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Wednesday, 28 March 2018
Page: 2381


Senator STORER (South Australia) (12:45): I rise to contribute to the debate on the Treasury Laws Amendment (Enterprise Tax Plan No. 2) Bill 2017. Please note that this is not my first speech. I wish to thank Senator Cormann and his staff for their respectful, patient and courteous dealings with me over the last month in my commencement as a senator. Sitting as an Independent senator for South Australia, it is my intention to review each bill on its merits, examining all the evidence available in a non-partisan manner. I believe this is what the South Australian people expect of me.

My focus in evaluating this bill has been on the impact on future prosperity and on fairness for all Australians—in particular, South Australians. I have undertaken an at-length, considered review of materials provided by many sources in relation to this bill, drawing on my business and economics background. I have held numerous meetings and received input from a wide range of stakeholders, including members of the public, South Australian businesses and business groups, leading economists, national welfare groups and national business councils and their members.

After undertaking that process, I remain to be convinced that, in isolation from a broader discussion and initiatives on enhancing the overall sustainability of our taxation system, I should support this bill in its current form. I believe this bill is a narrowly cast proposition of change to the overall tax and transfer system, a system which itself continues to be felt by some economists and business leaders to be unsustainable. In the significant reforms posited in the Henry tax review of 2010, the reduction in company tax to 25 per cent was only one of a number of principal feature reforms which have not been acted upon.

I have doubts that the decision to reduce company tax for all companies is prudent to undertake in the face of Australia's budget deficit and debt. Even without this tax cut, I doubt our present tax system is sufficiently robust to support a medium-term fiscal strategy of budget surpluses on average over the course of the economic cycle. Importantly, I see the strength and timing of the effect of this proposed tax cut to be modest relative to its cost. Australia has one of the highest rates of population growth in the developed world, and I am mindful of other uses of government revenue that can generate prosperity and enhance fairness for the Australian people, such as well-targeted social and economic programs aimed at supporting businesses with R&D, innovation and industrial transformation; funding of world-class education and health systems; harnessing the contribution potential of our youth and ageing populations; reducing inequality; and investing in public infrastructure.

On 31 January 2018, in an opinion piece in The Australian newspaper, the Minister for Urban Infrastructure and Cities, the Hon. Paul Fletcher, noted that the Commonwealth's share of total public infrastructure spending rising to nearly 30 per cent would see a 0.5 to 0.7 per cent rise in GDP growth and jobs in the fiscal year 2018. He noted:

Investing in infrastructure results in long-lived assets which deliver benefits to the community for many decades—but it also stimulates economic growth as the investment occurs.

So, as stated before, I remain to be convinced that I should support this bill in its current form, in isolation from a broader discussion and initiatives on enhancing the overall sustainability of our taxation system and with alternative uses of government revenue that can generate prosperity and enhance fairness for the Australian people.