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Monday, 26 March 2018
Page: 2107

Taxation


Senator SINGH (Tasmania) (14:45): My question is to the Minister representing the Prime Minister, Senator Cormann. How is it fair that the Prime Minister is hitting ordinary workers with a $44 billion tax increase to pay for his $65 billion handout to big business?


Senator CORMANN (Western AustraliaLeader of the Government in the Senate, Minister for Finance, Special Minister of State and Vice-President of the Executive Council) (14:45): We are pursuing reform to our business tax arrangements because we care about working families around Australia. We want working families around Australia to have the best possible opportunity to get ahead. We want them to be able to get a job. We want them to have job security, to get a better job, to get better pay, to pursue career opportunities here in Australia.

Do you know what? Nine out of 10 working Australians work in a private sector business. Their future job security, their future career opportunities, their future wage increases depend on the future success and profitability of the businesses that employ them. When we put them at a competitive disadvantage by charging higher taxes here than those charged by competitors in other parts of the world, when we make it harder for them to be successful, we are hurting the workers. Don't take my word for it. That is what the shadow Treasurer, Chris Bowen, said as late as September 2015. You know the only reason why Labor changed its tune? It's because we made it policy seven months later in our 2016-17 budget.

Chris Bowen as late as September 2015 said, 'We must reduce the business tax rate to 25 per cent.' That wasn't when you were in government; that was during your period of opposition. Shadow Treasurer Chris Bowen said, 'We must reduce the business tax rate to 25 per cent.' He also said it won't be an easy thing to do. That is true, because too many people play politics with this. In the Labor Party, in their heart of hearts—well not everyone in the Labor Party, but the people on the Right of the Labor Party, in their heart of hearts, know that it's actually important to give businesses the opportunity to succeed into the future so that they can hire more Australians and pay them better wages.

But Bill Shorten has capitulated to the Left of the Labor Party. He has sold out on national interests. He's sold out the working families of Australia. The working families of Australia need their Senate to support our business tax cuts in full so that they can hire more Australians and pay them better wages and so that families around Australia can get ahead. (Time expired)

The PRESIDENT: Senator Singh, a supplementary question.



Senator SINGH (Tasmania) (14:47): Minister, from your heart of hearts, can you please explain to the Senate how it is fair that this Prime Minister is slugging a nurse earning $60,000 a year in Tasmania with a $300 tax increase every year while giving a $65 billion tax handout to big business?


Senator CORMANN (Western AustraliaLeader of the Government in the Senate, Minister for Finance, Special Minister of State and Vice-President of the Executive Council) (14:47): I'll tell you why it's fair—I agree with what the shadow Treasurer, Chris Bowen, said when, as the Romans would say, in tempore non suspecto: before we got into the suspicious times of you playing politics. This is what Chris Bowen said on 22 September 2015:

Shadow Treasurer Chris Bowen says Labor accepts that company tax falls hardest on workers rather than wealthy shareholders, and aims for a 25 per cent company tax rate to spur economic growth.

The reason we are pursuing this reform is that we care about the working families of Australia. We care about their future job opportunities. We care about their future career prospects. We want Australians today, as well as their children and grandchildren, to be able to pursue a career here in Australia. If we make it harder for them to be successful because we impose higher taxes here than are imposed on their competitors in other parts of the world, we will shift investment and jobs overseas and it will be on your head.

The PRESIDENT: Senator Singh, final supplementary question.



Senator SINGH (Tasmania) (14:49): Given the Turnbull government is taking an additional $300 a year from each Australian to pay for its $65 billion tax cut to big business, will the government guarantee that wages growth will more than offset the government's increase in income tax?


Senator CORMANN ( Western Australia Leader of the Government in the Senate, Minister for Finance, Special Minister of State and Vice-President of the Executive Council ) ( 14:49 ): I know that the Labor Party, as part of its talking points, perpetuates the misleading statement that $65 billion is the cost of tax cuts to big business. You know that is not true. The Senate voted last year to pass income tax cuts for small- and medium-size businesses with a turnover of up to $50 million, which represents $30 billion of that cost. That is point No. 1 Point No. 2 is that, since the Senate did that, wages growth has picked up. As at the most recent update, wages growth is running at about 2.1 per cent. We want it to strengthen further, which is why we need to pass the remainder of our plan. Do you know what else has happened? Company tax receipts are actually picking up as well. If you look at the monthly financial statements that I released on Friday, you will see that, compared to the MYEFO, in the first two months of this year, company tax receipts were $3 billion higher than what was anticipated.

Senator Wong interjecting

Senator CORMANN: Now Senator Wong says that it was a really conservative MYEFO. We were told that it was overly optimistic. We were told that all these figures were overly optimistic. You keep changing your tune, according to what— (Time expired)