunked the Treasurer behind the scenes, all of a sudden the government has now said: 'We will not look at reforming negative gearing. We will not look at reforming capital gains tax deductions. We will keep looking after the really well off, and instead the only way that you can have any change is by going after the vulnerable.'

And why are they contorting themselves? Why are they going so hard on the National Disability Insurance Scheme? Why are they threatening to raise the taxes—unspecified so far? It is because they want to pay for their $50 billion corporate tax cut. It is the $50 billion corporate tax cut which is the real issue here. It is flawed economics. What they want to do is take $50 billion out of the nation's ATM and give it back to large businesses. Labor will support reform for businesses up to $2 million—that is 83 per cent of small businesses, we will support that—but what this government wants to do is take $50 billion, in the next 10 years, out of the nation's ATM and, of course, they have not explained to anyone where they are going to replace it from. That is why we have seen some of the funding for the NDIS on the chopping block. That is why we see pensioners being told, 'If you go overseas for longer than six weeks, that's it. It doesn't matter how long you paid taxes for in this country, that's it.'

This government wants to give $50 billion in corporate tax reforms to the big companies; they want to hand the bank $7.4 billion. The Commonwealth Bank just announced a profit of $4.9 billion. They really need a pay rise from the government, not at all. And no less than Goldman Sachs has said that something like $30 billion of the $50 billion in corporate tax giveaway they are giving out of the budget back to large companies will go overseas. So the money will not be invested in Australia; it will head back overseas—that is what Goldman Sachs has said. The money will go to big banks to increase their profits; the money will go to multinationals. This is the government, who, whilst they do not generally believe in foreign aid—the only foreign aid they want to give is corporate tax relief to large foreign companies.

This $50 billion corporate tax giveaway is not going to generate jobs. It has been proven, modelled and researched that we will see economic growth of one per cent in 10 years time—that is 0.1 per cent GDP improvement a year. That is a rounding error. They are spending $50 billion out of the Australian economy and they are going to give negligible economic benefit.

Then you also look at what will be forgone. When you take that $50 billion out, the question you have to ask is: what is the opportunity cost of that $50 billion? How many schools will not be supported? How many hospitals will not be property funded? How many apprentices will not receive the support they need? How many older Australians will have a dignified and proper aged pension forgone, because of the corporate tax giveaway? This is the proposition of the government this week. The only plan they have got is $50 billion of corporate tax giveaway, and they are asking ordinary and battling Australians to pay for the $50 billion. Labor is not going to have a bar of that whatsoever.

Then we look at the proposals they are actually trying to do in terms of the tax cuts. The National Disability Insurance Scheme—this is a dishonest government. This National Disability Insurance Scheme was funded and, if the minister wasn't so dilatory in terms of the pursuit of his task, he could simply go to the budget papers in 2013 and see it is there, so it is not necessary. There are other alternatives for this government to fund the changes it needs to make. You do not have to give the $50 billion dollars away. And, what is more, you do not have to give negative gearing tax concessions ongoing in the next 10 years. That will save $36 billion to $37 billion. This is a government with the wrong priorities.

The government has given Australians, this week, a false choice. It has said that the only way you can have child care is by cutting other working people's benefits—wrong! It has said that the only way you can have childcare reform is by going after and undermining the security of the National Disability Insurance Scheme. This is a government who has made it perfectly clear on Wednesday, and not resiled from, that tax increases are on the table. This is a government who is contemplating actively—unless they can blackmail Labor into giving up working- and middle-class people and the scarce benefits they enjoy—making all Australians pay more tax. But what they never do is look at the other alternatives.

Labor stands here to positively suggest to the government that, if you drop your $50 billion in corporate tax cuts, we will support you. We will actively support the government, if they choose to reform negative gearing and, by the way, give first home buyers an equal go on the market against investors. We will actively work with the government in terms of capital gains tax reform.

This is a government who does have more choices than it presents to the Australian people. But how has the government responded this week? Has the government actually tried to say what it is going to do? It has not. Instead, every time we call the government out on their propositions, what have they done? They have just flipped the switch to negative.

Labor stands here, promising the Australian people that we will work to make this parliament work. We will work with the government to make sensible reforms, and we think that the most sensible reform that could be made is the government dropping the $50 billion tax cut. For me, it is a very simple equation. If you are given a choice between properly funding Medicare or giving large companies a corporate tax cut, we will choose Medicare. If you have to choose between docking a month's money off an unemployed person who earns $13,750 or if the choice is to take $8.80 a week off someone on $13,000 Newstart or giving large corporations a corporate tax cut, we will choose to stand up for the less well-off. If there is a choice between taking $14 a fortnight off a pensioner in energy supplements or giving corporate Australia a $50 billion tax cut, we will choose the pensioners. If there is a choice between letting a family on $60,000 keep a $750 family payment or giving corporate Australia a $50 billion tax giveaway, we will choose families. Labor will stand up for the Australian people. We will put people first, and we will fight and fight and fight the government's rotten corporate tax giveaway.