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Tuesday, 11 September 2012
Page: 10178


Mr HOCKEY (North Sydney) (14:13): My question is to the Acting Prime Minister. I refer the Treasurer to the Prime Minister's statement less than a month ago that business can have a company tax rate cut 'before Christmas'. How can the government fund its $120 billion black hole of spending commitments, as well as a company tax cut, in a climate of falling revenue? Treasurer, aren't you just making it up as you go along?

Mr SWAN (LilleyDeputy Prime Minister and Treasurer) (14:13): This is a breathtaking question from the shadow Treasurer because, first of all, he and the Liberals actually stand for a company tax increase. That is the Coles and Woolies grocery tax they still have on their agenda. Second, when we wanted to cut company tax, who opposed that? The Liberals! This great party of Menzies, supposedly the party of free enterprise, came into this House and opposed a company tax cut. Not only did they do that, but they came into the House and opposed the instant asset write-off, which represents tax relief for up to 2.7 million small businesses around Australia.

The shadow Treasurer then has the hide to say, 'Why didn't you proceed with the company tax cut?' Because you opposed it—that is why we did not proceed with the company tax cut. And you are on the record as opposing it. I do not know what parallel universe you live in, but the fact is you opposed the company tax cut. When it comes to taxes more generally, you also have a lot of hide to come into this House and talk about taxation when you were a member of the highest taxing government in Australian history. In fact, if the tax-to-GDP ratio we inherited was there today, there would be a surplus in Australia of $25 billion. So you were the highest taxing government in our history.

What we are doing is the responsible thing—putting in place a range of policies to keep our economy growing, to make sure we distribute the benefits of growth, to invest in the future and, most particularly, to invest in the education of our kids. For everyone on this side of the House, one of the fundamental reasons we got into politics is that we understand that investment in people, particularly in early childhood education, primary education, secondary education and tertiary education, is the foundation not only of our social progress but of our economic prosperity. That goes to the very core of the values of everybody who sits on this side of the House, but it does not go to the core of the values of everybody sitting opposite. That is why there is now such a fundamental difference between what you did and what we are going to put in place in this country for the future—spreading prosperity and opportunity to make sure that everybody, wherever they are born, wherever they come from, gets the best possible education and start in life.

Mr HOCKEY (North Sydney) (14:16): Madam Deputy Speaker, I ask a supplementary question. Will the Treasurer rule out tax increases to pay for his $120 billion black hole?

Government members interjecting

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Ms AE Burke ): Order!

Dr Emerson interjecting

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: The minister for trade is not assisting the operations of the parliament. The Acting Prime Minister, in his capacity as Treasurer, has the call.

Mr SWAN (LilleyDeputy Prime Minister and Treasurer) (14:17): I answered this question in full yesterday. I said our commitment is to keep the tax-to-GDP ratio below the level that we inherited. That is what I said yesterday. Once again, there is such a clear contrast between us and those on the other side of the House and their Liberal friends in New South Wales—

Mr Hockey: Madam Deputy Speaker, on a point of order: I ask the Treasurer not to play games. Will he rule out tax increases?

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: The member for North Sydney will resume his seat.

Honourable members interjecting

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: Given the level of noise on all sides of the chamber, it would be virtually impossible to have heard what the Acting Prime Minister said before. The Acting Prime Minister has the call.

Mr SWAN: We on this side of the House understand the importance of putting in place a range of policies which secure economic growth and allow governments to provide opportunities for all of their people. Of course, those on that side of the House are supporting the cuts of the O'Farrell government: $1.7 billion to be cut from public schools, Catholic schools, independent schools and TAFE colleges; 800 TAFE teachers to be sacked; 600 department of education teachers and staff to be sacked; TAFE fees to increase by 9.5 per cent—

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: The Acting Prime Minister will return to the question before the chair.

Mr SWAN: We on this side of the House are absolutely committed to economic growth and providing the basic services for all our people.