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Tuesday, 8 May 2018
Page: 2529

Taxation


Senator McALLISTER (New South WalesDeputy Opposition Whip in the Senate) (14:12): My question is to the Minister representing the Minister for Finance, Senator Fifield. When asked on ABC's 7.30 program last night about the Turnbull government's ability to persuade the Australian public that cutting company tax is a good idea, former Treasurer Peter Costello said, 'Somebody has to speak for the individual wage and salary earner as well. These are people paying 47c on $200,000. I think those forgotten people also ought to be in the calculation of the government at the moment.' Does the minister agree with former Treasurer Costello that Australians earning over $200,000 a year are Australia's 'forgotten' people?

Senator Abetz interjecting

Senator Wong interjecting

The PRESIDENT: Order! Senator Abetz and Senator Wong, I like to be able to hear the question as well as the answer.



Senator FIFIELD (VictoriaMinister for Communications, Minister for the Arts and Deputy Leader of the Government in the Senate) (14:13): Thank you, Senator McAllister, for your question. It has long been my practice to allow Mr Costello to speak for himself, which he is well able to do. The Treasurer has already indicated that this government's focus, when it is in a position to do so, is to give tax relief for low- and middle-income earners. That is what is the focus of the government is. Yes, we also have made very clear that we want to legislate the second tranche of our company tax cuts. Something that I find very curious is, when those opposite talk about the company tax cut package that they oppose, they always use a figure of $60-something billion and now they talk about $80 billion. What is implicit in that is that those opposite want to repeal company tax cuts for small business, because company tax cuts for small business are embedded in that figure. If that's not the case—

Senator McAllister: My point of order is on relevance. My question went to whether or not people earning over $200,000 are forgotten people, not to corporate tax cuts.

The PRESIDENT: On the point of order, I will remind the minister of the bulk of the question. There was a reference to corporate tax cuts in the question; the bulk of the question was as outlined.

Senator Wong interjecting

The PRESIDENT: I thought there was a reference in the first sentence—I'm happy to be corrected. As I've said, Senator Wong, I'll remind the minister of the bulk of the question.

Senator FIFIELD: In referencing company tax cuts I'm endeavouring to do full justice to Senator McAllister's question, but, Mr President, I take your admonishment and come back to personal income tax relief. The role of government is to strike a balance, and what we're seeking to do is to grow the economy, to increase employment and to put ourselves in a position where we can get back to a budget in balance and where we can start to repay the debt that was commenced by those opposite and which was embedded in the forward estimates. Our focus unapologetically when we're in a position to do so will be on income tax relief for low- and middle- income earners.

The PRESIDENT: Senator McAllister, a supplementary question.







Senator McALLISTER (New South WalesDeputy Opposition Whip in the Senate) (14:16): Former Treasurer Costello has said in relation to the behaviour of Australia's banks: 'We have seen at senior executive and board levels failures of governments. There will be a reckoning with senior executives and probably with the boards of the banks, who will be held accountable, and so there should be.' Is the former Treasurer correct?

Senator Ian Macdonald: Is that a supplementary question?



Senator FIFIELD (VictoriaMinister for Communications, Minister for the Arts and Deputy Leader of the Government in the Senate) (14:16): I heard Senator Macdonald behind me ask if that's a supplementary question, because I don't think it directly relates to the primary question. Nevertheless, we share with all colleagues in this place concern about the activities that have been identified in the banking and finance industry. That's why the government have for quite some time taken strong action, even pre-dating the royal commission, to give stronger powers to ASIC, to give more money to ASIC and to introduce the BEAR regime for banking executives. So absolutely we share the concern of Mr Costello and people in this place and around the community that banking standards need to lift. We along with colleagues here and in the other place intend to ensure that that happens. (Time expired)

The PRESIDENT: Senator McAllister, a final supplementary question.



Senator McALLISTER (New South WalesDeputy Opposition Whip in the Senate) (14:17): Given that even former Liberal Treasurer Peter Costello recognises Australian banks ought to be held accountable, why is the Turnbull government burdening future generations with a $17 billion handout?


Senator FIFIELD (VictoriaMinister for Communications, Minister for the Arts and Deputy Leader of the Government in the Senate) (14:17): Australian banks pay company tax, like all other eligible enterprises. We don't have a separate banking company tax regime, and that's not the intention of this government. We do, as you know, have in place a levy on those institutions, which we think is appropriate. But, as has been made very clear by the Treasurer and by the finance minister, we are looking to have a consistent company tax regime. What we want to have is an internationally competitive company tax regime. We were once about second or third best when it came to a competitive company tax regime. That is no longer the case. We need to amend our tax law so that we can continue to attract investment and to be competitive.