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Thursday, 16 February 2017
Page: 1412

Mr EVANS (Brisbane) (11:38): I wish to make some comments about business tax.

Any student of Australian business and economic history since the mid-80s knows that part of Australia's success was derived through the reduction in the company tax rate.

That is a quote from the Leader of the Opposition, Bill Shorten, from March 2012, when he was in government.

Cutting the company income tax rate increases domestic productivity and domestic investment. More capital means higher productivity and economic growth and leads to more jobs and higher wages.

That is another quote from the Leader of the Opposition, from August 2011.

… for a nation to try to tax itself into prosperity is like a man standing in a bucket and trying to lift himself up by the handle.

That quote is not from the opposition leader; that one was from Winston Churchill. You probably have to go back as far as Churchill to find the last Labor leader who did not aspire to cut the corporate tax rate. It used to be a longstanding, bipartisan position in Australia's parliament that we all aspired to cut Australia's corporate tax rates. I think it is important for us to reflect on the motives of an opposition leader who would say one thing when they were a minister in government with responsibilities and another thing when they are in opposition and digging for votes. I think it is important for us to reflect on the significance—what it really means—when a major political party in Australia finally walks away from a longstanding bipartisan principle, what was a bipartisan key plank of Australia's economic plan and towards populism.

I have been paying very close attention to the language being used by Labor members opposite when they have mentioned tax recently. The catchcry is $50 billion of handouts to big business and multinationals—those are the words they use. The opposition leader rolled that phrase out in question time just yesterday in fact. But, I think it is time to consider those words, word by word, and to expose the irresponsible mistruth behind them. Because, firstly, handouts: tax cuts are not handouts. It is not a handout to let a hardworking small business owner keep a little bit more of their own hard-earned money. It is not a handout; it is their money; they worked really hard for it.

Secondly, it is not $50 billion. I suspect, I think, what is going on is that Labor is attempting to add up the first 10 years of the budgetary impact of this measure, in which case the accurate figure would actually be $48 billion. But what is $2 billion between friends in the Labor Party? The budget impacts of this measure are $1.6 billion this year, not $48 billion, not $50 billion—$1.6 billion. It is $2.3 billion the year after that, $2.5 billion in 2018-19 and $2.8 billion in 2019-20 and so on.

Thirdly, I am very proud to say, especially given my background in small business, our tax cuts are going first and foremost to small businesses, not to big businesses, not to multinationals; it is only going to small businesses this year, next year, the year after and for this whole term of parliament. And, yes, we do want to legislate a longer-term plan to let the entire economy benefit from tax cuts. Over time we would seek to bring all medium and big businesses into the fold too, because that used to be the bipartisan position of all major parties in this parliament.

If Labor does not like that any more, that is fine. There are two more elections between now and when any tax cuts would be passed onto any big businesses. If they are so confident about their new-found position, then, over the next seven years, they could take that position to either the next election or the election after that. And, if the Australian people judge it to be a winner, then they would win one of those elections and they would get to make the change before a single taxable dollar in any way benefited any big business. Just don't get in the road of delivering these tax cuts to the small businesses who need them the most right now.

I am very, very proud to try to keep Australia competitive in a new global world. I am proud to support tax cuts for the 9,000 small businesses in my electorate of Brisbane. Our tax enterprise plan is one of the key planks needed to unlock the power of our local small businesses. It is not handouts; it is their own money. It is not $50 billion; it is $1.6 billion this year; $2.3 billion next year and so on, and everything in our budget and in the term of this parliament is going to small businesses and small businesses only.

Labor is perpetrating a giant fraud here with their use of sensationalist language. It is just plain wrong. The opposition leader is damned by his own words, and Labor is damned by the consistent position of Labor leaders going back decades. I am calling them out on it today.