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Wednesday, 28 March 2018
Page: 2401

Taxation


Senator CAMERON (New South Wales) (14:10): My question is to the Minister representing the Prime Minister, Senator Cormann. This week the minister has on four occasions refused to echo the Prime Minister's guarantee that lower business taxes result in higher wages. On Tuesday, a secret survey revealed that four in five businesses ruled out increasing wages or employing more Australians as a result of the Turnbull government's $65 billion handout, and today it's been revealed that, in the BCA's letter to senators, big business deleted commitments to create Australian jobs, increase wages or even pay tax. How can the minister continue to tell Australian workers that the Turnbull government's $65 billion tax cut for big business will benefit them, when businesses clearly disagree?


Senator CORMANN (Western AustraliaLeader of the Government in the Senate, Minister for Finance, Special Minister of State and Vice-President of the Executive Council) (14:11): I completely reject the premise of the question. The Prime Minister and I are completely of one mind. Making our business tax rate more globally competitive in Australia will lead to additional investment and more jobs, and, as competition for workers increases across Australia, wages will grow more strongly. That is economic orthodoxy. This is as certain as Monday follows Sunday. I know that is not necessarily the view of the Left of the Labor Party, but that used to be the view of the Right of the Labor Party; indeed it used to be the view of Bill Shorten himself, who made the point:

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 a position that the government supports 100 per cent. He also said:

… lowering the corporate rate for smaller businesses only [as the Greens propose] creates an artificial incentive for Australian businesses to downsize.

In worse case scenarios some businesses might actually lay people off to get smaller—and the size based different tax treatment would create a glass ceiling on business workforce growth.

Instead we want a level playing field regardless of the size of the company.

If we maintain the business tax rate in Australia at 30 per cent for all businesses with a turnover of more than $50 million, we will put them at a continuous competitive disadvantage.

Australian businesses compete with businesses from around the world. If we force them to pay higher taxes here than they have to pay in other parts of the world, we will lose investment and jobs to overseas. It will impact on the job opportunities, the job security and the career opportunities of Australian working families today and our children and grandchildren tomorrow. Australia is an open trading economy. We are exposed to global competition. In particular, our big businesses are on the frontline of global competition. If we continue to put them at a disadvantage, we will lose investment and jobs, and wages will actually drop if we're not careful. (Time expired)

The PRESIDENT: Senator Cameron, a supplementary question.



Senator CAMERON (New South Wales) (14:13): When did the minister first become aware of the BCA's secret survey that did not support his and the Prime Minister's claims that their $65 billion handout to big business would benefit Australian workers? Given that big business doesn't support the minister's claims, when will the Turnbull government stop misleading Australian workers and abandon their $65 billion handout?


Senator CORMANN (Western AustraliaLeader of the Government in the Senate, Minister for Finance, Special Minister of State and Vice-President of the Executive Council) (14:14): I'm not aware of any secret survey. So, from that point of view, I reject the premise of the question. What I would say to you is what the Leader of the Opposition used to understand, and that is that more investment leads to more jobs and leads to higher wages. This is the core of our economic plan—and it is working. Look at what we've been able to secure in the economy over the last 12 months. More than 420,000 jobs were created over the last 12 months. That is employment growth of 3.3 per cent. What was employment growth under Labor in its last year in government? There were 80,000 new jobs under Labor in 12 months. There were 420,000 new jobs under the coalition. We want smaller businesses to become bigger, not smaller. (Time expired)

The PRESIDENT: Senator Cameron, a final supplementary question.



Senator CAMERON (New South Wales) (14:15): Thank you, Mr President. When did the minister first become aware that big business had deleted commitments from the BCA's letter demonstrating that they do not support his and the Prime Minister's claims? Given big business doesn't support the minister's claims, when will the Turnbull government stop misleading Australian workers and abandon their $65 billion handout?


Senator CORMANN (Western AustraliaLeader of the Government in the Senate, Minister for Finance, Special Minister of State and Vice-President of the Executive Council) (14:16): Again, I reject the premise of the question. What I would point out to Senator Cameron and the Senate is that the biggest employers of Australia have said that, in their view, the reduction in the corporate tax rate as proposed by the government is urgent and vital to keep Australia competitive. They also said:

If the Senate passes this important legislation we, as some of the nation's largest employers, commit to invest more in Australia which will lead to employing more Australians and therefore stronger wage growth as the tax cut takes effect.

The Labor Party of 2018 has completely walked away from a pro-growth, pro-opportunity agenda. They used to believe in creating opportunities for families to get ahead. No more. They have walked away from creating opportunities for families to get ahead. On this side of the parliament we understand that for families to be successful we need to ensure that the businesses that employ them have the best possible opportunity to succeed and to be profitable into the future.